Friday, 19 December 2014

Fight Scene Friday: Black Eagle


Fight Scene Friday: Sho Kosugi vs. Jean Claude van Damme - Black Eagle (1988)


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Fireback


FIREBACK (1983)

Directed by: Teddy Page
Screenplay: Richard Harrison (as Timothy Jorge)
Starring: Richard Harrison, Bruce Baron, Gwendolyn Hung, Ann Milhench, Jim Gaines, Ray Vernall & Mike Monty

The man of a million cheap ninja movies, Richard Harrison, is on ass kicking form in this cheap action revenge flick, which while not a ninja film per se, does feature a sword swinging ninja in one of its copious action scenes. Harrison is Jack Kaplan a man of moustache and cool action movie name, who is in Vietnam demonstrating a new awesome gun. It’s a machine gun, a bazooka and I’m pretty sure it can pop popcorn in its handy built in microwave oven it’s that bad ass. No sooner has Kaplan finished demonstrating how good the gun can blow shit up he’s attacked, captured and thrown in a POW camp. It’s not long before a rescue team is sent in to liberate Kaplan and get down to, well, blowing shit up. Once rescued and returned home, Kaplan discovers his wife has been kidnapped and he is being framed for a bunch of crimes he didn’t commit. Not messing about, Kaplan gets down to searching for his wife and looking for the bad guys, meaning he is going to blow a lot of shit up.

Now Fireback is a whole load of cheap-jack Philippine shot action craziness but somewhat disappointingly abandons the plot it seems to be setting up about the super-awesome mega gun seen in the opening scenes in favour of your standard dude-needs-to-rescue-his-girl-from-a-bunch-of-other-dudes-revenge-nonsense. Fair enough but having Harrison go after the dudes who stole his mega gun and left him for dead in a POW camp would have been a whole lot cooler. Seems the mega cool gun scene was just their so the makers could stick a picture of it on the video cover! Oh well, and once one can get over their hoping-to-a-see-mega-gun-action-extravaganza disappointment, Fireback is still a decent slice of action baloney.


For one we have Richard Harrison, who actually appears throughout the entire film instead of only in some tacked on ninja scenes at the beginning and end (and also allegedly wrote the script in one night!), going through the motions as the ever worried hero looking for his kidnapped wife. The likes of Bruce Baron and Mike Monty (who made frequent appearances in these types of action films throughout the 80s) also show up as various bad guys/cops and, as mentioned, a ninja even shows up on several occasions to challenge Harrison to some deadly combat. So all good really.

Director Teddy Page (Jungle Rats, Blood Chase) keeps everything rollicking along and there is a surfeit of bullet riddled action and explosions to keep the cheesy action fan happy. There is also a surplus of random oddness in between all the action to keep the absurd factor bubbling: including a bad guy with a golden hand (!), an actor credited as Ed Harris (but not that Ed Harris!) and Harrison even builds another super-cool-mega-gun, A-Team style, in order to blow up the bad guys real good. Proceedings even get a little downbeat come the final third meaning Fireback is an oddly entertaining action fest that walks a fine line between action silliness and gloomy earnestness.


Monday, 15 December 2014

Angelfist


Recently watched: Cat Sassoon, kickboxing, uzis, nude fighting (!) all wrapped up in 80 minutes of action fueled awesome by Cirio H. Santiago. Angelfist (1993)




Thursday, 11 December 2014

Opposing Force (aka Hell Camp)


OPPOSING FORCE (1986) (aka HELL CAMP)

Directed by: Eric Karson
Screenplay: Gil Cowan
Starring: Tom Skerritt, Lisa Eichorn, Richard Roundtree & Anthony Zerbe

Logan (Skerrit), Casey (Eichorn) and a bunch of other elite soldiers sign up for a new intensive training programme. Said programme is only for the best of the best and to make it through is to prove what an elite survivalist and combat soldier one is. Casey is the first woman to attempt the training programme and so faces added hostility from her fellow competitors and supposed allies, them not taking too kindly to a female participating. However, Casey is more than capable of taking care of herself and eventually forms an alliance with Logan. No sooner have the soldiers been deployed on the island where the training will take place the participants are captured and held captive in island commander Becker’s  (Zerbe) stronghold. As Becker dishes out extreme torture and humiliation on his captors in an effort to break them the line between Becker’s training and his want to ultimately control his captors becomes blurred leading Logan and Casey to question whether they are truly being pushed to their limits or that their lives are now in danger. 


Opposing Force (or Hell Camp as it was called on the VHS copy this reviewer watched) was a pleasant surprise. Well a pleasant surprise in how good the film was and what a well made action drama it was but rather unpleasant in some of the torture it depicts. Balancing exploitation, serious drama and action thrills with consummate skill, Opposing Force is from a golden era when a film stuck to its guns and delivered drama, violence and thrills with no fuss and great skill. While the characters experience plenty of atrocities at the hands of the slowly unraveling Becker the film’s aim is not to solely shock. With a fine and committed cast (Skerrit, Zerbe and Richard Roundtree as Becker’s right hand man are all on excellent form) Opposing Force deftly ramps up the drama as much as the exploitation keeping the viewer guessing as to whether Becker really has unraveled or is simply committed to his cause of pushing the soldiers to their absolute limits. With strong performances, dialogue and a director knowing just when to pull back (so as not to make the violence and torture appear gloating), Opposing Force is an expertly made survival film.


Special mention should go to Lisa Eichorn for an incredibly dedicated performance as the strong willed Casey. She has to endure much humiliation, often nude (though so do the male cast) and it’s an incredibly brave performance that Eichorn sells with vigour. Kudos to the filmmakers also for not making her character a token female victim and for the fact she becomes a survivor not just because she has something to prove but because she is a strong and determined person in her own right. Before one worries that it all gets too serious there is still a good dose of jungle based action on hand (though fans of exploding huts may be disappointed as not many get, well, blown up!) and while it may be dated in certain filmmaking respects (it sometimes feels like a glorified TV-movie with added ultra violence!), Opposing Force is the true definition of a hidden gem and highly recommended.  


Thursday, 4 December 2014

Berserker: Hell’s Warrior


BERSERKER: HELL’S WARRIOR (2004)

Written & Directed by: Paul Matthews
Starring: Craig Sheffer, Kari Wuhrer, Paul Johansson & Patrick Bergin

Vikings, swords, time-hopping, vampire lady vixens, over-acting, gore and day-glo special effects: well, it must be Berserker: Hell’s Warrior. All of this and more combine for a truly unique B-movie experience that despite its madness and often incoherence is a whole lot of sword slaying fun. Boar (Johansson) is the favourite son of Thorsson (Bergin) and for a Viking is a pretty good egg. He doesn’t come across as bloodthirsty as the rest of them (though can kick ass when needed), feels for his neglected brother Boar (Sheffer) and even incurs an eternal curse in order to save his brother’s life. Said curse has him reborn lifetime after lifetime experiencing endless pain, suffering and always destined to lose his love. Said love is Brunhilda (Wuhrer), who was actually Boar’s squeeze (so I guess Barek wasn’t such a good egg after all!), now reincarnated as sexy doctor Anya who releases Barek upon modern day society from a high tech prison where Boar and his goons, complete in full Viking apparel, attempt to hunt Barek down in a very bloodthirsty (and presumably jealous!) manner.


As confusing as that write up sounds (and it may be because my memory is somewhat impaired from the viewing of the film, as it was late at night and in a whiskey haze!), Berserker: Hell’s Warrior sort of plays out like a Viking version of Highlander. We start off in olden times complete with Viking village, boats and a big battle scene and then half an hour into proceedings the action jumps ahead to modern times complete with Vikings running around axing for vengeance. However, if you can go with the slapdash approach (it feels as though a lot was perhaps left on the cutting room floor?) Berserker: Hell’s Warrior is a lot of crazy, gory, Viking fun.

The film is slickly photographed and the budget used well to create some convincing Viking costumes and an impressive Viking village. The effects may be a little dated (looking circa 1994 rather than 2004: in fact the whole thing looks like it was shot in the 90s) but they give a groovy, campy vibe to proceedings (glowing vampire chicks: awesome!) and the cast is pretty groovy too. Johansson unfortunately has the duller of the roles having to play everything straight and serious but the likes of Bergin (complete with awful fake beard!) and Sheffer make up for this with their scenery chewing greatness. In fact, Scheffer is a hoot as the deranged Boar and should have been used more. The smoking hot Wuhrer is, well, smoking hot and acts everyone off screen and director Paul Matthews (Grim, Breeders) makes sure we are never far away from the next sword slicing fight.

The fights are a little clunky but feature an impressive mount of gore and blood splattering violence as the Vikings go berserk on one another and while it may take itself a little too seriously Berserker: Hell’s Warrior is some slick B-movie fun in the Highlander mould. Plus, what’s not to like about a film featuring immortal Vikings, blood sucking Valkyries and the lovely Kari Wuhrer? 


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Stranglehold


Recently watched: Roger Corman + Jerry Trimble + Vernon Wells + a shit ton of action = Stranglehold (1994) 


Monday, 1 December 2014

The Rebel


Check out my new review of fight packed The Rebel over at Far East Films.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Digital Man



DIGITAL MAN (1995)

Directed by: Phillip J. Roth
Screenplay: Ron Schmidt & Phillip J. Roth
Starring: Ken Olandt, Matthias Hues, Kristen Dalton, Ed Lauter, Adam Baldwin & Paul Gleason.

Part man, part machine, all, erm, digital: it’s Digital Man. Well not so much digital (save for the opening few minutes!) but really just Matthias Hues in a lot of futuristic combat armour with a big gun wandering around the desert blowing shit up. And a lot of shit he blows up to. This low budget, mid-90s, cyborg-run-amok action flick is all kinds of kooky craziness but is a lot of fun thanks to the striking desert location setting, a cast of familiar A-movie and B-movie faces and an incredible amount of explosions. Hues is the Digital Man of the title, a new combat cyborg who goes haywire after a mission in the Californian desert and proceeds to blow everything and everyone up. His superiors, keen to get him back and retrieve some top secret launch codes (or something!) he is holding, dispatch a squad of marines to go after him and ridiculously huge guns, redneck silliness (!) and explosions ensue.

Sort of mixing the colonial marines from Aliens (right down to the ripped-off giant guns!) with The Terminator and throwing them into a desert, Digital Man is as absurd as its title. Watching a bunch of mouthy marines in bulky combat gear run around a desert chasing after a robot, in even bulkier gear, while a bunch of actors you have appeared in A-list movies bark orders at them from a dark computer room may not sound like a lot of fun but, well, it actually kinda is.


The desert setting adds a pleasing visual aesthetic, Hues is great as the almost wordless on-the-rampage cyborg and thanks to a ridiculous amount of steadicam work the film feels a lot slicker than it probably is. The effects are a decent mix of practical and clunky low budget CGI and the filmmakers deserve respect for the both the ridiculous amounts of explosions featured and the ridiculous amount of times the word cyborg is mentioned. A drinking game could be implemented for either (or both) and becoming shit faced (quickly) is guaranteed!

Plus along with Hues we've got B-movie cast awesomeness in the form of Ed “Raw Deal” Lauter, Adam “Full Metal Jacket” Baldwin and Paul “Die Hard” Gleason. Even Don “Brother of Patrick” Swayze and Clint “Brother of Ron” Howard are in there somewhere playing, non-surprisingly, a redneck and a weirdo respectively. Cool. Add in stupidly large guns (which I’ll admit, look freaking awesome!), the most random training-with-ninjas scene ever (!) and the fact one is never more that 3 minutes away from the next explosion and Digital Man is a mid-90s, B-movie, robot-rampaging, sci-fi hoot. 


Monday, 24 November 2014

Mea Culpa


Check out my new review of Mea Culpa over at Blueprint Review.