COMPILED BY ERIX ANTOINE
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 (Last Week’s Installment)
Hi all, Rene here with the latest goings on from The B-Action Movie Thread in this week’s Round Up.
We begin the discussion by finding out from felix that Statham’s latest film, Blitz is going DTV and will street on disc on August 23rd.
I finally watched the last Fast And The Furious movie that I’d been missing out on seeing, Tokyo Drift, and found it to be entertaining enough, but it was evident that the series was on the verge of going DTV.
Thread regular, Crazy Jim comes back to the thread, and we welcome him back, since it’s been a while since he’s been here.
felix watched Prince Of Persia, and hated it. I haven’t even wanted to see it.
Erix makes a funny out of it though.
Prince Of Persia proved a valuable cure for insomnia when I saw it last May.
I like how they worked the title into every line of dialog that they could.
You truly are a prince…of Persia.
Will you marry this prince? This prince…of Persia?
You have carried yourself with the honor of a true prince. A prince…of Persia.
Alfred Molina was perfectly watchable as Sallah, we’ll give it that.
NathanW saw One False Move, and wonders where Carl Franklin got off to. I think we all wonder that, as he’s a good director.
Jox brings us amazing news from that wonderful B-Movie genius Menahem Golan.
In the new French magazine IMPACT (not related to the UK one) is the second part of an interview with Menahem Golan where he announces:
“I reckon I’m gonna direct a new movie with Van Damme, in the vein of the ones we used to make. I actually have a deal with Nu Image for this picture that I want to co-produce with Australia. The script deals with industrial espionage, America owning in all countries electronic factories competing with the Japanese. They send a ninja to commit murders that Van Damme, who studied in the same martial arts school in Japan, tries to prevent… It will be action, action, action, from beginning to end. I hope that Van Damme will be in good shape when during filming. I wouldn’t say he is a very good actor: he’s first of all a figure, a very good martial artist with a quite beautiful face. But he went through a very bad phase during which he did drugs.”
(my translation from French)
Mister Falcon reveals that Thunderbolt And Lightfoot was made in his hometown.
Speaking of movies being made in your hometown, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot was filmed in the town I grew up in, Great Falls, MT (yeah, it’s supposed to be Idaho, but it ain’t). The drive-in theater they used was only a few blocks from our house. Of course I was only four years old at the time, so I didn’t really know what was going on. But I came to appreciate it later on and it remains one of my favorite movies. Oh, yeah, and you can see my house in My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys, but I didn’t live in it at the time that movie was filmed.
The discussion soon turns to Kathryn Bigelow’s Blue Steel. Walker, Hunter, and Jox chime in on it, and The Perfect Weapon reposts Hunter’s dissection on it.
Having just finished it, I fucking loved this one. Yet another Kathryn Bigelow film that I love. How something like Fatal Attraction was a massive hit a few years before and this is a complete blip on the radar of thrillers from this era is just criminal.
Where to begin? First of all, the fucking blood in this movie. Some of the best violence EVER. Any other filmmaker would make it bland and run of the mill, but we’re dealing with the creative talent behind Near Dark and The Hitcher and it reaches Peckinpah levels here. I’ve been really hitting the jackpot on squibs between this and Army of One.
Jamie Lee Curtis plays a great Cameron-esque heroine, like Ripley on the police force.
With Tom Sizemore’s part, I think I like “Hey man, DO I LOOK LIKE I’M FUCKING ORDERING TAKE OUT? more. Also love Richard Jenkins as the scumbag lawyer and his magical Johnnie Cochrane-like tactics of getting Ron Silver off.
Speaking of which, Silver’s the star of the movie. I think Silent Rage is the only other movie I’ve seen him in, but holy SHIT, he really sinks into Eugene. Much like, say, Ted Levine as Buffalo Bill, you actually believe he’s a genuine head case, and the parallels between him and Rutger Hauer’s turn as Ryder in The Hitcher are apt: mortal, but nigh-unstoppable angels of death who just won’t back down.
On a closing note, there should be a coffee table book of the faces Ron Silver makes in this movie.
Moltisanti talks about a tv movie where Michael Gross sheds his Family Ties image.
Jox talks about why he doesn’t like Timecop, and why he likes Maximum Risk. I think he and I are the only ones who enjoy that one.
Moltisanti posts the fabulous news that Scott Adkins is going to be in Universal Soldier 4 with Dolph and Van Damme. Sadly Michael Jai White is not going to be in it.
felix provides us with news that Tony Jaa is going to be in Tom Yum Goong 2. The first one was a blast, so I’m looking forward to this one.
A new poster to the thread JohnnyBlackout posts about a film he wrote called “Recoil” that stars Danny Trejo and Steve Austin.
The discussion then is turned to the news that Arnold Schwarzenegger is teaming up with Justin Lin to shop around a pitch where he will come back as The Terminator. Many of us chime in with our thoughts on his return.
Erix: Arnold returning as The Terminator…. Yeah, I’ll go see the movie. Because I will be curious as to how they explain the technology that allows the cyborg to age like a real person.
Moltisanti: If somehow Arnold is in another TERMINATOR there’s just no way he can actually play a Terminator. I sort of put blinders on for RISE OF THE MACHINES and ignored the aging but I gotta assume he’d play some sort of human character in a new film. There’s no logical way to explain why a robot would have orange hair.
Fat Elvis: I’m down for another Arnold Terminator. However, my enthusiasm may lie in avoiding the last super stinky one.
Rene (Mr.Eko): I’m pretty sure they’ll have Arnold featured as the prototype for the T-800 series, and any Terminators that look like him will probably have the same digital make up as the one from Salvation. Either way, as I said, I’m game for more Terminator films.
Then it becomes about how Terminator: Salvation is a terrible movie.
Tyler Foster posts news about Albert Pyun remaking Cyborg. As well as Gary Busey being cast in Piranha 3DD.
felix posts that agaisnt all odds, Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski will be in Universal Soldier 4. No word on if Mike Pyle will be in it.
wadew1 posts this picture of Michael Ironside in X-Men: First Class.
That’s a far cry from his Extreme Prejudice days that BlabedAboutMars posted.
Jox posts news about The Expendables: Extended Cut being seen by some people on an On Demand service. Apparently it’s mostly music changes and added character moments.
Erix finally saw Drive Angry (In 3D) and had this to say about it.
Last night I saw Drive Angry (IN 3D!). Enjoyed it thoroughly but it goes on about 15 or 20 minutes longer than it probably has to. A movie this silly should really only be about 85 minutes long – tops. Some fun gags and great violence but the only part that felt like an honest to God action sequence was the car/motor home chase about an hour or so in.
Cage had fun. But I’m getting kind of bored of him as a mainstream star. Fichtner was the man and I’d be there for a spin off movie about his character. Too bad this tanked like hell or we could have gotten THE ACCOUNTANT at one of our multiplexes in the near future.
Erix and NathanW talk about Thor and how they loved it. Makes me really want to check it out, as well as a lot of the other gents in the Thread.
BlueLouBoyle checked out Fast Five and loved it.
felix posts this plot description of Universal Soldier 4 straight from Scott Adkins’ newsletter.
“The script for the new one is very tight and although I don’t want to give anything away I will just say that it is Bladerunner meets Apocolypse Now.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: I should probably add that this bit of hyperbole makes me laugh hysterically. I’m just really curious as to how, exactly, that would work)
THE MIND OF RENE F. RANGEL
From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter was a friggin’ blast. I remember it being better than the second one, and that still holds true. … Sadly it was a fullscreen transfer, but that didn’t deter me TOO much.
Part 2 was pretty funny as well. Hilarious to hear Robert Patrick refer to Spanish as “Talkin’ Mexican.”
They really screwed the pooch with having Sam Worthington “sacrificed” at the end, all because Bale couldn’t contend with being second fiddle to him. Worthington’s character could have done so much in the franchise…. I still liked it …. Yelchin also did a great job …. Could have been a much better movie.
Speaking of The Clash Of The Titans remake, I ordered it off of Amazon last night since it was $11. …. I don’t get the hate for the Clash Of The Titans remake. I found it to be a really enjoyable popcorn movie.
Watching K-19:The Widowmaker right now. It’s ok, and Ford’s attempt at a Russian accent is as hilarious as I was expecting. …. At least it’s interesting in that the movie is directed by a woman and has a primarily male cast. Just another thing that goes to show that Kathryn Bigelow is a true director.
* * * *
And so… We now conclude our month-long retrospective on the career of B Movie craftsman George P. Cosmatos.
THIS WEEK’S MOVIE
ERIX LAMENTS THE END OF GEORGE P. COSMATOS WHILE WATCHING SHADOW CONSPIRACY
The 1997 thriller Shadow Conspiracy is the final film directed by George P. Cosmatos. It should be noted that the portly Italian filmmaker passed away in 2005. But he never made another movie after this. Watching it, you can almost see why.
Hot off the success of Tombstone, he was probably riding high on that film’s vast acclaim. At last, the critics had embraced him. (Look it up. It is the only film directed by George P. Cosmatos to have a “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes) So, what does he do as a follow up? He decides to be Alan J. Pakula.
Here you have a taut political thriller with a big time cast, shot on location in DC and boasting glossy production values of the type given to guys like Schumacher and Phil Alden Robinson to make their John Grisham and Tom Clancy adaptations.
Let’s not forget, however, that Cosmatos is primarily known as the director of Rambo and Cobra. So it should come as a surprise to no one that his political thriller is really a high-octane chase movie about Charlie Sheen and Linda Hamilton dodging Stephen Lang’s bullets all over the nation’s capital.
Now if that were all there is to it, I could dismiss this as a cheesy afternoon programmer for HBO and call it a day. But, brother, is there ever more to this fucking thing. I really don’t know how they thought any of this could be taken seriously. From the script on down, the movie plays out like the ZAZ parody of In The Line Of Fire.
How seriously are we supposed to take a political thriller in which Charlie Sheen plays a guy named Bobby Bishop?
Consider, also, that the plot involves a sinister hidden government with plans of a coup d’état. How will they go about this? By hiring silent assassin Stephen Lang, who will assassinate the president using a radio controlled toy helicopter armed with machine guns. Where will this assassination go down? During a charity event for a children’s day care center. So it makes sense that the president should be murdered by a Tonka trinket.
I’ll come back to that. But the fact that the climax of the film involves a plastic plaything massacring people with machine guns is the sort of thing that should give you pause.
The movie builds to all this by being fairly consistent in its insanity.
After the Oscar bait title screen shown above, the movie treats us to a humdinger of an opening scene, in which Stephen Lang walks out of a John Woo movie and into a lakeside cottage where a bunch of old farts are having tea and writing political conspiracy theories on blackboards. He proceeds to murder every single one of them with the casual demeanor of a guy going for a stroll in the park. The carnage of this scene is pretty amazing. But it’s really difficult to swallow with a straight face.
And it doesn’t help that you just know Cosmatos thinks he’s making Three Days Of The Condor.
Let’s take a moment to discuss Stephen Lang and his role as the villain of this film. Longtime readers of The B Action Movie Thread are probably aware of the general awe in which we hold this man. And he’s actually very interesting in this movie, playing what seems to be an unstoppable force of nature out to murder all the political dissenters of Washington DC in as brutal and efficient a fashion as he possibly can. Without a single line of dialog, he uses his considerable presence and stern face to convey very palpable menace. Although this is a terminally silly motion picture, his casting is one of the few genuinely effective bits.
So anyway, Lang kills all the nice old people at the cottage except for Theodore Bikel. You may remember Bikel as one of Columbo’s many victims. But, after watching this movie, he will forever be ingrained in your mind as that old Russian dude who jogs from his cottage massacre to the streets of DC, so he can babble to Charlie Sheen about conspiracies.
Once Sheen has his fateful meeting with Theodore Bikel, the movie shifts into high gear and becomes a chase movie.
And that’s all it becomes. You can mask this any way you want. You can open your movie really slow as molasses, with people sitting around and talking politics. You can have boring scenes of press conferences and State dinners. You can cast GORE VIDAL as a corrupt gay congressman. Get Bruce Broughton to provide a prestige picture score…
But once Theodore Bikel gets shot in the head, all bets are off. And it becomes Charlie Sheen Is Chased Around DC By The Ruthless Assassin Who Can Efficiently Murder Everyone In The World Except Charlie Sheen.
Linda Hamilton is along for the ride as a feisty reporter who gets dragged into the mix because of her connection to the conspiracy theorists.
So, basically, they spend 80% of the movie running away from Stephen Lang is what I’m saying. We occasionally cut to Donald Sutherland over at headquarters trying to find Sheen with the help of a techno geek played by Nicholas Turturro. Why did they cast Turturro in this role? Probably because John Leguizamo was not available.
But the very conception of this fast talking techno wiz is further evidence that the filmmakers were a little fucked in the head when they made this. There’s simply no other way to explain a moronic character who looks and sounds like he should be manning the cash register of the corner deli, rather than a sophisticated satellite that has been specifically built to track the whereabouts of Charlie Sheen and Linda Hamilton.
God the headquarter scenes are fucking insufferable. I don’t want to see more scenes of Donald Sutherland lisping through a telephone conversation…
…or Ben Gazzara acting like an asshole…
…or President Sam Waterston reminding us for the seventeenth time that Charlie Sheen is the President’s aide and he must be found.
The movie is really on fire when it focuses on Sheen and Hamilton running away from Stephen Lang. And this gives Cosmatos the opportunity to stage some pretty remarkably absurd action on the streets of DC. Including a scene where Lang gets to impersonate the T-1000.
And a wonderful motorcycle/foot chase that has Sheen running through a subway station…
…and ends with the motorcycle-riding bad guy getting flattened by a train.
This chase scene is the best one in the picture. It edges out the initial chase scene where first Stephen Lang tries to kill Charlie Sheen on a window washing platform. Sheen manages to escape the fate of Captain Kirk by running into the sewers.
Since he spends the entire movie wearing that same douchebag suit (taking only a brief moment to dry himself with a hand dryer after his visit through the sewers), you kind of wonder why no one ever comments that he smells like shit.
Anyway, absurd action and narrow escapes are the order of the day.
Which brings me, once again, to the aforementioned climax involving the toy helicopter.
If you haven’t been laughing at the movie already, it is impossible not to laugh at this. You sit there most likely bug-eyed as this flying piece of plastic manages to murder everyone in the room (except Charlie Sheen) while trying to take out President Sam Waterston.
Should I spoil that Sheen manages to bring down the evil helicopter by flattening it with a pile of red, white and blue balloons?
I may as well.
I guess it’s a little sad that Cosmatos didn’t make anything after this. But focusing so much energy on making something as preposterous, doing it with a straight face and then sitting back as the critics that loved you a couple of years ago make you look like an asshole? I guess that would knock the stuffing out of anyone.
Or maybe he thought he was the Stanley Kubrick of B Movies (his sparse filmography seems to suggest this, actually). He had done his western. He had done his prestige picture. Maybe he was waiting for the right time to unleash his Sci Fi epic adapted from the POWER LORDS toy line. And, sadly, he died before he could get that up and running.
I really wish I could say I loved this movie. I really do. This is me. I love a lot of movies that people hate. Jonah Hex, Legion. I recently saw Rob Schneider’s The Animal and at least thought it was ok. It’s no Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo.
I have to say though, for being Cosmatos final film, it’s really really fucking boring. Seeing it, I was completely uninterested for the majority of the film. Charlie Sheen, who is now going through what is probably the most highly publicized meltdown since Tiger Woods was discovered to be Golf’s version of Wilt Chamberlain is the star of the film, and even though he proved to be an action icon in The Rookie, as well as Platoon, has nothing much to do in this film.
It’s all about a conspiracy to kill the President. That’s the whole plot. The cast of the film makes you want to imagine what could have been. Sheen, Nicholas Turturro, Sam Waterson, Donald Sutherland, Ben Gazzara, Linda Hamilton, Terry O’Quinn, and STEPHEN LANG.
The only thing even remotely watchable in the film is Lang. He has no lines whatsoever, is credited as “The Agent”, and is basically The Terminator. He does a lot of running in the film, and sports a duster jacket. He also has a cool pistol with a laser site. He spends the entire film going after Sheen and Hamilton (the fact that she’s in the movie and he’s a lot like The Terminator can’t be a coincidence)
There’s even a scene where he jumps on her jeep, and tears through the top with a knife and is hanging on and trying to kill them. That’s straight out of T2 when the T-1000 is on top of the cop car and trying to kill Sarah and John Connor and the Arnold Terminator shoots him to get him off.
The entire movie culminates in probably the only film to have a toy helicopter sport actual machine guns and gun down people. It’s of course controlled by Lang, and then he has a pussy death. The entire film he’s so hard to kill and Sheen narrowly escapes each time they have an encounter, and then Sheen is able to kill him when Lang just rushes at Sheen and The President.
Yeah, I can’t say much more. This was a terrible movie for Cosmatos to go out on. After having so many great films, from the great North American debut, Of Unknown Origin, to the amazing magic that is Leviathan, this should have been that final awesome entry in a career that was filled with more hits than misses.
MIKE’S TAKE – UH, YEAH… THIS PROBABLY WASN’T EXACTLY GOING OUT WITH A BANG
The final swan song of a filmmaker is a 50/50 deal—either it’s brilliant or it sucks. It’s a simple either-or scenario, but it really helps understanding it.
Leone had Once Upon a Time in America. Talk about a way to go out with a bang.
Altman had A Prairie Home Companion, a very fitting coda for a brilliant career.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is a staggering finale for Lumet and deserves more fans.
Kubrick had Eyes Wide Shut, which I really don’t get all the fuss over.
(Unintentional) thread icon John Schlesinger was taken away from us after he made the landmark romantic comedy The Next Best Thing.
George P. Cosmatos, on the other hand, didn’t exactly get something along the lines of Leone or Altman, but something of the same ilk as Schlesinger.
The film in question is Shadow Conspiracy, a $45 million (these are mid-90’s dollars, people), half-baked political action-thriller that was not only Cosmatos’ swan song, but it was a film full of lasts. It was one of Charlie Sheen’s last desperate attempts to salvage his worth as a leading man, and it was one of the last films produced by Cinergi, Andrew G. Vajna’s post-Carolco production company.
Of course, the film tanked. Buena Vista dumped it into theaters the same weekend as Star Wars’ big re-release, and it debuted in 837 theaters and only made a shameful $2.3 million. Filmed in 1995, the film perhaps was also compromised from finding success as it may have been delayed due to Sheen’s involvement in the Heidi Fleiss prostitution and money laundering case as well as his escalating drug problem.
In the past month, we have chronicled Cosmatos as a true trailblazer of genre filmmaking. His strongest quality was that of being an invisible auteur, a clean, efficient handyman of fun films who never had a truly individualist style, yet he always delivered a great product. This applies to not only Of Unknown Origin, Cobra, and Leviathan, but lest we forget, Rambo: First Blood Part II is an absurdly fun and well crafted sequel that works for its rampant action in spite of not having the deep character development of the original, and in a way, they’re spiritually related due to their killing-obsessed protagonists. Then, Tombstone is, well, Tombstone.
Nothing, however, could prepare what we were in store for with Shadow Conspiracy. Technically, the movie is fucking terrible unless you have an affinity for made-for-television movies. There’s no directorial eye, no intriguing characters, and the aesthetics of it and Bruce Broughton’s overcooked score basically qualifies the film as being made for TV.
If Cobra is a magical, Pollock-like splattering of Reagan-era pop culture excess, then Shadow Conspiracy plays like a Leslie Nielsen film from this period where In the Line of Fire is the template1, a Jack Ryan adventure that barely gets by on a double-digit IQ due to how preposterous it is. Rather than simply analyze the film, perhaps I should just say that action speaks louder than words:
- Donald Sutherland, Ben Gazzara, and the rest of the talking heads in the government have all the authority and high-tech office equipment of the Super Friends. You half-expect those shooting star transitions to appear.
- Carlos is…ahem, not giving a winning performance in this film. The energetic guy we saw in The Rookie (not to mention a couple of little movies called Platoon and Wall Street) is gone here, replaced by an android who has been depleted by nonstop cocaine use and hooker philandering that’s just looking to grab a paycheck. The druggie thing is further fueled by his character, BOBBY BISHOP, and the fact that he wears the same fucking suit for the whole movie like he’s Pigpen or something, even after an action sequence inside of a sewer or water treatment plant or whatever that was (a complete Fugitive rip-off, I might add).
- Mind you, this scene is a culmination from the moment where that Russian professor who gets killed. While running from legendary party crasher Stephen Lang, he somehow ends up in some dreary Escape from New York set on the run from him that’s completely removed from the rest of the film.
- Shame on Mr. Cosmatos for not including a scene like in High Anxiety when Mel Brooks gets shit on by all the birds and scares away everyone in a nearby laundromat when he tries to clean up.
- Bishop later shares an extremely homoerotic dinner with Sutherland’s character, JACOB CONRAD, and because he’s Donald Sutherland, of course he turns out to be the surprise bad guy. What were you expecting, his Space Cowboys character?
- As roving reporter AMANDA GIVENS, Linda Hamilton is completely devoid of all the badassery she had in Terminator 2, and it’s kind of sad to see her slumming as a prissy, Willie Scott-esque type who panics over the idea that she’ll never be able to become the female Woodward or Bernstein. At one point, she wears a massive 1920’s hat to a White House press conference, and Cosmatos is smart enough to just let the hat speak for itself and not explain why she’s wearing something that silly. Speaking of T2…
- Fuck Robert Patrick, Stephen Lang should have been the T-1000! As “The Agent,” Lang plays a human Terminator who does not utter a single word for the entire film and still manages to be a badass of epic proportions like we’re accustomed to.
- He gets ridiculous moments like a complete cop from T2 where he attacks Sheen and Hamilton from the roof of her Jeep Wrangler, but nothing can prepare you for the climax, where he plans to assassinate the President by using remote control toy helicopters. Remember that mission in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City where you had to use the RC helicopters to destroy the construction site, and you could kill the angry construction workers? Here be the inspiration for that.
- Terry O’Quinn is relegated to the textbook definition of “Redshirt.”
- There’s an absurd amount of silly canted angles for the bad guys like this is Darkman or something.
- I swear you could play a drinking game where the rule was “Drink every time you see someone wearing a bowtie.”
- Death by subway!
- Gore Vidal!!??!??!?!?!?!?!?! I’m as shocked as the rest of you.
In spite of how nonsensical this all sounds, the magic of Cosmatos is that he’s not the reason the film sinks. It’s just the movie is so goofy. The man has the class and finesse to play it straight, yet let you kick back and laugh at it like it’s a comedy. A lot of directors—specifically guys like Michael Bay—lack the sixth sense of overcoming self-seriousness and ditching prestige aside. Films like Cobra and Rambo: First Blood Part II, even the legitimately good like Of Unknown Origin and, to an extent, Tombstone, seem like they have absolutely no sense of humor, but Cosmatos was a man who knew how to have the tongue firmly in cheek.
Like us, he probably kicked back and laughed at, not with, Shadow Conspiracy, and it probably seems the case as the film is not badly directed. He truly was a great in that regard, and in his absence, films have become less eclectic in terms of genre, either trying to be ultra-gritty and serious or going for the postmodern comedic overtones of it all.
He never had the storied résumé that guys like Hill, Donner, or McTiernan have, but in a market full of diseases, Cosmatos was an overwhelming cure.
1 – this was already done in Spy Hard, but you probably didn’t care about that if you avoided that film.