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

Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

The Villainess

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

THE VILLAINESS is LA FEMME NIKITA with a little KILL BILL by way of South Korean cinema. A young woman with a troubled past has her identity erased, is trained to kill for the government, put undercover, given a mission, trying to earn her freedom. But she was already pretty damn good at killing before the feds got involved. They capture and recruit her after an incredible opening massacre, done in her POV – it’s first person shooter/slasher/stabber/kicker-through-window – until she sees herself in a mirror, then gets her head smashed into it and the perspective separates from her body, rotating around her as she continues to fight, mostly using gym equipment (the jump rope is my favorite) as weapons.

As her captivity, training and missions are depicted in somewhat elliptical fashion, the events leading up to that rampage also come out piece-by-puzzle-piece in flashbacks, not even in chronological order within themselves, and with some characters played by different actors in different periods. I find the story at times confusing and overcomplicated, but still compelling. Even if I didn’t, I’d still call THE VILLAINESS a must-see for the most audacious, envelope-pushing action filmatism I’ve seen in quite a while. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Thunder Run

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

THUNDER RUN is a Cannon-distributed movie with a wonderfully ridiculous sounding premise: a Korean war vet trucker has to drive a weaponized big rig full of plutonium at high speed as bait for a gang of nuclear terrorists. For some reason when I read the back of the VHS box it kind of sounded to me like a bullshit Hollywood blockbuster remake of THE MAN WHO GOT AWAY, the nihilistic indie movie that the main character is trying to make in Charles Willeford’s The Woman Chaser.

It’s kind of less awesome than it sounds but much more laid back and good hearted. It stars Forrest Tucker (FINAL CHAPTER: WALKING TALL) in his penultimate role (the last being the TV movie TIMESTALKERS) as Charlie Morrison, the nice old Nevada grandpa who’s in need of money to keep his Cobalt mine operating when he’s offered a quarter of a million dollars to make the run by his old war buddy George (John Ireland, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE).

The funny thing is it’s almost halfway into the movie by the time he actually leaves on the run. Some of that screen time is spent on preparations, but alot of it’s just shenanigans. For example, we get a whole sequence about the local drag racing scene. Charlie’s grandson Chris (John Shepherd, Tommy from FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING) races his shitty looking pickup truck and beats an out of towner in a sports car, trying to win money for Grandpa. Little does he know he won’t be needing it. This scene also introduces Chris’s group of friends including girlfriend Kim (Jill Whitlow, PORKY’S, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS), “electronics genius” Paul (Wallace Langham, SOUL MAN, COMBAT ACADEMY, THE SOCIAL NETWORK), who rigged the truck with nitrous oxide, and a hot blonde (Cheryl M. Lynn, maybe?) who lures the police away by driving up on a motorcycle and flipping them off. Of course she does that with an all black helmet and then takes it off and dramatically unfurls the hair so we will say “GASP! It’s a LADY!(read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Undefeatable

Monday, February 5th, 2018

After recycling his Richard Harrison footage across 25 ninja movies (see NINJA KILL), Chang Cheh assistant turned “Ed Wood of Hong Kong” Godfrey Ho made at least one movie that was shitty in an entertaining way. The proof is the English language, filmed in America UNDEFEATABLE (1994), sort of a poor man’s BLACKBELT, if such a thing is possible. Like that fun Roger Corman produced Don “The Dragon” Wilson vehicle, it combines martial arts with the slasher movie cliche of a deranged serial killer obsessed with his mommy. But this one has Cynthia Rothrock (NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER 2).

The movie itself seems to think the star is some guy named John Miller, who was also in the Ho-directed Rothrock vehicle HONOR AND GLORY the same year (hmmm…) and then was apparently on 20 episodes of Homicide: Life On the Street, but uncredited, so I think he’s just a background guy at the department. Here he’s a supercop introduced with the traditional off-duty interruption of a convenience store robbery, or “just a couple of punks giving me a warmup” as he calls it, before breaking up an organized street fight and confiscating the winnings. He’s actually kind of a stick in the mud hassling fighters. It wasn’t until 35 minutes in when they showed him practicing with a staff that I realized he was a martial artist too.

(read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Ninja Kill

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

As I’m sure I’ve told you before, one advantage as well as disadvantage of the ancient tradition of the video store is that you find random weird stuff you weren’t looking for and end up renting it. This is how I became aware of NINJA KILL. Two of the reasons I rented NINJA KILL:

1. It’s called NINJA KILL

2: This is the cover:

Note the tagline: “BREAK NINJA LAW – SUFFER NINJA JUSTICE!” Words to live by, in my opinion.

This is the story of Ninja Master Gregory (Richard Harrison, HIGHWAY TO HELL) and how one day he’s sitting on top of a picnic table wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a friend from the ninja community comes to give him a tip about an impending assassination plot involving ninjas. He has to pay $5,000 for the information (interestingly he seems to be able to pay this with five bills) and then his informant is immediately killed by another member of his yellow-uniformed ninja clan. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Mercenaries From Hong Kong

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

You know who had a hell of a studio? Those Shaw Brothers. As far as a company that develops a formula and evolves an artform into a recognizable “brand,” those guys were tops. Within their voluminous catalog are hundreds of period martial arts films, including some of the best ever made, THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN and THE 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER being my favorites of the small percentage I’ve seen. I’m sure I’ll be watching these for the rest of my life and never see all of the good ones or get tired of their approach.

But it’s still a special treat, an exotic delicacy, a rare limited edition collectors item when you see one that breaks out of the usual template. For example I love SUPER INFRA-MAN, their version of a kaiju movie. MERCENARIES FROM HONG KONG – the third film directed by Wong Jing, who recently did CHASING THE DRAGON with Donnie Yen – isn’t as unique as that, but it’s a beautiful thing: the talents of the Shaw Studios stunt teams and choreographers applied to a contemporary ’80s story with guns, grenades and motor vehicles. It came out in 1982, same year as FIRST BLOOD, but seems to predict that post-RAMBO-2 period with its Vietnam vets putting the team back together and returning to the jungle to fight drug lords. I wouldn’t say it’s as good as Sammo Hung’s amazing EASTERN CONDORS, but it’s a similar vibe of seeing tropes we love from American action being elaborated upon using techniques unique to Hong Kong cinema. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Kickboxer: Retaliation

Monday, January 29th, 2018

I don’t know what I was expecting from KICKBOXER: RETALIATION, the new sequel to 2016’s KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE, which was a remake of the 1989 Cannon classic KICKBOXER. I waited for midnight Thursday to watch it on V.O.D. as soon as it became available, so clearly I was excited. But I didn’t think it was gonna be this good.

The original Kurt Sloane, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, only made it to his part 2 in the form of a body double unceremoniously shot to death in an alley, leaving three sequels to a never-mentioned-before Sloane brother played by Sasha Mitchell. The remake Kurt Sloane, played by stuntman Alain Moussi, gets to stick around. A different Van Damme character, Sloane’s mentor Master Durand, does survive for the sequel and continues to be the heart and soul of the series.

I love when sequels open with the character we know suddenly in a whole different place and life situation. My go-to example is RAMBO III, where we find John living in a temple in Thailand, winning underground stick fights for money. But this is more like a TEMPLE OF DOOM opening because we find Kurt in a tux, sexy salsa dancing with his now-wife Liu (Sara Malakul Lane, Seagal’s daughter in BELLY OF THE BEAST) on a train at night. They get attacked and he has to slow-motion fight some people, including on top of the train in pouring rain as it crosses a bridge, until they all fall off. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Showdown in Manila

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

SHOWDOWN IN MANILA is the latest from Alexander Nevsky, the Russian bodybuilder turned b-movie actor who starred in and directed BLACK ROSE. This one is the directing debut of Mark Dacascos and it’s much more fun and ambitious than that last one, largely due to an EXPENDABLES-worthy cast of action icons.

Nevsky plays Nick Peyton, the leader of some sort of elite police strikeforce thing in Manila. In the prologue he leads a police raid and his whole team are wearing those giant helmets like in THE RAID – except for him, even though he’s 1-3 heads taller than all of them. Standing there ready to take it like a lightning rod. He doesn’t get shot in the head, but does get shot and fails to apprehend two ultimate b-action bad guys: Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (L.A. TAKEDOWN, KICKBOXER 2, SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO, MORTAL KOMBAT, BRIDGE OF DRAGONS) and Matthias Hues (NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER 2, I COME IN PEACE, BLACKBELT, MISSION OF JUSTICE, TALONS OF THE EAGLE, TC 2000). C-HT in particular looks like he’s enjoying the hell out of just strutting around in tropical gangster clothes being arrogant.

(read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

In my view Scarlett Johansson can do no wrong. But the live action manga and/or anime adaptation GHOST IN THE SHELL probly did itself a fatal wrong by casting her as the human-brained robot cop Major, a role that probly should’ve showcased an exciting up and coming Japanese-American actress.

I was skeptical about the controversy at first, because the animated version of the character looks white to my American eyes, and I mean she’s a robot she can look any way they want her to look, plus the story takes place in a very international future, and anyway it’s an American remake of a foreign film so by definition it’s gonna be changed for American culture, and additionally the director of the anime Momoru Oshii said that Johansson was perfect for the part, and it’s true that her roles in UNDER THE SKIN and LUCY prove that she’s uniquely qualified to play an ass-kicking almost-naked robot lady, and furthermore it’s not like it’s easy for her to get a lead role like this either, and anyway a couple years ago all the clamor was for Hollywood to make more big genre movies based around women, and back then nobody specified “white women don’t count.” So I feel bad for her.

But… I think the criticisms were legitimate. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Accident Man

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

For those who came in late… The English actor and martial artist Scott Adkins is the reigning champ of low budget action. After catching our eye as the villain-turned-anti-hero Boyka in three UNDISPUTED sequels (2, 3, 4), as well as starring in two NINJA movies (1, 2) and the incredible UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING, he was clearly the era’s strongest answer to the iconic action stars of the ’90s like Jean-Claude Van Damme – who he co-starred with in THE SHEPHERD: BORDER PATROL, ASSASSINATION GAMES and EXPENDABLES 2. The latter was one of the many times we got hyped up for impending mainstream recognition only to find him playing Knife Guy Who Has Short Fight With Jason Statham. For years people hoped he’d be cast as Iron Fist or somebody in the Marvel Universe, until finally he was in DOCTOR STRANGE – and got beat up by a magic cape.

Little did we know that there was a comic book he’d been wanting to make into a movie since the age of 15, and this didn’t require a big special effects budget or a subduing of his talents. ACCIDENT MAN – starring, produced and co-written by Adkins – is an action-packed, darkly humorous hitman saga based on stories that appeared in the British comics anthology Toxic! in 1991, written by Pat Mills (Judge Dredd, etc.) (read the rest of this shit…)

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.

Breakaway

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

BREAKAWAY (1996) is another off-brand VHS-only b-movie of a type I like: clunky and obvious, but keeps it moving enough to be fun and allow me to appreciate the bits of personality. It’s not to be confused with the BREAKAWAY that stars Dean Cain or the one in my head about a breakdancer recruited to be an international spy during the Cold War. This is the one that stars Teri Thompson, who other than this and MARRIED PEOPLE, SINGLE SEX mostly had parts like “Murder Victim” in DARK AVENGER and “Restaurant Woman #2” in ALMOST DEAD and “Dildo Girl (uncredited)” in SORORITY BOYS before creating a Youtube series understandably titled “Hollywood Is Hard.” Here, though, she comes off as a star, overshadowing the other unfamiliar faces until Joe Estevez turns up as a hitman who becomes the main antagonist for a while.

Oh yeah, and “introducing Tonya Harding as Gina.” TONYA & NANCY: THE INSIDE STORY mentioned that the infamous Olympian wanted to start acting, maybe on a soap opera or something. This is what became of that aspiration. (Her only other acting credit is a 2003 film called THE PRIZE FIGHTER.) Here she plays a restaurant manager who the main character’s bombmaker boyfriend is cheating with. (read the rest of this shit…)

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.