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  Jaguar Lives! Kicking Off
Year: 1979
Director: Ernest Pintoff
Stars: Joe Lewis, Christopher Lee, Donald Pleasence, Barbara Bach, Capucine, Joseph Wiseman, Woody Strode, John Huston, Gabriel Melgar, Anthony De Longis, Sally Faulkner, Gail Grainger, Anthony Heaton, Luis Prendes, Simón Andreu, Oscar James, Victor Israel
Genre: Martial Arts, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Special agent Jonathan Cross (Joe Lewis), codenamed Jaguar, is currently involved with a high speed race to get to a national monument, accompanied in another car by his best friend Bret Barrett (Anthony De Longis). They joke with each other over their radios that they will reach the huge stone cross first, where a bomb has been rigged to go off any minute now, but they arrive pretty much simultaneously and rush over to the cable car where they can travel up to the summit of the mountain. However, as Jaguar gets out to deal with a gunman, he doesn't realise Bret is firing at him...

Joe Lewis was of course one of the greatest kickboxers the world has ever seen, revered among followers of the sport for his skill, but you wouldn't see much of that here, which just went to show that movie martial arts and competitive martial arts were two different beasts. Not that we didn't get to enjoy Mr Lewis in action, as his character does get into a few punch-ups, but they seemed very few and far between when the rest of Jaguar Lives! was made up of too much travelogue and far, far too much chit-chat. It was obvious what the filmmakers were trying to emulate here, and that was the James Bond series.

Even to the extent of hiring a bunch of stars who had appeared in Bond movies themselves, with Barbara Bach from The Spy Who Loved Me as the contact within the agency Jaguar is invited back into, Joseph Wiseman from Dr. No as an Islamic, er, wise man, Donald Pleasence from You Only Live Twice also sporting brown makeup as a dictator, and Christopher Lee from The Man with the Golden Gun as the top man behind the spy ring - or is he? Although Lee took first billing in the opening credits, he actually didn't appear until the movie was over an hour in, and even then he's only onscreen for about ten minutes. Such was the bonus of hiring a few stars for a day or two.

These luminaries were not the only big names secured by director Ernest Pintoff, whose Oscar must never have seemed so long ago, as also appearing were Woody Strode as Jaguar's mentor who he hangs out with on a cattle ranch, Capucine who is one of the baddies - she sets her factory workers on our hero, and another Oscar-winning director in John Huston, showing up for a couple of minutes to pass on some vital information which you'll doubtless have forgotten about by the stage the next scene has commenced. So this does at least have potential for star spotters, otherwise you'll be feeling shortchanged because there's very little to this, even for fans of kickboxing.

Lewis was no worse than many action heroes to show up during the eighties, but arrived just at the wrong time, not making the name for himself in the movies he should have when if the action boom had exploded a couple of years earlier, we might well have been talking about him in the same breath as Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger. As it was, at the time he made this it was Bruce Lee who film fighters were keen to emulate, as far as those skilled in martial arts went, and that craze was on the wane - no wonder when you saw the material Lewis was working with here. Scriptwriter Yabo Yablonsky would have cult favourite Escape to Victory to his name two years later, but there were few who appreciated Jaguar Lives! in the same indulgent manner, leaving the production more a what could have been experience than a what was. Who casts kickboxers for their dialogue skills, anyway? Music by Robert O. Ragland.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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