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Scarecrow on Seattle: MASSACRE

For the past few years, Scarecrow Video has been contributing reviews of movies made in the Pacific Northwest to the Seattle Office of Film + Music's e-newsletter. We're now proud to be able to share these reviews on our site as well.






Massacre (1985)

Making an action movie based on the notorious Wah Mee Massacre is undeniably in questionable taste, but perhaps the worst offense committed by the guys who made Massacre (aka The Border of Tong) is that it is such a crappy loaf of cinematic crud. Even though the filmmakers claim that this is a purely fictitious creation with the standard "no similarity to persons living or dead is intended" type disclaimer, the movie stays pretty close to the actual events of the horrific incident that occurred back in 1983. Three Chinese American men robbed and killed the patrons of an underground gambling club called Wah Mee that was in the International District. One of the victims actually survived and was able to identify the thieves, one of whom had escaped to Canada. The screenwriters throw in a missing "little black book" with politically compromising information, a city council candidate desperate to retrieve it, a hit-man hired by said candidate, and a Canadian hooker with a heart of gold.


The biggest addition to this cinematic atrocity is a Dirty Harry-type police officer named Randy Walker who looks like he gets his mullet trimmed by the same barber that took care of Mel Gibson's locks circa Lethal Weapon 2. The cop has one small lead in the mass-murder investigation (an origami grasshopper), and the plot eventually becomes a race between the hit-man and the detective to find the fugitive shooter. Detective Walker is portrayed by David Heavener in his cinematic debut. You may not be aware of Heavener unless you watch a lot of straight to video action flicks or work in a video store (or both), but he has starred in a plethora of sub-par, low-budget potboilers. He is a marginally skilled martial artist, but none of his fighting talents are utilized in Massacre. As a matter of fact, the director seems to have no idea of how to stage a fight or car chase and little understanding of how crucial these elements are for making a satisfying cop actioneer. The amateurish nature of the production is also reflected in the screenplay. Even though the film is closely based on a true story, they still manage to muddle things up with too many pointless details, bad "confused white guy in a Chinese restaurant" jokes, and not enough attention to simple things like plot and character.


Most of the first third of Massacre takes place in Seattle. There are quite a few helicopter shots showcasing different parts of the city, including requisite shots of the Space Needle, the Kingdome, the waterfront, King Street Station, SODO, the International District, and a ferry in Elliott Bay. The Alaskan Way Viaduct, SeaTac Airport, the Greyhound Bus Station are also shown, along with a residential Central District block and numerous glimpses of the ID's streets and alleys. Some of the film is set in Vancouver B.C., so you would assume (especially with a low budget film like this) that they'd just grab a few establishing shots in the Emerald City and then do everything else up north. Refreshingly, the Seattle portions of Massacre seem to actually have been done right here. If you want to learn more about the Wah Mee Massacre, I suggest you look elsewhere. But if you're a sucker for bad action movies, there are a lot of laughs and Seattle scenery to be found in Massacre.

-Spenser Hoyt

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