Predator 2 is a gem of a film, and don’t let anyone ever try and convince you otherwise. It’s just so different and so much crazier than the first that I think people had a knee jerk ‘wtf’ reaction and panned it. It’s tough to top the sheer bombastic overdrive of the first one, which is considered a classic, but if anything the sequel switched the nitrous dial past maximum and blasts off into the stratosphere of excessive R rated chaos, an impressive feat. It also switches settings, from the sweaty jungles of South America to the equally sweaty and opulent grime of the urban jungle, namely Los Angeles of the future, bursting at the seams with so many over the top criminals and hectic, delirious violence that by the time the Predators show up they not only fit in, but seem relatively sane compared to everyone else. Seriously, every human character in this film is a coked up tornado of cartoonish energy and brashness it’s hard to keep up unless you’ve hoovered up a few rails yourself prior to sitting down and popping in the blu ray (the blu ray of this is wicked by the way, gorgeous transfer). So get this: Danny Glover, before he got too old for this shit, basically serves as a renegade SuperCop in this hellhole of a metropolis, waging all out war on loads of feral gang members and degenerates, constantly leaned on by the obligatory pain in the ass of a police commissioner (Robert Davi, god bless his republican ass) and backed up by a team of state of the art badasses, including Aliens’s Bill Paxton, who gets all the best lines and delivers them with the gusto the material deserves. He’s also backed by Ruben Blades and tough girl Maria Conchita Alonso, whose appearance and scenes with Paxton call to mind him and Jannette Goldstein side by side in Aliens, or is that just the fanboy in me having an aneurysm? Together they achieve 80’s action movie squad goals by messily wiping out as much of the criminal faction in the city as they can, including weird Rastafarian crime lord King Willie (Calvin Lockhart, spooky as all hell), until something else comes along. Something they can’t see, hear, or easily empty clips at whilst cheerfully spewing profanity. The predators have branched out, and this time there’s more than one, giving their inherent tactical nature a whole new twist. So who better to take on these extraterrestrial game wardens? Glover of course, who positively froths at the mouth. You know you’re overacting when Gary Busey has to keep up with you, and he does his loony best as some hush hush Fed who has been keeping tabs on the Preds for sometime, and has big notions of taking them down. It’s all in good fun, with jaw dropping, spectacularly brutal set pieces, violence that would not go over well these days (the 80’s didn’t give a fuck, man) and a seriously chaotic vibe humming through the whole breathless ordeal. I’d even be so bold as to say that this is the better of the two Predator films, upon getting all misty eyed and craving a rewatch after writing this. Go ahead, shame, me. It’s just too great of a flick to be as under appreciated as it is. Oh, and watch for a sly cameo from another otherworldly baddie late in the third act.
Safe House is cut from the same cloth as many a spy movie, but this horse doesn’t have quite as much piss and vinegar as other ones in the stable, notably the Bourne trilogy. It’s more of a slow burn, peppered with a few purposeful action sequences and quite a lot of time spent with Denzel Washington’s world weary spook Tobin Frost, a veteran operative who has gone severely rogue after escaping the grasp of a nasty CIA interrogator (Robert Patrick). He’s soon in the hands of rookie agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) who has been left to guard an agency safe house in Europe, now overrun with shadowy special ops dudes out to snuff Frost. The two of them are forced on the run together, and attempt to smoke out those behind the chaos, who turn out to be a little closer to home than they thought (don’t they always, in these types of movies?). Weston is young, naive and idealistic, Frost is bitter, jaded and ready to burn the agency down around him for what his career has made him do. They’re a formulaic pair made believable by the two actors, both putting in admirable work. Brendan Gleeson is great as Westons’s dodgy handler, Vera Farmiga shows moral conflict in those perfect blue eyes as another paper pusher in Langley, and Sam Shepherd smarms it up as the CIA top dog. It was nice to see Ruben Blades as well, who doesn’t work nearly enough, and watch for a sly cameo from Liam Cunningham as an ex MI6 agent. It’s not the greatest or the most memorable film, but it does the trick well enough, has a satisfying R rated edge to its violence and benefits from Washington being nice and rough around the edges. There’s a downbeat quality to it to, as Weston watches the futility inherent in the life of a spy unfold in Frost’s actions, which are leading nowhere but a self inflicted dead for a cause that’s bigger than both of them, but ultimately leaves them in the dust. Solid, if just above average stuff.
I used to own a copy of Richard Rush’s Color Of Night, and I could kick myself in the teeth for ever pawning it in times of financial despair. It’s one of the steamiest, wackiest and most ludicrous erotic thrillers that the 90’s has to offer. I’m not kidding, this one navigates its way to the edge of the map of believability and logic, and with a knowing wink, dives headlong right off the edge of it into realms of sweaty, sexy excess, characters so strange they seem to be from a looney toons episode directed by David Lynch, and a preposterous story that has to be seen to be disbelieved. That’s not to say I don’t like it; I love the hot mess and yearn for a re-watch, just as soon as I track down a dvd. Bruce Willis eases into the erotic tropes with gusto that would make Michael Douglas proud, playing color blind psychiatrist Bill Capa who gets a nerve shake-up when a distraught female patient (Kathleen Wilhouette in a cameo of gushing melodrama) takes a suicidal swan dive out of his forty story office to the NYC streets below. Soon after, he’s tasked with taking over a support group previously run by a colleague (Scott Bakula) who was murdered under mysterious circumstances. The group is populated by several oddball weirdos, one of whom may be the one who offed the good doctor Bakula. There’s tortured ex cop Buck (Lance Henriksen, always welcome and one of the only performers who takes things seriously here), OCD weasel Clark (Brad Dourif) and a host of others, all competing as to who can be the strangest red herring in the proceedings. Capa soon finds himself sexually involved with the impossibly sultry Rose (Jane March). And when I say sexually, I. Mean. Sexually. It’s hard to reach the clawing levels of heightened on-screen copulation that this baby throws at us without slipping into outright parody, and indeed sometimes it feels like we’re watching the 9/12 Weeks spoof scene in Hot Shots Part 1. It helps though, that March is breathtakingly sexy and spends a solid slice of the film absolutely in the nude, and slathered with all kinds of fluids, bodily and other. What doesn’t help? Willis’s grizzly bear fur coat of a torso and the moment where he bears his wee willy winker dinker in naked glory, making sure that anyone who didn’t quite get that image burned into their retinas with a similar scene in Pulp Fiction gets a glorious second chance here. Oh goody. Anyways, between bouts of feral coitus, Willis and March navigate treacherous waters to smoke the killer out and save their skins. They also get bothered by a bumbling detective (vivacious Ruben Blades) that would make Columbo proud. Supporting work is also provided by Kevin J. O Connor, Shirley Knight, Erick Avari, Eric Lasalle and Lesley Ann Warren who add extra incredulity to gild the already silly tone. It’s large. It’s loud. It’s oiled up. It’s a really unbelievable piece of violent eroticism, and despite everything… I loves me some Color Of Night.