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Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

American Ninja 4: The Annihilation

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

tn_an4Long before the FAST AND FURIOUS series did it (better), the AMERICAN NINJA series pulled the power move of doing a part 3 with a new lead, only to combine the casts in a later sequel. AMERICAN NINJA 4: THE ANNIHILATION starts with part 3’s Sean Davidson (David Bradley) and later brings back part 1-2’s Joe Armstrong (Michael Dudikoff). The bad news is this is the first one not to include the character of Curtis Jackson (Steve James), so it almost feels like less of a real sequel than part 3.

The dilemma: American servicemen abducted overseas again. Ninja related again. This time it’s worse, because the crazy British Colonel Mulgrew (James Booth, writer of part 2 and AVENGING FORCE and this one) and terrorist Sheik Maksood (Ron Smezarack) plan to burn the four captured Delta Force commandos at the stake and nuke New York City with a suitcase bomb if they aren’t paid $50 million. (It seems like either threat would be enough though, right?) I know that sounds like a boring useless couple of loser villains with nothing to contribute, so fortunately they are also training an army of super ninjas, one of whom wears a silver helmet and mirror eye patch. So they check out. (read the rest of this shit…)

American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

tn_an3Well, up until now these French waver films and these ninja movies have been virtually indistinguishable to the layman. But we now finally – finally! – have come to a major difference between the American Ninja Joe Armstrong and the 400 Blowing Antoine Doinel: Joe’s not even in his part 3. Instead the story centers on a different American Ninja, Sean Davidson (first timer David Bradley, later of AMERICAN SAMURAI). The connection is Steve James as Curtis Jackson, who’s still relegated to the role of unquestioningly loyal friend and backup who shows up with a Rambo headband for the climax. At least he gets top billing this time.

That forced me to wonder: has Curtis really been the Antoine Doinel character this whole time? Was I being racist by assuming it was Joe? I think Joe has stronger parallels in his background and criminal record, but here Curtis is, like Antoine in STOLEN KISSES, fresh out of the military, on the prowl for beautiful women, and drawn into a mystery. But he probly wasn’t dishonorably discharged, he doesn’t try to make any of the relationships serious, and his mystery involves a private island where a guy called The Cobra (evangelist turned actor Marjoe Gortner) is creating some kind of virus to turn people into killers or something. To sell to a terrorist I believe?

(read the rest of this shit…)

The Nice Guys

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

tn_niceguysHolland March (Ryan Gosling, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues) is an alcoholic widower single father bottom-feeding private eye hired by an old lady (Lois Smith, KILLSHOT) for a case that has him following a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley, PALO ALTO). Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe, NO WAY BACK) is a divorced thug hired by Amelia to beat up the people following her, i.e. March. When some other guys (Beau Knapp, the great Keith David) attack Healy at his apartment asking for Amelia he decides to go back to March and hire him to help find Amelia and ask her what’s going on. So by trying to cut down on getting beat up this unlikely pair gets gummed up in a case involving a dead porn star and a corporate collusion conspiracy.

Of the two, the detective seems like the dumb one. But he has good luck and a smart daughter, 13-year-old Holly (Angourie Rice, WALKING WITH DINOSAURS 3D) who nancy drews him through the mystery. March is also a total coward who screams like a little girl and gives up information at the slightest threat. Healy behaves much more professionally, though he still does stupid shit like forget his brass knuckles at home when he goes to beat somebody up. And then it’s too late to drive back and get them.

That’s because this is the latest from Shane Black, as both director and writer (with Anthony Bagarozzi), so it’s a twisty, complex mystery, a serious detective story but with frequent laughs from characters doing the wrong thing or the weird thing or saying what you’re not supposed to say. Goofing on tropes but also respecting their usefulness. (read the rest of this shit…)

American Ninja 2: The Confrontation

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

“That damn American ninja. Fights like a tiger. We’ll have to get rid of him.”

tn_an2The opening credits of AMERICAN NINJA 2: THE CONFRONTATION feature a badass theme song (composer George S. Clinton, who had already done AVENGING FORCE for Cannon and Dudikoff, joins the series) as three dudes confidently cruise on their motorcycles, journeying through mountain roads. They’re wearing tinted helmets, so we wonder is this is Joe Armstrong, the American Ninja, and some other Army guys? Is it some scary villains he’s gonna have to face? Who is it?

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They turn out to be some weinery dudes who drive up to a bar and immediately get bullied. One of them, Tommy Taylor (Jonathan Pienaar, BLOOD DIAMOND), steps away and cowers nearby while his friends get beaten up, and then all the sudden a bunch of ninjas walk in and carry them away.

In this enjoyable sequel Joe (Michael Dudikoff) and Curtis Jackson (Steve James) are still best friends, and still in the Army, now as Rangers. They seem to receive more respect now, and maybe I’m naive but when they’re sent on the mission that the last guys (the guys at the bar) disappeared on it really seems to be because of faith in their abilities, not to get rid of them. (read the rest of this shit…)

American Ninja

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

tn_americanninjab“You know, loners don’t go too far in this outfit.”

AMERICAN NINJA is a Cannon Films classic starring model-turned-action-star Michael Dudikoff as army-rookie-with-a-mysterious-ninja-past Joe Armstrong. I already reviewed it several years ago and in my opinion it was a well-written review with some points and some jokes that I wouldn’t have thought of now. For example I said that the ninjas in the yellow costumes would be good at hiding in a banana tree or a field of dandelions. You gotta have that youthful eye of the tiger to come up with that one.

But today I am revisiting AMERICAN NINJA for an important new series in which we will compare each installment of Francois Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel series to each installment of Golan and Globus’s AMERICAN NINJA series. Why, does the AMERICAN NINJA series follow the same character as he ages? Well, not really, I don’t think so, but I can’t think of a better pairing of quintologies to represent the full spectrum of cinema art from the respected and high brow (“brilliantly and strikingly reveals the explosion of a fresh creative talent… a picture that encourages an exciting refreshment of faith in films” wrote Bosley Crowther in The New York Times) to the… other kind (“Woefully acted, abysmally written… an embarrassment even when held to the low standards of grade C exploitation movies” wrote Candice Russell in The Sun Sentinel). By alternating between them and comparing and contrasting how they approach each chapter I hope we’ll find the true meaning of art or whatever. (read the rest of this shit…)

Code of Honor

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

tn_codeofhonorIf you are absolutely dead set on seeing no more or less than 1 (one) of the 2 (two) Steven Seagal films that came out last week, and you can’t be talked out of it, I highly recommend CODE OF HONOR for your specific circumstances only. Here, my friends, is a movie where Seagal seems almost like a co-lead. Where he sort of fights a guy once or twice. Where he stands up and/or walks in many of his scenes. This is the hardest he’s worked on film all week!

On the other hand, it’s sort of a distressing sign that he came out with two movies within a few days of each other where his main activity is using a sniper rifle. He even uses the phrase “watch your six” again. You can tell he’s into that, because it was part of the tag line for SNIPER: SPECIAL OPS. Playing a sniper is a distressingly convenient way for him to do action scenes without having to do any choreography, martial arts moves, or acting with other actors. Also sometimes he’s sitting down in a chair. This could be a big problem. If he’s a sniper in his next movie it will be a bad, bad sign.

This sniper obsession is a period within his current Goatee Era. These days his characters always look the same, with too much shit on. The goatee, the tinted glasses, a bulky coat, a scarf, a backwards hat, and now he’s big on ear protection like he’s at the gun range. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sniper: Special Ops

Monday, May 9th, 2016

tn_sniperspecialopsRemember the opening/teaser trailer scene of AMERICAN SNIPER, where Bradley Cooper (THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN) and his partner are on a rooftop somewhere in Generic Dusty Middle East, watching a woman through a sniper scope, not sure if she has a bomb or is just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they’re agonizing over whether or not to shoot her? Steven Seagal’s latest as of last Tuesday (but since surpassed by a new VOD one on Friday) opens the same way, except there’s no agonizing, they just know he’s a bad guy and they shoot him.

Seagal plays Jake Chandler, the eye in the sky for a group of special ops soldiers on a mission to save a Congressman abducted by an evil Taliban leader. They get attacked, leaving Seagal and an injured soldier behind, but then they help a local woman who turns out to be the Taliban guy’s daughter-in-law. Also there’s a whole thing with an embedded reporter (Charlene Amoia, AMERICAN REUNION) who they kind of condescend to because she’s a civilian and a woman, but she steps up and impresses them. They have some shootouts and a tense hostage exchange and what not. All very small scale, maybe one CGI explosion, but at least the gun flashes are real.

Despite the title, this is not related to the SNIPER series, nor is it very much about snipers, and despite Seagal being the only person Photoshopped onto the cover he’s not the main character at all. That would be Sergeant Mosby (Tim Abell, MERCENARIES, SPECIAL FORCES), a likably gruff lug who reminded me of Kevin Nash mixed with Ron Eldard on Justified. The story mostly centers on him, and he’s the one that makes the decisions and talks with the lady and stuff. (read the rest of this shit…)

Missing in Action

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

tn_miaI don’t know about you guys, but I’m still not a member of the Chuck Norris Fan Club. (Unless somebody got me a membership as a prank, but as far as I know that’s not true.) But I decided to watch his first movie with Cannon (a relationship that also produced a prequel, a sequel, a DELTA FORCE, a second DELTA FORCE, a job for his son on a third DELTA FORCE, and by far his most entertaining starring vehicle I’ve seen, INVASION U.S.A.). This one also has a political message based on a right wing pet cause, but it can’t quite match the outlandish cartoonishness of INVASION, and it’s much more emotionally manipulative. But I kinda enjoyed it.

The great music by Jay Chattaway (MANIAC, Star Trek: The Next Generation) gets your American flag erect during the Vietnam War opening where Braddock and his men patriotically terrorize some guerrillas until he decides to dive onto an enemy (and the camera) holding two grenades, only to wake up from a dream in the present. (read the rest of this shit…)

Black Cobra

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

tn_blackcobraBLACK COBRA was another one of my blind rentals, and I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise gem, but it’s definitely more interesting than I bargained for. The last thing I rented without knowing anything about it was BILLY BOY, which turned out to be a shitty South African movie about white people, filmed during apartheid, so it’s a cool coincidence that this is a competent (if sorta home made) one with a black South African hero after apartheid. And the first fight scene is against a group of white South Africans trying to treat him like it’s the old days.

T.J. Storm sounds like the name of a fictional action hero that a kid in a movie idolizes, but that’s the handle of the martial arts champ and stuntman who plays Sizwe Biko, a guy who “won a couple of titles” and whose father is a jailed hero of the South African revolution. (Whether or not they’re related to Steven Biko is never mentioned.) His father wouldn’t confess his crimes to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, so he was never let out, and now they’re conspiring to kill him in prison. Sizwe learns that he could get him out by bribing a certain judge, so he digs up the family’s secret diamond stash and takes them to L.A. to fence.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Blackjack (second review)

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

tn_blackjack“Okay, I understand that, but Jack you need to realize that your sunglasses are the only protection you have from all the white out there.”

woozoneusaBIt wasn’t part of the original plan, but as I was re-watching the American John Woo movies I realized I had to revisit this 1998 USA Networks TV movie (and unfulfilled backdoor pilot), even though I did an okay job reviewing it long ago. I’ve recently had good luck recommending it to a couple people who never heard of it, but I hadn’t seen it myself in 11 years. Fortunately this thing (shot right after FACE/OFF) holds up as an absurd and entertaining Dolph Lundgren vehicle that transcends its cheapo format.

Dolph plays Jack Devlin, a world class bodyguard who seems to work out of Reno. In the opening he agrees to a favor for an old friend who owns a casino and needs him to protect his little girl Casey (Padraigin Murphy) from the mob. She calls him “Uncle Jack,” which I took literally this time, but my research tells me that they’re not actually related.

It goes down kind like in TAKEN, where the kids get to Europe and are immediately kidnapped. Here gunmen arrive about 30 seconds after Jack walks into the house with Casey. He’s checking the rooms upstairs when they come in. (read the rest of this shit…)