Friday, 11 January 2008

Cold Harvest


Directed by: Isaac Florentine
Written by: Frank Dietz
Starring: Gary Daniels, Bryan Genesse and Barbara Crampton.

Isaac Florentine is a little known (at least to mainstream audiences) film director who has made some of the best never heard of action films. Savate, High Voltage and U.S. Seals 2 are all decent little action flicks, showcasing some brilliant martial arts considering their meagre budgets. In 1999, he teamed up with action star Gary Daniels to make one of his (and possibly Daniels’) best and most loved films, Cold Harvest. Factor in, it's probably the best futuristic, kung-fu, cowboy flick you will ever see and you have a real gem of a film for genre fans.

In the not too distant future a comet has ravaged most of the Earth, leaving it sunless and its population dying from a plague. Six humans are found to have the antibodies to cure the plague and are being transported to safety when their convoy is attacked by Little Ray (Genesse) and his gang of thugs. Discovering one of the occupants is a childhood friend, Oliver (Daniels), he kills him in a sadistic duel, but not before Oliver’s wife, Christine (Crampton) escapes. Realising Christine is the only survivor left with the antibody, Little Ray sets about hunting her down. However, Christine teams up with Oliver’s bounty hunter brother, Roland (Daniels again) and learning of his brother’s murder, the scene is set for an explosive showdown.

Director Florentine has managed to mix the genres of sci-fi, martial arts and western into an effective and entertaining concoction. The western angle is played up to maximum effect, as good and bad guys brawl, stride and shoot like they are in the old west. Mad Max type cars and motorcycles replace horses and of course there is a saloon where all the characters eventually cross paths. It’s a refreshing take for a sci-fi flick and is pulled off with enough energy and cool production design that one can’t help but get caught up in all the cowboy shenanigans.

Daniels (Recoil) is on fine form providing one, well two really, of his best performances as the twin brothers Roland and Oliver. He is particularly good as Roland, acting all gruff and tough as the bounty hunter gunslinger. Genesse (Cyborg Cop 3) is also good as the unfortunately monikered Little Ray. He provides the right amount of threat as the menacing cowboy, but does camp it up a little in some scenes with his girly cigarette holder and dubious affection for his right hand man, T-Bone (a bad case of character naming does seem to be present in the film). Re-Animator and From Beyond scream queen, Barbara Crampton also provides decent support as Christine, even getting in on the action in some of the combat scenes.

The film’s main selling point, however, is its fight scenes. For a low budget American feature, the fighting is quite exceptional. Well filmed by Yossi Wein (Beyond Forgiveness) and cut together by Irit Raz (U.S. Seals 2), the fight scenes are blistering attacks that utilise Gary Daniels exceptional fighting skills. The fights are exciting to watch and should satisfy any avid kung-fu fan. Much like Florentine’s other work, the fight scenes feature over the top whoosh sound effects everytime a character moves or picks up a weapon, but this all adds to the fun and dynamism of the fighting.

The low budget does affect things a little. The lighting is often quite stark, revealing the obviousness, and cheapness, of the sets. In the car chases, it is also clear that the vehicles are going very slowly for a high-speed pursuit. Proceedings do drag a little in the non-action scenes and the less said about the awful plinky-plonky music used in the tender and romantic scenes, the better.

Yet these are just minor quibbles for what is essentially a great fight film. Isaac Florentine seems to be getting better with each film (check out his later flicks, Special Forces and Undisputed 2) and will hopefully make it into the big time one day. Cold Harvest is also one of Gary Daniels’ best films and, as mentioned, it is probably the best futuristic, kung-fu, cowboy flick (just had to get that in one more time) you are likely to see. And that is as good an honour as any in my book.

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