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Devils Express

Code Red // R // February 9, 2021
List Price: $19.89 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Joel Morris | posted February 2, 2021 | E-mail the Author

When a film stars a man named "Warhawk Tanzania", criticism is essentially besides the point. Traditional paradigms of "good" and "bad" transcend into Nietscheanism realms dominated by Ubermensch. So in short, no, the film is not good, but it is wildly entertaining.

Mr. Tanzania stars as Luke, a dojo owner/sensei and upstanding figure of the community who does his best to manage gang rivalries and police discrimination plaguing the neighborhood. After a meditative trip to Hong Kong for a martial arts retreat, Luke and his best student unwittingly return to New York City with a medallion and ancient monster that hides in the subway tunnels. The monster's bug-eyed possession of commuters and killing spree is soon investigated by the police, who suspect the drug business may be heating up. Oh, and essentially everyone in New York is a black belt.

Some aspects of the film are seemingly just there to pad out the already-brisk 84-minute runtime. The relationship between Luke's detective friend/student and his new partner is tacked on, as is Luke's... girlfriend? Wife? Some aspects of the plot are a little hazy as well, but what the movie is really interested in is fight scenes. They suffer from bad editing, but their dance-like quality still makes them very enjoyable. They also have some surprising moments of realism: Performing a high kick splits a guy's pants; stepping on someone's throat just straight-up ends their life. The latter is one of a few genuinely disturbing moments sprinkled throughout the film. There are also neat little homages to Bruce Lee, like someone rocking the yellow and black Asics Mexico 66 tennis shoes in one scene. A curiosity of the film is if it's taking a stance on cultural appropriation. Luke's (white) undisciplined student, who only likes martial arts for fighting, is the one to take the medallion because he thinks it looks cool and frees the monster. It's up to the more learned, appreciative Luke to work with the members of the Chinese community to solve the problem. It's easy to write this off as some dumb exploitation movie, but most of the best-remembered Blaxploitation films do have something to say about race, economics, or crime in America. Supporting this idea is that the only person to use slurs is Luke's aforementioned star pupil, who contributes to the drug trade, too.

Extras

Trailers, but no actual extras.

The movie is cheap, no doubt about it. This was the second and final film that Warhawk Tanzania appeared in, so information on him is basically nonexistent. The ending is hilariously abrupt, so much so that I thought it was a blooper take that they left in because they ran out of film. However, if you're into this genre, Devil's Express moves at a great clip and is extremely watchable.
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