TOO MANY WAYS TO BE NO. 1 is a crazy, aggressively stylish 1997 Hong Kong crime movie that I watched because it was recommended to me by Adam in a comment on my LADY OF STEEL review. He said it was recommended to him by a guy at Vulcan Video in Austin, Texas. And now I’m recommending it to you. The circle of life.
This one’s produced by Johnnie To, but directed by Wai Ka-Fai (FULLTIME KILLER, RUNNING ON KARMA, MAD DETECTIVE), his second movie as a director, following PEACE HOTEL.
It’s about this guy named Kau (Lau Ching-wan, POLICE STORY 2) who gets talked into joining some kind of criminal gang. I felt great empathy for him because of this scene where they go have a big meal together, like the gang in RESERVOIR DOGS, but then they walk out without paying. He stands there and looks at the check. Jesus christ, you don’t walk out on a check. Also you don’t leave a huge check for just one person who didn’t offer to pay it to pay. Especially the new guy who doesn’t have that kind of money. (read the rest of this shit…)
ON THE JOB (2013) is an earlier movie by Erik Matti, director of BUYBUST, that Filipino action movie I was so impressed by a few months ago. This one is not about martial arts at all, but it shares similar themes of intractable conflict and hopeless corruption in the system. It’s a crime epic about corrupt police taking certain inmates in and out of prison to perform contract killings.
And it primarily takes the P.O.V. of the assassins. We see Mario (Joel Torre, THE BOURNE LEGACY) and his younger, taller, handsomer, dumber protegee Daniel (Gerald Anderson) weaving through a crowded market, shooting a guy, and fleeing. Then Mario goes home to see his wife (Angel Aquino) and law student daughter (Empress Schuck?). He’s like a husband/dad who’s in the military, or a touring musician or something. It’s a treat for him to be home and they wish he would come home more, but they understand. Though it’s ambiguous at first how much they understand. (read the rest of this shit…)
A while back, when I reviewed INNOCENT BLOOD and got into a bit of a John Landis run, I realized I’d never seen his 1985 movie INTO THE NIGHT. Didn’t even know anything about it. I guess you could say it’s kind of a thriller, but of the happening-over-one-night variety, and with some humor. Ed Okin (Jeff Goldblum, DEATH WISH) is a regular boring aerospace engineer guy who’s unhappy and doesn’t know why. He hasn’t been able to sleep for a long time and he feels disconnected from his wife (Stacey Pickren, RUNAWAY TRAIN). Then he starts dozing off at work, getting himself in trouble, so he decides to go home for a nap, and I think we are all familiar with what happens in movies any time somebody goes home in the middle of the day when their spouse doesn’t expect them. It’s just like in TOY STORY how the toys are always having meetings and playing games and shit whenever you’re out of the room. Similar thing with movie spouses when you’re at work. (read the rest of this shit…)
MASTER Z: THE IP MAN LEGACY is the new film directed by Yuen Woo-Ping, a spinoff of IP MAN 3, which he was the choreographer for. It will make sense even if you haven’t seen that or the rest of the IP MAN series, though you should see them anyway, because they’re great. Donnie Yen is a producer of this one, but doesn’t appear other than in brief black and white flashes to establish the backstory.
In the tradition of UNDISPUTED II and III, MASTER Z takes the antagonist from the previous film and makes him the hero. Max Zhang (the main henchman from KILL ZONE 2) returns as Cheung Tin Chi, which I guess must sometimes be translated as Zheung, otherwise I have no idea why this is called MASTER Z. He was a younger teacher who defeated the great Wing Chun Grandmaster Ip Man in a public challenge, became legendary himself, but got too big for his britches and was ultimately defeated in a private challenge. Now he’s left martial arts – including turning down what could be well paying gigs as an enforcer – and runs a small grocery store. (read the rest of this shit…)
Outlawvern.com administrator Chris Rowley has reminded me that today is the tenth anniversary of the first time I ever posted on this here domain. He’d actually bought it for me the summer before as an act of kindness (or pity?) to get me off the free Geocities sight I’d used since 1999. I turn him down because I thought it was funny and subversive to pour such effort into such a crappy looking websight. When Geocities stopped working (it turned out they were closing up shop) he luckily hadn’t taken offense to my initial rejection and helped me getting things running right away.
I want to thank everyone who has read or commented or supported in any way. But I’m especially thankful to Chris, who has put so much time and money into keeping this place running through technical difficulties and multiple re-designs, who has set up comments, forums, spam blockers and features of his own invention. He’s also working on some new ideas that will be a surprise even to me. His generosity has made my life better, and maybe yours too, so please give him your thanks.
Happy anniversary everybody. Here’s that first post:
WE DIE YOUNG is an odd thing: a straight-to-VOD (now on DVD) Jean-Claude Van Damme movie that has some violence and plenty of crime – it opens with a flash-forward to a car chase to assure you of this – but really is kind of an indie drama with Van Damme in supporting character actor mode. The main character is actually Lucas, played by Elijah Rodriguez, who was the kid being pressured into working for the cartel in SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO. Lucas is a similar character, perhaps crossed with Casper from SIN NOMBRE. He’s a teen without parents raising a younger brother and feeling he has no choice but to be a bicycle riding drug runner for MS-13. In this one, though, he lives in the United States, in a DC neighborhood he says is a 20 minute bike ride from the White House.
Lucas narrates at the beginning as he rides around on his bike, dropping off large quantities of drugs like it’s his paper route. He explains that he works for “the most feared badass in DC,” Rincon (David Castaneda, also in DAY OF THE SOLDADO), who’s introduced threatening some dude who his guys dragged to him in his underwear, tied behind a motorcycle. Rincon manages to be kind of handsome and charismatic despite the crap tattooed all over his face. (I guess he’s allowed to have hair and the M and S aren’t gigantic like Li’l Mago’s in SIN NOMBRE.) (read the rest of this shit…)
After I watched MISS BALA (2011) a friend recommended SIN NOMBRE (2009). It’s a Spanish language film but it’s the feature debut of American writer-director Cary Fukunaga, before True Detective put him on more people’s radar. I remembered the title as an acclaimed movie but I didn’t even know what it was about, so the timeliness of the subject matter was accidental. It’s about our asshole in chief’s current favorite boogey man: people trying to leave violent situations in South America for the relative safety and promise of the United States.
Sayra (Paulina Gaitan, WE ARE WHAT WE ARE) is a Honduran teenager who joins her uncle and her estranged father in an organized group traveling north together. Or a “caravan” you might call it if you wanted it to sound very foreign. (read the rest of this shit…)
My friends Kevin Clarke, Travis Vogt and Matt Lynch have a podcast called THE SUSPENSE IS KILLING US where they discuss suspense thrillers, mostly of the ’80s and ’90s. I think they’re funny dudes and they joke around a bunch, but they know their movies. You may be familiar with Matt from his popular/grumpy letterboxd account or my old Michael Bay reviews where I mentioned him under the alias “Mr. Armageddon.” Kevin started the podcast because he was interested in the idea that these Michael Douglas and Ashley Judd type movies used to be a huge genre that now is virtually non-existent outside of weekly procedural TV shows.
When they invited me to go on I asked if Russell Mulcahy’s joyously berserk RICOCHET (1991) starring Denzel Washington counted. They were thrilled by the idea, and since their format is to cover three related movies they made me also watch FALLEN and THE BONE COLLECTOR. Warning: we spoil the shit out of all three.
I have two objectives here:
- Put enough positive RICOCHET energy out into the universe to secure a Blu-Ray release
- Have this episode get way more listens than all their other ones so they’ll respect and fear me
You guys can help me out with #2 if you’re interested:
THE SUSPENSE IS KILLING US Episode 7: RICOCHET (& Two Other Denzel Movies)
In WING CHUN, the 1994 Yuen Woo-Ping classic, the great Michelle Yeoh plays Yim Wing Chun, a legendary character who was supposedly the first disciple of the Shaolin nun who invented the Wing Chun style of kung fu after seeing a crane fight a snake. The movie’s not about that, but it’s a reworking of a famous story about Wing Chun using her skills to ward off an asshole trying to force her to marry him. I’m not sure, but I think it’s kind of like in western culture if you do a new version of Zorro, Dracula, Hansel and Gretel or whatever you’re probly not gonna directly adapt the version people know, you’re gonna try to take the famous elements and put a different spin or twist or perspective on them. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT is not the wacky SHARKNADO type bullshit that the title may bring to mind, but instead an odd, humble little character piece about aging, regret, loneliness and sacrifice. Its greatest strength is that it stars Sam Elliott (or as I call him, The Man Who Mentored Dalton and then Fought The Hulk). He plays Calvin Barr, who many decades ago gave up the love of his life (Caitlin FitzGerald, Rectify) for an important WWII tracking, infiltration and assassination mission that he could never tell anyone about, and in his old age has failed to either feel good about what he did or find another purpose for his life. Its second greatest strength is that it attempts the daredevil feat of telling us that outlandish alternate history tale, following it with his being recruited to save the world by finding and killing a sasquatch, and not treating any of it as something to laugh at.
Who does that? And who pulls it off? In this case it’s a first time feature writer/director named Robert D. Krzykowski. (read the rest of this shit…)