That NC-17 rating sure is tantalizing. It will draw you into watching the most routine and uninteresting films. What could the ratings board have objected to so strenuously as to mark a film unacceptable for anyone but adults? Why are movies like the relatively tame Bank Robber or Teenage Bonnie and Klepto Clyde voted verboten by the soccer-mom-run MPAA? Could it be excused by the particular era, as those two movies were released in 1993, the first four years of the rating? Unlikely, if a movie as silly and inoffensive as Trey Parker’s Orgazmo (a movie about porn with virtually no nudity) received the rating in 1997.
Tibor Takacs’ Bad Blood (also known as Viper) has nothing particularly distinctive in it to merit the more restrictive rating, unless it’s the opening scene where the hero’s brother crushes that lascivious and dastardly paper cup. Bad Blood, like the other three films I mentioned, are all quite low-budget and the MPAA often have a hard time distinguishing between unpolished looking violence and sex and disturbingly amoral violence and sex. Bad Blood, which is a standard Lorenzo Lamas direct-to-video action vehicle, was released in 1994 in a trimmed R rated version in the US and an uncut version in Sweden that same year. The difference is mainly the scene where a child is killed by the main villain, right after he’s handed her a lollipop. It isn’t all that traumatizing, there was far more of a shock when a similar thing happened to a child standing at an ice cream truck in the original version of Assault on Precinct 13 (as opposed to the remake, or the fact that AOP13 is already an admitted remake of Rio Bravo). But Bad Blood’s pre-pubescent massacre is a bit more extreme than what was generally allowed at the time; Killing children en masse wasn’t considered acceptable fare until the following year’s The Usual Suspects.
If there’s anything that separates Bad Blood from most of Lamas’ oeuvre, it is that it retains a very consistent level of competency throughout, as opposed to the parts funny, parts camp, and parts boring of his multi-sequel inspiring Snake Eater. Bad Blood has nothing as entertaining as Snake Eater’s undercover cop/botched drug deal opening, complete with metal spike traps coming out of the floor, combined with Lamas’ deliberately fake Hispanic accent and eventually his even more unintentionally phony Cajun drawl. But there are plenty of lulls in Snake Eater which can be attributed to the fact that it was directed by a stuntman, George Erschbamer. And so while the 2nd unit and action sequences are top notch, especially for a cheap film, the dramatic and dialogue-heavy scenes had no energy, probably because Erschbamer had no idea or interest in how to handle them. Takacs is a far more accomplished and competent, he started out in B horror films like The Gate and I, Madman, and so the sloppiness of Bad Blood isn’t constantly evident.
That’s not to say that Bad Blood is a masterpiece of mediocrity, there are a handful of inadvertent laughs, such as a fight scene where Lamas stabs his opponent with a metal pole that suddenly vibrates at the top as soon it enters his foe’s body, suggesting it’s either rubber or Lamas likes to carry around a pole vault, just in case. In terms of his pole, Lamas’ stripper girlfriend, Lindee, asks him “should I get my breasts done?” And less than a minute later, when she gets to show off her natural gifts, it turns out that she had the fastest implant surgery in history. Lindee doesn’t make much sense as a character anyway; she’s just a conduit for the bad guy, played by the heavily diminutive former martial arts master, Joe Son, to figure out where Lamas is hiding out. Lindee betrays Lamas because she thinks he’s sleeping with an ex, Rhonda*, who is actually now with his brother, Franklin, a wimpy money launderer who has only caused legal problems for his family. Franklin’s trouble with mobster bankers** is the excuse for Lamas to fight and there are a handful of over-the-top creative moments, such as a scene where he does a back flip over a speeding car in order to avoid impact. Clearly a spring loaded device was used, but it’s so out-of-place with the rest of the earthbound set pieces of shootouts and hand to hand combat that it’s amusing. It’s also a hint as to where Takacs thought would be a good source of theft, as the car stunt is very similar to one in John Woo’s 1993 Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle, Hard Target, and most of the other action is shot in slow-motion and/or using a tuck and roll or props to fire guns sideways.
It’s not the gunfights or the action choreography that are the highlights of Bad Blood, it’s Lamas, with his occasional southern accent, and Son, who is very creepy and funny, especially in a confrontation scene between the two that involves words instead of weapons. As Lamas says to Son, “you look like a man who treasures his private parts,” and you realize that it’s true because Son is so short and stocky, private parts are all he has. And while the movie ends with them fighting in a steam and flame factory, on a catwalk, with lots of random explosions, it’s really the juxtaposition of this stumpy Asian man versus Lamas, the tall, chiseled lone wolf with a ponytail, which makes it work.
* She’s the only other female character in Bad Blood, meaning she’s also a manipulative, scheming two-timer (the choices females are given in the movie are either vamp or tramp). The only saint in the movie is Lamas, an ex-cop who took the fall and did time for his brother.
** There’s a weird, illogical plot turn where Franklin dumps the money out of a satchel and throws it in a box in an abandoned warehouse. It’s not clear why he does this, if he intends to go back and get it, or if he wants to screw over his brother and make Lamas think he’s carrying the money and can give it back to the gangsters. Lamas and Rhonda discover the satchel only has newspapers in it (the money is later burned by homeless people to help them start a warm fire, they didn’t even know there was money in the box) and you think this will amount to some major obstacle. But it doesn’t end up mattering at all, since Son and his gang never even get to the point of exchanging the money for Franklin and Rhonda’s lives (they’ve been kidnapped). There’s no epilogue dealing with the money either, and so it’s a strange choice for Takacs to make sure we understand that the money is burned up, since it would serve as much purpose in the story if it were actually newspaper.