Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

The Man With the Iron Fists 2

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

tn_mwtif2My friends, I don’t know about you, but I count myself lucky to live in a world where one of my favorite hip hop producers, the RZA, not only got to write, direct and star in a legit kung fu movie, but got to do a DTV sequel directed by one of the leaders of the form (Roel Reiné, THE MARINE 2, DEATH RACE 2-3, SCORPION KING 3, 12 ROUNDS 2: RELOADED). If I somehow slipped and fell into an alternate dimension that’s okay. I’m not going back.

Filmed in Thailand with about a third of the first film’s budget, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS 2 is much more normal and low key than the first one, I want to warn you of that up front. There are fewer colorful gimmicks, no crazy Russell Crowe performance, comparably grounded (both literally and figuratively) martial arts, and no mention of the cliffhanger from the director’s cut where I think he had to team up with the X-Blade to save his wife that got snatched by the Falcon Clan and put in a big nest on top of a mountain or something like that. But for me it’s still a very enjoyable sequel because it maintains the most important ingredient: the complete sincerity of the RZA. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fortress

Monday, April 20th, 2015

tn_fortressFORTRESS is one of those rare b-movie (or B+ movie?) gems that you come across every once in a while that has everything: good cast, great gimmicks, unexpected emotion and substance, cyborgs. It’s a 1993 sci-fi action movie, but clearly without a summer blockbuster budget, so it feels somewhere between Paul Verhoeven and ROBOT JOX. And that makes sense, because it’s the same director. Man, why did I never see this before? Didn’t I know it was a Christopher Lambert movie directed by Stuart Gordon? Don’t I believe in the auteur theory?

Lambert plays Brennick, an ex-soldier (“the most decorated captain of the Black Berets, yet you quit in disgrace…”) busted with his pregnant wife Karen (Loryn Locklin) trying to sneak out of the country because it’s illegal to give birth twice. They both end up at the Fortress, a giant underground, privately owned prison. The convicts become property of the Men-Tel Corporation and used for prison labor. Their job: to keep building further into the ground, making more room for more convicts to build even further. That’s my favorite concept in the movie because it so deviously illustrates the problem of the prison industrial complex. Zed-10, the computer program that runs the place (voice of the director’s wife Carolyn Purdy-Gordon), keeps saying the Men-Tel slogan “Crime does not pay.” But of course for them it does. (read the rest of this shit…)

Martial Law

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

tn_martiallawI gotta admit, I didn’t know what Chad McQueen looked like, or that he starred in this, so I thought “Who the fuck is this?” when he showed up undercover as a pizza delivery man to defuse a hostage situation at Crown Diamonds. Those dumb fucks shoulda known the cops wouldn’t allow a real Domino’s dude to walk in there. Even in Seattle, where we’ll have a $15 minimum wage in a couple years, it wouldn’t be worth it, and this is Los Angeles circa 1990. (The 25th anniversary is on the 16th of next month, so get the balloons ready.) Also, fuck these guys for not insisting on giving him a huge tip when they believed he was a legit employee. Not cool at all, gunmen.

Anyway, he’s really a cop, so he karates them. He’s playing Detective Sean Thompson, nicknamed Martial Law. It took me a while to catch on that it’s because he’s a lawman who does martial arts. We learn that after his dad died in 1983 he took off to Hong Kong for a few years “to prove how tough I was.” He regrets it because he left his younger brother Michael (Andy McCutcheon) behind and now the kid wears a leather jacket, has two DUIs, crashed their mom’s car and steals sports cars. (read the rest of this shit…)

Furious Seven

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

tn_furioussevenNote: as usual, I recommend reading this only after you’ve seen the movie.

How the hell do you follow a movie with a classic freeway cars vs. tank battle and a legendary 27.86 mile cars vs. planes gun/grappling hook/wrestling fight? Well, we already had a good idea from the trailers: with cars that skydive and jump from skyscraper to skyscraper and with Jason Statham. The day after my first viewing I feel like FURIOUS SEVEN is probly not as good as FAST FIVE or FURIOUS 6, but it’s in the same range at least, which is a feat. And due to real life this silly fictional world turns very emotional at the end. I suspect that despite all the effort put into automotive insanity this will primarily be remembered as the one that says goodbye to Paul Walker.

It’s a blessing because really, when has a tragically passed-on star been able to have such a meta farewell in a movie? The character of Brian O’Conner gets to drive off into the sunset and the public gets to share in the send off as a narrating Vin Diesel/Dominic Torretto pay tribute simultaneously in and out of character. Heath Ledger might’ve had a better last big performance, but he was left hanging on the side of a building.

(It’s a little unclear what it means on the movie level, though. Are Brian and Mia and the kids driving off to be far away from Dom so they can be sure to stay out of trouble? Or is Dom just not planning to visit his own sister, best friend, niece and nephew if he’s not shooting guns anymore? Maybe he’s just assuming that now that he’s a dad Brian’s not gonna hang out anymore?) (read the rest of this shit…)

Bobby Z

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

tn_bobbyzPaul Walker won us over while starring in his six great FAST AND FURIOUS movies, so it’s a wonder he had time to do much in between. As you saw with yesterday’s JOY RIDE review I wanted to take the occasion of our saying goodbye to Brian O’Conner to pay tribute to his work again. The trouble is I’ve already reviewed most of his starring vehicles: RUNNING SCARED, EIGHT BELOW, every FAST AND FURIOUS movie… buddy, I saw BRICK MANSIONS in the theater, that’s the type of individual you are dealing with here. Luckily I remembered there was this one based on the book The Death and Life of Bobby Z by Don Winslow, the author of SAVAGES.

BOBBY Z (released in some countries as KILL BOBBY Z or LET’S KILL BOBBY Z) is no SAVAGES, that’s for sure, but it has alot of the same elements: legendary surfer turned ultra-rich California marijuana magnate, Iraq vet turned violent criminal, crooked DEA agents, ruthless Mexican cartels, genius businessman friend turned unlikely kingpin, women scheming while taken for granted as sex objects by the empire. Walker plays the vet, Tim Kearney, a crazy long hair kicked out of the Marines for beating up an Iraqi general and turned into a lifer for three dumb strikes. Now he’s facing certain death from the Aryan Brotherhood for killing a fellow con named Mad Dog (UFC legend Chuck Liddell).

DEA Agent Tad Gruzsa (Laurence Morpheus Fishburne) offers him a crazy, convoluted deal: he looks kinda like this marijuana kingpin named Bobby Z, who cartel leader Don Huertero (Joaquim “Evil Phil Hartman” de Almeida, FAST FIVE) wants in trade for Gruzsa’s kidnapped partner. He says they don’t know the real Bobby Z is dead so if Kearney pretends to be him and successfully makes the trade the DEA will just let him go and he can try to escape from a deadly cartel or whatever but not have to go back to prison. I mean, it’s kind of the honor system I guess. If he wants to go back to prison that’s cool. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mercenaries

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

tn_mercenariesThere are innumerable dreams to which humanity aspires: feeding the hungry, building racial harmony, inventing comfortable shoes that also look cool, ending war, etc. Of these goals, the one we’ve come closest to achieving is “a female EXPENDABLES.” But it takes small steps to make big ones.

This was a concept that guys like us were already discussing and backseat casting before the movie news told us it was really in the works. In fact there are two such movies still in development. There’s the one from the producers of the male EXPENDABLES. It was announced before Rowdy Ronda Rousey was in part 3, so I don’t know if they plan to spin off from her character or not. From the sound of it it might not be worthy of a woman that tough. They’re calling it “EXPENDABELLES” and it’s from the director and the writers of LEGALLY BLOND. It was reported that they were trying to get Naomi Watts, Kate Beckinsale, Marcia Gay Harden, Li Bingbing and Mila Kunis. Sigourney Weaver turned it down. I’m gonna go ahead and write this one off.

The other one is from Adi Shankar, the face-paint wearing producer of DREDD and those “bootleg universe” shorts like Joseph Kahn’s POWER/RANGERS. This one reportedly stars Gina Carano (HAYWIRE, FURIOUS 6), Katee Sackhoff (RIDDICK) and maybe Sharni Vinson (YOU’RE NEXT, STEP UP 3), which is a promising start.

But leave it to Asylum, the studio that brought us SHARKNADO and I AM OMEGA, to have theirs already done and released before the other two even settle their casting. Admittedly this DTV female mercenary squad is light on marquee names, but it’s a good team. They have Zoë Bell (DEATH PROOF, THE BAYTOWN OUTLAWS, GAME OF DEATH), Kristanna Loken (TERMINATOR 3, S.W.A.T.: FIREFIGHT), Vivica A. Fox (KILL BILL, THE HARD CORPS, BLAST, SET IT OFF), and, uh, Nicole Bilderback (CLUELESS, BRING IT ON). (read the rest of this shit…)

Goyokin

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

tn_goyokinGOYOKIN is the seventh movie from Hideo Gosha, the director who started with THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI and SWORD OF THE BEAST. So he’d been around a bit by that point. It was 1969, the hippie era over here, but questioning authority was part of the samurai movie tradition anyway. The heroes follow a strict code and usually have to deal with some government asshole trying to pervert it. They struggle when there’s a discrepancy between following the rules and doing the right thing. And they always have differing interpretations of what those two things are. But this one seems particularly fitting for a couple summers after the summer of love, because it’s about one man who feels he must stand up against the power structure to stop an atrocity.

It starts with a mysterious incident. A girl returns home to her village to find that everyone has disappeared. Nobody there but her and the crows. They blame it on a curse called the Kamikakushi, but in fact it was a government sanctioned massacre. Some Waco shit. The Saido province feels they have to steal a shipment of gold in order to pay their taxes and survive, and they kill the local fishermen so there aren’t any witnesses. They feel it’s a necessary sacrifice for the greater good.

Three years later the ronin Magobei (Tatsuya Nakadai, YOJIMBO, THE SWORD OF DOOM, RAN) still regrets not trying to stop the slaughter. His brother-in-law Tatewaki (Tetsuro Tanba, THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI, RIKI-OH), the guy in charge, vowed to never do it again. But when assassins come to kill Magobei (they fail) he finds out it’s a precursor to another one. Clearly this stolen gold economics is not very sustainable in my opinion.

Magobei’s not gonna make the same mistake he made last time. He’s gotta stop this massacre or die trying. So he puts on his cool hat and starts walking. (read the rest of this shit…)

Run All Night

Monday, March 16th, 2015

tn_runallnightAlthough he’d already done HOUSE OF WAX and GOAL II: LIVING THE DREAM, it was ORPHAN that brought director Jaume Collet-Serra to my attention. I gotta admire a director whose movie I go to thinking I’m gonna be all ironical on it and then it defeats me with its audacity and genuine cleverness. So far that’s the height of his output, but I keep going back.

I guess I’d be watching them anyway, because his ORPHAN follow up has been three Liam Neeson vehicles in a row. UNKNOWN was a somewhat forgettable twisty thriller with some good touches here and there. Apparently I forgot to even post a review of it, but the part I remember liking best was some awkwardness between Neeson and Diane Kruger where they laugh because they’re in her small apartment and hear sex noises from next door, and that turns out to be set-up that her walls are thin enough for him to throw a guy through. NON-STOP was more my speed, a fun take on a confined-location-high-concept with some pretty interesting political subtext. Now the third one, RUN ALL NIGHT, takes the collaboration in a different direction. There’s less emphasis on the thrillery gimmicks and more on the character drama.

Oh, hey, this might explain it: it’s a screenplay by Brad Ingelsby, the guy that wrote OUT OF THE FURNACE. That’s another movie that uses badass genre elements but is more interested in exploring relationships than in satisfying expectations. (Though this one does have shootouts and car crashes.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Desert Kickboxer

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

tn_desertkickboxerrookiesIsaac Florentine’s first feature DESERT KICKBOXER is not a remake of KICKBOXER that takes place in a more arid climate. It’s also not DESSERT KICKBOXER. That would be weird, and I’m not sure what it would be about. No, this one is just a story about a kickboxer who lives in the desert. Actually I doubt he even considers himself a kickboxer anymore. In a hazy, dreamlike prologue he kills a man in the ring. If this was KICKBOXER he’d be the bad guy, and his dead opponent’s brother would come after him for revenge. Since it’s not, he feels bad about it and is a loner living in his deceased father’s trailer in the middle of nowhere.

His name is Hawk, and I bet you can guess what that means. Yep, he’s that archetype “The Half Breed,” like Billy Jack, or Elvis in FLAMING STAR, or Bronson in CHINO, or the Daywalker. He has all of the white man’s strengths, none of his weaknesses. But he never quite fits in either world. He’s never fully accepted on the reservation, probly called racist slurs by some white people, impressive to others because of his exotic wisdom. And as far as I know the actor playing him is a white guy. He’s John Haymes Newton, best known for playing Superboy in the late ’80s TV series of the same name.

When we first meet Hawk he’s some sort of deputized border guard badass beating up drug smugglers, but he’s pissed when he finds out it’s just pot they’re smuggling, and tells the sheriff – an old colleague of his dad, of course – that he’s not doing this shit anymore. Pretty progressive. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hard Times

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

tn_hardtimesrookiesWalter Hill’s HARD TIMES could almost be a western or a samurai movie, but it happens to be a bareknuckle brawler movie instead. In fact I think it’s the template for my beloved sub-genre of the underground fight circuit movie. Charles Bronson as a guy named Chaney wanders into town (New Orleans circa 1933) on the back of a train. He’s so broke he can’t afford a coffee refill, but he sees a bunch of guys going into a warehouse across the street and he decides to follow them in. Turns out they’re there to gamble on a bare knuckle fight.

Did Chaney know that’s what was going on? Did he come here looking for it? Is this his vocation? Or does he just happen to notice this is going on and need the work? That would be pretty lucky for him, since he happens to be really fuckin good at it. But this is Charles Bronson we’re talking about. I’m sure he’d be the best at whatever manly job was available.

We don’t know what his deal is, but he approaches Speed (James Coburn), the manager of the losing fighter, and convinces him to get him a fight. Speed has no faith in him, but he’s got nothing to lose because Chaney has a little wad of life savings to put up the bet himself.  There’s a big buildup as everyone scoffs at him and then, as in so many of this genre later on (BLOOD AND BONE, NEVER BACK DOWN, DIGGSTOWN, ONG-BAK, LIONHEART, UNLEASHED [suggest others in the comments and I will add them to the list, I know there’s a million of ‘em]), he K.O.s the guy in one blow. (read the rest of this shit…)