Los Angeles and New York City get a sordid, hard boiled pair of rogue cop stories in True Crime: Streets Of LA and True Crime: NYC, two badass, star studded, knockout crime games that demonstrate these days how they really don’t make em’ like they used to. I’d review these two separately but they’re a pretty intrinsic pair that feel like sibling stories despite being made and released two years apart.
In Streets Of LA you play as volatile renegade LAPD detective Nick Kang (Russell Wong having an utter blast with the dialogue) who is suspended from the force under shady circumstances and goes severely rogue with an unofficial vigilante unit to stop a corrupt plot against the city perpetrated by Russian mob, triads and others. This ones cool because it’s a choose your own adventure game where the outcome and chain of events is different depending on what choices you make Nick pick. There’s endless shootouts, brutal chase sequences across the LA highway overpass and vicious hand to hand combat too. Christopher Walken narrates the whole thing in Greek chorus mode as wisened ex-cop George and voiceovers are also provided by Ron Perlman as a Russian hood, Mako and James Hong as Triad bosses, Michael Madsen, Michelle Rodriguez, CCH Pounder and Gary Oldman as a both a dodgy federal agent and a psycho Russian boss.
Over in New York City you’re Detective Marcus Reed (Avery Kidd Waddell), an ex gangster who chose the law over the ways of his crime kingpin father Isiah (Laurence Fishburne basically reprises his kingpin role from Assault On Precinct 13) and is mentored on the streets by tough veteran Sergeant Terence Higgins (Mickey Rourke) until he’s murdered under mysterious circumstances. Marcus now has to shoot his way past criminals and cops alike as he smokes out a deep web of corruption and avenges those he lost while leaving a path of bodies behind him. There’s work from Esai Morales as his precinct captain, Traci Lords, Lester ‘Beetlejuice’ Green and more. Walken is in this again in full bonkers mode as a Fed who can’t stop getting sidetracked by anecdotal monologues about his life long enough to brief Marcus and provides much comic relief.
These two games have a terrifically gritty late 90’s street feel, the actors add a lot, the gameplay is violent and profane to the maximum and while LA is bright, energetic and hyperactive, NYC is dark, austere and bleak and they feel like two sides of the same unlawful coin. Great stuff.
Here’s something fun (I hope). I’m going to expand the focus of my reviews to include video games, which should be interesting because my knowledge and expertise on them is nowhere close to what I know about film and your average dedicated gamer would probably refer to me as a ‘fucking casual,’ and hey they wouldn’t be wrong. But there’s a handful of games that mean a lot to me and I’ve enjoyed playing over the years, mainly ones with a deep, rich sense of story and cinematic atmosphere and lots of cool niche character actors providing voiceover work!
First up is NARC, a hectic, rambunctious shooter based on some old arcade game from even further back in the day as it was already released like ten years ago for PlayStation 2. This one creates a seedy urban environment where two cops, a go-getter rookie (Bill Bellamy) and an arrogant renegade (Michael Madsen) work to take down a ruthless international drug syndicate that takes them from stateside streets all the way over to Asia. It’s a scrappy game with very unrealistic physics and fighting but that kind of calls back to its arcade roots I guess. Madsen is fun as the asshole rogue cop who is addicted to both drugs and beating the shit out of perps, while Ron Perlman blusters his way through the obligatory Greek chorus role of their hard nosed precinct captain. Best of all is underrated Michael Wincott as the big bad, whose name is literally Mr. Big. He’s this weirdo paraplegic mega-villain who sits in a giant mechanized swivelling chair adorned in 50 caliber cannons that make quite the epic and goddamn frustrating final boss fight.
The coolest thing about this game is that you can actually do a bunch of drugs when you find them; coke makes you run super fast, ludes do something strange to your perception of time, LSD makes people’s heads get all funny and huge while weed (my favourite) puts you in this hazy dreamscape as Rasta music warbles out gently all around you. Speaking of music this has one amazing soundtrack too, sampling the likes of Peter Tosh, Cypress Hill, Curtis Mayfield, Lynrd Skynrd, The Stranglers (whose hit song Golden Brown dreamily plays whenever you shoot up heroin), The Toyes, Happy Monday’s, DMX and more. This is a cheeky, nihilistic, extremely violent, morally bankrupt, hilariously over the top piece of urban exploitation gaming and one of my absolute favourites from back in the PS2 era which, let’s face it, will probably be the main focus on these gaming reviews considering I’m all about the old school when it comes to any area of media entertainment.
The story of Al Leong is not an uncommon Hollywood story in this respect: he is a face you’ve seen, but probably have no knowledge of his name, his explosive talent, his devotion to his craft and the incredible legacy he has built through the movies we all cherish. So, if you fall into that category, then you probably don’t know the man behind the face of our favorite Henchman – you probably don’t know Al Leong…? Well ladies and boys…you’ve come to the movies at the most opportune time in cinema history, because, friendly neighborhood filmmaker and nice guy all-round, Vito Trabucco, has assembled for your inquisitive, movie-loving minds this beautifully human, lovingly detailed, star-studded valentine. That candy-chomping terrorist that decided taking on The Willis was a good idea; that screaming Wing Kong Hatchet Man in the service of the ancient evil of Lo Pan – and the man who very nearly conquered most of the known world of his day…and who loves Twinkies for the excellent sugar rush…!
Man I could write for days of the films, television and memories that have and still are the fabric formed of my love of storytelling…..of which Al Leong is an indelible part. Join us as Vito and I wax political, poetical and even romantically about the cinema that is part of the wonderful life . . . of our favorite Henchman…
I wanted to give RIPD chance, I really did. But it’s such a shameless ripoff of Men In Black that most of it just constituted one big eye roll from me. It’s not an outright knockoff, but it just uses the unmistakable blueprint of MIB and runs with it as if it were it’s own organic idea. The veteran wiseass, the young hotshot, the clandestine otherworldly law enforcement syndicate, googly, goopy special effects, it’s all there and just feels stale these days, but for a few saving graces. Jeff Bridges is an undeniable charmer as Roy, an undead wild west super cop who is tasked with retrieving runaway souls hiding out down on earth, and capturing them for return to the great beyond, here pictured as the penultimate vision of nightmarish beaurocracy that seems oddly derived from Beetlejuice (huh). When Boston cop Ryan Reynolds is betrayed and murdered by his corrupt scumbag of a partner (a skeezy Kevin Bacon) he’s recruited by Proctor (Mary Louise Parker, all business and loving it) to join Roy in bringing “deados” back upstairs. The two don’t get along, as newly paired cops in movies always behave, and the banter only really works from Bridges’s side. He’s a hoot as crotchety old Roy, while Reynolds plays it a bit too serious, especially in scenes with the wife he left behind (Stephanie Szostak). The film earns it’s one inspired subplot when we see the human avatars the pair use to move about the earthly plane: Bridges is a knockout blonde chick (Marissa Miller), and Reynolds an elderly Chinese man played by the seemingly immortal James Hong. If they spent more time on terrifically funny ideas with potential like that and less on special effects that look like something out of the Garbage Pail Kids, they might have been on to something worthwhile. But alas, most of the film is spent on a whirlwind of silly slapstick and big gross weird things that are in no way engaging. There’s a few slap dash deado hunts, including a brief turn from Robert Knepper as one that is lured out of hiding with Chinese food (what in the..), and a big sky vortex yawner of a finale where evil Bacon tries to wreak havoc on earth. Most of the time it’s just a snooze though, save for the few times the clouds part and we get something fresh, usually from either Bridges or those to damned hilarious avatars. Shame.