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The Loose Canon

loose-canon1I’ve had this idea for a while that I wanted to figure out what are the classics and most important pictures of Badass Cinema and write them all up, almost like my version of a primer or a film studies class on this particular type of movie. I guess this would overlap with the BADASS 100 project, but it would be my personal choices for works of Badass Cinema that I think every fan of the artform should see and if not love at least have an opinion on. And I’m gonna call them THE LOOSE CANON. That is why there is a logo that says that. You might’ve figured that out, not sure. Also it’s a pun, not a misspelling. (I know with me it could be either one.)

They do this type of shit for art movies, but you don’t usually see Charles Bronson’s name on those lists. So I’m gonna try my version. I think it will cover some movies that the mainstream agrees are classics, some that only the type of people who hang out here consider classics, and maybe a few more unexpected or controversial choices. And we’ll see what happens but I think my essays will be a little more in the academic vein like the acclaimed film book Seagalogy.

So the review to follow this post will be the first in an occasionally-ongoing series. But I’m making this explanation a separate post because I look forward to the thousands of suggestions of what deserves to be loaded into the Canon. If possible try to keep that discussion to this thread so the comments for the reviews can stay fairly on topic. Because they wouldn’t be on the list if they weren’t worth discussing.

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 Thursday, May 20th, 2010 at 1:15 pm and is filed under Blog Post (short for weblog). 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.

108 Responses to “The Loose Canon”

  1. Vern – want a suggestion? Three words:

    WHERE
    EAGLES
    DARE

    that is all.

  2. Awesome ideal Vern.

    I’d say Fight Club right off the bat. Obvious but still one of my favs all these years later.

  3. I know I bring this up a lot , but I think this is the perfect time ( or occasionally-ongoing time ) for you to watch Shinobi no mono (1962) , because that’s the original Ninja classic and the first in this legendary movie series . You can find the first one on Amazon , and see the others if you like it . I really want to know what you think about it . It’s the closest thing I know to watching a Kurosawa black and white movie ….about ninjas. I mention this because when I think about classics the first thing in my mind are the usual suspects , but I think the ninja/shinobi genre is worthy of being discussed like any other , and this is the best and most respectful place to do it on the web.

  4. i read the banner quickly, thought “good name”
    i read it again, slowly, thought “GREAT name!”.

  5. A Better Tomorrow II. The first Better Tomorrow is interesting, but part two is completely full on badassery.

    The Wild Bunch. One of the most singularly defining films in my life as to what it meant in cinematic terms to be a “man”.

    High Plains Drifter. The most badass Clint Eastwood has ever been, hands down.

    Fist of Legend. Best Jet Li fight sequences ever filmed.

    Sympathy for the Underdog. So cool and so tough, I can’t begin to describe it.

  6. I’m no expert, so I’ll just throw out some obvious ones:

    A Fistful of Dollars
    Point Blank
    Escape From New York

    I’d also make a case for Glengarry Glen Ross, just for the Alec Baldwin scene.

  7. Oh and Infernal Affairs, the stripped down, elegant original. Not the overwritten, overdirected, overacted turd of an American remake that ranks up there with Crash and American Beauty as the most over appreciated Academy Award winners of the last twenty years.

    Kind of amazing that Infernal Affairs runs approximately forty minutes shorter than The Departed but still somehow manages to feel twice as epic as Marty’s version.

  8. Sounds like an awesome idea, I really dig the thought of going through films and tracing the beginnings and evolution of badass cinema.

    I think there definitely needs to be some film noir in your list. Double Indemnity and The Maltese Falcon both contain badass central characters in their early form.

  9. I’ll second the push for film noir. I always enjoyed Key Largo, even though not a true badass character, in some ways it feels as if it laid the foundation for Die Hard and is one of the best Bogard movies.

    Final selections that I meant to include in the first post.

    Versus and Azumi.

  10. Bogart. Sorry for the typo.

  11. This sounds awesome. Lee Marvin has to be all over this canon, he’s sorely underappreciated as a great badass icon. Maybe some of his crazy 70’s movies, like PRIME CUT or something. Or HELL IN THE PACIFIC. Anything with the Marv and I’m in.

  12. Rolling Thunder. Hell, you probably already have Rolling Thunder on your list, but seriously, Rolling Thunder.

    Sword of Doom would be a good choice, too.

  13. Patrick Newman

    May 20th, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    I don’t think you’ve ever written a full review of the Limey, when I know its one of your faves and definitely belongs on any badass list. It should fly under your new Loose Canon banner.

  14. Great idea. But what exactly qualifies as badass cinema? Is a badass “moment” enough? Like “let`s go” in the wild bunch? Or does the main character have to be a bad motherfucker all the way through the picture? Anyway, i`d like to nominate some badass bitches; Coffy blowing a pushers head off with a shotgun in COFFY. The homicidel go-go dancer breaking the pretty boy`s neck in FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! and everything in LADY SNOWBLOOD. And maybe the bit where Alice kicks a zombiedog (mid-air) in RESIDENT EVIL.

  15. Can I put in a vote for Altman’s The Long Goodbye? I really love how Gould plays Marlowe as cool and yet still pretty badass, especially by the end.

  16. Police Story 1+2, more as an examination of Jackie Chan’s badassness and willingness to put himself through all that shit than the actual character, though that still applies to then too as he plays goofy underdogs who take massive beatings, but are just so persistant that they can push through it. Have you reviewed Oldboy? Or if you have, what about Lady Vengeance?

  17. In fact, yeah. Instances of Badass Ladies would be nice.

  18. Without a Doubt you have to include and review EXTREME PREJUDICE in this list!!!

  19. One Guy From Andromeda

    May 20th, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    I recommended this movie to you before, and i guess it is hard to get, but you should really check out “Cent mille dollars au soleil”: an early 60s movie wirh Lino Ventura and Jean Paul Belmondo as truck drivers in the northern Sahara.

  20. I’ll add another vote for Extreme Prejudice…

    Also, Tombstone (an interesting side-note: Kurt Russell claims he directed a lot of that movie). Any of the Sergio Leone westerns, but particularly Once Upon a Time in The West and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The Untouchables. The Wrestler. Jeremiah Johnson.

  21. Awesome idea! There have already been some great suggestions I second. THE LIMEY, LADY SNOWBLOOD, OLDBOY, and THE WILD BUNCH are all excellent. If you are going to review a Jackie Chan film I would recommend DRUNKEN MASTER 2 AKA LEGEND OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER in the states. It really highlights everything Jackie Chan is about, great fight scenes, stunt work and physical comedy. Also if you have not reviewed them yet MILLER”S CROSSING and CONVOY are both badass.

  22. I thought of another one, THE PROPOSITION is an excellent modern western. It is written by Nick Cave and features badass performances from Guy Pearce, Danny Huston, and Ray Winstone.

  23. What designates a badass exactly? Are they good people who do bad things for the greater good, people who are good at doing bad things in general, or maybe they just do it all with style?

    I vote Vincent Cassell in Dobermann and Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction. Badasses both.

  24. Most films I would include in the canon are already in the Badass 100. Though I personally would not feel comfortably armed if my canon did not include at least one Johnnie To film. And ROBOCOP. I was surprised to see that one was not on the Badass 100 list.

    I’d also think long and hard before refusing THE NAKED PREY entrance into the canon. There’s no dress code, right? I’d be pretty disappointed if The Loose Canon didn’t play by its own rules with regards to attire.

  25. dammit Patrick Newman, i spwcifically clicked over here to mention THE LIMEY. but while we’re at it, GHOST DOG. dunno why, but i always think of those two movies together. i guess partly because they came out roughly around the same time also because they are both kind of arty and experimental movies with utterly badass central characters.

    MDM – sorry, i am gonna have to go ahead and use my veto power which i am assuming i have and veto AZUMI. it’s a cartoonish piece of shit, seems geared to 12 year old boys. the main character, azumi (aya ueto) is a little girl who doesn’t convincingly look like she could win a fight with a newborn kitten (i think she was about 18 at the time). really disappointing movie (i think i watched it based on harry knowles’ gushing recommendation – i’ve made that mistake a few times, but never again!). haven’t seen VERSUS, but i’ll assume it sucks too cuz it was made by the same guy (i think?).

  26. ROBOCOP, for sure. and ALIENS of course (i’m sure that was already gonna be on there).

  27. I agree with many suggestions up above but I’ll try and stick to non-obvious choices that haven’t been said yet. Although I’m too lazy to check the Badass 100 so I might be repeating stuff from that list.

    VANISHING POINT
    LE SAMOURAI
    MS. 45
    THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE
    KISS ME DEADLY
    UNE PROPHETE
    A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
    THE FRENCH CONNECTION
    YOJIMBO
    BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
    LONE WOLF AND CUB 1-6
    PAPILLON
    BROTHER
    TOUCHING THE VOID
    ALPHAVILLE, UNE ETRANGE AVENTURE DE LEMMY CAUTION
    SHOTGUN STORIES
    STRAIGHT TIME
    STRAW DOGS
    THE STUNT MAN
    DJANGO
    NIGHT MOVES
    THIEF
    TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.
    ZATOICHI: THE BLIND SWORDSMAN

  28. Vern.
    I think you need to set up your definition of “Badass Cinema” before we all get carried away here.

  29. Wait, there’s already a Badass 100 list? Am I being stupid? Where?

  30. I have to agree with RRA – Where Eagles Dare really needs to be addressed. Not only do you have Richard Burton
    as a complete badass, but Clint Eastwood as an ice-cold killer of Nazis.

    Second vote – Eastern Condors. Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao kicking ass in ‘Nam. Death by Banana Leaf!

  31. For me a Badass = somebody who will make you sorry you fucked with them …and they’ll usually do it with style and finesse.

    The Outlaw Josey Wales (You’re wanted, Wales. Reckon I’m right popular. You a bounty hunter? A man’s got to do something for a living these days.
    Dyin’ ain’t much of a living, boy.

    The Road Warrior

    First Blood

    Payback

    Unforgiven ( Well, sir, you are a cowardly son of a bitch! You just shot an unarmed man!
    Well, he should have armed himself if he’s going to decorate his saloon with my friend. )

    The Warriors

    Yip Man

    300 (THIS IS WHERE WE FIGHT! THIS IS WHERE THEY DIE!)

  32. Another vote for Fist full of dollars “My mistake; four coffins”

  33. Good question – where IS the Badass 100? I can’t find it. It’s in the back of Yippee Ki Yay, but it should be online here somewhere. I can’t find where it moved to when Geocities died.

  34. I thought so when I saw it in the theater, and now that it’s on cable every day I gotta say I was right: The Dark Fucking Knight is the best movie of the 2000s.
    Only the Kill Bills put up a fight, but they do put up a damn good fight. With Hattori Hanzo swords.
    Those were pretty obvious ones, I guess, I just don’t want you to make a list and then go, “Shit, I forgot the obvious choices ‘The Dark Fucking Knight’ and ‘Kill Bills’!”
    Seriously though, Vern, “Badlands”. What a good fucking movie right there. Also inspired a great Bruce Springsteen record.
    So, yeah, “The Dark Knight”, “Kill Bill Vol. 1”, “Kill Bill Vol. 2” and “Badlands” would be my suggestions.

  35. Looks like there’s a copy of the Badass 100 over here:

    http://classic.outlawvern.com/Badass100-2006.html

  36. Would First Blood qualify as badass cinema? The poor guy is a nutcase, who breaks down sobbing in the end while moaning abouthow difficult it is to get a job nowadays. And JD in Badland is a kind of a jerk, killing innocent people and molesting not-so-innocent young girls. Great pictures, but shouldn`t a badass movie contain a badass?

    Also, eating or drinking while causing mayhem is usually a sign of badassness imo (Dirty Harry, Apocalypse Now, The Getaway etc) Or kicking ass in the nude (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Sex and Fury, and GET CARTER goddammit!!)

    And how does Batman qualify as a badass if James Bond doesn`t? They are both rich kids with gadgets. Vern, you should at least give Dr. No and From Russia with Love a chance. James Bond was IMO the first badass. The train-fight in From Russia With Love is one of the greatest action-scenes ever.

    Otherwise i find it difficult to recommend anything that you haven`t mentioned over the years, so instead i`ll indulge in making a list of my favorite badass-movies.

    1. Get Carter
    2. Die Hard
    3. Lone Wolf and Cup-series.
    4. From Russia With Love (just give it a chance, Vern. Conney was the original badass..)
    5. Yojimbo and Sanjuro
    6. Dirty Harry
    7. The Getaway, The Wild Bunch and Pat Garret and Billy The Kid.
    8. Hardboiled and The Killer
    9. Coffy and Foxy Brown.
    10. Full Contact and Burning Paradise. (by Ringo Lam)
    11. Lady Snowblood 1 and 2.
    12. Female Prisoner # 701 Series.
    13. Everything by Sergio Leone.
    14. Dead or Alive by Takashi Miike. Also City of lost souls.
    15. A Bittersweet Life and The Good, The Bad, The Weird.
    16. Lethal Weapon, The Last Boyscout, The Long Kiss Goodnight.
    17. Ronin
    18. Way of the Gun
    19. Everything by Quentin Tarantino, especially DEATH PROOF. Best car chase ever.
    20. John Rambo
    21. Mesrine part 1 and 2.
    22. Streetfighter (with Sonny Chiba)
    23. Robocop
    24. Road House
    25. Point Break
    26. Predator
    27. Firefly and Serenety
    (Firefly, while a tv-show, contains several bits of badass-cinema imo. But the bit in Serenety where Summer Glau finally goes beserk and takes out an entire bar with awesome ballet-kung-fu, is one of the purest experiences of badassness i have had in a cinema the last decade, maybe only surpassed by the final carchase in DEATH PROOF. )
    28. Mad Max and The Road Warrior.
    29. Iron Man
    30. Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. Bullit. The French Connection. Maybe not badass characters, but bad-ass actors performing their own stunts in badass carchases.

  37. @ DNA ….what was the main characters name in First Blood? ….John somethingorother……

  38. @picaroony

    If you take First Blood on it`s own, it`s basicly still a story about a vet who suffers a nervous breakdown and cries like a little girl. You`re supposed to feel sorry for him. Feel sorry for a badass? I bite my thump at you, sir! Rambo II might as well take place in an alternative universe. Maybe John Rambo was sent to the nuthouse and dreamed that he went back to `nam, while drooling in a straightjacket. He totally lost touch with reality in that cave with the rats and hallucinated about being back in `nam. Great movie, though.

    On a similar note, Taxidriver is one of my favorite movies, but is Travis Bickle a badass? He`s the most socially akward and lonely character ever portrayed on the silverscreen. Yes, he kills a lot of childmolesters, but he might as well have snuffed the president candidate, if CIA not had interfered. He`s just a lonely bitter man, who needed to kill somebody else in order to feel like a superior human being. Not unlike columbine or similar school massacres. You`re not supposed to cheer at either Rambo or Travis. You`re supposed to empathise, feel sorry for them and hopefully reach out to human beings in similar circumstances, before they snap and goes postal at your school, town or local pimp.

  39. @ DNA …. so explain to me number 20 in your list while I go find a band-aid for your thumb.

  40. And didn’t Summers Glue in Serenity kick the shit out of all them punters in the bar for no reason at all ….?

  41. @ picaroony

    I meant the movie JOHN RAMBO (`08), not the series. The finest action movie of the last decade. Great build up and pay-off. Rambo II is great too. First Blood is a great movie, but not a great badass “action-movie” in my book (for the reasons i stated above).

    JOHN RAMBO is pure fantasy, stupid, fascist and offensive, but it`s brilliant action-filmmaking. It makes you root for the hero, not pity him. Did you root for Travis or Rambo as portrayed in First Bloood?

  42. @ picaroony

    Yeah, and she was nuts too. I get your point. But she saved the galaxy in the end and that kinds of redeems her, imo. I guess i thinks it`s cool if a little skinny girl beats the crap out of a group of grown men. First Blood and Taxidriver could have taken place in the real world, John Rambo and Serenety is fantasy, so different rules apply.

  43. Django, the original with Franco Nero !
    Hanzo the Razor

    … and more that will come to mind the moment i hit “submit”

  44. RRA, that’s funny, I just watched WHERE EAGLES DARE for the first time last weekend. It’s amazing how it manages to have most of the conventions of the modern blockbuster (overlength, thinly drawn characters, superfluous hot chicks, overstuffed yet skeletal plot, disposable villains who can’t shoot straight, buzzworthy young sidekick to bring in the youth audience, climax where everything in the whole movie explodes) yet feels nothing like one in tone or technique. It would be interesting for Vern to examine how the big-budget action extravaganza has changed and/or stayed the same since its infancy.

    And has anybody mentioned ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST? Because that is a badass epic of epic badassery. And while we’re on the Italians, how about DJANGO? Dragging around a gatling gun in a coffin has got to be some kind of badass milestone.

    There could also be more old school kung fu on this list. How about FIVE DEADLY VENOMS or John Woo’s LAST HURRAH FOR CHIVALRY?

    And while we’re at it, how about some non-DEATH WISH Bronson? 10 To MIDNIGHT, THE EVIL THAT MEN DO, HARD TIMES, DEATH HUNT, etc. (I’m trying to limit my suggestions to movies Vern hasn’t already reviewed, to my knowledge.)

    And, um…RONIN? Great car chases, badass coffee cup ambush.

  45. Damn you, Rigby, for beating me to DJANGO by mere moments!

  46. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

  47. At Close Range, with Penn and Walken.

    Just a nasty, rough, badass film.

  48. Mr. Majestyk – I dig WHERE EAGLES DARE, among other reasons (kickass soundtrack, Clint being Clint, him getting bossed around by dandy Dick Burton), because Alistair MacLean was able somehow to cook up a very convoluted (and if you think about it, illogical) story which ends up being a good little murder mystery disguised within the bullets and explosions and other trappings of that Men on a Mission genre.

    I read once about that scene when you see Burton and Eastwood “climbing” up the wall. Burton does it easily, makes a quip about Eastwood being too slow or whatever. Thing was, Eastwood was REALLY climbing that wall. No stuntman, the man himself with skills later put to use on EIGER SANCTION while Burton used one of those invisible crane wires to help him up the wall because a middle-aged boozer isn’t that healthy enough to take a step, much less climb a stone wall.

    I also second RONIN.

  49. And Heat.

    Yeah, Micheal Mann is an overblown douche, but that movie is BADASS, even without one of the greatest shootouts ever committed to film.

    I read somewhere that army special forces instructors have their students watch Val Kilmer in that scene, because he is legitimately badass and knows actual badass gun shooting and reloading techniques.

  50. Jareth Cutestory

    May 21st, 2010 at 7:26 am

    This discussion so far has been surprisingly fat-free. And by fat I mean Chow Yun Fat. Are toothpicks and ballet dives no longer badass?

    Also, a medal of distiction for Michelle Yeoh in SUPERCOP 2.

  51. Also, this sight needs more blaxploitation. I nominate THREE THE HARD WAY for sheer amount of badass contained therein, what with it attempting to feature Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, and Jim Kelly on the screen at the same time. This proved impossible for the equipment of the 1970s to handle, so they were forced to split them up for most of the running time, so it’s like you get three different mini action movies for the price of one. Also, stunts by the great Hal Needham.

  52. Jareth Cutestory

    May 21st, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Mr. Majestyk: Did you ever see Jim Brown in SLAUGHTER? Rip Torn was in that one.

    Also, I think that any mention of SEAGOLOGY should be prefaced by the phrase “the acclaimed film book,” much in the way that the name Nic Cage should be prefaced by the phrase “Oscar winner and poor crazy bastard.”

  53. I have not seen SLAUGHTER yet, but I like the theme song. Now that you mention it, there are a lot of blaxploitation movies I could say that about. SHORTY THE PIMP isn’t even on IMDB but the theme song is amazing.

  54. John Carpenter’s The Thing. (McReady is the ultimate badass).

    I would like to vote against The Wild Bunch being included into the canon. While that movie is definitely an important and influential work of art, I’ve never thought it was particularly “badass”. The main characters are all degenerate creeps who have absolutely no problem murdering innocent people, including women and children (I’ve always seen them as weirdly close to the Sawyer family in Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Also, I’ve never found the violence in that movie to be badass. It always struck me as intentionally sickening and depressing. But, I guess it depends on your definition and what aspects go into a movie to make it badass. I’ll admit that The Wild Bunch’s greatness might be enough to include it in the canon.

  55. Jareth Cutestory

    May 21st, 2010 at 8:31 am

    More good blaxploitation:

    CLAUDINE
    MONKEY HUSTLE
    THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR
    WILLIE DYNAMITE
    GORDON’S WAR
    THE EDUCATION OF SONNY CARSON
    DETROIT 9000

  56. This is kinda off-topic, so I apologize, but: I’ve always thought WHERE EAGLES DARE was a huge influence on the first STAR WARS. Think about it: they infiltrate the enemy stronghold, swing across an abyss, dress in enemy uniforms, blow away seemingly hundreds of, ahem, storm troopers….Tarantino has cited it several times as an influence on INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, probably more the 20-minute dialouge scene that ends in all the Germans getting blown away then the big action stuff!

    Some suggestions for Early Badass:

    The Public Enemy (Cagney!)

    Scarface 1932 (the archetypal gangster movie)

    White Heat

    Red River

    Rio Bravo (“Let’s make some music, Colorado!” No one in film history has ever been more Badass then John Wayne is in Rio Bravo)

    Stagecoach

    The Phenix City Story

    The Lineup

    5 Against The House

    Kansas City Confidential

    Bad Day At Black Rock

    All Sam Fuller, but esp. Fix Bayonets!, Forty Guns, and The Steel Helmet

    The Big House

    I Am A Fugitive From The Chain Gang

    Hell’s Highway

    The Texas Rangers

    The Searchers

  57. WS, I partly agree with what you’re saying about THE WILD BUNCH–it’s much more a statement on man’s potential for savagery, closer, really to films like THE PIANIST and PLATOON. But the scene at the end, when The Wild Bunch transcend their animal savagery, do something noble and heroic, and walk into history and legend, is perhaps the ultimate Badass moment of all time, and is meant to contrast the rest of the film.

    Many films that are not themselves Badass have Badass elements that I would say qualifies them for the canon. Like TAXI DRIVER–Travis Bickle is sick psycho with no social skills, but he acheives the level of Badass. He’s not cool, he’s not admirable, what he does is sickening….but it’s Badass.

    What’s Nicholson’s line in THE LAST DETAIL? “That’s right, I am The Badass….”

  58. Rambo IV (some call it “John”) basically summarized all the Rambo films — distills down to the essence, and explodes.

    A veritable essay on the meaning of being a cinematic badass. The trials, the tribulations, the 50 caliber machine guns.

    An almost perfect 70 minutes of movie.

  59. Jareth Cutestory

    May 21st, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Majestyk: The more I think about it, your choice of THREE THE HARD WAY might be the perfect distillation of everything that is great about blaxploitation. At the very least, it captures as more strutting and swagger in one place than any other film.

  60. I think Sam Peckinpah is a fascinating example of badassness, as he praises masculinity while questioning it. I assume that an important part of the cinema of badass is about sticking to your (masculine) values (like honor, justice and truth). The Wild Bunch dies for what they believe. They`re underdogs and morally compromised, but they redeem themselves in the end, by sticking to their oldfashioned values. And at the same time Sam Peckinpah makes the audience cringe by making the violence brutal and disgusting.

    The getaway is maybe his only “pure” heroic badass movie, but he didn`t choose the ending for it, if I remember correctly. I think he wanted it to end like the book, where doc and his wife escape to mexico, but kill each other in tequila-fueled paranoia (if i remember correctly).

    I love most of his movies, but Straw Dogs stands heads and shoulders above the rest of his pictures. The usual consensus among reviewers is that it`s a confused mess in its attitude towards violence. For me, it`s the most clever and subversive portrait of masculinety ever. The first time I watched it, I was hoping that Dustin Hoffman would beat the shit out of his tormenters. When he finally did it, I was appalled and disgusted by the brutality and ugliness of the violence. And confused by my own fascination for violence.

    Well, i think my point is that Sam Peckinpah is a true badass-auteur. He praises the idea of badassness, while questioning it. He makes movies about being badass, our fascination of badasses and the dark, but attractive side of violence.

    Most actionfilms merely fullfill our needs for masculine virtues in a feminine world (if you buy into that the first real actionhero Dirty Harry, was wishfullfilment for males feeling castrated by feminism). I can`t think of another director who actually tries to investigate the oldfashioned (and sometimes destructive) ideals of what a “real” man is.

    Sorry for rampling on, but I find this thread extremely fascinating :-)

  61. While seconding A Better Tomorrow 2 for the loose canon, might I suggest Woo’s Last Hurrah for Chivalry also? His final swordfighting movie until Red Cliff, it ought to count at least as helping inspire and lead to the triumphancy of RC! So many moments of awesomeness to speak of (I mean in LHfC, though that’s true in a somewhat different way for RC, too, of course.) But I will probably always remember this exchange:

    “You! Apologize to my sword!”
    (Cops, having pushed their way by while searching for someone else): “What?! Who do you think you are!”
    “My name is Pray.”
    “Pray?! What kind of a name is _that_!?”
    “If you touch my sword, you had better pray.”

    Pray then proceeds to beat down on the local cops without removing his sword from its sheath. And (this should be stressed) THIS IS ONLY ONE OF THE SECONDARY VILLAINS!!

  62. Thinking of some of the actors in LHfC, reminds me of two other high-quality badass films (each starring someone from LHfC): Duel to the Death (ridiculous ninja vs. monk awesomeness, but primarily for the hard-core badassery of the eponymous duel at the end between the Shaolin and the Samurai champions); and The Sword (about a sword cursed to bring sorrow to those who wield it, pursued nonetheless for its quality in a fight.)

    While I would recommend Woo’s LHfC over them in the loose canon, heck they’re still worth reviewing someday on their own merits. {g}

  63. Incidentally, in defense of First Blood in the badass canon: the breakdown scene at the end might count as an unusual form of Vern’s Theory of Badass Juxtoposition.

  64. @ Sabreman

    It just might, but what I find even more unbadass-like than sobbing like a girly, is his dependence on authorities in the end. I don`t know, but isn`t a badass supposed to be an “outlaw”? Doesn`t he have to be in conflict with everybody else (society, authorities, the system, the times etc?), thus demonstrating his independence and honor? Like Yojimbo, Dirty Harry, John McClane, Rambo in “Rambo, Coffy, The man with no name, etc.

    Isn`t a badass an outsider in opposition to a corrupt world, who refuses to change his ways to fit in, and in the end succedes because of his honorabel oldfashioned ways?

    If Rambo had a nervous breakdown and THEN told his boss to fuck himself instead of seeing the error of his ways and go to jail, then he might be a badass.

  65. The end of FIRST BLOOD isn’t about Rambo seeing the error of his ways. It’s about Trautman seeing the error of his. It’s less about Rambo saying “I was wrong and I deserve my punishment” than it is about Trautman trying to undo the damage he did to this man by talking how down from the suicidal journey he’s on. Do you really think Rambo expected to leave that town alive? He wants to go out in a blaze of glory. When he turns himself in, he’s not giving up. He’s deciding to live.

  66. @ Mr. Majestyk

    You are right, but does that make him a badass? I don`t know, i would like to ilabel it a badass movie, but I can`t help feeling sorry for the guy. It`s interesting to wonder how audiences would percive him today, if the sequels had never been made. But I keep comparing him to Travis. If they had made TAXIDRIVER II, about Travis going back to `nam to bust a asian childpornograpy-ring, then we might percieve Travis as an action-hero and Taxidriver might be badass instead of a harrowing descreption of loneliness and madness.

    But I`m not sure about First Blood though. The ending (unbadass-like in my openion) is what makes it a brilliant movie.

  67. You can’t feel sorry for a badass? I think you’re mistaking “badass” for “cartoon superhero.” A badass is still human. He feels pain and emotions, but he overcomes them and fucks shit up in his own way. Rambo gets a shit deal, but he also destroys an entire town single-handedly over a hamburger. To call him anything less than a total badass simply because he doesn’t do it with a smirk on his face shows a very narrow understanding of the term.

  68. I’ve grouped my selection in chronological order as a kind of rough history of Badass Cinema.

    Seven Samurai (1954)
    Rififi (1955)
    Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
    Great Escape (1963)
    The Good, The bad, The Ugly (1966)
    Wild Bunch (1969)
    Dirty Harry (1971)
    The Mechanic (1972)
    Street Fighter 1-2 (1974)
    Mad Max (1979)
    Escape From New York (1981)
    Predator (1987)
    Die Hard (1988)
    Leon The Professional (1994)
    Ronin (1998)
    Blade 2 (2002)
    Kill Bill Vol 1-2 (2003)
    Redbelt (2008)

  69. I also tried to make sure most of the classic badass character actors got at least one movie on the list.

  70. Jareth Cutestory

    May 21st, 2010 at 10:58 am

    LAWRENCE OF ARABIA? Really? I’d be curious to hear your justification for that one.

    No disrespect intended. I actually consider Zhang Ziyi in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON kind of badass, so I’m sympathetic to the weepier end of the spectrum.

    Also, good call on LEON.

  71. To extrapolate further: Micheal Cimino. He tries, (or tried, before his main interests became manicures and shopping for dresses, apparently) to make Big, Serious Movies About Important Themes. But a certain inevitable pulp / grindhouse / genre urge toward entertaining, highly satisfying “wow!” moments creeps into all his best films. (Something shared by Oliver Stone, who of course, worked as a screenwriter with Cimino and John Milius and seems to have been heavily influenced by both.) THE DEER HUNTER, HEAVEN’S GATE, YEAR OF THE DRAGON–they all start out as somber dramas or historical epics but there is just this irresistable creeping into Badass territory.

    For instance, it’s startling to watch THE DEER HUNTER now and realize how it more or less invented the “back to ‘Nam” action movie sub-genre of the 80s. Look at stuff like Uncommon Valor, Rambo, and especially the Missing In Action series, and you realize most of the common elements of those films seem to have originated in the sheer visceral impact of DH’s Vietnam scenes. Sweaty, muddy Americans in fatigues wielding AK-47s, Vietnamese / Southeast Asian prison camps, the torture sequences, sadistic Asians with angry faces barking orders, and the journey back in-country, usually to save fellow Americans–it’s all there in THE DEER HUNTER, and those sequences, are seriously Badass.

  72. Jareth – Lawrence was pretty badass in a kind of gentile fashion. As a stranger in a strange land he did a pretty badass job of uniting a rag tag peoples into an effective fighting force. He crossed an uncrossable desert. Survived unbearable torture and later died in a fiery motorcycle wreck, James Dean style. I know he’s not a traditional badass in that he didn’t kill a bunch of guys with his bare hands but he was a leader who was tough, smart and a survivor.

  73. DNA and CC – excellent points about The Wild Bunch.

    By the way, the ending of Jim Thompson’s The Getaway is great; it’s so weird and unexpected, and such an existential nightmare (I think Quentin Tarantino called it “Bunuelian”). It’s kind of tragic that a guy like Peckinpah couldn’t put it on film.

  74. @ Mr. Majestyk

    I`m not really sure what the term defines, hence my fascination with the subject. If you see my list of badass-movies, it doesn`t contain any “cartoon superheroes” at all. Of course a badass has to suffer, and he has to a) succed despite his suffering or b) go out in a blaze of glory, but keep his honor. A badass doesn`t compromise.

    My first post was about badass bitches; Coffy and Lady Snowblood. Coffy is sobbing all the way through her final confrontation with the main bad guy, her boyfriend. She has just had her heart broken by the man she loves. But she still blows his dick off with a shotgun. That`s badass in my book.
    Lady Snowblood too. The second to last shot in the film is her crying out in pain over her fucked-up life. And then she tightens her fist. She won`t stop fighting and she won`t give up. That`s badass! Even Carter gets all mushy when he sees his niece in some porn-movie. But he doesn`t give up. He keeps fighting for what he believes in. He doesn`t choose life, he chooses not to compromise, no matter what. If all it takes to be a badass is the ability to kill and destroy, what prevents Jason from being a badass. He suffers too, you know.

  75. and sorry for all the typos..

  76. I can see what you’re saying, but by your definition, George W. Bush was the ultimate badass. Even though what he was doing was totally retarded and everyone knew it, he stuck to his guns and refused to compromise.

    Bringing it back to Rambo, would it have been more badass to throw his life away for no fucking reason at all? Wouldn’t that have been letting the bastards win? Isn’t it more badass to say, “You know what? I’m better than this” and take your punishment like man?

  77. Jareth Cutestory

    May 21st, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Darryll: Your defence of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is quite compelling. I like the idea of a “gentile badass” (it’s a shame David Niven never got his own revenge film). David Lean pretty much embodies everything I dislike about big budget movies, but, goaddamnit, you make a good case to sit through the film again. Well played.

  78. OK. I was gonna make some movie suggestions, but it looks like you guys have covered most of them for me already… So, instead, I would like to suggest this:

    Vern, how about one article devoted to badass moments and/or lines in movies that aren’t necessarily considered badass.

    For example, I saw that today is the 30th anniversary of the Empire Strikes Back and, while the movie overall is not something I would call “badass” (although it is pretty fuckin good), the moment where Han Solo replies to Leia’s “I love you” with “I know” is definitely badass. So how about an article discussing moments like these?

  79. I know LAWRENCE doesn’t translate well by modern sensibilities in terms of pace and character and it does require a huge screen to appreciate the scope of the cinematography but I admire Lawrence’s obstinate refusal to tow the official line of his superiors and I like how he discovers his inner badass out in that desert. Kind of a man vs. nature route to badass stature. It’s only when he starts to buy into his own messiah complex that things begin to unravel for him. Also, the jump cut from the blown match to the desert rivals Kubrick’s 2001 jump cut in magnificence.

  80. Thanks for all the suggestions. I’m sure the ideas behind this project will change over time, but I should clarify what I’m thinking here.

    With this one I’m not necessarily trying to find the movies that have the highest levels of badass content. They’ll be the canon of movies we loosely define as “Badass Cinema.” So they’re the movies I think everybody interested in these movies should see and have an opinion on. They should either be important or influential or the very best of a certain type or the best work of one of the titans. Not to dismiss the valid arguments that have been made but by my way of thinking FIRST BLOOD is more likely to be eligible than RAMBO because it is by far the best of the series, it has a type of emotional power that’s rare to the genre and also it inspired about 750 rip-offs. (Okay, part 2 was more influential but kind of in a bad way.)

    I also want to represent the wide breadth of these movies so I’ll try to have representatives of important movements and eras – blaxploitation, spaghetti western, Hong Kong action, etc. And I think I’ll start with one movie for each of the huge icons although it’s gonna be unlikely not to see Clint and some of these guys doing double time.

    So that’s the guidelines I’ll try to impose on myself but of course feel free to suggest whatever you think is best.

  81. This thing is all over the place, with posters name-dropping whatever movie they love. This thing needs more *induction* (as figured out from evidence) and less *deduction* (as realized and then argued).

    In other words: it isn’t math. It’s chemistry.

    If Max Rockatansky defines badass (and I’m not saying he does – or doesn’t – I’m just using it for clarity) then we can’t have Lawrence of Arabia in the same list, no matter how brave and determined the chap was. “Gentle badass” (_Gentile_ spells something else entire) is a contradiction in terms.

    The “badass” as I understand it from you folks has a certain Western mystique to it: lonely or at the very least separated from society, grizzled, at-or-almost past the point of caring. The badass is a creation of OUR ERA. He – or she – is more than stoic: they are cynical, brutal and faithless.

    James Caan in THIEF is all over that shit. So is Eastwood in THE BAD, THE GOOD AND THE UGLY.

    Han Solo, by contrast, is not – he’s a bird of an entirely different pedigree (albeit a very cool one) going back to Robin Hood, Odyseus and their ilk. By the same rationale, Mike Terry is not “badass” – skill at breaking bones is not enough, even great skill (this from a fanatic of REDBELT).

    Badasses are not born, they are made in a scouring fire.

  82. Vincent – Are you saying the badasses all have to be from the west? That would eliminate entire sub-genres like samurai or martial arts. I’m willing to concede that LAWRENCE was misplaced on my list if that’s the general consensus but certainly you can’t blame me for exploring ways to expand the definition. By contrast, your definition seems a little constraining. I think what you’re describing is the anti-hero who is traditionally a badass but not the sole embodiment of badass.

  83. Either someone’s badass or they’re not. It’s not chemistry, it’s poetry.

  84. Jareth Cutestory

    May 21st, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Vincent: I don’t think being genteel and being a badass are necessarily mutually exclusive (I went with Darryll’s spelling of “gentile” in my earlier post because I thought it was funny to imagine all badasses as being secretly Jewish).

    All a genteel badass would require would be good manners. Personally, I see great potential in the act of very politely fucking up some motherfucker’s shit. In a parallel universe, David Niven was all up in some fucker’s shit; he was just respectful about it.
    The worst thing to come out of his mouth would be “blimey.” Peter Cushing would be in a bunch of these alternate reality badass films. But he’d still be carrying a big gun. It’s really not much different from James Bond.

    And of course a case could be argued that Jet Li is a genteel badass. James Garner would be a candidate. Even the classic line from the first DEATH WISH – “I was making a sandwich” – comes close.

  85. Spartacus is a GENTILE badass.
    Lawrence of Arabia is a GENTEEL badass.
    Mike Terry is a GENTLE badass.

  86. @ Mr. Majestyk

    Come on.. George Bush? I`m not even getting into that discussion..

    Okay, almost all fictional characters fights for what they believe in. The difference must be the values they believe in. Rambo believes in never leaving a man behind, as opposed to the sheriff who wants to get rid of him (despite Rambo being a soldier who fought for their country) to keep the town clean. (America is leaving their soldiers behind- all subtext like..) I was kind of trying to figure out what a badass is, what the phrase means, other than cool or awesome or “badass”. What badass might mean to me, is old-fashioned action-hero. Keanu Reeves in SPEED is cool. The movie is cool. But his character or the movie is not badass, as opposed to POINT BREAK. Why? They are both great action-movies, with badass moments, oneliners, stunts, car-chases etc.

    I was kind of suggesting the a true bad-ass is a hero, who embraces oldfashioned masculine values in a world who doesn`s apriciate them anymore. Hence Dirty Harry, The Wild Bunch, Coffy, Bruce Lee, Get Carter etc. Old-fashioned masculine values being; honesty, an eye for an eye, protect the weak, doing what`s right, doing what a man gotta do, never leave a man behind, hoes before broes etc. And solving problems by physical means.

    Maybe I`m wrong. If Vern says that First Blood is badass cinema, then it is badass cinema. Maybe because First Blood embraces an oldfashioned masculine virtue (never leave a man/soldier behind).

    But here`s another thought: Does a badass change during a movie? Normally a hero changes and BECOMES a hero in a drama, but does a badass?

    Badasses who refuses to change:
    Dirty Harry
    Carter
    Bruce Lee in Way of the dragon.
    Shaft
    Bullit
    Lone Wolf and Cup
    Coffy
    Lady Snowblood
    The man with no name
    Harmonica

    In most of the cases, society and authoryties begs them to change. Boyfriends and girlfriends too, but they always refuse. Sometimes the succeed (Dirty Harry), sometimes not (Wild Bunch.. well, kind off.), but at least they die with honor. (The Killer)

    Anyway, I`m gonna watch First Blood tonight.

  87. I’m not watching Lone Wolf and Cup. I learned my lesson after that one with the two girls.

  88. Oy Vey! You say genteel, I say gentile. Tomatoe, tomato.

    My point is that a badass can be more than an anti-hero which seems to be Vincent’s definition. I would definitely classify Mike Terry a badass but not an anti-hero. The badass does not have to lack a sense of honor or a wish to do what’s right nor must he be fueled by revenge in each and every case. He must simply kick serious ass against the grain of adversity. It’s Terry’s sense of honor that ironically sets him apart from his fellow man. He cares too much. It makes those around him feel uncomfortable. He doesn’t feel the need to demonstrate his badass technique until someone tries to take that honor away from him.

    Vincent- your understanding of the badass as … “cynical, brutal and faithless,” would seem to discount Vern’s first Loose Canon review. Bruce Lee in RETURN OF THE DRAGON (as I’ve always known it) is the antithesis to your definition. He is open minded, gentlemanly, and has faith in his ability to inspire the underdogs around him. And man, does he kick ass.

  89. Here’s a question, Vern — is the badass film defined by its central badass, or is it more a function of the general badass-ness of the film itself?

    Example: William Petersen isn’t overwhelmingly badass in TO LIE AND DIE IN LA, but the overall movie is pretty damn BADASS. Likewise, someone above suggested THE THING, which isn’t particularly badass, but does feature an incredibly badass Kurt Russel role. And oddly, Melvin Van Peebles isn’t particularly Badass in SWEET SWEETBACK’S BADASS SONG, and the movie’s not really all that badass either, exactly. And yet, somehow it is indeed a BADASS song.

  90. For me, the definition of a badass comes down to two things:

    1. He (or she) kicks ass.

    2. He (or she) has a PRESENCE.

    By “presence,” I mean a sort of a combination of charisma and intensity that inspires terror and awe at the same time. A badass doesn’t have to be the hero of the story, and he doesn’t have to be particularly grizzled. He just has to have that aura of someone with whom you should not fuck.

    Of course, to make it a badass movie, you have to put your badass in a badass story. Clint Eastwood in Any Which Way But Loose could definitely qualify as a badass character, but I’d hardly call it a work of badass cinema. Now, if those bikers had murdered Clyde, sending Clint on a blood-splattered path of righteous vengeance, that would be different. As it stands, though, everybody just clowns around for a while.

  91. I’ll be happy as long as WAGES OF FEAR stays on the list. You can’t get much more badass than driving a truck full of nitro, especially when you’re sane enough to be afraid.

    (And yes, SORCERER is pretty cool, too. But it’s still a remake, which means an imitation. Underrated, for sure, but better — no way.)

  92. Maybe Vern should put both WAGES and SORCERER together as one collective two-headed asskicking monster?

  93. There are badass moments, badass characters, badass stories, badass filmmaking, and badass style.

    Snake Plisken or the Man With No Name: Badass characters.

    Black Dynamite turning the sign around from open to closed, or Travis Bickle practicing with his guns in front of the mirror: Badass moments.

    The Road Warrior, White Heat, or Dirty Harry: Badass stories.

    Pam Grier or Chow Yuen Fat or Steve McQueen: Badass style.

    Martin Scorsese, John Woo, Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow, William Wellman, Howard Hawks: Badass filmmaking.

  94. I’m not sure if anybody’s mentioned it yet, but, I think Aliens must be part of the canon.

    And maybe the original Walking Tall as well.

  95. The rape/revenge genre has some serious badass ladies.

    Thriller A Cruel Picture aka They Call Her One Eye, has Christina Lindberg looking sharp with her eyepatch and leather trenchcoat, and hitting back hard with all the weaponry at her disposal. Lock and Load! (Her character inspired Kill Bill’s eyepatch lady.)
    I Spit On Your Grave, (remake coming soon), had Ebert all up in arms about how it smeared his soul to see Camille Keaton take revenge on the men who raped her.

    Even Dirty Harry got in on the action with Sudden Impact pairing up with SPOILER!!! Sondra Locke to mudereralize folk. I think she was his girlfriend then. He made a whole bunch of movies with her when they were together.

  96. I never quite got the love for thriller – en grum film. But one-eye is definitely a badass. And her shoot-out in ultra-slomo with a long black leatherjacket might have inspired the style of The Matrix? You never know with the Wachowski bro.. eh.. siblings.

    I`ll also nominate 48 hrs. A pretty influential movie in my openion, with 2 badass-characters and a great score.

  97. So much goodness from everyone, I actually feel better knowing how many out there would agree with my own tastes in film. It’s just so heartening to see the same titles and names cropping up again and again in this thread, so I won’t post about those.

    Vern, given you’re trying to be representative rather than definitive, then I personally think the following ought to at least be in the running for consideration:

    French policiers: Peur sur la Ville aka Fear over the City (1975) or Flic Story (1975)
    Italian Poliziotteschi: Milano Calibro 9 aka Caliber 9 (1972)
    English thriller: Get Carter (1971) or Who Dares Wins aka The Final Option (1982)
    Bollywood: Sholay (1975) or Ab Tak Chhappan (2004)
    Hong Kong crime (as opposed to martial arts or pure action): Rock ‘n’ Roll Cop (1994) for cops, The Mission (2000) for criminals
    Japanese crime: Battles Without Honor & Humanity aka The Yakuza Papers (1973) or Graveyard of Honour (1975)

    These are films that all blew me away the very first time, whatever age I saw them at, and which I have re-watched time and again – in other words, they are standing the test of time. It gets so hard after that I don’t envy you the task. Good luck with it!

  98. Jareth Cutestory

    May 22nd, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    It’s probably way too late to get a response to this question, but I’ll ask it anyway: can a character who is a robot be a badass? The Terminator, for example, or Number 5 (in the version of SHORT CIRCUIT written and directed by Verhoeven that plays only in my head). Is it essential that a badass be a human? Can major appliances be badass is they’re programmed properly? Or does the act of programming preclude the possibility of badassery?

    Or how about part human, like Robocop or Joan Rivers?

    Also, aliens. Is the Predator a badass?

  99. CrustaceanHate

    May 22nd, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    You may have already answered this question, but can movies you’ve already reviewed be included in the Canon? And if so, will you write a short piece explaining your justification or simply re-brand the original review with a Loose Canon logo?

  100. Having finally seen THE LIMEY, I think Vern should definitely have a subsection centered on the arty Badass films, ranging from LIMEY to GHOST DOG all the way to the Grandaddy of them all: POINT (motherfucking) BLANK.

  101. dtroyt (and others) i was gonna make the same comment about badass moments. i’m just surious to see what y’all think are the most badass single moments in movies. the moments where, while you’re watching them, you uncontrollably think “holy. fucking. shit. bad. ASS!” and your serotonin starts flowing.

    just for example’s sake i will use one of the most badass moments in cinema history, namely ripley in the power loader in ALIENS. it’s how the whole thing is shot and edited as well as the story and character elements that it embodies. you have shots of newt being menaced by the queen, then you hear the (awesome) noise of the power loader. then you cut to the door. the door opens and the camera slightly zooms in to ripley in the loader. she flexes her robot hands (again with awesome sound effects) and then says the most badass line of all history, “get away from her, you BITCH!” it’s a badass moment because of how it’s contructed aesthetically AND because it’s a culmination of all of the themes and tension of the story. shit, that is a fucking good moment.

    (incidentally, i have a japanese VHS copy of ALIENS, so it’s subtitled in japanese, and the aforementioned greatest line of dialogue EVER in the japanese subtitles translates literally to “don’t worry about the child.” kind of diminishes the impact).

    so what other such HELL YES moments do you guys like?

    and darryll – sorry to be film nerdy and pedantic, but technically the cut you referred to in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA would be a match cut, rather than a jump cut (pushes glasses up bridge of nose).

  102. Jareth Cutestory

    May 22nd, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Virgin Gary: As you indicated, the “badass moment” is actually more of a “badass culmination” or “badass payoff.”

    When I think of “badass moment” something far more gimmicky comes to mind, like some of Raimi’s stunt shots in THE QUICK & THE DEAD or the creative kills in a zombie flick. Maybe I’m just splitting hairs.

  103. Crustacean – yeah, I’ll definitely have to have some redos. But I’ll write new, more detailed reviews for them.

  104. Thanks, Virgin, for the clarification.

  105. I confess there were too many comments for me to read through so I’m sorry if someone already suggested this, but I think Franco Nero deserves to be on Vern’s Loose Canon Badasss list.

    DJANGO in all his coffin dragging glory would be tight, but also..
    STREET LAW…especially because Nero gets run over multiple times by a car. Stuntmen be damned.

  106. I hate this movie, but Pulp Fiction is one that fans should probably see and have an opinion on. It’s also tremendously influential (in a negative way, in my opinion). But, yeah, fans should see it.

  107. It’s been five and a half years since the last (second) The Loose Cannon entry.

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