New York City, the 70's. Corrupt landlords run the city, kicking out the poor and driving up prices in their buildings. Those who won't leave are forced out, either by turning the water and gas off, or by much rougher means. When Charlie's father is killed while defending his turf, he sets out on a quest to murder the landlords one by one...but who's really pulling the strings?
This is everything I want from a Vinegar Syndrome release. This is a C-level action film and everything is bottom of the barrel except for the fun factor. The acting is wooden and stiff. The dialogue is laughable. The fight scenes are slow and amateurish. A man tosses a dead guy from a rooftop (which is clearly a badly made dummy) but it still screams all the way down. There's a training montage. Terrible 70's clothing. I loved every second of Death Promise.
It tells the tale of a man on a revenge mission against those who killed his father. In what could have been inspiration for Kill Bill, Charlie works from a list, crossing the names out as he knocks them off in incredibly satisfying and unbelievable ways...like tying someone up and putting them behind a bow and arrow target with the hope that someone actually shoots an arrow at it before the guy just gets up and leaves. Before he has access to the list, of course he has to go train with a 'Big Master' in order to get his karate up to snuff. The training doesn't appear to actually do anything, but I'm a sucker for a good training montage.
Death Promise also has one of the coolest theme songs of all time. "That's a proooooomise!" It belts out over the opening credits as Charlie and his best friend/sparring partner Speedy run through 70's NYC decked out in velour jumpsuits. It's glorious.
All of those things that would be considered 'bad' in this film turn it from a serious, city-hopping actioneer into a straight up unintentional comedy. From technical snafus like boom mics bobbing in and out of frame to background extras staring straight into the camera, this film has it all. If you're a fan of the so-bad-it's-good genre, Death Promise has you covered in spades. This was Robert Warmflash's only film, so I guess he got it out of his system.
Most of the bad guys aren't really interesting, a bunch of old white men in suits, but there's one - "Mr. Big" - who pulls his weight. The film is also full of Asian stereotypes, which seems to be par for the course in late 70's films.
This film has one of the most gnarly deaths that I can remember seeing in a picture like this. It involves some hungry rats, and I'll be damned if it didn't make me get up out of my seat because I was so uncomfortable. I didn't see that coming.
As a social commentary, like many films from the 70's and 80's, the themes are still relevant today (even if the wardrobe isn't).
Death Promise is a blast. It's horribly executed schlock, but it's action packed and fun as heck. Get your velour jumpsuit, pop that collar, and prepare to have your ass kicked in the grungiest part of 1970's New York.
The Vinegar Syndrome disc looks great - the first time I saw this was on Amazon Prime and the print just looked like it had been put through the ringer, but they really cleaned this up. Unfortunately, the only extra is an interview with Jim Markovic, the editor of the film.