Monday, 18 May 2015

Falcon Rising


FALCON RISING (2014)

Directed by: Ernie Barbarash
Written by: Y.T. Parazi
Starring: Michael Jai White, Neil McDonough, Jimmy Navarro, Lateef Crowder & Laila Ali

Falcon Rising hopes to be the first instalment in a new action franchise starring fight fan favourite, Michael Jai White. Here, the one-time Spawn and all round great ass kicker plays John “Falcon” Chapman a former soldier now dealing with severe post traumatic stress disorder. Sliding down the shady slope of booze and unadvisable games of Russian roulette he is shaken out of his dark descent when he discovers his sister, Cindy (Ali), has been brutally attacked while doing charitable work in the favelas of Brazil. Springing into action, Falcon jets to Brazil and begins his own investigations into his sister’s attack and discovers she may have stumbled into a world of corrupt cops, child stealing rings and dangerous Yakuza gangs. 


Director Ernie Barbarash has been knocking out some solid action films of late (Assassination Games, 6 Bullets, the incoming Pound of Flesh), and likewise Michael Jai White has been no slouch either (Undisputed 2, Blood and Bone, the incoming Skin Trade) and the teaming of two delivers a satisfying and bone crunching start to a would be franchise. Falcon Rising is slickly produced (and gets the best from its sun soaked setting and locations), well acted (Jai White has got the tough but nice guy persona down pat) and for the most part delivers an enjoyable mix of drama and full force action. Granted the film is maybe not as saturated with fight action as one may be hoping (don’t worry there is still a decent amount) and unfortunately some of the plot twists and character revelations are sign posted from the get go (though it’s nice to see the great Neal McDonough actually being a friend to our hero for a change rather than a slimy bad guy!) but Falcon’s journey through the favelas is nicely handled by director Barbarash and his committed cast.


The film actually satisfyingly builds to the action (with a few teases along the way) as we get to know the Falcon character somewhat before he unleashes his arsenal of fight and gun skills. Jai White is as excellent as ever and it’s refreshing that his character is a little damaged and on the edge rather than just another clean-cut-has-it-all-together (super) hero. Of course he kicks major ass in the fight scenes (crisply choreographed by Larnell Stovall: Undisputed 3, Never Back Down 2) and there is a surprisingly amount of (welcome) gunplay action to go along with the superior martial arts dust ups.

Sure it’s a franchise starter, the story is a little well worn and, ok, one more fight scene would have been welcome but Falcon Rising is a rewarding action drama that benefits from its exotic locations, an interesting lead character and some stellar action. Another hit for director Barbarash and Michael Jai White proves once again he’s one of the best actors and fight stars in action movies out there right now. Falcon Rising 2 soon please. 


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Bunraku


Check out my new review of Bunraku over at Far East Films.


Thursday, 7 May 2015

Mercenary: Absolution


Check out my new review of Seagal's latest Mercenary: Absolution over at Blueprint Review.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Survivor



SURVIVOR (2014)

Written & Directed by: John Lyde
Starring: Danielle Chuchran, Rocky Myers & Kevin Sorbo

Fast moving, desert set, sci-fi action that sees the last of mankind (seemingly led by the always welcome, Kevin Sorbo) searching the vast reaches of space aboard giant spaceships looking for a new habitable planet. In between their hollow deck like training missions (to train them as bad ass soldier types), Sorbo and his crew believe they’ve found one such planet. However, disaster strikes in the form of a wormhole, which rips the ship apart and crashes the crew on said planet. Sorbo is injured, the rest of the crew are either killed or captured by some ferocious alien creatures and its up to tough girl survivor Kate (Churchran) to take up arms, battle the hostile desert terrain and rescue Sorbo and the surviving crew.


Add in another tribe of Mad Max like warriors (who want to kill any “outsiders”), some very slick photography which captures the glorious desert vistas and some high-kicking, bow and arrow slinging action and Survivor is a fun 90 minutes of sci-fi action. The opening scenes of Earth’s survivors aboard the spaceships training, bickering and flirting are a little clunky but once proceedings switch to the desert planet, things pick up considerably. Much like director John Lyde’s similar themed desert set sci-fi actioner Sniper Elite, the budget is slim and the story streamlined but he and crew do their best to deliver some slick sci-fi thrills. The thrust of the story is Kate running around the arid plains fighting mutant aliens, (possible) other human scavengers, and attempting to rescue the injured Sorbo. Her fights and scrapes are well staged and while the twist of where they have actually landed and the final outcome of events is hardly surprising its still a fun ride getting there.


Leading lady Danielle Churchran is one of the main driving forces of the flick and makes for a tough as nails heroine. Once she decides to take matters into her own hands and begins to charge across the desert locals, she barely stops as she battles the monster aliens, the scavengers and in one particularly memorable moment some kind of giant mutant alien dog! Churchran certainly cuts a fine figure as a future warrior and can kick some ass in the fight scenes. There may be too much of her running around and rock climbing (!) for the more critical of critics and proceedings may be a little light for the over analytical sci-fi fan out there but on its own slick, action fuelled and mutant alien terms, Survivor is a fun blast of sci-fi action. I can dig it.




Monday, 27 April 2015

Guns of Dragon


Check out my new review of Guns of Dragon (aka American Dragon) over at Far East Films.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Most Wanted


MOST WANTED (1997)

Directed by: David Hogan
Written by: Keenan Ivory Wayans
Starring: Keenan Ivory Wayans, Jon Voight, Jill Hennessey, Paul Sorvino, Robert Culp & Eric Roberts

Slick piece of 90s action nonsense that still looks good, delivers the stunts but is rather dated in its silly man-on –the-run shenanigans. Keenan Ivory Wayans writes, produces and stars in this vanity action vehicle about a disgraced (though wrongly accused!) military sniper who is saved from death row by Jon Voight’s shady general. Recruiting Wayans to join his top secret soldier squad, Voight swiftly sets up Wayans for the murder of the first lady and the poor dude then has no choice but to go on the run and engage in lots of running, big stunts, fisticuffs and the usual 90s action movie daftness.

Slick and speedy, Most Wanted is glossy action fun from a time when action movies were made simply to just entertain, had a wrongly accused hero to get behind and the action was never over edited or full of shaky-cam nonsense. Wayans obviously fancied a crack a being an action star (along with this he also starred in the the equally silly but enjoyable Steven Seagal 90s vehicle The Glimmer Man) and why not. Sure the whole flick is geared around him being a bad ass hero though there is solid support from the likes of the lovely Jill Hennessy (Exit Wounds), Eric Roberts (who really just has a glorified cameo) and Paul Sorvino as a cigar chomping CIA dude who may or may not be an ally to our put upon hero. However, acting honours go to the great Jon Voight as the mad general who walks the finest of lines between hammy pantomime villain and menacing antagonist. He certainly seems to be having fun and not taking events too seriously (or not seriously at all!) and would appear to be channelling his performance (and accent) from Anaconda. He’s a hoot!


In fact, Most Wanted cannot really be taken seriously at all as the minute it appears to be turning into a serious action thriller it goes and throws in a load of 90s action silliness. Along with Voight doing his over-the-top bad guy, we get an insane sequence where Wayans’ hero is chased through the streets by civilians wanting to catch him and receive the huge reward on his head. The scene comes out of nowhere is mounted as a big set-piece and ends in a massive car pileup (complete with explosions) and almost derails the action fun that was being had up until this point with its complete insaneness. Only in the 90s (and possibly the 80s) could sequences like this have been deemed a good idea!

Still, for the most part Most Wanted is action soaked fun as director David Hogan (who also helmed the ludicrous but equally fun Barb Wire) keeps everything slick and exciting and the action and stunts are still impressive by today’s standards: including an extraordinary high fall/jump from a skyscraper. It may be pretty run-of-the-mill, didn’t really turn Ivory Wayans into an action star and Voight may elicit more chuckles than tense threats but Most Wanted is some uncomplicated and well made action fluff. 




Friday, 17 April 2015

Cop Game


COP GAME (1988)

Directed by: Bruno Mattei
Screenplay: Rossella Drudi & Claudio Fragasso
Starring: Brent Huff, Max Laurel, Romano Puppo, Candice Daly, Robert Marius & Werner Pocath

Ah Bruno Mattei (billed here as Bob Bunter!) you really have outdone ones-self with the truly sublime, Cop Game. The director of such treats as Strike Commando, Shocking Dark and the explosion heavy masterpiece Double Target, reached new heights of action absurdness in Cop Game. So low rent is this Italian action trash (cribbing a good deal of footage from some of the films mentioned above!) that it fuses an 80s tough cop film with an 80s jungle warfare action film to often hilarious and explosion fuelled heights. Awesomeness, obviously, ensues.

Brent Huff (Strike Commando 2, Gwendoline) over acts (i.e. shouts!) as tough no-nonsense cop Morgan who along with his partner Hawk (Max Laurel) are on the trail of some rogue soldiers who are killing members of a group called The Cobra Force. During their investigations (i.e. shouting at everyone, shooting their guns and generally getting pissed off at everything!) the two military cops uncover a conspiracy that may also involve Russian spies and even take a sojourn into the jungle to fire heavy artillery from a helicopter and blow up some jungle huts. Cool!


So it’s a bit like the classier 80s Willem Dafoe/Gregory Hines flick Off Limits but with more shouting, more explosions and a car chase featuring toy cars! Yep, toy cars! Well funky looking miniature models. About halfway through the absurd greatness of Cop Game, there is a car chase that is completely made up of model cars flung around a model set (complete with hilarious reaction shots of the stars pretending to drive said cars!) that is so manic and weird its worth hunting down a copy of the film just to see this scene (apparently it's lifted from another 80s Italian flick, Ark of the Sun God). Add to this a ton of stock footage, lots of machine gun firing, a strip club featuring the same group of dancers doing the same dance in every scene (!), Brent Huff shouting at everyone (even when he’s having a normal conversation!), a character called Captain Kirk (“…just like in Star Trek!”) and the best them tune possibly ever created that is repeated ad-infinitum (and actually works the title Cop Game into the lyrics!) and one has a slice of insane genius only Bruno Mattei and the 80s could have conjured up.

It’s hard to encapsulate all that is incredible about Cop Game but knowing there is car chase with model cars, an actual Cop Game theme tune (that someone wrote and composed!) and a bunch of explosions goes some way to putting it into a nutshell, meaning one really should experience this film as soon as humanely possible.


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Super Platoon


SUPER PLATOON (aka BLACK WARRIOR) (1987)

Directed by: Godfrey Ho (as Christ Hannah)
Screenplay: Glenn Clegg
Starring: Kevin Brooks, Barry Hyman & Rachel Sheen

You know the drill: it’s the 80s, it’s the Philippines (or possibly somewhere outside of Hong Kong!) and it’s another Nam/military/jungle warfare action film so there is gonna be a ton of cheese and a ton of M16 blasting action. And, for the most part, there is. However, this being a Filmark International and Godfrey Ho hatchet job, there is also a ton of incompressible nonsense and slapdash editing. Let the madness commence!

Actually, Super Platoon is rather low on the bonkers craziness and is more just a run of the mill people-get-captured-and-a-team-of-ultra-cool-mercenaries-set-off-to-rescue-them-and-engage-in-endless-gun-battles action flick. The team has a couple of no name American dudes leading the charge (well maybe not leading but they’re in the team!) and it’s business as usual as the squad set off into the jungle: pretty much almost 30 seconds after the film has started and the folks have been captured! That’s how quick proceedings begin and how simple they stay. Well, save for some sort of sub-plot about another team on some kind of other mission alongside them and which is possibly footage from an entirely different film (or just other footage Ho shot some other time and decided to insert into this film!) and is just an excuse for more machine gun firing and general what-the-fuck-is-going-on shenanigans?


Super Platoon is typical low rent Filmark action trash that while is far from the best of the military-jungle-action genre (I’m looking at you Nam Angels and Double Target!) is still junky fun on its own weird, mashed up terms. There is loads of crazy editing meaning one doesn’t always know what is happening and while this is a pretty straightforward shoot-em up, Ho still brings a little bit of madness to the plate: a smoke gun that burns the face off one poor bastard, opening credits featuring lots of fast moving stock footage (to make us think something exciting is happening!) and a dash of kung fu to liven up the action.

While it’s a bit too low rent and all over the place there is still the requisite oodles of gun-firing action (including a cool bit where one of the guys carries his wounded comrade over his soldier while she continues to fire her machine gun and slay the bad guys: awesome!) and if it’s late at night, you’re lonely and you’re into the 80s and machine guns, then give it a whirl. 

Monday, 13 April 2015

Saving General Yang


Check out my new review of Saving General Yang over at Far East Films.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Sniper Elite



SNIPER ELITE (aka ONE SHOT) 2014
Directed by: John Lyde
Written by: Adam Abram
Starring: Matthew Reese, Nichelle Aiden, Paul D. Hunt, Jacque Gray, Scott Hanks & Kevin Sorbo

A somewhat unique blend of sci-fi and military action film, Sniper Elite certainly features a lot of rifle blasting action, along with plenty of fights and explosions, but also finds room for a bit of character and some serious sun drenched desert style. Kyle (Reese…ha!) is a badass soldier and the best sniper in the biz. Currently engaged in battle in the hot desert fending off invading alien forces, his squad is decimated and he is left to run for his life through the arid landscape. With his trusty rifle by his side, Kyle is able to keep himself alive, fight off the relentless alien troops all the while trying to get to a safe zone so he can be picked up and rescued. However, and if harsh landscapes and machine gun-toting aliens wasn’t enough to contend with, he comes to the rescue of an alien female left for dead in the desert. With the otherworldly forces ever closing in and an alien babe to get to safety (and to try and trust), Kyle must use all his combat and sniper skills to stay alive and get to safety.


Despite the low budget and the single location setting (though the desert is ever sprawling meaning the filmmakers use it very creatively), Sniper Elite is some slick fun. It can’t always make the drama elements gel with the action ones, as certain scenes are dragged out and played so po-faced serious that proceedings occasionally become a bit of a slog. Not that it should be action, action, action but the blossoming relationship between the hero and the alien babe does mean things slow down once they’re just getting going. Plus, we also get Kevin Sorbo’s captain/general/big cheese up in the sky on a space station watching everything happening below on video screens and, seemingly, giving us viewers an update on what is happening. It’s always nice to see Sorbo, but his scenes feel a little shoe horned in, clash with the scorching desert visuals and means events keep having to cut back to the space station for a quick update: there’s plenty happening down in the desert, lets just watch that!

While there are dips into molasses pacing (though credit to the filmmakers for making the first 30 minutes so engaging with barely any dialogue spoken), Sniper Elite still brings the big guns in the action department. The big guns being the massive sniper rifles utilized in several bullet blasting action scenes and there are plenty of rough and tough fights and explosions also. Sure slow motion is used a tad much but with scenes where you can see exactly what is going all the time, the action is often fluid and full on. The desert locations, and some fine photography, also give the film a slick visual aesthetic and, to be honest, the premise of a tooled up soldier battling armour-clad aliens in the desert is all one needs for some slick sci-fi tinged crunchy action fun.