Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Foreigner (2003)

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Tagline:

If they think they can stop him, they're dead wrong.

Movie Review:

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Here's another DTV Seagal I've finally caught up with, 2003's The Foreigner. Seagal did two other movies that year: Out for a Kill and Belly of the Beast. I've not seen Belly of the Beast yet but I have seen Out for a Kill, which was below average with lots of dubbing and stupidity abound, but it does have this scene (skip to 3:40) which makes it awesome. The Foreigner was followed up two years later with a sequel, Black Dawn; perhaps I will make that my next Seagal outing.

Seagal is an agent-for-hire with a girlfriend half his age (again) who is given a job to deliver a package from France to Germany. He initially doesn't want to take it because his father has just died, but agrees in the end. Along for the ride is another agent-for-hire, Dunoir (Max Ryan from Death Race). They arrive at the package collection point and find two guys with their tongues cut out, then masked guys burst in the front door with machine guns and shoot the place up. Seagal and Dunoir escape, Seagal deciding to continue on with the delivery. He eventually decides to open the package and discovers it contains a black box flight recorder from an aircraft that went down in suspicious circumstances, and for whatever reason the recipient - tycoon Jerome Van Aken (Harry Van Gorkum) - has an interest in its whereabouts. Seagal discovers that he is being pursued by various agents and assassins, some known to him and some not, while Van Aken's wife Meredith (Anna-Louise Plowman) also seems to want to get hold of Seagal's package (fnyar fnyar).

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This wasn't bad but it was a little confusing, at least to me; I probably need a second viewing. After a while I started forgetting who is double-crossing who and all that kind of stuff. There was a few decent fights that, while they appeared to be slowed down or zoomed in, seemed to be done by Steve himself, though I could be wrong - I've never been good at picking non-obvious body doubles. There was also no line dubbing, at least not on Steve. There was one or two random scenes of non-Seagal characters having lines inserted for them when the camera was looking elsewhere which were a bit annoying but nothing too bad.

The best part of the movie for me was at the thirty-five minute mark. One of the many assassin types after the package catches up with Seagal and knocks him unconscious. Once brought around, the dizzy Seagal is being interrogated by Mr. Mimms (Sherman Augustus from Virus, Rumplestiltskin, Digital Man), someone that looks like they were robbing bookies in Snatch. The wordplay is pretty amusing and very British gangland. Seagal convinces the guy that the package is at a train station locker so the two go down to retrieve it. For some reason the guy decides to open the package in the bathroom and Seagal takes the opportunity to take a slash. Just as the guy tears open the package, Seagal with tackle presumably still out dives out of a conveniantly placed (but closed) glass window and the package detonates in the guys face. The whole building goes up in what must have been 2/3rd's of the film's budget - a very impressive explosion indeed.

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I liked seeing Englishwoman Anna-Louise Plowman in this. She was one of my favourite characters from Stargate SG-1 as Osiris and her character in The Foreigner, whilst entirely removed from a mythical Egyptian god, is quite pivotal to how things play out. She's not done much in the way of movies so it makes sense that she's in a direct-to-video film and does a good job being extra British.

Seagal is on pretty good form though nothing outstanding. A lot of shooting, a few slap-fu fights that aren't too bad but a distinct lack of mutherfukkaz and his usual slang. He's also not quite the jam donut he becomes by Pistol Whipped. It's pretty violent overall with a bloody torture scene. One guy actually dies three times, though I won't spoil who. Worth it for the scene with the big arse explosion, which unfortunately is the climax to the trailer below.

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The Video:

Clean and crisp like most modern DTV movies Seagal has done, with clear audio (except when Seagal mumbles into his coat). Runtime 92 minutes.

Sourced From:

In a box set of 6 other DTV-era Seagal movies that I think cost me $50 for the lot.

Trailer:

More Screens:

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Final Equinox (1995)

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Tagline:

The future of mankind has been stolen. Who controls our destiny now?

Movie Review:

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There are really only two types of cop movie. There's the vigilante cop who doesn't play by the rules, gets suspended by his Captain and takes matters into his own hands to revenge his dead partner. Then there is the detective who is recruited by a special government agency to do an off-the-books mission to bring down an old enemy that got away from him, and gets double crossed for his efforts. In both cases the cop can be a drunk and/or drug user. Final Equinox is the latter type of cop movie, albeit with a sci-fi edge to it, and Joe Lara is that drunk, drugged up detective.

Joe Lara is a cop returning home from holiday with his girl. We are told it's the 'near future' but Lara is on a shuttle going past a space station so I don't know what they were thinking in 1995 when this flick came out. They arrive home and immediately Lara gets into a fight with his missus for some reason, and she leaves him home alone to get drunk. Simultaneously a gang of mercenaries do a break-and-enter at a security complex and steal an artefact, then organise a deal to sell it in an abandoned factory complex to a buyer. Using his 'near future' technology, the mercenary can see into the suitcase without it being open and notices the money is tainted. Martin Kove gives orders whilst lighting a cigar, gunfire ensues and the buyer ends up dead.

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Joe Lara on the scene of the dead buyer the next day, sporting a hangover and bad breath, gets interrupted during his analysis of the scene by Commander Dreg who takes control of the case and wants to speak to Lara about a special mission. So they go to a titty bar (of course). Dreg is from some future CIA equivalent and really wants this artefact for some unexplained reason. Lara agrees to help because Kove is the 'one that got away' bad guy that he regrets having never caught.

Things don't go to plan when Lara tries the same trade as the first buyer and gets kidnapped, drugged, beaten and eventually released for a final chance at getting the money to them. He gets rescued by scientist-turned-hobo David Warner, who must have been low on cash this year, and tells Lara about the artefact. Basically it's an alien device that looks like a bowling pin painted silver with glyphs on the side of it and it predates all civilisation. Warner has worked out that turning the device on will terraform any planet with "trees and ferns", destroying what is already there. With that obvious power advantage Lara can see why Commander Dreg is desparate to have the device as well.

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There are two reviews for Final Equinox on IMDB and as usual with the reviews on that site, are complete polar opposites. One reviewer gives is 9/10 saying it is one of the best films of its time. The other gives it 1/10 saying if you want a headache, watch this movie. I'm sitting in the middle - this one was all right, but only just. It was totally devoid of humour and the producers were obviously trying hard to make an interesting action-thriller with a sci-fi tone to it. The problems are many but most can be explained away by the low budget. This was probably made for cable television and on a tight time line. Things like the night time scenes being obviously filmed during the day but with a blue lens on the camera support this. If it wasn't for the space shuttle scene at the beginning (and the ludicrous ending) there wouldn't be much 'near future' about this at all.

Actually I lie about the humour. Whoever chose Martin Kove's outfit was totally having a laugh. Nice chains! (see the last screenshot at the end of this review). And Lara's straight-line eyebrows always raise a smile (though they don't raise his eyebrows, geddit?).

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Most of the action isn't bad. There's about three shootouts and Lara kicks a few people around as well. Nothing hugely memorable in the action but it does the job. No explosions at all, which is a big disappointment. The final fight is easily the most interesting and some tension is actually built around this alien artefact and what would happen if it was actually used. Along with the bar scene there's also two random sex scenes; hooray for boobies and all that.

Hang in there for the craptacular ending. Atrocious 90's special effects that you couldn't even get away with in a children's TV show these days are definitely the highlight and the only other (unintentional) piece of humour in the whole affair. Worth the $2 entry alone.

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The Video:

Decent enough full frame picture though the dark scenes are pretty lowly lit. The bit-rate is low on this cheapo DVD so macro-blocking is evident in fast scenes. The audio is generally okay but I had to turn it up loud to hear conversations; sometimes it seems there was no ADR and the actors were barely whispering, or bad synth music was laid over the top in post. Runtime approx. 90 minutes.

If you pick up the $2 RRP Flashback Entertainment DVD, ignore the lengthy synopsis and screenshots on the back. It's for another sci-fi movie starring Stephen Nichols called Phoenix! It doesn't sound bad actually so I might track it down.

Sourced From:

A two dollar store. Outside Australia I think this might only be available on VHS.

Trailer:

Can't find one, sorry!

More Screens:

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Merchant of Death (1997)

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Tagline:

Built by humans. Programmed by computers. The ultimate killing machine. (This tagline makes absolutely no sense!)

Movie Review:

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Merchant of Death is another late 90's Nu Image movie and is pretty by-the-numbers, not that there is anything wrong with that. It starts like a typical Nu Image movie as well where half the films budget is expended in the opening scenes.

After a flashback scene to his childhood where a six year old Michael Pare sees his parents and cringe-worthy sister killed and thrown off a cliff by ruthless henchmen with accents trying to forcefully acquire his fathers land, we snap forward to a present day drug bust. It's a massive shootout with huge explosions, similar to something like Hard Justice and One Man Force. There's guys in the backs of vans shooting randomly and smashing through warehouse walls, bulldozers on fire ploughing over burning barrels and people, and that's before Pare even shows up. Once he emerges from his car, cigar in his mouth and "damn I'm cool" expression on his face, he shouts out for the druglord to come forward. Instead of course Pare gets to punchfight and machine gun fools as they slow-motion fall off suspended walkways. He also gets to drive a bulldozer that's on fire! Finally Pare gets an RPG and blows the whole sodding building sky high!

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As you would expect Pare gets chewed out by the Chief and his Captain, Sam. Like any good cop action movie he gets suspended from duty. The best part about this scene is the Chief is a dead ringer for Foghorn Leghorn, it's really quite amusing. He is ordered to attend counselling with the police Doctor but blows it off because he's just too manly for that. He gets a tip later from Sam that a police snitch has information for them so the two go to an old warehouse. The snitch is dead on the scene and the whole thing, of course, is a massive trap.

That's when the motorbikes and machine guns come in to play and some cool shooting at exploding barrel scenes. Unfortunately Sam is shot and in his dying breath, tells Pare he was involved in his parents murder and that a guy called Anthony at Hyperion Exports is to blame. Then the drug-lord from the beginning appears: "You know what disappoints me? That I can only kill you once." He's shot and falls from a bridge. Hooray! This is the best movie EVER!

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And then it all gets boring for a long, long while... like over half an hour of tedious funerals, psychotherapy sessions (with the, at least, pretty hot Linda Hoffman), reminiscing, digging into Hyperion Exports secrets, annoyingly long conversations and just downright non-explosive action. It was quite a trial to get through the second act of the movie honestly, my attention was severely waning and I kept checking the time. Pare even poses as a reporter and does interviews... blah! There's a funny looking evil guy with an eyepatch at 50 minutes, and at about the 55 minute mark there's a good car chase ("Hey where'd you get your licence?") where the classic 'fly the car over the moving train' scene is pulled out again. Linda Hoffman is kidnapped by bad guys and the final act kicks into gear.

Luckily the last 25 minutes make up for the agonising middle section when Pare goes to Venezuela to rescue the girl and have a final match with the Hyperion Exports guy. Lot's of sneaking around an estate, planting detonators, picking off guards etc. then finally a quick trip back to America to finish off the final guy. The beginning and end of the movie are really quite good - not brilliant but quite good - it's just that daytime television middle act that needs re-writing. And that's a real shame.

And what's the go with that tagline?! Programmed by computers, really? Who was smoking the wacky-tobaccy when they dreamt up this tagline? (There's another DVD edition that has the far more sensible "The key to his future lies buried in his past.")

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The Video:

Not bad at all, full screen presentation as it was most likely filmed, a little soft but generally a pleasing image. Clear sound, no issues. Reviewed the R2 disc by cheapo company Prism Leisure and the DVD has nothing but a static menu and six chapter points. Runtime 90 minutes.

Sourced From:

eBay for a dollar or two.

Trailer:

As hard as I looked I could not find a trailer for this movie, nor was there one on my DVD, so I added a tonne of screenshots for you. Meanwhile please enjoy this trailer for the first action movie made in Uganda: "Who Killed Captain Alex? (Seriously, watch this.)

More Screens:

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