It was only a matter of time…
The B Action Movie Thread has been a gargantuan mainstay of this site for several years. So, in our continued efforts to dominate the internet in every conceivable way, here is a weekly column. A digest, if you will. Dig in and we’ll see you in the thread!
THIS WEEK ON THE B ACTION MOVIE THREAD.
It’s an exciting time. This is the year that we celebrate our 5th anniversary and it seems appropriate that part of that celebration consists in getting our own column on the site.
So, let’s kick it off…
The Navy Seals soundtrack has finally (and perhaps inexplicably) been released. We talk about that on page 1380 and it leads into an interesting dissection of composer Sylvester Levay and his strangely uneventful career. Beginning on page 1382, we react to the forum overhaul in fine B Thread tradition. Which is to say we begin abusing the YouTube embed function like there was no tomorrow. But some choice things are posted. In particular, the final showdown from Michael Mann’s Thief – featuring thread favorite Robert Prosky and his amazing death scene.
We also briefly touch on the upcoming Red Dawn remake and lament the fact that MGM didn’t just burn all the prints.
Some regulars also rank their Top 5 B Action Favorites of the last five years and there is also a ranking of Gene Hackman films.
You can rest assured that our good friend Rene has placed Loose Cannons in his top 5.
The biggest feature this week is thread stalwart Moltisanti’s now traditional B Action Preview. Conveniently divided into two parts. Take a look and mark your caledars.
Moltisanti also has some interesting things to say about the great character actor Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa during a discussion of the Dolph Lundgren film Bridge Of Dragons.
Tagawa is a treat in the aforementioned BRIDGE OF DRAGONS. Now is his character in the film on the level of Yoshida from SHOWDOWN? No, but it’s awfully hard to best a character that beheads a crack-slut mid-foreplay.
Other Tagawa favorites:
AMERICAN ME: Fine work from Tagawa as El Japo, the lone Asian member of Edward James Olmos’ prison posse.
WHITE TIGER: His drug kingpin in this flick is a delightful foil for Gary Daniels’ vengeful cop.
THE PERFECT WEAPON: Truth be told Tagawa is upstaged in this one by James Hong, but whatever, it’s a helluva movie.Miami Vice Season 4 episode “The Rising Sun of Death”: One of the better episodes from the fourth season, Tagawa plays a private investigator who teams up with Lt. Castillo to take down a Yakuza businessman (also played by James Hong!). Always great to see a Castillo-centric episode of Vice and having a Yakuza-themed Castillo-centric episode was indeed a treat.
I wonder if Edward James Olmos enjoyed working with Tagawa so much on Vice that that is what convinced him to cast Tagawa in AMERICAN ME? I choose to believe so.
And his astute observation about Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins is priceless:
I really don’t get the deal with those construction workers who Patrick Kilpatrick pays to kill Remo on the Statue of Liberty. Are we somehow to believe that random construction workers will agree to commit murder at the drop of a hardhat? Never mind some corrupt defense contractor bullshit, the league of homicidal construction workers should have been the greater concern for Wilford Brimley. That’s the crisis that would keep me up nights.
Duke Fleed returns from his yearly holiday in Jupiter, FL and is not at all upset by the news that Stephen Sommers will not be returning for the GI Joe sequel. Taking the news in bright spirits, and looking forward to a movie that will most likely make his Top Ten list on its year of release, he prefers to discuss TJ Hooker and other classic TV policiers from the 80s.
T.J. Hooker had more collateral damage, than any other cop series. Cars were smashed routinely, shoot outs were the norm, as was Hooker routinely calling criminals…Scum. Also, Heather Locklear, is…Terrific as Officer Stacy Sheridan, the loveliest…Heather in prime time in the 80’s. Her partner Jim Corrigan portrayed by James Darren is the perfect as the veteran cop to pair with Ms Locklear. Adrian Zmed was also good as Hooker’s younger partner. Hunter eventually…softened up in the last…3 1/2 seasons, after the original showrunner left. Then, the Captain was buddy buddy, with Rick and Dee Dee, and not constantly at odds with them. Hunter would have been higher, except for all the…supervehicle series, on my list. To me, Cannell’s best, will always be…The A-Team! Also, The Fall Guy, just nicks, Hunter, because of the…Other beautiful blonde…Heather, the lovely Ms. Thomas.
THE MIND OF RENE F. RANGEL
Got back a while ago safely from my trip and have quite the haul of movies. Among them is Speed 2: Cruise Control. My girlfriend and I had been discussing the first Speed movie, and that trailed off onto the sequel which we both had seen long ago (I saw it in the theater) and how it wasn’t very good at all, but we wouldn’t mind seeing it again. I found it at the Half Price Books for $5, and figured why not.
I’m watching Freejack right now. Pretty good so far. I like the plot of healthy bodies from the past being transported to the future so rich people can put their minds into them and live forever.
Check out the official poster for Bolo Yeung’s latest film. Courtesy of Hans Gruber’s EYE CONDITION!
Pay particular attention to the existential tagline.
THIS WEEK’S MOVIE
RENE REFLECTS ON BLACK RAIN
I saw Black Rain in the movie theater back in 1989 when it came out. I was 5 years old and I don’t remember every single moment of it. The one part burned into my brain is the post-“CHHHHHARRRRRRLLLLIIIIEEEEE!!!!” moment of Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas) standing in the rain. My dad said we saw it at the Rialto—an old movie theater that my dad had been going to for years—a grindhouse, if you will. My mom hated the place for being so dirty, but I loved it. You got a double feature for a dollar, plus they would let you stay in the theater and see a movie again.
It wasn’t until a year later when we spent Christmas with my brother (the same brother who would send us many tapes of HBO broadcasts of films that are now beloved in The B-Action Thread) that we saw Black Rain on HBO. Seeing Nick Conklin in action again was awesome. It was the movie that made me a lifelong fan of Michael Douglas. Not Romancing The Stone, not Coma, not Wall Street—Black. Rain.
There are many movies that people in The B-Action Thread are torn over. Black Rain isn’t one of them. It’s quite possibly the one movie that everyone agrees on. That’s the power of THE BIGGEST THING TO HIT JAPAN SINCE GODZILLA. As has been mentioned on the first B-Movie Podcast, this was Michael Douglas’ first post-Oscar effort. It wasn’t the first or last time an Oscar winner would choose a non-prestige picture as their first post-Oscar film, but it’s definitely the best one. There’s a great chemistry between Douglas and Andy Garcia as his idealistic young partner. Even Kate Capshaw, who so many wrongly accuse of being a bad actress, is a sight to behold (in more ways than one) as Nick’s primary love interest, an American working in a Japanese nightclub.
Ridley Scott was still see-sawing as a Director, and wouldn’t really hit the A-list streak until Thelma and Louise hit two years later. In the meantime, he made this remarkable film. Some would call it a generic fish out of water movie, but it’s got so much more than that. Black Rain is bursting with so much manic energy that you wouldn’t have known that Yusaku Matsuda, the actor who plays the villainous Sato, was dying of cancer during filming. He plays the role with so much intensity and even has a knockdown, drag-out fight with Douglas (favorite bit: the mud flying into the camera). Shit, the entire climax is one big action sequence. From the beginning of it where the honorable Yakuza boss Sugai demands respect in the old ways (finger cutting) to when Sato starts a chain reaction of events by stabbing Sugai in the hand, and his men get into a shootout, it’s glorious.
If Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa and Mako had shown up, pretty much the entire backlog of Japanese actors who crossed over to American films would have shown up in this movie. Perhaps it’s because of the budget or the fact that Ridley Scott didn’t want to go with obvious choices, but he’s got Tatsu from the Ninja Turtles movies and Professor Toru Tanaka on hand. Even the legendary Al Leong shows up briefly!
Last, but certainly not least, is Ken Takakura as Masa, the one cop who can speak perfect English in the Japanese police department, as evidenced by his first line: “Assistant Inspector Matsumoto Masahiro, Criminal Investigation section, Osaka Prefecture police. And I do speak fucking English.” He of course starts out as a completely straight laced cop, and then starts to believe in the ways of the Western cops that he befriends.
I love this movie so much, I have the novelization of it, and I own both dvd releases as I cannot bear to part with my old dvd since that one has the spectacular poster art.
If you haven’t seen Black Rain, SEE IT. You won’t regret it, and you will find yourself wanting to do Karaoke and shouting KANPAI TIME!
“I usually get kissed before I get fucked!”
Outside of Blade Runner and Alien, Black Rain is, hands down, my favorite Ridley Scott film. We’ve seen these fish-out-of-water plots done to death before and after this film, but Scott’s distinctive flair turns the exotic Japanese urban jungle into a metropolis that the Replicants would feel at home in, and the narrative turns the film takes are brilliantly executed and have an anarchic grasp on defying clichés. It’s one of the most underrated performances from the once and always D-FENS. The levity of Andy Garcia and Ken Takakura’s show-stopping “What’d I Say” duet holds its own with the karaoke scenes in Lost in Translation.
I would have loved to have seen what Verhoeven would have done with the film (he was originally slated to direct), but where the film lacks exploding packets of strawberry syrup from IHOP, it gains a brilliant insight into postwar Japan’s economic and philosophical conflicts with America (the scene where Sugai correlates his criminal activities to his experiences during the bombing of Hiroshima is exposition at its most powerful), and the aesthetics explode as beautifully as the fiery blasts do.
“If he does that one more time, I’m gonna cut it off!”
Revisiting Black Rain recently, besides having a grand old time as usual, I was struck by how basic it really is. There was a brief discussion in the first B Thread Podcast where we debated whether or not it was a B Movie. Seeing it again, I can attest that it definitely is.
It opens with a motorcycle race and ends with two guys kicking the shit out of each other in the mud. Sandwiched between all this are industrial shootouts and Michael Douglas outrunning a semi.
It could have easily been a Steven Seagal or Van Damme programmer from the same period, plot intact.
But when you get classy actors and a director of prestige to handle this action figure material, it makes an astonishing difference. (But I’ll let Mike elaborate on that in a minute) The movie convinces you very quickly that it’s a work of depth. And you’re very happy to be convinced.
Similar Movies Also Worth a Damn: The Yakuza, Year of the Dragon, Showdown in Little Tokyo.
ICON OF THE WEEK
MIKE FLYNN’S THESIS – RIDLEY SCOTT AS B MOVIE AUTEUR
To paraphrase Roger Ebert, what makes a B-movie a B-movie isn’t the way it’s made, it’s about the plotting and how the suspension of disbelief is implemented. In other words, being a B-movie is not a stigma. It’s a way of constructing a film, and money and talent may make it more appetizing or commercial, but you can’t escape the suspension of disbelief. Like Jack Burton told us, it’s all in the reflexes.
In that regard, Ridley Scott ranks as one of the most visionary and accomplished B-movie directors of all time. Alien is a creature feature bursting with atmosphere and unnerving architecture. Blade Runner is 1940’s drive-in noir against a sumptuous futuristic canvas, amplified by its commentary on the struggle between technology and humanity. Conceptually, they could end up ludicrous with a straight-shooting director. Ridley, on the other hand, is a B-movie laureate. If you’re reading this, you’ve certainly seen these movies (and if you haven’t, may I suggest watching them ASAFP?) and been wowed over by them.
I hate to break it to you, but the reason why the man is so brilliant is that he creates illusions of illusions, simple ideas that may be riddled with clichés but digs deeper into the themes of the film. Black Rain could have been nonsense in the grand tradition of Red Heat with its East-vs.-West sensibilities, but Scott digs deeper. For one, his visual style is at the top of its game, as Scott and cinematographer Jan de Bont help late 80’s Osaka pop in the same way his vision of 2019 Los Angeles visually arrested. The sound design earned a pair of Oscar nominations, something that the thundering Blu-ray audio delivers beautifully on.
Then there’s the way the film approaches its protagonist, an underrated turn from Michael Douglas in his first post-Wall Street effort. The character of Nick Conklin is Stock Hard-Edged Cop #588, his temper and patience for the post-samurai way of the Japanese police as snub-nosed as his revolver. However, his hostility is not because of bigotry, like Mickey Rourke’s Stanley White in Year of the Dragon, it’s the unwillingness to adapt to the culture shock of Japan. Scott portrays the Japanese police as having the pedigree of “real” detectives who ask questions first and shoot if it’s necessary—not the rough-and-tumble demeanor of Conklin. Conklin’s firearms are revoked and his efforts at using the case as redemption for his purported corruption as a New York cop are hindered by it—a not-so-nuanced castration that Arnold or Sly would have never allowed. An interesting bit of foreshadowing, that he followed up with the feminist revenge fantasy Thelma and Louise makes all the more sense.
Lo and behold, time has been kind to Scott’s sensibilities, and after a rough 90’s, the man was well in demand after the success of Gladiator, the box-office blockbuster where a Roman soldier takes to the Colosseum to kick ass for the vengeance of his slain family. By the way, this movie won five Academy Awards, and two of them were for Best Picture and Actor—the point being, the man has an inescapable flair for visual compulsion, and if you can lead what’s essentially Death Wish with togas and swords to Oscar gold, you’re an icon. Even today, he hasn’t shed his instincts—fare like Black Hawk Down and Body of Lies are more topical sensibilities and less B-movie qualities. Nevertheless, the baroque chaos of Hannibal helps its shortcomings in the adaptation of the material. Matchstick Men is a modernized take on the lost low-key gems from the 70’s that are only available on VHS (for $75 plus shipping on eBay). In perhaps his most successful recent film, he merges the gritty procedural drama Friedkin and Lumet perfected with 42nd Street blaxploitation in American Gangster, a film whose true story often echoed a B-picture but has the sheen and class of a vintage Rolls-Royce. Plus, lest we forget, his last movie was about Robin Hood. He’s a classy artist with an esoteric eye for the potentially listless, and a man who puts in effort like that deserves to be saluted.