Sunday, 30 October 2011
ACROSS THE LINE: THE EXEDUS OF CHARLIE WRIGHT (2010)
Written & Directed by: R. Ellis Frazier
Starring: Aidan Quinn, Luke Goss, Mario Van Peebles, Bokeem Woodbine, Gina Gershon, Gary Daniels, Andy Garcia, Corbin Bernsen, Raymond J Barry,
Charlie Wright (Quinn) is a sneaky bastard. Attempting to scarper with upwards of 10 billion dollars (some of it belonging to Raymond J Barry’s Russian mob boss) he’s caught and threatened with a long stretch in prison. But being as sneaky as he is, he disappears into self imposed exile down Tijuana way, managing to cipher away 2 billion of the 10 with him and attempts to look for a woman he abandoned twenty years earlier. However, hot on his trail are a hot shot but jaded FBI agent (Van Peebles) a hitman (Goss) and his crew sent by the Russian and a Mexican crime boss (Garica) who has his own reasons for getting hold of the money Wright stole.
Nicely shot and well acted little crime drama, Across the Line may have ambitions above its low budget and short running time but thanks to a good cast, unfussy direction and a nice authentic feel from the real Mexican locations, the film is a decent little thriller. There is perhaps a little too much going on for a film that runs only 90 minutes with a surfeit of characters all battling for screen time to tell their own story. Nothing wrong with this but some subplots and character motivations needed fleshing out which a longer running would have accommodated. We already have an interesting character with an interesting story to tell in Wright and some of the focus is often taken away from Wright to fill in the back-stories of certain other characters.
However, and as mentioned, this is a decent little thriller with a good cast. Quinn is excellent as the lost and out-of-his-depth Wright and there is solid support from Mario Van Peebles, Andy Garcia and Gina Gershon as Garcia’s (incredibly hot) wife. Luke Goss stands out as the quietly confident hired gun sent after Wright and his scenes with Gary Daniels (getting a cool little role that allows him to act) have nice antagonistic tension to them. The film also uses its authentic locale well, shooting on what appears to be the streets of Mexico, which adds some sun soaked grit.
Much more of a crime drama than an action film there is only one standout action scene when one group sent after Charlie try to snatch him from another group already holding him. A finely staged gun battle erupts in what appears to be a deserted bull-fighting arena, which ups the tension and adds a little life to proceedings when the narrative threatens to become too plodding. Things may get wrapped up a little too easily and quickly but on the whole this is a decent crime flick featuring a whole host of genre favourites.
Thursday, 27 October 2011
WAR WOLVES (2009)
Written & Directed by: Michael Worth
Starring: John Saxon, Tim Thomerson, Adrienne Barbeau, Michael Worth, Natasha Alam, Siri Baruc, Daniel Southworth
A squad of Special Ops soldiers (Worth, Southworth and a trio of beauties) return from battle in Afghanistan forever changed. Not only mentally scarred they have been physically altered. During a firefight they were attacked by a ferocious pack of werewolves and infected with the wolf virus. Six months later, back in the US and a little more than shell shocked, Jake (Worth) is trying to come to terms with what happened and the changes taking place within him. Unbeknownst to him, he is being tracked by two veteran soldiers (Saxon and Thomerson) who know what happened to him and what virus he carries. At the same time the rest of his squad are turning into beast fast and getting a taste for killing and also hunting down Jake for what will be the ultimate battle between man and beast.
War Wolves sure is an oddity from filmmaker and kung fu whiz Michael Worth. Definitely a B-movie but striving for more in the character department, War Wolves takes its barmy premise and spins a yarn, that while flawed and occasionally plodding, is an interesting piece that admirably tries to combine drama, action and werewolves to create something a little different. Worth (who has been in some cool action and fight films: Street Crimes, US Seals 2) takes this distinctive premise and a minuscule budget and has made a decent genre film that is a little unique, offbeat and, occasionally, action packed. There is perhaps too much going on (former soldiers feeling out of place in the everyday world, alcoholism and at one point a minor subplot about a pregnant woman and her abusive boyfriend) for what is essentially a flick about werewolf soldiers but Worth at least tries, and mostly succeeds in, infusing this little flick with some character. As the grizzled, and possibly too long in the tooth, geezers tracking down Worth and his crew, Saxon and Thomerson are on fine form both dramatically and comedically. It’s nice to see the older and wiser gents getting a good share of the screen time rather than yet another pair of generic, hip, know-it-all youngsters. Thomerson cracks wise as well and is a hoot.
The budget is certainly low (and once you see the make up effects of the transformed werewolves, you’ll see how low) and the tone wanders all over the joint (from horror, to drama, to comedy, back to horror, to martial arts) you may at some point wander what kind of film you are watching. However, War Wolves manages to hang together and provide just enough character, horror and action to make it an entertaining ride. Not as action packed as you might expect a B-movie about werewolf soldiers to be Worth and (the ever underrated and underused) Daniel Southworth get to cut loose in a couple of wickedly choreographed kung fu werewolf fights (yep, you read that right!).
If there had just been a few more of those wicked fights scenes and the pace and tone tightened up War Wolves could have been a much more fun and faster B-movie but with its unique approach to character, this is still a fun genre flick from the ever talented and watchable Michael Worth. Plus any film that also finds time for genre favourites Adrienne Barbeau and Martin Kove and also manages to name drop Lance Henriksen in one particularly cool moment of movie referencing, is all right by this B-movie action fan.
Friday, 21 October 2011
ULTIMAX FORCE (1986)
Directed by: Wilfred Milan
Screenplay: Joe Mari Avellana
Starring: Arnold Nicholas, Jeremy Ladd, Patrick Scott, Vincent Griffin
Ninjas with Uzi’s. That’s basically what Ultimax Force is: ninjas with Uzi’s. So not only do we get ninjas doing cool ninja stuff we also get Uzi’s: which means lots of gunplay and squibtastic action as well. Ok, so Ultimax Force isn’t really a great film and is a cheapie Philippine action flick made to cash in on the 80s fascination with all things ninja but hell if it ain’t a good old cheesy time with some pretty solid action. It’s standard plot 101 as a bunch of non-acting dudes who are completely devoid of any personality or emotion are recruited to go and rescue some other poor dude who is held captive in the deepest jungles of Vietnam. Said four dudes are ninja badasses and are recruited by their ninja school (yes: ninja school which is blatantly signposted in one hilarious scene meaning these ninjas aren’t so secret) to rescue said captive and the four blocks of wood, albeit highly trained ninja combatants, head off into the jungle, complete with Uzi’s, to fuck shit up.
Completely unintentionally hilarious in how serious it takes itself and that not one of the leading mean express any other facial expression other than staring blankly and delivering their lines in an (again) unintentionally hilarious monotone drone, Ultimax Force still gets the fun thumbs up due to some cool action (which rarely lets up) and that it’s a decent little ninja flick. And it’s got Uzi’s in it. The action is pretty tight and fairly well choreographed and the violence is pretty harsh. Many people are gunned down quite graphically and the body count is typically high for a 1980s action flick. Some may be disappointed that the martial arts is a little thin on the ground to make way for all the gunplay but we are treated to one impressive sequence early on where the heroes have to prove themselves to the ninja school (awesome!) that they are worthy of the mission with some neatly choreographed ninja fighting and weapon work. It’s a pretty cool sequence if completely redundant as it serves little purpose other than to show how awesome our heroes are.
Ultimax Force has it all really: great B-move title, lots of ridiculous moments that defy logic, unintentionally hilarious acting and a heap of cool action. So all-in-all a B-movie action fan’s and lovers of trash cinema dream come true. Oh, and it’s got Uzi’s in it. Sweet.
Sunday, 16 October 2011
Monday, 10 October 2011
THE BATMAN SUPERMAN MOVIE: WORLD’S FINEST (1996)
Directed by: Toshihiko Masuda
Written by: Stan Berkowitz, Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Rich Fogal, Steve Gerber
Starring: Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Dana Delany, Clancy Brown & Mark Hamill
This team up between two awesome 90s cartoons, World’s Finest is an excellent slice of cartoon action: well written, great characters, slick animation and some stonking action. The Batman cartoon series in the 1990s, produced by Warner Brothers animation, was one of the best things on TV back in the day. I watched it constantly and while I was never a big as fan of Superman, the Superman show was almost as good. World’s Finest is basically three episodes of the Superman show strung together to create a sort of mini-movie (the flick is about an hour long) which sees Batman heading to Metropolis hot on the heels of the Joker who has left Gotham to team up with equally uber bad guy, Lex Luthor.
The Joker wants to use Luthor’s seemingly unlimited resources (including some wicked giant combat robots) to take over Metropolis and has a plan that can rid the city of Superman (having nicked a load of Kryptonite). They form a shaky alliance, as do the two heroes. Bats and Supes aren’t too willing to trust one another, not least when they discover each other’s secret identities and when a sort of love triangle forms when Bruce Wayne and Lois Lane take a shine to one another. But differences are soon put aside as the two realize they are going to have to work together in order to defeat their respective archenemies. Let superhero, robot-smashing action commence.
Short and sweet it may be but World’s Finest is a great hour or so of superhero action and a reminder of how fun these two-superhero cartoons were. With a great comic book feel and a swift pace and excellent voice work, World’s Finest shows an animation team at the top of their creative game. Kevin Conroy proves he is one of the best (if not the best) Bats as the voice of Batman/Bruce Wayne and likewise old Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, is awesome as the Joker. Commissioner Gordon and Alfred perhaps get short changed a bit but with so many characters to fit it’s not surprising but there is great support from The Joker’s right hand woman, Harley Quinn.
There is no shortage of spectacle as the heroes do battle with various gangsters and super villains meaning there is mucho punch ups, gunfights and a novel sequence where Superman has to rescue Lane and The President from terrorists who have taken control of Air Force One. This all leads to the action heavy finale, which sees Luthor’s robots unleashed meaning there is some grand scale combat and destruction.
If you are a fan of the characters, comic books, animation and action then World’s Finest makes for a great hour of entertainment.
RAGE TO KILL (1988)
Written & Directed by: David Winters
Starring: James Ryan, Oliver Reed & Cameron Mitchell
Good lord Rage to Kill is bad. And I mean bad. Sure it’s also freaking hilarious and provides a good amount of bad cinema entertainment: but only just. This Action International Pictures (AIP) “epic” is so barmy, inept and features a complete douche bag as the main character that even this connoisseur of bad action cinema had trouble tolerating the insaneness and never ending explosions (two things I usually love) that is Rage to Kill. Not even a drunk (and I mean, DRUNK) Oliver Reed could save this (ok, so he was kinda humorous and inappropriate: check out the extremely random and uncomfortable hot tub scene to see evidence of this). But you know you are in trouble in a cheap B-Movie when constant shit blowing up and a drunk Oliver Reed can’t save your flick.
The “film” sees uber-ripped and annoyingly awesome Blaine Striker (Ryan) heading off to kick some ass to rescue his brother (who actually utters the immortal words, “Gee, I wish Blaine was here”) who along with some other students and what seems like a good portion of South Africa are being held under an iron grip by a mental general (Reed) and his ever loyal army. I’m not sure how everyone has come under Reed’s rule, as he seems completely inept at doing anything other than drinking, lying on sofas and partaking in some “hilarious” acting. So Blaine gets smuggled into the country, gets caught almost immediately (what a dickwad!), gets tortured, manages to bed an annoying journalist and then somehow (in what is one of the many completely absurd moments to be found in Rage to Kill) manages to train the journalist and the students to become machine gun toting soldiers who then somehow manage to overthrow Reed and his army. But not before Blaine (awesome hero name, especially when coupled with Striker) has time to show off his drag racing skills in a silly scene (supposedly) showing him racing a jet powered car just so we know how awesome he is (maybe he should have spent more time training and planning a proper rescue mission so he wouldn’t be captured straight away instead of poncing about like he’s in Days of Thunder).
Despite mucho explosive destruction of various properties and vehicles and gunfire aplenty the action is pretty dire with everybody just firing randomly and hoping to hit someone, guns never needing reloading and quite possibly cinema’s worst boat chase. Ugh. Now AIP never made great films but they made some entertaining ones (sort of) but Rage to Kill is scraping the bottom of the action barrel.
Your eyes will bleed, your brain will melt and you’ll laugh your ass off.