Saturday, 25 April 2009

Crank 2 : High Voltage



CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE

Written & Directed by: Neveldine/Taylor
Starring: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Efran Ramirez & Dwight Yoakam

The original Crank was a wild ride into hard boiled weirdness and action overload as Chev Chelios (Statham) ran frantically around LA trying to keep himself alive with adrenaline to stop the poison from running through his veins killing him. Fast, funny, kooky and more than a little un-PC, Crank turned the action movie on its head gleefully embracing the notion that if it is highly implausible then lets do it. Well the sequel makes the original look like a normal, straight forward film. As mainstream cinema begins to once again push the boundaries of on screen violence, High Voltage pushes the realms of plausibility, everything that is un-PC and ample amounts of excessive violence up and well and truly through the stratosphere. It’s also a right ruddy hoot.



After falling from a helicopter and bouncing of a car at the end of Crank, Chev Chelios is in fact not dead at all, despite everything to the contrary suggesting otherwise. High Voltage kicks off pretty much where the original left off with Chev scooped up off the ground by some Triad gangsters, whisked away and in a disgusting but extremely funny sequence has his heart taken out and replaced with an artificial one. Three months later he wakes up, gets pissed and goes looking for his real heart which has become a hot property on the black market organ field, having thwarted off the deadly Chinese poison from the first flick. When the end of your first flick climaxes with the protagonist falling from a helicopter and bouncing off a car and presumably dying and then you are asked to make a sequel with the same said character, then quite rightly the only way you can go is the way High Voltage does: push everything to the max, cram in every insane idea you have (as its pretty much got to be insane after your main character falls from a helicopter and bounces off a car: and lives!) and pour on oodles and oodles of violence and filthy fun. Writers/producers/directors, Neveldine/Taylor do just this, giving their wicked character another 90 mins or so of screen life to strut about, cause chaos and shock himself with everything imaginable in order to keep his heart going.



The punk action filmmakers Neveldine/Taylor were obviously given free reign to do what they wanted and High Voltage plays like a collection of all the stuff they weren’t allowed to do in Crank mark 1. Their blitzkrieg off snazzy camerawork and whiplash editing propels the movie which is buoyed by an assortment of rude and crude characters straight out of an adult rated comic book. Not only do pretty much all the characters of the original reappear at some point there is whole bevy of new increasingly mad characters including Bai Ling’s barmy Asian stereotype hooker who takes a shine to Chelios, Corey Haim playing a hilarious, mulleted douche bag (yes, Corey Haim!) and David Carradine as, well, it’s best you just see for yourself. Hell, Geri Halliwell is even in there at one point. What the!? Despite all the craziness and the mounting array of weirdoes it’s Statham as Chelios who still owns the movie. The Crank films have allowed him to remain his bad ass action self but also flex his comedy muscles as the near indestructible anti-hero. Make no bones about it, Chelios is a bad man but he is the most identifiable human in amongst the cavalcade of crazies. Well, when he is not attaching jumper cables to his nipples, having Godzilla hallucinations in the middle of a fist fight (has to be seen to be believed!) and shoving shotguns up people’s arses.

About as un-PC as it can get, at least in mainstream cinema, High Voltage leaves no stone unturned in its onslaught of racial abuse (and no-one is left out), al fresco sex practices, body parts being severed and in your face violence. Neveldine/Taylor thankfully keep it just the right side of trying too hard (just!) as the momentum rarely stops for you to realize what you have actually just seen or heard and they work in an alarming amount of funny sight gags often in the middle of an action scene. Hilarious in the most offensive way, the directors work in as many laughs as they do insane action scenes not least a scene where they practically stop the film to do a gag about what happened to the hospital orderly from the first film that had to juice Chelios with a defibrillator. Hilarious and completely bonkers.



But they haven’t forgotten about the action either. Crank suffered a little from the pace slowing now and again but High Voltage gets the adrenaline pumping with almost continuous action as Chelios takes out people like he is walking around in a video game. They also keep the camera whirling and twirling through the action helping to sustain the sensation of madness and even stage a ridiculous shootout in the back of a limo. The violence is ratcheted up with blood (and silicone implants) spurting here, there and everywhere and Statham spends pretty much the whole film, well, running.

High Voltage is as barmy as it gets but that is what makes it so great. It’s unlikely you will see anything else quite like it in the action movie world and Chev Chelios is such a great character it would be great to see him come back for one more go around. I can’t begin to list the amount of awesome scenes in High Voltage (the dog collar bit; the tazor/lesbian stripper bit; Corey Haim’s t-shirt and hair; every bit with Bai Ling) as for the lack of a better word everything is: awesome. Don’t go see it if you are at all offended by nudity, extreme violence, very un-PC comedy and if you at all get upset by there not being enough “plot”. If you don’t go and see it, you will be missing out on one very funny, action packed ride that tops its predecessor in every way. Roll on Neveldine/Taylor’s next film, Game.

Roadflower (aka Road Killers)



ROADFLOWER (1994)

Director: Deran Sarafian
Screenplay: Tedi Sarafian
Starring: Christopher Lambert, Craig Scheffer, David Arquette, Christopher
McDonald, Michelle Forbes, Josh Brolin, Adrienne Shelley, Alexandra Lee, John Pyper-Ferguson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

The desert road. Long, arduous, lonely. You and your family or you and a couple of friends travelling cross country. Everything going fine. Maybe the odd argument. Until you piss off the wrong trucker or pick up a bad hitch-hiker (or in the case of The Forsaken, run into vampires) that perfect road trip goes to hell. Suddenly you are fighting for your life, the road appears desolate and devoid of anyone, the people you do manage to find seem weirder than those who are chasing you and you find yourself surviving impossible car stunts and your driving becomes surprisingly skilled as you try to outrun your pursuer and the disbelieving cops. The terrorised road trip genre has given us many classics including Duel, Hitch-Hike, Roadkill (a.k.a Joyride), Highwaymen Breakdown and the wholly godfather of them all The Hitcher. Roadflower (a.k.a Road Killers) is another entry in this genre hailing from 1994 and starts off promisingly buts ends up a mixed bag.



Jack (Lambert), Helen (Forbes) and their daughter Ashley (Lee) are on a road trip, passing through desert America. Along for the ride are their close friend Glen (McDonald) and his son Rich (Gordon-Levitt). Stopping to fix Jack’s car, Rich wanders into the road to examine a sole flower that has grown out of the asphalt (the road flower of the title). A speeding Cadillac whips past, almost killing him and infuriating Glen. After they calm Glen down, the road-trippers stop at a highway diner for some chow. Spotting the Cadillac at the diner, Glen confronts the driver, Cliff (Sheffer) and gives him an earful. Little does he realise Cliff is a fully feldged psychopath and he and his crew speed off after the travelers, resulting in a deadly game of chicken and Glen’s death. The gang also leave Jack for dead and kidnap his family, holding them hostage in an abandoned farmhouse. Jack survives but is mistakenly arrested by the police. With the help of a fellow prisoner (Pyper-Ferguson), who might just know more about the killers than he is letting on, Jack rushes to save his family.



Roadflower is a film of two halves. One half road chase thriller, one half talky, psychological battle of wits. Both halves are pretty good in their own right but never quite gel as a whole. The first half hour (road chase thriller) is taut and suspenseful. Director Sarafain builds up tension superbly as Jack, his family and friends are terrorised by Cliff and his gang. Shot in a claustrophobic manner by James Carter, and with tense music by Les Hooper, the filmmakers create a sense of impending doom. The desert location is sweatily evoked and McDonald is very effective as the increasingly harassed Glen. After a silly, but well staged game of chicken, Glen is killed in a rather disturbing scene and the stage is set for a dramatic game of cat and mouse across the American desert. However, the tone change somewhat as the film switches its perspective from Jack’s desperate family man to Cliff’s demented gang of drifters.

After an oddly humorous scene of Tom (Brolin) and Red (Shelley), two of Cliff’s gang members, failing to kill Jack, the next 30-40 minutes focus on Cliff and the gang tormenting Jack’s family. This is done well (as much as torturing a family can be considered well), Sheffer proving rather menacing as the mentally unstable Cliff. We get to see a psycho dealing with his own inner demons as well as being a cold blooded killer. Brolin is equally good as Tom, a gang member who doubts what Cliff is doing. The whole gang (including Shelley’s Red and Arquette’s Bobby) is a group of mentally challenged misfits who give the impression of a bunch of escaped asylum inmates. The scenes of the gang falling apart are well acted with a suspenseful edge to them.



However, Jack’s quest to find his family is to some extent put on the backburner. Shifting the focus of the story onto Sheffer’s character ruins the momentum which was built up in the first half hour. It’s a noble effort to flesh out the usual psycho characters but focusing so much on the bad guys ruins the great road chase movie this promised to be. Despite being given top billing, Lambert spends most of the time off screen. His character is only seen briefly attempting to rescue his family (he also says about 4 words in the whole film). The subplot of an escaped convict who helps and hinders Lambert’s character is ill-advised. The chase thriller does kick in for the last twenty minutes or so but feels a little rushed and everything ends rather abruptly.

At a lean 86 minutes, one gets the sense a lot of chopping occurred in the editing room. Afterall, this is an earlier offering from the destroyer’s of film du jour: The Weinsteins. It seems someone was so pleased with Sheffers’ performance (good, but does get irritating after a while) they decided to change the focus of the film to his character. It would be interesting to see if Tedi Sarafian’s original script had more road chase elements to it. Despite this, Sarafian has made an entertaining and often disturbing little flick. Just don’t go into it expecting The Hitcher mark 2.

Sidenote: Whatever happened to Deran Sarafian? He showed great promise with arguably one the best Jean-Claude Van Damme films, Death Warrant and also made the criminally underrated Terminal Velocity. He seems to be stuck in T.V. hell now.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Resident Evil: Extinction



RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION (2007)

Directed by: Russell Mulchay
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Iain Glen, Oded Fehr, Ali Larter & Mike Epps

Occasionally movie franchises get better as they go along and once in while even hit their stride with the third instalment (see also Mission Impossible 3). Resident Evil: Extinction is Part 3 in the ongoing zombie saga and by far the best. All three films have been written by Paul W.S. Anderson (he of Mortal Kombat and Death Race) himself having directed the first instalment. Not a great film by any means as it was bogged down in too much fast cut editing and ridiculously loud pseudo-metal music over the action scenes and zombie attacks. It did however introduce us to the sprightly and sexy character of Alice (Jovovich) who has been with the series from the get go. Part 2, Apocalypse, was much more entertaining, stuffed with cool action, more zombies but lacking in the tension department. Extinction, however, gets pretty much everything right for a fun and action packed zombie Mad Max flick and mercifully cuts down on all that fast editing (for the most part).



The T-virus (which sent everyone batty and flesh eating crazy in the first two flicks) has spread around the globe turning it into one huge dust bowl. The dead prowl the earth simply wanting to eat the alive and Alice roams the baron desert looking for answers and kicking a huge amount of zombie butt. Meanwhile evil Dr. Isaacs (Glen) is holed up in an underground base still experimenting on zombies and trying to find Alice. Her skills have developed ten fold, even to psychic abilities, and are now seen as the ultimate weapon: not least in battling the undead. But she refuses to be captured and teams up with a convoy of survivors (including some friends from Apocalypse) and the rag tag team of drifters’ device a plan to escape to where there is no dead and take down Isaacs and his evil corporation.



Now a lot of the reason why I like this entry, and why I probably think it’s the best, is the definite Mad Max vibe. Having loved those movies I appreciate the vibe Extinction was going for. The desert setting is captured in all its sun soaked glory and makes for a different background (as opposed to dark cities and enclosed underground facilities) for zombie action to play out against. Seeing the dead roam the desert is a novel visual treat, not least the homage to Day of the Dead with the dead surrounding the top of the underground facility and being held back by nothing more than a chain link fence. With a convoy ripping through the desert means we get ample scenes of souped up vehicles charging along, running over zombies and giving plenty of momentum to the film. A sand sunken Las Vegas also makes an appearance, the famous gambling city hidden under the desert. Though it must be made clear that only a small portion of the film takes part in Las Vegas despite the marketing suggesting the whole flick was set there.



Another reason this instalment works so well (besides the incredibly sexy Jovovich who has honed the lethal, zombie slaying Alice to perfection) is Russell’s Mulchay’s direction. Tight, crisp and allowing the action to play out for suspenseful effect, Mulchay brings his considerable talent to the franchise and it’s good to see him playing in the big budget movie world again. He will always be known for Highlander but the guy has made some great underrated flicks including the Denzel Washington thriller, Ricochet, and comic book adventure, The Shadow. He also knows how to do action and Extinction is packed with some fine set pieces along with the requisite zombie gut munching. The action sequences are often big and nicely sustained playing out in a suspenseful manner. These include a great bit where the convoy is attacked by a fleet of crows (a la Hitchcock’s The Birds) and another scene where they try to storm the compound by flipping a petrol tanker. However, the best action occurs in the Las Vegas set segment where the convoy is besieged by hordes of dead dudes meaning they have to fight back with guns, knives and their hands. Well shot and cut this scene sees Jovovich using her considerable martial arts talent to take down zombies while the rest rely on good old firepower. Exhilarating stuff and top zombie slaying action.



Mulchay just a fine job of juggling the various plot strands, characters, big action set pieces and some impressive special effects. The only downside being that the hour and twenty five minute run time doesn’t really do justice to all the strands of the story. Scenes have obviously been cut to keep the velocity going but the flick could have been a good ten minutes longer to flesh out ideas and characters a bit more. That said Iain Glen’s Dr Isaac’s gets a substantially bigger part this time around and much opportunity to be down right evil.

Great, big sci-fi action fun with some excellent set pieces, Resident Evil: Extinction is a fine piece of entertainment. Jovovich owns this franchise and it’s always great to see her in action, likewise with director Mulchay who should get more chance to direct big films like this and if there is a fourth instalment, bring him back to helm it.

Cyborg Cop 2



CYBORG COP 2 (1994)

Directed by: Sam Firstenberg
Screenplay: Jon Stevens
Starring: David Bradley, Morgan Hunter & Jill Pierce

1990s B-movie regular and former American Ninja David Bradley is out battling raging cyborgs again in the imaginatively titled, Cyborg Cop 2. Bradley plays a cop who is after some renegade cyborgs (funnily enough, there is never an actual cyborg cop in any of the Cyborg Cop movies!!) one of whom happens to have killed his brother. Action on top of action occurs in obligatory B-movie fashion and shit gets well and truly blown up.



This is one of several films Bradley made for Nu Image (including the original Cyborg Cop and the excellent and underrated action fest, Hard Justice) and while it’s as barmy as a bag full of frogs, Cyborg Cop 2 does provide a substantial amount of well performed stunt packed action. Before Nu Image started producing bigger budget mainstream stuff their original straight-to-video output worked on one simple basis: pack in as much action as possible. This is a good plan when you consider how bad the dialogue and some of the acting is in Cyborg Cop 2. Bradley actually looks like he is having fun for a change and even works in a few one liners and gets ample chance to use his martial arts skills. Plenty of dust ups that are satisfyingly punchy and feature the stunt crew being thrown through the air and walls at regular intervals. A great set piece at a gas station features a ridiculous amount of explosions and cars flipping as the cyborgs destroy everything and everyone around them. In fact, the film is packed with explosions, pretty much everything having to blow up once a fight or shootout has taken place. The opening shootout and fight is also a staggering 16 minutes long, meaning Cyborg Cop 2 certainly delivers the bang for the buck.

There is the typical amount of absurdness that comes with a flick like this, not least the scene where a mother leaves her stranded child with the cyborgs only for Bradley to save him and chase her down and instead of asking her to pull over, throwing the kid into her moving car. All done in slow motion!! Then there is the main bad guy, Starkraven: get it? Stark Raving Mad! Bradley also runs around the whole time with a bum bag on and, oh yeah, everything pretty much blows up. Yep, B-movie absurdness. But if you are a B-movie connoisseur then Cyborg Cop 2 provides a good level of B-movie madness and a stack of great action.

Also known as: Cyborg Soldier



Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Doom



DOOM (2005)

Directed by: Andrezj Bartkowiak
Screenplay: Dave Callaham & Wesley Strick
Starring: Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike, Raz Adoti & The Rock

As far as video game to movie transitions go, Doom is a pretty solid bet. Having never really played the video game (I started and stopped with Italian plumbers jumping on mushrooms and blue hedgehogs collecting gold coins) I can’t really comment on how faithful this adaptation is compared to its source material but as a sci-fi, action film about a squad of marines being sent to Mars to investigate some genetically enhanced beasts running amok, it’s pretty decent. The Rock plays one oorah-loving, semper-fi obsessed military Sergeant (aptly named Sarge) who leads his platoon of unlikely soldiers to a research facility on Mars where some experiments have gone very, very wrong.

Despite some ropey dialogue and the occasional dip in tension and intensity to stereotype the characters a little more in order to get a giggle out of the teenage contingent who will lap this film up, Doom is often effective in its tense stalk and slash approach and gore filled action. Which is surprising since it comes from the director of such action garbage as Romeo Must Die and Exit Wounds. But director Bartkowiak and his crew have crafted a moody, gore soaked action flick that is equal parts intense and blood spurting fun. Now the script is pretty straight down the line: a bunch of monsters are loose in a quarantined Mars facility; tough talking soldiers are sent in and picked of accordingly; and those left alive fight for survival. The story might be simple but it has guts, both in characterization and those that are ripped from some unfortunate’s body. The gore is requisitely nasty though never overplayed, the violent tone of the film set from the get go. Tension is nicely built as the characters roam the facility trying to figure what is going on and there are frequent bursts of solid action.



The Rock seems to be having fun as the sweary Sarge and it’s cool to see him play a character that starts off nice but becomes more and more of a dickhead as proceedings develop. Richard Brake (Batman Begins) is also effective as sleazy Corporal Portman, a narcotic carrying, sex pest and Ben Daniels (Law & Order UK) as the religious nut Goat, is also memorable and when was the last time you saw a character that self harms in a video game movie? But it is Rosamund Pike (Die Another Day) who has the most guts, as tough and sexy Dr. Samantha Grimm. Never relegated to the damsel-in-distress she thankfully doesn’t become a gun-toting hero like the boys either but is still a ballsy female character in amongst all the testosterone and shows a realistic amount of fear and aptitude when proceedings call for it. She is also damn sexy!




Having mucked up his earlier action films, Bartkowiak gets the set pieces right here. A nice balance between extreme firepower and limb severing goodness, the action is tight and fast but flows well and packs a punch. Ace Hong Kong coordinator Dion Lam (Black Mask, Spiderman 2) choreographed much of the action, infusing the scenes with bite not least a hard impact fight between two characters in the second half of the film. But it is the awesome first person shooter sequence that stand outs. Imitating the game in style (seems I do know something about the game) this sustained point-of-view (POV) action sequence unfolds as if we are Karl Urban’s character, John Grimm. Beasties and messed up people jump out of corridors and down from air vents only to get blasted away or chain sawed to bits POV style. Cracking stuff and well sustained, not just a quick 30 second gimmick.

Silent Hill and Mortal Kombat still hold the top spot for video games to movies but Doom isn’t far behind. Solid, big budget action sci-fi that again show’s The Rock should make more tough action films and ditch this whole ‘lets-make-Disney-movies-and-let-a-committee-control-my-image’ approach he seems to have adopted lately.

Delta Force One: The Lost Patrol



DELTA FORCE ONE: THE LOST PATROL (1999)

Directed by: Joseph Zito
Screenplay: Clay McBride & Peter Wellbeck
Starring: Gary Daniels, Mike Norris, Bentley Mitchum & John Rhys Davies

An inept action film, Delta Force One bares little resemblance to the Chuck Norris originals (despite his son actually being in this one) and all those spin off flicks Operation Delta Force 1 thru 300. Most of them were at least mildly entertaining and attempted to stage some fun action but this flick doesn’t even bother with that. Slow, tedious and monumentally dull, Delta Force One sees a squad of Delta dudes go into the desert to find out what happened to one of their patrols that has gone missing and stop John Rhys Davies and a bunch of other yahoos from setting of a nuclear bomb. What ensues is not very much at all.

Despite pretty good production values and the director of Red Scorpion (which at least had some decent action in it) on board, Delta Force One is lame, lame, lame. Nothing ever really happens, lots of scenes of people talking about their plans, talking about how evil they are gonna be and some sub plot with a kid who seems to, well, I really don’t know what as his scenes also seemed to go on and on with nothing actually happening. What action there is certainly isn’t great apart from an ok shootout at the end. The worst has to be many scenes of the heroes driving around in a big jeep and always getting ambushed by the bad guys who are at such close range they could not fail to hit them with their rocket launchers. But they do miss, over and over so it just becomes ludicrous.

This is maybe what they were going for: ludicrous. At the end of the film they do one of those freeze frame things of all the characters saying what happened to them after completing the mission. Except the text is completely taking the piss out of the characters and basically describing how inept there were at their specific roles and in turn how crap the movie actually is. Eh!? Did I miss something? If the film was a parody of the action genre then it certainly wasn’t a very good one and if it ain’t (which I don’t think it is, not intentionally anyway) then why make a big joke of it at the end? B-movie action flicks certainly do push the limits of absurdness but attaching a bunch of ‘joke’ credits at the end of your flick thus changing the complete tone and purpose of the film you just watched is, well, just rubbish.

I’m a big Gary Daniels fan but I can’t even recommend this just based on him being in it. Not a good action flick and not a good parody of action films if in fact it was supposed to be! My head hurts…

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Fatal Contact



FATAL CONTACT (2006)

Directed by: Dennis Law
Written by: Dennis Law & Herman Yau
Starring: Wu Jing, Ronald Cheng, Miki Yeung & Kenneth Lo

While not always successful in its intentions to deliver believable drama alongside some magnificent martial arts action, Fatal Contact is nevertheless an enjoyable fight flick that once again shows off the incredible skills of leading man, Wu Jing (SPL, Invisible Target). He plays Kong, a national team karate champ who is making ends meet by touring with a performing circus show. However, some local gangsters (including Lam Suet and Yu Xing) take notice of his skills and offer him respectable money to take part in some full contact, underground fights. He refuses but is later persuaded by fellow circus member and budding romance interest Tin (Miki Yueng). Kong immediately impresses in the fight arena and earns a deadly reputation and increasing wage. He also befriends Captain (Cheng) a bumbling henchman for the gangsters who may also be a gifted fighter. As the fights increase in danger and the money becomes harder and harder to resist, Kong finds his life taking on a darker side, not least in the possible questionable motives of Tin being with him and continually persuading him to fight.



First and foremost, Fatal Contact is a superb fight flick. If you are sick and tired of over-shot and over-cut fight scenes then check out the crisp clear, one-on-one duels of Fatal Contact. It may still be movie fighting and wires are used here and there, but the fights are knuckle-busting, high-kicking, full-contact as good as it gets. Staged by Nicky Li (from the Jackie Chan Stunt Team), the glorious dust ups let Jing showcase his impressive bootwork skills. The fights are refreshingly allowed to play out and it’s great to see a flick packed with so many fights of the hero taking on increasingly dangerous opponents. The showstopper has to be the three way fight were Jing takes on a massive, tattooed foreigner, a nasty dude with nails in his shoes (Kenji Tanigaki) and finally Andy On from Invisible Target and New Police Story.



Where Fatal Contact fumbles is in the wishy-washy almost cardboard cut-out storyline. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before and the dialogue and acting are often trite and superfluous. Miki Yeung comes off particularly bad as Tin, as she is such a bland and dislikeable character you wonder what Kong sees in her (apart from being extremely attractive). Her final act revelation is also signposted a mile off, leading to a finale which will divide audiences down the middle. It’s certainly a bravely downbeat ending and while I had no real problem with it, the ending will frustrate some. This is perhaps due to it being more over-the-top than the rest of the film. However, if can get past the sometimes lazy acting and cringe worthy dialogue, Fatal Contact also delivers some fine photography (courtesy of Herman Yau), a fun performance from Ronald Cheng (who never goes over-the-top in his comedy sidekick role) and another impressive turn from star on the rise Jing.

Pleasingly old school in its approach and delivering some excellent martial arts action from the East, Fatal Contact is certainly recommended to fight fans and despite its faults an entertaining action film.


Depth Charge



DEPTH CHARGE (2008)

Directed by: Terence O’Hara
Written by: Dennis Pratt
Starring: Eric Roberts, Jason Gedrick & Corbin Bernsen

The submarine takeover movie is a sub (ahem!) genre of the action world, usually involving a plot that consists of stolen nukes and terrorists taking over a sub: which is exactly what happens in Depth Charge. More precisely it’s a mish-mash of Die Hard and Under Siege as crazy, brain tumour inflicted Navy officer Eric Roberts hijacks a sub and threatens to blow somewhere or something up unless he receives one billion dollars. Yep, he actually asks for a billion. Well, a guy has got to aim high. However, sub doc Jason Gedrick is on board to look serious and waste bad guys with a bumbling sidekick in tow.

As routine as it gets, Depth Charge offers very little new and is one of those low-rent action films complete with stock footage from bigger movies (I’m pretty sure there were scenes from Air Force One in there somewhere) that used to clog up the video store shelves in the 1990s and star Michael Dudikoff. Corbin Bernsen and a pained looking Barry Bostwick also pop up and Gedrick repeats the line ‘Get off my sub!’ ad infinitum. Still the flick has a cheap cheery quality about it and there are certainly plenty of fist-fights, a bit of gunplay and the usual deploy-counter-measures-to-avoid-incoming-torpedoes type action. Plus, Eric Roberts is always good value and is certainly entertaining as the somewhat batty Navy dude gone bad.

No doubt Depth Charge will be clogging up cable channels for the foreseeable future.

Mission Impossible 3



MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3 (2006)

Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman & J.J. Abrams
Starring: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michelle Monaghan & Ving Rhames

An underrated Hollywood Blockbuster and a corking action film, MI3 may bare little resemblance to the original show it's based on but as a slice of pure, unadulterated action cinema with a hard edge, it’s as good as it gets. Brian De Palma’s first big screen instalment was a memorable blockbuster that despite twisting and turning itself inside out in the plot department was relatively faithful to the show and full of suspense. John Woo’s follow up is not as fondly remembered despite featuring some grandstanding action but was even further away from the show’s sensibilities and more geared around the man, the legend, Tom Cruise. But the franchise gets well and truly back on track with Alias and Lost creator J.J. Abrams, and his crew, being brought on board to craft a slick Hollywood Blockbuster that doesn’t forget the emotion or suspense. Oh yeah, it also features one of the best screen bad guys.



That bad guy is Owen Davian (a thoroughly nasty Philip Seymour Hoffman) who is attempting to get hold of and then sell to the highest bidder something called the Rabbit’s Foot: a dangerous weapon which may just destroy, well, everything. He is also holding active IMF agent Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell) hostage. IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Crusie) is called back into the field to rescue Lindsey, all the while trying to keep his IMF identity from his new wife (Monaghan). With team in tow (Rhames, Maggie Q and Jonathan Rhys Myers) Hunt attempts to rescue Lindsey and catch Davian and what follows is some of the finest set-piece cinema.



Abrams makes the transition from small screen to big screen effortlessly, delivering a taught, action packed movie. This instalment sets itself apart from the previous entries with a tense opening showing what a bastard Davian is and what Hunt has install for himself. Proceedings then rocket off as Hunt is reinstated into the IMF field. The cast share good chemistry, this new IMF team gelling well and getting in on the action making up for the teamwork element that was sorely missing from Part 2. Abrams skilfully handles the elements of action, suspense and drama and even finds space for Laurence Fishburne, Billy Crudup and Simon Pegg to spout off snappy dialogue.



Yet, it’s the set pieces that really sell MI3. The scenes crackle with invention and creativity and, the most important element in staging great action, momentum. Stunt master supreme Vic Armstrong (Indiana Jones) helps Abrams and his crew deliver energy charged action scene after action scene. The opening gambit in Berlin is a fire powered fuelled, tension packed sequence featuring gritty gunplay and hand-to-hand combat, topped off with an impressive helicopter chase. All the action plays out well, never over-edited or saturated with jerky camerawork and the piece-de-resistance is the ambush bridge sequence. Perhaps one of the best coordinated and played for tension action scenes to come out of Hollywood in an age, this sequence ramps up explosions, cars flipping, gunplay and a renegade drone firing off missiles to deliver action movie heaven. And the bit where the helicopter rises up displaying faceless, emotionless mercenaries with Hunt realizing he and his team may just be out of their depth is goose bump inducing, things-are-about-to-go-off-big-time-greatness.

With enough story and interesting plot twists between the big set-pieces to make you care for the characters, MI3 rarely puts a foot wrong in terms of big budget action filmmaking. The only downside is perhaps a bit too much emphasis on the “awesomeness” of Cruise as despite the team element, he still gets to do the majority of the stuff. Still, for adrenaline soaked action cinema, MI3 is great stuff; the best in the series and shows Abrams has got some mighty chops in the action department.