I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Vern doesn’t like THE CONDEMNED!! Yes, our Vern!

SPOILER ALERT !!

My friends, I write to you with a heavy heart to admit that the prestigious WWE Films banner is starting to lose its luster. They have three movies under their belt now (get it, belt – that is a wrestling pun in my opinion) but the record now is 1 in 3. And the one I’m counting as good is SEE NO EVIL (click for review!) , the slasher movie about a big bald sexually repressed muscleman poking out people’s eyes in a scary hotel. So your mileage may vary. (mileage is a car metaphor, that is no longer wrestling related, sorry.)

THE CONDEMNED sort of stars Steve Austin, formerly known as Stone Cold Steve Austin, but maybe he dropped that after he got fired from wrestling for getting arrested for wife beating. I’m not sure. Austin is the most sympathetic of ten convicts that an amoral millionaire buys out of prisons in third world countries, puts on an island and forces to kill each other for one of those live streaming internet shows they have in horrible movies (see HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION). They have bombs attached to their ankles so they can’t escape, and if one is able to be the last one remaining he or she will be set free.

The CondemnedThe movie has two advantages over the disappointing THE MARINE. Number one, it’s rated-R so it can have actual violence in it, not just explosions. Number two, Steve Austin makes a good action anti-hero, he is not bland and laughable like John Cena. Sure, they both have unnaturally large necks, but Austin seems like a genuine tough guy, not just an out of control muscle-sculpting experiment for some crazed fitness artist. The bad guys always call him “redneck” and “hillbilly” and I guess he has a little bit of a drawl, but his main appeal is his gravelly voice and his Plissken-esque don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. This crowd seemed to love it every time he barked out a sarcastic comment or called somebody “sweetheart,” and I don’t blame them. If he was given an actual character to play in a movie by people who knew how to make a real movie, he could be at least as good as Roddy Piper. (Not that any wrestler movie will ever match THEY LIVE. That’s a pipe dream.)

But they don’t give him much. At the beginning, when all the competitors are chained up in a helicopter, there is one good moment that shows what his character is about. Before they get tossed out onto the island a guard gives them a mouthpiece that has the key in it, so once they land they can unlock themselves. Austin sees how this works but when it comes to his turn he elbows the guard in the face and jumps without the key. He would rather figure out some other way to get out of the chains than submit to the humiliation of a guy putting something in his mouth.

But that’s about it. After that everything we find out about him (his special forces background, his girlfriend and her kids who he left behind, why he was in jail) is from dialogue between other characters, in scenes that he’s not even in.

I got one question. Why the fuck does nobody remember how to make action movies anymore? Alot of people laugh at the old lowbrow action movies of the ’80s and ’90s, but there must’ve been more of an art to them than people realized, an art that is now lost. Sure, they’re still making some good martial arts movies now and then, but the techniques and disciplines behind great, or even good, American style action movies have been erased by history, like the construction of the pyramids. The mystery of the McTiernan Code. The old masters have lost their touch or their interest, and they never took on apprentices, and now our choice seems to be Bruckheimer or DTV. This one is a little bit of both.

First thing they need to remember: an action movie has to have a good story to structure the action on. Not an original story, that’s only a bonus. It doesn’t matter that it’s basically BATTLE ROYALE without the clever part of it being teenagers. There are plenty of fun action movies that are clearly lifted from DIE HARD, but they give you a good character to root for, a good villain to root against, a structure that builds momentum and a series of fights and stunts that are exciting to watch. (UNDER SIEGE 1&2, SPEED 1, SUDDEN DEATH 1.)

But this is not a good story. They don’t even know where the story is. The movie doesn’t start out with Austin, it starts out with the pricks who are creating the show. There is the evil millionaire (Robert Mammone, MAN-THING), his hot girlfriend (Victoria Musset, who I guess is the lady the Merovingian gave an orgasm pie to in THE MATRIX 2) and the bitchy tech guy (Rick Hoffman, the American torturer guy from that one memorable scene in HOSTEL). As the movie continues it gets more and more depressing how much time we have to spend with these people looking at screens in a control room instead of on the island where the actual story is probaly taking place, off camera. I don’t think the filmatists realized they were doing this, but they made a movie entirely in the point of view of the least interesting and sympathetic characters in the movie. They don’t spend nearly enough time on the guy they probaly thought was the main character.

Techie and girlfriend quickly start feeling bad about what they’re doing, and try to stop it (only by complaining, not by taking any action). So Mammone is the villain, and he’s as bland as John Cena. It’s not like an Alan Rickman, Tommy Lee Jones or Eric Bogosian situation, you’re not happy to be watching the villain when you could be watching the hero.

The second ancient secret of action movies that needs to be revived – well, you wouldn’t think this would need to be pointed out. But you gotta put some god damn ACTION SCENES in your movie! Some good ones. There are no good action scenes in this movie. There are a bunch of fights, and all of them go like this: two guys punch or swing knives at each other. THEN THE CAMERA SWISHES VIOLENTLY FROM SIDE TO SIDE UNTIL THEY STOP! You know, to create the illusion of excitement. Movie magic.

Now, I don’t watch wrestling, so I could be wrong about this. But my guess is that in wrestling they have a couple cameras that mostly stay stationary, and they watch as the two guys wrestle each other. That’s how it works, right? In fact, I’m guessing that if the cameraman tried to wave that thing around like they do in every fight in this movie he would be immediately fired, and probaly beaten up in the parking lot. So you’d think if a wrestling league was gonna make a movie starring wrestlers, about wrestlers fighting each other, they would have the common sense to sit the fuck still and get a clear shot of what’s supposed to be going on. What the fuck is wrong with these people? It almost seems like they’re doing it on purpose to fuck with us. Hey guys, want to see a fight? TOO BAD. Instead we’re gonna show you the blur of skin tones and trees waving back and forth in front of you. So fuck off.

If it is on purpose, it must be because they’re taking a moral stand against good action. That’s a more unusual problem that the movie has. From the first scene on they lecture the audience about enjoying violence. First there’s a murky prison fight, and Graeme Revel’s score emphasizes that it’s wrong, not that it’s exciting. Then there’s a scene where a journalist interviews the millionaire and is outraged by how he’s exploiting violence and it’s wrong. Then those two members of his team start preaching the same thing. Vinnie Jones (SUBMERGED) plays Austin’s main rival on the island, a psycho who the producers drop care packages of weapons to because “he puts on a good show.” At the end he busts into the control room and murders the crew, shouting some variation of “ARE YOU ENTERTAINED?” and judging by the drawn out shots of the crew crying this is not supposed to be some ironic or darkly humorous moment, this is supposed to be really deep and powerful.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. How can anyone, much less the WWE, make an action movie that is OUTRAGED at people who want to be entertained by violence? Didn’t it occur to them that every single person who pays money to see this shitty movie is doing it because they mistakenly thought it was going to entertain them with violence? I don’t think it’s a subversive act, I think it’s an accident. They just made a movie against violence because it seemed like what you’re supposed to do. Or maybe they are trying to draw a distinction between what they do as wrestling promoters/makers of boring watered down action movies, and what these characters do. Sure, we make money from muscleheads fighting each other, but what about these internet millionaires with their live internet snuff shows? THOSE are the guys you should be going after.

Whatever their reason, it makes for a horrible action movie. It’s like if Meg Ryan made a romantic comedy where half of the movie was about some other group of characters talking solemnly about how monogamous love is an illusion. Meanwhile, Meg Ryan does briefly fall in love, but the camera keeps swinging around so much you’re not sure who it was she fell in love with or how they met. The ladies who watch those movies would never put up with that shit, and we shouldn’t put up with this. Just because it has musclemen, guns and one exploding helicopter doesn’t make it “kick ass.” Let’s at least set the hurdle one inch above the ground. Jesus.

When those two I mentioned earlier got religion and started preaching to the evil millionaire that what they were doing was wrong I couldn’t help but think of that corny overrated movie I saw recently, BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON. In that one a lady does a documentary about a serial killer and then when he starts killing people she gets upset, like she never saw this coming. It seems like she’s supposed to be a reasonable and sympathetic character, and yet she has the common sense of an inbred crane fly. This is the same shit. When their boss says “You’re either with us or against us” it’s like he’s Bush and the other two are the Democrats in Congress who voted for the war authorization in the first place, and only LATER realized that maybe he was gonna invade Iraq and fuck it up.

No shit, Sherlock. Maybe you should’ve been against murder BEFORE you decided to work on a TV show where real people really murder each other. Er, not TV show, but webisode or whatever. By the way, this is the first and hopefully last action movie in history to use the word “blog” five or six times. It’s one of those movies where they keep talking about the internet as if it’s a new and exciting frontier that the audience is just hearing about for the first time. So between the insinuations that the audience are sickos and the assumptions that they are so stupid they don’t know what the internet is, you might feel a little bit insulted.

(By the way, if you’re wondering what the studio thinks of you, the trailer for DELTA FARCE starring Larry the Cable Guy/Health Inspector is attached to THE CONDEMNED. Just for your info.)

To be fair, the anti-violence preaching does lead to the one big laugh in the movie. This is a SPOILER because if any of you poor suckers are still gonna go see this you better have something enjoyable in there. If so skip to the next paragraph. At the climax of the movie all of Austin’s blue collar friends back home (as well as his love interest who he never shares a scene with) are somehow watching the streaming internet show on a TV in a sports bar. In one of the two or three pretty-cool shots in the movie, Austin falls down a bunch of rocks and everybody decides he’s dead. Suddenly the internet cuts to the outraged journalist who interviewed the evil millionaire. She says that after the interview she was really mad, but in the next 24 hours, after seeing how many millions of people watched the show online she was no longer mad, she was sad. (At this point, they show many emotional closeups of Austin’s buddies in the bar, feeling guilty for watching.) The whole speech is really, really funny but I didn’t see the punchline coming where she says, “maybe it’s really us who are… THE CONDEMNED.” I recommend everyone applaud at this point in the movie if you see it. Good shit.

It is hard, but possible, to make a good action movie that preaches against violence. I like the BILLY JACK movies and plenty of other “I am a pacifist but sometimes you just gotta kick a motherfucker’s ass” stories. But if it’s gonna work you gotta be at least a little hypocritical. You gotta have some fun with the violence. The approach they should’ve taken, I think, is the Verhoeven approach. Instead of saying over and over again that this show is horrible, they should just make the show really fuckin horrible. Take a look at ROBOCOP or STARSHIP TROOPERS, you can see where he takes violence to an absurd level and that in itself makes the statement about the society where that violence is a normal part of life. It makes the point better and is more entertaining to watch.

Hell, maybe they should’ve taken a look at a little movie called BATTLE ROYALE, or one called THE RUNNING MAN, not sure if they’ve heard of those. Neither is a great movie but both get the point across and make the movie fun by taking the violence over-the-top.

If you want a more sublte approache there’s Jet Li’s FEARLESS. It’s a movie all about Jet Li’s character learning not to kill people, but it’s in the context of competitive martial arts. So even after he learns his lesson they can still have great fight scenes.

And that reminds me of another wasted opportunity in the movie, another example of the incompetence in American action filmatism these days. There’s a guy named Nathan Jones who fights against Jet Li in FEARLESS, against Tony Jaa in TOM YUM GOONG/THE PROTECTOR and now against Steven Austin in THE CONDEMNED. This guy is an Australian strongman who was briefly a WWE wrestler. He’s a scary lookin muscleman, not a martial artist, but he got to fight Jet Li and Tony Jaa because he’s 6’10”, and it looks cool to see those guys fight against a behemoth motherfucker like that. Jones plays “The Russian” (I only got that from the credits). He shows up and fights Austin, but with the camera angles they chose you can’t even tell he’s giant at first. There is only one shot that shows him towering over Austin. He’s 9 inches taller, so it looks cool. Then the camera shakes around for a minute until he falls off a cliff and blows up.

Maybe it was naive to believe in the dream of WWE Films. Maybe you have to be a starry eyed idealist to think that all the poetry and magic of some muscle dudes yelling and throwing each other could survive the transition to cinematic storytelling. But to me, SEE NO EVIL really did fulfill the ridiculous promise of these roid rage weirdos making a movie. That one is 100% moronic, poorly acted, sometimes poorly shot, and completely unoriginal in most of its content. But it makes a point of pushing the limits of taste and has some really funny and clever violence in it (you know, that stuff we should feel guilty for watching). It has what slasher movie fans used to call “creative kills,” which is not true of THE CONDEMNED. I know Massawyrm said otherwise, but I got no idea which parts he could be talking about. I think at least 3 died from the bombs on their ankles, one guy got stabbed, two or three got shot – how is this interesting? SEE NO EVIL had a vegetarian thrown through a skylight who ended up hanging upside down, where a dog she was nice to earlier eats her face off. It also has a great play on the traditional slasher movie ending. You expect the killer to come back from the dead, instead the last thing you see is the dog peeing in the gouged eye socket of his corpse.

I guess Gregory Dark was the perfect director to get. He’s a porn director, but a well known and distinctive one, and he did some pretty good music videos. You could argue that he has a vision, and at least a little bit of chops. Unlike THE MARINE and THE CONDEMNED, he appeared to be actually trying to make a movie, not just trying to do enough shots for a trailer with filler in between.

The guy who directed THE CONDEMNED, by the way, is Scott Wiper. I know, I never heard of him either, but I’m a thorough individual and one who strives for excellence, so I checked out one of his earlier directorial works to find out his background. A BETTER WAY TO DIE (2000) is nothing special, and has some of that embarrassing “everything I learned about writing tough guy dialogue I got from half-remembering RESERVOIR DOGS” feel. But it’s much more enjoyable than THE CONDEMNED. Wiper himself stars as an ex-cop who gets mistaken for some other guy and has to fight a bunch of assassins and corrupt government agents. It has actual action sequences in it, where you can tell what’s going on, and scenes that build momentum. A conversation turns into a shootout turns into a chase turns into an explosion. It also has a few clever action ideas. He escapes a bomb by climbing into the toilet in an outhouse. Also he throws Andre Braugher head first into a wall, then has to go into the other room to talk to his head. There’s nothing half that good in this one. Maybe Wiper blew his load 7 years ago with the head through the wall scene, all he could think of now was punching and guns.

I saw that Massawyrm liked the movie. And some of the people at this preview screening seemed to like it. But it seems to me like alot of Stone Cold fans are gonna be real disappointed. Because once it’s all over you think back and realize, jesus, for being the main character he sure wasn’t in that movie very much. Alot of his lines are pretty funny, but how many does he even have? It would be fine if he just didn’t talk much, if there were scenes of him traveling around the island and fighting and stuff, if it was a non-verbal role. But that’s not the case. They just waste too much time on all the boring filler parts. If this movie had any intention of entertaining the audience they would be following him for most of the movie, it would be in his point of view. There’s kind of a cool thing where the cameras on the island slide around on cables above, and cameramen sneak around disguised as bushes like on TO CATCH A PREDATOR. If they actually showed you the surreal experience of being stuck on this island from his perspective it could be pretty cool.

When Austin is on screen they do take advantage of his persona, but if he has any fighting talent they sure don’t showcase that. When he’s brawling the camera is busy frantically jerkin itself off, and then the three bad guys he takes out at the end are 1) done in by a gun close range 2) done in by another gun close range 3) blown up. It’s like putting Fred Astaire in a movie where he doesn’t dance. But without a burning building.

By the way, speaking of Stone Cold fans, the movie STONE COLD starring Brian Bosworth is finally coming to region 1 DVD in June. So at least this review has a happy ending.

Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/32437

View the archived Ain’t-It-Cool-News Talkback

  • April 25, 2007, 7:32 p.m. CST

    Boy Howdy

    by jimmy_009

    Sounds Lame!

  • April 25, 2007, 7:48 p.m. CST

    Really I thought See No Evil sucked

    by Lovecraftfan

    I mean really really sucked.

  • April 25, 2007, 7:52 p.m. CST

    John Cena sucks. Steve Austin doesnt.

    by GibsonUSA Returns

    All the difference in the world.

  • April 25, 2007, 8:01 p.m. CST

    Steve Austin

    by DarthStallion

    does actually have some acting talent. I wish he would be given more of a chance.

    And I’m glad to see “Stone Cold” coming out on DVD. That was actually a pretty decent action movie. Although I’m still waiting for the DVD review for “MegaForce”. Barry Bostwisck looking like Barry Gibb kicks ass.

  • April 25, 2007, 8:08 p.m. CST

    See no Evil

    by Cpt. Arnoldo

    sucks something fierce, I couldn’t get through it – it seemed like a bunch of 15 year olds spliced it together on their Macbook

  • April 25, 2007, 8:10 p.m. CST

    Disappointing

    by QuinnTheEskimo

    We all always hope an action movie will be good, but instead it always sucks and makes you just want to go watch Die Hard instead. The only good thing about movies like this is that we get to read Vern’s reviews of them.

  • April 25, 2007, 8:11 p.m. CST

    FINALLY…

    by The Real MiraJeff

    An AICN regular come out and says that Behind the Mask sucked. Boy did it ever. I was really excited to watch the screener and by the end of it, I wanted the money that I never spent back. It started off smart and then became extremely, extremely dumb. Don’t know why we went to bat for that one for months. On the other hand Vern, I thought Jet Li’s Fearless was a pretty weak note to go out on. It was a nice idea for a martial arts film but I don’t think it quite worked. As for The Condemned, I doubt I’ll see it, but I will admit that the trailers don’t make it look too bad. If a real movie star, and not a wrestler, was the lead in this movie, like say, Vin Diesel, I would probably see it. I love Battle Royale, and, oddly enough, Surviving the Game, but I too, despise herky-jerk WTF camera movements so I think I’ll pass on this one. I try to avoid seeing movies produced by the WWE. Wrestling used to be cool. Now it’s a joke. Hulkamania forever, brother.

  • April 25, 2007, 8:28 p.m. CST

    Stone Cold 2: Father Murphy Kicks Ass

    by DarthStallion

    Bring that shit on!

  • April 25, 2007, 8:34 p.m. CST

    Action movies seem to be a lost art now.

    by Ironmuskrat

    I can’t remember that last time I watched a good action movie that made me want to jump and let out a “fuck yeah!” Too much CGI and shaky cam now. The Marine was a perfect example of everything that is wrong with action movies today. As Vern pointed out, CGI explosions do not equal action. Shaky cam does not make a fight scene better. When I see that crap in a movie now it just makes me mad. It almost like the director is calling me a ADD retard to my face. I keep waiting for the next Die Hard to come along, I just didn’t know it would be an actual Die Hard movie.

  • April 25, 2007, 8:35 p.m. CST

    bobo vision

    by BadMrWonka

    how dare you mention “The Game” in the same sentence as this shitstorm?
    it’s across between “Suriving the Game” and the diarrhea I got from the Chicken Dijonnaise I had for lunch yesterday…

  • April 25, 2007, 8:42 p.m. CST

    RIP OFF OF “BATTLE ROYALE”.

    by Anna Valerious

    Instead of teenagers, it’s death row inmates. Reeeaaaal original. I think I’ll wait for the American version of BR.

  • April 25, 2007, 8:56 p.m. CST

    I had the same rant just the other day…

    by Alonzo Mosely

    I mean how come back in the 80s it was easy to pump out cheap, silly but enjoyable action movies by the dozen, but these days nobody has a clue how to make one?

  • April 25, 2007, 9:05 p.m. CST

    Wait…

    by crashcow

    Vern, you rag on The Condemned, but rejoice at the DVD release of Stone Cold and wax happy about Verhoeven? Man, you’re like a dog that has a favorite taste in shit. If those are the examples by which I’m supposed to avoid The Condemned, then, by God, get me a ticket. Bosworth hated his own movie and Verhoeven just makes big films to find new ways of revealing tits instead of plot.

    Like I said, shit.

  • April 25, 2007, 9:25 p.m. CST

    Verns a jackhole…

    by bobbychez76

    See no evil sucked, and stone cold wasnt kicked out of the wwe…he was just at wrestlemania to promote the flick… moron …

  • April 25, 2007, 9:39 p.m. CST

    Vern ain’t no jackhole

    by QuinnTheEskimo

    Fuck you fuckers

  • April 25, 2007, 10:38 p.m. CST

    Really good review.

    by Captain Happy

    Thanks, Vern; your exhaustive review perfectly articulated the sorry state of the modern “actioner”. The “McTiernan Code”; inspired genius. Absolutely true. John McTiernan really knew how to make a good action film, and I even find his misses really entertaining too; “The 13th Warrior” comes to mind most here. & I even find myself watching “Basic”…again, whenever I see it appear on TBS or TNT on a Sunday afternoon. “Rollerball” stunk the joint up a bit, though. McT…thank you – & come back & give us another “Die Hard” or “Predator”…or even another “13th Warrior”.

  • April 25, 2007, 10:38 p.m. CST

    Ironmuskrat

    by one9deuce

    The fourth DIE HARD will NOT be the next DIE HARD quality action movie. Len Wiseman directing and the trailer are all you need to know that it will SUCK!
    Action movies are horrible now. Not only is there no Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone caliber action stars, but those two guys made some truly classic films. FIRST BLOOD, RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, THE TERMINATOR, TRUE LIES, ROCKY, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, PREDATOR. The very best of todays “action” films are barely as good as the mediocre/bad films of Stallone and Schwarzenegger. Today’s best are of RAW DEAL and COBRA quality at best.

  • April 25, 2007, 10:59 p.m. CST

    We got an entertaining review by Vern.

    by kabong

    Just going by the review, it seems fair to say that this POS might not even been sent directly to the bargain bin at Wal-Mart.

  • April 25, 2007, 11:06 p.m. CST

    Crashcow

    by Vern

    Okay then, let me explain it to you. Verhoeven is a master of the violent action movie with an underlying substance. I don’t give a shit if he did SHOWGIRLS. Even if you are one of those weirdos who doesn’t dig on STARSHIP TROOPERS, this is the guy who did ROBOCOP and TOTAL RECALL. You’re really telling me you’d rather see movies like THE CONDEMNED than ROBOCOP? That is exactly my fear about this culture. If nobody strives for excellence that’s what you get, you get people who actually prefer half-assed mediocrity to genuine artistry. Makes me wanna fuckin cry.

    By the way, BLACK BOOK is my favorite movie I’ve seen this year so far, but I’m afraid you’re correct, it does have tits in it. So stay away.

    I’m not asking THE CONDEMNED to be smart though. STONE COLD is more relevant to this conversation, that was actually the perfect movie to bring up. It’s basically the same thing – injured former athlete forced into silly Hollywood action movie formula. I’m not turning my nose up at THE CONDEMNED, I love dumb action movies. It’s just that this is a really boring, incompetent and humorless dumb action movie. Just because you’re in a genre that can be silly doesn’t mean you just slap the shit together with no effort. You still gotta work. Or should.

    THE CONDEMNED actually had an easier row to hoe because Stone Cold Steven Austin is a pretty cool persona, The Boz is fucking ridiculous. But Craig Baxley knows how to do over-the-top action (with real stunts, he’s from a family of stuntmen) so it’s way more fun, less pretentious and not boring.

    The very best thing in the entire movie of THE CONDEMNED is a shot, CGI I think, of a helicopter blowing up and hitting a cliff, made to look like you’re watching it over Austin’s shoulder. That’s the climax of the movie. Cool shot, but pales in comparison to a similar shot that’s not even the climax of STONE COLD, where a real motorcycle flies out a window, hits a real helicopter, causes it to really explode, at which point it falls on a real car, which also explodes. Then there’s the maniac shooting the priest through a stained glass window, Lance Henriksen dressed as a priest blowing away an entire jury with a machine gun, all kinds of good shit. It has two great villains (Henriksen and William Forsythe), CONDEMNED has one okay secondary villain that’s played the same character in too many movies already (Vinnie Jones).

    Maybe you’ll like THE CONDEMNED, good for you. But you’re missing out, bud. You’re eating Pop Tarts when you could be eating cake.

  • April 25, 2007, 11:50 p.m. CST

    Way to go, Vern!

    by Gilkuliehe

    I was going to address Crashcow for badmouthing Verhoeven but I’m glad you did it first. You have succesfully strived for excellence, my friend. (And yeah, it makes me wanna fuckin cry, too… Your column regarding G**ndhouse was spot on).

  • April 25, 2007, 11:53 p.m. CST

    TOO LONG!!!

    by thebearovingian

    The review, that is. And I’m pretty damn patient and steadfast. But I suppose my opinion doesn’t matter. At all.

  • April 25, 2007, 11:58 p.m. CST

    Damn skippy…

    by doctorfreudstein

    …your logic is rock solid, Vern. Keep up the great work.

  • April 26, 2007, 12:01 a.m. CST

    MiraJeff, which martial arts movie did you

    by eraser_x

    like better than Jet Li’s Fearless? Which martial arts movie had better fights? Did you like the Kill Bills? And what part of Fearless did “not work” for you? I’m very curious to learn your take on martial arts movies.

  • April 26, 2007, 12:04 a.m. CST

    you really like The Trial of Billy Jack, vern?

    by troutpencil

    Billy Jack 1 is all well and good, but the 3 hour long sequel cannot be enjoyed by any human with human emotions and human tastes. That shit is horrendous.

  • April 26, 2007, 12:25 a.m. CST

    Get them inside the vault!

    by Captain Mal

    Zoe, take the wheel!

  • April 26, 2007, 12:27 a.m. CST

    bearovingian

    by Vern

    No, I actually agree with you on that. Don’t worry about it.

  • April 26, 2007, 12:29 a.m. CST

    trout

    by Vern

    Well I haven’t watched that one in a while but yeah, I like the corniness of those movies, and it gets much cornier when he goes on trial. Also, he actually learned a little bit of karate for the second one. I am actually more into BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON because in that one he is Senator Billy Jack and it’s basically just MR. SMITH remade with one action scene in the middle.

    I’m not too fond of BORN LOSERS though, it’s not as fun when it’s all about gang rape.

  • April 26, 2007, 1:33 a.m. CST

    Just bought ‘Stone Cold’ for 50 cents

    by crimsonrage

    What a film. Lots of nudity. Lots of violence. Lots of fun.

  • April 26, 2007, 2:09 a.m. CST

    good as Roddy Piper

    by bib fortuna

    Well, not as long as “Hell Comes to Frogtown” is still around. If a flick about a post-apocalyptic world with humans and frog/human mutants where the last fertile male walks around with a shock collar on his shlong isn’t great filmmaking I don’t know what is!

  • April 26, 2007, 2:20 a.m. CST

    I CAN BELIVE IT TOOK THAT MANY WORDS VERN

    by gride9000

    Just say it sucked

  • April 26, 2007, 3:21 a.m. CST

    gride9000

    by Kampbell-Kid

    Just saying something sucks lends you no credibility in what your reviewing opinion besides appearing generally ignorant. Giving a critique and following it up with actual reasons why is what good critics do to the art and medium of film. Otherwise it comes off as internet hermit hater speak from your run of the mill TB/forum troll.

    The trailer attached to this film is a big disapointment. It was rumored that the Jet Li / Jason Statham trailer for WAR which was shown at ShoWest would be attached.

  • April 26, 2007, 3:33 a.m. CST

    Funniest line in the review —

    by The_Deathticle

    “Then the camera shakes around for a minute until he falls off a cliff and blows up.”

  • April 26, 2007, 4:05 a.m. CST

    Great Rant

    by Napoleon Park

    I’ve been coming here to AICN for a few years now and that was one of the best things I’ve ever read. Uh, here.

  • April 26, 2007, 5:01 a.m. CST

    This movie

    by Xenodistortion

    should have starred Jake The Snake and Superfly Jimmy Snuka. Does anybody remember that movie “No Holds Barred”? Where Hulk Hogan had to fight Deebo from Friday to avenge his crippled brother or something? Hearing this review of Stone Colds movie made me long for the days of Hulkster and his creepy balding whitish-blond mullet.hahaha. WWE has a long way to go before they crank out another gem like “Suburban Commando”.

  • April 26, 2007, 5:17 a.m. CST

    Yes, but have Weird Al and Buckethead ever been

    by Frisco

    seen in the same room at the same time?

  • April 26, 2007, 6:05 a.m. CST

    Vern rules all

    by Cedar_Room

    I can’t believe people are criticising the best reviewer on AICN. A film starring and being made by wrestlers…. is…. actually…. SHIT?? Odds were not in it’s favour really. Good work Vern.

  • April 26, 2007, 6:42 a.m. CST

    Battle Royal ripoff?

    by Dazzler69

    Just wondering…I know the Jap movie was about students but same concept.

  • April 26, 2007, 6:51 a.m. CST

    I still really want to see this.

    by Spandau Belly

    They don’t even show WWF in my country and I don’t know or care about any of the wrestlers, but this movie’s ridiculous premise sounds like it will be good for some stupid laughs. It sounds on par with one of those THE SUBSTITUTE movies about Special Op school teachers who infiltrate preteen arms dealers and stuff.

    As for American style action movies being a lost art I’ll actually say that even though I disliked Death Proof, Quentin really got how to do old school action. You knew where all the elements were and the sequence of shots made sense.

    It breaks my heart that John Woo never made another film like Face/Off. I realize that scripts like that come on along once in a lifetime, but in his Mission Impossible 2 not even the action scenes were coherent.

  • April 26, 2007, 7:03 a.m. CST

    other recent movies that still get old school action

    by Spandau Belly

    Casino Royale, Miami Vice, The Edge, Pirates of the Caribean, Enemy at the Gates, Ronin, Transporter 2, Collateral. These films all had clear sequencing of the shots and moves in the fights and clearly defined geography.

    But yeah, there’s a lot of this whoosh-whoosh whizbang stuff out there.

  • April 26, 2007, 7:07 a.m. CST

    Action movies of old…

    by MonkeyManReturns

    …make no money anymore. They were big bucks in the 80s but then came along the 90s and we were done. I loved the old action stuff, even crap like No Retreat, No Surrender…good old fashioned action…they will never make those kind of movies again…know why? Cos my girlfriend’s teen brother said to me: CGI explosions LOOK better than REAL ones. And so continues the demise of movies.

  • April 26, 2007, 7:22 a.m. CST

    Stone Cold

    by Rusty Oysterburger

    Thought it was very funny that the plot keywords for Stone Cold on IMDb are: exploding gas station, body landing on car, disembodied head, female frontal nudity and wrestling! whats not to like there? makes me really wanna see that film now!

  • April 26, 2007, 7:32 a.m. CST

    Since I haven’t seen anyone else suggest it…

    by Kevin Holsinger

    …is there any chance of Vern getting his own graphic, along the lines of Moriarty and Hercules?
    You can either go with the one on his website, or hold a drawing contest, as was done for Massawyrm.
    I have a mental imagine of a hand-drawn John McClane jumping off the Nakatomi Building before it explodes. But, of course, you’d have to replace Nakatomi with something wittier…an exploding bandwagon perhaps. If anybody’s got better ideas, voice them.

  • April 26, 2007, 7:37 a.m. CST

    Vern’s graphic

    by Spandau Belly

    should be Clint Eastwood giving birth to John McClane on a tank.

  • April 26, 2007, 7:41 a.m. CST

    Spandau Belly

    by Kevin Holsinger

    Funny. Painful, but funny.

  • April 26, 2007, 7:50 a.m. CST

    John McTiernan broke my heart

    by Franklin T Marmoset

    It was on some DVD commentary where he talked about abandoning his ‘classic’ style (ie, as used in his good ones like Die Hard and Predator) so he could make action films that were more like modern music videos. The end result of that experiment was the Rollerball remake, which was the cinematic equivalent of accidentally breaking the toilet paper and getting poo on your finger.
    Why, Mr McTiernan, why?
    Anyway, thanks for the review, Vern, which I enjoyed. I agree about the sorry state of the modern action film. I don’t agree, however, about See No Evil, which I saw the other day and didn’t enjoy. This horror fad of ‘things shaking really fast while white flashes go off for no good reason’ is getting as annoying as the ‘wave your camera about like an idiot’ action style.

  • April 26, 2007, 8:07 a.m. CST

    Meg Ryan . . .

    by ras752000

    “It’s like if Meg Ryan made a romantic comedy where half of the movie was about some other group of characters talking solemnly about how monogamous love is an illusion. ” . . . I don’t know if Meg Ryan would really work in a Woody Allen movie.

  • April 26, 2007, 8:16 a.m. CST

    “Got fired for being arrested for wife beating.”

    by ManosTHOF

    That isn’t even true! You know Vern, I respect you, but get your facts straight. The rest of the review is good.

  • April 26, 2007, 8:40 a.m. CST

    Because He Said So

    by Roboteer

    WHAT!!? Even in the bloody rare instance a cheap exploitation film (or any film really), gets a negative review here, there follows 3 pages of apology as if serious cred is on the line. Don’t know if that’s more surprising though than a pacifist salivating over a dog eating a woman’s face off. WHAT!!? Shame it wasn’t eating Jane Fonda’s face off. Now THAT’S entertainment! …. And that’s the bottom line, ALL YOU ZOMBIES. [BTW, that last being very appropriate here on a couple of levels as well as a reference to the title of a short story by Heinlein, the author of the Vern-admired STARSHIP TROOPERS. For those who haven’t cracked a book since that last 12th grade final. God, I hate when I hafta explain ’em.] Yet another Sidney Deane moment pour moi. WHAT!!? ….. More BTW. Of course the Hollywood elitist Left totally misunderstood Verhoeven’s gratuitous violence and overt fascism in TROOPERS and eviscerated him, nearly destroying his career. Just desserts, not only inadvertently exposing Liberal fascism instead of Heinlein’s, but for trying to f**k with one of my favorite novels/authors by inserting a lame pacifist message. Ha & Ha.

  • April 26, 2007, 9:11 a.m. CST

    PIPER WAS THE PIMP

    by greekopa

    when he stuffed the cabbage in tito sanatas mouth

  • April 26, 2007, 9:13 a.m. CST

    they live was amazing

    by roccotheripper

    i miss movies like that and big trouble in little china. where have all the action movies gone??!

  • April 26, 2007, 9:21 a.m. CST

    Stone Cold is awesome

    by thefreeagents

    I saw it in the theatre with some buddies and we all had a blast. You are right Vern, they just dont make ’em like that anymore. Forsythe was total bad-ass in that one.

  • April 26, 2007, 9:54 a.m. CST

    “It ain’t meant to win an oscar, Brother”

    by Kentucky Colonel

    That’s what the Hulkster says. Damn, I miss Hot Rod Rowdy Roddy Piper & Mean Gene!!!!

  • April 26, 2007, 9:55 a.m. CST

    Rowdy Roddy Piper is THE SEX

    by Kentucky Colonel

    Any man who can wear a dress for a living has got balls. Big, hairy, schweaty balls. And a kilt.

  • April 26, 2007, 10:01 a.m. CST

    ‘Vern Condemns THE CONDEMNED!!’

    by CrichtonAstronut

    Common guys that was a gimme.

  • April 26, 2007, 10:17 a.m. CST

    See No Evil was good?

    by I Dunno

    Really?

  • April 26, 2007, 10:30 a.m. CST

    I also find it amusing that “good story” and

    by I Dunno

    “Under Siege” are in the same paragraph. Eric Bogosian? He sucked ass. Alan Rickman would kick your ass Sherrif of Nottingham-style if he found out his name was written next to that queen.

  • April 26, 2007, 10:32 a.m. CST

    Forthose whoare bashing Verhoven

    by Lovecraftfan

    Did you just not watvh Black Book or Robocop because those are great films.

  • April 26, 2007, 10:32 a.m. CST

    I’ll wait for Uncle Jay’s review…

    by MaxHunter73

    Hahaha…sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • April 26, 2007, 10:32 a.m. CST

    For those whoa re bashing Verhoven

    by Lovecraftfan

    Did you just not watch Black Book or Robocop because those are great films.

  • April 26, 2007, 10:36 a.m. CST

    Running Man

    by Ralije

    Are you fucking people retarded? This wasn’t a rip off of Battle Royale, which did kick a lot of ass, but it was a fucking ripoff of Running Man. Sure, there was a Battle Royale influence there but it felt like a Running Man rip than anything (Prisoners? Check. Strongman / Wrestler? Check. One liners? Check.)

    It’s a shame, though, as Steve Austin is cool to even us folks that don’t watch wrestling.

    And Starship Troopers is one of the best movies ever made. It’s hyper violent, awesome, has tits, is kinda funny, has some great gore, memorable lines, AND it works as a satire on Triumph of the Will at the same time. It’s brilliant. It’s up there with the Dawn of the Dead remake for sheer awesomeness.

  • April 26, 2007, 10:37 a.m. CST

    Verhoven is great

    by I Dunno

    I like how you can count on there being at least one brutal rape or beating of a woman in all his films. It’s like his trademark.

  • April 26, 2007, 10:56 a.m. CST

    Good review, Vern

    by Mr Incredible

    One of the best I’ve seen on this site. How ironic that the guy who directed this shitfest is named “Scott Wiper”.

  • April 26, 2007, 11:06 a.m. CST

    “Maybe it’s really us who are…the Condemned.”

    by MCVamp

    Wow. That is so unbelievably awesomely bad. This movie should have starred Rainier Wolfcastle. I shudder at the Larry the Cable Guy line Vern. That’s fuckin’ dead on.

  • April 26, 2007, 12:19 p.m. CST

    I Love The Most Dangerous Game Rip Offs…

    by Buzz Maverik

    I think that the last screenplay I wrote (which will be the last one I’ll ever write without money up front)was a rip off of both THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME and DIE HARD. Wrestling is fun and the guys are great athletes, whether you buy the events in the ring or not. But…I think some of the problem with Austin is that he is too imposing. Schwartzeneggar worked as an action hero because of personality, and as Samuel L. Jackson said in PULP FICTION, “Personality goes a long way.” Our favorite action heroes have to be both believable and relatable. Mark Wahlberg works because he’s in good shape and kind of badass but not to the extent that we can’t put ourselves in his place. Clint Eastwood pushed the limit but his characters, such as Dirty Harry, were always a little battered and troubled. Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken and Mel Gibson as Mad Max worked because the guys were human looking enough to act mean and surly. Guys like Steve Austin and Bill Goldberg, cool athletes, should be on the other side. If you look at, say, the action films of James Cameron, the killing machines were always on the other side. Ahnoldt in T1; the Aliens; the Navy Seals in the ABYSS; the T-1000 worked by sheer attitude and acting, making you believe that he was a sleeker model battering an outmode; TRUE LIES, well, Ahnoldt had the charm and a troubled marriage and hung out with geeks, so the terrorists had the advantage. It gets down to what Sylvester Stallone said once, reflecting on the opening stick fighting scene in RAMBO III: “I felt a little sorry for the guy Rambo was fighting, which you never want.” I always liked Bruce Willis and Eddie Murphy as action heroes. I call ’em Regular But Smart Ass Guys Who Can Do The Job. This is kind of a B movie, but I’d rather see someone like Clive Owen as the good guy against Steve Austin’s villain. Also, comedians and comic actors sometimes carry an aura of unbalanced danger. Maybe Johnny Knoxville in an action role, etc.

  • April 26, 2007, 12:23 p.m. CST

    Hell, STARSHIP TROOPERS…

    by Buzz Maverik

    …predicted our current Gulf War and state of affairs. Those conspiracy guys were right.

  • April 26, 2007, 12:24 p.m. CST

    Why they don’t make good 80’s action movies anymore

    by www.valiens.com

    Because they relied way too much on synthesizer and electric guitar. Also, and more seriously, we have an attention span of 15 seconds, which doubles as how long most of us last in bed. Or me. But I digress… early action movies actually showed real explosions and maybe would show it three or four times from different angles or a chopped up zoom. Can’t get away with that now. It’s all slick quick cuts where the explosion leads to the all-empowering one-liner. In the 80’s there were one-liners but they were scattered everywhere like a retarded jigsaw puzzle (up until “Die Hard,” I think.) Aaaaand finally, one huge problem? Everyone has to look pretty now. They used to get grimey with real grime and real explosions and real toplessness. Now? A shirtless Nicholas Cage running in slow motion from fake fire. MAYBE he’s wearing strategically-placed grease paint, if we’re lucky. If we’re luckier, he’s played by Jessica Alba.

  • April 26, 2007, 12:40 p.m. CST

    No…no…no…Starship Troopers is NOT good!

    by Ninja Nerd

    Said it before, but feel the need to say it again; that movie sucked ass nine ways from Sunday. IF and only IF you never read the book or any other Heinlein works, then it was pretty cool. But since I, and many of my friends, DID read the novel it’s based on, it was a complete mess to us. The bugs were nearly perfect in concept and execution, but the book was about a ton more. What’s missing? HOW ABOUT THE DAMNED ARMORED SUITS? Command Suit, Marauder Suit, etc. HOW ABOUT THE SKINNIES? Uh, yup….there WAS another whole alien race in the book. There was a great sequence in the book about the MI dropping on a Skinny world and Johnny busting through a wall into a “church service”. Oh DROPPING…as in “Cap Troopers”…as in what the fuck was the weak ass landing boats in the movie when the book spent some time detailing how the MI DROPPED in individual capsules??? The movie had tits?!? Yeah, that wide ride who played Flores with the tiny ones…woo hoo! In the book, Flores was male and “died on the way up” at the end of Chapter ONE. Oh, and Johnny’s Dad wasn’t IN Buenos Aires when the bugs hit it…he survived and at the end of the book, is a Cap Trooper in Johnny’s squad. Thre was SO much in the book that made a terrific story with many layers. Where was Colonel “Shorty”, the History of Moral Philosophy teacher? The whole speech about housetraining a puppy and the comparisons to juvenile justice we have now? Ver-whore-ven had some choices to make and got most of it wrong. If there were justice in the world, a real filmmaker would REMAKE Starship Troopers and do it right. Vern…if you haven’t read the book, do so. If you have, re-read it and then tell me it was done right as a movie. I mean, geez Louise, most movies are not exactly true to the source material…like every Stephen King movie so far…but Starship Troopers was just FUBARed beyond belief.

  • April 26, 2007, 12:56 p.m. CST

    Am I the only who didn’t like the novel Starship Troope

    by Lovecraftfan

    ers. Interesting ideas but I found the writing to be so so dull.

  • April 26, 2007, 1:18 p.m. CST

    Metaphors….Lovecraftfan, TomBodet.

    by Ninja Nerd

    Heinlein’s stuff can seem dry…and he clearly went nuts before he died and felt the need to write way too much about Lazarus Long, sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. He was old, sick, wasn’t getting any, and his earlier works were pretty great, so I can understand, if not forgive that. That said, I think Troopers was a little deeper than it might have seemed. Many themes in the book…duty, honor, family, citizenship, war, sacrifice, and so on. And done pretty well for 1951. The U.S. is only a few years from WWII and just entering the Korean War when this was written. In that context, this was pretty good. And I guess that’s my bitch with the movie…it coulda been a contender for a modern “All Quiet on The Western Front” and instead, “…HAD TITS!”

  • April 26, 2007, 1:29 p.m. CST

    WWE is bribing people to go see this

    by BigDogg

    first 10,000 people to mail in their tickets get the movie’s poster, sticker, and temporary tattoo.

    *tries to act like I won’t be taking advantage of this*

  • April 26, 2007, 1:37 p.m. CST

    Where’s the love for “Hell Comes To Frogtown”?

    by the maven

    Oh, sure, “They Live” is a modern classic, and one of my top five favorite Carpenter films, but you gotta love any post-apocalyptic flick where a group of women have to rescued from irradiated frog men (as opposed to frogmen) and Roddy’s rowdy little piper is declared official government property. I mean, you gotta love it, don’t you?

  • April 26, 2007, 2:07 p.m. CST

    Arnie, and other muscular action heroes

    by Spandau Belly

    For me Arnie only worked in movies where he was playing larger than life characters to match his voice and his physique like Conan and Terminator. I really hated True Lies because I just found it too stupid that some woman would believe that a giant bodybuilder with a thick German accent was just average American Joe the accountant.

    I prefer action guys who just look like they’re in good shape for a normal bloke. If you’re trying to make a movie about a regular chap who gets pulled into a crazy action scenario you should make him look and sound normal. That’s what made Die Hard work so well.

  • April 26, 2007, 2:10 p.m. CST

    thanks for the comments, fellas

    by Vern

    Here’s some miscellaneous responses.

    SPANDAU: Good list, but of course those are in a different genre. Miami Vice is not really about the action, it’s not in the same category we’re talking about. I really liked it though. The chase in Casino Royale is a good one even though the freerunning is a newer artform so it’s hard to call it old school. Anyway thanks for reminding me there are still some directors interested in showing what’s going on in their movies.

    F.T. MARMOSET: Sorry you didn’t dig See No Evil, but I should be more specific about that one. I am definitely not saying it is scary or a good horror movie or how things should be done. It has tons of horrible shit in it. But I enjoyed it in a similar way to how I enjoy some of the old slasher sequels like the Friday the 13ths or even the lesser ones. I mention my enjoyment of that one to show that I’m not holding these WWE Films up to some high standard of quality that would be impossible for The Condemned to achieve. It had a shot. I am forgiving. It still blew it.

    MANOS: That was what I was told by a buddy who obsessively follows wrestling. If he steered me wrong I’m sorry. But which part is wrong, that he got fired for that? It is a matter of public record that he was arrested for battery. Then he got a divorce. Hopefully it was one bad moment in his life that doesn’t represent how he usually is, but that’s not how it usually works. If I got the firing part wrong then I apologize, but it’s not like I’m defaming the WWE by saying that. If in fact they didn’t fire their most famous good guy after he was publicly revealed as a wifebeater then I am actually making them sound more enlightened than they are.

    ROBOTEER: I’m not sure I followed any of that, I got kind of a Dennis Miller on a bad day vibe, but if you were saying that was a great review that made some cogent points and that you will spend the rest of your life travelling the world helping people to try to undo the harm caused by voting for Bush then thanks bud, I appreciate it and I wish you good luck on your journey.

    I DUNNO: Yes it is a good story, it was originally called Nothing Lasts Forever, better known as Die Hard. All I meant is you gotta build a structure that involves the audience and builds to something, not just talk, punch, talk longer, punch, talk alot longer, end.

    MR. MONKEY: Glad somebody liked Submerged. I have a hard time with that one. Have you noticed though that the computer disc they’re fighting for is hidden inside the jewel case for a Julio Iglesias CD? They never get a clear shot of it but that’s the power of the pause and zoom.

    RALIJE: No, we people are not fuckin retarded. I think they are all kind of similar stories, but The Condemned is closer to Battle Royale. Running Man was a prisoner running across the country trying not to be killed by cartoonish bounty hunters or regular citizens. Battle Royale is a self-contained island where everyone tries to kill each other and the last one alive wins, just like The Condemned.

    BUZZ: Good points about action heroes, but actually I think that’s one reason why Austin could be good. He’s not just some hollow replacement for Stallone or somebody, he is a different kind of guy. You’re right, that dark side could prevent him from becoming a huge movie star, or maybe that’s what people want now? Who knows but it could work well for his movies I think. Like Sonny Chiba in Street Fighter, the hero who looks more like a bad guy. Or Danny Trejo in Machete (I hope).

    NINJA NERD: I’m sorry for your loss, but as a standalone movie it’s good and entirely unique. There’s really no other movie like it, where it works as violent sci-fi fun, and it’s not a parody, but still the whole message of the movie, and even the casting, seems to be sarcastic. You’re not gonna like this, but I respect that Verhoeven openly said he didn’t like the book and made the movie as sort of a rebuttal to it. This is a guy who grew up next to the German headquarters in the Hague so he saw people being blown up and tormented by both the Nazis and the Allies trying to get the Nazis. So he has some strong feelings about war, militarism and fascism. The fact that he adapted a book that he didn’t like does make him kind of an asshole, but an interesting asshole in my opinion.

    I hope they make your faithful Starship Troopers movie some day, I’d watch that too, but I love what Verhoeven did with it and I’m thankful he somehow got away with it.

  • April 26, 2007, 2:12 p.m. CST

    Liking this thread

    by Zino

    Vern pretty much echoes my feelings on the death of the action movie. There is definitely an opportunity there for anyone who can come up with a great action script and re-ignite the genre. I’m thinking about a film that pays tribute to the conventions of the genre but re-works them in interesting ways, kind of like what Scream did for the slasher flick – self aware, but not a spoof. Or fuck it, how about just a straight forward kick-ass action movie. All you need is a European bad-guy, a troubled anti-hero with nothing to lose, and a totally gratuitous strip club scene that ends in a shootout with topless strippers jumping behind tables in slow motion as bullets tear up the place and dollar bills rain down like confetti while our hero strides through the club, crushing broken glass underfoot, wearing a long leather jacket and shades even though it is dark, letting loose a shotgun on the bad-guys who are blown over the bar and into the mirror that they always have at the back of bars, presumably just so it will look really cool when you throw/shoot someone and they smash into it., then afterwards our hero grabs the only bottle of whiskey in the place to not get broken and chugs down on it while uttering a smart one-liner. Job done.

  • April 26, 2007, 3:22 p.m. CST

    ’80s action

    by Tito Trinidad

    Wow. I remember catching “Action Jackson” on cable months ago. This is a movie I saw in highschool on a Friday night. It seemed that everyone from school was there and we had a ball. So, i’m watching it on cable and you would think that my previous enjoyment of the movie was based on hanging out with friends on a Friday night. But no. Somehow, this dumbass movie, starring Carl Weathers of all people, was oddly mesmorizing. Kick ass fight scenes, ludicrous plots, a villain you wanted to see die in a horrible way. It’s weird, maybe there is an art to something these things. If so what happened? These type of movies seemed a dime dozen back then

  • April 26, 2007, 3:35 p.m. CST

    free running/parkour/whatever may be a newer artform

    by eraser_x

    to American and European action movies, but Jackie Chan has done that kind of stuff in his Hong Kong action movies since the 80’s. So, it’s not old American school, but it’s old Chinese school. :-)

  • April 26, 2007, 3:41 p.m. CST

    I like They Live and all…

    by Bubba Gillman

    …but that street fight was about 30 minutes too long. I kept wanting to yell to Keith David “Just try the frickin’ glasses on already.”

  • April 26, 2007, 4:03 p.m. CST

    Vern’s graphic

    by eraser_x

    “John McClane jumping off the Nakatomi Building”. Nah! A Clint Eastwood character (or even John McClane) will jump off a building when necessary, but that wouldn’t be what he’s proud of, and it wouldn’t capture his essence. He’s not a gymnast or poser or pre-teen or something! Nah, the trademark of Eastwood, Bogart, Bronson, McQueen, McClane, Han Solo, etc., and by

    extension, Vern, must always be their imposed-upon, weary, possibly-WTF?-asking facial expression and body language. That must be why Vern’s two main graphics on his site (Striving for Excellence and Tell’s It Like It Is) are faces of that variety. And “Clint Eastwood giving birth to John McClane on a tank” is just a sick, WRONG image. Yikes!

  • April 26, 2007, 4:09 p.m. CST

    “badass”

    by eraser_x

    Vern’s sick of reading the word “grindhouse” when used by people who are not Tarantino. I’m sure many of us have felt the same way. The other day, when Harry was going on and on about “badasses” in one of his reviews, I had the grindhouse-type reaction. It just seems so wrong when certain people talk about badasses.

  • April 26, 2007, 4:15 p.m. CST

    badass

    by eraser_x

    I mean, Harry and most of the regular AICN crew should talk about being giddy, elaborate sexual metaphors, childhood memories, famous people they know, etc., and leave Vern to talk about badasses.

  • April 26, 2007, 4:41 p.m. CST

    Vern, you refer to

    by skimn

    McTiernan, who reinvented the action formula with Die Hard. Also, Verhoven, Davis, and de Bont ( who was good for a couple of flicks ). These guys are masters compared to some of the hacks working in action films today. Even a Mark L Lester has more talent.

  • April 26, 2007, 4:44 p.m. CST

    See No Evil was the best WWE film?

    by ainttitscool

    You lost me there. Turned off that piece of crap after 20 minutes. HORRIBLE!

  • April 26, 2007, 4:46 p.m. CST

    Thanks Vern, you aren’t a Jack hole.

    by brycemonkey

    I too yearn for a day when a wrestler will star in a movie as good as They Live!

  • April 26, 2007, 4:51 p.m. CST

    And the street fight in it wasn’t too long…

    by brycemonkey

    It was just long enough, brother!

  • April 26, 2007, 5:05 p.m. CST

    wow

    by I87D

    I had no idea people still had web pages on geocities.

  • April 26, 2007, 5:11 p.m. CST

    Not the only one

    by Dr Gregory House

    Outside of tits n ass, Starship Troopers sucked balls.

  • April 26, 2007, 5:34 p.m. CST

    I Was Surprised How Faithful DIE HARD Was To Novel…

    by Buzz Maverik

    …in terms of plot and action. The characters were considerably different, with the hero being an older anti-terror consultant visiting his daughter who was pooching her bosses. Now, DIE HARDER was only like Walter Wager’s novel 58 MINUTES in that it involved a cop picking up a family member (young daughter)at an airport under the control of terrorists. It was remote control, in this case, and closer to a techno-thriller. Although DH2 was fun because McClane was everywhere all the time, I would have preferred the novel except that 58 minutes wasn’t long enough for all the events to occur.

  • April 26, 2007, 6:43 p.m. CST

    Does Steve Austin’s character attempted to get raped?

    by Doc_Strange

    Cuz how hard could it be to get raped by a bunch of convicts on an island in the middle of nowhere? Hell they’ll rape you then kill you, which wouldn’t surprise me in a movie like this.

  • April 26, 2007, 6:52 p.m. CST

    Battle Royale and Running Man aren’t GREAT?!

    by modlight

    Last time I checked they were to me.

  • April 26, 2007, 6:58 p.m. CST

    Tito, 187, Tailhook

    by Vern

    TITO: ACTION JACKSON is directed by Craig Baxley, same guy who did STONE COLD. That’s why it’s full of ridiculous stunts like when he jumps over the car and it crashes into a brick wall and explodes, or when he drives the car into the house, up the stairs and into Craig T. Nelson’s bedroom.

    187: That’s right, I’m like that old man who refused to leave Mt. St. Helens before it erupted. Or one of those soldiers who hid out in a cave and didn’t find out the civil war had ended until years later.

    TAILHOOK: You’re misrepresenting what I said, bud. Of course there are still good action scenes now and then. But the genre of straight ahead action is mostly dead in the US. A movie like SPIDER-MAN, where an animated fantasy character flies around through special effects is not exactly comparable to DIE HARD, FIRST BLOOD, STONE COLD, the works of Steven Seagal, and that type of thing. Sometimes (like in DIE HARD) they did have special effects but they were more about well choreographed stunts and fights done on the set, in the camera.
    Plus, some of the movies you mentioned are the type of action direction that I was complaining about in the review. Not as bad as THE CONDEMNED, but with the same basic philosophy of waving a camera around at random instead of figuring out the best way to communicate the movements. Yes, BAD BOYS 2 is definitely a movie in the same genre as what I’m talking about, and I don’t mind some CGI helping out with the huge spectacle stunts they’re doing. What I do mind is the way the camera movement and editing completely destroys what should’ve been an awe-inspiring scene. For me personally, I couldn’t get involved in that car-carrier chase scene because the fucker wouldn’t let me look at any shot for more than a second so I couldn’t really tell the geography.

    BATMAN BEGINS is a way better movie but even worse action. It’s really good because of the character and the story but to me, those shakycam fights were the one real disappointment of the movie. They even set up a good old fashioned ninja fight and then just have him slide down a mountain instead. That’s not an action movie.

    As for THE MATRIX, of course that movie is great and re-invented action in its own way. And we all got sick of it being copied but I’d honestly rather see more of that than fights like in THE CONDEMNED.

    As for 300, I guess that’s sort of comparable to CONAN, a modern take on that type of movie. I kind of liked the movie, and the constant use of slo-mo is actually kind of cool, it’s the opposite of what I’m complaining about here. So thumbs up to that one.

  • April 26, 2007, 7:05 p.m. CST

    “The drem of WWE Films”

    by EyeofPolyphemus

    Aim higher, my man. Aim higher.

  • April 26, 2007, 9:27 p.m. CST

    Wow….

    by kilerb

    I just wish the review was a little bit longer. I wanted to see if my browser was capable of scrolling 2000 lines rather than just this measley 1800. Ha….

  • April 26, 2007, 9:32 p.m. CST

    That pretty much confirms that this movie is…

    by rbatty024

    The Running Man without a sense of humour or irony. Check that movie out again, I thought it was kind of lame the first time I saw it, but on subsequent viewings it’s pretty damn funny. Maybe eighties kitch is better a decade or so later. Of course, all of these movies are pretty much riping off “The Most Dangerous Game.”

  • April 26, 2007, 9:48 p.m. CST

    Watched Under Siege 1 the other night.

    by GQtaste

    Actually, I’ve been watching a lot of Seagals films and must say nobody was better in the nineties. Marked for Death, Out for Justice, On Deadly Ground, his envionmental one, which during the ending he was 1000% correct on! A head of his time Steven. Fire Down Below – another one in that arera. But my favorite has to when he played Gino the cop from Brooklyn who must avenge the death of his partner in Out for Justice.

  • April 26, 2007, 9:56 p.m. CST

    Jack Valenti died this evening. RIP.

    by ExcaliburFfolkes

    That should make for an interesting talkback whenever the staff here gets around to posting an obituary for him.

  • April 26, 2007, 10:41 p.m. CST

    ROBOCOP and STARSHIP TROOPERS should be the blueprint

    by Mike_D

    for action movies dammit. Love your reviews Vern, you should do every single review for this site instead of sell-out Harry and crucifix-humping Masraymenonalongdindong.

  • April 27, 2007, 12:35 a.m. CST

    **PROOF THAT ACTION HASN’T DIED***

    by 12-GAUGE

    ….altogether, that is. William Friedkin’s The Hunted with Tommy Lee and Benicio. Not in the cheese realm like Stone Cold, more straight ahead chase/action movie. But a great, simple story. Excellent, perfectly choreographed fights and chases. No fucked-up camera spasms. Just bare-bones, tough-as-shit action. Great movie. Very underrated.

  • April 27, 2007, 2:33 a.m. CST

    Best thing about Running Man? Captain Freedom

    by Doc_Strange

    NO PAIN, NO GAIN!!! Buncha slack-jawed faggots around here.

  • April 27, 2007, 3:16 a.m. CST

    tailhook

    by Vern

    Well, I would rather have something as good as DIE HARD, but yes, I am advocating the return of the GOOD bad action movie. There are still bad action movies, it’s just that they’re mostly dismally boring DTV, uh, efforts, or they star Ben Affleck or somebody, or they are unwatchable Michael Bay/Simon West type atrocities, or now they’re like THE CONDEMNED. I just want action movies in general (good or bad) to have well constructed action scenes. That can be this CGI stuff you’re talking up, I can appreciate that. But it’s not the same. When it’s a special effect, even if it’s a really good one, it is usually distancing. Watch the SPIDER-MAN subway scene, which is a well done chase, then go watch a movie called THE HUNTER starring Steve McQueen, where you really see him hanging off a real subway, with people walking around below. Or compare it to those older Jackie Chan movies where he would knock your jaw to the floor by doing a ridiculous stunt. That’s why Tony Jaa is so popular. It’s not the stories, it’s not his screen presence, it’s just that it’s such a novelty now to see a movie that makes you gasp by having a guy do an amazing physical feat. I don’t want to lose that. If you’re just going to throw that out in the name of “progress” that’s foolish.

    Of coure there’s room for both approaches, and a combination of the two. I just don’t want the one to die off just because studios assume we only want shiny objects made with expensive computers.

  • April 27, 2007, 9:09 a.m. CST

    Give the Mean Street Posse their own movie

    by Devil By The Deed

    Turf war on the mean streets of Greenwich. Pete Gas is the next Bruce Willis.

  • April 27, 2007, 11:04 a.m. CST

    Jesse is the wrestling actor wrestling actors should

    by INWOsuxRED

    aspire to be, although I do think WWE should remake ‘Hell Comes to Frogtown’ staring one of their greasy muscleheads.

  • April 27, 2007, 11:41 a.m. CST

    sorry tailhook

    by Vern

    I meant el train in both cases.

    Anyway, I don’t think we’re having a real debate here. Of course if it’s a good movie it’s a good movie. The trouble is that it’s not a good movie. They don’t make those type of movies very often and when they do, alot of times they’re THE CONDEMNED.

  • April 27, 2007, 11:42 a.m. CST

    ah but vern…

    by Lost Prophet

    Massawyrm and Capone both seem to think it is good.
    Mind you, even in a Minority of one the truth is still the truth

  • April 27, 2007, 11:53 a.m. CST

    special effects vs narrative clarity

    by Spandau Belly

    I think we’re debating two very different things. The debate of real explosions and real stunts versus CGI explosions and stunts acomplished through bluescreens and wires; and then there’s the second debate about modern directing and editing that makes it impossible to understand what’s really going on in any action scene.

    My bigger beef is the narrative clarity. I want to know where the guys are fighting, what objects are in the room, how many guys there are, and I want to see the whole fight. I don’t just want a summary of a fight scene where all you see is a montage of fists impacting flesh in shakey cam overexposed extreme closeups followed by a slow motion shot of one guy hitting the ground with a loud thunderclap noise to show he lost. I hate that stuff. If you watch the fight in metro between Agent Smith and Neo in Matrix this is done perfectly. You see them wind up, punch, the impact, the victim recoil and coutner attack for every step of the fight.

    Also the final shoot out at the docks in Miami Vice is done perfectly. You know who’s there, what they can hide behind and what weapons they have and where they are standing in relation to each other at every point in the action sequence.

  • April 27, 2007, 12:20 p.m. CST

    Vern

    by Kloipy

    Thanks for being the one i trust on here.

  • April 28, 2007, 12:05 a.m. CST

    exactly right, Spandau

    by Vern

    I got sidetracked with the CGI thing, but the clarity is the important thing, I agree. And that is the problem with THE CONDEMNED, and with Michael Bay and Tony Scott and Simon West and too many damn things these days. I kind of take Michael Bay’s movies personally because I feel like he was the one that popularized this new anti-storytelling style of visual storytelling. He’s the Johnny Appleseed of muddled action. If it was just him I wouldn’t care, I just wouldn’t watch his movies, but I feel like he cut all the arms and legs off of my favorite genre. Now the random collage of closeups, quick cuts and shaky cam blurs is the dominant style of action. Pretty soon they’re gonna push me too far and I’m gonna go out for justice.

  • April 28, 2007, 12:46 a.m. CST

    How does Rocky-style fighting fit into

    by eraser_x

    the spatial clarity debate? The funny thing about Rocky-style fighting, based on my poor memory, is that there is usually little discernible fighting skill or cause-and-effect to speak of, other than the rope-and-dope tactic that is found in one or a couple of the fights, and maybe some lightbulb that went off in Rocky’s head during the Thunderlips fight. Instead, the fights are usually just, I’ll hit you for a while, then you’ll hit me for a while. And yet, the Rocky movies were somehow nevertheless enjoyable, including their fight scenes. I wonder why?

  • April 28, 2007, 1:09 a.m. CST

    more Rocky

    by eraser_x

    what I mean is, the Rocky fights are (typically) just as arbitrary and logic-free as the “shake the camera” approach. So, do the people who dislike the “shake the camera” approach also dislike the Rocky fights as much as they dislike the “shake the camera” approach? (For some reason, I’ve never before thought systematically about why I like or dislike specific fight scenes, and so I’m just asking some questions to start figure things out.)

  • April 28, 2007, 8:20 a.m. CST

    Action movies

    by bender7

    Right on Vern. I guess it’s good that society has sort of progressed from some of the mindless carnage and cheapness of life from the action movies of the past. But I just miss some of those good action movies these days. Let’s face it, the last really good action movie I think was True Lies. I mean, it was a movie where I thought “Whoa this is a kickass action movie!” There have been various action hybrids since that have been good, but for me that was the action movies swan song. One thing about action movies today is that they either have crappy and ridiculous fiery explosions : like a guy will fire one round into a car and it will set off a chain reaction of napalm; or they have no explosions. Like some sort of protest of being a “w00t eploshons!” movie. You can have explosions in an action movie, just don’t make them lame. Anyway I’m tired

  • April 28, 2007, 2:25 p.m. CST

    rope-A-dope

    by eraser_x

    oops

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 25th, 2007 at 6:58 pm and is filed under Action, AICN, Crime, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Vern doesn’t like THE CONDEMNED!! Yes, our Vern!”

  1. Sorry if I’m the 10 billionth guy to ask this, but have you seen DAMAGE? It also stars wrestler-turned-wrestler-who-stars-in-movies Steve Austin and I thought it might be cool because the DVD cover didn’t say “STEVE AUSTIN – DAMAGE” or “STEVE AUSTIN is John DAMAGE” but “STEVE AUSTIN causes maximum DAMAGE”. So it seemed pretty cool at first.
    It takes place in Seattle, Austin plays an ex-convict who joins one of those underground fighting circuits where guys who fight in abandoned warehouses in front of 30 drunk bikers can make hundreds of thousands of dollars in one fight, because he needs money to buy a new heart for a little girl whose dad he accidentally killed 4 years ago. Anyway, it’s not very good, it’s very formulaic, the fights are not particularly well choreographed and filmed, but it has a decent supporting cast (there’s Walton Goggins from THE SHIELD and who played the deputy sheriff in that one scene in HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES), a couple of funny ideas (like Austin keeps showing up with his face all bruised and cut at his meetings with his parole officer, and he knows the guy won’t ask any questions about what he’s doing for a living cause he never even looks at him), a few good gimmicks for the fights that are sadly not used to their full potential (for example there’s a ‘dog match’, with pitbulls surrounding the ring, and they attack the fighters if they get too close) and Austin is definitely not a good actor but he has presence and he plays a reasonably good badass character in this one.
    Anyway, it’s not BLOOD & BONES, but I personally enjoyed it more than FIGHTING. So I don’t know you might want to check it out maybe.

  2. I didn’t know it had come out. I’ll be looking for it. Thanks for the tip.

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