Monday, April 28, 2008

They Live

The Action Mutant…
was rowdy before rowdy was cool, man!


They Live


review by Joe Burrows


Perspective:
Note: I know that most readers will most likely roll their eyes at the anticipation of a “wrestling rant” here but considering the star of the feature being reviewed here, it’s to be expected.

Though it’s laughable to most with enough sense, there is an actual debate among wrestling circles as to which wrestler has been the most successful actor to come out of the industry. Of course, that debate was really fueled by one Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea, the most financially successful grappler of the 80s. Now, Bollea’s pretty much an egotistical, delusional hack that believes he single-handedly made the pro wrestling industry the cash cow it was in that era (Truth? WWF owner Vince McMahon was going national, creamed over Hogan’s physique and basically picked the right guy at the right place and the right time to be his star attraction, all while exploiting the newly burgeoning technology of basic cable and increasing popularity of MTV). He also has the misguided notion that his crossover appeal into films gives him the label “movie star”. Because everyone remembers No Holds Barred, right? Suburban Commando? Mr. Nanny? Santa with Muscles? Exactly. Hogan’s whole delusional aura stems back from his cameo as pro wrestler “Thunderlips” in Rocky III. Granted, it was arguably the most memorable sequence in the film but the man has basically ridden his entire “film career” off of the fact that he was once in a top grossing film. What’s my point? That out of all of his cinematic “success”, he has never starred (as in top billing) in a #1 grossing film in America (Bolivia, maybe?). Only two pro wrestlers have that distinction: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and the star of this review’s film…the villain (or heel) many credit with making the start of Hogan’s run so memorable, Roderick “Roddy Piper” Toombs. So, if any Hogan fan boy comes up to you with the whole “Hogan is God” argument, do some research at IMDB or boxofficemojo.com to confirm what I’ve said and spit in their eye for me. Because the next time I do that will be my third strike.

The Plot, as it was:
Piper stars as Nada (as he is known in the credits; he’s not referred to by name at any point during the film), an unemployed drifter that seeks refuge in a homeless commune. He starts to notice strange activity taking place at the church across the street so he checks it out. Nada stumbles onto a box of dark sunglasses but these are not your normal sweatshop manufactured counterfeits. When he puts a pair on, Nada starts to see some people as aliens in disguise and advertising as propaganda being pushed onto the unsuspecting human public (with ads that simply say “CONFORM”, “OBEY”, “CONSUME”, etc.). Nada and his construction worker buddy Frank (Keith David) soon join up with a small band of human resistance and try to find the alien’s secret video control signal before its too late.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
John Carpenter’s They Live is the tale of two movies and thankfully (for me), they were both very fun and enjoyable. The first half is very much a satire on the era; an indictment of “Reaganomics” and the era of wants vs. needs. This is taken with a slow burn approach as the message of how bad things are for the working class is made abundantly clear before the story starts taking a weirder turn (the downbeat music by Carpenter & Alan Howarth just adds to the sense of dreary oddness in the air). The second half is more like any Sci-Fi alien film one has seen from the 50s, only with more blood and naughty words. Those expecting some of Piper’s patented goofy repartee will be half right in that assumption. Sure, there are the funny ad-libbed zingers (the infamous “bubblegum” line, “Mama don’t like tattletales!” and calling an older looking woman “Formaldehyde face”) and the obvious macho posturing of an action hero but Piper plays a surprising amount of the action with a straight face. He conveys the role of being an outsider well and the audience relates with him discovering the truth as we are. But make no mistake about it; when the film goes all gung ho with action, the Pipes is there to oblige. The fight between he and David has taken on a life of it’s own since the movie was first released and is the definitive highlight (a bit out of place, yes but entertaining nonetheless). Add in appearances by B movies favorites Meg Foster (AHSE) and Buck Flower and the whole retro feel to the B&W alien world and you have a guilty pleasure that’s a notch or two above what you’re used to. So, put the damn glasses on already!

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- That’s Al Leong (Endo in Lethal Weapon) as the uncredited Asian revolutionary.
- Boxing fans and anyone unfortunate enough to see Rocky V (lucky me, I fit into both categories!) will recognize Tommy Morrison as one of the resistance guys in his first role (though he is also uncredited).

Body Count/Violence: 46 (30 aliens and 16 humans). Nothing fancy here, as “Rowdy” Roddy just blasts away at anything alien with a shotgun or some sort of automatic weaponry. There’s also plenty of shooting during the resistance meeting scene along with a fall through a window and a police beating being thrown in. Speaking of beatings, there’s the much lauded Nada/Frank brawl. For well over five minutes, the two punch, kick, rip, gouge, suplex, slam and choke each other in a fight that never seems like it wants to end. According to legend, Carpenter was only going to have the fight be 20 seconds or so but the two actors planned it to go longer and only pulled punches to the face and groin. Carpenter was obviously impressed and the rest is cinematic history.

Sexuality/Nudity: The only pair of tits is during the flick’s closing shot, as a mid-coitus display is interrupted in the weirdest way possible.

Language/Dialogue: Not constantly strong but it has its moments. I think its fun just to hear Roddy drop the F bomb a few times.

How bad was it?:
Shockingly enough, They Live was not as critically maligned as you would think. Though it was never praised in “high art” standards, many critics appreciated the satire and felt Piper fit the everyman role very well. Some critics couldn’t sit back and have fun with it though (why must I always give the stinkeye to Leonard Maltin?). My favorite argument was that it wasn’t original and was too much like the old 50s “aliens take over the world” pics. Um, wasn’t that the whole fucking point? To have it resemble the older cult classics while referencing the current day’s social ills? Idiots.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
As already mentioned, They Live was #1 when it opened up on 11/4/88. Filmed on a relatively low $4 million, it cleared that its first weekend but just barely with $4.8 million. It had some weak competition to be fair, as the highest profile opener it beat was the documentary U2: Rattle and Hum. It fell back a spot each week for four weeks and finished its run with a gross of $13 million. As you may have guessed, it has developed a healthy cult following since then, even having the big fight scene being parodied on an episode of South Park (with the two crippled kids, Jimmy and Timmy, fighting in a shot by shot recreation).

Film: ***1/2/*****
Entertainment value: *****/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Manhunt (1972)

The Action Mutant…
knows it’s hard out there for a pimp.


Manhunt (1972)


review by Joe Burrows


Perspective:
Recent news: Apparently, if you want to fuck with the Olympic torch relay to Beijing, you have to go through Jackie Chan! As mentioned in this article and many others, Chan has gone on record in saying that he will intercept any publicity seekers that are out to interfere with the relay, which has already been beset by many bad incidents. Now, I won’t get into the politics of the matter (short story: protestors hate that China has the 2008 Olympics due to their stance on human rights, or lack thereof) but I think this is pretty kickass. Imagine it: an Action hero acting as such in real life. These types of instances have been few and far between since the renegade days of old H-Wood, where Steve McQueen saved Robert Blake from a ravenous mob by scaring them off with a shotgun or actors leaving to fight in WWII against the Kaiser Permanente. One can only wonder how the world of today would be different if more points of initiative were taken at key points of history. If only Bronson was alive in Ford’s Theater to take out John Wilkes Booth or someone went to ABC Headquarters and stopped them from cancelling Clerks: The Animated Series. Sorry, I just feel really strongly about that show. I mean c-mon…two episodes?

The Plot, as it was:
Mario Adorf portrays Luca Canali, a small time Milan pimp that gets caught up in quite the quandary. Luca is framed for stealing a shipment of heroin headed to New York and now everyone wants him dead for it. Not only is the local Don Vito Tresoldi (Adolfo Celi) out for Luca’s head but so are two American hitmen (Henry Silva and Woody Strode). Unknowing of the reasons for his pursuit and being pushed too far to the limit, Luca fights back and goes for vengeance of his own.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Oddly enough, when it comes to portrayals of the Italian mafia, very rarely do the mainstream portrayals come from the country itself. The Italian crime dramas of the 70s were more of the exploitive, Grindhouse type fare and although there’s a fair amount gratuitousness in Manhunt (aka La Mala ordina), I can’t imagine that there are many better than it in its genre. The film has a visceral grip on its audience from the very beginning and doesn’t let go through its 93 minute run time. Adorf, a character actor with a most esteemed career in Europe, has a grand presence and is easily the best thing here. His character may have a questionable profession but you can’t help but to like the guy, as he first comes off as a feckless, grinning goofball that cares for his estranged wife and kid. However, he becomes more driven and Adorf’s emotions are squarely on display in this metamorphosis. There is nothing fancy about the action, either: just full on and brutal with no compromise. The car chase during the film’s midsection (seemingly a prerequisite for a 70s Action/thriller) contains equal amounts of emotion and action and is the film’s highlight. Everything else is more uniform, from the plot to the dialogue to the lack of personality in the female characters (I mean, they’re whores, escorts or dancers here so there isn’t much range). Silva and Strode make the most of their performances with their presences and playing off of each others differences (Silva’s the talky lothario, while Strode is the sullen, consummate pro that will bail him out for the sake of business). All in all, the pros weigh out the cons in Manhunt and the ending makes for an exhausting conclusion to a sleazy, fun ride with a surprising heart to it.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Ulli Lommel (who, judging by IMDB ratings, may be the most reviled German director next to Uwe Boll…or Leni Riefenstahl) is a dancer in the club.

Body Count/Violence: 19. Though it doesn’t pile on the corpses like its contemporaries, Manhunt is vicious as the title indicates. There are some shootouts as well as plenty of brawls, car rundowns, cars being dropped onto people, windshield shattering and someone getting a spike in the throat. Along with the aforementioned car chase, there’s also a fair amount of pimp slaps (which is expected, given Luca’s calling in life).

Sexuality/Nudity: There’s tits as far as the eye can see in this film, whether they’re of the dance club or bedroom variety. There are various scenes of the topless variety, with at least one instance of full frontal female nudity taking stage.

Language/Dialogue: Briefly strong at times but not often.

How bad was it?:
As far as Italian made crime dramas go, this gets about the highest of praise in all of the reviews I’ve seen for it. Most of the praise goes to Fernando Di Leo’s direction and Adorf’s performance, as it should.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Being filmed on location in Milan, Manhunt was produced by Cineproduzioni Daunia 70 (among others) and released in Italy on 9/1/72. It was distributed by American International in the U.S. in a dubbed version and released on Halloween of 1973. Look for it on DVD or video under many titles such as Manhunt, Hitmen, Manhunt in the City, The Italian Connection and most odd, Black Kingpin (?).

Film: ***1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ****/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mad Max

The Action Mutant…
knew Mel was always a lil’ mad.


Mad Max


review by Joe Burrows


Perspective:
Funny thing: During the past five years, Mel Gibson’s actions and words have reduced him in the media’s eyes to the moniker of “Mad Mel”, which is also a takeoff on the title of the film reviewed here. When this all started to go down, I was shocked…shocked that no one saw the signs coming before! Aside from diseases that no one can really cure (alcoholism, bipolar disorder) and a highly publicized father with questionable leanings (Mel once said, “My dad taught me my faith, and I believe what he taught me. The man never lied to me in his life.” Yes, and the Holocaust never happened like your Dad said. Big fakers!), his career has basically been one, big drawn out bloodbath after another that started even before the monstrously criticized The Passion of the Christ. The Lethal Weapon films show his Martin Riggs to be almost an extension of himself; a passionate, whacked out loony that has a martyr complex. Sure, the man has done his “lite fare” (Bird on a Wire, What Women Want, etc.) but that’s because he knows where the money is, like a stock broker banging out big deals so he has the funds for the coke & whores later on. The Mel I will always remember is the one that had deficiencies (The Man Without a Face) or with a cross to bear, figuratively I mean (Braveheart, The Patriot). And the “martyr complex” always seems to be in play, whether its being stretched on the rack in Braveheart or throwing his and Gary Sinise’s bloody carcasses through windows in Ransom. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mel didn’t want to take Jim Caveizel’s place on the cross or in taking the cat o’ nine tails to the lower lumbar. And where did it all start? Why, in the land of Yahoo Serious and Outback Jack, of course!

The Plot, as it was:
Mad Mel is Max Rockatansky, an Australian highway patrolman that scours the country’s desolate roads in the not so distant, dystopian future. During a high speed chase, Max takes out an associate of a biker gang that’s headed up by the eccentric Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne). The gang, when they aren’t terrorizing other motorists or townspeople, focuses their intentions on Max. After killing his partner Goose (Steve Bisley), Toecutter and his boys target Max and his wife Jessie (Joanne Samuel) & kid. What's Aussie for “wrong move, assholes!”?

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
From the crazy opening chase to the inevitable, grisly finale, Mad Max is just like one of the many muscle cars (or “interceptors”) on screen. Its powerful, brutal, unsettling to the unsuspecting and ultimately rousing entertainment. Writer/Director George Miller paints a portrait of the outback as a place time forgot; droll townspeople that are hopeless and lacking anything on the horizon, which leads some (the gang) to embrace carnage as their savior. Max’s superior Macaffee’s (Roger Ward) echoing of the public’s statement “People don’t believe in heroes anymore” puts Max in the role of the Old West gunslinger that’s ready to rid the town of evil. That description certainly makes the viewer aware that this isn’t anything new, story-wise. What sets this apart from other revenge fare is the unending air of meanness that surrounds the film, as the ending shot basically insists Max is riding off to his next kill; never to come back to normal society or experience total catharsis. This is greatly realized by Gibson (23 and fresh faced) as he runs though the gamut of emotions that us Yanks would see in greater numbers in the Lethal Weapon series, only there’s no comic tone to his descent here. The other memorable performance is by Keays-Byrne, who has a certain inflection or twist to nearly every line he mouths. He looks as if not only time forgot him but society as well, as his scraggly dress makes for a great contrast to his Machiavellian personality (he also resembles star wrestling heel Raven. Google it!). I only wish more was done with his performance, as more focus is seemingly put on his right hand man Johnny the Boy (Tim Burns). To use another wrestling comparison, it’s like booking a feud between Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair and deciding to focus more on Arn Anderson as the enemy (grappling fans will get what I mean). Aside from those odd character directions and being a bit dated looking, Mad Max is one weird, vicious ride that has enough action and atmosphere to make it more entertaining than its megabuck counterparts of today.

Body Count/Violence: 11. Though not an overly bloody spectacle, Mad Max has a mean streak in it almost second to none. The many car chases provide several spectacular crashes, which were actually done with decommissioned police vehicles to keep the budget down! Along with the nasty results of said damage, we also see bloody shooting, explosions, people being burned alive, people run down or dragged behind by motorcycles, vehicles run off the roads, etc. The best has to be when Max explains the best way to get out of handcuffs using a hacksaw (it’s not the best case scenario).

Sexuality/Nudity: We see a couple cavorting in a field from very far off, so anything seen is blurred. There’s also a guy running through a cornfield with his bare ass visible (aka my Saturday nights).

Language/Dialogue: Very little of it, though some of it may by Aussie terms that I’m not familiar with.

How bad was it?:
A lot of people consider this the film to popularize the whole “post apocalyptic biker” genre so it’s generally looked at very favorably. I’d say it’s about as universally revered as you can get, with Sci-Fi/Action critics heaping more than the usual praise.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Mad Max had an interesting box office history going for it, proving once again that sometimes American studios are the last ones at the dinner table. Roadshow Entertainment released the film in Australia on 4/12/79, with it sporting a budget of merely $350,000! It would make 5.6 AUD in its homeland and would get a limited run in America a year later when it debuted in New York City on 6/13/80 under the American International banner. It finished its American run with a gross of $8.8 million and that seemed to be that. However, Warner Bros. took a gamble and bought rights to market the sequel The Road Warrior in 1981. The success of that film ultimately led Mad Max to gross $100 million worldwide by the end of 1982 and receive a re-release in America on 5/13/83. Of course, the American releases initially dubbed most of the Aussie audio track over with more Americanized voices (including Gibson, who’s star didn’t really rise up worldwide until after The Road Warrior) and replaced a lot of the lingo. Thankfully, MGM re-re-released the film in 2000 for a limited time with its original Australian audio track intact (note: The “Special Edition” DVD from MGM includes both audio tracks as options).

Film: ****/*****
Entertainment value: *****/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hard Bounty

The Action Mutant…
has something in his eye. No, wait…I’m supposed to because it’s a Spaghetti Western.


Hard Bounty


review by Joe Burrows


Perspective:
Nothing much new to update, other than TAM is officially part of the MySpace conspire…err, web universe. Visit that page here and see if you want to join the all important, status affirming, friend’s list! Together, we can make this world a more action film conscious one…or celebrate the emergence of the erotic, faux-“Spaghetti” Western! Because that’s one sub-genre you have just been dying to see materialize.

The Plot, as it was:
Matt McCoy (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach) stars as Kanning, a cold bounty hunter who’s only moments of peace come when he stops by the town saloon to visit Donnie (Kelly LeBrock), the leader of a pack of prostitutes that ply their trade there. Something from Kanning’s past is haunting him and it rides into town in the form of Carver (John Terlesky), a ruthless hired gun that is in charge of clearing land for his railroad company employers (though he uses more force than his boss cares for). When one of the whores ends up dead by Carver’s hands, Kanning, Donnie and her buxom brood stand up against Carver and his henchman in the requisite “high noon” shootout.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
For those keeping track, its Bad Girls meets High Noon meets a Playboy shoot but hell, it strangely works in small doses. Corman disciple Jim Wynorski makes the most of his sparse sets and budget though it shows through in a few ways (very little blood in the kills, for example). Wynorski’s smart in the sense that when the story starts to lag, he just slaps in a nude scene or two to keep the viewer awake until the next lull arrives (and this was written by a woman, oddly enough). McCoy does a fair Eastwood imitation though it doesn’t go far past the obvious inspiration. LeBrock makes a nice complement to McCoy with her passionate exterior and has far better delivery than the three “actresses” that accompany her (to be fair, I’m sure the roles they get don’t require delivery to be the main thing to look for). It doesn’t take a Baby Einstein to figure out that there’s nothing new here and whether or not you make it to the predictable conclusion may depend on how well you take to the snappy innuendos (“They ain’t gonna bite, kid…that costs extra.”), fake tits and cheap surroundings. It may work on a rainy day and it may not be the worst of its kind but don’t take that as the most ringing of endorsements.

Body Count/Violence: 35. Only one of the many shootings in the film has any blood in it so don’t go looking for any fine, technical mastery behind the violence here. It’s all shooting all the time though there is a strangling via a belt in there as well.

Sexuality/Nudity: If this movie had a whore’s name, it’d be “Tits McGee”! Softcore/direct to video vets Kimberly Kelley, Rochelle Swanson and Felicity Waterman all bare their ample assets in several scenes of undress. Funny…women must have had great plastic surgeons in the Old West judging by the fake tittery on display. LeBrock, being the “name” actress here, shows nothing but does strut around in many a lacy lingerie set. Though there are many topless scenes, only a few have prolonged sexuality going on.

Language/Dialogue: None.

How bad was it?:
Not many reviews about this but they all seem pretty mixed. If you follow the venerable Joe Bob Briggs’ review and just keep your tongue firmly in your cheek, you’ll find it more favorable.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Sunset Films International produced this and it was released sometime in 1995. Not much else to go by, really.

Film: **/*****
Entertainment value: ***1/2/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Action Mutant presents...Our favorite Action films turned into Video Games (and the franchises that weren't)!

In writing about these films and looking up stuff about them, you tend to find some things that are pretty "out there". One of these things that I'm very thankful I have stumbled onto are the plethora of video game clips on Youtube. Seeing that VGs are supposedly our #2 purveyors of mindless violence, it would only be right that they are so closely linked to the entity at the top spot...Action Films!

Now, I don't believe that video games turned into films work. I have a theory for that but I would like to save it for another time. Films that are eventually converted into some sort of video game have turned in mixed results, namely because of the same things that happen when a filmmaker decides to do a film about a comic book. "He doesn't use that gun in the comic!" "In one frame, his tights are fuscha but his tights are magenta in the comic!" "I know all of this shit and yet...I NEVER LEARNED HOW TO READ!" Either that or the game has really shitty graphics, shitty gameplay and is...well, just shitty. In this TAM special, I'll bring up a few examples of the video game exploits from the films I reviewed and whether they're worth going on ebay for a cheap copy.


Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu
Produced by HudsonSoft
Released by Nintendo; December 1990.

I knew NOTHING of this gem before two months ago, which I found surprising and disappointing. Despite being unknown in America (aside from two failed vehicles and the two Cannonball Run films), Jackie got a game released by Nintendo though its not as surprising as you would think considering Jackie's popularity in Asia. This looks and plays like a low rent Super Mario Bros. but the graphics aren't horrible for their 8 bit trappings. They even have Jackie saving his sister for the game's plot, which is fairly similar to Mario saving the Princess. The game seems to have Jackie kicking a lot of enemies, ranging from frogs to swordsmen to TIGERS! Now, that's hardcore! Chan only kicks and punches for his offense but it looks like a fun play. Boo to the bonus level though, which just consists of Jackie jumping clouds in an effort to pick up points for the most consecutive number of clouds jumped. (***/*****)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PBS48gjT9c
There's even a totally, bitchin' 90s commercial!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mx3OzWLB_Eo

Dick Tracy
Produced by Bandai America
Released by Nintendo in 1990.

I was all over this game back in the day, when I was obsessed with pretty much anything from the Tracy movie. Obviously, the big media campaign worked on a lot of us! This was a fair, little game that had some good gameplay and a good premise as well (Tracy has to solve a case for each stage by picking up clues at different buildings). Along the way, he punches and shoots his way through baddies (sometimes using a Super Punch boxing glove to send enemies spinning! Badass I know, right?). The colors are good, though a bit muted (but anything would be compared to the film) and the the music is pretty neat. The only problem is with the navigation through the city, as most of the deaths while playing as Tracy come from trashing the car or ditching it into a pier because the high speed chases are near impossible to pull off at first. (***1/2/*****)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mf8S53gQ7w0

Lethal Weapon
Produced by Ocean
Released by Nintendo in 1992.

Yes, about 5 years after the original LW came out, a game based on the film was put out in conjunction with the release of the third one in the series. The game has three missions and both Riggs and Murtaugh are playable characters, shooting at everyone from guerillas to somersaulting ninjas! There's nothing terribly remarkable about the game from the video I saw, other than Riggs turning completely white when gaining a power up and becoming invincible. This actually reminded me of another one of my fav NES games growing up, P.O.W.: Prisoners of War...except that game kicked ass. (**/*****)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0e_iXxYC4U

Robocop
Produced by Data East; Ocean
Released by Nintendo in 1989, Commodore 64 in 1987.

The steel server of the public seemed to be tailor made for a video game run and Nintendo knew this, making games based on all three of the films (as well as Robocop vs. The Terminator!). One big turkey shoot unfolds, as Robo strolls through the city streets and plugs bad guys running at him, jumping out from behind him or shooting from windows. Robo even goes back to the firing range for "recalibration" when his destruction percentage goes down! The one fucked up thing? Robo shoots dogs! Honest to God guard dogs and Robo mows them down like the rest! What's his major malfunction? Unfortunately, all of the villains are generic (except ED-209) and Clarence Boddicker does not show up to inform us that the Tigers are playing (TO-NIGHT!) and that he never misses a game. The better looking game though seems to be the Commodore 64 version put out the same year as the film, though its essentially the same game that the Nintendo game would become. Dig that music, too! (***1/2/*****)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbMfCpD8gk4

Death Wish 3
Produced by Gremlin Graphics Software
Released by Commodore 64 in 1987.

Nintendo never had the nuts to release a Death Wish game but the underrated C64 put out this little known nugget. And what a violent nugget it is! The game has Paul Kersey run through the streets and (much like the frenetic finale of DW 3) blast criminals into bloody piles of goo. And that holds quite literally here, as the bad guys are actually shot into bloody heaps by Kersey's trusty shotgun and/or pistol. When the bad guys are too close, Kersey just uses the gun to beat his victims into said piles of goo. The baddies are even lured into the ambushes by hookers hiking their pixelated skirts up (how GTA-ish). The only qualm I find is that once Kersey loses his ammo, he is rousted by police. The man was adept with his fists too, you know! (****/*****)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sjkf9ApMjyU


I'm sure I'll uncover more rare and hilarious finds in the future, so this irregular column will show up again for sure!

Joe Burrows

Thursday, April 3, 2008

No Contest II: Access Denied

The Action Mutant…
doesn’t know what to do when Shannon Tweed doesn’t get naked.


No Contest II: Access Denied


review by Joe Burrows


Perspective:
Every red blooded male knows the name Shannon Tweed by now. Those that only know of her as Gene Simmons’ current woman (risky proposition, considering his crotch has more DNA on it that a dollar bill) may not be aware that she was once the queen of the direct to video/erotic thriller. You know, it’s not quite a porno but it’s not quite a movie you can take seriously, either. She was in about 50 of those during the 90s and you could almost be sure that Ms. Tweed would doff her clothing at least three times during the course of whatever film she was in. Almost…

The Plot, as it was:
Tweed is Sharon Bell (the former Miss Galaxy turned hostess, turned terrorist dispatcher in the original No Contest), an action film actress visiting her sister (Jayne Heitmeyer) at the upscale art gallery she works at. Sharon’s film crew, led by director Jack Terry (Bruce Payne), drop by to scout the location for their next shoot. Everything’s interrupted when faux art dealer Erich Dengler (Lance Henriksen) and his team storm the place and take it under control. They want to smuggle Nazi nerve gas out of the museum that is hidden in a statue Dengler imported in. Of course, Sharon escapes from the rest and becomes Jane McClane and takes out Dengler’s crew one by one. Can she be stopped? Can she and her estranged sister work together? Why is she still in clothing?

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Just to get it out of the way…Shannon Tweed does not get naked. Not even close. Though that will cement about 90% of your opinions, No Contest II is still kinda, sorta viewable in a “its 2 a.m. and it’s either this or the infomercial on the Ron Propeil grills” kind of way. It’s totally dumb, far fetched escapist fare that thankfully doesn’t go on too long (87 minutes) and at least has the benefit of good casting on its side. Tweed works on a tongue in cheek level and it’s nice to have Payne as a good guy for once. It takes everyone about ten seconds to realize THE Henriksen is the villain of the piece but he’s on target as usual, turning the normal bad guy soliloquy into artful prose. He’s easily the best part of the film, which is basically “Die Hard in an art museum” and complete with all of the usual clich├ęs (villains that are too chatty, everyone becomes MacGyver, etc.). If you’re not excited by that prospect, you may want to move on though it’s not the worst of its kind.

Body Count/Violence: 9. Despite its low budget, No Contest II does dispatch of its characters pretty well. We’re talking impaling, electrocution, slit throats, beatings, flesh melting gas, dart shots, and just straight out shooting. THE Henriksen may also be the world’s best acting critic…ever! You’ll see.

Sexuality/Nudity: None. Tweed gets her skirt pulled off but she’s wearing black opaque tights so if you want to see what made her famous, rent one of the 250 “erotic thrillers” she’s done.

Language/Dialogue: Kind of strong at times.

How bad was it?:
It’s a low budget, Die Hard rip off, so it’s not going to be a critical darling by any standards. The few reviews I read put it as just “ok”.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Norstar Entertainment, purveyor of many a Canadian B movie, released No Contest II on video in America on 2/17/98.

Film: *1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ***/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

Cold Sweat (1970)

The Action Mutant…
says “Jeezy Creezy! What’s going on here?”


Cold Sweat (1970)

review by Joe Burrows


Perspective:
I know this is what everyone (and I) has been waiting for…more Bronson! The lack of Old Stoneface can be explained by the fact that I watched most of the Bronson stuff I have before I launched these writings. As I mentioned a while back, he was kind of the inspirations for these writings and you’d probably be right in guessing I have a slight bias toward him. Now I can tell the shit from the shineola most of the time but when it comes to Charlie, I’m more apt to watch it all the way through than most other star’s pics. Take it from someone that wrote their Film History paper on Charles Bronson in college.

The Plot, as it was:
Bronson stars as Joe Moran, a guy who rents boats out on the harbors of France and lives the good life with his wife Fabienne (Liv Ullmann) and daughter Michele (Yannick de Lulle). Their tranquility is interrupted when a group of criminals from Joe’s past show up. Years ago, Joe was Joe Martin, soldier and getaway driver for the crooked soldiers during a robbery. However, when one of them killed a guard, Joe ditched them and they were all arrested. Led by the corrupt Capt. Ross (James Mason), the gang blackmails Joe by kidnapping his family and prompting him into doing one more job. However, we all know that Joe Bron…I mean, Moran doesn’t play by normal people’s rules.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Cold Sweat is a tight, compact kind of film. Like many of Bronson’s vehicles, it’s not entirely memorable but it doesn’t overstay its welcome either. Charlie actually gets to act a good deal in this one, displaying that unmistakable charisma with a natural delivery in some solid, emotional situations. Another aspect that will strike viewers’ interest is the casting oddities that are sprinkled throughout. You won’t see another film out there that has James Mason as a military captain with a Southern accent, Jill Ireland as a kooky hippie and Ingmar Bergman muse Liv Ullmann as a housewife opposite Charles Bronson! Those amusing turns alone make for an interesting curio, even if the rest of the film is right on the line. The story is nothing new and the pacing does get a bit slowed at times, not to mention a few errors in plotting. Nevertheless, Cold Sweat is entertaining for the most part and builds to a pretty decent end with some good, tense scenes. Occasional James Bond & Bronson director Terrence Young also brings out the best of his French locales and odd atmosphere. And did I mention JAMES FUCKING MASON SPEAKING IN A SOUTHERN ACCENT? Why are you still reading this then?

Body Count/Violence: 5. There was some initial confusion with the number, as Joe seemingly offs two mobsters only for them to return a few scenes later. That’s one thing later Bronson films would correct; any confusion as to who was dead. Anyway, there’s some bloody shooting, stabbing, fighting, flare gun play, and one of those 70s car chases that goes one for about 10 minutes and causes some vehicular mishaps.

Sexuality/Nudity: A woman is shown briefly topless in an early scene. There’s also special mention of the seemingly constant up skirt shots of de Lulle, as the DoP seems to take full advantage of showing the panties of a supposedly 12 year old girl.

Language/Dialogue: Just mild stuff. No taking advantage of the language in the pre-PG-13 era.

How bad was it?:
Most critics put it on par with any run of the mill Bronson pic, which is to say it has its share or bad reviews. Some find it favorable, as most of Bronson’s European efforts were.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
French distributors produced Cold Sweat (or De la part des copains) in 1970 and it was released in that country in December of that year. It was released in America by Emerson Film Enterprises in June of 1974, roughly a month before Death Wish hit theaters. No box office/budget numbers are known but this one is fairly easy to find and a favorite of the $1 DVD type.

Film: **1/2/*****
Entertainment value: ***1/2/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.