Monday, 21 December 2009
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Written & Directed by: Neveldine/Taylor
Starring: Gerard Butler, Michael C. Hall, Logan Lerman Amber Valetta, Alison Lohman & Chris Bridges
Neveldine/Taylor take a break from their hyper-kinetic, loopy as a bowl of fruit loops action franchise Crank to make, well, their hyper-kinetic, loopy as a bowl of fruit loops sci-fi actioner Gamer. About as subtle as one of Lady Gaga’s outfits and applying as much force as a wrecking ball to the crotch, Neveldine/Taylor continue their big, bad and brash assault on the action film and, surprisingly, make a fun and stylish sci-fi flick. Sure, hardened sci-fi fans (those who like their science fiction a little slower, more thoughtful and time spent on exploring different alien races) may not groove to Gamer’s sensibilities (or they might if they fancy some sci-fi of the curveball variety i.e. loud and proud and featuring lots of gunplay) but, whether you like it or not, Neveldine/Taylor’s style is a distinctive one and backed up by a game (ahem!) cast and fierce action make Gamer an almost surrealist action trash, sci-fi slam of a picture.
So, there is a video game called Slayers which allows users to take control of real life humans, in this case convicted felons, who fight against one another over thirty games in a bid for freedom: if you last the thirty games and your user doesn’t get you killed first. The top fighter is Kable (Butler), ace at combat and wouldn’t you know it, not guilty of the crime he is supposed to have committed. His controller is Simon (Lerman) a 17 year old (for the lack of a better phrase) “douche bag” who is hoping to be the first player to win Slayers and there by bed loads of hot chicks (see, playing video games constantly does make you attractive to women, well, that and being a douche bag!). But Kable has other ideas and wants out of the game which he will hopefully achieve with the help of some cyber rebels (Bridges, Lohman) who want Slayers shut down as they know, evil, southern accented, uber douche bag and creator of the game Castle (Hall) is up to no good and using his game for potentially much more nefarious reasons.
To be honest, for what many will describe as a silly action movie targeted at the younger demographic (which it is); Gamer actually has a lot going on. Aside from all the action, violence, nudity, swearing, cool tech and videogame nonsense, Gamer also packs in a resistance movement, another real life video game called Society (The Sims with real people), swipes at the media (Kyra Sedgwick pops up as the host of a talk show for some reason or another), swipes at the gaming industry, our reliance on technology and digs at video gamers themselves. There is also some kind of dodgy military program in their as well (there always is!) and a whole host of cool cameos from John Leguizamo, Terry Crews, Zoë Bell, Keith David, John de Lancie and in an absolutely hilariously bizarre bit Milo Ventimiglia as the appropriately monikered Rick Rape. Yep, not much subtly here. Actually, that’s a little unfair as the acting is pretty good, the cast obviously embracing the outlandish and serious aspects of the concept, and while there are one too many characters juggling for screen time and Gamer will never be mistaken for being deep, the characters are a little more rounded than you would expect. Butler continues to impress as the dangerous and determined Kable and Hall is a hoot as the deranged Castle who even manages to sing and dance in the middle of a fight scene!
Neveldine/Taylor don’t forget their bread and butter as they manage to stuff Gamer with a (and, again, for the lack of a better phrase) shit ton of action. Larger in scope and more bombastic than the Crank films, the makers certainly know how to immerse the viewer in the action. Cameras follow the players through battle scenes, much like in a video game, achieving a somewhat first person feel. The game Slayers features the convicts going against one another in abandoned warehouses and streets armed to the teeth with machine guns, bazookas and anything they can get their hands one (again, much like a video game). Big gun battles and buildings being blown apart ensue and there is an impressive truck chase as well. Now Neveldine/Taylor perhaps overdose on the shaky camera, jittery editing, we-are-totally-putting-you-in-the-action aspect and those who aren’t fans of this technique may not be bowled over by it here. While I am an advocator for the let-us-see-what-is-happening-and-appreciate-the-stunts kind of action, Neveldine/Taylor can do the shaky, whiplash style well and do manage to orchestrate some impressive mayhem. Mention should also go to how they start the action off big and go smaller as the film goes along (as apposed to starting small and getting bigger) as Kable first takes part in huge battles before honing in on individuals and swapping running gunplay and truck chasing for one-on-one combat.
A film with a real love it or hate it syndrome, Gamer is nevertheless a blitzkrieg of style, ideas and action that if you can go with the flow, is a lot of fun. It’s morals may be a bit sketchy (is it a warning on how violent and twisted video games have become or embracing this trend and applying it to a movie?) and while its not quite as bat shit crazy fun (damn lack of better phrases!) as Crank 2: High Voltage, Gamer is still high octane, eye searing, taste pushing entertainment. Game on.
Monday, 14 December 2009
MURPHY’S LAW (1986)
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Written by: Gail Morgan Hickman
Starring: Charles Bronson, Carrie Snodgress & Kathleen Wilhoite
Murphy’s Law: If it can possibly go wrong, it will.
Jack Murphy’s Law: Don’t fuck with Jack Murphy!
Murphy’s Law is one of the better, if not best, 80s Charles Bronson thrillers: a fun, tight and often violent pulpy crime picture. Sure a lot of his 80s and 90s work became somewhat indecipherable, Bronson just playing Bronson no matter what the picture was, the films often being sold as some variation of the Death Wish formula to cash in on Bronson’s successful franchise. While Murphy’s Law does feature Bronson in a tough guy role and regular bursts of action and violence, this flick varies things slightly by adding a foul mouthed female sidekick, Bronson as a down and out loser and a wicked villain in the female form of off-her-rocker Carrie Snodgress.
She plays a recently released criminal with a history of mental illness, who is now out to kill the cops that send her down. Toned up, handy with a gun and showing a complete lack of mercy she gets down to gunning down those who sent her down. Sparing Murphy so she can turn his life upside down first, she kills his wife and her new lover and sets Murphy up for the killing. Since he’s been a drunk pretty much ever since his wife left him, and prone to stalking her, and with fellow officers fed up with his insubordinate ways, Murphy is arrested and things don’t look good for him. On top of this he keeps bumping into foul mouthed thief McGee (Wilhoite) who for reasons only a 80s action film could come up with, ends up in the same holding cell as Murphy handcuffed to him. Seeing his chance to escape and clear his name, the two break out and form an unstable alliance as they try to track down the killer before being caught again.
Throw in some vicious gangsters Murphy has also managed to piss off (and who can make an appearance in the final gun battle) and you’ve actually got a about three films in one: a serial killer flick, a buddy flick and an action flick. Yet, surprisingly it all kind of works and makes for pleasant, action packed viewing. J. Lee Thompson made around eight flicks with Bronson (including the equally underrated Messenger of Death) and the two obviously had a groove that helped produce gems like Murphy’s Law. Sure, there is a fair amount of 80s ludicrousness such as Murphy stealing a police helicopter while still chained to McGee, then crashing it into a drug den just so he can then gun them all down with an M-16. But on its on pulpy terms, Murphy’s Law is solid entertainment. The dialogue is sharp, not least Wilhoite’s continuous foul language (which adds some comedy) and Bronson is great as the not so great Jack Murphy. In fact, his character is a bit of an ass, messing things up more than he fixes them and Bronson actually seems to be savoring the chance to play a drunk. Plus, the interaction with him and Wilhoite is pleasantly engaging, the two making a very odd couple for an action flick.
In addition, having a female villain is a refreshing dynamic and Snodgress is excellent as the hell bent hereon, totally believable as a woman on a violent war path. Thompson also stages some impressive action, proceedings climaxing in an extended shootout in a dark and deserted hotel. Excitingly staged and filmed, getting a great atmospheric feel out of the setting, there is mucho crossbow and shotgun blazing action and a great kiss-off one liner for Bronson.
Certainly a case of “they don’t make them like this anymore” which all adds to the enjoyment of Murphy’s Law. It may be a bit of a mish-mash but there is enough tough talk, pulp noir and violent action to make this one of Bronson’s most entertaining.
My new review of The Yakuza at Far East Films (www.fareastfilms.com)
My new review of I'm a Cyborg but that's Ok at Far East Films (www.fareastfilms.com)
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
Dogs of Chinatown and Contour at The Stunt People (www.thestuntpeople.com)
Dogs of Chinatown at All Aces Media (http://allacesmedia.com)
My Resident Evil: Extinction review gets a mention and a link at number 5 in this cool Zombie movie list at Only Good Movies:
Underground and Bodyguard: A New Beginning
DRIVEN TO KILL (2009)
Directed by: Jeff King
Starring: Steven Seagal, Dimitry Chepovetsky & Igor Jijikine
Seagal has been making direct-to-DVD stinkers for a while now but recently they’ve been turning around in quality and getting better. Sort of. Driven to Kill continues this new trend, and while it’s still a long away from the likes of Hard to Kill and Under Siege, it’s a decent enough, if predictable, Seagal flick with some hard edged action.
Here he plays a one time Russian gangster called Ruslan, now turned crime novelist. Well he’s been a chef, an environmental warrior and even a doctor (!), so why the hell not: Seagal can be a crime novelist. This is all by-the-by as it’s mentioned all but twice and serves little purpose to the plot which sees Ruslan’s daughter being attacked and seriously hurt by some nasty mobster heavies. This means Ruslan steps back into action mode as he hunts down those responsible and dishes out the pain. Ok it’s all pretty straight forward and standard formula but there is one twist that makes it just a little different from all the out-for-revenge Seagal flicks. His daughter’s fiancé (played well by Dimitry Chepovetsky) accompanies Ruslan on his quest for vengeance, his gangster father responsible for his future wife's attack. However, he is not the gangster is father is and nowhere near as capable at dishing out the violent retribution like Ruslan. It’s a unique dynamic and gives Seagal a different kind of sidekick: one who wants to hurt the people that have hurt the one he loves but finds it difficult to do so.
More surprisingly, Seagal is in pretty much all of this flick. Doubling and dubbing is kept to a minimum and its fun to see Seagal actually be in one of his pictures all the way through. He even tries to act a bit. Just a bit, mind. The action is not bad either, again Seagal partaking in most of it. He has a wicked extended knife fight with a bad dude, there’s a great shootout in an enclosed parking lot and the sustained running gun battle in a hospital is exciting and explosive stuff. The action is clear and crisp and the fights punchy and brutal, Seagal getting to face off with Indiana Jones 4 bad guy, Igor Jijikine.
So, not great but not bad either with some solid action. And these days, that’s pretty good for a Seagal flick.
Monday, 7 December 2009
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
A snippet from my review of Hong Kong action film Fatal Move from Far East Films (www.fareastfilms.com) has made it onto the front cover of the Region 2 DVD release from Cine Asia:
"Entertaining slice of gangster action." FAREASTFILMS.COM
I made my first DVD cover. Wahoo :)
My review of Crying Fist on Far East Films (www.fareastfilms.com)