Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Prince

Check out my new review of The Prince over at Blueprint Review.

Trailer Tuesday: The Long Kiss Goodnight

Samantha: What happened?
Mitch: I saved your ass. It was great.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Help redesign Far East Films

Cool Target does quite a bit of reviewing for the good lads over at Far East Films, a great site covering all films, action and otherwise, from Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Thailand et al. It's a great site that's been going for many years and in order to keep going and improve needs your help.

They've set up an IndieGogo site at the link below to help raise funds (as anyone who loves writing/blogging/tweeting about films knows, we're not in it for the money!) and if you have some spare change it would be much appreciated for this excellent website.

Follow the link below where you can read why Far East Films needs your help and donate:


Friday, 19 December 2014

Fight Scene Friday: Black Eagle

Fight Scene Friday: Sho Kosugi vs. Jean Claude van Damme - Black Eagle (1988)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014



Directed by: Teddy Page
Screenplay: Richard Harrison (as Timothy Jorge)
Starring: Richard Harrison, Bruce Baron, Gwendolyn Hung, Ann Milhench, Jim Gaines, Ray Vernall & Mike Monty

The man of a million cheap ninja movies, Richard Harrison, is on ass kicking form in this cheap action revenge flick, which while not a ninja film per se, does feature a sword swinging ninja in one of its copious action scenes. Harrison is Jack Kaplan a man of moustache and cool action movie name, who is in Vietnam demonstrating a new awesome gun. It’s a machine gun, a bazooka and I’m pretty sure it can pop popcorn in its handy built in microwave oven it’s that bad ass. No sooner has Kaplan finished demonstrating how good the gun can blow shit up he’s attacked, captured and thrown in a POW camp. It’s not long before a rescue team is sent in to liberate Kaplan and get down to, well, blowing shit up. Once rescued and returned home, Kaplan discovers his wife has been kidnapped and he is being framed for a bunch of crimes he didn’t commit. Not messing about, Kaplan gets down to searching for his wife and looking for the bad guys, meaning he is going to blow a lot of shit up.

Now Fireback is a whole load of cheap-jack Philippine shot action craziness but somewhat disappointingly abandons the plot it seems to be setting up about the super-awesome mega gun seen in the opening scenes in favour of your standard dude-needs-to-rescue-his-girl-from-a-bunch-of-other-dudes-revenge-nonsense. Fair enough but having Harrison go after the dudes who stole his mega gun and left him for dead in a POW camp would have been a whole lot cooler. Seems the mega cool gun scene was just their so the makers could stick a picture of it on the video cover! Oh well, and once one can get over their hoping-to-a-see-mega-gun-action-extravaganza disappointment, Fireback is still a decent slice of action baloney.

For one we have Richard Harrison, who actually appears throughout the entire film instead of only in some tacked on ninja scenes at the beginning and end (and also allegedly wrote the script in one night!), going through the motions as the ever worried hero looking for his kidnapped wife. The likes of Bruce Baron and Mike Monty (who made frequent appearances in these types of action films throughout the 80s) also show up as various bad guys/cops and, as mentioned, a ninja even shows up on several occasions to challenge Harrison to some deadly combat. So all good really.

Director Teddy Page (Jungle Rats, Blood Chase) keeps everything rollicking along and there is a surfeit of bullet riddled action and explosions to keep the cheesy action fan happy. There is also a surplus of random oddness in between all the action to keep the absurd factor bubbling: including a bad guy with a golden hand (!), an actor credited as Ed Harris (but not that Ed Harris!) and Harrison even builds another super-cool-mega-gun, A-Team style, in order to blow up the bad guys real good. Proceedings even get a little downbeat come the final third meaning Fireback is an oddly entertaining action fest that walks a fine line between action silliness and gloomy earnestness.

Monday, 15 December 2014


Recently watched: Cat Sassoon, kickboxing, uzis, nude fighting (!) all wrapped up in 80 minutes of action fueled awesome by Cirio H. Santiago. Angelfist (1993)

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Opposing Force (aka Hell Camp)


Directed by: Eric Karson
Screenplay: Gil Cowan
Starring: Tom Skerritt, Lisa Eichorn, Richard Roundtree & Anthony Zerbe

Logan (Skerrit), Casey (Eichorn) and a bunch of other elite soldiers sign up for a new intensive training programme. Said programme is only for the best of the best and to make it through is to prove what an elite survivalist and combat soldier one is. Casey is the first woman to attempt the training programme and so faces added hostility from her fellow competitors and supposed allies, them not taking too kindly to a female participating. However, Casey is more than capable of taking care of herself and eventually forms an alliance with Logan. No sooner have the soldiers been deployed on the island where the training will take place the participants are captured and held captive in island commander Becker’s  (Zerbe) stronghold. As Becker dishes out extreme torture and humiliation on his captors in an effort to break them the line between Becker’s training and his want to ultimately control his captors becomes blurred leading Logan and Casey to question whether they are truly being pushed to their limits or that their lives are now in danger. 

Opposing Force (or Hell Camp as it was called on the VHS copy this reviewer watched) was a pleasant surprise. Well a pleasant surprise in how good the film was and what a well made action drama it was but rather unpleasant in some of the torture it depicts. Balancing exploitation, serious drama and action thrills with consummate skill, Opposing Force is from a golden era when a film stuck to its guns and delivered drama, violence and thrills with no fuss and great skill. While the characters experience plenty of atrocities at the hands of the slowly unraveling Becker the film’s aim is not to solely shock. With a fine and committed cast (Skerrit, Zerbe and Richard Roundtree as Becker’s right hand man are all on excellent form) Opposing Force deftly ramps up the drama as much as the exploitation keeping the viewer guessing as to whether Becker really has unraveled or is simply committed to his cause of pushing the soldiers to their absolute limits. With strong performances, dialogue and a director knowing just when to pull back (so as not to make the violence and torture appear gloating), Opposing Force is an expertly made survival film.

Special mention should go to Lisa Eichorn for an incredibly dedicated performance as the strong willed Casey. She has to endure much humiliation, often nude (though so do the male cast) and it’s an incredibly brave performance that Eichorn sells with vigour. Kudos to the filmmakers also for not making her character a token female victim and for the fact she becomes a survivor not just because she has something to prove but because she is a strong and determined person in her own right. Before one worries that it all gets too serious there is still a good dose of jungle based action on hand (though fans of exploding huts may be disappointed as not many get, well, blown up!) and while it may be dated in certain filmmaking respects (it sometimes feels like a glorified TV-movie with added ultra violence!), Opposing Force is the true definition of a hidden gem and highly recommended.  

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Berserker: Hell’s Warrior


Written & Directed by: Paul Matthews
Starring: Craig Sheffer, Kari Wuhrer, Paul Johansson & Patrick Bergin

Vikings, swords, time-hopping, vampire lady vixens, over-acting, gore and day-glo special effects: well, it must be Berserker: Hell’s Warrior. All of this and more combine for a truly unique B-movie experience that despite its madness and often incoherence is a whole lot of sword slaying fun. Boar (Johansson) is the favourite son of Thorsson (Bergin) and for a Viking is a pretty good egg. He doesn’t come across as bloodthirsty as the rest of them (though can kick ass when needed), feels for his neglected brother Boar (Sheffer) and even incurs an eternal curse in order to save his brother’s life. Said curse has him reborn lifetime after lifetime experiencing endless pain, suffering and always destined to lose his love. Said love is Brunhilda (Wuhrer), who was actually Boar’s squeeze (so I guess Barek wasn’t such a good egg after all!), now reincarnated as sexy doctor Anya who releases Barek upon modern day society from a high tech prison where Boar and his goons, complete in full Viking apparel, attempt to hunt Barek down in a very bloodthirsty (and presumably jealous!) manner.

As confusing as that write up sounds (and it may be because my memory is somewhat impaired from the viewing of the film, as it was late at night and in a whiskey haze!), Berserker: Hell’s Warrior sort of plays out like a Viking version of Highlander. We start off in olden times complete with Viking village, boats and a big battle scene and then half an hour into proceedings the action jumps ahead to modern times complete with Vikings running around axing for vengeance. However, if you can go with the slapdash approach (it feels as though a lot was perhaps left on the cutting room floor?) Berserker: Hell’s Warrior is a lot of crazy, gory, Viking fun.

The film is slickly photographed and the budget used well to create some convincing Viking costumes and an impressive Viking village. The effects may be a little dated (looking circa 1994 rather than 2004: in fact the whole thing looks like it was shot in the 90s) but they give a groovy, campy vibe to proceedings (glowing vampire chicks: awesome!) and the cast is pretty groovy too. Johansson unfortunately has the duller of the roles having to play everything straight and serious but the likes of Bergin (complete with awful fake beard!) and Sheffer make up for this with their scenery chewing greatness. In fact, Scheffer is a hoot as the deranged Boar and should have been used more. The smoking hot Wuhrer is, well, smoking hot and acts everyone off screen and director Paul Matthews (Grim, Breeders) makes sure we are never far away from the next sword slicing fight.

The fights are a little clunky but feature an impressive mount of gore and blood splattering violence as the Vikings go berserk on one another and while it may take itself a little too seriously Berserker: Hell’s Warrior is some slick B-movie fun in the Highlander mould. Plus, what’s not to like about a film featuring immortal Vikings, blood sucking Valkyries and the lovely Kari Wuhrer? 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


Recently watched: Roger Corman + Jerry Trimble + Vernon Wells + a shit ton of action = Stranglehold (1994) 

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Rebel

Check out my new review of fight packed The Rebel over at Far East Films.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Digital Man


Directed by: Phillip J. Roth
Screenplay: Ron Schmidt & Phillip J. Roth
Starring: Ken Olandt, Matthias Hues, Kristen Dalton, Ed Lauter, Adam Baldwin & Paul Gleason.

Part man, part machine, all, erm, digital: it’s Digital Man. Well not so much digital (save for the opening few minutes!) but really just Matthias Hues in a lot of futuristic combat armour with a big gun wandering around the desert blowing shit up. And a lot of shit he blows up to. This low budget, mid-90s, cyborg-run-amok action flick is all kinds of kooky craziness but is a lot of fun thanks to the striking desert location setting, a cast of familiar A-movie and B-movie faces and an incredible amount of explosions. Hues is the Digital Man of the title, a new combat cyborg who goes haywire after a mission in the Californian desert and proceeds to blow everything and everyone up. His superiors, keen to get him back and retrieve some top secret launch codes (or something!) he is holding, dispatch a squad of marines to go after him and ridiculously huge guns, redneck silliness (!) and explosions ensue.

Sort of mixing the colonial marines from Aliens (right down to the ripped-off giant guns!) with The Terminator and throwing them into a desert, Digital Man is as absurd as its title. Watching a bunch of mouthy marines in bulky combat gear run around a desert chasing after a robot, in even bulkier gear, while a bunch of actors you have appeared in A-list movies bark orders at them from a dark computer room may not sound like a lot of fun but, well, it actually kinda is.

The desert setting adds a pleasing visual aesthetic, Hues is great as the almost wordless on-the-rampage cyborg and thanks to a ridiculous amount of steadicam work the film feels a lot slicker than it probably is. The effects are a decent mix of practical and clunky low budget CGI and the filmmakers deserve respect for the both the ridiculous amounts of explosions featured and the ridiculous amount of times the word cyborg is mentioned. A drinking game could be implemented for either (or both) and becoming shit faced (quickly) is guaranteed!

Plus along with Hues we've got B-movie cast awesomeness in the form of Ed “Raw Deal” Lauter, Adam “Full Metal Jacket” Baldwin and Paul “Die Hard” Gleason. Even Don “Brother of Patrick” Swayze and Clint “Brother of Ron” Howard are in there somewhere playing, non-surprisingly, a redneck and a weirdo respectively. Cool. Add in stupidly large guns (which I’ll admit, look freaking awesome!), the most random training-with-ninjas scene ever (!) and the fact one is never more that 3 minutes away from the next explosion and Digital Man is a mid-90s, B-movie, robot-rampaging, sci-fi hoot. 

Monday, 24 November 2014

Mea Culpa

Check out my new review of Mea Culpa over at Blueprint Review.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Die Fighting

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

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Death Match


Directed by: Joe Coppoletta
Screenplay: Curtis Gleaves, Bob Wyatt & Steve Tymon
Starring: Ian Jacklin, Martin Kove, Matthias Hues, Renee Allman, Bob Wyatt & Nick Hill

Death Match is about as 90s a martial arts movie as they come. Set in Los Angeles: check. Tournament fights arranged by some shifty criminal type: check. Two buddies (who know kung fu) trying to make a living in LA and one of them gets sucked into said tournament fights and subsequently goes missing/dies: check. Other buddy drops everything to find his friend and must train, as he will inevitably take part in the tournament fights: check. Hot reporter for said buddy to bed and to help him out with his investigations: check. Matthias Hues: check. Kid sidekick: check. Lots of fights: check. Cool cameos from B-movie action stalwarts Richard Lynch, Jorge Rivero and Steven Vincent Leigh: check. A huge boat to have the big end action scene play out on: check. And there you have it, Death Match.

Taking all the above ingredients and mixing it into a kind of mish-mash of genres, Death Match is still surprisingly enjoyable. It has a load of crisp and crunchy fights (choreographed by the great Art Camancho and Benny “The Jet” Urquidez: who even appears as himself as the hero’s trainer!) and one time would be action star Ian Jacklin (Expert Weapon) makes for a likeable hero and convincing fighter. He even gets a cool motorcycle to ride (sometimes with helmet, sometimes without!) and an obligatory sex scene with the hot reporter. Cool. The great Martin Kove smirks his way through the smarmy bad guy role and Matthias Hues gets a meaty role as his right hand man and a couple of decent fights scenes as well. Hell, he even gets set on fire but comes back for more fighting, fire-scarred an all! Sweet.

It’s all fairly predictable and low rent but with a little more time given to story and a likeable hero who we actually want to see win (and not get kicked in the face because he is always acting like a wannabe bad ass douche!), it makes for refreshing viewing. If you read blogs like this and watch movies like these, you've no doubt seen this type of story a gazillion times (especially if you grew up watching these types of films in the 80s and 90s) but Death Match does it fairly well, has plenty of kicks to faces and is a decent 80 minutes or so of bygone era action junk.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Open Fire

OPEN FIRE (1994)

Directed by: Kurt Anderson
Screenplay: Thomas Ritz
Starring: Jeff Wincott, Patrick Kilpatrick, Mimi Craven, Lee de Broux & Arthur Taxier

One time action star Jeff Wincott got his own Die Hard flick in the form of the very straightforward but nonetheless fun Open Fire. It’s that aforementioned action classic set in a chemical plant this time around, as a bunch of terrorist goons takeover said plant and threaten to blow it all up if their big bad leader Kruger (Kilpatrick) isn’t released from prison. He is, he joins his mob and they still plan to blow shit up and flee with the hostages. One hostage just happens to be the father of Alec McNeil (Wincott) who, wouldn’t you know it, is an ex bad ass cop and wants in on the rescue mission/negotiations. Prickly cop captain Taxier (Davis) isn’t having any of it meaning McNeil has to go rogue, breaking into the plant himself (which proves very easy!) in order to rescue his pops and kick some major ass.

It’s fairly by the numbers and back in the 90s Die Hard clones were a dime a dozen but Open Fire is unfussy action fun for the less discriminating critic that coasts on Wincott’s likeability, Kilpatrick’s slimy bad guy and a smattering of decent action. It’s not as action packed as some of Wincott’s greatest hits (Martial Outlaw, Mission of Justice) and he does seem to be going through the motions a bit (where’s the eager kung fu cop from Martial Law 2 or the permanently on-edge-and-hard-ass-cop from Mission of Justice?!) but when it comes to delivering the bone breaking action he, well, err, delivers. With action choreographer Jeff Pruitt (Scanner Cop, Deadly Target) on hand the fights are lively, crunchy and hard hitting. An early fight in a bar (to show just how tough McNeil is!) and the final one-on-one with Kilpatrick are the standouts featuring flips, crashing-into-furniture-and-surrounding-objects takedowns and in one particular “oh hell yeah” moment, Wincott punches straight through a dude’s beer glass to sock him in the face. Awesome.

Kilpatrick (Death Warrant, Best of the Best 2) may have played this part a dozen times but he’s good value as the smarmy bad guy and proves a believable physical foe to Wincott’s hero. There could have been a bit more action and less dossing around with the incompetent cops but as a cheap and brisk Die Hard knock off, Open Fire aint bad.  

Monday, 3 November 2014

Extreme Crisis

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

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Protector


Directed by: Boon Collins & Fabien Lloyd
Screenplay: John McFetridge, Boon Collins, Russel Langille
: Robert Cousins
Starring: Frank Zagarino, Matthias Hues & Steven Nijjar

Ok, so this is not The Protector that is the underrated 80s action flick which was Jackie Chan’s first bid at Hollywood stardom but rather a low budget and quite frankly insane action film from the 90s. This one stars B-action movie stalwarts Frank Zagarino, Matthias Hues and Steven Nijjar. Wait, who? Fans of 80s and 90s straight-to-video action films will no doubt know who Zagarino (Shadowchaser films) and Hues (No Retreat No Surrender 2) are but who the hell is Steven Nijjar? Well he’s the main principal here, not to mention he also produced this low budget oddity, and spends most of his time running around trying to dodge bullets and fisticuffs. And when he’s not dodging either of those he, well, does more running! Seriously, half the 90 minute runtime is Mr Nijjar just running around and away from various things, and while he has great stamina and rarely breaks a sweat, you do begin to wonder what the hell is he running from now, especially when he’s got to find his memory, rescue his once-thought-to-be-dead-son, and thwart Hues’ big, bad and oh so camp bad guy.

Ultra low budget action tripe, The Protector is all kinds of action insaneness. Memory wipes, missing sons, chicks with guns (and berets!) and lots of non-acting (mainly courtesy of Nijjar), The Protector certainly has a lot of cool and crazy ingredients but delivers them in such a chaotic and incoherent way it will no doubt even test the patience of even the most hardened action trash fan. However, despite all its silliness the film has 3 tricks up its sleeve that makes it worth a punt. One and two: Zagarino and Hues. Three: tons and tons and tons (and tons) of action! It’s always great to see Zagarino and Hues (they even get a cool fight!) kicking ass, even in one of their more rare action titles such as this. Zagarino does look pissed off the whole time though gets to crack wise about his ex-wife and bust a lot of skulls and Hues is a hoot as the camper than camp villain complete with leopard print shirts, continuous cigars and a bevy of beret wearing/machine gun toting beauties at his disposal. The two stars certainly make the flick more watchable and both get ample opportunity to kick ass and dispense firepower.

And credit where credit is due, The Protector is crammed to the rafters with action. It rarely lets up with fight after fight (some good, some not), explosions, vehicle destruction and machine gun firing awesomeness. The action may be a little rough and ready but its lively, well sustained and makes the flick all that more enjoyable. There is even an elaborate scene where our hero has his feet set on fire but continues to fight and then escapes gunfire by jumping through a window, all the while still on fire! Cool. The less said about the continue re-use of the same corridor in the climactic siege of the villains lair the better (and not to mention the fact Hues is often shooting at nothing off camera!) but for a ultra low budget action flick done by some people that, well, wanted to make their own action film, The Protector delivers action, action and more action.

You laugh (unintentionally), you’ll cry (as it sometimes hurts!), you’ll hurl (mainly because of Hues’ shirts) and you’ll probably be entertained.   

Wednesday, 22 October 2014


Check out my new review of Kite over at Blueprint Review.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


FELONY (2013)

Directed by: Matthew Saville
Screenplay: Joel Edgerton
Starring: Jai Courtney, Joel Edgerton, Melissa George & Tom Wilkinson

Tense and unsettling thriller Felony is an often gripping, albeit slow burning, tale of the moral quandaries Australian cop Malcolm Toohey (Edgerton) must face when he knocks down a young lad one night when driving home intoxicated. Said boy is rushed to the hospital and when asked whether he was involved in the youngster’s accident, Malcolm steps over an honourable line (wanting to protect his career and reputation) when he lies and says he wasn’t: just finding the boy in the road the way he was. Enter long time, and somewhat scuzzy, cop Carl (Wilkinson) who, through some kind of warped sense of wanting to protect his fellow officers, helps Malcolm and gives him a cover story. Malcolm is seen as a hero, the boy’s mother seeing him as her son’s saviour, but new cop Jim (Courtney) has his doubts and begins his own investigation into the case. Soon the officers are forced into a battle of wills as cover-ups and consciouses begin to crumble in a pursuit for the truth.  

An incredibly well acted and well shot film, Felony for much of its running time is riveting viewing achieving its momentum and grip by the tight direction and very convincing performances of the main cast. Walking a wobbly moral tightrope, meaning one doesn’t always have sympathy with the characters, the film keeps one watching thanks to its non-showy and unpretentious way of presenting the story. Melodrama is played down in favour of a much more naturalistic approach, the actors playing very real people in a very real situation. Instead of, and refreshingly so, a docu-like approach (handheld cameras, de-saturated colours etc) to make proceedings seem more real, director Matthew Saville shoots his film beautifully with long, steady shots (meaning the film still has a very cinematic aesthetic) and lets the characters and the actors playing them bring out the realism rather than trying to force it.

The cast are uniformly brilliant with star and writer Edgerton convincingly crumbling under the pressure of his secret while Jai Courtney really impresses in the much quieter more restrained role as his suspicious colleague. Only Wilkinson, who is still really good, feels a bit like a “movie” character rather than a real person with his excessive monologues about being loyal and protecting one’s family being a bit flashy compared to the rest of the cast. Still his character provides the thrust for the ethical quagmire the characters must navigate, which leads the story to a rather surprising (though tad rushed after the slow build of everything else!) late act change of direction which will no doubt split viewers down the middle with its moral implications. It’s certainly an unexpected and brave path to take and will have one thinking long after the credits have rolled.

More like a play that unfolds with tense and beautifully filmed precision than an all-out action thriller, Felony is an enthralling crime story telling a morally ambiguous tale that will make you think.


Wednesday, 15 October 2014


GUTSHOT (2014)

Directed by: Justin Steele
Screenplay: Jerry Rapp
Starring: George Eads, AnnaLyne McCord, Ted Levine, Vinnie Jones, Tia Carrere, Stephen Lang & Steven Seagal

Gutshot, while he is in it, is not the new Steven Seagal action film. Likewise, for Vinnie Jones fans out there. Their parts are really just extended cameos though their characters do partly drive the plot and it’s nice to see both of them stretching dramatic chops and letting someone else handle the leading man duties. Those duties got to George Eads (of CSI fame) who plays two-bit card shark Jack who, wouldn’t you know it, is in debt to Seagal’s mob boss and doesn’t even have enough change to support his estranged wife and child. Enter Duffy (Lang) some weird rich dude who offers Jack the bet of his life (well more like an offer a la Indecent Proposal) and after some soul searching (well, having a gun pointed at him!) he decides to accept the bet/challenge. Needless to say things don’t go according to plan, Duffy ends up dead, Jack still owes a lot of money and Seagal and his cronies come a calling.

More a dramatic thriller, set in the Las Vegas gambling world, than an outright action film, fans of Seagal looking to see him kick ass with his fast and furious fists (and copious use of doubles!) will be disappointed but those looking to see him doing something a little different (albeit a version of a character he as always played, just a little more crooked this time around!) may be surprised. Sure he only has a few scenes but it’s cool to see the Seagal trying something a little different and actually attempting to act. Lead guy George Eads makes for a believable down-on-his-luck schmoe and while his character first appears to be a bit of a douche he does become more likable as his predicament worsens and Eads makes for an easy-going leading man. Lang can do sleazy and weird in his sleep, which he does well here, and the great Ted Levine also shows up to provide a bit of threat.

As mentioned, and despite the cool title (the flick is known as Gutshot Straight in the States), Gutshot is not really an action film. On its own dramatic thriller terms, the film works well for most of its running time though does loose a bit of steam in the second half with events seeming to meander too much when they should be heating up. However, Justine Steele’s film is nicely shot with good use of the Las Vegas locations and if you are in the mood for a pulpy thriller rather than an all out action ride then Gutshot fits the bill.  

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


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


Check out my new review of Re-Cycle over at Far East Films.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Angel Town


Directed by: Eric Karson
Screenplay: S. Warren
Starring: Olivier Gruner, Peter Kwong, Theresa Saldana, Frank Aragon

Action star and all round cool French man Olivier Gruner made an impressive debut in the now somewhat dated but still entertaining Angel Town. An urban drama with a heavy dose of fight action, Gruner plays Jacques who has recently relocated to LA to further his studies. Having trouble finding suitable accommodation he rents a room from a single mother (Saldana) who lives deep in the ghetto area of LA. She’s desperately trying to keep her son from getting embroiled with a local gang and when Jacques intervenes to help save the boy, the gang soon target Jacques and his new surrogate family leading to all out war.

Made during the American martial arts movie boom, Angel Town was a decent launching pad for Gruner and his high kicking skills. Reminiscent of Van Damme pictures of the time (you can almost hear the producers screaming, quick get another French speaking kickboxer and stick him in a movie!), Angel Town benefits from Gruner’s enthusiastic first screen performance, the gritty urban setting and some solid direction from The Octagon and Black Eagle director, Eric Karson. Sure it’s mega dated now, though the urban LA locations do give it the feel of authenticity, and it’s all a bit daft but it delivers the requisite kickboxing thrills with a nice measure of drama.

While Gruner maybe could have flexed his fight skills a bit more, the fight scenes are executed with brutal efficiency making good use of his kicking ability. There are some fun and authentic looking training scenes showing Jacques training with his American buddy, played by Peter Kwong (The Gold Child, Steele Justice), but the showstopper is the climactic free for all fight when the gang besiege Jacques residence. Stunt/fight coordinator Jeff Imada (Death Warrant, Rapid Fire) pulls out all the stops in a tense and tough showdown featuring all manner of high kicking takedowns and shotgun blasting action.

Angel Town is still one of Gruner’s most entertaining flicks (and look out for an early and non-fighting appearance from Mark Dacascos) that serves as a decent action drama not to mention a time capsule of late 80s/early 90s American martial arts/urban cinema.

Monday, 29 September 2014


Check out my new review of epic war film Brotherhood over at Far East Films.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Blood Ties

Check out my new review of Blood Ties over at Blueprint Review.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Sofia (aka Assassin's Bullet)

SOFIA (2012)

Directed by: Isaac Florentine
Written by: Hans Feuersinger & Nancy L. Babine
Starring: Christian Slater, Elika Portnoy, Timothy Spall & Donald Sutherland

Director Isaac Florentine takes a break from crafting bad ass action films (Undisputed 2 & 3, Ninja 1 & 2), to try his hand at a dramatic thriller (don’t worry, there are still a couple of high impact action scenes) with, unfortunately, somewhat disappointing results. Slater is Robert Diggs a former top FBI agent now living a quieter life in Sofia, Bulgaria as a cultural attaché. When an assassin starts taking out vigilante vengeance on the FBI’s most wanted list, Diggs’ boss (Sutherland) ropes him back into service to find out what the hell is going on. Meanwhile, Timothy Spall is a rather creepy psychiatrist treating a young woman (Portnoy) who is suffering from severe blackouts. Spall also happens to be Diggs’ best mate with the two frequenting a local belly dancing bar (!), where Diggs strikes up a romance with one of the dancers (also Portnoy). Soon Diggs’ personal life becomes entangled with the hunt for the assassin and mucho intrigue and a shed load of belly dancing ensue all leading to a twist that is obvious from about ten minutes in.

While it’s great to see Florentine trying his hand a something other than awesome martial arts action, Sofia will most likely be a massive let down to his fans. It’s certainly got a good cast, some nice locations and is impressively shot but the muddled, uninteresting script hampers proceedings from the get go with far too much time spent on Slater being seduced by the belly dancing charms of Portnoy (seriously, there is so much belly dancing in this film it may as well have been a documentary about the dance!). After a pretty cool opening featuring the black clad assassin taking out a group of targets (and making one believe they are in for a fun action ride) proceedings slip into drudgery as we watch belly dance after belly dance, see Slater become more confused by what’s going on (much like the viewer!) and witness Sutherland hamming it up and having fun in his extended cameo (one of the more enjoyable aspects of the film). 

Unfortunately the film can’t help but slip into a dull grind and the ensuing conspiracy is just not as exciting or as sexy as it thinks it is. Slater does try his best and there is no doubting Florentine’s direction is slick. Fortunately, there a couple of the director’s trademark action beats  to liven things up with the aforementioned kill scene and an extended action blowout near the end where the assassin attempts to complete their killing mission. As always with Florentine, the action is fluid and exciting and features some polished choreography: there just should have been more of it and less of the belly dancing. Good to see Florentine attempting the conspiracy thriller genre and while there are flashes of excitement, Sofia disappointingly fizzles when it should sizzle.

Aka Assassin’s Bullet

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Wolf Creek 2

Check out my new review of the surprisingly vehicular stunt filled Wolf Creek 2 over at Blueprint Review.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Viral Factor

Check out my new review of The Viral Factor over at Far East Films.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Ninja Apocalypse


Directed by: Lloyd Lee Barnett
Written by: Ashley Scott Meyers
Starring: Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Les Brandt, Christian Oliver & Ernie Reyes Jr

So there’s been a great war resulting in an apocalypse from a huge bomb going off, leaving the lands ravaged and turning its survivors into wandering clans of highly skilled ninjas: so far so awesome. Said ninja clans are then summoned by the grandmaster ninja of them all, Fumitaka (Hiroyuki-Tagawa), to a bunker deep underground where he is swiftly murdered in front of all the clans. The Lost Ninja clan, led by the cool and collected Cage (Oliver), are blamed for the slaying and the other ninja clans set about trying to kill them, swearing revenge. Trapped deep below ground, framed and with not only pissed off ninjas but zombies(!) on their tail as well, Cage and his clan fight their way to the top through an ever increasing amount of foes. Fights, magic powers, swords, zombies, more fights and even a bit of gore ensue: freaking sweet!

Ninja Apocalypse is an absolute hoot made all the more fun by its aim to not explain everything (it’s a post-apocalyptic future with ninjas who all have magic powers: that’s just the way it is!) but its determination to entertain and thrill. Made by skilled visual effects and action department folks, the film takes these two aspects and welds them into a fun and fast ride giving us the viewer plenty to feast our eyes on: both visually and action wise. So along with well staged and energetic fights we get cool enhanced powers with ninjas able to shoot fireballs from their hands and ignite their swords ala Star Wars lightsabers which gives the action a fresh visual kick. Part post- apocalyptic movie, part Mortal Kombat and part 80s ninja film, Ninja Apocalypse delivers on its awesome title and supplies action, ninjas and even zombies, by the bucket load. Ok, so the zombies are only a small part of the actual action and those just expecting ninjas vs. zombies throughout may be disappointed but with lots of well staged fights and a momentum that rarely slacks one has plenty of ninja action to feast their eyes on. 

The flick also, surprisingly, has quite a serious tone with all the principals giving it their all in both the acting and action. Perhaps another a joke or two wouldn’t have gone a miss to lighten the tone a bit but the reluctance to wink at the camera is actually refreshing giving the character's plight and the action more of an edge. As mentioned the cast really go for it and really sell the over-the-top nature of the film with Lost Ninja clan member Trillion (Kaiwi Lyman) really standing out. Also nice to see genre legends Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa and Ernie Reyes Jr in there and they even get their own fight scenes as well. The action is crisp and creative even if the end smack-down does end a little abruptly but overall Ninja Apocalypse is a blast: fast and furious with an abundance of ninjas and swordfights.