"I got news for 'em. There's gonna be hell to pay. 'Cause I ain't daddy's little boy no more."

Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Assault On Precinct 13

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

tn_assaultonprecinct13“Hey, this is regular vanilla. I wanted vanilla twist.”

PROGRAMMING NOTE: I sincerely thought CREED was coming out last Friday and wanted the ROCKY reviews to run right into my review of that. But now I ran out of ROCKYs and I don’t want to leave you guys with nothing new to read on the day before Thanksgiving. So here’s one that has a minor connection to the ROCKY series that will come up later. This movie is based on westerns, and the characters who represent the cowboys and the Indians don’t even come close to eating sweet potatoes together, but I still think this is a good one for Thanksgiving. This year (as in many years) we’ve lost some really extraordinary people who inspired and entertained me over the years. That really reminds me not to take for granted the directors and movies I love, for example John Carpenter and ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13. Thank you, people who make great movies, and thank you all for being here with me to share in their celebration.

Of all the John Carpenter movies that are like westerns, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 is the most like a western. You’ve got a lieutenant (Austin Stoker, BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, MACH 2) who’s like a sheriff, holed up in an about-to-be-shut-down police station that’s like a jailhouse. You’ve got a prisoner transfer and a siege where the lieutenant and a notorious killer (Darwin Joston, THE FOG, ERASERHEAD) have to work together, and they sort of become friends. The hostile territory is a ghetto, Anderson, California, and the Indians are a WARRIORS-like multi-ethnic gang. They even do a bloodletting ritual before the siege.

But the scary thing about these gangsters is they don’t talk, and they keep coming. We mostly see them in the distance, at night, scurrying behind trees for cover. Then we see their hands reaching through the windows, or their bullets hitting windows, walls, cops. It’s such a good approach because there are so many ways these types of characters could’ve been silly. If the guy who looks like Che were talking to the cops he would probly use dated slang, have some corny line delivery, make us laugh. It would be fun to watch, but he’d be less menacing. As a silent force he’s much more effective. (read the rest of this shit…)


Thursday, November 5th, 2015

tn_beatdownBEATDOWN is yet another movie to add to my list of formulaic underground fighting movies that I found pretty enjoyable. It’s produced by the company Tapout, and to be honest I don’t 100% know what Tapout is, but this definitely seems like a movie aimed at the people who wear their t-shirts. It’s about small town working class folks who drive gigantic pickup trucks and only care about cage fighting. They all have some sort of tragic past involving a dead and/or abusive parent, which they talk alot about. The soundtrack is all a type of rock music that makes me cringe with embarrassment, but I can acknowledge that it might sound good to the target audience. It’s a little weird though when a singer is wailing and grunting about “a wildfire in the streets” over a scene that takes place in a barn.

It’s the story of Brandon, a young underground fighter whose brother gets murdered and gangsters tell him he has a week to fulfill a $60,000 debt. There’s no way he can do that so he decides to get away from it all. He gets on his motorcycle, participates in a driving montage, and ends up at his dad (Danny Trejo)’s trailer in some hick town outside of Austin.

I’ve been systematically going through every movie of this type even if I know nothing about them or their stars. It took a bit before I realized that Brandon was played by Rudy Youngblood, the star of APOCALYPTO. Did you know he got an action vehicle after that? I like that. (read the rest of this shit…)

Top Gun

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

tn_topgunI’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve watched the whole TOP GUN since the ’80s. But I wasn’t too surprised to watch it and see the primordial matter that eventually crawled out and grew into the works of Michael Bay. It’s a mix of gorgeous sunsets, heat trails, fetishized military hardware, bosses played by grizzled character actors (Michael Ironside, Tom Skerritt, the principal guy from BACK TO THE FUTURE), sweaty foreheads, sunglasses, electric guitars, crisp uniforms, the glorification of glistening bodies (in this case mostly male, and good at volleyball), and profoundly unprofessional hot shot yahoos who are supposed to represent the best of the American best.

One difference: less spectacle. This is an impressively small story. For all its bluster this isn’t RED DAWN positing a communist invasion of America. This is about a guy involved in two small international incidents, basically just encounters between jets from opposing armies (nationality unspecified, but you fuckin know it’s Ivan Drago under that helmet). And though it has a reputation as a Navy recruiting film, since it famously worked as one, it’s not politically propagandistic. There’s nothing to make these “Bogies” evil. They’re just part of a system, people doing their job. They see American fighters where they’re not supposed to be, so they try to scare them off. The reverse of what happened in the opening. (read the rest of this shit…)

Angel Town

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

tn_angeltown“Jacques, as long as I’ve known you you’ve been in deep shit. I expect this.”

Even though I have this weird feeling that French kickboxing champion turned VHS-era action icon Olivier Gruner doesn’t like me, I’m open to watching his movies. I actually didn’t realize while watching it that ANGEL TOWN was his debut, but it makes sense. This is his L.A. gang movie, which came out after COLORS but before BOYZ N THE HOOD or MENACE II SOCIETY (or New York movies like NEW JACK CITY and JUICE). And I’m not saying it’s as good as any of those, but it’s a fun b-action take on the subject, and it makes a decent argument for why Gruner should be in movies.

He plays Jacques, a Frenchman renting a room in a gang neighborhood while attending graduate school in East L.A. He ends up there because he gets into town late and all the student housing is filled up, but also we learn he was born in a French ghetto and lived in one in Hong Kong too. It’s not relevant, but I want to mention why he’s late to school: when he was about to leave he went to visit his father’s grave and then his girlfriend showed up distraught that he was leaving and she took off her fur coat and she was naked so he fucked her right there on his father’s grave. And that must’ve taken a couple days, I don’t know. (read the rest of this shit…)


Monday, October 19th, 2015

tn_sicarioHere we go yo, here we go yo, so what’s a what’s a what’s a sicario? In Mexico, the onscreen text tells us, it’s a hitman. And the movie SICARIO is a nightmarish portrait of the byzantine conflict such a hitman would be in the middle of. Literally that would be the War On Drugs but metaphorically, it’s easy to think, it could be about the War On Terror, or any number of seemingly intractable cycles of violence. This is, after all, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (PRISONERS, ENEMY) making an American movie about Mexico. It’s international and cross-cultural.

Our guide into Hell is Emily Blunt (EDGE OF TOMORROW, LOOPER) as Kate Macer, a new but talented FBI agent who raids a drug house in Phoenix and accidentally finds where a cartel has been stashing bodies. Next thing you know a meeting room full of mysterious higher-ups recruits her to aid in a vaguely defined interagency mission they say will lead her to the people responsible. She finds herself at an Air Force base with a couple dozen macho CIA, Delta Force and US Marshal tough guys who all seem to go way back and know exactly what’s going on and do this kinda mission in their sleep. And next thing you know they’re cruising over the border meeting up with militarized Mexican police forces and God knows who else. Nobody tells Kate anything. She just has to stay quiet and keep up. (read the rest of this shit…)

a new piece on STONE COLD

Monday, October 5th, 2015

tn_stonecoldThose of you who participate in the “Twitter” brand social media platform might have seen an account called “One. Perfect. Shot.” It follows the simple idea of posting beautiful frames from favorite movies, so you can admire their composition and lighting and what not. For example here’s a nice one from today:

I didn’t know this at first, but the guy that does it is Geoff Todd, who was the editor over at Daily Grindhouse when I did a column there. He also collects them at a websight, oneperfectshotdb.com, complete with, like, articles and shit. He asked me to write some of those articles and shit, and he’s always been good to me, so what the hell. I will be writing one or two perfect essays a month over there.

Since most of his readers probly don’t know me from Adam and Steve I figured I should introduce myself with a movie that truly represented who I am and what I represent, not only as a writer but also as a human being here on this planet just trying to get by and travel this journey you know what I mean so obviously I wrote the only thing a man in that situation CAN write, a little piece called:

Strictly Bozness: The Fiery Majesty of ‘Stone Cold’

I know I’ve written about this movie a couple times before, but come on. It’s fucking STONE COLD, man. This won’t be the last time either. “Stricly Bozness,” by the way, is what I wanted to call my book on the films of Brian Bosworth before I determined that too many of them (including the barely aired TV show he starred in) were unavailable for me to do it. Maybe some day.

Anyway, check it out and feel free to comment over there so they know somebody gave a shit.

No Retreat, No Surrender 2

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

tn_nrns2NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER 2, sometimes subtitled “Raging Thunder,” which is also the name of the opening credits song, picks up exactly where part 1 left off: with Corey Yuen directing movies. But it has no characters or story that have any relation at all. Like it would’ve been hard to throw the ghost of Bruce Lee into a scene or two.

Instead of being about a karate student in Seattle learning kung fu from the ghost of Bruce Lee to fight Russian Jean-Claude Van Damme in a karate tournament this is about Scott Wylde (Loren Avedon, KING OF THE KICKBOXERS), an American kickboxer, getting into some shit in Thailand. It seems like he’s a tourist, there to visit his old friend Mac Jarvis (Max Thayer, MARTIAL LAW II, ILSA, HAREM KEEPER OF THE OIL SHEIKS), but then we find out he has a fiance there, Sulin (Patra Wanthivanond). She’s from a rich family and she brings him to a restaurant for a huge feast of TEMPLE OF DOOM type food such as tiger balls and monkey brains. “Very funny, sweetheart!” he says.

But four guys break into his apartment with big knives and little guns and kidnap Sulin to the tune of inappropriately upbeat music. Two stay behind to fight Scott, and it’s immediately clear that the fights (action choreographer: Corey Yuen) are better in this than in part 1. It’s a very acrobatic fight inside the little dingy apartment, jumping off the bed, slamming against the flimsy walls, kicking a guy through the door and across the hall and through the neighbor’s door (where of course he surprises two people who are having sex). And there’s alot of banging heads against walls. And he kills them. (read the rest of this shit…)

Azumi 2: Death or Love

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

tn_azumi2Thanks for the warning, fellas. AZUMI 2 is no AZUMI. I had known director Shusuke Kaneko as being good at giant monster and horror type pictures, and I really thought his cleverness and style would apply well to our little badass raised in the mountains to be the ninja assassin orphan girl with the purple cape. But maybe with this one he caught a tough break. Either the budget was much lower or they just didn’t know how to use it as well as Kitamura did. Lots of standard woods and dirt, looking cinematic than ’90s syndicated TV show. Like Xena or something.

I didn’t really mind that (spoiler? unspoiler?) negotiations prevent us from having a huge climactic massacre like in the first one. That part feels kinda ballsy, I can respect that. It’s progress for the character and her story instead of just more of the same. What was disappointing was that the first one had that incredible village set that was so integrated with (and wrecked by) the battle. This one is just in an ugly clearing. She could’ve killed 700 people, it still would’ve seemed like a step down. (read the rest of this shit…)

Game of Death II

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

tn_godiibruceleeiconGAME OF DEATH II is a weird proposition. How the hell do you make a sequel to Bruce Lee’s unfinished final movie and pretend he’s still the star? It’s like if they tried to figure out how to keep Paul Walker in FURIOUS 8. It’s a little different because some of the best fights Lee ever shot were for GAME OF DEATH and they didn’t bother to use all the footage in the first one. But I guess they thought it would be cheating to use that stuff. Instead they took a bunch of his closeups from ENTER THE DRAGON and cut them into scenes of a lookalike always shown either from the back or at a distance. Lee’s character Billy Lo is worried about his brother being too into sex and not enough into practicing kung fu. He finds his kama sutra and leaves him a letter and a Jeet Kun Do manual to counter its harmful influence.

Also Billy talks to his master, who tells stories about his youth, illustrated with clips from Chinese movies Lee made at 6 and 15. Instead of letting you figure it out (like Soderbergh using clips from POOR COW as flashbacks in THE LIMEY) they use onscreen text to tell you, breaking any illusion that this is the character Billy Lo, famous movie star who faked his death. In the younger one he’s picking on an old man, headbutting him in the gut, pointing a gun at him and saying he’s gonna kill him. Weird. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

tn_sanshirosugata2“I always imagined Sanshiro Sugata would look more fierce. You know, with a mustache or something.”

I don’t know if I’ve seen an earlier sequel than this, and it’s a pretty good one. It’s also the earliest example I know of the international fighting movie. IP MAN 2 also took this idea: the legendary martial artist is pressed into pitting his style and national pride against westerners. This part 2 has a better excuse though: it was made near the end of WWII at the behest of the government. I don’t give a shit though, I still like it. You lose, propagandaists.

It all starts with a conflict between a young Japanese rickshaw driver and his customer, an asshole white sailor (I think he’s supposed to be American, but his accent sounds otherwise). The sailor causes the driver to flip over and then blames him and wants to fight him. (read the rest of this shit…)