Crackle is making a big move against Netflix these days as a purveyor of free motion pictures on their website, with a wide assortment of movies like Pineapple Express, Resident Evil and Men in Black. But before you go clicking on such familiar action flicks as Cliffhanger or Last Action Hero, consider this: sometimes the best, craziest action movies are the ones you’ve never heard of. With that in mind we present our five picks for the strangest action movies available for free on Crackle.
So why not take a chance on something unique? After all… It’s free.
BERRY GORDY’S THE LAST DRAGON (dir. Michael Schultz, 1985)
Considered by many to be the last true Blaxploitation movie (although there’s a serious argument for 1996’s Original Gangstas if you ask me), Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon is a loving homage to Bruce Lee, with a memorable soundtrack brought to you by music super-producer Berry Gordy. (The film is called “Berry Gordy’s” because there was no other place to put his name in the opening credits.)
Bright-eyed young star Taimak plays “Bruce” Leroy Green, an inner city martial arts master who struggles with live a non-violent lifestyle despite constant pressure from such bad guys as “The Shogun of Harlem” Sho’nuff (Julius Carry) and the cartoonishly evil music producer Eddie Arkadian (Christopher Murney). Along the way he romances Prince’s ex-girlfriend Vanity, listens to a “classic” (read: occasionally hilarious) 1980s soundtrack, and kicks some serious ass, especially in a special effects-laden final battle when he achieves that ultimate martial arts goal: “The Glow.”
Honest performances and confident direction from Michael Schultz (Car Wash) make what sounds like a bad Saturday Night Live sketch into an honest-to-goodness, if a completely bonkers, action classic. Naturally, Hollywood’s been talking remake for a while now, with Samuel L. Jackson linked to the role of Sho’nuff.
THE BREED (dir. Michael Oblowitz, 2001)
The Breed is an interesting example of a movie that’s almost awesome. Still fun, still entertaining, but obviously not capitalizing on a smart screenplay from future comic book writer Christos Gage (Avengers: The Initiative and Stormwatch: Post-Human Division) and his wife and writing partner Ruth Fletcher.
Dead Presidents’ Bokeem Woodbine stars as a detective whose investigation into a murder leads him to a secret world of vampires who are about to go public. He teams up with an Eastern European vampire played by Highlander’s Adrian Paul (“They’re the original odd couple!”) to prevent a conspiracy which could lead to the mass genocide of vampires. It’s a clever and remarkably fleshed-out premise that includes such notions as a synthetic blood substitute which will allow vampires to come out of the coffin, and before you cry foul, it was released less than two mouths after the publication of the Sookie Stackhouse novels True Blood was based on. Sometimes great minds think alike.
Michael Oblowitz over-directs The Breed, appearing to pay more attention to its stylized futuristic world and not enough time to his actors (Woodbine in particular feels miscast), but Adrian Paul makes the most of one of his best post-Highlander roles and overall the film is so full of interesting ideas that it comes highly recommended, especially now that it’s free.
KRULL (dir. Peter Yates, 1983)
One of the most expensive films ever made (at the time), the science-fiction fantasy Krull came out in 1983 from famed action director Peter Yates (Bullitt) and has earned a small but loyal cult following ever since. Kenneth Marshall of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine stars as Prince Colwyn, whose marriage to a Princess Lyssa (Lysette Anthony of Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives, over-dubbed by David Mamet regular Lindsay Crouse for some reason) is cut short when she’s kidnapped by an all-powerful interplanetary conqueror called “The Beast.”
What follows is a quest that finds Colwyn in search of The Beast’s castle, which magically teleports to a new location every sunrise. He’ll team up a wise old sage (The Elephant Man’s Freddie Jones), a bumbling wizard (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’s David Battley), and a team of escaped convicts played by the likes of Liam Neeson and Harry Potter’s Robbie Coltrane (both making some of their earliest film appearances), and a Cyclops to find the castle, rescue the princess and save the planet.
Though lacking Star Wars’ memorable characters and classic plotting, Krull is a trippy fantasy experience filled with unforgettable images like a creepy giant white spider, The Beast’s thoroughly surreal fortress, horses that gallop so fast they leave streaks of fire behind them and the powerful magic weapon “The Glaive,” which looks like a solid gold Nerf boomerang with spikes on the end. It’s a fun, if unfortunately brainless, sci-fi adventure that has fervent admirers. I’m one of them.
SILENT RAGE (dir. Michael Miller, 1982)
Possibly the weirdest movie Chuck Norris ever made, Walker, Texas Ranger himself stars in this strange mash-up of slasher movies and southern brawlers as Sheriff Dan Stevens, a martial arts expert who meets his match when a serial killer comes back from the dead as an invincible maniac. Yes, you read that right.
An unusually strong cast of supporting players includes Reversal of Fortune’s Ron Silver, Death Wish’s Steven Keats and The Phantom of the Paradise’s William Finley playing a team of scientists who test an experimental serum on the body of an axe murderer, played by The Shawshank Redemption’s Brian Libby. While all this is going on, Chuck Norris does his usual schtick of beating up motorcycle gangs, bedding local ladies and taking his shirt off. When the two plot lines finally converge it’s a memorable – if low-rent – meeting of two genres whose paths had no right to ever cross.
Fun action sequences and a nutty idea make up for the film’s slower patches and dorky side characters (Kent “Flounder” Dorfman from Animal House plays Norris’s comedy sidekick), but Silent Rage is mostly a curiosity these days… a strange case of “How the hell did that get made?” But it must be seen to be believed.
WHITE LINE FEVER (dir. Jonathan Kaplan, 1975)
The (original) Mechanic star Jan-Michael Vincent stars as Carrol Jo Hummer (a man whose name you would not make fun of) in White Line Fever, a memorable and earnest 1970’s action semi-classic (pun intended) about a Vietnam vet truck driver fighting local and corporate corruption with his big rig and shotgun in tow, directed by The Accused’s Jonathan Kaplan.
A Quentin Tarantino favorite (it’s mentioned by name in Death Proof along with other road classics like Vanishing Point), White Line Fever co-stars Dr. Strangelove’s Slim Pickens, The Karate Kid’s Martin Kove and A Boy and His Dog director L.Q. Jones as the folks caught up in smuggling contraband goods in the back of big rigs. Carrol Jo wants none of this criminality, and returns shortly after he discovers their corruption with a shotgun and forces them to give him honest work at gunpoint. What follows is a battle of wills between Carrol Jo and a seemingly endless series of a**hole rednecks and crooked corporate tycoons who make Carrol Jo’s life a living hell.
The battle between honest, hard-working blue collar Americans and greedy industrialists remains as relevant as ever, and Jan-Michael Vincent makes a believable hero even though his final gambit accomplishes little more than destroying a big billboard, but the film is packed with good old-fashioned car chases, bar fights and down-home Americana, and remains effective to this day, if a little slow compared to most modern action movies. Unavailable for a long, long time on DVD (you can buy a DVD-R on Amazon, but that’s not exactly the kind of release fans were looking for), you can watch it for free on Crackle.
You can find all these cult action classics and more at Crackle.com!