Back in 2016 I wrote a John Hyams chapter for what would’ve been a really cool critical anthology book. Unfortunately the publisher went under and it never found a new home. So, in honor of ALONE, I decided to post what I wrote back then as a Patreon bonus. Enjoy!
Posts Tagged ‘John Hyams’
By now most people around here are familiar with John Hyams, director of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION (2009) and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (2012). For a decade now we’ve scratched our heads wondering how those two genuinely visionary masterpieces of contemporary action didn’t bring Hyams to the attention of Hollywood gatekeepers who could’ve certainly used his skills making mid-budget action movies or thrillers, to say nothing of their big video game adaptations and terminators and what not. But without their dumb asses he’s managed to make a Cung Le vehicle I really like called DRAGON EYES (2012) and the 2018 comedy ALL SQUARE (which I just discovered is on Hulu), and the rest of the time has found plenty of work in television.
He put some of his sensibilities into the SyFy zombie series Z Nation, including an episode that’s mostly an extended chase scene and battle, and moreso in the more serious Netflix prequel series Black Summer. If you’ve checked out that show (and I recommend you do), you won’t be surprised that he can make a clean, elegant, deeply scary thriller like ALONE, which was released to digital platforms Friday after being well received at the virtual Fantasia Film Festival. It’s his simplest and least weird movie, all the better to show off his finely tuned suspense set pieces, enhanced by strong acting and a pervasively ominous atmosphere. And it’s very involving, making us feel like we’re there, whether “there” is in a parking lot at night watching truckers pull up to use a restroom, or high up in the trees listening to their brittle fibers creak as they bend in the breeze. (read the rest of this shit…)
June is Pride Month, of course, and I hope it’s been a good one for anybody who it means anything to. I never really knew a way to honor the occasion before, but that’s because I hadn’t yet stumbled across this 1996 gay-themed independent drama that shows two guys with guns on the cover – in fact the tagline is “THIS TIME THE GAY GUY’S GOT THE GUN!” – and mentions John Woo on the back.
RAISING HEROES is about a couple, Josh (Troy Sostillio) and Paul (Henry White), in the midst of a custody battle. Paul’s best friend died of cancer and wanted the two to raise her young son Nicky, but the kid’s grandmother and homophobic case workers are trying to stop that from happening. Then, a few days before a crucial hearing, Josh witnesses a mobster named Victor (Edmond Sorel, also co-writer) executing a guy in a convenience store, and various gangsters spend the next few days following and trying to eliminate him. (read the rest of this shit…)
As of today, ENEMIES CLOSER (2013) is the most recent movie directed by Peter Hyams, and his third collaboration with Jean-Claude Van Damme (after TIMECOP and SUDDEN DEATH). Part of the After Dark Action series (which also included EL GRINGO and DRAGON EYES), it’s a lower budget take on a DIE HARD type of movie. Or I guess a SUDDEN DEATH type of movie. But this time the John McClane/Darren McCord is Tom Everett Scott (AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS) and Van Damme gets to play the Hans Grueber/Joshua Foss.
Scott plays Henry, an ex-Navy SEAL trying to figure out his post-war life while working as the ranger of a state park that’s an isolated island with only one other person, an old man, living on it. This is a recipe for having to fight with a couple of bears over pic-a-nic baskets, but he lucks out and all he has to deal with is being in the way when a small plane smuggling “a load of some very naughty shit” crashes in the water nearby and a ruthless gang of killers come looking for it. I mean, it’s a pain in the ass, but it’s more within his skill set. (read the rest of this shit…)
Well, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD had a good decade-plus run as my most anticipated movie. And that worked out well. I doubt I’ll ever see another one pay off like that in my life, but it’s always good to have things to look forward to, to keep you going.
Right now there are plenty of lower key projects to be excited about, from the finally-happening BOYKA: UNDISPUTED IV to the new STAR WARS picture. But right now the one that pushes my buttons the most is actually a remake of MANIAC COP.
This has been in development for a while, to be produced by Nicolas Winding Refn and (last I heard) scripted by Ed Brubaker, writer of acclaimed crime comics (and Seattleite I believe). Sounds fantastic. But what takes this news to the next level is the director: John Hyams, the genius behind UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING, DRAGON EYES, THE SMASHING MACHINE and RANK. I have spent the last five years wondering why the hell some studio hasn’t given this guy a budget to deal with, since his straight-to-video works easily out-thrill, out-style and out-smart most big screen action movies, including $200 million dollar duds like, I’m sorry to say, the recent TERMINATOR picture. (read the rest of this shit…)
SKIN TRADE (actually written as SKINTRADE on screen) is the long-awaited passion project of Dolph Lundgren, who produced and wrote the screenplay with Gabriel Dowrick (an editor and sometimes director) and Steven Elder (an actor who was in GALLOWWALKERS). Over the years Dolph had sometimes planned to direct it himself, sometimes not to act in it, at one point possibly to have Steven Seagal co-star. Eventually he handed over the reins to Ekachai Uekrongtham, director of BEAUTIFUL BOXER and PLEASURE FACTORY, which is about the sex industry in Singapore. To Dolph SKIN TRADE is an attempt to raise awareness about the problem of sex trafficking. For me it is an achievement in having a movie that stars Dolph Lundgren, Tony Jaa and Michael Jai White.
Dolph plays Nick Cassidy, an NYPD detective who gets himself into trouble by gunning down Serbian gangster Dragovic (Ron Perlman, sort of reprising his character from POLICE ACADEMY: MISSION TO MOSCOW)’s prettiest son two seconds after he yells “I will prove to you… I AM MY FATHER’S SON!”
Just another day on the job, you would think, but next thing you know some dudes fire an RPG into Nick’s living room window and he wakes up in the hospital with the side of his face melted and no wife or daughter in his burned down house.
Meanwhile Tony Jaa plays Tony, an undercover cop on a crusade against Dragovic’s sex slavery ring in Cambodia and Thailand. We first meet him wearing a nice suit and being threatened at gunpoint to have sex with a young kidnapped child. He fakes like he’s gonna do it but instead he pulls out his belt to use as a weapon to beat up every sorry sex slaving piece of garbage in the room and dangle their cowering leader (Gigi Velicitat, ELEPHANT WHITE, THE MARINE 2, STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN LI) off the side of the building until he tells them where their next shipment of human cargo is headed. And then he drops him anyway. The guy probly shouldn’t have offered him that freebie on sex slaves in my opinion. That was his mistake. (read the rest of this shit…)
PREVIOUSLY, ON UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: In 2009 John Hyams, fine sports documentarian and son of the director of OUTLAND, knocked the world of DTV flat on its ass with a grim and shockingly great part 3 (or part 5 including the made for cable 2 and 3). It is one of its decade’s best American action movies and a classic example of a hungry artist taking a disrespected medium far beyond its perceived limitations. Also Dolph Lundgren makes a hell of an impression with a small appearance, the Alec-Baldwin-in-GLENGARRY-GLEN-ROSS-of-DTV.
And now, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING.
(read the rest of this shit…)
I wrote a piece for this week’s Village Voice, it’s about (hold onto your butts) the current state of action movies. Of course I wasn’t able to be as long-winded as I usually like to, but I think I managed to give a good explanation of my concept of Post-Action (with specific examples), the importance of action geography, how THE EXPENDABLES could be better, the renaissance in DTV (mentioning Florentine and Hyams), and favorite topics like that.
Thank you to film editor Alan Scherstuhl for giving me the opportunity to spread the word to a new audience, and printed on paper I believe. I like paper.
If you’re joining us here after reading the piece please say hi in the comments and stick around or dig through the archives for more detailed discussion of Badass Cinema and other topics.
Can John Hyams live up to our expectations with his sequel to the greatest DTV movie of all time? Well, it sure looks like he came up with something interesting and different. He’s go Van Damme looking like Captain Spaulding, Dolph making a speech and Scott Adkins kicking ass. Looks good to me.
But something tells me I won’t get a chance to see this in a theater. (Something = that narrator.) Hopefully Magnet Releasing will prove me wrong.
UPDATE: John Hyams contacted me (namedrop) to assure me that it will play in theaters. It will lay at Fantastic Fest in September, then will be on the video-on-demand October 26th and in theaters in the US November 30th. (Don’t worry, they’ve done that with other movies too.)
This trailer was cut when they thought it would be DTV, before Magnolia/Magnet picked it up. There will be another one cut by Hyams himself. I’ll try to contact the narrator to see if he’s working on his own cut.
DRAGON EYES could’ve been my most anticipated DTV movie of the year, but After Dark Films had to go ruin it by releasing it theatrically. A little bit, anyway, as part of their After Dark Action thing next month. I hope it does well.
In the UK, though, it came out on DVD and blu-ray this month, so I ordered it. The cover says it’s “FROM THE PRODUCER OF THE MATRIX AND SHERLOCK HOLMES,” because it’s co-presented by Joel Silver (I didn’t notice his name in the actual credits), but to our people it’s FROM THE DIRECTOR OF UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION, the reigning champeen of DTV action. So it’s a big compliment to say that for most of its running time it lives up to my hopes for the next John Hyams movie. It has many seriously hard-hitting fight scenes, strong atmosphere and continues to show Hyams’ strength for finding the best ways to cinematically showcase non-actors. It turns out he’s also good with the real actors. Go figure.
(read the rest of this shit…)