"I'll just get my gear."

Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

The Protege

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021

I don’t know if Maggie Q thinks of herself as an action star. She’s a good actress, and in recent years she’s been in horror movies and thrillers and on Designated Survivor, and she has a new sitcom coming soon. Maybe one of her best known roles was the title character in Nikita, where I assume she kicked a multitude of asses every week, but it’s not like anybody puts the original TV Nikita Peta Wilson or the original movie Nikita Anne Parillaud or the second movie version Bridget Fonda in a category with Jean-Claude Van Damme and those guys. They’re just actors without much association to the genre.

But I respect that Q specifically came out of Hong Kong martial arts films. She’s American, but as a young woman she worked as a model in Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong, where she was discovered and trained by Jackie Chan. Some of her Hong Kong films were Benny Chan’s GEN-X COPS 2, Ching Siu Tung’s NAKED WEAPON and Daniel Lee’s Seagal-produced DRAGON SQUAD, before coming to Hollywood for cool supporting parts in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III and LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD. She’s been in a bunch of stuff since then, including the DIVERGENT series. A lesser known one I thought she was cool in was PRIEST. But I kinda thought she’d moved on from that, so as an action fan I was so thrilled when I first saw the trailer for THE PROTÉGÉ and realized she not only had a legit starring role action vehicle, but one that was made to be released in theaters! And it really happened! I saw it in one!

This was a few weeks ago, many of the reviews I saw were negative, and it’s probly pretty much gone already, but it’s on VOD now and on disc soon. So I want to put in a good word for it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wrath of Man

Monday, September 13th, 2021

WRATH OF MAN is a pretty different type of Guy Ritchie movie. It certainly shows some of his interests, his directorial chops, and his long relationship with filming Jason Statham. And okay, it also has some of that lightning quick snappy banter between the fellas, some of which I couldn’t follow at all. And it has Josh Hartnett playing a character called “Boy Sweat Dave.” I’m not sure I can picture that being in somebody else’s movie. Guy Ritchie is the Boy Sweat Dave type.

And yet this is a different style (a more calm and controlled type of flashy) and tone (less flippant, more foreboding, and even mythical) than what we expect from him. It doesn’t have freeze frames with character’s names as they’re introduced, but it does have four sections with pretentious chapter titles. A trend I very much approve of.

It’s a remake of a 2004 French film called LE CONVOYEUR (or CASH TRUCK), which I could only find on VHS with no subtitles. But this seems to me like it’s playing off of two American traditions: pulp crime novels, and movies that try to be like HEAT. I can enjoy both. (read the rest of this shit…)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

Believe it or not, I kinda consider myself kind of a Shang-Chi guy. As in, I dig that comic book character, before there was a movie. That’s definitely overstating it, because I don’t know that much more about his history than the next guy, but I’m attached to him because of my fascination with the period that created him, just a couple years before I was born, when American pop culture was catching on to the existence of kung fu and kung fu movies, and trying to cash in.

Shortly after Luke Cage debuted in June 1972 as a super hero response to SHAFT (both SUPER FLY and the coinage of the term “Blaxploitation” happened a few months later), Shang-Chi was conceived as the Marvel Comics version of the hit TV show Kung Fu, and he debuted in the midst of ENTER THE DRAGON mania. He showed up one month in Special Marvel Edition, and two issues later it was retitled The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu. I can’t resist titles like that – that’s why I also know about the DC character Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter (as seen in BATMAN: SOUL OF THE DRAGON) and why I was introduced to Shang-Chi by buying back issues of The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu.

That’s a ‘70s Marvel Magazine, the type you know is gonna include a full page ad for a “complete audiovisual home study course in dynamic KUNG FU & KARATE” for less than 16¢ a lesson with a 10 day no risk money back guarantee. But it’s mainly black-and-white comics about martial arts characters including Shang-Chi, Iron Fist and The Sons of the Tiger interspersed with crude martial arts-related articles. In issue #1, writer J. David Warner visits the Fred Hamilton All-Dojo Martial Arts Tournament, reviews THE CHINESE MECHANIC starring Barry Chan, and has a news column previewing upcoming Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest releases, as well as western movies with co-stars from Asian cinema, like YAKUZA, STONER and PAPER TIGER. It also mentions WHEN TAEKWONDO STRIKES, GOYOKIN, and Ken Russell “preparing for production” of a martial arts movie called KARATE IS A THING OF THE SPIRIT. (If that had gotten off the ground I’d probly obsess over it the way people do THE DEVILS.) (read the rest of this shit…)

The Marksman

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021

THE MARKSMAN is one of this year’s Liam Neeson (THE DEAD POOL) Old Man Action movies. It came out on disc a month or two ago and had played in theaters in January, wherever it is that those were open at that time. It’s one of the rare theatrical releases if this era that did not get delayed by the pandemic – in fact they pushed it up one week. Had things been normal I definitely would’ve seen it at an early afternoon showing at Pacific Place with four or five other loners in the theater and I would’ve been satisfied as I walked out after the credits ended and the young man with the garbage can at the door told me to have a good day as I emerged from the quiet auditorium to the cheesy narrator promoting the A-List on recordings in the lobby.

(Sorry – I wrote this review before I’d been back to theaters, must’ve been getting nostalgic.)

Neeson plays a very fictionalized version of Jim Henson called Jim Hanson. He’s a Vietnam vet who lives right next to the Mexican border and has recently run out of money because of his late wife’s cancer treatments. Aside from one drunken scene where he does a really good low grumbly voice, it’s the standard Neeson accent, but he’s so All-American he literally has an American flag draped over his shoulder when a guy from the bank (Alex Knight, Narcos: Mexico) shows up to tell him his ranch might be taken from him. I like the little bit that Jim tells him he spread his wife’s ashes on the hill over there and the guy says “I’m sorry for your loss.” Trying to seem humane without even following what he’s talking about.

Jim is the kind of guy who has a walkie-talkie to call in what he calls “I.A.s” crossing his property. But at least he’s the kind who will bring water and call for a medic for one who gets left behind. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rogue Hostage

Tuesday, September 7th, 2021

Like many people of an older persuasion, my first impression of Tyrese Gibson was twenty years ago when he starred in John Singleton’s BABY BOY. At the time it had a mixed reception, but I thought it was a good companion piece/followup to BOYZ N THE HOOD, and this R&B singer or whatever he was, he was good in it. (For a long time I thought he had started as a model, but now I’m thinking I had him mixed up with Tyson Beckford?) It has some laughs in it, but it’s a dramatic role. He goes through quite a bit.

To Gibson’s great fortune, it was Singleton who was directing the first sequel to THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS when Vin Diesel decided he didn’t want to do it and a new co-lead was needed. So he swooped in to play Roman Pearce, childhood friend of Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) who blames him for his prison bid for car theft but reluctantly accepts an undercover job with him to gain his freedom (an obvious rewrite of where Dominic Toretto would’ve ended up if he’d been in the movie). The two characters do some bickering, but at that time Roman was a serious action guy, a type Gibson would also play in WAIST DEEP, some TRANSFORMERSes, DEATH RACE and LEGION. He collaborated with Singleton again on FOUR BROTHERS and with pre-TOKYO DRIFT Justin Lin on ANNAPOLIS but was not one of the FAST crew invited back for part 4.

Eight years after 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS, when Roman finally returned in FAST FIVE, Diesel was back in the central role, so Tyrese got to riff and be silly. Other than saying grace in FURIOUS 6 and monologuing about sacrifice (while flying a space hooptie) in F9, he has mainly remained comic relief for four subsequent FASTs. (read the rest of this shit…)

Unlucky Stars

Monday, September 6th, 2021

UNLUCKY STARS (2015) is a no-budget indie action movie in this pretty new and rare category of fan-made action movies. That’s kind of selling it short, because these are legit, accomplished stuntmen, martial artists and choreographers, and it’s designed mainly to showcase their work. But they’re also all about throwing in little movie homages and cameos in a way more common to no-budget horror. Like they have a detective agency called Golden Harvest Private Investigations (with the Golden Harvest logo and everything), Simon Rhee has a cameo and is apparently meant to be his BEST OF THE BEST character Dae Han, J.J. “UNDISPUTED II” Perry shows up, there’s a running gag about a reality show for action stars in rehab (and apparently Amy Johnston is on it at some point? I didn’t spot her), and the ending seems to set the heroes up to live the plot of WHEELS ON MEALS.

Oh, and also two of the main characters are supposed to be fringe action stars. Jose Montesinos (director of 5 HEADED SHARK ATTACK) plays Tomas De La Cruz, “Peru’s biggest action star,” who has a $15,000 gambling debt and is trying to do another movie to get it. Sari Sabella (NIGHTMARE WEDDING) plays Sameer Yousef, a Jordanian martial artist who gets fired from his first American movie and sinks into his obsessive De La Cruz fandom. (read the rest of this shit…)

Body Count (1995)

Thursday, August 26th, 2021

I have been wanting to see BODY COUNT for years. Not Ice-T’s band (I saw them on the Lollapalooza tour in 1991) or Ice-T’s 1997 film (which I reviewed last Christmas) but the 1995 movie starring Brigitte Nielsen. Or so I thought based on the cover. And when I realized Sonny Chiba was also in it I finally pulled the trigger. R.I.P. to the legend.

This is an American movie, of course, and obviously not up to par with the movies that made us love Chiba. It’s one of those B- movies where everything is cheap and trashy, the music (credited to Don Peake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES and Knight Rider fame) alternates between repetitive synth bullshit and inappropriate bombast, and the main cop characters are dreadfully boring but every once in a while there’s a car flip or a high fall stunt, and each of the male leads does at least one gratuitous somersault and hangs off of a moving vehicle. Also Chiba’s character causes a school bus to flip and then two other vehicles crash into it and blow up. So I didn’t feel my time was entirely wasted.

(Stunt coordinator/second unit director: BJ Davis [AMERICAN NINJA 2: THE CONFRONTATION, ALLIGATOR II: THE MUTATION]. Fight coordinator: Ed Anders [stunts: NINJA III: THE DOMINATION]). (read the rest of this shit…)

Showdown in Little Tokyo

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

“Y’know – this is a weird part of town.”

August 23, 1991

SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO is a movie I have long enjoyed (here is a pretty dumb review of it I wrote 13 years ago). It’s a buddy cop movie starring Dolph Lundgren (between COVER UP and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER) and Brandon Lee (between LASER MISSION and RAPID FIRE), so any possible deficiencies are easily overcome by their great charisma and the unrepeatable novelty of their team-up. Watching it in the context of these other ’91 movies it does seem slightly primitive; it’s a Warner Bros. movie, but the budget was $8 million, which is less than DOUBLE IMPACT – or even non-action stuff like DEAD AGAIN, THE COMMITMENTS, BINGO, RETURN TO THE BLUE LAGOON and LIFE STINKS – let alone the new state-of-the-art represented by POINT BREAK and TERMINATOR 2. Fortunately it’s in the capable exploitation hands of director Mark L. Lester (STEEL ARENA, CLASS OF 1984, FIRESTARTER, COMMANDO, CLASS OF 1999), so it has heavy doses of The Good Shit. He always gives you something extra.

Just as MYSTERY DATE has its two leads getting into trouble with gangs in Chinatown, this is about two guys fighting a Yakuza drug ring in L.A.’s Japanese district. In this case that’s in their job description as members of the LAPD Asian Crime Taskforce. Dolph’s Sergeant Chris Kenner gets the kind of introduction all his characters deserve: he single-handedly raids an illegal fighting circuit by climbing through a skylight, swinging into the ring on a rope and saying, “Haven’t I told you this is illegal, and it pisses me off?” Then he’s announced as the new challenger and has to fight the guys in the ring. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Suicide Squad

Wednesday, August 11th, 2021

THE SUICIDE SQUAD, from writer/director James Gunn (SLITHER, SUPER, writer of TROMEO & JULIET and DAWN OF THE DEAD) is kind of miraculous as far as these big ol’ corporate franchise movies go. Imagine the odds against a director starting out as a writer at Troma, making some well-liked-but-not-super-successful hard-R comedies, then going mainstream with two beloved Marvel hits, then being temporarily fired by Disney due to right wing trolls feigning offense at his old tweets, and spending his time off going over to a different comic book universe to make a super gory and death-filled but heartfelt sequel to someone else’s widely-hated part 1, building off of his horror comedy past, the skills he built on his GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movies, and what was fun about that first SUICIDE SQUAD movie, to make something really special?

Though I didn’t hate David Ayer’s 2016 SUICIDE SQUAD the way most seem to have, I had many complaints. I suspect he had a more sensible version before the studio literally hired the trailer company to re-edit it, but even in its present form I think the movie deserves praise for establishing a rowdy, cartoony take on the DC Universe that BIRDS OF PREY and now this were able to riff on and use as a jumping off point. And of course even bigger than that is its casting of Margot Robbie (THE LEGEND OF TARZAN) as Harley Quinn, as close to a universally beloved character and portrayal as has ever come out of such a widely hated movie. (read the rest of this shit…)

Double Impact (30th Anniversary Review)

Monday, August 9th, 2021

“All right, you want some real action, tough guys? Let’s do it.”

August 9, 1991

While the summer was dominated by the expensive studio action spectacles TERMINATOR 2 and POINT BREAK, there were plenty of solid action movies made with a little less money and a different type of star power. Case in point: Jean-Claude Van Damme was in the process of rising from the new Cannon Films guy to household name. By this point he had starred in BLOODSPORT, CYBORG, KICKBOXER, LIONHEART and DEATH WARRANT. The latter two had been his largest, with budgets of about $6 million each. This one jumped up to $15 million.

It was worth paying more for this gimmick: Van Damme plays twins. Originally conceived as an adaptation Alexandre Dumas’ The Corsican Brothers, it’s a story about brothers separated at six months old and reuniting at 25 to avenge the murder of their parents. (read the rest of this shit…)