I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

The Debt Collector

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

“Look, you’re a tough guy, but you’re also a good guy.”
“I ain’t that good, mate. You saw what I did to that lad, didn’t ya?”

Yeah, I know, you’re all aware that Scott Adkins is the reigning king of DTV action. That’s not new information. You’re all well acquainted with UNDISPUTED II and III and 4 and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING, if not HARD TARGET 2 or EL GRINGO or the other ones.

What hasn’t been discussed as much is that our favorite English martial artist has hit a new stride in his string of collaborations with director Jesse V. Johnson. Last year they did SAVAGE DOG, a weird and brutal period piece, followed a few months ago by the smart-ass assassin tale ACCIDENT MAN. Adkins gives honestly great performances in stoic roles like Boyka, who grunt almost as much as they speak, and I love those types of characters. But as co-writer and producer of ACCIDENT MAN, he not only gave himself a ton of great fight scenes, but all kinds of witty dialogue and first person narration that no other onscreen kicker could handle. And his latest continues the trend of retaining his Englishness and showing great charisma and verbal dexterity while still living up to the action expectations of a marquee-name martial arts star. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Upgrade

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Until now, Leigh Whannell has seemed like James Wan’s sidekick. I guess technically he’s the creator of SAW, because he wrote the short film, but he’s mainly known for co-writing the first three SAWs, DEAD SILENCE and all the INSIDIOUSes. And then he directed INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY CHAPTER THREE. But did you know he had it in him to go off on his own and write and direct a ferocious low budget cyberpunk action thriller? Man, why didn’t you tell me?

Logan Marshall-Green (from THE INVITATION and Quarry, but I’ll always think of him as “I just want answers, baby” from PROMETHEUS) stars as Grey Trace, a simple mechanic who loves listening to Howlin’ Wolf records in the garage and working on his Firebird even though he lives in a near future with self-driving cars and cyber implants and shit. (Yeah, I know. But at least they don’t say out loud that he’s an analog man in a digital world. They just show you visually and then move on.)

Then one night mysterious criminals shoot him and his wife (Melanie Vallejo, the Blue Ranger on Power Rangers Mystic Force), leaving him paralyzed and her dead. Though his house is set up with some pretty sweet robot arms that can prepare food for him, he’s miserable and suicidal without his wife or the ability to work with his hands. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Black Dog

Thursday, May 10th, 2018

April 10: SPECIES II
April 24: THE BIG HIT, TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY

May 1, 1998: BLACK DOG

On the same day that Eldridge Cleaver of the Black Panther Party died, and Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke got married, BLACK DOG came out. (I wasn’t seeing it, I was seeing HE GOT GAME.)

BLACK DOG is a good old fashioned medium budget summer action movie, which is something that existed twenty years ago (we’ll also see THE NEGOTIATOR later in the summer). It’s an example of the mini-trend of action movies trying to appeal to country music fans (FIRE DOWN BELOW) with its soundtrack of songs about how half your check goes to the landlord and half to Uncle Sam, or how free it is to be “a road man,” with “those windshield wipers slappin out a tempo” when “each mile brings me closer to you.”

Patrick Swayze (STEEL DAWN) plays Jack Crews, a nice and upright Swayzian family man working hard at a warehouse to support his beloved wife Melanie (Brenda Strong, STARSHIP TROOPERS 1-2) and daughter Tracy (Erin Broderick, RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP). He sees his responsibility to provide for his family as his highest calling, and makes time to cook “only the absolute best homemade” for dinner and to go to Tracy’s basketball game. But if somebody at work tells him to stay late for some bullshit when he’s supposed to pick the girl up from school he’ll say “If you need it, it’ll be done.” (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Mercury Rising

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

also April 3, 1998

MERCURY RISING opened on the same day as LOST IN SPACE, and I skipped it until now, too, despite it starring Bruce. I guess I figured it wasn’t a real action movie, it was some thriller from a director I wasn’t excited about (Harold Becker, VISION QUEST, SEA OF LOVE). I was more picky back then I guess.

He’s taking care of a little boy even though it’s a year before THE SIXTH SENSE. A practice run. It’s very much a transitional work because he basically gets to alernate between Action Bruce and Sad Bruce. Strangely enough it’s based on a book called Simon Says, which is the same name as the spec script that DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE was based on, as well as the name of Pharoahe Monch’s biggest song, which sampled the Godzilla theme, and a GODZILLA remake was released later in the summer of 1998. Isn’t that fucking crazy!? Well, I guess the third one is not really that relevant, and now that I look at it the book is actually called Simple Simon (by Ryne Douglas Pearson, who has story and screenplay credits on KNOWING). So please strike most of this paragraph from the record. I’m sorry I wasted your time. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Emperor of the North

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

EMPEROR OF THE NORTH (a.k.a. EMPEROR OF THE NORTH POLE) is a great 1973 tramp epic, a Depression-era tall tale of a battle between the champions of two rival kingdoms: a legend of the homeless counterculture pitted against the meanest, most heartless bastard among those lucky enough to have a job working the railroad. A-No.-1 (Lee motherfuckin Marvin [PAINT YOUR WAGON] in his followup to PRIME CUT) is a smart, experienced “bull” intent on riding the No. 19 all the way to Portland, Oregon. Shack (Ernest Borgnine, THE SPLIT) is the cruel sonofabitch conductor who takes that shit way too personally.

The opening scene sets the stakes high. Under a somewhat amusing Marty Robbins theme tune that personifies trains, the Shack chases down some poor guy trying to ride his rails and whacks him on the skull with a big metal mallet, like he’s Vinnie Jones in THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN. We have to hear the man’s screams as he falls and tumbles beneath the wheels and is left on the tracks separated into two pieces. Horrible. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Paradox

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Remember the great Donnie Yen/Sammo Hung movie SPL, or KILL ZONE as the Weinsteins retitled it in the U.S.? If not, do you at least remember SPL 2/KILL ZONE 2, the even greater Wu Jing/Tony Jaa movie that knocked our asses and hearts into the stratosphere a couple years ago? Well, PARADOX was made as SPL 3. That’s why I got antsy and ordered an import from YesAsia before I read that Well Go is putting it out in the U.S. on May 8th.

Once again it’s not a normal followup, but a thematic sequel, or a spiritual sequel, or a sequel in name only, or a remix. Some of the connective tissue cast-and-crew-wise is that it’s directed by Wilson Yip (who directed the first SPL and produced the second), it’s produced by Cheang Pou-soi (who directed part 2), it stars Louis Koo (who played the crime boss who needs a transplant in part 2), it has a “special appearance” by Tony Jaa (who was the co-lead of part 2), Ken Lo (part 2) is in it too, and the action director is Sammo Hung (choreographer and co-star of part 1).

Also the cool American cover has a wolf on it, which must be a reference to the weird metaphorical encounter at the end of the last one. I do believe this one is wolf-free. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Proud Mary

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Mary (Taraji P. Henson, SMOKIN’ ACES, THE KARATE KID, Felicity episodes 7 and 14) is some kind of hitwoman for a Boston crime family, though you’d think she was a high class international assassin judging by her well-maintained secret fold-out arsenal and array of flashy blonde disguise wigs. One day after killing a bookie she sees his young son in the next room playing video games with headphones on. She should kill him – not in my opinion, but in her profession’s – instead she leaves him be.

A year later the kid, Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston, “Young Ralph Tresvant,” THE NEW EDITION STORY), has been through some foster homes and run away and become a hardened drug runner for an abusive Russian scumbag called Uncle (Xander Berkeley, L.A. TAKEDOWN, CANDYMAN). Without mentioning “Hey, I’m the one that murdered your dad” or even “I am a dangerous criminal,” Mary rescues Danny, brings him to her apartment and goes to tell off Uncle – who she ends up killing. And that’s a big mistake because her boss Benny (Danny Glover, PREDATOR 2) sends the whole crew to find and kill whoever took out Uncle. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Slaughter

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

“Badass, huh? Well I hope you’re better with that knife than you were with that big black car. ‘Cause I’ma jam it up your ass.”

Jim Brown was a black action star before blaxploitation. He’d already done more than ten movies by the time SHAFT and SUPER FLY hit. He’d done westerns, he’d been one of the DIRTY DOZEN, he’d even played a version of Richard Stark’s Parker character in THE SPLIT. But I’ve always associated him with the blaxploitation era – I mean, he ended up in I’M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA and ORIGINAL GANGSTAS, didn’t he? – and that all started in 1972 with the movie SLAUGHTER, in which Jim Brown is SLAUGHTER.

In the opening scene a dressed-up older couple get into their Mercedes and it explodes. They were Slaughter’s parents. Dad “had underworld connections.” Slaughter was “a Green Beret hero.” He gets the name of a responsible party: Renaldi. Tries to confront him at an airport, ends up in a car vs. small plane chase, apparently screws up an investigation by the U.S. Treasury.

So Chief Inspector A.W. Price (Cameron Mitchell, ACTION U.S.A.) takes him into a room, calls him the n-word, makes him sign a confession, gets put into a headlock, and puts him on a secret mission to Mexico with two partners to take down the man responsible for blowing up his daddy.

One thing that’s funny about this mission: both of his partners surprise him, and both almost get killed by him. Kim (Marlene Clark, BEWARE! THE BLOB, GANJA & HESS), at first posing as a reporter for “Black Is Magazine,” hides in his bathroom and gets the whole room shot up. Harry (Don Gordon, BULLITT, THE EXORCIST III), waits in his hotel room and as soon as he says “Hi!” gets punched through some furniture, against a wall, out a window into a swimming pool and then gets punched a couple more times while in the swimming pool. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Braven

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

Jason Momoa is… BRAVEN.

BRAVEN is the story of Joe Braven (Jason Momoa, BULLET TO THE HEAD), a nice, rugged logger guy who lives with his family in some snowy area in Newfoundland (or at least that’s where it’s filmed). I really didn’t know what the movie was going to be about, so when he wished a brotherly goodbye and safe driving to his co-worker buddy Weston (Brendan Fletcher, FREDDY VS. JASON) I thought Weston would never come back. And then when his wife Stephanie (Jill Wagner, Blade: The Series) had to leave and repeatedly talked about what she was going to do with him when she got home, I worried she would never come back. And then when he made his daughter Charlotte (Sasha Rossof) go to bed and wait until tomorrow to give her bracelet to grandpa (Stephen Lang, BAND OF THE HAND, DON’T BREATHE), I thought oh shit, Pops is not gonna make it through the night.

Well, I guess none of this is foreshadowing, they’ll all be okay. For a bit. And then they’ll all be in trouble. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Kung Fu Traveler

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Here’s a new sci-fi/kung fu hybrid that’s honestly not up to my standards of martial arts movie quality – to be fair it was made for cable and a streaming service in China – but it’s such a joyfully ludicrous storyline that I can’t help but sort of recommend it if you’re ever in a b-movie mood. It stars Tiger Chen (from Keanu Reeves’ excellent MAN OF TAI CHI and Jesse V. Johnson’s upcoming TRIPLE THREAT) and it can best be described as a cross between a TERMINATOR movie and a period kung fu movie like, say, FEARLESS starring Jet Li.

It opens in a future where aliens have conquered much of the earth. Chen plays a general in a military force that’s fighting back. He and his partner (Wang Zhi, DRUG WAR) are out in the field battling some aliens when he’s able to defeat one of them using kung fu.

This is the craziest part of the movie, reminding me of BEYOND SKYLINE, where the RAID guys fought against tall alien monster guys. There they got to use animatronic suit effects, here it’s digital, looking like a very ambitious SyFy Channel premiere. But, I mean, I can’t not enjoy shit like this:


He also has a robot arm that goes over one of his regular arms.

(read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.