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

Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Undisputed II: Last Man Standing

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

First of all I gotta note that it’s weird this movie exists at all. Walter Hill’s prison/boxing movie UNDISPUTED is not exactly a title that appears in everyone’s home library. It was not a box office hit, it did not catch on huge on video, it does not hold a nostalgic place in anyone’s heart, it did not inspire other movies or hip hop videos or launch a catch phrase. I think I know one guy besides me who saw it, he liked it, I didn’t. He hasn’t seen part 2. I never saw it until now. There’s your audience.

The original got a brief theatrical release, the sequel was straight-to-video. Maybe they could’ve gotten Wesley Snipes to return, since he’s stuck in straight-to-video lately. Instead it stars Michael Jai White – you know, the guy who was cut out of KILL BILL who everybody on the internet thought should’ve replaced Wesley in BLADE: THE SERIES. So that’s cool. Except Wesley’s character is not mentioned – White is playing Ving Rhames’s villain character George “The Iceman” Chambers. (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 Gangster

Monday, February 18th, 2008

I haven’t been big on Ridley Scott post-ALIEN, but when I saw he was doing the real-life gangster epic starring Denzel Washington – the one I already wanted to see when it was Antoine Fuqua that was supposed to direct it – man, I was excited. And the trailer looked great. And then it came out and without exception everybody I knew who saw it said “yeah, it was… pretty good.” Suddenly there was less urgency to see it, and I watched other movies, wrote some stuff, maybe took some naps, ate some food, and then it was gone.

Well, maybe it was for the best. Now I watched it with lower expectations, in its 20-minutes-longer UNRATED EXTENDED CUT (4 minutes shy of 3 hours) and I have to say I really enjoyed it. I see your “yeah, it was… pretty good” and raise you a “it was… pretty fuckin good.” I am proud to review it alongside such other great American films as AMERICAN PIMP, AMERICAN PSYCHO and AMERICAN NINJA. (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.

Exterminator 2

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

The Vietnam Vet turned psychotic New York criminal assassinator is back, and still played by Robert Ginty, but now directed by part 1 producer Mark Buntzman. I was impressed that part 1’s very first shot was the hero flying away from a fiery explosion. No studio logos, even. Part 2 starts with the Cannon Films logo, but the opening shot is a good one: The Exterminator stepping out into an alley wearing a welding mask, he sprays his blowtorch into the camera and the title appears in the fire.

I didn’t enjoy part 2 nearly as much as part 1, but some bad movie aficianados may like it better. Part 1 is clumsy and raw, but part 2 is just cheesy and stupid. But it’s way more ridiculous. This time there’s no cop character, there’s just The Exterminator going around like a masked slasher killing criminals. In the first one I think he used a welding torch for a little American style perfecly legal and ethical interrogation techniques. In this one they act like a welding mask is his Jason mask and a blowtorch is his Freddy glove. The creepy part is he only appears after they’ve committed crimes, and it’s even said “it’s like he was waiting for us.” So you wonder why he doesn’t intervene before some gangsters murder an innocent elderly couple. Instead he just waits outside so he can light them on fire after they’re done. (Trivia: One of the first guys he lights on fire is played by Reggie Rock Bythewood, writer of GET ON THE BUS, director of BIKER BOYZ.) (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 Exterminator

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

THE EXTERMINATOR is a crude but enjoyable vigilante action movie from 1980. It’s kind of in the vein of ROLLING THUNDER but closer to the quality level of THE PARK IS MINE. Robert Ginty plays a troubled Vietnam vet whose best friend (Steve James, more on him later) gets paralyzed by a gang so he kills them in revenge, then decides to declare himself The Exterminator and go murder various criminals. Now that I think about it this is actually in the vein of THE PUNISHER (either version), but it came before those movies.

You know this movie means business when the very first shot is the main character being tossed through the air by a huge explosion. There’s not even a studio logo before that, that is the very first shot. It starts out with a gruesome battle in Vietnam that explains why a dude would be troubled enough to become The Exterminator. There’s a very realistic and disturbing beheading in this scene. Stan Winston was one of the effects guys. It’s one of those action movie paradoxes because on one hand these things are what torments the main character, they are what cause him to go crazy and what he flashes back to when he’s murdering criminals. But on the other hand we think they are awesome. We want to see explosions and beheadings. As viewers, what’s worst for him is best for us. We are cruel gods. (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.

Bad Lieutenant

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

A guy I know told me a funny anecdote about renting this in the early ’90s when he was a teenager. He said he got it at a tiny little mom and pop store in a suburb of Seattle. You don’t really see stores like that now but they used to be around, especially in the ’80s, before Blockbuster and Hollywood were everywhere. This one had a nice old man who ran it (the pop) and when this kid and his little sister brought up BAD LIEUTENANT the old man got excited. “My niece is in this movie!” he says.

“Really?”

“Yeah! Watch for the scene where he pulls over the two teenage girls. She’s one of the girls!” (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.

I Know Who Killed Me

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

Other than having a scene where a girl gets sadistically tortured, I KNOW WHO KILLED ME is nothing like the current generation of American horror movies. It seems less influenced by SAW than by Brian DePalma thrillers and “giallos” out of Italy – you know, the weird slasher mysteries where logic is not as important as atmosphere and vivid colors. That’s definitely the philosophy of this one. Logic is for losers.

The director, Chris Sivertson (best known as the co-director of the behind-the-scenes featurette on the remake of THE TOOLBOX MURDERS) has a lush visual style and is unhealthily obsessed with the color blue. You see it on Lindsay Lohan’s clothes and car, her school’s football uniforms, the rose her boyfriend gives her, the big Liberace ring her piano teacher wears, her dad’s glowing phone, the gloves that both the police and the killer wear, the hospital scrubs, the entire emergency room, the weapons the guy uses to torture her, even the gag in her mouth. Seriously, you’ll be pissing blue for a week after you see this. The only things missing are Otter Pops and blue raspberry Jolly Ranchers, otherwise every bright blue colored object or substance that ever existed appears in the 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.

The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

The original THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR is not one of my favorite Steve McQueen pictures. It’s stylish and well-made, I can see the appeal of it. But first of all, as much fun as he may have had doing it, McQueen was not meant to play that kind of upper crust character. And secondly, as cool as you want him to be because he’s played by Steve McQueen, Thomas Crown is not a very cool character. He’s The Man. A rich guy who has other people do his work and then takes credit for it. Just because he picks up the money out of the garbage can after all the real work is done he gets to call it his Affair? There’s no justice in that movie.

John McTiernan’s loose remake takes care of those problems, while introducing other ones. While I’m much more fond of Steve McQueen, Pierce Brosnan is a way better choice to play this character. He’s smooth, he’s handsome, he looks kind of like Fred MacMurray but more girly, he has an accent. And there’s no way to imagine him working with his hands or having dirt on him or his hair unkempt. He IS Thomas Crown. (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.

Funny Games

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Not funny ha-ha, though. This is a very simple, solid, unsettling Austrian picture from 1997. The director is Michael Haneke, who has since become real respected due to movies like CACHE. In this one a couple and their son arrive at their vacation home. We know they’re well-to-do not only because of the vacation home, but because they listen to opera music in the car and have a boat. Right after they get there father and son are putting the boat in the water, mom is talking on the phone, cooking some steaks, and a young man shows up at the door to borrow some eggs. He dicks around for a bit but before too long there are two young visitors, eight broken eggs, one broken leg and the family held hostage.

So most of the movie is spent in the house with the family sitting helplessly as their smug home invaders talk about games and bets and pretend that they’re being friendly. It is not graphically violent or shock value oriented like CHAOS or something. The cruelty to the characters and audience is mostly psychological. The most horrible stuff happens off camera. One scene focuses on one of the tormentors walking into the kitchen and calmly making a sandwich while the horror goes on in the other room. (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.

No Country for Old Men

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

A guide for enthusiasts of Badass Cinema

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is one of those movies that’s so quiet it can be uncomfortable to watch with an audience. Alot of scenes all you hear is the wind blowing lightly over the wide open Texas plains, or the cars driving past outside a motel room, along with every squirm, every sigh, every shoulder crack in the theater. At the end when I saw the music credit for Carter Burwell I honestly couldn’t for the life of me remember any point in the movie where there was music.

So it’s clearly a little arty, it’s not like anybody’s gonna mistake this for THE MUMMY RETURNS. Or for THE FRENCH CONNECTION for that matter. It requires a little patience. But there’s so much about it that’s so fuckin good that it will win over all kinds of people from all walks of life. At first. (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.

To Live and Die in L.A.

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

I always knew the title to this one, because of that song by Wang Chung. But I never knew what exactly it was about. Turns out it’s loosely based on a novel by this guy Gerald Petievich. He was in the Secret Service, and the book was inspired by some of his experiences. So it’s supposed to be about the weirdness of that job, where one day you’re protecting the president of the United States and the next day you’re working for the treasury department so you’re just chasing some dude with counterfeit twenties.

This movie has the thumbprints of great filmatism smeared all over it. It has the kind of opening I’m a sucker for, the kind that throws you in the middle of something, sets the tone, then goes into the opening credits. Like a preamble or an overture. The main character Richard Chance (William Petersen) is on security detail for a Reagan speech (you just hear Reagan’s voice off screen, they don’t have Martin Sheen or anybody playing him). The guys are just kind of killing time when he notices something odd that leads him to the roof, where he finds an Islamic suicide bomber. (oh, shit.) He’s not able to talk him down but his partner climbs up the side of the roof and yanks the guy by the leg so that he explodes in mid-air, like a big balloon full of blood and chunks of meat. Then the two sit on the edge of the building to think about what has just happened. Chance says, “Let’s go get drunk and play cards” and it cuts into a stylish opening montage showing various images from the movie and that represent L.A. (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.