Monday, 21 September 2015

Weekend of Trash XVIII


I met up once again with a couple of the guys from Blueprint Review for another weekend of non-stop B-movie madness. We managed to get through yet another abundance of low budget insanity including Codename: Blackfire, Ghost Rock, the very awesome H-Bomb, Deathstalker 4 and, err, Bee Movie!

Check out Blueprint's write up.

Monday, 7 September 2015

AWOL-72


AWOL-72 (2015)

Directed by: Christian Sesma
Screenplay: Christian Sesma & Cecil Chambers
Starring: Luke Goss, RZA, Bokeem Woodbine, Heather Roop & Louis Mandylor

Director Christian Sesma and star Luke Goss seem to have a good thing going and re-team, after the flawed but very fun genre bending action film The Night Crew, for a more serious effort in AWOL-72. Unfortunately this second go around for the two isn’t quite as good (or anywhere near as entertaining) as their previous effort. Goss is Conrad Miller an ex-marine who has gone AWOL with some secret government information. Waking one morning, he sets off across country hoping to deliver said info to his contact but things go from bad to worse when he stops to help out a troubled young lady. Meanwhile, the LAPD, some Russian heavies and a mysterious assassin are hot on his trail hoping to get to him before he passes the information on.


Whereas The Night Crew was streamlined, action packed, mashed genres and had enough heavy artillery to arm to several action films, AWOL-72 is a much more serious, albeit low key, thriller more concerned with twists and turns than big shoot-em up action scenes. It’s cool Sesma and Goss have attempted something different here (presumably burning through some left over money they didn’t use shooting up the motel in The Night Crew!) and while there are certain narrative surprises (that this yahoo reviewer didn’t see coming!) and a little bit of stylish action come the climax, AWOL-72 falters with too many ideas and too many characters.


What should have been a taut and tight little thriller often feels dragged out and clogged up with too much going on. RZA’s cop on the case, who teams up with a Russian agent to find Connor, has little to do and his narrative strand doesn’t really go anywhere: though nice to see RZA playing it straight and getting to act a bit. Likewise, Connor’s journey to deliver said information takes s few unexpected turns but too much time is wasted on these divergent plot strands when the focus should have been on his quest and Bokeem Woodbine’s ruthless assassin who is relentlessly pursuing him. This unfortunately means the thriller element has very little urgency (save for the last 10-15 minutes when proceedings come alive!) and scenes of lengthy dialogue stretch on and on meaning that even the brisk 75 minute run time can feel a bit like a slog.

Still, getting past the negatives AWOL-72 is stylishly shot, Luke Goss makes for a commanding leading man (let’s get him in a big budget action film again!), the final fifteen minutes has some nicely staged gunplay and hand-to-hand fights (there should have been more of this), the supporting cast of familiar faces is a welcome touch and, well, Sesma certainly fills the running time with a plethora of beautiful women. Seriously, there is barely a scene without an attractive woman featured and this certainly helps during the more sluggish sections. Overall, not bad and a decent stab at a serious thriller on a budget but The Night Crew is much more fun and is a better showcase for Sesma’s and Goss’ obvious talent. 


Kill Zone


KILL ZONE (1993)

Directed by: Cirio H. Santiago
Screenplay: Frederick Bailey
Starring: David Carradine, Tony Dorsett, Rob Youngblood, Vic Terino

Kill Zone is essentially Roger Corman/Cirio H. Santiago-M16 firing-jungle exploding-Vietnam set-Philippine-shot version one hundred and…well, who knows how many. These flicks were a dime a dozen in the 80s (and this was definitely shot in the 80s despite good ole IMDB stating it was released in 93!) and features yet another bunch of dudes running around the jungle blowing shit up while a couple of (sort of) name stars lead the charge. Rinse and Repeat.

Kill Zone, why not the best of this once unstoppable genre, certainly packs in the firepower and at least has something a tad different going on in David Carradine’s bat-shit crazy Colonel Horace Wiggins. Not only is he horribly monikered but he’s on a one man mission to wipe out the VC, no matter the cost, leading the group of grunts he’s got on the firing line to question his motives and eventually turn on him.


All the by-the-by really as it’s just an excuse for copious amounts of ammo dispensing gunfire, ridiculous amounts of explosions and for the lead grunts to shout a lot as they dispense said ammo and blow shit up. Proceedings switch back and forth between the jungle action and Carradine’s office (looking suspiciously like Corman/Santiago’s then production office!) where he barks orders and incredibly un-PC insults, chews a cigar continuously, rocks the aviators and sweats like a bastard! Seriously, the guy was obviously feeling the Philippine heat and every shot unfortunately captures his sweaty and gross discomfort. Nice! However, he’s a hoot and obviously decided to go full tilt as the barking mad Colonel (and even dons a bandana and an M16 for the gun-blasting finale!) while the rest of the cast play it gung-go straight. The cast features a few other recognisable Corman/Santiago jungle actioner regulars along with one-time pro NFL player Tony Dorsett as one of the gun-toting grunts: he even gets his own scene where he puts his running back skills to good use to dodge bullets and lob a grenade at some bad guys. Cool.

It’s all run of the mill gun-action-jungle-destroying good times that while a bit of a slog in places, still delivers copious amounts of bullets, explosions and over-acting eccentricities from the late great Carradine. In addition, it ends on one of the most inexplicable (and unintentionally hilarious) freeze frames ever: so there’s that also! Apparently the flick recycles footage from other Corman/Santiago jungle actioners Last Stand at Lang Mei and Field of Fire, some of which can be seen in the groovy trailer below but isn’t actually featured in the film itself: ah, the brilliance of B-movies!