Thursday, December 16, 2010

Road House 2: Last Call (2006)

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Tagline:

Take it outside.

Back of DVD:

From drunken fist-fights to all-out brawls, the Black Pelican is known for its rough and rowdy atmosphere. But for one local drug-trafficer, it's prime real estate. Determined to make the road house his personal office by any means necessary, Wild Bill (Busey) starts a war with the Pelican's owner Nate (Patton). But when things turn sour, Nate enlists help from his nephew, undercover DEA agent Shane Tanner (Schaech). Seeing the opportunity to make the biggest bust of his career - and exact a lethal dose of revenge along the way - Shane takes over the Pelican for his battered uncle... but he's about to discover this local drug ring is bigger than ever imagined.

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Movie Review:

In the comments of a Michael Dudikoff movie Black Thunder over at the DTV Connoisseur, Matt and venom discussed briefly Road House 2. Venom was a fan of it but Matt thinks it's a "sack-of-asscrack DTV cashgrab". Now somehow I've managed to never seen the original Patrick Swayze movie, like many "classics" of 80's action that I am catching up on. The other week I was trawling for a non-bootleg bargain in Chinatown when I tripped over this DTV sequel for only a few bucks. Thinking back to Matt's hilarious comment and vow to never review the movie, I knew I had to take a gamble and give it a go.

After the old owner of the Black Pelican bar, Nate Tanner (Will Patton), turfs out some wannabe drug dealers who insist he sells his bar to the local drug lord (Wild Bill), he receives a strange phone call saying his staff aren't loyal and for the full details he should go meet this mysterious stranger. It of course turns out to be Wild Bill who sends his grunts in to fight and get their arse handed to them, impressively, by Patton. Wild Bill gets the upper hand and his Go-Go style sidekick girl throws knives at him, then throws him into the lake.

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Elsewhere at a strip bar a drug deal is going down between Shane Tanner (Johnathon Schaech) and a token spanish guy. Just as the deal goes through, a busty barmaid busts out her weapon (by that I mean sidearm) and puts the two under arrest for trafficking. She cuffs Shane, takes him into the back room and straddles him. All the boys in the audience cheer (I assume). Shane is freed and we realise he is an undercover DEA agent. He get's chewed out by his boss (of course) and then receives a phone call about his uncle Nate Tanner in hospital. Deciding to find out what happened Shane travels to Louisiana to get revenge and run the Black Pelican bar. The first thing he does is throw out the trash at the bar and take over running the joint.

I'd never heard of Johnathon Schaech before this. He is in slasher Laid to Rest that I've been meaning to check out for ages now, and also in it's upcoming sequel. He did an all right job as Shane Tanner and kicked a fair bit of arse when it was called for, and helps pretty blonde girls change their car tyres as well (Ellen Hollman playing Beau). Beau is quite hot and quickly gets into Shane's pants. When she hears that Wild Bill is planning on killing him at the bar at night she keeps him away from the Black Pelican with sex. It only keeps him away so long though and in the end they both go. This is a good thing as Beau (a school teacher who is, you guessed it, ex military) gets into a full cat-fight with Wild Bill's crazy sidekick girl! That's what the punters want to see! There's also a pretty funny fight in the hospital between the still-injured Nate Tanner and Wild Bill's thugs.

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The action dissipates a bit by the middle before the end movie climax, and normally this would really annoy me. Surprisingly I felt the story was strong enough to keep me interested when the action quotient was low. Also the overacting of Jake Busey kept the whole thing cracking along as well. It all ends in a big old fashion shoot-em-up and more bar room brawls as Shane cleans up this town.

The bar room fights were all quite good, though with the excessive back-of-the-head viewpoints shown I have to assume there was a lot of stunt double action going on. There was a bit of zooming in sometimes but mostly you could see the fights pretty clearly. I was also happy not to see any MTV-style ADD editing. Actually the whole movie, whilst looking like a standard Sony DTV movie (think Connor's War or any Seagal/Snipes of late) still felt quite old school, which was refreshing.

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Jake Busey really is hilarious as Wild Bill, and yes, he is Gary Busey's son (that reminds me, I really need to do some Gary Busey movies here) and just like Machete he gets the ladies - a great lesbian spa scene is included for those who are interested (all of you). His deal in this is that for some reason the location of the bar would be perfect for hosting drug deals. That's all really, and he just wants the bar. I had wondered where I had seen this guy before and it dawned on me; he was the crazy religious nutter in Contact that blows himself up. He was frightening in that movie but is just ridiculous in Roadhouse 2. He reminded me a bit of the white kid in your street who wants to be a "gangsta" like his idols and spends his whole time overacting and holding a pretend gun sideways. He's never really frightening as a drug lord. In fact it feels like he has daddy issues. I could be reading into something that isn't there, but either way, Wild Bill is no Kill Bill.

Here's the bait-and-switch however. Richard Norton doesn't turn up till the half way point and then only has a few lines on an expensive boat. He does eventually land in Louisiana when Shane has made life tough for Norton's cronies - and yes there is a reasonable fight between him and Schaech - but still he doesn't do much else. His accent is all over the place too. If I hadn't known beforehand and you had told me afterwards that he was Australian, I wouldn't believe you. It's like an ungodly mix of American-South African-New Zealand.

So there you have it; it's not brilliant but in the end I was entertained. There were fights that weren't half bad, a few boobs and even an explosion (just a car smashing into two others). I'm sure that if I had see the first movie and was comparing the two, it would not come off so well, but that just isn't the case. Sorry Matt, it's two to one in favour for this now.

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The Video:

Sharp, clear and vibrant like most modern DTV affairs. Clear, punchy surround audio. Runtime 83 minutes.

Sourced From:

Some random shop in Chinatown for $5.

Trailer:

More Screens:

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Dragon Hunt aka Dragon Kickboxers (1990)

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Tagline:

When the game turns deadly, the hunters become the hunted.

Back of VHS:

Mad man Jake and his People's Private Army set the captured twins loose on an island with three shifts of killers hot on their trail. Out-numbered and out-gunned, the twins are in trouble. But Mic and Martin, always the underdogs and always with a reputation to fight to their last breath, soon take the upper hand. The hunters become the hunted as the game takes a deadly turn.

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Movie Review:

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Oh wow. Wow wow wow. This is some inept film making right here. I haven't seen such bad overacting in a long while, but somehow this train-wreck of a movie is strangely alluring. I can't say I was laughing my arse off the whole time - I think some mates with beers would be required for that - but I did watch in complete amazement that this thing actually got made.

The plot is one any reader of this blog would be well aware of by now from countless similar movies. Brothers Michael and Martin McNamara (their real names, what a stretch for them) - collectively known in and out of this movie as The Dragon Twins - are out on a weekend date in the Canadian forest with two blondes, doing all the usual wholesome Canadian outdoor activities like shooting clay pigeons from the back of a runabout boat. When they return to their cabin a bloody arrowhead is embedded in the door, a message from the twins' sworn enemy Jake. Thinking nothing much of it the twins go inside to retire and each have a glass of wine provided by their date. Little do they know they were just drugged.

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The best thing in this movie, by far, is the bad guy Jake played by some dude B. Bob. We are treated early on to a flashback of Jake's, perhaps to the first movie (yes, this is a sequel of sorts to "Twin Dragon Encounter") I am not sure, of him fighting the Dragon Twins in another forest. They get the upper hand and shoot an arrow into his hand. The injury must have been more severe than the atrocious special effects led on, as when the flashback is over Jake is shown with a steel glove for his left hand. When I say steel I obviously mean a bad styrofoam prop sprayed with silver paint.

The twins wake up in a cage being laughed at by Jake and all manner of mercenary types to which we are introduced. Firstly there is Jake's little gang, The People's Private Army, who consist of a handful of guys in camouflage with machine guns. Along with them are some ring-ins: "The Fat Man", "The Dumb Man", some Ninjas and an evil poodle called Apache. If you hadn't guessed yet, the name of the game is for these mercenary types to hunt down the Dragon Twins for prize money. No guns are allowed by anyone except the People's Private Army so the Dragon Twins have to contend with rednecks attacking them with chains, crossbows and the evil poodle. The movie plays out like the first Rambo mixed with the the later-released and infinitely superior Surviving the Game or JCVD flick Hard Target. Each group of mercenaries take on the twins, ultimately fail and are replaced by the next batch.

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B. Bob is easily the best (worst) over-actor in the flick, truly hamming up the 'evil bad guy' role so much that he spends much of the movie touting lines such as "The twins think they are going on a Summer vacation... some vacation! MWA HA HA HA HA!" off screen, in voice overs declaring his overwhelming evilness. In fact, with that steel glove and that laugh you could mistake him for Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget. If only he had an evil cat.

The 80's style pop music in this movie was written by a guy called Billy Butt. No joke.

The fights are pretty hilarious, though I guess we do get to see the skills that brothers McNamara actually have to some degree. They are apparently relatively famous martial arts instructors in Canada and run/ran their own training schools, even franchising them out to former students, so they must be good at what they do. Acting isn't one of their skills though. In fact it's no-one's skills in Dragon Hunt. If any movie was proof that you can get your friends to act as thick mercenaries and ninjas by paying them with beer, this is it. And B. Bob never stops with his terrible lines and sings children's nursery rhymes to torment the twins.

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The cinematography in Dragon Hunt is just bad. A lot of the fights are so zoomed in you can only see limbs flailing. One scene started with a fade in from black with the actors just standing their looking around until the Director obviously yelled "aaand... action!", the scene then commencing. I did laugh my arse off when Apache the 'savage bear-like dog' was unleashed on the twins with repeated scenes of the loveable dog just running through the forest having a whale of a time, and with savage barking sounds laid over the soundtrack.

I thought I had seen these guys before and I have. Checking IMDB they are listed as 'stunt men' on the fantastic Billy Blanks / Roddy Piper action movie Back in Action. They were the twin henchmen in matching blue singlets, matching zebra pants and matching moustaches that get their arses handed to them by Blanks in a fight in his own house.

I can't recommend this movie as 'good' but if you and your drunken buddies enjoy some serious overacting and awful, awful moustaches on bare-chested kick-boxers, give it a shot. It could have been better if the run time was shaved to 72 minutes to get rid of some of the fluff. I noted in the end credits the first line "This movie was in no way assisted by the Ontario Film Development Corporation". That was blatantly obvious.

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The Video:

Decent quality tape and the film was represented well enough. That's not saying much. Runtime 90 minutes.

Screenshots borrowed from this French review; there's a few more smaller photos there.

Sourced From:

In a bulk score of tapes, about 50c if you divide them up evenly.

Trailer:

Can't find a trailer but this French video even has the same bad Dr. Claw voiceover, just in French.

More Screens:

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Naked Fist aka Firecracker (1981)

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Tagline:

She'll blow you away!

Back of VHS:

A young American woman travels to the Orient to find her sister. Don't under-estimate her powers... she's seductive, she's beautiful and she'll make you think you're in heaven... but if you stand in her way, she'll use her best weapon against you... her NAKED FIST.

Movie Review:

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A few days ago I picked up a large haul of tapes on eBay from a dottery old guy that didn't know what he was selling. There was a lot of junk in there (Wild Things 2, Dracula 2000, and some Tom Hanks movies) but among the trash was some actual good trash. PM Entertainment movies, war action movies, bad horror and this little gem. I hadn't heard of it before but the cover sold me straight away. The title alone will get me added to 'not safe for the workplace' lists.

The story is basic. Jillian Kesner travels to the Philippines to find out what has happened to her sister who went missing when writing a report on the local drug cartel (In fact she was at an underground fight shown at the beginning of the movie and taking snaps of the brutality before getting hauled off by some Filipino's). No sooner than Kesner gets off the plane and arrives at her motel then she is attacked by robbers in her room. Luckily she is in her underwear at this point which makes it easy to dispatch the would be villains with some of her level-five black belt Karate training.

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Kesner leaves to look for her sister at a bar. The bar man hasn't seen her in weeks and has been holding a message for her. As he goes to get it a bar fight breaks out to which Kesner feels obbliged to involve herself in. This movie may have come out in 1981 but it's more like 1974 with the Hong Kong style martial arts on display, complete with chop-sockey sound effects. Kesner is a great fighter and is aided in this battle with the beefcake bar man and a random Bruce Lee clone. There is no rhyme or reason to this fight but it's hilarious all the same. The bar man shares the message with Kesner and develops photos she had taken, identifying a local bad guy Chuck Donner (played by Darby Hinton with a great moustache).

Ken Metcalfe, a recurring name in Filipino exploitation movies, both writes and stars in Naked Fist, though his role isn't huge. He plays the part of the drug overlord and underground fight club owner Erik who orders Chuck around and gets angry at failed attempts to get his stolen drugs back. Kesner fakes interest in joining his tournaments in the hope of finding out more about her sister but gets in various troubles along the way, all resulting in fighting. She even beats up a snake.

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There's so much gold in Naked Fist and at 77 minutes run time it never really goes bad. We get a bit of gun play as well but the fights rule supreme here. The highlight of the movie is when Kesner in a long dress and high heels is on the street and gets attacked by thugs (of course). The fight goes on as usual until one thug tears her dress off and she keeps fighting in her lingerie again! Just when you think it couldn't get better, one of the thugs cuts her bra off from the front and in a very Carry On moment, the twins pop out - and yet still she keeps fighting! Naked Fist was seriously made for sixteen year old boys and I thank the director for that. Pay special attention in the background of the 'bra removal' scene in the warehouse to a box with the label "Rack Master". Bahaha!

And would you take a look at that cover. I thought I was in for some kind of Conquest style fantasy movie, what with the vulture perched on a concrete fist and the wall of fire. I get that they are trying to symbolise that Kesner will take you to hell with the pummelling she dishes out but still, they need not have gone to the effort. The title Naked Fist and the gratuitous side-boob artwork suckers you in enough as it is.

I only just realised now that Jillian Kesner was in Inferno aka Operation Cobra playing the blonde bombshell cougar Jasmine. I better go back and tag her in that. She's also been in Raw Force (1982) with Cameron Mitchell, one I will be checking out for sure. Finally, look out for the final payoff scene. Easily one of the best and most abrupt endings in cinema. No walking into the sunset for Kesner here. Highly recommended!

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The Video:

Solid enough for VHS, though night time scenes were pretty garish with dark blue overtones. Also my tape was squeaking as it played; my cat was very interested in the noise. Still what do you expect for a 28 year old tape. Runtime 77 minutes.

Sourced From:

Roadshow PAL VHS for about 50c in a bulk lot off eBay.

The whole movie:

Still don't believe me? Well normally you could watch the trailer but I didn't find one. What I did find was the whole movie for stream and for download! I'm sure the copyright owners (if there actually are any!) won't mind, but if a DVD does come out one day I urge you all to buy a copy. You need Divx Web Player to watch this.

More Screens:

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Machete (2010)

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Tagline:

They just messed with the wrong Mexican.

Movie Review:

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Post #50!

Well I made it to my fiftieth post and what better way to celebrate than with, in my opinion, one of the two best action films of the year. In August we were lucky enough to have The Expendables, an all star action-movie ensemble cast extravaganza. I loved every minute of it and have seen it three times now. Putting all the old action movie stars, and some new ones, together in a movie could have failed miserably but I was extremely happy with the final product. And seeing Dolph back on the big screen was a thing to behold. Now in November (two months after the US, unfortunately) we finally get to see if Machete can hold it's own against the big boys of action.

Born as an idea that Rodriguez had after filming Desperado in 1993, Machete eventually culminated in to a fake trailer sandwiched between Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" and Rodriguez's own "Planet Terror"; collectively known as Grindhouse. The idea was sound and although I believe they succeeded, the box office told otherwise. But there was still enough interest in the fake trailer for Machete to convince Rodriguez to take the fans seriously and actually film the thing in its entirety.

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Machete is a different beast entirely to The Expendables. While The Expendables was all about stuffing as many recognisable action (and wrestling) stars into a movie and blowing things up in Madeupistan, Machete is more about one man's fight for vengeance, with a whole fleet of "hey it's that guy!" types in tow. The Expendables had Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Jet Li; Machete has a weathered Danny Trejo, a larger Steven Seagal and Cheech.

We immediately and literally kick into high gear as Machete smashes his car into the wall of a house and begins taking out bad guys with his blade without even making eye contact with them. At one point he chops the hand off a guy who was shooting at him and uses the disembodied hand, still gripping the gun, to kill two other guys. Machete rescues a naked and stoned bimbo but it's a trap and get's shot in the leg for his efforts, then made to watch his wife die by decapitation at the hands of an evil Steven Seagal in drug-lord motif.

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A few years later Machete alone and on hard times joins the daily work gangs to make a living. One day he is picked up by Jeff Fahey in a limousine. Machete expects some gardening or plumbing work but instead is offered $150k to kill a right-wing politician (Robert De Niro) with strong anti-immigration ideals. Machete considers and eventually accepts the money. You know the drill from here if you've seen the fake trailer - Machete is double crossed, Machete turns out to be an ex-Federale, Machete get's revenge.

There is so much gold in Machete I have trouble finding where to begin. Once again I have to turn to the IMDB Parental Guide to summarise some of the best parts of this movie:

  • Machete stabs a man in the stomach, he then uses his intestine as a rope.
  • Machete chops a man's arm off, cuts off his head and slices it in half.
  • Machete injures a man with a weed wacker.
  • Machete makes out with two women in the pool, they are mother and daughter, and you see their breasts for the whole scene.

I can't emphasise enough how cool some of the violence and gore is in the movie. It's slapstick on level with Evil Dead 2, and then some. A guy gets crushed by the wheels of a bouncing car. That says it all really.

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    The only real downsides to the movie, and there aren't many, are basically the same ones I have with The Expendables. Firstly: so much awesome talent and not enough time. I love Steven Seagal and I could not get enough of his ridiculous Mexican accent in this, but he spends the vast majority of the movie behind a laptop and on a screen. This is understandable as he would simply get all his henchmen to do the work, and he does finally come out swinging a samurai sword, but still I would have liked some Seagal Slap-fu. Tom Savini also only has a very minor role as a hitman but I had forgot he was in this at all so was delighted to see him show up.

    The second downside is Jessica Alba. She is a very pretty girl, no doubt about that, but out of all the ladies in Machete she is the one that needs to work on her acting chops a little more. That may sound harsh but up against the display that Michelle Rodriguez put on as the Taco-selling reisistance-running Luz, Alba's law enforcement character was weak by comparison. Her lines were delivered mostly flat and without emotion, whereas I easily believed Luz had been fighting this war for years. I can let it slide however, as many grindhouse movies of old had far, far worse acting on show than Alba.

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    Cheech is brilliant as Padre - I wish all priests were like him - he is a definite highlight. Seagal proves he still has it and also that he can play an over-the-top bad guy, something he hasn't done before (It's great to see him on the big screen again just like Dolph, too). Fahey, De Niro and Don Johnson as the vigilante redneck are all great, and even the Lohan factor couldn't keep the movie down. Despite her negative publicity she's a fine actress. In fact she should play Killer Nun's more often.

    Danny Trejo IS Machete. This could be his typecast for the next twenty years. There is absolutely nobody else that could pull off this role so well. Trejo does some of his best acting with just the cracks and lines in his face. He delivers some cool lines that are bound to become catch phrases and as was said in the fake trailer "He kills the bad guys. He gets the women". Boy, does he ever.

    I was amazed that all the main parts of the fake trailer were used, verbatim, in the final picture. Some isolated scenes would have been easy to include, like Machete sharpening his blade on a stone wheel, but Rodriguez went to the effort of making up Lindsay Lohan to look like the blonde from the skinny-dipping scene in the fake trailer and filming more of it. And of course we still get the awesome scene with Cheech ("God forgives. I don't!") and the finale of the fake trailer Machete on his motorbike with mounted minigun. The inclusion of all these scenes is very important as it shows that Rodriguez both respects his fan base and also stays true to his original ideals for Machete.

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    There have been some nay-sayers about the strong political agenda Machete raises. I have to plead ignorance on this. I know very little about Mexico and so-called illegals in America; it's not something that really gets reported on in Australian news. I only know what I've seen in this and other TV shows and movies - obviously not trustworthy sources of information - that all Mexicans are lazy drug dealers and/or working as maids in hotels filled with white people. That would be like saying all Australians own pet kangaroos and live on a diet of beer (well.. that last part is quite accurate). So I see this as I would any other action movie; a required plot to get us from explosion A to explosion B. And on that front it excels. I didn't take my eyes off the screen for a second. The Senator's campaign videos were a hoot too.

    Honestly they are very different movies, but if the choice were between The Expendables and Machete I would have to give my final vote to Machete. It's non-stop action, it's hyper-violent, there's plenty of boobs and tonnes of laughs. The Expendables was a great homage to 80's action. Machete is pure grindhouse.

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    Trailer:

    Posters:

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