Years after getting out of Vietnam, Joe Hoffman (Battlestar Galactica's Hatch) decides to go back to track down his old wartime girlfriend, Michelle (Mitchell-Collins), an interpreter living in their old stomping grounds in Thailand. He strikes up a friendship with latrine salesman Charlie Pope (Patrick, aka the oily Jason McGuire and later Paul Stoddard on Dark Shadows), but while they're drinking at a bar one night, he's spotted by Larry Bingo (Max), a fellow soldier Joe sent up the river for beating up and raping a 14-year-old local girl. Now a sleazy drug dealer, Bingo wants vengeance, preferably heated, and arranges to have Joe taken hostage at gunpoint with the aid of his two sidekicks, Snake (the always great Pollard) and Bandit (Valley Girl's Dye). The bad guys stash Joe in a prison cell out in the middle of the jungle, but he manages to escape and has to fend for his life while Michelle, her annoying son, and Charlie try to track him down.
Plot-wise there's really nothing new at all in Heated Vengeance, a Filipino/Thai action quickie apparently designed to fill out cable TV schedules and empty slots on mom and pop video shelves in the mid-'80s. This was probably most notable as the first theatrical effort for Fries Distribution Company, a television outfit who went on to release Phantom of the Mall and Night Angel. (Oddly enough, it would up going pretty much straight to cable instead.) Of course, most know if better from its VHS release from Media (who partially funded the film and whose execs are named in the opening credits), which haunted Blockbuster Video stores for many years with cover art that made it look like an Andy Sidaris film.
That approach isn't too far off, though the actual action content here is pretty hit and miss (some running through palm trees, a truck smashing into a hut, and a hilariously incoherent flamethrower finale begin the highlights); you also get a bit on the T&A front, too, with Mitchell-Collins (beautiful, but not exactly the world's greatest actress) doing a very long, sweaty flashback love scene with Hatch (who also grinds his butt in the camera for good measure). Of course, the real reason to watch this is Pollard, an entertaining character actor who enlivened such films as Four of the Apocalypse and, of course, Bonnie and Clyde. Granted he's a bit wasted in his role here, but he makes the most of what he has. On top of that you even get a theme song called "Second Chances" crooned over the main titles, in the finest '80s tradition. God knows it's not even close to a traditionally good film, but at least there's entertainment value to be had if you're in the right frame of mind.
It probably goes without saying that the Code Red 2012 DVD is a marked improvement considering this one hasn't had a new transfer for almost 27 years. The anamorphic 1.78:1 presentation looks fine throughout, with nice detail and far better colors (especially those vivid greens) compared to what we've seen before. The framing itself looks good throughout compared to the open matte version seen on VHS, which was often very visually awkward. The stereo audio sounds a lot more dated, but that's due to the original mix for the most part; it's just not a very dynamic movie in audio terms, with the music sounding flat and some vague background rumbling coming in and out. The main extra here is an audio commentary with director Edward D. Murphy (whose only other credit is the absolutely berserk martial arts/horror hybrid Raw Force, which desperately needs a special edition), moderated by the label's Bill Olsen. It's an amusing chat that points out some of the shooting locations in Manila, fills in the backstory on some of the more surprising supporting actors (including industry vets Robert Walker, Jr. and B.J. and the Bear's Mills Watson, who's apparently off running a farm in the Pacific Northwest now), the impossibility of finding many people associated with the production now, and the story behind that weirdly abrupt ending. Also included, of course, is a random collection of trailers including Mardi Gras Massacre, The Last Chase, My Old Man's Place, and Devils Three. Like most of their releases now, Heated Vengeance is sold directly from the company's website.