Monday, 17 November 2014

Die Fighting


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

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Death Match



DEATH MATCH (1994)

Directed by: Joe Coppoletta
Screenplay: Curtis Gleaves, Bob Wyatt & Steve Tymon
Starring: Ian Jacklin, Martin Kove, Matthias Hues, Renee Allman, Bob Wyatt & Nick Hill

Death Match is about as 90s a martial arts movie as they come. Set in Los Angeles: check. Tournament fights arranged by some shifty criminal type: check. Two buddies (who know kung fu) trying to make a living in LA and one of them gets sucked into said tournament fights and subsequently goes missing/dies: check. Other buddy drops everything to find his friend and must train, as he will inevitably take part in the tournament fights: check. Hot reporter for said buddy to bed and to help him out with his investigations: check. Matthias Hues: check. Kid sidekick: check. Lots of fights: check. Cool cameos from B-movie action stalwarts Richard Lynch, Jorge Rivero and Steven Vincent Leigh: check. A huge boat to have the big end action scene play out on: check. And there you have it, Death Match.


Taking all the above ingredients and mixing it into a kind of mish-mash of genres, Death Match is still surprisingly enjoyable. It has a load of crisp and crunchy fights (choreographed by the great Art Camancho and Benny “The Jet” Urquidez: who even appears as himself as the hero’s trainer!) and one time would be action star Ian Jacklin (Expert Weapon) makes for a likeable hero and convincing fighter. He even gets a cool motorcycle to ride (sometimes with helmet, sometimes without!) and an obligatory sex scene with the hot reporter. Cool. The great Martin Kove smirks his way through the smarmy bad guy role and Matthias Hues gets a meaty role as his right hand man and a couple of decent fights scenes as well. Hell, he even gets set on fire but comes back for more fighting, fire-scarred an all! Sweet.

It’s all fairly predictable and low rent but with a little more time given to story and a likeable hero who we actually want to see win (and not get kicked in the face because he is always acting like a wannabe bad ass douche!), it makes for refreshing viewing. If you read blogs like this and watch movies like these, you've no doubt seen this type of story a gazillion times (especially if you grew up watching these types of films in the 80s and 90s) but Death Match does it fairly well, has plenty of kicks to faces and is a decent 80 minutes or so of bygone era action junk.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Open Fire


OPEN FIRE (1994)

Directed by: Kurt Anderson
Screenplay: Thomas Ritz
Starring: Jeff Wincott, Patrick Kilpatrick, Mimi Craven, Lee de Broux & Arthur Taxier

One time action star Jeff Wincott got his own Die Hard flick in the form of the very straightforward but nonetheless fun Open Fire. It’s that aforementioned action classic set in a chemical plant this time around, as a bunch of terrorist goons takeover said plant and threaten to blow it all up if their big bad leader Kruger (Kilpatrick) isn’t released from prison. He is, he joins his mob and they still plan to blow shit up and flee with the hostages. One hostage just happens to be the father of Alec McNeil (Wincott) who, wouldn’t you know it, is an ex bad ass cop and wants in on the rescue mission/negotiations. Prickly cop captain Taxier (Davis) isn’t having any of it meaning McNeil has to go rogue, breaking into the plant himself (which proves very easy!) in order to rescue his pops and kick some major ass.


It’s fairly by the numbers and back in the 90s Die Hard clones were a dime a dozen but Open Fire is unfussy action fun for the less discriminating critic that coasts on Wincott’s likeability, Kilpatrick’s slimy bad guy and a smattering of decent action. It’s not as action packed as some of Wincott’s greatest hits (Martial Outlaw, Mission of Justice) and he does seem to be going through the motions a bit (where’s the eager kung fu cop from Martial Law 2 or the permanently on-edge-and-hard-ass-cop from Mission of Justice?!) but when it comes to delivering the bone breaking action he, well, err, delivers. With action choreographer Jeff Pruitt (Scanner Cop, Deadly Target) on hand the fights are lively, crunchy and hard hitting. An early fight in a bar (to show just how tough McNeil is!) and the final one-on-one with Kilpatrick are the standouts featuring flips, crashing-into-furniture-and-surrounding-objects takedowns and in one particular “oh hell yeah” moment, Wincott punches straight through a dude’s beer glass to sock him in the face. Awesome.

Kilpatrick (Death Warrant, Best of the Best 2) may have played this part a dozen times but he’s good value as the smarmy bad guy and proves a believable physical foe to Wincott’s hero. There could have been a bit more action and less dossing around with the incompetent cops but as a cheap and brisk Die Hard knock off, Open Fire aint bad.  



Monday, 3 November 2014

Extreme Crisis


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

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Protector


THE PROTECTOR (1998)

Directed by: Boon Collins & Fabien Lloyd
Screenplay: John McFetridge, Boon Collins, Russel Langille
Story
: Robert Cousins
Starring: Frank Zagarino, Matthias Hues & Steven Nijjar

Ok, so this is not The Protector that is the underrated 80s action flick which was Jackie Chan’s first bid at Hollywood stardom but rather a low budget and quite frankly insane action film from the 90s. This one stars B-action movie stalwarts Frank Zagarino, Matthias Hues and Steven Nijjar. Wait, who? Fans of 80s and 90s straight-to-video action films will no doubt know who Zagarino (Shadowchaser films) and Hues (No Retreat No Surrender 2) are but who the hell is Steven Nijjar? Well he’s the main principal here, not to mention he also produced this low budget oddity, and spends most of his time running around trying to dodge bullets and fisticuffs. And when he’s not dodging either of those he, well, does more running! Seriously, half the 90 minute runtime is Mr Nijjar just running around and away from various things, and while he has great stamina and rarely breaks a sweat, you do begin to wonder what the hell is he running from now, especially when he’s got to find his memory, rescue his once-thought-to-be-dead-son, and thwart Hues’ big, bad and oh so camp bad guy.

Ultra low budget action tripe, The Protector is all kinds of action insaneness. Memory wipes, missing sons, chicks with guns (and berets!) and lots of non-acting (mainly courtesy of Nijjar), The Protector certainly has a lot of cool and crazy ingredients but delivers them in such a chaotic and incoherent way it will no doubt even test the patience of even the most hardened action trash fan. However, despite all its silliness the film has 3 tricks up its sleeve that makes it worth a punt. One and two: Zagarino and Hues. Three: tons and tons and tons (and tons) of action! It’s always great to see Zagarino and Hues (they even get a cool fight!) kicking ass, even in one of their more rare action titles such as this. Zagarino does look pissed off the whole time though gets to crack wise about his ex-wife and bust a lot of skulls and Hues is a hoot as the camper than camp villain complete with leopard print shirts, continuous cigars and a bevy of beret wearing/machine gun toting beauties at his disposal. The two stars certainly make the flick more watchable and both get ample opportunity to kick ass and dispense firepower.


And credit where credit is due, The Protector is crammed to the rafters with action. It rarely lets up with fight after fight (some good, some not), explosions, vehicle destruction and machine gun firing awesomeness. The action may be a little rough and ready but its lively, well sustained and makes the flick all that more enjoyable. There is even an elaborate scene where our hero has his feet set on fire but continues to fight and then escapes gunfire by jumping through a window, all the while still on fire! Cool. The less said about the continue re-use of the same corridor in the climactic siege of the villains lair the better (and not to mention the fact Hues is often shooting at nothing off camera!) but for a ultra low budget action flick done by some people that, well, wanted to make their own action film, The Protector delivers action, action and more action.

You laugh (unintentionally), you’ll cry (as it sometimes hurts!), you’ll hurl (mainly because of Hues’ shirts) and you’ll probably be entertained.   

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Kite


Check out my new review of Kite over at Blueprint Review.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Felony



FELONY (2013)

Directed by: Matthew Saville
Screenplay: Joel Edgerton
Starring: Jai Courtney, Joel Edgerton, Melissa George & Tom Wilkinson

Tense and unsettling thriller Felony is an often gripping, albeit slow burning, tale of the moral quandaries Australian cop Malcolm Toohey (Edgerton) must face when he knocks down a young lad one night when driving home intoxicated. Said boy is rushed to the hospital and when asked whether he was involved in the youngster’s accident, Malcolm steps over an honourable line (wanting to protect his career and reputation) when he lies and says he wasn’t: just finding the boy in the road the way he was. Enter long time, and somewhat scuzzy, cop Carl (Wilkinson) who, through some kind of warped sense of wanting to protect his fellow officers, helps Malcolm and gives him a cover story. Malcolm is seen as a hero, the boy’s mother seeing him as her son’s saviour, but new cop Jim (Courtney) has his doubts and begins his own investigation into the case. Soon the officers are forced into a battle of wills as cover-ups and consciouses begin to crumble in a pursuit for the truth.  


An incredibly well acted and well shot film, Felony for much of its running time is riveting viewing achieving its momentum and grip by the tight direction and very convincing performances of the main cast. Walking a wobbly moral tightrope, meaning one doesn’t always have sympathy with the characters, the film keeps one watching thanks to its non-showy and unpretentious way of presenting the story. Melodrama is played down in favour of a much more naturalistic approach, the actors playing very real people in a very real situation. Instead of, and refreshingly so, a docu-like approach (handheld cameras, de-saturated colours etc) to make proceedings seem more real, director Matthew Saville shoots his film beautifully with long, steady shots (meaning the film still has a very cinematic aesthetic) and lets the characters and the actors playing them bring out the realism rather than trying to force it.


The cast are uniformly brilliant with star and writer Edgerton convincingly crumbling under the pressure of his secret while Jai Courtney really impresses in the much quieter more restrained role as his suspicious colleague. Only Wilkinson, who is still really good, feels a bit like a “movie” character rather than a real person with his excessive monologues about being loyal and protecting one’s family being a bit flashy compared to the rest of the cast. Still his character provides the thrust for the ethical quagmire the characters must navigate, which leads the story to a rather surprising (though tad rushed after the slow build of everything else!) late act change of direction which will no doubt split viewers down the middle with its moral implications. It’s certainly an unexpected and brave path to take and will have one thinking long after the credits have rolled.

More like a play that unfolds with tense and beautifully filmed precision than an all-out action thriller, Felony is an enthralling crime story telling a morally ambiguous tale that will make you think.

Recommended.


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Gutshot


GUTSHOT (2014)

Directed by: Justin Steele
Screenplay: Jerry Rapp
Starring: George Eads, AnnaLyne McCord, Ted Levine, Vinnie Jones, Tia Carrere, Stephen Lang & Steven Seagal

Gutshot, while he is in it, is not the new Steven Seagal action film. Likewise, for Vinnie Jones fans out there. Their parts are really just extended cameos though their characters do partly drive the plot and it’s nice to see both of them stretching dramatic chops and letting someone else handle the leading man duties. Those duties got to George Eads (of CSI fame) who plays two-bit card shark Jack who, wouldn’t you know it, is in debt to Seagal’s mob boss and doesn’t even have enough change to support his estranged wife and child. Enter Duffy (Lang) some weird rich dude who offers Jack the bet of his life (well more like an offer a la Indecent Proposal) and after some soul searching (well, having a gun pointed at him!) he decides to accept the bet/challenge. Needless to say things don’t go according to plan, Duffy ends up dead, Jack still owes a lot of money and Seagal and his cronies come a calling.


More a dramatic thriller, set in the Las Vegas gambling world, than an outright action film, fans of Seagal looking to see him kick ass with his fast and furious fists (and copious use of doubles!) will be disappointed but those looking to see him doing something a little different (albeit a version of a character he as always played, just a little more crooked this time around!) may be surprised. Sure he only has a few scenes but it’s cool to see the Seagal trying something a little different and actually attempting to act. Lead guy George Eads makes for a believable down-on-his-luck schmoe and while his character first appears to be a bit of a douche he does become more likable as his predicament worsens and Eads makes for an easy-going leading man. Lang can do sleazy and weird in his sleep, which he does well here, and the great Ted Levine also shows up to provide a bit of threat.


As mentioned, and despite the cool title (the flick is known as Gutshot Straight in the States), Gutshot is not really an action film. On its own dramatic thriller terms, the film works well for most of its running time though does loose a bit of steam in the second half with events seeming to meander too much when they should be heating up. However, Justine Steele’s film is nicely shot with good use of the Las Vegas locations and if you are in the mood for a pulpy thriller rather than an all out action ride then Gutshot fits the bill.  


Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Snowpiercer


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

Re-Cycle


Check out my new review of Re-Cycle over at Far East Films.