Monday, 20 April 2015

Most Wanted


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


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


Directed by: John Hyde
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.


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Kung Fu Killer

Check out my new review of the quite awesome Kung Fu Killer over at Far East Films.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Savage Justice


Directed by: Joey Romero
Starring: Julia Montgomery, Steven Memel, Ruel Vernal

It’s Philippine, jungle based action a-go-go in the cheap but not always cheerful Savage Justice. Sarah (Montgomery) is the foxy blonde daughter of some American diplomat who is captured by a group of nasty jungle rebels when they instigate an attack on the American embassy (or something!). With her parents slain and with no chance of escape, Sarah becomes the personal plaything of tough rebel Sanchez (Vernal). However, as well as using her for all sorts of sleazy shenanigans, Sanchez trains her in all forms of combat so she can fight by his side and now be his tough foxy blonde fighting babe. Cut to a year later and Sanchez and Sarah (now a cute couple!) go on the rampage and attack a local village with the purpose of hijacking several supply trucks due into town. In amongst all the shooting and chaos, Sarah is wounded and rescued by American stud dude Rick (Memel), a former soldier trying to live a quiet life but who’s wife is killed in the village attack (well he did send her into town to do grocery shopping knowing there was going to be an attack: dick!). Reluctantly joining forces with Sarah, the two of team up to take down Sanchez once and for all but not before a heap load of oddness/plot tangents/general B-movie absurdness can take place. 

While it features its fair share of machine gun firing action, explosions and dangerous car flips, Savage Justice is all over the shop in its intentions. Cut and chopped to a lean, mean 80 minutes, coherency isn’t always its strongpoint as Sarah’s imprisonment by Sanchez lasts all of five minutes and is basically an excuse to tell us that she is now some bad-ass Rambo like battling babe. Cue the let’s-get-revenge-on-Sanchez plot (he now moping around his jungle camp pining for his blonde babe!) but not before we take jaunts to a Shaolin Temple  (to recruit some monks!); a hideout to find a cache of guns (mysteriously run by a gang of street kids and a midget: who then also joins forces with Sarah!); take in several random fights showcasing Sarah’s new found kung fu skills; and then throw in some funky Mad Max like vehicles and, oh, you know, a bit of faux lesbian taunting from one of the evil jungle bandits! Savage Justice certainly gets points for throwing in everything it can think of, even if most of it doesn’t stick.

While a lot of the artwork seems to be promising this as a sort of female Rambo type flick, and Montgomery does get to kick ass and fire guns, the big finale sees the leading lady relegated to the sidelines as Memel gets to be all action hero and even gets to fight Sanchez: it should have Montgomery kicking his ass in the final minutes damnit! Still, and thankfully, Savage Justice delivers a truck load of crazy gun blasting action, especially come the final 20 minutes that features all kinds of bullet riddled destruction, those Mad Max like vehicles flying through the air and being destroyed and plenty of explosions: so lots of dangerous looking stunt madness. Montgomery makes for a tough action babe and while Savage Justice has its moments it would have been better (and less weird) with the omission of the Monks, the street urchins and all the other silliness that gets in the way of some good jungle blasting action. 

Weekend of Trash XVI

I met up again with a couple of the guys from Blueprint Review for another weekend of non-stop B-movie madness. We managed to get through an abundance of low budget insanity including The Lamp, Legion of Iron, Ghost Keeper, Wavelength and Soldier's Wrath

Check out the write up.

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Manhunt


Directed by: Fabrizio De Angelis (as Larry Ludman)
Screenplay: Fabrizio De Angelis & Dardano Sacchetti
Starring: Ethan Wayne, Henry Silva, Raimund Harmstorf, Bo Svenson & Ernest Borgnine

The Manhunt sees The Duke’s very own son, John Ethan Wayne, having a go at leading man duties in this little seen American shot, Italian produced slice of action schlock. Much like director Fabrizio De Angelis’ Thunder series of films (his riffs on the First Blood formula where Native American cop Mark Gregory is accused of all sorts of things he didn’t do leading him to go up against the corrupt cops who set him up), The Manhunt features a wronged hero (Wayne) being accused of something he didn’t do (stealing a couple of horses) and thrown in the slammer run by a nasty Sherriff/warden (Silva). So after the obligatory humiliation at the hands of the Sherriff and his goons, some sweaty chain gang work, and befriending one of the inmates (who is no doubt  gonna wind up dead the minute he befriends the hero!),Wayne attempts to escape, outrun the pursuing dirty cops and reclaim the horses that are rightfully his. 

Now the concept of a would be hero attempting to clear his name and get his two horses back may not sound like a recipe for an exciting prison/action flick and in many ways one would be right. Wayne is so determined to get his damn horses back it all seems a bit daft: especially when he keeps repeating the line “It’s about principle” when virtually every other character tells him to forget it about it. To be fair, it kinda is about the principle (he bought those horses fair and square damnit!) and really the stealing of the horses is just an excuse to set in motion Silva’s sadistic Sherriff and an ever increasing amount of dangerous car stunts. Tracking similar territory to the Thunder films (wrongly accused hero, desert locations, nasty cops, lots of vehicular destruction in slow motion), The Manhunt plays like a slightly watered down version of those flicks. It’s a got a modern Western vibe going for it (complete with twangy score) and while the film isn’t as excessively violent as a lot of other Italian action flicks from  the era there is still plenty of insane car stunts (including a cool chase utilising a stolen prison bus) and plenty of shotgun blasting action. 

It’s all quite low key and Fabrizio takes a while to get to the action but once good ole John Wayne Jr is on the run proceeding heat up considerably. It’s got that vintage 80s Italian feel to it (not quite sure how to pinpoint it but if you’re a fan of these films, you’ll know the feel!) and a who’s-who of cool bad guy supporting characters. Silva is at his mad dog, shotgun wielding best along with fellow corrupt cop Raimund Harmstorf (Thunder 2); always good to see Ernest Borgnine acting everyone else off screen, even if his character does a complete out-of-nowhere 180 in his motivations in persecuting/helping Wayne’s character (!); Bo Svenson (also Thunder 2) pops up for all of five minutes; and Wayne, well, he doesn’t exactly have the screen charisma of his famous father but makes for a decent silent hero.

It may be a bit slow to get going for those looking for fast and violent action and it’s all so slight (even by 80s Italian action schlock standards) some may turn off before all the cool car stunt action kicks in but The Manhunt (if you can hunt down a copy: sorry!) is a neat little Italian action oddity that gets by on some cool location photography, a nostalgic Italian movie vibe and lots of cars being flipped. 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Night of the Sharks


Directed by: Tonino Ricci
Screenplay: Tito Capri & Tonino Ricci
Starring: Treat Williams, Janet Agren, Antonio Fargas, John Steiner, & Christopher Connelly

Now here’s a film that may even test the patience of the most avid and hardened fan of Italian action schlock from the 80s (that’ll be me then!). Despite the presence of the always ace Treat Williams, the awesome artwork featured above and below and  the promise of some crazy shark action, Night of the Sharks (great title!) is as bonkers as any mid 80s Italian flick featuring a couple of American stars (collecting pay cheques!) as there’s ever been but unfortunately, not always in a good way.

First off, and despite the title and artwork, Night of the Sharks is not a creature feature. There is a shark (called Cyclops!) that has some kind of personal vendetta against Treat’s character (and even taunts him by stealing his boat in one of the more absurd moments: of which there are many!) but the film is more about (or at least seems to be!) stolen discs containing top secret information, shifty rich people trying to get said CD back, a bit of action, some sunny locations and lots (and lots) of contrivance to make all these elements work and somehow get Treat and his buddy Paco (Fargas) involved in it all.  

Yeah that sounds like a recipe for awesomeness but, sadly, it ain’t. Well at least it isn’t to begin with as the first 45 minutes is a bit of a slog and coupled with the random nature of everything means nothing really makes sense. Treat and Fargas seem to be having a great time in the lovely Dominican Republic locations: being buddies, getting into bar fights, wearing Hawaiian shirts! However, the so called bad guys seem to be out of some misjudged comedy, it takes an age for the “top secret CD” to end up in Treat’s hands (who then inexplicably feeds it to the shark: to then only have to go and try and retrieve it come the finale!), Christopher Connelly (Cobra Mission, Bronx Warriors) shows up as a priest (who likes to drink and carry guns!) in charge of some orphan children (huh!), Treat’s ex-wife (Argen) is also shoe horned in (again for inexplicable reasons!) for him to bed and then for her to die (!) and finally come the last 20 minutes the action kicks in as Treat takes down the bad guys with some homemade Molotov cocktails and, err, pretending to be dead!

Hold on, I’m actually making this sound awesome and I guess, after all, maybe it wasn’t that bad: in a very low rent way. The groovy musical score is pretty good, the locations are often lovely to look at and the last 20 minutes or so is some action packed fun. Oh yeah, and there’s that shark which keeps popping up randomly to cause trouble: so there’s that also. So, despite all the naffness (and there is quite a bit of it!), Night of the Sharks is still oddly entertaining and is worth a view if it’s late at night and one has exhausted all the other cheap 80s naff Italian action films in one’s collection.