Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army



HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008)

Written & Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro
Starring: Ron Pearlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones & Luke Goss

Big red returns in a solid and entertaining sequel which may be more visually stunning than its predecessor but sacrifices the dark and grit making for a more unsatisfying ride. The characters are certainly given expansion, which is always great, but the mood and tone feel a little off. This time Hellboy (Pearlman), Liz (Blair) and Abe Sapien (Jones) must do battle with an evil prince (Goss) who with the help of a certain mechanical army wants to take back the real world for all the creatures, monsters and other beasties of the fantasy world. Not only that, Hellboy and Liz must contend with their budding relationship all the while trying to fit into a society where they are branded freaks.

Del Toro is one of the most talented directors working the in business today and Hellboy 2 further confirms this. Matching his unique visual style and attention to character of Pan’s Labyrinth with his breakneck, well staged action of Blade 2, Hellboy 2 takes the summer blockbuster in a new direction. Visual opulence and big SFX action merge perfectly with deftly drawn characters and spot on performances from all principals. Pearlman is a joy to watch as Hellboy and is obviously relishing the chance to play the character once again. Blair and Jones are also great, with their roles considerably expanded, and the scene of Abe and Hellboy getting drunk and singing a Barry Manilow song is comedy gold. A big red devil and a fish man showing there are human and getting drunk when they can’t figure out the women they love. Great stuff.



But this is perhaps where the slight problem lies: the comedy. Only a slight problem, as really Hellboy 2 is a wonderful film, just not quite as good as the original. The comedy aspect is perhaps played up a little too much. More subtle in the original, the comedy plays through the whole film and unfortunately sidelines the threat made by Luke Goss’s evil prince. Hellboy was more horror and dark in tone, while Hellboy 2 goes the fantasy and lighter touch route. Good to see the makers going in a different direction and if fantasy is your thing then who will not doubt love it. I myself preferred the horror and Nazi’s up to no good tone of the original. However, Hellboy 2 still has a great bad guy in Goss (who’d a thought one of the brothers from Bross would end up being such a good actor?) but he just isn’t in it enough. Also the introduction of new character Johann Krauss to the Hellboy team wasn’t really needed, as he comes across as more of an annoying twit than some cool new character.



Yet Del Toro pulls it out the bag with the visuals and action. Rather than describe the visual aspect, just go see it on the big screen and bask in the wonders of the troll market and the battle with the elemental forest monster. Visual splendour largely created through old school prosthetics that captures the wonderment of the imagination and fantasy movies of yesteryear. Del Toro knows his action as well (just check out Blade 2 or the original Hellboy) and crafts some stunning sequences that for the most part allow us to see the action and don’t rely on heavy cutting. Goss’s prince gets to cut loose in some awesome sequences of martial arts action (coordinated by Jackie Chan stunt team member, Brad Allen) not least the epic duel between him and Hellboy. Plus there is a great fight in the troll market and that aforementioned smack down with the forest beastie.

Hellboy 2, despite its few flaws and perhaps too rushed pace, is still an amazing achievement for a studio summer blockbuster which shows what a director with a certain vision can really do when allowed to. Fusing action, fantasy, huge set pieces and comedy into a coherent whole, Hellboy 2 is the alternative summer movie. Just bring back the darkness for the third instalment.


Diamond Dogs



DIAMOND DOGS (2007)

Directed by: Shimon Dotan
Screenplay: Leo St. Pierre
Starring: Dolph Lundgren & Yu Nan

After the excellent triple whammy of The Defender, The Mechanik and Missionary Man, Dolph Lundgren’s latest takes a slight step backwards. By no means a disaster, Diamond Dogs is intermittently entertaining but lacks focus and action. Lundgren has been reinventing his action status by taking up directing as well as starring and doing a damn fine job of it. The three aforementioned films, all helmed by Lundgren, are excellent action flicks and as good as anything Lundgren did back in his 80s/90s prime. Diamond Dogs sees him just starring (though rumour has it he took up a lot of the directing himself) as a security expert stationed in Outer Mongolia hired to escort a bunch of treasure seekers to find some hidden goodies. Of course, there are some bad guys who want it as well and will kill to get at it.



Lundgren does his best and works with what he is given but aside from him and leading actress Yu Nan (Speed Racer), the acting is stilted, amateurish and often downright embarrassing. Shriver who plays the man who hires Lundgren sure isn’t an actor leading to much cringing every time he opens his mouth. People seem to be just throwing out lines in order to hit their mark rather than infuse them with any emotion or realism. The pace is also too languid, going nowhere fast with what little action there is saved for the final twenty minutes. There was perhaps a good story here but it seems to have been cut down to the bare minimum, meaning nothing really happens and a pit stop to get supplies, weapons and information goes on for what seems like forever taking up a good chunk of the movie.

It’s not all a loss. The setting of Outer Mongolia is certainly novel and visually stunning, captured with impressive photography. There are some cool bare knuckle fights at the beginning which set the grittier tone and show Lundgren can still cut it in the fight arena. The end fight in the finale is also brutally staged but features the killing of a character that seems just utter pointless and will have you sitting there going, “What!?” Especially since Lundgren’s character just lies there and watches it happen when he could have got up and stopped it. Bizarre to say the least and the producers obviously deciding everyone must die except Lundgren. Not a great film or one of Lundgren’s best which is a pity after the excellent progress made with The Defender and Missionary Man. Still he’s back in the director’s chair for one of his next, Command Performance, so hopefully he will be back on track.


Walking Tall: Lone Justice



WALKING TALL: LONE JUSTICE (2007)

Directed by
: Tripp Reed
Screenplay: Joe Haplin
Starring: Kevin Sorbo, Yvette Nipar & Andrew Stevens

The remake of Walking Tall starring The Rock was an entertaining, slick, rough and tumble action flick that made enough of a rumble to warrant two sequels, Lone Justice being the second. While The Rock jettisoned the franchise to pursue comedy flicks, or some such like, his shoes were ably filled by one time TV Hercules Kevin Sorbo. He returns as former sheriff Nick Prescott who is moving from the country to the city of Dallas to be with his squeeze, Kate and her daughter Sam (Nipar and Haley Ramm). No sooner as he arrived, and after inadvertently stopping the robbery of a gas station, Nick finds himself up to his neck in trouble and having to defend himself and his new family from the local drug kingpin. This all leads to an explosive showdown back out in the country where Nick can fight on his turf and use his own rules.



Baring little resemblance to the real life story of Walking Tall, in which a real country sheriff dished out the law with a piece of two-by-four, Lone Justice is nevertheless a solid, well made and highly entertaining action flick. Well acted, constructed and never out staying its welcome, Lone Justice gets down to business quick and rarely lets up. Great performances from Sorbo, bad guy Rodrigo De la Rosa and newcomer Haley Ramm with the supporting cast holding there own as well, the acting better than your usual direct-to-DVD action flick. The action is tight, frequent and requisitely brutal. A couple of shootouts here and there but mainly good old, bare bones fist fights with the finale jam packed with both.

On the downside the makers rely a bit too much on all this trendy shaky, zoom in, zoom out camerawork and over-the-top seizure inducing editing. It’s doesn’t ruin the flick and is mercifully played down in the second part of the film but does hamper things a little and is certainly not needed. Guys wake up, this kind of shooting and editing is not needed and just lessens a film rather than improving it. However, that’s really the only fault in what is a great action flick that doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t. Some might be disappointed by the lack of two-by-four action and the title could have lost the Walking Tall moniker but those looking for justice served with bone crunching efficiency should check out Lone Justice.


Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Defender



THE DEFENDER (2004)

Directed by: Dolph Lundgren
Written by: Douglas W. Miller
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Shakara Ledard & Jerry Springer

Action star Dolph Lundgren’s directorial debut is a pleasant surprise and shows the Swedish oak has learned a thing or two about making action pictures after starring in them for so long. The Defender is nothing new in terms of set up, as Dolph leads a team of hi-tech bodyguards to watch over the President’s National Security Advisor as she attends an important meeting in Romania. Of course things go wrong quickly and the team are left stranded inside an empty hotel battling off swarms of elite soldiers who want them dead. It seems there is some kind of coo taking place to overthrow the President of the United States (Springer). But can Lundgren and his team make it out and save the Prez? Well I’m sure you can guess the outcome but The Defender provides a fun action ride nonetheless with a few twists and turns along the way.



Lundgren manages the double role of starring and directing remarkably well. He has shown his skill as director in later films (Missionary Man) but this was his first time out and shows he knows what to do when making an action picture. In fact, he does a better job than some of the directors he has worked with. The film is polished looking, nicely put together and features loads of gun blazing action. But it’s Lundgren’s attention to the build up and characters that elevates The Defender above the usual direct-to-DVD action movies. The Defender builds up nicely for half an hour or so before the siege element of the film kicks in. We get to know his team and they are a little more fleshed out than the usual cardboard characters. We actually care about what happens to them as they fight for their lives. There is a nice scene that shows the team all a little bored as they stand around waiting for the officials they are guarding to finish their “chat”. And Jerry Springer as the President of the United States? Well, he isn’t too bad. By no means is he an actor but in this day and age a former talk show host becoming the President doesn’t seem like such an unlikelihood. Plus Lundgren teamed up with another talk show host, Montel Williams, for The Peacekeeper, so why not Springer as well?



The action is competently handled and satisfyingly ballistic with Lundgren and his team making their way through the labyrinth hotel and its underground tunnels defending themselves from wave after wave of heavily armed soldiers. Firepower is dispensed, the gunplay well handled and the action never dipping once the siege gets under way. Lundgren seems to be carving out a nice new action niche for himself now that he is directing. His movies are getting better and he seems happy to accept he is an action star and is trying to do the best he can within the genre. The Defender is better than anything Segal has put out in the last five years and along with likes of Missionary Man and The Mechanik, shows Lundgren is on the up and can still cut it in the action stakes.

The Colombian Connection (aka The Hard Way)



THE COLOMBIAN CONNECTION (aka THE HARD WAY) (1987)

Written & Directed by
: Michelle Massimo Tarantini (as Michael Lemick)
Starring: Miles O’Keeffe & Henry Silva

Is this the greatest action movie ever made? Quite possibly. Well, not really. In fact, not at all. But it is awesome. B-move stalwart Miles O’Keeffe (Phantom Raiders) and slimy bad guy Henry Silva (Above the Law) ham up the screen is this brilliant but little seen Italian actioner. Silva co-runs some kind of cocaine Drug Empire in the middle of some jungle and kills the hell out of anyone who tries to come in and stop him. O’Keeffe is Bull, some top commando type dude who along with a couple other commando type dudes (i.e. cannon fodder) go into the jungle to bust Silva’s operation. Big mistake and it all goes tits up with Silva and his never ending army of goons (where the hell do they keep coming from?) chasing Bull and his dudes through the jungle. And that’s it, as what follows is non-stop shooting, jungle traps, explosions, blown up helicopters and loads more shooting.



Seriously there must be about thirty lines of dialogue in the whole movie, most of them said in the first half hour and most of them said by Silva. He gets the immortal line “I love killing people, it gives me such satisfaction.” Yep, that dude is that evil. This movie is First Blood on steroids and there really is no let up between the action. That might sound like an exaggeration but there really isn’t. The only time the flick pauses is for Bull to spit out a one liner, Silva to say something evil and for a dude to get eaten by piranhas. What a dude gets eaten by piranhas? Oh yes, in amongst all the shooting and chaos a dude is chomped down on by carnivorous fish. Awesome. A female protagonist is introduced but all she does is pick up a shotgun and start blowing the hell out of people as well.




The Colombian Connection
(or The Hard Way as the copy I watched was called) is an action overload of fun. For an Italian cheapie the action is pretty impressive and explosive with lots of firepower, explosions and military hardware tearing up the jungle. They even manage to blow up several helicopters, one of which is brought down by using a tripwire. A very obvious model helicopter then explodes which is equal parts awesome and hilarious. Just one big 80 minute chase, Colombian Connection is relentless in its goal to just showcase action scene after action scene, and on those lowly terms it succeeds. Get on Ebay, hit the car boots sales and trawl the charity stores for a copy of this Italian action trash classic. Oh yeah, and Silva’s death scene has to be one of the best in an action film ever.





The trailer is all kinds of awesome as well. Check it out.

http://www.videodetective.com/movies/THE_COLOMBIAN_CONNECTION/trailer/P00067375.htm

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor



THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPER0R (2008)

Directed by: Rob Cohen
Screenplay: Alfred Gough & Miles Millar
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, Michelle Yeoh & Jet Li

The third instalment of the lucrative Mummy franchise arrives after a gap of 7 years. Ancient Egypt is replaced in favour of ancient China, as Jet Li’s evil Emperor Han attempts to achieve immortality and rule his empire forever. He is betrayed by a mystic sorceress (Yeoh) who instead of giving him eternal life banishes him and his army to a life enslaved in stone. Fast forward many centuries later and the O’Connells, Rick and Evelyn (Fraser and Bello) are living a much quieter life and seemingly hating every minute of it. Missing the adventure and daring do they had thwarting Imhotep in the first two instalments, the two are eager to take up adventure once again. It seems this family are only happy when raiding tombs, escaping high risk situations and battling evil undead armies. Well they may just get their wish, as their son Alex (Luke Ford), now all grown up, has just unearthed Han’s tomb and sets in motion his release from eternal damnation and a whole load of undead warriors looking to take over the world.



Now the first two Mummy films were fun, old school style adventures, stuffed with all kinds of CGI hijinks. By no means masterpieces, they were nevertheless entertaining mainly due to a game cast and an unsophisticated style of fun. The Mummy 3 is no different, is just as entertaining as its predecessors and makes no bones about being an action packed, special effects extravaganza. Original director Stephen Sommers is replaced by another blockbuster director, Rob Cohen (Stealth) and he does a commendable job of taking up the reigns of the franchise, even infusing the action and adventure with a bit of grit. Cohen orchestrates some break neck action that is often on the grittier side for a 12A (PG-13) certificate. The Mummy flicks are known for their large set pieces and this one is packed with them. A huge truck chase through the streets of Shanghai and an impressive battle set atop a mountain (complete with Yeti’s) are some of the memorable action bits with the CGI more incorporated into the scenes rather than driving them. Yeah, the flick is CGI heavy but toned down from the other Mummy flicks and blended in better, so it’s always the actors driving the action. Though, admittedly the big finale does go somewhat over the top. But, hey, it’s a big summer blockbuster, it’s supposed to.



Unfortunately the comedy doesn’t always hit as well as the action, though the cast give it a good shot. Fraser knows this role and seems as bemused as ever at all the craziness going on around him. The other major change is the recasting of Evelyn after Rachael Weisz decided not to return. Now this has caused all kinds of upset and whinging from the fan boy community but really it’s not that big of a deal. Bello (who has always been a fine actress) does a good job, even if her accent wavers all over the place. It would have been nice for Weisz to return for continuity’s sake but it’s not the end of the world and the flick manages fine without her. Li gets a chance to play the bad guy and looks to be having fun doing so, though is somewhat underused. Yeoh brings her usual class to proceedings and Anthony Wong (The Mission) is on fine nasty form as an evil General in cahoots with Han. He just isn’t in it enough.

Now the film is all kinds of silly but that is part of its charm as it’s packed with over the top action, monsters and narrow escapes. Don’t compare it to the other summer blockbusters such as The Dark Knight or Iron Man as The Mummy 3 is a different kind of action ride. Two hours of fun filled, stunt packed entertainment that is nowhere near as bad as you may have been lead to believe. Admittedly it does lose its way come the final leg as Cohen and co rush everything a little too much but the action, stunts and fun factor are all rock solid. People go into movies with such high expectations these days that it’s no wonder they are always disappointed and then rip apart and deconstruct the film to ridiculous proportions. The Mummy 3 is all about fun with monsters and ancient warriors on the loose and that is exactly what it is: fun. It also looks great on the big screen and, hell, I even liked those damn Yetis.


Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Cyborg Cop 3 (aka Terminal Impact)



CYBORG COP 3 (aka TERMINAL IMPACT) (1996)

Directed by: Yossi Wein
Screenplay: Dennis Dimster Denk & Jeff Albert
Starring: Frank Zargarino & Bryan Genesse

Wow, the Cyborg Cop series actually made it to three films? Well, sort of. Cyborg Cop 1 & 2 were moderately entertaining action, sci-fi B-movies produced by Nu Image and starring B-movie actor David Bradley (Hard Justice). The third instalment is actually a Nu Image action film, Terminal Impact, renamed Cyborg Cop 3 for the international market to cash in on the home video success of the first two. Yes, they were actually big sellers. Alas, there are no cyborg cops in Cyborg Cop 3 (making the title pointless, though come to think of it Terminal Impact doesn’t make much sense either) just two wisecracking cops (Zargarino and Genesse, who are actually Federal Marshal’s, making the cop in the title even more pointless) who have to stop an army of cyborgs cooked up by the evil Deltatech corporation.



For a mid nineties Nu Image film, Cyborg Cop 3 looks pretty good and is fairly well made. The set up is all kinds of ridiculous, a seeming mish mash of Lethal Weapon and Cyborg, but there are lots of boom, bangs and brawls. Zargarino and Genesse (the 90s Nu Image go to guys who are reunited after the superior Night Siege) crack wise, spend a little too much time together shirtless and look buff in the action scenes. They aren’t bad and play the old good cop bad cop routine well and do the best they can battling cyborgs mixed with insect DNA. Yep, mixed with insect DNA. Like I said, all kinds of ridiculous. South Africa stands in for America, poorly; Jennifer Miller plays the nosy reporter investigating Deltatech, poorly but sure looks nice; and there are plenty of cyborgs walking around with hi-tech hardware blowing things up. Now, that’s more like it.



The action is competently handled if not always edited to maximum effect. Explosions galore with everything and everyone blowing up come the second half with some neat chases and gunplay mixed in between. A shoot-out in a police station and another in a scrap yard are the best of the bunch with much crunching, smashing and shooting going on. Cyborg action films, especially of the straight-to-video variety, were de-rigour during the nineties and while not the best (Albert Pyun’s Nemesis takes that title), Cyborg Cop 3 or Terminal Impact or Federal Marshals do battle with Cyborgs or whatever it’s called, is a fairly decent slab of robot action and worth a watch or two.

American Eagle



AMERICAN EAGLE (1989)

Directed by: Robert J. Smawley
Screenplay: Asher Bauner
Starring: Asher Bauner, Robert F. Lyons & Vernon Wells

Clichéd riddled, unintentionally hilarious, American Eagle is an 80s action time capsule that also happens to feature some barnstorming action and is damn entertaining. If you like cliché filled, 1980s action cinema that is. Vietnam flashback: check. Chiselled, man of few words hero who can’t settle down: check. Blonde Barbie girlfriend who loves chiselled hero but can’t be with him because he is always off on secret missions killing folks: check. Former Nam buddy who has gone rogue and now wants to kill chiselled hero and sets this up by kidnapping Barbie girlfriend: check. Horrible, 80s rock ballad than manages to work in the title of the movie and played over the end credits: check. Mix together, shoot in South Africa, add loads of gunfire and voila: American Eagle.



An obvious vanity project for star Asher Bauner (Merchants of War), American Eagle sees him stride through every scene with an almost smug grin on his face while he looks in pain whenever he has to deliver a line of dialogue. Fortunately he has a decent supporting cast around him including Rom Smerczak (American Ninja 4) as his dodgy CIA boss, Robert F. Lyons (Platoon Leader) as his sidekick and the great and always intense Vernon Wells (Commando) as his demented Nam buddy. Wells chews up the scenery something fierce, playing almost the same character he did in Commando. In fact, his face off with Bauner come the end is almost identical to his face off with Arnie in Commando, right down to Wells brandishing a knife.

No doubt trying to jump on the big action films of the 80s bandwagon (Rambo, Commando et al) Bauner nicks ideas and scenes from loads of movies, even putting in a Russian Roulette scene so he can name check The Deer Hunter. Posing, cheesiness and a few laugh out loud moments aside, American Eagle is actually a lot of fun. The production values are pretty good, great South African locations and there is loads of hard hitting action with mucho shotgun fire and explosions galore. The stunts and action are handled pretty well and are quite impressive for what must have been a low budget flick. Good, harmless, silly fun that is great with a six pack. Made in a time when all an action movie needed was a tough hero, a shotgun and loads of explosions. Oh, and a horrible power ballad as well. Rock on.

No Retreat No Surrender 3



NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER 3 (1990)

Directed by: Lucas Lo
Screenplay: Keith W. Strandberg
Starring: Loren Avedon & Keith Vitali

Or Blood Brothers as it is also known, was the third official film in the NRNS series and while not quite as good as Part 2, is nevertheless an enjoyable romp that showcases the excellent fighting skills of Loren Avedon and Keith Vitali. They play feuding brothers (Vitali a cop, Avedon the martial arts trainer) who must put aside their differences to avenge the death of their father at the hands of the Mafia. Fairly standard stuff, which is basically an excuse for some show stopping fight scenes.



Avedon exudes his usual screen likeability and fairs better than Vitali in the dramatic department. Vitali struggles somewhat, making the drama aspect slightly laughable. Scenes are often unintentionally funny as the cheese factor is amped up. However, this is more than compensated for by the abundance of well stage action, the brisk pace and Lucas Lo’s competent first time direction. He replaces Cory Yuen (The Transporter) from the first two entries and while he is not quite up to that action director’s level, he more than holds his own, especially come the finale.

Going toe to toe with blond bad guy Rion Hunter (Cage) the final sees Avedon, Vitali and Hunter busting moves in a brutal dust up that still holds up today. Excellent choreography and kicking skills form all three participants make NRNS 3 a worthy American martial arts film. Stranberg’s script may be over cheesy in some parts but at least he was branching out with story ideas and attempting to add some dramatic depth to all the fisticuffs. A definite guilty pleasure that holds its own in the fight department and showed American martial arts movies could cut in the fight department.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

King of Beggars



KING OF BEGGARS (1992)

Directed by: Gordon Chan
Screenplay: Gordon Chan & Kin Chun Chang
Starring: Stephen Chow

An earlier offering from Kung Fu Hustle and Shoalin Soccer mastermind, Stephen Chow, King of Beggars is a harmless action comedy that never really gets going and while watchable, never threatens to become memorable. I guess one’s enjoyment really depends on their tolerance for zany Hong Kong action comedy. King of Beggars is definitely toned down in part, compared to a lot of Hong Kong comedies, but still features enough zaniness alongside kung fu and a bit of seriousness meaning the tone is often flip flopping all over the place.



Chow plays the spoiled, though ultimately kindly, son of a local rich man who has plans to become a master of kung fu in order to woo the heart of his lady love. He does this by attending a prestigious kung fu school, much of where the zany comedy comes into play. However, an evil general in the Emperor’s army doesn’t like Chow becoming top dog and instigates the fall of him and his family. Cast out on the street, Chow and his father become beggars and after much striving to find food, coming to terms with their new lifestyle and a bit more zany comedy, they join a clan of beggars who are hatching plans to stop the evil general and the mistreatment of beggars. Fighting, mystic mumbo jumbo and some more zaniness ensue.



If you love this type of Hong Kong action film, then you will probably love King of Beggars. It doesn’t touch Kung Fu Hustle or director Gordon Chan’s Fist of Legend but, as mentioned, its harmless fun that never whips up enough charm or action to be wholly satisfactory. Chow seems somewhat subdued here and to be honest, plays a bit of annoying git. Once the film switches to the whole beggar/kung fu theme things do pick up with some lavish sets and a big battle sequence at the end making some amends for all the comedy mugging beforehand. The fighting isn’t bad but definitely of the wire-fu brand with folks zipping about left, right and centre. There is a neat gag where Chow uses a sleeping style of kung fu, falling over and dozing off while performing kung fu and kicking the butt of his opponent. Similar in tone to Jackie Chan’s drunken style from the Drunken Master movies.

Both star and director have gone on to bigger and better things but King of Beggars is worth a watch for some neat wire-fu action, a few laughs and to see what Hong Kong stars were doing before they gained worldwide fame.


Final Impact



FINAL IMPACT (1992)

Directed by: Stephen Smoke & Joseph Merhi
Screenplay: Stephen Smoke
Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Kathleen Kinmont & Michael Worth

A solid meat and potatoes kickboxing flick, that may seem cheap and dated today but still packs a punch, a little bit of heart and some crunching fighting action. Stephen Smoke (who also made the excellent PM Entertainment flick, Street Crimes) writes and directs, with a little help from Joseph Merhi, a quality tale of a dried up ex champ who sees one last shot at redemption by training a young hot shot and entering him in the Las Vegas kickboxing championships. Lamas gets one of his best roles as the grizzled old champ, Nick, and is obviously relishing the chance to play a character who, to be honest, is a bit of an asshole. The chemistry between him, Danny (Worth, also from Street Crimes) and Maggie (Kinmont) is tight. Danny is the blue eyed hero in training but is perhaps a little more savvy than first thought while Maggie (Lamas’ real life squeeze at the time) provides the emotional core as the three form a sort of surrogate family. Maggie and Nick’s rocky relationship receives as much hits as the opponents in the ring and helps to flesh out characters that usually don’t get the chance in these kinds of movies.

Being a B-movie and especially a PM Entertainment B-movie, the supporting acting is often ropey, the music ridiculous and the story nothing fresh. But the main cast more than make up for this, along with the Las Vegas locations giving the film a bit of pizzazz and the copious amount of fights. Don’t expect any car chases or gun fights (a rarity for a PM Entertainment film) as Final Impact is strictly a fight flick and the entire better for it. No fancy, intricate or sustained fights ala Hong Kong movies but brutal, crisp and often inventive kickboxing fights that mix up blocks, takedowns and some fancy kicks. Worth is excellent as usual, a gifted fighter who gets to shine on more than one occasion, while Lamas gets to show off a couple of times to good effect. Watch out for a whole host of former fight movie regulars including Art Camacho, Mimi Lesseos, Jeff Langton, Ian Jacklin (blink and you’ll miss him) and the great Gary Daniels. An early appearance from Daniels who gets two fun fights with Worth.

The 1990s was a great time for these kinds of American kickboxing movies and Final Impact is one of the best if not very well known. Focusing more on story and loads of kickboxing action instead over the top craziness, Final Impact is great nostalgic martial arts fun and a top fight flick as well.