Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Kung Fu Killer

Check out my new review of the quite awesome Kung Fu Killer over at Far East Films.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Savage Justice


Directed by: Joey Romero
Starring: Julia Montgomery, Steven Memel, Ruel Vernal

It’s Philippine, jungle based action a-go-go in the cheap but not always cheerful Savage Justice. Sarah (Montgomery) is the foxy blonde daughter of some American diplomat who is captured by a group of nasty jungle rebels when they instigate an attack on the American embassy (or something!). With her parents slain and with no chance of escape, Sarah becomes the personal plaything of tough rebel Sanchez (Vernal). However, as well as using her for all sorts of sleazy shenanigans, Sanchez trains her in all forms of combat so she can fight by his side and now be his tough foxy blonde fighting babe. Cut to a year later and Sanchez and Sarah (now a cute couple!) go on the rampage and attack a local village with the purpose of hijacking several supply trucks due into town. In amongst all the shooting and chaos, Sarah is wounded and rescued by American stud dude Rick (Memel), a former soldier trying to live a quiet life but who’s wife is killed in the village attack (well he did send her into town to do grocery shopping knowing there was going to be an attack: dick!). Reluctantly joining forces with Sarah, the two of team up to take down Sanchez once and for all but not before a heap load of oddness/plot tangents/general B-movie absurdness can take place. 

While it features its fair share of machine gun firing action, explosions and dangerous car flips, Savage Justice is all over the shop in its intentions. Cut and chopped to a lean, mean 80 minutes, coherency isn’t always its strongpoint as Sarah’s imprisonment by Sanchez lasts all of five minutes and is basically an excuse to tell us that she is now some bad-ass Rambo like battling babe. Cue the let’s-get-revenge-on-Sanchez plot (he now moping around his jungle camp pining for his blonde babe!) but not before we take jaunts to a Shaolin Temple  (to recruit some monks!); a hideout to find a cache of guns (mysteriously run by a gang of street kids and a midget: who then also joins forces with Sarah!); take in several random fights showcasing Sarah’s new found kung fu skills; and then throw in some funky Mad Max like vehicles and, oh, you know, a bit of faux lesbian taunting from one of the evil jungle bandits! Savage Justice certainly gets points for throwing in everything it can think of, even if most of it doesn’t stick.

While a lot of the artwork seems to be promising this as a sort of female Rambo type flick, and Montgomery does get to kick ass and fire guns, the big finale sees the leading lady relegated to the sidelines as Memel gets to be all action hero and even gets to fight Sanchez: it should have Montgomery kicking his ass in the final minutes damnit! Still, and thankfully, Savage Justice delivers a truck load of crazy gun blasting action, especially come the final 20 minutes that features all kinds of bullet riddled destruction, those Mad Max like vehicles flying through the air and being destroyed and plenty of explosions: so lots of dangerous looking stunt madness. Montgomery makes for a tough action babe and while Savage Justice has its moments it would have been better (and less weird) with the omission of the Monks, the street urchins and all the other silliness that gets in the way of some good jungle blasting action. 

Weekend of Trash XVI

I met up again with a couple of the guys from Blueprint Review for another weekend of non-stop B-movie madness. We managed to get through an abundance of low budget insanity including The Lamp, Legion of Iron, Ghost Keeper, Wavelength and Soldier's Wrath

Check out the write up.

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Manhunt


Directed by: Fabrizio De Angelis (as Larry Ludman)
Screenplay: Fabrizio De Angelis & Dardano Sacchetti
Starring: Ethan Wayne, Henry Silva, Raimund Harmstorf, Bo Svenson & Ernest Borgnine

The Manhunt sees The Duke’s very own son, John Ethan Wayne, having a go at leading man duties in this little seen American shot, Italian produced slice of action schlock. Much like director Fabrizio De Angelis’ Thunder series of films (his riffs on the First Blood formula where Native American cop Mark Gregory is accused of all sorts of things he didn’t do leading him to go up against the corrupt cops who set him up), The Manhunt features a wronged hero (Wayne) being accused of something he didn’t do (stealing a couple of horses) and thrown in the slammer run by a nasty Sherriff/warden (Silva). So after the obligatory humiliation at the hands of the Sherriff and his goons, some sweaty chain gang work, and befriending one of the inmates (who is no doubt  gonna wind up dead the minute he befriends the hero!),Wayne attempts to escape, outrun the pursuing dirty cops and reclaim the horses that are rightfully his. 

Now the concept of a would be hero attempting to clear his name and get his two horses back may not sound like a recipe for an exciting prison/action flick and in many ways one would be right. Wayne is so determined to get his damn horses back it all seems a bit daft: especially when he keeps repeating the line “It’s about principle” when virtually every other character tells him to forget it about it. To be fair, it kinda is about the principle (he bought those horses fair and square damnit!) and really the stealing of the horses is just an excuse to set in motion Silva’s sadistic Sherriff and an ever increasing amount of dangerous car stunts. Tracking similar territory to the Thunder films (wrongly accused hero, desert locations, nasty cops, lots of vehicular destruction in slow motion), The Manhunt plays like a slightly watered down version of those flicks. It’s a got a modern Western vibe going for it (complete with twangy score) and while the film isn’t as excessively violent as a lot of other Italian action flicks from  the era there is still plenty of insane car stunts (including a cool chase utilising a stolen prison bus) and plenty of shotgun blasting action. 

It’s all quite low key and Fabrizio takes a while to get to the action but once good ole John Wayne Jr is on the run proceeding heat up considerably. It’s got that vintage 80s Italian feel to it (not quite sure how to pinpoint it but if you’re a fan of these films, you’ll know the feel!) and a who’s-who of cool bad guy supporting characters. Silva is at his mad dog, shotgun wielding best along with fellow corrupt cop Raimund Harmstorf (Thunder 2); always good to see Ernest Borgnine acting everyone else off screen, even if his character does a complete out-of-nowhere 180 in his motivations in persecuting/helping Wayne’s character (!); Bo Svenson (also Thunder 2) pops up for all of five minutes; and Wayne, well, he doesn’t exactly have the screen charisma of his famous father but makes for a decent silent hero.

It may be a bit slow to get going for those looking for fast and violent action and it’s all so slight (even by 80s Italian action schlock standards) some may turn off before all the cool car stunt action kicks in but The Manhunt (if you can hunt down a copy: sorry!) is a neat little Italian action oddity that gets by on some cool location photography, a nostalgic Italian movie vibe and lots of cars being flipped. 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Night of the Sharks


Directed by: Tonino Ricci
Screenplay: Tito Capri & Tonino Ricci
Starring: Treat Williams, Janet Agren, Antonio Fargas, John Steiner, & Christopher Connelly

Now here’s a film that may even test the patience of the most avid and hardened fan of Italian action schlock from the 80s (that’ll be me then!). Despite the presence of the always ace Treat Williams, the awesome artwork featured above and below and  the promise of some crazy shark action, Night of the Sharks (great title!) is as bonkers as any mid 80s Italian flick featuring a couple of American stars (collecting pay cheques!) as there’s ever been but unfortunately, not always in a good way.

First off, and despite the title and artwork, Night of the Sharks is not a creature feature. There is a shark (called Cyclops!) that has some kind of personal vendetta against Treat’s character (and even taunts him by stealing his boat in one of the more absurd moments: of which there are many!) but the film is more about (or at least seems to be!) stolen discs containing top secret information, shifty rich people trying to get said CD back, a bit of action, some sunny locations and lots (and lots) of contrivance to make all these elements work and somehow get Treat and his buddy Paco (Fargas) involved in it all.  

Yeah that sounds like a recipe for awesomeness but, sadly, it ain’t. Well at least it isn’t to begin with as the first 45 minutes is a bit of a slog and coupled with the random nature of everything means nothing really makes sense. Treat and Fargas seem to be having a great time in the lovely Dominican Republic locations: being buddies, getting into bar fights, wearing Hawaiian shirts! However, the so called bad guys seem to be out of some misjudged comedy, it takes an age for the “top secret CD” to end up in Treat’s hands (who then inexplicably feeds it to the shark: to then only have to go and try and retrieve it come the finale!), Christopher Connelly (Cobra Mission, Bronx Warriors) shows up as a priest (who likes to drink and carry guns!) in charge of some orphan children (huh!), Treat’s ex-wife (Argen) is also shoe horned in (again for inexplicable reasons!) for him to bed and then for her to die (!) and finally come the last 20 minutes the action kicks in as Treat takes down the bad guys with some homemade Molotov cocktails and, err, pretending to be dead!

Hold on, I’m actually making this sound awesome and I guess, after all, maybe it wasn’t that bad: in a very low rent way. The groovy musical score is pretty good, the locations are often lovely to look at and the last 20 minutes or so is some action packed fun. Oh yeah, and there’s that shark which keeps popping up randomly to cause trouble: so there’s that also. So, despite all the naffness (and there is quite a bit of it!), Night of the Sharks is still oddly entertaining and is worth a view if it’s late at night and one has exhausted all the other cheap 80s naff Italian action films in one’s collection.

Monday, 16 March 2015

GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack

Check out my new review of the bonkers GYO: Tokyo Fish Attack over at Far East Films.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Death Wish 4


Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Screenplay: Gail Morgan Hickman
Starring: Charles Bronson, Kay Lenz, John P. Ryan, Perry Lopez, Dana Barron, Soon-Teck Oh & George Dickerson

After the loony excess of Death Wish 3 things were toned down for the fourth entry, The Crackdown. Toned somewhat would be more apt, as Death Wish 4 is still an over-the-top 80s action film that has more in common with the ultra violent action pictures of the decade than it does with the dark original film that spawned the franchise. Here, Bronson’s vigilante Paul Kersey goes to war against the drug cartels when the daughter of his new squeeze dies from an over dose of cocaine. Having dispatched the pusher that dealt the drugs to the girl in particularly violent fashion, Kersey believes all is done. However, rich weirdo Nathan White (Ryan) hires Kersey as his own personal vigilante to go after the two biggest drug empires in LA: his own daughter having succumbed to the evils of the drugs dealt by these cartels. Soon Kersey is dispatching slimy goons with efficiency  and setting the two cartels against one another (Yojimbo style!) but does White have ulterior motives and has Kersey got himself in over his head in his bad-guy-dispatching-shenanigans this time? 

Much like Part 3, Death Wish 4 jettisons the dark tone of the original two installments and instead focuses on over-the-top action scenes as Kersey is now turned into a one man army waging war against all bad guys. He is far from the quieter Kersey with a single small hand gun as seen in the first film but now a leather jacket wearing, M16-toting and James Bond gadget using super-vigilante. Bigger and badder, Kersey has got slaying bad guys down to a fine art and has all kinds of listening devices, super guns, hidden vaults complete with weapons arsenal (!) and, in one particular outrageous scene, exploding wine bottle gadgets. What the!!?? In the film’s most over-the-top scene, Kersey dispatches a young Danny Trejo (and some other goons) by serving them some fine wine from an exploding wine bottle! Despite the absurdness of this scene and several other ridiculous death scenes, Death Wish 4 is still an entertainingly balls out action film that delivers many scenes of firepower action and grenade launching explosions. Efficiently directed by J. Lee Thompson, Death Wish 4 sees Kersey become a one man vigilante war machine that decimates the LA drug trade in increasingly entertaining fashion. 

While this is a straight up 80s action film typical from the Cannon Films conveyor belt of the time and sadly dispenses Kay Lenz’s grieving-mother-attempts-to-investigate-the-drug-cartels subplot all too quickly, Death Wish 4 still has a slight nasty edge to it and benefits from Thompson’s lean direction. In fact, he opens the film with a prolonged and tension filled sequence of a women being stalked and attacked in an underground parking lot before Kersey’s vigilante hero shows up to rescue her, that is so well executed and tense it’s a pity the rest of the film didn’t stick with this vibe. The sequence even ends with Kersey seeing his own image in one of the attackers he has just slain, suggesting the emotional impact all the killing is having on him (and which is unfortunately not explored any further), making this scene the most effective bit of Death Wish vigilante style justice and its repercussions since the first film.

Instead Death Wish 4 is a serviceable and highly entertaining action film typical of the era that features all the explosions, Uzis, cheap-suit-wearing-goons and machine-gun-blasting-action any action movie/Bronson fan could want. That’ll do.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Death Wish 3


Directed by: Michael Winner
Screenplay: Don Jakoby (as Michael Edmonds)
Starring: Charles Bronson, Ed Lauter, Deborah Raffin, Martin Balsam, Gavan O’Herlihy, Alex Winter

If you love/watch/consume action films and are a fan of the man Bronson, then there is no doubt you have seem the insanity that is Death Wish 3 (and if you haven’t, rectify this now!). Abandoning the grim and gut wrenching tone of the first two instalments, Death Wish 3 instead goes for wild action looniness that jettisons all shock and seriousness and instead ramps up the absurd and action stunt mayhem to create an over-the-top 80s cult classic. Bronson once again returns as one man vigilante force Paul Kersey who, upon a visit to New York to see his old friend, finds himself taking up massive handguns and bazookas in order to take revenge on the gang who have murdered said friend. Death Wish 1 and 2 director Michael Winner also returns (for his final bow as a Death Wish helmer) and pushes every aspect of the gun toting, vengeance seeking Kersey through the stratosphere  to very entertaining effect.

Winner has stated that when he came to make Death Wish 3 he wanted to go all out in the action and stunts to create the biggest Death Wish yet and, well, mission accomplished. The original Death Wish still holds up as a darkly effective revenge/vigilante thriller with bursts of action and the first sequel, while dated in some aspects, is still quite a shocking film which walks a risky line between disturbing exploitation and action thriller. Death Wish 2 introduced better and more sustained action scenes while still keeping the dark and repellent tone of the original but Death Wish 3 is an over-the-top 80s action flick through and through that features probably the biggest and best action blowout in the whole series. 

Bronson, who was apparently no big fan of this installment, is more like a carton version of Kersey this time around and the whole vibe almost seems like a piss take of the first two films. Yet with his massive handgun and gruff attitude Bronson still convinces as the one man killing machine and with a vicious gang of thugs (who could really only exist in an 80s action film!) lead by the memorable Fraker (complete with ridiculous/awesome inverted Mohawk/head stripe combo, and played with convincing menace by Gavan O’Herlihy), Kersey has his work cut out. This leads to mucho booby-trap setting, bazooka blowing up and in one, well, let’s just say freaking awesome scene: Kersey and a buddy running around, blowing away evil gang members with the biggest machine gun this side of an anti-aircraft gun!

With Winner’s lean and mean direction/editing streamlined to the extreme, means there is no messing about, no fat, no unwanted subplots: just the sheer realization of Bronson’s cinematic justice serving persona reaching its violently bombastic (and ridiculous!) zenith as he turns a grimy New York suburb  into an all out war zone. Never has the phrase “They sure don’t make them like this anymore more!” been more apt.