Ministry of Vengeance (1989)
Here’s another remnant left to us action fans from the VHS era starring a former TV heartthrob and a parcel of well known faces who were still working and looking to collect a paycheck on this low budget effort from director Peter Maris.
It’s one of the Dukes of Hazzard, John Schneider, starring here as the film opens up with a military skirmish in Vietnam that is to leave deep emotional scars on our leading man. Just as the battle comes to a fiery conclusion Schneider will awake from his recurring nightmare wearing the white collar and black suit of a minister. Along with his wife and little daughter he is embarking on a flight that will never leave the airport. Instead a terrorist played by Robert Miano opens fire in the busy boarding area murdering countless travelers which sadly will include Schneider’s wife and child. From here on in his faith will be called into question.
George Kennedy as an elderly man of the cloth will conduct the funeral services and Yaphet Kotto as the CIA agent assigned to the case will offer little hope to the man in mourning. Schenider will turn to his religious mentor Kennedy but not finding solace will instead turn to his military mentor, James Tolkan, to whip him back into fighting shape. Both physically and with an assault rifle. Tolkan is an easily recognizable face and I suspect one that most people will be saying aloud at the screen, “I know that guy.” without actually knowing his name. Happens to the best of character actors everywhere since the dawn of cinema.
Against the wishes of both Tolkan and Kotto, Schenider will work his way overseas to Lebanon where in very short order he’ll locate his prey. Yeah it’s a bit too easy which begs the question why hasn’t Chuck Norris and Delta Force taken this murdering lunatic out already? While Schneider may be looking for his own brand of vengeance he will enter the area as a minister working with Ned Beatty who runs a mission for the poor just up the street from our terrorist’s home office. Now that’s mighty convenient.
“I figured even a priest needs a guardian angel.”
Yes just as Schneider is about to have his cover blown and probably get shot to hell and back, Tolkan turns up to fight the good fight with his former protégé. Things might not be all that they seem to be here with Kotto’s CIA agent possibly pulling tactical strings of his own. As the confrontation comes to head our former Bo Duke of television fame is going to have to make the big decision on whether or not to fire his weapon with deadly intentions or leave it to Tolkan and a few freedom fighters.
Torture, bloodshed and Rambo styled action are sure to follow once Father Schneider comes to terms with his conscience and doing what he believes is right for the betterment of the traveling public.
Strictly a straight to video flick of the times and by no means a top notch example of the action genre, it’s not all that bad thanks to the fact that we have Tolkan, Kennedy, Kotto and Beatty participating in the fun. Having never watched one single episode of The Dukes of Hazzard growing up I had very little interest in Schneider’s acting career as a whole. I was more interested in his association with Country Music and the fact that Waylon Jennings sang the theme song on his hit TV show.
George Kennedy played a few priests or ministers over the course of his acting career so he’s an easy fit here in a role that proves to be not much more than a cameo. Among George’s other religious journeys on camera are the TV series, Sarge : The Badge or the Cross, the aforementioned Delta Force and Final Shot : The Hank Gathers Story. It’s almost as if Kennedy was taking over the confessional for Dabbs Greer who played countless priests and ministers including the Reverend Alden on Little House on the Prairie. Kennedy would actually play a similar role to Schneider’s back in the 1975 revenge flick The Human Factor.
Seeing Yaphet Kotto as a member of the CIA or the FBI seems to be a natural fit. So much so that one has to wonder if the film industry was forced to cast him by those same agencies. Perhaps none more memorable than his appearance as Agent Alonzo Mosely opposite Robert DeNiro’s bounty hunter Jack Walsh in 1986’s hit comedy Midnight Run.
Alongside Ned Beatty at the mission is actress Apollonia Kotero who one has to wonder might give a new lease on life to Schneider once he finalizes his private war versus Miano. Miss Kotero might be best recognized for appearing opposite Prince in Purple Rain. As to our villain Mr. Miano, he looked familiar to me as he should. He’s nearing 300 acting credits according to the IMDB and scrolling down to his early years in 1974 he’s even listed as an unbilled mugger in Death Wish. So it would appear that unlike Jeff Goldlum who also was a mugger in that iconic film, Miano continued on as a baddie while Jeff became a likable leading man/character actor we all recognize immediately.
For anyone looking to score a copy of this 95 minute slugfest it’s turned up on a budget label release from Mill Creek along with a selection of other titles easily found in a bargain bin at the Wal Marts of the world. No, action star John Schneider isn’t on the cover but John Wick is.