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Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

The Witch: Subversion

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

I watched THE WITCH: SUBVERSION after I heard a few good things and read that it’s from the guy who wrote the incredibly upsetting but badass I SAW THE DEVIL. For this one Park Hoon-jung is also the director, as he’s done with several other films I haven’t seen, including the gangster movie NEW WORLD (2013).

I wish I could tell you this was a crass DTV sequel to THE VVITCH. I did initially assume it would be horror, then I heard it was action, but it turns out to be something harder to categorize. Some melodrama, some sci-fi, some carnage. It seems closest to a Y.A. type movie – teen melodrama X-MEN – except, like so many of the other South Korean movies I’ve seen, it gets horrifically violent at times. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Jewel of the Nile

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

Wow, THE JEWEL OF THE NILE came out less than two years after ROMANCING THE STONE, which was expected to be a flop, so it’s not like they had a head start. Fast turnaround. Robert Zemeckis was off making BACK TO THE FUTURE and Diane Thomas was writing scripts for Spielberg (and wanted to be paid well) so producer/star Michael Douglas hired director Lewis Teague (ALLIGATOR) and writers Mark Rosenthal & Lawrence Konner (THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN, later SUPERMAN IV, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK, STAR TREK VI, MERCURY RISING and the bad PLANET OF THE APES).

The story starts six months later, with Joan and Jack sailing around the world on the boat he bought with the proceeds from part 1’s stolen jewel. (I thought he bought it for her as a gift, but I guess not.) This time she’s having trouble writing her books because her life is too much romance and adventure. She’s actually bored of all the exotic locales and beautiful sunsets and sits in the boat with her typewriter writing a garbage pirate adventure which she now imagines starring herself and Jack but also gets thrown off and accidentally turns the pirates into punks? I don’t know if that represents a typo or a failed artistic flourish or what. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

Other than my long-held above average Ms. Pac-Man skills, I cannot claim to be a gamer. I have very little experience playing the video game Mortal Kombat, so I mostly know it as the one they play on acid in Larry Clark’s BULLY. But I’m only human; I have the same weakness for mystical fighting tournaments, magic ninjas, monster violence and spines being pulled out as anybody, button-masher or otherwise. So I’m always open to checking out any cinematic developments related to the Mortal Kombat intellektual property, and that’s good because the recent DTV animated feature MORTAL KOMBAT LEGENDS: SCORPION’S REVENGE is one of the franchise’s best konkoktions to date.

Although I kind of enjoy the silly PG-13 live action movies MORTAL KOMBAT and even MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION, I appreciate that this cartoon is super-duper hard-as-fuck R strictly for violence. No boobs, don’t remember the cursing, a few references to balls (because Sonya Blade repeatedly crunches Johnny Cage’s), but the rating is for tons and tons of bloody, reprehensible bodily deconstruction. Pretty frequent finishings and fatalities and flawless victories in this one. (read the rest of this shit…)

Trouble Man

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

TROUBLE MAN is a solid tough guy movie from the early ‘70s Black action cinema movement. Director Ivan Dixon was an actor (PORGY AND BESS, A RAISIN IN THE SUN, NOTHING BUT A MAN) turned TV director (The Bill Cosby Show, Room 222, Mod Squad) making his first theatrical feature. He followed this with the much more politically radical THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he went back to TV after that.

The script is by John D.F. Black, a white TV writer who had worked on some of the same shows as Dixon and then wrote SHAFT. The feel of this one is closer to SHAFT than SPOOK. It’s a serious and gritty movie, but it’s less concerned with militancy and more the standard staples of the genre often referred to as Blaxploitation: the wish fulfillment of larger-than-life manliness, some garish period style, and an outstanding soundtrack album by a genius soul artist – Marvin god damn Gaye!

The hero (Robert Hooks, STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK, King David in POSSE) is actually called Mr. T, or sometimes just T. Though he might be able to make a claim for Toughest Man in the World, he has little else in common with the other Mr. T. He has regular hair and wears suits and ties. Sometimes a little flashy, I guess. And the ties are almost as wide as your head, but everybody else in the movie is wearing those too. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Replacement Killers

Monday, September 7th, 2020

I try not to be too set in my ways, which is a good reason to rewatch a movie years later and see if you respond differently than the first time around. So something told me it was time to revisit something from those heady days when the emerging international popularity of Hong Kong action cinema fired peak John Woo and Chow Yun Fat out of a cannon aimed at the heart of Hollywood. I’m not sure what kind of a cannon shot them so that Woo landed in 1993 and Chow not until 1998, but life is a mystery. Anyway, they exploded and in the case of Chow, we were mostly disappointed and then happy that he didn’t stick around that long, because Hollywood clearly didn’t know what they were doing with him.

THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS was significant not only as Chow’s first Hollywood/English language movie, but the directorial debut of Antoine Fuqua, who became a much bigger deal when 2001’s TRAINING DAY won Denzel Washington an Oscar. That kind of gave him the air of an Important Filmmaker for a little bit, but I think now he’s settled in as the type of director who makes OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN and THE EQUALIZER 1 and 2, which is more like the expected trajectory for the director of this one. He came from directing music videos, most famously “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio, but also “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” by Prince.

Chow plays “John Lee,” who’s pretty much a remix of his character in THE KILLER. He’s an assassin who owes one more hit to L.A. Triad boss Terence Wei (Kenneth Tsang, A BETTER TOMORROW 1 and 2, THE KILLER, SUPERCOP, RUSH HOUR 2). But he’s sent to the home of LAPD Detective Stan Zedkov (Michael Rooker, CLIFFHANGER) and sees the man’s wife and son through the sniper scope and decides he can’t do it. (In a corny touch, Zedkov doesn’t see him but looks right into the scope as if sensing him.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Message from the King

Friday, September 4th, 2020

MESSAGE FROM THE KING is Chadwick Boseman’s 2016 (pre-BLACK PANTHER) action(ish) vehicle, released straight to Netflix. I always meant to watch it – I’m sorry it took me a tragedy to get to it. It’s pretty good.

It follows the classic noir tradition of the outsider who comes into town because a loved one went missing or died, starts asking around, spying on people, finds out what happened, and goes after the people responsible. I tend to like that story format – in fact, I kind of played off of it in my book Niketown, now that I think about it.

The specific version of this type of story that MESSAGE FROM THE KING reminds me of most is THE LIMEY. That’s both a compliment (I love THE LIMEY and movies like it) and bad news (unsurprisingly it’s not as good as THE LIMEY), but I couldn’t avoid the comparison. Instead of British he’s South African, instead of a daughter it’s his sister, and instead of her being involved with an older music producer it’s an older movie producer. But it’s a similar thing of a guy from another culture going around to rich people parties, barging into front businesses, angering macho thugs who don’t know who he is and underestimate him, playing dumb but exploding into a few sudden bursts of brutal violence. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Protector (35th anniversary revisit)

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

August 23, 1985

Here we are again. THE PROTECTOR – Jackie Chan’s widely panned second attempt at an English-language starring vehicle. I reviewed it in 2011 and my opinion hasn’t changed much, but as one of the very few straight ahead action movies of Summer of 1985, it seems important to address in this series. Action-wise, the summer was all about RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II. Otherwise you just had the two westerns, PALE RIDER and SILVERADO, and three cop movies – CODE OF SILENCE, YEAR OF THE DRAGON, and this. YEAR OF THE DRAGON is less actiony and has so much more production value it doesn’t seem like a fair comparison, so the one to really hold it next to is CODE OF SILENCE.

And yeah, it makes sense. Chuck Norris and Jackie were both martial arts stars – in fact, guys who had early roles in Bruce Lee movies – who were now expanding their portfolios in the medium of post-DIRTY HARRY American cop movies. CODE is set in director Andrew Davis’s textured and gritty Chicago, but director James Glickenhaus begins THE PROTECTOR in a preposterously exaggerated b-movie vision of the South Bronx where crime is so bad it has literally become a post-apocalypse movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wira

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

WIRA (translation: HERO) is a really good 2019 martial arts movie that’s available on Netflix, and maybe my first Malaysian film? It cold opens with a brutal women’s M.M.A. match that will be an important inciting incident, but you don’t really know the context yet, so instead it works to establish the movie’s level of action reality: somewhat grounded in real moves and sweat and blood, but moving through them very fast, and with absolutely thunderous punching and slamming sounds. Like somebody is gonna get their head knocked off. Reminded me a little bit of the UNDISPUTED sequels, with less spinning in the air.

After the credits we meet a male hero, Hassan (Hairul Azreen, a Taekwondo black belt who’s been acting for a little over a decade), a former elite super duper commando motherfucker drifting back into town after many years, a bag over his shoulder, getting hassled by a cop (Henley Hii) like he’s John Rambo. That’s only one of the beloved action traditions he follows – we also learn that he’s a legendary underground fighter. The aforementioned cop is actually an old friend giving him shit, and Hassan ends up going along with him when he arrests some young guys for fighting. On the way to jail they realize who Hassan is and try to get a selfie with him from the backseat of the police car.

And one of them asks, “You want to avenge your sister, don’t you?” (read the rest of this shit…)

Black Samson

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

BLACK SAMSON is another entry in the ‘70s Black action cinema genre (if we can call it that when it has a white director). I watched it because it was on a double feature disc with THREE THE HARD WAY, and it looked pretty cool – the menu showed the movie poster’s painting of the title character looking pretty great with his big wooden staff and pet lion.

And fortunately that’s not too exaggerated an image of Samson (Rockne Tarkington, THE GREAT WHITE HOPE, BEWARE! THE BLOB, DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR), though unfortunately he never walks around town with his lion companion, Hudu. The cat stays at the bar that Samson owns and operates, laying on a table near the stage for the topless dancers. But Samson does take the big-ass wooden staff with the lion head carved at the top everywhere he goes, as well as using it to knock out troublemakers at the bar. (read the rest of this shit…)

Three the Hard Way

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020

THREE THE HARD WAY (1974) is directed by Gordon Parks Jr. (this is #3 of his four movies, after SUPER FLY and THOMASINE & BUSHROD, before AARON LOVES ANGELA). His famous Life Magazine photographer father directed SHAFT in 1971, its explosive popularity leading to the wave of genre films aimed at black audiences known as Blaxploitation*. Junior directed SUPER FLY in 1972, which was even more successful than SHAFT. Though both received some criticism for promoting negative stereotypes, in style and substance they were on the more serious, artful end of the Blaxploitation spectrum.

So it’s kind of funny that for his second movie Parks Jr. just leapt right into the silly caricature side of the pool. This one teams up three of the biggest stars of the genre to play some random freelance tough dudes in different cities who know each other from way back (no explanations offered), and sends them to fight straight up white supremacists planning a genocidal super villain plot. Other than the horrendous racism that has to be depicted to show what they’re up against, this is all froth, bluster and wish-fulfillment. Which I can get behind. (read the rest of this shit…)