Friday, 23 May 2014

In The Blood


Directed by: John Stockwell
Written by: James Robert Johnston & Bennett Yellin
Starring: Gina Carano, Cam Gigandet, Danny Trejo, Luis Guzman, Stephen Lang, Amaury Nolasco & Treat Williams

One time MMA fighter Gina Carano gets another shot at a leading action role (after the very enjoyable and much underrated Haywire) in the tropical set In the Blood. Carrying the picture admirably on her shoulders, Carano proves again she’s a good fit for the action heroine lead as she attempts to find her missing husband (Gigandet) on the Caribbean island where they were celebrating their honeymoon. Enticed to try some of the world's longest zip-lines (which are used effectively and thrilling in several of the film’s set-pieces) Ava (Carano) and Derek (Gigandet) are having a blast until Derek’s harness snaps and plunges him into the jungle below. Whisked off in an ambulance, Ava is told to follow Derek and the paramedics and meet them at a nearby hospital. However, Derek never makes it to the hospital and Ava is plunged into an alien world as she desperately searches for her husband. It doesn’t take her long to figure out something shady is going on (not least with the lack of help from the local law enforcement) and she soon sets out on her own to find her husband and punish those, Taken style, who have snatched him. 

You see, Ava is a trained survivor (something her husband didn’t know about her) and, as shown in a series of flashbacks, taught by her survivalist father (Lang) to fight and kill. This gives Carano’s Ava plenty of chance to kick some butt and knock some teeth out as she is thrust into a dark criminal world fronted by Lugo (Nolasco) and Big Biz (Tejo). However, while In the Blood (ably directed by John Stockwell: Turistas, Into the Blue) gives Carano the chance to flex her fight muscles she also gets to flex her acting ones: and does well at both. In fact, for the first half of the film, proceedings have more of a thriller element than an action one as Carano desperately searches for her husband. Nicely shot on location, proceedings have an almost docu feel helped in part by Stockwell’s neat use of different types of cameras to film (phones cameras, CCTV cameras, helmet cams on the zip-lines) meaning In the Blood works best as an edgy thriller. Aside from the nice location work, Carano is the main driving force and really makes the film work. Since Haywire and Fast and Furious 6 her screen presence has really come along and she certainly holds her own in the dramatic scenes. The rest of the familiar face cast are really just there for support, only getting a few scenes each, though Nolasco registers as a particularly nasty bad guy.

There could have been a few more sustained fights, though when Carano does start kicking butt the fights are fast and brutal and heavily MMA influenced: the lady knows how to kick ass. The zip-line set-pieces are the standout sequences as they are vertigo-inducing and tensely staged, adding a unique twist to the action. Yet, even if there isn’t as much action as one may have hoped for its Carano’s relentless mission through the seedier side of the Caribbean that gives the film its momentum and the former fighter turn actress proves again she’s got the talent to become a leading female action star. Now give her another film/role quick.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Substitute 4: Failure Is Not An Option


Directed by: Robert Radler
Screenplay: Dan Gurskis
Starring: Treat Williams, Angie Everhart, Bill Nunn, Tim Abell & Patrick Kilpatrick

The Substitute series (where a former special ops badass goes undercover into troubled schools to fight corruption, and was originally kicked off by Tom Berenger) amazingly made it to 4 entries. Good old reliable Treat Williams returns for a third go around and this time goes undercover at a military school to fight white supremacists. The domineering and ruthlessly racist Brack (Kilpatrick) runs the school with an iron fist seemingly converting everyone and anyone to his cruel and violent beliefs. With his squad of seasoned cadets, The Werewolves, Brack proves an imposing force for Williams’ solider turned undercover teacher.

This series has always been entertaining with the various gangs either Berenger or Williams have come up against, while posing as teachers, providing ample opportunity for some hard-hitting action. This entry is no different (and the military school setting is a nice change from your typical run down/inner city school environment) but perhaps finds itself hitting badass soldier-poses-as-teacher-to-kick-some-ass fatigue. The action is also a little thinner on the ground this time around with Williams and Kilpatrick not even getting a fight scene: hey, no fair! However, the lovely Angie Everhart (Jade) provides a nice distraction, especially for Williams (with the level of sex and nudity certainly ramped up for this instalment!) and B-movie action mainstay Tim Abell (Special Forces) also provides solid support as Williams’ army buddy roped in to help out.

There could have been a few more action scenes to pad out the runtime but what action there is fairly inventive and rough-and-ready as per the previous entries. Williams gets to show off some hand-to-hand skills (though is obviously doubled on occasions) in a couple of high impact fights and there is a particularly over-the-top sequence where he is attacked by rocket launcher wielding cadets and thwarts them by using (what else!) a massive JCB digger to squash them. B-movie action craziness!

No as entertaining as previous entries and the original The Substitute is still the best but The Substitute 4 is an entertaining enough low rent action sequel to wile-away 80 or so minutes late one evening. 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Raid 2

Check out my new review of The Raid 2 over at Far East Films.

Dead Sushi

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