Saturday, May 18, 2024

Renegades – The Revenge of Jonathan Sothcott

There are surely other producers whose name, if not literally, at least spiritually come before a director’s on-screen. The immediate comparison is of producers Golan and Globus of Cannon Films, whose names prepared you fully for a certain kind of film, regardless of what genre it purported to be. By sheer coincidence, a friend messaged me earlier in the day, insisting I make the Michael Dudikoff-starring Avenging Force the next film I watch.  “Peak Cannon! Bad action, child death and nazis!” It couldn’t be next I explained, myself and a mate were going to watch Jonathan Sothcott’s latest which has Lee Majors in it. There was, of course, no argument.

Renegades is written (from a story by, yes, JS) by Tom Jolliffe. I’ve rarely seen IMdB credits quite like his. In 2022 he wrote at least 7 films. A further 10 are anywhere between pre and post-production. It’s prolific to the point of irrational behaviour. It brings to mind the writers of movie tie-in novels, people like Alan Dean Foster who could write 20-odd Star Trek novels, The Thing, Outland, Clash of the Titans, countless others and still find time for his own short stories and full-length capers. There’s an extraordinary efficiency to Sothcott’s films, all fat, apart from that around actors’ waists, is trimmed, leaving returning crew and cast regulars to plunge straight back into cosy Shogun waters and pick up where they left off.

My mate Martin arrived and, after much faffing about with technology, the film began, but only after the longest stream of investor credits surely ever attached to any motion picture. A settling-down to enjoy the film was quickly interrupted by a feeling of seasickness brought on by a succession of absurd drone shots, swooping hither and thither like a knackered seagull. Fortunately, the story is simple enough to pick up – a group of special forces veterans assemble to take on the might of a violent drug syndicate, led by a man (played by Louis MandylorMy Big Fat Greek Wedding) who wears a pink suit to interrogate people in grimy warehouses. A discussion is had as to whether it is reasonable to call pink suits ‘salmon’. I think of salmon as being more orangey. I eventually accept it is salmon-coloured.

Nick Moran (Lock, Stock etc) is having flashbacks and it falls to kindly Green Beret vet, Carver (Lee Majors), the go-to support for ex-elite servicemen, to step in. I point out that I know Majors primarily for The Fall Guy, not, as many people, The Six Million Dollar Man. Martin agrees. There may have been mention of 1979s Killer Fish too. Inevitably, we are obliged to quickly Google how old he is (83). We wonder what colour he is. There’s a slight yellowy quality but definitely not salmon. Billy Murray (Sothcott’s best mate, now increasingly unnecessary to clarify “off The Bill“, every time his name is said) has now made his appearance, as have Paul Barber and Ian Ogilvy. What do we most associate Barber and Ogilvy with? Barber is stuck with the obvious – Only Fools… and The Full Monty, whilst Ogilvy, I suggested, is doomed to always be not just The Saint but “The Saint after Roger Moore“. Witchfinder General is also referenced, ironically one of his earliest films. If I’d thought a bit longer, I might have come up with The Sorcerors, which was even earlier.

Murray is wearing an eyepatch, a look which is both brave and superb. Wisecracking might be pushing it – cracked might be closer. There’s a scene-stealing moment where he’s happily scoffing pork pies and swigging down Scotch in the boozer. It feels like this might be the film’s highlight but he later appears wearing both his eye patch and a beret, an even better look. One of the film’s most dramatic action sequences sees Billy struggling to get out of a car. It’s edge of the seat stuff, mostly for Billy. Ogilvy says, “fuck” quite a lot, something which I suspect even censors found need to pull themselves together over. Barber smokes a pipe. This is less jarring than the fact he’s smoking inside. It feels like smoking inside was something that happened in Victorian times. How quickly times goes

*stares wistfully into space*

Carver is killed mercilessly in a street fight (spoiler…or do I write that at the beginning?) and revenge must be sought. A gathering of the old guard sees them comparing weapons – these range from a claymore to some garden sheers. I have to have what a claymore is explained to me as I thought it was some kind of shillelagh-type thing, not a mechanical mine vomiter. Carver’s daughter, played by Patsy Kensit (we were now so gripped we forgot to remember she was in both Lethal Weapon II and Absolute Beginners) must also be protected and some very slow running is employed to ensure this. “Sanchez” is mentioned a few times before Danny Trejo appears, a bit like saying “Candyman” into a mirror. Suddenly we’re in a brothel, as the gang start their pursuit of the baddies. I don’t know what brothels look like in all honesty, but this looked a bit like a youth hostel with atmospheric lighting. Billy now has a crossbow.

The police are closing in too (also, respectfully, running very slowly), led by chief Stephanie Beecham (Inseminoid, says Martin – notorious soap, Triangle, I counter, incorrectly mixing her up with Kate O’Mara). Everything is set up nicely for a sequel. Not that this is necessary, many of these actors will be in the next film regardless of what it is. “Who watches these films?” asked Martin. True, enough, there’s no shortage of action films, and the British film industry is in better health than for many years (at least in terms of budget horror). However, none of them have Billy Murray having the time of his life dressed as a pirate-marine downing pork pies like they’re his last meal.

Daz Lawrence 

You can enjoy Renegades from 101 Films here

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