So once again we have survived.

Posts Tagged ‘John Woo’

The Killer

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

tn_thekillerwoozoneAs a guy specializing in writing about action movies, sometimes I worry I’m documenting an ancient art form. I romanticize a time when action movies were a rite of passage, a father-son bonding tradition and a major passion for many young people, especially males, but it seems like the youth of today aren’t necessarily interested in this shit. And if they don’t grow up on it then they’re never gonna have that moment when they get a little older and become aware of the other powerful strains of it from around the world.

That makes me sad because whatever they’re watching instead cannot possibly match the rush of joy I got when I saw my first John Woo movie – which was THE KILLER – or each time I revisit his classics now. At the time there was nothing else like it. Somehow that seems even more true today.

The things that are greatest about THE KILLER might be the things that would seem silliest to younger people: the unabashed style and the the unbridled, unironic emotion. I remember people who came up a few years after the era when Hong Kong action cinema was the coolest thing going – people who are old and decrepit now – who would make jokes about John Woo’s doves. “Ha ha, two pistols, and some doves, am I right? Ha ha, I know about a trademark, I have defeated him.”

Well, THE KILLER is gonna be way too much for anybody like that. And maybe I gotta face that they just don’t deserve THE KILLER. The cards are laid on the table in the opening, when Chow Yun-Fat as Ah Jong (or “Jeff Chow,” according to the credits) meets with his Triad manager Fung Sei (Paul Chu Kong) in an empty church at night. That happens in all action movies, but this church is lit with what must be a thousand candles, and there are doves and pigeons flying around, landing on the cross. (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.

Windtalkers (second review)

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

tn_windtalkerswoozoneusaBWINDTALKERS is an American John Woo picture that I kinda hated at the time. I can prove it: here’s my review. But I watched it again and although I don’t really disagree with anything I said in that review, now I think it’s okay. Maybe this is because I watched the director’s cut, which is longer and more violent, like a real John Woo movie. Maybe it’s because I came to it with different hopes and expectations, having already not liked it. Or maybe it’s because I’ve grown and changed as a person and movie watcher since the last time. I suspect it’s a combination of all three.

This is Woo’s WWII movie, which makes sense because it’s about male bonding through violence, but also the evil of endless violence, and also a pretty invisible minority (the Navajo) reaching across cultural lines to achieve a common goal, much like Woo making movies in Hollywood. (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.

Blackjack (second review)

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

tn_blackjack“Okay, I understand that, but Jack you need to realize that your sunglasses are the only protection you have from all the white out there.”

woozoneusaBIt wasn’t part of the original plan, but as I was re-watching the American John Woo movies I realized I had to revisit this 1998 USA Networks TV movie (and unfulfilled backdoor pilot), even though I did an okay job reviewing it long ago. I’ve recently had good luck recommending it to a couple people who never heard of it, but I hadn’t seen it myself in 11 years. Fortunately this thing (shot right after FACE/OFF) holds up as an absurd and entertaining Dolph Lundgren vehicle that transcends its cheapo format.

Dolph plays Jack Devlin, a world class bodyguard who seems to work out of Reno. In the opening he agrees to a favor for an old friend who owns a casino and needs him to protect his little girl Casey (Padraigin Murphy) from the mob. She calls him “Uncle Jack,” which I took literally this time, but my research tells me that they’re not actually related.

It goes down kind like in TAKEN, where the kids get to Europe and are immediately kidnapped. Here gunmen arrive about 30 seconds after Jack walks into the house with Casey. He’s checking the rooms upstairs when they come in. (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.

Broken Arrow

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

tn_brokenarrowwoozoneusaBROKEN ARROW is John Woo’s second American movie, and maybe his most generic. Christian Slater (HE WAS A QUIET MAN) stars as Air Force Captain Riley Hale, who’s sent on a test flight with his browbeating mentor and pal Major Vic Deakins (John Travolta, CHAINS OF GOLD) that goes awry. Their experimental bomber is carrying two nuclear warheads to find out if they can do it without being detected via radiation. The trouble is, some low rent DIE HARD sequel type villains are waiting out in the desert for Deakins to intentionally crash the plane so they can steal the missiles and make the government pay a ransom to get them back. God damn dirty bombnappers.

Hale survives the crash and encounters park ranger Terry Carmichael (Samantha Mathis) and Deakins has devised various ways to slow down anybody else coming in to help, so they gotta John McClane and Zeus Carver it out. Slater and Mathis had already starred in PUMP UP THE VOLUME together. Later Mathis would be in another movie that Travolta was in, THE PUNISHER. They’re all fairly likable, but their characters are bland and lifeless compared to a Chance Boudreaux or a Castor Troy. (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.

Hard Target

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

tn_hardtargetwoozoneusaThere was a time, I must admit, when I didn’t properly appreciate HARD TARGET. I had already been intoxicated by the unadulterated John Woo of THE KILLER, BULLET IN THE HEAD and HARD BOILED (in that order, I believe) so when I watched his 1993 Hollywood debut I could only see the compromises. American Woo was less violent, less stylish, less emotional and built around the stiff toughness of Van Damme instead of the smooth charisma of Chow Yun Fat.

But with the passage of time comes wisdom and context. From the perspective of today we can see that HARD TARGET stepped deeper into the Woo Zone than any of his subsequent American films save for FACE/OFF. More importantly, it’s clearly a masterpiece among Van Damme vehicles, themselves an enjoyable body of work that can benefit from some Woo. A pessimist sees HARD TARGET as Woo watered down with Van Damme. But I’m an optimist now so I know it’s a refreshing glass of Van Damme spiked with a shot of Woo tequila. (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.

Mission: Impossible 2

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

tn_mi2woozone?MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 was made at a time when the world just wasn’t ready for this particular MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2. There needed to be more of a cooling off period after the first one. We needed some time to learn that MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE sequels weren’t gonna be the elegant balance of smart-people thriller and blockbuster spectacle that Brian DePalma introduced in the first one, and also that John Woo was not gonna ever seem like the exact same filmatist who made THE KILLER, or HARD BOILED, or even FACE/OFF, again. Returning to it now it’s even more evident that it’s best appreciated by watching it like we watch other post-Hong-Kong Woo pictures like HARD TARGET, or his TV ones like BLACKJACK or the Once a Thief series. You just try to enjoy it as some Hollywood bullshit that he tried to add some of his particular style to. Here he treats it as an expensive studio movie love story set against a rogue agent trying to get rich off of a man-made disease and its cure.

Tom Cruise (JACK REACHER) returns as Ethan Hunt, who has graduated from IMF support man to lone wolf and is now so awesome that he spends his vacation rock climbing out in the middle of nowhere with no equipment. He doesn’t have his phone on him (it was 2000) so the agency has to send a helicopter to fire a rocket at him containing douchey sunglasses that give him his mission briefing. This is a good idea because the ol’ “this message will self destruct” means he throws a pair of sunglasses at the camera and they explode into the title, and everybody wants to see that. (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.

Paycheck

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

tn_paycheckwoozone?Remember when John Woo did a science fictional movie a while back that everybody said was shitty? This was after we’d all kind of given up on him, so I never saw it. Until now.

Ben Affleck, the director of ARGO, stars as Michael Jennings, an amoral engineering genius of a futurist Seattle, some time after the near-future one in STEALTH. (In the future the borders of Seattle will be stretched so far that they will include Vancouver, BC, which is all we see in this movie other than one helicopter shot over Seattle Center). His introduction is funny because he gets to do a John Woo slo-mo strut toward the camera wearing shades (it’s important to the plot that he’s finicky about sunglasses) and, uh, holding a computer monitor under his arm.

(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.

Heroes Shed No Tears

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

HEROES SHED NO TEARS is not just a great phrase to tattoo on your back or use as an adult recreational softball team name, it’s also a messy pre-A BETTER TOMORROW John Woo picture. We always talk about how the Hong Kong film scene that Woo thrived in was the Wild West compared to the Hollywood that ruined him. Well, then this was Rome or something. This is Woo when he was a straight up exploitation director. He was filming in Thailand, and shit must’ve been even crazier then than in the Tony Jaa era, ’cause they say they were using live rounds in some of these shootouts. Just shoot at stuff behind the actors. Squibs are too much 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.

Bullet in the Head

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I don’t think I’ve seen John Woo’s BULLET IN THE HEAD since the early ’90s. It was a double feature with HARD BOILED, and I remember seeing a guy walk out during a scene involving American P.O.W.s. I thought it was crazy that after the unparalleled gun violence of HARD BOILED there would be violence in the next movie that somebody couldn’t take. But obviously with the historical context it cuts a little closer to the bone, especially if that guy was a vet. That’s what’s amazing about this movie: made after THE KILLER but before HARD BOILED, it has the fun, brotherhood and crazy action of the best Woo while feeling more personal, more emotional than any of 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.

Red Cliff

Saturday, December 4th, 2010

tn_redcliffwoozoneSome of you young kids might not know about The Curse of Van Damme. It was an early ’90s phenomenon named after (but not necessarily caused by) our favorite Belgian kickboxer/actor because of his track record for personally delivering talented Hong Kong directors to Hollywood. They’d come over, inject our action movies with a very small watered-down dose of what they had been doing back at home, then their bodies and minds would be completely drained by the studio beasts, leaving them hollow husks whose names on movies were no longer desirable. I mean you got John Woo – who used to wear his heart on the back of his director’s chair, who used special cameras powered by liquified male bonding and typed his scripts in inks made from tears of passion – directing a movie so obviously for a paycheck that, in my opinion, it was even titled PAYCHECK.

But the curse can be broken. Six years and no theatrical releases later John Woo returned home, filming a Chinese movie for the first time in 17 years, and what he came up with was a motherfucking masterpiece. The damn thing is so powerful somebody tried to chop it in half and it just grew into two complete movies. Whoever did it I bet they just ran away because they knew if they chopped those in half you’d have four RED CLIFFS and they would conquer the earth, guaranteed.
(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.