Saturday, November 10, 2012

Death Race 2 (2010)

Death race 2 2010 poster

Movie Review:

I'm usually against remakes, but sometimes the remake is better than the first film. Cronenberg's The Fly is far superior to the 50's film. The 1988 version of The Blob is scarier than Steve McQueen's. And the 2008 version of Death Race starring Jason Statham is, in my opinion, leagues ahead of the Sylvester Stallone and David Carradine Death Race 2000 from 1975. It was faster, more violent and just more fun overall - and closer to The Running Man than the original, which is a good thing in my book. So when a sequel - actually a prequel - for the remake was hitting the shores of direct-to-DVD, I was excited.

This prequel sets up the events that take place in the Statham film and establishes the Frankenstein mythology. Ving Rhames is the owner of Weyland Corporation (not related, presumably, to Weyland Industries from Alien), a corporation that among other things privately runs the prison systems. As they own the prison and the prisoners therein they can do whatever they like with them; Death Match is a televised fight-to-the-death between randomly selected prisoners. It begins unarmed but combatants can unlock weapons by triggering plates on the ground. This is all well and good, but ratings are starting to plummet. What can the producers do to spice things up?

Enter: Death Race! Nine cars, armed and armour plated driving a course around the prison facility. And just in time to join in the fun is Carl "Luke" Lucas (Luke Goss, Blood Out, Blade II), a convicted bank robber and cop killer. After doing the dirty work of crime lord Markus Kane (Sean Bean, Lord of the Rings trilogy), Lucas is sent to Weyland's penitentiary. It's not long before he's suckered in with hopes of freedom to race for Weyland's TV entertainment manager September Jones (played ruthlessly by TV actress Lauren Cohan). With the gorgeous Katrina (Taint Phoenix) as his co-driver, things hot up on and off the race track!

Death race 2 1

Grab your friends, get some beer and strap yourselves in because this is a fantastic ride. If you just want to be entertained by brutal fights, hot cheerleaders and plenty of CAR-nage, then this is the film for you. Director Roel Reiné (Marine 2, Steven Seagal's Pistol Whipped) gives the DTV-action fans and fans of the first film exactly what they want. Luke Goss is a good actor and certainly fills the Frankenstein mythology that would be continued by Statham - the two are even vaguely similar in appearance and build. He's a beefcake when it comes to fist-fighting and looks like he knows how to handle a car (and later on in the film, a woman too). 

Some of the characters and actors from the Statham film are in this film too; the somewhat savant Lists (Fred Koehler) in the role of the helper-monkey in Luke's pitt crew. Robin Shou returns as rival driver and Korean triad member, 14K. And new to this film is the ever-awesome Danny Trejo (Machete), who isn't used to the full extent he could be in the pitt crew but still provides a foreboding presence. All the other drivers have their interesting quirks; I especially loved the brief appearance of a driver called Hill Billy who, you guess it, is a big, fat cliched redneck hillbilly. Yee-haw!

With a budget of 7 million (pretty high in the DTV world), the special effects and size of the play field are very decent. Obvious CG is minimal, with plenty of realistic blood splatters and car mashing resulting in real explosions. There is a bit of MTV-style editing, but thankfully it's mostly slow-mo's and not much shaky-cam. The cameras do zoom in close to the drivers from time to time to save on exterior shots, but there's still plenty of outside driving (and crashing) to see. There's a few little niggling script continuity errors but.. WHO CARES, crash those cars! Recommended.

Highlight:

The CAR-nage (okay, I'll stop doing that now) is absolute throughout the film! THAT is the highlight - the film never bores!

Sourced From:

A sweet deal in a local release Blu-ray double-pack featuring the first film and this sequel.

Trailer:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Special Forces (2003)

Special forces 2003 poster 

Tagline:

They fight for your life.

Movie Review:

It's been a while since my last review, but I couldn't be happier to break the drought with something as explosive as Special Forces. The plot is incredibly simple; ambitious American female reporter gets captured by Maldovian forces trying to take photos of a genocidal event, US Special Forces team bust heads in an attempt to extract her. You already know how this will go, and it goes exactly how you think. America wins, woo! But it doesn't matter that you know how it goes, what matters is how high the body count is when you get there.

Special Forces hits the nail on the head for action fans. Directed by Isaac Florentine (Undisputed II and III, Ninja, Shepherd: Border Patrol, U.S. Seals II), one of the best in the business as far as I'm concerned with nary a single MTV-style quick-cut in use, and with many appearances by (but not fully starring) the awesome Scott Adkins. Well acted by all involved, we see the team of special forces comprised of interchangeable rough-and-tough men going by the names Jess, Bear, Wyatt and Reyes lead by Major Don Harding (Marshall R. Teague, U.S. Seals II, The Rock, Armageddon and a lot of TV work), who work their way through Maldova to rescue the girl and take out the ruthless General Hasib Rafendek (Eli Danker) - of which Major Harding has already been acquainted with, as revealed to us by a flashback sequence.

Action hero (and I'm happy to call him that now that he's played alongside The Action Greats in The Expendables 2) Scott Adkins shows up as the last remaining soldier of a British squad that never made it out of Maldova. He acts alone but saves the bacon of the Special Forces team on three occasions. It's also great to hear Adkins using his real British accent for once!

Special forces 1

"Mission is King"

This is a non stop actionfest, folks. There are at least six full shootouts featuring every military-grade weapon you could think of. The minuscule $2.5m budget must have been used entirely on ammunition and exploding trucks, so I'll forgive the frankly terrible looking CG helicopter that whisks the team away at the end of the film. It's not a gory film either, with a high level of violence but not an overly grotesque. The scenery of Lithuania doubling as Maldova provides an authentic representation of a war-torn post-USSR republic.

Special forces 2

This is easily the most overly-patriotic bordering on silly action film I've ever seen. There are so many scenes featuring American flags I lost count, but my favourite moments would be the artistic blood splatter across a US flag patch received by a captured Corporal, the Major drinking from a coffee cup emblazoned with the flag and the final scene rolling onto the credits that features the Major telling Talbot "this is why I keep doing it" as we pan across to a waving American flag. Coupled with the constant footage of Maldovian soldiers beating on their own women and children, it's clear who we are meant to be rooting for here.

Highlight:

Special forces 3

The action basically does not stop for the full ninety minutes, but the highlight simply has to go to the duel fights in the finale - Marshall R. Teague vs. Eli Danker, and Scott Adkins vs. stuntman Vladislavas Jacukevicius. Surprisingly, Teague is reasonable with the ol' high kicks and lands a decent punch on Danker a few times. But the Hong Kong style fight between Adkins and Jacukevicius is simply outstanding - easily the best Adkins fight I've seen. He's as fast as Jackie Chan in his early days and just as creative, using whatever is laying around to help him win the fight. Jacukevicius is a great opponent for Adkins as he does this kind of stunt work for a living (this is is only acting role) but the upper hand, of course, goes to the triumphant Adkins. 

Sourced From:

Ex-rental R4 DVD brought to us by Roadshow Entertainment and Ninth Dimension. Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the film looks and sounds good but suffers a little from too much video compression in some scenes.

Trailer:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Getting Even aka La Vendetta (1988)

Getting even poster

Tagline:

It's time to settle the score! 

Movie Review:

Reviewed on vhs

I love 80's Italian action films. There is always a substantial amount of poorly choreographed punch-fighting directed at people with beards in paisley shirts and beige trousers. Magnificent stuff, really. Getting Even aka La Vendetta is a 1988 revenge film directed by Leandro Lucchetti (Apocalypse Mercenaries, Caged Women) starring The Shaft himself, Richard Roundtree and ably assisted by Italian action/post-apocalyptic mainstay Harrison Muller Jr. (2020 Texas Gladiators, Warrior of the Lost World, The Final Executioner, She).

Getting even 01

Roy Evans (Harrison Muller Jr.) ia an ex-Marine who ran top secret missions for the C.I.A. in Vietnam. Captured and tortured for five years during the war after being left behind at gunpoint by supposed friend John Slisko (Michael Aronin), Evans has now been recruited by old 'Nam buddy Dundee (Richard Roundtree) to hunt down Slisko who has been murdering prostitutes in New York City with his old war knife. After being betrayed all those years ago, Evans is keen to have his revenge!

The two beat up some squatters (including knocking a guy off a motorbike with a baseball bat!) to get information and learn that Slisko is now an international arms dealer boss who runs a local gym as a front. The pair find him at his gym but are caught off their guard by his thugs. Slisko escapes during a shootout which then leads our pair to Bangkok, the centre of Slisko's arms operations!

Getting Even is a solid actioner with a solid cast. It's not remarkable by any means but it's good fun - a lot of the best action in the film is lifted from another Muller film that Lucchetti produced, The Violent Breed. Roundtree and Muller put in good performances and know how to win a fight or ten, with Roundtree putting in some well-aimed single shots, and Michael Aronin plays a decent mob style boss. But really, Italian action films from the 80's are about the ACTION and not much more; lines are more often than not dubbed by someone else, and dialogue only used to get you from one place to another. Oh and there is usually some naked female form on display, which is not an exception in Getting Even!

Highlight:

The final fifteen is a pretty explosive display of machine guns, grenades to jeeps and plenty of slow motion jumping from exploding huts as the pair move in on Slisko's regime. Just what you want in your Namsploitation films!

Sourced From:

VHS bought from eBay.

 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Expendables 2 (2012)

The expendables 2 poster 

Tagline:

Back for War.

Movie Review:

To say that I've been looking forward to seeing The Expendables 2 is like saying "I quite enjoy breathing". I needed to see this movie, as my wife will attest to, and it simply did not disappoint. If you are a fan of big, dumb 80's style action films, a fan of the first movie, or somebody who thought the first movie needed to go further, then all you need to know is "go see this film immediately".

The film opens in Nepal as mercenaries are bludgeoning a captive prisoner. Enter: The Expendables - Toll Road (Randy Couture), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) and Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) to save the day with tanks, missiles, and endless rounds of ammunition unleashed upon enemy forces resulting in CG-gore head-shots (which look pretty good to my eyes, and not obviously cartoon-y - just over the top!), and newcomer Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) sniping from a distance with his 50 calibre rifle. Jet Li even pulls out the martial arts with saucepans like a late 70's Hong Kong film. It's hard to put in words how awesome this opening scene is.

Rescuing their target (and somebody else who was in the wrong place at the wrong time) the team fly home for some R&R. That's when Church (Bruce Willis) shows up demanding that a debt to him be paid by Barney Ross, so the team set out to retrieve a package from a safe in a downed plane. Sounds like an easy pay check but Ross has to agree to take specialist Maggie (Nan Yu) along with him. Of course it all goes terribly wrong when somebody else is after the package - Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), a ruthless arms dealer - and one of the Expendables crew is killed in action by a knife to the throat held by Villain's right-hand-man, Hector (the awesome Scott Adkins). So what does a team of old mercenaries do? "Track 'em, find 'em, kill 'em!" … with a few old friends showing up along the way to give a helping hand.

This was a great, great action movie. If movies are based solely on the amount of fun you have watching them, then The Expendables 2 is up there with the best. Don't be stupid and look for deep meaning, just giggle like a schoolgirl when Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis empty an entire airport with automatic weapons! Laugh as Lundgren gets drunk and tries to crack on to Nan Yu's Maggie. Fist-pump the air as Terry Crews brings out the automatic shotgun from the first film and dismembers wave after wave of bad guy. Grin from ear to ear as Jason Statham dressed as a priest declares "I now pronounce you man and knife!". Cheer as Chuck Norris appears out of the smoke and forgets how to act entirely (Arnie is a bit rusty too, but who the hell cares?). Even Nan Yu (also in Dolph Lundgren's "Diamond Dogs") gets her fair share of carnage in.

The expendables 2 team

"I'll be back!", "You've been back enough! It's time for me to be back!"

If you thought the first film had a lot of back-slapping referential humour, you ain't seen nothing yet! Any time Schwarzenegger, Willis and Stallone share a scene it's just a constant stream of "Rambo", "I'll be back" and "Yippie-ki-yay" lines. You'll cringe but you'll love it at the same time. They are clearly having a whale of a time doing it and you'll have a whale of a time watching it. And you may have read it elsewhere but Chuck Norris does crack a Chuck Norris Fact joke - and it's brilliantly awful.

Van Damme is excellent as the plutonium-obsessed leader Villain who forces slaves to dig mines looking for the lost Russian chemicals of destruction. His twisted portrayal of the character gives you someone to hate and also makes you wonder why JCVD doesn't do bad-guy roles more often - he previously only seemed to do them when he appears in the movie as two characters ala Replicant. Scott Adkins' Hector is just as great as his right-hand-man, and is ruthless in carrying out orders given to him by Villain. And yes, we get to see both dudes roundhouse kicking members of Ross' team - Van Damme's still got it!

Downsides? Well Yin Yang is only in the opening scene before making a discreet exit out of the plane with a parachute over China, to which a disappointed Gunner asks "Who am I going to make fun of now?" and Yin replies "Find another minority". Toll Road, Hale Caesar and Gunner are pushed more to the background than the first movie with no real shining moments given to any of them - though Gunner does try to save the day in one instance with his degree in Chemical Engineering; a degree that Dolph Lundgren actually has! The end fights involving Adkins and JCVD could have been longer but that is really splitting hairs - they were great as they were. Any other downsides revolve around similar issues people had with the first movie; that is some of the emotional plot lines were a bit forced and didn't quite work. That issue is still apparent here when Sly talks with Hemsworth or Nan Yu but not as bad as the attempts with Mickey Rourke were in the first film.

The Expendables 2 is the cure to all the Mission Impossible 17's and Bourne Whatever's of the world. No brains, all brawn, big guns and fun dialogue. Directed this time by Simon West who has helmed Con Air and Tomb Raider, he films a frenetic action film that only resorts to shaky-cam once by my count and looks a treat, outside a few overly-dark moments including the final Stallone/JCVD fight. Another classic in Nu Image's action repository. See this now!

Highlight:

There are many, many glorious moments in this film but I have to give it up for the few appearances we get of Chuck Norris. Every time he appears on screen he gets his own theme song. He cracks a Chuck Norris joke, badly, and it's brilliant. And he gets one of the funniest kills in the movie where the resultant headshot is viewed through the full body security scanner at the airport. Boom! 

Sourced From:

Watched at the cinema, and worth every dollar!

Trailer:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Angel of Fury aka Lady Dragon 2 (1992)

Angel of fury lady dragon 2 poster 

Tagline:

She's got a right hook that's DEADLY. 

Movie Review:

Well it's been a while between reviews! Finally I'm back with a little Rothrock to entertain. I'm also going to dispose with the Quick Blast titles on shorter reviews and just let the reviews speak for themselves, be they long, short or a one line "Worst. Movie. Ever." Hope you enjoy.

00 15 05  00 46 25

Reviewed on vhs

Cynthia Rothrock is Susan Morgan, "The Golden Angel", a boxer who is married to a famous Indonesian soccer star Sonny Sumarto (George Rudy). After successful matches for both of them, the couple fly back from LA to Jakarta, but at the airport their bags are switched with ruthless diamond thief Diego (Billy Drago) and his merry band of cohorts, Jack (Gret Stuart) and Reb (Sam J. Jones, looking like he's walked off the set of one of his many Vietnam war movies, bandana and all). 

After returning home, Diego and co. break in to their house looking for the diamonds but neither are forthcoming, so Jack and Sam break Sonny's legs and Diego rapes Susan. That's not the end of it; Diego and co. come back day after day (unbelievably there are no police guarding the house) looking for the diamonds, and one day when Susan is out, Diego brutally kills poor wheelchair-bound Sonny. This sets Susan on an inevitable and incurable path of one-woman's-revenge! 

00 38 04  00 58 13

"You're not gonna get inside my head, fucker!"

I had fun with this. It was far darker than I was expecting; even the cheap synth soundtrack was moody. I guess any movie that opens with a rape in the first fifteen minutes isn't going to be laugh-a-minute. It get's quite bleak during and after Sonny's funeral where we learn that his was an icon among his native village; they even thrust a one legged kid on crutches in our face to make the point of the revenge more obvious. A strange Indonesian priestess (I think) says Susan looks like a woman with revenge in her heart - ain't that the truth. She has three people to kill!

Drago is an evil slimeball in this. He plays the character really well and you just love to hate him. His mannerisms are quite sickly and I got creepy shivers whenever he (repeatedly) said "There's my pretty, pretty, pretty.." to Rothrock's character, or called her on the phone to stalk her. I still don't get how stupid he was returning to the scene of the crime at least four times in the movie, but I digress. Jack is a bit of a nothing character sadly and is dispatched first by Susan as she dressed like Marilyn Monroe and seduces him in an elevator - with his own belt tied around his neck, if you follow me. Sam Jones' Reb seems like he is high on the best drugs ever throughout the whole film, continually laughing at his own shadow. Even Diego get's annoyed at this and slaps him around a few times. 

01 06 37  01 09 48

Rothrock is her usual great self and gets at least five decent fights in the film, and a car chase that shows the same car explode SIX TIMES from different angles! The first fight is hilarious as she dresses as a streetwalker to get information from a random pimp who attacks her with a sword. She of course fights the three main bad guys, and the final one with Diego is pretty damn good. You know a final fight is going to be good when it's held in an Indonesian steelworks. And you just know that somebody is going to go into the open oven, and it's not going to be the film's heroine.

"How do you like your murderers; medium or well done?"

A solid revenge-thriller with plenty of good B-action set-pieces. Directed by David Worth, best known for directing Kickboxer and Bloodsport - movies not that far removed from Angel of Fury.

Highlight:

01 33 12

Definitely the moment when Susan and Reb square off down at the shipping docks. Susan kidnaps Reb from the mens room at a fancy restaurant and forces him to drive at gunpoint. He manages to break free and after a cat and mouse chase between shipping containers, Susan catches up with him and knocks him to the ground. Injured and unable to move, Susan drops a container from a conveniently placed crane onto Reb squishing him flat. He laughs his manic laugh right up until he becomes a pancake.

Sourced From:

A thrift store VHS pickup. 

Trailer:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Scorpio One (1998)

Scorpio one poster

Tagline:

At the edge of space, patriotism and terrorism are about to cross the line.

Quick Blast Review:

The Scorpio One is an orbiting research station and it's just been sabotaged, leaving all the occupants dead. NASA has no idea what has happened so sends up a new team lead by Commander Wilson (Steve Kanaly), Carter (Robert Carradine), Pilot Hutton (Michael Monks, Hijack) and Shannon Brey (Robin Curtis, Saavik from Star Trek III and IV), with the assistance of a squad of marines captained by Jared Stone (Jeff Speakman) and Till (Brent Huff). After docking the shuttle with the doomed Scorpio One, the rescue team board and are immediately attacked, leaving one member dead. An attempt is then made on Stone's life but he manages to escape and inform Commander Wilson that one of their own team is responsible and trying to steal the scientific research from Scorpio One. That's when Till and his allies take over the shuttle by force, demanding the research computer discs or hostages will start dying and ships start exploding!

You can rely on Royal Oaks to deliver a decent 90 minute time-waster as much as you can bet on Nu Image and PM Entertainment. In that regard, this was pretty decent, even a bit more cerebral (only a bit, mind you) then I was expecting. It's not often these made-for-TV actioners involve political intrigue and espionage, but this one did. We also got two separate sources of action that tied up both ends of the story, which itself is also unusual, but appreciated. Whilst the by-the-numbers Die Hard on an Orbiting Space Station goes on (ala Fallout), down on Earth a deadly plot implicating a Senator in the Scorpio One sabotage is discovered by CIA Director Wilfred Parlow (George Murdock, adding some class to the picture), who sends a small team of two to break into a security facility to gather evidence, and random Agents being knocked off with a roll-on deodorant that makes your heart explode.

The special effects in the film are rubbish (probably the worst shuttle model I've ever seen, and why are these people firing lasers in 1998?) and the science offensive - in one sentence Brey says that the space station's artificial gravity is functioning perfectly, but that there is a gaping hole in the ship that has sucked out all its atmosphere - but it moves at a fast pace and is enjoyable enough. Huff doesn't do much for 45 minutes except drink coffee, but once he shows his true intentions (beginning with ejecting one of the astronauts into the airlock and depressurising it, blowing him into chunks) he appears solidly for about twenty minutes being a bad guy. Speakman only gets two quick hand-to-hand fights but he gets to remind the audience that he is good at this Kenpo thing and can swing a roundhouse-kick or two - one of them pointed at Huff's head.

Special mention has to go to the pointless but highly entertaining ten minutes at the beginning that sees Speakman rescuing a soldier in Iraq from captors in a bloody melee, then being choppered away while yelling "Nooooo!" to his man left behind. And I've not mentioned Carradine much in this review because, well, despite his top billing he really doesn't do anything.

The Final Fifteen:

Hutton (who turned bad) has run off with the space shuttle after Stone kicked Till into the airlock and into outer space. With Scorpio One rigged to blow, the only option is the single escape pod. Back on Earth, Speakman has found out that Director Parlow is just as corrupt as the Senator and gives him the option of a trial or driving his car off the top of the building - he chooses the latter.

Sourced From:

I found this on VHS at a charity shop for 20c. You can get a DVD as well in most territories.

Trailer:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

No Contest II: Access Denied aka Face the Evil (1997)

6305103321 01

Tagline:

She's the right woman, in the wrong place, at the wrong time... again! 

Quick Blast Review:

Sharon Bell (Shannon Tweed), an action movie starlet has gone to visit her sister Bobbi at the art gallery she curates, along with her Director Jack Terry (Bruce Payne) in order to convince her into allowing a scene in her film to be shot there. Eric Dane (Lance Henriksen) happens to be conducting business at the gallery regarding a recovered statue from Nazi Germany. Suddenly terrorists shoot up the joint and Eric Dane reveals himself to be Eric Dengler - he revealed it in a way that seemed to indicate I should have know who that was; perhaps somebody from the first film which I've not seen - and hostages are taken. Eric is after a biological weapon hidden within the Nazi statue, with which he could sell for vast sums of cash. Just as John McClane was in Die Hard, Sharon Bell happened to be elsewhere in the building when the action kicked off. Thus begins Sharon needing to quickly change from action star to action hero, save the hostages and dispatch the bad guys.

This was actually pretty odd. The time passed super-quick (I looked at the clock once to find myself an hour in), the action was there... but the characters just weren't likeable. Lance was technically great as the maniac, but he was too sadistic for the rest of the film. I mean, we have a film that starts with an old switcheroo scene of Shannon doing her action movie scene on set making us, the audience, think this is what we are getting the whole movie... and then we end up making tear gas from paint tins for weapons, but then also a scene where Dane/Dengler forces hostages to act Shakespeare and get shot repeatedly for doing it badly. I dunno, it just didn't seem to gel for me. It's a little like crossing Last Action Hero with Die Hard and a sadistic Korean revenge-thriller.

It's interesting to see Shannon Tweed in this kind of role; an action film star who has to play for real. I get what she was doing, trying to make it look like many of her kicks and punches were 'dumb luck', and genuinely looking frightened and cowering in certain scenarios. I guess that's just not what I wanted. I was hoping for another Cynthia Rothrock - somebody who was well versed, well grounded and knew precisely what they were doing in the action department. Tweed's character was the equivalent of somebody performing CPR based on what they saw on TV. Bruce Payne was interesting playing a good guy, as I best know him as the terrorist from Passenger 57.

This was a case of most things being in the right spot - the machine guns rarely stopped firing - but the characters were either incompatible with the movie or just unlikeable, so I'm not entirely sure I'd recommend it. It's quite hard to nail down, but I guess I just watched the whole thing with a slightly confused look on my face. Maybe I'd enjoy it more the second time round?

The Final Fifteen:

With all the henchmen disposed of, but Sharon, Shannon and Bruce all trapped in the building together, they agree to a cease-fire in order to all get out of the locked building. After some double and triple crossing, Eric Dengler ends up locked in a glass chamber with the biological weapon which goes off and melts him, slowly.

Sourced From:

Literally pulled out of a two dollar bin after decent rummage, the old Hollywood R4 DVD presents the picture in an average fullscreen presentation that looks like it was sourced from a suspect master. It gets the job done but it's not the best. Runtime 86 minutes.

Trailer:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Command 5 (1985)

Command 5 poster

Tagline:

Four men and a woman of courage.. their mission: to combat violent crime! 

Quick Blast Review:

When recluse, action junkie ex-army Captain Blair Morgan (Stephen Parr) is ready to throw in the towel, he is persuaded to create a civilian task force to clean up violent crime. He agrees if only he can choose his team; a by-his-own-rules cop and demolition derby car driver, J. D. Smith (William Russ); female police psychologist and machine gun expert, Chris Winslow (Sonja Smits); alcoholic cop with a short fuse Jack Coburn (Wings Hauser) and demolition expert and general nutter, Nick Kowalski (John Matuszak). Together they are COMMAND 5! And as Command 5 under Captain Morgan's command, they get an awesome bullet-proof truck that make the Star Trek door sound when it opens its hatch,  and an arsenal of the latest weapons (and motorbikes in the back of the truck) to wreck havoc with.

After a relentless training montage, the team are called in for the first assignment - a group called The Brotherhood, let by Hawk (William Forsythe), have taken the Governer's daughter hostage and hold an entire town to ransom. They demand that their people be released from prison or the bodies will start piling up. Who else can save the day but COMMAND 5 - they have badges on their jackets and their own jumbo jet, too!

This is top shelf entertainment right here, folks! I had a whale of a time with this obvious A-Team clone. Everyone gives it their all to blow up as much stuff as possible. John Matuszak's Kowalski is the highlight for me, being the massive fan of One Man Force that I am. Kowalski grins insanely while playing classical music as background to his planned detonations, or just screaming at and pushing down walls instead of climbing over them. His best moment would be carving a statue of The Thinker out of explosive clay and blowing up a bridge with it, haha! J. D. Smith's constant "like my daddy always said" lines get a bit tiresome, but it's never tiresome seeing Chris Winslow with an automatic weapon in her hands!

Wiliam Forsythe is a baddy in everything he plays, and there is a reason for that - he does it so well! He's pretty slimy as Hawk and you just love to hate him. Stephen Parr's Morgan is a quality leader, showing restraint and good leadership skills, managing to group this band of misfits together without the colossal force of Wings and Matuszak causing the whole thing to explode. Wings is his usual great self, and his schtick of drinking scotch with milk is pretty amusing. He has a temper on him and is the cause of both bar fights in the film. That's right we get bar fights (one with hookers and a pimp!); we also get motorbike chases and countless rounds of ammunition used to blow up large set pieces.

Being a TV movie that is almost viewable by younger folk - I'd let a 12 year old watch this, for sure - only two guys are killed during the film, and there is no blood splatter. But a HELL of a lot of cars and buildings are decimated! That's more fun anyway, right? BOOM!

Command 5 01 

The Final Fifteen:

Just how you think it goes! Hawk won't release the hostages, the Governor won't release the prisoners, so how do we resolve this situation? Send in Command 5! The team go covertly in with the attitude of "secure the hostages first, nail the punks second!". Explosions abound as Command 5 battle their way through Hawk's brigade of scum and rescue the hostages, with Kowalski throwing guys out of windows and Coburn throwing grenades at everything else. After a quick bike chase to catch Hawk, the film ends in the TV-cheeseball kind of way that even gets a "Merry Christmas" thrown in for good measure.

Sourced From:

Japanese VHS I picked up from eBay. It was made for TV so 4:3 is the correct ratio to watch this in. Distributed by CIC worldwide from what I can see. 

Trailer:

Not a trailer, but it may as well be - the opening credits sequence that I recorded from my own tape. Sensational!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fallout (1999)

Fallout poster 

Tagline:

The world is waiting...

Quick Blast Review:

It's the "future" (2015, which must have looked a long way away in 1999), and NASA is planning a mission to the new space station, Skyhook. On the trip will be space veteran J. J. "Jim" Hendricks (Daniel Baldwin, ) Russian cosmonaut Capt. Previ Federov (Frank Zagarino). Hendricks keeps failing the pre-flight test scenarios and is grounded, which he reacts to by resigning. With a space on the launch freed up, NASA takes the opportunity to get some repairs done to the space station by sending up Amanda McCord (Teri Ann Lin, Pure Danger). And a guy from Family Ties (Scott Valentine) is the ground commander.

Federov and co. make it to the space station and Amanda soon discovers that the computer on the station isn't broken, it's been sabotaged. That's when Federov and the Russians already aboard unpack some weapons and take over the place. He demands that Russia pulls back their invading army from his home country of Tajikistan or he will blow up world cities with satellites he now controls, thanks to the space station. This is despite the fact that NASA is an American organisation and has no sway over Russian politics, but whatever, this is a TV movie. Who's gonna save the day? Why that's freshly discharged "Jim" Hendricks of course, who will fly the experimental X33 shuttle - that launches like a regular jet plane (!!?) - along with a team of soldiers to infiltrate the station and take it back from the invading Russians.

This is decent but unremarkable, and chock-a-bloc full of stock footage. For two bucks I'm not complaining, and if you catch it on TV (where it belongs) then give it a go. The action isn't in massive quantities but its worth the price of entry alone to hear Zagarino's hilarious Russian accent! His true Zagarino accent shines through constantly, though he is still better than the Scottish-Russian abomination Sean Connery flaunted in The Hunt for Red October. Baldwin is okay enough as the Bruce Willis character, though action is not his forte. He sneaks around a lot and doesn't crack any good one-liners. He's pretty generic, overall, but serviceable. He should have gotten angry and thrown something, I would have cared a bit more. 

The science is lame but it's the future, so they can get away with that; magnetic boots for gravity, though nobody's hair stands on end etc. There is still the special toilet with the hose pipe though. The opening act is ripe with dialogue such as "If you didn't have such a chip on your shoulder, you wouldn't have such a crack in your record." 

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The Final Fifteen:

Hendricks has snuck on board and freed the captive American astronauts, including Amanda who has been trying to send messages back to Ground Commander Family Ties using random bits of circuit she found in their holding cell. They manage to turn the life support power off to the station which co-incidentally gives the exact same amount of time to stop the satellites auto-firing their payloads - fifteen minutes.

Cue some wrestling and gun firing to and from Federov and the other Russians until he's finally taken out by Hendricks. The power is restored and the payloads aborted with, you guessed it, one second to spare. But that's not all; now Hendricks has to overcome his failed attempts during the opening acts' training scene and land the damn shuttle. Oddly the voiceover says "Catastrophic failure", fades to black, and then everyone is on the ground hugging and cheering at their safe return?! 

Sourced From:

My bargain-basement two buck shop RAAM Multimedia DVD. Picture was fine though overly compressed, so in fast scenes it was a little messy. You get what you pay for!

Trailer:

The only trailer I could find was in German, which makes Zagarino's Russian accent even more hysterical!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ninja's Extreme Weapons (1988)

Ninjas extreme weapons poster 

Tagline:

The day of the Ninja is here!

Quick Blast Review:

Isn't that cover just the best? Ninjas with spiked knuckle-dusters and broadswords, helicopters, masked men with machine guns and a freaking jumbo jet crashing out of the sky and splitting in half.. being set on by an entire platoon of men. That is the best movie ever, right there. So... what the hell did I just watch!? It is impossible to do a proper review about this so I'm going to have to bullet point it.

  • There's a bunch of multi-coloured ninjas working for a mob boss in a wheelchair (who keeps telling us "I am the boss.. and don't you forget it!").
  • By multi-coloured I mean their clothing. These are all white men. One has a porno moustache.
  • Some sort of drug deal happens in the forest and a renegade Blue ninja steals the suitcase of drugs.
  • The boss drinks cans of Coke at a camping table.
  • Somewhere else, there's a bunch of Chinese people (apparently this was filmed in Hong Kong). 
  • One of them is Sergeant Kim and he's a total playboy. He says lines like "Some people judge me for being a playboy... but I get the job done."
  • Kim cracks onto a singer in a nightclub. She's singing a completely different song to what we are actually hearing.
  • There's some army guys walking through tall reeds littered with skulls, after jade treasure in a mountain. They get attacked by a White ninja who disguises himself as a Chinese dragon with a flamethrower in the mouth. Then he literally does a "ninja vanish".
  • There seems to be a story about prostitutes tattooed with dragons being forced to work for an Underworld boss. I'm pretty sure it's not the wheelchair bound boss who drinks Coke, either.
  • The playboy is dubbed by an Australian voice actor. He gets attacked by randoms of the Underworld. He throws an old lady at them as defence.
  • Back to Ninja-land, the boss tells his Red ninja to protect his magic ring from his son who he can't trust. Also if the Blue ninja got a hold of it, the world would end.
  • The boss gets a full body massage from three Black ninjas.
  • We get a decent three-colour-Ninja fight. The Blue ninja flies horizontally through the air then does a quadruple backflip.
  • A chinese dragon is a great place to hide two guys with mullet haircuts brandishing machine guns. And they kill the parents of one of the prostitutes (yes we are back in the second movie again)
  • I think everyone in the Hong Kong part of the movie died except the playboy. I can't recall. No, I'm not re-watching.
Ninjas Extreme Weapons 01Ninjas Extreme Weapons 02Ninjas Extreme Weapons 03Ninjas Extreme Weapons 04Ninjas Extreme Weapons 05

As you can see this is basically two movies smashed together; about twenty minutes of cheap, Ninja related goodness and an hour of underworld prostitution rings and playboys dubbed by Australians. It should have been called Ninja Book-end.

Godfrey Ho, you've done it again.

The Final Fifteen:

The final fifteen is really the final five and the only thing truly worth seeing. The Blue ninja meets with the boss to discuss terms for returning the drugs. It's a heist of course and we get a Ninja battle. The best thing in the movie then happens - the crippled, wheelchair bound boss leaps forty feet in the air, landing on the Blue ninja. Why couldn't the whole movie be like that? Blue gets hoisted up a tree as punishment and the Red ninja retrieves the stolen drugs suitcase. When he opens it it's actually a bomb, and everyone except Blue explodes in a pretty satisfying, slow-motion death sequence. 

Blue looks down from the tree and says "In the name of God, Amen."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Sourced From:

I have absolutely no idea how I got this tape.

Trailer:

Not a trailer but it's a scene from the Ninja portion of the movie.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Direct Action (2004)

Direct action poster

Tagline:

Can one man make a difference? 

Movie Review:

Direct Action 01

It really is about time I reviewed another Dolph on the site. After all, excepting Schwarzenegger he is easily my favourite action star. There is something about this well-built Swedish brute (meant in the nicest possible way, folks) that keeps me coming back. His physique leads him to action films but I think it's his way of delivering lines that I enjoy so much. He always sounds like he enjoys his work so much. Direct Action is no exception, as the gum-chewing Dolph here again demonstrates.

Dolph Lundgren plays Sgt. Frank Gannon, a veteran member of the Direct Action taskforce - an elite force given special powers to clean up the city; and they have been mightily successful. Crime is at the lowest it has been in a decade. However, these statistics and extra powers have gone to the heads of the team who have taken their elevated stature as an excuse to commit crimes themselves. Profitable crimes, headed up by Captain Stone (Conrad Dunn, Death Warrant, Silent Trigger). All that is except Frank Gannon, who refuses to take any part and Sgt. Ed Grimes (Rothaford Gray, Exit Wounds, Max Payne) his partner who wants to protect his wife and children.

Direct Action 02

Gannon is assigned a new transfer as his partner, Billie Ross (Polly Shannon, No Contest, The Girl Next Door). When the corrupt Stone can't convince Gannon to take part in the scams he is caught, tasered and lined up to be executed by the other officers on the take. With the help of new partner Ross, picking off his would-be executors at a distance with an assault rifle, the two escape. Stone tries another tactic by implicating them both in the drug ring and issuing and APB for their arrest, for the murder of three police officers. As well as that, Sgt. Grimes' family is kidnapped.

It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest to learn that that Direct Action was meant to have been a Steven Seagal film. I'm only speculating here, but the good cop getting to the roots of corruption/mafia/drug syndicate plot is usually Seagal's signature. I am glad to see Dolph doing one of these too as he does a great job as the good cop, breaking in a new partner and taking down the bad cops in his unit. I had been putting off seeing Direct Action as it has a reputation of not being one of his better films. I disagree; this is a solid DTV Dolph on par with Command Performance, Direct Contact and The Mechanik, better than Icarus/The Killing Machine and FAR better than Retrograde and Diamond Dogs (in my opinion the worst of Dolph's DTV output).

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Plenty of action to enjoy in this one. Dolph shows off both his hand-to-hand and foot-to-face unarmed combat skills, but also he gets to blast away with a pistol and machine gun frequently. His partner Ross gets many opportunities to wipe out bad guys with an assault rifle, which is pretty amusing to see a girl in full makeup, hair done for a night out and hooped earrings - standard police outfit? - not even break a sweat. Over the ten hours or so that the film takes place we see the relationship between Ross and Gannon establish very quickly and she takes her position as his new partner, covering Gannon's back as many times as he covers hers. He keeps offering her gum throughout the film stating "you don't know what you are missing out on" each time she refuses. She finally relents after being shot at enough.

The best thing about a Dolph action film versus a Seagal action film is that Dolph tends to not use stunt-doubles. Or if he does you at least cannot tell easily. The camera-work on Direct Action was solid and no ridiculous effects and zoomed-too-close action to ruin everything. Part of Dolph's Canadian-based film cycle (like Silent Trigger, Detention, Hidden Agenda) instead of the Bulgarian/Russian/Romanian set-pieces that would dominate his later work, the locations pass easily as the LA it is trying to portray; at least to an outsider such as myself.

This is a solid film with a solid final act and payoff. Gannon stays true to his badge and therefore gets shot at a number of times tracking down Stone and his grunts completing the drug deal with the Asian drug lords. Gannon and Ross show up with extra help from the CIA and after a sweet car chase dispose of them all... except Stone. He goes on to testify that everything is hunky-dory at Direct Action. That is until Gannon shows up in the car park, blows Stone's arse away, and spits his gum on the corpse! Recommended.

Direct Action 05

The Video:

Presented in the correct 1.85:1 16:9 ratio, as far as I can tell, the R4 DVD was only made available for rent. The R1 is easy enough to obtain online. The US Blu-ray is solid as well, though Region A locked. Runtime ~90 minutes.

Sourced From:

Ex-rental Australian DVD for a couple of bucks.

Trailer:

More Screens:

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Deadly Force (1983)

Deadly force poster

Tagline:

The killer is too insane to be caught. This ex-cop is mad enough to try! 

Quick Blast Review:

Stoney Cooper (Wings Hauser) is an ex-cop ex-husband making a living as a Private Eye cum vigilante in New York. When he hears that the duaghter of his friend Sam (Al Ruscio) has been murdered in L.A by a serial killer called 'X', Cooper flies out to investigate - though his help is not at all appreciated. His ex-wife Eddie doesn't want him there, his ex-Captain threatens to arrest him, and the local mob boss he had previously rubbed the wrong way is out to get him. Once he starts getting too close to the killer, he finds himself being shot at by even more people. Can Cooper catch the guy that a whole police force seems cannot?

Deadly Force 01

Deadly Force is a strange one. It stands on that border between gritty 70's Dirty Harry style police thriller and 80's over-the-top action, taking portions from both eras. On one side the L.A. mob guys, the neon lights and the power-rock soundtrack cement its foothold in the 80's action film era - and the opening scene with Wings 'negotiating' with a dynamite-weilding terrorist by insulting him is very 80's. But the style of the (numerous) car chases, the well plotted and evolving police procedural storyline, and the almost giallo red-herring killers place it in the 70's. This makes for an interesting film that puts a lot more thought into the plot than the usual action film we review here. The secondary characters, particularly Cooper's ex-wife Eddie, are well established and all serve a purpose. 

Wings is great and a total smart-arse throughout. He beats information out of people on one hand or tries to buy them off with the other. Being of cop vintage his weapon of choice is a pistol, but it's mainly him that is getting shot at. One hilarious scene sees Cooper being shot at with a machine gun, from an adjacent apartment block, while he is in the bath! Most of the rest of the film involves Cooper interviewing people and being chased in a car. I could have done without the nude hammock sex scene showing more of Cooper than Eddie, however. Keep an eye out for a short appearance of Estelle Getty as Wing's cab driver Gussie!

The Final Fifteen:

The cops have what they believe is the body of the serial killer, but Cooper does not agree. After another glorious car chase where both cars burst through a wall, Cooper begins his final hunt for who he believes is the real killer, dispatching his associates and taking out the main player in a pretty tense cat-and-mouse scene. To remind us it's an 80's action film, one of the final shots is the killer's car exploding in flames after Cooper shoots it in the boot.

Sourced From:

Australian PAL VHS released by Roadshow only a year after the theatrical run (pretty good for 1983-4). Solid full-frame picture that appears to be open matte, as I saw quite a lot of boom mic's! Not yet on DVD.

Trailer:

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