Saturday, 25 February 2012

The Silencers



THE SILENCERS (1996)

Directed by: Richard Pepin
Screenplay: Joseph John Barmettler
Starring: Jack Scalia, Dennis Christopher, Carlos Lauchu, Lucinda West & Clarence Williams III

The PM Entertainment days of the late 80s and all through the 90s were halcyon days for action fans. When they hit their stride with decent budgets and high action quotas, PM Entertainment churned out some of the best stunt filled American action B-movies. Video stores had a new release from the studio every couple of weeks with titles like Rage, Recoil, The Sweeper and Cyber Tracker 2 delivering crazy action awesomeness. The Silencers was one of their biggest flicks: at least it seems to be due to the amount of stunt filled awesomeness on show.



This nutty sci-fi action flick sees Jack Scalia (who also popped up in equally nutty but awesome PM Entertainment sci-fi action flicks T-Force and Dark Breed) as a maverick secret service agent charged with transporting a top-secret alien cargo from Los Angeles to some place out in the desert. He’s also dealing with having let the senator he was guarding die (seen in the first massive action scene that opens the film), a divorce, his issues with authority and the fact he doesn’t believe in little green men. Well he soon does when said transport gets attacked by up-to-no good alien types and the cargo being transported is in fact an alien dude: in the form of ridiculously haired Dennis Christopher (who is hilariously named Comdor!!). The two become buddies, go on the run, try to stop the evil alien dudes opening some kind of portal which will bring on the enslavement of earth and cause much (much) vehicular mayhem and gun blazing destruction.



This is just pure set-piece cinema. The sci-fi slant is relatively flimsy with the alien dudes really only having weird eyes and emitting some kind of sonic boom on occasion to blow shit up with. Otherwise, they are just gun toting, car destroying dudes much like anyone else in the film. Considering this is a low budget film we sure do get a lot of impressive stunt packed nonsense. From a gun battle that turns into a foot chase, that turns into a subway shootout (complete with exploding miniature subway cars) to numerous excessive gun battles, explosions, dangerous looking car stunts and head on collisions: The Silencers is rammed to the rafters with awesome action. Not least the attack on the transport that sees the destruction of many cars, a tanker and in one very over-the-top but inventive moment, a helicopter as well! Awesome.

Ignore the fact that the message of the film is to try and resolve conflict without violence when the whole flick is nothing but excessive violence and destruction and simply enjoy the well handled mayhem, the tongue-in-cheek humour and a relentless barrage of pistol popping, ammo spewing, car flipping, action soaked greatness: PM Entertainment style.

Monday, 20 February 2012

PTU



My new review of PTU at Far East Films

Click Here to read the review.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Samurai Warrior



SAMURAI WARRIOR (2012)

Directed by: Kenichiro Nishiumi
Starring: Yuma Ishigaki, Suzunosuke, Kengo Oguchi, Sorami Iguchi, Hidekazu Ichise

Another cheap but cheerful samurai flick from Japan that is a breezy 60 minutes of entertainment with enough sword swinging action to pass the time nicely. Much more of a knockabout comedy/adventure than a full bloodied samurai action film, Samurai Warrior is easy going, gently comedic and has a couple of nifty (if not ground breaking) bouts of action to sate Chanbara fans. Ryu and his motley bunch of wannabe fighters are a gang known across the land as “Evil Little Devils.” These little devils are groups of youngsters who brawl with each other vying for the mock right’s to each others villages: basically they get together in fields to fight and whoever wins gets the other group’s flag (a bit like paintball!) and bragging rights. These groups of lads have dreams of being warriors like their father’s and superiors who are all off fighting in real wars. With plans to beat their neighbouring village rivals in an upcoming brawl, Ryu and his crew soon find they have more to contend with than they bargained for with said rival gang getting their hands on a gun and recruiting a samurai warrior who is in fact a deadly killer and has seen real action. Suddenly, this shit got real.



With its laidback approach, romantic subplot and the fact the heroes are just a few likely lads playing at samurai this is more I Was a Teenage Samurai than Samurai Warrior: a title that promises mucho hardcore samurai action. Instead we get an enjoyable romp that’s an easy watch with a little bit of sword fighting, a sweet romantic subplot and a surprising amount of smutty comedy (!). The leads are likable enough and the bad guys are suitably over-the-top with everyone shouting loudly and mugging it up at regular intervals. Director Kenichiro Nishiumi, a former assistant director to the great Takashi Miike, leaves the gore, seediness and excessive violence that often comes with tougher samurai flicks behind (some may be disappointed by this) and instead shoots his film with little fuss, a little fun and towards the end, a little action. When the real samurai does show up (he should have been in film more!) we get a cool little sword fight between him and the hero.

Short, sweet and samurai light, Samurai Warrior is a chilled hour of action entertainment best watched as a warm up before settling in to watch some superior samurai action such as 13 Assassins.

Sunday in the Country



SUNDAY IN THE COUNTRY (aka VENGEANCE IS MINE, BLOOD FOR BLOOD) (1974)

Directed by: John Trent
Screenplay: Robert Maxwell & John Trent
Starring: Ernest Borgnine, Michael J. Pollard, Cec Linder, Al Waxman, Hollis McLaren

Tough as nails exploitation flick from the era that defined such films this sees movie hard man Ernest Borgnine at his rock solid best, dishing out violent, shotgun-blasting justice. Three crooks on the lam pull over to help out a couple changing a flat on the side of the road. Intending to take the car, things get out of hand when the youngest and fieriest of the group (Pollard) kills the man and takes off after the girl, hoping to have his way with her. The other two stop him but have to kill the girl, leaving no witnesses behind. Making cross-country they happen on a farm and decide to see if they can shack up there and lay low. However, the farm is home to a one Adam Smith (Borgnine), a tough God-fearing man who’ll have none of it. Religious to a T, Smith hears of the crooks' escape and the slaying of the young couple: a young couple he just happened to know. Seeing an opportunity to administer vengeance he holds the crooks hostage, torturing and tormenting them as he plays with their lives. Soon enough, the “good guy” is becoming badder than the actual “bad guys.”

Rough, ready and shot mainly in one isolated farm location, Sunday in the Country is grindhouse through and through. Borgnine towers over everybody as the mean and moody Smith serving up as many sermons of violence as he does those of God. Borgnine, however, does keep his character the right side of caricature, never turning him into a pantomime crazy man but as a man who has lost his way with his obsession to his faith and his need to teach these scumbags a lesson. The film nicely plays on the fact that not all the bad guys might be as bad as they seem, though Michael J. Pollard’s scuzzy youngster certainly serves the vengeance he gets. Being an old school exploitation flick the pace does drag in places and the tension is not always sustained but the sudden bursts of extreme violence are certainly jarring meaning the film and Smith’s actions will stick with you. Not least a bit with two very hungry and vicious dogs and one poor unlucky chap.

And as is expected with such a film of the type, Sunday in the Country is certainly not a happy film and builds to a very nihilistic finale that gives the film an emotional punch a lot of low budget revenge flicks sometimes miss. With its neat twist on who the bad guy really is, Sunday in the Country is well worth tracking down (if you can find a copy) for fans of exploitation cinema and shotgun blazing, justice serving action.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Harakiri



My new review of Harakiri at Far East Films

Click Here to read the review.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Enemy Territory



ENEMY TERRITORY (1987)

Directed by: Peter Manoogian
Screenplay: Stuart M. Kaminsky & Bobby Liddell
Starring: Gary Frank, Ray Parker Jr, Tony Todd, Stacey Dash & Jan-Michael Vincent

Empire pictures and Charles Band produced some wicked action, horror and sci-fi movies in the 80s (and 90s) and Enemy Territory is a quality example of their B-movie productions. Jumping on the 80s bandwagon of rampaging gangs (which The Warriors presumably kicked off) Enemy Territory sees insurance salesman Barry (Frank) venturing into the scary apartment complexes of the wrong side of town in order to get a signature on a policy that will guarantee him a big pay out. He’s desperate for the cash and despite his better judgement ventures into the most notorious complex: a complex “owned” by one of the toughest gangs in the city, The Vampires. With dark approaching and everybody telling him to get out of there fast, Barry gets the signature but not before pissing off a gang member and the rest of The Vampires turning up gunning for blood. Stuck on one of the upper floors and with a kindly telephone repairman (Ghostbusters hit tune maker, Ray Parker Jr) in tow, Barry attempts to escape the complex with his life as The Vampires hunt him down.



Cool concept, nice shot on location photography, a genuinely claustrophobic and scary setting, a crazy cameo from a wheelchair bound, machine gun wielding Jan-Michael Vincent, taught action and chase scenes and the always great Tony Todd towering over everybody as the ruthless leader of The Vampires, Enemy Territory is B-movie gold. It’s gives us a couple of cool characters, shoves them into a tense situation and plays out in quick, slick fashion as our heroes make their way through the grimy and graffiti laden building which is just as threatening as the gang chasing them. Gary Frank is suitably nervous and ineffectual, Ray Parker Jr (in one of his only acting roles) is likeable and makes for an effective action hero, Tony Todd over acts but manages to be menacing and Jan-Michael Vincent is, well, mad and shoots a load of gang members with his automatic weapon.

Nicely shot (presumably) on location, the movie has a cool grindhouse feel to it (they sure don’t make them like this anymore) and director Peter Manoogian (of other sweet B-movies Arena and Demonic Toys) keeps the action moving fast and the atmosphere tense. Thankfully the makers keep the film simple, not complicating matters with unnecessary subplots that slow the pace down. Quite simply, Enemy Territory is fun B-movie entertainment that uses its setting and characters well to create a tense and fun (albeit sometimes cheesy) thriller. Cool.

Twice Under



TWICE UNDER (1990)

Directed by: Dean Crow
Screenplay: Charles Joseph
Starring: Ian Borger, Ron Spencer, Amy Lacy & Jack O’Hara

Ah, the 80s. Only in this decade of high concept and low budget naffness could Twice Under be made. A crazed Vietnam vet (Spencer) who was left for dead by his squad out in the jungles of war is terrorizing the sewers (yep, that’s right: the sewers!) killing off workmen in a bid to lure drain expert man and his former CO in Vietnam (O’Hara) into the sewers to get revenge. The two former soldiers were tunnels rats in Nam and this could have led to some fun tunnel based action as the two use their skills and knowledge of tight spaces to face off in a battle underground. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really happen. Instead we get the most overacting and annoying bad guy to possibly grace a B-movie, tension goes awol thanks to the very dated (but admittedly kinda funky) 80s soft rock soundtrack and the plot mainly focuses on the main protagonists whiny son (Borger) having to man up and venture into the sewers to rescue his girlfriend: who, oh yeah, the bad guy also decided to kidnap.



So what could have been a tense slasher/action thriller set underground is instead your typically cheesy 80s independently produced schlock fest. And seriously this flick is so 80s the 1980’s probably looks at it and goes “damn this is cheesy.” So instead of tense action and slick thrills we get an overacting douche of a villain (who insists on wearing night vision goggles despite the fact that everyone, including us the viewers, can see everything clearly in the “dark” tunnels!), lots of dated 80s soft rock (which, and I’m not ashamed to say, is actually kinda groovy) a hero who has not one or two ghetto blasters but a about fifteen which he listens to all at the same time (but they do play a pivotal part in the plot) and quite possibly the most 80s scene of all time: our hero, listening to his walkman, dances oh so funkily (to that soft rock) in a car outside his house, only for his girlfriend to join in dancing and then for him to get out of the car and dance all the way to his house, kicking it to his funky beats. This scene goes on for what seems like 10 minutes and is pretty much a whole decade summed up in one ridiculous scene. Boy sure can dance though.

For these reasons (and I’m not ashamed to admit: well, maybe a little) and the fact I enjoy most B-movie flicks that feature crazed Vietnam vets going on a rampage, Twice Under was actually kinda enjoyable. No really. Maybe the nostalgia I have for these flicks or the sewer setting or the weird thing to do with rat skulls (ok, maybe not that: that was just naff!) or the climactic duel between hero and villain with manhole cover openers (!) made me enjoy this film more than I should. Whatever the reason, Twice Under is certainly enjoyable on a so-bad-it’s-good level. Well, sort of.

Pretty sure it’s the only homicidal Vietnam vet stalking the sewers and killing people flick out there and for that reason, and if you are a lover of weird (and bad) cinema, check it out. Or not.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Ninja Battle



NINJA BATTLE (2011)

Written & Directed by: Seiji Chiba
Starring: Aiko Ito, Shuji Kashiwabara, Daisuke Nagakura

Japanese director Seiji Chiba returns with yet another low budget ninja offering following on from the likes of Rogue Ninja, Ninja Girl and, yes, Alien vs. Ninja. Though Ninja Battle may have been before these titles as the trailer suggests this was actually released in Japan way back in 2008. Whatever the case, Ninja Battle sticks much to the same formula as Chiba’s other ninja flicks (save for Alien vs. Ninja as there are definitely no aliens in this one!) with two rival clans battling it out in the same forest and cave setting seen in all the other above mentioned ninja films. Yep, Chiba sure seems to be getting value for money out of that cave location and all the ninja costumes (which all have a similar style) and he seems to be content to make a variation of the same sort of ninja movie using the same settings and costumes.



Fair enough really as with Ninja Battle, and the other films, clocking in at just over an hour, they are swift and most feature enough stylised action to make the sixty minutes entertaining fun. The only downside to Ninja Battle (other than perhaps the very low budget and the recycled sets) is that, even at only an hour long, there is a lot of exposition to get through. This is symptomatic of Chiba’s other films as well as the characters talk and talk about how they have ended up in the situation they are in and what they are gonna do about it. This means that despite only being an hour in duration, Ninja Battle does feel like it drags a little. With most of the film set in the previously mentioned cave, the characters play off one another, bluffing and lying to one another as they all strive to find some sort of secret document, that one of them may have in their possession, which one clan of ninjas want to get hold of as it well help them in their fight against another clan of ninjas. Or something.

So yeah, lots of talking about this clan and that clan and who is a spy and who isn’t and who is a ninja and who isn’t, which while engaging and intriguing at first does go on a bit. Thankfully Chiba does break up proceedings with frequent bouts of impressive swordplay and ninja action. There are a couple of nice one-on-one fights and a neat set-piece when one dude takes on a whole horde of black clad ninjas which features some tight and well executed choreography. There just should have been a bit more of it as with a title like Ninja Battle, all we really want to see it lots of ninjas fighting to death in high octane action scenes.

Still, this is a fairly enjoyable ninja flick that while not as good Rogue Ninja or as fun as Alien vs. Ninja is an ok hour of entertainment that could serve as a warm up before settling in to watch a longer and more action packed flick.

Savage Harbour (aka Death Feud)



SAVAGE HARBOUR (aka DEATH FEUD) (1987)

Written & Directed by: Carl Monson
Starring: Frank Stallone, Christopher Mitchum & Karen Mayo-Chandler

Frank (brother of Sylvester) Stallone and Chris (son of Robert) Mitchum together in one awesome action packed film. Well, no. These two B-movie stalwarts churned out a whole heap of action cheapies between themselves in the 80s and 90s and pretty much any of them (including the fun Stallone vehicle Order of the Eagle and Mitchum’s crazy trash classic Final Score) are better than this boring, sleazy and just plain dull snooze fest. The two not so famous siblings of big movie stars feature as sailors just trying to make a dollar who cross the wrong mob boss when Stallone steals said bad dude’s girl and whisks her off for a life of romance, laughs and, erm, avocado farms! What follows is a white-hot trail of gun blazing revenge.

Again, no. Tedium sets in fairly soon despite a (somewhat) cool, though unintentionally hilarious, shootout on the beach that opens the film as Stallone goes off sailing (well, he’s got to earn a buck) and his Mrs to be slides back into her drugged fuelled and prostitution ridden life. So what follows is what I imagine the makers thought was a hard hitting drama looking at the underbelly of life but is in fact a lot of low budget sleaze nonsense that is equal parts ugly, boring and downright hilarious (seriously, what is that bat shit crazy, drug fuelled dream sequence all about???). And what about Chris Mitchum? What part does he play in all this drama, mystery and action? Erm, squat all! Seriously, I have no idea why he was in this as he barely helps out Stallone, sits in a bar most of the time and has his own dull subplot featuring him and a busty stripper finding love. Ugh.

So there are lots of awkward dialogue scenes, random edits, lots and lots of walking around deserted streets and parking lots, a fair amount of sleaze, a hilarious moustached henchman who just laughs loudly and weirdly every time he either speaks or is spoken to and a whole lot of random B-movie craziness. The last twenty minutes manages to cram in a couple of barmy car chases and a good dose of low budget gunplay action but it ain’t enough to save Savage Harbour from being a dull drudge through B-movie crapness. I expected more from an action film featuring Frank Stallone and Chris Mitchum. Silly me.