"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Angel Has Fallen

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

If you enjoy the HAS FALLEN saga, now in its third chapter, you don’t need to read me disrespecting it in this review. I have no quarrel with you. But as much as I appreciate the existence of any ongoing theatrically released rated-R action series in this day and age, I have never achieved a worthwhile level of enjoyment from these fucking things.

What I remember from the first one, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, is that the action was messy enough to inspire me to invent the action comprehensibility rating (ACR) system, but there was one part where Melissa Leo defiantly recited the Pledge of Allegiance to terrorists about to execute her, and I liked that. What I remember about the second one, LONDON HAS FALLEN, is that the action scene that people claim was good made no impression on me and I was disgusted by its moronic jingoism and casual murder of civilians (which some tried to convince me was supposed to be sarcastic, but I couldn’t see it).

The first two were location-based premises (the White House is attacked, London is attacked), this one makes the fair assumption that if we’re still watching these we’re okay just following legendarily amazing Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler, DRACULA 2000) whether he goes to a new city that gets attacked or not. “ANGEL” refers to him, a “guardian angel” who has “fallen” by being blamed for an attempted assassination of the president and having to go on one of those old fashioned fugitive runs to prove his innocence. (read the rest of this shit…)

Furie

Monday, November 25th, 2019

I sorta knew of Veronica Ngô Thanh Vân, a.k.a. Veronica Ngo, from CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON: SWORD OF DESTINY (she played Mantis) and STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (she played Paige Tico, Rose’s sister who dies heroically at the beginning). But now that I’ve seen her star in FURIE… holy shit. I’ll have to see more.

This is a really good action vehicle because it introduces her as a cool, morally ambiguous anti-hero, then reveals her vulnerability, then throws her into a classical action scenario (kidnapped daughter, like COMMANDO or TAKEN) that leads to a whole lot of asskicking and stunt work but also inspires a layered, emotional acting performance. I’m completely ignorant of Vietnamese cinema and have no idea if this is representative at all, but it’s like some of the action and some of the melodrama of a Thai martial arts movie, but much more organically fused into one thing. (read the rest of this shit…)

Gemini Man

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

GEMINI MAN is your traditional “the greatest assassin anybody ever saw decides to retire and then god damn it I thought they loved me but they’re sending a guy to kill me what the fuck” type scenario. The gimmick is that the guy they send after him is a younger version of himself created through the miracle of cloning. He figures this out a good third or more into the movie, but we know from frame one because of the studio’s decision to advertise the film.

Will Smith (“Nightmare On My Street”) plays both extreme retiree Henry Brogan and the facial expressions of the very advanced digital animation character playing his clone. Junior, as he’s called, gets dispatched after Henry’s Old Buddy From the Marines Jack (Douglas Hodge, THE DESCENT PART 2) and Russian operative Yuri (Ilia Volok, AIR FORCE ONE) tell him that that last guy they had him kill, the terrorist, was actually an innocent scientist being eliminated as part of a cover-up. When Henry hears this information he looks up to the clouds just as the lite on a satellite blinks, but it’s only to tell us someone heard this. He doesn’t seem to figure it out himself.

He does catch on that the new manager at the docks where he keeps his boat is really a D.I.A. agent sent to keep tabs on him. He asks Dani (Mary Elizabeth Lucy McClane Winstead, BOBBY) on a date, maybe just to get her to admit she’s spying on him and convince her he’s not a threat. But when some dudes try to kill both of them they end up on the run together. They head to Colombia to meet up with his Old Agency Friend turned small plane pilot Baron (Benedict Wong, LARGO WINCH). (read the rest of this shit…)

Broken Path (a.k.a. Attack of the Yakuza)

Thursday, November 7th, 2019

BROKEN PATH (2008) is a humble but impressive low budget production, simple in story and filmmaking, but with a high volume of work put into its virtually non-stop action scenes. A little like last year’s NIGHTSHOOTERS, it has the feel of an indie horror movie, but its attraction is high quality fight choreography. It’s what happens when some passionate people get together a little money to make a violent home invasion movie, but those passionate people happen to be a star, director/choreographer and stunt team (Alpha Stunts) from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

I had a hard time getting a hold of this obscure footnote in the history of western martial arts movies of the oughts. I’m not sure I can call it under the radar, because I’ve had it recommended to me a few times over the years and seen it on an underrated action movies list. It never got American distribution though, so when I looked for it years ago I couldn’t find it. But it’s directed by GUYVER 2 and DRIVE choreographer Koichi Sakamoto, so Jack Thursby (and possibly another person on Facebook – sorry that I can’t find your comment) reminded me of it when I did Steve Wang Week earlier this year. This time I was able to order it on a German DVD under the title ATTACK OF THE YAKUZA. I think there’s also a UK release as BROKEN FIST. (read the rest of this shit…)

Anna

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

LEON (THE PROFESSIONAL) sums up Luc Besson pretty good, doesn’t it? He’s creepy about young women. Also, he’s really good at putting them in cool, stylish action roles. His latest in that vein, ANNA, came out this summer with little fanfare (or box office), at least partly because Besson had recently been accused of rape. Maybe it deserved to fail. But for whatever it’s worth it’s a solid movie full of what he does well.

It actually has alot in common with ATOMIC BLONDE. A beautiful bisexual spy (well, assassin in this case) double and triple crosses her way through end-of-the-Cold-War European intrigue with a twisty plot and a couple of long, impressive fight sequences. Charlize and her action and David Leitch’s intoxicating colors and music are more my speed, but ANNA has the advantage of being real complicated without being hard to follow. It’s a satisfying tale. (read the rest of this shit…)

Terminator: Dark Fate

Monday, November 4th, 2019

I love THE TERMINATOR, but I love TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY. To me it’s one of the all time greats of sequels, summer event movies, action movies, movies in general. It came into the world at the right time to knock me on my ass, and has only grown with me. We’d never seen a movie like it; the technology had not existed for a character to do the things that the liquid metal T-1000 did, and no woman, not even Ripley in James Cameron’s own ALIENS, had returned to the screen as thoroughly transformed into an indelible badass as Sarah Connor.

At the time it seemed like the biggest, loudest, most over-the-top and technologically advanced action spectacle we’d ever seen. Now there’s a certain quaintness and groundedness to it. The then-show-stopping computer effects are only for a little bit of morphing – now we notice the huge amount of real stunts involving a semi-truck, motorcycles, a helicopter and various pyrotechnics that would never be so real in a modern movie. And the story is built on characters and emotions in a way that’s much more resonant to me than most subsequent movies of this type. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Seventh Curse

Monday, October 21st, 2019

Let me try to explain this in pizza terms. You know how every once in a while you might get a pizza, and it’s not of the highest possible quality? They got all the ingredients there, but maybe the proportions are a little off, or it was cooked too much or too little or something, so it’s not the greatest, but at the same time it has crust and sauce and cheese and toppings and those ingredients together are always gonna taste pretty good? THE SEVENTH CURSE is like that. It’s kind of too gooey and falling apart but it has pineapple, fake ham and jalapenos, and that’s pretty much my favorite toppings. (I’ve come to prefer Mama Lil’s Peppers*, but this one needed more spice.)

It’s a supernatural action adventure with Chow Yun Fat playing the pipe-smoking occult expert Wisely (called Wesley on the subtitles of the DVD I rented), a character from a series of 156(!) novels. In this one he’s kind of a supporting character because it’s based on another book series centered on his colleague Dr. Yuen, here played by Chin Siu-ho (TAI CHI MASTER, FIST OF LEGEND). The books are by Ni Kuang, who in between writing enough novels to make Stephen King look like a lazy no good piece of shit also found the time to bang out screenplays for DIRTY HO, THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, HEROES OF THE EAST, THE 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER, and literally hundreds of other movies.

He didn’t write this one (that was Wong Jing [MERCENARIES FROM HONG KONG] and Yuen Gai-chi [DRUNKEN MASTER II]), but would you believe he hosts it? It opens with him, playing himself, surrounded by women and talking to the camera.

(read the rest of this shit…)

The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

“I make the impossible possible. Takami Tsurugi. Remember that if you want to live long.”

The thrilling conclusion to Sonny Chiba’s STREET FIGHTER trilogy is called THE STREET FIGHTER’S LAST REVENGE, but it doesn’t really feel like a finale. It feels more like another in what should be an endless series of adventures. Though released in 1974, the same year as the other two, Chiba’s black-clad anti-hero-for-hire Tsurugi seems to have evolved his operation. After taking a recruitment call he rotates the phone attached to his wall, opening a secret door to a room full of uniforms, wigs and latex masks. He’s a fuckin master of disguise now!

His mission is to retrieve Go Owada (Akira Shioji, who played a different character in the first movie) from the midst of a violent worker strike at a chemical plant. Tsurugi impersonates a member of the riot squad and breaks ranks to bust through the window, go in and beat the shit out of everybody, steal a specified black mah jong case, arrest Owada, steal a police car and bring him to the mobsters who hired him.

But they pay him with a briefcase full of shredded newspaper, which was not the deal in my opinion, so he fights them and they’re enemies now. (read the rest of this shit…)

Penitentiary III

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

Well holy shit. I’ve taken my sweet time getting to all three of Jamaa Fanaka’s PENITENTIARY movies, but they’ve all lived up to my hopes. If you’re not familiar, they star Leon Isaac Kennedy (LONE WOLF McQUADE) as Martel “Too Sweet” Gordone, a man who is unjustly incarcerated but becomes a legend in the prison boxing circuit. I’m sure it’s an inspiration for the UNDISPUTED series, but Fanaka’s world is angrier, dirtier, and much, much weirder.

Released in 1979, PENITENTIARY was actually the third movie Fanaka made while attending UCLA. Unlike other directors considered part of the L.A. Rebellion film movement, he was more attracted to Hollywood than to political statements, so he made straight up lurid and entertaining blaxploitation movies. But racism, cruelty and injustice are central to his stories.

PENITENTIARY II (1982) brings the action into the outside world, and it’s a little slicker and more expensive, so it features Mr. T and Ernie Hudson.

But PENITENTIARY III (1987) is a Cannon Film. It is not fucking around. It would be an exaggeration to say that Cannon did to the PENITENTIARY series what they did to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE with part 2, but there’s definitely a hint of that sort of unhinged insanity. We find Too Sweet still a free man, competing as a legitimate boxer, when his corner man is paid off to put something in his water. (That he looks over his shoulder nervously and then just openly pours something into the water in front of an audience without anyone noticing is one of many goofy touches.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Rambo: Last Blood

Monday, September 23rd, 2019

You remember Rambo, John J. Vietnam vet, Green Beret, POW camp survivor, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. In ’81, as a homeless drifter, he waged a one-man guerrilla war against the police department of Hope, Washington, wounding several officers, killing police dogs, blowing up buildings and causing one officer to die from falling out of a helicopter. But they let him out of prison for a secret POW rescue mission. Though he earned a presidential pardon, he decided to live in Thailand, living off odd jobs such as stickfighter, temple-builder, snake-catcher or river guide, with occasional missions to help the Mujahideen in Afghanistan or rescue missionaries in Myanmar. But eventually he came home to his dad’s place in Arizona.

It doesn’t seem like it, but that movie was 11 years ago. Rambo has short hair now, wears cowboy hats and runs his (now deceased) dad’s horse ranch. He lives with a woman named Maria (Adriana Barraza, AMORES PERROS, DRAG ME TO HELL), who I guess the photos on the wall indicate was his parents’ maid, and her granddaughter Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal from the El Rey show Matador), who calls him Uncle John and who he says he thinks of as his daughter. (read the rest of this shit…)