Give Survivor credit — they only had one hit (at least that I can remember), but they sure did milk it for everything it was worth. For a good few years there, “Eye Of The Tiger” was absolutely everywhere, wasn’t it? Rocky III was only the beginning — the song went on to appear in countless commercials, it was on the radio all the fucking time (peaking at number one on the Billboard charts, where it remained for a good couple of months), and in 1986 it even got itself a movie written around it a la Convoy and Take This Job And Shove It —a jaunty little Death Wish/Walking Tall -style revenge number starring Gary Busey and directed by Richard C. Sarafian of Vanishing Point fame.
That’s a pretty solid record of accomplishment for a song that, let’s face it, sucked. But we’re not really here to talk about the song, are we? So let’s get down to bid’ness.
Tough-ass-but-kind-hearted Viet Nam vet Buck Matthews (Busey, in fine form here as you’d probably expect), having just done a nickel upstate for justifiably killing a man in self-defense, returns to his hometown only to find it overrun by a sadistic motor cycle gang that is cooking up crack on the outskirts of town. His parole officer, the local sheriff who sent him away on his bogus beef in the first place (Seymour Cassel), just so happens to be on the take from the gang’s leader, one OTT hard mofo who goes by the handle of Blade (William Smith, veteran of pretty much every AIP biker exploitation flick), so even though Buck’s seething with rage at the injustices happening to his townsfolk on a daily basis, he’s gotta keep himself outta trouble. Still, when he “steps out of line” by saving a young damsel from being raped by a rowdy n’ randy handful of Blade’s men, the psycho bikers and their kept cop figure it’s time to teach ol’ Buck a lesson.
You can guess the rest, I’m sure — they bust into his house, kill his wife, traumatize the shit out of his daughter, and Buck swears to bring ’em all down. He’s gotta get some help, of course, and fortunately “good cop” J.B. Deveraux (the legendary-for-good-reason Yaphet Kotto) is willing to lend a hand in bringing down his boss and the “wild riders” who pay him to not only look the other way, but provide them with protection and even chip in with their law-breaking when necessary.
Still, two against dozens is a pretty uneven fight, but before you go and figure that mathematics isn’t exactly one of Eye Of The Tiger‘s strong suits, rest assured — Buck’s former cellmate, a Miami drug kingpin, is willing to help the fellas out by providing all the heavy-duty ordnance they could ever possibly need, and while you might be tempted to scratch your head over not only the morality but the logic of utilizing the ill-gotten gains of a massive drug-running organization to bring down a much-smaller-time drug-running organization, rest assured that the ensuing mayhem — which includes piano-wire biker decapitations and burying a bad guy’s head in a pile of cocaine — will entertain you so much that you won’t be worrying about such pesky little details.
On the plus side, this is a well-done, stereotypical blue-collar revenge flick with some terrifically-shot-and-paced action sequences, fun cardboard characterization (Buck’s impassioned speech about his days in ‘Nam delivered at a bingo hall is a personal favorite moment), and plenty of kick-ass murder and general violence. The actors are all having an obvious blast delivering their corny-as-shit lines and Sarafian does a great job of keeping the proceedings light while obviously still being concerned about delivering a quality product.
On the minus side, the theme song is played over and over again incessantly. But what the hell — you made it through 1983 and 1984, when you couldn’t even get through a day without hearing snippets of it at least a dozen times even entirely by accident, so you can sure as shit do the same thing here. Eventually it just kind of harmlessly blends into the background of the film, just as it kind of harmlessly blended into the background of life itself for awhile there.
Eye Of The Tiger is available on DVD a couple of different ways — either as a stand-alone release from MGM that features a nicely-remastered widescreen picture and mono sound with no extras or, better yet, as part of Shout! Factory’s “4 Action-Packed Movie Marathon” two-disc set that just came out last week. B-Movie fans are all over this one (even though it’s also a bare-bones release with the same picture and sound specs) for a couple of reasons, one being that it retails for under ten bucks, the other being that it finally marks the long-awaited release of Exterminator 2 in a post-VHS format. Needless to say, buy this now or you’re an idiot.
I suppose at this point that you might be thinking to yourself — quite understandably — that this flick essentially sounds like Death Wish 3 on steroids, and you know what? You’re exactly right. That might sound kinda unoriginal and hackneyed to the sophisticated cineastes of the world, but to me it sounds like a recipe for guaranteed awesomeness.
You got a problem with that?