Whatever It Takes – Blu-Ray Review

Whatever It Takes is a classic example of a straight-to-video movie from the late 1990s. It’s most notable for a cast of people who at the time who were still fairly well known. The line-up includes Don “The Dragon” Wilson, star of the Bloodfist movies that were big hits on the home video market at the time. Wilson stars as suicidal DEA agent Neil alongside Andrew “Dice”’ Clay, who plays his partner, Dave.  They go undercover to investigate the dangerous black market in steroids in L.A. gyms, where they come up against Fred “The Hammer” Williamson’s Paulie, who is the kingpin of the market.

It begins with a weirdly shot opening sequence of close-ups body builders. The plot’s all over the place, but it starts out strong with a pretty gnarly scene where the partners are working a different drug case. The drug dealer’s ex tries to trade sex for drugs, but the ex wants her 13-year-old daughter instead—and the kid gets killed when the agents try to recue her. That’s a hard-core dramatic scene that sets up the lead agents’ issues. Clay is not bad as the conflicted Italian-American DEA guy, and while Wilson isn’t a great actor, he works in the context of the film. Williamson had a rule that he couldn’t lose a fight in any film he was in, and he keeps to that here. As the villain, Williamson gets to be surrounded by naked ladies, and steals the show as always.

Director Brady MacKenzie never made another film, which is hardly surprising—although Whatever It Takes was perfectly competently made for a film in this genre at that time. The action sequences aren’t bad, but it degenerates into a basic undercover buddy-cop film—if it had continued as nasty as it started, it might have been a better movie. It’s one of the few times that you’ll wish the Diceman had more to do, since he disappears for a large chunk of the movie. There’s even a reference to Ford Fairlane, which is always a nice thing.

Restored from the original 35mm negative, the 4K region-free Blu-Ray comes with a reversible cover and double-sided poster. Extras includes new interviews with Wilson and Williamson.

★★★

Ian Schultz

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