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Troma’s War (1988)

16 October 2004 by Gnoll No Comment


1988, dir. Michael Herz
105 min. Not Rated.
Starring: Rick Washburn, Carolyn Beauchamp, Sean Bowen.

Review by Gnoll

In the mid-to-late 1980’s, Troma was riding a wave of cult success. THE TOXIC AVENGER and CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH had put the indie studio on the map, and they had a little more to play with in the realm of resources. Of course, being the mid-to-late 1980’s, the Cold War was in full swing, and films like RAMBO and COBRA had the American soul gung ho and ready to go. Lloyd Kaufman and Micael Herz responded by bringing us TROMA’S WAR.

This film is Troma’s most expensive movie ever, and it shows. The setting is elaborate and beautiful. Lots of things blow up. The production level is among the highest-quality the studio has ever seen. But, as films like WATERWORLD have proven, a bigger budget don’t necessarily make a better movie.

It’s not that TROMA’S WAR is bad. Well, I mean, it’s bad in the sense that your average everyday moviegoer is going to wince at it, but it’s not a bad Troma movie. It’s just that TROMA’S WAR lacks a lot of what put the studio on the map. There are no real standout characters; the violence, while still bordering on the ridiculous, is made ever-slightly-more realistic. However, it still screams “Troma!” on several occasions, so it’s not that far removed from the bulk of Kaufman and Herz’s masterworks.

While this particular film doesn’t take place in the mythical land of Tromaville, it still features the town’s denizens. This time around, a bunch of Tromavillians have crash-landed on a remote island somewhere in the Caribbean, and those who managed to stay alive have to think about remaining that way. Of course, there are your required stereotypical characters: The evil yuppie businessman, the Vietnam Vet used car salesman, the smooth-talking hotshot athletic guy, the standoffish girl we know he’ll end up with, The mysterious Englishman, a crazy German lady, a man of the cloth, and several others (including an entire New Wave band, apparently.)

At first, the island seems completely uninhabited. But after a brief scouting mission, our stars realize that there are some soldiers aboard the island, and they’re carrying the enemy’s weapons. In order to survive, they’re going to need to get by these bad guys, who are apparently an international group of terrorists planning a coup of the United States.

The bad guys are sort of like Cobra from G.I.Joe, except without the cool uniforms and all the ninjas. They don’t appear to be aligned with any one nation, they have a colorful set of commanding officers, and they tend to prefer goofy complicated schemes over brute force in order to accomplish their goals. Eventually, these baddies capture a few of the crash victims, assuming that they are some sort of crack commando unit (but not the A-Team.)

The remaining heroes begin stockpiling weapons and taking out the baddies one by one, until they are inevitably forced to deal with the terrorists’ training camp. Eventually, almost the entire cast of heroes is either captured or dead, and the terrorists begin to dispatch themselves to infiltrate America. This all leads up to a gigantic final battle with lots of explosions and the highest body count in a Troma movie yet.

TROMA’S WAR also packs in some pretty blatant political commentary, and is basically a giant “fuck you” to the Reagan Administration. The terrorists are revealed to be funded and trained by the Right Wing Establishment in Washington D.C. and the film takes jabs at several other of Reagan’s issues as President. It’s not exactly subtle stuff, and really sticks out when you watch it a decade and a half later.

Overall, the film certainly holds true to the Troma spirit. The violence ranges from the run-of-the-mill to the trademark Troma, but the important thing is that there’s plenty of it. The bad guys, per usual, are a motley crew of bizarre characters. As is often the case, the main villian is a scary-looking freak of nature. And even though it takes place way out in the wilderness in a time of crisis, the Troma gang finds plenty of time to sneak in plenty of gratuitious yet non-titilating sex scenes. And while there are no traces of any of the other stars of the Tromaverse here, the trademark Toxic Avenger bellow is used as a sound effect here.

When it comes down to it, despite its huge budget (by Troma standards, at least) and ambition, TROMA’S WAR is a step back from the stuff that put them on the map. Lloyd and Michael should have known that the appeal of Troma films lies elsewhere. If we wanted to watch this kind of stuff, we’s rent some Sly Stallone or Chuck Norris flicks. Fortunately, the studio went back to what brought it to the table in subsequent years.

So despite the plethora of exploding heads and bare breasts, I can’t say that I recommend this one unless you’ve seen the rest. Not terrible or unwatchable or anything, but not one of the crown jewels in Troma’s cap.

Rating: Two out of five Toxies.

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