Tag Archives: jason statham

Neveldine/Taylor’s Crank 2: High Voltage

If you took Grand Theft Auto, The Looney Toons, bath salts, nitroglycerin, raw adrenaline, a bucket of piss, a spoonful of vinegar and a few ounces of C4 and chucked them all in a blender, you’d have something almost as utterly fucked as Neveldine/Taylor’s Crank 2: High Voltage, a sequel that leaves the first film somewhat in the dust, and if you’ve seen their initial Crank effort, you can imagine what a sheer feat that is. Cheerfully racist, unapologetically sexist, hedonistic in heaps and fully committed to being as mean, sleazy and batshit as movies can get, it turns an action movie into something truly out there. Jason Statham is the invincible Chev Chelios, a contract killer who gets put through the wringer when pretty much the entire organized crime faction in Los Angeles decides they want him dead. In the first film it was adrenaline that kept him going and here it’s electricity. Saddled with a weird synthetic heart, he’s on a mad roadrunner odyssey to get his original ticker back from legions of gangsters who want to sell it on the black market or transplant into the body of a weird old goat of a Triad boss called Poon Dong, played by David ‘do anything for a paycheque’ Carradine. Statham is a trooper, getting every part of his body fully zapped by all kinds of dangerous objects, engaging in shameless public sex once again with his spunky girlfriend (Amy Smart), this time in the middle of a horse racetrack. Explaining the plot is pointless because things just sort of… happen, in their own madcap way and it’s really hard to keep up with the kind of deranged marathon this thing runs. A frenzied strip club owner (the late Corey Haim) a thoroughly psychotic Asian hooker (Bai Ling), Chev’s ever loyal off-the-books Doctor (Dwight Yoakam) and all manner of punks, freaks, mafiosos and maladjusted urban monsters make appearances. Clifton Collins Jr. is equal parts terrifying and hilarious as El Huron, a flamboyant Cholo boss hellbent on killing Chev, but not before a few sadistic sideshow games first. The real heroes here are Neveldine and Taylor, two hyperkinetic ringmasters who aren’t afraid to get absolutely mental in their filmmaking process, injecting every bit of madness, mayhem and debauchery they can stuff into the script. Strippers getting shot in the tits and leaking silicone everywhere, a Mexican vato slicing off parts of a Chinese rival gang member and gleefully saying “check it out.. sushi!”, a severed head kept alive in a fish tank and a Godzilla inspired animated interlude are all but a taste of the bizarre pitstops this film makes on its hyper-violent, coked out flight path towards breaking the sound barrier. It’s either your thing or it isn’t, I mean I wouldn’t show it to my grandparents, it’d be a monumental exercise in tolerance for anyone with views that verge on conservatism. But fuck if it ain’t impressive for just for how far past the stratosphere it goes though, it’s like the first Crank film fell asleep, had a fever dream about itself and then this thing was birthed from that vision out of the death of a neutron star, mid explosion. I’ll stop because I’m running out of adjectives for ‘crazy’.

-Nate Hill

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Michael Mann’s Collateral

I love Michael Mann’s Collateral so much. Few other films evoke the detached, hypnotic atmosphere of a metropolitan city, the thrum of a single night passing by, the hard bitten nature of a city whose main brand of social interaction is usually crime. Mann has a way with restless urban nocturnes and the weary, resolute characters who drift through them, personified here by Jamie Foxx’s shy, plucky cab driver Max and Tom Cruise’s lupine, charismatic hitman Vincent. They’re on odd pair to spend a murky, digitally shot Los Angeles night with, but the two actors make it a clash, confrontation and ironic companionship for the ages. Max is veering close to being a career cabbie, his dreams of entrepreneur enterprising fading fast in the rear view. He’s meek and soft spoken but we get the sense that somewhere in there is the capacity for violence and unpredictability, if prompted by the right catalyst. Speak of the devil with Vincent, a whip smart apex predator who hijacks Max into helping him make several high profile stops before a 6am flight out of LAX, each one leaving a cadaver in its wake, all related to an interwoven criminal syndicate that DA is trying to bring down. It’s high concept done on slow burn, with action taking a backseat beside Vincent, while story, character and brilliant dialogue command the forefront, a technique rarely employed in the big budget Hollywood blockbuster, but always a surefire way to success. Mann captures the pulse of LA almost better than he did with Heat, albeit to a smaller scale and constricted to one night, a nervous time-sensitive mood-scape that gives the proceedings a haunted aura. Cruise has never been better, sporting a silver fox get-up and enough scary micro-mannerisms to more than make us believe he’s an expert at his profession, until jaggedly unravelled by Foxx’s presence, who goes from unassuming hostage to razor sharp thorn in the side real quick. Jada Pinkett Smith is brilliant as a lawyer who Max picks up in the opening scene, their extended conversation set against the dreamy LA backdrop serving as a neat, Elmore Leonard-esque way to set up shop. The supporting cast are like easter eggs hidden throughout, they’re never obvious or given key monologues, but exist in harmonious flow to the chamber piece unfolding mostly in the taxi. Mark Ruffalo shows up in his coolest role to date as a detective who gets wise to Cruise uncannily quick, Javier Bardem has a showcase scene as an angry mob boss, and watch for Bruce McGill, Debi Mazar, Wade Williams, Klea Scott, Paul Adelstein, Peter Berg, Irma P. Hall, Emilio Riveria, Jason Statham, Richard T. Jones and the always excellent Barry Shabaka Henley as a jazz club owner with a few skeletons in his closet. My favourite scene is a wordless one, in which Vincent and Max see a lone coyote loping across the freeway in the hazy night. Each of them reacts, the sight of the beast meaning something different to them, internally, they share the moment, and move on. Taken out of context it could mean anything, stand on its own as a fifteen second short film, or be injected into a crime drama masterpiece like this to make it all the more atmospheric and special. It’s moments like this, along with a few other key scenes, one set on a subway train and the initial conversation between Foxx and Jada, that inject a surface level genre film with something intangible, something elemental. Mann gets this, every frame of his urban crime epics are filled with that kind of energy, and this stands as one of his best.

-Nate Hill

20 years in the making: An Interview with Steve Alten by Kent Hill

 

 

Sometimes good things take time. Still, it is rare that Hollywood, being in possession of what it believes is such a ‘hot property’, would allow said property to languish in the depths of development hell. Especially for 20 years. But that is exactly where Steve Alten’s bestseller has been in residence. That, of course, is about to change.

Yes ladies and gentlemen (and in case you haven’t been following the story) next year Alten’s leviathan shall rise and finally arrive at a cinema near you. I have long been fascinated with the journeys  movies take on the road to the big screens on which we witness them. Some of these films never arrive, some appear in a confused and unfinished form. Others are the victims of too many cooks and most are a product of the machine.

For the films that don’t make it, (see great documentaries like Lost in La Mancha and Jodorowsky’s Dune (though Gilliam seems to have at last remedied this)) their journey is often as intriguing, if not more so, than what the final product might have been. But with MEG, the powers that be have what is a potentially massive franchise on their hands. So, why the wait?

The fates are strange and fickle. Steve Alten’s bestseller was optioned before it was complete, but it has taken the better part of two decades to arrive. I found this story intriguing, mainly because this was not some sort of artsy passion project or some grand tale of ridiculous hubris. No, what could have been, and what we may yet experience, might very well be the next JAWS? And while Spielberg’s film is by its nature a far more intimate piece; the shark menaces a small community and finally three men set out to kill the beast, MEG is something we are definitely going need a bigger boat for. A really BIG boat for!

Thus Steve Alten agreed to have a chat with me about the origins of his book’s long gestation toward its screen adaptation. What he relayed I found fascinating, and still believe it could become a great extra feature or a terrific stand-alone documentary of the ride this big shark movie as taken. But, like most fans, I am just grateful that with each passing day, we finally are at last drawing closer to the MEG movie’s premiere. Of course the real relief belongs to the creator. In many ways it has been worse for him, he having served on the front lines, he having been present for each false start and each heartbreaking hurdle. I have agreed to catch up with Steve before the film’s premiere next year. As the hype builds and teasers and trailers and all the ads  bombard our senses, what brings me pause and makes me smile is the thought of Steve Alten waking the red carpet, entering the theatre, taking his seat . . . and enjoying the movie…

…as I hope you will enjoy this.

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If they look ninjas, and they’re dressed like ninjas, and they fight like ninjas…they’re ninjas: An Interview with Doug Taylor by Kent Hill

Doug Taylor began wanting to be and architect and dreamed of being like the dad in The Brady Bunch, ’cause he worked from home. But he soon became disillusioned with this notion and eventually found his way into film.

Like most of us, after learning the fundamentals, it then becomes a question of what next? Fortunately for Doug, a friend and fellow film student had made contact with a couple of producers who were in Canada making low-budget horror films. Thus the screenwriting career of Doug Taylor began.

What would begin with a small horror film would spawn a career that would see the talented Mr. Taylor rub shoulders with both the famous and the infamous of the industry. He worked with visionaries like Vincenzo Natali and the so-labeled Ed Wood of the age Uwe Boll. He has written for both film and television and those early seeds in the horror genre have seen him work on modern classics within it such as Natali’s brilliant and terrifying  depiction of the dysfunctional family in Splice.

So sue me. I am a fan of the films of Uwe Boll; thus I was most eager to hear Doug’s account of the making of In the Name of the King, and I was not disappointed. Like the storyteller he is, Doug gave me all the behind the scenes goodies that a film nerd craves. So much so I now re-watch the film with new eyes.

Anyhow. You’re just going to have to kick back and have a listen. Doug Taylor is great screenwriter who has lived a rich and varied life and enjoyed all success one can at the Hollywood heights. Yet he still lives in the city he grew up in and ultimately he accomplished his dream of being just like Mr. Brady, and working from home.

I really great gentleman, full of fascinating tales both on screen and off. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you . . . Doug Taylor.

THE EXPENDABLES – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

THE EXPENDABLES is that hard R-rated film that hits the sweet spot for adults craving adult oriented action and humor with past and present staples of actions cinema. Sylvester Stallone crafts not only a film, but a hugely successful franchise, around himself and his movie star buddies. The film is so much fun to watch, watching these ancient relics double-fisting machine guns and laying waste to anyone in their path.

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Sure, the film is riddled with hammy dialogue, campy acting, ridiculous character names, and obnoxious action – but that is EXACTLY what this film should be, and is. Sylvester Stallone is one of cinema’s most unsung and undervalued auteurs. This is a guy, who has made catastrophic career choices; yet he’s been able to resurrect his career four, count it, four times due to his directing and writing abilities. Rocky, Rambo, Expendables, and now his reinvention of Rocky in last year’s CREED.

Stallone took a film with an eighty million dollar budget that yielded 275million at the worldwide box office, and spurred two successful sequels. The subgenre of the hard R rated B action films have seemed to have slipped off the cinematic radar in past years. Either we get a tent-pole movie star grazing his way through a watered down PG-13 film, or we get some sort of intentional franchise starter with an over-the-hill star fighting alongside a fresh face who more times than not, lacks acting chops severely.

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THE EXPENDABLES goes for it, and resets the mold of that strain of films we have missed. Stallone headlines Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Eric Roberts. Not to mention all the other wonderful additions Stallone recruited for the two sequels.

Stallone creates a world that takes place inside the movie world. These guys are big, tough, and ooze masculinity. The dialogue is akin to what we heard from the same actors in the 80’s, the practical explosions are bigger, and the CGI blood is absolutely egregious. The director’s cut of the film stands slightly taller, adding a bit more depth, and rounds out some of the more clunky characters in the film.

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While this film is nowhere near perfect, it is perfect for what it is. Dolph Lundgren lynching Somalin pirates, Stallone quick drawing a revolver and taking out six guys, Eric Roberts being over-the-top snarling through his teeth, Jason Statham putting his fist through skulls, Mickey Rourke looking obnoxious as ever yet putting on an acting clinic in his brief scene, and everything else you’d want from a hard R, quickly paced B movie filled with explosions and gunfire. THE EXPENDABLES and its two sequels is a feverishly welcome return from an auteur that refuses to be rendered obsolete.