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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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Paying Mr. McGetty (2016)

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Tyrrell can’t remember last night… but today is a day he won’t forget!

Movie Review:

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Tyrrell (R. Marcos Taylor, Steven Seagal’s Code of Honor) is about to have a bad day. Waking up hungover from a night of gambling to a call from his girlfriend about overdue rent when he is in the bed of another woman is not the ideal start. It escalates quickly when he leaves the motel with said woman and is photographed by - what turns out to be - a mob informant, who then dobs Tyrrell in for having an unauthorised night out with the mob bosses’ daughter! And the obvious and sensible reaction to this state of affairs is to of course send not one but two hitmen out after him; the second being none other than Don “The Dragon” Wilson playing hitman Shota Kabu. All this combined with the fact he is now running late for his delivery day job makes for Tyrrell’s bad day becoming worse.

I’m not entirely sure what I think of this one. It’s a bit disjointed and at times, plain weird. Scenes change constantly and quickly like we are in a 90’s Tarantino film. However when you distill it down, the film’s plot is a basic “a day in the life of Tyrrell” device, or more accurately “Tyrrell tries to avoid getting his arse handed to him over and over”. The first hitman, Rocco, I took an instant dislike to as he beat up a barista for serving the wrong milk in his coffee. This is when I saw how the comedy in the film was going to play out which for me, mostly didn’t work. I’m a very hard guy to please with comedies so don’t take my opinion as gospel here, but only one real scene got a laugh from me.

The action quotient is unfortunately pretty low and entirely hand-to-hand. There’s a couple of ten second brawls here and there but nothing to write home about. Tyrrell starts off being pretty bad and/or lucky with his fights, but after a (very weird) epiphany with a strange hippie dude in an unconscious dream, the subsequent fights gets a little more interesting. An entirely random scene where he thwarts a convenience store robbery is the best display of Tyrrell’s skills in the whole film. He later has another fight in a women’s hairdresser that shows how he pales in comparison to Shota, but he certainly gives his all.

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Don’s Shota is the badass here of course, and his fights are those of a well trained professional - though again, quite short. Even the final fight is so short that Shota comments “twenty seconds - that’s longer than I thought it would take”. The film doesn’t just focus on Tyrrell’s bad day, we also get to see how Shota goes about his hits and the underworld he lives in on a daily basis, which I appreciated. 

I usually don’t comment on such things, but I really disliked the music in this film. Rap and autotuned-to-death R&B are not my thing and not only does it feature predominantly in the soundtrack (and doesn’t always fit the scene it’s used in, either) but Tyrrell has side gig managing rappers or something that is shoe-horned into the main plot. We visit a recording studio multiple times where Tyrrell gets pissed at the lack of progress on a recording. I think these scenes were trying to demonstrate that Tyrrell is a passionate man, but they seemed out of place to me.

One thing I have got to elaborate on: the very weird hippie epiphany scene. After a Terminator style chase with Shota, Tyrrell passes out on the ground and has some sort of vision involving himself and a hippie Jedi master who reinvigorates through magic (?!) Tyrrell’s forgotten powers of martial arts. This was such a strange scene and I really couldn’t work out why they went down this path. We already have Tyrrell as a delivery man come record producer, throwing  former martial artist in there was a bit odd. I’d have preferred he just Bruce Campbell’d his way through the fights, making it up as he went along. The ‘revelation’ didn’t help him in the fight with Shota, anyway.

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This is the second Michael Baumgarten directed film we have reviewed here in recent times, and not coincidentally the second Don Wilson film as well. Baumgarten and Don were both involved in The Martial Arts Kid, a film I gave a positive review to recently. I have to say I far preferred The Martial Arts Kid to Paying Mr. McGetty, probably because it was played straight. As I mentioned above, comedy is something that only works for me when the stars are truly in alignment and in this film they weren’t for me. Most of the actors in the film outside the leads are relative newcomers, but everybody acquitted themselves just fine - no complaints in that regard.

The first act of the film I wasn’t really digging, but it picked up a bit in the second act when things started making a bit more sense. I was able to start relating to Tyrrell and his crappy day that got worse and worse and I was able to respect Shota and his choices that resulted in making the third act of the film more interesting. However, overall when looked as a whole the film didn’t completely work for me. The action is very short and too infrequent to really call this an action film (the final fight is over with in twenty seconds). It’s a quirky comedy cross drama story. Thankfully the drama part was decent and improved as the story progressed, and the last scene between Tyrrell and his girlfriend is quite touching and feels well-deserved after the terrible day that Tyrrell just had!

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The very opening scene shows us early on that Don is boss. Sneaking up behind a man shaving, who then pleads for his life and the safety of his child, gets destroyed by Don when he pulls the rug out from under him that knock him dead into the bathtub. Ruthless Don then quips “You don’t have a kid”.