Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Assassins



ASSASSINS (1995)

Directed by: Richard Donner
Screenplay: The Wachowski Brothers and Brian Helgeland
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas & Julianne Moore

A somewhat underrated and forgotten Sly Stallone vehicle that is perhaps a lot better than you remember it. Solid direction from Lethal Weapon director Richard Donner, a manic but impressive performance from Banderas, a boat load of Hollywood slickness and plenty of cool action makes Assassins a watchable, enjoyable and, in this day and age of CGI excess, refreshing action movie to watch.

Now the story, heavily re-written by Brian Helgeland from The Wachowski’s originally more dark and sexy script, is not the most original in terms of action cinema and was obviously re-tooled to make it a more Stallone friendly vehicle. He and Banderas play two assassins trying to kill one another, Stallone the old dog who wants out of the business while Banderas is the young hot shot who wants to be number one. In between trying to shoot one another and some intriguing conversations they have about the roles they play within the killing world, sexy Julianne Moore gets caught up in the mix as a feisty computer expert who is the next target on both the assassin’s lists. The two then fight one another across several cities and even continents, trying to kill each other, protect Moore and do something or other with a top secret disk.



Assassins was unfairly lumbered in with the flicks that saw Stallone losing some of his limelight (The Specialist, Get Carter, Driven) and while it’s not as great as the likes of First Blood, Demolition Man and Cliffhanger, it’s still a decent slab of Hollywood action cinema. Stallone is a little more subdued here, never really dishing out one liners and playing a much more quiet and restrained character. Some say he seems disinterested in the role but he seems to be toning down his action image, giving his character the melancholy feel he needs after living a life in solitude. On the opposite end of the spectrum we have Banderas sizzling across the screen as the hyperactive Miguel Bain; an attention deficit disorder assassin that gets itchy and twitchy if he isn’t killing somebody. Banderas is great fun and keeps the character the right side of camp, still making him deadly even when he’s shaking his arms all over the place and sweating like a pig. Likewise, Moore is a refreshingly sparky female action character, her computer hacker a feisty heroine to Stallone’s hero.



Word is that The Wachowski’s original script was a much darker ride before getting the Hollywood polish. Written and produced before the success of The Matrix, it would have been interesting to see their true version of Assassins. Instead we get a decent re-write from Brian Helgeland (LA Confidential, Conspiracy Theory) that while never breaking new ground does a decent job of delivering a slick spy action movie. There are still shades of darkness there: Moore’s character has the rather sinister trait of being a voyeur, watching here neighbours via video cameras going about their lives; Bandera’s Miguel Bain is a very violent man, cutting down people with his gun as soon as look at them; and, heck, the flick even opens with Stallone handing a gun to a guy so he can shoot himself in the head. Yeah, not so many wisecracks here.

But what Assassins is, is a very entertaining, action packed Richard Donner film. He orchestrates some excellent action sequences and fleshes out the characters just enough to give us a little bit more meat to chew on in between the shootouts. The set-pieces are tight and thrilling showing a sense of control much like the assassins would have. Yes, there are some car chases and explosions but the gunfire and fire-fights are much more restrained. They have a brutal impact to them as the assassins go at one another, and anyone else, with silenced pistols and rifles in hotel rooms and apartment complexes. There is also a cool, if little absurd, conversation cum gunfight/car chase between the two assassins in a taxi cab, the two separated by a shield of bullet proof glass and unable to shoot one another.

Overall, Assassins is a worthy, straight-laced and hugely enjoyable Hollywood action movie. It may not be remembered as Stallone’s best but it’s certainly worthy of rediscovery and don’t write it off just because it’s a Hollywood flick with a bunch of big stars in it. Cool action: cool movie.

American Kickboxer 1



AMERICAN KICKBOXER 1 (1991)

Directed by: Frans Nel
Screenplay: Emil Kolbe
Starring: John Barrett, Keith Vitali & Terry Norton

Despite having the most unfortunate name in action cinema, BJ Quinn (Barrett) used to be the world champ at kickboxing. But after his temper tantrums land him in jail for a year for the accidental death of someone, he returns to society to rebuild his career and himself. Trouble is, he’s still a bit of an asshole so when he alienates his long suffering lady friend (Norton) and a fellow kickboxer buddy (Vitali), he goes off into solitude to think about things, get through some training montages and come back and beat the loud mouth, funny accented bad guy Jacques Denard (Brad Morris).

American Kickboxer 1 (yep, it actually had the 1 in the title much like Loaded Weapon 1, only this flick isn’t a spoof: well not intentionally anyway) is not one of the better kickboxing films from the era that saw a deluge of action flicks released with the word kickboxer in the title: American Kickboxer King, College Kickboxer, Kickboxer from Hell. All of which were presumably attempting to cash in on the success of Jean Claude Van Damme’s classic Kickboxer. American Kickboxer 1 unfortunately features none of that film’s fun or exciting fight scenes but is instead a rather tedious and often very camp affair. Barrett’s unfortunately monikered BJ is just a dull, arrogant hero and seems to be posing in a catalogue model style manner whenever he is in a scene that doesn’t require fighting. Bad guy Brad Morris (Steel Dawn) has some undistinguishable accent, wears a pink skirt in the fight ring (no, really!) and the only move he seems to display when fighting is hitting himself repeatedly in the head: so how is this guy the new world champion of kickboxing? Keith Vitali (No Retreat No Surrender 3) isn’t so bad and shows he has the moves with some fierce kicking moves but, as are the other fighters, is let down by uninspired and dreary fight choreography that, to be fair, is refreshingly non-flashy but rarely whips up any excitement.

Dull and only worth checking out if you have to see every 1990s American kickboxing flick (which it seems I have to). Followed by a sequel To the Death again starring Barrett and also a non-related sequel actually called American Kickboxer 2 featuring Evan Lurie: both of which, no doubt, I will now have to check out. Damnit.

TC 2000



TC 2000 (1993)

Written and Directed by: T.J. Scott
Starring: Billy Blanks, Bobbie Philips, Jalal Merhi and Bolo Yeung

Before Billy Blanks became the world’s number one Tae-Bo sensation, he made a succession of fairly entertaining martial arts flicks. Two of them were of a sci-fi theme and co-starred the Middle Eastern Steven Seagal, Jalal Merhi. TC 2000 is the less successful of the two (the other being the more entertaining Expect No Mercy) and it’s a shame as it could have been a solid little sci-fi actioner.

Sometime in the future mankind has been driven underground, with lawless gangs patrolling the surface. To maintain justice a special police force has been created who go by the name of Trackers. The two top trackers are Jason Storm (Blanks) and Zoey Kinsella (Phillips), who are renowned for their gifted martial arts. When Kinsella is mysteriously shot dead while pursing outlaw, Nick Picasso (Merhi) and his gang, Storm believes she is gone for good. Storm’s boss has other plans for Kinsella’s body, turning her into an all-fighting cyborg: the TC 2000 X. Using his new weapon and forming an alliance with Picasso, Storm’s boss sets out to control the surface world. Storm is outcast from his fellow trackers and sets out to stop Picasso and his cohorts and free Kinsella from her robotic chains. Along the way he joins forces with a Zen-like martial artist, Sumai (Yeung), who aids him in his quest.

It may all sound very confusing (at times it is) but there is very little plot to TC 2000. The thread of storyline there is serves only to frame a relentless number of fights. What plot there is suffers from too many characters. Yeung’s character pops up randomly to fight some bloke now again before his character is finally introduced half way through. It is a little jarring and the film suffers from a lack of coherence. While Blanks will never be seen as a truly gifted actor he is a likeable and energetic screen presence but is hampered with some truly awful dialogue. However, Merhi fairs even worse as the face painted Picasso. Having zero charisma and questionable martial arts skills, he should perhaps stick to producing. Yeung does his usual silent type shtick and is really only there to fight, though it is cool to see him playing a good guy for a change. The futuristic setting is, for want of a better word, lacking, as the whole film seems to have been shot in one abandoned nuclear power plant.

However, the film does have one thing going for it: the fights. There is some kind of scrap or scuffle about every 2 minutes. In fact, the fighting rarely lets up. The fights are crisp and brutal with Blanks proving a worthy martial artist. The final throw down between him and genre stalwart, Matthias Hues (Bounty Tracker), is a full on, martial arts rumble. The curvaceous Bobbie Philips (Back in Action) also holds her own in the fight scenes and is certainly easy on the eye. There is also some decent photography in the fights scenes and the opening sequence, of the Trackers driving around the city, is nicely shot.

TC 2000 is not a complete waste of time, just let down by bad plotting, acting, and some slapdash directing. As a fight film, it is more than adequate and should satisfy any combat junkie. It is the kind of film best watched at one o’clock in the morning when you can’t sleep. Such as I did.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Quantum of Solace



QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)

Directed by: Marc Foster
Screenplay: Paul Haggis and Robert Wade & Neal Purvis
Starring: Daniel Craig, Oleg Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric & Judi Dench

So Bond 22 comes along and it really is a case of ho hum. Before I start, I must confess, I’m not a huge Bond fan. I know weird for a dude who loves action films. I mean I’ve enjoyed some of them but I just find it’s a case of its pretty much the same thing every time. Despite what you may have heard about this instalment it’s pretty much the same thing again. Yeah, it’s more serious, the gadgets toned down (though they are still there in the shape of a nifty mobile phone that lets him do all kinds of things) and he only beds one sexy lady (with some refreshingly drastic consequences). But despite the muted palette, the lack of quips and the fact that Bond is on a mission of revenge (we’ve even seen this before in Licence to Kill) it’s still business as usual. Bond is as superhuman as ever, surviving ever increasingly dangerous scenarios and shrugging it off by the next scene; as the film progresses the action becomes more ludicrous, in particular a dogfight which ends in a parachute jump that only people in a Bond film would survive; there is a an evil villain (Amarlic) who is trying to take over a government or the world or something and manages to still have a huge hideout out in the middle of nowhere that gets blown up come the finale; and M gets all flustered with Bond. So yeah, business as usual.



What sets it apart is the slightly more serious tone than other adventures. Bond is working to his own rules (avenging the death of Vesper from Casino Royale) and doesn’t care who he kills on the way. But despite the seriousness of everyone, and the unrelenting po-faced ness of proceedings, QoS stills falls into routine Bond territory. We know exactly how it’s going to end and, as mentioned, there is even a big hideout (granted it is less hi-tech than previous instalments) that Bond has to infiltrate and, of course, blow up. Many are comparing it to the Bourne films in style and execution and while QoS shares similarities in the action department (at least in the opening scenes) and the muted palette, it doesn’t share the emotional undercurrent or relentless pace of a Bourne film. The first 35 minutes is packed full of over-edited action sequences but then QoS slows down to a meandering pace, the characters all soulless shells, us viewers never really caring who is who, what they are doing, and after some time not really bothered if Bond finds the person he is looking for. I was lead to believe QoS was a non stop action film but other than the opening third, the film seemed to drag. The action is no great shakes either. Well it probably is it’s just that filmmakers these days seem to think they have to over edit everything to give it a sense of realism, QoS being a major perpetrator of this crime. The opening car chase is a blitzkrieg of fast edits that dilutes any tension or excitement. Open up the action, let us see it, lets us be involved then we will be excited by the action scenes. To be fair the foot chase cum fight hanging from rafters is pretty good but, again, needed to back off in the crazy edit department.



Craig is good as Bond (and as good as any of the rest) and the foxy Oleg Kurylenko (Hitman) is also good and a refreshingly tough and believable female character for a Bond movie. QoS is not quite the unholy mess its reputation has but is not really that great either. Maybe it’s arty director Marc Foster’s (Monster’s Ball) ‘different’ direction, the over edited action or just that Bond is running out of juice? I don’t know. Bond fans will be split down the middle on this one while other viewers, like me, will come away thinking ‘been there, seen that’ and the action could have been better. Ho hum.

The Day the Earth Stood Still



THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (2008)

Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Screenplay: David Scarpa
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly and Jaden Smith

This is a tough call. On the one hand I really enjoyed the new version of The Day the Earth Stood Still (DTESS) (a remake of the 1950s sci-fi benchmark), on the other it seemed pretty much pointless, never really adding anything new, and despite being very well made and paced, suffers from the soulless Hollywood machine. Now I’m no advocator of remakes but don’t despise all of them either (the remake of The Hills Have Eyes being a much better film than the original) but with decent remakes like The Omen (yep, I enjoyed it) and The Departed, one always comes away with the feeling, why bother? It was a good or decent film but nothing compared to the original. DTESS suffers the same effect: good, but was it really needed?



Alien Klaatu (Reeves) comes to earth along with his protector robot, Gort, to warn the earth of eradication as we humans are destroying our planet. Befriending foxy scientist Helen Benson (Connelly) and her step son (Smith), Klaatu gives them one chance to convince him not to go ahead with the eradication. So, what is good about the DTESS? Well first off, it is well made, slick, well paced (and mercifully not over edited to ridiculousness) and director Derrickson even whips up some impressive scenes of nervous tension and destruction. The cast aren’t bad either (though Reeves will no doubt receive many oh so funny quips about him being ideal for an emotional alien from much smarter and wittier critics) but the script is perhaps too pedestrian, everything set out in a straightforward manner the characters just pointing us in the right direction to the predictable conclusion. The script also wastes too much time on Benson’s annoying step son, too many scenes of him moaning about his dead father, that he comes across as the typical shoehorned in, he has to learn a message kid in a Hollywood blockbuster. Which is exactly what he is. We never get the sense that the world is ever really in danger, as we spend too much time with a whinging kid. Jaden Smith isn’t bad in the acting department just given a really unsympathetic character. Likewise, John Hamm and John Cleese are completely wasted.



On the flipside, Derrickson handles his first big blockbuster well, making a film that harkens back to how blockbusters were made back in the 80s and 90s. No tricksey editing, the action scenes flow well, the pace never rushed. The original DTESS is also famous for one of movieland’s best robots, Gort. Luckily, the new version of Gort is done well the best scenes in the film featuring him and his capture and incarceration in an underground complex. Effective CGI is used to render Gort and the scene where he is held captive and his red eye follows one of the characters is nerve rackingly good and as good as anything in the original. Having helmed the underrated Hellraiser Inferno and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Derrcikosn knows a thing or two about scaring and this is where the remake of DTESS works best.

In addition, don’t go expecting an action extravaganza like the trailers suggest. This is no Independence Day. There are some impressive scenes of destruction but the film is equally about drama and tension as it about wrecking 18 wheelers and baseball stadiums. DTESS is a fairly decent flick that won’t really have a chance in hell. The fan boys will pick it to pieces, many won’t get past Reeves and yeah it does succumb to bloated Hollywood schmaltz and the easy way out come the final third. However, it’s still got a lot going for it, some great scenes of tension, Gort (who should have been in it way more) and it never resorts to CGI excess. But despite all this dissection and defence, one will no doubt come away (myself included) thinking what was the point? The debate over whether remakes (especially of classics) are worthy continues.


Sunday, 7 December 2008

The Rookie



THE ROOKIE (1990)

Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Written by: Boaz Yakin & Scott Spiegel
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Charlie Sheen & Raul Julia

It’s not just a job, it’s a fucking adventure.”

Unfairly bashed and dismissed Eastwood vehicle that is not only choc full of blazing action but is often hilarious and a great send up of the buddy formula action movie and Eastwood’s own tough guy onscreen image. This is Eastwood in action mode and just because he’s having a bit of fun here doesn’t mean the film is any less entertaining than any of his others. In fact, The Rookie is an underrated gem, hard hitting in the action department and featuring a cool laid back performance from the star/director as he gets the chance to crack a wry smile and not take himself so seriously.

The similarities to the Dirty Harry character/films is inevitable as Eastwood once again plays a grizzled cop who does things his way and causes much destruction (to both property and people) as he hunts down evil car theft kingpin Raul Julia. In tow, he has new detective Charlie Sheen who, as is the standard in such flicks, believes everything should be done by the book whereas Eastwood would rather shoot first and ask questions later. But, as is also the norm with such flicks, after some hostility the two begin to respect each other and Sheen adopts to the more tough talking way of police investigating which all leads to one of the best action flicks of the 90s.



Now there is no point in comparing The Rookie to other Eastwood classics such as Unforgiven as this is a completely different kind of film. One should never expect a filmmaker as prolific as Eastwood to always make the same film or always try to reach such lofty aspirations with every film. This is him in light entertainment mode and that is a-ok as films can provide just that: light entertainment. Eastwood also seems to be having a ball here, sending up his tough cop image, dishing out subtle and very funny one liners with aplomb and staging some exhilarating action sequences. Boaz Yakin & Scott Spiegel’s (he of Evil Dead 2) script sparks with quick fire wit, gags often running throughout the entire film and Eastwood getting to utter the classic line (upon seeing a lime green sports car) “Wanna know what a crime is? Whoever defaced that work of art by painting that colour…ought to have his ass removed.” He and Sheen share infectious chemistry, the humour more subtle and adult rather than being rammed own our throats say in the style of Bad Boys 2. Sheen is also on fine form as are the rest of the cast including the late great Raul Julia, Sonia Braga, Lara Flynn Boyle, Tom Skerrit and a who’s who of familiar faces that peppered 80s and 90s Hollywood action cinema.



Eastwood and stunt coordinator Terry Leonard stage some impressive action scenes including a multi car pile up that opens the film (which I’m pretty sure Bad Boys 2 nicked), the mother of all bar fights where Sheen goes ape shit on some local bikers, a great running chase/shootout in an airport and quite possibly the best escape from an exploding building ever seen in action cinema. The action comes from the golden era meaning there is no CGI, it all pretty much staged for real and the stars getting satisfyingly bloodied up and tired come the finale. Yeah, it’s often over the top in nature but that’s the fun of action pictures. It doesn’t have to be real to be thrilling and as long as it’s well staged what’s wrong with a couple of cops demolishing a freeway and an airport in order to catch the bad guys?

As with Eastwood’s earlier action picture The Gauntlet (another underrated gem) The Rookie is all about fun, lots of cool action and some refreshingly adult humour that will bring a smile to your face as you watch things blow up. This is not Mystic River or Million Dollar Baby or even the original Dirty Harry (all great films by the way) but probably Eastwood’s best straight action picture and an absolute hoot. And if you can’t enjoy it for the action packed fun it is, well then you ought to have your ass removed.

Best of the Best 2



BEST OF THE BEST 2 (1993)

Directed by: Robert Radler
Screenplay: Max Strom & John Allen Nelson
Starring: Eric Roberts, Phillip Rhee & Ralph Moeller

Best of the Best 2 is a surprisingly good early 90s action/martial arts film that not only tops its predecessor but delivers mucho full on action. The original Best of the Best was a decent tournament fighting flick about an American martial arts team overcoming the odds to take part and triumph in a martial arts contest. Routine but well made and featuring some cool fights it also featured Roberts uttering the great line “I’m gonna take your head off” before going toe-to-toe with an opponent. He returns along with Phillip Rhee and Chris Penn for a slicker and far superior sequel. This time around the tournament is an illegal fighting arena in a Las Vegas hotel. Fighters battle each other aiming for a chance to fight reigning champion Brakus (Moeller), who has a knack of pretty much killing everyone he fights. Hot shot Penn enters the tournament and gets to fight Brakus but, wouldn't you know it, he ends up dead. So in true sequel fashion his good buddies Roberts and Rhee vow revenge but not before some intense training out in the desert with action stalwart Sonny (Billy from Predator) Ladham.

With a bigger budget and more nasty bad guys to play with returning director Robert Radler ups the stakes to deliver a violent, vicious sequel. Mixing the fighting tournament film with a traditional action film means we get plenty of action in and outside the ring. The tournament fights might be short and sharp but always crisp and brutal and feature the novel visual of a gladiator theme: Brakus believes he is a true warrior so dresses up and fights like it was old Roman times. On the outside there is plenty of action as Roberts and Rhee try to avoid capture by the bad guys leading to some explosive confrontations in a house and at a secluded ranch. The action is slick, punchy and mixes martial arts and gunplay effectively. The training sequences are fun if a little short as the gruff, tough and often drunk Landham trains the fighters to take on the seemingly invincible Brakus.



The flick is all slick and grit but not ashamed to tip over into comic book proportions with the action and the bad guys chewing up everything in sight. This all adds to the fun and the stars play it straight, kicking ass and taking names. As well as the leads and Moeller hamming it up big time as the evil, vain Brakus there is fine support from genre regulars Meg Foster, Patrick Kilpatrick, Simon Rhee, Claire Stansfield, Kane Hodder and even Mr Las Vegas himself Wayne Newton. The best has to be Kilpatrick who erupts into violent madness at the slightest thing such as one of his henchmen tapping him on the shoulder: “Don’t you EVER touch me.” Priceless

Excellent, well made action film and the best of the series. Amazingly it stretched to four instalments though Roberts and Radler jumped ship after this entry with Rhee continuing on and even directing parts 3 and 4.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Stunts (aka The Deadly Game)



STUNTS (aka THE DEADLY GAME) (1977)

Directed by: Mark L. Lester
Screenplay: Dennis Johnson
Starring: Robert Forster, Fiona Lewis & Ray Sharkey

Neat little flick about some weirdo who is killing the stuntmen on a currently lensing action film. It’s up to stunt coordinator Robert Forster to find out who is offing his men, though he still seems to find time to bed a nosy reporter (Lewis) and do pretty much all the stunts himself. This very early offering from future Commando director Lester, is harmless, ridiculous fun buoyed by some cool old school stunts. The pace is a little too slow to really whip up any excitement and the ‘acting’ between all the stunts is often painfully embarrassing. A very young Robert Forster does not look comfortable in his gruff, tough and very sexist role as a stunt coordinator and there are also early appearances from Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner) and B-movie stalwart Richard Lynch (loads of B-movies).

Pretty much a glorified TV-movie, complete with groovy seventies fashion and cheesy theme song, Stunts offers a few wry digs at Hollywood and the way action pictures were churned out, all the while trying to provide enough stunts to keep the viewer's attention. The stunt work is very dated by today’s standards but it comes from a time when they would pretty much perform the stunts on the fly with very lo-tech equipment. So Lester spices up proceedings with loads of car flips, high-falls and even a pretty dangerous looking fire gag.

It’s all quite tame and silly but it’s a rare flick and interesting to see where the director of action classic benchmark, Commando got his start. And Robert Forster and cars flipping always provides a morsel of entertainment.

Martial Law



MARTIAL LAW (1990)

Directed by: Steve Cohen
Written by: Richard Brandes
Starring: Chad McQueen, Cynthia Rothrock & David Carradine

What do you get if you combine Steve McQueen’s son, the high-kicking Cynthia Rothrock, Bill from Kill Bill, the great Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez (and several other chop-socky stalwarts) and Subzero from The Running Man…well…err…Martial Law of course.

L.A cop Sean Thompson (McQueen) is nicknamed ‘Martial Law’ on account of his deadly kung-fu skills. He and partner/lover, Billie (Rothrock) are renowned for bringing in the bad guys but not before they break a few bones with their nifty moves. Sean’s younger brother, Michael (Andy McCutcheon) is dabbling on the wrong side of the law with top bad guy, Dalton Rhodes (Carradine). Sean attempts to sway his brother from a lawless lifestyle but to no avail. Michael soon finds himself in over his head and before long turns up dead at the hands of Dalton. It’s then a one-way ticket to Revenge City for Sean, and with Billie in tow, ‘Martial Law’ starts dealing out some kung-fu flavoured justice.

Martial Law isn’t a bad little film but is nothing special either. As generic as they come, it follows the template of late 80’s, early 90’s American kung-fu flicks: a cop/hero who is a gifted martial artist (and either works at or runs a martial arts school), is out for revenge (due to either his brother/father/uncle/pet hamster being killed) against the local kingpin: who is also a gifted martial artist. Things bristle along in a predictable manner, saved by frequent bursts of action. The fights are fairly energetic, if uninspiring, the standout being a scrap between Rothrock and Benny the Jet.

Chad McQueen (Firepower) is ok as the hero: neither acting up a storm nor coming across too bland. Though he has obviously trained in martial arts, he is not the most graceful of fighters (looks like he would have made a better boxer) and is left in the dust by Rothrock. She performs well, this being one of her earlier roles, and displays a gift for martial arts. Carradine (Kill Bill) is as slick and slimy as ever and seems to be having fun playing the intimidating Rhodes. Steve Cohen’s (Tough & Deadly) direction and Richard Brandes’ (Martial Law 2) script are both by the numbers and the film does suffer from having a slight made-for-TV look about it. Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the film is spotting all the B-movie action star cameos (fun for martial arts fans and movie nerds like myself at least). James Lew (Mission of Justice), Jeff Pruitt (Sword of Honour), Tony Longo (Eraser), Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez (Dragons Forever) and even the late great Professor Toru Tanaka (The Running Man) all pop up at various intervals to either fight or just generally get in the hero’s way. Cool.

I bought this film for 50p from a charity store and it is an older vhs copy. This is evident in the fight involving nunchuks being completely cut out. One second two characters are squaring up to fight with said weapons, the next moment one is lying dead on the ground with no fight having taken place. Martial Law was a casualty of the no nunchuks scenes rule enforced by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification). This law was apparently imposed because a football hooligan once used them at a match (or something) and many films were subsequently chopped up in order to elimate such scenes. This is a shame as it is very jarring when a scene suddenly disappears from a film and was another case of the BBFC overreacting (banning The Exorcist for 25 years…come on). I believe the nunchuk ban has now been lifted, fact fans.

So, if you fancy a beer and pizza and something to watch, then Martial Law provides adequate entertainment. Best thing to do is probably watch it with another avid kung fu fan and spot all the cool cameos. Martial Law was followed by Martial Law 2: Undercover (aka Karate Cop), which starred Jeff Wincott and Cynthia Rothrock (damn you movie nerdiness…damn you).