There’s a whole bushel of ‘Most Dangerous Game’ films out there, tweaked versions of the same motif in which human beings are hunted for sport, and often large sums of money as well. Surviving The Game is probably the most bombastic and excessive one (John Woo’s Hard Target is the way to go if you want something slicker), but it’s a hoot of a flick, a dingy, mean spirited exploitation piece with an eccentric cast and thrills right up to the last scene. Ice T stars here under a giant heap of dreadlocks, playing a grumpy homeless man who is approached by an alleged social worker (Charles S. Dutton, intense) and offered help in the form of some vague rehab program way out in the woods. Soon he’s out in the woods at the remote retreat run by a sinister ex military Rutger Hauer, joined by other oddballs from all walks of life including F. Murray Abraham and a hopelessly coked out Gary Busey, who chews enough scenery that those giant teeth of his actually go to good use. This is no sabbatical though, as Ice soon finds out, and before he knows it he’s scrambling through the wilderness for his life as Hauer & Co. pursue him with a giddy amount of heavy artillery. The film isn’t interested in the morality or ethics of it’s concept, it’s here for a down n’ dirty romp and not much else, as long as you’re in popcorn mode you’ll get a kick out of it. Hauer is intense as ever, with some inspired costume choices and that ever present half smirk that signals danger and violence aren’t far off the horizon. Busey is certifiably, completely off his head, spouting monologues that weren’t even in the script (Hauer’s autobiography provides hilarious behind the scenes insight) and staring down everything that moves in true loosey Busey fashion. Throw in a manic John C. McGinley as well and you’ve got just about as much crazy as the film can handle. The combat hunting scenes really are impressive and thrilling, well staged stunts against a wilderness backdrop and raucous gunplay all round. An oddball of a flick, in the best way.
It’s refreshing to see that the R rated action comedy thrives in Hollywood, especially when there’s entries as balls out entertaining as The Hitman’s Bodyguard. I’ve read reviews saying that it’s a one joke affair, and while the crux of it does rest upon the cantankerous relationship between profane, shoot-from-the-hip contract killer Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. ‘Mothafucka’ Jackson) and uptight punk private security expert Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), there’s plenty of enjoyable tomfoolery afoot as a sideshow to their circus of a jaunt across Europe. The pair are perfect actors for a buddy comedy, both overly colourful in their own work and boosting each other’s energy levels to the max when onscreen together. The serviceable writing is also given the shot of obvious improv between them, which helps a lot too. Reynold’s Bryce is reluctantly tasked with shadowing Kincaid and protecting him from endless hordes of goons and Interpol stormtroopers, out to get him before he testifies at the world court against the former Belorussian president, a tyrannical, pro genocide monster played by Gary ‘scary’ Oldman, who indeed gets a couple very frightening moments to chew scenery. Bryce’s former flame (Elodie Young) is an Interpol hotshot who he resents for maybe ruining his career, and Kincaid’s wife (a riotous Salma Hayek, spewing profanity faster than bullets) is in the clink to try and smoke him out. There’s welcome character actor Joaquim De Almeida as Interpol’s casually corrupt deputy director, and a coked out cameo from Richard E. Grant too, to round out the impressive cast. The action comes at you non stop, plus they’ve milked their R rating and then some, with countless headshots, impaling, explosions, bloodletting, car chases and one exhaustive fight scene set in a hardware store where Reynolds finds some gruesomely inventive uses for various power tools. There’s even a bit of poignancy among all the cavalier carnage, as we see a somber backstory for Jackson give a bit of weight to the character. His carefree reckless abandon causes delicious friction with Ryan’s buttoned up, flustered manner, and the two are flat out hilarious. ‘Get triggered’, boasts the poster slogan, and indeed this is a flick that couldn’t care who it offends or irks, free in it’s own hyper violent world of beautifully implausible, brutally excessive violence and set pieces, and it’s some of the most fun at the theatre this year so far.
2015 was the year. I was in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia at our version of San Diego’s Comic Con: SuperNova. I was there peddling my books but, in the booth next to mine, something amazing was afoot.
Max Myint & Yuu Matsuyama
A giant banner held the image of the famous, or perhaps infamous Australian bush-ranger Ned Kelly; transformed and repackaged as vigilante, looking battle-damaged and bad-ass holding the severed head of a zombie in one hand and a loaded pistol in the other.
That image invoked more than history and cultural iconography. It spoke to me as a concept so simple, yet compellingly cinematic. He is one of our country’s most treasured pieces from the past in a fresh guise and pitted against a dark, futuristic dystopia where the undead have evolved and formed a society in which humanity is not only a minority, but is being systematically wiped out.
Max Myint leads the creative team, spearheading, if you will, the rise of this epic saga of the man called Ned. A talented writer, sculptor and world-builder, the gutsy, gritty dark realm that he has helped usher in is about to explode on November 10. In the midst of the stench of rotting flesh and the searing of metal is something that commands attention. I for one can’t wait to see Ned’s rise and rise continue, and Max and his talented team blast this thing out into the masses . . . and watch it catch fire.
The living have surrendered…
Except for one man…
They call him Ned!
Atomic Blonde is the annual adrenaline shot the action genre gets every year, if we’re lucky. Amidst carbon copy superhero extravaganzas, increasingly ridiculous Fast/Furious hemorrhages and head scratching animation ventures, the multiplex is a frustrating realm these days, but sometimes we are blessed with a good old fashioned hard-R action blitzkrieg that turns out to be a pure banger, lighting up the summer movie roster like neon fireworks. Blonde rides the wake that John Wick left behind, a refreshing, stylistic, no-holds-barred form of action storytelling that cheerfully pisses in the face of all things glossy and PG-13. Set in a frenzied Berlin days before the wall comes down and the Cold War freezes over, Charlize Theron is a breathtakingly sexy super spy with a very particular set of skills and a borderline nihilistic approach to espionage, as well as a massive bone to pick with certain factions of the enemy, who stay fairly hidden until the wicked chess game of a plot rounds it’s final curves. Tasked by a sneaky British intelligence honcho (Toby Jones) and a mysterious CIA Agent (John Goodman, excellent as always) she’s caught between all kinds of warring assets including the KGB, roaming German euro trash punks and a British rogue agent (James Macavoy) playing all sides at once. The plot serves action, to be sure, but it still takes itself seriously amidst all the punches, flying kicks, icepicks to the jugular and careening vehicular destruction. Theron is a primal piston of wanton violence and slinky sexual virility, throwing herself headlong into every action sequence with the kind of reckless abandon that makes you believe those bruises for real (apparently she busted a few ribs for real filming this, the absolute champ). The highlight is a bone shattering one take wonder of a staircase fight, a hapless Eddie Marsan bandaging a bullet wound with swaths of duck tape while Theron furiously dispatches several enemies using any means within arms reach, a spectacle that leads to glorious cringes once the hits get hard and critical and sharp objects start getting close to eyeballs and major organs. The soundtrack must be noted too, the filmmakers employing nostalgic melodies straight out of the 80’s to evoke time and place nicely, with everything from Nina’s 99 Luftballoons to The Clash’s London Calling and Queen’s Under Pressure coming into play. There’s also pretty much the hottest movie sex scene I’ve seen in years, as Theron and a bombshell of a French agent (Sofia Boutella) get slippery under the sheets in a neon soaked Berlin hotel room. This is an action film made by folks who are head over heels in love with the genre, and the passion shows. We never feel cheated, chaperoned or short changed, every ounce of this piece charged up to please the crowd and keep pulses thundering.
I’ve often mused on what it might have been like if my father had of worked in the movie business. Would I have have grown up with this addiction to cinema had that have been the case? Or would it have been different?
I’ve traveled beyond these grey hills, that surround the quiet town in which I reside, and I have seen the poor and unfortunate parts of this world. But you pause upon reflection of such experiences and remember, if you were born into such a life, would you know any different? It would simply be your life until to chose to break loose your shackles and go seeking?
For Chris Olen Ray movies were simply a part of his life; being raised by a filmmaker and being in his father’s films. But like all young people do at some point, they choose to rebel. Thus, Chris joined the military to get as far away from the movies as he could. He took the sea and saw something of the world before returning and realizing – what’s in the blood, stays in the blood.
Emerging from the shadow of his father (B-movie legend Fred Olen Ray), Chris soon amassed an impressive list of credits all his own. From horror to action, to the type of film that would not look out of place among his father’s credits; attacking multi-headed sharks and all-star, all-female mercenaries, these are just the tip of the iceberg.
It is as exciting to ponder his next cinematic chapter as it was to chat with Chris Olen Ray…
John Frankenheimer’s Dead Bang makes no apologies for the straight up, down n’ dirty, violently obnoxious ninety minutes of rural crime mayhem it throws at you, containing no lofty subtext, tongue in cheek send ups or heady plot twists, purely and simply Don Johnson wiping out a gang of backwoods white supremacists and pissing off every superior officer along the way. A cop film to it’s roots, it’s a refreshing little diversion for Frankenheimer, who is known for taking on genre outings with ambitious undertones. Johnson is a flippant big city cop sent to the sticks to smoke out some neo-nazi assholes who are running guns, killing folks and all that fun stuff. He’s paired with a hysterically fussy FBI handler (William Forsythe, cast against type and loving it), and at odds with the psychotic ringleader of this gang (real life drill instructor Frank Military, also a solid actor), who proves to be quite a fly in the ointment. The action is rough and tumble and thoroughly R-rated, the villains are formidably nasty and Johnson’s cheeky super cop is wearily exasperated most of the time, out for the count but just gripping the edge as he hunts these yokels and deals with red tape including a department appointed shrink (Bob Balaban) who he hilariously mocks for looking like the Monopoly Guy in the film’s funniest bit, a riotous interlude. There’s scattershot work from Penelope Ann Miller, Mickey Jones, Michael Jeter, Tate Donovan and Garwin Sanford as well. Not a well known effort from firebrand Frankenheimer (I’ve heard some unbelievable stories from this set) but a really enjoyable shoot em up that deserves a far better rep.
The first ten minutes or so of Tony Scott’s Days Of Thunder should be used to demonstrate the power of any new home theatre/speaker/sound system freshly harvested from Best Buy. As it opens on a piping hot stock car race-track in the midst of noonday sun festivities and preparations for the day’s events, Hans Zimmer’s explosive, patriotic thunderbolt of a score kicks in and you feel that mad rush of adrenaline reserved for only the most combustible, rabidly entertaining movie magic. It’s just too bad that the rest of the film can’t keep up with the level of energy on display in that whopper of a prologue, despite doing it’s very best. An obvious sister film and coattail hugger of Scott’s other ‘loud noises’ film Top Gun, there ain’t much to it other than screaming race cars and a daredevil Cole Trickle (Tom Cruise) trying to prove his sporting worth to various folks including the romantic interest, a doctor played by sexy Nicole Kidman and the sagely Yoda of stock car lore (Robert Duvall). He also has quite a few homoerotic run-ins with rival/partner Rowdy Burns (Michael Rooker is certainly someone I’d tag with the adjective rowdy), and of course races a whole bunch of race cars as well as crashes a few. You gotta hand it to cinematographer Ward Russell, as it can’t be an easy task to do crisply capture those vehicular torpedoes as they careen by at a zillion miles per hour, let alone immortalize the afternoon sun glancing off the Wonderbread sponsor logos so beautifully. Like I said, after that initial banger of an opening credits sequence, its run of the mill in terms of story, albeit dynamite in terms of stunts. Watch for work from Randy Quaid, Cary Elwes, Fred Dalton Thompson, John C. Reilly and mega-producer Don Simpson in a neat extended cameo. The real magic happens with Zimmer’s score though, go check it out on YouTube, as iTunes only has some weak retread by some philharmonic orchestra schmucks. Quite possibly one of the maestro’s best works.