Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fortress of Amerikkka (1989)

In the rustic, woodsy town of Troma City, California, a war is being waged between a corrupt political machine (personified by racist sheriff Tom “Tex” Bodine, played by David Crane) and an evil corporate syndicate (personified by Colonel Denton, played by William J Kulzer and the mercenaries of the Fortress of Amerikkka guerilla group).  After shooting and blowing up a young couple who just wanted to do “The Beaver Call” (and other people, to be fair, who may or may not have wanted to do the same), nobody still seems to grasp what’s going on up in the hills.  Into this strife struts ex-con John Whitecloud (Gene Lebrock) who is burning for revenge against the sheriff but instead winds up doing just about everything else but taking it, including re-hooking up with his ex-girlfriend Jennifer (Kellee Bradley).  Meanwhile, characters are dying and boning all over the place.

When a film begins with voiceover narration explaining that “this is a story about you and me,” and then goes on to detail the greatness of America and touting the plight of the little man, you really need to consider if the filmmakers are earnest or not about their story.  Eric Louzil’s Fortress of Amerikkka (aka Fortress of Amerikkka: The Mercenaries) is just such a film.  Bearing in mind that this is a Troma production, the possibility for a humorous approach is high, yet I never got any indication that the filmmakers were joking about their subject; this despite the film being over the top in a great many ways.  Having fun with it, yes, but speeches like those in the voiceover are completely outside the tone of the rest of the film.  Later in the movie, we’ll get something similar between two completely insignificant (despite the amount of time spent on them, though the larger part of that time is strictly to showcase Kascha’s gigantic, fake breasts) characters.  Actual dialogue between the two consists of howlers like, “People like us are the backbone of America,” and “We have freedom in this country.  But with that freedom comes a responsibility of doing what’s right.”  This is during a scene set immediately after they have escaped from the mercenaries (I’ll leave out the full context of all of this so you can witness it for yourself).  As the film wraps up, our narrator returns to enlighten us with, “In America, one little guy can stand up to the evil that wants to destroy our Bill of Rights.”  The commentary in lines like these overplays the filmmakers’ hand, and it’s delivered so straight-faced, you can’t help but laugh, particularly because none of the rest of the film backs lines like these up in the slightest (unless it’s so slyly subversive as to elude all detection).      

That the rest of the movie is a mess composed of some enjoyable bits is perplexing.  The premise is simple.  Theoretically, there should be no way to fuck it up.  Nevertheless, Louzil and company manage to lose the thread at every turn.  Disregarding lapses in logic like the fact that John wouldn’t be allowed to purchase firearms because of his criminal record, or that Jennifer would likely have been killed for what she witnessed, or that no one raises an eyebrow at the myriad cars blowing up out in the forest multiple times a day and connects this to Fortress of Amerikkka, the script seems to intentionally veer away from tying its multiple plotlines together.  John claims that he craves vengeance for the death of his brother, but does absolutely nothing to forward this agenda.  He just visits his brother’s grave (inside Bronson Caves, no less) and whines a lot.  The sheriff and his police department suggest that they know that there are war games going on up in the hills, but don’t connect the dots to all the people being killed (some even turning up with “Fortress of Amerikkka” carved into their flesh).  There is a bar brawl that stands out as being even more superfluous than normal cinematic bar brawls, which are, by definition, superfluous.  The only reason anything gets resolved is because the film eventually has to end.

But the mercenaries themselves take the cake.  Colonel Denton is a zealot who believes that he and his army have been ordained by God to “serve freedom and peace.”  He has a trespasser torn apart between a tree and a moving car rather than simply putting a bullet in his head, just because.  He believes that, “winning is everything, and losing is defeat!”  Furthermore, there is no purpose to what the mercs do.  If we believe the opening narration, they are in service of an “evil corporate syndicate,” but all they do is tool around the woods, shooting people and blowing up cars.  Are they terrorizing the area because some company wants the property?  Are they claiming this section of land as their own in some half-assed secessionist plot?  Who fucking knows?  There are odd interludes at the mercenaries’ camp which include spouting pseudo-spiritual horseshit, getting laid, a cat fight to the death, getting laid, killing soldiers who don’t want to be in the gang (and it is a gang) anymore, and getting laid.  There are lines about adhering to some type of code, but the majority of these guys don’t give a shit, and the other half are just plain psychotic (one in particular, a female skinhead who heavily resembles Lori Petty and loves caressing her rifle, stands out as being the most clearly insane, so you kind of have to wonder how she got recruited at all; maybe that’s the point?).  And it all revolves around animal instincts, especially sex.  There are very few scenes in Fortress of Amerikkka without naked breasts in it, and oddly enough, this is one of the few things that actually fits into the film.

For all of its stupidity, its piss poor line readings, its apparent intent to be as incoherent as possible, its inappropriate (what sounded to me like) library music track, its non-narrative (in the sense that things happen, but they have little or nothing to do with each another) approach to its story, I found myself liking this film.  Every scene that doesn’t have naked female breasts in it has action in it, and despite everything, the picture is fast paced.  What ultimately holds it all together (if that expression is even suitable for this movie) is its success at what it does well.  This boils down to boobs, bullets and blowing shit up.  Regardless of whether or not this movie is supposed to be taken seriously (maybe the insanity of the film is mean to reflect the insanity of the world as Louzil sees it?  It’s a theory, I suppose), I don’t think it’s possible to do so in the slightest, and I’m okay with this.  Fortress of Amerikkka is certainly a memorable experience, and it isn’t painful enough to make you regret watching it.

MVT:  The action scenes in the film are plentiful, and they are also well-handled, by and large.

Make or Break:  The opening scene gives you everything this film is about while simultaneously being both gratifying and nonsensical.  Not that those concepts are mutually exclusive.

Score:  6.5/10

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