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

Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Steel Dawn

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

STEEL DAWN takes the post-apocalyptic world of George Miller, pumps up the samurai and western influences, adds a little martial arts, replaces the internal combustion engine with wind power, and invents the Patrick Swayze action vehicle. He’d already made a name for himself in ensembles – THE OUTSIDERS, UNCOMMON VALOR, RED DAWN – but this was released only three months after his breakout role in DIRTY DANCING. It didn’t catch on in the same way, and it doesn’t play on cable nearly as much. But this last time I watched it was a profound experience.

It opens with Swayze balancing on his head in the middle of a desert. That’s how he meditates. But then a bunch of shrieking, masked mutants climb out of the sand to attack him. He uses martial arts to fight them off, pulling a sword out of his bag when he gets too outnumbered.

He’s a nomad. In fact, he’s credited as Nomad. Heading for a tavern, he gets attacked by an old warrior who turns out to be Cord (John Fujioka, AMERICAN NINJA, AMERICAN SAMURAI, AMERICAN YAKUZA), an old war comrade just fucking with him. They catch up over drinks but suddenly a bunch of brutes led by a guy named Sho (Christopher Neame, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE, DRACULA A.D. 1972, SPECIES III) in a ridiculous hair metal wig attack them and kill Cord. (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.

Steele Justice

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

“Steele left this buried in my chest 12 years ago. I swore one day I would return it to him.”

STEELE JUSTICE is one of those special action movies that is serious but feels more like the parodies of action movies than you realized was possible. Martin Kove – the KARATE KID bad guy and valuable supporting player in movies like DEATH RACE 2000, RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, BARE KNUCKLES and BEYOND THE RING – actually gets to play the hero of this, and it’s one for the record books.

I’m sure you’re already making some assumptions about what kind of a movie would be called STEELE JUSTICE, so I would like to go ahead and verify the following points for you:

1) Yes, his name is John Steele

2) Indeed, he is a Vietnam vet

3) You are correct, he is also an ex-cop (fired)

4) You bet your ass there’s a title logo made of steel letters that clanks onto the screen (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.

Ring of Steel

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

RING OF STEEL is a classical underground fighting circuit movie from 1994, and it has many familiar elements: a hero who needs work after accidentally killing an opponent in a legitimate match, a mysterious, clearly untrustworthy stranger who leads him into the temptation of a high stakes fight club, rich people betting, the slow roll-out of death matches after the hero is already in too deep, a jealous and possessive-of-women rival, police snooping around, a girlfriend who ends up being used as collateral to make him fight the big match, all that type of stuff. But it has one unique element that gives the whole enterprise a novel flavor and personality: the fights are sword fights.

The hero is a disgraced fencing champion. Given a choice of weapons, he picks some kind of 17th century musketeer deal to go up against knights and samurai and shit. And some of the score by Jeff Beal (IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL, BLACKFISH, WEINER, HE WAS A QUIET MAN) would work for a Roger Corman sword and sorcery movie. (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.

Satin Steel

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

tn_satinsteelSATIN STEEL is a 1994 Hong Kong cops ‘n martial arts movie that starts off as a bit of a LETHAL WEAPON rip-off, but with women. I wish the heroine was actually named Satin Steel, but instead her name is Jade (Jade Leung, BLACK CAT 1 and 2). Like Riggs, Jade is a maverick police detective with a death wish. And it opens with a similar (though smaller scale) undercover bust where she does something insane to get her collar (it involves a grenade).

She takes crazy risks because she’s depressed that her husband was shot to death (and fell out a high window!) by assassins trying to kill her. We learn this when she’s outside smoking and brooding to a bluesy soundtrack and she witnesses a wedding in progress. When her flashback ends she’s holding her gun to her head. Luckily she snaps out of it, realizes she has caused a scene and goes over to congratulate the newlyweds, but in my opinion you can’t really recover from a faux pas like that. That is just plain poor wedding etiquette, I don’t care what the 2nd amendment says.

Although Jade is a cop who gets her man, she’s obviously hard to deal with, so the boss takes a getting-rid-of-Chris-Tucker-in-RUSH-HOUR type glee in sending her to Singapore to investigate an international arms dealing ring. And something about the American mafia and diamonds and a guy that was involved in the World Trade Center bombing. (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.

Firestorm (2013)

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

FIRESTORM, the Hong Kong movie from 2013, is unfortunately not a remake of the 1998 firefighter action vehicle starring Howie Long. But it’s a good movie. Andy Lau (INFERNAL AFFAIRS, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, THE GREAT WALL) plays Inspector Lui, a by-the-book cop trying to catch a gang of brazen thieves. He’s there when they literally lift an armored car with a crane, and he hopes to be there (but more prepared) the next time they strike.

This is not the Hong Kong I know from other movies, with all the bustle and boats and steam coming off of outdoor markets. This is clean, professional downtown Hong Kong. Tall buildings, office clothes. That robbery happens in broad daylight, the gunmen wearing scary fencing type masks. It’s got a realistic feel but it’s this outlandish action spectacle, like HEAT meets more of a DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE world. (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.

Toy Soldiers (1984)

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

There’s another TOY SOLDIERS besides the Sean Astin/Wil Wheaton one from 1991 that I reviewed before. This is the one from 1984 that’s kind of like UNCOMMON VALOR but with rich college kids instead of Vietnam vets. Jason Miller (THE EXORCIST) plays a Vietnam vet now working as a family’s personal yacht captain. When he chaperones their daughter Amy (Terri Garber, SLAPPY AND THE STINKERS) and her loser friends on a trip to Panama, they totally prank the shit out of him by purposely leaving him behind on a dingy. Cut to montage of dumping beer on each other’s heads, smoking joints, making out and comical sexual harassment.

“What they didn’t know, what nobody knew, was that the fun was just about over,” intones Sarge in his weirdly Wonder Years-esque opening narration. The accident that fucks up everything is realistically random: drunken Tommy (Jim Greenleaf, TAG: THE ASSASSINATION GAME, JOYSTICKS) jumps belly first onto an inflatable raft, bounces off it and hits his head. They bring him to land to try to get medical help, but they end up quickly abducted by paramilitary forces. They’re tied up, beaten and groped. Amy is defiant, so they lock her separately in a pit with a dead priest currently in the process of being eaten by rats.

But otherwise that would’ve been pretty funny how they ditched that old wet blanket so they could party, ha ha. (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.

Countdown

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

I’m happy to see that some of the films produced by WWE Films still fulfill the original promise of that prestigious banner: traditional low budget action vehicles for pro-wrestlers. For a while they were doing normal movies that didn’t take advantage of their stable of larger-than-life muscle dudes. So how the hell am I supposed to learn who the different wrestlers are? Watch wrestling?

This one taught me who Dolph Ziggler is. I’d heard the name and I always assumed he would be a tall Ivan Drago knockoff, but it turns out he’s just a longhair dude of standard WWE height and build. Here he ties his hair back to play Ray Thompson, Seattle undercover narcotics cop who is totally in trouble for how edgy and not by the book he is. For example he fake kills his asshole partner Kendricks (Josh Blacker, DRIVEN TO KILL, ELYSIUM) during a bust by shooting him in the vest. He saves his partner’s life and gets 200 guns off the streets, and it’s possible that this level of law enforcement awesomeness is actually just acting out due to the tragic death of his son. At least, that’s what we suspect when his wife finds him drinking a beer and reading bedtime stories in their son’s completely-untouched bedroom. (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.

The Fate of the Furious

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Here we are, number eight in the impossible series. The one that started as cheesy car exploitation with surprising heart, and evolved into… the FAST AND THE FURIOUS series. The one that, I am happy to say, is still the longest running movie series that I like every installment of. (Second place is still DEATH WISH. I am now aware that RESIDENT EVIL comes close, but I don’t like the first one.)

That is not to say that it can sustain forever. But only because fossil fuels will eventually run out. Inevitably, there has been a slight downward arc in quality since the untoppable back-to-back peaking of FAST FIVE and FURIOUS 6, but part FATE is still an immensely entertaining chapter in the ongoing soap opera about friends who have been repeatedly swallowed and coughed up by the impossible, and filmmakers who have not yet run out of ways to go bigger and more ridiculous than last time. (Hint: car playing chicken with nuclear submarine.)

Ah, who am I fooling, there is no room for hints in this review. This is gonna be straight up SPOILERs throughout. I’ll write it so it makes sense to those who will foolishly avoid the movie and just read this, but my recommendation is obviously to go see the movie first. I will not be pussyfooting around about surprises. We’re gonna want to discuss them. (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.

Never Too Young To Die

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

Sometimes there’s a monumentally shitty day, both on a personal and on an international level, so you get a glass of whiskey and watch the new Shout Factory Blu-Ray of a John Stamos movie that friends have been recommending to you on VHS for years. In my case, this time, NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE (1986) did not cut all the way through my fog of negativity. I’m not sure if that means I just wasn’t in the right place emotionally to fully enjoy an amazing movie or if it kinda drags in the middle so it’s not quite as good as it sounds on paper. Won’t really matter, though, because once I describe it to you you would be stupid not to see it. I mean let’s be serious here.

It starts on top of a dam, where Gene Simmons, dressed as a woman, gives a big THE WARRIORS style speech to a gang of DRAGNET: THE MOVIE style punks. He dreams of poisoning the water supply and I guess he doesn’t have time to take over state government and defund the infrastructure in poor and minority areas like how it’s done now. But he almost had some kind of computer disk that was gonna allow him to do the poisoning through the dam or something (I never quite followed this part). So he has abducted some lady who knows where the disk is and he tortures her with one long fingernail while the gang chants “THE FINGER! THE FINGER! THE FINGER!”
(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.

Bodyguards and Assassins

Monday, April 10th, 2017

BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS is really not fair to the assassins – it’s all about how great and selfless the bodyguards are. I thought I should give that warning to the more sensitive members of the assassin community. I still thought it was good though.

This 2009 film from director Teddy Chan (KUNG FU KILLER) is another one in that IP MAN vein of an Important Historical Drama infused with exaggerated martial arts greatness. I so wish our Oscar bait movies had kung fu in them. Think how much better IMITATION GAME would be!

In 1906, the pro-democracy activist Dr. Sun Wen (Zhang Hanyu, SPECIAL ID, THE GREAT WALL) is about to meet in British-ruled Hong Kong with regional leaders to plan a revolution, but the Chinese government is trying to assassinate him. So this is about the brave rebels who volunteer to escort him to the meeting. (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.