In the 1980s it was Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone who were battling it out as to who could be the king of the action movie genre, each of them cutting a swath of destruction across cinemas worldwide, but in 1986 one young man entered the ring to challenge these two cinematic titans of testosterone and that individual was Uncle Jesse himself, John Stamos.
The plot of this film deals with a villainous hermaphrodite named Velvet Von Ragner (Gene Simmons) who is the leader of a large gang of brainwashed Road Warrior wannabees, and they are hell-bent on either anarchy or capitalism. Watching this plot unfold for the second time and I’m still not exactly sure what their end goals are but they do plan on blackmailing a city by threatening to dump some type of poison in the city’s water supply. Unfortunately for them, they can’t pull off their plan because a special computer disc has been stolen by agent Drew Stargrove (George Lazenby) and they will do anything to get it back. It’s when Ragner captures and kills Drew Stargrove, who refuses to surrender the disc, that we are introduced to the film’s ostensible hero, Drew’s clueless son and high school gymnast Lance Stargrove (John Stamos). Stargrove is shocked to learn from the enigmatic Danja Deering (Vanity) that his dad was some sort of super spy but he is slowly drawn into the dangerous world of international espionage.
This movie is one wild ride from start to finish, with Lance Stargrove navigating through dangerous situations and narrowly escaping death at every turn, with a screenplay by Steven Paul and Anton Fitz that works overtime to make any of what we see on screen make a lick of sense – I should note it rarely makes a lick of sense – and the movie also features some fairly impressive gymnastics stunts performed by Stamos himself, adding an extra layer of excitement to the film. If only he’d put as much effort into acting lessons as he did gymnastics he may have escaped a future being stuck on Full House. The action carries us from freeway fights to tense a battle in an abandoned factory, which is your standard villainous location and its there where our hero must save the damsel in distress from the clutches of the nefarious Ragner, in this case, the damsel is badass in her own right but we have to give the male hero something to do.
• The plot of this film is about a gymnast becoming a secret agent but we already have Gymkata, which used that premise a year earlier, and when you are ripping off that particular film you must know you’re in rough shape.
• Drew Stargrove’s involvement is uncovered because he gave his informant identifiable jewellery. Maybe he isn’t that great of a secret agent.
• George Lazenby plays the spy dad, which is an obvious nod to his one outing as Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
• Even before taking up the mantle of super spy, we find Lance rooming with a guy who builds various types of spy gagdets and weapons, basically, he’s a low-rent “Q” from the Bond films.
• Danja goes to a rowdy biker club dressed in a sparkly evening gown, which leaves one questioning the level of spy craft in this film. Doesn’t this spy agency of a “Q” equivalent for fashion?
• Lance Stargrove rides a dirt bike in this movie, sadly, it’s not magical and he’s no Dirt Bike Kid.
• I’m not sure why a computer disc is needed to poison a city’s water supply, wouldn’t simply dumping it in the local reservoir be effective enough? Then again, who am I to doubt either Robert Englund or Gene Simmons?
Vanity, who plays Stargrove’s love interest escapes the typical portrayal of women as nothing more than eye candy for the hero and villain to fight over, she is allowed to be a competent badass in her own right, that she out acts Stamos in ever scene makes it even more apparent that she is the film’s true hero, of course, this doesn’t stop the film from throwing in some gratuitous nudity as that is an element pretty much required for action movies of the 1980s. This results in an awkward scene where Danja shows up on the back patio with a garden hose – and yes, this is as romantic as it sounds – and while Vanity is a gorgeous woman with a spectacular body even she can’t create any sort of sexual chemistry between herself and John Stamos. I give Vanity extra credit for making her character seem remotely interested in this limp fish of a hero.
Without a doubt, the real star of the show is Gene Simmons, who delivers a delightfully campy performance as the villainous Velvet Von Ragner. He’s decked out in flamboyant costumes, sporting ridiculous hair and makeup while delivering cheesy one-liners that will have you rolling your eyes and giggling uncontrollably. John Stamos, on the other hand, looks to have wandered in from some dull beach party movie and has the screen charisma of a lemming on quaaludes. That said, the action scenes are a hoot and while Stamos doing his gymnastics moves in the middle of gunfights look a little too staged to be convincing you have to ask yourself “Who needs well-choreographed fight sequences when you have a cross-dressing villain with a love for punk rock and blowing things up.” Gene Simmons chews up the scenery like he’s in a different movie altogether, and it’s glorious.
It’s fair to say that Never Too Young to Die is no cinematic masterpiece but it’s hard to fault a film that concludes with the hero biting the bare breast of a villainous hermaphrodite, and that type of craziness as well as the over-the-top action sequences and cheesy dialogue, makes this a perfect choice for a Saturday night movie marathon with friends. So, if you’re in the mood for a campy, action-packed adventure with a touch of nostalgia, then Never Too Young to Die is one I can recommend, but having some libations handy wouldn’t hurt either.
Never Too Young To Die (1986)
Movie Rank - 6/10
Overall, Never Too Young to Die doesn’t quite fall into the “so-bad-it’s-good” category as it looks to me as if the filmmakers were purposely making a fun, cheesy romp through the 80s, one that will leave you with a smile on your face and wondering how anyone thought this movie was a good idea. If you’re looking for a good laugh and some mindless entertainment, then this movie is definitely worth a watch.