Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Azumi

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

tn_azumiBTISLPoor Azumi (Aya Ueto) is one of the best young swordswomen you ever did see, but it’s because she’s lived such a fucked up life. In the opening scene we see how she ended up like she did. When she was a little girl the Master (Yoshio Harada, THE HUNTED) was leading some young boys on a trail and came across her kneeling over her dead mother. He took the orphan girl with them to their isolated mountain area where he raised them to be elite sword fighters on a covert mission from Lord Tokugawa’s priest.

I mean really he saved her life, and their whole clan of nine boys and her are like a family, brothers and sisters who have fun fighting and training and joking around with each other. And they love their master and trust in him enough to believe that this thing he’s been preparing them for their whole lives is a righteous thing. They are tasked with assassinating the ambitious warlords who want to take over the country, whose selfish actions would otherwise keep the country in civil war forever. They will take life to prevent endless war. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Killer Elite

Friday, February 20th, 2015

tn_thekillereliteTHE KILLER ELITE is Sam Peckinpah’s don’t-be-naive-these-covert-ops-are-happening-all-the-time thriller kinda like MUNICH. It starts with straight up perfection: a title card explaining that “This film is a work of fiction. There is no company called Communications Integrity NOR ComTeg and the thought that the C.I.A. might employ such an organization for any purpose is, of course, preposterous.”

James Caan and Robert Duvall star as Locken and Hansen, two hard-drinking, lady-loving partners who claim to have never heard of the C.I.A. even though we just saw them bomb a building. They’ve spent enough time together that they’re always singing made up songs and saying stupid jokes that seem like you had to be there. But they’re obviously having fun.

When they go to a safe house, Locken goes to take a shower and Hansen turns traitor, killing the defector they’re supposed to be protecting and then trying to cripple his partner. When he’s standing there naked with a gun pointed at him Locken doesn’t even get scared because he can only comprehend it as a joke. He really thought he knew that guy, now he’s shooting him in the shower? He never took him for a shower-shooter.
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Dying of the Light

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

tn_dyingofthelightDYING OF THE LIGHT is yet another troubled Paul Schrader production. The story is: it was a Schrader script that Nicolas Winding Refn almost directed with Harrison Ford and Channing Tatum as the leads, but Ford and Refn disagreed on the ending (guess who wanted a happy one?) so I guess Ford went and did COWBOYS & ALIENS and Refn did DRIVE. Then Refn became executive producer for Schrader directing it himself with the, uh, less-assured-of-a-theatrical-release team of Nicolas Cage and Anton Yelchin. Then after it was filmed the other producers shut out Schrader and did their own edit and scoring, so Schrader, Refn, Cage and Yelchin effectively disowned it by wearing t-shirts with the “non-disparagement” clause of their contracts that prevents them from complaining about the movie. Also cinematographer Gabriel Kosuth (2nd Unit DP of SHADOW MAN, ATTACK FORCE, FLIGHT OF FURY, AGAINST THE DARK and A GOOD MAN) wrote a righteous guest column in Variety about the producers recoloring the whole thing against his will and ruining what he and Schrader were trying to do.

We’ll get into that stuff later, but first let’s consider the Damaged Goods Cut on its own merits. It’s a flawed movie but more watchable and original than other recent basically-DTV Cage vehicles. Cage plays Evan Lake, a decorated CIA field operative who 22 years ago was tortured and had his ear mutilated by a young track-suit-wearing terrorist named Muhammad Banir (Alexander Karim from the Johan Falk series). Lake refused to give up any information and was about to be executed when commandos stormed in and saved him. Now he’s kind of like their mascot. They have him give the tough guy speech to the fresh-faced new recruits, but he’s a depressed desk jockey who isn’t taken very seriously by the agency or allowed in the field. A big part of his day is trying to control or hide his shaky hand. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wild Card

Friday, February 6th, 2015

tn_wildcard“I can take care of things. That’s all you need to know.”

In WILD CARD, Jason Statham plays Nick Wild (seriously), a legendary special ops badass who now works as an all purpose “security consultant” for hire. That’s not going well for him, though. He shares his office with a lawyer (Jason Alexander from THE BURNING) on the strip mall outskirts of Vegas, most of his friends seem to be prostitutes, hotel maids, gangsters or casino employees, and he gets such glamourous gigs as getting fake beat up by Vinnie from Doogie Howser to impress a Sofia Vergara. It’s hard to bask in your own greatness when you’re such a fucking loser. So in that sense this is less like THE TRANSPORTER and more like REDEMPTION (where he starts out as a homeless crackhead).

He gets a couple “Just how badass is he?” speeches, but one of them is by himself, and ends with “And I lie alot.” As cool as this guy is – his name is Nick Wild, for God’s sake! – everybody knows he’s a fuckup, and this is underlined by casual comments about the mediocre value of his life. When a friend wants him to get involved in something dangerous and he asks “What if they kill me?” she says “I’ll be miserable for days.” Not years, not months, days. Later a gangster wants to hear his side of the story before killing him just because if he was innocent of what he was accused of “I would feel dreadful.”

If some of this sounds familiar that’s because it’s a remake of HEAT. Not the one by Michael Mann, the 1986 one with Burt Reynolds and based on the book by William Goldman. It counts as a remake though because they re-used Goldman’s old script with just a few tweaks, like Van Sant did with PSYCHO. (In fact, Anne Heche is even in this. But not Vince Vaughn) They changed his name from Nick Escalante and added references to his Britishness. He says “mum” in one part. And I noticed big changes in the action parts (I missed a trick Burt did to light a guy on fire, and a scene where he torments a guy in the dark). But mostly, from what I could remember, it’s scene-for-scene the same. (read the rest of this shit…)

Blackhat

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

tn_blackhatI didn’t think it would happen in this generation, but they’ve produced a manly movie star. They had to borrow him from Australia, of course, but so what? Arnold and Van Damme and Mel Gibson and a bunch of those guys were imports too.

Chris Hemsworth has the kind of rugged persona and charisma that makes a man feel inadequate – he’s 2014’s People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive, and last week’s Man Who Makes Me Feel Like I Better Do More Push-ups – but you respect him for it, you don’t resent him. I don’t know if he’ll maintain all the muscles when he stops being an Avenger, but I bet he’ll stay pleasantly macho. He’ll slick back his hair and look good in an undershirt and sunglasses and he’ll put his protective arms around tiny women but also respect their intelligence.

It’s nice that one of the few manly marquee names of the modern age has now had the chance to become Mannly. In Michael Mann’s BLACKHAT Hemsworth plays Mann’s idea of a being more godly than Thor. He’s a convict who splits his time between reading Focault paperbacks and doing handstand pushups. He’s done time both for assault and for hacking. He knows how to use guns and build makeshift armor and beat up multiple attackers using restaurant furniture, but also how to write computer programs. He’s hypersmart enough to glance at a screen full of code and instantly identify clues to its purpose and author, but also worldly enough to travel through multiple Asian countries and break into places looking for a mystery man. He can be counted on to sit with a laptop or phone and breach a highly secure database, but also can wing a plan to explode a truck on the roof of a building as a distraction to sneak in and physically steal a hard drive. (read the rest of this shit…)

Golgo 13 (1977)

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

tn_golgo13GOLGO 13 from 1977 – sometimes subtitled ASSIGNMENT KOWLOON, but not to be confused with ASSIGNMENT MIAMI BEACH – is the second adaptation of a popular Japanese comic book. Sonny Chiba plays an infamous assassin known as Golgo 13. But fuck the code name, his real name, or at least the alias he’s living under, is “Duke Togo.” I mean why would you even want people to call you Golgo 13 if you’re normally called Duke Togo? Just stick with the one awesome name, in my opinion. Don’t hog ‘em.

This is a great role for Chiba because he’s just full of larger than life swagger. He wears flashy suits and sunglasses, he has boxes of weapons delivered to him at his hotel, he satisfies women, he’s the very best at killing people and outsmarting everybody. He’s Shaft times James Bond but sort of the bad guy, which makes him kind of cooler than either one. And director Yukio Noda (BRONSON LEE, CHAMPION) shamelessly drapes it in the stylistic cliches of the time. A good thing.

An opening about Hong Kong police responding to a murder moves to a small boat off Miami where a white man named Rocky Brown is expecting to meet the legendary assassin Golgo 13. He’s worried because he doesn’t see any boats around, when suddenly Golgo climbs right out of the water onto the boat with scuba gear. Two other white men watch on a telescope from a hotel balcony, discussing who he is, explaining him to us. Suddenly Golgo pulls out a rifle – is he gonna betray this guy that wants to hire him? No, he fires at the hotel, taking out both of the exposition guys. (read the rest of this shit…)

Drive Hard

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

tn_drivehardDRIVE HARD joins DEATH RACE and GETAWAY in the new action subgenre of “former car racing superstar is forced to drive for bad people.” In this one the driver in question is Peter Roberts (Tom Jane, STANDER), a flaky doofus who left racing to get married and raise a daughter in Australia, but now is running out of money and having trouble paying the mortgage, let alone achieving his dream of opening a racing school. Instead he has a driver’s ed school.

Then one day mysterious troublemaker Simon Keller (John Cusack from THE PAPERBOY), a grown man who seems to already know how to drive, takes a lesson from him. After an uncomfortably horrible drive and awkward coffee break in which the stranger admits to being a fan and knowing all about his career, he convinces Peter to drive him to the bank. So he can get some cash to pay for the lesson, he says. But then he comes out holding a brief case and exchanging gunfire with security guards.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Taken 3

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

tn_taken3Unfortunately TAKEN 3 is an uninspired new sausage from the Besson/Kamen factory. Liam Neeson’s ruthless ex-CIA family man character Bryan Mills returns for his first adventure not related to the endless circle of violence caused by his daughter getting kidnapped on a trip to Europe. This time it’s the go-to action movie bad guys of today, the Russian mafia (see also THE EQUALIZER, JOHN WICK, SAFE, DRIVEN TO KILL) who (SPOILER THAT’S IN THE TRAILER) kill poor Lenore (Famke Janssen), Mills’s ex-wife and mother of Kim (Maggie Grace) and who he sort of still has a thing for. The cops show up and it kinda looks like he did it so he beats them up and goes on the run so that he can prove that he didn’t do what it now really really looks like he did.

Even more than part 1 and part 2, part 3 leans heavily on the non-action movie family stuff. There’s a whole lot of time spent showing that he has a good relationship now with his daughter and ex-wife and gets along with his daughter’s boyfriend and tries to help Lenore with her problems with her second husband Stuart (Dougray Scott). I guess at this point I sort of have to admire that Besson cares so much about these characters, or thinks we do, but it’s not like this is real deep observations about relationships. And besides, UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY will always be the definitive action sequel where an old asskicker gives a giant teddy bear to a female relative and it’s awkward because she’s way too old for it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cutaway

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

tn_cutawayHow’s this for a pitch: it’s POINT BREAK meets DROP ZONE and TERMINAL VELOCITY! Stephen Baldwin plays an over-the-edge customs agent who, like Keanu Reeves’s FBI agent in POINT BREAK, goes undercover with a group of (non-surfing this time) skydivers who he suspects of being involved in drug smuggling. And like DROP ZONE and TERMINAL VELOCITY it’s about this whole subculture of skydivers who live like a family or a tribe with their own stupid lingo and traditions that they’re real proud of. For example “cutaway” is their term for somebody (for example a hot shot lawyer) leaving behind their previous life to just be one of these parachute gypsies for now on. And of course that takes on extra meaning for Baldwin’s character, who is here with a secret agenda that he’s gonna be tempted to cutaway from as he becomes accepted by the group. (read the rest of this shit…)

The November Man

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

tn_novembermanA quick word on THE NOVEMBER MAN. It’s the recently-released-on-video Pierce Brosnan spy joint directed by Roger Donaldson (SPECIES). Brosnan plays Peter Deveraux, an ex-CIA guy (not MI5, interestingly) who gets called in for one last mission for personal reasons, gets betrayed, has to straighten things out and make those motherfuckers wish December would get here real quick. The intrigue involves a brutal Russian general (Lazar Ristovski, CASINO ROYALE) on the verge of becoming president and various parties trying to find a woman who might have incriminating information about him or something. But to Deveraux it’s just about the fact that the agency had his old protege Mason (Luke Bracey, Cobra Commander in GI JOE’S RETALIATION, soon to be remake Johnny Utah) snipe his old girlfriend Natalia (Mediha Musliovic). What the fuck, CIA.
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