Sunday, February 18, 2024

Kill Switch (2008)

Kill Switch (2008)

Tagline:

His Rules. His Way. No Exceptions.

Review:

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Jacob (Steven Seagal with a Southern accent) is a homicide detective with a troubled childhood who lets his fists do the talking. In the explosive opening scene he ejects a bomber out the window of a fourth story window and wisecracks over smooth blues guitar. His wisecracks are hard to hear as we are well into the Mumbling Seagal era, but you get the gist.

Meanwhile a psychotic serial killer is punishing then murdering prostitutes, as confirmed by coroner Isaac Hayes (a bizarre casting) and leaving ciphers of astrological symbols with the bodies. Jacob employs his patented interview style by first causing a prolonged and bloody bar fight. The action is unfortunately shaky and zoomed in to make the stunt double less obvious, given his wig is worse than Seagal's.

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The FBI get involved in the case and Agent Frankie Miller (Holly Dignard) doesn't appreciate the way Jacob works. I mean the dude slap-fu's his way through innocent patrons at a nightclub to get to our perp at the other side, then shoots up everything in his path and he STILL gets away. The two do eventually combine forces when the case gets more complicated with perhaps more than one killer being involved.

I quite like this for the most part. The action is fast and violent (if too zoomed), even sadistic at times. Seagal might be stunt-doubled quite a bit but there at least looks like effort put in by all parties, and for Steve it's playing to his strengths of close combat. The way he takes out one guy with a hammer is pretty glorious. Add in some twists and you have a low rent but entertaining thriller that's more than just for Seagalogists only.

And this makes me consider some things.. are the best DTV Seagal films from the pre-Donut Beard era uniformly? 2012's Maximum Conviction marks the end of clean-shaven Seagal. 2013's Force of Execution ushers in the circular face fungus. Now I am not one to take IMDB ratings too literally, but the trend definitely kicks off there. For me personally, I start to enjoy the films less as "solid action film" and more "fun, despite Seagal, who makes it hilarious". Just some observations on a Sunday morning...

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Image sources: IMDB

Trailer:

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Air Strike (2003)

Air Strike (2003)

Tagline:

The Spirit of This Country will Not be Defeated.

Review:

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They don't mess around with preamble in Air Strike: the mission is briefed at minute one and stock footage of helicopters are flying over enemy territory at minute five. At the launch of the first missile, the first guitar riff kicks in and the first bad guy soldiers with accents are annihilated. Huge explosions and chants of USA abound! The mission was a success but one chopper was destroyed and three soldiers killed. The Colonel needs to find fitting replacements.

Meet Captain Garrett (Robert Rusler), brother of one of the dead soldiers, and Lieutenant "Charlie" - a WOMAN (plot twist) the daughter of the General with a chip on her shoulder. They are deployed on foot into the holdup of Ivan the Terrible, the local drug dealer, with orders to bring him back dead or alive but the mission is a bust. Drinking their sorrows at a bar, a bomb goes off and takes out another of their team.

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This came out two years after 9/11 so we are well and truly still in that mindset, though the film takes place in a made-up eastern European country called Petrovia. The explosion at the bar is brutal and surprisingly gory and adds another catalyst to wipe out Ivan, though he makes it difficult. On a scout mission, Captain Garrett is shot down and captured. Time for a rescue mission. HOOAH!

The bad guy is called Ivan the Terrible and is a walking cliché. Also he is sometimes dubbed and it's pretty hilarious; like when Seagal is dubbed in his films from the same period. He has quality lines like "I'm going to fuck you to death!' when playing chicken with two helicopters. His first officer is called Chicago, which is nearly as funny. Neither actually have a great deal to do in the film; it's all about the good guys and the size of the explosions!

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This was directed by David Worth – director of many action films, most notably Kickboxer – so there's plenty of action in the movie, though about a third of it is stock footage of helicopters firing missiles as seen through command control monitors. Some of the chopper scenes look made for the film, others are lifted from 1990's Fire Birds, and there's also pretty rough looking CG choppers - a real mixed bag.

Thankfully the excessive quantity of real explosions (seriously half of Petrovia is blown up), guns akimbo machine gun action and even martial arts make up for a few ropey choppers. There's gallons of bravado and military one-liners to keep you entertained, plus of course added sexual tension because Charlie is... A WOMAN. The best part is one man killing machine Garret going apeshit with a machete on Petrovian scum.

HOOAH!

Air Strike - Official Trailer 0-48 screenshot

Trailer:

Friday, January 26, 2024

The Cutter (2005)

The Cutter (2005)

Tagline:

The Past Holds the Key.

Review:

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A girl is kidnapped and a two million ransom demanded from the mother. Who's going to rescue her? P.I. Chuck Norris! But he's too late and she's dead. Chuck beats himself up, by which I mean a boxing bag. He's like 65 at the time of filming and still punching strong.

Meanwhile an Archaeological dig in Egypt turns into a fatal heist of rare gemstones when Daniel Bernhardt murders the crew and takes the gems to the States to shop around for an exclusive diamond specialist. He finds Isaac Teller and forces him to cut an impossible design. His niece Elizabeth hires P.I. Chuck to find him but he's attacked by a fake electrician in a ponytail and then tased, and shot at and constantly - Bernhardt clearly means business.

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This is a good time. Chuck's Russian accent in his first scene is hilarious: think Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds ("Bonjourno."). He's badass in a stunt-doubles kind of way though, throwing a guy out the window then saying "I needed some air". Later he deadpan says "I'm as serious as a heart attack" and I laughed out loud.

Bernhardt is fun as the master of disguises and really quite ruthless. He has a good fight with Chuck on a bus and this time it's poor Chuck who goes out the window, but Chuck comes back with a vengeance in a second fight with kickboxing roundhouses. Of course Chuck has a stunt double but it’s tastefully done. Bernhardt has like five or six completely different disguises in the film and it’s great to see him pop up with fake beards and the like.

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Speaking of cutters, I tell you what should have been cut: that early 2000s Bourne Identity style quick-action cutaways with rapid zooms. It's enough to give you a headache. Chuck is in a fun car chase where he's the pursuer but it's difficult to follow due to the way its shot. Pretty much any shootout is the same. Some of the Seagal from the same period (which The Cutter feels very much like) suffered similarly.

This only runs 85 minutes and despite the complaints in cinematographic choices, it's never dull. Chuck will never win awards for acting ability but he is still a presence on screen and fun to watch. This was Chuck’s final starring role (a cameo in Expendables 2 aside) but as of the time of writing, Chuck is back in Agent Recon!

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Trailer:

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Lunar Cop (1995)

Lunar Cop

Tagline:

He came to Earth to clean up the mess!

Review:

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Michael Paré is Lunar Cop Joe Brody of the moon colony, sent to the supposed ruins of earth to retrieve a stolen serum that can revitalise the planet for habitation after the Big Burn. When he arrives he finds a post apocalyptic wasteland ruled by a deranged Billy Drago as Kay and his motorcycle riding thugs, but the planet is not the toxic dump he was told it was.

The first ten minutes on the moon colony are glorious in a Roger Corman kind of way: static space sets, amusing costumes and military bravado. Once on earth, Brody finds a motorcycle and quickly becomes a Mad Max style protector in a wild west that replaces horses with many, many motorcycles. Given the desert location and style of action, this feels very much like Cirio Santiago's Stryker (or Wheels of Fire, or Equalizer 2000..)

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Paré is pretty stoic in this, except when letting his guard down for Thora. He's not the type of guy I immediately think of when it comes to post-apocalyptic action in a desert wasteland, but he does well here. Mad Michael, rather than Mad Max, and not really that mad. He certainly keeps busy these days, starring in every second film from The Asylum (I guess when Eric Roberts isn't available).

Walker Brandt plays the Pocahontas style love interest, Thora, and like I said Billy Drago is unhinged and doing his best Toecutter impersonation. His inclusion is a diversion from the real fight: once Brody finds out the truth about the Earth survivors, the moon colony send a Terminator-style cyborg to eliminate him. The action stakes only get higher from here!

So many things explode in this film. The pyro budget was definitely higher than the sets, but that's a good thing, because they blow up those sets. When things aren't exploding, they are at least being shot at. In fact the only times the action lets up is for Brody to make temporary goo-goo eyes at Thora. That’s okay, because the explosions soon resume.

From the director of the great Joe Lara film American Cyborg Steel Warrior, and you can tell. I dug this one, because it just doesn't give you time not to! 84 minutes of shit exploding, you can't go wrong.

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Trailer: