Tag Archives: action

Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever


Big. Loud. Dumb. Hollow. Notorious train wreck and box office failure. Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever is all of these things, and yet somehow I still got a kick out of it, albeit in the shallow end of the speedometer. I know what you’re thinking.. “wow, another turd that Nate is polishing up with multiple syllable words to make it seem like less of a piece of shit.” Well, you’re not wrong. I fully concede that this is one huge glorious, post Mexican food pile of shit, but there’s something about it that pulls me in every time it shows up on SyFy or some such channel. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s one of those rare films that not only is shot in my hometown of Vancouver, but actually set here too. Mostly Vancity just doubles for Chicago, New York or any other Yankee metropolis, but director Kaos (yes that’s his name) chose to tell the story right here in my little burg. Speaking of story, or lack thereof, it’s one big shredded mess of a plot involving Ecks (Antonio Banderas) and Sever (Lucy Liu) two former federal agents out to get each other, eventually working together and then both becoming chumps in some ludicrous government conspiracy involving arch villain Gant (Gregg Henry, hammy as ever). It makes little to no sense, it’s so convoluted it prompts the viewer to throw their hands up in exhausted defeat and give up hope on any cohesion, instead letting a wave of shitty early 2000’s special effects and over elaborate, unwarranted stunt work to wash over them like a tidal wave of rejected video game cutscenes. And poor Vancouver, looking like a ghost town, just gets blown to fucking smithereens by these trigger happy, matrix wardrobed, scowling lunatics. I’d probably stay off the streets too if Lucy Liu massacring hordes of VPD officers was in the forecast, or on second thought maybe not, that sounds kind of hot. I’m rambling, but any review of this film has the right to get sidetracked and ramble as much as this pile of wanton sound and fury does for the entirety of its scant runtime. It’s disastrous to be sure, but does that stop me picking up the remote and switching over to something else when it’s on? Not really. Plus, despite the actual film, this has to have one of the coolest looking DVD cover posters ever designed. I mean, look at it. 

-Nate Hill

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The Art Of War


Everyone loves a Wesley Snipes flick. If it’s decent, that is, and these days he’s been churning out some sewer muck. Back in the day, however, he had some bangers, which includes The Art Of War. Wesley heads up an elite tactical team here, secretly employed by the United Nations, hired to do all kinds of cloak and dagger stuff, including securing trade deals, eliminating potential threats and maintaining cooperation from all sides. Run by a well spoken Donald Sutherland and Anne Archer, it’s a low key ‘fight fire with fire’ situation, until it all goes tits up and Snipes is framed for the murder of some bigwig Chinese dirtbag. Forced to contend with Triads, government factions and his own former partner gone rogue (Michael Biehn steals every scene, as usual), it’s a nice set up for a serviceable, above average action yarn. That Oriental influence always seems to make these thrillers seem cooler (ever seen Black Rain or Rising Sun?) which helps as well. Snipes and Biehn are livewires though and have a fantastic silenced pistol duel late in the third act, which is one slick showcase of a sequence. Not a whole lot to this one, but as an entertaining garden variety actioner, it holds up just fine. 

-Nate Hill

3000 Miles To Graceland


If I believed in guilty pleasures, which I don’t, 3000 Miles To Graceland would constitute as one, but I’m a pretty open book, avid fan of all sorts of films, and I either like something or I don’t, there’s no special category for things I’m too embarrassed to say I enjoy. This film is the very definition of unbridled fun, and greases up a pair Hollywood leading men stars for two of the meanest, sleaziest, down n’ dirtiest roles of their careers. Elvis is the name of the game here, pretty much every character spending the film in King costumes of varied colour and style, gathering in Vegas for one bloody shit show of a casino heist, then gloriously double crossing each other and running off into the desert with their ill gotten loot. Kevin Costner is demented brilliance as Murphy, a bad tempered, psychotic criminal who may literally be Presley’s long lost bastard child. Costner rarely gets to cut loose and grime it up like this and he milks every hair-gel soaked, chromed up second of it. He’s at odds with former partner in crime Zane, played with cold, sociopathic grace by Kurt Russell. It’s a hoot watching these two tough guys go to war on each other in high style, killing everything else that moves and seriously not giving one ounce of fucks the whole time. That’s pretty much all there is in terms of plot: a heist, and then one long, violent extended chase scene punctuated by character’s deaths every few miles. David Arquette, Ice T, Christian Slater and Bokeem Woodbine play their short lived cohorts, and they’re also pursued by a few wise-ass federal agents (Thomas Haden Church and Kevin Pollak) who are always one step behind. It’s the Kurt and Kevin show all the way though, and they both let it rip, two antagonists out to get each other in the worst ways, leaving a spectacular trail of wanton carnage and deliberate collateral damage in their sequin strewn wake. A total blast. 

-Nate Hill

Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire


How many shady, degenerate 70’s era Boston lowlifes does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Doesn’t matter, they’re too busy shooting at each other, the lightbulbs and everything that moves in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, the best film of the year so far. After an arms deal gone royally wrong, we get to spend a joyous, breezy hour and a half watching these halfwit scumbags blast each other to kingdom come in a not so abandoned warehouse, unfolding in real time and at a pace that has our pulses racing faster than the magazine clips can defecate shell casings. Wheatley’s output hasn’t been my cup of tea so far, but he’s won me over with this lighthearted, ballistic mini-masterpiece. It’s what I call a ‘low concept high concept’ flick, which I’m sure someone has said before, but suck it. A bunch of childish idiots in a roomful of heavy artillery, the bullets are bound to soon be flying as fast as the dry insults. The deal is simple: meet, sell a bunch of rifles to help the IRA cause, and be on their way. That’s not to be the case though, for as soon as one of them recognizes another party’s member from a violent scuffle prior, tensions mount until that first shot rings out. From there on in it’s a ‘childish game of paintball’ (to quote a friend) that escalates into a deafening fire fight filled with acidic humour and John Denver music, a hilariously counterintuitive soundtrack choice. Armie Hammer is priceless as Ord, cool as a cucumber and constantly lighting up joints mid-gunplay. Sharlto Cooley chews scenery as Vern, the preening peacock of the group, Brie Larson kicks ass and takes names, Cillian Murphy underplays the IRA consort while Michael Smiley, the butt of the geriatric jokes, gets in everyone’s face even before things go south. Patrick Bergin, Babou Ceesay, Noah Taylor, Enzo Cilenti and Jack Reynor also get their licks, but the performance of the film goes to Sam Riley, a criminally overlooked talent who’s been laying somewhat low recently. His character Stevo is indirectly the reason for all this mayhem, and he’s a walking disaster, the sleaziest little reprobate you can imagine. Riley plays him balls out and doesn’t hold back, I really wish we saw more of him in films these days. All of these bozos positively ventilate each other with bullets, no one not sustaining at least two or three gunshot wounds somewhere on their body, and once the Reservoir Dogs esque conclusion rolls around, we know that few will be left standing. Clocking in at a rapid fire ninety minutes, this is surefire entertainment for not only action fans, but anyone who loves movies, it’s a perfect example of the reason I go to the theatre. Cheerfully violent, casually profane and hysterically unapologetic. Just the way I like em’.

-Nate Hill

The Hidden


The Hidden is the kind of flick that makes you sit back, sink a little deeper into the couch, take a long swig of lager and nostalgically murmur “they don’t make ’em like they used to.” Maybe I was just born in the wrong era, but the 80’s and 90’s just seemed to hurl forth so many winners, unbridled genre bliss that only got better with age, worth the revisit every time. The effects were practical, the stories were told with love, care and inspiration and the action was real, hard hitting and built to last. This film one opens with what can literally only be described as a cinematic version of Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto; we see a well dressed, determined man (Twin Peak’s Chris Mulkey in batshit mode) rob a bank, obliterate several police officers with a big honkin’ shotgun, steal a Ferrari, drive said Ferrari through a busy park, smoke a dude in a wheelchair at over a hundred clicks, lead the entire police force on an apocalyptic highway chase and cheerfully get ventilated in a hailstorm of bullets upon careening through their barricade. Case closed, right? Not for a mysterious FBI Agent (Kyle MacLachlan) who arrives out of nowhere and commandeers the case from the leading detectives (Ed O Ross and a wicked sharp Michael Nouri). MacLachlan knows something the force doesn’t, let alone would ever believe: there’s an alien running around inhabiting human bodies a là Body Snatchers, and going on hedonistic tirades of the worst possible behaviour, hence the shotgun tantrum in the opener. How does he know this, you ask? Because he himself is an alien in a Kyle suit, intrepidly pursuing the other one from a distant galaxy to halt it’s destructive shenanigans forever. It’s a premise that could have opened the door to all sorts of ooey gooey creature effects, but the film minimizes on those, choosing a few key moments to show the slime, and focuses mainly on glass shattering, guns blazing action, a neat recipe of three parts action with a tablespoon of yuck, if you will. MacLachlan, still very young at the time, anchors his performance with emotional heft, amusing aloofness and the necessary grit that can be found in his iconic portrayal of Agent Dale Cooper on Twin Peaks, and I was reminded more than a few times of that character while watching him in this. As the extraterrestrial nutjob moves from host to host, blowing everything up and leaving a trail of massacred people in it’s wake, the two of them race at every turn to catch up, and it’s Nouri who finds the seething anger one must get watching an outsider roll up and stamp all over someone else’s territory. The alien isn’t interested in world domination, resources or assimilation, it just wants to fuck shit up and have a good time, man. Blasting rock n’ roll music, gorging itself on steak dinners, stealing every Ferrari it can get it’s hands on and raiding the police evidence room for all kinds of heavy artillery, this thing doesn’t slow down for a second. This is the only film I know that paints off-earth visitors quite like this, just a gleeful, anarchic adrenaline junkie asshole, and I admire the brutal honesty, because I know of quite a few morons who would probably engage in the exact same behaviour, should they ever find themselves incognito and without consequences on an unassuming, far away planet. This one is pure screaming fun the whole way through, and should be every bit as iconic as other sci fi tales that are remembered more prolifically. Watch for the tiniest Danny Trejo cameo, playing (guess what) a prison inmate.  

-Nate Hill

Walter Hill’s Trespass


Walter Hill’s Trespass could raise a pulse in a quiet graveyard, it’s so relentless. It’s one of those single location, breathless siege thrillers where two unlucky dudes, this time Bill Paxton and William Sadler, are barricaded in some unfortunate building while hordes of inner city criminals try to smoke them out. Billy and Willy are two firemen in the wrongest of places at the wrongest of times, led to a dilapidated St. Louis warehouse in search of a hidden cache of stolen gold. When one of them stumbles into a gangland assassination, the two are immediately branded as witnesses and hinted like dogs by boss King James (a snarling Ice-T), his lieutenant Savon (Ice Cube) and armies of their men. That’s pretty much the premise, and simple as it is, action maestro Hill turns it into a ballistic bloodbath that barely slows down for a second once it gets going. Paxton and Sadler are soon at each other’s throats in a feverish haze of adrenaline, whilst the two Ices argue amongst themselves about tactical logistics. Yelling, shooting, running, borderline parkour, cat and mouse games, beloved 90’s action tropes and fight scenes that almost wind the audience as much as the characters. This is a lean cut of a film, concerned only with thrilling the pants off the viewer, hurtling by at a locomotive’s pace without rest until that final shell casing hits the pavement. 
-Nate Hill

James Cameron’s Aliens 


Each of the four Alien films has their own distinct and noticeable personalities. Ridley Scott’s original creeping horror show is a tense, streamlined, gracefully vicious film that slinks along at its own pace, not unlike the resident feline Jonesy who wondered about on the spaceship Nostromo back then. If Alien has the qualities of a cat, James Cameron’s Aliens has those of a rambunctious puppy dog, a rip snortin, go get em action backyard barbecue knockout that runs up and gives the audience a big wet slimy kiss. All animal metaphors aside (I’m running out of oh-so-clever ways to open my reviews, ok? Been at this shit for two years now), Cameron’s film is an undisputed classic, still jaw dropping to this day, even after what feels like hundreds of viewings, nostalgic yet fresh in different ways every time, and simply one of the best films ever made. It’s the gold standard for creature feature sci fi too, and while many argue whether or not it in fact outdid Scott’s original white knuckler, I can’t bring myself to be petty and pick favourites out of the quadrilogy, I love them all for a whole bunch of reasons. Aliens picks up quite a while after the catastrophic events of the first, with Ripley floating around in that cryo-pod for way too long, until she happens to cruise past earth, crossing the vision of the Weyland/Yutani corporation once again. Because they always make astute, well thought out choices, they decide to send a research team, accompanied by a very reluctant Ripley and a group of hoo-rah, bull in a China shop colonial marines to far off industrial exomoon LV-426, where they have lost communication with the settlers. After a brief, clammy build up, all hell breaks loose, and we get to see the full impressive extent of Cameron’s skill as a visual storyteller, as well as the oh-so-gooey, inspire practical effects work that brings those gorgeous Xenomorph beauties to snarling life. The cast is the epitome of badass, as we are constantly reminded of by Bill Paxton’s Hudson, the film’s resident squirrel who gets hilariously skittish when things get dicey (“game over, man!” Will never not out a big, Paxton sized grin on my face), but who heroically holds his own once he gets his sillies out. The other side of that coin is Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn, never slicker), cool as ice, shaken by nothing, including an atmosphere entry landing that would make Alfonso Cuaron pee himself, but doesn’t come close to disturbing Hick’s afternoon nap. Every Alien team must have an artificial human, some of which are trustworthy, and some not. Lance Henriksen’s Bishop is as solid as they come, never losing his head (despite being reduced to a puddle of spilt dairy product) and sticking by Ripley’s side until the bitter, hectic end. Ripley herself is a little older, a little wiser and a lot tougher, her intensity calcified into grit after losing her daughter, and given somewhat of a surrogate in the form of Newt (Carrie Henn) an orphaned child who has survived months living like a rodent in the air ducts. “They mostly come at night… mostly” she eerily warns Ripley. Oh boy, do they ever. LV-426 is positively teeming with them, and they show up to provide speaker shattering, pixel scattering action like only Cameron can do. The facehugger in the room sequence is still one of the most terrifying sequences in any film, and serves to make you hate Weyland weasel Burke (Paul Reiser) with that deep loathing reserved for the scummiest traitors in film. The final thirty minutes of the film are a showcase of action cinema, and it’s amazing to think they pulled off the Queen fight without any cgi back then, a slam-bang marvel of a climax that fires on a thousand cylinders, and to this day has never been topped. That goes for the film too. It’s *the* action sci-fi film, and as close to perfection as you can get.  
-Nate Hill