Movie Review: Terror in Beverly Hills (1989)

When it comes to bad action movies, there are some names in action films that can be reasonably taken as a warning sign that the film you are approaching is a stinkburger. Frank Stallone is one of those names. Frank Stallone started his career as a musician and composer and has had a reasonably successful career at that. However, as his older brother Sylvester became one of the action juggernauts of the 1980s and ’90s, Frank kept also getting action movie roles, presumably on the basis that he looks enough like Sly, that if you put “Stallone” in large enough letters on the poster, people won’t look closer and recognize that it’s actually Frank.

This is the case with Terror in Beverly Hills, an Israeli-made action movie that not only didn’t have the budget for Sylvester, they couldn’t even afford Frank for more than two days of shooting. It’s also a film that, near as I can tell, was made by people who had never been to the US, meaning that it also runs into the Italian Dirty Harry knockoff/Mad Bull 34 problem, where the film views the US through the lens of other badly written action films, often films that are made by other people who are also unfamiliar with the US.

There’s a lot of gratuitous nudity in the film, and not even well executed gratuitous nudity: Two helicopter police officers are distracted by topless women riding in the back of a pickup truck (because that’s a thing that happens all the time in the US – not!), women walk out of changing rooms at the sound of gunfire just to literally walk into more gunfire and get killed, and one the terrorists who are the film’s antagonists attempting to rape the daughter of the President of the US.

This actually leads us to the antagonists of the film. The premise of the film is that a group of Palestinian terrorists go to the US in order to take the US president’s daughter hostage, with a demand that the Israeli government release 45 Palestinian prisoners within 12 hours. The only hope to get the president’s daughter out is retired special forces officer Hack Stone, played by Frank Stallone. However, as mentioned earlier, they only had Frank for two days of shooting, so head terrorist, Abbas, played by Muneer Katchi gets the lion’s share of the screen time. In turn, means that the writers are forced to make the terrorist a more sympathetic character than the theoretical protagonist because they have to make the audience want to spend more time with them.

That said, this doesn’t make the film good, or even enjoyable. The camera work and cinematography is, on several occasions, straight up incompetent. There are scenes where the film appears to have been clearly over-exposed on half of the screen, either due to being improperly put in the canister, an issue with the camera, or placing a light source too close to the lens. Additionally, several indoor scenes are filled with a general haze of smoke so pervasive that it looks like someone had a kitchen fire in an adjacent room, as opposed to giving a sense of atmosphere.

Terror in Beverly Hills is one of those bad action movies that is only really enjoyable with friends, and in a situation where you have at least one other movie paired with it afterward as a palate cleanser.

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