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

El Gringo

tn_elgringoThe first After Dark Action Fest started Friday. Five action movies that I’m gonna have to qualify as pretty-much-DTV since they’re only playing 10 cities for 1 week. Maybe if one of those cities was Seattle I would feel different. But they have the “same day video-on-demand” option, which I’d never done before, but I decided to do it. I demanded it. I oughta upgrade my cable, it probly looks better for most citizens of the 21st century, but for me it looked okay.
I already saw John Hyams’ DRAGON EYES on account of the region 2 DVD release, so my next priority was EL GRINGO, the one starring Scott Adkins. Adkins plays a nameless American who wanders into the heroin-running desert town of El Fronteras, Mexico, a dangerous town he later describes as “an acquired taste.” He shows up with nothing but a strong thirst and a pair of boots. Oh, and a bag with $2 million cash in it, I suppose that’s worth noting.

It starts with a bang, which in this case means a conversation with a guy he has locked in the trunk of his car, followed by a non-metaphorical bang when he blows up the car. That’s a great classical lead-up to the title, but would it have killed you to put in a “SCOTT ADKINS IS,” After Dark? Why does nobody ever get an “is” credit anymore? In fact he doesn’t even get his name on the opening. Not cool. I’m against it.

mp_elgringoLike Adkins’ best character Boyka, El Gringo is an anti-hero. He commits murder in the opening scene and is kind of a cocky asshole. Also he calls women “honey” (as in “you’re holding the knife wrong, honey.”) In my opinion Adkins radiates nice guy, so this isn’t as natural a fit on him as it is for Kurt Russell or somebody, at least not without doing his Russian accent. But he pulls it off.

Director Eduardo Rodriguez seems to be riffing on Robert Rodriguez (no relation)’s riffs on spaghetti westerns. Predictably the music is a mediocre combination of fake-Morricone and rock, but most of the other elements work better. Lots of extreme camera angles (gimmicky POVs, hero shots) keep it visually interesting. A little cartoonish, but in a good way. There’s one unique bit of filmatistic language: every time a character realizes they’re about to die their face turns black and white. A couple times this also happens to inanimate objects, and the logic is sound. You’d have to see it, I guess.

El Gringo (also referred to as “perro” and “The Man,” which I believe is English for El Gringo) is having the shittiest day of his life. Some NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN type shit just went down (revealed later in a couple flashbacks), he’s having a hell of a time finding a drink of water (first due to bad luck, then straight up cruelty by Mexican bartenders), some girl keeps trying to steal his bag without even knowing what’s in it, and the lady at the bus station claims there’s no bus coming until maybe tomorrow. And things are gonna keep getting worse. Part of what makes the whitey relatable is his exasperated reactions to all this. Rodriguez is nice enough to give him a beat to say “Aw, shit” or shake his head in disgust to what’s happening.

There are a couple different running gags, but my favorite one involves his rapport with the dog that he rescues from being abused by some dudes at a shack out in the desert. The dog loyally follows him and every time some shit goes down he gives it a disappointed look for not helping out. After one particularly embarrassing ambush he yells at the dog, “Get your head in the game!”

There’s a pretty good love interest (Yvette Yates), a bartender with some serious va-va-voom, of which the camera takes note. (I think the camera is a boob-man.) I like that she’s so unimpressed by him at first that she makes him pay $500 cash for a shot glass of water, and even then makes a long drawn out show of pouring it a few drops at a time. She let’s him sleep in her attic (and more), but she’s not a pushover.

Yates is pretty good – she doesn’t seem like an off-brand Salma Hayek, even though she does sexy bullet removal surgery like Hayek did in DESPERADO.

The other major female character is Flaca (Sofia Sisniega), the girl that keeps trying to steal his bag. She has almost a Wile E. Coyote quality to her. She doesn’t know what she’s getting herself into, and I kind of rooted for her because I knew she could never pull it off. She chose the wrong gringo.

Trivia: Sisniega is also in GET THE GRINGO, the other action movie with “GRINGO” in the title that came out on VOD the same day that my friend thought I was talking about when I said I was gonna watch this. (It’s on Direct TV or something that I don’t get, so I’ll have to wait.)

And there’s the gang leader with the Day of the Dead skeleton makeup. Don’t worry, it’s better than it sounds. He’s pretty interesting because he at times is willing to let the gringo go. He’s not as single-minded as you’d expect from a guy with guns and face paint.

One thing most of the After Dark Action movies seem to have in common is putting a marquee name in a supporting role and then maybe playing them up too much in the promotion. But hopefully people won’t be disappointed that Christian Slater’s character doesn’t get a huge amount of screen time. I think he’s pretty good in it though, pretty funny. He’s the only character that makes fun of the guy’s skeleton makeup.

This is a solid and enjoyable Adkins vehicle that I would recommend to anybody who enjoys a good Adkins or Van Damme type of picture. But the public has a right to know that it’s more of a showcase of him as a leading man than as a martial artist. Of course he fights, but it’s more about running around getting in gun fights than his usual acrobatic kicks. Don’t worry though, there’s a pretty good amount of action with some good moves (my favorite: he uses a guy as a human shield, then shoots through him, then kicks him in the back pushing him into some other people) and some explosions. I like explosions. Also, I could be wrong, but I swear it’s all analog blood. Lots of size-XL blood packs. Did you know they still make those? Somebody should get the word out.

The movie’s biggest weakness is that it fails to learn the lessons of a previous era of DTV action. Not enough to ruin it for me, but this does have the annoying stylistic lack of discipline that came about when people first started editing digitally and were excited to find out what all the buttons did. I guess maybe they were nostalgic for the days when Avid farts were a bigger problem than shakycam. During a flashback shootout there’s a sort of strobing style of editing that at first seems like a reflection of the machine guns being used in the scene. But it keeps coming back in other flashbacks. It never reaches KILL SWITCH levels of shitting-the-bed, but there’s at least one scene where I wondered if they were trying to annoy me into turning it off and ordering STASH HOUSE instead.

The one big flying kick that Adkins does has a strobe edit on it, so you don’t get to see it that well. Despite this, the action is all clearer than the modern standard. At least the cameras are aiming at stuff.

Did anybody watch any of the other After Dark Action titles, and if so, do they all have the stupid freeze-frames-with-character-names cliche? I’m wondering if one of the producers demands it. What is the thought process, anyway? You know, I don’t like in this scene how the character walks in, and you have to be introduced to them and find out who they are through context. What I’d like to do is, I’d like to freeze frame it and write their name on the screen. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Wait, no, this is kind of boring, why don’t we trace over the frame in Photoshop, so it looks more like a comic book? You know, like one of those comic books that’s traced over in Photoshop. I love it!

You know what, this looks terrible, why don’t we put a layer of texture over it, like an old wanted poster or something? That’s probly what we need.

Hmmm, still bad, kind of seems like we shouldn’t have done this, but we’ve put alot of work into it, so I’m keeping it. You know what? Sounds effects. Like a WHOOOOSHHHH  combined with a SHOOONKK maybe? And guitars maybe?

I don’t know. Just use it, I’m leaving. Do this with all the characters.

Another thing they always do now, including in DRAGON EYES: digitally washed out colors. In some scenes it kind of looks like a faded vacation photo from the ’70s, that’s kinda nice, but other times they just make it look colorless. At least they’re trying to make it look sunny, so it’s not the dreary bluish-but-almost-black-and-white of so many of the shot-in-Bulgaria DTVs. But still. Put some color in these movies sometimes, fellas. Red, blue, green, yellow. There’s different ones, you’re allowed to put them next to each other sometimes. Look it up.

Also, thumbs down to the local-news-quality Acapulco graphic that’s supposed to be hilarious every time it shows up. It’s like they felt bad about not using computers for the blood so they had to throw in some other needless shit to keep America working.

Yeah, I had those complaints, but I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. It’s a solid B-level Scott Adkins that I think some people will find on cable and maybe he’ll get to go farther than Gary Daniels or somebody. I say that with all due respect to Gary, but I haven’t seen any movies by him I liked as much as the UNDISPUTEDs, so I got higher hopes for Adkins.

Notes:
1. IMDb was wrong about Michael Jai White and Matt Mullins being in the movie. That was apparently a misunderstanding about a photo of them on the set of that HEAVY METAL tv show
2. Speaking of heavy metal, the band “Manowar” does the theme song on the end credits, if that means anything to anybody
3. Isaac Florentine is credited as executive producer, which may or may not confirm the rumors that he rappelled in to help with some of the action scenes

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 Monday, May 14th, 2012 at 12:04 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

86 Responses to “El Gringo”

  1. TRANSIT doesn’t have the on screen character IDs. So there’s that.

  2. From the list of coming Adkins movies over at iMDb it looks like he’s picking roles that not nescessarily demands martial art. Too bad really, because I’m not sure he has what it takes to be a “straight” action hero.

  3. So Stash House next? That film seems like Panic Room in the suburb.

  4. what in the hell is a “local-news-quality Acapulco graphic”?

  5. I agree with the avid farts. Specially in the ambush sequence. But halfway through there is an awesome alley shootout, with a lot of creative gun play. Including use of armor piercing bullets, shoot guns and what ever you can think.

    The thing that annoyed me most was the sex scene, that this you with nudity but always skipped it. It starts to pan up to her breast, then it cuts right before, then he does the same again.

  6. Brace yourself, Vern, for Stash House. It’s absolutely awful.

  7. Holy shit, Manowar?! Really? That’s awesome! I mean, I’ve always figured they’d be great action movie music, what with them bragging about slaughtering people by the dozens in practically every song, but I always figured it would be a movie about Vikings or bravehearts or something where there are pectorally enhanced heathens holding aloft swords stained red with the blood of kings while busty wenches in chain mail bras and furry battle panties pose by their feet. These are guys who live on their own heavy metal compound in Germany, where it is my understanding they dress like He-Man on a daily basis and drink mead and watch lesbian orgies and call each other brothers in arms and have ax fights on motorcycles, KNIGHTRIDERS style. A modern-day Mexican adventure does not fit them at all. Maybe if there were conquistadors or something. I bet they could get down with conquistadors, because of the swords and pillaging.

  8. “These are guys who live on their own heavy metal compound in Germany, where it is my understanding they dress like He-Man on a daily basis and drink mead and watch lesbian orgies and call each other brothers in arms and have ax fights on motorcycles, KNIGHTRIDERS style.”

    holy shit, are you serious?

    that….is…..awesome

  9. Man O War is no where near as awesome in reality as they are by the impression one gives by talking about them.

  10. Capital One credit card ads ruined that lifestyle. Filthy lucre took what should have been sacred behavior, of Visigoths and Vandals, and debased it to sell financial enslavement.

  11. Griff: I may have been exaggerating slightly about the mead and ax fights, but otherwise, yeah, that’s pretty much how Manowar rolls.

    The funny thing about their compound in Germany is that they’re not even German. They’re American. But America is simply not metal (proper pronunciation: met-tull) enough for them anymore, so they expatriated. This is the first time that anyone has run away TO Germany to escape persecution for their beliefs.

  12. Listen to their Gods of war album. A fuckin epic heavy metal album at its most operatic. Brilliant shit.
    Not for people who appreciate subtlety, but they don´t listen to Manowar anyways.

  13. If you would like to continue believing in the ‘MANOWAR all live together in a German compound’ fantasy, DO NOT READ THIS..
    http://www.themetalinquisition.com/2009/02/metal-inquisition-investigative-report_20.html

  14. I have it on good authority that Isaac Florentine and his usual director of photography Ross W. Clarkson were brought in on the set to fix up some of the action. Having been brought on only for some of the action, Florentine got that producer credit.

    The funny thing is that the credited director Eduardo Rodriguez was on set at the same time as Florentine due to the short schedule. I wonder how he felt about Florentine being brought on board.

    BUT, strangely enough, having a separate unit for shooting/directing the action is NOT unheard of or that strange really. On the first Transporter movie, Louis Leterrier is credited as the director and if I remember correctly, Corey Yuen is credited as the “action” director.

    Honestly, it kind of makes sense, there’s plenty of big budget movies where some of the action scenes (fights, chases, etc) are directed by the second unit. Makes sense to bring in a guy like Florentine who can shoot good action on a small budget.

    Now, the thing is that After Dark are getting their next batch of DTV action movies ready for production and I sincerely hope they get some of the good/great DTV directors out there to direct them. Sheldon Lettich, Simon Fellows, Isaac Florentine, Don E. FauntLeRoy, Franck Khalfoun, Jesse V. Johnson, Ben Ramsey, William Kaufman, John Hyams, Roel Reine, etc.

  15. Cheston: You told me not to read it, and I read it anyway. I have no one to blame but myself for NOT HAVING ANY REASON TO GO ON BELIEVING IN ANYTHING EVER AGAIN.

    That karate outfit was pretty awesome, though.

  16. In other news it has been confirmed that After Dark are producing Van Damme’s next movie ENEMIES CLOSER. It’s going to be directed by Peter Hyams who:
    – directed Van Damme’s Timecop and Sudden Death
    – was the DOP on Universal Soldier: Regeneration
    – is the father of John Hyams (director of Universal Soldier: Regeneration, Dragon Eyes, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning).

    Since After Dark is behind ENEMIES CLOSER it has been rumored that the movie will be a part of the next batch of movies to get the After Dark Action treatment, but there’s also rumors that it will get a bigger budget than this year’s batch, thus perhaps giving it a chance at a better, but still limited run in US cinemas, based on Van Damme being in The Expendables 2.

    AND

    The DTV action movie lovers have a lot of movies to look forward to:

    – Six Bullets (co-starring Van Damme and Stargate Atlantis’ Joe Flanigan)
    – Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (directed by John Hyams, written by Hyams, starring Adkins, but with special roles for Van Damme and Lundgren – the movie was filmed in 3D apparently with the same 3D cameras that were used for The Amazing Spider-Man – so there’s a chance at a theatrical release of some sort)
    – Enemies Closer (to start production soon) (Van Damme + an not yet known co-star)
    – Maximum Conviction (co-starring Seagal with Steve Austin)
    – post-apocalyptic sci-fi actioner BATTLE OF THE DAMNED (starring Lundgren)
    – THE PACKAGE ( Dolph Lundgren and Steven Austin)
    – One in the Chamber (Dolph Lundgren and Cuba Gooding Jr)

    Van Damme will re-shoot a lot of The Eagle Path this year, he’ll include some new action scenes that will be filmed on the same jungle set that was used for The Expendables 2. The Eagle Path will be/has been renamed Soldiers and it will apparently be pushed for release this year.

    Lundgren has some other projects that aren’t yet fully confirmed:
    Legendary: Tomb Of The Dragon ( action adventure movie co-starring Adkins and this will apparently be filmed in China)
    Repeater (action movie co-starring Michael Jai White)

    Lundgren filmed cameos/small roles in the dramas:
    As Wonderland Goes By (apparently directed by the guy who was Dolph’s DOP on Command Performance)
    Small Apartments (directed by a Swedish music video director who has worked with Dolph before on some stuff)

    Lundgren is also trying to get another movie started to be directed by himself and potentially called Skin Trade and he is also trying to get a WWII movie about Sweden off the ground.

    Van Damme has another movie soon to be released, his first American comedy – Welcome to The Jungle.

    Adkins has a horror action movie named Re-Kill that hasn’t yet been released.

    Van Damme filmed for a short role in a British sci-fi movie named UFO.

    Seagal fans should know that his tv show True Justice is airing in the US on the REELZ channel and that he is currently busy filming Season 2 of said tv show.

  17. And the months of January/February 2013 will bring us:
    – Stallone and Momoa (Stargate: Atlantis, Game of Thrones, Conan) in Bullet to The Head
    – Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Last Stand
    – Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney (from Spartacus) and Cole Hauser in Die Hard 5

    These 3 will be released with a space of two weeks between them.

    AND

    Stallone and Schwarzenegger, joined by James Caviezel (Transit, hit tv show Person of Interest, The Passion of Christ), Vincent D’Onofrio, Vinnie Jones and 50 Cent are busy filming THE TOMB – also to be released sometime in 2013.

    Schwarzenegger is gearing up two new movies: Ten (from director David Ayer) and Unknown Soldier (from the directors of Act of Valor).

    NOT TO MENTION the rumors that if The Expendables 2 is a financial success then Part 3 will get the green light to start pre-production. And the main rumor is that Seagal will be in the movie.

    These guys are busy – good for us!

  18. Dang, Vlad M. That’s a lot of good news to take in right there. Is “One in the Chamber” the one that either David Gordon Green or Danny McBride (or both of them?) had talked about doing for years? After his last few movies, I think Green should just go ahead and start making DTV – he’s practically making them already but flushing studio money down the toilet in the process.

  19. It’s weird that there would be any sort of ruckus raised by a “guest” director brought in to do some of the action. Apart from handful of perfectionist directors like Bay, Cameron and Nolan, most Hollywood directors just let the 2nd unit do the action scenes. Which is kind of stupid, as like Christopher Nolan has said, action is as an integral part of the movie as dialogue scenes so why do an action film at all if you’re not going to direct the action part? But it is part of a Hollywood tradition these days. Maybe it’s also one of the reasons for the rise of “post-action” scenes with shaky and blurry fight scenes – because the people who actually direct them don’t really have the talent or give a shit how the end result looks like.

    Maybe this situation is also unusual because DTV films don’t usually have the budget for multiple units, so the director actually has to direct everything.

  20. I think it’s different when the guest director is more famous than the main one. It gives the impression that the primary director was in over his head and needed to call in backup. It brings the authorship of the piece into question. Look at POLTERGEIST.

  21. A lot of directors thinks direction action is very tedious. So why not plan the shots with the second unit, and instead direct the actors in dialogue scene and only direct the shots where the actors are present in the action scenes. It’s also a time management thing. Even when they shoot for 6 months, the still need second and third units to get all in time. THe lord of the Rings films had a lot of units filming in the same time. Even Andy Serkins directed some second unit on The Hobbit.

    I know in Hong Kong there is a great tradition of Action Directors. Usually they shoot alone and the director goes and do something else. On the blu-ray of Kill zone there is a great feature where Donnie Yen and Bey Logan talks about this over b-roll footage of Donnie Yen shooting fight scenes. On that film director Wilson Yip was present, but that is unusual. They also shoot fight scenes for a lot longer. A short three minute fight scene can take several weeks, because they usually they shot the fights in segments instead of with multi-camera/master tradition. Where they shoot the fight scene several times with different camera angels.

    In Expandables 2 Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Arnie and Bruce Willis only shoot for like 4 days each. And they all have at least one action scenes they appear. So to shoot action scenes in so few days, they need lots of different units. In Expandables 2 they shot a lot with doubles. You can see behind the scenes shots of just doubles when there are no stunts in sight. It’s pretty weird. Even part of Jet Lis scenes where shot in Bulgaria with doubles, before they shot the rest of his scenes with him in Hong Kong.

  22. That’s a good point.

    Bringing in a big name director (and I suppose Florentine too is a big name, relatively speaking) always sounds like a really messy proposition. It is like a veiled insult to the original director, and whoever is brought in to salvage the situation leaves the impression that they either swooped in to steal the credit or came in to just wreck the whole picture.

    I’d love to see the original Hirschbiegel’s cut of THE INVASION. Because after Joel Silver and the Wachowskis & McTeague got their hands on it, the end result was a complete shitburger. It’s hard to imagine the cut from the director of the absolutely brilliant DOWNFALL could be any worse.

    But on the other hand, Renny Harlin was brought in to reshoot and fix the THE EXORCIST prequel. That too was terrible and everyone thought the original Paul Schrader’s version would have been a buried masterpiece butchered by the studio mandated and rewrites and reshoots. Then his version came out and it really wasn’t that good either. So who knows about these things. Like said, it’s always an ugly situation.

    I suppose the main difference between the after-the-fact guest director reshoots and a director dumping a chunk of the film for the 2nd unit to handle is that the former implies failure from the original director, while the latter is decided right from the start and it’s more of a delegation thing than a vote of confidence.

  23. Mr Majestyk, if it helps, I dress up as a viking every day and just this morning I had an axe battle over a horn full of mead with one of my neighbours, while a chorus of 50 naked valkyries was singing in the backyard of my house.
    And there IS a Santa Claus.

  24. I think the original Hirschbiegel’s cut of THE INVASION is almost the same only with less action, as it was the action scenes that was added. I guess Hirschbiegel tried more a drama or something more like Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, while the studio wanted a summer blockbuster.

    The International also had an shoot out added, because the test screening audience said it was too little action. It seems like if a film get bad test screening result, they just add action scenes. The International was directed by Tom Tykwer, and I’m not sure if he directed that scene.

  25. I thought the Guggenheim shootout was the *only* good thing in THE INTERNATIONAL.

  26. I’d say God bless you, CJ, if I hadn’t climbed up to heaven on a cross made of rusty iron and stabbed the sonofabitch through his glowing heart just this morning.

  27. As far as I know, there was a little bit more added than just action scenes to THE INVASION. I even heard that Q-Tip played an important part in the final act of the original version and it was all in all a more documentary like movie.

  28. The point it was that it got bad test screenings because the audience wants to see mainstream stuff, so they added action scenes and made it more mainstream. I’m not sure if James McTeigue directed more then the action scenes (it says it was a massive reshoot in 2006, but I’m not sure what else was added as these type of project usually don’t get directors commentary, even thought i think Renny Harlins has one for the Exorcist The Beginning, and Payback Straight Up is all about the changes and why things where cut). At this time he was also no longer a Second Unit director, but had done V for Vendetta as a director. But they probably also took away a lot from the original cut to make it faster and shorter.

  29. I’m not sure if there is an article about this but according to imdb posters The Wachowskis rewrote 60% of the scripts, and only 40% of the original version is still in the film, which means that there is a completely different cut, that Joel Silver first tried to fix with the editor of the overlong House of Wax remake.

  30. That PAYBACK is really interesting case, because I think both versions are great even if they are quite different.

    I love the Straight Up version because of the added don’t-give-a-fuck brutality and attitude, and the ending shootout. But the theatrical is also awesome because of the addition of James Coburn and fun scenes like the toe hammering.

    It’s the only instance I can think of where two different creative visions have taken a swing at a project and *both* managed to come out as solid, legitimately well-made versions of the same story.

  31. I like both versions, too. I just watched GET THE GRINGO, which I enjoyed quite a bit. With its mix of humor, casual brutality, and a callous hero who slowly reveals just a sliver of heart, it really does seem like PAYBACK 2: PORTER SOUTH OF THE BORDER, but only if we’re talking about the theatrical cut. There’s even more toe torture, but not for or by Mel.

  32. “That’s a great classical lead-up to the title, but would it have killed you to put in a “SCOTT ADKINS IS,” After Dark? Why does nobody ever get an “is” credit anymore? In fact he doesn’t even get his name on the opening”
    To be fair Vern, it should really be “SCOTT ADKINS ES”, since EL GRINGO is spanish. Mixing languages would be a bit of a faux pas.

    “Wait, no, this is kind of boring, why don’t we trace over the frame in Photoshop, so it looks more like a comic book? You know, like one of those comic books that’s traced over in Photoshop. I love it! ”
    You joke, but there are actual comics like that. Look up “Greg Land” if you don’t believe. He apparently based a number of female poses off of frames from porn movies.

    Every time I read the title “Stash House”, I instead think ” ‘Stache House”, which would obviously be a movie starring Tom Selleck, Burt Reynolds and Sam Elliot.

    Anyway, this sounds good. I’ll check it out when it gets a UK relase in…Setember. Fuck.

  33. So, STASH HOUSE is bad? That’s a shame, because I’m always rooting for Dolph. Even when he’s in shit movies, I can’t help but to cheer for him. The dude is just so likable.

    And speaking of him, I finally saw RED SCORPION for the first time. For the entire movie, I had a nagging feeling something about it was so familiar.

    Then I realized it had the same exact plot as AVATAR.

    I think I laughed for a whole minute.

  34. Red Scorpion is coming out on blu-ray soon if anyone is interested. Yeah I was surprised too.

  35. Knox Harrington

    May 14th, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Speaking of James McTeigue, I made the mistake of watching The Raven the other day. Ouch. Very uneven movie. Good concept, lots of potential, but just poorly executed, especially from a directing and editing point of view.

    I’m just about ready to give up on McTeigue. V For Vendetta was fine (obviously I’ll always compare it to Alan Moore’s great comic book), Ninja Assassin was a bit of a letdown, even though it had some fun moments. And now The Raven disappoints.

    I’ll have to file him under the same category that I place Doug Liman: Very promising start, but now he’s just shit.

  36. Knox Harrington

    May 14th, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Oh, and I’m very disappointed that Michael Jai White isn’t in El Gringo. I’d pay good money to see him and Adkins kick each other.

  37. On the subject of gringos, I just watch Mel Gibson’s “Get the Gringo” (also known as “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”) and it’s pretty good. Too much orange tint all over everywhere, but a couple cool badass moments from Gibson and a dark sort of comedic tone throughout.

  38. correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Red Scorpion pro-apartheid propaganda? I read that somewhere….

  39. It’s not so much pro-apartheid propaganda, Griff. But it was filmed in South Africa with the co-operation of the army before the fall of the apartheid regime, and that wasn’t excactly popular in the 80’s. If you haven’t seen it it’s basically one of Dolph’s many, many Russian anti-hero type movies. Pretty cool in it’s own lunacy.

  40. RED SCORPION is an okay movie I guess, were Dolph basically plays another russian death machine.
    It does have M.Emmett Walsh, a great old character actor who also starred alongside Norris in another Joseph Zito feature; MISSING IN ACTION. That one is a bit better in my opinion.

    Has anyone seen RED SCORPION 2? I´ve known of it for years, but never actually seen it.

  41. I don’t think anyone saw Red Scorpion 2. But I think I read somewhere that the guy who played James Garner as a young man in Space cowboys starred in it, and that it actually was better than Dolph’s original. By the way, Shoot, aren’t you under contract to like everything Rolf “Dolph” Lundgren does? For all those who like the big Swedes Russian death machines I can’t recommend The Mechanik enough.

  42. pegsman – as having too much downtime at the moment I decided to re-watch RED SCORPION now and confess I liked it a lot more now than I did before…so no contract breach here yet.
    THE MECHANIK is a movie I have yet to get around to watch, but I will when I find it available to buy.

  43. @Vlad M – Thanks for those action film updates. That was awesome. I used to keep up but I’ve been too busy being a Dad lately.

    Those DTV action directors you mentioned, what’s their best output lately? I think there must be many I’ve missed.

    Cheers.

  44. dreadguacamole

    May 15th, 2012 at 8:35 am

    “Mixing languages would be a bit of a faux pas.”

    Well, the movie does take place in “La Fronteras”; I don’t using language correctly is a priority. (or do they explain it as a typo or something? Since the director is mexican, it seems a bit odd that he didn’t do something about it.)

  45. @Henry Swanson

    Don’t know about their recent movies that much, but I like the work they did on the following movies:

    Simon Fellows – Until Death (Van Damme) – some of Van Damme’s best acting, a really personal performance as his character in the movie is a drug addicted cop and Van Damme has had some drug problems – this really fueled the movie and added some personality and depth. Fellows was not allowed to do what he wanted, the producer didn’t allow him to shoot the final action scene as it was written (it was supposed to be set in a warehouse that’s on flames), but Fellows manages to add some characterization and interesting visual elements to the movie

    Isaac Florentine – Undisputed 2 and his best work yest (to me) – Undisputed 3 – both with Scott Adkins. Florentine isn’t great with story, but manages to bitch slap people like Michael Bay when it comes to putting action on screen. Undisputed 3 is his best overall movie because he manages to put good ACTING on screen and a DECENT story, alongside mind blowing fights.

    Don E. FauntLeRoy – made probably the best DTV movie Seagal did – Urban Justice. Urban Justice was to me the only movie Seagal made after Exit Wounds that’s a real movie and not a sort of over the top parody of the man’s earlier work. Plus, Seagal’s character in this movie is the only one that suited his age and weight in a way. Seagal’s most mature and competent movie since Exit Wounds

    Franck Khalfoun – directed the Wes Bentley, Rachel Nichols horror/thriller movie P2 – BUT he also made one of the best DTVs ever – Wrong Turn at Tahoe – starring Cuba Gooding Jr, Miguel Ferrer, Harvey Keitel, Johnny Messner. This movie doesn’t have a lot of action, but it has great acting, a really good and engaging story, moments that remind us why Gooding has an Academy Award and with a bit more in the action department it could have easily been in cinemas.

    Jesse V. Johnson – mostly known for his stunt work on huge blockbusters, but he was able to take TINY budgets and make decent DTV action movies like: The Butcher (starring Eric Roberts, Robert Davi, Keith David, Geoffrey Lewis) and The Fifth Commandment (starring Rick Yune, Keith David, Bokeem Woodbine) and Charlie Valentine (starring Raymond J. Barry, Michael Weatherly, James Russo, Tom Berenger and Steven Bauer). Johnson is no genius or anything, but what he does with the budget he has is close to brilliant, plus he let’s acting veterans like Roberts, David and Davi chew the screen without limitations which always makes his movies fun.

    Ben Ramsey – directed the kickass Blood and Bone starring Michael Jai White, Julian Sands, Eamonn Walker and a cameo by Gina Carano.

    William Kaufman – a lot of people loved his Sinners and Saints and I personally liked his movie The Hit List (starring Cuba Gooding Jr, Cole Hauser and Jonathan LaPaglia) and he has a new movie coming out soon – One in the Chamber starring Cuba Gooding Jr and Dolph Lundgren. The Hit List wasn’t a masterpiece, but Kaufman has the skills to make mature, competent movies, he just seemed hampered by a lack of budget, what makes the movie good is the acting and the story – it’s sort of like Collateral (with Tom Cruise) in a way, only a low budget version of that.

    John Hyams – did wonders with Universal Soldier: Regeneration (Van Damme, Lundgren, Pyle, Arlovski) considering the budget he had and he also recently completed Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (Adkins, Van Damme, Lundgren, Arlovski) (which he wrote and directed, plus filmed it in 3D) and he was just a gun for hire on Cung Le’s Dragon Eyes.

    Roel Reine – made the other competent Seagal DTV – Pistol Whipped, but he did very, very good work on The Marine 2 and on Death Race 2, he also made the recent EXTREMELY low budget Scorpion King 3(which I found to be kind of crap).

    Sheldon Lettich is another director I’d like to see make a comeback, he wrote Van Damme’s BloodSport, Van Damme’s Legionnaire, co-wrote Rambo III, directed and wrote Van Damme’s Lionheart, Double Impact – both theatrical, he also made the hidden gem named Only the Strong (starring Marc Dacascos) and the VERY hard to find (but apparently decent) Perfect Target (starring Van Damme look-alike Daniel Bernhardt (most famous for The Matrix 2), Robert Englund (known for playing the original Freddy Kreuger – before the remake) and Brian Thompson). Lettich also directed his worst movie (by his own admittance) – The Last Patrol (starring Lundgren) and most recently he wrote and directed Van Damme in The Order and The Hard Corps. Lettich has posted a lot of stuff online about how on The Last Patrol he wasn’t allowed to do what he wanted by the producers, hence the movie was basically crap and how on The Hard Corps the producers didn’t allow him two extra days to shoot sum much needed action scenes and they also reduced the budget after shooting started.

    All these guys made really competent movies and I’d like to see the elders of the action star actors team up with these guys and keep making DTV action gems.

  46. By the way, if the people here want to catch up to what Van Damme has put out in the DTV world before they see his return on the big screen in The Expendables 2, I highly recommend:

    1) Wake of Death – filmed in South Africa, decent budget, pretty good direction, good cinematography, interesting story, a very good script – sort of like Van Damme’s take on Man on Fire.

    2) Until Death – watch it for the acting and the interesting directorial choices, but some of the action is messy. More of a thriller/drama with action, but a good one – look around for the European version – it has the PROPER ending, the US one has a tacked on happy ending that just doesn’t work

    3) Universal Soldier: Regeneration – Van Damme turns in another interesting acting performance and despite being on set for a limited time he managed to do some good action too. His fight vs Dolph is almost a classic, especially for a DTV.

    4) Replicant – DTV in the US but theatrical in a lot of other places (around Europe too) – Van Damme in another double role, once as the serial killer The Torch and he is great in it and again as the The Torch’s clone, another good performance. Michael Rooker plays a hard ass cop. The production values are way above regular DTV levels and it is a good movie – directed by Ringo Lam who had previously worked with Van Damme in Maximum Risk

    5) In Hell – put this one on fifth place as it is basically a low budget take on The Shawshank Redemption (mixed in with tiny elements of The Fugitive), but with some interesting elements of what happens to a regular, decent guy is placed in a damn hard prison among savages. Cool fights and a cool story, plus very competent direction from Ringo Lam make this a must watch. Little known fact, it made around USD 30 million from rentals/sales when it went DTV in the US and was considered a massive hit. Plus, another good performance from Van Damme who NAILS his character.

    6)Assassination Games – not amazing, but decent. An action thriller in which Van Damme co-stars with Scott Adkins. Neither of them shine though as the movie is supposed to be more of a thriller so there’s not a lot of fights. It was made for very little money and it had a short production schedule and it shows as towards the end the movie runs out of steam due to a lack of funds for action scenes. Van Damme tries again to create an interesting character, but in the end it’s below his other good acting efforts, mostly because the script just isn’t there. Adkins is ok, but his character is sort of generic and blandly written. It is a decent movie overall, but it could have been much more. It did however manage to be the first Van Damme starring action movie to get a cinema release in the US (albeit EXTREMELY limited) since 1999’s Universal Soldier: The Return. I said action movie as 2008’s drama-semi-autobiographical movie JCVD was also given a limited release in US cinemas, but that isn’t an action movie. Assassination Games was also the first time Adkins was seen as an actor in cinemas in the US. His very, very brief cameo in The Bourne Ultimatum and his doubling for Ryan Reynolds in X-Men: Wolverine almost don’t count.

    AND

    A MUST WATCH: the man’s best movie to date in a way, but it isn’t an action movie.
    Made in 2008, JCVD is a semi-biographical depiction of Van Damme, his life, his troubles, the audience’s perception of him, etc. It’s sort of a parable as it takes real life elements from his life, but twists them around so much as they are almost fictional in the end. For example, Van Damme wasn’t in a custody battle over his daughter, it was over his son Nicolas and he never was involved in a bank robbery, but he has been forced to do DTV action movies to pay his bills (he admitted to making Derailed only for the money).

    Nicolas Cage praised Van Damme’s acting in this and the movie is VERY well directed and it was theatrical GLOBALLY (limited in the US). Watch the original French version if you can as the acting is natural and brilliant in that one, don’t watch the English dub version as apparently it loses a lot.

    Heartfelt, original, amusing, sad, funny – it’s all of the above. It provides a realistic glimpse into the business side of the DTV world, it showcases the rise and fall of a human being and an actor (same person) and it is one of the bravest things I’ve seen an actor do (use fiction to present an honest and open view about his life).

    Highly recommended.

  47. dreadguacamole – sorry, it was actually El Fronteras in the movie. I just fixed it in the review.

  48. Good list, Vlad. I don’t have the same faith in FauntLeRoy. Of course I enjoy his Seagal movies, but Mercenery For Justice is not one of the better ones. Urban Justice definitely is, but I don’t know… I haven’t rushed out to see his two Anaconda sequels. But I guess if someone told me they were good I would.

    But I’m with you on most everything else. Glad you like Only the Strong, too.

    Thanks for mentioning Wrong Turn at Tahoe again. I forgot that was the same guy that did P2 (and the upcoming remake of Maniac). I’ll try to remember to rent it.

  49. Other movies with Van Damme that are ok:

    Desert Heat (also known as Inferno) – weird, but interesting, it’s sort of Yojimbo meets Pulp Fiction in a way. It was made for decent money, but what starts out as very interesting and engaging story is ruined by a script that’s too stuck in the 80s, despite the movie being made in 1999. It also co-stars Danny Trejo, Pat Morita, Bill Erwin and Jaime Pressly. It’s messy and weird, but that doesn’t stop it from being interesting. Sort of a modern day western through a dirty lens.

    The Shepherd: Border Patrol – Van Damme stars, Adkins is one of the bad guys, Isaac Florentine directs. The producers messed this one up, the filmed in Bulgaria in the winter (the movie takes place in Mexico), the production values are kind of low and there are other issues. Certainly not one of Florentine’s best, but it does have Van Damme kicking and shooting and doing more action that in most of his other DTVs. Not bad for a DTV, but it’s not one of his best.

    The Order – interesting movie by Sheldon Lettich, but it’s messy as well – it kind of goes between action comedy and violent action movie on a twist and it suffers from it. The comedic parts are excellent though, the production values are high (partly filmed in Israel), the locations are great, Van Damme has some cool fights and there’s a brief cameo from Charlton Heston. Also, the movie has Ben Cross in it and he’s an amazing actor (was Spock’s dad in 2009’s Star Trek) who does these DTVs for the quick cash and the female lead is none other than Sofia Milos who went on to star in CSI: Miami and other US made tv shows. Not a perfect movie in the least, but it was made with the hope of getting it theatrically released and despite its many flaws, it stands above other DTVs due to its scale and size. It’s a fun watch and it also has a catchy theme song.

  50. @Outlaw Vern

    Wrong Turn at Tahoe was a huge surprise for me. It’s not a DTV movie in ANYTHING other than it’s budget which kept it from having the action at the proper levels. I really liked it.

    P.S. I’m not pimping Van Damme or anything, sorry if my posts about his movies were out of place or anything. I’d do write ups on the other action guys too, but perhaps people would be bored. Out of all the DTV guys, I like Van Damme the best because he was one of the few who tried to improve himself as an actor despite being in DTV. Only other guy I like for the same reason is Lundgren who pushed himself to be a pretty damn good DTV director.

  51. @Vlad M

    Okay, so I’ve seen pretty much everything on your lists except for ‘Only the Strong’ and ‘Wrong Turn at Tahoe’ (is that meant to be a Maori place? It certainly sounds like it to a Kiwi, but I assume it’s something else?). Speaking of Mark Dacasocoscasecas, I’d love to see his Manga action film again where he wore a mask, whatever it was called, it’s on the tip of my tongue… Crying Freeman? Crying Morgan Freeman?

    I also used to own ‘Perfect Target’ on VHS (before my wife sold my 300 or so VHS at a garage sale for $20 to an old guy (without my permission!!). But in her defense my VHS collection was sitting in boxes in the basement gathering dust (and possibly mould).

    I went through a Daniel Bernhardt phase and I absolutely loved Bloodsport 2 (which I think is highly underrated, but that’s just an assumption). The next two (three?) he did were shit though.

    ‘Perfect Target’ had some great moments. Though I could never get over the strange feeling that I was watching some parallel Van Damme universe where he had gone through The Twilight Zone and come out looking slightly different and made a few DTVs.

    I know the Sheldon Lettich film output / his stories all too well. I’m a HUGE fan of Double Impact and can basically quote the entire film “… what’s it supposed to do make my dick bigger?”. As I kid I loved the mix of comedy, martial arts and gunfights, and definitely noticed that he had a great eye for laying out action sequences. You can certainly tell it’s the same director on The Order, which made it all the more painful for me. I liked it, but it only had that one really decent fight on the roof tops and the ending was an awful let-down with people wandering around a crappy set which Sheldon’s DP tried to hide with dark lighting.

    I never really liked ‘Replicant’ even though it was seen as his best DTV to date at that point, I just find it boring. ‘In Hell’ has really grown on me, I think it’s great, though I love prison films which is why I can’t wait for Sly and Arnie’s ‘The Tomb’. I wonder if it will have shades of the Tango & Cash prison escape sequence?

    Here’s my action heroes / HK cinema section on the shelf: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/9042947/my_action_dvds_resized.jpg

  52. All I’ve taken away from these comments is a burning desire to see “Stache House”. Thanks Stu.

  53. I’m currently on a Dolph bender, but the quality varies so much that I’ve decided to seek some help. Any Lundgren connesseurs out there who can give me some tips?

  54. pegsman- don´t watch DETENTION, I remember it being real shitty.

  55. I don’t know what you’ve seen so I’m just gonna throw out some ones I like. MEN OF WAR, thanks to its John Sayles script, is probably his best movie, drama-wise. ARMY OF ONE has some great ridiculous action courtesy of veteran stuntman Vic Armstrong’s direction. BRIDGE OF DRAGONS is a weird sci-fi/fantasy/action hybrid directed by Isaac Florentine, which makes it automatically better than nine out of ten DTV joints (plus it costars Outlaw Vern favorite Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). DIRECT ACTION (from Sidney J. Furie) is your basic Eastern European DTV, but done pretty well, with some good stunts and shootouts and not too much filler. You’ve probably seen his directorial works, but of them, I think THE MECHANIK is probably his best, a real meat-and-potatoes, no-frills kinda shoot-em-up with a real brutal tone.

  56. I COME IN PEACE could possible be my favourite Dolph-movie of all-time. Really likes his performance in that movie. Plus you don´t always get to see a villain posting christmas cards to his archnemesis just to rub it in how much he enjoys life in a paradise resort.

  57. I also liked Dolph’s Icarus/The Killing Machine – a thriller with action scenes about a cold war hitman and his past that comes back to kick his ass – it was a good one.

    I really liked Dolph’s The Mechanik – Ben Cross gives a standout performance in this one and the soundtrack is pretty damn good since it’s composed by Elia Cmiral (among other stuff he did the soundtrack for De Niro’s Ronin).

    Also liked his The Defender, kind of cheap, but the story is more intelligent and thought out than expected. Also, Dolph plays a guy who is part of a team and he allows the other team members to have their moments. Quite pleasantly surprised by this one.

    Missionary Man – pretty decent modern day western of sorts with a decent cast, but Dolph himself said that when the DVDs for the movie were prepared to be made the company handling this messed up the colors on the movie, that’s why it kind of looks grey-ish.

    Hidden Agenda is good because it has a decent story too and some nice action, but the story is also very convoluted and kind of hard to follow. It’s an espionage action thriller and out of the low budget ones, at least it tries to be more than just a run of the mill action movie.

    If you can find it (I haven’t) – 1998’s Blackjack, a TV action movie starring Dolph and directed by John Woo is pretty good I heard. Kind of weird in that Woo-meets-USA kind of way and it wasn’t DTV it was made for TV, but I did year it’s enjoyable and competent.

    1996’s Silent Trigger directed by Russell Mulcahy (The Highlander, Resident Evil: Extinction, The Shadow) is pretty good too. Fun piece of trivia – it features an appearance by one of my favorite TV actors: Christopher Heyerdahl (from the Stargate TV shows, from Sanctuary, etc).

    1991’s Cover Up in which he co-stars with none other than Louis Gossett Jr. is quite interesting and good from what I hear (can’t find it either) and the movie is directed by Manny Coto who later on was a producer on the hit tv show 24 and for Star Trek: Enterprise.

    1993’s Joshua Tree/One Man Army directed by Vic Armstrong (famous stunt director for a huge list of blockbusters) features large amounts of action and is a fun watch.

    1990’s Dark Angel/I Come in Peace is a fun action-sci-fi movie which is a good, fun watch. Brian Benben is in this and he’s quite funny, plus the movie has a very memorable final one liner from Dolph.

    Also give Command Performance it’s cheesy fun and it is built around the idea of Die Hard at a rock concert. Dolph plays a drummer and there’s a scene where he actually play the drums as he can play those in real life (besides having a very high IQ and a masters in Chemical Engineering or something like that). Who knew, right? As the movie takes place at a concert, there some hot babes, good music, decent action, but it’s sort of a remnant of the 80s, if you watch it with that in mind, you may like it.

    Here’s the teaser trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KbzoY9JUCg

    Here’s the movie’s website: http://www.commandperformance-themovie.com/ Plenty of videos, trailer, interviews, etc

    In Command Performance, Dolph plays the part of a drummer in a rock band. The band is actually a real band, they’re called D2 and they’re from Bulgaria. They made a music video with Dolph on the drums (for real) for a song called Breakdown (I think it’s in the movie too): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gECJD4REOBE The video has scenes from the movie in it.

    And a local popstar from that part of the world also appears in the movie, her name is Irson and here’s a music video filmed on the set of the movie (parts of it are in the actual movie): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XSYfAfLR1k . This video is basically how the concert scenes in the movie look like.

  58. @Mr. Majestyk

    Forgot about Direct Action, yeah it’s DTV but it was filmed in the US/Canada. Sidney J.Furie is the director and the movie is decent, but not great.

    Funny story, Furie was supposed to direct The Defender but 2 weeks before filming was support to start, he got really ill and the producers wanted to cancel the movie. Dolph said he’d direct it, the producers said why not and that’s how Dolph started directing his own movies.

    I have to track down Bridge of Dragons one of these days. It is memorable because right around that time Dolph was in serious hard ass training to get a new dan on his black belt and apparently it shows in the movie as his kicks and martial arts are top notch.

  59. I love Dolph because the man is so awesomely down to Earth and humble, very intelligent and ALWAYS puts in 100% in his movie. Plus, he’s done very interesting things to spice up his movie (play drum on Command Performance, shave his head for Diamond Dogs,etc). I really admire him because he is fully aware that the movies he directs are DTV action movies but he always tries to make something interesting and not just dumping movies out on DVD for a quick cash grab.

  60. Thanks for all the advice. The last week I’ve seen Diamond Dogs, Iron Man, The Mechanik and The Peacekeeper. Next up is Men of War or Missionary Man.

  61. Men of War is kickass. I liked it a lot, production values are very good, the story is kind of funky, but I really liked it.

  62. Men of War trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvwxcs6ig1k (ignore the voice guy, this was a temporary trailer, not the one that was released).

    And some clips (might contain spoilers):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0JtrRJYUgs
    and
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwqLhHsG93A

  63. Vlad: Yeah, you’re right. DIRECT CONTACT was the Eastern European one I was thinking of. DIRECT ACTION is the better movie, though.

  64. For my tastes Director Contact sucked, just poorly made, however, since it was directed by its producer, it had plenty of action, just poorly directed action. Other people liked it a lot though. To me, it was just to silly (grenades that when they explode they release a sort of impotent flash and a small puff of smoke and people barely run away) to be a good movie.

  65. I too have a soft spot for BRIDGE OF DRAGONS. It’s a really bizarre and fun mash-up of alternate history or fantasy or whatever, with WW2 looking gear and such. And you can’t go wrong with a villain that’s played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.

    Also, as an added bonus, Dolph’s character name is Warchild. That’s both crazy and awesome.

  66. EVERYONE, please excuse my spelling/grammar/vocabulary errors, I’m posting these in brief free moments while at work, hence the mistakes and I don’t have time to proofread before hitting submit. I hope I am not that annoying.

  67. I Come in Peace is that the one that’s also called Dark Angel?

  68. Nobody’s mentioned SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO, have they? That’s one of the bettter Dolphs. It’s him teamed with a nerdy Brandon Lee, going up against C-HT, directed by Mark L. COMMANDO Lester.

    BLACKJACK is definitely my favorite, though. He’s very charismatic and the story is enjoyably absurd and I still think his character is supposed to be gay even if the screenwriter didn’t return my email to verify it.

  69. I was thinking of mentioning SHOWDOWN, but I suspected pegsman already seen it since he wanted advice on movies he may have missed. Its one of those must-see´s…

  70. BLACKJACK is such an odd entry in the John Woo filmography. What compelled him to do a TV movie at the height of his Hollywood career? He did it after FACE/OFF was a hit, and before even bigger hit MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2.

    Was it originally meant to be a bigger budget thing, or maybe a pilot for a TV show?

    Fun movie, even the choice for the hero’s weakness was a bizarre one. And the lack of budget really constricts Woo from really revving up his action directing chops. Dolph is solid in it, though.

  71. Okay, IMDB says it was TV pilot. Huh. Would have been cool to see a Dolph Lundgren TV show.

    Woo doesn’t seem to have much luck with his TV endeavors. BLACKJACK didn’t get off the ground, LOST IN SPACE was absolutely terrible, and even his longest running project, ONCE A THIEF, lasted only one season.

  72. I also suspect the screenwriter of BLACKJACK have no clue how to write children characters. According to this movie she likes to drink milk and hugging cuddly animal toys. She looks like she is like 12 or something,unless she´s retarded that is the behaviour of 5-year olds.

  73. But yes, BLACKJACK is definitely a good one. It has some quirks that makes it stand out and some good Woo set-pieces. Can´t get enough of those.

  74. He also directed another tv-pilot. ONCE A THIEF. That actually became a 22-episode series. Not a bad one either. the actors are likeable enough. Both Nicholas Lea an Ivan Sergei are actors I like.

  75. I’ve seen Showdown and Blackjack. Liked them both very much. I’ve seen eveything from 1985 to 1995 (except for Men of War) + the ones I mentioned earlier (and Expendables).

  76. Once a Thief is of course based on Woo’s 1991 movie with yun-fat Chow and Leslie Cheung. Strange choice for a television series, but as Shoot says not a bad one. They skipped most of the slapstick, though.

  77. The pilot has the only very loose connection to Woos classic caper-movie.The series itself..well…what a strange idea really to enlist compulsive criminals to fight crime…oh…whatever

  78. I went with Bridge of Dragons, and it was pretty cool in the same strange way that Diamond Dogs was. Florentine’s action scenes were better though.

  79. Joshua Tree is definitely my favorite Dolph film. The shoot-outs are fantastic. Certainly in the top 5 best non-Woo shootouts of all time.

    The bit where he rubs fruit on the ladies boobs and licks it off is pretty great too.

    I must see what else that director has done.

  80. That director is famed stuntman Vic Armstrong. As far as I know, he never directed another movie, but he doubled Harrison Ford for decades, so he’s basically the other Indiana Jones.

  81. Armstrong directed an episode of Young Indiana Jones too, but that was it.

  82. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    May 17th, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    …Well I was late to the party on this one. And the review of “El Gringo” makes me think I might be a little disappointed with this one. A pity, the trailers looked great. Oh well.

    I’ve been doing some digging into lesser-known recent horror movies, and it’s not paying off. Most of them seem to be lesser-known for a reason. I’ll throw out a few reviews if I can be bothered.

  83. Just saw Men of War, and it was a surprisingly deep, strangely moving and hugely entertaining little movie.

  84. Okay movie, this. Really good for Scott Adkins fans. This makes 2 movies this year that star him and machetes and bloodied white tank tops. Not a bad badass 2012 resume, in my opinion.

    Kinda uninspired movie, EL GRINGO, except for all the conventional parts that were obviously inspired by something else (YOJIMBO, FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, Waiting for Godot, MARIACHI, etc.), but well executed, mostly efficient, and entertaining action.

    The stupid “in the 21st century every asshole who’s seen post-PULP FICTION crime cinema and has Final Cut software now does this” editing/videoshopping that Vern details in the review is a little annoying, but now that I think of it it has a purpose — see, all the characters have a name (displayed in their fucking comic book panel intro) except for The Man, a.k.a. The Man With No Name, a.k.a. “El Gringo” in my opinion. So the style, the silly editing & aesthetic choices, complements the script & totem of significance of the characters.

    Anyway, it’s a satisfying movie, probably easy to forget but fun while it lasts, except for one sequence which is legitimately awesome. The big gun battle. Scott Adkins trying to catch a bus and interrupted by a bunch of assholes with pistols, submachine guns, modified assault rifles, a rocket launcher (!!), and one grenade. It’s great how he seems so reluctant to engage these punks, but then calculatedly scoops up their fallen weapons & magazines and goes COMMANDO on the lot.

    It’s a White Savior Complex movie (Adkins cleaning house & “rescuing” a bunch of brown people), but for an extended moment around the 45 minute-55 minute mark it becomes a Kill Everything That Moves movie. And that part is excellently filmed and very exciting. Almost as good as some of the awesome ADKINS SMASH! carnage in UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING.

  85. Caught this one on Netflix last night and really enjoyed it. Some of the stylistic touches were annoying and it has I think the worst sex scene that I’ve ever watched. As someone noted above, the lack of nudity was a big letdown, but aside from that there were about 2,000 cuts in that one scene alone. It was like watching a fight from a Bourne movie. Super annoying. And there were quite a few parts that just didn’t make sense which took some effort to ignore. Like why did they lock him in a cell and leave him on his own before killing him? I know it’s so he could escape but it was very clumsily executed, like most of the plot. And at the end, El Gringo just kept walking away from the main bad guys and letting them sneak up on him again (after being a merciless killing machine for like the entire movie).

    Anyway, the gun fight was awesome – I loved how it just kept going with such a preposterous body count.

    Also, Get the Gringo was a much better flick.

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