Tag Archives: action

Stephen Hopkins’ Judgment Night

Who remembers Judgment Night? I do, and I’m only randomly bringing it up because I had a dream about it last night where I was a character in the movie, and if you’ve seen this thing you’ll know just how nerve wracking any dream about it would be. It’s one of those greasy 90’s ‘all in one urban night from hell’ thrillers that’s pulpy, over the top, formulaic yet absolutely captivating, in this case because of the villains. So basically there’s four dysfunctional yuppie bros headed from the burbs into darkest downtown Chicago for the basketball game. They’re played by Cuba Gooding Jr, Emilio Estevez, Jeremy Piven and Stephen Dorff, four varied and interesting personalities who clash even before conflict finds them. On their way home through an especially gross part of town they accidentally witness a gang of criminals full on execute a disloyal homie, and from there the thugs make like jackals and hunt our boys through the nightmarish urban jungle with plans on slaughtering them one by one. Now, the top dog thug is played by Denis Leary, who is a solid choice because even when he’s playing good guys you still get the sense you can’t really trust him. He’s a verbose, sociopathic animal here and he’s backed up by perennial badass Peter Greene as his second in command, the two of them making genuinely memorable villains. Director Stephen Hopkins (The Ghost & The Darkness, Predator 2, A Nightmare On Elm Street 3) has real talent in evoking thick, tangible atmosphere be it jungle, urban sprawl or dreamscape and he makes the slums of Chicago look like a fiery vision of hellish alienation and hidden danger around any cluttered, garbage strewn alley or rooftop. The script mostly follows the breathless, brutal pursuit motif but there’s also some clever bits of social satire thrown in, particularly in Leary’s scenery chewing dialogue and rants. The fun lies in watching him and Greene stalk, terrorize and try to kill the four bros though, and it’s all executed very well. Good times.

-Nate Hill

The road to DOOMED: An Interview with Adrian Milnes by Kent Hill

45221818_10158061233408975_1769099876785717248_o

Here I give you, dear listeners, a success story in close proximity to me. A few hours east of the old ranch lives a screenwriter who has recently exploded on the scene as part of an exciting batch of cinema, emanating from a dynamic producing duo with a lucrative business model who have created a haven from bold genre movies.

Adrian, like most of us born with the creative itch (further exacerbated once bitten by the movie bug) knows, all too well, that the road from script to screen can be perilous. Anxious waiting, exhaustive rewrites, all part and parcel of this business we’re in. All the turmoil, all the hours of doubt and disharmony can however, be washed away in the instant the house lights fade into darkness and those long nights of many words come alive on screen. The journey at an end, and the audience entertained.

94517703_10163553137550595_3258691270586925056_o

He traveled from the old empire, through Asia, till at last coming to settle here in the colonies. And it was here, in the sun-burnt land of Down Under that the distant stars and the bright lights of Hollywood glisten in the eyes of the dreamers, their twinkling transformed into a siren song, biding the likes of Adrian (and the rest of us) to take his place among them.

But it is no longer a mere wish upon a star for Mr Milnes. His hard work, determination and dedication to learning how the tricks of the trade blend with the troupes of the industry. All artists chiefly need a patron, and if you put yourself where the lightning strikes, as Adrian has, you might find yourself with green light and a go-picture.

80679198_10162905971780595_7949420595819577344_n

Due to a recent technical misadventure, unfortunately, my recording of our chat was lost. Thankfully Adrian has been a good sport and we have the interview to present in the written form below. The tale of the local lad who made good with his BRIDGE OF THE DOOMED, and the currently in post, BLOODTHIRST. The world is about to receive a healthy dose of the cinematic musings of the man who never gave up, turning what can potentially be a road to doom into victory lane.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you, Adrian Milnes

KH: Tell us a little about your love of cinema that has endured and seen you pursue this dream to write for the screen?

AM: I’ve always watched any movie I could find. When I was a kid in England the BBC used to show lots of old movies, and I watched as many as I could . The first movie that truly terrified me was an old Basil Rathbone movie, The Pearl Of Death. I was only nine, but I can still remember Rondo Hatton’s scenes. Later on, living in Hong Kong I developed a love for 90s Hong Kong movies. A lot of them were very small scale stories that could have happened two streets over, and you would never have known about it. The more you live in Hong Kong, the more you see and hear about things that most people don’t notice. A friend of mine was married to a Police Officer, and she really opened my eyes to a lot of things that happened there.

KH: Did you learn (undertake academic study) or was it picked up piecemeal as you progressed in your quest to master the screenplay?

AM: I just taught myself. I made a lot of mistakes in the early days that a course would have steered me away from.

KH: There are significantly more avenues today for emerging screenwriters to parade their talent; can you tell us about your early experiences in attempting to showcase your work?

AM: There are plenty of opportunities now for screenwriters, but they all cost money, and a lot of them aren’t worth it. There are so many competitions, coverage services and hosting sites, not all of them reputable. Ink Tip obviously worked out for me. It also allows you to post loglines for short scripts, which is a great way for new screenwriters to start. Sending out emails to producers can occasionally work, but they’re deluged with emails, and if you’ve got no credits it can be hard to stand out.

KH: You are two movies in as a scribe for the rapidly expansive might of the Mahal Empire, a radically successful crowd funded production company. Tell us about Bridge of the Doomed, the evolution of the screenplay and working with this dynamic producing duo?

117444705_10164115925630595_5404068677810080739_n

AM: Michael Mahal read my script on Ink Tip, and straight away knew he could make it. Most producers option a script for a year, and see if they can get any interest from a director, then actors, and finally investors. He was so confident he bought the script outright, and the audition call went out a couple of weeks later. He was right to be confident, as straight away there was an incredible amount of interest from investors. When they had raised enough money Michael suggested starting the story earlier at the army camp, and having Robert LaSardo as the General. Later on they were able to afford Michael Pare as well. My original script had eight speaking parts, and we ended up with over sixty. Naturally this meant a lot of rewriting, but it was worth it. I never would have written it like this, as the budget would have been way too high for most indie producers.

KH: They say the more you write makes you a better writer; what has your journey leading up to this break, and since then having written through two successful productions now altered what you thought you knew about screenwriting?

AM: I started off writing Science Fiction, then later moved on to Crime Fiction. I sold a few short stories then gave up. At that point I really didn’t think I could write movies, it just seemed so far out of reach. Having written a lot of screenplays I can now instinctively get things like pacing and structure correct. I re-read my first ever screenplay recently, thinking I might be able to tidy it up and sell it. Of course it was dreadful.

KH: Even guys who have been at this game at the highest levels say it never gets easier; has this jump into the professional ranks made it easier (in your opinion) to present specs to potential elements to possibly mount production?

AM: Once again I’ve been lucky. Since Bloodthirst, I’ve written four scripts for Massimiliano Cerchi, the originator of that movie. The first of them is going to be filmed in October with Louis Mandylor, Michael Pare and Robert LaSardo. Having that first credit definitely helps in being considered, but it’s still no guarantee. There are plenty of professional writers with huge gaps in their IMDb listing. They’ve probably sold scripts in that time that didn’t get made, but it gives an indication of what it’s like.

KH: A young guy approaches you and tells you he wants to be a screenwriter. What do you tell him?

AM: Plan your life as though you’ll never make a cent from writing. Most writers don’t sell anything, and those that do rarely make enough to live off. The middle of the market has been contracting for a long time, it’s mostly $100 million or micro budget movies now. Even if they do sell a script, it might only be for $1k. All the good things I’ve achieved in my life came through working as an electronics technician. Every writer needs to know what producers are looking for, the market is constantly changing. Right now the big thing is having scripts that can be filmed in a Covid safe way, and producers are always looking for single location scripts with just a few characters. Those types of stories are really hard to do well, but it’s great training just to try.

KH: A major Hollywood studio, out of the blue, calls you up and says they are going to spend whatever it takes to produce your next screenplay….but it has to be a remake?

AM: Some classics shouldn’t be remade, but there are plenty of near-forgotten movies that are ripe for a remake. Truth is though, if there was a lot of money involved, I wouldn’t turn anything down.

There you have it folks. Hollywood dreams are more than attainable, you just have to want it more than the next person, be willing to fail, be willing to fight, but most importantly be adventurous, and ready to write…

Simon Wincer’s The Phantom

I love big, bold, colourful feature film updates of vintage 1930’s pulp comic books or radio plays and Simon Wincer’s The Phantom is just an absolute blast of escapism that’ll put a smile on your face no matter what. These days Billy Zane has become kind of a forgotten comedic totem but people forget what genuine charisma and star power he once had, and he rocks it here as Kit Walker aka The Phantom, a jungle born superhero descended from a long line of Phantoms before him, thus creating the reputation of being immortal, at least in his enemy’s eyes. Clad in a swanky purple suit with dual colt pistols and joined by a horse and a trusty wolf named ‘Devil’ at his side, he’s probably one of the most aesthetic superheroes I’ve ever seen in a film and I wish this led to sequels. Here he must protect three sacred skulls with supernatural power from power mad, psychopathic NYC tycoon Xander Drax (Treat Williams), fighting side by side with intrepid reporter Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson) through a series of exciting adventure set pieces in incredibly exotic, gorgeous locations around the world. Zane is terrific and gives The Phantom just the right mixture of cavalier attitude, genuine empathy and swashbuckling magnetism, plus he rocks that suit solidly, which given this suit, not all actors could do and be taken seriously at it. Williams is a hammy hoot as Drax but his thunder is ever so slightly stolen by two terrific secondary villains: James Remar as Quill, a sort of evil doppelgänger version of Indiana Jones and Catherine Zeta Jones as Sala, an impossibly bad tempered femme fatale who has the hots for the Phantom and goes through a hilariously conflicted meltdown mid-film. The supporting roster is excellent and includes Bill Smitrovitch, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, Leon Russom, Jon Tenney, David Proval, John Capodice and the great Patrick McGoohan as the ghost of Phantom’s father who appears to him as voice of counsel and occasionally wingman. I thought this was just a brilliant good time, a solid, beautifully retro old school adventure flick and I was disappointed to read that it was a box office flop. It’s like the Lone Rangers, the Indiana Joenses, The Rocketeers, the Sky Captains, just this rollicking old world American pulp hero aesthetic that translates so well into action adventure in cinema. Oh and watch for a sly reference to William Friedkin’s Sorcerer. Great film.

-Nate Hill

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was my first theatrical viewing in a while this past weekend and damn it’s great to be back in the cinema!!What impressed me most about the film (and trust me, there wasn’t a second I *wasnt* impressed) is that despite a generous two hour runtime and a steady, slow build to the bulk of the action/horror there’s never a moment that doesn’t feel taut, efficient and streamlined, even in scenes meant only to build character. The east coast town of Amity feels cozy, lived in and primed for summer as the film starts off, elegiac and wistful in that small town way that Spielberg seems to be so specific at nailing. The rest and relaxation is of course literally cut short by the arrival of a nasty great white shark with notions on gustation rather than relaxation for the duration of it’s summer, which it plans to spend devouring anyone who wades out too far from the shoreline and spewing their mangled remains all over the Cape Cod Coast. The holy trinity of shark hunting badasses slowly comes together in the form of jumpy local police chief Brody (Roy Scheider), wiry marine biologist Hooper and crusty old sea captain Quint (Robert Shaw). The film feels so damn organic from scene to scene, and the multiple nail biting shark attack sequences are laced together with genuinely touching moments of family life, charmingly benign comic relief and swashbuckling bravery in the face of both menace from the Great White and ineptitude from the dumb-tit town mayor (Murray Hamilton) and his increasingly ludicrous wardrobe. John Williams’s iconic score does it’s creepy, crawly trademark thing but also gets really classically orchestral in other sweeping vista scenes and even hits some delightfully quirky notes later on. The shark effects are never anything short of breathtaking from POV to real life footage to animatronic and whatever else Spielberg employed, I believed that thing was there for real. The three main performances are excellent with Shaw stealing the show as he often did in a playful, cantankerous and eventually quite touching portrayal of the ‘mad seaman hunter’ archetype. I especially loved a monologue he delivered with uncanny charisma about his character being aboard the ill fated USS Indianapolis back in the war, it’s a sobering (literally) piece of dialogue that simultaneously develops all three characters as one talks and two listen, strengthens their bond right before throwing them into dangerous waters and is my favourite scene of the film. I can’t think of much wrong with this picture, it’s one hundred percent effective summer blockbuster action/horror/adventure entertainment and I can see why it has become a solid gold classic. Excellent film.

-Nate Hill

Peter Berg’s The Rundown

Dwayne Johnson is everywhere these days since his beautifully rendered CGI debut as the scorpion king way back when, but he’s just Dwayne Johnson now, without a Rock in sight in those above title credits. The Rundown, however, is an old enough film to to still feature his initial credit of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and has to be my favourite feature film he has ever headlined, giving him an unbelievably fun, quite likeable character to play in his very own Indiana Jones movie that while I sometimes wish would have lead to a franchise, I also concede that half the film’s irresistible appeal is in its singularity: it’s there for a blast of a ninety minute slot and then runs off into the jungle again without overstaying it’s welcome.

Dwayne The Rock is Beck here, an infamous Miami bounty hunter with the discretion and decorum to call himself a ‘retrieval expert’, which sounds more palatable. He’s no less ruthless and efficient than your garden variety street bounty hunter though, as we see in a brutal opening brawl where he kicks the absolute fuck out of the entire Miami Dolphins starting lineup in a nightclub. After this fitting introduction, Beck is sent to the jungles of South America by his asshole mobster handler (a scene stealing Bill Lucking) to ‘retrieve’ the man’s wayward son, played by Sean William Scott in a performance so energetic that squirrels would have a tough time catching up. The lush Hawaiian scenery where they chose to film is a huge plus as Beck navigates a sweaty, corruption laced frontier town under the iron fisted, maniacal rule of tyrannical despot Hatcher, played by Christopher Walken in a performance so ‘out there’ that… well I can’t even compare it to an animal like Scott’s because Chris’s brand of energy is something all it’s own. Rock, Scott and local bar owner Rosario Dawson are forced to band together with the locals and take down Hatcher plus his army of bad dudes in a race to find some mysterious artifact (gato!) worth untold fortunes.

This is helmed by Peter Berg who, especially these days, has quite a knack for making action films about as fun as they can be, even within the constraints of a PG-13 rating found here. Beck’s mantra is to not use guns and he keeps this up as long as reason allows, but when there’s a literal western showdown he’s forced to take up arms and when he does… man the camera can barely keep up with the fluid choreography as otherworldly Scottish bush pilot Ewen Bremner eerily recites Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do not go gentle into that goodnight’ in the background with his indecipherable brogue like some demented Greek/Scottish chorus. Walken is an unbalanced, raving whack-job as Hatcher, it’s one of his most playful, exuberant villain turns in an extensive rogues gallery and he makes the most out of his screen time like a dog off the chain. This is just such a fun flick, not a serious bone in its body, a bawdy jungle romp with machete wielding mercenaries, horny baboons, indigenous Kung fu warriors, kinetically shot action set pieces, gorgeous scenery, buckets of deliciously lowbrow comedy, a blink and you’ll miss it Arnold Schwarzenegger cameo and more. Always a rocking great time.

-Nate Hill

Michael Bay’s The Island

I remember the summer of 2005 so clearly: I had just gotten back from a month of summer camp, I had seasons tickets to PlayLand and the big movie event of the summer for me was Michael Bay’s The Island, which was released this week of that year and will always hold a special place in my heart as a formative, nostalgic and utterly ‘summer’ filmgoing experience of my childhood. Reworking a classic ‘clones on the run’ motif and injecting it with his trademark dose of spectacular visual effects and action filmmaking, Bay tells an exciting, thought provoking, rousing and propulsive science fiction saga of clones Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johannsson) on the run from the only life they’ve ever known inside a giant utopian society where they are told their one purpose is to go to the fabled ‘Island,’ when in reality the truth is of course far more sinister and morally egregious. They are pursued by conflicted Black Ops mercenary Laurent (Djimon Hounsou, haunted, badass charisma on a terrific low burn) at the behest of pseudoscience guru Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean with quiet malevolence on full blast), an amoral bastard with a bad case of God Complex. Their journey takes them from this holographic underground hive out into the California desert and eventually to a stunning, stylized Los Angeles of the future where they learn the truth about themselves, the state of the world and make attempts to rescue the multitude of clones still stuck in the facility daw away. Bay has his troupe of actors and we see wonderful supporting work from a scrappy Steve Buscemi, Kim Coates, Ethan Phillips, Shawnee Smith, Chris Ellis, Max Baker, Glenn Morshower, Tom Everett and heartbreaking Michael Clarke Duncan as an ill fated clone. One of my favourite aspects is a thundering, soul stirring original score composed by Steve Jablonsky that crescendos in a finale suite reaching heights of emotional overflow and adrenal stimulation I didn’t think possible in the medium of film fused with music until then. I couldn’t care less what you think of Bay or his work, he’s one of the most influential and treasured filmmakers for me, for growing up watching films with my family and exploring what could be done in the realms of action/science fiction storytelling. The Island is an extraordinary piece, one of my most cherished ‘summer at the movies’ memories and one hell of a damn fine film.

-Nate Hill

Director’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Joel Schumacher Films

Joel Schumacher was so much more than “the guy who made colourful 90’s Batman flicks.” He himself has said he never meant to be pigeonholed as a superhero guy and if you look at his legendary, prolific career you will see an incredible variety of work including war films, romantic comedy/dramas, musicals, buddy cop flicks, courtroom dramas, suspense thrillers, splatter horror, biopics and more. He was one of the most versatile, dynamic personalities ever to grace the director’s chair and put out superb content in Hollywood. Here are my top ten favourites films of his!

10. The Client (1994)

This John Grisham hybrid of courtroom drama and suspense thriller sees Tommy Lee Jones as an intense DA using an underage murder witness as leverage in a huge mob trial, while the crime syndicate tries to snuff him. It’s slick, high powered stuff with terrific performances all round and plenty of wicked suspense.

9. Blood Creek aka Town Creek (2009)

Chances are you’ve never even heard of this one but it’s such a loopy hidden horror gem. Michael Fassbender plays an evil, whack job Nazi with occult fascination who zombifies himself using evil magic spells and awakens a century later when two small town brothers (Dominic Purcell and Henry Cavill) must do battle with him. There’s buckets of blood n’ gore, a nice grinding low budget aesthetic, bone armour, stunning black & white flashbacks, folk horror, Lovecraftian vibes and more. It’s tough to find but more than worth seeking out.

8. Phone Booth (2002)

One of the original claustrophobic chamber piece thrillers, a moral ad executive Colin Farrell finds himself trapped under sniper fire by an unhinged maniac (Kiefer Sutherland, mostly heard, briefly scene, supremely scary) and forced through a gauntlet of psychological terror as a hostage negotiator (Forest Whitaker) tried to deescalate the situation. It’s a slick, unnerving thriller that’s shot with momentum and spacial dynamics with a very strong central performance from Farrell.

7. Batman & Robin (1997)

Much maligned and infamously cheesy, this is actually a ton of fun and showcases Joel’s uncanny knack for baroque, neon, unbelievably eclectic production design. Sure it’s silly as all hell and the batsuit has nipples but the sheer level of artistry put into set, costumes and scenery is something otherworldly you behold. Give this another chance.

6. Veronica Guerin (2003)

This heartbreaking true story sees a superb Cate Blanchett portray Irish investigative journalist Guerin, who doggedly tried to expose and take down a dangerous interconnected drug empire during the 90’s. It’s dramatically rich, straightforward and has one of the most emotionally affecting endings I’ve seen to any film.

5. Falling Down (1993)

Michael Douglas has had enough and isn’t going to take it anymore as one lone businessman who takes on all the injustices and pet peeves he finds along his journey through one simmering hot Los Angeles day while a cop with a hunch (Robert Duvall) hunts him down. This is a brutal character study, scathing social satire, dry black comedy and unique oddball of a film that has since become a huge cult classic and is Douglas’s personal favourite in his career.

4. 8MM (1999)

A tough, ruthless film to sit through, Nic Cage plays a private investigator who journeys down a rabbit hole of sexual depravity and scum to ascertain the authenticity of a spooky alleged snuff film found in some old dead guy’s attic. This is a rough, fucked up film but it’s also a rich, jet black thriller with excellent supporting work from Joaquin Phoenix, Peter Stormare, Anthony Heald and James Gandolfini.

3. A Time To Kill (1996)

Powerful, star studded, thought provoking and humanitarian, this is another Grisham adaptation revolving around the trial of a black man (Samuel L. Jackson) in the south on trial for murdering his daughters rapists, defended by a white lawyer (Matthew McConaughey). It’s a difficult exploration of racial tensions that covers a broad spectrum of the community and ultimately feels like a battle for the region’s soul.

2. Batman Forever (1995)

This one is also highly undervalued, a colour shocked, garish homage to Batman of the 60’s with over the top villains, a surreal Gotham City straight from someone’s dreamscape and that epic, neon production design. This is a special film for me, it’s the first Batman movie I ever saw and one of those films I saw at such a young age that it’s images and impressions are imprinted onto my psyche in that otherworldly way you absorb art at a super young age, the age of absorption that cultivates the very best nostalgia years later.

1. The Phantom Of The Opera (2004)

This grand scale, rococo version of the broadway musical is a lush, passionate, sumptuous and beyond beautiful piece that I probably saw in theatres with my mom like eight times. It launched the careers of both Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum who are electrifying as The Phantom and Christine. One of the best film musicals ever produced and an all timer for me.

-Nate Hill

Exploring the Nic Cage B Grade Cinematic Universe with Nate: Arsenal aka Southern Fury

Colour me very pleasantly surprised with Arsenal, a spectacularly gory, engrossing and quite effective rural New Orleans crime saga that delivers the goods and then some. Nic Cage plays the bad guy here and I really mean a fucking *BAD* guy. The frantic, heavily character based and supremely entertaining story shows fierce momentum and follows construction entrepreneur JP (always nice to see Vinnie Chase get some decent work) as his fuckup criminal brother Mikey (Jonathan Schaech, always great) is kidnapped and held for ransom by the local crime boss, a twitchy, psychotic piece of work named Eddie King, played by Cage in a delightfully offbeat piece of character work that is the kind of funny/scary antagonist who makes a lasting impression. JP and Mikey grew up poor and rough and while their lives were never easy they always had each other, there’s a fierce love and bond of brotherhood that is written quite well, acted believably by the two and stands as the emotional core of the film. JP enlists the help of several underworld buddies to go up against Eddie including plainclothes vice cop Sal, played by a low key and terrific John Cusack who stands as moral conscious, sidekick and badass when he needs to be. This is a gruesomely violent film, the carnage filmed in broad sunny daylight and often in scrutinizing, Zach Snyder-esque slow motion, with multiple bloody gunfights, vicious bone splintering beatdowns and brutal fights, all shot competently and enthusiastically by director Steven C. Miller, and despite being cheekily gratuitous in areas it somehow just gets away with being that over the top by making the violence a lot of fun, the way Walter Hill or Sam Peckinpah cheekily pull off. Cage is a mad dog off the leash as Eddie King, this guy is a monster and just in case he wasn’t scary enough already the makeup department decided to slap a terrifying, knobby prosthetic nose on his face, an unsettling Pinocchio schnoz that makes him look like something Jim Henson dreamed up. He makes Eddie nuts but not in the “oh look Nic Cage is being nuts again” type way but legit puts work into the character until I believed I was watching ‘rural crime boss Eddie King freaking’ out and not ‘cash strapped Nic Cage monkey dancing for a paycheque freaking out.’ The brotherhood between our two leads is excellent and affecting, the action exciting and well staged, the setting specific and visually stimulating and the story well told. Oh and I might add that in some areas this is called ‘Southern Fury’ instead of ‘Arsenal’ which is another case of them taking a fucking amazing, perfect title and rebranding it with something way less impactful.. what the hell is up with that? Four Cages out of Five.

-Nate Hill

Exploring the Nic Cage B Grade Cinematic Universe with Nate: Tokarev aka Rage

Good god this one was depressing, like knowingly, on purpose, almost cheerfully fucking bleak, with no clear theme or message to wring out of it. It’s called Tokarev officially and was renamed Rage for North American distribution (don’t get me started) but it kinda works because the original title is only mentioned once in the film and so fleetingly I couldn’t even surmise who or what a Tokarev was and how it related to the story whatsoever. Nic plays reformed career criminal Paul Maguire here, an upstanding citizen forced to return to violent ways from the past when his teenage daughter is kidnapped and murdered. Assembling his two former buddies (Max Ryan and Michael McGrady, both badass and likeable) he launches a covert quest for revenge and justice that manages to somehow be both high octane and not very focused for… odd results. He’s hassled by a hotshot detective played by Danny Glover who literally is too old for this shit now and just seems disinterested, even in a monologue that’s meant to be introspective but comes across hilariously tone deaf and out of context to the conversation he and Cage are having. Peter Stormare shows up as a crime boss in a wheelchair and at first I didn’t want to admit to myself that any filmmaker would try and cast him as an Irish dude but the character’s name is Francis O’Connell and Peter’s usual brisk, eccentric Swedish twang is harried by a disastrous attempt at brogue and I just couldn’t with that casting decision man, and usually I’ll buy Peter in any role because the guy is an acting genius. Anyways I’ll give credit where it’s due: director Paco Cabezas has undeniable skill with action and there’s a few scenes that are impressively, kinetically staged with a sense of space and dynamics with the camera. The brotherly camaraderie between Cage, Ryan and McGrady feels quite authentic and is both well written and strongly acted by the three. But that’s about it man, this is a dour, punishingly violent film without the kind of impactful story to make any of it earned or worthwhile and a wannabe Mystic River twist ending that feels out of left field and very unconvincing. You’ll just feel shellshocked when all is said and done and get off the couch feeling like a truck hit you for no good reason. Two Cages out of five.

-Nate Hill

Exploring the Nic Cage B-Grade Cinematic Universe with Nate: Seeking Justice aka Hungry Rabbit Jumps

Here’s a fun idea for a running project I’ll do in the next few weeks: Lord knows I pay attention to B movies and that whole low budget world but when Nicolas Cage does them I sit up straight for some reason and am totally present. It’s funny because these days you have formerly high pedigree actors like Bruce Willis, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino all doing these second tier flicks simply because of the narrowing gap between what’s released theatrically and what goes directly to VOD or streaming (also they probably have grandchildren to shunt through Yale). That provides galaxies of weird, off the wall content for big league, once A List tough guys to sandbox in and I think it’s wonderful and always have a laugh when people wail and gnash their teeth and go “what happened to my boy’s career” well guess what bubs, they adapted and evolved to the ever shifting landscape of media entertainment and it’s natural. But for some reason Cage fits this B world like a glove and I was aghast to find that looking at his IMDb I’m woefully behind on the recent output, which I plan to fix in these coming weeks and do a series on the wild and wacky stuff he’s been up to, which I’ll dub the “Nic Cage B-Grade Cinematic Universe.”

First up is a slick flick called Hungry Rabbit Jumps from back in 2011, and the American distribution system just has to dumb down innovative titles like that into patronizing nonsense like ‘Seeking Justice’ which they re-titled this as for stateside release and it doesn’t help its case. It’s a fairly straightforward revenge/conspiracy/crime thriller that benefits a lot from the presence of Guy Pearce as the mysterious pseudo-antagonist. Cage plays a regular dude whose wife (January Jones, way younger than Nic in a sneaky trend in people casted as his spouses) is assaulted, and soon after they are approached by Pearce and his fancy suit, who offers to find and kill the assailant for them in return for a small ‘favour,’ collected somewhere down the line one day. They accept but when it comes time for that favour things get sticky and Pearce expects Cage to murder a man who he tells him is a no-good pedophile but really might be someone else. This all leads to the uncovering of a vast secret organization of well placed vigilantes who use the coded phrase ‘hungry rabbit jumps’ to make themselves known and Cage finds himself now intrinsically linked to their operation whether he likes it or not. It’s an interesting premise given the fairly pedestrian treatment but Nic and Guy get some nice tense moments to spar in and there’s enough action to keep pulses above flatline. I still wish they kept that title ‘Hungry Rabbit Jumps’ instead of fucking lame ass ‘Seeking Justice’ though like… come on man, learn how to read a room and support original flourishes like that instead of slapping it with a latter day Seagal level moniker. Three Cages out of five for this one.

-Nate Hill