Monday, 31 January 2011

Sons Of The Wind: Bangkok Ninjas



My new review of Sons Of The Wind: Bangkok Ninjas at Far East Films

Click Here to read the review.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Bulletproof



BULLETPROOF (1988)

Directed by: Steve Carver
Written by: T.K. Landford, B.J. Goldman, Fred Olen Ray
Starring: Gary Busey, Darlanne Fluegel, Henry Silva, L.Q. Jones

So if you're a cop and you are about to bust a gang of heavily armed drug dealers in their warehouse hideout, what do you do? Well, if you're Gary Busey you treat the whole thing as if it's a big joke, scale the dangerous rafters of said warehouse for no good reason, to then be seen by the heavily armed drug dealers who say "What the fuck is this?", to which Busey replies "You're worst nightmare, butthorn", before falling off the rafter and getting shot but still somehow managing to thwart the drug dealers after a subsequent car chase that involves a heavily armed ice cream truck. Proceedings then get increasingly barmier. Welcome to the world of Bulletproof, butthorn.



So if this opening scene wasn't ridiculous enough, what with Busey single handily taking out the bad guys by doing, well, pretty much nothing other than calling them butthorn, then the rest of Bulletproof is action cinema at its most bonkers. Some kind of army down Mexico way, which seems to bizarrely consist of Middle Easterns, Russians and Latinos (basically anyone who isn't American), has kidnapped a bunch of US soldiers and their new bad ass super combat tank, the Thunderblast. Yep, Thunderblast. So was does the American army do? Send in platoons of highly trained Navy Seals and Marines? Nope. They send in Gary Busey and only Gary Busey. So, he's armed to the teeth and uses all kinds of deadly military skills to infiltrate the bad guys and rescue the hostages? Nope. He wanders on down to Mexico in tight jeans and a leather jacket and somehow (how, I'm not quite sure) manages to blow everything up, sort of rescue the hostages (most of them seem to get shot in the end shootout) and reunite with his hot, also captured, lady friend. Oh, and call a bunch people butthorn!



Yeah, action cinema is often barmy and that's usually a reason why I enjoy it so much but Bulletproof takes the biscuit for outright bonkers. Maybe it's meant as some kind of piss take of the genre as it certainly has a sense of humour but everything is played just a little too straight. Gary Busey, bless him, seems to have no idea what's going on and also somehow knows how to drive the super tank come the finale despite everyone else spending a good chunk of the film figuring out how to and it never being mentioned that Busey knows how to drive the tank. Madness. Then there are the multitude of bad guys who just keep popping up, it never clear who is the real mastermind. We get good old Henry Silva as a possibly Middle Eastern warmonger, William Smith as a crazy Russian General, Juan Fernandez as a Uzi toting henchman, some other Latino General type dude and I think Danny Trejo was in there at one point complete with short hair and a slick suit (!?). Then there is Busey's infamous catchphrase: butthorn. Pretty much everyone gets called this at some point and it's hilarious every time.

Yeah, it's crazy as hell but Bulletproof is a heap of cheesy action fun. Despite all the silliness there's plenty of bang for your buck with loads of shootouts, armoured vehicles blowing shit up left, right and centre and it's all delivered with 80s action bombast and explosive excess. In fact, the last half hour is wall-to-wall explosions and excessive gunfire. On top of this you get Busey being, well, Busey including a scene where he just happens across three enemy soldiers shooting at birds and before dispatching them utters the sure to be immortal payoff, "Bird season is over, butthorn." Priceless.

See Bulletproof now, butthorn.

One Tough Bastard



ONE TOUGH BASTARD (1996)

Directed by: Kurt Wimmer
Written by: Steven Selling
Starring: Brian Bozworth, Bruce Payne, Dejuan Guy, Jeff Kobar

While the film contains its fair share of violence and revenge fueled action, One Tough Bastard doesn't quite live up to that awesome title. A title any action film should embrace and exploit to its maximum potential. One Tough Bastard certainly starts with a bang, John North's (Bozworth) family violently slain by Marcus (Kobar), a sleaze-bag working for corrupt cop Savak (Payne). North's family unfortunately happen to stumble across an arms deal that Marcus is in the middle of, on the behalf of Savak, and are thus dispatched accordingly. Predictably and following action movie standard, North goes on a one man rampage to get the killers.



Unfortunately, after the initial 20 minutes or so it never really feels like a rampage. In fact, One Tough Bastard never feels like just one film. Swaying from action, to drama, to even exploitation on occasion, One Tough Bastard is all over the place. As well as the man out for revenge plot, the film throws in a sub plot about a kid Bozworth makes friends with and has to set on the right track. No goody two shoes, cutesy kid but a foul mouthed, drug dealing, gun toting 12 year old. He's actually well played by the young Dejaun Guy but his introduction and scenes with Bozworth just drag everything down somewhat. It's certainly a noble attempt to introduce more character into a cliched action film, and their scenes are well acted, but too much time is taken up with their drama when Bozworth should be getting down to being One Tough Bastard.

Still, the bad guys are pretty cool, if completely over-the-top and looking like they walked in from some other movie. Ok, so Jeff Kobar is your typical sleazy action bad guy (and pretty good too) but Bruce Payne is all out barmy. Complete with 80s rocker hairstyle and two nose rings we are supposed to believe he is some kind of awesome FBI agent. What!? Since when could they walk around with massive hair, piercings and ridiculous suits. To be fair, Payne is actually pretty good, brings requisite menace and throws around his dialogue like he's chewing his way through a hard-boiled detective novel. They just should have given him a different appearance to be taken seriously.



What action there is, is shot and cut well but seems to always promise more and bigger set-pieces which never arrive. This being an early directorial effort from Kurt Wimmer (he of the awesome Equilibrium and the not so awesome Ultraviolet), his style is already evident despite the bland look of the film, with scenes shot and cut for taughtness and his actors all delivering performances of a better standard than usually found in a direct-to-video actioner. Even MC Hammer isn't that bad in his couple scenes as a drug kingpin. Oh yeah, MC Hammer is in this film. What the!!??

While it's not a complete disaster and even pretty good in places, One Tough Bastard is just too all over the place to be fully satisfying for action fans. It see-saws wildly between drama, over-the-top weirdness and violent exploitation (with several kids getting gunned down during the running time) meaning there were probably too many cooks involved in the making of it. And for a film called One Tough Bastard there should have been at least one scene of the hero tooling up with weapons (he is a soldier after all) and going after a never ending supply of useless goons.


Friday, 21 January 2011

Hell Comes to Frogtown



HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN (1988)

Directed by: R.J. Kizer & Donald G. Jackson
Written by: Randall Frakes & Donald G. Jackson
Starring: Roddy Piper, Sandahl Bergman, William Smith, Cec Verrell

As awesome and hilarious as the titles suggests, Hell Comes to Frogtown is a cool little cult film from the 80s featuring one time wrestler and They Live star Roddy Piper, as the only fertile man left in a post apocalyptic future. You read that right, Piper is the only man walking around with an, ahem, loaded gun, as two nuclear wars have left everybody sterile and barren. He's recruited by "the government", they slap a chastity bomb belt onto his crotch (again, you heard right and it makes sense when you see it: sort of!) and along with Sandahl Bergman and Cec Verrell, he's sent on a mission to rescue five fertile women being held hostage by evil mutated frogs in, that's right, Frogtown. There's also a pink armoured truck (yep, pink!), walking talking frogs and the whole film revolves around Roddy Piper having to impregnate loads of hot women



Ok, so maybe Frogtown isn't quite the cult classic it wishes it was but it's still pretty damn fun. It's got Roddy Piper in it busting heads and wisecracks and the dude is a fun time. He's got hot 80s women all around him and while the flick isn't as nudity packed as the premise might first suggest, it still leads to all kinds of saucy comedic shenanigans. The cast seem to be in on the whole silly premise and go with the sense of fun which is infectious. Especially if you like cheapo 80s post apocalyptic films. Plus there is the cool frog people effects. Sure they're pretty dated now and more than a little silly but for this kind of low budget film they are pretty cool. The effects were by Steve Wang who genre fans will know is the dude behind awesome flicks Guyver: Dark Hero and Drive as well as providing effects for many other films.

Seriously silly sci-fi film that really doesn't feature much action (save for the final battle where Piper roams around with two shotguns yelling "Eat lead, Froggies!") but a fun good time, thanks to Piper's charismatic sense of fun, a daft premise and some cool low-tech effects.


Monday, 17 January 2011

Edge of Honor



EDGE OF HONOR (1991)

Directed by
: Michael Spence
Screenplay: David O'Malley, Mark W. Rosenbaun & Michael Spence
Starring: Corey Feldman, Meredith Baxter, Scott Reeves, Ken Jenkins, Don Swayze and Christopher Neame

Awesome little action gem that pits a group of teenagers against some gun-running scumbags out in the wilderness. A sort of youthful Southern Comfort, Edge of Honor is no kids movie as the action is often brutally staged as Corey Feldman and his buddies go Rambo on the redneck bastards who are hunting them. Feldman is one of a group of boy scouts out camping in a seemingly endless forest. They stumble upon a hidden stash of weapons belonging to some nasty gunrunner types. The boys take and hide the weapons, intending to turn them over to the police which non-surprisingly upsets the gunrunners. Soon they are being hunted down and must use their resources if they intend to survive and get out of the forest alive.




Taut, straight-to-point and action packed, Edge of Honor is a neat little flick that deserves more recognition. Despite the main characters being teenagers this is no watered downed adventure flick. People die horribly (check out the bloody shootout slaying of a bunch of gunrunners that opens the film) including children and the young protagonists (who range from about 10 years old to late teens) are often put in dangerous situations as the scuzzball bad guys show no mercy in trying to slay them. This being a late 80s early 90s flick means the teenagers aren't as annoying or as vapid as the teenagers who often clog up the films of today, they are not overly styled but a little scruffy, they aren't all know it alls and most importantly, they have personality meaning we actually care if they live or die. The bad guys are just as good with Don Swayze doing his redneck thing but actually being quite menacing, Ken Jenkins (known nowadays mainly for Scrubs) is great as the greasy ring leader and even Christopher Neame proves entertaining despite looking like he as walked in from another movie complete with all black garb, facial scare, shades and a groovy knife that flicks out from his wrist.

The film makes great use of its location where the makers stage some impressive action. Punchy and bloody shootouts, some impressive explosions and a great finale where the scouts craft First Blood style booby traps make for great action entertainment. Despite being made 20 years ago, Edge of Honor is miles better than recent fighting-bad-guys-in-the-woods films such as Hunt to Kill and features some quality action scenes. It's The Goonies with bite and makes me wish I was still a kid back in the 80s/90s when films like this were all the rage. Cool.


Sword of the Valiant



SWORD OF THE VALIANT (1984)

Directed by: Stephen Weeks
Screenplay: Stephen Weeks, Howard C. Pen, Philip M. Bean
Starring: Miles O'keeffe, Cyrielle Clair, Leigh Lawson, Trevor Howard & Sean Connery

Every wanted to see Sean Connery as Treebeard? Well, here's your chance with this clunky but somewhat enjoyable sword and sorcery flick from the Cannon stable. Connery has what amounts to an extended cameo as The Green Knight and since this is from the early 80s and was made on a Cannon budget, he looks like a cheapo version of Treebeard from Lord of the Rings. Complete with glitter and berries in his hair! Seriously, he must have been getting paid a truckload of money for this but does seem to be having a lot of fun as the fabled Green Knight who sets Sir Gaiwain on a quest to find himself as a knight, solve a riddle and battle all kinds of magical and non-magical foes.



Good old Miles O'Keeffe (Ator, Double Target) does his best and makes for a likable hero, despite being lumbered with the most ridiculous hair-do and all kinds of shonky sets and sub-par fight scenes. Most of the budget probably went to paying Sean Connery meaning proceedings have a distinctively shoddy feel about them. But hey, this never stopped Cannon from cramming in all kinds of low-tech special effects, wobbly fights and ample amounts of silliness into their films: which Sword of the Valiant has plenty of. The fight scenes are particularly ropey, especially an encounter with The Black Knight which sees the dueling knights often having trouble swinging a sword, standing up straight and even walking. There's all kinds of cheesy effects including invisibility rings, disappearing unicorns and Connery's not so convincing severed head which he reattaches to his body complete with trademark smirk and Scottish drawl.



But this all adds to the cheesy fun of Sword of the Valiant. The makers may have intended it to be taken more seriously (or maybe not) but the flick is fun in a kind of 80s low budget fantasy kind of way. Plus there are heaps of cameos from the likes of Peter Cushing, John Rhys-Davies and Ronald Lacey and you get to see Sean Connery dressed as a tree. Awesome! To be fair the makers seem to have had somewhat of a sense of humour with gags including a scene where Gaiwain not used to wearing armour has to pee but can't figure out how to. He is then presented with a key by his loyal squire (Leigh Lawson) for unlocking a certain area of the armour, which they both have a good chuckle about, and then continue the scene while Gaiwan urinates. Priceless.

While it hasn't dated well, provides many unintentional chuckles and wont ever knock off the likes of Willow, Sword and the Sorcerer and even Krull from their fantasy pedestals, Sword of the Valiant is still undemanding fun with enough charm to see it through, especially if you are a fan of these types of flicks. Plus, it has Sean Connery dressed as a tree in it!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Top Ten 2010 at Far East Films



Far East Films, a website dedicated to all films Eastern who I contribute to, have posted my top ten (mostly Eastern) films of 2010.

Click Here to read the list.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Exit Speed



EXIT SPEED (2008)

Directed by: Scott Ziehl
Written by: Michael Stokes
Starring: Julie Mond, Desmond Harrington, Lea Thompson & Fred Ward

Very cool little action movie cum siege flick that sticks to its guns delivering well paced and punchy action which is bolstered by solid direction and strong characterization. A group of everyday people are on a bus making their way across Texas on Christmas Eve. While out on the open road a band of bikers known as the Nomads torment the bus and its occupants which ends in the death of two of the bikers. The remaining bikers don't take too kindly to this and now fully attack the bus running it off the road into some abandoned buildings, forcing the passengers to barricade themselves in as the unrelenting bikers continue to attack them. The group, including an AWOL soldier, an archery expert and a wayward father among others, must band together and use their resources to fight off the deadly Nomads.



Despite a modest budget, Exit Speed is well put together delivering an almost perfect balance of character and action. While there is the typical angry member of the group who never agrees with the rest and seems only concerned about himself, the script steers away from cliche, the heroes not always the most obvious. Characters deaths are never signposted either meaning it is quite often a shock when people die and all members of the bus are imbued with personalities and vary in age meaning we actually get a group of real people to root for. Also refreshingly, there is no hammy, over-the-top bad guy slowing the action down to be all evil and stuff. The Nomads remain mostly silent and faceless a swarming, unrelenting enemy that pose much more of a threat than a constantly shouting bad guy.



The action is mounted and paced well, the makers creating a real sense that the unlucky bus passengers are fighting for their lives. Nothing too flashy in the action scenes but all delivered tautly including the initial bus being driven off the road set-piece, plenty of gunfire and shotgun blast heavy firefights and unique uses of a bow and arrow and a homemade grenade launcher. With the characters being well rounded this means the girls are is on the action as much as the boys, Julie Mond particularly memorable as the on-the-run soldier. Lea Thompson, Desmond Harrington and Alice Grezcyn give solid support with only the great Fred Ward as the officer hunting down Julie Mond's soldier, underused. Still, great to see him in the film.

It may borrow heavily from Assault on Precinct 13 but Exit Speed is a refreshingly well made, straight laced action/siege movie that is equally satisfying in the character and action departments. Check it out.

Final Score



FINAL SCORE (1986)

Directed by: Azriel
Written by: Denny Armand
Starring: Chris Mitchum, Mike Abbot

You know an action film is gonna be cool when the opening titles are accompanied by machine gun fire. The opening credits to this Chris (son of Robert) Mitchum masterpiece are accompanied by automatic fire: names appear on screen, guns fire off. Awesome. In fact, awesome is a word you will frequently be using (in a somewhat ironic way, though also often because things are awesome!) especially if you are into bonkers, stunt stuffed, sleazy Philippine action films from the 1980s. Final Score has to be one of the best, not that it is actually any good, but for the sheer amount of looniness and stunt filled mayhem it provides.

It also has the most basic plot set-up possibly ever seen in action cinema. A big statement indeed as many action films work on simple plots in order to stage as many action scenes as possible. Final Score is about Chris Micthum getting vengeance on those who raped and killed his wife and shot his son dead. A set-up we've seen many a time but that really is all the set-up to be found here. No sub-plots, hardly any backstory, minimum stoppage time for other characters to be introduced, no real twists: just revenge filled action scene after revenge filled action scene. Which is precisely what you want from an 80s Philippine action film directed by some dude called Azriel (who made a load of these kinds of films) and starring Chris Micthum (who, likewise, starred in a ton of these movies).

After the basic set-up and slaying of Mitchum's family (in an unnecessarily leering and protracted scene which ups the sleaziness), Final Score gets down to action-looniness and rarely lets up. While the action scenes are never really well put together (though the gunfights are often quite blistering) Azriel (!) crams in so many barmy and dangerous looking stunts, Final Score turns into a low budget hoot. The craziness and action gets better as it goes along, highlights including the world's slowest car chase turning into a smash happy, car flipping good time; enough insane motorcycle stunts to fill several James Bond movies (including the awesome bit where Mitchum jumps from a building into a helicopter, drives through it, drops off a grenade, drives out the other side to land perfectly while the helicopter explodes: incredible!); and the fact that every building, vehicle and person that Mitchum comes into contact with explodes in almighty fashion. Seriously, this film has more explosions that all 1980s action films put together.



On top of all this awesomeness you get Chris Mitchum uttering about three lines of dialogue and "acting" with his eyes; such insane death scenes as a guy getting a hot poker up his ass (ouch!); non-acting entity Mike Abbott (another stalwart of many of these cheap jack action flicks) as mustached bad guy Mr Hawk (awesome) shooting his staff every time they fail to kill Mitchum, hilarious random bickering henchmen and much more stunt and action craziness.

Really, get some like minded cheap action movie aficionados round, a ton of booze in and play a drinking game for when anything explodes or when someone dies horribly: you'll be stone cold drunk within twenty minutes.

Final Score rocks!

Girl on Fire



My new review of Girl on Fire at Far East Films

Click Here to read the review.