Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

The Fall Guy

Friday, May 10th, 2024

I first heard of David Leitch as one of “the JOHN WICK GUYS” – the two MATRIX RELOADED stuntmen who directed JOHN WICK and changed action cinema. Chad Stahelski was the one credited, and has continued helming that visionary series, while Leitch launched a more normal directing career – half projects from their production company 87North (formerly 87Eleven), half for-hire type gigs. I love his neon-drenched spy movie ATOMIC BLONDE, and his other films (DEADPOOL 2, HOBBS & SHAW, BULLET TRAIN) all have good action, some style, and some other things I like about them, but their increasingly scattershot humor has kept me from fully embracing them. So I’m glad that with THE FALL GUY, a loose redo of the ‘80s TV show premise, he’s found his perfect subject.

The story is light and breezy, and everyone gets to be funny, but the humor leans mostly on one easygoing star persona – Ryan Gosling (director of LOST RIVER) as stuntman Colt Seavers – rather than having every character constantly compete for attention with wacky riffs. And best of all, obviously, it’s a love letter to the stunt profession, so there’s a very specific expertise and passion that makes Leitch more qualified than anyone else to tell this story. He even has a songwriting credit on an end credits “there should be an Oscar for stunts” song! (read the rest of this shit…)

Boy Kills World

Wednesday, May 1st, 2024

BOY KILLS WORLD is a new action/dystopia/comedy goof that I could’ve guessed would annoy the shit out of many people even if I hadn’t already seen the evidence. You know, it’s got that splattery paint, sarcastic smiley face type of aesthetic. From the trailers I wondered if I might be one of those people, but I actually really liked this thing until almost the end. I found its brazenly show-offy oddballery pretty charming. It looks at you like yeah, I know this is alot of unnecessary gimmicks and trinkets, but I like that shit, what’re you gonna do about it?

Uh… nothing. Please – continue! I think Glaive Robber called it accurately in the REBEL MOON PART TWO: THE SCARGIVER comments when he wrote, “Old Vern would have PASSIONATELY hated it. But maybe not Contemporary Vern.”

It’s a frenetic, hyper-active, smart-alecky and casually violent movie, so every review besides this one compares it to a Ryan Reynolds comic book movie that’s not BLADE TRINITY or GREEN LANTERN. If you must compare it to modern super hero movies I’d say it’s more SUICIDE SQUAD, THE SUICIDE SQUAD and BIRDS OF PREY, but that didn’t even occur to me until now. I was thinking more along the lines of POLAR, SMOKIN’ ACES, ACCIDENT MAN, a little SHOOT ‘EM UP, a little KINGSMAN. Hell, maybe a little CRANK and CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE. I hated those but some people swear by ’em. Actually the comic book movies it made me think of are those ones we used to get in the ‘90s where you never heard of the comic before or again but they created a whole stylized alternate universe for it on a medium-sized budget. I always appreciated them for that, and this is better than many of them.
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Rebel Moon Part Two: The Scargiver

Thursday, April 25th, 2024

REBEL MOON PART TWO: THE SCARGIVER is, in most traditional senses, a better movie than REBEL MOON PART ONE: A CHILD OF FIRE. It’s more straight forward, less tangents, a little build and then a bunch of action. And I think it looks better, maybe because it’s mostly taking place on one planet (the titular moon of Veldt), so they were able to focus most of their energy on the design and style of that one location. The downside to this is that it feels a little more normal, less unhinged, more restrained. But narratively it’s the big pay off, the exciting part, so it’s hard to be disappointed.

The first movie, you remember, was loosely structured as the first half of SEVEN SAMURAI/MAGNIFICENT SEVEN/BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS. This humble farming village is going to be forced by the evil Imperium to give up all their grain, so secret-former-bad-guy-and-adopted-daughter-of-their-tyrannical-leader Kora (Sofia Boutella, STREETDANCE 2, CLIMAX) flew around and recruited a team of warriors to train the farmers how to defend themselves. They thought they headed off the threat by killing the fascist admiral Atticus Noble (the wonderfully strange looking Ed Skrein, THE TRANSPORTER REFUELED, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK), but they quickly learn that he’s still alive (technologically resurrected in a cool, slimy opening sequence) so oh shit, it’s back on. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Wednesday, April 24th, 2024

THE MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE is the new Guy Ritchie picture, and that title sounds like some Matthew Vaughn KINGSMAN type fantasy-secret-agency shit, but it’s a real thing, based on a true story. They say that at the beginning of the movie but I thought, “Yeah, uh huh, ‘true story,’ thanks Guy Ritchie,” so I was surprised when at the end they showed pictures of the real people. Oh shit, you were serious?

Yeah, of course it’s heavily fictionalized, but not as much as I’d assumed. The main characters are at least named after specific real people who really were on a WWII-era British special ops mission called Operation Postmaster, in which an undercover agent from the Special Operations Executive (SOE) threw a party on the Spanish island of Fernando Po to distract German officers and Spanish merchants while commandos snuck into neutral territory and stole the ships they used to deliver supplies to the Axis powers. (read the rest of this shit…)

Five Fingers For Marseilles

Monday, April 22nd, 2024

FIVE FINGERS FOR MARSEILLES is a very cool 2017 South African movie. I thought it was gonna be a straight-up African western, but it turns out it’s a modern day African western. It’s set in a small town that European colonists named Marseilles. The Africans who originally lived there were forced up the hill, and since most of them worked on the new railway they just called their town Railway.

The title refers to a group of kids who fancy themselves the protectors of the town. It’s weird, though, because there seem to be six of them. The boys are Zulu (the leader), Tau a.k.a. Lion (“Ruthless, the fastest. Sometimes the meanest.”), Pockets (the rich one), Cockroach and Pastor. But also there’s Lerato, who they consider “their heart and soul,” so I sure hope she counts as one of the five and it’s Cockroach or someone who’s just an affiliate, not a full-fledged Finger, like Killah Priest for Wu-Tang. Seems like the heart and soul should get all the privileges of membership.
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Monkey Man

Friday, April 12th, 2024

A great thing about action movies as opposed to some of the other genres I get excited about is that they often have a chance to sneak up on me. I had no inkling of a movie called MONKEY MAN coming until the trailer dropped just a couple of months ago. And then all the sudden that morning I knew that the actor Dev Patel (THE LAST AIRBENDER, THE GREEN KNIGHT) had practiced Taekwondo since he was ten years old, had competed in national and international competitions, and grew into a passionate fan of international action cinema, so now he was not only starring in a violent martial arts revenge movie set in India, but also making it his directorial debut. And I read that Netflix produced it but Jordan Peele saw it and convinced them to sell it to Universal so it could play theaters. (Later we learned that Netflix was trying to get rid of it because it kinda seemed like it was criticizing the current right wing regime in India and might complicate their business dealings. Embarrassing for them, good for us.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Six-String Samurai

Tuesday, April 9th, 2024

SIX-STRING SAMURAI is an artifact from another time – the early internet days, when movie nerds like us were a fringe group beginning to ascend to power, and before people would make fake trailers and put them on Youtube. Specifically it was the fall of 1998, after a strange summer of blockbusters everybody hated (GODZILLA, LOST IN SPACE, THE AVENGERS) but also some classics (BLADE, THE MASK OF ZORRO, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, WILD THINGS, OUT OF SIGHT) — see my overview of the season here. In the middle of all that Palm Pictures released this low budget post-apocalyptic movie about a Buddy Holly lookalike battling his way through the desert to get to “Lost Vegas.” It only played 16 screens, but it lasted 15 weeks. People must’ve been watching it.

I didn’t get a chance until it came to DVD, but I’d been hearing about it for months on The Ain’t It Cool News. In researching it I found an interview with director Lance Mungia where Harry Knowles acknowledged that his “over-the-top” review had raised expectations too high and led many people to be disappointed. And that’s my memory of what the reaction was at the time. I think I liked it more than some, I thought it was pretty cool, but it didn’t change the world. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Crow: Salvation (second review)

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2024

The producer I always associate with THE CROW is Edward R. Pressman. That’s a guy with a storied career – his name is on everything from BADLANDS to CONAN THE BARBARIAN to BAD LIEUTENANT, and he played Mr. Trend in CRIMEWAVE. He died last year but will have his credit on the upcoming THE CROW movie.

Apparently not involved in that new one was the guy who brought the project to Pressman in the first place, Jeff Most. According to a 2005 interview with Clint Morris at Moviehole, it all started when the young producer was looking for a comic book artist to do illustrations of a John Shirley script he was trying to get made. Someone told him to look at James O’Barr’s recently published The Crow and he was so impressed he reversed his plans and had Shirley write a script based on the comic. But getting someone to finance an R-rated comic book movie was difficult. He says 51 people said no before Pressman said yes. (read the rest of this shit…)

Downtime (1997)

Monday, April 1st, 2024

DOWNTIME is a 1997 British film set in a dilapidated apartment building. I feel like somebody might’ve recommended it to me here years ago, but maybe it’s just in my head because the cover says “MOVE OVER BRUCE WILLIS, A BRITISH ACTION MOVIE TO DIE FOR.” I didn’t really think of it as an action movie, but the DIE HARD connection is obvious: it’s mostly set in one building, and much of it involves elevator-related danger, including climbing up onto the top of the elevator, climbing around inside the shaft, and the elevator falling and exploding. And it’s got a good look to it, with the camera moving around confidently (courtesy of ENEMY MINE and FIREBIRDS d.p. Tony Imi), so maybe there’s some McT influence in there.

But what makes it interesting to me is how much it still feels like something different. While DIE HARD is a pure action movie strengthened by the relationship drama in the middle of it, this feels like it’s a relationship drama that sometimes gets interrupted by some DIE HARD stuff, and keeps trying to brush it off and stay on track. Obviously straight ahead action is my preference, but I appreciate the originality of this approach, and it kept surprising me which directions it went. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lost Phoenix

Thursday, March 28th, 2024

Fairly often I get emails from people who made low budget movies, sometimes they seem to be familiar with me, sometimes they don’t, but they’re trying to do the very hard work of getting people to notice their needle out there in the haystack of what’s available. I sincerely wish every one of them well, but I don’t take very many of them up on it. My fear is that 99.9% of the time it’s not gonna be some hidden gem, or even some crazy failure, it’s just gonna be okay for what it is. And I know I’ll feel bad for them and want to say nice things, but what good does it do them for a niche critic like me to be nice about their movie being okay? I don’t know.

But this particular one, LOST PHOENIX, I decided to watch. After a long time. I was kind of slow about it. But writer/director James Couche (who is also editor and fight choreographer) had a good pitch for it: it’s his micro budget take on “90s mid-budget action movies with shades of inspiration from Hong Kong thrillers.” He also mentioned EL MARIACHI as an inspiration, production-wise. But it takes place in September 2020, and was shot from October 2020 through October 2022 in Richmond, Virginia. I know there are a ton of COVID horror movies shot out in the woods somewhere while people were bored, but this is the first time I heard of an action one. (read the rest of this shit…)