Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

G.I. Jane

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

tn_gijaneGI JANE is way classier than its male counterparts RISE OF COBRA, RETALIATION and THE MOVIE, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much of a straight-ahead action movie it is, complete with triumphant music by Trevor Jones (CLIFFHANGER), themes of fight brotherhood and many a badass training montage. It’s built around the idea of Demi Moore having to achieve a level of physical toughness never officially reached by a woman before, which is a little far-fetched, I know. But the actress acquits herself admirably, obviously trained intensely and shows off in many sweaty pull-up and one-armed pushup scenes like an ’80s Dolph, Stallone or Van Damme movie might have. I think maybe Ridley Scott was on a mission to one-up what James Cameron did with Linda Hamilton in T2. To get him back for ALIENS.

It’s also an issue movie, inspired by the debate of whether or not to allow women in combat in the U.S. military. Moore plays Jordan O’Neill, a lieutenant in military intelligence who knows her shit far beyond expectations. If she were a man she probly would’ve moved to some sort of special ops team where she could take advantage of her expertise, but women aren’t allowed there.

Until now. When a female senator (Anne Bancroft) cleverly throws her weight around at a confirmation hearing and gets the military to agree to a number of women-in-combat test cases, O’Neill is chosen as a good poster girl – skilled, but not too butch. So she gets to try out for the Navy SEALs. This was before they were known for killing Osama bin Laden, this is when they were known as Jesse Ventura’s buddies. But they were among the toughest of the tough. They bring in the very best special ops soldiers and even most of those guys drop out before Hell Week is over. So it’s a hell of a challenge for her. It’s a grueling test of strength and endurance that only a small percentage of men can hope to survive, not believed possible for a woman. And that’s not even figuring in the likelihood that nobody there wants a woman to be able to do it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hanzo the Razor: Sword of Justice

Monday, November 10th, 2014

tn_hanzoWhat the fuck is up with Hanzo the Razor? I want to respect him as a samurai, but I just can’t get past his behavior. Here’s the #1 issue I have with his first movie, RAZOR: SWORD OF JUSTICE: the scene where he interrogates a woman by forcing himself on her, and then she ends up liking it so much she gives up the information to keep him from stopping. #2 issue: the second scene where he does that, this time with her in a net and three assistants pulling a rope to lift her up and down on him. And gentle love song type music playing while she spins on his “sword of justice,” screaming. That is fucked up, Hanzo the Razor. What kind of garbage is this?

If not for that, though, perfect movie!

I know people got mad years ago when I complained about Jason Statham’s character Chiliman Chevrolet from the CRANK movie pulling one of these “it doesn’t count as rape if you win her over before you’re done” moves, known on the streets as “the ol’ Straw Dogs.” But I haven’t changed my stance on that. It’s a misogynistic fantasy and kind of a dangerous thing to depict in movies. What kind of influence could this have on the samurai constables of the future if they grow up thinking this is how the world works? (read the rest of this shit…)

John Wick

Monday, October 27th, 2014

tn_johnwickI never figured Keanu Reeves would become an action hall-of-famer, but here we are. Of course he stars in the great POINT BREAK, but we can’t lie, we all kinda chuckle at his FBI surfer dude Johnny Utah in that. And then he was good in SPEED, but would that be enough? If that was enough Matt Damon would be an action legend. Of course, playing Neo in THE MATRIX trilogy sealed the deal, Reeves learned to do all that kung fu and that hadn’t really been done by a normal actor like that before and those movies and those fights hold up today. Still, it seemed like an anomaly in his career. He would always be Neo to the world but that would be it for Action Keanu, right?

Nope. Because he directed last year’s martial arts gem MAN OF TAI CHI and played the villain, creating and performing some more classic fight scenes. When I saw that I realized it was time to acknowledge his greatness. 47 RONIN put a little bit of a damper on that though because it was so boring I never even wrote a review. If I had it would’ve said “Some of the monsters are cool” and that’s about it.

But after JOHN WICK, Reeves’s strong connection to Badass Cinema cannot be denied. This is a fun, violent, straight-ahead revenge action movie. Reeves did not direct it, but his stunt double from the MATRIX movies, Chad Stahelski, did*. So it’s probly a style of directing too dangerous for Reeves to perform. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Purge: Anarchy

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

tn_purgeanarchyThat movie THE PURGE was a little better than I expected. You gotta accept a completely asinine premise (that 12 hours of “all crime is legal” free-for-all every March 22nd would virtually eliminate crime, unemployment and poverty) but I like Ethan Hawke’s dedicated performance and the subtext about living a comfortable life distanced from the savagery we benefit from. These people say they don’t believe in killing, but they believe in The Purge because it’s the American way. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Now lo and behold part 2 is better than the first one. Not any smarter, but better put together. Okay, we’ve accidentally bought into this world where The Purge happens, now let’s have a more entertaining story about it. They ditched the home invasion/siege format and deal with people moving through the city trying to evade the mayhem. It’s shot in kind of a digital age noir style with solid yellows and reds often highlighting the spaces between dark shadows. As you drive through the city you pass serious beatings on the side of the road, things on fire, gun battles. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Equalizer

Monday, September 29th, 2014

tn_equalizerAll things being equal, THE EQUALIZER is Denzel Washington’s TAKEN. It’s the one where they figure out people like to watch a really commanding older actor be smarter than everybody and kill a bunch of criminals. It has some gestures of seriousness and takes a bit to get to the killing, but once it does it’s pretty straight up about being a violent, lowbrow action movie. It even has the Academy Award winner doing the ol’ slo-mo-walking-away-from-a-fiery-explosion shot. I guess he did that in MAN ON FIRE too, and shot more beautifully from what I remember. But this one is more my speed because it’s not trying to rub my nose in the shit, it’s just trying to be stupid fun.

And by the way I apologize for awkwardly shoe-horning “all things being equal” in there at the beginning. It just seemed like something you do. But let’s try to get past it.

Written by Richard Wenk (VAMP, 16 BLOCKS, THE MECHANIC REMAKE, THE EXPENDABLES 2) and sort of based on the ’80s TV show of the same name, this has Denzel (RICOCHET) playing Edward Woodward’s character Bob McCall, now a book-reading, OCD widower square who works at “Home Mart,” wears polo shirts tucked into dad jeans and cleans his New Balance sneakers with a toothbrush every morning. Then one day when an acquaintance from the diner where he hangs out (Chloe Grace Moretz, TODAY YOU DIE) gets badly beaten by her Russian pimp (David Meunier, a.k.a. Cousin Johnny from Justified) Bob decides to try to help her. And it turns out his previous job was at the CIA or something (the agency is not specified) and that he’s real good at massacring a whole bunch of armed criminals using found objects and guns he takes out of their hands. Gino Fellino would be proud. He even sticks a corkscrew in a guy’s chin and we see it poke up into his mouth. (read the rest of this shit…)

Executioners From Shaolin

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

tn_executionersMany of us know Pai Mei from his strict teachings of Beatrix Kiddo. In KILL BILL VOLUME 2 he’s a mean old bastard with long white hair. But he’s meaner and older than you may realize: his first movie appearance is in EXECUTIONERS FROM SHAOLIN (1977), a movie that opens with him dueling a Shaolin priest to the death and burning down the temple with most of the monks inside. He was already an old man then, and that was 1727 (at least according to the first literary references to the alleged historical figure he’s based on).

still_executioners1

(read the rest of this shit…)

Escape (Flukt)

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

tn_escapebtislESCAPE (or FLUKT) is a great little Norwegian period action movie. If I had seen any other Norwegian period action movies I’m confident this would still be one of the best. It’s kind of like a post-apocalypse movie because the population has been decimated by the Black Plague, and gangs of brutes terrorize anybody with the balls to travel around. One such balls-having family is attacked by one such gang, and only their teenage daughter Signe (Isabel Christine Andreasen) is spared.

It’s a gang of five men and one woman, Dagmar (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), who is their leader. Dagmar seems like a real savage and they’re all scared of her, but when they get back to the camp it seems like maybe she’s got some sense of sisterhood, some instinct to be protective of her fellow females. There’s an innocent little girl there named Frigg (Milla Olin), and as soon as she sees her Dagmar turns all motherly, talking to her sweetly and kissing her on the cheek. The men try to intimidate Signe, but Dagmar reassures her. “Don’t worry, they won’t touch you.”

But then, “Unless I let them.”

See, what Dagmar has planned for Signe is worse than what happened to her family. She says she’s barren, but Frigg needs a little sister. So you can see why Signe needs to flukt. Or escape.
(read the rest of this shit…)

A Good Man

Monday, September 15th, 2014

tn_agoodmanex3-seagal“The rate this is going we’re going to run out of Russians soon.”

A GOOD MAN – not to be confused with A DANGEROUS MAN, A SERIOUS MAN, A SINGLE MAN, A SOLITARY MAN, HE WAS A QUIET MAN, etc. – is the latest Steven Seagal picture, continuing what at first glance looks like Seagal’s Goatee Period (SGP). The new facial hair seems to represent the evil Seagal from another dimension, or at least a slightly darker Seagal. In the opening narration he explains that he has both light and darkness in him. Later he calls himself “a regular man who does bad things to bad people.”

He doesn’t seem like as much of an anti-hero as the Russian gangster he played in his last movie, FORCE OF EXECUTION, but he is a guy who goes around literally chopping up gangsters and leaving them strewn across alleys. Technically that’s not that different from what he does in other movies, but it’s presented differently. The first pile we don’t see as an action scene, we see it as a crime scene investigated by detectives. And he leaves a calling card – incense in their hands, the Chinese characters for “Gwai-Lo” – like a serial killer.

But on closer examination, this gangster-slayer actually is an alternate reality version of the guy from the last movie. On a behind the scenes featurette writer/director Keoni Waxman says they originally started writing it as a sequel to “our last movie,” which would explain the returning beard and that both characters are named Alexander. (read the rest of this shit…)

Falcon Rising

Monday, September 8th, 2014

tn_falconrisingI don’t think FALCON RISING is a new b-action classic like BLOOD AND BONE or UNDISPUTED II. It’s not as imaginative or expertly executed as those. But it is something I love that the world doesn’t get enough of these days: a solid meat and potatoes action movie molded entirely around the badassness of a martial artist, the great Michael Jai White.

Career-wise, MJW has diversified more than his golden age predecessors like Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal (who he fought in UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN and EXIT WOUNDS, respectively). He’s supplemented his many action credits with Tyler Perry movies and sitcoms (WHY DID I GET MARRIED 1-TOO, For Better or Worse) and with creating and writing BLACK DYNAMITE (both the movie and the animated series, soon in its second season). But one look at his cartoonishly inflated muscles or at one of his flying kicks and it’s clear that he was meant for an endless series of action vehicles, even if that’s not what Hollywood (or Sofia, or whoever) thinks they’re supposed to be making in this era. (read the rest of this shit…)

15 Minutes

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

tn_15minutesex3-grammer15 MINUTES is a transitional Robert De Niro thriller bridging the Everybody Respects Robert De Niro era with the Robert De Niro Is a Guy Who Stars In DTV Movies With 50 Cent one. Here De Niro plays Detective Eddie Flemming, famous NYC supercop who steps on the toes of younger hot shot Fire Marshal Jordy Warsaw (Ed Burns in a practice run of his sidekick character in ALEX CROSS) when both report to the scene of a deadly apartment fire.

Eddie is famous for being on the tabloid show Top Story, where he lets the host, Robert Hawkins (Kelsey Grammer, Cheetos*), follow him on busts, so everybody treats him like a rock star and it pisses Warsaw off. But he really has been around the block and has alot of wisdom to share, so it’s a buddy movie where they butt heads but then he unexpectedly goes out on a limb for the kid and sort of mentors him and what not. All that type of stuff.

But also this is a satire about this crime celebrity culture, that’s what that title’s about. Back in the late ’80s, early 2000s we were very concerned about tabloid news shows and their morbid obsession with O.J. Simpson, the Menendez Brothers and etc., so here is a movie coming years after after MAN BITES DOG, SERIAL MOM, NATURAL BORN KILLERS, SCREAM, etc., and hitting at kind of an embarrassingly obvious target in my opinion. But it does get a little bit of novelty by framing it as the American dream, showing a crime spree committed by two European immigrants (introducing Karel Roden and Oleg Taktarov) who have come to America seeking opportunity. Well, actually to collect their share of the money from a bank robbery, which it turns out their buddy already spent while they were in prison. Whoops. Sorry fellas.

By the way I wonder if they ever met Yuri Boyka in prison? (read the rest of this shit…)