Thursday, 24 January 2013

Assault on Dome 4


Directed by: Gilbert Po
Screenplay: Hesh Rephun
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Joseph Culp, Jocelyn Seagrove & Brion James

It’s B-movie a go-go in this ultra violent, mad-as-a-bag-of-smashed-frogs, Die Hard in space (well, maybe not space but definitely a dome) action sci-fi flick featuring everyone’s favourite B-movie legend Bruce Campbell. He gets to play a full on bad guy this time around in a role that fits him like a glove: charming, smarmy, funny and completely ruthless. Campbell plays Alex Windham a super genius villain and cold blooded killer who, once escaping from his umpteenth maximum security prison, heads to the said Dome of 4 with a bunch of escaped convicts under his leadership. Windham, the crazy bastard, wants the scientists who work at the dome to build him some bombs so he can blow stuff up and make a nuisance of himself but is unaware a top space cop, Chase Moran (Culp), is hiding in various vents and is ready to kick Windham’s ass.

This is super low-budget mid 90s sci-fi trash with a budget that barely stretches to show spaceships flying through space convincingly but damn if it isn’t a lot of fun, has a bit of an edge to it and is packed with gun blazing action and fist fights. What it lacks in budget and subtlety (and any form of class!) Assault on Dome 4 makes up for with lashings of pistol popping action, some wry wit and an awesome performance from the man Campbell. Old Bruce has always been a good actor, underrated and underused, and here he gets a chance to shine in a role that gives him a lot of the screen time and allows him to stretch his bad guy acting muscles. He’s fantastic as the lunatic Windham and gets to let rip with wit and word in lengthy monologues as he torments his captors, sleazes onto the pretty babe and tries (and tries) to kill the hero. Campbell is on top form, giving this little flick a great bad guy and raising the overall entertainment of the entire production.

Likewise Joseph Culp makes for a decent hero and there are some fun bit parts and cameos from genre stalwarts James Lew, Ray Baker and the always-welcome Brion James. While there is plenty of crappy special effects and (strong) black comedy the film also packs a lot of punch. The makers don’t scrimp on the gun blasting action and there is plenty of bone crunching scraps as well, making Assault on Dome 4 an action packed ride.

Lean and mean, rude and lude and low of rent Assault on Dome 4 has the action chops and is probably one of the best low budget flicks, sci-fi or otherwise, that Bruce Campbell found himself starring in post Evil Dead trilogy.


Fist of Honour


Directed by: Richard Pepin
Screenplay: Charles T. Kanganis
Starring: Sam Jones, Joey House, Harry Guardino & Abe Vigoda

This PM Entertainment flick may not be as full on firepower heavy and car chase crazy as some of Pepin and Merhi’s later efforts (Rage, Last Man Standing, Zero Tolerance) but Fist of Honour is some fist flying, knuckle dusting, bone crunching entertainment. One time Flash Gordon and action film mainstay Sam Jones plays Fist Sullivan (awesome name!) a bare-knuckle fighter scraping a living as muscle for crime kingpin and all round scuzzball Dino Diamond (Guardino). When Diamond betrays a truce formed with crime boss Malucci (Vigoda) he sets up Fist for the death of Malucci so he can move back in on his former squeeze Gina (House) who just happens to be Fist’s lady love. Can Fist fight his way out of prison and prove his innocence? You bet your ass he can and he’s going to punch a hell of a lot people in the face doing so.

Fist of Honour is a solid early 90s PM Entertainment effort that what it lacks in super charged car chases (though a few automobiles do get blown up) it makes up for in fist smacking fight scenes. There is a ton of them. Whether it’s Fist taking part in tournament fights for his employer’s entertainment, or when he is collecting debts from low life's who owe Diamond money, or even when he is taking out justice on those who set him up, the flick is jammed with nifty bare knuckle fight scenes. They may not be very complicated or extravagant but they’re punchy and crunchy giving them a distinctive old school feel. Sam Jones is likable as the hero and convincing in the fight scenes and considering his height, build and conviction in throwing a punch you believe he can handle himself when he has to takes on group after group of goons.

Joey House is quite lovely as his lady squeeze and Harry Guardino makes Diamond a memorable sleaze ball. There is ample B-movie cheese on supply from various recognizable supporting characters, though Abe Vigoda and Police Academy’s Bubba Smith look a little lost and confused on how they ended up in the flick. Still, for knuckle crunching fights and some PM Entertainment cool, Fist of Honour fits the bill.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Jungle Wolf


Directed by: Charlie Ordonez
Written by: Ron Marchini, David Donaldson
Starring: Ron Marchini, Laura Abeyta, Joe Meyer, Romy Diaz

You know how it goes. It’s the 80s. Action movies are big business. Rambo is a big hit. Your name’s Ron Marchini. You’ve got muscles. You know karate. You decide to “write” your own Rambo flick. You’re the hero. You have to leave your idyllic life flying stunt planes and living with your son to go rescue some American diplomat who has been kidnapped. You get your knife, your Uzi, your leather gloves and your 2 vests (one black, one yellow) and you head off to the Philippines to rescue said diplomat. You shoot stuff, you have Nam flashbacks and you blow an awful lot of shit up. And, bam, you have Jungle Wolf.

Oh, and you not only have all the awesome stuff happening above you also have a kick ass theme song (called Back in Action) that is sung about six billion times throughout your movie. Man, Jungle Wolf is awesome. Ron Marchini may be a charisma vacuum but he knows how to kick and blow stuff up and Jungle Wolf, while no classic of the jungle-set-military-action-Ramboesque-explosion-fests that populated video stores in the 80s, is not too bad either. It’s all pretty straightforward as Marchini sets off into the jungle with a dude he busted out of prison (in quite possibly cinema’s least thrilling prison break out!) to trade for the life of the diplomat. Along the way he has flashbacks to Nam (another 80s action cinema staple), hooks up with a jungle babe, utters all of 14 lines throughout the entire film and for the most part dispenses a ton of ammo and blows most of the jungle up.

Despite it’s cheapo shortcomings, ridiculous villain (complete with Pirate hat!) and slower than molasses car chases, Jungle Wolf delivers the jungle based action goods. Good use of locations, some decent photography and lots and lots of running, shooting and explosions (and even a little karate) make Jungle Wolf a fun time. Marchini is no Norris but damn he can wear muscle shirts, fire two guns at the same time and rock a samurai sword like the best of them. The action is often firepower and explosion heavy and there is a lot of it, as dialogue for this film must have run to all of two pages.

The ending is ridiculously abrupt and the theme song will be stuck in your head for days but Jungle Wolf is some solid jungle based action cheese.


RECOIL (2011)

Directed by: Terry Miles
Written by: John Sullivan
Starring: Steve Austin, Serinda Swan & Danny Trejo

Steve Austin continues to carve out a post wrestling action movie career with this solid revenge flick that may be his best starring vehicle yet. Slick, tough and straight to the point, Recoil is no nonsense justice seeking action done right. Austin is Varrett a muscle bound, muscle car driving ex-cop who arrives in a small town looking for the killers of his family. Said killers are a ruthless biker gang, led by Danny Trejo’s Drayke, who have the town under their control. But with Varret now on the scene things are going to change and Drayke finds his once vice like grip on “his” town slipping.

A simple story, well-told Recoil gets down to business quick and while it rarely strays from a well-worn good-guy-cleaning-up-a-town-of-bad-guys narrative it does well enough at everything else that it rarely matters that proceedings are of a predictable nature. Slick direction and a mean and moody tone give the film a vibe of cool as bikers strut their stuff, the hero cruises around in a very cool muscle car and everyone tries to out tough one another. It never feels forced and with the likes of Austin and Trejo staring one another down the tough guy, pulpy tone is dead on. The characters are reasonably well drawn and for a low budget film there is mercifully, and refreshingly, very little hamming-it-up on show. The flick is played straight rather than over-the-top, which gives it more of an edge than your run-of-the-mill action flick. Not that it is completely stone faced as Austin still gets a few one liners in and his budding friendship with local town hottie Serinda Swan is nicely played and brings a little warmth to proceedings.

There is also plenty of knuckle dusting action on offer including bar room fights, a memorable scrap between Austin and UFC fighter Keith Jardine and the final showdown with Austin and Trejo which shows old Machete himself has still got a lot of fight left in him. The action has an old school feel to it as dudes duke it out with fists in several bone crunching dust ups. Despite the camera work being a little clunky on occasion we get to see what is going on in the fights and there is no silly editing or shaky cam getting in the way. As mentioned, Recoil doesn't really do anything new but it does tell a familiar story well with some solid action and a decent cast that elevate this little revenge flick from your standard direct-to-DVD action flick starring a former wrestler.


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

252: Sign of Life

Check out my new review of 252: Sign of Life over at Far East Films.