Tag Archives: Eric Roberts

Hidden Gems: Reto Salimbeni’s One Way

Reto Salimbeni’s One Way literally starts off one way and throws curve ball after left field turn after another until you really begin to appreciate a truly original script for once. Granted he produced his film in indie land where there’s considerably more creative freedom than the studio system but still, this is one unique film and I promise you it’s not the action thriller that the US market has tried to sell it as.

As the film opens, teenage Angelina is pursued and sexually assaulted by several boys alongside a riverbank. Suddenly a mysterious military general (the late, great Michael Clarke Duncan) appears out of nowhere and, after gaining her permission, positively ventilates them with a sub-machine gun. Jump cut to a decade or so later and we see hotshot advertising exec Eddie (Til Schweiger), married to the boss’s daughter (Stephanie Von Pfetten) but cheating on her every chance he gets with multiple women. Grown up Angelina (Lauren Lee Smith) works for the firm too, and they both get entangled up in a murder investigation involving the boss’s son (Sebastian Roberts), who is a sadistic rapist and very dangerous given his position of power.

I’ve done my best to somewhat describe the story so you have a vague idea of what this is all about but it’s tough to impart just how twisty and unexpected the thing gets, and that’s half the fun. Schweiger isn’t exactly an actor of dramatic heft, often appearing as stylized characters or posturing tough guys, but he does alright here as the sheepish philanderer who learns his lesson big time. Smith is fantastic as the most sympathetic character and the closest we come to a clear cut protagonist, dealing with the most tragic, yet ultimately heroic arc and nailing it beautifully. Duncan is the most striking character and is seen the least but always makes a huge impression, here in a small but incredibly key role. Watch for Art Hindle, Kenneth Welsh, Ned Bellamy and Eric Roberts in a brilliant extended cameo as a defense attorney who gets a few big dramatic moments of his own.

I can see why this film was tough to market as there is so much going on tonally, narratives weaving together at their own leisure and nothing really conventional about it at all. There’s corporate espionage, courtroom intrigue, emotional interpersonal drama and many more elements at play. Really though it’s about confronting your past, dealing with trauma particularly when it comes to sexual abuse and standing up to people who attack with impunity. Smith’s character takes front and center here, getting a gruesome revenge scene that rivals The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in it’s intensity. She has to face the horrors of her past full on here, whilst dealing with the legal problems Schweiger has thrown into the mix and it all makes for a unique, emotionally stirring and hypnotic hidden gem of a drama that I highly recommend.

-Nate Hill

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B Movie Glory: Christmas Rush

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.

-Nate Hill

BRACE FOR IMPACT!: An Interview with Alexander Nevsky by Kent Hill

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Moy Priyatel’ Superzvezdy (My Superstar Buddy) Alex Nevsky is back. Fresh off his Showdown in Manila, and now with his biggest production to date – MAXIMUM IMPACT.

Andrzej Bartkowiak (DOOM, EXIT WOUNDS) directs a Ross LaManna (the RUSH HOUR movies) script that is fast, fun, furious and keeps delivering all the way to the closing credits. It’s the story of the battle against terrorism being fought on all fronts. Alex and his Russian security team join forces with Kelly Hu, Tom Arnold and the US company men to track down and stop a major international incident from exploding. When Eric Roberts’ US Secretary of State’s rebellious daughter goes rogue to be with her Russian boyfriend, she is at first feared kidnapped by the surprisingly comedic duo of Matthias Hues and Mark Dacascos, a failed television who has become the bag man for William Baldwin’s Man in the Shadows (as he is credited). What ensues is a race, not only to save the girl, but to stop all hell from breaking loose.

The action is top shelf, which is to be expected from a seasoned pro like Bartkowiak – this blends in well with the pen of LaManna who brings his Tucker/Chan chops to the forefront and lets the laughs ring out with grand timing. The big surprise other than the funny frolicking shared by Hues and Dacascos, is Nevsky. Alex does hard-hitting, action hero stuff in his sleep – but as he exhibited in Showdown (teaming with Casper Van Dien) – he is developing all the time as a versatile performer, and now displaying comedic freedom which this writer can see him parading in the future with roles, not unlike his idol Arnold Schwarzenegger, in Kindergarten Cop/Twins type territory.

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This is a major step up for Nevsky and, although this is the kind of film Hollywood doesn’t make any more (that medium-range budget action movie),  it great to see that it can still be put together independently with top-of-the-line talent in a beautifully slick and professional package that – just as Showdown was a kind of 80’s action movie homage – so now Impact is a look back to the 90’s style action/comedy.

Aside from all that chatter, it is simply a fun movie which I was anticipating and was not at all disappointed with. Alex is a top bloke and I hope you’ll have a listen to our chat and check out MAXIMUM IMPACT when it hits Blu-ray soon…

 

B Movie Glory: Slow Burn

Slow Burn is just that, one of those dreary, stylized neo noirs about a low rent private investigator (Eric Roberts) who is on a case but seems only half interested, probably because the plot meanders around making little sense or holding less interest than a ruptured hull does water. Roberts is always engaging so it’s not all bad, plus there’s some eclectic cast members supporting him and an appearance from young Johnny Depp in what was one of his first roles, probably filmed in between takes of A Nightmare On Elm Street. Roberts is hired by a kooky New York artist (the great Raymond J. Barry) to investigate Depp’s stern rich parents (Beverly D’Angelo and Dan Hedaya), who may have some vague familial ties or be involved in a decades old scandal. Or are they? Do we care? Does it matter? It certainly didn’t matter to any potential distributors, as there seems to be literally no North American DVD release, I had to watch one of those choppy ten part YouTube versions. It’s interesting to see Depp and Roberts together in a few quick scenes, they are two legends of cool and it’d be nice to see them in something else together again. Overall though this is a particularly slow burn, and not a very enthralling one at that.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: American Strays

There’s a turn of phrase that I like to avoid in where a writer compares any eclectic crime film they can find to the work of Quentin Tarantino by labelling it a ‘Tarantino knockoff’, or any variation in vocabulary. I renounce this lazy, unimaginative jab as it’s based in the worst form of criticism, that of negative comparison and ignorance of a film’s original qualities. However, in the case of American Strays, even I have to concede that it’s a blatant, unapologetic ripoff of QT’s style that makes no efforts to mask the plagiarism or do it’s own thing. He should sue. Not to mention the fact that on it’s own terms it’s just a horrible, boring, awkward fuckin piece of shit movie. It’s set up in the same anthology sequence except none of them are even connected, let alone make sense. Two nimrod hit men (James Russo and Joe Viterelli) drive through the desert engaging in strained extended dialogue that’s neither funny nor stimulating. A psychotic vacuum salesman (the great John Savage) goes door to door harassing people until he meets his match in a femme fatale housewife (Jennifer Tilly). A stressed out family man (Eric Roberts, looking like he’d rather be anywhere else) drives his dysfunctional brood through the desert. Elsewhere, Luke Perry plays a depressed, suicidal weirdo who sits around in a shack with a guy he’s paid to literally beat the shit out of him. The worst is a cutesy pie, insufferable Bonnie and Clyde style couple that are so obviously emulating Clarence and Alabama from Tarantino’s True Romance that you begin to wonder if they gave up and just set the script on autopilot like one of those knowingly ridiculous knockoffs you see on Netflix that are simply there to decoy you out into clicking a title that looks *almost* like what you want to watch (TransMorphers, anyone?). None of these vignettes are remotely engaging, it’s like a parade of shitty, awkward, misguided SNL skits from a dimension where humour and wit don’t exist. Every actor just looks tired, every line lands with a hollow thud. Just. Don’t. Bother.

B Movie Glory: Heaven’s Fire

There’s an expression around the campfire of film criticism called ‘Die Hard clone’, a residual effect of how influential that movie was on the action genre. Although that term certainly applies to the terminally goofy Heaven’s Fire (that title tho), I resist the impulse to always trace films back to their inspiration as a negative connotation, and view every story as it’s own encapsulated adventure. Now that aside, this one is pretty shitty on it’s own terms, as you can probably tell by the almost deliberately shabby DVD art. It’s worth it for two reasons only, if you’re a fan of either: Eric Roberts and Jurgen Prochnow, two charismatic genre players who are always so much fun to see, even in Fisher Price knockoff crap like this. Prochnow, for like the tenth time in his career so far, plays a terrorist who seizes a high rise building, planning to hold the city ransom or blow it up. Roberts, that charming bastard, plays an off duty treasury agent who happens to be on a tour through the facility with his family and gets caught in the middle. You can guess where it goes. Gunfire, cringy one liners, standoff’s, inept hostage negotiations, all the tropes are present and accounted for. The script is so bad it almost seems like an SNL parody concocted by fifth grade guest writers, you almost can’t even hate the film because it reaches levels of absurdity that are, dare I say, *adorably* terrible. Eric and Jurgen ham it up in their own special way and if you enjoy their work (I’m something of a fanatic) it’s worth tracking down just to see the two legends side by side. Oh and like so many two bit flicks of this nature, Vancouver is the home-base for filming, which is always a plus no matter how shitty your movie is, because I get to take in the scenery and spot landmarks I pass by every day. Silly, silly stuff, and I’m pretty sure it’s rated PG13 too as there’s no swearing and all the violence is Grade school play level.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: The Grave

Dust off the cobwebs in a corner the forgotten ruins of VHS land and you’ll find charmers like The Grave, a enjoyable, forgettable little haunt that stars 90’s indie beauty queen Gabrielle Anwar, her kooky real life husband Craig Sheffer, Breakfast Club alumni Anthony Michael Hall and B movie sultan Eric Roberts, if you’re quick enough to spot his cameo. It’s one among an infinity of B movies from back in the day that starred earnest character actors involved in lurid criminal escapades and sensual deception, each plot only slightly altered from the last. This one see a troupe of escaped convicts (Sheffer, Hall, Donal Logue and others) running around out west in search of a treasure chest full of loot that’s supposedly buried next to it’s millionaire owner. This setup leads way to betrayals, double crosses, Coen-esque hayseed black comedy and all sorts of shenanigans. Anwar plays the scheming ex girlfriend of one of them who gets in the way of all involved like any self respecting femme fatale should. Curiously, Eric Roberts has absolutely nothing to do with the main plot and only shows up for like a minute long cameo as a country bumpkin who gives hitchhiking Anwar a ride when her rig breaks down, talks her ear off for a spill and then heads off never to be seen again. Huh. Must have owed the director a favour from the last B flick he headlined. Anyways it’s a fun one on low key, inconsequential terms.

-Nate Hill