Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Pushed too hard. Pushed too far. Now they're pushing back!
Jim Roth (David Carradine, Kill Bill, Kung Fu, Deathrace 2000) owns a bar which is frequented by his father Burt (Lee Van Cleef, The Good The Bad The Ugly, Escape From New York) and his brother Tommy (Brent Huff, Cop Game, Strike Commando II). Third brother Clay (David Goss) and partner Cory are private investigators hired by crime boss Akira Tanaka (Mako) to retrieve a stolen jade statue from a couple of professional crooks. The trade of a suitcase full of money for the statue, of course, goes sour and Clay is killed. Now it is up to the rest of the Roth clan enact their ARMED RESPONSE and avenge their brother.
Sometimes you put a DVD in the player, hit start and you can't wipe the smile off your face for the next hour and a half. That was this film. I thought I would be in for a good time when I saw the cover: David Carradine. Lee Van Cleef. An exploding car. This was going to be vintage 1980's action and it was going to be awesome. But the second the credits rolled it was even more awesome than I was expecting. The aforementioned Brent Huff. Mako from The Perfect Weapon as the crime boss Tanaka. And Directed by genre stalwart Fred Olen Ray - whose 80's films are a guarantee for a good time - what more could you ask for?
The names keep coming too. This film is just filled to the brim with 'that guy' guys. As well as the previously mentioned names from the credits, we also get Michael Berryman (a very unique looking man, most famous for The Hills Have Eyes, Cut and Run, Weird Science) who plays lead thug for Tanaka, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa in a non-speaking thug role that would traditionally go to Al Leong - I was actually waiting for him to show - and the 'that guy' to end all other that guy's, Dick Miller. His scene as the criminal with the stolen statue is so short they probably kept his car running, but his amazing red suit jacket is totally worth the price of entry.
Is the film violent? To quote Clarence Boddiker from Robocop; "Guns, guns, guns!" Shotguns, machine guns, massive .44 Magnums, sniper rifles, grenades exploding that throw a guy into the air backwards in a fireball, Japanese torture, knives, bottles of scotch over the head - and it wouldn't be a David Carradine film without some kung-fu! All it needed was a freaking crossbow. You won't be disappointed with the action in this one.
There's some choice dialogue to be heard here, primarily from the Roth clan. Jim, in reference to the statue; "Take your jade suppository and get outta here!". Burt in discussing Tanaka's style; "He's a two-bit thug in a three-piece suit." and best of all, Clay after Cory blows away a blonde with a well-endowed chest; "You shot her tits off!" Wow. Just, wow.
The 80's-ness of Armed Response is spectacular. All the cliches you want to see are here. Carradine has a Nam flashback (I swear this footage is pulled from one of Carradine's numerous Nam films, too) when he pulls a shotgun on a guy in his bar. The ubiquitous scene at a titty club. Yakuza vs. Tongs. A car chase that involves a car smashing through a phone box and a trolley full of tin cans, and a cop car flying up the back of three other crashed cars, then exploding. Carradine quipping "Go in pieces" after blowing up a guy. The electro-rock soundtrack with wailing guitar solos. Chicks with machine guns.
Armed Response never bothers itself too much about a complicated plot or any subplots at all. It's a very simple revenge-vigilante flick and it works so well for that. It's all here, folks, and it's all amazing. And at 82 minutes long it never, ever gets boring.
I mentioned a few choice lines above, but this exchange made me truly laugh out loud.
Mako: "Tell me where the statue is!"
Huff: "Go play with yourself!"
Sunday, March 8, 2015
You're never too old to kick ass.
I love Danny Trejo. He is one of the hardest working actors in Hollywood, does not seem to be affected at all by "the industry", and truly appreciates how far he has come in life from his early adult upbringing in and out of jail. He genuinely looks like he loves what he does, and that is making kick-arse movies that entertain. The guy has 292 acting credits under his belt on IMDB, with a staggering amount just for 2014/2015. Seriously, you need to scroll three pages to find Machete Kills. Trejo is always a highlight for me in any movie he is in, even when he doesn't score top billing (e.g. Death Race 2 and 3).
Then there is Danny Glover, best known for his ultimate buddy cop role of Sergeant Roger Murtaugh against Mel Gibson's Martin Riggs, though equally for me Glover is the dude that killed a Predator single-handedly in Predator 2. By the time Lethal Weapon 4 came around, Murtaugh and Glover were really "too old for this shit" and that series bowed-out. I like to think that Murtaugh retired, divorced, changed his name to Bernie and opened a convenience store, because his role in Bad Asses is not that far removed from the evolution of Murtaugh.
The first Bad Ass (which is briefly recapped at the start of the sequel, so you can dive in here if you've not seen the first one) starred Trejo as Frank Vega, a 67 year old Vietnam Vet on a bus who stands up to a pair of thugs. This was loosely based on the actions in the real life YouTube video - note the guy's build, beard, bumbag (aka fanny pack to non-Australians) and same shirt that Trejo wears at the start of Bad Asses. Vega became an Internet sensation. It's not all good news though, as his best friend is murdered and frustrated with the lack of police action in catching his killer, Vega becomes a vigilante, seeking justice one knockout at a time.
Forward a year or two, and the Internet sensation is no longer a sensation. Vega runs a boxing training centre, with particular attention being paid to an up-and-comer kid Manny Parkes (Jeremy Ray Valdez). Turns out Manny was a small-time drug dealer who got in over his head and was taken out by Mexican drug-lord Adolfo (Ignacio Serricchio) and his thugs. Again, the cops not acting quick enough for his liking, Vega is determined to catch the killer and make them pay.
This would be a repeat performance from the first film, except that Vega involves his long time associate (I wouldn't say they were friends) Bernie Pope, the owner of Vega's local convenience/liquor store. After helping the agoraphobic Bernie defend himself and his store from a robbery, the two team up to find out who killed Manny.
Bad Asses is a lot of fun; more so than the first film (which I also loved). Danny and Danny were made to play this pair of old codgers and it shows that they had a whale of time playing them on screen. I mean, look at the above photo. Just look at it. There must be fourteen outtakes of the duo bursting into laughter just trying to perform that strut.
As I mentioned before, Glover is playing a 20 year older Murtaugh and Trejo is playing Trejo. The scene where they dress up in their 'battle gear' as depicted above had me laughing hard. The duo work their way through the drug trafficking chain of command until they uncover the top boss Leandro Herrera (Andrew Divoff; Wishmaster, Another 48 Hours).
If this all sounds like a classic action film circa 1987, you'd be right. This is not an original film by any means, but when it is this much fun with such a likeable cast who cares? Director Craig Moss (of the first Bad Ass film, and the just-release third film Bad Asses on the Bayou) must be a genuine fan of the genre and commands some great action setpieces - we even get a warehouse shootout! They also do a classic driving sequence where the crew off screen are obviously wobbling a motionless car around and projected footage of the road behind them is shining through the rear window. Brilliant stuff.
In hindsight after reviewing Moss' other directorial efforts I am suprirsed this film has so much action and genuine laughs. This is the guy that wrote and directed such hilarious films as the Twilight parody "Breaking Wind" and the... I-don't-even-know-what-it-is-meant-to-be-comedy "The 41-Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall and Felt Superbad About It". Huh? Stick to Bad Ass sequels please, Moss.
The film would not work if it were not for the two Danny's. Trejo brings the brawn and Glover brings the laughs. That's not to say Trejo isn't hilarious, but the combination works so well here. I'm glad that the third film is almost here; I can't wait to check it out. Good times.
After breaking in to Adolfo's mansion, and during a scuffle, Trejo stabs Adolfo's own ice-pick into his eyeball. That was some real "Nyyyaaaaaahhhh!!!" at the screen material right there.