Tag Archives: Action

Review of Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012)

9 Dec

tumblr_mcqe04RoYK1rrllfeo1_500Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012) is a historical horror/action film, that is produced by The Asylum, a film studio specializing in mockbusters.

Directed by Richard Schenkman (The Man from Earth (2007), The Pompatus of Love (1995)).

Written by Karl T. Hirsch (Green (1998), Clown (2005)), J. Lauren Proctor and Richard Schenkman (Flower Girl (2009), Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God… Be Back by Five (1998)).

Starring: Bill Oberst Jr., Kent Ingleheart, Jason Vail, Debra Crittended, Bernie Ask, Canon Kuipers, Chris Hlozek, Richard Schenkman and others.

Is there really any better way to learn about American history than from a movie that depicts a dead president killing zombies.

Bill Oberst Jr., who is playing Lincoln is really good. The performance would fit just as well in a serious movie. Spielberg’s Lincoln could have him playing the lead role. It wouldn’t be as acclaimed as Daniel Day-Lewis, who is loved by everyone, but he could do it.

It is almost sad that a great performance like this is wasted on a silly B-movie. But I suppose in some oscar-bait piece we wouldn’t get Abe driving his scythe into the skull of a zombie, while yelling „Emancipate this!”.

For the budget the production value is pretty good. You can tell it’s cheap, but it tries to have a style. Which is more than most The Asylum movies have going for them.

The dialogue is also some of the best I’ve heard in an Asylum movie. Sadly, some/most of the actors aren’t really able to deliver it convincingly.

Lincoln gathers a group of people to go and… well, fight zombies, I guess. In this group of people there is a black guy named Mr. Brown. Obviously. The plot is kind of confusing, I don’t know if I must have some previous knowledge of American history, but I seriously doubt that the problem lays there.

As usually Asylum uses CGI in their movies and here we get some CG blood and it is kind of sad that even in a B-movie today, we have to watch the shitty looking CG blood spurting about, since it used one of the main attractions of  B-grade cinema that we got to see some realistic practical effects. I guess it’s easier to put in some cartoon violence afterwards. But judging by the really unconvincing fake facial hair on everybody, I doubt there was a great potential for any special effects artistry.

This is probably the best Asylum movie I’ve seen and not even in the so-bad-it’s-good category, more in the low-budget-we-did-what-we-could pretty competent B-flick. It would be unfair to compare it to Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, the blockbuster this is mockbusting.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. Of course it’s not a good movie, but as far as The Asylum goes, this was one of the best ones they can offer.

"I feel like going to theater, you're coming with me John 'not Wilkes Booth' Wilkinson!"

“I feel like going to theater! You’re coming with me John ‘not Wilkes Booth’ Wilkinson!”

Review of Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

14 Nov

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) is a thriller/action/crime film, which is a remake of Assault on Precinct 13 (1976).

Directed by Jean-Francois Richet (Mesrine: Killer Instinct (2008), Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1 (2008)).

Written by James DeMonaco (Jack (1996), Staten Island (2009)).

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Laurence Fishburne, Gabriel Byrne, Maria Bello, Drea de Matteo, John Leguizamo, Brian Dennehy, Ja Rule and others.

The original had a „cold open” of sorts, that set-up the possibility of action in a movie that was more slow-paced, this time we open with a completely frantic scene, with our main character played by Ethan Hawke in an undercover operation, which doesn’t turn out so well. Some time has passed and we see him arriving at a police precinct on the New Year’s Eve, as it is about to close and relocate the personnel.

Then we see a shoot-out in a church, after which Laurence Fishburne is arrested. Soon he has to be transported and the two groups of people who will have to meet at some point are set-up. On the prison bus, there’s four inmates being transported, one of them being John Leguizamo going into his over-the-top neurotic mode. Some shit happens along the way so they have to stay in this half-abandoned police station.

When the new year comes, suddenly everyone’s new year resolution becomes to stay alive, because they get attacked by masked men and the people inside the precinct are left to try to hold them back. They even manage to make them more inhuman by having them be hidden behind thick ski-masks, due to the storm outside. But then they decide to add a decent, yet very unnecessary twist to who the attackers are. I liked the almost supernatural quality they possessed in the original better.

The movie does have some kinetic energy and interesting visuals, like a bunch of lasersights sniping through the windows of the precinct, a cool mexican stand-off, involving like 10 people and almost everyone who dies for some reason gets shot in the head.

Yeah, I know, since the original was in a way a loose remake of Rio Bravo, it is forgivable that they made another remake, but there’s really nothing that the movie brings, that validates its necessity to exist. It’s just pointless, it doesn’t change enough to make it fresh and really interesting and only updating it a bit doesn’t make much sense, because the original wasn’t all that dated.

The score was disappointingly bland, not even worth comparing to Carpenter’s iconic synth-drone theme.

The acting also isn’t that great, to be fair in Carpenter’s version the acting wasn’t the best part either, but it was also a low-budget film, with relative unknowns, who were acting western parts in a modern-day setting. Here we have amazing actors (not all of them, there’s Ja Rule, after all) with huge experience, but the acting is just as unconvincing.

Overall, might be enjoyable, especially if you haven’t seen the original, but even then I don’t think it’s really worth bothering. It’s conventional, some good actors pop up, at times entertaining, but ultimately a waste of time. Not recommended.

PIctured: The most jolly movie rape scene ever.

Review of Looper (2012)

17 Oct

Looper (2012) is a sci-fi/action/drama film, set in the future, where time travel is illegal and used only by criminal organisations.

Directed by Rian Johnson (The Brothers Bloom (2008), Breaking Bad (2008 TV)).

Written by Rian Johnson (Brick (2005), Evil Demon Golfball from Hell!!! (1996 Short)).

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Pierce Gagnon, Paul Dano, Noah Segan and others.

This is another one of those cases, where I feel like saying anything is almost spoiling too much, but I have to say something, so I won’t reveal anything, that the trailers didn’t already show.

So the movie takes place in the future, 2040’s, time travel isn’t invented yet. But it will be invented in 3 decades. There’s these people – loopers, who work for a criminal organisation, that wait for people who are sent back from 2070’s and kill them. Our „hero” is one of these guys. He kills people and gets a shitload of silver for it.

But in the future-future there’s this bad guy The Rainmaker, who decides that the loopers should be sent back in time and be executed by their own younger selves. This is where our „hero”, 30 years older, comes in.

First of all you’re introduced to this future world, which is very realistic, it’s not some over-the-top dystopia, it’s mostly different by having more advanced technology and different trends, it does not like Blade Runner, but it does have that feel of it, There are these people controlling stuff and our hero isn’t sure of his loyalty to those people, also dipping into film noir quite heavily, starting with voice over, multi-dimensional characters with huge flaws and the clothing. And considering Rian Johnson made a modern-day true film noir film with Brick, I bet this was very intentional.

Both Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Joe and Bruce Willis’ Joe are not the best people, they are anti-heroes to the point they drop the hero’s part, especially older Joe. They act in their own best interests, ready to do the most awful things if they find it necessary.  Both actors are just brilliant. Levitt is becoming one of the most convincing actors of his generation and in combination with the phenomenal make-up work mimics Willis with such precision you forgot it’s even him. And it doesn’t feel cheap, like making him look like Willis early in his career and doing an impression of him. You’re convinced this guy could get older and look and act like the older character played by Willis.

The performances by supporting actors are also excellent. Jeff Daniels is charismatic as the young Joe’s boss, who would usually be this stereotypical villain, here he is a mildly evil used car salesman with a lot of power. Paul Dano is Joe’s friend, it’s a pretty small role, but memorable, Dano is a young actor, who has been mostly excellent for the last decade, Emily Blunt is good as a vulnerable single mother with a tough exterior. And the 5 year-old Pierce Gagnon actually might have delivered the best child performance of quite a long time now. He totally sold it and I wasn’t annoyed by him as I am usually with child actors (Jake Lloyd?).

The time travel aspect is actually really well thought out and no wonder, since Shane Carruth, who made Primer consulted Rian Johnson and if there’s one person in Hollywood (read ‘sort of making movies’) that understands how hypothetical time travel might work, it’s Shane Carruth. But Johnson’s brilliant writing makes it so it’s not a cold examination of time travel paradoxes, but actually makes it a moving, human story, which happens to have awesome sci-fi concepts in it.

Overall, it’s nice to see an intelligent, entertaining, well-made, original and emotionally moving film, that’s a fucking R-rated sci-fi action piece. So far this is probably my favourite movie of the year. Definitely recommended.

“Hey, young me! I will shoot that midget if you don’t let me ass-fuck you! What are you worried about? If you think about it, it’s just some good ol’ masturbation!”

Review of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)

14 Oct

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011) is an action/fantasy/thriller film, based on the Marvel Comics character Ghost Rider and is the sequel to Ghost Rider (2007).

Directed by the filmmaking duo of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Gamer (2009), Crank (2006)).

Written by David S. Goyer (Death Warrant (1990), The Unborn (2009)), Scott M. Gimple (The Walking Dead (2010 TV), Life (2007 TV)) and Seth Hoffman (House M.D. (2004 TV), Prison Break (2005 TV)).

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Violante Placido, Ciaran Hinds, Idris Elba, Johnny Whitworth, Fergus Riordan, Christopher Lambert and others.

Neveldine/Taylor is enough for me to sell a movie, ranging from their best (Crank 2: High Voltage) to their worst (Gamer) movies, one thing is clear, it’s going to be interesting to watch what crazy shit they’re going to pull this time. So here we have a sequel to what is generally considered one of the worst comic book movie adaptations. And then there’s Nicolas Cage.

We open to some black guy coming to a monastery led by Giles from Buffy. He rescues a woman and her son from some bad guys. And then the woman and kid run away from the black Frenchman, who decides to turn to our good old friend – burning skull guy.

Poor Johnny Blaze, his hairline has completely changed in just a couple of years and now is decidedly receding. So the black guy approaches him and basically says „Save this chick and you’ll get your soul back,” and Blaze is like „ok”. The deal is some bad guys have the woman’s son and he goes to get him back. He does get him and then there’s scenes where Blaze and the kid, who is pursued because of his destiny, start bonding and the boy starts admiring him, it reminded me a lot of Terminator 2.

This time the Ghost Rider effects look a lot better and he’s actually sort of terrifying. When you first see him as Ghost Rider you realise, that these guys were meant to make this movie. It’s as usual. visually very stylised, even dialogue is sometimes shot handheld with rapid zooms, there’s animated sequences, and great, memorable action set-pieces. Ghost Rider is actually bad-ass, he sort of now has a personality of his own. To be clear, I know almost nothing about the Ghost Rider mythos and so I didn’t care how faithful it was to it.

But the most important thing is that Nic Cage is used correctly, he’s a powerful tool in the right hands. I just love the guy. Here, they have him totally start freaking out as he’s about to turn into the Rider and Cage goes into his overacting mode, which is gloriously entertaining. The key aspect here is fun, when Cage seems to be having it, he’s awesome.

Maybe I’m not allowed to judge it, because I watched the movie on a 3D TV, but I really found the 3D barely noticeable. Speaking of 3D, Christopher Lambert appears as a monk with a tattooed face. Yeah, I know, maybe Christopher Lambert was worth a separate paragraph.

It’s not trying to be this over-the-top B-movie, but it is and that is what I like about Neveldine/Taylor, it’s that they do things that they think are cool and funny and those are the same things that I like. Seeing Ghost Rider pee fire? Count me in! Although, I would almost wish they would’ve gone even a bit crazier, but they did a lot within the constrains of the PG-13 rating. Yeah, I’m never satisfied.

Overall, it’s really not a „good” movie, don’t get me wrong, but it’s entertaining as shit. If that shit was on fire and hitting people with a chain while being on fire and hitting people with a chain. Recommended.

They’ve really outdone themselves in the special effects department this time. Those glowsticks look so bad-ass together with the halloween kids make-up.

 

Review of Red Scorpion (1988)

6 Oct

Red Scorpion (1988) is an action film.

Directed by Joseph Zito (The Prowler (1981), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)).

Written by Arne Olsen (Cop and a Half (1993), Repeaters (2010)), Jack Abramoff and Robert Abramoff.

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, M. Emmet Walsh, Al White, T.P. McKenna, Carmen Argenziano, Alex Colon and others.

Once again Dolph Lundgren plays a Russian, however, this time he’s the good guy. For the most part. He’s a Soviet Spetsnaz trained, KGB agent sent to an African country to fight the damn anti-communists. Oh, you can stop right there, I see where this is going. I saw Avatar, I know he’s eventually going to join them, because his higher-up is a major asshole. Get it? Major? Because he’s a soldier? Ah, nevermind.

His first night there, Lundgren gets drunk, gets into a fight with a couple of people, speaks gibberish with a Russian accent, sings an amusingly senseless rendition of the anthem of USSR and other things that are supposed to make us believe he is truly a Russian guy with Russian guy troubles, which are mostly remembering his native language should contain at least some actual, existing words.

Obviously he’s too Russian for some people, so some officers come by and throw Nikolai Lundgren into a jail cell. There he spends about an hour pondering his devotion to his country and he figures that since they are treating him like a huge, violent and drunk guy, while torturing someone else, he’s on the wrong side.

So he teams up with an African man and an American reporter and they escape the prison. The reporter, played by M. Emmet Walsh, really hates Nikolai for being „a fucking ruskie”, let me guess, they’re going to be pals by the end of the movie. Spoilers. Yes. Yes they are.

For some reason, the only music you can hear in Africa is that of Little Richard. Seriously, there’s at least 6 fucking instances of Little Richard on the soundtrack. I like him alright, but it doesn’t make sense. Is this an homage to Predator or something?  I don’t get it.

Lundgren is sort of ok, but most of the time I can’t even understand half of his dialogue, the role is completely one-dimensional and the whole movie is exploitative of the 80’s action hero cheese craze, for example, having Nikolai getting ready to go swimming, with no other purpose than to have him shirtless for an entire action sequence. And I’ve always liked him better as a villain, Rocky IV, Universal Soldier, never cared that much for him as a protagonist.

The action scenes are not very memorable, maybe except a couple of  bits during the climax. Nikolai (at this point randomly smeared himself with black paint, because that’s the best camouflage in the desert) is fighting like hundreds of military guys and then suddenly one of them appears with no shirt on and holding a knife. Why? Did he think he’s the protagonist? Stand out moment is when Nikolai shoots a guy’s arm off. That was nice.

Red Scorpion is basically a First Blood knock-off, having both Nikolai and Rambo be disillusioned by their service to the country. But, while Rambo was actually an interesting character and the movie did comment on aspects of Vietnam, Red Scorpion is stylistically more similar to later Rambo movies and having this overblown action, an actually dumb hero, and the Cold War propaganda so blunt and heavy-handed, that it just doesn’t hit any intelectual or emotional beats.

There’s also another part of the movie, which just comes out of nowhere. Nikolai starts hanging out with some bushmen and for a while it becomes this odd buddy movie having his relationship with one of the bushmen resemble that of Robinson Crusoe and Friday, surprisingly this is the most enjoyable part of the movie.

Overall, it’s dumb, not consistently entertaining, entirely forgettable. It’s just your typical B-grade 80’s action flick, lacking anything that would make it stand out from the other one  and somehow made on an almost A-budget. Not recommended.

“Hey you want to know why I’m wearing cut-offs? Have you ever heard of nevernudes?”

Review of Dredd (2012)

25 Sep

Dredd also known as Dredd 3D (2012) is a British/South-African action/sci-fi/thriller film, based on the 2000 AD comic strip series Judge Dredd.

Directed by Pete Travis (Henry VIII (2003), Endgame (2009)).

Written by Alex Garland (28 Days Later (2002), Never Let Me Go (2010)).

Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Warrick Grier, Wood Harris, Domnhall Gleeson and others.

Sadly in the public mind Judge Dredd is most often associated with the 90’s Stallone movie, and even though I thought it was ok as a kid, deep inside I knew it was shit and never cared to find out more about Judge Dredd. Had I seen this movie as a kid, I would have been running around with a bicycle helmet on my head for at least a week. I can’t stress this enough – this is not a remake of Judge Dredd (1995), this is another adaptation of the comics.

It’s the future, Judges are like the last thing that upholds the law. Dredd is one of those Judges and one day on his patrol he is forced to take a rookie female Judge with him. They both go to an apartment block, to investigate brutal triple homicide. They crash into this apartment, where gang members are dealing and using drugs, they arrest one of them to interrogate, but the gang leader learns of this and closes of the block, locking Dredd and rookie Anderson inside it. They have to find a way to get out of there alive.

This  is just one of the things I loved about the  movie – it’s on a limited scale and period of time. It’s basically a ‘day-in-the-life’ story about Dredd. It’s simple, yet not simplistic. The setting is also cool, because, despite being a dystopian future, it’s not over-the-top, it’s very believable.

The gang uses a new drug called ‘Slo-mo’, guess what it does? Nice to see a movie, where there’s actual reason for using slow motion. The slow motion shots are just beautiful, combined with 3D and sometimes gore, that’s just art. The 3D use is actually the best I’ve seen so far in any movie, the compositions are great, it doesn’t feel forced or gimmicky, while adding to the entertainment.

Judge Dredd himself is really cool. Yes, the helmet is always on, which is a thankless role for Karl Urban, who did an amazing job, being virtually unrecognisable, but adding so much personality to a character, who is supposed to be the faceless hand of law. He seems pissed off, but doesn’t lose his cool, he’s not arrogant, but is confident, he doesn’t have any huge character arc or romance pushed onto him. At the end of the movie he hasn’t changed, his opinion about something might have changed, but not him as a character.

Both the side-kick rookie Judge Anderson and gang leader Ma-Ma are both great, not being more than they should be, but suggestive of much deeper characters than we’re shown.

Overall, one of the best action movies of the year, a comic book movie not afraid of the letter „R”, but probably suffering at the box office due to that fact, combined with the previous adaptation of the character and pretty low awareness about the movie. Go see it, while it’s in the theatres, first time I can really say it’s worth to go see a movie in 3D. Definitely recommended.

“Well, my father was a cop and my mother was 😦 , so yeah…”

Review of Assault on Precinct (1976)

21 Sep

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) is an action/thriller/neo-western film about a group of people defending a police station from a gang attack.

Directed by John Carpenter (Dark Star (1974), The Ward (2010)).

Written by John Carpenter (Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), Ghosts of Mars (2001)).

Starring: Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston, Nancy Loomis, Tony Burton, Henry Brandon, Kim Richards and others.

The first thing that pulls you into the movie is the cool theme music, which is not unusual for a John Carpenter movie. I love his synth-heavy film scores, in some ways more than the classical orchestral arrangements.

It starts by introducing various groups of people and all the introductions start with a time stamp, by the time I saw any of the time stamps, I had forgotten the previous one, so it didn’t help to lock the scenes in some time slot, but it helped to create the feeling, that it was all building-up to something. Having seen more than a few movies, it becomes immediately clear, that eventually all the groups will collide. The way they are brought together is actually really cool and natural.

Unusual for the time, the protagonist is a black cop. Here the resemblances to Night of the Living Dead start, which obviously has inspired the movie, besides the fact that it’s in a way a remake of Rio Bravo. The black cop goes to a police station that is closing – precinct 9. That’s right, 9, I guess 13 just sound so much better than 9 to marketing people.

The movie is really ruthless, the bad guys are set up by having one of them do a shockingly unexpected killing. This makes you think he’s going to be the villain, but he is more a symbol of the whole group. To further the comparison to Night of the Living Dead, the gang members that attack the police  station are a lot like zombies. They don’t have dialogue, they don’t hesitate to attack and kill and they just keep on coming, seemingly with no source.

At times it is kind of funny, because in a way it’s a parody of western archetypical heroes and anti-heroes and villains, having them deliver these absurd lines, that don’t make sense in the 70’s, yet at the same time it is a solid action film and not that cheesy. Also I cannot believe you can make a movie like this for just 100 000 dollars, I understand it’s 1976 dollars, but still, that’s a pretty low-budget for an action movie.

I guess, Carpenter could be called a successor of Hitchcock, not in acclaim, but in being another master of suspense, because,  Carpenter manages in his second movie to have the tension from the first minutes and last pretty much throughout the whole movie.

Overall, it’s a simple, cool and suspenseful low-budget action-thriller and I only say that because most of its shortcomings can be excused by the low production costs, which isn’t actually that noticeable. Recommended.

Gangs – bringing Che Guevara, Billy Dee Williams, a white guy and the Wolfman together since 1976.

Review of Collateral Damage (2002)

18 Sep

Collateral Damage (2002) is an action/thriller/revenge film, following a Los Angeles fireman on a quest to enact his revenge upon Colombian terrorists.

Directed by Andrew Davis (The Guardian (2006), Code of Silence (1985)).

Written by Ronald Roose (The Hessen Affair (2009)) and David Griffiths (The Hunted (2003)).

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elias Koteas, John Leguizamo, John Turturro, Francesca Neri, Cliff Curtis and others.

This movie only came out when I was getting over my Arnie-fandom, so I didn’t even bother seeing it and knew nothing about until I actually sat down and watched it recently. After seeing it, I can say that I still know almost nothing about it. The movie is so stripped off any personality, that you can easily not realise you’ve been watching a movie and not a past-his-prime Schwarzenegger-flick.

In this movie Arnold Schwarzenegger is a fireman with a thick Austrian accent. In all his movies Arnold is somebody (insert any macho profession) with an Austrian accent. You are introduced to his family, but after a few minutes with them you get from the somber tone, that they are going to die. Or something. They die. Fuck spoilers, it happens in like the next scene, anyway.

This murder of his family is just thrown in there to have a reason for Arnold to be pissed off and start kicking ass. You don’t feel anything as his family dies and even though, Arnold tries to show us his wacky interpretation of method acting, it is a lot less believable or emotional than, for example, in Commando, where his relationship with Alicia Milano is established a lot better.

I don’t blame Arnold for any of this movie’s flaws, though. There are some other factors, like the script being total shit and feeling like it’s been written back in the early 90’s, but then updated a bit. Also the pacing is crap, since it tries to have some serious political message about terrorism, it layers on a ton of unnecessary exposition, only to become a mindless action B-movie later on. It’s 25 minutes in, when shit finally starts going down.

Also Arnold feels like a horrible anachronism in this. He doesn’t make as many weird faces, has almost no one-liners and tries to dial down his broad-stroke(victim)-acting. We are now faced with the fact, that Arnold has no place in the 2000’s, we feel weird, when people don’t give him suspicious looks, because he’s a god damned 6’2’’, huge Austrian man.

About half-way into the movie John Leguizamo appears, starting to steal his scenes and breathing some fresh air into the movie, but guess what, he’s only there for a couple of scenes and we’re back to the draggy dumb turd-fest, we were enjoying before. Closest we get to one-liners is when the villain says „What’s the difference between you and I?” and Arnold replies „The difference is, I’m just going to kill you!”, sure, it’s kind of clunky and no „See you at the party, Richter!”, but it has to do.

The film is simple-minded enough to seem like a fun action movie, yet stubborn enough to keep jamming internal conflicts down Arnie’s throat, who in addition to never being a good actor, seems to have lost his screen presence. It all amounts to probably one of the worst movies of his career and one of the last leading parts for him. We’ll have to see what he does in The Last Stand. The movie is somewhat summed up by the odd end twist, that you probably won’t see coming, but just because you won’t care enough.

Overall, a very bland and unentertaining movie from one of, if not the biggest action star ever. That’s a big fall, if you ask me. Not recommended.

“So, yeah, mister unsuspicious mechanic guy, go right that way and wait with your back turned to that guy with the gun.”
“I’ll be back!”
“Sure, you will.”

Review of Conan the Barbarian (1982)

11 Sep

Conan the Barbarian (1982) is an adventure/fantasy/action film, based on the stories by Robert E. Howard.

Directed by John Milius (Red Dawn (1984), Dillinger (1973)).

Written by John Milius (Evel Knievel (1971), Farewell to the King (1989)) and Oliver Stone (Platoon (1986), Savages (2012)).

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones, Max Von Sydow, Sandahl Bergman, Mako, Gerry Lopez and others.

It opens with a narrator telling us about Conan, but the way he talks, you don’t really care to listen, because it won’t really matter anyway. Then the movie finds it important to randomly show us some blacksmithing, just before kid Conan’s village is attacked and I wonder if I should care for these people I see for the first time.

Then James Earl Jones arrives on the scene and you know what? He looks ridiculous, even his epic voice (why couldn’t he narrate the movie instead?) doesn’t change the fact, that his wig of long, straight, black hair doesn’t look awesome at all. Yes, even after he decapitates Conan’s mom. And he doesn’t say a word during the whole scene, so he talks for the first time somewhere in the second half of the movie, when he appears again.

So the attackers kill everyone, except the children, which they take with them, because they’re pedophiles… or slavekeepers, I’m not sure. They make kid Conan push some rotating thing and a couple of years later he’s Arnold fucking Schwarzenegger and it doesn’t take long for Arnie to make his classic guttural “argh!” sounds.

Then we spend some time watching Conan killing people in arena fights. After becoming this champion fighter, he’s almost a celebrity, he gets whores and is allowed to read, which isn’t very barbarian-like thing to do, but don’t worry Conan isn’t smart. He just has the best possible life a slave can have, he lacks some freedom, but in every other way his life is much better than it would have been in his native village. Being an unappreciative bastard he uses the first opportunity to run away and be free, only to be instantly chased by a pack of wolves and falling into a cave to struggle with making fire and shit. If you ask me, being a slave was way better.

25 minutes into the movie we hear the main character speak for the first time and, oh dear god, where did he develop this thick Austrian accent? To think of it, 80s were a weird time, when people actually accepted his accent, this would never happen today.

He stumbles on some chick, they chat for a bit and then we get to listen to her moan out the rest of her lines, while they both are having sex. After that she turns into a horrible witch-monster, so Conan throws her into the fireplace. Who hasn’t had this first date, am I right? From this point on, it’s just Conan having various shenanigans, while searching for the man, who killed his parents. He meets a thief guy and then a  chick and they form a party of D&D characters and proceed on their adventure, which includes among other things, stabbing a huge rubber snake through the head and Conan punching a camel. There was once a time when a snake could look at least somewhat realistic and not like a CG piece of shit.

The movie is often very slow-paced. You get to see quite an amount of naked breasts. These were just two facts about the movie that sort of negate each other. The dialogue is often very clunky and not only when put into Arnold’s mouth. Some people, like Sandahl Bergman, deliver it quite well, with this rhythm, like it’s from Shakespeare, but you only half-listen to what is said. Later on they use Jones’ booming voice and he gives easily the best performance in the movie, but it doesn’t take back his absurd appearance and not having aged a day in the time when Conan became Mr. Universe.

To give credit to Arnold, he might be the only actor that sort of can pull off the Conan look, but when at one point in the movie he is disguised as a monk, he does look ridiculous, the robe failing to hide that he is a muscle-bound freak. Often I got the feeling that the script had lines, but they opted for Arnold just to stay quiet and scowl or not emote at all.

The movie has some nice gore and it’s actually kind of odd, the movie is a solid R, but it clearly appeals most to teenage boys, younger than the allowed age. Also it made me think if we really see any R rated adventure flicks nowadays. I don’t think so.

Overall, a decent, but really predictable movie for adolescents. I didn’t find it as entertaining as some later Schwarzenegger flicks, but if you’re a fan give it a watch, nothing remarkable about it. Not recommended.

Between your villain looking like a drag queen and your protagonist looking like this, I’m really not sure which side to root for.

Review of Dragon Fist (1979)

4 Sep

Dragon Fist aka Long Quan (1979) is a Hong Kong martial arts/action/drama film.

Directed by Lo Wei (The Shadow Whip (1971), Slaughter in San Francisco (1974)).

Written by Wang Chung-Ping (Seven Promises (1979)).

Starring: Jackie Chan, Nora Miao, James Tien, Lin Yin-Ju, Chiang Kao, Yen Si-Kuan, Sha-fei Ouyang, Hsia Hsu and others.

I am not a huge fan of Jackie’s Lo Wei directed movies and I’m glad he succeeded in leaving his studio later on, which wasn’t that easy, it even resulted in such rubbish as Fearless Hyena 2, but I’ll get to that in some later review. However, this doesn’t mean that Jackie didn’t make any decent movies during this period. It’s a gamble, it might be bad like Magnificent Bodyguards or the previously mentioned Fearless Hyena 2, it might be good like…  and then there are movies like this, mediocre, which is arguably worse than bad, since you don’t feel passionately either way and soon forget them.

The movie opens with a fight between two men. One of them being Chan’s master wins. But then there’s another fight between the master and some evil master, who kicks Jackie’s master’s ass so hard, he soon dies. Jackie gets really pissed and vows revenge. Later on it is revealed that the bad master killed Jackie’s master because he had had an affair with his wife 18 (oddly specific) years ago. Somebody has been watching too many soap operas. And now his wife hangs herself out of guilt or sorrow. This shit just got dark.

Then some years pass and Jackie has gotten way better at his kung fu and now is ready to kick the one ass he couldn’t previously, the not-so-evil-master’s ass. Jackie comes to the guy, ready to exact his revenge, but the master asks for three more days. Jackie being the nice guy agrees and goes away. San Thye’s (the good/dead master) wife is poisoned so it opens up a new plotline with getting medication for her. Three days go by and [Spoilers!] the master has cut off his fucking leg and keeps it in a box. Surely Jackie won’t fight him now. [Spoilers end]

Jackie has to work for a drug gang to get the medicine for the widow. And overall, the plot of the movie is pretty interesting, not too predictable, has some twists. Compared to some other kung fu flicks, that seemed to have noodles to string together the fight scenes, here we get something more involving. The execution is a whole different thing, Lo Wei manages to make it kind of bland and forgettable.

The fight scenes are pretty good, but lack the inventiveness of later Chan’s work or other Chan’s work of the time for that matter, specifically with Yuen Woo-Ping.

Overall, a quite decent Chan flick, but not exactly what you would expect from him, it’s not that fun or funny, it’s just ok. It won’t make you a Jackie Chan fan, but if you’re already one, than, sure, check it out. Recommended.

“Hey, back away, you won’t touch these women!”
“Oh really? Says who?”
“Says I!”
“Who are you?”
“They call me Dragon Fist, because I dragon-fist assholes of assholes like you so hard that it’ll feel like you’re shitting lava after.”
“Geez, man, you… you really didn’t have to take it this far. Ok, we’re leaving, you sociopath.”