Thursday, 18 August 2016

Camino


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

Friday, 22 July 2016

Close Range


CLOSE RANGE (2015)

Directed by
: Isaac Florentine
Screenplay: Chad Law & Shane Dax Taylor
Starring: Scott Adkins, Nick Chinlund, Caitlin Keats, Jake La Botz

Action dream team Adkins and Florentine are back at it with the hard boiled, super charged Close Range. Honing their fine action movie skills to almost perfection they deliver a tough edged action blast that may be streamlined on narrative but is busting at the seams with expertly handled fight and firepower scenes.

Adkins is Colton MacReady: you know the type – tough, fight skilled, ex-soldier, man of few words and a dab hand at taking out the bad guys. No sooner has the flick started than MacReady has taken down various Cartel goons in a glorious one take shot that starts in an elevator, continues down a hallway and ends with a muscular tussle in a hotel room. He’s there to rescue his niece who has been kidnapped by the local scuzzy Cartel. He does so quick smart and high tails it back to his sister’s ranch to deliver her daughter safe and sound. No sooner has he done this, the Cartel show up demanding revenge and the return of some high value flash drive MacReady inadvertently made off with during all the fighting. Throw in some dirty cops, a ranch under siege and enough action to sear your eyeballs and leave a huge grin on your face, and you have Close Range.


This is the type of film Cool Target is all about: lean, mean and stuffed to the gills with expertly staged action. With just enough set up and character motivation to build the siege aspect around, Adkins and Florentine then unleash a torrent of ever mounting action as the heroes fight desperately to stay alive. The two know what they’re doing in this genre by now and waste no time in staging action nirvana. There’s a mean edge to the action and proceedings meaning there is a true sense of a fight for survival, more than a few nods to Sergio Leone (with a great tangy western score adding to this vibe) and some solid support from the likes of Nick Chinlund, Jake La Botz and Caitlin Keats who handles all the gunfire just as well as Adkins as his tough but loving sister.


Florentine’s style is woven throughout from his trademark swoosh noise, slick camerawork and spot on scene construction: not a scene is wasted, action or otherwise, in terms of shot placement, character positioning and either driving the action or drama forward. Yet it is the action no doubt most of us will come for and boy does it excel. Adkins and Florentine seem to just want to showcase as much as possible on their admittedly slim budget and propel proceedings with fluidly shot action scenes. Along with all the ace fighting, Florentine piles on a surprisingly amount of welcome gunplay and the siege element frames the escalating carnage well. And what about the fights? They are glorious: tough and rough and most important, staged, shot and edited with clarity for maximum impact. The standout is a one-on-one tussle between MacReady and bad guy Cruz (played by fight choreographer Jeremy Marinas) that is blisteringly brutal, intricate and spectacular.

Close Range is a straightforward action blast with a director and star doing what they do best making it heaps of action fun. MacReady is also character that deserves a sequel: Close Range 2 please.


Friday, 15 July 2016

Police Story: Lockdown


Check out my new review of Police Story: Lockdown over at Blueprint Review.

Friday, 3 June 2016

The Trust

 The Trust

Check out my new review of the really rather good The Trust over at Blueprint Review.

Friday, 27 May 2016

One Million K(l)icks


ONE MILLION K(L)ICKS (2015)

Directed by: Alex Pardutt & Oliver Juhrs
Written by: Marco Theiss, Story: Mike Moller & Marco Theiss
Starring: Mike Moller, Martin Baden, Bartholomeaus Kowalski, Volkram Zshiesche, Sabine Steinbech, Yanlong Li

Fast and furious martial arts action is front and centre in the low budget but very slick and action packed One Million K(l)icks. Stunt guy and all round super screen fighter Mike Moller gets to showcase his considerable fight skills in a barrage of energetic action scenes that make One Million K(l)icks some must see martial arts mayhem. 


Moller aptly stars as Mike, a down on his luck dude who is a wash out with the ladies, estranged from his father and looking for a bit of fortune to come his way. This fortune comes along in the form of a couple of shady business douches (Baden and KowalskI) who happening upon Mike’s considerable fight skills set him up as an internet star: streaming Mike fighting various opponents over the web. Mike has one condition, that all the potential fighters will provide a worthy fight: which they do as he takes on a series of increasingly skilled fighters. Internet fames beckons and the money rolls in but after a fight with a once renowned fighter (turned chef!) ends with Mike questioning his motives and a follow up fight leaving him severely injured, he decides it’s time to get out while he can. But with his shady business “partners” reluctant to give up their cash cow and a slimy cop hot on his trail, Mike has to fight one more time in order to break free.

Having performed stunts on the likes of Resident Evil, Unknown and Pound of Flesh, One Million K(l)icks is basically a showcase for Moller’s considerable fight and acrobatic talents, and what a showcase it is. While produced on what must have been a limited budget the film often looks slick (nicely shot and cut together) and delivers a flurry of wickedly choreographed fights. Action junkies will certainly get their fix (as this action junkie certainly did - if watching the English dub version!) with some impressively staged fights that see Moller taking on a variety of expert fighters. Particularly memorable are a scrap in a kitchen and a bar room brawl that incorporate all kinds of bootwork, acrobatic skills and takedowns. The fights scenes are fast and fluid, clean and crisp and sustained and satisfying. Despite a slight dip in fight action around the hour mark the filmmakers wisely pace the film with frequent bouts of memorable martial arts action.


While the narrative is fairly straightforward, presumably in effort to showcase the action, there is a nice turn of events where the renowned fighter (turned chef!) Mike originally takes down comes to his aid, retraining him after his injuries and the two share good chemistry. The sub plots of Mike’s blossoming romance with a nurse and his troubled relationship with his father don’t always work and clog up the second half unnecessarily. However, all the cast perform decently, there’s a nice bit of comedy peppered throughout (meaning events aren’t always taken too seriously) and the bad guys are suitably slimy and sneery. The lack of budget does show on occasion (and the obvious dubbing may irk some - if watching the English dub version!) but One Million K(l)icks is overall a slick package that showcases Moller skills to considerable effect and delivers a ton of incredible martial arts combat.

The end titles also promise a sequel Two Million K(l)icks - Hong Kong Death Match: bring it!


Friday, 12 February 2016

Zombie Ninjas vs. Black Ops


ZOMBIE NINJAS vs. BLACK OPS (2015)

Directed by: Rody Claude
Written by: Kylie Claude
Starring: Adam T. Perkins, Kira Caine &  Soa Palelei

Now that’s a great title: Zombie Ninjas vs. Black Ops. Does this B-movie live up to its awesome title? It sure does, delivering bucket loads of zombie bashing action at a relentless pace. The low budget zombie genre may have reached saturation point a long time ago but Zombie Ninjas vs. Black Ops injects the genre with some much needed adrenaline and that sure fire concept that makes anything and everything a hundred times better: ninjas. It’s action from the get go as the top secret experiments to create the ultimate soldier at SaiSei Security goes awry unleashing a squad of zombie ninjas who decimate most of the building’s occupants. A team of black ops are sent in to clean up but this doesn’t go according to plan meaning the remaining members of the team along with a few other survivors, including a bad ass military type, have to fight their way out of the building fending themselves from the ever swarming zombie ninjas. 


Mixing zombies, ninjas, guns and a little bit of Universal Soldier into the mix Zombie Ninjas vs. Black Ops gets down to business quick and rarely lets up. With little time for setup, the flick kicks off in high gear with the ninja zombies (really more like souped-up ninja soldiers that that howl and growl a lot, than straightforward zombies) already running amok. People are slain, fights break out and the good guys storm the building, heavy artillery in hand. The action comes thick and fast and it’s a nice mix of ninja styled combat, shoot-outs and zombie chasing chaos. While the narrative is streamlined to the point of run, chase, fight, run chase, fight, it works in the film’s favour as that’s really what one wants to see in a film called Zombie Ninjas vs. Black Ops. However, there a few surprises along the way not least one shock moment come the halfway point this nobody reviewer didn’t see coming and the momentum is kept up as the stakes becoming higher and higher for our put upon heroes and the fights and confrontations escalate in their intensity. 


Sure the film is very low of budget, the acting and dialogue is occasionally a little ropy and the camera is a little too close and shaky in some of the action scenes but on the whole, Zombie Ninjas vs. Black Ops is a hoot. Despite the low budget the film looks very slick using its single location to its advantage (proceedings play out a little like Die Hard with zombies!) and the cast, including UFC fighter Soa Palelei (as a big bad zombie ninja!) throw themselves into the action with gusto. The mixture of fights, gunplay and in one imaginative moment, ninja sword action, give the action scenes variety and are all delivered with brutal efficiency. The flick plays things a little more seriously than one may be expecting considering the title of the film but again this works in the film’s favour as tension is built and it’s refreshing to have a genre film, that while is certainly fun and its main goal it to entertain, isn’t always winking at the camera and pushing it’s tongue too far through its cheek! Kudos also to making the zombies actually somewhat different their striking movements, ability to fight and unsettling sound they emit, making them feel like an actual threat.

It comes with the requisite B-movie madness and low budget trappings but on the whole Zombie Ninjas vs. Black Ops is a zombie action blast and a second go around with these super zombie ninjas would be a welcome prospect.
    
                                          


Friday, 15 January 2016

The Ninja Trilogy


ENTER THE NINJA (1981) 

Directed by: Menahem Golan

Screenplay: Dick Desmond, Story: Mike Stone
Starring: Franco Nero, Susan George, Sho Kosugi, Alex Courtney & Christopher George

Considered to be one of the films that originally kicked off the 80s ninja boom, Enter the Ninja is a dated and often silly jaunt seen through today’s over-critical eyes but still stands up as a fun ride. This is due in part to leading man Franco Nero, an early on screen (and bad guy) appearance by Sho Kosugi and nicely handled, and quite bloody, ninja action scenes overseen b y Mike Stone. Nero is Cole, an all round American cool dude (complete with ace moustache!) who has just completed his ninja training in Japan. No sooner has he become a top ninja-dude (and peeved off equally badass and very grumpy ninja rival Hasegawa – Kosugi), Cole jets off to Manila to hook up with ex-army buddy Frank (Courtney) who along with his gorgeous albeit estranged wife (Susan George) are being threatened by the evil Venarius (Christopher George). He wants Frank’s land, Frank won’t give it up (well to be more be precise his strong-willed wife wont) and Venarius sends all kinds of B-movie goons to threaten him. So Cole being the deadly ninja and all round good friend that he is decides to help Frank fight Venarius (as well as bed Frank’s wife – so not all that good of a friend!) leading to mucho cool ninja action.

This coming from the Golan-Globus house and directed by Menahem Golan himself, Enter the Ninja has a cheese factor that goes through the roof. From Nero’s obvious dubbing (and doubling in the action scenes), to Christopher George’s wacky performance, to an abundance of odd supporting characters (The Hook!), Enter the Ninja is not only a time capsule of long gone ninja movies but of the type of movies Golan-Globus were infamous for and cheesy 80s action movies in general. That said, the flick is still a lot of fun. It’s nicely lensed, Nero seems to be having a blast even if he can’t do the ninja moves himself (handled by action coordinator, Mike Stone), Susan George makes for a spunky if put-upon female lead, Kosugi is always good value when stretching his ninja skills and the action comes thick and fast. From the impressive and sustained opening sequence showcasing Nero taking out heaps of ninjas to complete his training to the ninja vs. ninja finale, Enter the Ninja delivers lots of unfussy but violently staged fights and combat. The first in Canon’s original ninja trilogy may also suffer from wobbly pacing and Golan’s slapdash directional style but nevertheless provides requisite ninja action, looks good in this new cleaned up print and is the perfect introduction not only to this trilogy but the 80s American ninja movie obsession in general.

 REVENGE OF THE NINJA (1983)

Directed by: Sam Firstenberg
Screenplay: James R. Silke
Starring: Sho Kosugi, Keith Vitali, Virgil Frye, Arthur Roberts, Ashley Ferrare & Kane Kosugi

While not a direct sequel to Enter the Ninja, Revenge features the return of Sho Kosugi (this time elevated to main star and hero), much of the same crew including producers Golan - Globus and again centres on mucho crazy ninja action. Starting off much like Enter with an extended scene of ninja based action, Revenge opens in brutal and relentless style and rarely lets up from then on in. Cho (Kosugi) returns to his once peaceful home to find his family massacred and quickly makes short work of the ninjas that perpetrated said massacre. His dubious buddy Braden (Roberts) suggests Cho and his surviving son should move to the States to escape such violence, which they do real quick like. But no sooner has Cho relocated, set up his own gallery and thinks life is all hunky dory than the scumbag Roberts reveals his true nature, using Cho’s gallery as a front to smuggle heroin. On top of this Roberts is also a bad ass ninja, is muscling in and wiping out the local crime competition and is manipulating Cho’s foxy assistant (Ferrare) to help do his dirty work. Once Cho discovers this, he takes up ninja arms against Braden and an all out ninja war commences.

From the vicious opening battle (even a kid gets a shuriken star in the face!), Revenge of the Ninja means business and over its 90 minute runtime barely stops for breath in its onslaught of swords, throwing stars, nun-chucks and bodily dismemberment. Relocating the action to the US and shot primarily in and around Salt Lake City, Utah this sequel ups the ante in every way with rookie action helmer Sam Firstenberg delivering taught and tight action at an alarming rate and even going as far too almost top the rollicking action of his later ninja masterpiece, American Ninja 2. The sun soaked setting gives proceedings a slick look, shining through in this new cleaned up widescreen edition, and not only does Sho Kosugi get to be front and centre this time he’s backed up by his equally talented pint sized progeny, Kane Kosugi. The two of them kick, twirl, slash and disappear in a puff of smoke with relentless energy in a barrage of action that goes full tilt in the over-the-top craziness. From the barnstorming fight-cum-car-chase-cum-fight again, to Kane’s fight with the foxy Ferrare, to the extended finale set inside and on top off the bad guys hideout the ninja action is non-stop, often insanely violent  and thanks to Sho’s and stunt coordinator Steven Lambert’s overseeing, skilfully handled. They throw in every kind of fight, chase and weapon they can think of and at one particularly over-the-top moment, I’m pretty sure Sho (and ace super-kicker Keith Vitali) fight the village people! Yep, Revenge of the Ninja comes with all the requisite 80s (not to mention Cannon) cheese and looniness but with ninjas a-go-go and heaps of finely crafted action, Revenge is one of the best ninja movies to come out of the decade that taste forgot.

NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1984) 

Directed by: Sam Firstenberg
Screenplay: James R. Silke
Starring: Sho Kosugi, Lucinda Dickey, Jordan Bennett & James Hong

So after the Philippine set, Franco Nero starring Enter and the all out superior ninja action of Revenge, there was really only one way for Golan – Globus to go with the final entry in their original ninja series: magic and the 80s aerobics craze! Well, obviously as if there was one thing that incited mania as much as ninja movies in the 80s it was brightly coloured lyrca based aerobics! While the previous two films are certainly silly and dated in certain aspects, Ninja III adds whole new dimensions of wackiness with body-hopping ninjas, Poltergeist styled spooky shenanigans and mucho sweaty aerobic/dance absurdness. Sexy aerobics instructor Christie (the very lovely Lucinda Dickey) unwittingly becomes the host for a dying ninja who is (eventually) shot to death by a squad of police officers trying to apprehend him after a killing spree. Transferring his soul to Christie she struggles to control her new personality as she finds herself often transforming into a kill happy ninja. Desperately trying to keep control of her mind and body, Christie attempts to thwart the evil ninja by the only means she knows how: enlisting the help of good ninja Yamada (Kosugi) and using her considerable skills for dance, aerobics and rocking tight lycra!

The 80s is the only time this film could have been created and goodness knows what the makers were thinking when they decided to shoe horn in aerobics, magic and a soppy love story into a violent ninja action film. Perhaps trying to capitalize on the success of the their dance themed Breakin’ movies (both of which starred Dickey and the second of which was helmed by Firstenberg) and mesh it with the ninja craze, Golan-Globus created one of the weirdest hybrids from a decade that excelled at weird. However, despite all the kookiness that inevitably ensues, the film is still a hoot and is also packed with lots of violent ninja action. Opening just like the other two films with an epic action scene (if there is one thing this series excels at, it is well sustained action scenes) featuring all kinds of vehicle stunts and an insane amount of police officers being slain, Ninja III still remembers to bring action in amongst all the dancing, possessed arcade games and laugh inducing love scenes! Kosugi takes somewhat of a step back this time around only really showing up for the second half of the film to kick ass with style but having a female protagonist taking centre stage gives this third entry a refreshing slant. Dickey is equal parts cute, sexy, strong, feisty and likeable and throws herself into the role of possessed ninja with aplomb. Her obvious dance talent helps with the ninja moves and while the film is perhaps remembered for all its absurd kooks, Dickey helps to ground it (somewhat) and gives the audience a plucky protagonist to root for.  While Revenge is the superior of the three, Ninja III is still an absolute blast and a perfect 80s/ninja/exercise craze time capsule complete with sword fights and car stunts.


Friday, 11 December 2015

Weekend of Trash XIX

                                   

I met up once again with a couple of the guys from Blueprint Review for another epic weekend of non-stop B-movie madness. We managed to get through yet another abundance of low budget insanity including Primal Rage, The Borrower, Kung Fu Warrior, The Junkman and Surviving the Game to name a few!

Check out Blueprint's write up.

And a few more mad delights that were watched but not reviewed

                                   

Monday, 21 September 2015

Weekend of Trash XVIII


I met up once again with a couple of the guys from Blueprint Review for another weekend of non-stop B-movie madness. We managed to get through yet another abundance of low budget insanity including Codename: Blackfire, Ghost Rock, the very awesome H-Bomb, Deathstalker 4 and, err, Bee Movie!

Check out Blueprint's write up.

Monday, 7 September 2015

AWOL-72


AWOL-72 (2015)

Directed by: Christian Sesma
Screenplay: Christian Sesma & Cecil Chambers
Starring: Luke Goss, RZA, Bokeem Woodbine, Heather Roop & Louis Mandylor

Director Christian Sesma and star Luke Goss seem to have a good thing going and re-team, after the flawed but very fun genre bending action film The Night Crew, for a more serious effort in AWOL-72. Unfortunately this second go around for the two isn’t quite as good (or anywhere near as entertaining) as their previous effort. Goss is Conrad Miller an ex-marine who has gone AWOL with some secret government information. Waking one morning, he sets off across country hoping to deliver said info to his contact but things go from bad to worse when he stops to help out a troubled young lady. Meanwhile, the LAPD, some Russian heavies and a mysterious assassin are hot on his trail hoping to get to him before he passes the information on.


Whereas The Night Crew was streamlined, action packed, mashed genres and had enough heavy artillery to arm to several action films, AWOL-72 is a much more serious, albeit low key, thriller more concerned with twists and turns than big shoot-em up action scenes. It’s cool Sesma and Goss have attempted something different here (presumably burning through some left over money they didn’t use shooting up the motel in The Night Crew!) and while there are certain narrative surprises (that this yahoo reviewer didn’t see coming!) and a little bit of stylish action come the climax, AWOL-72 falters with too many ideas and too many characters.


What should have been a taut and tight little thriller often feels dragged out and clogged up with too much going on. RZA’s cop on the case, who teams up with a Russian agent to find Connor, has little to do and his narrative strand doesn’t really go anywhere: though nice to see RZA playing it straight and getting to act a bit. Likewise, Connor’s journey to deliver said information takes s few unexpected turns but too much time is wasted on these divergent plot strands when the focus should have been on his quest and Bokeem Woodbine’s ruthless assassin who is relentlessly pursuing him. This unfortunately means the thriller element has very little urgency (save for the last 10-15 minutes when proceedings come alive!) and scenes of lengthy dialogue stretch on and on meaning that even the brisk 75 minute run time can feel a bit like a slog.

Still, getting past the negatives AWOL-72 is stylishly shot, Luke Goss makes for a commanding leading man (let’s get him in a big budget action film again!), the final fifteen minutes has some nicely staged gunplay and hand-to-hand fights (there should have been more of this), the supporting cast of familiar faces is a welcome touch and, well, Sesma certainly fills the running time with a plethora of beautiful women. Seriously, there is barely a scene without an attractive woman featured and this certainly helps during the more sluggish sections. Overall, not bad and a decent stab at a serious thriller on a budget but The Night Crew is much more fun and is a better showcase for Sesma’s and Goss’ obvious talent.