Friday, 24 September 2010
THE KILLING MACHINE (aka ICARUS)
Directed by: Dolph Lundgren
Written by: Raul Inglis
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Stephanie Von Pfetten, Bo Svenson
Dolph Lundgren continues his recent turn to starring and directing his own films with the by-the-numbers but rather decent The Killing Machine. Lundgren has always embraced his legacy as an action hero (unlike fellow stars Van Damme and Seagal who now often seem to be ashamed of what made them a success) and has been churning out some decent direct-to-DVD action pics. While The Killing Machine isn't quite as good as The Mechanik or Missionary Man, it's still a pleasingly violent and shotgun blazing action film that for the most part delivers the goods.
Unfortunately the story and set up are about as generic as they come, Lundgren being some kind of deadly assassin wanting to leave his violent life behind to spend more time with his estranged wife and daughter. Non-surprisingly his employers don't take too kindly to this, so kidnap his daughter meaning Lundgren has to go gunning for them. Action movie template 101. So yeah, pretty humdrum set up, that hits all the predictable beats and doesn't do doing anything we haven't seen a million times before. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, as the film's polished look and Lundgren's assured direction means The Killing Machine overcomes its shortcomings. Lundgren is always good and plays a more flawed character here than just a one dimensional action hero. He's getting better as a director as well the film nicely put together with a nice use of voice-over and the cast uniformly good.
Having been in the game for a while now, Lundgren also knows what makes good action and there is a decent amount on display. Nothing too over-the-top or intricate, more short and sharp bursts of action rather than big set-pieces, The Killing Machine dishes out bone crunching fights and some nicely staged firepower. There is a fierce shootout at a farm and Lundgren amps up the violence for fans of more hard edged action.
Nothing to set the action world on fire but considering it was shot in a mere 18 days one a tight budget The Killing Machine is still another entertaining action vehicle from the always watchable Lundgren.
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
FORCE OF FIVE (aka POWER KIDS) (2009)
Directed by: Krissanapong Rachata
Written by: Nonont Kontaweesook, Napalee, Piyaros Thongdee
Starring: Nantawooti Boonrapsap, Sasisa Jindamanee, Pimchanok Leuwisetpaiboon, Johnny Nguyen, Conan Stevens, Richard William Lord
The makers of hit brutal Thai actioners Ong Bak, Chocolate and Raging Phoenix turn their talents to the kids movie and deliver, well, another brutal action movie. See Force of Five, despite featuring five pint sized sprogs and lots of daft knockabout antics, is actually a very violent action movie. Five little dudes, 3 boys and 2 girls, are learning Thai boxing under the tutelage of their harsh but ultimately kindly master. When the youngest member falls ill with a heart problem the other four club together to help raise money to help buy him a radio controlled car he really wants. When a replacement heart is found for the little fighter, the other four are by his side as he waits the transplant. But, and wouldn't you know it, the hospital is seized by gun toting terrorists after an important American ambassador also residing at the hospital. So, the other four race to get their buddy his new heart all the while thwarting the bad guys and dishing out brutal Muay Thai action.
So, Die Hard in a hospital with kids and kung fu? Yeah, pretty much but it's hard to decipher whether Force of Five is actually a kids movie or a grown up action movie. While it's certainly professionally made, the tone is all over the joint: at first lots of silly kid's antics as the group get into all kinds of hi-jinks and have to use their fighting skills to get themselves out of the various fixes they find themselves in, then switching to a somewhat serious tone as hostages are gunned down and the kids find themselves in various violent confrontations. The Goonies this aint! Maybe the makers were just trying to appeal to both audiences (you know: comedy for kids, violence for adults!) but maybe it's just a cultural thing: Thai cinema not afraid to show their youngsters overcoming and surviving dangerous situations. Which, thankfully they all do. To be fair the young cast aren't as annoying as you would expect and refreshingly seem to have respect for one another and enjoy helping each other out. They also kick ass in the action department.
Overseen by Thai action legend Panna Rittikrai (Born to Fight, Chocolate), the action scenes, while not a surfeit of them, deliver some bone crunching fight action. Starting off more playful with the kids taking out a drunk grown up to creative effect, the action turns edgier for the final twenty minute blowout as the kids go toe-to-toe with ace fighter Johnny Nguyen (Warrior King). No comedy hi-jinks here or softening of blows as the kids show their skill and take on bad guy Johnny like Tony Jaa would take on a fleet of black suited bad guys. Sure the fights don't quite reach the dizzyingly brutal and intricate heights of say Ong Bak or Chocolate but they are not far off. Nguyen is a proven screen fighter and doesn't hold back in pummeling the kids (though he doesn't look too happy about doing so), once again displaying some impressive leg work. The kids hold their own too, high kicking and elbowing-to-the-face in some satisfying glass shattering fight action.
Force of Five isn't as bad as it might first seem but it surely is an odd film and an acquired taste. But at barely an hour and fifteen minutes its breezes by, albeit with regular injections of hard edged violence that you wouldn't expect in a kids film. But then again, I'm still not sure this is supposed to be a family film. It also has the bizarrest and most inappropriate closing credits one is likely to see as the kids are rewarded for their daring do by being whipped with a cane by their master to the accompaniment of happy music!!! Strange indeed.
Directed by: Frank Harris
Written by: Michael Standing
Starring: John Saxon, Chuck Jeffreys, Michael Berryman, Matthias Hues, James Lew, Richard Lynch, Christopher Mitchum, Russ Tamblyn
Wow! That's really all there is to say about Aftershock. Just, wow! Now, post apocalyptic action movies from the 1980s are often full of all kinds of madness, strangeness and low budget weirdness. Well, Aftershock pushes the madness, strangeness and weirdness to its absolute bonkers limits. Seriously, this movie is mad. It's also incoherent, low-of-the-budget, random, badly acted, most likely made when most of the cast and crew were ingesting large quantities of drugs and makes absolutely no sense at all. Which, all makes it kinda of awesome. Plus it has some pretty decent and frequent action.
Ok, so the earth is scorched, the land a wasteland and the great John Saxon (who might have been the only one not on drugs, judging by his "what-the-hell-is-going" appearance) is the leader of some kind of military outfit who rule the burnt out world with an iron fist. Well, they just kind of make a nuisance of themselves and the devastated planet consists of one derelict setting shot from every possible angle to make it look bigger and more post-apocalyptic (though admittedly it's a pretty cool setting). Then for reasons that are so absurd and nonsensical, they will probably melt the average person's brain, a pretty alien babe (Elizabeth Kaitan) beams to earth, hooks up with chiseled hero Jay Roberts Jr (White Phantom) and comedy sideckick/ace kung fu dude Chuck Jeffreys (Bloodmoon) and the trio spend the rest of the movie running around in circles trying to get away from Saxon and his goons.
Well, that's not all they do. They also have to outwit a cowboy bounty hunter who is there, well, I have no idea why he was in the movie other than to randomly shoot people for no reason every now and again. Which, I guess, was kinda cool. They also join some resistance, sort of, which is led by Robert Mitchum's son; then fight a drag queen Michael (Hills Have Eyes) Berryman and a Conan the Barbarian dressed Matthias (I Come In Peace) Hues for reasons that actually made this reviewers brain melt; Jay Roberts Jr rides around on a motorcycle with a sword on his back because, well, it looks cool; B-movie legend Richard Lynch pops up in one scene (most likely drunk!); and absolutely nothing at all makes any sense, at anytime during the whole movie.
There are bunch of cool looking post-apocalyptic Mad Max like vehicles, plenty of gun battles and random explosions and the fight scenes have a low rent punch to them, with Chuck Jeffreys busting some pretty cool kung fu moves. Too bad he disappears half way through the movie without any explanation. If you love schlock like this (and I do!) then get a copy of Aftershock now and drive yourself to the brink of insanity by watching the utter delirium that is this movie. Warning: your head will probably explode from sheer madness/awesomeness that Aftershock is.
Sunday, 19 September 2010
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
My new review of the original Godzilla at Far East Films (www.fareastfilms.com)
SURVIVAL RUN (aka SPREE) (1979)
Directed by: Larry Spiegel
Screenplay: Larry Spiegel, Frederic Shore, G.M Cahill
Starring: Peter Graves, Ray Milland, Vincent Van Patten
Little seen, action exploitation flick that sees a bunch of teens break down in the middle of the Californian desert on a road trip and terrorized by Peter Graves and his dope peddling, gun running goons. Happy-go-lucky, free spirited teen Vincent Van Patten (The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission) and his five buddies go off in his souped-up van for a few days of fun. No sooner have they started out, than they crash the van and find themselves lost and wandering the desert. Unfortunately, things turn worse when they stumble upon Graves (Mission: Impossible) and Ray Milland (The Uncanny, Escape to Witch Mountain) who, with a truck load of cash, drugs and guns, are hiding out after a recent deal. At first welcoming to the naive teenagers, Graves and his goons soon turn nasty as they take a liking to the group's girls and the rag tag bunch of teens soon find themselves fighting for survival in the blazing heat against motorcycle riding, machine gun wielding bad guys.
Trashy and exploitation heavy Survival Run certainly is with violence and rape rearing their ugly heads the somewhat oblivious teens realizing too late what they have gotten themselves into. However, the flick is never too nasty more suggestive in its salaciousness, apart from one weird and quite disturbing dream/rape/murder sequence. The film is also surprisingly strongly character based, tension built and dialogue used well to create the sense of unease. The young cast, despite over-egging their performances, are much more convincing than you would expect and act like real teenagers as apposed to stereotypes. They even talk things out, trying to find some reason in all the madness.
The flick isn't too action heavy and could have benefited from a couple more chases and shootouts in the nicely photographed desert landscape. Proceedings take a little too long to kick into gear but when they do we get a nice dose of gunplay, a groovy motorcycle chase and a very dangerous looking stunt featuring a dude hanging from a helicopter. Overall, this is outdated exploitation (complete with awful music and theme songs!) but is surprisingly entertaining thanks to some nice character building and an explosion of action come the final third.
BLOODFIST 2 (1990)
Directed by: Andy Blumenthal
Screenplay: Catherine Cyran
Starring: Don 'The Dragon' Wilson
The second in the seemingly never ending Bloodfist series from the 1990s starring kickboxing ace Don 'The Dragon' Wilson, Bloodfist 2 is a straightforward, easy going and, yes, trashy fight flick that is choc full of kick boxing action. To be honest the film is practically one long running fight scene as one is barely two minutes away from the next fight or confrontation. A blatant rip off of Enter the Dragon, Jake Raye (Wilson) is lured down to Manila on the basis of helping out an old friend in trouble. No sooner has he arrived than he is kidnapped, along with a load of other champion fighters, by the evil Su and thrust into the dangerous world of underground fighting. So Jake, the other kidnapped fighters and a pretty lady who has somehow got mixed up in all the craziness must survive the fight tournament and then take out Su and his never ending supply of disposable henchmen.
A typical straight-to-video 1990s American martial arts film from the Roger Corman stable with minimal plot, oodles of silliness but a welcome amount of decent fight action: Bloodfist 2 is perhaps one of Wilson's better screen fighting films. The flick is packed with crisp and brutally choreographed fight scenes that threaten to saturate the film. The tournament scenes are the best with a variety of fighters and styles showcased and surprisingly well filmed for a low budget movie. No, they don't compare with their Hong Kong counterparts but the fights are fluid, fast and full of impressive moves and techniques. At a brisk 80 minutes, about an hour of the running time is made up of fighting, meaning if you are in the mood for some low budget fight action that makes no bones about being a complete rip-off of Bruce Lee's most famous film, then Bloodfist 2 is some head-busting, bone-crunching, fly-kicking good times. The opening scene is also impressive: starting on a close up of a blood soaked boxing glove, the camera pulls out to reveal Wilson mid fight, who then goes on to almost kill his apponant. Pity the flick didn't stick to this darker vibe and instead went with all the kung fu, kidnapped on an island silliness. Oh well!