Monday, 26 March 2012
HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN (2011)
Directed by: Bryan A. Miller
Screenplay: Chuck Hustmyre & Brian A. Miller
Starring: Dave Bautista, Amy Smart, Dominic Purcell, Craig Fairbrass, Danny Trejo
Man Mountain wrestler Dave Bautista takes another shot at acting after appearing in Wrong Side of Town, playing the lead in this would be gritty thriller. Bautista plays Ray a former dirty cop, now out of prison and attempting clean living by heading up security at a local crime boss’ bar/strip club. Now, that’s maybe not exactly clean living but he is trying to go straight and it’s about the only place that would hire him considering his crime-strewn background. Making for an imposing figure, Ray tries to run a tight ship but is caught off guard one night and the place is robbed ending with the death of said crime boss’ son. Caught between pushy cops who want to put Ray back in prison (seems they haven’t forgotten what a dirty cop he was) and the crime boss itching to blame Ray for his son’s death, Ray has no choice but to find the killers himself and clear his name.
For most of its running time, House of the Rising Sun (referring to the club where Ray works) is a pretty decent little flick with a fair few knuckle dusting fights and the odd outburst of gunfire and revenge dispensing action. While not a straight up action film, the flick seems to be striving for a more gritty and serious tale of a once bad man-trying to put his wrongs right. It can’t always escape its B-movie trappings but with some nice photography, location work and most of the principals turning in decent performances the film, despite the tired formula, is a fairly entertaining 80 minutes or so of head busting thrills. Ok, thrills may not be the right word to use to describe the film as proceedings do take a somewhat laid back approach and a good bit of tension and momentum could have helped make the narrative move more. Bautista is pretty good in the lead role, very watchable and is certainly imposing as the man out to find who is setting him up. Likewise, Dominic Purcell (Prison Break, Blood Creek) makes for a fun bad guy (who is obviously behind everything from the get go!) and comes across as a complete douche who would just as soon as shoot you in the face as look at you. Amy Smart and Craig Fairbrass offer decent support (though it would have been nice if Fairbrass had had a bit more screen time) and Danny (I’m in every freaking movie that is made these days!) Trejo makes his obligatory cameo.
Unfortunately, there is not a lot of action save for a few fistfights here and there and a couple of shootouts peppered through out. Could have done with a couple more of these or the action scenes featured could have at least been a little more sustained. Plus, the makers insist on playing iffy rock songs over many scenes of action robbing what is happening on screen of any tension. The flick is perhaps not always as gritty as it thinks it is but for the most part this is a nicely played and filmed tale of a tough guy going up against the gangsters that set him up. It’s certainly better than Wrong Side of Town (be nice to see Bautista in more action roles) and a step up for director Bryan A. Miller from his previous effort, Caught in the Crossfire. Some may be disappointed that this isn’t quite the action fest the DVD covers suggests but House of the Rising Sun is still a decent little thriller.
Friday, 23 March 2012
WHEELS OF FIRE (1985)
Directed by: Cirio H. Santiago
Screenplay: Frederick Bailey
Starring: Gary Watkins, Laura Banks, Lynda Wiesmeier, Linda Grovenor, Joe Mari Avellana
The future is decidedly apocalyptic, sleazy and action packed in this Philippine shot cheapie. Cashing in on all things Mad Max, Wheels of Fire features a desert, a bad ass hero (who doesn’t say much), lots of cool cars, some scuzzy bad guys, a couple of babes and lots of car crunching action. So, in the future the planet has been nuked, the land is scorched and Trace (Watkins) is one super-badass (complete with souped up car and killer leather pants) and has just rolled into a local encampment to say hi to his foxy, big boobed sister (Playboy Playmate Lynda Wiesmeier). She’s dating some douche bag who gets in a fight, which Trace has to step in and finish which in turn, pisses off an evil gang of road pirates lead by the hilariously awesome Scourge (Avellana). What follows is really just one continuous chase as the gang pursue Trace, kidnap his sister which leads Trace to then go after Scourge: but not before he’s made friends with a peace loving tribe and encountered all manner of post-apocalyptic nonsense.
And what post-apocalyptic nonsense it is as along with all the car crashing mayhem and copious amounts of ammo dispensing action we get a rocket ship out in the middle of the desert (!), a brief sojourn underground where our heroes are captured by the truly bizarre Sandmen (weird little cannibal like dudes!), a constantly ranting in gibberish Filipino midget that for reasons even too inexplicable for this type of film ends up joining the adventure, a weird psychic like lady (it wouldn’t be the post-apocalyptic future without some kind of psychic!) and a whole load of sleazy goings on as poor Linda Wiesmeier is abused by the bad guys. This, unfortunately, lowers the tone somewhat but Wheels of Fire stays just the right side of nasty grindhouse trash and focuses mainly on cramming in as many car chases, crashes and gunfights as possible.
Cirio H. Santiago (who made of ton of these kinds of films and as well as other equally cheap action and war films) delivers action scene after action scene featuring such highlights as cars tearing through the desert crashing into one another, all the principals exchanging constant gunfire, Trace dispensing justice with a flamethrower, the bad guys making good use of some mortars no doubt left over from one of Santiago’s Vietnam action films and in one particularly awesome moment a bad guy meeting a nasty end when two cars literally land on one another. Awesome! If you’ve seen the likes of Equalizer 2000 and Raiders of the Sun (or any other of Santiago’s post-nuke action flicks) then you know what to expect and for once the awesome cover (see above) doesn’t lie as what you see is pretty much what you get: eighty minutes of non-stop post-apocalyptic car smashing goodness and machine gun blasting craziness!
Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Tuesday, 6 March 2012
Sunday, 4 March 2012
PHANTOM RAIDERS (1988) (aka AMERICAN FORCE, RED PHANTOM)
Directed by: Sonny Sanders & Dan Harvey
Screenplay: Timothy Jorge & Sonny Sanders
Starring: Miles O’Keeffe, Mike Monty, Anthony East, Jim Moss and Kenneth Peerless
Running. Shooting. Running. Shooting. Running. Shooting. Explosions. Running. Shooting. Ninja stars. Running. Shooting. That’s Phantom Raiders in a nutshell: an ultra cheap, Silver Screen International presents, Miles O’Keeffe action fest that features pretty much all of the above ad infinitum. Even before the credits roll there are explosions and gunfire galore. Hell, I don’t think there is even a fade up from black, the flick just cutting straight into the jungle warfare action. Sweet. The opening scenes feature lots of running around and shooting, a weird torture/fight scene that shows how evil the evil General Marshall (Monty) is and some crazy yahoos taking pictures of the evil General’s evil hideout only for them to get gunned down: all this happening before Miles O’Keefe turns up. In fact, it takes a whole 20 minutes for O’Keeffe to show up, to accept a mission to go in and terminate said evil General and spend a good twenty minutes training some of the most unlikely screen soldiers ever to grace celluloid. Then: well, it’s a good 40 minutes or so of running and shooting and running and shooting and, oh, quite a lot of ninja stars being thrown around!
Low budget Philippine shot jungle action at its minimalist best, Phantom Raiders is really just an excuse to see how many rounds of M-16 ammunition can be dispensed in 80 minutes. And on those terms, it’s an absolute hoot. Throw in a villain who looks like a cross between John Saxon and Richard Jordan (Mike Monty: who was in a ton of these type of Z-grade action movies including the likes of The Atlantis Interceptors and Double Target), a group of Vietnam vets for O’Keeffe to train who are all hilariously tired looking, over-the-hill and in one of their cases a little too rotund to be expert jungle warriors and a ridiculous amount of extras for our heroes to kill and, well, you have yourself a movie. O’Keeffe is no stranger to these types of flicks having also turned up in the aforementioned Double Target and the really quite awesome and equally chock full of continuous running and shooting, The Hard Way. Somewhat disappointingly he’s not really in this one much, disappearing for long chunks at a time (so our portly and “too old for this shit” heroes can take on most of the action), seems to have only four lines of dialogue during the whole running time and spends much of the time he is on screen wearing some kind of weird S&M looking mask thing (!). Still, he does manage to find time to kill a load of bad guys mainly with some groovy exploding ninja stars (that’s right: exploding!) and he is called Python: which is possibly the best action hero movie name ever.
After some funky and unintentionally hilarious training montages, it’s onto to the mission and the last 40 minutes of Phantom Raiders is just wall-to-wall action with non-stop running, shooting and explosions. Seriously, there are about two lines of dialogue during this extended barrage of action. Not quite as cool as the likes of The Hard Way and Double Target (O’Keeffe, unfortunately, does not punch a shark in this one!), Phantom Raiders is still low budget action soaked goodness for fans of Z-grade jungle based war flicks.
SUSPECT DEVICE (1995)
Directed by: Rick Jacobson
Screenplay: Alex Simon
Starring: C. Thomas Howell, Stacey Travis, Jonathan Fuller & John Beck
This Roger Corman cheapie certainly packs in a lot of fisticuffs, excessive gunplay and on-the-run action over its relatively brisk running time. The budget may be slim, the sets limited and the action often over-the-top but with its slight sci-fi vibe and good ole C. Thomas Howell giving an energetic performance, Suspect Device is a fun, late night action quickie. Howell seems to have a the perfect life: cushy job, a set of nice friends (who love to play poker with him) and a big boobed blonde wife he gets to bed at the beginning of the film. But he keeps having weird blackouts/dreams where everybody he knows and works with is slain in a bevy of gunfire. One of these dreams/premonitions soon comes true as after one particular blackout, Howell wakes up to find his whole office dead, CCTV footage showing he was the culprit and soon he is on the run with sexy Stacey Travis trying to figure out what is going on, why nobody knows him anymore, who the gun-toting assailants are following him at every step and up to his neck in more gunfights than Chow Yun-Fat in a John Woo movie.
While the revelation of what is really going on is no great shakes and pretty predictable, Suspect Device makes up for this, and its distinct lack of budget, with a fast pace, lots of gun blazing action, some actual decent acting for this kind of flick and a groovy ending that makes you realize that, yeah, this film was a pretty fun ride. Howell certainly gives it his all despite the fact all he is asked to do is look confused, paranoid and shoot and fight lots of expendable extras. The paranoid slant is jettisoned far too quickly in favour of lots of shoot-outs: where nobody can hit Howell, despite being only a few feet in front of him, and he’s a crack-shot who guns down everybody in squibtastic fashion. The gunfights do get a little repetitive but there is plenty of fist fighting come the finale when Howell has to take on a couple of super soldier type dudes.
B-movie stalwarts Jonathan Fuller (Pit and the Pendulum) and John Beck (Project Viper) make for fun bad guys and the acting isn’t too shabby for this kind of low budget flick. Cheap it may be (with its fair share of continuity gaffs and “What the..” moments) but this is action packed fun from the Roger Corman stable. Plus, the neat little twist at the end makes me wish they had made a sequel!