Cast: Jeff Fahey, Gary Busey, Carrie Anne Moss
In quite a few ways, Lethal Tender is in
the top of its
field when it comes to movies that rip-off Die Hard. But
I'm not recommending it, for reasons which I'll get to later.
This is a production of Le Monde Entertainment, a
division of Alliance,
a Canadian company. Alliance likes to brag about how they make "quality
and distinctively Canadian movies", and prevent American culture from
infiltrating Canada, while most of their assets come from distributing
American movies (from New Line and Miramax) in Canada, and much of
TV and movie productions being set in America or some generic setting.
I wrote to them about this discrepancy recently, but they didn't reply.
Jeff Fahey plays Chase, a Chicago cop who we first see
accepting a bet
by other cops at the precinct that think he can't get out of a pair of
handcuffs within a time limit. Of course, he succeeds in time, just
Mel Gibson did in a similar scene in Lethal Weapon 2.
this movie also has the word "lethal" in its title, so I guess it's
even though the audience will have correctly guessed that later in the
movie Chase will find himself in handcuffs once again after the bad
catch him. Afterwards, he and his partner take their assignment to go
a water filtration center out in the country to keep an eye on some
workers outside, which has the center's management worried.
While Chase's partner keeps an eye on the strikers,
Chase is given a
quick tour of the filtration plant by employee Melissa (Moss). During
tour, several vehicles with a number of occupants approach the security
gate outside and are let through. As you've probably guessed, these are
the bad guys (and one bad girl), who shortly let down their guises and
proceed to take control of the plant, take hostages of the employees
a group of visitors, and turn off the filtration system. While this is
going on, Chase and Melissa have already stepped out of the building
several minutes. Returning to a side door, they discover explosives
on the other side, and immediately deduct something is not right.
Melissa conveniently has a key for a convenient hatch that the
might not have discovered just yet. And since she knows more about the
plant than Chase, he is then forced to let her tag along so that he
just put a few dents in their plan - and quickly, because the water
of Chicago will be infected if the filtration system isn't turned on
four hours are up.
Lethal Tender is the slickest and best
Hard rip-off not made by a major studio. For what was
undoubtedly a low budget, it doesn't show it at all, having production
equal to the major studios. The location work is excellent as well;
of the locations happening in the filtration center appear to have been
faked (the credits thank two real water purification plants), and the
takes these actual locations to both add authenticity and to use what
in these areas (for example, a moving platform crane) as part of the
I don't know how the heck the filmmakers managed to use all these
to their potential without disrupting the actual work at these
plants, but they somehow did it. I tip my hat to them for these
But the movie overall doesn't work. Why? Let's start
with the characters
and actors. Fahey is quite a boring action hero. Believe it or not, he
doesn't do much more than run around and spy on the bad guys for the
hour - he doesn't even kill anyone, while Melissa manages to make a
on her own kill list! No surprise then then Fahley seems really bored
and seldom speaking beyond a monotone. I like Gary Busey, and it's
fun to see him play either good or bad guys. In Lethal Tender,
he plays "Mr. Turner", the ringleader who radios instructions to the
from his nearby location. There's another problem: Busey for most of
movie just sits there radioing his team to give instructions, and
at his desk on another plan of his. Eventually he does get pissed, and
kills a few unlucky people, though Busey's performance never rises
going through the motions. He's done so many psycho roles in his
it takes a good director to make him rise above his instincts. At least
Busey's drug addiction, which he still suffered from during the making
of this, isn't apparent here.
The movie also has some really bizarre attempts at
humor, which fail
to get laughs and quite frankly left me bewildered. One scene early in
the movie has a villain tormenting a captured worker by picking up the
corpse of his dead co-worker, and speaking to the tormented worker in a
squeaky voice, as if he was a ventriloquist. Another scene has one bad
guy shooting two guards, and his terrorist partner claiming he didn't
to do that. "What are you complaining about?" answers the killer.
union's got great life insurance coverage!" Such scenes are not just
but seem out of place.
But what about the action? Sorry to tell you, there's
not much of it
anyway. The little action there doesn't usually go beyond one-on-one
or hand-to-hand fights. I knew it was doomed from the start when I
that there weren't many terrorists. If Bruce Willis or Steven Seagal
in that building, the movie would have been finished in 45 minutes. So
it's fortunate that this movie had an inept hero to stretch things out
- fortunate for the filmmakers, not the audience.
UPDATE: Special thanks for William Norton
for finding out a very interesting story about the making of this
"I heard from a late actor who knew Gary Busey.
He told me
Busey was "tacked-in" on the film Lethal Tender. To get a
tax break you have to get a Canadian actor/actress as second
highest pay. Kim Coates isn't worth as much money as Busey, so
shot him separately so they can still get the tax break. Busey is
also friends with Jeff Fahey so he kind of helped get Busey in the film
for the producers. The producer of the film, Julian Grant,
himself in a interview as "The Roger Corman of Canada", even though he
only did a handful of movies. (I think Peter Simpson or Paul Lynch is
Corman). (Note: I agree) So this film was made with a hack
Odd now, everyone is ga-ga over Carrie Ann Moss, and getting a lot of
in Canada, yet like Alliance, all she did was American films for her
nothing really in Canada, yet I heard she is looked up by Canadians for
This story is probably true, since during the film,
mostly stays in one room, far away from where Jeff Fahey is doing his
The difficulty of making movies in Canada (and trying to
get tax breaks
at the same time) has generated a lot of ludicrous and true stories.
example, in the movie Tanya's Island, the story was
to totally take place on a desert island. Then the Canadian government
there to be "Canadian content" in the movie. So they quickly shot a few
minutes of footage of a couple of the characters in a Toronto TV
pretty much doing nothing but sitting and standing around.
Later on, the Canadian government made a rule stating
that in order
to qualify for a tax shelter, producers couldn't disguise Canadian
as American. So producers then set their movies in unidentified
assuming (probably correctly) that audiences would assume the movie was
set in America.
Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)
See also: Act Of War, The Peacekeeper, Expect No