STOPPING for ERIC RED by KENT HILL

With pages that zoom ahead at the pace of a well-crafted screenplay; the further I was pulled along by what seemed like a rope around the neck, deeper into Eric Red’s (Body Parts, Bad Moon) latest action spectacle-in-print, I found myself thinking of that old story of a script called Simon Says. Of course, by the time Simon came to a theater near you…the title of the picture had changed to Die Hard: With a Vengeance.

If you carry on and research that story…you’ll stumble across another little tale about another spec script titled: Troubleshooter. This also would eventually find its way before eager, action-seeking audiences. Though, they weren’t so eager when they came out of Speed 2: Cruise Control.

But let us not dwell on the frailties of ego and hubris, I’m here because, although I haven’t podcasted them softly from a distance in some time, all-of-sudden, there came the opportunity to have a powwow with a filmmaker/novelist whose work I’ve long admired. It sounded like a hot ticket. And I was flattered beyond belief when, being accustomed to the ever-convenient PDF, I not only received a copy of STOPPING POWER, but two other of Eric’s newest efforts, including one headed for our screens in the form of WHITE KNUCKLE.

 So now, as my veracity may be in question, you’re wondering why I would begin writing about Mr. Red’s new book talking about how someone else’s idea was transformed into franchise fodder? The answer isn’t simple. It’s kinda just where my head went to as the story unfolded. I kept thinking, “If Eric Red wasn’t ERIC RED…they would totally reconfigure this into like a Speed 3.” And as Stephanie Power’s problems start to look like the tidal waves the James Cameron’s NTI’s were going to use to wash the pestilence that is humanity from the face of the Earth in his ABYSS, my head kept spinning like the wheels of so many vehicles in, HANDS DOWN, the best car chases I’ve thus encountered on the printed page.

STOPPING POWER will make an equally incredible film. And should WHITE KNUCKLE’s transition prove successful, I dare say, then it shall not be long before this mother/daughter/action/heist/thriller; with an ensemble of such surprising, terrifyingly and delightfully depraved villains that play cat and mouse and Russian Roulette with the lives Stephanie Power and her daughter. There’s 60 million dollars in bearer bonds as well as every cop in Texas on the hunt for this woman who is Power by name, but powerful by nature. I’ve already spoke on the blinding action that awaits you here, but the character work is not to be underestimated. Mr. Red, you can tell is a screenwriter as the pages decline. He knows that if you don’t give a damn about the people in peril…then he’s gonna lose you.

Lucky for you, dear reader, there are enough twists and turns and further secrets unearthed as the story snakes around the highways like the frantic mother behind the wheel, a puppet being pulled by evil strings as her daughter sits at the end of the barrel of a loaded, automatic weapon. She’s a bomb on the bus, only the bus is an RV. There’s a shitty ex-Husband, there’s an unlikely hero. There are moments that’ll you wish were up there on a screen in front of you as the roads are lashed with Mad Max fury; all culminating in a climax that’s as good as they come. Heck, if the whole thing was set around Christmas time…it could also work as a Die Hard movie too, I guess.

Point is STOPPING POWER works! It works damn well. And if you’re not completely satisfied with some really tight storytelling, involving and emotion human components, all dressed to the nines with scintillating mechanical carnage, explosions…all part of your complete breakfast really.

I really loved this book, and as I mentioned earlier, a chat with Mr. Red was on the cards. So, here it is. He’s taken the time out from his busy schedule to field a fistful of questions from yours truly. Ladies and Gentlemen…Eric Red

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KH: So, Mr. Red, like WHITE KNUCKLE, I believe it won’t be long before we’ll be hearing that STOPPING POWER is headed for the Big Silver. I see it clearly as SPEED meets DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE; what was the genesis of the story?

ER: One day was watching a TV news report showing a high-speed chase of a bank robbery suspect on an L.A. freeway with all the news helicopters filming it. Wondered what would happen if the bank robber switched their getaway car with someone else’s car and used them as a decoy. They might get away with it. Everybody would be watching the other car. But how would you make another driver drive the getaway car? Then I thought what if the escaping bank robber carjacked a parent and child, kidnapped the kid, switched cars and blackmailed the parent into doing the driving the bank robber’s car as a decoy leading the police in the wrong direction. It would be a perfect crime, a clean getaway. That was the seed of the story.

The characters of the mother, daughter and kidnapper sprang from the idea. Here’s this mother suddenly in this extraordinary situation where everybody thinks she’s a bank robber and nobody believes her daughter has been kidnapped. It’s up to her not only to elude a citywide police dragnet but also somehow catch up to the kidnapper and get her daughter back. And the kidnapper is watching the high-speed chase on the TV news and has eyes on her every minute. She is all alone. Out of this impossible situation, the ultimate predicament for a mother, the fun for us is how she figures it out. Because of course she will.

In a book, it seemed like the kind of thing people would believe could really happen and happen to anyone. In thriller terms it was preposterous yet plausible. My favorite suspense stories are the kind of in-the-wrong place-at-the-wrong time situations that could happen to regular people like us. I love Alfred Hitchcock and this appealed to me as a classic Hitchcock mistaken identity set up where an innocent individual is framed for a crime he didn’t commit, as if Alfred Hitchcock had done a car chase thriller.

KH: When you sit down to write is it a book idea, a script idea, or simply…I have to get this story out?

ER: Some ideas I have are for novels and others for scripts. I often get an idea for a screenplay and sit down and write it in two weeks. Novels involve much more material on every level, and on those will usually make notes for months or even years until I have enough notes that the book is ready to write. Author Tom McGuane phrased that stage perfectly calling it “building up the cabin pressure.” In the end, the ones that get written are the ideas I can’t stop thinking about, for purely subjective reasons.

KH: Having recently seen and enjoyed The Last Duel, appreciating the Rashomon quality, what made you choose the shifting POV from first person to third person storytelling…or did the story dictate that

ER: Maximizing reader identification with the characters meant telling the story from multiple voices. The novel has two first person narratives with the mother Stephanie and her kidnapped daughter Libby, so we see the same events from their contrasting different perspectives, giving us the whole picture. First person gets the reader right inside the character’s heads. We needed to be outside of the villainess Ilsa, so I wrote her third person so we never truly know what she’s thinking, keeping her unpredictable because we never know what she’ll do next. What I love about Rashomon is the truth is the whole of the sum of the parts of all of the characters’ perspectives!

KH: You’ve spoken in other interviews about liking in movies “what you don’t see.” Can a writer get away with that when writing novels, or is that best left to the screenplay?

ER: “Keeping it off-screen” is a storytelling technique that works equally well in films and books. In a movie we would describe that as “not how you show it but how you don’t show it” or in a novel we might say something is described “between the lines,” but either way it means handling a scene in such a way that people fill in the blanks. Then they use their imagination picturing things you just suggest instead of explicitly showing or describing graphically. There’s a place for both.

KH: Christopher Isherwood was quoted as saying writing for Hollywood made him a better novelist in the sense that it showed him greater economy of language; do you feel the same?

ER: Yes, writing screenplays you cut everything out that doesn’t move the story forwards. You “load” words because you use as few as possible. It’s a strong background to have as a novelist because for screenwriters “when in doubt, cut it out.” Also, scriptwriters are story wonks and we bring that narrative skill-set to novels. When we write them. Most screenwriters can’t write a novel even though they try, or write just one. I’ve written eleven. And honestly many novelists can’t write a script to save their life. Screenplays and books are very different animals.

For instance, in a novel you have many more tools in your storytelling toolbox. In a script, you have just action and dialogue. You have those in a novel, too, but also first second and third person narratives, different voices, and much more ordinance to weaponize your prose. The thing I love about doing both is that when a script is made into a movie, we give you the pictures so everyone sees the same film, but in a novel, we bring their own pictures to the prose, based on our mental images and memories, so it’s more personal.

KH: I love the tension in the early scenes with Ilsa and Libby, before their dialogue kicks in later. It was for me, reminiscent of what you did in the scenes involving Michael Pare and the dog in Bad Moon.

ER: There’s a lot of stare-downs, that’s for sure! At first, Ilsa and Libby deal with each another in a silent primal animal level, sniffing each other out. Not unlike Pare and Thor in Bad Moon, as you say.

KH: Stephanie’s thought as she makes a dynamic and daring rooftop evasion from the police is that “it’s like being in a car commercial from Hell.” Does the Fury Road adrenaline you capture come from the novelistic glee that says, “Gee, I’m glad I don’t have to do this on a budget with a schedule?”

ER: Sure, writing a novel obviously the only limits are the limits of one’s imagination. The only thing to worry about is fully imagining the scene in enough detail so it’s believable. But the rooftop car chase certainly could be viably filmed with first-class precision vehicular stunt driving and standard mechanical special effects.

KH: Dan Crockett turned out to have more moxy than I gave in through the early stages. You pay off characters well, and as much as this is a book about “hot minutes” and high-octane mechanical carnage; what makes it all work is the people?

ER: It’s always all about the people. Action or suspense scenes are empty exercises in mechanics unless you care about the characters involved, even the bad guys. It’s not about sympathetic characters—we become involved with flawed characters we don’t morally approve of all the time in what we read and watch—audience and reader involvement is the apt phrase. I’d say it’s an even split with the mother and kidnapper in STOPPING POWER as far as who interests us the most. Stephanie is a mother tiger protecting her cub, hard not to root for. We don’t root for Ilsa, quite the opposite, but we do get to understand the kidnapper and become involved with her. Many readers tell me she is the most interesting character in the book. We all know villains are often the most compelling characters, like in Shakespeare. Lots of reasons for that.

A big part of the drama in Stopping Power deals with the Stockholm syndrome dynamics of the kidnapper Ilsa and her teenage captive Libby. Each needs to keep the other talking for survival reasons, forcing this unlikely pair to engage and form an unusual if not friendly bond. Ilsa, a completely emotionally detached human being, finds herself experiencing younger sister feelings for the teenage girl, and because Ilsa has no experience with feelings she becomes unstable, which could have consequences for both her and Libby. It’s an instance in the book where the drama between the characters ups the jeopardy. Those are some of my favorite chapters in the novel.

KH: In light of the recent tragedy on the set of RUST, it made Stephanie’s backstory, primarily her relationship with her father extremely poignant?

ER: Sam Power took reckless safety risks as a stuntman like his generation of stunt people did making movies during those days, but Stephanie’s dad was a seasoned professional and the only lives he risked were his own and unfortunately hers that one time. Ironically, if her father Sam had not taken those risks with Stephanie teaching her how to stunt drive, she would not have survived the ordeal in the novel when Ilsa puts her to the test.

KH: $64,000 question. Did Jack Stevens crap his pants when the boys from SWAT came calling. I only ask ’cause the Sheriff said things got messy?

ER: Let’s say it’s an example of “between-the-lines!”

About The Author: Eric Red is a Los Angeles-based novelist, screenwriter, and film director. His films include The Hitcher, Near Dark, Cohen and Tate, Body Parts, Bad Moon, 100 Feet and The Last Outlaw. He has written nine novels, including Don’t Stand So Close, It Waits Below, White Knuckle, The Guns of Santa Sangre, The Wolves of El Diablo, Noose, Hanging Fire and Branded. Red divides his time between California and Wyoming with his wife and two dogs. Find out more about Eric Red and his books and films on his official website EricRed.com, on Facebook at OfficialEricRed, and on Twitter @ericred.

There isn’t another novel this year that cuts as quickly to the chase as Stopping Power. Eric Red’s new thriller is tense, tough and tenacious. Once the story evolves from its simple but highly effective premise there’s no exit for the reader: a psychologically clever described mother-and-daughter relationship and a vicious villainess sure make for a hell of a ride – a purist genre narration encased in a very contemporary almost all-female action firework.

  • Marco Siedelmann, Publisher and Editor, Seidelman & Company.

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rainmaker

The Rainmaker is one of those journeyman courtroom dramas that’s isn’t all flash, sizzle and spectacle. There are those things periodically and in the obligatory final flourish but this is more a piece that shows the dutiful, unsung labour that goes into putting a deposition together, the many hours of stress involved in taking on a class action lawsuit and for once, a quality I admired, focuses more so on the victims who are suing rather than the lawyers themselves in terms of character. Based on a John Grisham novel and directed by a fellow you may have heard of called Francis Ford Coppola, it stars Matt Damon in a humble, restrained turn as rookie lawyer Rudy Baylor, riding on the coattails of amoral hustler guru Bruiser Stone (Mickey Rourke) and backed up by perennial sidekick Deck Shiffler (Danny Devito). Stone’s firm (if you can call it that) is an unabashed ambulance chasing racket until Rudy stumbles into some genuine high stakes cases that matter, namely a lawsuit against an insurance giant for denying treatment to a boy (Johnny Whitworth) dying of leukaemia. This puts Rudy and Deck up against a top dollar team of legal talent led by preening shark Jon Voight, the kind of soulless muckraker who gets ruffled at the very mention of the fact he’s sold out to the wrong side. Also along for the ride is battered housewife Claire Danes, whom Rudy takes a liking to and wishes to protect against her monster of a husband. It’s a fairly sprawling tale with an impressive amount of characters all juggled handsomely, not to mention a dense narrative that is somehow delivered to us breezily and coherently. But character is key here and ultimately wins the day; DeVito is terrific as the chow mein guzzling little curmudgeon who initially comes across as a sleaze but quietly, ever so subtly peels back a hidden and unobtrusive later of compassion as the story draws you, and him in. Rourke is priceless, chain-smoking, chewing dialogue and literally walking out of the film a third of the way through to some tropical beach where he delivers key information over the phone before returning to his all your can drink margaritas. Voight is cold, steely and blusters without getting hammy, something he’s always somehow been able to tightrope pretty damn well. Danny Glover is great as a sneakily idealistic judge, Dean Stockwell as a short lived and quite cantankerous one and watch for vivid supporting turns from Mary Kay Place, Teresa Wright, Red West, Randy Travis, Roy Scheider as the leathery, evil insurance CEO and a scene owning Virginia Madsen as a terrified whistleblower. I greatly enjoyed this because although it’s a big budget, star studded Hollywood courtroom drama, it takes its time, is leisurely paced, lived in, meticulous about character development, sincerely cares and has compassion for the humans who are scared and hurting within its narrative and tells several interwoven stories, all well worth your time and attention. Great film!

-Nate Hill

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was my first theatrical viewing in a while this past weekend and damn it’s great to be back in the cinema!!What impressed me most about the film (and trust me, there wasn’t a second I *wasnt* impressed) is that despite a generous two hour runtime and a steady, slow build to the bulk of the action/horror there’s never a moment that doesn’t feel taut, efficient and streamlined, even in scenes meant only to build character. The east coast town of Amity feels cozy, lived in and primed for summer as the film starts off, elegiac and wistful in that small town way that Spielberg seems to be so specific at nailing. The rest and relaxation is of course literally cut short by the arrival of a nasty great white shark with notions on gustation rather than relaxation for the duration of it’s summer, which it plans to spend devouring anyone who wades out too far from the shoreline and spewing their mangled remains all over the Cape Cod Coast. The holy trinity of shark hunting badasses slowly comes together in the form of jumpy local police chief Brody (Roy Scheider), wiry marine biologist Hooper and crusty old sea captain Quint (Robert Shaw). The film feels so damn organic from scene to scene, and the multiple nail biting shark attack sequences are laced together with genuinely touching moments of family life, charmingly benign comic relief and swashbuckling bravery in the face of both menace from the Great White and ineptitude from the dumb-tit town mayor (Murray Hamilton) and his increasingly ludicrous wardrobe. John Williams’s iconic score does it’s creepy, crawly trademark thing but also gets really classically orchestral in other sweeping vista scenes and even hits some delightfully quirky notes later on. The shark effects are never anything short of breathtaking from POV to real life footage to animatronic and whatever else Spielberg employed, I believed that thing was there for real. The three main performances are excellent with Shaw stealing the show as he often did in a playful, cantankerous and eventually quite touching portrayal of the ‘mad seaman hunter’ archetype. I especially loved a monologue he delivered with uncanny charisma about his character being aboard the ill fated USS Indianapolis back in the war, it’s a sobering (literally) piece of dialogue that simultaneously develops all three characters as one talks and two listen, strengthens their bond right before throwing them into dangerous waters and is my favourite scene of the film. I can’t think of much wrong with this picture, it’s one hundred percent effective summer blockbuster action/horror/adventure entertainment and I can see why it has become a solid gold classic. Excellent film.

-Nate Hill

SYLVAIN DESPRETZ: Los Ángeles by Kent Hill

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I don’t profess to be anything except a guy who really loves his movies. So I was, needless to say, humbled when Sylvain Despretz, illustrator extraordinaire and Hollywood veteran, asked for my opinion on his new book Los Ángeles .

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The thoughts (abridged) I rendered unto him are as follows:

“Right off the bat I concede we have a very similar taste in movies, beginning on the opening page where you count James Mason among your idols. You have a free-flowing narrative style here – mixed in with a little distain for certain elements of ‘The Industry’. Yet there, embedded in your frankness, and if you know the lyrics to Billy Joel’s Piano Man, you strike me in predicament alone, to be like John the bartender; sure that he could be a movie star . . . if he could get out of this place.

So in that I feel your journey is unique – in the sense that you have been surrounded by the business, yet are melancholic, purely because you are no different than any other kid who wanted to run off and join the circus – you longed to be a lion tamer – you wanted to be a director.

Still I can’t wait to see this all come together. As I read your words I heard your voice and am reminded of great quotes from the towers of their fields from days past. Well, two in particular. One I heard Peter Guber say: “Success has many fathers and failure is an orphan.” And the other comes from Harrison Ellenshaw,  “Shakespeare never had a word processor . . . and now we word processors we have no Shakespeare’s.” Your life is extraordinary and the tapestry upon which your weave this tale is rich in texture and bold in attack.”

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Los Ángeles is a book that is much about one man’s love of cinema as it is his adventures in the screen trade. It might get personal, and it does…in the best sense. This separates it from the generic ‘greatest hits’ compilations which would merely be satisfied showing you only the art from the films and pictures of the movie masters Sylvain has been privileged to rub shoulders with.

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But this is not a film book. It’s about art, life, and loving movies so deeply you feel them at the source of everything that inspires one to create. Sylvain and I always have the most engaging and complex conversations, which are always nice to have with like-minded cineastes, especially when we share a similar perspective on what great films are and how they touch us.

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Life like cinema is about a series of moments. We all know the films we like, still, when asked, we find ourselves recounting the scenes which really spoke to us. Robert Altman once told his wife about his first viewing on David Lean’s A Brief Encounter. She recalled that, though Altman was initially just casually watching the movie, by the end, he had fallen in love with the films leading lady, Celia Johnson, and was utterly moved by the story unfurled.

Thus is the power of cinema, and the heart of Sylvain Despretz’s Los Ángeles.

As it has been written, so has it been done.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON Los Ángeles, VISIT THE PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE HERE:

https://caurette.com/?fbclid=IwAR1Y5EdeVzKGdCZ1o2G-VExxykJR8ejEgEuphdnMHYkBiS7Frk2CbVHT5J8

Peter Medak’s ROMEO IS BLEEDING

Romeo is Bleeding

 

There was a time in the early 90s when a series of nihilistic neo-noirs were made, in which they examined the pitfalls of masculinity, the male ego, and what it is to be an alpha male. RED ROCK WEST, AFTER DARK, MY SWEET, GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, and Peter Medak’s ROMEO IS BLEEDING belong in the upper echelon of that sub-genre from that time and place.

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The film is a conventional rogue cop film, made in a rather unconventional way. The film sticks to the guide, with the dirty cop endangering the lives of beautiful women through his series of bad mistakes, the ultimate femme fatale, and the powerful evil man. Yet, within the framework of what a noir is, lies bizarre and aloof humor that allows all the darkness to be stomached, creating captivating moments that are as surreal as they are deadly.

Romeo is Bleeding Lena Olin

The film’s cast is paramount. Gary Oldman leads the ensemble in what is one of his finest performances. Oldman is an actor who never, ever disappoints, and regardless of how worn out, or tired a genre character he plays – he always brings something new and something fresh to the role that makes it uniquely his. His character of Jack Grimaldi is in fact, grim – hit the nail on the head with the not-so-subtle character name. A man consumed by the lifestyle he swore to bring to justice, he starts informing for the mob, and that’s when everything goes to shit.

Oldman is anchored by a remarkable gallery of talent; Lena Olin as quite possibly the best femme fatale depicted on screen, a vulnerable and damned Juliette Lewis, a sweet and very perceptive wife in Annabella Sciorra, Will Patton, David Proval and Gene Canfield as Oldman’s cop buddies, CRIME STORY’S Paul Butler and James Cromwell as FBI agents, Tony Sirico, Michael Wincott, and Dennis Farina as mobsters, with all roads leading to the big bad, Roy Scheider in the role of the perfectly heavy-handed named Don Falcone – the ruthless mobster who wants Olin dead.

Romeo is Bleeding Roy Scheider

While Oldman does his worst by trying his absolute best to play all sides against the middle and somehow end up with all the money, the women, and getting away with it; director Peter Medak and screenwriter Hilary Henkin build a world filled with fast and dangerous people, showstopping set pieces, memorable dialogue, and eccentric without being too much costume design. Not to mention an elegant and dangerous score by Mark Isham. The world-building within the film is terrific, and truly accentuates the dusty and grim neo-noirs of the early 90s.

 

An Exorcism in Awesomeness by Kent Hill

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I don’t know what they are putting in the water over there in Germany, but I have of late had the privilege of speaking with some of the country’s brightest indie stars. Starting with Dominik Starck and his action movie man-at-arms, Nico Sentner. Then, I stumble into the path of a couple more revolutionaries and fine gentlemen to boot, Erza Tsegaye and Nicolas Artajo – talking about their little gem of a movie, and as history will tell, the forerunner of a new wave in German horror films . . . SKIN CREEPERS. This country Germany seems to have more than just good beer on tap . . . seems the brew cool movie-makers too.

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It’s the story (partially inspired by true events:  where a Korean family performed an exorcism on a young woman who sadly lost her life) of two unsuccessful filmmakers who want to make a pornographic movie, and things go very, very wrong. See, their lead actress . . . . gets possessed by a demon.

It’s a film,  although shot on a limited budget, that is already being recognized for its stunning visual effects and its old-school practical approach to film-making. Following a successful German theatrical run, the film is now celebrating its international release in the US, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland on multiple major VOD Platforms, including Amazon Prime and Tubi, among others.

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Filmmaker Ezra Tsegaye, worked previously in commercials as a storyboard artist for Hollywood films such as “THE INTERNATIONAL,” and is also a successful comic strip artist, who was involved in the creation of the first original German superhero comic. This background as a comic book/storyboard artist is mainly responsible for the film’s unique visual style. The picture, produced by media entrepreneur Sebastian Wolf, started the project with the intent to revolutionize German Horror Cinema, putting it back on the map by giving this extraordinary movie the chance to reach the big screen.

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So we chatted about the movie, of course. I heard what I would sound like – if dubbed for German audiences. There was talk of good beer, and a pub crawl in Berlin with the boys. How could this interviewer refuse?

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SKIN CREEPERS, get out there and enjoy it…The Exorcist meets Evil Dead with a sexy twist!

Peter Medak’s Romeo Is Bleeding

Somewhere out there in an anguished desert enclave along one of the many desolate stretches of American highway is Jim Dougherty (Gary Oldman), stranded in exile at a lonely rest stop cafe as Peter Medak’s brilliant, haunting neo-noir Romeo Is Bleeding opens.

Jim, as we learn through forlornly narration, was once a spectacularly corrupt NYC cop named Jack Grimaldi, a man who got too ambitious in the worst way and learnt every lesson the hardest possible fashion he could. Jack was a greedy, scheming piece of work who two timed his loyal wife (Annabella Sciorra, fantastic) with a ditzy cocktail waitress (Juliette Lewis) and did his best to upend everything the department works for by playing it against the mafia with increasingly disastrous results, stuck on a hollow treadmill chasing dollar signs. But his wife and mistress weren’t the only women in his life, as he soon meets Mona Demarkov, a seductive Russian contract killer played by Lena Olin in a performance that is to be applauded, feared and lusted after in equal measures. Mona is the wild card, the hurricane that upends an uneasy equilibrium Jack has toiled sweatily to set up like a house of cards, ready for her to blow down. Dumped in his lap by the Feds to babysit until mob operatives arrive to kill her, she manipulates, seduces and torments Jack within moments, but she’s only just begun. She escapes into New York and leads everyone on a terrifying goose chase of bloody mind games and gangland espionage, threatening to tear both organizations, not to mention Jack’s sanity, to pieces.

Oldman has never exuded the specific kind of sweaty desperation he showcases here, he’s got three women too many, nasty mafia Don Falcone (a quietly dangerous Roy Scheider) breathing over his shoulder and fellow cops inches away from sniffing out the rat in plain sight. Gary somehow comes across as likeable despite all this heinous behaviour, like a lost puppy who wandered into the wrong cave. Olin really lets loose with her work, she’s a villain not just for the noir hall of fame but for the ages, a murderous black velvet spider on a wanton spree of anarchic, sociopathic, psychosexual destruction and loving every minute of it. They’re supported by an epic roster of talent including Will Patton, David Proval, Larry Joshua, James Cromwell, Ron Perlman, Tony Sirico, Stephen Tobolowsky, Dennis Farina as a gregarious mafioso and the great Michael Wincott as Jack’s underworld pal Sal who turns on him like a jackal when things get out of control.

Many people seem to see this as an interesting yet ultimately flawed piece with uneven tone and what have you, but I couldn’t disagree more. For me this is pretty much as close to perfect as a film can get. Jim sits out there on the lonely byways of some forgotten region and recounts the tale of Jack, there’s such a beautifully mournful melancholy to his story, a true tragedy and cautionary tale laced with grit, jet black humour and an ever so subtle fairytale vibe. Writer Hilary Henkin spins a wild, surreal and slightly self aware screenplay here, while Mark Isham’s creepy, music box infused score gives off bushels of atmospheric portent. I feel like this is another one that was maybe ahead of its time, or perhaps just an acquired taste. I’m happy to see it has a budding cult following these days because it really deserves people’s time, it’s one of the very best crime films of the 1990’s and one of my all time favourite stories out there.

-Nate Hill

Comedic Wizard, Hollywood Warrior: An Interview with Walter Olkewicz by Kent Hill

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Growing up I was a huge sword & sorcery fan . . . still am. The older one gets, you find yourself using the phrase, “they don’t make ’em like they used to,” more and more. In the case of sword & sorcery it is all too clear why it is sad, in some ways, to reminisce. But I can’t fully transmit to you in words, just how much the show Wizards & Warriors was then, and would later become, an integral influence. It took something with reasonably defined staples and subverted them in the best possible way.

This was part of the reason the more recent effort, Your Highness, was such a dismal failure. I admit I was hopeful all the way up to until I finally set eyes on the picture. Yes, it dealt irreverently with the source influences. But, ultimately forgot what made them so glorious in the first place. While Wizards & Warriors, on the other hand,  was so ahead of its time it’s ridiculous. Subverted genre work is more prevalent today, but back then, it was a bold choice. I soaked it up, and it quickly became the stuff of which permeated my dreams, dominated my day-long make-believe adventures and of course was a the well from which I have many times gone back to with my own works like Deathmaster, Sword Dude, and the like.

So you can, possibly, only imagine the joyous moment when I finally was able to chat with Prince Greystone’s faithful vassal Marko, played by the supremely talented Walter Olkewicz .

In Walter’s tales from his illustrious career I uncovered the story of an effortless performer, a loyal friend, a devoted family man, and a true inspiration to all those who have the dream of being a player of many parts.

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His credits speak for themselves, and I found it most intriguing, that a man who has known such heights could remain, I believe, as he has ever been – the salt of the earth. Walter has though, of late, been suffering with medical issues. It is comforting to hear however, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Please do take a moment, if you can, to support his recovery, so that Walter can get back to doing what he does best. (Please follow this link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-walter-save-his-leg#/ )

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m proud to present, Walter Olkewicz.

 

THE ‘SHOWDOWN’ TRIPLE FEATURE by Kent Hill

This film might not seem like a big deal to you. It could merely appear as another throwaway action flick on your regular streaming service – one that you glance at out of curiosity, and then move on. But I really loved SHOWDOWN IN MANILA, and here’s the reason why . . .

Once, a long time ago, in the age of wonder, they were these glorious palaces that we called, Video Stores. They were a veritable treasure trove for cineastes of all ages to come and get their movie-fix. They housed the cinema of the ages and best of all, there would be movies you could find there, that hadn’t played at a cinema near you.

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These were the titles that were made specifically for this new medium of VHS. Like the drive-in before it, these stores needed product. Thus a new genre was born, and it was called Straight-to-Video. What arose were glorious movies, some of which, sadly,  died along with their era. Awesome were the sci-fi, the horror, and specifically speaking now, the action movies that would appear on the shelves. And such action. Real, intense, dynamic and always in frequent supply. It was good versus evil in all its glory – the villains wore dark shades and the heroes carried big guns. So, it was while watching SHOWDOWN that I was hit by this wave of nostalgia, engulfed by memories of the golden age of home entertainment.

The plot of the film is simple. But isn’t that true of the best action flicks? The package is a beautiful cocktail of old and new, peppered with filmmakers wishing to deliver a splendid throwback, mixed with the stars that climbed to the dizzying heights of VHS stardom.

For those who know what I’m talking about, and even those that don’t, I say, go check out this little gem that is cut from the past, and at the same time, is polishing by the future. So, here now, I present a trio of interviews with the film’s stars Alexander Nevsky (The man on the rise), Matthias Hues (The action legend), and the man responsible for that important seed from which all great cinema grows, the script, Craig Hamman (the veteran screenwriter).

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Alexander Nevsky is a Russian bodybuilder, actor, writer, producer. His life changed when he saw Arnold Schwarzenegger in Pumping Iron and that spark would light the fire which continues to burn bright. In 1994 Nevsky graduated from State Academy of Management (Moscow). In 1999 he moved to California. He studied English at UCLA and acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. He has risen from a bit-part-player to an international action star the cannot be ignored. With his imposing intensity, versatility and personal drive, Alex, I believe, is poised to enter the arena of formidable action superstars – its only a matter of when.

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Matthias Hues is a German-born actor and martial artist as well as being an action movie icon. He came to L.A. not knowing how to act or even speak English. The fateful moment would come when he joined Gold’s Gym and the establishment’s manager received a call from a producer who had just lost Jean-Claude Van Damme for his movie and needed a replacement. Matthias tested for the role, and he managed to convince the producers to give him the part despite having no prior acting experience. The movie, No Retreat, No Surrender 2, was a moderate success, but it opened the door. He is, of course, most recognized for Dark Angel, but has also played everything from a gladiator turned private investigator in Age of Treason to an aging hit-man in Finding Interest to a bumbling idiot trying to kidnap a rich kid in Alone in the Woods to a dancing lion tamer in Big Top Pee-wee. He’s even played a Klingon general in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

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Craig Hamann came up alongside another young aspiring filmmaker whose work would go on to define a generation. When he and Quentin Tarantino embarked upon the journey to make their own movie, My Best Friend’s Birthday, there was no telling then, where the road would lead. Well we all know where Quentin ended up, but Craig too has enjoyed a long and prosperous career that has been anything but ordinary. He’s a writer, former actor, that has watched the industry ebb and flow. He’s directed Boogie Boys, had encounters with Demonic Toys and of course, of late, he’s been a part of an action-thriller in Manila. Craig has other projects in the works, and with the company he keeps, these efforts are, I’m sure, set to explode and entertain. Yet he remains a humble gentleman with a passion for his work and a dedication that has seen him endure as a great veteran of the movie business.

 

 

 

The Punisher (2004)

There’s several movie versions of Marvel’s The Punisher, which these days are pretty much eclipsed by Netflix’s take-no-prisoners, balls out long form adaptation, but the film ones are still out there, if only for variety. By several I mean three, which some might not be aware of. Dolph Lundgren made an effort back in the 90’s which looks cool, but I’ve yet to see. Ray Stevenson most recently took up the mantle for a jagged edged, jarringly violent and dismal toned entry, which is worth a look. My favourite has to be the Thomas Jane one though, by far the most ‘hollywood’, high profile stab at the mythology, slightly silly in places, dementedly weird in others, a well casted, oddly pitched vehicle that is somehow the most fun of the trio of flicks. Jane, at least in the looks department, is the closest you’ll find to the Frank Castle of the comics, a rock-jawed, all American tragic antihero turned mass murderer. The story he finds himself in… well, it’s a little stuffed with itself, subplots dangling from it like entrails and far too many characters running about, but oh well. Jane’s Castle watches his wife (sadly short lived Samantha Mathis) and family massacred in the film’s opening, at the hands of melodramatic mobster Howard Saint, played by John Travolta, who’s determined to steal every scene whether anyone likes it or not. Forced into hiding, Frank eventually becomes the angry Punisher, a vigilante dressed like a jock in a school shooter Halloween costume, now on a path to wipe out Saint and his whole freaky entourage, which includes consigliere Will Patton, sporting some icky extra curricular activities. He also shacks up with sexy Rebecca Romjin and her two apparent roommates Ben Foster and comedian John Pinette, when he needs to dodge Travolta’s onslaught of colourful assassins. Well, he only *literally* shacks up with Romjin, but you get the idea. Speaking of assassins, there’s some really cool supporting villains dispatched by Saint. Castle is unprepared when an eight foot tall, mute Russian goon in Where’s Waldo inspired attire busts down his door looking for blood. My favourite has to be Harry Heck though, a contract killer so similar to Johnny Cash that for years after watching this I legit thought they somehow convinced the man in black himself to do an epic cameo. It’s actually a country singer named Mark Collie, but oh well, the guy composes a twangy guitar accompanied vocal for every target he’s assigned, which he croons out to them before getting violent, and that’s a fuckin wicked comic book villain in anyone’s books, whether or not the character actually appeared in the ones this film is based on (I’m guilty of never reading them). This film is fun because of it’s arch, broad strokes approach, especially with Travolta’s over the top take, Laura Harring as his emotional wife, whose fault it is that the whole massacre in the opening happens to begin with. That opening is ruthless, exploitive and doesn’t hold most of anything off camera, a good setup for revenge (or,sorry, ‘punishment’) in any pulp comic book scenario. Jane holds his own, and even popped up again years later to do a pseudo sequel in short film form called ‘Punisher: Dirty Laundry’, which is so good it almost blows this one out of the water. Here you’ll find a movie that’s not quite as resigned to it’s unpleasantness as the Warzone one (which really gets messed up), but still knows how to pack a mean punch, when it’s not too tied up with itself.

-Nate Hill