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Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Jiu Jitsu

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

There’s something going on in the world of indie action that I don’t think gets enough attention. It started in 2016 with KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE, a fun remake of the Cannon classic, with stuntman Alain Moussi in the lead and JCVD himself, in eccentric character actor mode, playing the mentor. It was directed by John Stockwell, who did pretty good with IN THE BLOOD and some of his other movies, so when the screenwriter took over as director for the sequel that didn’t seem like a good sign to me.

I was so wrong! KICKBOXER: RETALIATION turned out even better than the first one, with much more ambitious and assured direction, including complex choreography with great long take camera work. Of course, writer/director Dimitri Logothetis wasn’t some screenwriter getting his first shot at directing – he’d had a long and unusual filmmaking history that started in ’80s b-movies, producing HARDBODIES 2 and directing SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK, and included the 1989 boxing documentary CHAMPIONS FOREVER. Incidentally he’s also a blackbelt in Kenpo karate, having been taught by Ed Parker (he says he got to train with Elvis three times).

Now Logothetis has reunited with Moussi for another action vehicle, not a remake but a sci-fi story he first tested out as a comic book. And since it has a crazy premise and a good supporting role for Nicolas Cage maybe more people will notice this time. (read the rest of this shit…)

Naked Killer

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020


NAKED KILLER (not to be confused with NAKED GUN or NAKED LUNCH) is a 1992 Hong Kong action movie, one of the good ones that colors outside of the lines of reasonableness. An unhinged plot, extreme behavior and acrobatic, sometimes gory action make it fun, especially since those qualities tend to overlap.

The film’s central theme is a collision of violence and sexuality – the female lead is an assassin trained to seduce men and then kill them, the male lead is a cop who has been impotent since accidentally shooting his brother to death. It’s kind of a romance, and how’s this for a meet cute? Tom (Simon Yam, BULLET IN THE HEAD, LARA CROFT is the TOMB RAIDER in THE CRADLE OF LIFE) and Kitty (Chingmy Yau, LEGEND OF THE LIQUID SWORD) are in the salon getting their hair cut at the same time. Another hairstylist is hitting on Kitty when his pregnant girlfriend comes in to confront him. Kitty pretends to take his side until she attacks him with a cigarette and stabs him repeatedly in the groin with his scissors. Tom chases her and she steals his gun, which triggers his trauma and makes him puke, so she feels sorry for him and gives it back. This story would make an amazing wedding toast! (read the rest of this shit…)

Seized

Friday, October 16th, 2020

SEIZED is the long-awaited new one from DTV superteam Scott Adkins and Isaac Florentine. Though lately Adkins has formed a strong actor/director partnership with Jesse V. Johnson, it was Florentine who first gave him a showcase in SPECIAL FORCES and then made him an icon with UNDISPUTED II and III, plus NINJA and NINJA II: SHADOW OF A TEAR. This is their first reteam in at least four years – I have my suspicions about 2016’s excellent BOYKA: UNDISPUTED (credited to another director), but officially Florentine’s last time directing Adkins was 2015’s CLOSE RANGE.

This one is closer to the latter – another story about a guy single-handedly taking on cartels to protect his family. This time it’s more like a Hollywood thriller, more emphasis on the high concept and complex action sequences than martial arts. He’s kind of a JOHN WICK, settled down as a widower raising his teenage son Taylor (Matthew Garbacz) and running a cyber security firm from a beautiful home in Mexico, when his secret past as an infamous CIA and/or MI5 commando called “Nero” comes roaring back. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Hidden

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020

Many of you have been trying to tell me this for years, and it has finally gotten through to me: THE HIDDEN is incredible. It’s kind of a sci-fi/horror/action hybrid, and it hits hard on all counts. Makes sense that it’s director Jack Sholder’s bridge between the horror of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE and the action of RENEGADES, but I’d argue it’s more cinematic than either of those. It opens with a thrilling, Friedkin-esque car chase after a buttoned-up looking guy in wire rimmed glasses (Chris Mulkey, FIRST BLOOD, BROKEN ARROW, BARE KNUCKLES, THE PURGE, THE STANDOFF AT SPARROW CREEK) shoots up a bank. He stays very calm, sometimes mildly amused as he tears through L.A. in a Ferrari, occasionally running over people (including a guy in a wheelchair), blaring a heavy metal tape, sometimes bopping his head a little. Police absolutely riddle him with bullets and destroy his car at a road block – he steps out and laughs before getting blown up. Even that doesn’t kill him.

It does put him in the hospital, where a doctor is offended by how the detectives talk about this seriously injured patient. It probly makes more sense to him after Detective Willis (Ed O’Ross, LETHAL WEAPON, FULL METAL JACKET, ACTION JACKSON, RED HEAT) spews a monologue about all the murders, injuries and robberies the guy is responsible for, ending with, “Six of the ones he killed he carved up with a butcher knife. Two of them were kids. He did all that in two weeks. If anybody deserves to go that way it sure to hell was him.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Welcome to Sudden Death

Monday, October 12th, 2020

WELCOME TO SUDDEN DEATH is Michael Jai White’s new… addition to the SUDDEN DEATH franchise? I had heard it was officially a sequel to the 1995 Jean-Claude Van Damme DIE-HARD-alike directed by Peter Hyams, but I didn’t notice any continuity connecting them. It’s just a rehash of the same premise. So you could call it a remake, but since it doesn’t use any of the same names I suppose it is in the spirit of rehash DTV sequels like HOLLOW MAN 2, THE MARINE 2, WILD THINGS 2, THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT 2, KINDERGARTEN COP 2 and I’LL ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER.

White plays Jesse Freeman, ex-special-ops guy who has a new job as a stadium security job after rehabilitating from some shrapnel he got after escaping torture and kung-fu-ing insurgents overseas. His wife (Sagine Sémajuste) thinks he’s away from the family too much, so he brings his worshipful daughter Mara (Nakai Takawira, Young Simone Biles, THE SIMONE BILES STORY: COURAGE TO SOAR) and unimpressed son Ryan (Lyric Justice) with him when he works the opening game for the Phoenix Falcons. You know, of the National Basketball League. (read the rest of this shit…)

Amsterdamned

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020

After watching THE LIFT as part of my hard hitting Summer of 1985 coverage I knew to pay more attention to this Dutch writer/director/composer Dick Maas. And some of you had already recommended his 1988 scuba-slasher epic AMSTERDAMNED.

As the miraculous once-in-a-lifetime perfect title indicates, it takes place in Amsterdam, and yes, it’s about a serial killer swimming around the canals and surfacing to murder people. I love that it opens with a HALLOWEEN style first-person stalking, because as is traditional you hear his heavy breathing, but this time it’s the sound of breathing in a scuba mask. When we do see him it’s a good slasher look because it’s functional but also creepy, fetishy, and all black.

The outsized scumminess of Maas’ Amsterdam is established by the cab driver who picks up a prostitute after a long day of work, first harasses and then tries to rape her before dumping her off far from home. And after being victimized by him the diver finds her. (read the rest of this shit…)

Get Carter (2000)

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

Nearly 30 years after GET CARTER and its American cousin HIT MAN there was another version of the movie and/or its source novel, Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis. It starred Sylvester Stallone and was almost universally hated. Unsurprisingly it doesn’t fare well if hung up on a wall next to the 1971 version, but I find it at least interesting as an exercise in adaptation and an oddity in the Stallone filmography. And maybe I’m a little easier on it because it takes place in Seattle, with some of it actually filmed here.

In the mid ’90s, the ground was shifting under everyone’s feet. Hair metal bands felt displaced by Nirvana, MC Hammer decided he had to sign to Death Row Records, and the action heroes of the ‘80s were starting to see the writing on the wall. So by the end of the decade the once dominant Stallone was trying to find his place in a new world. JUDGE DREDD (1995) had been a notorious flop, and ASSASSINS (1995) and DAYLIGHT (1996) were poorly received. He couldn’t get Tarantino to cast him as Max Cherry in JACKIE BROWN. Though COP LAND (1997) had been one of Stallone’s best performances, it didn’t seem to bring him the critical credibility he was looking for, and his followup, the thriller D-TOX, was sitting on a shelf (it would be barely released in 2002 under the title EYE SEE YOU). Stallone been pigeonholed by his massive success as a larger than life action god, and many critics were more interested in rooting for his failure than seeing him evolve, or even return to his roots. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hit Man

Tuesday, September 29th, 2020

I had heard of HIT MAN (1972) as a “Blaxploitation remake of GET CARTER,” and assumed that meant it was loose and uncredited. In fact it’s an official adaptation of the same 1970 book, Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis, and director George Armitage – a Roger Corman acolyte who had written GAS-S-S-S and NIGHT CALL NURSES and directed PRIVATE DUTY NURSES – didn’t even know about the other version until he’d rewritten the script and his agent recognized it. As I mentioned in my GET CARTER review, MGM didn’t do much promotion of the well-reviewed GET CARTER because they had more faith in this version to be a hit. So – although it sounds like he may have started with the same script as GET CARTER (on this point I’m unclear) – I’d still say it’s not a GET CARTER remake, but the first American version of Jack’s Return Home.

Bernie Casey (GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN) plays the Jack Carter character, now called Tyrone Tackett. In this version he’s from Oakland visiting L.A., and I swear they say he’s a cop? But he acts the same as the gangster in the other version. Hmm. Strange. (read the rest of this shit…)

Extreme Justice

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

EXTREME JUSTICE is a 1993 cop movie by director Mark L. Lester (STEEL ARENA, FIRESTARTER, COMMANDO, SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO) that you can find on DVD, VHS or streaming on Prime. Lester has done a pretty broad range of b-movie types, but one thing some of them have in common is a great sense of exaggeration. In CLASS OF 1984, for example, he presents a world where juvenile delinquency is so severe that a previously mild-mannered music teacher has no better choice than to do battle with one of his students and dump him through a skylight into the school gym during the big recital. In its sci-fi sequel CLASS OF 1999, such out-of-control kids have led to an overreaction that includes militarized robot teachers.

So I wasn’t sure which way he would go in his movie starring Lou Diamond Phillips (RENEGADES, UNDERTOW, THE BIG HIT) as an LAPD detective who rather than getting in trouble for his police brutality gets promoted to a secret unit where “what useta get you in trouble’ll get you a round of beers.” I guess the reason I wasn’t familiar with this one is that they were worried about releasing it a year after the L.A. riots/uprising and dumped it to HBO. But I’m happy to report it doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure – the movie is very clearly saying that this extreme justice is too extreme and not justice. It’s not the good kind of Paul Verhoeven “you have to be really thick to not understand this satire” clear, unfortunately, but right now I’ll settle for the more accessible “he has a girlfriend who’s the conscience of the movie and convinces him that this is all wrong” type. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Witch: Subversion

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

I watched THE WITCH: SUBVERSION after I heard a few good things and read that it’s from the guy who wrote the incredibly upsetting but badass I SAW THE DEVIL. For this one Park Hoon-jung is also the director, as he’s done with several other films I haven’t seen, including the gangster movie NEW WORLD (2013).

I wish I could tell you this was a crass DTV sequel to THE VVITCH. I did initially assume it would be horror, then I heard it was action, but it turns out to be something harder to categorize. Some melodrama, some sci-fi, some carnage. It seems closest to a Y.A. type movie – teen melodrama X-MEN – except, like so many of the other South Korean movies I’ve seen, it gets horrifically violent at times. (read the rest of this shit…)