Friday, 30 January 2009

Extreme Prejudice



EXTREME PREJUDICE (1987)

Directed by: Walter Hill
Screenplay: Deric Washburn & Harry Kleiner
Starring: Nick Nolte, Powers Boothe, William Forsythe, Michael Ironside, Rip Torn & Maria Conchito Alonso

Damn, they sure don’t make them like this anymore. Tough as nails and spitting grit, Extreme Prejudice is about men being men, bad dudes being bad and everyone sweating their souls out in the deep deserts of Texas and Mexico. Walter Hill is known for is gruff and tough thrillers (The Driver, 48 Hours, Red Heat) and Extreme Prejudice is no different. Nick Nolte is a no-nonsense rock hard Texas Ranger whose best friend, Powers Boothe, just happens to be the South’s number one drug kingpin. Determined to clean up his town, Nolte will stop at nothing even alienating his smoking hot girlfriend (Alonso) and challenging Boothe to a duel to the death. At the same time a crack team of former and presumed dead military commandos have shown up to take down the drug empire lead by the mysterious Michael Ironside. But what is their real intention? Well, one thing is for sure: all hell breaks loose.



Slick, sweaty and swift moving Extreme Prejudice is on the one hand the kind of great 80s action movie they don’t make anymore: violent, tough talking dialogue and lots of barnstorming action. On the other hand it’s also a gritty, hard boiled look at some very mean men going about their very mean business. Loyalties and friendships are tried and tested as those who are trying to do the right thing are tested continually by those who are trying to break the law. Nolte plays one of the toughest movie cops to grace the silver screen, a guy who will not back down from a fight and will stand by his word no matter what. He’s no one liner sprouting superhero, just a very hard bastard who has a very hard job to do. Likewise, Boothe is excellent as the thoroughly nasty villain who may have had principals to begin with but have long since evaporated under a sea of drugs, murder and corruptive power. Michael Ironside (Total Recall) gets one of his best roles as the almost robotic like military leader and there is entertaining support from the likes of William Forsythe (Out for Justice) and the all too brief on screen Rip Torn (Wonderboys).



While this is a great film (and make no bones about it: it is) a few factors haven’t dated so well. Some may find Forsythe’s hillbilly nut-job a little overbearing and irritating, though he does give it his all and the very sexy Maria Conchito Alonso (Predator 2) gets the thankless role of the 80s action throwaway female caught in the middle of all the flying bullets. In addition, some scenes and supposed hard talking dialogue may now seem dated and a little unintentionally humorous thanks to twenty years passing and hundreds of other action movies diluting the effect. But, having said all that, Extreme Prejudice is still corking entertainment and a great story about characters living on the edge and caught in spiralling out of control circumstances.

On top of this Hill stages some very impressive action scenes not least including two amazingly sustained gun battles. The first at what appears to be an abandoned gas station features Notle taking out an army of bad guys almost single handily as he uses cars as shields and takes down the bad guys with precision timing. The second being the extremely bloody squibtastic finale which has to be one of the most violent outside of a Peckinpah film and pretty much worth seeing the film for alone.

A great action flick that deserves to be rediscovered as it’s a worthy slice of mean hombre action entertainment.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Hero Wanted



HERO WANTED (2008)

Directed by: Brian Smrz
Written by: Chad & Evan Law
Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr, Norman Reedus & Ray Liotta

Hero Wanted comes from action/stunt supreme Brain Smrz (Face/Off, Die Hard 4.0), making his directional debut, and while it isn’t wholly successful in it’s non-linear story telling approach and serious take on an action film, it is nevertheless a tough and entertaining slice of hard boiled action. Liam Case (Gooding Jr) is a pretty decent guy trying to get by. Having lost his wife in a terrible car accident he gets a second chance at heroics when he rescues a young girl from a burning crashed car. Somewhat rejuvenated with life, Case decides to ask the foxy girl at his local bank out to try and put the past behind him. But having a serious case of the nerves, he orchestrates his buddy to pretend to hold up the bank so he can save her and this way overcome his fear of, well, talking to her. However, Case’s buddy, Swain (Reedus) isn’t exactly a great friend and roping in his gang of violent criminal friends they decide to rob the bank for real. This leads to the death of Miss foxy bank teller (the incredibly foxy Christa Campbell) and sets Case on a course of revenge which involves lots and lots of shooting.



Now no-one will claim Hero Wanted’s plot exists in any kind of reality (asking your buddy to pretend to rob a bank just so you can talk to a girl, a case in point) but as a slice of hard bolied action noir, Hero Wanted works surprisingly well. With slick production values, competent direction and all the actors delivering committed performances, Hero Wanted offers something a little different to the action genre. We still have some awesomely brutal fights and an epic shootout but we also get nicely fleshed out characters. Gooding Jr is very good as the conflicted and mortally wounded (both mentally and physically) Case, if a little over earnest in some scenes. However, the scenes he shares with Jean Smart, playing the mother of the foxy bank teller, are deftly handled and bring a very touching human element to a very violent film. The bad guys (Reedus, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Steven Kozlowski) are all thoroughly nasty and evil; though, refreshingly, don’t end up dead in the expected stereotyped manner. There is also good support from Ben Cross, Todd Jensen and the always great Ray Liotta.

The flick unfolds in a non-linear fashion, meaning events flip flop back on one another until they finally straighten out into a coherent manner. It’s an effective, if little confusing, narrative tool that adds something a little extra to the usual story of a man taking up arms to right some wrongs. The dialogue is appropriately hard bitten and sweary and the character interaction pleasingly witty, dynamic and in certain scenes, emotional. On top of that, there is some corking action. Not least two down and very dirty fights, one in a mechanics work shop and another is night club bathroom. Violent, inventive and they hit hard.

Not a film for everyone or every action fan but a worthy attempt at doing something a little different and overall, a very entertaining slice of pulp action fiction. Good stuff.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Death Sentence



DEATH SENTENCE (2007)

Directed by: James Wan
Screenplay: Ian Jeffers
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Garret Hedlund, Kelly Preston & John Goodman

A blistering action revenge thriller, Death Sentence is a full on vigilante flick. In this day and age of watered down everything, Death Sentence looks and plays like a great 80s action film and despite the stars and gloss is a grind house flick at heart. The story of a successful family man (Bacon) taking vengeance on those who wrongly took the life of his son is hardly anything revolutionary but it’s all in the execution: emotional impact, some finely constructed action scenes and a downward spiral for the main character that refuses to let there be a happy outcome.



James Wan (the director of the original, and best, Saw) crafts a riveting revenge thriller that has just enough twists and turns and emotional connection to make it more than its violent set pieces. It may not be the most subtle critique of violence and vengeance but in cinematic terms it delivers the best kind of revenge thriller that hasn’t been seen since the genre’s heyday in the 70s and 80s. Kevin Bacon, one of the most underrated and consistently impressive Hollywood actors is the core of the film, delivering a performance that shows his character’s vulnerability and ineptitude as well as his determination to right the wrong and (when pushed to the limit) adapt to dangerous circumstances when needed. He still retains an everyman feel about him, even when proving handy with a shotgun, meaning he is much more of an emotionally engaging character than a one liner sprouting action hero (though they have their place in cinema as well). Garret Hedlund (Four Brothers) is also memorable, cutting a fierce villain as the head of the gang that slays Bacon’s son and there is quality support from Kelly Preston, Jordan Garret and John Goodman.



The flick may be glossy but it doesn’t hold back in the violence and on screen justice. While never overly gory or relentlessly violent, Death Sentence still packs a punch when it comes to dishing out scumbag annihilating action. Wan infuses the action with kineticism, the camera often roving and running with the actors creating a real sense of momentum. A foot chase cum fight within a car fast approaching the top edge of a multi storey car park is a breathless piece of action and is jacked up with intensity as a good chunk of it unfolds in one single take. Likewise a home invasion scene and the climatic shotgun blasting finale show that Wan is just as capable at crafting intense action as he is horror.

Despite a few flaws in logic and the occasional slip into silliness (the bit where a car gets driven through a van, severing it completely in two, is just a little over the top); Death Sentence is pure unadulterated action revenge entertainment. The polar opposite in terms of execution to Jodie Foster’s similar The Brave One (itself another excellent if more thoughtful, though no less violent, revenge thriller), Death Sentence showcases the talents of a great actor, a blossoming director and some barnstorming action.

Scarred City



SCARRED CITY (1998)

Written & Directed by: Ken Sanzel
Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Tia Carrere & Chazz Palminteri

Scarred City is an amped up little B-movie, that propels along and delivers plenty of well staged shoot-em up action scenes. John Trace (Baldwin) is a trigger happy cop who is up for review after shooting one to many perps in the line of duty. In fact, he is so trigger happy he shoots and kills yet another unarmed criminal and it looks like he is pretty much going to be canned from the force. However, Lieutenant Devon (Palminteri) is impressed by Trace’s shoot first don’t ask any questions attitude. “Fixing it” so he can stay on the force, Devon assigns Trace to a Special Police Squad who target notorious criminals with zero tolerance: they shoot to kill, no questions asked. Trace is reluctant at first but sees it as a chance to remain a cop but as the actions of the Squad become ever increasingly dangerous and put more and more people in harms way, Trace soon finds he may be on the wrong end of a shotgun from those who are supposed to uphold the law.



This may not be the most gritty police flick every made but it is certainly tough and packed with full on shotgun blasting action. Equal parts tense and pulpy, Scarred City is riveting fun as the cast run through a gauntlet of high impact gunplay scenes. All the principals act well taking things seriously when needed and hamming it up when the pulp aspects of the story call for it. The plot follows a well worn path but is kept entertaining by the on form cast and great action: lots of well orchestrated shoot-outs that feature mucho shotgun play and fierce firepower. Well shot and cut, the action flows fluidly and is evenly paced throughout the movie. Highlights include fire-fights in an abandoned gas station and a huge shootout in and around a house. Good quality, bare bones action.

The film comes from Ken Sanzel who wrote and directed the equally great shotgun happy action flick Lone Hero (reviewed elsewhere on this blog). This guy knows a thing or two about making action films, framing interesting characters and snappy dialogue around hard hitting action scenes. He seems to be relegated to TV writing these days (a driving force behind hit show Numbers) but made an impression with wicked B-movies Scarred City and Lone Hero. It’s a pity he isn’t making more of them. Scarred City may not go down in the history of great cops flick but it is certainly a tight and terrific little action thriller that is well worth hunting down.


Thursday, 15 January 2009

Blade: House of Chthon



BLADE: HOUSE OF CHTHON (2006)

Directed by: Peter O’Fallon
Written by: David S. Goyer
Starring: Kirk ‘Sticky Fingaz’ Jones, Jill Wagner, Jessica Gower & Nelson Lee

Blade and Blade 2 are still two of the finest Marvel comic books to movie adaptations. Fusing horror, blistering action and the distinctive style of directors Stephen Norrington and Guillermo del Toro, they made comic book movies adult and didn’t hold back on violence and gore. Both instalments were penned by David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, The Unborn and, yes, Kickboxer 2) and much of the success of the films is down to his writing. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite make it a hat trick with the third instalment, Blade Trinity, which he also directed. It started off well but after introducing too many new characters, killing of one of the best: again (Whistler) and finally descending into campness, Blade Trinity didn’t live up to expectations. So when star Wesley Snipes jumped ship the progression of the Blade franchise morphed into a short lived TV series. House of Chthon was the pilot episode and it’s certainly entertaining and well made for a TV movie but it unfortunately doesn’t continue the greatness of the first two films and comes across more as a Buffy/Angel spin off that a continuation of the Blade universe.



Written once again by Goyer, House of Chthon spends a little too much time rehashing who Blade is, why he does what he does and setting him up with a new helper/weapons manufacturer. This is all good and well for those first discovering Blade through the TV series but us movie fans have to sift through what we all ready know. This time Blade is up against some ancient house of vampires who are slowly gaining control of the city. This is the first big mistake: the bad guys just aren’t that threatening and fall into the slightly camp, new wave, pseudo Goth approach to vampires: all swanning around in frilly dresses, velvet suits and various forms of silly leather. They don’t come across as threatening, don’t seem like a formidable enemy for Blade and, as mentioned, feel like they have walked in off an episode of Angel. Not good. In the original Blade, Stephen Dorff was surprisingly good as the bad guy dressed in nothing but a suit, wielding a sword and surrounded by scuzzy goons. Likewise, Blade 2 had the awesome Novak (played by Luke Goss) a down and dirty vampire who actually looked like he could kick Blade’s ass. Trinity did have Parker Posey and wrestling's HHH who made for good bad guys until they were squandered away on some camp, pseudo Goth Dracula. Unfortunately, House of Chthon doesn’t quite have the bite or grit of the first two Blades and if it weren’t for the Blade character actually appearing would feel just like any other fantasy/horror TV show.



However, House of Chthon isn’t a complete waste of time. The main cast are pretty decent and Jones does a commendable job of filling Snipes’ boots (though can’t quite get his menacing growl down). For a TV movie it is also satisfyingly packed with gore and decent action. The gore is surprisingly bloody for a TV movie and there are plenty of fights and scraps featuring Blade hacking and slashing vampires. The action is refreshingly acrobatic but a little stunted by TV editing: obviously toning down the violent impact for TV. Still, a big shootout cum fight in the vampire’s hideout and a nifty opening sequence showing Blade hunting down a bad vamp showcase some solid action and choreography.

The Blade franchise unfortunately lost its teeth when unnecessary secondary characters were introduced, darkness was replaced somewhat by campness and the main man himself was pushed to the sidelines. House of Chthon is by no means a disaster and certainly worth a watch but will probably be favoured more by the Angel and Buffy crowd.

Martial Outlaw



MARTIAL OUTLAW (1993)

Directed by: Kurt Anderson
Screenplay by: Thomas Ritz
Starring: Jeff Wincott & Gary Hudson

B-movie action star, Jeff Wincott, made a series of tough guy martial arts films throughout the 90s video kung fu boom. Titles such as Martial Law 2 (with Cynthia Rothrock) and Mission Of Justice catapulted Wincott to action man status. Perhaps the best of the bunch was Martial Outlaw. Produced by Pierre David (Deep Cover, Scanners 2 & 3), Martial Outlaw is nothing new in the story department but offers some solid direction, a good performance by Wincott and plenty of bang for your buck.



Wincott plays yet another hard-hitting cop (well, DEA agent this time), Kevin White, who has a penchant for kung fu. Hot on the trail of the Russian Mafia, White plants an informer within their ranks and waits for the opportune time to bust them. Following the Russians to LA, he meets up with his wayward cop brother, Jack (Hudson) who also has a thing for bone breaking and skull crushing. Except the two brother are opposite sides of the same coin: Kevin: good, Jack: bad. Cottoning on to Kevin’s case, Jack manipulates his way into both helping Kevin and the cops and then setting the Mafia against them. Set-up and out numbered, Kevin must fight not only the Russian Mafia, but his brother as well. Add in an alcoholic father, an estranged wife of Jack’s who kinda fancies Kevin, and a big muscle bound Russian you know our hero will have to fight come the finale, and you have yourself a pretty damn good martial arts/cop flick.

The predictable plotline, along with cheesy tough guy talk and a few dramatic scenes that don’t quite convince, do not stop Martial Outlaw being what it essentially is: a great action film. A moderate budget means there are some decent production values and camerawork and director Kurt Anderson (Open Fire) keeps proceedings moving at a brisk and brutal pace. The story is not completely ignored in favour of fisticuffs, meaning characters are fleshed out a little more than usual. Wincott gives a decent performance handling the dialogue as good as the fights (this is one of his best performances). Only a cartoon villain, Hudson’s occasional overacting (though he does well as coming across as a real shit) and the underdeveloped subplot of the brother’s alcoholic father (character actor Richard Jaeckel making one of his last screen appearances and looking very worse for ware) hinder what for the most part, is a well put together film.



Now to the main ingredient, and the real reason most people will watch this flick: the action. Wincott is a talented fighter but hasn’t always found the right vehicle to best showcase his skills. Yet he really shines here, in a serious of brutal fights. The best are a sustained fight in a restaurant and a free-for-all in a gymnasium. The former features more table-crushing, arm breaking and kicks to the face than several action films put together. Wincott is a gifted kicker and Hudson holds his own too, though is obviously better at punching than kicking, as he looks a bit wobbly on a few occasions. The gymnasium fight sees Wincott take on a selection of Russian heavies, which incorporates sticks, dumb bells and mucho kicking. Wincott’s fight on a theatre stage between two goons is also effective, with a little bit of wirework added for some extra oomph. In fact, all the action is well handled often crisp, brutal and well shot. Only the fight between Wincott and big Russian heavy, Sergei, disappoints, it being over all too soon. Taking a look at the credits (and some of us do watch them) it’s no wonder the action is so good. It’s a relative whose who of the stunt/fight world. Choreography and stunt coordinating is handled by Jeff Pruitt (Buffy, Bounty Tracker), with additional choreography and stunt work handled by Koichi Sakamoto (the martial arts-tastic Drive and Wicked Game) and Spiro Razatos (Rage, Bad Boys 2). Even Tsuyoshi Abe (Daredevil, Black Friday) and Al Leong (Die Hard, just about every action film made in the eighties) get in on the action and stunt work. Good pedigree indeed.

Great action, skilful direction and a likeable leading performance from Wincott make Martial Outlaw one of the best 90s American martial arts films. Tough, action packed and doesn’t out stay its welcome. What more could you ask for?

China O'Brien



CHINA O’BRIEN (1990)
Written & Directed by: Robert Clouse
Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton & Keith Cooke

After several years of success working in Hong Kong action movies and kicking pretty much everyone’s butt, the blonde fury Cynthia Rothrock got her chance at starring in western films, China O’Brien and its almost identical sequel being perhaps the most successful and popular. It’s late eighties/early nineties, low budget action cheese all the way, as Rothrock plays the title character, a disgraced cop returning to her hometown only to be forced into cleaning it up after corruption has, well, corrupted the town. This leads to some painfully awful acting and moments of grade A cheese but also lots and lots of butt kicking.

Silly to the max and featuring a bevy of gurning bad guys and gee-golly-whiz good guys, China O’Brien is almost like a nostalgic time bubble: the video store used to be flooded with these cheap and cheerful action flicks, a lot of them so bad they are good. China O’Brien was a huge hit and also featured genre favourites Richard (City Hunter) Norton and Keith (King of the Kickboxers) Cooke, who both get ample chance to strut their stuff in the action scenes. Cooke’s bizarre Indian/drifter character even comes with a maimed hand complete with ridiculously huge metal bracelet that for some crazy reason also doubles up as the key to his motorcycle! Like I said, so bad it’s good. To make up for all the hammy acting and crazy plotting, China O’Brien is mercifully packed full of high impact martial arts. Low tech in it’s approach and no where near as sustained or as sophisticated as the action in many of the Hong Kong action films which Rothrock and Norton appeared in, the action is nevertheless fast, fun and frenetic. Oodles of one on one fights, painful take downs and high falls and loads and loads of checked shirt wearing, dodgy moustached goons getting their asses whooped. Good stuff.

Hard to believe it came from the same director as action benchmark classic Enter the Dragon but China O’Brien is still extra cheesy fun and great with a six pack. The sequel that followed, China O’Brien 2, featured all the same cast, even more fights and almost exactly the same plot as the first. Awesome.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Chocolate



CHOCOLATE (2008)

Directed by: Prachya Pinkaew
Written by: Napalee Sakveerakul & Chookiat Sakveerakul
Starring: Jeeja Yanin

Thai action cinema continues to dominate the arena and Chocolate is another superb example. From the makers of international hits Ong Bak and Warrior King, Chocolate features oodles of bone breaking action, a rather touching story and a ton of creativity. Ong Bak and Warrior King made Tony Jaa a star but Chocolate sees new sensation Jeeja Yanin take centre stage. She plays Zen, a young girl born with autism who lives with her single mum. Having escaped the gangster world, the two live from day to day trying to lead a normal life. Despite her condition Zen is blessed with the ability to mimic the moves of martial arts stars she watches in movies. Finding it a way to help her focus she becomes adept at martial arts and along with her best friend performs for crowds of people to earn a little extra cash. But when Zen’s mother falls foul to leukaemia and they need more money to pay doctor’s bills, Zen decides to go collect all the debts owed to her mother from her days as a gangster’s moll. Needless to say, the gangsters aren’t too cooperative leading Zen to unleash some wicked moves.



Chocolate had a lot to live up to coming from the same director as Ong Bak, a film it was always going to be compared to. But Chocolate isn’t just a female version of Ong Bak. It certainly delivers a ton of well orchestrated fight scenes but there is a lot heart to Chocolate as well. Jeeja Yanin makes a very impressive debut as not only did she have to train extensively for the fight scenes but learn how to convincingly portray autism as well. She does an amazing job convincing in both departments and imbuing Zen with an affectionate quality. It’s also incredible that she makes you believe this young girl can kick so much ass. The action is rough, tough and very painful. Overseen by Thai action guru Panna Rittikari (Ong Bak, Born to Fight) Jeeja Yanin cuts lose in a serious of inventive fights that climaxes in an amazing 20 minute takedown inside, on top of and down one side of a building. This petite woman has awesome kicking power and throws herself into the fights feet, head and elbows first. Highlights include a painful scrap in a meat market, an ice house fight where she imitates Bruce Lee and an awesome (but all too brief) fight were she takes on another autism suffering teenager who can fight just as well as her. Its knuckle dusting, bone crunching, elbow and knee bashing fun as the fights get more elaborate, creative and just down right painful. Some may have trouble believing this little woman is kicking everyone’s butt and the fights aren’t as fast and acrobatic as Ong Bak but they are nevertheless brilliant and again show why Thai films are at the forefront of action cinema.

No doubt it will always be in the shadow of Tony Jaa’s films but Chocolate is just as worthy. Exhilarating action and just plain good old story telling and one mighty performance from that little lady makes Chocolate one of the best no holds barred action films to come out in some time.




War



WAR (2007)

Directed by: Phillip G. Atwell
Written by: Lee Anthony Smith & Gregory J. Bradley
Starring: Jet Li, Jason Statham & Devon Aoki

War is never really sure what it wants to be. Is it a full throttle action flick? Not really, though that is the way it was sold. Is it a gritty thriller about Triads, Yakuza and deadly assassins? Not really either, though again it does try and in some scenes comes pretty close. It’s a bit of both: there’s some action, there’s some drama, there’s some double crossing and there is quite a bit of talking from loads and loads of characters (something the trailer certainly didn’t play up). Li and Statham have made their fair share of Hollywood action pics, even one together before this (The One) and War is certainly not their best but far from their worst (Li’ worst being Romeo Must Die, Statham’s, I dunno, maybe The Italian Job, that was pretty bad). Li is a deadly assassin called Rogue who is trying to spark a war (for various convoluted reasons) between local Triads and Yakuza. Statham and his partner get in his way, the partner predictably killed and setting Statham on a quest for moody vengeance. Thus, all hell breaks loose. Well, it eventually does, sort of and then just kind of ends.



The problem with War is that there just isn’t enough grit and oomph to make it a tough thriller and not enough action to make it a fun action movie. The production is slick, the cast filled with familiar faces but it all kind of goes nowhere until a twist comes out of left field, followed by another one immediately afterwards and then, as mentioned, everything just kinda ends. Li looks bored, never really fights and often seems like he can’t wait to get out of there. Statham does his thing, is pretty good and rarely gets to fight either. The flick at least tries to take its story seriously, maybe a little too much sometimes, but doesn’t quite have the conviction to sell it. Everything is pretty standard up until those twists make an appearance and there is unfortunately too many characters popping up here, there and everywhere, that after a while you just kinda go, “Huh, who was that?” The action isn’t too great either. It’s not bad apart from a very sloppy scene that opens the film but nothing spectacular and never frequent enough. A car chase is all but spoilt by awful back projection (whatever happened to actually having actors drive around for real?) but there is a cool, hard hitting shootout/fight in a Japanese teahouse. But with Li, Statham and action maestro Cory Yuen (Kiss of the Dragon) on board, this really should have been better.

Still, War is entertaining in fits and starts some scenes working very well, such as Statham and his partner sitting having a chat as the opening credits roll. Once again, it’s not as bad you might have heard but Li and Statham fans will probably be disappointed and what is up with the abrupt ending? Distinctly average.



Red Scorpion 2



RED SCORPION 2 (1994)

Directed by: Michael Kennedy
Written by: Barry Victor & Troy Blotonick
Starring: Matt McColm, Jennifer Rubin, John Savage & Michael Ironside

Low budget, action packed fun that’s all kinds of absurd but that all adds to the cheap charm of Red Scorpion 2. A sequel in name only to the Dolph Lundgren starring original, this has nothing to do with part one. Red Scorpion was an ok but often dull Lundgren vehicle that’s not too fondly remembered. Red Scorpion 2 is actually probably an improvement. Not that it’s a better film per se but it’s just a lot more fun and packed with cool shootouts and stunts. Matt McColm (Cellular) is a bad ass soldier type fella who along with his team of rag tag Special Forces folks (who, in typical action movie style, he is reluctant to work with as you know, he works alone) must infiltrate a gang of Neo Nazi’s led by John Savage (The Deer Hunter).

Now Red Scorpion 2 was made and released in a time when action movies, especially of the low budget and straight-to-video variety, just had to have a couple of abandoned warehouses/industrial estates to stage a whole load of action and explosions and a ridiculously over-the-top villain for the hero to blow up. Red Scorpion 2 has both of these by the bucket load and is all the better for it. The story is just plain bonkers with the once great John Savage hamming it up to pantomime levels and even wearing hilariously camp leather gloves. His speech about the wind is even more hilarious and gives off the impression he is shouting about some kind of stomach upset rather than making some kind of connection between him and nature. On top of this we have the most unconvincing team of soldiers possibly ever committed to celluloid, Neo-Nazi’s shooting up Christian get togethers, a bit of nudity, some Russian dude training the Yanks for the mission (ah, there’s the connection with the first one), and the Spear of Destiny. Yep, the spear that pierced Christ’s side makes an appearance and in true B-movie fashion gets well and truly blown up. And I’m pretty sure the great Michael Ironside (Total Recall) was in there somewhere too.

I had a hoot watching Red Scorpion 2 as it’s jammed with lots of cool warehouse/abandoned factory style action. Lots of shooting and no-one getting hit, squibs, high falls, diving while firing two guns, bad dudes thrown through windows, some cool fist fights and loads and loads of explosions. In fact, for a low budget flick they cram in a lot of action, stunts and explosions the stunt community getting ample chance to earn their wage. Low rent fun.