Friday, 20 June 2008
THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Screenplay: Zak Penn
Starring: Edward Norton, Live Tyler, Tim Roth & William Hurt
Incredible indeed. This sort of sequel/reboot to Ang Lee’s 2003 poorly received Hulk restarts and reignites the Hulk franchise. Lee’s version was a so-so adaptation of the big green angry one, more concerned with pseudo cod philosophy and father/son relationships gone awry, than the superhero smash em up we were all hoping it would be. There was, eventually, some fine smash em up but we had to wade through a lot of poe faced seriousness to get to it. It’s not a bad film, in parts very enjoyable but Leterrier’s and Norton’s new version is so much the better, bigger beast.
The film gets right into the thick of the action, the credits sequence filling in the Hulk origin recap where scientist Bruce Banner is zapped with gamma rays causing him to turn big and green when angry. Cut to some time later and Banner (Norton) is on the run, hiding out in Brazil looking for a cure to his unusual predicament. General “Thunderbolt” Ross (Hurt), who was also present at the experiment, is determined to track Banner down and use his super alter ego as a new military weapon. Along for the hunt is Emil Blonsky (Roth) who has ideas of getting a hold of the Banner super/gamma serum so he can turn himself into a like wise super soldier/beast. Hunted from all angles, Banner turns to Betty Ross (Tyler) his former love and fellow scientist for help before Thunderbolt, Blonsky and even the Hulk destroy him.
High on action, drama and great acting, The Incredible Hulk is everything a comic book movie should be. After the success of the Spiderman films and the recent Iron Man, Marvel continue their success, this time giving proceedings a grittier edge than normal. Director Leterrier (Unleashed, The Transporter 2) was obviously the right choice to direct, as his mean, lean action and gritty visuals give us the best screen interpretation of the Hulk yet. Managing just the right balance between comic book, drama and spectacle, Leterrier creates a breathless ride that expertly paces the action and Hulk outs with the characters and story. All the principals, especially Norton and Hurt, are on fine form imbuing their comic book character with human depth and real emotion. Roth seems to be having ball as the nasty Blonsky and it’s good to see edgier actors like him and Norton cutting it up in a big budget movie. Taking its cue from the old Hulk TV series starring Bill Bixby, Zak Penn’s, with a little help from Norton, script benefits from the man on the run scenario. While trying to outrun his pursuers, Banner is always looking for a cure and the globe trotting gives a more international flavour to the film, from the ghettos of Brazil to the mean streets of New York.
Letterier obviously knows his action chops and stages some huge set pieces where the Hulk really does get to smash. The CGI is practically flawless and despite naysayers, works really well here. The final bout between the Hulk and Abomination (Blonsky’s transformation after taking too much of the gamma serum) is fist pounding adrenaline, the two creatures convincingly knocking the crap out of one another and New York city. However, the best bit is the chase in the first half of the film across the rooftops of Brazil before Banner finally transforms into the Hulk and inflicts some pain on the commando unit chasing him. Letterier shoots and cuts the action with flair, a human element always present when the CGI threatens to take over.
Hardcore comic fan boys will no doubt pick it to shreds, as no adaptation can ever be satisfactory, and “proper” critics will just dismiss it as another dumb summer movie. I know this gets brought up a lot but it’s sad that people just can’t enjoy movies anymore, especially summer movies, without over criticising or deconstructing them. The Incredible Hulk is a great summer movie, a great comic book movie, a great action movie and, well, just a great movie.
ROADHOUSE 2 (2006)
Directed by: Scott Ziehl
Screenplay: Miles Chapman and Jonathan Schaech & Richard Chizmar
Starring: Jonathan Schaech, Jake Busey & Will Patton
The original Roadhouse is a cult classic with Patrick Swayze at his ball busting best. A slick, sweaty guilty pleasure, Roadhouse provided oodles of knuckle dusting fights along with a healthy side order of 80s Hollywood cheese. The film has a special place in fans hearts and it was always a dubious prospect to make a sequel so many years on, especially without the involvement of Swayze. However, cinema snobs and hardcore fans of the original be damned, as Roadhouse 2 is a rootin' tootin' surprise. It may lack the bite of the original but for a direct-to-DVD sequel it’s a hell of a fight film.
Due to Swayze not reprising his role of bad ass bouncer Dalton all kinds of narrative contrivance is ushered in to give Dalton a son, Shane (Schaech) and a brother, Nate (Patton). Nate runs a tough joint down Louisiana way called the Black Pelican. A bunch of nasty drug runners led by Wild Bill (Busey) want in on Nate’s turf and try to take the Black Pelican from him by any means necessary. This puts Nate in the hospital leading Shane to come down South, run the bar and dish out a whole load of whoop ass. Throw in a spiky, tough blonde babe (Ellen Hollman), action movie legend Richard Norton as a very seedy bad guy and a ton of Southern sass and you’ve got a knuckle crunching direct-to-DVD action flick.
Uber fans of the original may balk at this low budget sequel and, yeah, it isn’t as good as the original but it is a fair slice of entertainment nevertheless. The plot is a bit all over the place with some ridiculous twists and turns just to give Schaech’s character a reason for revenge. The great Richard Norton (Shanghai Express) isn’t on screen nearly enough but does get one decent fight and Jake Busey overacts out the wazoo. Though, admittedly, he does provide some nice comic relief. But on the whole Roadhouse 2 is a decent meat and potatoes action flick. Schaech ain’t bad as the new bouncer on the block and Ellen Hollman is great as his possible love interest. Kudos to the filmmakers for not making her the unfortunate damsel in distress, as she kicks as much butt as the boys.
It’s the fights scenes that elevate Roadhouse 2 form the usual quickie direct-to-DVD sequel cash in. Choreographed by JJ Perry (Undisputed 2, the upcoming Wolverine) they are clean, crisp and efficiently brutal. No shaky cam, no intricate Hong Kong style moves and no (praise the lord) over editing. Just brisk and brutal fights with some awesome moves, blocks and takedowns. As mentioned Norton’s fight is good, there is a very brutal catfight between the leading ladies and Schaech’s and Busey’s final confrontation is awesome.
Leave expectations at the door, re-watch the first Roadhouse to get in the mood but don’t go expecting this film to match it, and enjoy the fast fight thrills Roadhouse 2 packs. Really not bad for an American produced fight flick.
HURRICANE SMITH (1992)
Directed by: Colin Budds
Screenplay: P.A. Kinloch
Starring: Carl Weathers, Cassandra Delaney & Jurgen Prochnow
A rather generic though fairly entertaining vehicle for one time Rocky star, Carl Weathers. Obviously trying to surf the wave of success his first starring film, Action Jackson, stirred up, Hurricane Smith ambles along pleasantly enough never really igniting until the no holds barred, gun-toting finale. You’ve seen it all before: Weathers plays a tough American who goes in search of his missing sister and comes up against Jurgen Prochnow’s scummy Euro bad guy. A bit of culture clash, a touch of romance and eventually a heap of action occurs as Weathers brings his watchable brand of no nonsense hero to Australia’s gold coast.
The setting it perhaps the best thing about Hurricane Smith. The Australian city backdrop provides an original setting for the usual tough guy vs. bad guys’ action and is a novel change from the usual locals of LA and New York. The fish out of water aspect is played down somewhat with only really the Australian’s getting pissed off at a Yank showing up in their neck of the woods. Another pleasant surprise is Cassandra Delaney who brings a real human touch to the character who helps and eventually falls in love with Weather’s hero. She is a touch of class in amongst all the brawn and her chemistry with Weathers is infectious.
Unfortunately Hurricane never really whips up a storm and only musters intermittent tension that it so desperately needs. Weathers is fine and Prochnow requisitely evil but the film never really finds any oomph. There are a couple of fights and a car chase but most of the action is saved for the finale. Here the film goes into overdrive with insane stunts, a nifty speed boat chase (you just don’t see enough of those) and enough firepower and shotgun shells expelled to leave Pekinpah in a state of glee.
Entertaining and easy going if a little bland in spots, Hurricane Smith is worthwhile to see Weathers in his action prime, Delaney’s classy heroine and the stunt packed finale. However, less said about the god awful music the better. It’s no Action Jackson but Hurricane Smith delivers just enough bang to recommend it.
BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Screenplay by: Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes & Liam Neeson
Starting from scratch (and mercifully ignoring the previous four Batman films) the origins and genesis of Batman are laid bare in Christopher Nolan’s, Batman Begins. From the slaying of his parents to his training under Ra’s Al Ghul (Watanabe) and Henri Ducard (Neeson), the psychological and physical transformation of Bruce Wayne (Bale) into Batman is explored in all its layers. Business then moves to Gotham, where Wayne regains his title of affluent playboy millionaire before embarking on his crusade as the Dark Knight. Alfred, the butler (Caine) is on hand to lend support and guidance, while Wayne Enterprise’s, Lucius Fox (Freeman), becomes an ally, providing the suits, weapons, batmobile and even replacement ears for the crime-fighting hero. Wayne/Batman also finds an ally in Police Commissioner Gordon (Oldman) to help fight the onslaught of Gotham goons. These include the ever-so-slightly bonkers Dr. Jonathon Crane aka The Scarecrow (Murphy), oily gangster, Carmine Falcone (Wilkinson), shady beaurocrat, Earle (Hauer) and a possible fourth mysterious nemesis. These torn from the comic book page’s villains are out to poison Gotham’s water supply and unsurprisingly destroy the city in the process.
The film has been criticised for its indecipherable action scenes, and while it is hard to tell what is happening in some of them, the shaky camerawork and rapid editing lends a brutal and realistic quality to the action. The fight and escape from Ra’s Al Ghul’s palace is extremely rushed but come the second half Nolan has found his action chops, turning the picture into an exhilarating thrill ride. Once the crime-fighting starts and the bad guys are introduced, Nolan pulls out all the stops in an almost operatic barrage of action and suspense. The tone is dark and violent (The Scarecrow’s hallucinations pushing the 12A certificate to its limit) and, while there is plenty of crime-fighting and villains galore, the impact on Wayne’s psyche is still explored in all its frailty to give a human balance to the mounting destruction. The music is fitting and a welcome injection of humour lightens things up just enough.
Bale, Freeman and Caine all bounce off each effortlessly. Bale is a confident and striking Batman and easily fills the suit (both physically and metaphorically) best out of all the actors who have portrayed the character. Caine, Oldman, Freeman, Wilkinson and Neeson are all on excellent form and seem to be having a great time in such a big film. Murphy is adequately creepy as The Scarecrow but is “killed off” all too quickly and conveniently. Only Holmes fails to register, with a thankless and self-righteous role as the ever do-good and bland, Rachel Dawes. The biggest surprise is Rutger Hauer. Believed to be doomed to direct-to-video oblivion, he gives his best performance in years as the repellent Earle. It is also a much bigger part than the trailers suggested and it’s great to see him on the big screen again (bring his character back for the sequel).
Mention should also be given to the look of the film. Adequately dark and gothic without being over stylized, Wally Pfister’s camerawork gives a realistic tone to the fantasy city of Gotham. But special mention should go to the Batmobile chase scene. Featuring the hauling mass, The Tumbler, as the Batmobile, this chase scene is a remarkable achievement of technical and action cinema. Thrilling and destructive, the chase is a mini masterpiece all of its own. The Tumbler drives across church rooftops and sends police cars flipping in a sequence that proves Nolan can cut it with the action. The climatic fight and train chase is no let down either.
Nolan is a gifted auteur and bringing his indie sensibilities to a blockbuster has certainly paid off (apparently he shot the whole things himself, overseeing everything and refusing a second unit). Breathe is bated for the sequel, The Dark Knight.
Directed by: Peter Manoogian
Written by: Danny Bilson & Paul De Meo
Starring: Paul Satterfield, Claudia Christian & Hamilton Camp
A fairly ambitious film, considering considerable budget constraints, from Empire Pictures, Arena is pretty much Kickboxer in space. With a little Star Trek thrown in for good measure. On a distant space station, All-American hero Steve Armstrong (Satterfield) gets the chance to take part in the intergalactic combat tournament, Arena. Showing skills at one-on-one fighting he is the first human in decades to compete and must go fist-to-fist and toe-to-toe with a series of increasingly dangerous alien/mutant opponents.
Cheesy from the get go Arena is surprisingly pleasant entertainment which gets by on its surfeit of alien/mutant hybrids and some pretty decent fight scenes. The sets and costumes may not have dated so well and the story is well worn but this low budget martial arts space adventure has a lot of heart. Satterfield is typically bland as the golden boy hero but the supporting cast act surprisingly well considering some of the ridiculous costumes they have to wear and likewise dialogue they have to spout. Bilson’s and De Meo script is pacy and punchy and always inventive with the outer space station setting making for an exciting backdrop. Empire must have had a bit of money to play with as the sets are impressive and the make up effects pretty stunning. Handled by Screaming Mad George (Mutronics), the various mutants and aliens our hero has to fight make Arena a fun time.
The fight scenes aren’t bad either. There isn’t a great deal of them but considering Satterfield is fighting a bunch of prosthetic monsters, the fights are entertaining, punchy and feature some decent blocking and take downs. His duel with a giant creature called Sloth is the highlight and certainly novel in its execution.
Silly and occasionally cheap looking though it may be, Arena still packs a punch and with all its groovy monsters and creatures is well worth a look off the standard action movie track.
Thursday, 12 June 2008
STONE COLD (1991)
Directed By: Craig R. Baxley
Written by: Walter Doniger
Starring: Brian Bosworth, William Forsythe & Lance Henriksen
Awesome. There is simply no other word that can accurately describe this film. It's just awesome. The plotting may be pedestrian and the outdated haircuts and fashion embarrassing but Stone Cold is a simple, pure action film with intense performances and outstanding action. An often forgotten gem (except by those who have seen and appreciate it's awesomeness) Stone Cold ranks up their as a late 80s/early 90s action classic and a type of film they, unfortunately, just don't make anymore.
Former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth (he of the embarrassing hair and fashion) makes his movie debut as the tough, no-nonsense cop John Stone who is ordered to infiltrate a deadly biker gang. Led by the seething and psychotic Chains (Henriksen) and his right hand man Ice (Forsythe), the gang is a brutal, outlaw group who have plans to take out certain state officials and let their power and influence be truly known. But Stone ain't gonna let them and after gaining their trust sets about executing their downfall from the inside, leading to some massive and impressive wholesale violence and destruction.
Slick, edgy and benefiting from some very good performances, Stone Cold is THE biker action flick. Everything just clicks. Well maybe not the hair and the fashion but the acting, action and pace gel to provide us with one hell of an action juggernaut. Bosworth, for a former pro athlete, isn't half bad as Stone, giving him a little more personality than the usual hard as nails cop. Yet, as always, it's the bad guys who tear up the screen. Henriksen is on fire bringing a little gravitas to nasty biker Chains but always keeping him a snarling, vicious villain that an action picture likes this needs. There's solid back up from Forsythe who is just downright nasty as henchman Ice. The cast's committed performances help to sell the authentic feeling of the biker world. The filmmakers keep this world intense, violent and dirty no matter how outlandish the action gets.
And the action is some of the best of its kind. Director Craig R. Baxley is a stunt coordinator himself and brings his considerable skill to the table. The dangerous stunts and fierce gunplay are eye popping in their execution and even cause the jaw to drop this many years on and in an age of CGI enhanced stunts. The opening shootout in a supermarket is swift and punchy, a full throttle motorcycle chase between Stone and Ice muscular and exhilarating and the finale just plain insane. Intricate stunt work and maximum firepower are ramped up in a bevy of action that sees a capitol state building besieged by angry bikers and their automatic weapons. The bit where a bike flies into a helicopter just has to be seen to be believed. Like I said: awesome.
Seriously, great fun with a cast at their best and some top notch action and stunts. Bosworth may never have made a film as good since but he gave us Stone Cold and that is good enough. And in case you didn't get it the first few times: this flick is awesome.
ONY THE STRONG (1993)
Directed by: Sheldon Lettich
Screenplay: Sheldon Lettich & Luis Esteban
Starring: Mark Dacascos, Paco Christian Prieto & Geoffrey Lewis
The ever underappreciated Mark Dacascos stars in one of his best vehicles, the feel good, street actioner Only the Strong. Dacascos plays former Green Beret Louis Stevens who returns to his old high school to help teach and sort out a group of unruly teenagers. He brings with him a new form of martial arts he learnt on his tour. Capoiera combines Brazilian dance with martial arts moves to form a graceful but powerful fighting style. Stevens hopes to teach the students this form of defence to one, defend themselves in their rough neighbourhoods and second, to teach them the discipline they so desperately need. However, one of the students is related to a local drug kingpin and when he discovers what Stevens is up to on his own turf, the group soon find themselves putting their new skills to use in real life fights.
Buoyed by Dacascos' strong performance, with solid back up form Geoffrey Lewis, Paco Preito and Stacy Travis, Only the Strong is a classy slice of martial arts action. Never over schmaltzy but always uplifting it could be easily described as The Karate Kid for grown ups. The action, dialogue and setting is a little tougher and grittier (despite the outdated fashions) and the message never over preachy. Sheldon Lettich (of Double Impact and AWOL fame) directs probably his best picture with an assured hand, giving plenty of time to the new forming friendships and Stevens interacting with the students. The young cast are enthusiastic, engaging and never resort to annoying teen stereotypes. Preito makes for a fine slimy villain and the scenes of Capoiera, both in the training and fights scenes, are breathtaking. The fluid and powerful moves give the fights scenes a distinctive edge and the film is book ended with scenes of Capoiera performers doing their thing to some toe tapping music.
The action and fights are of a high standard and mark Only the Strong as one of the best martial arts film to come out of America. It's also one of the few films to primarily use Capoiera as its main source of action, all of it shot and edited well. As always, Dacascos shines, giving a fine performance and showing his Capoiera skills are just as good as his traditional martial arts skills. How this, Crying Freeman, Drive and Brotherhood of the Wolf never made him a huge star is anyone's guess. But to have this film to your name, along with the others mentioned, is a fine achievement in itself. Only the Strong is a must have for any action fans collection.
TODAY YOU DIE (2005)
Directed by: Don E. Fauntleroy
Screenplay: Kevin Moore
Starring: Seagal & Treach
Really, what else is there left to say? If you've seen one Steven Seagal straight to DVD movie, then you've pretty much seen them all. Granted, Today You Die ain't the worst (Into the Sun and Attack Force still hold that title) but it's far from good. An incoherent, flabby mess of a picture, Today You Die has something to do with Seagal's thief going straight; his girlfriend having weird dreams; Seagal going to prison and befriending some dude: Seagal escaping prison with said dude; some other folks turning up and shooting guns; Seagal's new buddy disappearing for half the film; and a whole lot of mumbo jumbo and badly doubled fights. The film has obviously been cobbled together from different screenplays and, in certain instances, others films. Yet again, what could have been a fun, cop flavoured action flick is wasted on incoherency and the ponytailed one not putting the effort in.
To be fair, portions of the flicks aren't bad. There is a nifty and violent gun battle and the production values aren't bad. Yet for an action film the main ingredient is mostly hampered and when the action ain't even good, what's the point of watching an action film? First off, a barnstorming car chase on the streets of Vegas near the beginning is lifted, wholesale, from another film: Top of the World starring Peter Weller and Dennis Hopper. It was a great chase scene in that film, here it's just lazy and badly truncated. However, the worst offence is Seagal's fight scenes. The fight scenes themselves are good but it ain't Seagal doing them. An unconvincing double steps in and when the fight cuts to a close up, it's painfully obvious it's a shot of Seagal from another movie. Oh dear. When the star of the film can't be bothered to do his own fight scenes, we know we are in trouble. When that star is known for his fight scenes and built a career on it and still doesn't do them, well that's just downright insulting.
Once again, if you are gonna watch Seagal, watch a classic like Out for Justice or Marked for Death. I know I should have.
In the pic above, that's supposed to be Seagal fighting but it sure ain't.
Wednesday, 4 June 2008
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: David Koepp
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Cate Blanchett & Shia LaBeouf
Henry Jones Jr, or Indiana as he's more commonly known, returns after a hiatus of nearly 20 years. Harrison Ford, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg all return to one of the franchises that made their names. Indy is older, greyer and a little creakier but when it comes to action and spectacle, he still has it. More importantly, it's Harrison Ford who still has it. Whilst Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls is a superb, old fashioned action adventure there are a few bumps along the way and it's Ford's performance that holds everything together.
Without spoiling the story too much, as it's more rewarding knowing as little as possible, Indy is now transplanted into the 1950s but still getting himself into all kinds of bother while looking for rare antiquities. The 1950s setting is beautifully captured and sets the first Indy film in a different era. This is no bad thing and while some may balk at the sci-fi flavour the film is given, playing up the 1950s fear of paranoia and invasion, it works well and gives this instalment its own distinctive feel. Raiders of the Lost Ark was the gritty, hard boiled instalment; Temple of Doom the dark, violent, voodoo themed instalment; The Last Crusade the more light hearted, action romp; while Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls is Indy's satab at sci-fi. He also goes up against some pesky Russians who also tap into the era's fear of Communism. They are headed by the evil Agent Spalko, played by the excellent and scene stealing Cate Blanchett, who seems to be having a whale of a time. The rest of the cast are good, if somewhat under used, even golden boy, Shia LaBeouf. He's good for sure but like the rest of the cast not always given much to do. Ray Winstone and John Hurt never get enough screen time and while it's great to see Karen Allen's Marion Ravenwood back from Raiders, where has all her feistiness gone?
Now the action is always great in an Indiana picture, Spielberg and his stunt team crafting expert action sequences that see our hero in full daring do. Kingdom certainly has plenty of them and for the most part, all are exceptional. I say the most part, as unfortunately (and despite what he may have said in the publicity) Spielberg has opted for a lot of CGI. A lot more than was expected. The first half is chock full of great set-pieces sans the over reliance of CGI. The opening gambit in the Lost Ark warehouse and a motorcycle chase are thrilling sequences and vintage Indiana Jones. The stunts are spot on, the editing and camera work clear and the gags funny and thrilling. Unfortunately a later sequence, that itself is a barnstorming set piece, is hampered by too much dodgy CGI. This chase featuring heavily armoured vehicles has great stunt work including Indiana hoping back and forth from one vehicle to the other and firing bazookas, but Spielberg and co then decide to shoe horn in a sword fight and a very strange and out of place looking 'Tarzan' sequence. In an attempt to keep the actors in the action, the backgrounds and CGI just don't work.
The action should have been kept more real, especially to reflect Ford's age. He's in great shape, looks the part and in the earlier action still cuts it. The action of Kingdom is still superb, and worth seeing the film for, just hampered somewhat later on by this over reliance on using computers. Another reviewer stated 'that just because it can be done with a computer, doesn't mean you always should', I second this, as they should have stuck with the real stuff seen in the first part of the movie. Still, the CGI doesn't ruin the film just leaves you with a few niggles. Though that Tarzan bit may just have been a step too far even by Indiana Jones and Spielberg standards. Still, the fedora wearing hero did jump out of a plane with a rubber dinghy as a parachute and then toboggan down the side of a mountain in Temple of Doom, so maybe the flights of fancy in Kingdom aren't too much of a stretch.
Hardened critics and detail obsessed fan boys may find a lot to pick at but they will be missing a great old fashioned action picture. One has to leave nostalgia at the door as the inevitable hype for this film will only let one down. Indy is still the same, only slightly modified. The aforementioned Tarzan bit and a scene involving Indy and the atomic bomb may be a stretch too far but all the good this film delivers, and yes I thought the end and its revelations were great, make up for any nostalgic childhood disappointments. This is mainly due to Ford. If Kingdom is good for one thing it's seeing Ford back as his signature character. Obviously loving every minute of it, he is Indy to a T and credit to the filmmakers for aging the character and working it into the script so we never think we are watching an old man attempting to be a young man. Ford's charisma streaks through every scene and it's just great seeing Indiana Jones in action again.
Maybe not quite as good as the others (and it would have been interesting to see Frank Darabont's script that Spielberg raved about but because Lucas vetoed it, it didn't make it the big screen: damn you Lucas) but bloody good anyway, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls is rip roaring entertainment from start to finish and that is really what the Indy films are all about. See it on the big screen as it may very well be the last.
I AM OMEGA (2008)
Directed by: Griff Furst
Screenplay: Geoff Meed
Starring: Mark Dacascos, Geoff Meed & Jennifer Lee Wiggins
So I Am Omega, a blatant rip off of I Am Legend. Well, yeah, kind of. It's produced by The Asylum the kings of cheap cash in movies that hit DVD just as the big budget counterparts are released in cinemas worldwide. 'Hits' such as Transmorphers and, erm, Snakes on a Train have kept the Asylum going for some years and no doubt lined the producer's pockets with quick and easy cash. I Am Omega is slightly different. Yeah, it's still a cash in but since Richard Matheson's source novel has been turned into a movie several times over the decades, what's wrong with another low budget interpretation? Plus it's got Mark 'Drive' Dacascos in it, the unsung hero of the action movie who is actually a decent actor and should have been in bigger and better things a long time ago. It's also, for a low budget movie, pretty well made and coherent which is something of a small miracle for a film produced by The Asylum.
Omega actually shares very little with either the novel or movie of I Am Legend, the first twenty minutes adhering to the lone survivor on earth battling hordes of undead/vampire like creatures. Dacascos is pretty good in these scenes, acting alone and getting to show some range. After the first twenty minutes or so the plotline throws all caution to the wind and abandons any real similarities to the original Legend story. Our hero starts meeting folks left right and centre (the whole last man earth idea going right out the window), then has to rescue a pretty babe with the flick then ending in a pretty cool kung fu battle. Don't remember I Am Legend or the book ending that way. So standard low budget zombie action all the way? Pretty much but not such a bad thing when there are plenty of fights, gore and chases on hand. To be fair the filmmakers have tried to inject some emotion into proceedings, which thanks to Dacascos' acting, works.
Flick is also shot well, all washed out greys and blacks and the main cast are always entertaining. There is also some fun to be had, with Dacascos taking out a bunch of zombies with some nunchuks and a cool chase in an abandoned parking garage. And any low budget movie that manages to show LA being blown up must be doing something right. So, action that is pretty good, some groovy zombies and the always watchable Dacascos make I Am Omega an enjoyable slice of hokum. Plus, compared to other Asylum films such as Transmorphers and AVH: Alien Vs Hunter it's a freaking masterpiece.