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:

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