Saturday, March 24, 2012

Past Perfect (1996)

Past perfect poster

Tagline:

They came from the future... to destroy the past.

Movie Review:

Past Perfect 01

Eric Roberts has done a lot of films. He's an actor we have barely scratched the surface of, appearing in everything from 80's classic Best of the Best, to 90's made-for-video actioners like Freefall and a slew of SyFy channel monster films in the 00's like Raptor, Cyclops and Sharktopus. It really was great to see him as the villain in The Expendables, as he played the role of a bad guy so well, but in Past Perfect he is on the other side of the law.

Past Perfect is a sci-fi action film from the good people at Nu Image. In an alternate 1996 that's only a slight exaggeration of reality, violent crime is at such a stage that even kids are gun and drug running. One group of such teenagers is led by a kid called Blade (Yee Jee Tso) and his associates Skull, Shy Girl and Rusty. These kids steal automatic weapons from drug dealers and know how to use them, blowing away a stack of other bad guys and even cops when trying to make their escape. The law is always on the side of minors in this society, so when Detective Dylan Cooper (Eric Roberts) catches one of them - Rusty - during an explosive car and helicopter chase, he has to act quick to get information on the other kids before he is released back to his parents.

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It all gets a bit weird when three strange characters appear out of a portal in a junkyard and start hunting down Rusty's other gang members. These three people appear to be cops, but one is a woman with a mechanical arm (the braun), one is a guy with skin that looks like glue (the boss) and the other is Saul Ribinek (Unforgiven, True Romance, the boss in the series Warehouse 13, or other bad-action films like Memory Run or Hostile Intent) - the brains. The first of the three escapees are caught, tried for crimes they will commit in the future, and executed with some sort of super-Tazer. Then one of their eyes is removed (!), I guess as proof that the sentence was carried out. After finding the first and second bodies, Dylan and his hot partner Ally (Laurie Holden) try to keep Rusty safe as well as find out who is playing the vigilante cops.

This was a pretty good time. You had elements of I Come in Peace (with Dolph Lundgren) in the form of the cat-and-mouse style chases and the overall gritty atmosphere, and of course a lot of influence from Timecop (with JCVD). There was an onslaught of gun violence - somebody is always shooting at somebody else in Past Perfect - ranging from pistols to machine guns - from the back of vans, rooftops, running down the street, and the classic twin-gun shootout in a restaurant kitchen. If gunplay is your thing you will be happy with what is on show in Past Perfect.

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The three future-cops were the best thing about this film. Nick Mancusco (Under Siege 2, Rapid Fire) plays Stone, a cop from the future (well, 2007) sent back in time with a mechanical arm wearing woman and a court record keeper to locate, convict and summarily execute individuals that will detrimentally affect the world of the future. He's the cold, heartless bad guy we all love to love and he takes great pleasure in his job as executioner. The woman with the mechanical arm, Zoe (Marcie Mellish) was a good hitman. The mechanical arm is not explained (though we see her putting it on) but it added some believable braun to her otherwise slim physique. Rubinek, simply referred to as Bookkeeper, plays the role sheepishly as it's evident it is his first time in the field, and he reluctantly reads out the sentence to the victims.

The special effects were pretty amusing and somewhat resemble a cheap version of those found in I Come in Peace, and perhaps American Cyborg. Zoe is in charge of these twin spinning pyramid things that are launched to hunt down victims and immobilise them. They look pretty crappy, but not as bad as the reverse-death effect we see. The science of the movie dictates that to travel back in time you need to be completely encased in a protective shield (a transparent glue), and if it breaks, you revert to the age you should be in the current year. If you aren't born yet, which is the case for one of the future-cops, you turn into a child, then a baby, and then vanish into your clothing! It's about as good as the logic in Timecop where you can't touch your past-self or you merge together into a screaming blob of goo.

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Interesting fact: Eric Roberts and Yee Jee Tso went on to star opposite-each other again in the pretty awful Doctor Who movie made the same year, where Tso played a similar kind of role as Chang Lee and Roberts played the series best enemy and arch nemesis of the Doctor, The Master. That was probably the first time I had seen Roberts as an actor and it stuck with me for years, unfortunately not in a good way. Being the rabid Doctor Who fan that I am, seeing an American playing The Master was enough make me steer clear of Roberts for many years to come. Of course I now see the errors in my ways, and can actually see some good aspects to Roberts' portrayal of the classic villain.

Overall, I enjoyed this quite a lot. The action was fast-paced and pretty continuous, with rarely any dull moments to slow the pace down. The three characters from the future-world were great fun and it was good just to see Ribinek in something else. Roberts was solid looked to be having a good time with the character, even managing a quip ("You have the right to remain silent - forever!"). Laurie Holden works well with Roberts on screen though her character isn't anything special. The science was baloney, but inventive, and the explosions were plentiful and of a decent size. Recommended.

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The Video:

I reviewed the R4 DVD put out by Reel Entertainment/Ninth Dimension. The film was presented 4:3 which may or may not be its original aspect ratio, it is hard to tell. The picture is mostly fine, but the compression on the disc was a little too high and in some fast-moving scenes pixelation is evident. The stereo soundtrack is nothing special and a little quiet, but is good enough. Runtime approx. 90 minutes.

Sourced From:

A department store for a fiver.

Trailer:

More Screens:

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hijack aka The Last Siege (1999)

Hijack poster

Tagline:

Never Surrender.

Movie Review:

Hijack 01

I just can't get enough of these Die Hard clones, I really can't. Here we are again with a cheap made-for-cable film starring Jeff Fahey and Ernie Hudson called Hijack (and in some territories, The Last Siege), brought to us by our friends at Royal Oaks Entertainment, responsible for other cheapy action films such as Executive Command, Moving Target and Maximum Security. Sitting in a two-buck bin I couldn't say no to a cast this promising. The Lawnmower Man and the fourth Ghostbuster! What a great combo.

You can probably work out the drill here. Eddie (Fahey) is an ATF agent with a vendetta. He botches a bust operation to capture the ruthless bad guy Anderson by letting him get away and is fired. Being home with nothing to do except stew on the failed arrest causes a strain on Eddie's marriage to Senator's aid Valerie Miller (Beth Toussaint). She flies out to assist Senator Douglas Wilson (Hudson), who has a strong anti-gun viewpoint that is ruffling a few people's feathers. With no work keeping him in town, he decides to surprise his wife with a bunch of flowers on the train that she is on with the Senator. What nobody realises is that the Senator's regular security guard has been replaced with a new guy... and the train conductor isn't all he appears to be, yet he seems to be familiar to Eddie.

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"Somebody's overridden the override system!"

This is decent enough time-filling material. You get exactly what you expect from a cheap Die Hard clone. Jeff Fahey takes on the role of Bruce Willis here, making himself scarce when the train is taken over by Anderson posing as the conductor and his team of grunts - the "Brotherhood of Vengeance" (?!) - who have placed a nuclear device on board. And just like any good Die Hard clone, he picks off the bad guys one by one until just the lead bad guy is left standing. He protects the senator, makes amends with his wife, jumps from a helicopter onto the moving train and derails it causing a massive fireball. I know I say this a lot, but you truly have seen all this before. But whatever, it was still entertaining.

You can't help but like Ernie Hudson, no matter what film he is in. He's just a likeable guy. Hudson gives a solid performance as the Senator and has a nice shouting monologue at the Anderson character about guns versus patriotism. He also has to deal with the ultimate irony of firing an automatic weapon at a person in the last act. One thing I didn't realise until afterwards is that Ernie Hudson Jr. is in the film, playing a small fry role as the ATF phone operator. Another little tidbit of trivia; the false security guy and Anderson's second in command is played by Patrick Kilpatrick - who also played a bad guy mercenary in Under Siege 2! Talk about type-casting.

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"I like killing politicians. I'm good at it."

Oh, and speaking of Anderson; did somebody say.. Brent Huff? You got it! Bad guy Anderson is played by the same Brent Huff we've featured in Cop Game and Strike Commando 2, those glorious jungle films from Bruno Mattei. This was a real surprise to me as his name is not mentioned at all on the front or back cover of this DVD, and boy did I fist-pump the air when his name appeared during the opening credits. Of course it's a decade later so I wasn't expecting him to be a tough-as-nails mercenary. What we got was a refined and subtle manic leader with a plan, who mainly got his grunts to do the dirty work. I have to say I was disappointed in the lack of hands-on action Huff got in this film but he does play the restrained, articulate bad guy pretty well. I still wanted him to mow down people with a machine gun though.

Apparently scenes from this film were cut into the Brian Bosworth film Mach 2. I've not seen that one yet, and based on the scathing review over at our good friends The Direct to Video Connoisseur, I'm not likely to get to it any time soon. What I found interesting was that in their review, it's mentioned that Bosworth starts the film by jumping onto the back of a train and taking it over from some hijackers, spouting witty one-liners as he goes. I have to assume that it's the same train footage used from Hijack. I wonder if it's actually Jeff Fahey running around on that train in Mach 2, with only close-ups of Bosworth? Clarification on that alone makes me want to seek that film out.

There's a review on IMDB that refers to this movie as "Under Par: Dismal Territory", in an amusing and degrading reference to Under Siege 2: Dark Territory. That's a little unfair I think. You get what you pay for here - a made for TV clone of a bigger budget, bigger starred film. It kept my interest for 90 minutes, didn't particularly insult my intelligence more than any other action film, and was reasonably well acted for the most part. Under par? Perhaps. Dismal? Not at all. See it cheap or better yet, see it on TV.

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The Video:

Pleasing enough fullscreen picture that just screams "midday movie" at you. Accompanying sound is as fine as it is unremarkable. Runtime approx. 90 minutes.

Sourced From:

Cheap $2 RRP disc from a variety store, put out by Payless Entertainment/RAAM Multimedia here in Australia.

Trailer:

Unfortunately I couldn't locate one, and there wasn't one on the disc.

More Screens:

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Perfect Weapon (1991)

The perfect weapon poster

Tagline:

No Gun. No Knife. No Equal.

Movie Review:

The Perfect Weapon 01

Until recently, The Perfect Weapon was only available on VHS or a bootleg Australian DVD (mastered from VHS) that had made it's way worldwide due to the demand for this film. Finally in February, Olive Films in the US gave this one it's first DVD and Blu-ray release. It's always been renowned as one of, if not the, best film that Jeff Speakman was involved in so it's about time it got some loving, digital attention.

Jeff Sanders (Jeff Speakman) receives a distressed phone call from his long time friend and Korean shop owner, Kim (Mako). During his long drive back home to rescue Kim, Jeff reminisces about his past, which gives us the opportunity to see how he learned the martial art-form Kenpo at age 10, and how at age 17 is disowned by his father for being a bad influence on his younger brother. When he arrives at Kim's shop he sees Kim being threatened by local Korean mafia, whom he dispatches with a blinding array of punches, kicks and stick smashing.

Of course, the Korean mafia won't take this kind of insult calmly, and by the next day Kim has been killed by an unknown assailant (though we as the audience know who it is). When Jeff finds out what has happened, via his younger brother Adam (John Dye, Best of the Best) who is now a cop, he plans to take the law into his own hands, and after a routine 'weapons at the ready' montage, take down the heads of the Korean mafia.

The Perfect Weapon 02

"The Tiger is strong and fearless. The Dragon is full of wisdom."

This was absolutely amazing. Talk about a hidden treasure! Jeff Speakman's The Perfect Weapon is right up there with early Steven Seagal films. If you enjoy Marked for Death or Out for Justice, there's simply no question at all that you will like this one. The 80's period set-pieces (even though this came out in 1991, I'm calling it an 80's film) are fantastic. We get beat up brown undercover cop cars, flashing neon sign nightclubs, underground Asian mafia, a multitude of mullets and training montages. The movie starts AND finishes to the tune of Snap's "I've Got the Power". If that doesn't convince you then this is the wrong blog for you.

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Speakman brings the Kenpo action fluently, which is no surprise as its the part of the film he doesn't have to act - Jeff is a 8th degree rank in American Kenpo Karate. His arts film very similar to early Seagal (who holds a 7th degree rank in Aikido) with a lot of hand-to-hand fighting. Seagal had his slap-fu, Speakman has this trick where he hits you around the face so fast you don't know what's going on. He only breaks it out once or twice in a movie (we saw it in Deadly Outbreak) but it's fantastic. He is also skilful with Kenpo Sticks, unleashing rabid wooden fury on a few occasions throughout the film, including a great one-against-three fight at a dojo and an even better one-against-four back alley fight. He's really at the top of his game here, and his prowess isn't watered-down by any romantic sub-plot either.

This film has the best secondary Asian character actors from the vintage 80's action period. First of is Mako from Crying Freeman, Sworn to Justice, Midnight Man and Fatal Mission with Peter Fonda. We also get James Hong (Missing in Action, Ninja III: Domination, Big Trouble in Little China) as the red herring bad Mafia boss, playing a suitably evil role as Yung. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat) who we recently saw in Tekken is Yung's Lieutenant, Kai, and while he doesn't get much to do, he has a pretty great fight with Speakman at the end.

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There's a supremely awesome and recurring appearance of Professor Toru Tanaka (The Running Man, Martial Law, Hard Justice) - as Tanaka - playing Yung's hitman who sparked Speakman's initial revenge. This is probably the most I've seen of the Professor in a film and he's just amazing. He doesn't say anything except mumbling to himself manically in Korean. He takes two successive taser shots to the chest, after lifting car off his head. Totally awesome stuff. Tanaka can also take claim in this film to being the highlight of one of the best finale wharf explosions in cinema.

The prize appearance for me was the uncredited, blink-and-you'll-miss it scene in the nightlcub fight. Amongst all the bodies throwing themselves at Speakman was Al Leong! The same Al Leong from Die Hard, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Action Jackson, Big Trouble in Little China, Cage, Dark Angel, Steele Justice.. everything amazing from the 80's. He says nothing, hell he doesn't really do anything, but I still teared up when I saw him. I had to rewind to double check that it was him, but it's him. Fantastic.

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There's a little bit of comedy in the film. I especially enjoyed a little throwaway scene showing Jeff's brother Adam trying to get information out of a restaurant chef, asking about Kim, receiving a "Yes!" and a box of Kim Gee. Adam tries again and receives another "Yes!" and another box of food. Giving up he says goodbye, to which the the chef replies in fluent English "Have a nice day." Champagne comedy!

I loved Speakman's Deadly Outbreak but this is the kind of action film I really get down with. I like to call them "catalyst revenge" films. All it takes is the death of your respective martial arts Master and it's on like Donkey Kong. It's completely obvious how it will all play out and that allows you to sit back and enjoy the martial arts and haircuts. We aren't very far into Speakman's career here at Explosive Action but I hope that some of his other films (off the top of my head with have The Expert and Street Knight to look forward to) have similar urban settings with gritty street-fights.

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Mark DiSalle directed this. He was responsible for directing JCVD's Kickboxer, and was the producer on Death Warrant, Street Knight and Bloodsport. That's a pretty solid heritage to ensure you are getting a quality American martial arts film. He also played the football coach that tends to the oaf that young-Speakman knocks out cold with his kicks. Props must go to DiSalle for getting a live crocodile to appear in a tank at the movies' nightclub, The Croc Bar.

The Perfect Weapon is essential viewing for 80's and early 90's action fans. The DVD and Blu-ray put out by Paramount and Olive Films is the first time the film has been released legitimately since the days of VHS. Olive should be applauded for delving into Paramount's back catalogue and bringing this one to a new audience. If you read my old About page you'll see I harp on about how I missed out on obvious action films when I was growing up. Perfect Weapon is definitely one of those films. Buy it now!

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The Video:

As mentioned above, we finally have a DVD and Blu-ray release courtesy of Paramount and Olive Films in the US. I can't speak for the DVD but the Blu-ray is All Region ABC and played perfectly on my Region B locked player. The film is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and sports a healthy, natural grain that places the picture as vintage 80's action. Sound is a solid if unremarkable DTS Master stereo track. No extras, just a menu and chapter points, but who cares - this is Perfect Weapon on disc for the first time! Runtime 85 minutes.

Sourced From:

Amazon.com: Buy the DVD or Blu-ray.

Trailer:

More Screens:

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