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

Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Florida Straits

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Speaking of Florida projects, here’s one where three guys with very little in common set out on a small fishing boat to try to snatch some gold abandoned in Cuba. FLORIDA STRAITS (1986) is a fun little adventure from GET CARTER and I’LL SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD director Mike Hodges.

Chalk another one up to video store browsing. I had never heard of this when the flashy painted art on the tape cover caught my eye. When I noticed who the director was and that Fred Ward was in the cast I decided to give it a shot. Apparently it was made for HBO, but it seems like a theatrical release (and was in many countries). I was thinking maybe it would be an attempt to cash in on Miami Vice. Instead, the way the setup unfolds in a series of compelling, non-expository scenes reminded me of the excellent Billy Dee Williams slow burn spy-revenge movie HIT!, and this is probly my best only-on-VHS discovery since that one (which has since been released on Blu-Ray and DVD). As of this writing, FLORIDA STRAITS doesn’t even have any external review links on IMDb, which is very rare and always something I will brag about. (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.

Beyond Skyline

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

SKYLINE is an alien invasion movie that I haven’t seen and never heard anything good about, but now there’s a sequel on VOD called BEYOND SKYLINE, and it has Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian from THE RAID in supporting roles. The fact of the matter is if they put those two in a movie then there’s a high chance I’m gonna watch it. I mean if it gets to the point where they’re doing non-fighting cameos in Sandra Bullock relationship dramas or wacky ironic “grindhouse” movies with Danny Trejo and Sid Haig then my dedication will be tested. But for now it’s a pretty effective hook.

A better reason to watch it is the actual lead, Frank Grillo. Chances are you either already love him or are unfamiliar with his recent ascension to torch-bearer of a certain masculine ideal. He caught my eye in THE GREY and WARRIOR, and he was the main villain in the Chinese smash WOLF WARRIOR 2, but generally when he gets into big movies it’s like secondary villain in CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 and 3 or “Squadron Commanding Officer” in ZERO DARK THIRTY. You gotta go a little lowbrow like THE PURGE: ANARCHY to see him as full-on leading man.

Grillo’s rugged charisma anchors this messy, ambitious low budget special effects showcase. He plays an LAPD detective who, you will be in no way surprised to hear, is currently suspended because he’s been drinking so much since the death of his wife. When his partner Garcia (Jacob Vargas, THE PRINCIPAL) tells him “You look worse than I imagined” it’s kinda funny because Garcia is a bit of a slob but Mark is chiseled and well-groomed. (At least it’s not the standard “You look like shit.”) (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.

Dead End City

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

If you, like me, enjoy the occasional muddy VHS war against out-of-control Street Toughs, you may enjoy 1988’s DEAD END CITY, starring a bunch of people I never heard of being overshadowed by the menacingly inflated features of Robert Z’Dar (MANIAC COP, SAMURAI COP, BEASTMASTER 2: THROUGH THE PORTAL OF TIME).

Here he plays Maximum (at least that’s what the credits say his name is), who leads a gang of white biker dudes with headbands, sunglasses, gang vests, chains, fingerless gloves and spiked gauntlets into a neighborhood to shoot random people, invade homes, blow up cars, etc. Maximum is mysterious in his fashion choices – he wears a suit and tie with the end of the tie ripped off, then later he adopts a studded biker look and then a band-t-shirt-sewn-onto-long-jacket punk look. The gang is called the Ratts, and they have names like Zim and Ripp, but I can’t tell any of them apart except for “Ratt Queen” (Isis Richardson, PHOENIX THE WARRIOR) because she’s the only female and the only one with big hair with a streak in it like an X-Man or a Jem and the Hologram.

Jack Murphy (Greg Cummins, Bosch) owns a factory in the area – I never figured out what type of factory – and isn’t too concerned about the radio reports or the government official (Don Barber, “Man in Bathroom,” DEATH CHASE) who comes to tell him to evacuate. The next day he gives in and sends the staff home, but, not wanting to relocate to a shantytown, he decides to stay in the factory with his friend Brett (Durrell Nelson, AN AMERICAN CAROL, stuntman in THE TOXIC AVENGER), his secretary Nancy (Aleana Downs, WITCHCRAFT III: THE KISS OF DEATH) and her visiting blind brother Malcolm (Rob Wuesthoff, stuntman in TEEN WOLF TOO). (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.

American Assassin

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

The trailers for AMERICAN ASSASSIN had me confused. Here is this mainstream, slick and expensive looking movie, Michael Keaton is in it, they’re advertising it before respectable movies. And then the plot is that a guy’s fiancee is killed in a terrorist attack, so he trains himself into a super-duper-badass warrior and master of covert ops and goes on a personal mission undercover into the terrorist cell to get revenge on the motherfuckers. That sounds exactly like a movie I would watch if it starred Scott Adkins or Jason Statham or The Rock or somebody. But this just stars some guy. Some actor.

Well it’s on video now so I had to find out the deal. Turns out the actor is Dylan O’Brien and additionally it turns out that Dylan O’Brien is the guy that starred in those movies THE MAZE RUNNER that somebody has probly watched at some point. Also it turns out that there is still a serious TV show based on TEEN WOLF and the show has Teen Wolf’s wacky buddy Stiles in it and Dylan O’Brien plays this Stiles. We are learning alot here today in my opinion. (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.

Lady Bloodfight

Monday, December 4th, 2017

“There’s no ancient Chinese secret that’s gonna heal broken bones in a single… night!? Impossible!”

My friends, I have been derelict in my duty of making sure the world knows about LADY BLOODFIGHT. Yeah, I know, it sounds like LADYBLOOD FIGHT, or like an all-female reboot of the obscure Bolo Yeung movie BLOODFIGHT, but think of it as WOMEN’S BLOODSPORT. It’s a great DTV fighting tournament movie starring Black Widow stunt double and future action superstar Amy Johnston. I watched it a few months ago, having been put onto it by my readers (shout out to Felix and whoever else mentioned it in the comments) but the write-up got away from me until I watched it again today and I loved it even more.

Johnston is the daughter of a world kickboxing champion, and has studied martial arts since the age of 6. She mostly works as a stuntwoman, but has roles in RAZE and Scott Adkins’ upcoming ACCIDENT MAN, and she starred in one with Dolph called FEMALE FIGHT SQUAD that I’ve heard isn’t as good. But after LADY BLOODFIGHT we better be seeing more of her. (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 Accountant

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Bear with me here, but Christian Wolff, a.k.a. The Accountant (Ben Affleck, REINDEER GAMES) has kind of alot in common with Blade. He’s an anti-hero vigilante who works mysteriously in the underground, a good guy but scary and at odds with the law. He’s mostly a loner, but has a few trusted accomplices. He’s very aloof, not good at talking, expressing emotion, connecting. He has traumatic parental issues and a condition that he tries to keep under control with special treatments. He has a well-established operation with a secret headquarters and armory that we sort of learn about piece-by-piece as the movie goes on. He’s nomadic, setting up base in different parts of the world, always prepared to dump everything and move on if he gets burnt.

This time he knowingly breaks protocol to protect a young woman (Anna Kendrick, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD) who gets mixed up in his fight, and he shocks her by giving a glimpse into his crazy world.

One pretty big difference: instead of a half man/half vampire daywalker, this guy is autistic. That’s what causes his social awkwardness. If he were to walk around in broad daylight with a sword on his back it would be understandable.

(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.

24 Hours to Live

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

24 HOURS TO LIVE is a new VOD movie (theatrical in L.A. and New York starting December 1) that could be described as Ethan Hawke’s JOHN WICK. Not that it’s a very similar story, or a martial arts movie, but it has action beyond the modern standards, takes place in a world of elite killers, and has some un-self-conscious absurdity in its basic premise that’s grounded in very effective, heartfelt emotions. I guess this means they don’t consider Hawke and Rutger Hauer big enough names to sell an action movie in wide release these days, but it doesn’t at all feel like DTV. Both quality and production value-wise it’s completely legit, and I liked it better than many of the Jason Statham, Gerard Butler and Liam Neeson pictures I’ve paid to see on the big screen.

In classic international co-production fashion it begins with an Interpol agent, Lin (Xu Qing, FLASH POINT), under attack by militants in South Africa while transporting a whistleblower (Tyrone Keogh, BLAST, STARSHIP TROOPERS 3) to testify to the U.N. It’s meat and potatoes machine-guns-rocket-launchers-and-jeeps type action that immediately shows you the movie means business. Heads are popping, bodies are bouncing off windshields and rolling under tires. (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.

Acts of Vengeance

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

Instead of thinking of ACTS OF VENGEANCE as the new one from DTV action master Isaac Florentine, I recommend viwing it as the new Antonio Banderas, and oh shit Isaac Florentine directed this! Held to the standards of Florentine’s amazing UNDISPUTED 2, 3 and 4, NINJA 1 and 2 or other Scott Adkins vehicles it can’t really compete. But for a non-martial artist Banderas has some good fights, and it has a nice, weird revenge story for him to sink his actor teeth into.

He plays Frank Valera, a successful defense attorney who, like all workaholic dads in movies, promises to be at his daughter (Lillian Blankenship, SECURITY)’s talent show where she’s singing a song specifically for him but he stays at work too long and gets there after it’s over and feels like a piece of shit and emotionally watches the cell phone video of her singing and tries to call to apologize to his wife (Cristina Serafini, DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE) but man did he fuck up, this guy.

(For what it’s worth, most of the delay was caused by gridlock, and he was honking his horn alot. It was mostly out of his control.) (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.

Puncture Wounds

Monday, November 27th, 2017

a.k.a. A CERTAIN JUSTICE

Lately I’ve been talking up Cung Le, the Vietnamese-American MMA legend turned movie martial artist who has had really impressive supporting roles in FIGHTING, BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, THE GRANDMASTER, SAVAGE DOG and recently SECURITY. I love his stoic performances, unique sledge hammer fighting style and unusually compact body type, and I don’t think he’s gotten enough credit for his work.

So far there are a couple of Le starring vehicles, and if you’re only going to watch one, for God’s sake choose John Hyams’ DRAGON EYES (2012), a sort of loose contemporization of YOJIMBO with Jean-Claude Van Damme in a supporting role. But if you, like me, are also willing to watch a not as good Cung Le vehicle, I offer you PUNCTURE WOUNDS from 2014. (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.

Birth of the Dragon

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

BIRTH OF THE DRAGON is now on video. A very fictionalized riff on the legendary challenge fight between two early ’60s Bay Area martial artists named Wong Jack Man and Bruce Lee, it was not exactly welcomed to screens with open arms. Shannon Lee and the Bruce Lee estate (who are currently developing an official Lee movie) did not approve, white director George Nolfi (THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU) was viewed by most with an understandable raised eyebrow, and an early trailer showing not-in-the-finished-movie first person narration by a white character caused widespread derision (including by me).

But look, I’m fascinated by Bruce Lee, the man and the myth, and by this event in particular. If there’s gonna be a movie about it, no matter how possibly misguided, but especially if produced by the prestigious WWE Films and Blumhouse (whuh?), of course I’m gonna watch it. So I did. (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.