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Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

The Mercenary

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

THE MERCENARY is what they’re calling the new one from director Jesse V. Johnson, though it’s just MERCENARY on screen, and was developed under the less generic (if goofy) title LEGION MAXX. Johnson, of course, has been on a hot streak for several years, with movies including ACCIDENT MAN, THE DEBT COLLECTOR and AVENGEMENT. This is his first in a while to not have Scott Adkins in it – instead it’s a vehicle for his lesser known but even-longer-time collaborator, Dominiquie Vandenberg. The Belgian martial artist met Johnson working on MORTAL KOMBAT, and starred in his first shorts Death Row the Tournament and The Doorman, then his first features THE HONORABLE and PIT FIGHTER, and has since shown up in ALIEN AGENT, THE HITMEN DIARIES: CHARLIE VALENTINE, GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS 2, THE BUTCHER and TRIPLE THREAT. He can also be seen in Yuen Woo-Ping’s TRUE LEGEND, but maybe his greatest claim to fame is training Leonardo DiCaprio for knife-fighting in GANGS OF NEW YORK and then becoming fight coordinator and appearing as a gang member. (read the rest of this shit…)

Thunder Warrior III

Monday, January 6th, 2020

The final THUNDER WARRIOR movie came out in 1988, only a year after the second one. THUNDER WARRIOR III starts out seeming like it’s gonna be the NEXT KARATE KID or the BEST OF THE BEST 3 or the RED SCORPION 2 of the series, in that there’s a sort of white supremacist paramilitary type group set up as the villains. A guy named Colonel Ross is putting them through training drills and yelling something about “That’s why those yellow-asses at the Pentagon relieved me of my command!”

But these guys will pretty much just act the same as all the other racist hicks in town.

Thunder is still living peacefully near the desert, which I took to mean that there have been no recriminations for all the destruction and assaults on police officers and escaping prison and all that. And that the sheriff failed to kill him in that weird last shot of part II. But IMDb says he’s in Las Cruces, New Mexico, so I guess he’s supposed to have moved. (read the rest of this shit…)

Thunder Warrior II

Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

Writer/director Fabrizio De Angelis and star Mark Gregory brought us THUNDER WARRIOR II (a.k.a. THUNDER II) two years later, in 1985, and it presumably takes place about that much later. Although Thunder went on an arrow/explosive/bulldozer/bazooka rampage, paralyzed a cop, destroyed some cop cars, leveled a couple buildings, and faked his death, he’s just casually back in town at a bar for some reason.

It’s exactly the kind of violent biker bar that’s in every movie like this, except for some reason a normal couple with a pre-teen son are there trying to eat dinner. The mom attempts to ignore the mob of drunk bikers loudly sexually harassing her, but the dad convinces her it’s time to leave, which kicks off a scuffle where the kid is about to be beat up until Thunder intervenes and takes on the entire gang almost by himself (he has a little help from a Native old timer who’s good with knives).

I want to point out that the bartender at this place really sucks. He watches the whole thing go down and makes no effort to keep things under control, not even a meek “Hey guys, cool it.” Then when the brawl starts he calls the police on Thunder. My Yelp review will not be forgiving. (read the rest of this shit…)

Thunder Warrior

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

THUNDER WARRIOR, a.k.a. THUNDER is the first in a trilogy of low budget action movies of the 1980s. I think I saw it a long time ago, but since the hero, Thunder (Mark Gregory, 1990: BRONX WARRIORS), is supposed to be Native American, I was misremembering it as something made to cash in on the success of BILLY JACK. Turns out it’s a pretty straightforward ripoff of FIRST BLOOD, which came out the year before. It’s the same basic idea of a sheriff who thinks he’s a reasonable guy trying to unjustly kick a long-haired drifter out of his jurisdiction and causing him to go on a rampage. It doesn’t have the military veteran angle, and it involves a conflict over sacred Native land – admittedly very significant differences. Rambo was part Apache according to RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II movie and novelization, but that was never what he was fighting about.

Thunder returns from unspecified adventures to his small Arizona desert town just in time to find Deputy Barry (Raimund Harmstorf, THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS) sexually harassing his fiance Sheila (Valeria Ross, no other credits) at the gas station she owns and operates. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ip Man 4: The Finale

Monday, December 30th, 2019

IP MAN 4: THE FINALE is from the makers of the IP MAN trilogy, according to the giant standee in the multiplex lobby that made me aware of its Christmas day release. I’m grateful to be able to see movies like this on the big screen.

IP MAN is a series released across 11 years with stories spanning from the 1930s to the 1960s, with the great Donnie Yen (HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME) not only showcasing his great fighting skills (in a style he hadn’t previously practiced), but also giving his greatest acting performance as this distinctly gentle and polite asskicker. That’s why I wish it could go on forever. I’m sure we’ll get other great Donnie Yen movies, but I’ll miss him playing this character.

The final Ip Man adventure begins with the 1964 Long Beach International Karate Championships and takes place primarily in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Back home in Hong Kong, Ip lives in a tiny apartment with his moody teenage son Ip Ching, who has been kicked out of school for fighting (actually defending himself with too much enthusiasm). The principal and others convince Ip he should send his son to study abroad, so he decides to use a plane ticket sent to him by his former student Bruce Lee (Danny Chan, the Bruce-lookalike goalie from SHAOLIN SOCCER who subsequently played Lee in the TV series The Legend of Bruce Lee and then IP MAN 3) to try to get him admitted into a school in San Francisco. (read the rest of this shit…)

Clash

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

CLASH is an earlier (2009) vehicle for Vietnamese action star Veronica Ngo that I rented after loving this year’s FURIE. (Thanks for the recommendation, everybody.) This one also uses Ngo’s considerable dramatic acting chops for some emotional scenes (they took her daughter again), but it’s a little less melodrama, alot more exaggerated, more in the vein of a flashy modern Hong Kong crime movie of slightly above average quality. (In fact, one character accuses the heroine of being “so cheesy like a Hong Kong movie.”)

Ngo’s character is known as Phoenix, and she’s the hard-ass leader of a crew doing an arms deal as a ploy to steal a certain laptop with access to— well, doesn’t really matter. Whatever. The international conflict is of no interest to her, she just needs it because her boss (Hoang Phuc Nguyen, CYCLO) needs it, and he’s a scary guy who wears white suits and shades and thinks he’s really cool and deep for repeatedly comparing human beings to the pieces on the go/chess type game he plays in his limo. Fuck this guy. (read the rest of this shit…)

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…)