COCAINE WARS (1985) Blu-ray
Director: Hector Olivera
Code Red Releasing

Bo Duke goes south of the border for Roger Corman in COCAINE WARS on Blu-ray from Code Red Releasing.

The reign of Argentinean drug kingpin Gonzalo Reyes (Federico Luppi, CRONOS) is threatened when journalist Marcelo Villalba (Juan Vitali, APARTEMNT ZERO) forms the Social Party with plans to run for president and put an end to Reyes' exploitation of the people in cahoots with the national police lead by General Lujan (Rodolfo Ranni, DEADLY REVENGE). When Gonzalo murders freight pilot Rikki (Edgardo Moreira, WIZARDS OF THE LOST KINGDOM) for stealing from him, Rikki's partner Cliff (John Schneider, RETURN OF THE KILLER SHREWS) blackmails the real culprits fellow traffickers Klausman (Ivan Grey, BARBARIAN QUEEN) and Wilhelm (Ricardo Hamlin) who try to kill him before he can tell Reyes. When Cliff's old flame turned journalist Janet (Kathryn Witt, LOOKER) turns up to do a story on the elections, she is dismayed to find Cliff working for Reyes until he reveals that he is an undercover DEA agent who has amassed information about all of Reyes' contacts. When his superiors take him off the assignment until after the elections and Villalba and Janet are abducted, Cliff decides to put his information to good use, pitting Lujan and Reyes against each other by offering the documents to the highest bidder.

One of Corman's Concorde quickies from the period in which he found out how much a budget could stretch in Argentina following the success of DEATHSTALKER and some other barbarian and action films produced by this film's director Hector Olivera and Alejandro Sessa (THE WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS), COCAINE WARS is a serviceable action film that makes up for rather flat writing, cardboard characters, and rote plotting and direction by amping up the action during the third act with multiple chases, a torture session, bloody squibs, and plenty of pyrotechnics. One cannot help feeling, however, that Corman's contemporaries at Cannon or even Corman regulars Cirio Santiago and Vic Diaz might have delivered the project with more gusto and feel a bit sorry for Guillermo del Toro favorite Luppi trying to maintain his dignity with his face shoved in a bag of cocaine or staggering about in bad prosthetic burn make-up behind foreground flames. Royal Dano (ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE) makes a welcome guest appearance as a local bar owner and ally of Cliff. The scoring of Jorge López Ruiz (PLAY MURDER FOR ME) is undistinguished, although I'm pretty sure the end title music was either recycled from another Corman production or would be reused in a subsequent once.

Released theatrically by Corman's Concorde Pictures and on home video by Media Home Entertainment, COCAINE WARS comes to Blu-ray from a new HD scan of the vault elements that does what it can with the low-budget photography (presumably some of the small emulsion scratches happened in-camera and processing). The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is clean, delivering dialogue and explosions with a bit more umph than the synth score. The film can be viewed with "Katarina's Bucket List" introduction and post-script in which hostess Katarina Leigh Waters highlights the notable cast members as well as the ten year difference in the ages of Schneider (twenty-five at the time) and Witt. The film's trailer (1:24) is also provided from an Australian video source along with trailers for NAM ANGELS, THE DEVASTATOR, NIGHTFALL, THE JIGSAW MURDERS, and EQUALIZER 2000. Code Red's Region A-coded limited edition is available through their Big Cartel site and the Code Red/Scorpion Releasing retail site Ronin Flix. (Eric Cotenas)