Saturday, 19 July 2014

Enemies Closer


Check out my new review of Enemies Closer over at Blueprint Review.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Liberator


LIBERATOR (2012)

Directed by: Aaron Pope
Written by: Jim Cirile & Aaron Pope
Starring: Lou Ferrigno, Peta Wilson, Darwin Harris, Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson, Michael Dorn & Edward Asner

This excellent short film/pilot gives the ultimate Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, a starring role as a onetime superhero attempting to put his life back together after the country he used to protect disowns him. He plays the Liberator, America’s former golden boy and all round ass-kicking superhero. However, he’s fallen on hard times, recently released from a prison stint which saw him serve time for a mission that went south and he took the blame for. Liberator, now scratching a living as a construction worker, plans to reveal everything in a tell-all book, clearing his name and hopefully re-uniting him with his estranged family. Yet, as is always the case, the government (the evil Michael Dorn and Peta Wilson) aren’t so keen on this and plan on crushing Liberator once and for all. Liberator, on the other hand, isn’t going down without a fight and the stage is set for a superhero smack-down.


A sort of love letter to the superhero genre and presumably a jumping off point for a series or film, Liberator is a short and sweet action hit that is a little bit grittier than your typical superhero fare. It’s great to see Ferrigno (who is still in awesome shape!) front and centre and getting the chance to display some dramatic chops. He balances the character’s feelings of loss and loneliness with tough and vengeful well and it’s great to see him doing something a little different. He still gets to kick ass once he suits up as the Liberator and has some good support from the like of genre favourites Michael Dorn, Peta Wilson and the always cool Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson. Mention should also go to Jessica Andres who plays Ferrigno’s onscreen daughter with their scenes providing several tender moments before the action and special effects kick in.


At just under 20 minutes, writers Pope and Cirile pack in a lot from family drama to double crosses to all out action and some nifty VFX. Ferrigno gets to kick some ass in an impressive scene where he takes on several military guards and the ending is set up nicely for the continuing adventures of Liberator even if it’s all cut just a bit too short once proceedings get going: as a fanboy, I was itching to see Ferrigno and Wilson got toe-to-toe! However, that’s for another installment and is the only downside to what is, a well made superhero short and fun action flick. Here’s hoping the live action Liberator adventures continue in either short or feature film form.  

Good stuff.



My Best Bodyguard


Check out my new review of  My Best Bodyguard over at Far East Films.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Honour


HONOUR (2014)

Written & Directed by: Shan Khan
Starring: Aiysha Hart, Paddy Considine, Faraz Ayub, Shubham Saraf, Nikesh Patel & Harvey Virdi

This dark of sometimes brutal British film takes the theme of honour killings and frames a tense thriller around it allowing the viewer a glimpse into the darker side of a certain culture. Devout Muslim and mother of three (Viridi) is ashamed of her only daughter, Mona (Hart), who has not only let some of her faith traditions slide but strikes up a romance with a young Punjabi man and threatens to run away with him. The Mother sees the only way to rectify this “problem” is to honour kill her daughter to restore the good name to her family and her dead husband’s legacy. Roping in a hard-bitten and one time Aryan brother bounty hunter (Considine) to find Mona, the Mother soon realizes that the task of killing her daughter will fall to her and her eldest son when said gun-for-hire’s conscious catches up with him and he sees a way out for both him and Mona.

From the quietly and incredibly intense opening scenes featuring the Mother (the character is only ever referred to as the mother) putting her plan into action to the non-linear approach the filmmakers employ to tell the story from all the main character’s perspectives, Honour is a dark thriller that grips throughout and spins a story that actually keeps you guessing for once (not least due in part to the sucker punch opening scenes!). The non-linear approach, meaning we the viewer jump back and forward in time to see the events from different perspectives, may be off putting to some but works quite well both in heightening the thriller element and into gaining how the clashing of cultures and beliefs affects each of the different protagonists. Sectioning the film into non-linear segments helps us to see how obsessed the Mother has become in the pursuit of the honour killing (and how her beliefs have become warped in order to achieve her goal); how Mona is at odds with the faith she has been brought up with; and how Considine hunter’s one time hatred for those who aren’t like him has now subsided and that he may be the saviour Mona is looking for. It’s an interesting approach, to what is essentially a thriller, but gives the film more meat as themes of wanting to escape a certain life and how faith can become an obsession rather than a calling elevate the film above the simpler girl-attempts-to-flee-her-crazed-family angle. 


Honour is a thriller first and foremost (and most certainly not an action film so don’t go expecting Taken style action shenanigans) and those looking for a straight up drama about the horrendous nature of honour killings may be a little disappointed that the film resorts to more traditional thriller elements come the final third (chases, violent confrontations). However, this is not a detriment to the film as, save for one final unnecessary scene, Shan Khan’s film is a fine thriller that grips and entertains in equal measure and is stunningly shot and excellently acted by the entire main cast. Considine continues to impress balancing both menace and calm well. He actually takes somewhat of a backseat to the rest of the cast (though his part is vital) allowing the younger cast to really shine. Likewise, Harvey Virdi as the callous and quite frightening mother is impressive, spewing forth manipulative speeches with venom.
Honour is, despite being a little plodding on occasion, a taught thriller and while it looks at the dark side of faith it does not criticize the faith as a whole but rather looks at how certain aspects are at odds with the modern world (and human decency) and how those who can become obsessed with upholding their beliefs can ultimately become corrupted by them.



Monday, 16 June 2014

The Guillotines


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

The Resistance


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

Monday, 9 June 2014

Evasive Action


EVASIVE ACTION (1998)

Directed by: Jerry P. Jacobs
Screenplay:  Tripp Reed, Sean McGinly & Brian Rudnick
Starring: Dorian Harewood, Roy  Scheider, Delane Matthews, Clint Howard, Don Swayze, Ed O’Ross, Blake Gibbons, Keith Coogan & Ray Wise

This Royal Oaks Entertainment (Crash Dive, Counter Measures, Fugitive Mind) action cheapie is a whole lot of low rent fun mainly due to its impressive cast of one time A-Listers and B-movie action stalwarts.  The ever great Roy (Jaws, The French Connection) Scheider chews the scenery and has fun doing so as a onetime mafia kingpin (!) hell bent on busting out of jail when he and his other prison buddies are transported cross country on a train. Yep, it’s Con Air on a budget as Scheider and his cronies cause trouble and mayhem for out-to-stop-them-local sheriff Ray (Robocop) Wise along with the help all round solid character actor and familiar face Dorian Harewood (Full Metal Jacket, Sudden Death). Shoot-outs, locomotive action and just general outright looniness (mainly courtesy of Clint Howard!) ensue in this rollicking low rent action absurdness.

Actually, proceedings kick off in a rather serious manner as Harewood is framed for the murder of his wife (all shown through some nifty POV shots and dramatic slow motion), is wrongfully sent to prison and just wants to do his time and get out. However, after a prison yard scrap (with Sam “Flash Gordon” Jones no less: this flick certainly packs in the quality B-move cast!) earns him the trust of Scheider, he’s forced to take part in the daring escape whether he wants to or not. However, after several shoout-outs, confrontations and a feisty bar maid tagging along (Matthews), Harewood is forced to take up the hero role and make sure Scheider doesn't complete his escape.

This all leads to much B-movie action craziness (Howard bizarrely only quoting lines from famous films!) and an awesome cast of “Hey, it’s that one guy...!” who buoy this frantic flick making it a lot more fun than it should have been. To be fair the cast are all pretty good (well, Howard seems completely out of place and like he has walked in from another set altogether: but seems to be having a hoot!) with Scheider oozing evil charm, Wise providing good support as the would be hero sheriff and Harewood making for a refreshingly normal and unexpected leading man/action hero.

It’s all pretty well shot, the momentum is kept up nicely and for a Royal Oaks Entertainment production, stock footage (from bigger budget films inserted to pad out the action sequences) is only used for the big crash come the end (it being footage from the Pryor/Wilder flick, Silver Streak). There are a good amount of fist fights and shoot-outs though the flick does have a habit of cutting away from the action just as it’s getting good as presumably they couldn’t afford to show it: see, a bomb going off not being shown and Harewood’s daring jump from a motorcycle onto the moving  train which is, yep, not shown!

Awesome cast make this a solid B-move action quickie which is best enjoyed late at night with a whiskey in your hand: which is exactly how I watched and enjoyed it!

(aka Steel Train). 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear


Check out my new review of Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear over at Far East Films.

Friday, 23 May 2014

In The Blood


IN THE BLOOD (2014)

Directed by: John Stockwell
Written by: James Robert Johnston & Bennett Yellin
Starring: Gina Carano, Cam Gigandet, Danny Trejo, Luis Guzman, Stephen Lang, Amaury Nolasco & Treat Williams

One time MMA fighter Gina Carano gets another shot at a leading action role (after the very enjoyable and much underrated Haywire) in the tropical set In the Blood. Carrying the picture admirably on her shoulders, Carano proves again she’s a good fit for the action heroine lead as she attempts to find her missing husband (Gigandet) on the Caribbean island where they were celebrating their honeymoon. Enticed to try some of the world's longest zip-lines (which are used effectively and thrilling in several of the film’s set-pieces) Ava (Carano) and Derek (Gigandet) are having a blast until Derek’s harness snaps and plunges him into the jungle below. Whisked off in an ambulance, Ava is told to follow Derek and the paramedics and meet them at a nearby hospital. However, Derek never makes it to the hospital and Ava is plunged into an alien world as she desperately searches for her husband. It doesn’t take her long to figure out something shady is going on (not least with the lack of help from the local law enforcement) and she soon sets out on her own to find her husband and punish those, Taken style, who have snatched him. 


You see, Ava is a trained survivor (something her husband didn’t know about her) and, as shown in a series of flashbacks, taught by her survivalist father (Lang) to fight and kill. This gives Carano’s Ava plenty of chance to kick some butt and knock some teeth out as she is thrust into a dark criminal world fronted by Lugo (Nolasco) and Big Biz (Tejo). However, while In the Blood (ably directed by John Stockwell: Turistas, Into the Blue) gives Carano the chance to flex her fight muscles she also gets to flex her acting ones: and does well at both. In fact, for the first half of the film, proceedings have more of a thriller element than an action one as Carano desperately searches for her husband. Nicely shot on location, proceedings have an almost docu feel helped in part by Stockwell’s neat use of different types of cameras to film (phones cameras, CCTV cameras, helmet cams on the zip-lines) meaning In the Blood works best as an edgy thriller. Aside from the nice location work, Carano is the main driving force and really makes the film work. Since Haywire and Fast and Furious 6 her screen presence has really come along and she certainly holds her own in the dramatic scenes. The rest of the familiar face cast are really just there for support, only getting a few scenes each, though Nolasco registers as a particularly nasty bad guy.

There could have been a few more sustained fights, though when Carano does start kicking butt the fights are fast and brutal and heavily MMA influenced: the lady knows how to kick ass. The zip-line set-pieces are the standout sequences as they are vertigo-inducing and tensely staged, adding a unique twist to the action. Yet, even if there isn’t as much action as one may have hoped for its Carano’s relentless mission through the seedier side of the Caribbean that gives the film its momentum and the former fighter turn actress proves again she’s got the talent to become a leading female action star. Now give her another film/role quick.


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Substitute 4: Failure Is Not An Option


THE SUBSTITUTE 4: FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION (2001)

Directed by: Robert Radler
Screenplay: Dan Gurskis
Starring: Treat Williams, Angie Everhart, Bill Nunn, Tim Abell & Patrick Kilpatrick

The Substitute series (where a former special ops badass goes undercover into troubled schools to fight corruption, and was originally kicked off by Tom Berenger) amazingly made it to 4 entries. Good old reliable Treat Williams returns for a third go around and this time goes undercover at a military school to fight white supremacists. The domineering and ruthlessly racist Brack (Kilpatrick) runs the school with an iron fist seemingly converting everyone and anyone to his cruel and violent beliefs. With his squad of seasoned cadets, The Werewolves, Brack proves an imposing force for Williams’ solider turned undercover teacher.

This series has always been entertaining with the various gangs either Berenger or Williams have come up against, while posing as teachers, providing ample opportunity for some hard-hitting action. This entry is no different (and the military school setting is a nice change from your typical run down/inner city school environment) but perhaps finds itself hitting badass soldier-poses-as-teacher-to-kick-some-ass fatigue. The action is also a little thinner on the ground this time around with Williams and Kilpatrick not even getting a fight scene: hey, no fair! However, the lovely Angie Everhart (Jade) provides a nice distraction, especially for Williams (with the level of sex and nudity certainly ramped up for this instalment!) and B-movie action mainstay Tim Abell (Special Forces) also provides solid support as Williams’ army buddy roped in to help out.


There could have been a few more action scenes to pad out the runtime but what action there is fairly inventive and rough-and-ready as per the previous entries. Williams gets to show off some hand-to-hand skills (though is obviously doubled on occasions) in a couple of high impact fights and there is a particularly over-the-top sequence where he is attacked by rocket launcher wielding cadets and thwarts them by using (what else!) a massive JCB digger to squash them. B-movie action craziness!

No as entertaining as previous entries and the original The Substitute is still the best but The Substitute 4 is an entertaining enough low rent action sequel to wile-away 80 or so minutes late one evening.