“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Alita: Battle Angel

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Man, we’ve been hearing about James Cameron doing this manga/anime adaptation since 2005, well before AVATAR. We’re talking Obama’s first year as a United States Senator, Christian Bale’s first year as a Batman, three live action Spider-man actors ago, before the Marvel Cinematic Universe even started, when Chris Evans was still The Human Torch, George Lucas was still making Star Wars movies, Saddam Hussein was still alive, the word “sexting” was just invented, Youtube was just starting, and Twitter didn’t exist yet. A long time ago.

So I can’t say I was thrilled when, after that decade plus of hopes, Cameron announced “Just kidding, Robert Rodriguez is gonna direct it.” Fresh off of SIN CITY 2. But also I wasn’t stupid enough to scoff at it. Cameron co-wrote and produced the thing. The only other time he did that was STRANGE DAYS, and that turned out pretty good. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

Thursday, February 14th, 2019

It’s fair to say that earlier in the century The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a pop culture phenomenon. Stieg Larsson’s three novels, posthumously published starting in 2005, were worldwide hits. I enjoyed the stories through their 2009 Swedish movie adaptations (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST) which launched their star Noomi Rapace (PROMETHEUS, PASSION, DEAD MAN DOWN, THE DROP, CLOSE) into international movie stardom, and their leading man Michael Nyqvist into spending his last years playing bad guys in Hollywood movies including ABDUCTION, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL and JOHN WICK (where he delivers the best syllable: “Oh.”). David Fincher’s 2011 English language take on the first book was pretty great and even got Rooney Mara an unlikely but well-deserved Oscar nomination.

But it wasn’t a big enough hit to justify a sequel budgeted for Fincher, Mara and Daniel Craig, so after years of haggling they went with plan B: a lower budget sequel with new director and cast, based not on the next in the trilogy but a continuation written by new author David Lagercrantz. And nobody really seemed to be waiting for that.

Except me! Selling point #1: director Fede Alvarez, who really impressed me with EVIL DEAD and DON’T BREATHE. Selling point #2: less grim and rapey, more fun and actiony. You still got the trademark fucked up and fetishy shit of the snow-bitten Larssonverse, but in this one our heroine is never sexually assaulted, but does have high speed chases on multiple vehicle types. Hot move: ditching police cars by jumping your motorcycle onto a frozen lake. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cold Pursuit

Monday, February 11th, 2019

COLD PURSUIT – which could be called HELLY HANSEN PRESENTS ‘COLD PURSUIT’ in my opinion – is an odd duck of a Liam Neeson vehicle. His character Nelson “Nels” Coxman is a man with a very particular set of skills, but they mostly involve driving a snow plow. He lives a simple life in a big house in a tiny ski resort town 3 and a quarter miles from Denver, Colorado. It’s one of those places where people have to be kinda rugged but they’re also laid back and individualistic. It’s always cold outside so they mostly just find ways to relax in their big houses. Nels’s wife Grace (Laura Dern, WILD AT HEART) smokes a joint while cooking up some meat from the reindeer that Nels and their son Kyle (Micheal Richardson, VOX LUX) hunted a while back.

Nels is a little nervous about having to make a speech after winning Citizen of the Year. Otherwise they seem to have a nice comfortable lifestyle going when all the sudden Kyle turns up dead – we know he was murdered by drug dealers, but the coroner (Jim Shield, SHANGHAI NOON, who looks like a more hard living Chris Pine) says it was a heroin overdose. Nels is so broken up he puts a shotgun in his mouth but when he’s interrupted by Kyle’s bloodied and apologetic friend Dante (Wesley MacInnes, POWER RANGERS) and learns what really happened, it’s not long before he’s sawing off said shotgun to fit in his jacket and go trying to find the people responsible. (read the rest of this shit…)

Peppermint

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

Well damn, I had been hyped to see PEPPERMINT in theaters but I lost the urgency after everyone told me it was bad, and it left before I got to it. Turns out it’s the type of shit I like. Shoulda trusted my gut.

Admittedly it is guilty of that troublingly prevalent action movie problem of our era: vicious Mexican gang/cartel bad guys at a time when the ruling party in this country wants us to be having nightmares about that shit to justify their cruel, racist policies and moneymaking scams (see also SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO). As if left over from another time, the movie casts John Ortiz (CARLITO’S WAY, NARC, MIAMI VICE, AMERICAN GANGSTER, FAST & FURIOUS, FURIOUS 6) as the lead investigator, the one Latin good guy that’s supposed to offset the stereotype. To be fair, they also have the cartel conspiring with local cops, judges and lawyers, so Corruption In The System is as guilty as The Other.

Anyway if you can stomach that then the only other action movie sins are the type that I just laugh at and enjoy, like the ludicrous TV coverage of our anti-hero’s rampage (details later). I think the best way to explain the appeal of this movie is to say that I have enjoyed all of the PUNISHER movies, including this one. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Commuter

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Liam Neeson is… The Commuter, starring in his self-titled, totally solid addition to the catalog of Neeson vehicles directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (UNKNOWN, NON-STOP, RUN ALL NIGHT). Written by previously unknown Byron Willinger and Philip de Blasi, this is a gimmicky suspense thriller taking place almost entirely in the limited location of a New York City commuter train, but it manages to also mix in a couple of impressive action exclamation points, not to mention the director’s endlessly playful computer-assisted camera show-offery.

The Commuter is Michael McCauley, an ex-cop who is suddenly fired from his current job at an insurance company, and then finds himself under siege in dark territory on the ride home. It’s the train he’s been riding for ten years, and most of the passengers know him by name, make small talk with him and ask about his wife (Elizabeth McGovern, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, CLASH OF THE TITANS) and kid (Dean-Charles Chapman, Game of Thrones). The usual sameness of his mornings is cleverly illustrated in an opening scene that shows him getting up, having breakfast, talking to the family and getting dropped off at the train, jaggedly cutting between seasons, emotions and conversations to show the passage of time without interrupting the flow of the daily routine. (read the rest of this shit…)

Polar

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

POLAR (a new Netflix original, exactly like ROMA) is one of these movies about a legendary hitman trying to retire. And it’s the type that takes place in a very exaggerated world where murder-for-hire is a thriving business populated with many quirky and talented individuals possessing a flair for fashion and creative violence. It seems like if it’s not inspired by the JOHN WICK saga it’s at least given aid and comfort by it, but technically it’s based on a comic book that started in 2012. Polar was a web comic, improvised by writer/artist Victor Santos in black, white and orange, and posted one page at a time, with no dialogue until it was later collected into a graphic novel by Dark Horse Comics. The movie is far from silent or monochrome and it’s more structured than that sounds like it would be, but when you hear it’s based on a comic book it makes plenty of sense. (read the rest of this shit…)

Close

Thursday, January 24th, 2019

There’s this weird psychological thing about the availability of movies. I looked at IMDb and determined that I’ve seen every Coen Brothers movie since THE HUDSUCKER PROXY in the theater, most of them probly on the first day or opening weekend. That’s thirteen films over a period of 24 years. But when THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS went straight to Netflix I let it sit there for more than two months before I finally got to it. Because, you know, every weekend I wanted to go see WIDOWS or CREED II or on and on, and I rented THE FOREIGNER I needed to watch that and return it and then I wanted to watch some Christmas horror, that was more timely, that had a sell by date. I procrastinate more when it feels like it’s accessible at any moment between now and the day whatever black magic they’ve been using to stay in business wears out.

I bring this up to explain how surprised I am at myself for seeing an article mentioning the release date of the Netflix original CLOSE and realizing it had gone up 18 minutes ago and then spontaneously actually watching it. I sorta did that for THE NIGHT COMES FOR US too, but that came with the pedigree of HEADSHOT. This one I had seen a trailer and knew Noomi Rapace (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, PROMETHEUS, PASSION, DEAD MAN DOWN, THE DROP) was a badass in it so it seemed like some DTV shit I could get behind. (read the rest of this shit…)

BuyBust

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

(as in a bust during a buy)

Every so often in the world of action movies something or someone comes along that throws down the gauntlet and inspires others around the world to try to match it or top it. THE MATRIX, TAKEN and JOHN WICK are three that might qualify based on imitation alone. I think ONG BAK really started something with its insane stunts and flying knees and elbows originating from a country not previously known for movies. More recently THE RAID ignited an Indonesian action film scene and inspired people in other parts of the world to push the envelope in their own ways.

I’m not just talking about copycats. They might even become classics in their own right. Case in point: the amazing 2018 Philippine drug raid epic BUYBUST, which would’ve definitely made my best of the year write-up if I’d seen it in time. It’s kind of like THE RAID meets ELITE SQUAD. A highly trained team of drug enforcement agents go into a favela-like part of town tailing an informant (Alex Calleja) who is wearing a wire for a transaction with the vicious druglord Chongki (Levi Ignacio) in an attempt to draw out his boss, the elusive Biggie Chen (Arjo Atayde). It turns out to be a setup, the drug gang guns down most of the team and the surviving agents have a long, grueling night battling their way through endless attackers in a labyrinth of narrow, crowded passages and corrugated roofing while trying to figure out who betrayed them and where to find Biggie. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Equalizer 2

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

THE EQUALIZER is not a great movie, but it is part of a great American tradition to allow the finest actors an opportunity once they get older to make movies where they pretend they’re Steven Seagal and break dudes’ arms and drill ’em in the head and stuff. To help people. Very loosely based on the ’80s tv show, Denzel Washington (MALCOLM X, RICOCHET) played Robert McCall, a mild mannered, O.C.D.-having widower with ugly sneakers who works at an off-brand Home Depot and also happens to be an ex-secret-agent badass, so when he sees enough injustice he decides you know what I’m tired of being hoodwinked and bamboozled, I’m gonna vigilante the shit out of these Russian mobsters or whoever.

Had things gone a little differently maybe we’d all be excited for Denzel’s much-hyped return to the popular VIRTUOSITY franchise after sitting out the last three, but we play the cards we’re dealt, so THE EQUALIZER 2 is Denzel’s first ever sequel. Also back are director Antoine Fuqua (BAIT), writer Richard Wenk (VAMP, 16 BLOCKS, THE MECHANIC, THE EXPENDABLES 2, COUNTDOWN, JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK), Academy Award winner Melissa Leo (who played a different character on an episode of the TV show in 1985!) as his old agency boss Susan Plummer, and Bill Pullman (CASPER) as her non-ass-kicking husband.
(read the rest of this shit…)

The Foreigner

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

I’m more of an action guy than a thriller guy. But I can appreciate different stuff. Martin Campbell’s THE FOREIGNER (2017 – not a remake of the Seagal film) is definitely more on the thriller side, mostly seeking its excitement in a complex web of police, compromised politicians and terrorist groups all dealing with the aftermath of the bombing of a London clothing boutique.

At the center of it is Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan, FINAL SCORE). He’s a former IRA member and seems to be pretty fucked over by this incident because he’s built a reputation as a moderating force, but behind the scenes still has relationships and understandings with the IRA. This bombing was done by some young upstarts calling themselves “The Authentic IRA,” and there’s alot of pressure, including from police captain Richard Bromley (Ray Fearon, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST), to find out who’s responsible. If another bomb goes off it’ll be the end of his political career, so he spends most of the movie desperately asking around and trying to set up traps to out the culprits and stuff like that. (read the rest of this shit…)