Monday, November 27, 2017

Ultimate Justice (2016)

Ultimate Jusice


Vivere Militare Est.

Movie Review:

So I’ll get this out of the way early. The film is largely dubbed, in English, likely due to it surprisingly being a German film. Mostly by their original voices (this is no Steven Seagal in Attack Force); Mark plays Mark, Hues plays Hues, etc. But for example Wolfgang Riehm who plays the Commander is clearly speaking German and being dubbed by somebody else. I thought this was going to be intolerable, especially after an early scene had bad echoes of the actors possibly doing their ADR work in a large room but thankfully that passed and the dubbing became less noticeable as the film progressed, though the sound is rarely natural. I thank my years of watched Kung Fu movies for my tolerance level being higher than perhaps others.

We start with a pretty sweet two-squad attack on an enemy compound that sees Gus (Mark Dacascos) and Frank (Matthias Hues) taking point. Through the usual array of firing every variety of military firearm, hand grenades and even a tasty knife thrown at a throat the team get the “package” (some guy, I dunno, it’s irrelevant) but not first without losing a man. Back on friendly ground, Gus tells the Commander he’s done with this crap and disbands the team - in fact he sells the whole company (no that’s not weird, I just haven’t mentioned yet that this is a private special operations group - not regular army Joes).

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Eight years later and Gus is having dinner with his former Commander Hans, his wife and daughter. Hans reveals he is sick and has been seeing a doctor. This seems like something important that we should remember but Gus’ wife is impatient for sex so they leave. That night Hans’ family is attacked at home; his wife raped and murdered (a rather nasty scene), and his daughter kidnapped. Calling in on Hans at the hospital, Gus declares he will get the old team back together, rescue Hans’ daughter and deliver... Ultimate Justice.

It’s the oldest action movie plot in existence, but I digress. This independent action flick has a lot to offer for seasoned DTV action movie fans. Firstly there are a lot of fights and shootouts and they get pretty creative, with interesting locations and set pieces that keep things interesting. Hand to hand combat is largely based around the martial arts, and at times echoes the best Jackie Chan films with the use of random objects as makeshift weapons against three guys at once finally culminating with a shovel to the face. The film goes from interrogation to fight, to interrogation to shootout, car chase to dirt bike chase, throw in a team casualty and a red herring, wash and repeat until the final showdown and rescue of the girl. Some of the old tropes come out of the closet (“I thought you were dead!”). This is no bad thing, by the way. You didn’t come here expecting anything else. 

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“To live is to fight.”
“What does it mean to die?" 

All the fighters are believable and we get decent screen time fights for the main team of Mark Dacascos and Matthias Hues (and it’s great to see them as compadres, not enemies). My standout was Mike Möller as Benny who has some fast Van Dammage-like kicks in his arsenal. He’s certainly moved on from Inmate #1 in Half Past Dead and sports quite the filmography as an established stuntman. I hope to see him in more leading action roles, though not to downplay the quality fights that the rest of the team displayed, he was my favourite.

When Gus is getting the team back together, we get the classic scenes of seeing what the former members are up to now, last seen for me in Expendables 3. One is a cop doing street fights for cash on the side. Another is the token computer hacker who is recruited as the.. computer hacker. Benny is pumping petrol and defending young lady customers from interfering scum. Brandon Rhea as Doc has become a monk to atone for his past sins as a top notch interrogator. But Matthias Hues wins the show with his new career flipping burgers, wearing a burger hat. This is off the charts awesome, as you can see below. 

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The film may not sound great with the dubbing but it looks pretty good. Proper lighting, decent camera’s, this is a film that had a modicum of budget and was filmed in scope. The camera doesn’t flick around too much during the fights, though it’s still shot quite frenetically. This is refreshing as many modern DTV films cheap out on the visuals, though we still do get the occasional CG muzzle shot and squib but I did not find it distracting.

So overall, this is a fine indie actioner that suffers a little from the (sometimes amusing) post-production voice work, but is largely redeemed by some really quite good action set pieces, a story that doesn’t try too hard to be challenging, and a quality team of combatants (some of the bad guys too are badass fighters) that know how to deliver a good kicking. Good times at 90 minutes and a solid DTV debut for newcomer director Martin Christopher Bode. 

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Aside from Matthias Hues’ burger hat, the biggest character development is the internal turmoil we see with Doc as he switches from master interrogator to monk in dressing gown. He snaps and turns to the dark side when one of the team close to him is killed, and the film takes a temporary very dark turn into Hostel territory with Doc torturing a guy with a nail-gun and disc sander. To quote Han Solo, “They didn’t even ask me any questions..”.


More photos:

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Fist 2 Fist (2011)



His greatest enemy lies in the shadows of his past.

Movie Review:

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It’s not very often I do back-to-back reviews of the same actor. I’m not even sure I have done so before - let alone another film in the same franchise. I was so impressed with Jino Kang in Fist 2 Fist 2: Weapon of Choice that I decided to go backwards in the saga to the first film. The first thing worth mentioning is that, like the various Bloodfist sequels, Jino Kang plays an entirely different character than he does in Fist 2 Fist 2: Weapon of Choice. So don’t go in expecting character continuation (or in this case, formation) and treat it as a stand alone film.

After an opening monologue delivered by Kang’s character Ken, we are straight into the action. Ken and his associate are about to break in to a car chop shop with the goal of rescuing said associate’s brother who has been forced to labour there. Almost instantly we are witness to the quality, actual martial arts delivered by Jino Kang. In character as Ken, he quickly dispatches the thugs then with a quick flinch disarms the leader of his pistol. Fast moves, and a nice intro into the world of Jino Kang that sets him up as a guy that will do what’s right and will use his skills to enforce it.

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Ken runs a youth centre for street kids as well as kids training in the martial arts. We are introduced to Jim, a street kid who after a failed attempt to rob Ken, agrees to join his centre and train. We get a few fun scenes of a training montage, which differs from the usual as Ken is not doing most of the training. He sends Jim off to various schools to learn different schools of fighting from Karate to Hapkido and MMA - which, from the special features on the disc, appear to be actual trainers and fighters, not actors. 

At the same time, incarcerated underworld boss Tokyo Joe (Bill Duff, featured on the poster) is up for parole. He has served fifteen years behind bars and blames his former criminal colleague Ken for his predicament; through a flashback it’s revealed that in a carjacking gone wrong, Joe snapped and killed the driver leaving a baby orphaned, and Ken has spent the same time trying to atone for what he did that night. Strangely the first thing Joe does when he gets out of jail is go see a psychic. That was a little odd, but whatever floats your boat.

You’d think the next course of action is for Joe to kill Ken, but no. They meet like men and Joe offers him a deal - his fighters versus Ken’s fighters in a battle royale, the winner takes the substantial pot and all past deeds forgotten. Ken can use the money to keep his youth centre open. “This sounds too good to be true” says Ken. Right he is. Ken’s wife begs Joe not to go ahead with the tournament and in return she is taken hostage to ensure the fight goes ahead. Ken, a man atoning for his past life and trying to make better choices, now must close the book on a story started fifteen years earlier.

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“There’s always a choice. You just always make the wrong one."

The plot of Fist 2 Fist is similar to most other “forced to fight” films, but that’s not to say the films offers nothing new. The angle taken here is less on the fights in the ring themselves - they are the side story of Jim and his friends trying to keep their youth centre operating. The main focus is on Ken fighting his way through Tokyo Joe’s thugs to rescue his wife and defeat Joe in hand to hand (or fist 2 fist) combat. Each attacker he faces offers something unique for us to see defeated. One guy called Speed has Wolverine-style claws on his hands that scratch Ken up but still don’t take him out. Ken upgrades from his fists to knives and the violence gets bloodier with throats cut, a taser employed and a guy crushed by a car hydraulic. Ouch. 

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The best things about Jino Kang’s films are their honesty. They are gritty and realistic. Low key, without the flamboyant pretence of bigger Hollywood films nor the wire work of modern Chinese epics. No outrageous special effects. He’s used the cameras and equipment needed to get the job done. There’s nothing about the fights in his films that don’t look achievable to somebody with skills. Jino Kang is not an ‘action hero’, he’s somebody that knows the arts and is applying them to movies that he writes, directs and stars in. Like I said in the quasi-sequel, they are clearly passion projects for him.

I bought this DVD on a whim a long time ago in a bulk sale and filed it on the shelf. It wasn’t until I learned who Jino Kang was that I realised I actually had a film with him in it. The cover: I wouldn’t say put me off, but with that title it didn’t encourage me to watch this expecting martial arts fun. More a WWE studios beatdown. Kang isn’t even on it, and I’m not familiar with Bill Duff’s career in wrestling to recognise his name. I should have watched this film sooner. And Kang should clearly be taking the front and centre position on the poster. Out of the three Jino Kang films I’ve seen (and that so far is all of them) this is my favourite one. Recommended.

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In a eight-to-one match that would see lesser combatants taken out swiftly, Ken approaches it with a one-liner that sounds straight out of a Van Damme movie: “Which one of you mother fuckers wants to die first?” Ken pulverises the goons in a marvellous arm-breaking beatdown!


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Fist 2 Fist 2: Weapon of Choice (2014)

Fist 2 fist 2 cover 


Whether you live or die depends on your weapon of choice.

Movie Review:

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Jino Kang is a bit of an enigma. He’s a writer, director, producer and lead actor in all of his films - of which there are only three - and his skills as a martial artist have been making themselves quite apparent to appreciating audiences the past few years. His first film, Blade Warrior (2001), was a passion project and a highly independent work but it showed his already well-honed skills of the martial arts and his developing skills in front of and behind the camera. This was followed a full decade later by Fist 2 Fist (2011), a step-up in production quality and on-screen action. And lastly (for now) we have Fist 2 Fist 2: Weapon of Choice (2014) - a film, in the best B-action cinema tradition, only related to it’s predecessor in name only - that demonstrates the best yet of what Jino Kang is all about.

Opening in a sleazy club, a scared man clutching a gift sits down at an adjacent table to the birthday boy and his goons. The birthday boy blows out his candles (which happened to be mounted on the brasserie of a stripper - first time I’ve seen this kind of cake) and a strange figure slinks in past the security. We have just met assassin Jack Lee (Jino Kang), who with great precision takes out every member of the birthday party - including the stripper - but not the late-coming guest. To him he says “Tell your boss what happened here. Make nothing up. Leave nothing out.” Jack Lee is one cool mother-- you shut your mouth! But I’m talking about Jack...

Five years later and Lee has retired. At home relaxing with his twenty-something daughter Jaime (Kelly Lou Dennis), he is attacked in his home by men in masks who take his daughter away from him (we learn she is to be sold to a trafficker). He cripples and kills most of the attackers, one turning out to be a former colleague who reveals in his dying breath the identity of the kidnapper - mob boss Michael Banducci (Douglas Olson). Kang begins his mission to get his daughter back.

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Enter Police Detective Ash Jordan (Katherine Celio) and FBI agent Hap Koehler (Don Williams) investigating the dead bodies in Kang’s apartment, putting together their own pieces of the puzzle. To raise the stakes more, Banducci just hired in an ex-Navy Seal to take out Jack Lee. Eventually catching up with Lee, the law takes him into protection and questioning in a safe house. However, it turns out not to be that safe as a firefight with Banducci’s soldiers ensues and Lee is badly wounded. Ash rescues and flees with him to her brother’s ranch while he recuperates. Meanwhile, Lee’s daughter attempts her own escape from her captors and it’s obvious she’s been paying close attention to daddy’s skills. She manages to get her location out to her father and he comes to get her with determination and force.

Ash: “If I wasn’t a cop I’d be a ballroom dancer.”
Lee: “May I have this dance?" 

Weapon of Choice feels very much like one of the cheaper DTV-era Steven Seagal films. That’s no bad thing because I enjoy DTV-Seagal. The single-focus storyline, the mafia and Asian bad guys and the Eastern European accents of others, the mix of martial arts, gun and sword play and the minor love interest with awkward sex scene. Even the poster art shown at the top of this review - it’s all there. What is done BETTER than modern Seagal is the fights themselves. Let’s be frank here; Steven Seagal has not performed the action pieces of his films at the top of his game for some time now. Jino Kang, however, really nails it. His techniques are true and proficient, and the only stunt double is himself. Hell, Jino Kang choreographed all the fights as well. He really is a one-man-show artist. Kang doesn’t play Lee over the top and loud like an American action star either; he is quiet and contained at all times, which helps add mystique to his assassin lifestyle.


The acting for the most past passes mustard, but it’s not the key element here anyway. So with that in mind, let’s talk about the action in the film; it’s quite varied as I mentioned above. The martial arts are naturally the main focus and they are quite brutal. Bones are broken, necks are stabbed slowly (like, a ten second push of knife to the jugular), throats are cut. Beatings with a pole arm, wrestling moves that see opponents strangled by Kang’s legs entwined around their neck. Some guy hurls an axe and Lee dodges it. Lee pulls out an uzi and lays waste to hired goons. Arms are cut off, stomachs are shot with close-range rifles. This film is violent and close up. The action is only betrayed somewhat by the budgetary constraints. Squibs are CG and artificial for the majority. Most muzzle shots are CG, with no impact damage shown. It can be a little off-putting.

Some of the accessory characters were not so great. I really didn’t enjoy Banducci’s dopey sidekick at all; in fact he kind of annoyed me in his blaze teenager-like attitude to his boss. I don’t know why I found him so jarring but I did. Then he had that fight with the other mob boss’ hitman which ended up being over a girl. So random. Ash’s brother Oliver the stoner also grated on my nerves, but he acquitted himself with a hilarious attempt at “helping” in a fight - running outside in his full-length red pyjamas waving a hammer over his head and screaming, even though the fight was clearly over. That was a laugh out loud moment.

Where the film really excels is in its passion. Part Taken, part Commando, all heart - Jino Kang is doing this for the love of the craft. It’s obvious. Every shot and set piece is crafted by his design and you can tell a lot of thought has been put into small aspects of the film. In a way, you can look at Kang’s current films as his portfolio. Like all good artists, I hope somebody with a slightly larger budget can help Kang take his vision to the next level, as I would very much like to see how that would turn out.



(SPOILERS) Like all good action films that follow a tried and true formula, the final fifteen minutes is when all guns come out blazing - and all other manner of weapon and body combat as well. Lee works his way through the warehouse (there’s always a warehouse) taking out bad guys one at a time, then three at a time, in varying and definitely fatal ways. We see some excellent swordplay, so good in fact I wish there was more of it in the film. Limbs are lopped and it all ends with the slicing of Banducci in two - though you knew he was going to cop it from the second you met him!


Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Bad Pack (1997)

The Bad Pack Cover


Things always heat up when old friends get together!

Movie Review:

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What we have here is a movie that takes its influences from places as varied as Seven Samurai, The Wild Bunch, and The Expendables (either one). What? You're still reading? Not dropping this in a digital basket already? Okay, we'll continue.

Close to the Mexican border lies a small town called Los Robles. The people who populate this out of the way place fall into the category of simple folk. They work, they farm, the go to church, they live their lives. They aren't all legal but are generally left alone as long as they work and keep to themselves. Close-by is a camp of militant white supremacists that call themselves the Sons of Texas. Needless to say, they cause a lot of trouble for the peaceful people of the nearby town. And trouble here would be defined as stopping by about once a month to plunder, pillage, and kill.

The poor people of Los Robles have had all they can stands. They can't stands no more! So, they get all the money together that they can, fourteen grand, and send a couple of representatives off to Los Angeles to hire a guy they read about in the back of a magazine. It doesn't go well. After a visual illustration of the DT's, the secretary informs the travellers that she's heard about a man named McQue (Robert Davi) who, it's told, is pretty damn tough. They go to a diner where he is said to hang out but they don't know who they're looking for. Figuring it out becomes easy once a group of robbers enters and starts to harass the quiet guy in the corner. Short version; some are shot, some are beaten down with a cane, and all are left on the ground. Yep, they've found their man.

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It takes a serious amount of pleading and no small expression of heartfelt desperation to convince McQue to help, but they do. Like he says, it's not going to be easy to find people to risk their lives for fourteen thousand dollars. But, there's those stories about the millions stashed away at the baddies compound... That went a long way in convincing our beleaguered bike mechanic that stepping up was the right thing to do. There's three weeks until the next raid, give or take, and McQue tells the pair he'll meet them at their home in twelve days as he needs time to assemble a team.

The next section of the film is all about the introduction and assemblage of the characters that will be taking on the mission. And, man oh man, what a group it is! These are some of the most pleasing scenes in the movie as we meet all of McQue's old friends... Dash Simms (Roddy Piper) will be the driver. Kurt Mayer (Ralf Moeller) is definitely going to be the muscle. His skills as a spy and anti-terrorist specialist will no doubt come in quite handy. Now it's off to the mental hospital to grab the prerequisite crazy man, Hoffman (Patrick Dollaghan). Guess who handles the explosives? Yep. Time now to meet Remi Sykes (Shawn Huff). She's the attractive and edgy bad-assassin lady pictured up above there. You're still welcome. They have already picked up a tag-a-long in Jeremy Britt (Larry B. Scott) and it's a good thing, he handles information and travel. Brent Huff's character, Callin, shows up later on. Remember, he was behind the camera this time! So, there you have it! A top-shelf concentration of lower-budgeted action bad-assery!

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The team heads down to Los Robles where they are greeted by the like locals the same way Elvis might be when touching down in a big city somewhere. These planning stages give us time to get to know what everybody is about a little bit better. Characterisation! Nice. Also, it's around this time that Mister Huff joins up. He was part of the problem, he had his reasons, but is more than willing to become part of the Pack after being left for dead on a deserted road. Why? Disclosure of that is a one-way ticket to spoilertown. I won't be taking you there, I don't do that. Regardless, his insider knowledge ends up being as big a help as you might expect later on. The 'Sons’ get wind of the mercenaries’ presence and send a small biker squad over to handle things. The ones that aren't lying on the ground or treated to high caliber ear-piercing are quickly sent home with their collective tale between their legs. This does NOT go over well with the head dicktator (purposeful spelling). Shortly after this point... It is ON!

What a fantastic good time! The energy is always high, even in quieter moments, and the whole presentation is surprisingly solid. Brent Huff demonstrates considerable skill as a director, it's filled to bursting with colourful characters in interesting situations, strikes the perfect balance between disarming humour and well-armed excitement, and showcases an effective and properly applied soundtrack backing the on-screen action. Positives are many, complaints are few if any. Over the years, reading other assessments, the common complaint is that this plays like an old episode of the A-Team. Some influence is there, sure, but it's not like this is the only movie to do that, now is it? No. And besides, look at the pictures, see what I'm getting at? A-Team was never like that. And for the record, I like this movie a whole heck of a lot more than the A-Team movie that we ended up with. I'll take BAD PACK any day. ANY DAY!

I have this theory that some people like to hate on movies like this because they feel like they should. I won't say more for fear of the several angry and alienating paragraphs that would surely follow. Seriously though, this is an excellent movie of its kind and if you're a fan of any of the cast, or all of them, you do NOT want to miss THE BAD PACK!

Reviewed by Xtro the Mutilator

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Trivia and Notes:

  • This was Brent Huff's second film in the director's chair but far from his last. He's still directing today and has projects coming even as I write this. 
  • Brent Huff also wrote THE BAD PACK. 
  • Yep, Shawn Huff is indeed Mrs. Brent Huff. They've worked together several times. 
  • Cameo: Look for The Road Warrior's Vernon Wells as one of the bikers. 
  • Cameo: Look for Clifton Collins Jr. as one of the townspeople. 
  • Cameo: Look for character actor Joe Unger as the fight promoter.
  • Ralf Moeller has had quite a career but is probably most recognisable to most as having played Conan in the TV series of the same name. 
  • Sven Ole Thorsen has also had quite a busy career but will also be best known to many by his Conan association. He had roles in both of the original Conan films. There aren't too many 80's Schwarzenegger films that he wasn't involved with. 
  • In Moeller's introduction, he is seen fighting a man mountain in a human cockfight. That opponent's real name was Jeep Swenson. Jeep's career in movies and TV was starting to take off at this time but he sadly died very shortly after making THE BAD PACK. 
  • Larry B. Scott was famous as the effeminate Lamar Latrelle from the Revenge of the Nerds films. The first name of Dollaghan's character in this movie is Latrelle. 
  • Extras details: The cast bios are light, to put it politely, and feature only three players. The text synopsis is wrong.  
  • DVD shown and reviewed is the original Canadian release from 1999. The American DVD did not come along until 2004 and features slightly different packaging/art and, though out of print, can still be found for purchase at places like Amazon. There is a German PAL Region 2 DVD from Splendid Entertainment that, depending on where you look, promises a 1.85:1 widescreen image and an English language track. I found out the hard way that neither one of those things is true.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fast Gun (1988)

Fast gun cover 


Blink and you’re dead!

Movie Review:

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A multiple string of well orchestrated armed robberies on military armoires in the state has got the press fired up. Colonel Harper dismisses the idea of a conspiracy on camera, but as we learn he and everybody else is part of the plan to sell stolen weapons. What is not part of the plan is Nelson, the lead of each attack who has gone rogue and taken the weapons for his own gain. One of the gun runners is caught by local sheriff, Jack Steiger (Rick Hill, Deathstalker, Inferno) and his deputy Cowboy (yes - Cowboy) when they try to cross into his little town of Granite Lake. We get to see how he is known as Fast Gun here when he blows up an assault rifle defended helicopter with three shots from his pistol! It’s overlaid with music that sounds like it’s from The A-Team. This is pretty boss already.

There’s a few directors where I will watch anything they have made: Bruno Mattei, Teddy Page, David A. Prior (Deadly Prey is a masterpiece). Last but not at all least, there’s Cirio H. Santiago. Most well known for his Roger Corman post apocalyptic Mad Max clones (Equalizer 2000, Stryker, Raiders of the Sun, Wheels of Fire, Bloodfist 2050) and 70’s classic TNT Jackson, Cirio has quite a number of traditional action films under his belt as well. When I was offered this rare New Horizon’s picture Fast Gun on local Australian VHS that I didn’t even know existed, I jumped at it. The usual Santiago bit-part cohorts are here on display too, such as Henry Strzalkowski playing Coburn, Ken Metcalfe as Rupert Jessup and Nick Nicholson as a hired goon.

Jack’s past as a former Sergeant haunts him in his dreams, a classic plot device that shows him killing his partner in the line of duty - something he agin must face in the final act, of course. He looks out over the lake of the cabin he owns, shirtless, with his girlfriend draped over him. This thing is so 80’s. His girlfriend runs the local bar by the way. That bar and every other building in town are hilarious; clearly 2D set pieces erected the day before shoot, the buildings all look like they come from a Universal Studios western backlot - though the movie theatre has a poster for The Barbarians on display! Jack defends his girlfriend’s honour in her bar beating up a motorbike gang member who responds to him “I’ll come back for you, gringo!”

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“People are getting killed, what am I supposed to do?”
“Stay outta my way." 

I had a load of fun with this. Rick Hill is pretty badass as the sheriff Jack and he really lets loose at the end of the film in an impressive, explosive display for a low budget film. He uses his fists a lot and punches like a boxer, hard and mean. Fast Gun is obviously a take on the likes of Walking Tall where the small town sheriff has to clean up the invading riffraff. Unlike the Walking Tall paradigm, the riffraff are already in his town and they are less riff and more rich arms dealers running guns out of a farm. There is one traditional scene where a motorbike gang try to cause chaos in the town, but Jack dispenses with them quickly through a display of badassery.

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Deputy Cowboy stops a truck in the town centre for a misdemeanour, a fact which the Mayor (who is in on this gun-running game as well - seriously everybody in this film besides the Sherriff, the deputy and the girlfriend are getting a piece of this action) demands he let slide. Sheriff Jack notices but keeps to himself that the truck is riddled with bullet holes and has a fake number plate. He follows the truck to Rattner’s, a local rich farm owner wannabe Senator or something. Rattner is a slimy guy. The first time we meet him he’s being serenaded for his birthday by the local shit school band (seriously, they are so shit). Jack accuses Rattner of being involved in the gun running and in response, Jack is attacked at night (by the guy that called him Gringo, plus many others) who pour a bottle of vodka down his throat and beat him up. The next morning the town is messed up and Rattner and the Mayor blame the forcefully-hungover Jack in front of the whole town in the hopes of having his respect lost. Jack throws down his badge and resigns. This can mean only one thing - VIGILANTE RAMBO TIME!

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So it’s nothing original - which from the guy that ripped off Mad Max at least six times, even using footage from his own ripoffs more than once - I came to accept, and in fact applaud. I’ve said it before, sometimes you want the fancy steak and mushroom pie with red wine jus, but other times you just want a plain meat pie with some tomato sauce on the side and a thumping 80’s soundtrack. Fast Gun is that sort of pie. As mentioned in the highlight below, the ending is beautiful set-piece action. Worth the price of entry alone. Jack the Fast Gun on the highest building in town taking out gun runners with his assault rifle is fantastic. They fire back at him with missile launchers, only managing to destroy more of the flimsy set. Full Commando styles, with Rick Hill doing a wonderful Ted Prior in Deadly Prey impression. Fast Gun is another fun film in Cirio Santiago’s long repertoire of action films. Get it!

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The ending by far (spoilers, obviously). We’ve established that Jack is in fact a Fast Gun but he is also has a crack-shot aim. As the bad guy’s flee to the airport and their Cessna is taking off the runway, Jack positions himself and takes three pot shots at the craft with his handgun. The final shot is enough to blow the whole damn thing up in THE most disappointing fake explosion of the whole movie! But the idea that his pistol could blow up a jet aircraft is enough to make it the highlight for me.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Ultimate Protector aka Animal Protector (1989)

Movie Review:

Mats Helge is like the Swedish counterpart to Indonesia’s Arizal (Final Score, Lethal Hunter, The Stabilizer). He pumped out z-grade actioner after actioner, giving the audience hyper violent gun battles, badly choreographed fights and terrible (often overdubbed) dialogue. Years ago I reviewed his most well thought of film, Ninja Mission, a completely over the top, violent action fest with copious gore. I didn’t even realise what I had my hands on initially when I scored this VHS.

“The Devil’s Room”, a military base slash prison on a secluded island (actually it’s a Scottish castle, but I digress..), run by Colonel Whitlock (David Carradine), a ruthless and somewhat slimy leader who is never without a drink in his hand (more on that later). Suddenly an alarm sounds; there’s been a breakout and guards are dead. Whitlock is pissed. Meanwhile on the mainland, three lovely ladies hire a boat to go to the same island to rescue a lost dog (yes). Even more meanwhile, John Santino (played by amusingly named A. R Hellquist, himself doing a great Kurt Russell impression) and Rick Lomax of the CIA also want to hire a boat and get to the island. Why is everyone trying to get to this island?

So the girls arrive and we learn they are basically the Swedish version of PETA, here to free caged animals used for experiments in Whitlock’s base. Lomax and Santino make their way there and it immediately get’s a bit Rambo as the boys stealthily kill their way through guards protecting The Devil’s Room. Lomax is caught and tortured. Some Captain called Hicks arrives to question Whitlock about his practices, Whitlock has another drink. The PETA-girls infiltrate the base and rescue a handful of dogs and rabbits and then find captured scientists. An alarm is triggered and it’s world war three with everybody involved on the battlefield. Whitlock puts his whiskey down for long enough to join in on the fun. Satino gets shirtless, looks at the camera and snarls “Whitlock… it’s time for you to die!"

“He enjoys killing… so, kill him."

So that plot above may seem like it makes little sense. It is a pretty convoluted set-up, that’s for sure, but it is just so absurd to be highly entertaining. So many players involved, so little shits given by Carradine. But the reason you watch a Mats Helge film is for the extreme violence, and that is here in droves. We get a classic bar fight with added brutal nightclub gunplay, and just like Ninja Mission the guns with silencers sound like lasers! Pew pew pew! A boss looking guy in a leather jacket and sunglasses has a rifle with, apparently, a silencer too. Pew pew pew! It never ceases to make me laugh.

Later on we get mines exploding and plenty - and I mean plenty - of shots of soldiers flying in slow motion away from an explosion. Santino has a hilarious fight in slow motion with a plank of wood as his weapon but even MORE hilarious (and sure, spoiler warning) the end fight sees the two good guys fight against each other with one of the PETA girls telling them to stop. It’s the end level when playing Double Dragon when you fight your own brother? Hysterical. OH and an obligatory bomb disarming sequence! This film has everything. Don’t expect even B-grade cinema here though; go in with ultra-violent Z-grade expectations and you will have a good time.

The cover, and the usual good guy vs bad guy routine may make you think that A. R. Hellquist is the lead role here - well, not really (despite some awesome grimaces to the camera). I think we see Carradine on screen more than him. But truthfully it’s never really as black and white as who is the lead in Ultimate Protector. It would be better to suggest that nobody truly is. The direction focuses on everybody in short bursts and in a cycle. I’m glad it was done this way, as the re-dubbed voices of everybody and the quality of most people’s acting I couldn’t take for extended periods anyway.

Let’s talk about David Carradine. I’ve seen him in everything from Kung Fu to Kill Bill and he’s always a class act. I can’t mince words here - Carradine is clearly drunk in this film. He is off his chops. All the lines are delivered painfully slow like he is trying not to pass out, he shuffles around his desk a lot and when the scene calls for him to have a drink.. buddy, that ain’t apple juice. You can’t even simply accuse him of phoning this one in from home; he’s phoning it in from the bar while eating beer nuts and eyeing off the waitress. He does get out from behind his desk a few times and does show off a couple of slower than usual kicks to the head, but man… this is rough. That is not to say his performance isn’t entertaining! I got a good laugh out of Drunk Carradine here. His best moments come towards the end (spoiler warning again) when he engages Plan B and kills every single one of his own men - in the back, mostly! This guy just could not give a damn.

A side note: the Australian VHS I reviewed is curious. The title Ultimate Protector is not what the film is usually known as; it’s more frequently known as Animal Protector (making a lot more sense). Even more confusingly, IMDB (at least presently, though I have submitted a request to change it) incorrectly attributes Ultimate Protector to ANOTHER Mats Helge / David Carradine film - The Mad Bunch! The other interesting thing is our VHS cover pits Hellquist as the starring role and pushes the film more as a traditional action film. The rear text reads “He’s trained to think like a computer. He strikes faster than a cobra. He has the muscle to meet any challenge.” It gets worse however as it attributes “star” Lomax to Tim Earle, with a picture of A. R. Hellquist! Then it goes on to call him “The new Van Damme Dolf Lungren” (sic). And not a picture of Carradine anywhere! Amazing.


Spoilers. In an otherwise civilised disagreement in his office with Henderson, the two - whiskeys each - exchange schoolyard insults. “Whitlock, you’re dog meat” says Henderson. “Henderson, you’re chicken shit.” says Whitlock. Whitlock then kicks Henderson in the face whilst the glass is up to his mouth, shattering it and knocking him to the ground. If that’s not enough, Whitlock stomps on his throat, twists his foot and breaks his neck!



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Blazing Guns (1988)

 Blazing guns cover

Movie Review:

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Talk about rare! What we have here is a vintage 1988 slab of Filipino (I am presuming here, but read on) jungle action from fantastic director Teddy Page (aka Teddy Chiu, Teddy Chu, Teddy Chui and in the credits of this film - Irvin Johnson!) of Phantom Soldiers fame - a film I truly love. Go have a look on iMDB for this film - it’s not there! (UPDATE: I added it!) There’s nothing about the film on Google. I know from the credits that it is a Pacific Media Film Group movie, as are other Teddy Page films such as Jungle Rats, so there’s a good chance it was shot on location in the Philippines. A lost and forgotten Teddy Page film! I’m very happy to have been able to watch and review this one, that’s for sure.

The people of Costa Brava have had enough of the leadership of President Mendoza. A rebel contingent fight his army, the general populace protest his actions and the Americans all think he’s doing a great job. That is except for Max Draven, special advisor to the US Ambassador. He has a hunch that not is all it seems and upon arriving in Costa Brava, begins investigating the President and his men. This lands him in various degrees of hot water as he is shot at, beaten up in his hotel room, chased and attempted abducted. He meets and rescues from a firefight American journalist Sheila who is of the belief that the President is faking rebel attacks with his own men and women to gain sympathy and support (and money and weapons) from the Americans. Max’s own informant and colleague Kevin is gunned down just as he reveals he has proof of what the President is doing and has mailed an expose secretly to arrrrghhhhhhhhh-dead. Eventually a package containing a key to a locker shows up to Max’s hotel room, and every force in Costa Brava is trying to get it from Max!

“You’ve been reading too many James Bond books lately!"

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This thing was completely awesome. Every ten minutes there is a gunfight. This is no exaggeration, it is every ten minutes. It’s rebels vs. military, military vs. rebels, everyone vs. Americans - and it just gets more and more explosive until the credits roll. Machine gun destruction, mortars into buildings (and people), pistols firing with slow motion head shots, and the always championed Exploding Huts! Each hut that explodes makes my smile just that little bit bigger. Teddy Page certainly knew how to blow up a jungle. The mini-gun scene in Predator ain’t got nothing on Page’s final battle in Blazing Guns. 

And if you think it’s just all jungle battles, you’d be wrong. Page throws in a plane hijacking, a fire-fight at the airport customs, a prison breakout of the rebel leader Carla (that again, gets quite explosive). The amount of extras turned into corpses in Blazing Guns is in the hundreds. And finally the Americans get involved and go ballistic with their mini-gun mounted in a helicopter, ploughing the field over and over. 

The natives of Costa Brava have hysterically over-the-top accents, especially the top bad guy President Mendoza. This guy is in super-villain territory here. He plans his campaign movements on a chessboard, striking over pieces and gleefully laughing. When peaceful protestors are demanding to speak with him? Him army blows them all up outside his gate; completely mows them down. 

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Corwin Sperry’s Max Draven is a joy to watch. I don’t know if it’s his voice we hear as everything is dubbed, but damn he made me laugh. His delivery is always inappropriate; too pedestrian when he should be emotive, too emotive when he should be playing it straight. And those lines he drops (“This is the land of rapid fire.”) We are in Reb Brown territory here folks.

Then there’s this Japanese guy, Akiro. His role seems to boil down to saving Max’s life at the last possible moment and look cool doing so. In a massive firefight Akiro picks off an enemy directly threatening Max by sniping them out a car window, then flashing his sunglasses at us. Akiro thwarts Max’s kidnapping by flying a remote control plane into the kidnappers car, then winking surreptitiously to the camera. When he and Max escape to the hills, Akiro flings frisbees around the cottage that are actually landmines. He’s awesome.

And for absolutely no reason that I can think of, about halfway into the film a black female impersonator slash informant, when trying to talk with Max, gets caught up in drive-by with a bunch of rogue militia guys in balaclavas on dirt bikes! You can’t make this stuff up. And how do you end a film like Blazing Guns? Have our two heroes Max and Akiro fly a freaking hang-glider whilst blasting at the army from up high with their automatic machine guns. Sure I basically just told you the story end-to-end, but trust me - see this film for yourself. It’s an absolute blast.

“If they want war, I’ll give them war!"

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There’s a lot of familiar ex-pats and recurring faces in this film. Max Draven is played by Corwin Sperry (Phantom Soldiers, Battle Geese, Battle Rats). The awesome Akiro is played by Richard King (Phantom Soldiers, Final Reprisal, War Without End). Sisters Ingrid (Tough Cops) and Kristine (Black Cobra 2) Erlandsson (billed here as Ellis) play Rebel leader Carla and American Journalist Sheila respectively. Miguel Faustmann (Delta Force 2, Silk 2) gives us the spectacular Mendoza. The technical credits give us an idea into when and how the film was made; Teddy Page’s usual editor Edgar Vincent and cinematographer Vittorio Anders put this one together, with the story written by Rod Davis and the soundtrack handled similarly by Page’s regular music guy Patrick Wales. I don’t often get into the technical artists on my reviews but given the rarity, I figured fans of Teddy Page’s other films would like to know that they are in for a familiar time with Blazing Guns.

I’ve seen quite a few Page films now and Blazing Guns rates right at the top. This is a rip-roaring time; its runtime is actually quite long at 1:45 but it feels like 70 minutes it moves so fast. I’d put it a close second behind the legendary Phantom Soldiers. I watched this on an impossible to find Japanese VHS from the 80’s. It was a nice sharp fullscreen print with English dialogue and burned-in Japanese subtitles. I don’t know how you’ll see this, but do try to. I’d say with some degree of certainty that CINEMA has a way of surviving armaGEDDON, so search and you shall find!

Finally a massive thanks to Trash cinema expert Andrew Leavold for loaning me his Japanese VHS of the film. Be sure to check out his documentary The Search for Weng Weng, and the upcoming The Last Pinoy Action Film!

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As usual with Teddy Page films, the action quotient is beyond high and the dialogue at times is laughable. Pretty much any time Max Draven is on screen I burst out laughing at his delivery. But the final laugh was reserved for the credits when I could not believe my eyes - the Doctor in the opening credits is played by.. Tom Baker! Tom Baker is the Doctor! Okay so it’s not THE Tom Baker, there was no scarf, jelly babys or Daleks but I still had to rewind those credits for a second look...

Photo gallery:

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