I love a good low budget Die Hard clone, especially when it stars Eric Roberts and Dean Cain, B Grade poster kids for decades and lovin’ it. Christmas Rush is as scrappy as they come, a cop flick with Cain as the disgraced detective stripped of his badge on Christmas Eve. Roberts is Jimmy Scalzetti, reformed jewel thief who has come out of hiding for one last mall heist to pay for his dying kid’s operation. Cain happens to be be picking up his wife (Erika Eleniak) at the very same mall and… you can guess where it goes. The pair of them actually have decent hero/villain chemistry and charisma, Roberts makes for an engaging antagonist and always has fun, too. It’s a lazy throwaway piece at heart though, an exercise in background noise on 2am cable. There’s something fairly festive about seeing Dean and Eric chase each other around the mall in little go karts though, and almost serves as a silly deconstruction of the action/hostage shtick if it weren’t so brainless. Also titled blandly as ‘Breakaway’ on North American DVD, it’s much better with its original festive title. Christmas Rush indeed.
I won’t pretend to be familiar with the details of the Russian/Georgian war or anything that goes on in that region, but I’m pretty sure Renny Harlin’s 5 Days Of War is skewed in favour of special effects and kinetic commotion, as opposed to dutifully telling a story. It’s disjointed and has no idea which characters to focus on primarily and as such feels like a film out of time and space, cobbled together with loose strands and spare action sequences. Half the name actors are casted in throwaway roles too, which is disorienting. In a hectic prologue, Heather Graham plays the girlfriend of a war photographer (Rupert Friend), but she’s killed in a blast literally seconds after meeting her character, which seems arbitrary even to call her agent for a booking. The films sees Friend, a Georgian native (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and others stranded in a region on fire, torn apart by combat and cut off from communication. The details of this conflict are swept up in a near constant stream of action sequences, near misses and explosions, and much of the film is simply people running through bombed out villages in desperation. Croatian actor Rade Serbdzija (Boris The Blade from Snatch) makes good use of a Russian general role, somewhat of a villain but the film actually pauses later to give him a modicum of an ad, which he handles nicely. Val Kilmer and his Aslan mane of hair show up too in a sly, over advertised cameo as another photographer who helps them out briefly, and then disappears from the film. Elsewhere Andy Garcia laments the situation as the Russian president, grilled by the press about his actions, or lack thereof, in the struggle. In terms of story and narrative cohesion it’s all over the place. One aspect it handles well though is keeping the kinetic energy alive during the war scenes, they are extremely well shot and designed on a big scale to raise pulses. Average flick that could have done with a bit more structure and thought put into the script.
Best Men is the most charming, dainty and innocuous movie about bank robbing that you’ll ever see. It’s premise revolves around a wedding party that unwittingly gets roped into a heist, but they’re all solid folks, including the perpetrator, and all just want the best for the happy couple they are celebrating for. Therein lies both the comedic and the touching moments, of which there are many, supplied by a diverse and very capable cast. A troupe of best men accompany a groom (Luke Wilson) on the way to his matrimonial bliss. One among them is a hotheaded adrenaline junkie named Billy (Sean Patrick Flanery, never more adorable). Billy has knack for robbing banks whilst reciting Shakespeare. Demands, commands, profanities. All in the Bard’s tongue. He brazenly holds up a rural branch and drags his friends in, including two others, an ex military stud (Dean Cain) and a squirrelly, pussy whipped Andy Dick. They soon find themselves trapped in the bank with law enforcement prepping a siege outside their front door and Wilson’s determined Bridezilla (a feisty Drew Barrymore) marching straight into the crime scene to furiously give her fiancé what for. Billy also has severe daddy issues, which probably led to him lashing out in such a theatrical fashion in the first place. Coincidentally, the local sheriff (Fred Ward) happens to be his Poppa, and the two face off in scenes which undermine the lighter tone and dig for pathos that’s worth pausing for. They’re threatened by a gung ho FBI agent (Raymond J. Barry) who wants to blow them to kingdom come so he can go to lunch. They also find themselves sequestered in the bank with a sketchy Viet nam vet played by a wicked funny Brad Dourif in quite the commanding little supporting turn. Amid the screwball roughhousing, him and Cain find a few aching moments of truth relating to Cain’s sexual orientation, and his shame regarding it. I love a light, harebrained comedy, but I love em even more when they take deep breaths between fits of lunacy to gift their characters with some gravity that makes you feel something besides your sides splitting. This ones sadly forgotten, and you should all give it a go, it’s a gem.