‘‘Sergeant Pete ‘Killer’ Rayo. His name does exactly what it says ! ’’
South Vietnam 1968. General Corad heads up a reconnaissance transport unit through the jungle border. His presence is felt by the Darth Vader of the Vietcong army, and soon the dark forces are upon him with a rebel yell. Poor old Mike Monty is the set upon General, once again in the wrong place at the wrong time but as ever perfectly cast. Corad and a few of his surviving men are taken captive and soon find themselves hostage to the Vietcong, deep within the man made tunnels in unforgiving territory.
The American military want their General back and immediately put together a crack team of five, all with experience of the terrain and particularly of the network of tunnels. Steely eyed Romano Kristoff is Lieutenant John Smith, who heads up the Tunnel Rat Team, with Jim Gaines as his sergeant at arms Pete ‘Killer’ Rayo. There is friction between the two main men from the outset, which proves to later compromise the mission as Rayo’s battle wearied character loses control over the team objective.
Lieutenant Smith leads his handful of men cautiously into the jungle region to track down General Corad but is soon beset by the Vietcong and some ineptitude from an inexperienced soldier within the ranks. The opposing faction are aware of a rescue mission and they act to move the abducted General to alternate incarceration. Smith and fellow mercenaries readily engage the enemy, as between them both bodies and foliage become peppered like blood splattered seasoning upon the indigenous jungle canvas.
This is low budget, high output mano et mano Action where the good guys cry havoc and unleash a whole heap of whoop ass upon the Vietcong, as they stamp out their intent to bring the General home. It’s by the numbers jungle Action, but the interesting hook here comes in the shape of usually regular good guy Jim Gaines, as his character Pete Rayo is a nasty piece of work with the soul intent of looking out for number one !. Gaines’ portrayal of a soldier descending into narcissistic self destruct is attention grabbing. From the outset he questions Lieutenant Smith’s leadership and soon defies orders, culminating in compromising the teams position. When he beats and rapes a Vietnamese village girl in the care of the team his mental stability is questioned by his fellow soldiers, but it is not until he is directly responsible for the loss of innocent lives that Lieutenant Smith fully realises that he is more of a liable threat than the Vietcong closing in around them. Smith has to square off against Rayo in order to preserve both the mission and his own life, as well as pulling it all together to storm the Vietcong holding place to rescue General Corad.
Good casting and another solid piece of Direction from the relatively fledgling movie making skills of Irvin Johnson make for another enjoyable jungle raid and rescue outing. By this time ‘B’ movie Action genre Directors like Johnson were churning out three or four movies a year and this is one that has the feel of a relatively quick shoot making use of re-used locations and sets, not to mention a reworked thematic script. Nevertheless, anything with the likes of Romano Kristoff, Jim Gaines and Mike Monty in are always plus points in attracting a viewing, and this is no exception. What Jungle Rats loses in originality it makes up for in the Action set pieces that are never too far apart.
Movie Rating: 5/10
Review Paul Cooke / Source Japanese NTSC VHS
Jungle Rats (1987)
Directed by Irvin Johnson
With Rom Kristoff, Jim Gaines,
Jerry Bailey, Michael Welborne,
Richard King & Mike Monty