Friday, 26 September 2008

Taken



TAKEN (2008)

Directed by: Pierre Morrel
Written by: Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace & Famke Jansen

Taken goes for the jugular and never lets go. Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills a former military/special ops kind of guy who is an expert at, well, killing people. Semi-retired he is attempting to live the quiet life and reconnect with his teenage daughter, Kim (Grace). However, while on vacation in Paris she is kidnapped by some very evil people who plan to sell her and her friend into prostitution. Mills then does what any father with a special set of skills given to him by the government would do: he goes to Paris to track his daughter down and kills the living hell out of anyone who gets in his way and anyone who has anything to do with her disappearance. Tough as nails action returns in a film that makes no apologies for the rough ride it provides in one the year’s best action pictures.



Taken is the best, and most pure, kind of action film. Straight laced and to the point, Taken is a lean, mean, packs a punch film which come the second half delivers action and just desserts for some very bad people in ever increasingly violent ways. Pierre Morrel builds on his equally impressive debut, District 13, by delivering a serious and violent action film that harks back to the 80s golden age of action. No fat, just lean cut meat as Liam Neeson dives into one of his best roles in ages as a man with a mission that he will complete not matter the cost. Neeson is the emotional heart of the film, giving an intense and powerful performance as a man you really do believe could beat the hell out of anyone. He slices through the movie like a shark fin through water, keeping his character grounded in emotional reality no matter how dangerous the situations get. His Bryan Mills dishes out some extreme justice, the violence often flinching and the film never afraid to show the dark side of illegal prostitution rings. Taken hits like a sledgehammer, never letting up, making you feel every punch, gunshot and death as Mills desperately tries to find his daughter before she disappears for ever.



The action is top notch which is expected from the director of District 13 and write/producer Luc Besson. They know how to make action pictures (Kiss of the Dragon, The Transporter) but nothing is glamorized here. When people are killed you feel it and the hand-to-hand combat scenes are impressively brutal, evoking the Bourne films in style and execution. Neeson handles himself well in a number of set pieces and close quarter fights especially when he infiltrates a block of flats where a bunch of bad guys are holed up. The tension is turned up before the inevitable explosion of violence, the viewer knowing fine well that it isn’t gonna turn out well for those bad guys. Great stuff.



Avid deconstructionists and over inflated critics will no doubt balk at the so called ‘lack of plot.’ But that is completely missing the point. Not all plots have to be deep, intricate dissections of the characters and their lives, some plots can just be straight forward in their storytelling. The beauty of storytelling is that there can be all kinds of stories some more complex than others but all worthy of merit. Taken tells a simple story well and in an invigorating manner and we come to know, care about and even hate the few characters we follow as they are caught up in this extraordinary and frightening event.

A small film that leaves a big impression, Taken is a great action film with actors and filmmakers at the top of their game delivering the best the genre has to offer. Go See It.

Rapid Fire




RAPID FIRE (1992)

Directed By: Dwight H. Little
Screenplay: Alan B. McElroy
Starring: Brandon Lee, Nick Mancuso & Powers Boothe

An underrated gem of action cinema, Rapid Fire stills smacks you between the eyes with some of the hardest hitting action the 90s ever delivered. Brandon Lee shines in one of his two really great films (the other being The Crow) in a muscular action film where the body count is high, the bad guys just plain nasty and the action still spectacular fifteen years on. Lee plays Jake Lo, an idealistic young man who is also very adapt at martial arts and protecting himself in a high risk situation. Witnessing a mob killing, Jake is put into protective custody until he can identify the killer, the very nasty Nick Mancuso (Under Siege 2). However, he soon finds the cops are in with the mob and goes on the run before teaming up with rogue cop Powers Boothe (Sudden Death) and his motley crew who intend to bring down Mancuso and his heroin dealing buddies. Cue lots and lots of barnstorming action.



The action and stunts in this movie are amazing. The action scenes are shot with such intensity and hard hitting impact it’s a shame they don’t make them like this anymore. Lee, much like his father, is a human dynamo when it comes to kicking butt, his martial arts and athleticism top notch. While the movie features some big stunts and impressively staged shootouts, it’s Lee’s inventive tussle with two bent cops in a tiny apartment that really standouts. Using anything he can get his hands on to make a weapon out of, the scene crackles with invention as he jumps through cubby holes, uses cutlery draws and even doors to thwart the guys who are desperately trying to shoot him. An amazing scene, wearing its Hong Kong influence proudly on its sleeve and just one of many outstanding action scenes.



Of course Lee also has the charisma and acting chops to imbue his character with a little more soul and likeability than the typical action hero. He’s ably supported by Boothe as the grizzled cop, Mancuso as the sleazy Serrano and a sprightly Kate Hodge (The Hidden 2) as the tough female cop Jake has the hots for. The direction is tight and fluid and so it should be from Dwight H. Little. He made another 90s gem, Marked for Death, which also featured tons of hard edged action and gave Steven Seagal one of his best vehicles.

Excellent action flick that deserves rediscovering. It may not have the complexity or originality of Die Hard, but Rapid Fire still delivers in spades and shows what a star Brandon Lee could have been if he had lived to reach the possibilities he was destined for. Excellent.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Hard Cash




HARD CASH (2002)


Directed by: Peter Antonijevic
Screenplay: Willie Dreyfus
Starring: Christian Slater, Daryl Hannah & Val Kilmer

An all star cast featuring those mentioned above alongside William Forsythe, Bokeem Woodbine, Balthazar Getty and even a fairly funny Verne Troyer in a hip, edgy action thriller all about stealing money, double crosses and the odd bit of violence and with an edgy European director at the helm means Hard Cash is one cool ride. Unfortunately not. Not quite the unholy, god awful mess you may have been lead to believe but certainly a mish-mash that eventually buckles under it’s own ineptitude, Hard Cash could have been so much better. The plot concerns Slater’s career criminal getting caught, getting released then setting about another heist only to get caught up in all bloody kinds of double crosses, switcheroos and bent cops, when, of course, all he really wants to do is give his daughter a good life.



The problem with Hard Cash is it’s not very original and there’s not enough action for it to be a full blown action picture or enough thrill for it to be a gritty thriller. Then there is the ropey black comedy which doesn’t come off very well either. Some characters ham it up, while others play it straight and Troyer appears in disguise as the pregnant bump of one of the characters. It will make sense if you see it, sort of. Slater just does his thing, the rest of the cast are completely wasted and Kilmer looks like he really doesn’t want to be there but still manages a relatively engaging oddball character. The action aint bad, all firepower and vehicular stunts, with a cool bit featuring an armoured car and a massive JCB falling into a river. But it is the car chases that make this flick infamous. The exterior/wide shots of all the cars and stunts are well done and flips and crashes impressively staged but the interior shots suffer from some of the worst back projection ever seen. Probably the worst. No one will be able to stop laughing when seeing the rubbish backgrounds fly all over the place as the actors pretend to drive. Shameful, especially when the rest of the film and stunts are competently filmed.

Hard Cash
should have been a fun ride and something different from Saviour director Antonijevic (who has all but disappeared since making this flick). Fans of the actors may enjoy it and it is entertaining in parts but is overall another misfire from Nu Image when they were obviously trying to segue into bigger budget fare.


Black Dawn



BLACK DAWN (2005)

Directed By: Alexander Gruszyinski
Screenplay: Martin Wheeler
Starring: Seagal, Tamara Davies & John Pyper Ferguson

So did anyone ask for a sequel to Seagal’s 2001 direct-to-DVD opus, The Foreigner? Nope? Well, ya got one anyway. The Foreigner was no great shakes, not the worst but not even one of the guiltily entertaining direct-to-DVD Seagal action flicks. But it seems to have done well enough and certainly plays syndicated on TV enough to warrant it being somewhat popular. Seagal doesn’t really do sequels with this flick and Under Siege 2 being his only ones to date. So he returns in Black Dawn as super spy/CIA agent/Government specialist whatever, Jonathan Cold and has to stop a bunch of terrorists blowing up LA with a nuclear bomb. Standard fare and if Seagal’s character wasn’t actually using the same name as he did in The Foreigner you wouldn’t be blamed for not realizing Black Dawn was a sequel. Still, Black Dawn does have something going for it: it’s better than The Foreigner and when not dragging its heels and actually kicking into action gear, quite entertaining.



Seagal isn’t in the movie that much, disappearing for huge chunks but when he is he actually shows up himself most of the time, uses his own voice and even fires his own guns. Pity he doesn’t do his own fights. Yep, he’s doubled here once again, nothing more than close ups used to convince you he is in fact in the fight scene. However, Black Dawn isn’t martial arts heavy more gunplay and big stunts. These scenes are handled well including a shootout in a mannequin factory and a ridiculous but well executed truck chase, complete with Seagal inexplicably appearing alive after the truck explodes even though we never see him jump from it. Wow, Jonathon Cold really is some kind of super agent.



Same can’t be said for the silly anti climax where the hero and heroine (a spunky Tamara Davies) must dump a nuclear bomb in the ocean before it goes off. Riding in a helicopter, dodgy back projection rears its ugly head and the two heroes simply guess that the water may be deep enough to contain nuclear fallout. Once again, that Jonathon Cold is pretty amazing. The film tends to drag in none action bits but is mercifully coherent and there is fine B-movie support from John Pyper Ferguson (Drive), Timothy Carhart (Beverly Hills Cop 3) and as mentioned, Tamara Davies (Scorcher). So all in all a decent Seagal fix with some neat action but not enough martial arts or overall oomph.


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The Destroyer (aka Now Way Back)




THE DESTROYER (aka NO WAY BACK) (1976)

Written, directed by & starring
: Fred Williamson

Fred Williamson is Jesse Crowder, The Destroyer and he will destroy you. Fact.

Why The Destroyer is awesome:

- Jesse Crowder is the man, even when wearing a pink suit
- In the seventies, neckerchiefs made you a bad ass
- Jesse Crowder shags one women then puts her in a closet, lets another women in and then shags her (no, really!)
- Running across the top of cars in a foot chase is awesome, even when you can actually run alongside them down the empty street and make it a lot easier for yourself
- Jesse Crowder has one massive package. And it will destroy you!!!
- Flying cars are awesome and look awesome on the video box. Pity there are no flying cars in The Destroyer. Still, flying cars are awesome.
- Riding a horse across the desert to find your kidnapped lady friend is preferable to driving as it looks cooler and is way more awesome, despite the fact you may actually have a car and it would be quicker and easier
- The Destroyer isn’t actually Jesse Crowder or Fred Williamson but an old lady in glasses with a shotgun. Awesome
- Neckerchiefs are awesome
- Jesse Crowder has one massive package. And it will destroy you!!!

Why The Destroyer is awful:

- See all of the above

Fun but oh so bad Shaft wannabe that despite a few bits of decent action is just too insane and hilarious to be any good. Awesome flick apparently followed by a sequel, Death Journey. I gotta see it.

Walking Tall: The Payback



WALKING TALL: THE PAYBACK (2007)

Directed by: Tripp Reed
Written by: Brian Strasmann
Starring: Kevin Sorbo, AJ Buckley & Yvette Nipar

Solid, satisfying and super sequel to The Rock starring remake, The Payback is a tough, no-holds-barred, rootin-tootin action flick. TV Hercules Kevin Sorbo ably steps into The Rock’s shoes as Nick Prescott, a special forces vet who must take up arms once again to defend his community from some greedy business men and their violent henchmen who are trying to take over his town. By the numbers it may be with plot and narrative twists signposted a mile off, The Payback is still quality action entertainment due to some fine performances, slick production values and some quality face smashing action.



Sorbo is a solid actor and keeps his justice serving character human, never resorting to a wise cracking indestructible hero type. He has the presence as well, making you believe he can stand up to a load of real nasty types. AJ Buckley is certainly that, his tattooed goon striking like a viper and doing some very nasty things to the innocent townspeople. It’s a pity he still looks like a college skater dude, dampening the effect a little, though Buckley holds it together as the bad guy. There is also able support from Yvette Nipar, Jennifer Sipes and Bentley Mitchum. Shot in Texas, the film has an authentic down home feel complimented by competent filmmaking skills and production values. Perhaps the best aspect is the hard edge nature of The Payback. More beefed up compared to the first instalment and grittier in tone, it doesn’t shy away from showing ugly violence both in the crimes and the revenge taken by the hero.



The action is also thick and fast, a car/truck chase and plenty of explosions giving proceedings a polished feel. But it’s the down and dirty fights that deliver as Prescott sets about breaking bones and cracking skulls. The action is also shotgun heavy and the impacts brutally portrayed, meaning people fly across rooms when shot. It all climaxes in a big, satisfying take down at the bad guys base, where Prescott causes mayhem and kills anyone that gets in his way.

A little gem of a movie that much like the sequel that followed it, Lone Justice (starring most of the cast seen here including Sorbo) proves that straight-to-DVD action flicks can still deliver the goods. Recommended.

Black Cobra 2




BLACK COBRA 2 (1988)

Directed by: Stelvio Massi
Starring: Fred Williamson & Nicholas Hammond

As daft as the first Black Cobra was it’s a masterpiece compared to the even dafter sequel. Returning star Fred Williamson made a ton of these cheap jack Italian action flicks, some fun, some not. Black Cobra 2 is by no means good in anyway but is perhaps so bad it is actually awesome. I got a lotta love for Fred Williamson and enjoy his films but Black Cobra 2 is inept and dull with the unintentional comedy value the only thing it’s got going for it. Williamson looks tired and possibly in some pain (one stunts seems to show him actually hurting his back mid stunt) though it’s always cool to see him striding about smoking a cigar and shooting things up. He has some groovy support this time around from one time TV Spiderman, Nicholas Hammond. Bless him, he actually tries, overacting somewhat as the too serious white cop Williamson is partnered with in Manila. Yep, this time Fred’s no nonsense cop Malone is shipped to Manila to solve some crime or something meaning it’s a non stop barrage of action and destruction. I wish. The complete opposite actually as pretty much bugger all happens.



About as lame as action pics get, Black Cobra 2 goes nowhere fast climaxing in the most unconvincing action finale ever. Williamson and Hammond come up with the ‘awesome’ plan to infiltrate a building by spending fifteen minutes climbing up an elevator shaft for the sole purpose of shooting three terrorists and rescuing some hostages we never see. The scene drags on for an age as the two fumble about the shaft and it’s made all the more pointless by the fact they could have just gone up the stairs, or actually taken the elevator, and still surprised the terrorists and saved the day. Definitely a contender for the worst action scene ever. The rest of the action, when there actually is any, is just as lame (check out the extremely badly choreographed fight at night) and the flick pretty much a waste of time. It does have two minor things going for it. An awesome bullet to the head of a motorcycle crook at the beginning where his whole helmet literally explodes. Why couldn’t the rest the action be this good? And much like the hilarious bad guy stepping on the pipe and knocking himself out in the first film, Black Cobra 2 also has an infamous unintentionally funny scene. Upon arriving in Manila, Williamson is greeted by some dude in a suit. He simply says welcome to Manila and notifies Williamson that he also lives in Manila. Then disappears for the rest of the flick. Brilliant. I think he actually pick pockets Fred or something but I was too busy laughing to notice. Again, worth seeing the flick just for that.



Black Cobra



BLACK COBRA (1987)

Directed by: Stelvio Massi
Screenplay: Danilo Massi
Starring: Fred Williamson, Eva Grimaldi & Karl Landgren

Fun if ridiculous Italian actioner starring Fred Williamson, Black Cobra is eighties uber cheese made the way only Italians new how to. Williamson is tough talking, hard as nails, ridiculous sweater wearing cop, Robert Malone, who is assigned to protect a witness to a murder committed by a ruthless motorcycle gang. Well, I say ruthless but camp is perhaps more of an appropriate approximation. The leader is done up all like The Terminator and pouts more than he snarls, they seem pretty inept at getting anything done and they want to get a picture the witness took of the leader back so he can’t be fingered for the crime, despite the fact everyone already knows who he is, the picture already published in the paper and that he has already been fingered for the crime. Idiot. Really, it’s lucky he still goes after the pic and the witness as there would be no movie and it gives the picture a good excuse for some fine shotgun action.



Williamson, despite the ridiculous sweaters his character wears (I guess his mum knitted them for him, so much respect to a tough as nails cop who is comfortable wearing silly jumpers while blowing the hell outta folks) is as cool as ever, striding through proceedings with a confident smirk and massive shotgun. In fact, he is so confident and cool; he says he will only take the case if the witness moves in with him. What? Surely that’s against all kinds of police protocol and ethical standings? Not so in the world of Italian made American cop movies. Plus she’s a hot babe and he’s a cool dude, so it kinda makes sense. Despite all the general silliness, badly dubbed dialogue and Williamson’s sweater, Black Cobra still manages to dish up a healthy serving of hard hitting action. A gun fight in a hospital and Malone taking out a bunch of idiot terrorists in a swimming pool are punchy and pacy and an all out shoot up at the end features a bunch of explosive shotgun action. It also features perhaps the most inept henchman in movie history. Running out of the way of Williamson’s superior shooting skills he neglects to notice the giant (and I mean, giant) pipe on the ground in front of him, stepping on it, flipping it up into his face and knocking himself out cold. Genius, not to mention hilarious. A henchman that realizes the futility of fighting Williamson and gives up by just knocking himself out with that old standing on a rake gag. Worth seeing the movie alone for.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Pistol Whipped



PISTOL WHIPPED (2008)

Directed by: Roel Reine
Written by: J.D. Zeik
Starring: Steven Segal & Lance Henrikson

Whoa, what, wait a minute. A pretty good direct-to-DVD Steven Segal flick? Yep, after years of dreck, Pistol Whipped comes along as a pleasant surprise. Never reaching the highs of his classics such as Out for Justice or Marked for Death, Pistol Whipped is nevertheless a decent action film with the big man front and centre pretty much the entire time, kicking ass and using his own voice. Wow, what a novelty to watch a Segal picture where he is actually in it.

Segal even stretches himself a bit playing a not too nice guy who has fallen on hard times due to gambling and drinking habits. Enter shady underworld boss Lance Henrikson (Aliens) who offers to erase all his debts and get his life back on track if Segal agrees to ‘take out’ various mob bosses who are causing the city trouble. Segal reluctantly agrees and gets back into ass kicking mode only to realize things may not be all they seem and his own life may very well be in danger. This all leads to one awesomely staged shootout in a graveyard.



Now the picture isn’t perfect and is still plagued by some of Segal’s weird stylings but we’ve berated the guy enough and the flick is overall good so we’ll just sing its praises. Using his considerable bulk as an aid, Segal swaggers through the flick confidently doing his own fights and actually embracing playing a character who, well, isn’t Steven Segal. The film has a mean and moody feel that compliments the story and there is some nice, quirky support from Paul Calderon (Bad Lieutenant) as a heavy sent to keep an eye on Segal. Henrikson is his usual good self but only gets limited screen time.

Segal also delivers the action this time doing most of his own fighting. A great fight in a bowling alley and a rollicking car chase help to keep things moving along and Segal and the filmmaker’s stage an impressive gun battle in a cemetery come the finale which is hard hitting and thrilling in its execution. Slick camerawork, a lean pace and decent acting and plotting make Pistol Whipped a great view and is far better than the equally hyped Renegade Justice which failed to show Segal still had it. Now only if he still kept making films this entertaining.


Direct Hit



DIRECT HIT (1992)

Directed by: Joseph Merhi
Written by: Jacobson Hart
Starring: William Forsythe, Jo Champa, Richard Norton & George Segal

Ho hum its another hitman wants to do one last job/falls in love with his target/goes on the run from his former employers action flick which despite one or two cool scenes and a decent cast, is strictly average. An earlier PM Entertainment offer, Direct Hit dishes out very little excitement as William Forsythe’s number one hitman attempts to go straight amidst flying bullets and an abundance of melodramatics.



We’ve seen this type of thing, especially in the action arena, a million times and Direct Hit is as by the book as it gets. Bogged down in too much melodrama as Jo Champa (Out for Justice) cries her way through every scene and much scenery chewing from old heavy weight, George Segal (Fun with Dick and Jane) meaning the film never gets off the starting block. Segal seems to be there for the sole purpose of smoking a cigar, even lighting one up in bed after a phone call. Now that’s surely breaking all kinds of health and safety rules. Forsythe (Firestorm) does his best but it’s a clich├ęd role and he all but sleepwalks through the entire picture. Matters are made worse with long interludes between the action, with too much time wasted on trying to turn this into a serious drama. Seriously, it’s a cheap action flick and should just cut to the chase and deliver the goods.



Still there are a couple of good action bits including a car driven through a restaurant, a fire truck splitting a car in two and a nifty, if ridiculous, shootout in that oh so common orange tinted abandoned industrial estate seen in so many low rent action flicks. But the most criminal aspect of Direct Hit is wasting the great Richard Norton (Sword of Bushido). An action stalwart, he is sidelined for most of the flick but does get one cool scene with Forsythe in a bar where they pretty much tell each other they are gonna kill one another. Never waste Norton, dude is a legend.

Average, alright and altogether sub standard, Direct Hit may entertain fans of the cast or those who enjoy big dollops of soap opera between the action scenes.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Honour and Glory



HONOUR AND GLORY (1992)

Directed by: Godfrey Ho
Screenplay by: Herb Borkland
Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Donna Jason, Robin Shou and Chuck Jeffreys

Any film genre has its masterpieces and its pieces of crap, martial arts being no exception. At one end of the spectrum you have Drunken Master 2, Iron Monkey and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. At the other end you have Master With Cracked Fingers, China O’Brien and On Deadly Ground. Unsurprisingly, Honour and Glory finds itself in the latter category. Crap.



Directed by the unholy king of z-grade martial arts flicks, Godfrey Ho (Deadly China Dolls, about a trillion movies with the word Ninja in the title) and starring kung fu queen, Cynthia Rothrock (Guardian Angel), Honour and Glory is an embarrassing, sloppy and, oh-so often, amusing mess. Having something to do with a stolen nuclear trigger (which we never see), a camp megalomaniac bad guy (John Miller) and high kicking sisters Rothrock and Donna Jason, the film is so muddled, confusing and riddled with pointless characters it’s amazing they all manage to meet up at the end for the final showdown. Whenever Rothrock is on screen Jason disappears for half the film and vice versa when ever Jason pops up. Ho has a reputation for splicing footage from different films together and Honour and Glory certainly feels like several films in one.




Actors (I use the term loosely) John Miller, Richard Yuen, and Yip Yim Hing all compete for the worst actor ever title, with Miller just edging out everyone as the completely bonkers bad guy, Slade. Other highlights include: random characters popping up from nowhere; Jason’s news reporter getting into a kung fu fight with a disgruntled passer-by; death by being thrown into a cardboard box; a seduction by chopstick kung fu; several boom mikes in shot; a Pepsi machine not very well taped out to avoid advertising; the most unconvincing stakeout ever; and probably the most unintentionally hilarious final fight put to film. Add in the fact that almost ever scene seems to have been shot in either somebody’s driveway or a disused parking lot, that every fight lasts no more than 30 seconds, and you have an abject lesson in how not to make a martial arts flick.

It is amusing in a so bad it’s funny kind of way and there are a couple of cool training sequences (obviously thrown in for no apparent reason and featuring cool weapons that none of the characters use in the fight scenes) and Rothrock has made worse. Yet for a film featuring competent martial arts talents such as Rothrock, Mortal Kombat’s Robin Shou and Eddie Murphy look-alike and Bloodmoon star, Chuck Jeffreys, Honour and Glory should have a least delivered on the fight front. But hey, what do you expect from a film featuring a cast members named Greg Algie and Herb Borkland? Suffice to say, apart from Rothrock, Shou and Jeffreys, hardly any of the cast members went on to make any other films. Awesome in the worst possible way.


Talons of the Eagle



TALONS OF THE EAGLE (1992)

Directed by
: Michael Kennedy
Written by: J. Stephen Maunder
Starring: Billy Blanks, Jalal Merhi, Priscilla Barnes and Matthias Hues

Talons of the Eagle is the epitome of early 90s American martial arts films: low budget, tons of fights, a little cheesy but a whole lot of fun. The first film to pair B-movie stalwarts, Billy Blanks and Jalal Merhi (they would also make TC 2000 and Expect No Mercy), it pits the duo as maverick cops going undercover to bust evil crime lord, Mr Li (James Hong).



The first half is essentially a Bloodsport riff, as the heroes are sent to a special martial arts school in order to hone their skills to enter an illegal fight tournament organised by Li. Under the tutelage of Master Pan (Master Pan Qing Fu) they undergo a lengthy montage (complete with dodgy music) of pain-inducing (for them) training and fighting. We see the pair lift tree trunks, perform press ups while Pan sits on them, and watch a woman bathe in her underwear (sounds like my kinda training). Then it’s on to the fight tournament, where the newly skilled fighters effortlessly win. Catching Li’s eye, they are hired as muscle. Teaming up with a fellow undercover agent (Barnes), the film switches gear to a martial arts thriller as they all set about bringing down Li’s reign of terror.

Produced by Merhi, this is a typical production from the low budget uber-producer: somewhat vain and over the top but packed with enough fights and energy to make it worth any martial arts fan’s time. Blanks will never win an Oscar (and seems to have given up acting altogether now), yet he is likeable and displays a never-ending supply of dynamism in the combat scenes. Hong camps it up as Li and the towering Matthias Hues (Dark Angel) provides solid bad guy muscle. Merhi…wears leather trousers (!).



But, as mentioned, Talons of the Eagle is a 90s martial arts flick meaning there is a abundance of kung fu and action scenes. Blanks is infinitely the better fighter with a cool fight in a kitchen and his brutal dust-up with Hues (though not as good as their one in TC 2000) showcasing his talents. While the fights aren’t as fluid and intricate as their Hong Kong counterparts, they still pass muster and feature a variety of weapons and styles.

Despite a flurry of risible one-liners (“I told you I had balls of steel”) and some of the least convincing sex scenes put to screen (plus Merhi in his Y-fronts…oh dear) Talons of the Eagle is still an enjoyable action romp. Not as good as Expect No Mercy but a little more fun than TC 2000, it’s a film that encapsulates a by-gone era. This reviewer grew up watching these kind of movies (probably explaining his current state of mind) and finds much undemanding enjoyment in two wisecracking cops kicking ass. In fact Mr Merhi, bring on Talons of the Eagle 2 (just no leather pants and Y-fronts this time).