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

Close Range

tn_closerangeCLOSE RANGE is the new one from the DTV action power team of star Scott Adkins and director Isaac Florentine. That’s an event because it’s been two years since NINJA 2, and it seems like longer.

I think this is Adkins’ gruffest performance without a Russian accent (he plays American). This time his character Colton MacReady is

1) an ex-Special Forces guy who’s
2) now on the run because he
3) “disobeyed an order that would’ve disgraced him and his uniform” and then
4) “put his superior officer in the hospital” so
5) “He’s been on the run ever since.”

That’s a backstory that could’ve been created with a refrigerator magnet set of action movie cliches, but I’m not against that. Those are good magnets.

I’m not sure about calling it “CLOSE RANGE” though. A better title would be “THERE IS A GRINGO THAT IS KILLING EVERYBODY!”, which is what a guy yells as he flees from the opening scene, a THE RAID-esque series of long takes in which MacReady invades a Mexican cartel’s office building hideout and kicks, flips, slashes, stabs and smashes eight different henchmen in pursuit of his abducted niece Hailey (Madison Lawlor). He brings her home but also (by accident) a thumb drive that brings down the wrath of the cartel and the local law enforcement who are in their pocket. The compromised sheriff is played by Nick Chinlund (CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK).

mp_closerangeMacReady is not a lovable character. He hasn’t seen his niece in so long he has to ask her if she remembers him. He bluntly tells his angry sister Angela (Caitlin Keats, who is a friend of the bride in the wedding scene of KILL BILL VOLUME 2) that he didn’t do this for her. He doesn’t make jokes. When a deputy asks if the guys shooting at them are “friends of yours” he says, “I don’t got no fuckin friends,” and I’m sure he’s telling the truth.

His niece seems to like him anyway, and his sister likes to brag about how deadly he is, saying stuff like “My brother’s coming back for us. He’s gonna kill all of you.” Then she smiles.

He gets sort of a Just How Badass Is He? speech courtesy of the sheriff. It starts with “He was a soldier. A highly decorated one at that, but… he was a loose cannon.”

I like that it’s his sister, not his ex-wife or something, because there’s no love story or sexual tension in the movie at all. We don’t need that in every movie that ever gets made, but most filmatists haven’t caught on to that. The only couple is her and her ex, Walt (Jake La Botz, who played “Reese” in RAMBO), the dipshit whose debts to the cartel got Hailey kidnapped in the first place, and who they (and especially MacReady) openly disdain.

The opening text compares MacReady to an outlaw ronin. The sheriff says he’s a “low life drifter” doing illegal jobs while having “no real possessions, nothing he can’t walk away from.” But really the movie treats him more like a cowboy. This is kind of like a companion piece to Adkins’ EL GRINGO, but on the north side of the border. Like so many low budget action movies this takes place in a small desert town where nobody lives except the main characters and a bunch of cops, and they all know each other on a first name basis. They’re cowboys that drive SUVs instead of horses. So in a way MacReady is the gunman who disappeared long ago and has wandered back into town to straighten things out.

A western influence is also betrayed by the guitar-and-whistling-heavy score by long time Florentine composer Stephen Edwards (HIGH VOLTAGE, BRIDGE OF DRAGONS, COLD HARVEST, U.S. SEALS II, SPECIAL FORCES, UNDISPUTED II, NINJA).

The fights are very good; as hard, fast, acrobatic and varied as UNDISPUTED III, but in the dirt instead of the ring, and often with guns that he has to pry out of people’s hands and throw away or choke or smack them with. The choreographer is Jeremy Marinas (stunt double for Sub-Zero in MORTAL KOMBAT: LEGACY), who also has one of the big fights against him.

Marinas has a bunch of videos like this on Youtube:

…so I have learned that that’s called “tricking” and it’s a combination of martial arts, gymnastics and dance moves. He doesn’t use it so much in this one, other than getting thrown around a little.

The best fight is against some guys with guns in an SUV. MacReady has a gun too but he doesn’t just do some boring shooting. He plays chicken with them, running up the hood and over the top, then (since his gun jams) matadoring them into a cliff which he runs up it, spins around and jumps onto the hood and kicks in the windshield.

still_closerange1

still_closerange

Come to think of it, there are some real John-Woo-circa-HARD-TARGET/BLACKJACK/MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE 2 type moves in this. Like when he kicks a guy and pushes himself backwards into a somersault, then runs with his gun pointed and firing backwards, without even looking. In slow motion, of course. And there’s definitely some Woo in the massive amounts of ammo used and guns discarded in the long shootout in and around the house, firing through windows, doors, walls and ceilings. One difference is that eventually they’re going to run out of guns and have a one-on-two fight with flying kicks, grappling and a fatal ball-stab.

This is a solid movie in the vein of mid-period Van Damme that will serve its purpose in the Scott Adkins library. Unfortunately we’re so thirsty for good classical action that we wait with baited breath for the new Florentine joint, and to be honest this didn’t make me as elated as the UNDISPUTEDs and the NINJAs did when they arrived. I guess because we’ve caught on to Florentine. He can’t surprise us with quality in unexpected places. Now we take it for granted.

I wonder if my subdued reaction points to the value of mistakes in a movie like this? Here is a traditional story, well structured. The action scenes are great, well shot and frequent, the lead has a strong badass presence, the supporting actors are good, if slightly on the blandly polished Lifetime movie side at times. There’s nothing really ridiculous or laughable in it unless you count those awesome moves against the SUV I mentioned. I think it could use some more unpredictable craziness or straight-faced absurdity.

The biggest thing missing  is a colorful fighting villain who’s a worthy opponent, like Marko Zaror or Kane Kosugi. Tony Perez (Detective #1, HARD TO KILL) is good as Fernando Garcia, the cartel leader who pretends to be a friendly family man but is actually a mass murderer, but he’s just an old man with guns, he’s not a martial artist. We haven’t seen a samurai sword on his wall. He doesn’t have an 8 foot tall behemoth bodyguard he keeps on a chain. And he’s not hissably douchey enough for us to cheer on a one-sided, OUT FOR JUSTICE style beating. It’s not much of a matchup, so MacReady doesn’t even end up taking him on at the end… he takes on another character who’s arguably even less of a threat.

But like I said, this is really a western that happens to have a ridiculous amount of great martial arts in it. So it’s okay that it ends with a quick-draw face off instead of fisticuffs. It’s very well done, and I appreciated that more on the second viewing. I’d definitely be down to follow the drifting adventures of Colton MacReady in CLOSE RANGE 2, a.k.a. THERE IS A GRINGO THAT IS KILLING EVERYBODY AGAIN!

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, February 1st, 2016 at 9:03 am and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, 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.

32 Responses to “Close Range”

  1. The Original Paul

    February 1st, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Well the SUV jump alone sells it for me.

  2. “A better title would be “THERE IS A GRINGO THAT IS KILLING EVERYBODY!”, which is what a guy yells as he flees from the opening scene”

    Great mind, etc.: I texted Mouth that exact joke the second that line popped up. It’s a very spaghetti western-sounding title. Certainly better than the one they went with.

    Also, that tagline makes no sense. Nobody’s out for vengeance in the whole movie.

    I like this type of story, though, so I liked this movie. It’s cool that Florentine just takes a tried-and-true plot and doesn’t belabor us with the minutiae. He knows we get the gist–The likelihood of CLOSE RANGE being someone’s first action movie is slim–so he’s able to sketch everything out in shorthand and move us along to the stuff we actually came here to see. I really don’t need all those scenes of whitewashed flashbacks and symbolic pieces of jewelry and declarations of redemption and all that shit other DTV directors/Alejandro González Iñárritu put in so they can pretend they’re making a drama with action elements instead of an actual action movie. You get the sense Florentine legitimately doesn’t give a fuck about drama except in its ability to add motivation to an action scene, so he only shoots as little of it as he absolutely needs to. It’s nice to see a director who’s not embarrassed by the genre he’s working in. Plus, without all that wheel-spinning, we’re in and out in 85 minutes. Perfect for this sort of thing.

    I hope he makes an old-fashioned “DIE HARD in a ______” next.

  3. You guys are texting each other? That helps explain why sometimes the talk backs feel like I’m eaves dropping on a conversation between people at another table that you really wish you could join but are too afraid you’re not going to say anything of interest so you just keep listening and being jealous.

    Also, Vern, I’m sorry for being surly about this review for some unknown reason. You can hold off Hard Target review for whenever you see fit to release it for consumption. Continue on with your Lucas stuff. :)

    Also, I haven’t even seen this yet so *sad trombone*

  4. That’s okay Sternshein. I’m actually really excited to get to HARD TARGET, I just want to do it justice this time. Just a few more Lucasfilms and I’m free.

  5. Sternshein: Mouth is the only one here I text. We met a few years back when he visited New York and we became good friends, although he remains appropriately mysterious. I’m also Facebook friends with Dan Prestwich and Mr. Subtlety, who are in a band together. Everybody else is known to me only from what they post here. So you’re not that far out of the loop.

    Also, the guy who says “THERE’S A GRINGO THAT IS KILLING EVERYBODY!”‘s next line is ‘HE’S KILLING EVERYBODY UPSTAIRS!,” which would be a great title for Florentine’s hypothetical DIE HARD ripoff.

  6. Looking forward to checking this out. The world always needs more Florentine/Adkins joints. Also hoping Scott Adkins is more then just a nameless henchmen in the upcoming Dr. Strange. I’m sure that probably what he’ll end up being, but I’m still excited to see him book some larger films.

    That new ‘Brothers Grimsby’ movie looks godawful, but the line where Sacha Baron-Cohen refers to Adkins as ‘Ukranian Ben Affleck’ made me laugh. Scott Adkins truly does look like the love child of Ryan Reynolds and Ben Affleck. He should have been hired as Reynolds fighting double for Deadpool, like he was in the terrible Wolverine Origins movie.

  7. Just to clear something. UNDISPUTED: BOYKA was actually ghost directed by Issac Florentine right? (Despite what the trailer credits say).

  8. I want to like this more than I did. And I don’t really know why I don’t like it as much as I want. There was so much that was great about it. The action/fighting was stellar. I loved how almost every line he delivered he sounded pissed off. I love movies where the setup is one location and/or setup. This one the location did move a little, but it’s still that simple story of one event. I call them Haunted House stories. Those are my jam. All the cliches Vern mentions are right on.

    It was almost non-stop action, but I didn’t really get a feeling of building tension that would’ve had me at the edge of my seat, like you get in say THE RAID. That first fight he had with the Mexicans after they followed him home was probably my favorite. As it was unfolding I was thinking, “This is awesome! Great camera work, showing the action up close and moving it around. It felt so dynamic and like I was right in it with them, but I could SEE EVERYTHING because it wasn’t too close and it was steady! This is how you film fight scenes. And squibs! Real blood squirting out and not just CGI blood.” Then the whole thing with the SUV still had me pumped.

    After that it kind of deflated. The fights were still awesome, but they were repetitive. Or maybe it was because it was one henchman after another with no main henchman waiting in the wings. The whole scene where they introduced the henchmen showing their names on the screen was a complete waste. I remembered maybe two of their names and that’s because they were Lobo and Loco. Other than that, who cared what their names were? It didn’t matter in the least who they were. They were Adkins fodder. Vern was right on about needing a badass one for him to face at the end.

    **I think SPOILERS in this paragraph** Also, all the shooting into the house, but not hitting anyone, and shooting out of the house into the cars and not hitting anyone. Then shooting into the upstairs and not hitting anyone, and shooting into the downstairs and not hitting anyone just went on too long. It really sabotaged any tension or momentum they had going. The final stare-down with the sheriff went on so long I was expecting Peter Griffin and the rooster to come fighting through.

    In conclusion, even though I didn’t love it as much as I wanted, I still really, really liked it. Please keep it up, Scott and Isaac, you’re our favorite and we love you.

  9. Vern, let me start by saying I saw this on Viaplay…

    I really liked this. It reminds me somewhat of Van Damme’s NOWHERE TO RUN, and I guess that was deliberate move from Florentine.

    Looking forward to HARD TARGET 2, even if I doubt that Sequel Man Roel Reine is the new John Woo.

  10. Sternshein, no reason to feel left out just because everyone here meet on a regular basis in Majestyk’s apartment…

  11. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 2nd, 2016 at 1:45 am

    Maggie – agreed with you on all points. I too didn’t like it as much as I wanted to, even though I liked the simple one location setup and the action was mostly great (just not any action related to shooting guns, because dudes shooting at each other for minutes without anybody ever hitting anyone else just gets old real fast). Weirdly enough for a film this lean, I still felt most of the scenes that didn’t include action dragged, mostly because of poorly written dialogue and acting (mainly Chinlund and the old bad guy). It’s the one area Florentine often stumbles I think, if these things were just a little bit better written they could be films I’d love to watch from start to finish, instead of feeling the constant need to skip forward to the next action scene (I didn’t do that here, but I was tempted).

    With regard to Close Range specifically, it’s interesting to know that the film was shot on a crazy schedule of only 17 days. Adkins mentioned in an interview that he normally does not accept projects like this (although they are becoming more and more common) because he feels there is not enough time to do a good enough job and deliver what people expect from his films. In this case he felt they could do it because of the limited locations. I would argue though, that you can still see the lack of time and budget everywhere and that it hurts the film. That opening bit with the freeze frames and all the useless names? Adkins admitted they added that purely because they needed to hit a certain running time and they had already used every single bit of footage that they shot!

  12. Trailer for the New Undisputed. Unfortunately, Isaac Florentine did not direct it and Ross Clarkson didn’t shoot it. And it shows. The rest looks like traditional Undisputed style fighting.

    Boyka: Undisputed | Official Trailer [HD] | Scott Adkins

    In the fourth installment of the fighting franchise, Boyka is shooting for the big leagues when an accidental death in the ring makes him question everything...

  13. About the mystery of Isaac Florentine not having a director’s credit on BOYKA: our man david j. moore is looking into this. He was as confused as everyone else, having recently interviewed Florentine, who was editing the movie at the time. I’ll let everyone know if I hear anything illuminating.

  14. Maggie: I watched it again last night and was reminded of how hilariously drawn-out that final stand-off is. It reminded me of a cross between the vomiting gag in TEAM AMERICA (where it goes on so long that it’s not funny anymore, then goes on so much longer than that that it circles back around to being funny again) and the opening scene of BEAVIS & BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA (where the POV keeps panning back and forth between the missing TV and the footprints leading up to the broken window like 12 times before they finally get what happened).

    In other words, it was a stylistic triumph.

  15. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 2nd, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    I’ve always thought that Team America vomit gag missed the mark by being not quite long enough, it cuts away just before it would have become truly hilarious. Genius idea though, with a truly great orchestral score building and building underneath. It’s a score better than 95% of any scores accompanying films today, and it was put under a minute long vomiting scene. Gotta applaud that. Just a shame it cuts away before it gets truly epic.

    And indeed that stand-off in Close Range is ludicrous, especially because I’m pretty sure it was meant seriously, like a proper ode to Westerns.

  16. So this was surprising. A movie just came out starring Scott Adkins and directed by David Tennent (Dr. Who, Jessica Jones) called Home Invasion. Looks kind of terrible.

  17. IMDB says it’s a different David Tennant. You’re right that it looks terrible, though.

  18. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 7th, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    Home Invasion does look terrible. Saw Jarhead 3: The Siege though, and that was ok I guess. Adkins was definitely the highlight in a supporting role as the resident badass super soldier who trains the rookies and obviously – SPOILER, BUT NOT REALLY, YOU CAN GUESS HOW THIS SHIT GOES – gets killed pretty quickly when the shit hits the fan so said rookies have to take care of shit without their Adkins-shaped safety net – END SPOILER. He does more acting than action and he’s surprisingly good as the hardened mentor type. Pretty flawless American accent too, as far as I can tell.

  19. Wasn’t the original Jarhead a anti-war movie and now it’s turned into Die Hard? What’s with Adkins starring in part 3s that aren’t even in the same genre as the first one?

  20. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 8th, 2016 at 2:13 am

    Yeah and the weird thing is those first movies in the franchise were never that good to begin with, so there’s no real brand recognition to cash in on. I don’t get the thinking behind it.

  21. Having some down time, scrolling through the CLOSE RANGE comments, I realize, I must make way for en evening double feature of HARD TARGET/ CLOSE RANGE. Because why not?

  22. Close Range is the second Florentine movie in a row I couldn’t stay awake for.

  23. Update, Close Range is on Netflix now so I thought I’d start watching from the point I fell asleep. Dude, seriously, this movie is fucking terrible. Most of the fights scenes come across as “hey, look at this choreography we did, pretty cool in a short shooting period huh” The acting sucks, the directing is pretty lame, the setting is lame. I’m really super disappointed with this one.

  24. This was slightly underwhelming having just watched the great Boyka films, but enjoyable nonetheless.

    Some minor annoyances –

    1. Was it necessary for every single cartel gunman to have their own name-card up on the screen? Loco, Pedro, Esteban etc. And I mean 8 or 10 of them. We’re not watching KILL BILL here. They weren’t formidable characters, and had no back story.

    2. The final exchange between Colton and the sheriff, will he go for the gun or the handcuffs?, went on for so long I was starting to think the dreaded S word (fuck off!). Maybe it was meant to be funny?

    Still, I love a good dick-stab, and Adkins was impressive as usual.

  25. poeface- The fact that the henchmen had no distinguishable characteristiscs between them and still got name cards made it kind of funny. This kind of cinematic techniques can , for instance, be found in SNATCH or OUT FOR A KILL when the screen cards shows us the villains hobbies and quirks. It seemed more like a visual joke in CLOSE RANGE.

    They were just faces waited to be kicked on.

  26. Yeah Shoot, maybe you’re right. The Gun/Handcuffs scene teetered on the absurd, so perhaps Florentine just threw it all in there as a Fuck it, let’s style it up.

    But I mean, those guys who got name-cards? They were each given 5 to 10 second introductions, and they were literally just sitting in their cars looking like dirty thugs. No dialogue. No personality. Didn’t kill the movie for me, though.

  27. The Undefeated Gaul answered that in a comment above. I had the same issues. He said that Adkins has said it was due to the lack of footage to fill up the runtime they wanted.

  28. Okay, it makes sense now!

  29. This one was pretty all right. I put it in the C+/B- range.

    I dug
    -Adkins. He is kind of a blank slate, but that’s part of the mystique. It’s well-suited to these kinds of roles.
    -The whole Mexican cartel thing. I enjoyed the bad guys, even if none of them were particularly memorable or badass.
    -The hand-to-hand stuff was pretty good in general. Adkins is always fun to watch.
    -The dick/ass/taint/whatever-that-was stab was particularly fun
    -The opening fight scene at the cartel HQ was pretty fun and frenetic. Reminded me a little bit of the energy and intensity behind the Reckoning fight at the Unisol compound, though obviously nowhere near approaching that level of greatness
    -The whole western vibe
    -SUV scene was pretty badass

    I did not dig (or was unintentionally amused by)
    -The whole opening credits sequence, which was early 90s syndicated action TV show levels of cheese.
    -The henchmen names/introductions freeze frame fest (that others have noted)
    -The dialogue and character development was pretty awful. For a film that is aiming for lean and all-in on action at the expense of dialogue or character development, I think the action needed to be heavier and more non-stop
    -That final gun/handcuffs scene was just such pure cheese.

    Miscellaneous stray thoughts:
    -The sheriff is that memorable creepy serial killer from the X-Files…new I knew him from somewhere but couldn’t place him without some help from Wikipedia
    -The Sheriff is the latino Tom Bosely (or Tom Bosley was the gringo CLOSE RANGE sheriff–however you like it)

  30. Oh, also, what was up with that belt-knife? They kept making a special point of how he was knifing people, what with him prominently snapping the knife from the belt buckle and then all the whooshing blade-swipe sounds, but then you pretty much never see the blade draw blood or make contact with skin. Felt like he might as well have just been punching.

  31. Except for the knife in the balls/taint, of course, but I mean specifically in that opening fight scene at cartel HQ.

  32. Sorry, not the sheriff, dangit. It’s the druglord boss who reminded me of Tom Bosley. The sheriff reminds me of that reality show guy Todd Chrisley.

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