Monday, 18 July 2011
BLOOD RIVER (1991)
Directed by: Mel Damski
Written by: John Carpenter
Starring: Rick Schroder, Wilford Brimley, John P. Ryan, Adrienne Barbeau
This little seen western is a fun gem. While it isn't particular gritty, it rockets along with sparky performances and some nice locations. Written by the legendary John Carpenter (and apparently originally intended for John Wayne) it's a lot tamer than many of Carpenter more famous films but still features the fun and likeable characters he is known for. Young wannabe cowboy, Jimmy Pearls (Schroder), kills the bad men that stole the gun his father gave him. One of the slain just happened to be the son of evil rancher, Logan (Ryan) and he and his men pursue Jimmy across the state, gunning for blood. Luckily, Jimmy bumps into and eventually teams up with rowdy, once-lived-with-the-indians, frontiers man Winston Culler (Brimley) and the duo form an often bickering but resourceful duo who plot to take down Logan once and for all.
About as standard a western as they come, Blood River has got good cowboys, evil cowboys, a perilous journey across land and water and, of course, shootouts. It's also got a great sense of fun with Schroder and Brimley making a likeable team as they come up with ingenious and sometimes silly ways of thwarting Logan and his men. The flick is nicely shot (partly by frequent Carpenter DP Gary B. Kibbe), humour and action are delivered in frequent bursts and the lovely Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog) even pops up as the head of a "boarding house."
There are plenty of chases, a few shootouts including the climactic Logan's men vs the US Marshals gunfight and a neat bit where Schroder is dragged behind a horse on a makeshift trailer shooting the bad guys with his trusty six shooters. So yeah, this is a fun western. In fact, it is a lot of fun. Unpretentious, straight forward rooting tooting fun that's recommended to western aficionados, John Carpenter completists and those who like easy going action entertianment.
Tuesday, 5 July 2011
SNIPER 2 (2002)
Directed by: Craig R. Baxley
Screenplay: Ron Mita & Jim McClain
Starring: Tom Berenger, Bokeem Woodbine, Erika Marozsan, Tamas Puskas, Linden Ashby
The original Sniper is a solid piece of jungle military action bolstered by the fine performances of Berenger and Billy Zane and features mucho cool camouflaged, high powered rifled action. Gaining a sort of cult status the film spawned three (yes, that's right, three) sequels: two starring Berenger and one, the recently released Sniper Reloaded, starring Zane. Sniper 2 catches up with sniper ace Thomas Beckett (Berenger) many years after the events of the original Sniper. Discharged from duty, Beckett is a lot older now but still a master with a rifle and a scope. Attempting to teach new recruits the way of the sniper, his fiercely traditional ways clash with the hot headedness of the young recruits. Fed up with this, it's not long before the inevitable "we need you to do one last job for us" plot mechanic gears up and Beckett soon finds himself knee deep in Eastern Europe (or some such place as there seems to be many errors in geography and the language certain characters are speaking: but there are plenty of folks on the imdb who seem to get a kick out of pointing this out, so they can fill you in on this) taking out some important dignitary, rescuing another, keeping another gifted sniper under control (Woodbine) and then running for his life with what appears to be most of an army after him. Seems, things don't change too much.
This first sequel is actually pretty decent. It may rehash most of the story of the original and relocate it to a different part of the world but under the assured hand of director Craig R. Baxley (Stone Cold, Dark Angel), Sniper 2 is a solid direct-to-DVD action sequel. Berenger always makes anything he is in worth watching and seems to be enjoying the chance to play Thomas Beckett again. The fact the script actually acknowledges his now older age is a refreshing slant, showing that he is not too old to still engage in combat but that all the fighting and sniping is definitely taking its toll on him. The bond he forms with Woodbine's spotter/sniper (a solider on death row, tagging along on the mission for possible dubious reasons) is given time to develop, more time given to character than usually seen in a direct-to-DVD action quickie sequel. Which all builds quite nicely to an on-the-run finale with features some impressively staged combat.
Baxley knows how to do the action thing and maximizes his limited budget to great effect meaning we get plenty of blown up vehicles, a cool bit involving a tank, a wicked gunfight in some woods where the snipers have to take out a team of pursuing soldiers and an exciting climax which takes place in what appears to be a bombed out town. The film builds to the action meaning character and tension are developed and the final pursuit through the above mentioned bombed out town is thrilling stuff. In general, the action is tight and thrilling and well mounted for a low budget sequel.
Not bad at all.