Classic Cannon: The Human Shield

Andrew reviews a post Golan-Globus Cannon Film.

In the waning days of Cannon Films which saw the company's relaunch and eventual demise spanning from 1990 to 1994, Menahem Golan and Yorum Globus all but parted ways with the company they started, forming their own separate companies with Golan's 21st Century Film Corporation and Globus briefly became the head of MGM before moving back to Israel with his own company, GG Studios.  During this brief transitional period where the Cannon Group was no longer led by the men who started it, spearheaded instead by Christopher Pearce and Ovidio G. Assontis, a number of films came out under the moniker Cannon Pictures as opposed to Cannon Films.  Among the resulting post Golan-Globus productions included the fourth entry in the Michael Dudikoff action series American Ninja and one of his lesser known efforts, the 1992 straight to video venture The Human Shield.  

Hold on. I want to fight. But I need to fart first. 

Directed by veteran director for hire Ted Post of the Clint Eastwood vehicles Hang 'Em High and Magnum Force, The Human Shield finds Dudikoff as Captain Doug Matthews in Iraq squaring off with tyrannical General Ali Dallal (Steve Inwood), this is Dudikoff taking his cheese laden one man army to the Persian Gulf War as he decimates soldiers and terrorists right and left.  Meanwhile there's a romantic triangle between Matthews' old love Lila Haddilh (Hanna Azoula Hasfari) and Ali Dallal that threatens her life and Matthews' brother Ben who is taken hostage as bait.  

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Boilerplate plot cliches aside (Rambo and Commando anyone?), the absence of Golan and Globus is absolutely felt in this production.  Lacking the batshit lunacy of their on-the-spot creativity and featuring an underutilized Dudikoff who sports some of his stuntwork but not enough to make this jingoistic package all that compelling or interesting.  Where the American Ninja movies for what they're worth had Dudikoff leaping through hula hoops of fire while delivering kickass roundhouse kicks, this is comparable to something like Arnold Schwarzenegger's Collateral Damage where the stunts and action set pieces are familiar but in contrast are drained dry of their cheeseball fun.  Steve Inwood has delicious fun playing a cartoonishly bad riff on Saddam Hussein and the dichotomy between his overstuffed luxuries and the impoverished Middle Eastern citizens he lives to exploit right and left is downright laughable.  For the most part this looks to be shot on location in Israel though other scenes feel like they recycled sets from Menahem Golan's The Apple near the end as Matthews finds himself in a high tech, almost futuristic prison.  A wide shot of a miniature complex being exploded near the climax feels lifted right out of Tim Burton's Batman note for note when Batman destroys the Axis Chemicals plant.  The synthetic soundtrack by Stephen Barber is dependable Cannon Films action cheese and as such becomes as mediocre as the rest of this offering.

Dang girl. That corridor
 is wider than your mom. 
I'm not gonna outright call this straight-to-video post Golan-Globus production incompetent, far from it, as it managed to hold my attention long enough until the end credits rolled.  Still, something struck me as odd about this one.  The images were familiar Cannon fodder but the spirit just wasn't there.  If anything, The Human Shield tends to reel in some of the lunacy Golan-Globus would have brought to it, making it kind of a static package in comparison to the goofiness Cannon is so beloved for.  Even without knowledge of the history of the company behind this film, it's just kind of dull in the pantheon of action thriller lore.  

Sure there's some cool stunts involving a man lit on fire as he flails around screaming to his last breath and an exploding car going off the top of a parking structure, but we've seen this sort of thing before in other movies.  Where's the miniature helicopter bobbing up and down on monofilament wire from American Ninja 4?  Granted Dudikoff completists will get the scenery chewing they hope for when going into one of his movies, but I suppose considering how much of the strong as well as wild sides of Cannon I've seen and continue to seek out, The Human Shield is a bit of a dull letdown concerning a one man army we've seen one too many times before by comparison.  


- Andrew Kotwicki