Thursday, 27 June 2013

Sahara



SAHARA (1995)

Directed by: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Written by: David Phillips & Philip MacDonald
Starring: James Belushi, Alan David Lee, Michael Massee & Jerome Ehlers

James Belushi is ace in this solid mid 90s remake of the Humphrey Bogart film of the same name. Some may cry foul at the idea of a Bogart film being remade, and on a somewhat low budget, and while the original Sahara is a fine slice of Bogart it’s not exactly a crime to think of remaking it. Under the assured hands of veteran genre director Brian Trenchard-Smith (Day of the Panther, The Man from Hong Kong, Siege at Firebase Gloria), this version of Sahara is well made, nicely acted and packed with gun busting action. Belushi is Joe Gunn an army sergeant who is forced to go on the run through the Sahara desert in his beloved tank Lulubelle during WW2. He heads deeper into the desert, picking up wandering stragglers from a range of allied forces along the way, attempting to outrun an advancing Nazi army. From tank breakdowns to the unrelenting hardship of the desert, the motley crew face their fair share of adversities before finding a desert oasis with a well full of water. Holing up there they decide to stand strong against the Germans who mount a full scale attack against Belushi and his men in a bid to take the oasis and seize the precious water.


Despite being originally produced for television, Sahara looks great, benefits from some great location work, features some pretty impressive action staging and doesn’t skimp on the violence of war either. Essentially about a group of differing men having to overcome their differences and the notion of whether rank is important to survive the harsh landscape, Trenchard-Smith’s film benefits from some well-written characters and the actors who portray them. Belushi is brilliant as the no-nonsense Gunn flexing his dramatic muscles, as well as his physical ones, as he tries to do right by his men even if it means making tough and life threatening decisions. He has good support from Jerome Ehlers (The Marine) as the sensible Brit who bonds with Gunn and Michael Massee (The Crow) as a tough as nails French soldier. Refreshingly, after an initial spot of tension, the group get along and learn to survive and fight as a unit avoiding the usual clich├ęs of group antagonism.

The makers don’t forget to stage some impressive action either as the tank is as much a part of the cast as any actor, it causing major wholesale Nazi destruction come the finale. In fact, the finale sees the film turn into a siege picture as the crew hunker down to make a stand within the ruins of the oasis. Trenchard-Smith is a dab hand at staging action and gets to let loose with a large cast of extras, some impressive machine gun action and a tank in an exciting last act battle. War based action coupled with an excellent cast and solid production values; Sahara is a taut and tight war film worthy of tracking down.

Good stuff.



Monday, 24 June 2013

Weekend of Trash XI


I met up again with a couple of the guys from Blueprint Review  for another weekend of non-stop B-movie madness. Turing my pad into a mini cinema (thanks to the Blueprint projector) we managed to get through an abundance of low budget insanity including Spacerage, Codename: Wildgeese, Texas Chainsaw, Dragon Wasps and many more distinctly B-movie gems.

Check out the write up.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Courier



THE COURIER (2012)

Directed by: Hany Abu-Assad
Screenplay: Brannon Coombs & Peter Dris
Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Josie Ho, Mark Margolis, Til Schweiger, Lily Taylor, Miguel Ferrer & Mickey Rourke

The Courier aint bad but it could have been better. Veering from hardboiled coolness to messy exploitation from scene to scene, the film isn’t quite the streamlined thriller it should have been but thanks to a committed performance from lead Jeffrey Dean Morgan, a couple of hard-edged action scenes and an odd-ball husband and wife assassin team (played by Lily Taylor and Miguel Ferrer) it makes for a breezy 90 minutes of entertainment. You’ve heard/seen this story before: Morgan is a man who delivers packages/money/whatever-you-want-delivered no questions asked. But instead of jetting around sunny France and Miami ala The Transporter, The Courier plies his trade in a hurricane ravaged New Orleans using his wits, his fists and with what looks like an extreme lack of sleep. Whereas The Transporter is all slick and cool, The Courier is all grit and sweat as he attempts to deliver a briefcase that threatens to unravel his life completely, sets him on a collision course with his past and sees him confronted by a very strange performance from Mickey Rourke (strange even by Mickey Rourke standards!).


While the film starts off promising (courier finishing off a previous job, time spent getting to know the characters, a couple of decent action beats), it unfortunately begins to unravel as pointless characters are introduced, the pace threatens to become a lethargic trudge and good old Mickey Rourke (or his stand in?!) is hidden in the shadows for most of his screen time ala direct-to-DVD Steven Segal. The first half of the film begins to build a hard-boiled Southern edge quite nicely but this is soon jettisoned in favour of wasted characters (Til Schweiger’s FBI agent, Josie Ho’s sort of love interest) and a plot that come the second half is all over the place with too much back-story, Rourke’s disappointing villain and a twist that really wasn’t needed. With something like 20 or so producers listed in the credits it seems like there really were too many cooks in the kitchen on this one.

Still, if you can past these negatives (oh, and some embarrassingly awful green screen work in several scenes) The Courier still dishes up enough cool action and attitude to be worth your time. The always underrated Jeffrey Dean Morgan gives it his all and is effectively tough and gruff as the hardboiled courier. The equally underrated Mark Margolis is also good as Morgan’s mentor/best mate and Taylor and Ferrer make for a great couple of bad guys: they really should have been the main antagonists. There are a couple of decent chase scenes, one rather brutal torture scene and a wicked fist fight which keep the action trundling along. Plus the flick has a cool sweaty Southern feel which helps emphasize the hardboiled nature of proceedings.

While the last third unravels into a mess and the tone becomes disjointed thanks to unnecessary characters, The Courier still delivers (sorry!) just enough pulpy action entertainment for the less critical film fan.



Monday, 10 June 2013

Shanghai


Check out my new review of Shanghai over at Far East Films.

Roaring Dragon, Bluffing Tiger


Check out my new review of Roaring Dragon, Bluffing Tiger over at Far East Films.