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'Scorpion's' Karate Tale

December 08, 1986|MICHAEL WILMINGTON

In "Scorpion" (which opened citywide Friday), we're introduced to somber, hard-nosed DIA (not CIA) trouble-shooter Steve Woods (Tonny Tulleners). Woods is a man with lightning in his fists and feet, Bushido in his heart, vengeance in his eyes and a frog in his throat.

We first see him beating up some bullies in a back country Spanish bar, then checking in with his superiors in Amsterdam--who relay orders from Washington to report to Los Angeles. What was he doing in Spain? (Other than running a routine bar-bully sweep?) We'll never know. But if you've guessed that his stateside mission involves Arab terrorists, gutless bureaucrats, murder, revenge, and lots of beatings and car chases on the streets of L.A., you're dead right. (In fact, you're so far ahead of the game, you may not even need to see the movie.)

Since Tulleners is a world-class karate expert, "Scorpion" also involves martial arts--at which the star is coolly adept. He looks something like Chuck Norris' Dutch cousin, and, in fact, defeated Norris in their only bouts. (Movie heroism is another matter, as yet.) But this is no violent, vulgarly entertaining Norris-style choppy-socky.

It's a poorly done, low-rent, lower-case movie in which the opulent settings are undermined by the grainy shooting. For an action movie, it's so flat and underplayed that at first you wonder if it's a conscious attempt to defuse the usual revenge-thriller brutalism. But "Scorpion" is not light on brutality, and it's very weak on character, story and dialogue.

On and on the movie rolls--unwinding grainily over dozens of backgrounds. Instead of thrusting forward, the plot simply accumulates, like old string. Are those two more hired killers stalking a government witness through hospital corridors with a bouquet of flowers? Yes, they are. And will they be furiously chased down deserted stairwells and into an ominously deserted parking ramp? You betcha. Will there be a rooftop pursuit and a hijacked airplane and as many shoot-outs in recognizable locales as the budget will stand? Why do you even ask?

"Scorpion" (rated R) is a thin, dull movie, but it has a fat cast: one hundred or so actors (including Don Murray and the real-life Billy Hayes of "Midnight Express"), mostly in roles like "2nd Terrorist," "Girls in Stateroom," "Tough Guy" or "Man on Donkey."

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