My Favourite Films #38: Taken

I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what you want. If you’re looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money…but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that will be the end of it- I will not look for you, I will not pursue you….but if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you…and I will kill you.

That speech, delivered by Liam Neeson’s ex-government agent Brian Mills over the phone to his daughter’s kidnapper is the high point of this film and one of the most badass movie speeches of all time, like the 21st century equivalent of Dirty Harry’s “Do you feel lucky?” speech.

taken

The snatching scene is an immensely powerful film, with Brian hearing his daughter scream for help and get taken. It would be effective in any film, but with Neeson rather than a traditional action hero it’s even better. As he listens his face clearly shows the fear and shock as he lives every parent’s nightmare, and then incredibly subtly his face shifts and a steely resolve is clear. Then he delivers the above speech.

taken call

The movie, written and produced by Luc Besson, the French action movie legend, follows Mills as he travels to Paris on the trail of his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), who’s been snatched by human traffickers. Arriving in Paris he punches, shoots and tortures his way through the Eastern European heavies to track Kim and her friend down.

Along the way he realizes that the Albanian mob has ties everywhere and even old friends can’t be trusted and he wages his one man war on the mob.

The movie exists in a post Bourne and 24 world so there’s some extremely gritty, bone crunching action along the way and Neeson’s character isn’t adverse to torturing people for information. This causes problems for some viewers, but luckily despite the gritty realism of some scenes it stays true to it’s roots by having a string of unremarkable goons for Neeson to wade through.

Pierre Morel the director and student of Luc Besson (he’d previously worked as cinematographer on Jason Statham vehicle The Transporter and directed the pretty ace District 13) is capable behind the camera and shoots the whole thing in a tight, fast paced way with plenty of in your face camera work and a real knack for capturing the seedy underbelly of Paris.

But above all else it’s Neeson’s film. Since this he’s had a string of action hero style roles, but this was the first one and it was a bit of a surprise to see an actor like him switch to doing a rather nasty exploitation movie.

Neeson in action

Neeson in action

The nastiness works in it’s favour, allowing Neeson to sink his teeth into a morally ambiguous, relentless character who seems willing to go to any lengths to get his daughter back. The rather vicious, grim tone is a large reason for the film’s success which makes the fact they cut the sequel down to a 12 all the more mindboggling and disappointing, because this movie is a well executed, solid B-movie that sticks true to it’s nasty roots but is elevated by a strong central performance from Neeson.

Mills is an engaging character. His skills are impressive, but his strongest trait is resisting telling his ex wife “I told you so” after his fears for his daughter’s safety are realized.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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News Grab Bag Jan/Feb 2014: Deaths, Names and Badassery

Okay, so I routinely bookmark news stories that I’d like to write about, sometimes they get a post to themselves, but now and then a few smaller ones pile up and I do these News Grab Bag ones, so this is a collection of stories that caught my eye earlier this year but which I never got around to writing about. You may have heard some of them before but I hope you enjoy.

Early contender for badass of the year

It may only be the start of March, but it’s going to take a lot to topple James Grant as 2014’s badass champion.

Grant, a doctor in New Zealand was out fishing when friends when he was attacked by a shark. Now at this point I’d probably lose my shit completely and yell for Aquaman to come to my rescue, but the Kiwis, like their Aussie neighbours, are made of stronger stuff. Grant pulled his diving knife and repeatedly stabbed the shark which was sinking it’s teeth into his leg.

The shark swam off and Grant and friends returned to shore. At which point he did what every self respecting man from down under would- went for a pint. Admitting that adrenalin may have had something to do with it, Grant treated his own wounds with a first aid kit while having a beer before deciding to take himself off to hospital.

Grant shows off his bandage

Grant shows off his bandage

More.

Going out in style

Being a morbid so-and-so I’ve spent far too much time thinking about what my funeral will be like. This mainly revolves around the music selection, although I have given some thought to my coffin. However, none of my ideas are as elaborate as two instances unique funerals that I read about recently.

First up, in Puerto Rico young boxer Christopher Rivera was gunned down. At his wake he was posed in full boxing regalia and mourners were allowed to pose with their lost loved one. It all seems a little weird to me but it’s unique and pays homage to what was an important part of his life.

Puerto Rico Standing Wake

The second story also revolves around what the deceased loved. Over in the States Bill Standley was laid to rest astride his Harley Davidson bike. His sons assisted in building a special coffin which would allow this to happen, after Standley started it while battling cancer. Described as a “quirky man” by his daughter, Standley would show visitors to his home the coffin and tell them his plans, which might seem grim to some but I gotta respect the dude for his creativity and sense of fun.

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Contemptuous laugh

The fact that I’ve never been called up for jury duty is something that bugs me a lot. I think too many court room dramas have left me with an unrealistic impression of trials and how dramatic they are, but even taking this into effect I’m curious to see how the system works and also have dreams of being the sole voice for compassion and decency, Fonda-style.

People who have done jury duty have told me it’s either dull or distressing. Either way, it’s an experience that’s light on laughs.

Or usually it is, but recently in a London court room the judge had to tell the jurors to stop laughing.

To be fair the case they were hearing was a bizarre one. The accused is said to have attempted sex with a sheep after a cow wouldn’t perform fellatio on him. I defy anyone not to read that sentence and not snigger, it ranks high on the weird crime stories I’ve heard.

More.

Well nobody can say they didn’t see it coming

There’s an obscure passage in the Bible about the handling of the snakes, which I’m only aware of because I read The Years of Living Biblically. Some Christians have taken this line to believe that God’s love will protect them from snake bites and snake handling preachers exist, who handle venomous snakes as part of their services.

It’s attention grabbing to say the least and there’s even been a TV show in the USA, which features Jamie Coots. In a tragic, if unsurprising turn of events, Coots died in February after being bitten by a snake.

I’m not religious and so this practice strikes me as extremely bizarre. For one it feels a bit presumptuous to test God’s love for you, I mean, I know the Christian almighty is a caring dude but that seems to be pushing it. If God does exist he’s got enough on his plate without having to deal with folks who are putting themselves needlessly at risk just to prove a point.

My sympathies go out to Coots’ loved ones, but I can’t help feeling that this was a stupid way to go out and this sort of practice really needs to stop.

Coots

Coots

Out for Justice

The Sochi Winter Olympics finished recently (the Paralympics kick off this week) but in the run up there were a lot of fears about the safety of the games, with terrorist attacks and the usual problems of having a high profile event coming into effect. It was debated in the media and it’s the type of situation where you need experts to come in and discuss it. You know the type- ex-military types, or security officials from previous games.

But Russia Today clearly decided they needed something more. They needed someone with real experience, a man who’s taken on the mob, terrorists and saved the lives of a battleship’s crew. What a guy, right? The problem is that these weren’t one guy. They were several guys, all fictional, with one linking factor. They were all played by the same ponytailed ass kicker.

Yes, I’m talking about the man, the legend, Steven Seagal.

Calm down everyone, Russia's gonna be alright!

Calm down everyone, Russia’s gonna be alright!

Russia Today went right to the big guns for advice on how to keep the games safe.

Subtitle fail

Oops.

ngb subtitle

What’s in a name?

I always feel bad for people with daft or unusual names. At best you’re gonna waste time telling people how they’re spelt, or else face open ridicule because your parents didn’t think it through.

I don’t go in for governments telling people how to live but I’ve always felt that there should be naming office and when particularly moronic names come up they get to veto it. “You want to call your kid ‘Pineapple’? Yeah, his name’s gonna be Jeff”.

So I was kinda pleased that down Mexico way they have a rule that “prohibits giving children names that are derogatory or that don’t have any meaning and that can lead to bullying,”.

That quote comes from the Civil Registry director in Sonora, Cristina Ramirez. Already failing to get by are Rambo, Facebook and Lady Di, the last kid in particular dodged a bullet there.

I’m all for it. I mean, you might think it’s cute, but your kid’s gonna have to deal with it their whole life.

Overdue

Younger readers might not know this, but we used to have these things called VHS cassettes which had movies on. And not only that we had shops that would rent you a movie for a night or two. Kind of like a library.

Like a library they had fines if you were late getting them back. Which is fair enough. I once went overdue on Anaconda and had to pay an extra £2, it was worth it though because I love that movie.

I think it was the one time I was late taking it back and once the fine was paid it was done and dusted.

But what if you went overdue by a long time.

And lived in a country as daft as the USA.

Well, you could wind up like Kayla Finley, of South Carolina, who went to a sheriff’s office to report a crime only to be told she was a wanted woman. The reason why there was a warrant out on her? She hadn’t taken a video back 9 years ago.

Ouch, that’s gonna be a hefty fine.

Finley was understandably miffed about the whole thing, especially as she was jailed overnight. She’s due in court and aims to fight the case.

Adding salt to the wound is the fact that her undoing might be down to Monster in Law, a painful failure to make a comedy and a black mark on the careers of it’s leads Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez.

ngb monster in law

Hopefully the matter resolves itself easily, and Finley just has to pay a minor fine. I can’t see them asking for too much because, well, it’s not like they’d have got much demand for a VHS copy of this movie in recent years.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Madness? No, this is SPARTA!!!!!!!!

Marathons, triathlons, iron man triathlons, ultra-marathons- there are constantly new endurance tests being created.

Today I heard of a new one, and a new hero.

The endurance test is called a Spartan Race, after the famously badass Greek warriors, mythologized in 300.

butler

The race is fairly short, only four miles, but what makes it tough are the obstacles you have to pass- wading through water, jumping fire, climbing nets, crawling under barbed wire, ice pits- all sorts of tough stuff that a sane person would choose to avoid. There are 25 obstacles to overcome during the race.

I’m sure everyone who completed a recent Spartan Race in Yorkshire felt pretty good about themselves at the finish line, telling themselves that they were a BAMF.

And well they should, but then they probably saw one of their fellow competitors and realized that as badass as they were, there was a considerably badder AMF on scene.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Lance Bombardier James Simpson.

simpson 1

Simpson lost both legs while serving in Afghanistan back in ’09, but didn’t let this stop him and he completed the race with a time of just over four hours.

This is massively impressive as looking at some of the obstacles many able bodied people would struggle with.

simpson 2

The race director, Richard Lee said that Simpson “stands for everything we believe in such as overcoming adversity and determination”, yeah, he also stands for heroism and badassery, so James Simpson, I salute you, you mad bastard.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


DVD Roundup: Robert Rodriguez Double Bill: Planet Terror and Machete

I love Robert Rodriguez’s movies, since he made his low budget action flick El Mariachi in the early 90s he’s produced a string of ludicrously entertaining genre flicks (Desperado, From Dusk Til Dawn, The Faculty, Once Upon A Time In Mexico and Sin City) along with crafting successful kids films on the side.

His trademark seems to be fun flicks populated with weird, quirky characters that mix goofy humour with explosions of violence and OTT gore. So, I was pretty excited a few years ago when he teamed up with Quentin Tarantino to make Grindhouse, a homage to old low rent double features and each responsible for directing half of it.

However, due to poor audience responses it was then split into two separate films, which I was equally keen to see. Sadly, QT’s half, Death Proof was dreadful, so it was only recently that I picked up Rodriguez’ part, Planet Terror.

Its a zombie flick featuring a group of disparate characters having to fight off the infected. It kicks off with reluctant and dissatisfied go-go dancer Cherry (the jaw droppingly sexy Rose McGowan) strutting her stuff on stage before quitting and running into her mysterious ex, El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez). Meanwhile, Lt Muldoon (Bruce Willis) is doing a deal with dodgy scientist Abby (Naveen Andrews) which leads to a chemical weapon being released, turning people into savage zombies.

Cherry is attacked and her leg is torn off and stolen. At the hospital El Wray is arrested and disarmed by Sheriff Hague (Michale Biehn), and Cherry is treated by sadistic Doctor Block (Josh Brolin) who is abusive to his bisexual wife Dakota (Marley Shelton), and when her ex lover (Fergie, sadly not shown being eaten alive) is bought in as a victim he paralyses her with anesthetics and attempts to flee. Dakota recovers, and rescues her son.

El Wray rescues the one legged Cherry, and they all hole up at the barbecue joint rang by Hague’s brother JT (Jeff Fahey). But they have to flee and run into Muldoon and the imprisoned Abby.

What are El Wray and Muldoon’s secrets? What became of Block? Can they escape the infected? And how will Cherry cope with just one leg (clue, its on the bloody poster!)?

The film is definitely the better of the two, with Rodriguez really nailing the vibe of old horror B-movies, there’s a twisted side to it but at its core its a dumb, fun flick. The zombies are done fairly well and all the gore is gleefully OTT, with every bullet making bodies explode and blood splattering everywhere.

The sense of fun spills over into the ludicrous plot points and the script. We have Cherry hobbling around on one leg and complaining that this has ended her chances of becoming a stand-up comedian, El Wray escaping on a tiny motorbike and Abby’s weird habit of collecting the testicles of his enemies. Its tongue is firmly planted in its cheek and its an entertaining ride throughout, and features a great, funny script (Sample dialogue: “Looks like a no brainer” “What’s that mean?” “No brain, scooped right out of the skull”).

That being said there are moments when the tone lurches quite dramatically (one moment is genuine shocking and there’s a cameo from QT as a thoroughly sleazy henchman which is a bit sour compared to the rest of the film’s tone), but this in a way feels right due to what its a parody/homage of.

There’s also a really nice touch where midway through a title card comes up apologizing for a “missing reel” and the action resumes further along in the story, with some of the questions having been answered in the gap and only fleetingly referred to afterwards. Its a funny gag and a little disorientating, and reminded me of my Dad telling the story of seeing a Godzilla movie while abroad where the reels were shown in the wrong order.

The cast embrace it all gleefully and do very well bringing it all to life. Freddy Rodriguez gets into things as the mysterious El Wray, performing the role with swaggering, cliched badassery while also managing to be cool in his own way. He’s a deadpan zombie killing machine and its the exact kind of hero these kind of B-movies employ.

Lock and load- McGowan, Rodriguez, Shelton and Andrews get ready to kill some zombies.

Rose McGowan is sexy and funny as Cherry, and her machine gun-legged character is possibly the most memorable feature of the film, and she’s wonderfully charming. Andrews is delightfully camp as the dodgy scientist and Biehn and Fahey as the bickering Hague brothers are engaging, especially with Biehn convincing as the tough local sheriff.

The best thing is that while it does spoof the genre and follow a lot of the genre conventions there are a few nice touches and Rodriguez does something QT seems to have forgotten how to do, make cool characters you actually do warm to and kind of like.

All in all a campy, twisted little zombie flick which is extremely entertaining and great fun. 7/10.

To add to the double bill feeling of Grindhouse QT and RR included specially made fake trailers directed by themselves and others, one of which caught the imagination was Machete, which Rodriguez went on to develop into a full length movie on its own.

It gives Rodriguez regular Danny Trejo his first lead role as the eponymous hero, a former Mexican federale who’s double crossed by his boss and left for dead by drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal) who’s whacked his family. Three years later Machete is living in Texas, struggling to get by as a day labourer and gardener. He’s hired by a shady guy Booth (Fahey again) to assassinate a right wing Senator (Robert De Niro) who has a hard-line stance on immigration.

It turns out to be a double cross, with Machete injured and on the run, with the Senator having survived. The plan is Booth’s to gain the Senator support and popularity and enable them to have control over the border and what drugs come in.

Machete is aided by Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), who leads the local immigrants network under the alias She, and immigration officer Riviera (Jessica Alba), who starts to become interested in the loner. Machete also contacts his brother, now a priest (Cheech Marin) for help.

The Senator has ties with a local vigilante who executes border jumpers, Von Jackson (Don Johnson) who realizes the Senator has been lying to him regarding his dealings with Torrez. And Torrez heads for Texas to deal with his old enemy.

Can Machete clear his name, bring the wrongdoers to justice and survive the coming battle?

You bet your ass he can. Like with countless Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood and other action hero flicks Machete is an unstoppable killing machine and total badass. Trejo is perfect for the role as he looks tough enough to convince as the Mexican killing machine and also delivers the lines in a brilliantly deadpan manner. His restraint at the heart of the movie balances out the madness that makes up the rest of the flick.

Trejo’s worn, grizzled demeanor also works for how the film seems to spoof the cliche of the sex machine hero, with the scarred Machete being seemingly irresistible to women.

Its a classic Rodriguez flick in that its crammed with these bizarre minor characters who don’t get enough of a chance to shine on screen, most notably is Lindsay Lohan as Booth’s daughter, who despite being hyped up in the film’s advertising only appears in a handful of scenes.

You can’t help feeling that some of the supporting cast are a little wasted, particularly Don Johnson, but they all do their work admirably and seem to embrace the film’s ridiculous tone.

Its incredibly stupid at times but there’s a certain charm to it and its got some brilliantly over the top fights. The fights are the highlight but there’s also quirky off beat humour throughout.

A fantastically daft affair and thoroughly good fun. 7/10.

Also, I’m really looking forward to the sequel especially as it stars Lady Gaga.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


As if I needed more reason to love Ron Perlman

I’m a massive fan of Ron Perlman, the guy is a total legend and always good to watch, appearing in one of my all time favourite movies, Blade II, and one of my favourite TV shows, Sons of Anarchy.

Ron Perlman, looking utterly badass as Clay in Sons of Anarchy

But this week I got another reason to love the dude, someone tweeted about Perlman having done a Make a Wish Foundation visit to a little kid who wanted to meet Hellboy, the character Perlman played in two ace movies.

Now, long-time readers will know that nothing warms my heart like a story involving sick children and superheroes, here are exhibits A and B.

It helps that I totally love Perlman’s work in the Hellboy movies, which I really loved. I especially liked the character- this rash, bighearted lug who looks like a monster but acts like a teenage boy.

Awkward? Not thinking things through? Trying to be a good guy but mainly making a mess? Fancying Selma Blair? I could relate, or rather, its how I like to see myself, although I fear I’m probably closer to the fancying Selma Blair part not the heroic attributes.

The gorgeous Selma Blair

Anyway, this kid, Zachary, aged 6, who’s undergoing treatment for leukemia made the wish and so Perlman decided to make the trip to see him and underwent the 4 hour make up transformation. Which is a totally awesome thing to do, and a massive effort to make for someone.

Apparently he hung out with the kid, who was delighted and even gave him a HB makeover. Its a lovely thing for Perlman to have done and its increased my affection and respect for the dude. Also, I think its further evidence, if any were needed, that the Make A Wish foundation is a really great idea and does great work in raising the spirits of these kids who have had a rough time of it.

Zachary gets to hang out with Hellboy. Awesome.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


DVD Round Up: The Losers, Conan the Barbarian and X- Men First Class

A while ago I wrote about my habit of constantly buying books leading to a backlog, well, I do the same thing with DVDs. I’ll pick up some flick that’s been recommended to me or I missed at the cinema and then they sit, unwatched on a shelf for a while.

Anyway, last week, with an evening to myself I decided to have a bit of a film fest and here are my thoughts on the three movies I watched.

First up is The Losers an action movie about a black ops team who are betrayed, framed and left for dead. They team up with a mysterious girl (Zoe Saldana) to get revenge on the shifty CIA spook responsible for their situation.

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I quite enjoyed this movie, the plot is standard action fare and its quite daft in places, but I really liked the absurd, OTT action sequences. There are some nice touches and fun scenes, the standout for me being a fight between Saldana’s enigmatic Aisha and the team’s leader played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Before the fight both limber up in seperate rooms and the fight is a scrappy, surprisingly violent brawl.

The team is pretty cool, with JDM and his right hand man, Idris Elba being badass. Chris Evans is almost unrecognisable as the group’s awkward, loudmouth tech, but the show is stolen by the sniper, Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) who says little but oozes badassery.

Loud, dumb fun with nice flourishes 6/10

I followed this up with the new version of Conan the Barbarian. I was apprehenive as I’m a Conan fan and love the old Arnie movie.

image

Here Jason Momoa takes the role, with Conan on the vengeance trail for the murder of his entire people. Along the way he has to hack and slash his way through various enemies, rescue a princess and save the world.

Momoa definitely looks the part, being unbelievably ripped and he also is fairly charismatic, with Conan seeming to revel in his life of fighting, drinking and womanising, being a barbarian looks bloody good fun.

There are some great touches especially the way that Conan’s dad (played by the legendary Ron Perlman) is bumped off. Its a nasty, violent death that sets up the villain’s sadistic cruelty and Conan’s lust for revenge.

There’s also a brilliant early scene where we see that even as a kid Conan was one tough bastard.

I loved that quite a bit of the action was old school stunt work, avoiding an overdose of CGI.

The villains are hissable and Rose McGowan, completely transformed under make up seems to be having a ball playing a crazy witch.

While it will never replace the Arnie version in my heart this is probably the better movie, even though the Morgan Freeman voiceover is off putting, mainly as it always reminds me of Family Guy (“like a twinkie”).
Momoa does a good job, and its a fun, rollicking sword and sorcery yarn. 7/10
Last up, and most feted was X-Men: First Class the prequel to the X-movies. Being a geek I’m a little suprised I missed this on the big screen.

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The movie follows the meeting of Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) against the back drop of the Cuban missile crisis, which is being escalated by the villainous Hellfire Club, and their leader Sebastien Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who is the nazi who tortured and experimented on Magneto when he was a boy in the concentration camps.
It sees Xavier and Magneto gather the first team and argue over methods and mutants’ relationship with normal humans.
Its quite a good film, with the two leads doing very good work. Fassbender is incredibly charismatic as Magneto, capturing the rage and bitterness within while also showing the charm and wit that McKellen had in the role (almost described his performance as “magnetic”, lucky I avoided that pun mine). McAvoy though also does wonderfully, showing us Xavier as a cocksure, charmer who isn’t quite up to his responsibility to start off with.
There are wonderful touches and some great big action scenes, but for me it felt a little flat.
I think though that this was down to what I took into the film.
Being a big geek I’ve never really warmed to the movies of the X-Men, they were the first comics I got into and I love the characters, and the movies, while entertaining have a knack for watering them down.
The best example of this is taking the strong, authoritative Storm and turning her into Halle Berry in a cheap wig.
A few of the characters suffer from this (Emma Frost and Banshee are pale shadows of their comic book selves) but the worst is Hank McCoy aka Beast played here by Nicholas Hoult. Hoult’s performance is okay, but its what the writers have done that grates. In this version McCoy is just your common or garden nerdy scientist- stammering, awkward, shy.

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Which sucks.
What makes the Beast such a good character is that rather than merely being the X-Men’s resident brain he’s also wonderfully larger than life- a joker and fast talker imbued with a natural swagger, he’s charming, witty and verbose. Like a furry Stephen Fry.
Still, these are geekboy whinings, and some of the film’s characterisations really work. I especially liked adding the Mystique-Xavier unrequited love thing, and Jennifer Lawrence is magnificent as the young, fragile shapeshifter, expressing the hurt she feels at Xavier’s offhand manner. The film shows why she ends up with Magneto, and Fassbender’s charm makes it seem like the right choice.
Bacon is also brilliant as the villain, never overplaying it.
All in all, a good movie, quite fun in places with strong performances.
Also, features a fantastic cameo from Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) that made me laugh out loud.
A good addition to the series, with Fassbender, McAvoy, Lawrence and Bacon giving good showings. Nice tweaks to some characters, but my inner angry geek can’t score it more than 7.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO


Movie Review: Lockout

This film opens with one of the best character introductions I’ve seen in years.

In close up we see Guy Pearce’s face, he plays Snow, an ex-CIA operative who is being questioned. Snow responds to each question with a quip and is promptly punched in the face, disappearing out of shot briefly before reappearing, bloodied, to quip again.

Guy Pearce's cool introduction as Snow.

Snow is an old school, sarcastic quipping action-hero, I heard him likened to Bruce Willis in a review by Mark Kermode, and I think that’s quite accurate. The profanity and toughness he shows in this flick does have echoes of what I think is one of Willis’ best movies The Last Boy Scout.

Its odd to see Pearce play such a simplistic role, as he’s mainly known for more serious, thoughtful work like Memento and LA Confidential, but its a testimony to his range and skill as an actor that he makes a thoroughly convincing, likable roguish action hero.

In a dystopian near future Snow has been framed for a crime he didn’t commit, the murder of his friend, a secret service agent suspected of espionage. However, his friend was attempting to get back stolen secrets and expose the mole in the agency. Snow was apprehended fleeing the scene, but had managed to pass the case on to his associate, Mace (Tim Plester) who stashed it in a subway locker before being nabbed himself.

Snow is in trouble as the agent in charge Langral (Peter Stormare) is unsympathetic and believes him to be guilty. However, an old friend, Shaw (Lennie James) is slightly more helpful.

Meanwhile, the President’s daughter, Emilie (Maggie Grace) has visited a prison satellite on a humanitarian trip to check that storing prisoners in stasis is ethical. However, during an interview with Hydell (Joseph Gilgun) a crazed prisoner something goes wrong and Hydell escapes, freeing all the other prisoners leading to mayhem.

Hydell’s calmer, more rational brother Alex (Vincent Regan) takes control of the situation and stops Hydell from assaulting Emilie, who’s identity he is unaware of.

Snow is chosen to undertake a daring one man rescue in exchange for his freedom, and is initially reluctant until Shaw tips him off that Mace is in the prison, meaning Snow may be able to clear his name and expose the traitor.

Snow in action.

Will Snow rescue Emilie? And how long will it be before Alex realises that he holds a very important hostage?

As you can tell its a fairly simple, genre flick but that isn’t a bad thing. There are echoes of Escape From New York, although as cool as Pearce is as Snow he’s not quite in the Snake league of awesomeness.

Snake Plissken- one of the all time best movie badasses

You kind of know what you’re going to get because Luc Besson is listed as a producer and he is the king of fun, badass action movies, after all this is the man who had a hand in District 13, Taken and the Transporter series, and this film doens’t disappoint.

Yes its got a few cliched touches, and its predictable, but its a thoroughly entertaining ride and the kind of film that’d be perfect for a night in with a can or two and a pizza.

A large part of this is down to Pearce, as I said, he surprised me with how good an action hero he makes and I can’t stress enough how cool he is. He delivers the sarky one-liners with great aplomb and the character of Snow is the kind of chain smoking tough guy that was popular in the 80s/90s. Its good to have it back, this is a film where the hero isn’t haunted by ghosts of the past or inner demons, in fact its suggested heavily that Snow’s fall from grace may simply be down to his own inability to play with others.

Pearce has bulked up quite considerably and does give the impression throughout that under the jokes and dishevelled appearance that Snow is a badass. This is highlighted when the action kicks off, but I rather like the fact that rather than skill, Snow’s major advantage comes from his resiliency, as he gets a pasting over the course of the film. But too tough, or dumb to stay down he merely dusts himself off and keeps scrapping.

And the interplay between Snow and Emilie is one of the film’s greatest strengths, with his cynicism colliding head-on with her idealism. They spark off each other very well and exchange quickfire dialogue wonderfully, much of it having an old-school hard boiled feel to it.

Grace and Pearce

Also, the character of Emilie is an interesting one, she gives the film a bit of heart and her horror and guilt as she realises that her life has been attributed more value than the other hostages is quite touching. She’s also quite a tough character, and while she may whine a bit at the start she’s a fairly strong female role as she gives as good as she gets with Snow and displays some grit and integrity. I liked that she refused to just be bossed about and fall into the trap of being a simple damsel in distress.

The supporting cast is quite good as well- the villainous brothers make for engaging villains, with Vincent Regan playing Alex with a cold ruthless edge that gives a palpable air of menace and Gilgun really cutting loose as the unhinged Hydell, a demented, babbling force of nervous energy and danger.

Demented- Gilgun as Hydell

Stormare does shady and dodgy as well as anybody, and here he’s on fine form, and as the friendlier agent Shaw, Lennie James is quite likable and he and Pearce have a certain amount of chemistry during their banter.

The film is not without its flaws, mainly the anonymity of the rest of the prisoners. I know there’s not enough time to sketch out the henchmen, but they largely fade into the background and it might’ve been better if a few had been given unique gimmicks or something.

There’s a fair amount of CGI and some of the fight sequences are a trifle short for my liking, but it whistles past at an engaging, breakneck speed and the positives outweigh the negatives by quite some margin.

Also, the ending feels perfectly pitched and ensures you leave the cinema with a smile on your face.

Another success for Besson, and might we see Pearce reinvent himself as an action hero? On the basis of his work here, he’d make a good one.

Verdict: Pearce is fantastic as the cynical tough guy hero, and there’s good chemistry between him and Grace. A thoroughly entertaining, no-nonsense sci-fi action movie. 7/10

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO


Badass Movie Moments #1- The coldest line in movie history?

In Rocky IV, Rocky’s former foe-turned-friend Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) comes out of retirement for one last fight with a Russian boxer who’s just burst on the scene. The Russian, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) is a beast and what’s intended as an exhibition turns into a battering for the former Champion.

Drago on the offensive.

After watching his mate get pulverised, Rocky is all for throwing in the towel, but Creed orders him not to. Creed then wades back into another pounding from the giant Russian, who smacks him about and sends him to the mat, where he lies, twitching.

But the moment of sheer badassery comes as doctors and friends crowd around Creed and reporters begin firing questions at Drago, what does he feel about Creed? What if Creed’s badly hurt?

Drago then delivers, without emotion what is one of the most cold-blooded lines in movie history:

“If he dies, he dies.”

Drago

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO


Bad Movies I Love #3 Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers was a flick I heard about in my teens, not long after it came out on video, so around 1998.

A buddy of mine, Geraint, had seen the flick and told me it was the shit, now my parents had always been strict with what movies I got to watch, I was the last of my friends to see The Terminator, Predator and all these other badass action movies that my friends would tell me about in great detail.

I’m not sure why my parents were so hardline about it, although I was petrified and scarred after seeing Jurassic Park at age 8. What annoyed me was that while I had to wait until my mid teens to see an Arnie movie that wasn’t Twins or Kindergarden Cop, when the embargo was lifted it was lifted for all 4 of the kids, meaning my youngest sister got a 5 year headstart on me, in fact my first viewing of Terminator at age 14 was with her.

Needless to say, since then I’ve absorbed countless brainless action movies, and while I love a good rom com, or well crafted drama, most times if I want to watch a film I’ll stick on something with explosions and daft one liners in.

Anyway, back to Starship Troopers. I wanted to see it, Geraint had made it sound like the most amazing, stunning movie ever made. My mum and dad watched it, and it failed to pass their test.

So, years later, I actually got round to sitting down and watching the flick, and my friend was kind of right. He’d said I’d love it and I did, but it wasn’t as amazing as I’d thought it would be, in fact, in lots of ways it sucked, but goddamn it if I didn’t love it anyway, maybe even moreso because of its flaws.

The movie follows Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) a young guy in a slightly fascistic future where you earn citizenship. Rico enlists in the military to join a war on these massive alien bug things, and becomes a trooper, mainly to impress his girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards). After initially struggling, Rico becomes a pretty good soldier and his besotted friend “Dizzy” (Dina Meyer) is in the same unit as him.

The film mainly follows Rico, Dizzy and their comrades in gory battles with the bugs. Here’s what I love about the film:

1. Rico

Our hero isn’t exactly that endearing, he’s cocky, not too bright and painfully oblivious to the fact that Dizzy wants to jump his bones. Van Dien isn’t a great actor, but he kind of works as the dumbass Rico. By the end of the film Rico’s risen through the ranks, mainly on the basis of bravery and luck in not being killed.

You could say there’s a satirical point in the fact that the best soldier isn’t particularly bright and so easy for the army to mould.

2. Rasczak

Rasczak is played by B-movie legend Michael Ironside and is Rico’s commanding officer and former teacher. He is also totally badass, and leads his unit the roughnecks with gruff efficiency. He’s like the seargent you get in all old war movies, tough as nails and dragging the grunts through.

Rasczak- Badass

He also gets most of the movie’s best lines, which are then nicked by Rico when he later takes over.

3. Somebody actually gives a worse performance than Denise Richards

Denise Richards is quite a bad actress. Her performance in The World Is Not Enough is shoddy even by the low standards of Bond girls (it would be surpassed by Halle Berry in Die Another Day, where Berry delivers lines in a way that doesn’t even seem human) and she’s not brilliant here, but she’s far from the worst actor on show.

There is so much bad acting in this flick its unbelievable, but just like Neighbours or slasher films, this actually becomes an endearing quality in the movie.

4. Nudity!

There are a few scenes that take place in the shower, where the characters (male and female, the General Infantry is for both genders) stand about and chat without once checking each other out.

Also gives rise to one of my favourite behind the scenes stories in which some of the cast were a little hesitant and so director Paul Verhoven actually stripped off as well, which is pretty decent and clever of him, I guess it levels the field.

5. Violence!

The gore content in this flick is pretty high. Nobody dies easy, there’s usually a severed limb or a massive gush of blood, and quite a few “That’s gotta hurt!” moments.

6. Cannon Fodder

Like all good war/action/sci-fi movies a lot of characters may as well walk on screen with a target on them. Rico’s squad contains a bunch of people who may as well already have toe-tags on.

There’s the overly cocky, posturing badass of a squad leader who gives Rico s*it and is toasted minutes later, a whiny ginger girl who freaks out and legs it during their first fight scene and most obviously of all, the trooper nicknamed “Kitten”.

Oh, Kitten, you never had a chance.

7. Don’t ask, don’t tell?

The more I watch this film I notice a 3rd love story. Rico and Carmen is the most obvious, followed by the torch that Diz carries for Rico and then the third, more understated love that Rico’s buddy/sidekick Ace (Jake Busey) has for his friend.

Seriously, rewatch the flick. I’m sure Ace has feelings for Rico. He wants to go with him on every patrol, and following Rico being dumped he says “Don’t worry, you’ve still got me to kick around.” A friendly joke? Or a desperate cry for attention from a lovestruck fool?

Rico and Diz dance, is Ace jealous?

Why does everyone go for Rico? Sure he’s quite buff, but everyone seems to want a piece.

8. Would you like to know more?

The best, cleverest thing in the movie is the fact it pushes the narrative on by having these little news bulletins where information is given ending with “Would you like to know more?” Its smart and shows how propaganda is deployed during wartime.

Its also one of those films where you can’t understand the hero’s choice in love interest, why go for Carmen when the much more badass Dizzy is right there?

Dina Meyer as Dizzy, definitely better than Carmen

Any thoughts? You know what to do. TTFN