Posts Tagged ‘action’

Once Upon a Time in Venice Movie PosterAn ex-Los Angeles detective turned PI seeks out the ruthless gang that stole his dog.

Director, writer Mark Cullen’s entertaining beach bum action caper which sees Bruce Willis as Steve Ford return to centre stage instead of small cameos. Thankfully Willis isn’t just there to just pick up a pay cheque, its very much his own film, and he’s as cheeky and charming as ever.

The on location feel captures the heat of Venice Beach and Cullen offers plenty of colourful locale visuals. The characters are all quirky and larger than life including humorous Jason Momoa as mumbling gangster Spider and Steve’s heartfelt troubled friend Dave (excellent John Goodman). Things get more and more outlandish as Steve tries to solve a number of weird cases. Sadly, Famke Janssen is wasted as Katey Ford.

With echoes of the recent The Nice Guys (2016) there’s a few shoot outs and double crosses with hints of watered down Tarantino thrown in for good measure, Cullen like the moments of comedy set these up with perfect timing thanks to some effective staging and Matt Deizel fine editing.

Overall, while not Willis’ best it’s an almost return to likes of Last Boy Scout form rather than Die Hard, still it’s good fun and worth a viewing.

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Zombie-Fight-Club-PosterA building riddled with a menagerie of working girls, criminals and loners find the corridors of their apartment block infested with zombies.

Oh my have things have progressed since Junk Shiryōgari (2000) and Versus (2000) (certainly in the effects department), Zombie Fight Club (2014) is better than the influx of recent DTV walking dead movies globally produced, in contrast to most Asian dead movies its light on humour, tonally it’s reminiscent of The Horde (2009), Rammbock/Berlin Dead (2010) mixed with Joe Chien’s own twisted incoherent Zombie 108 (2012).

Chien’s zombie offering is packed with action, actually wall to wall bloodshed, excellent make-up effects and an abundance of practical and CGI blood which puts some American modest budget zombie films to shame. It’s colour palette is dark, accompanied by a pumping soundtrack, it’s undeniably fast paced. Oddly it inexplicably interchanges between English and Mandarin and it’s a film of unorthodox two halves with no third act.

When it does slowdown it has a fistful of creepy moments but these are few and far between as buxom beauty Jenny played by Jessica Cambensy witnesses her boyfriend, his crew of rappers and strippers come toe to toe with growing army of zombies. After a flash forward a year after the outbreak Jenny has gone all zombie killer sporting a new hair cut and an even tighter costume (yes there’s the shameless objectification of women but no more than The Resident Evil franchise tries to gloss over).

What it lacks in plot it makes up for with its kick-ass female and male characters, soldiers and loads of zombie kills, impalement, bullets and action setups. Yes the characters are at times cartoonish and its gratuitous but it’s a solid addition to the Asian live action zombie market, if you’re in to it.

Wild_Card_MoviePosterA Las Vegas bodyguard with lethal skills gets in trouble with the mob when he helps a young female friend who was left for dead.

Based on the 1985 novel Heat (Edged Weapons in the UK) by William Goldman and the remake of Burt Reynolds’ Heat (1986) there’s a fast car, periodic fight scenes, a mild mannered moralist character, Jason Statham must check them off and sign on the dotted line. And that’s not a bad thing Statham in the most typecast of role, rarely, if ever fails to deliver.

Simon West’s Wild Card is finely shot, it plays as an anti Revolver (2005), it’s linear, his Vegas is musty, hazy and dusty. The setting feels real and written intentionally or not what it lacks in pacing structure and credible fleshed out supporting character relationships it makes up for with Statham’s charisma and hand to hand action setups.

Part revenge, part self realisation film, its reminiscent of The Gambler (1974), Payback (1998)/Point Blank (1967), Get Carter (1971 and 2000 remake) to name a few. West offers a series of exceptionally well choreographed hard hitting, bone breaking, wince enduring scenes, which Statham effortlessly pulls off with a smidgen of drama. The action is raw, not dissimilar to the stylish John Wick (2014), and Wild avoids using guns mirroring Denzel Washington’s McCall in The Equalizer (2014).

To Statham’s (who also produced) credit you do root for the gambling Nick Wild, and you can’t help feel he may windup like Carlito’s (1993) Brigante or London Boulevard’s (2010) Mitchel by the end. It’s a pity it chose the action, cutlery stabbing route and you can’t help feel that some of the more dramatic scenes were left on the cutting floor despite Statham showing some great range.

The action is more raw than the stylish John Wick (2014), and Wild doesn’t like to use guns like Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer (2014). Both Milo Ventimiglia and Michael Angarano while entertaining look a little uncomfortable age wise in their respective roles. The supporting cast are mostly extended cameos from the likes of Anne Heche, Sofía Vergara and Stanley Tucci who notably steals the show as mob boss mediator Baby.

Digressing slightly, thanks to Bruce Willis taking pay cheques for small cameo roles it’s left a gap in the market for well loved but still under appreciated Jason Statham who, endless Transporter roles aside, has offered some decent performances in the West’s own Mechanic, Killing Elite, Revolver, spring to mind.

The production values are high. it goes beyond the out of the box action film in terms of look thanks to Shelly Johnson’s cinematography and West’s keen eye for detail giving him a knack for creating atmosphere.

Statham puts in an immense physical performance. It’s a solid action film, and quiet restrained, no big explosions, with minimum gun-play, it focus its on physical altercations. And for these reasons recommend.

2015/01/img_0923.jpgA grieving hit man after a series of unfortunate events goes about exacting revenge on his former boss’ son.

Since Rocky 4 the stereotype Russian bad guy films seemed to ease off, however, mirroring the politics of today there appears to be an increasing influx of bad guy Russians, Equalizer, Taken 3, Jack Ryan, Die Hard 5 to name just a few. Amongst the abundance of them comes John Wick with its on location feel and slick action sequences.

Wonderfully directed by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch’s with great action scenes and Derek Kolstad’s solid dialogue Wick goes from one scene to the next exacting revenge on those who have wronged him. Its a fine straightforward affair without the quirkiness or humour of the likes director Guy Ritchie or Paul McGuigan. Stahelski delivers a straight up action thriller with hard hitting violence, blood baths through a hotel, church, cars and blood spattered clubs. Unashamedly from the shootouts to knife fights it oozes cool, complemented by the lighting, sound design, music tracks and score from Tyler Bates.

The cast are unprecedentedly on form with Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki and memorable Willem Dafoe. Bridget Moynahan and Ian McShane cameo with John Leguizamo small part effortlessly stealing the cameo show. Keane Reeves is perfectly cast with his minimal dialogue and screen presence. Even with its dark tone it’s more fun than the comparable excellent Equalizer.

Yes, like all actions there’s an obligatory Jason Statham/Van Damme-like showdown/fight off and John Wick is unavoidably reminiscent of Get Carter and Payback but as a revenge action it is as completely rounded as they come – recommended.

The Transformers are being hunted down by humans with the help of an interstellar bounty hunter. Optimus Prime aided by a human inventor set about to stop another annihilation by a device called the seed.

There’s no doubt that the action set ups, sound design and special effects are fantastic. However, any trace of characterisation from the original TV series is all but extinct. The Transformer characters once again are given little dialogue nor interaction with each other, with the Dinobots not even getting a line of dialogue.

The Transformers on screen are as empty and soulless as the transformer copies created by an entrepreneur inventor/military contractor played by Stanley Tucci in a subplot with his company having the ability to create their own Transformers. Kelsey Grammar is on form but his evil Harold Attinger motivations are as interchangeable as his ties – queue disgruntled, unappreciated, shady CIA character. Sophia Myles talents are simply under utilised.

With a vast world of 1980’s characters at their finger tips that could be updated/developed writer Ehren Kruger and director Michael Bay fail to use any of these typesets or even any basic personality dynamics from the series. Bring back Star Scream, Jazz, Soundwave and the others that prompted the people to make these movies in the first place – Glavatron (voiced by Frank Welker) is wasted. Age of Extinction borrows plot elements from Prometheus and Man of Steel to name a few instead of using anything Tranformer-esque.

T.J. Miller’s likable character Lucas Flannery is disposed of in the first 20 minutes and its remaining few redeeming features Mark Wahlberg and Nicola Peltz battle on trying to avoid cliché after cliché, also Optimus Prime has some character development. Actually if Shia
Labeouf’s Sam had been by replaced Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager it may have been a better film series, that said, if Sam returned with Cade it would make some good character interaction but I digress, it’s a one man and robot show with everything else falling short and brushed over thinly with new elements being added needlessly. Age of Extinction makes Dark of the Moon look like the Godfather.

Given its lengthy running time its themes and plot are never fully developed. Should the writers and producers have gone back to the source material the fans and film goers would have thanked them for it. This instalment once again banks on viewers desire to see a Transformers film and of course we come in masses but are once short changed as it doesn’t deliver – it’s like a shiny brand new convertible without an engine, looks good and cool but it is vacant.

It’s clear that the talents behind of Age of Extinction have no love for Transformers (but are great at the movie business) – sadly not recommended.

A group of thieves take a job tipped by their recently released from jail former associate, but the heat is on with the police hot on their trail.
With some tippex and thinner this may well have been a proposed sequel to Michael Mann’s 1995 hit Heat. It has a solid story with a cast of terrific actors and an above par supporting cast including Jay Hernandez and Chris Brown in a free-running spree. Leads include physical, quirky Hayden Christensen, Idris Elba and Paul Walker in a Chris Shiherlis/Val Kilmer type role who are all on form. Matt Dillon steals the show in another heat-alike role reminiscent of Al Pacino’s Hanna. That said, Zoe Saldana’s talents are completely wasted, reduced to simple eye candy.
Love or hate it, director John Luessenhop’s and Michael Barrett’s photography handheld camera look is frustrating, possibly better reserved for the action setups or a horror film as in Takers case it quickly becomes tiresome, Mann’s Collateral (2004) it is not. 
There’s some great sound design with the shootouts becoming semi-silent allowing certain sounds and cues to be heard. With a fistful of writers namely Peter Allen, Gabriel Casseus, Luessenhop and Avery Duff there’s still some questionable character motives and actions, this aside it has slick costumes, cool music from Haslinger, great lighting and grand settings – as a simple heist film with interesting characters it works perfectly.
Nevertheless, the camera work takes you out of the moment, robbing Takers of any finesse and tension.
Led by Luc Devereaux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) a cloned UniSol Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) are now wanted by the government who will do anything to find them a wipe out their UniSol army for good.
Universal Soldier fans maybe left scratching their heads, however, sci-fi action fans looking for slick, stylish direction with hard hitting violence and a Philip K. Dick tone – in the vain of Impostor (2001) maybe impressed by director John Hyams offering.

While not a fun hammy 90s hit like it’s original, this is smaller personal intentionally vague story adds another angle on UniSol. Reckoning may have benefited from being a stand alone low budget Dredd/Memento/Bourne-like film as it’s so far removed to the original’s feel.
This is actor/stuntman Scott Adkins film with very limited screen-time for Van Damme or Lundgren which isn’t such a bad thing as their characters have become dismembered to those in the first outing. Nevertheless, Adkins as John carries it under Hyams games console shoot ’em up direction. While this film may not be Adkins Jason Statham ‘star vehicle’ it shows he’s a convincing action man with some range of emotion to match as John goes on his hunt for Devereaux in some Apocalypse Now (1979) homage of sorts.
With excellent camerawork, lighting, stunts, ambiguous script, perfect moody atmosphere it’s not a normal action film – and with nudity, blood and horror like gore it’s not for the faint hearted either.

Don’t expect a rehash or even the Universal Soldier you fell in love with and you may be surprised by this basic, dark, testosterone injected ride. Now somebody needs to remake 1987’s cheese-fest Dead Prey with Adkins as the lead.

Get a slab of cheese and pop David A. Prior’s classic in the VHS…

Deadly Prey (1987)

 

 

A man is kidnapped by members of a private army to be hunted down and killed as part of their training. Unbeknownst to them he is an elite ex-marine who was trained by their leader Colonel John Hogan.

1986’s Deadly Prey directed by David A. Prior may have been made for adults but is more fun for teenagers who shouldn’t be watching. It’s reminiscent of many macho one-man-army, 80s Italian action B-films, borrowing heavily from Rambo First Blood and Commando. But it’s set in its own amusing world, in a jungle just South of LA.

Ted Prior is superb as Mike Danton, part Dolph Lundgren, part Christian Bale – all rock band mullet, he is perfectly cast as the military one-man killing machine. Danton takes on a tank, Danton beats a man using a severed arm, Danton builds deadly traps, camouflage Danton pops out of the ground, Danton wields a knives and a machete, Danton fires guns… Lots of guns, Danton eats worms and rats. You get the idea. All the action is accompanied by a beating surprisingly likable score.

Curiously veteran actors Troy Donahue and Cameron Mitchell cameo. Dawn Abraham as Sybil encapsulates that 1980s femme fatale permed hair appeal. Sadly, delightful Suzanne Tara’s Jaimy Danton is Lt. Thornton’s (Fritz Matthews, also stunt co-ordinator sporting sunglasses) and Hogan’s (David Campbell) fodder.

The amazing thing about Deadly Prey is that it takes itself totally seriously, containing themes war, mercenaries, rape, Vietnam, survival to name a few. Ho
wever, there’s no getting away from the straight to video limitations which comes with the sound, special effects, acting, editing and all the script trappings you’d expect.

All it faults side, it is possibly the greatest piece of ridiculous entertaining fluff ever made and is truly one of those guilty pleasures. It really is so bad it’s good. Prior’s screenplay and Richard Connell’s story is actually quite good and like his Lost Platoon concept has inspired other film makers. What’s notable and arguably a narrative accident is its nihilistic tone, the end is bravely down beat cancelling out its own hammy existence.

Deadly Prey really is the epitome of an ’80s action flick I remember. The VHS should be placed in a museum for historic and cultural interest. It’s a must see, possibly the worst, yet, best crossbreed action film ever made.

Dubbed a Bruce Willis clone, Jason Statham former French Connection model was born 12 September 1967 and came into the limelight in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. I don’t believe anyone could have predicted that football fan, cockney sparrow Statham would go on to be the next Hollywood action star. That said, the amount of dedication to his physic and skills he fully deserves the title.

Although he’s starred in some unsatisfying flicks – it’s usually the production that’s the problem, Ghosts of Mars, The One, The Bank Job and remake The Italian Job were all muddled in tone. In Name of the King, a star studded cast but that no amount of talent could redeem. There’s nice cameo in Collateral and The Expendables was a well received blockbuster. And Cellular (2004) is arguably underrated. Transporter, Death Race (remake) and Crank are notable in their own right, it’s just a pity the sequels didn’t deliver the goods.

Statham has showed he’s not a one trick pony either and while not Oscar wining he’s not a bad actor, for example take his lesser well received but excellently made Killer Elite and Revolver .

As a tribute to the man who shrugged off Kelly Brook and cracked on with things (a testament to his character) with Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley here’s a few thoughts on a handful of his outings.

Safe (2012)
Ex-cop and cage-fighter after his wife is killed contemplates ending it all. However, a chance meeting with a little girl holding information for the mob allows him a chance of redemption.

After Jason Statham’s weighty and drama driven performance in Killer Elite (2011) he returns to familiar Transporter style force in this action packed tale. Director/writer Boaz Yakin knows how to deliver high-octane action and his lead has perfected high kick and punches in his sleep. Like many on location shot films it makes everything more palatable and the Safe certainly has a budget.

It’s violent and bloody, despite being packed with clichés corrupt cops, Russian Mafia and Yakuza it’s fresh enough to remain entertaining. Concept wise it is reminiscent of Mercy Rising (1998) but where as Willis’ outing failed to deliver the Safe surpasses expectations being a bar above the average action flick. There’s a Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars and Last Man Standing play off against each crime syndicate but it all adds to the entertainment.

Notable is the ever reliable James Hong and Anson Mount gives a menacing, memorable performance as Alex. Chris Sarandon as the Mayor deserves a mention along with bent cop Captain Wolf played by Robert John Burke redeeming himself after Robocop 3. Although the relationship between the young girl Mei played adequately by Catherine Chan and Statham’s Luke Wright isn’t fully explored no doubt to avoid comparisons with Leon (1994) there’s enough emotion to make you care for the characters.

Statham is on form and overall the Safe is an engaging entertaining action film worthy of mention.

Killer Elite (2011)

One of Britain’s Elite Special Air Service is forced out of retirement to undertake one last mission but soon finds he is a pawn in a bigger game.

What maybe deemed at glance as just another action film turns out to be a multi- layered action, drama and true story. It comes with a few twists and doubling crossings. There’s a fair share of shootings, fights, explosions and stabbings but director Gary McKendry handles the scenes in a realistic fashion, possible best described as a mix of Patriot Games, Syrina and Munich with the action similar to Bourne. Killer Elite is a very hard hitting violent drama set within 1980s.

The 80s backdrop and globetrotting on location filming gives the film creditability. Due to the source material and some interesting griping writing by Matt Sherring the characters are all shades of grey which adds to the appeal. This action thriller benefits from some big named actors giving their best and most subtle performances. Jason Statham is perfectly cast as Hunter’s (Robert De Niro) protégé Danny. Notable is Clive Owen in a solid supporting role and an almost unrecognisable Dominic Purcell gives an award deserving performance.

Killer Elite is an underrated ex-special ops story that highlights some of the shady dealings of countries governments and mercenaries. Highly recommend.

The Mechanic (2011)

An assassin’s abilities are tested when he takes on an apprentice, but things get complicated when he finds he’s been used on his last job.

Entertaining assassin/mentor yarn which tries to avoid clichés. Donald Sutherland puts in a welcomed cameo but is missed throughout the rest of the film. Jason Statham is hit man Arthur Bishop, while he can do these roles action roles blind folded Statham is subtler and more complex than most previous parts he’s played. Ben Foster gives a hard hitting performance giving an edginess and weight to the character of Steve McKenna and corporate bad guy Tony Goldwyn is notable.

Some logic aside the Mechanic stands head and shoulders above the mass of recent cheap and big budget flicks due to it’s 1973 source material, smart writing and Simon West’s gritty direction. The wonderful locations give it an air of realism and the soundtrack complements the setups.

With some thought out character development, twists and well executed action scenes it’s a pleasing above average hit-man thriller.

Revolver (2005)

A revenge-seeking trickster guarantees victory when a confidence trick is applied to any game of wits. However, he’s running out of time as could be ‘rubbed out’ by the corrupt casino boss first.

Don’t expect a rehash, the humour or the structure of Mr Ritchie’s earlier films Lock Stock and Snatch. This is Ritchie’s Mulholland Drive. This film makes more sense on a second viewing or when you’re satisfied what this 115 minute marvel has given you for your cash. This film is not for a lazy audience. And while the style of filming or the story is not entirely original the way the film is put together is.

If you’ve seen it and think Zach (Vince Pastore) and Avi (André Benjamin) aren’t real or that Mr Jake Green (Jason Statham) is Mr Gold you may want sit down, watch the movie again and rethink your move. Or stick with what you originally thought. Whether it’s taken as it’s about symbolism, psyche, mysticism or take it at face value the themes are greed, tackling fear and egos to name a few. It’s up to the viewer to decide and it can be interpreted differently each time it’s reviewed. All the loose ends are tied up however you take it – just dig deeper. That said, admittedly this may put off the casual viewer who want a straight forward gangster flick.

The acting and whole production is above average. It has a strong cast ensemble, great dialogue, acting and locations. The music and colour scheme add to the retro surreal feel and set the mood in each scene. The end product is fantastic and not pretentious.

This film could be destined for a future large fan following.

A bold move for Ritchie.

War of the Dead (2011)

A platoon of British, American and Finnish soldiers come head to head with unstoppable zombie-like soldiers. Aided by a Russian grunt they must fight for survival.
Despite some over used slow-motion and unfitting sound effects War of the Dead director Marko Mäkilaakso delivers a wonderfully atmospheric World War II action ‘zombie’ film.
The film has pace, moving from one location to the next through bunkers, trenches, air shafts, forests and their plenty of gun fire and fights. The effects are modest and well executed and the sets are perfectly dressed, the location shoot gives it an edge. Writers Mäkilaakso and Barr B. Potter include some zombie hallmarks an empty house under siege, a graveyard, shots to the head but the antagonists share more with 28 Days Laters’ infected. War of the Dead expands the Nazi super soldiers angel further including some fast moving, stealthy, post experimental and ‘infected’ soldiers.
Reminiscent of The Bunker, Death Watch, Dog Soldiers and Outpost to name a few this latest addition includes some great worn looking actors including Antti Reini, the reliable and talented Andrew Tiernan (who also starred in the The Bunker) as Capitan Martin Stone. UK viewers may recognise ITV’s Bill – Mark Wingett. Supporting leads Samuel Vauramo as the emotional Kolya and Mikko Leppilampi as Lieutenant Laakso are effective enough. Notable is the only female Magdalena Górska and Jouko Ahola who is perfectly cast as the super soldier Captain Niemi.
It lacks that slow foreboding feel and the mix of genres doesn’t work as well for this WW2 predominately action, chiller as it should due to the thin script. Nevertheless, its a tight good piece of entertainment packed with action and an obligatory nihilistic ending with a twist.