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So yeah, I've seen my share of bad movies. They can be a lot of fun to watch. A lot of bad movies are so bad (I'd never call them "so bad they're good"), they're enjoyable, especially with the right crowd. War Bus Commando, however, is not one of them.
This movie was bad. And it was slow. They need to use a rundown old bus, modified to make it a "WAR BUS!", to escape hostile territory. Fixing a bus will never be exciting film. It was just agony to sit through this horrid movie. It wasn't even funny in its badness. It was just wrong. The funniest part of all of this was to learn that this was actually War Bus 2. Someone had made a movie about a War Bus before and thought it a worthy concept for a sequel. Thank God an alternate title was Afghanistan- The LAST War Bus.
Yes, this is a movie where John Vernon and Mark Gregory somehow end up in the same frame. This blew my mind and made me wonder if I was on my death bed and my brain was attempting to calm me as my soul transitions to the next plane with the kind of Jacob's Ladder scenario that I have heard so much about.
This time, Mark is playing Johnny Hondo, a special forces commando who never dresses in any form of camouflage whatsoever. I mean, the dude dresses all in black for daytime missions and all in white for night missions. He kills lots of people all over the world when he isn't chillaxing on his Montana ranch. That's where General Ross (Vernon) finds him and arranges for Johnny to meet his estranged and dying father.
It turns out that Johnny's dad once drove a school bus filled with the Shah of Iran's gold from that country to Afghanistan. With my poor US school system education, I never realized that that's only a distance of around 800 miles. To get his father's honor back, he has to complete the mission. And if you've seen any 1980's post-Rambo films, you know that the system is corrupt and against our hero Johnny Hondo.
Luckily, Johnny has backup. There's a plucky young Dondi-like child and his sister. The moment we meet her, we know that she has only been placed in this movie to die. And then there's the mechanic who gets the war bus moving again. He's played by Bobby Rhodes from Demons and Endgame, so he instantly becomes my favorite person in this movie. Literally, every line of his dialogue is profanity, much like talking to me in person.
This movie also has some of the most chipper 1980's synth on its soundtrack, to the point that you forget that we've basically been waging war in Afghanistan since this one was made back in 1989.
This one's directed by Pierluigi Ciriaci, who brought us pretty much all of the Mark Gregory war movies that we've covered this week. And much like every Italian movie made in the 1980's, it was written by Dardano Sacchetti.
Much like the films that entertained my grandfather, this is filled with explosions, gunfire and plenty of people being riddled with bullets. Unlike the movies that he enjoyed, it also has a hero that has decided to wear a white turtleneck with a beige coat and drive a schoolbus into a warzone.
Speaking of Polizzi, he seems to exclusively score these Mercs-type movies, including Just A Damned Soldier (1988), directed by Ferdinando Baldi, director of the original Warbus. If Baldi – who also directed Ten Zan: Ultimate Mission in 1988, bails, that's probably not a great sign. But as Ten Zan was his last movie, perhaps he wanted to go out on a Frank Zagarino-in-North-Korea high. So, in the event, we were left in the capable hands of Mr. Ciriaci. We've now seen and reviewed all four of his directorial outings: Delta Force Commando (1988), Soldier of Fortune (1990), and who could forget the convolutedly-titled classic Delta Force Commando II: Priority Red One (1990)? It's probably fair to describe him as a workmanlike director, and he goes through the appropriate motions, neither offending with badness nor delighting with awesomeness. This particular Warbus just kind of rolls along until after about 90 minutes or so when it runs out of gas.
It's funny the way they really make you wait for the Warbus until the final third of the movie – almost like they were under the mistaken impression that the audience really gives a flying flip. It's not exactly like they're unveiling something mysterious or legendary – it's a school bus. The anticipation level you'll feel as an audience member is roughly similar to what you may feel like while waiting for the actual bus. It's not really too much of a revelation. The whole "fixing up the bus" scene may remind you of American Commandos (1985) or perhaps The Gauntlet (1977), but so what? Also Johnny Hondo gets the Prerequisite Torture treatment and there are relevant references to Iranians and Pakistanis.
There are a lot worse things in the world to watch than Warbus 2 – we'd prefer this to almost any currently-produced Hollywood product. But, on the other hand, even in the world of Italian-made blow-em-ups, this would rank towards the mediocre middle. Only you can decide what your level of fandom and interest is – and along the way John Vernon, Mark Gregory, and plenty of blow-ups accompany your journey.