Dead End Drive-InThe early to mid 90s was a ripe time for action films made in Australia. A period where a plethora of beefcakes smashed their way through the Great Southern Land. From Tom Selleck in Quigley Down Under (1990), Christopher Lambert in Fortress (1992), to Carl Weathers in Hurricane Smith (1992). And who can forget Jacko in Bullet Down Under (1995)? I certainly cannot. Joining this batch of bruisers was Melbourne’s very own martial arts big boy Richard Norton – in his 1995 nightclub nightmare, Under the Gun. Also known as Ironfist.


Australia, 1995, Matthew George


Don’t be fooled by its generic-sounding title, Under the Gun’s premise is a fistful of fun. Richard Norton plays Jack Torrence, an infamous hockey star turned nightclub owner who must sell his club so he can flee town. All Jack has to do is make it through one final shift. But there is one problem… OK there are like 450,000 freaking problems! Including an eyepatched DEA agent (Robert Bruce) who wants Jack locked-up, a shifty buyer Jack must please, Triad idiots who want Jack dead and livid Italian mobsters Jack has stolen money from.

Also on Jack’s plate is a badly-wigged vengeful pimp, a wife (Jane Badler) who wants a divorce, two other women who want to bed him, the world’s worst security, a backstabbing best pal, nightclub renovations Jack has to complete and a former Sale of the Century hostess (Nicky Buckley) who won’t let him board a plane. Jack must deal with all this on his last night.

No wonder he is bloody stressed. The film should have been titled Stroke-Face.


Under the Gun opens with Jack spewing forth a torrent of narration. Pointless voice-over was the first hint the film was made by an Australian. Well that and the Melbourne cityscape. And also the laughable American accents adopted by a seemingly random selection of the cast.

Matthew George (Let’s Get Skase, Four Jacks) wrote and directed the film. He was only 21 at the time. Everything I had written at 21 wasn’t worth the Macintosh Classic I had typed it into. So I can forgive George for the opening narration. Apart from that, George does an entertaining job of moving the story forward. Every time Jack overcomes an obstacle, about 10 other obstacles rear their ugly heads. Including this toughie who hilariously mumbles his line:

Jack’s predicament is insane. And often hilarious. Basically, Jack bashes a bad guy, then runs to his phone either to yammer with his wife, accountant or the airline, bashes some more bad guys, then back to his phone again. All while trying to manage his club. I started to feel concerned for the renovators working in the nightclub. Not only do they have to work through the night, but they have to stand around pretending not to care while Jack punches, kicks and throws hockey trophies.

It is like Jack is trapped in a horrible dream he cannot wake up from. When Jack does venture out into the nightclub’s surrounding alleyways, it is even worse outside. Piles of trash stack the alleyways and scumbags appear from every shadow. Jack has to fight them while this incomprehensible background chatter happens:

Along the way, a kickboxing detective (Kathy Long) helps Jack out. She says at one point, “This side of town isn’t going to be the same without Jack Torrence and the Boilermaker.” To be honest I don’t think the 4 patrons that do frequent the place would miss it. Especially since the Boilermaker is the only nightclub in existence that doesn’t play music.

After a succession of face-breaking fight sequences Under the Gun concludes with a wild shoot-up between DEA agents, security guards, mobsters and Triad guys all gunning at each other in a confused hail of bullets.


Richard Norton should be a bigger name than he is. Especially in his home country. He has karated the shit out of film folk for over there 3 decades. He appeared in the bizarre karate/gymnastics flick Gymkata, bashed Jackie Chan with sticks in City Hunter, paired up with Cynthia Rothrock in a number of B-grade fist-fests and also showed up in a Mondo Exploito favourite: Tough and Deadly.

If you are unaware of Richard Norton’s fine work, Under the Gun is a perfect place to start.






Availability: Surprisingly, Under the Gun is not readily available. The new copies that are listed on Amazon are expensive. If you don’t want a secondhand copy, try your luck finding it under its other title Ironfist.