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Film / Death Machines

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Death Machines is a 1976 American martial arts action thriller directed by Paul Kyriazi, starring Ron Marchini, Michael Chong, Joshua Johnson, Mari Honjo, and Ron Ackerman. The film focuses on a trio of assassins, the titular Death Machines, who are hired by crime boss Madame Lee (Honjo) to take out her competitors. First, they are sent to assassinate the local Mafia boss Mr. Gioletti, and then they attack a rival gang leader's dojo, but leave behind a single survivor, Frank Thomas, who now has a score to settle with Madame Lee and her Death Machines.

Absolutely no relation to Death Machine.

Provides examples of the following tropes:

  • An Arm and a Leg: During the attack on the dojo, the Death Machines brutally lop off Frank's right hand.
  • Bar Brawl: Two of them. One pits the Death Machines against a biker gang, ending in said gang getting curb-stomped, and the second is a pair of antsy drunkards kicking the ass of Frank and his boss and smashing up the bar before leaving.
  • Blood from the Mouth: When the three assassins toss one of their opponents off the roof of a building and onto his illegally parked car, blood spouts from the opponent's mouth as the old meter maid screams in horror.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Several scenes that one would expect to be very bloody are rather lacking in the gore department, such as when the Asian Death Machine slashes his opponent with a machete and the titular trio's massacre at the dojo.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The leader of the Nebulous Evil Organization makes it clear at the beginning of the film that the Death Machines have been brainwashed to do his bidding.
  • Bullying the Dragon: A random biker gang harasses the white Death Machine in one scene, mostly because he refuses to talk back to them. When they finally try to get physical with said bullying, a Curb-Stomp Battle ensues.
  • Calling Card: Three of the Death Machines' targets find red Buddha figurines shortly before the Death Machines kill them.
  • Car Fu: The titular trio ram a Chevy truck into a local Italian eatery where Mr. Gioletti's limo driver Mike is enjoying a meal. They then proceed to corner him and slash him to death with a sword.
  • Car Meets House: The assassination of one of Mr. Gioletti's men involves smashing a truck right into the restaurant where he's eating.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The white Death Machine wins his first duel by simply pulling out a gun and shooting his opponent rather than using martial arts as per the trio's normal modus operandi.
  • Construction Vehicle Rampage: Mr. Gioletti's henchman George is killed when the white Death Machine plows into the phone booth he's using with a bulldozer.
  • Cowboy Cop: Lt. Forrester is made out to be one of these when Captain Green angrily confronts him about some Noodle Incident that Forrester still has not finished his reports on and caused serious mayhem. In practice, however, Forrester acts very laid-back and his actions, such as moving Frank from his hospital room to prevent the Death Machines from finishing the job — a good decision, as it turned out — and playing Good Cop/Bad Cop with the captured white Death Machine, just don't support Green's Dirty Harry-level accusations. Forrester reaching his breaking point about Green's badgering in the final act and telling him that he's going to go follow Frank's tip and Green can go to hell if he doesn't likes it definitely qualifies for this trope, though.
  • Da Chief: Captain Green spends the whole film badgering the cops on the Death Machines' case, especially Lt. Forrester, over unpresented reports and still-incomplete training regarding some prior Cowboy Cop antics. It gets even weirder when he continues to badger Forrester after the white Death Machine beats the ever-loving crap out of the whole station and Forrester gets a call from Frank Thomas about the Death Machines' whereabouts — by which we mean "you go out that door without finishing those reports and you're fired, mister!". Forrester quite understandably flips his lid and tells Green to go to hell.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Madame Lee invites Mr. Gioletti to dinner, where she presents him with the severed head of his limo driver Mike.
  • Disconnected by Death: George is busy talking to his boss on the phone about the trio's killings when he's run over by the white Death Machine's bulldozer.
  • Dragon Lady: Madame Lee is a combination of this and The Queenpin, a ruthless Asian female crime boss who hires the titular trio to kill her competitors in crime.
  • Failure Hero: Frank Thomas is not exactly Charles Bronson. His whole sub-plot revolves around him angsting about being the Sole Survivor of his dojo's massacre, even getting his ass kicked by a random drunkard in a Bar Brawl, then seeing the Death Machines driving by and following them to Madame Lee's house, where Madame Lee almost kills him before Lt. Forrester, the cop investigating the massacre, saves him. And the Death Machines get away scot-free.
  • Fanservice: Mr. Gioletti's lover appears in two early scenes wearing extremely little. There is also an exotic dancer at the bar where Frank works.
  • Gratuitous Rape: For no apparent reason, the Death Machines sexually assault the banker's daughter while in the process of kidnapping her.
  • Hospital Hottie: Frank's love interest Florence is an attractive nurse at the local hospital, whom he first meets while recovering from the loss of his hand.
  • Immune to Bullets: The titular trio all wear bulletproof armor underneath their jackets, turning them into examples of this trope. This is most prominently demonstrated during the shootout at the police station, where the officers attempt several times to shoot the white Death Machine, but to no avail.
  • Informed Attribute: The titular Death Machines are supposed to be highly professional assassins, yet their methods are extremely un-stealthy and they regularly commit rookie mistakes that would most likely get them quickly nabbed by law enforcement.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The biker gang that harasses the white Death Machine in one scene very quickly go from "this idiot is not talking to us for some reason" to "he's a cop". Even if he wasn't, well, a death machine, you wonder why the hell they think bullying a cop is a good idea.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Gioletti reacts to discovering that the Death Machines beheaded his limo driver Mike, while he's having dinner with Madame Lee, by blowing away the waiter that presented him with Mike's head. Even if he's part of Madame Lee's organization, he had absolutely jack to do with the assassination.
    • The massacre of Frank's dojo. The target was the leader of Frank's dojo, who used it as a front for drug peddling, while everybody else in the building was just a loose end,
    • The Death Machines kidnap the daughter of banker Nathan Adams and hold her hostage so Adams will step in line with Mr. Gioletti. He refuses, so they kill Adams and his daughter — and they also sexually assault her for no reason along the way.
    • The random biker gang who bully the white Death Machine just for being in the same gas station/restaurant as them ultimately end up biting way more than they can chew.
  • Nebulous Evil Organization: The group who created the Death Machines, and whom Madame Lee works for. The whole plot of the film seemingly happens because they wish to monopolize crime in the unidentified city where the film takes place (and eventually the world).
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer has a vaguely sci-fi feel, making the film look almost like a kind of proto-Terminator set in a dystopian future when it's actually a martial arts thriller set in the present day.
  • No Name Given: The Death Machines are never properly named at any point in the film, being identified only by their skin color.
  • One-Man Army: The white Death Machine, after being captured by the police, proceeds to beat the ever-loving crap out of everybody in the station in order to escape.
  • Papa Wolf: Bizarrely inverted with Nathan Adams, who refuses to play ball with the criminals and orders Madame Lee's assistant to get the hell out of his office, even after being shown photos of his daughter being abducted and mistreated. Seeing that Adams doesn't appears to care about his daughter, Madame Lee's assistant decides to handcuff Adams to a file cabinet and leave him to die via a time bomb. Even more bizarrely, the scene where Adams' daughter is abducted begins with her being on the phone with Adams and saying lines such as, "I only live 40 miles away, dad, I'm not on the other side of the world!"
  • Psycho Serum: The titular assassins are injected with a drug that turns them into obedient, superpowered killing machines.
  • Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: While we only see Madame Lee's boss and the man who ordered the creation of the Death Machines in silhouette, Madame Lee very proudly wears the Dragon Lady trope on her sleeve and most of the film's plot revolves around her using the Death Machines to strong-arm Mr. Gioletti, the city's Mafia don, out of business.
  • Stuff Blowing Up:
    • The trio use a bazooka to take out a rival hitman, and later to shoot down Mr. Gioletti's Cessna 172.
    • The banker Nathan Adams is killed by a time bomb set by the trio that obliterates his bank, showering the nearby street with debris and broken glass.
  • Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: The bomb used to kill Nathan Adams does not go off immediately when the countdown ends, but rather rings a gong for a few seconds and then goes off. Adams, who is handcuffed a few inches away, lets out a nervous guffaw, apparently thinking he was just being suckered.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The Death Machines certainly don't half-ass it with their killing methods. Gioletti's hitmen are annihilated via rocket launcher, being tossed off a building, run over with a bulldozer, and hit with a truck before being decapitated with a sword. Gioletti himself is also blown up with the same bazooka. The only person Madame Lee tries to strong-arm in the whole film aside from Gioletti gets blown up sky-high when he refuses to play ball.
  • With Catlike Tread: The Death Machines' methods aren't exactly stealthy, including but are not limited to throwing bombs at opponents, throwing them from the sides of buildings, and hitting them with vehicles.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Since it's established that the Death Machines are wearing body armor, it never seems to occur to anyone during the police station shootout to try shooting them in the head. The only time a Death Machine does get shot in the head, it was by a random security guard and the bullet did little to no damage — it gets a Band-Aid and that's it.