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TO THE LIMIT

Directed by Raymond Martino, To the Limit is perhaps the most well-known of the Gallo/Martino collection, mainly because of its casting of Anna Nicole Smith in the lead role. And so Raymond Martino is attributed as being the first director ever to cast Anna Nicole Smith in a lead role; he's come a long way since slaying child molesters and pimps in Mayhem. To the Limit also serves as the sequel to Da Vinci's War, also directed by Martino, which starred Michael Nouri and Joey Travolta [the less handsome brother of John Travolta].

The movie starts out with renegade CIA mastermind Arthur Jameson, played by G. Gordon Liddy lookalike Jack Bannon, paying off an agent for retrieving valuable evidence for Jameson.

The agent, who has a thick Russian accent and a phony mustache, leaves Jameson and rendezvouses with Bob Gallo at a rooftop helicopter landing pad. After taking off again, Gallo gazes at the agent's briefcase full of money with a look of satisfaction.

Gallo then bitch-slaps the Russkie, slams his head against the front seat, and tosses him headlong out of the chopper.

Jameson, who is still in his hideout, mysteriously knows all that is taking place in the helicopter, even though he's inside playing a video game. A further investigation of the money by Gallo reveals that a bomb is concealed within the briefcase. Incredibly, instead of throwing the bomb out of the helicopter like any reasonably intelligent person, Gallo looks at the camera with a frozen look of terror, not unlike Macauley Culkin's expession of panic in Home Alone.

Jameson then bids Gallo farewell with an "Adios, Muchacho" before pushing the button on his joystick, which amazingly launches the missiles of an Apache helicopter in the video game he's playing at the same time that it blows Gallo out of the sky.

The movie centers upon Anna Nicole Smith who plays Collette, a CIA agent who is married to assassin China Smith, played by Michael Nouri.

Nouri's character is assassinated by a carbomb planted by Jameson just before the couple leave to go to Frank Da Vinci's (Joey Travolta) wedding to Lupe (Rebecca Ferratti).

All hell breaks loose at the wedding as a strike team sent by Jameson assaults the wedding, killing Lupe and leaving Frank in critical condition. While recovering at the hospital, one of Jameson's agents disguised as a nurse tries to inject Da Vinci's IV tube with lethal poison and is almost thwarted by Branscombe Richmond, who is stabbed with the syringe in the neck.

Travolta cheats death by ripping out his intravenous tube before the poisonous toxins can enter his bloodstream. Seeking to avenge Lupe and China's death, Da Vinci teams up with Collette to get even with Jameson, who wants a razor-sharp CD-ROM containing evidence incriminating to himself that is in Collette and Frank's possession.

For a B-movie, the plot is a little too complicated for its own good, but it makes up for it with plenty of gratuitous shower and bathtub scenes with the chunky Anna Nicole, a clear display of Martino's directorial genius. Joey Travolta, who co-wrote the script with Martino, purposely wrote the story so that his character gets to have sex with Anna Nicole, something not even Travolta's big star brother ever got to do. Just one of the perks of being a B-movie actor. Strangely, Joey Travolta is only two years older than his famous brother, and yet he looks about twenty years older. Inheriting none of his brother John's good looks (a condition known as Don Swayze Syndrome, in honor of Patrick Swayze's backwoods brother) Joey bears an uncanny resemblance to George Carlin

To the Limit is an entertaining movie with a great opening scene with Gallo, who puts on a gritty mobster accent for the movie. It's also amazing that Martino now has enough clout to assemble three Playboy Playmates of the Year in one movie: Anna Nicole Smith (1993 Playmate of the Year), Rebecca Ferratti (1986 Playmate of the Year), and Kathy Shower (1985 Playmate of the Year).

Note that Martino nepotistically employs his whole family in the movie as shown in the closing credits which are loaded with Martinos: Paul Martino, Paul Martino Jr., Melissa Martino, et al. Martino's brother Paul actually plays Joey Travolta's doctor.

Joey Travolta practices nepotism as well, as the Travolta family name is also given prominence in the credits. It's good to see that at least one Travolta throws bit parts to his family members, unlike one dimple-chinned Scientologist.

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