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Plot: South American armsdealer sets up base of operations in Hawaii.

With the matter-of-factly titled Guns Hawaiian action director Andy Sidaris entered the nineties, a decade notoriously unkind to many a genre. The fourth LETHAL Ladies episode introduces a new partner for The Agency operative Donna Hamilton as they continue to battle drug runners and arms dealers. Guns is, as the title would have it, about big guns, both literal and figurative, and the first LETHAL Ladies without Hope Marie Carlton. It fares as well as one would expect. Sidaris returns to all the familiar locations, with many familiar faces, and all the familar gadgets. Bronzed blonde babes in skimpy candy-colored bikinis engage vicious narcotic distribution rings, enemy agents and crimelords in combat by dropping their tops, or forgoing clothes altogether. Everything is bigger in Guns: the guns, the explosions, and the breasts – all except the plot, which remains as paper-thin and flimsy as ever. Not that anybody’s complaining…

Having ridded Moloka’i from drug runners and a giant python, safeguarding a reputeable artpiece while liberating the island of a vicious narcotics distributing ring, and taking down a paramilitary unit on a remote island, Donna Hamilton (Dona Speir) and Nicole Justin (Roberta Vasquez), a never-before-mentioned third partner of Molokai Cargo, become targets in an ambitious plan from armsdealer Juan Degas (Erik Estrada), who has something of a history with both LETHAL Ladies. When an assassination attempt claims the life of Rocky (Lisa London) in collateral damage and Dona’s hardnosed DA mother Kathryn Hamilton (Phyllis Davis) is kidnapped by Degas’ goons, things get personal. With help from CIA field agent Bruce Christian (Bruce Penhall), The Agency man Abe (Chuck McCann), and series mainstay Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane, as Michael Shane) the LETHAL Ladies break out the heavy artillery to put Jack Of Diamonds, his assassins, and goons where they belong: behind bars.

Helping Degas carry out his elaborate plan of dominating the armsdealing profession is Cash, played by Playboy Playmate Devin DeVasquez (June 1985), and Tong (Danny Trejo) and his girlfriend (Kelly Menighan). DeVasquez had appeared in House II: the Second Story (1987) and Society (1989), while Trejo’s first role of note was in Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987) and the Steven Seagal actioner Marked For Death (1990). It wouldn’t be until the second half of the nineties that Trejo established himself with Desperado (1995) and From Dusk till Dawn (1996). Despite fulfilling every requirement Guns is Devin DeVasquez' sole appearance in the Andy-verse. In 2009 DeVasquez married Ron Moss, or Rowdy Abilene from Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987).

Guns is the only Sidaris production to have both CHIPs (1977) heartthrobs Erik Estrada and Bruce Penhall present at the same time. Penhall had a history with Sidaris making his first appearance as a different character in Picasso Trigger (1988) before returning four more times as Bruce Christian and staying with the series until its original end. In the interim Penhall played Chris Cannon in the two Drew Christian Sidaris entries Enemy Gold (1993) and The Dallas Connection (1994). Penhall, along with Speir and Vasquez, did not return for Day Of the Warrior (1996) and Return to Savage Beach (1996), at which point Penthouse Pets Julie Strain, Julie K. Smith and Shae Marks took over The Agency mantle. Guns signaled the exit of London and Lindeland from the series, and introduced Nicole Justin as a substitute for Taryn. Phyllis Davis and James Lew later turned up in Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995) as a hostage and goon, respectively.

With Hope Marie Carlton, arguably one of the better actresses of the cast, choosing not to return for Guns, Sidaris brought back Roberta Vasquez as a replacement. Vasquez’ Nicole Justin - who acts, dresses, and talks just like Taryn – is an interesting choice. Nicole Justin, a brunette of South American descent, is, for all intents and purposes, Taryn. It would be the first (and only) instance of Andy Sidaris putting a minority character in the lead. Sidaris spents a good 20 minutes setting up Justin’s character, but there’s nothing that drastically changes the familiar Donna Hamilton-Taryn dynamic. Neither will it ever be brought up in the series again. Like Taryn in her final appearance Nicole Justin dates Bruce Christian, and she has all of Taryn’s post-Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987) habits. The Justin part was one you’d halfway expect Liv Lindeland or Kym Malin to usurp given their Nordic looks and bulging chests, or Cynthia Brimhall for her sheer longevity with the series. It does help that Roberta Vasquez at least can halfway act and handle a gun. She also happens to look good in and out of a skimpy bikini. What does remain a constant is that most of the bit players still are awful at line reading, and that it usually doesn’t take long before they lose their tops. Carlton went on to star in Bloodmatch (1991) from Albert Pyun a year later.

In fact for the first time Andy Sidaris seems genuinely concerned with plotting and character development. In the interim Edy Stark (Cynthia Brimhall) has become a lounge/nightclub singer at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, which is just an excuse to have her prance around in tiny glittery bikinis and sing, among others, the theme song. In all honesty, Brimhall isn’t too shabby a singer. Edy has left her restaurant Edy’s to redhead Rocky who turned it into Rocky’s. Kym (Kym Malin), last seen as in Picasso Trigger (1988) as part of the multi-talented linedancing duo Kym & Patticakes, has picked up oilwrestling and is seen hitting the canvas with Hugs Huggins (Donna Spangler), a 90s callback to Malibu Express (1982) peroxide blonde June Khnockers (Lynda Wiesmeier). It’s only at a record 27 minutes in that Sidaris flashes the first pair of breasts, but he compensates by showing three consecutive topless scenes from as many actresses in close succession. Substituting for the Professor (Patrick LaPore), who made his final appearance in Picasso Trigger (1988), is red bikini-clad stunner Ace (Liv Lindeland), more or less the same character as Picasso Trigger’s resident computer wiz Inga. Perhaps Sidaris genuinely didn't remember that Lindeland's character was named Inga originally?

Sidaris’ humour remains as unsophisticated and lowbrow as ever and plot-convenient excuses to get the girls naked are filmsy as always. When Degas explains to a hired duo of cross-dressing assassins that his target requires a “cerebral approach” he gets nothing but blank stares. Instructing them to “shoot her in the head” on the other hand is explanatory enough. During the final shootout Nicole Justin engages in an exchange of gunfire with Degas’ goon until Bruce Christian, brandishing an oversized gun, barges in saying “so this is what goes on in the ladies room!” In Sidaris tradition both Rocky and Cash die by gunshots between the breasts, and only Ace (the Inga substitute) is cowardly shot in the back. Cash fails to shoot Edy even though she’s mere meters away, apparently distracted by mirrors. Shane, being an Abilene, can’t shoot straight no matter what he does. Abe, a stand-in for The Professor, is killed while fishing by a remote controlled model boat and Juan Degas, the Jack Of Diamonds, is quite literally blown up at close range by Donna with a rocket launcher. For the first time in quite a while Edy Stark is given a more action-heavy part, which doesn’t mean that Sidaris doesn’t relish in her voluptuousness. Kym Malin’s Kym still only exists to raise the skin factor. Malin’s oil wrestling gig mostly serves a pretext to show a naked Donna Spangler, the Beverly Hills Barbie, who appeared in Playboy in December 1989, as the alliterative named Hugs Huggins.

As a disciple of the Russ Meyer school of filmmaking the material’s light tone and 80s fashion sense remain its strong points, even though the formula is starting to wear thin. Guns, if anything, is superior to Savage Beach (1989) in every way and as the first episode of the 90s it could’ve fared far worse. As enjoyable as Sidaris’ shtick tends to be in Guns things start to feel rusty and tiresome. The following year’s Do Or Die (1991) would adopt an overall darker and more cynical tone before returning to the series’ signature lighthearted tone with 1993’s Hard Hunted and Fit to Kill. At the halfway point of the LETHAL Ladies franchise the Sidaris formula starts to show its limitations, but that doesn’t change that they are almost universally fun. Guns has no shortage of big guns, both literal and figurative, and with a cast comprised almost exclusively of Playboy Playmates and Penthouse Pets was there really any reason to bother with trivialities such as plot? Andy Sidaris was hardly an auteur, but that never stopped his Bullets, Babes and Bombs or Girls, Guns and G-Strings series from being entertaining romps. Things could be worse…

Plot: timid gamer must find Chile’s most feared hitwoman

Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman (released domestically as Tráiganme la Cabeza de la Mujer Metralleta) is one of those rare cases where a movie delivers exactly what the poster promises, but somehow still manages to not fully capitalize on that very same potential. What we hoped would be a Chilean Naked Killer (1992) is often bogged down by that other thing for which it’s famous. Ernesto Díaz Espinoza is good enough to mask budgetary constraints and limitations, but for an alleged exploitation film tribute Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman is not nearly gritty, and exploitative enough when push comes to shove. Much to our dismay it dances around the hot sauce exactly the way the Robert Rodriguez-Quentin Tarantino Grindhouse double-feature Planet Terror and Death Proof (2007) did. What exactly is the point of making an indie when you’re going to play by Hollywood rules, anyway? Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman had its world premiere at the Austin Film Festival (AFF) in Texas in 2012 and was released in Chile in 2013.

Since debuting in 2006 with Killtro director Ernesto Díaz Espinoza has helmed another 8 features, with Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman probably his only to gain any kind of international following. The Machine Gun Woman of Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman is as much his creation as it is that of Fernanda Urrejola. It never quite goes the Ginger (1971) or Stacey! (1973) route, and is far more faithful to being that long-overdue Grand Theft Auto video game adaptation the world still hasn’t gotten at this point. In fact at critical points the entire GTA thing gets in the way of the 1970s exploitation actioner that Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman is somewhere deep down inside. We’re convinced that Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman had been better served as two seperate stand-alone features: a 1970s exploitation actioner with Fernanda Urrejola as la Mujer Metralleta, and a Grand Theft Auto crime-comedy with Matías Oviedo. Taken for what it is Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman gets as much right as it gets wrong.

Santiago Fernández (Matías Oviedo) is a video game-obsessed layabout who lives with his mother (Francisca Castillo) in Santiago de Chile. He’s a bit naïve and too passive to have any kind of upward social mobility to improve his lot in life. Santiago works as a DJ in the Tango Club with his friend Israelito (Nicolás Ibieta). One day word reaches Argentinian crimelord Che Longana (Jorge Alís, as Jorge Alis) that the infamous bounty hunter la Mujer Metralleta (or The Machine Gun Woman) (Fernanda Urrejola) is out to collect the prize on his head. He offers a staggering amount of money to anyone who can, “tráiganme la cabeza de la Mujer Metralleta.” So much money in fact that would instantly rid him and his mother of their financial woes. Suddenly a fire erupts within Santiago.

What Che doesn’t know is that mild mannered Santiago has overheard his conversation, and when he does his right-hand man Bracoli (Jaime Omeñaca), with some help from Siberiano, threatens Santiago with bodily harm. The youth fast-talks his way out of the situation and vows to Che that he will kill the Machine Gun Woman. Duly impressed by the DJ don Longana gives Santiago exactly 24 hours to bring in The Machine Gun Woman. If he fails he and his mother will be killed instead. Unbeknownst to Santiago he’s being followed by Che’s gang of sicario (or hitmen) with intention to kill both him and la Mujer Metralleta. The Machine Gun Woman saves Santiago from harm several times, and there’s some obvious mutual attraction. The two gun up and confront Che Longana and in the explosive finale Santiago chases la Mujer Metralleta after they share a kiss, only to be flagged down by a group of patrolling police cars observing the mayhem.

It’s a given that not every indie film can be a pastiche/tribute as well-honed, lovingly detailed, and on-point as Ben Combes’ Commando Ninja (2018). Ernesto Díaz Espinoza’s Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman borrows the central conceit, and part of its title, from Sam Pekinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) and frequently riffs on Luc Besson’s Léon: The Professional (1994). That is when it’s not paying tribute to Robert Rodriguez’ El Mariachi (1992), gritty 1970s exploitation from Russ Meyer and Don Schain, and Quentin Tarantino. Espinoza acknowledges the importance of Pekinpah’s seminal film when he has Santiago hand Israelito hand a fake PlayStation 2 game called Bring Me the Head Of Rene Garcia. What sets Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman apart is that the entire premise is overlaid with a well-developed Grand Theft Auto framing device that has Matías Oviedo as the player avatar, complete with mission titles, cash rewards, and sepia-toned plot-driving cutscenes. It’s sort of the GTA: Latin America that the world never got. Or a 70-minute Delinquent Habits music video/short film with Fernanda Urrejola sporting her oversized guns (both literal and figurative) and a stripper/dominatrix combo sure to get the pulse of any and every red-blooded male racing.

As good as Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman is, there’s an obvious disconnect between the grimy 1970s exploitation aesthetic (the grains, dirt, and scratches on the “print”, over/under exposed lighting, etc), the cooler-than-you Quentin Tarantino dialogue, and the Grand Theft Auto bits. It has the production value and kenetic energy of Robert Rodriguez’ El Mariachi (1992) and the Grand Theft Auto framing device (complete with corresponding font and music) is original to say the least. The unfortunate thing is that the Santiago and la Mujer Metralleta plots often appear to be at odds with each other. The la Mujer Metralleta is an interesting enough character to base an entire stand-alone feature around, and the GTA framing device, while interesting and integrated good enough, doesn’t really offer any additional value. Fernanda Urrejola is la mujer of the title but even though this is clearly supposed to be an exploitation film she’s never seen sin ropas. The brief (1975-1983 ) Cine de Destape Español (Cine S) in Spain, the pornochanchada from Brazil, and the maple syrup porn from Canada, all soft erotica, were more explicit than this. Not that a production like this stands or falls by the amount of female nudity featured, but it’s hardly exploitative as such. There was clearly some degree of sanitizing involved to make this one accessible for a general audience.

The reason to see Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman is, of course, the titular woman herself, Fernanda Urrejola. These days Urrejola is known for Narcos: Mexico (2018) but prior to Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman she was a regular on television with Mujeres de Lujo (2010), and Diario secreto de una profesional (2012), or Chilean variants of The Client List (2012-2013) and Secret Diary of a Call Girl (2007-2011), respectively. Urrejola plays the Machine Gun Woman as a hypersexual(ized) gunwielding stripper-soldier and the character is something between what the late Russ Meyer and Andy Sidaris would dream up. It wouldn't be too far-fetched to think that Jing Wong's Naked Soldier (2012) with Jennifer Tse Ting-Ting (謝婷婷) took after la Mujer Metralleta.

Beneath her overt sexuality lies hidden enough conflicted pathos and melancholy that Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman simply has no time, or interest, in exploring. That look the Machine Gun Woman has in her eye when she corners Santiago at gunpoint after he managed to lure her out into the open just begs for a backstory. A backstory that Ernesto Díaz Espinoza never even alludes to, nor cares to explore. At its strongest this is a gender-swapped El Mariachi (1992) set in rural Chile instead of México. The Machine Gun Woman is both a feminist empowerment - and a male wish fulfillment fantasy at once. More puzzling and damning perhaps is that la Mujer Metralleta is something of a glorified side character in a production bearing her name. That it never spawned a sequel in tradition of Naked Killer (1992) is a question for the ages.

Who wouldn’t love to see a Chilean Hardboiled (1992) with la Mujer Metralleta as the lead? Naked Killer (1992) after all was nothing more than Hardboiled (1992) by way of Vampyros Lesbos (1971) with enough explosive setpieces, stiletto heels, stockings, pastel-colored dresses, and a penchant for getting Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching out of her clothes whenever possible. If anything, we sincerely hope that Ernesto Díaz Espinoza and Fernanda Urrejola eventually bring back la Mujer Metralleta for a second round, be it in a direct sequel or in a stand-alone feature with her as the centerpiece. Imagine what a sequel to Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman could be if Urrejola got to duke it out with voluptuous Bolivian sexbomb Stephanie Herala? It remains somewhat baffling that a character this poignant isn’t wider known, or that the usual suspects (Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Eli Roth) haven’t remade it yet for the American market and the English-speaking world. Not that we want to give anybody any ideas. We’re somewhat baffled that the Machine Gun Woman apparently is hardly known outside of Latin America… and that’s a shame. Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman may not be cinematic art, but it’s damn entertaining…