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 (Our Previous Installment )
Erix here with this week’s rumblings for The B Action Movie Thread.
First off… Moltisanti has been tearing into Vic Armstrong’s new book and he comes to us with some interesting tidbits from it.
Been reading through Vic Armstrong’s book. Really enjoying it, though I did skip ahead at first to see what he had to say about guys like Stallone, Lundgren, and Van Damme. Here’s a few random facts worth sharing:
-He’s very complimentary of Stallone who he worked with on RAMBO III, but he did feel that Russell Mulcahy was fired from the film unfairly.
-The horse that Stallone rode during that game of polo with the dead goat in RAMBO III is the same horse Vic rode when he doubled Harrison Ford towards the end of INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE.
-One of Vic’s earliest gigs was as one of the ninjas that repels down firing a machine gun in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE.
-Overall he enjoyed directing ARMY OF ONE but was upset that the producers took the film from him and recut it. He regrets not fighting for it more but once filming ended he went off to do another project.
-The guy that Lundgren sets on fire and then kicks in ARMY OF ONE is Vic’s brother Andy.
-Vic wanted to direct UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN but was passed over for fellow stuntman (and rival) Mic Rogers. He’s not so upset about it now because the film was a flop but at the time he was “deeply pissed off.”
Next… I saw Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I don’t really feel like talking about it… It is what it is. But they showed the trailer for REAL STEEL right before it. This was my first exposure to this trailer, and here’s what I had to say.
…they showed the trailer for REAL STEEL. I had no real knowledge of this. I can say, without flinching, that it looks like one of the most retarded things to be put out by a major studio in the last 15 years.
I’m sure it will make a mint.
The Perfect Weapon responds
Oh yeah, we’ve said things about that film before. I think it looks God-awful too, and I realize it’s based on an old Richard Matheson short story. I remember saying that it reminded me of Goddamn Robot Jox, except that, you know, that film is cheesy Charles Band greatness while Real Steel just looks like a rancid piece of dogshit.
Moving right along… Tyler Foster brings us some interesting Expendables II news…
Gordon and the Whale has a synopsis for Expendables 2 taken from the press site. On one hand, it’s way more detailed than the one that’s on the public Nu Image site, but on the other, it’s still essentially the same thing Sly was debunking before. Frankly, there are enough details in this that maybe Sly is fudging his denial a little bit (like perhaps this is the first draft and the final draft is pretty close, or something to that effect), but who knows.
Speaking of news involving Stallone… We are all rather troubled that Thomas Jane has been axed from Headshot. It’s the sort of thing that gives one pause, especially since he was handpicked by director Walter Hill. We hope it doesn’t mean he walks as well…
But maybe we can put that bummer to rest with some uplifting music posted by HunterTarantino. He was kind enough to post a whole bunch of great B Action Movie tracks… The best are the following selections.
Who can forget this lovely number from Running Scared.
And the classic Cheer Down. A personal favorite of both Hunter and myself.
Jox posts links to some great teaser posters at Cannes. The most bizarre of which is this:
GabeT discovers some of his own.
Best one so far?
I mean, jeez, how do you get away from THAT?
Fat Elvis brings us another great vintage trailer…
And speaking of old stuff…
OLD MOVIES… NEW TAKES
I watched a really interesting movie called Grim Prairie Tales yesterday. Based on the description (and the fact that it was made in 1990) I was expecting a Body Bags/Creepshow/Tales From the Crypt type movie in the old west, which is kinda what it is, but what rally shocked me was how much more it was.
It stars James Earl Jones as a big wild mountain man type and Brad Dourif as Johnny Depp in Deadman. They meet one night at a campfire on the prairie and though Jones first intimidates the fuck out of Dourif, he warms up to him when Jones offers to tell him a scary story. There are 4 stories told in all, 3 by Jones and 1 by Dourif and though they fit the usual Creepshow format, they’re really deep and cerebral in comparison. People expecting the usual schlocky 80s style stories will probably like Jones’ second story the best, it fits closest but honestly all four are more in line with something that Ambrose Bierce would write rather than what you’d read in an old EC comic. Some might also find the stories boring as I’ll freely admit they’re all kind of subdued and not a lot of exciting things happen, I found myself confused at first but then extremely impressed. Even the ending of the movie bucks conventions and neither one of them turns out to be a monster or a ghost or a serial murderer at the end, which I liked. There is a bit of “twist” I guess, but it’s played more for laughs than anything. All in all I’m surprised this wasn’t a bigger success than it was. I’ve read that there was a great deal of stuff cut out of the movie initially and that kinda shows, but it’s still smart and creepy and features pretty great performances from William Atherton and Scott Paulin, not to mention the amazing job the two leads do. It’s definitely one I’m hoping will come to DVD in some incarnation in the future.
[Flesh and Blood is] one of the only Verhoevens I haven’t seen, and so far the film is a bloody, oversexed medieval treat. I don’t go for this genre usually, but Verhoeven dials up all of the violence and sleaze so high that the sword fighting and accents the genre usually takes advantage of take a way back seat. Seriously, you can picture Verhoeven getting a handjob while directing all of these scenes.
Rutger Hauer is at the top of his swag game, even when he wears an assless thong.
A drunken pregnant woman gives birth to a stillborn child for obvious reasons, then just drinks more and yells and pillages. Susan Tyrrell is kind of like a hot Roseanne.
There’s a torture scene that feels like a precursor to Murphy’s shotup.
Only Verhoeven could get away with turning a rape scene into something heartfelt, but only after Rutger Hauer calls dibs and throws Brion James and Bruno Kirby out of the running of stealing Jennifer Jason Leigh’s virginity.
Speaking of which, Roy Batty’s old Replicant buddy Leon is at his snarliest, and Bruno Kirby is pulling a Harvey Keitel as Judas with his accent.
You think Rutger Hauer and his medieval mercs are the bad guys? Verhoeven doesn’t, but he has the common courtesy to have the pretty boy who wants to fuck Jennifer Jason Leigh not be some horrific Orlando Bloom or Robert Pattinson-like charisma void.
Jennifer Jason Leigh gets naked so many times it’s not even funny. Arguably, it’s on the same level of Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls in terms of gratuity, and she looks exceedingly hot and barely, barely legal on every occasion. It’s like Verhoeven is prophetically giving this whole PG-13 fantasy movement shit the finger by showing her goodies so much. Plus, the nudity is almost unnecessary on occasion, but fuck that because Leigh is bangin’ here. At one point, we see Rutger Hauer sucking on her tits in silhouette and you’d swear Joe Eszterhas had his hand in an on-set rewrite.
God bless this movie, and goddamn fate for not giving us Verhoeven’s Crusade, which would have probably been this on pure, unrefined designer drugs.
I just watched a kooky little men-on-a-mission action/comedy from ’81 called HIGH RISK. It was a lot of fun. Plot: Due to the economy sucking, badass James Brolin convinces his group of friends (Bruce Davison, Cleavon Little, and Chick Vennera ) -all Joe Schmoes- that his plan to fly down and rob a South American drug dealer (James Coburn) of all his money can work. After some quick training from Wild Bunch soldier-of-fortune, Ernest Borgnine, they’re off, but soon find nothing ever goes as planned in the jungle. They do get the money, but soon find themselves not just chased by drug dealer soldiers, but Anthony Quinn’s band of bandit revolutionaries! Things boil to a big Mexican stand-off (of course), but first, despite the chaos, the gang finds the time to rescue the beautiful and worldly fellow traveler/damsel in distress Lindsey Wagner. The finale is edge-of-your seat explosiveness, as outgunned and outmanned, it all comes down to the plane to take them home (piloted by quirky, stoner mercenaries) coming in on time. The Reagan-esque message of greed is good and you got to do for yourself/look out for your own self-interest is disconcerting if you think too hard about it, but hey why should ya?
GabeT starts off an interesting debate about Asian action films vs. American ones.
I feel like it’s impossible to deny that Asia just does it better, almost every time. If you made a list of the greatest action films, or b-action films, of all time, I guess Die Hard would be in the top ten, but what else? All Asian stuff. The Killer. Hard Boiled. Police Story and Supercop. One or two of the Shaw Brothers classics. Etc. Etc. I mean, most American stuff does not at ALL compare. I mean, I have my own favorites, in regards to various idiosyncrasies and a general regional preference, given that I’m from America, but I can’t deny that all the best films in this genre are courtesy of Asian countries.
Raiders of the Lost Ark, Die Hard, The Road Warrior, The Wild Bunch, The Getaway, RoboCop, First Blood, Dirty Harry, Mr. Majestyk, Extreme Prejudice, The Terminator, Face/Off, Aliens, Predator, Kill Bill and Crank, naming just a few, says you’re wrong.
HARD BOILED and THE KILLER are undisputed, no doubt about it. I’ll admit my bias against Chan does get the best of me but I would not put POLICE STORY anywhere near the level of ROBOCOP, LETHAL WEAPON, or THE TERMINATOR.
It depends on your taste. Asian action movies definitely seem to have more leeway in terms of violence and whatnot, though there are plenty of great action films to rival the great Hong Kong output. Not to mention westerners’ ability to maintain story and a straight face over style and comedic flourish… well, they can; they don’t always do it.
Yes, Hard Boiled would probably be at the top of my list, and Chan has one of the most enviable resumes of all time, but I wouldn’t quite count out the American action output. Especially from ’84 to ’94.
Asia used to do it better. At least with far less time and money. There was a time when we were flooded with the best stuff around the 90s when Asian releases started getting popular, so it may have looked like everything made there was great. That is no longer the case. Sammo Hung said in a recent interview that they now have more time and money to make their films but are they better? He answered negatively and I’d agree.
I don’t do lists but there are plenty of HK action and Martial arts films that are my favourites. No question, around the time John Woo started hitting his stride, most Hollywood output looked pathetic and lifeless in comparison.
It does seem though, that the kind of manly action we enjoy is becoming increasingly rare. In America and Asia, sadly.
HK knew how to do a great set-piece no question and sadly, that’s getting rarer and rarer but most HK action films are all over the place in terms of tone and storytelling so I don’t think you can equivocally state HK action films are superior. Thailand are doing their best to keep the flame alive though. Donnie’s representing the last of the old school but he’ll retire soon and there’s really no-one left to replace him. I loved SPL and Flashpoint.
Asian action films can be tremendous. And it has a lot to do with how they use smaller budgets to craft some very elaborate shit. But I have to say that most of my favorite action films are American or European.
This discussion inevitably leads us to once again talk about our favorite of John Woo’s Hollywood output…
In regards to American Woo pictures, I’d call Face/Off his best. I dug Hard Target a great deal and I find new things to love about it every time I watch. Broken Arrow is an interesting one. I’ve always been a fan but having recently watched it, it’s a movie that survives strictly on what is brought to the table by Woo, the actors, and particularly composer Hans Zimmer. The script has to be one of the stupidest in a long line of dumb action scripts. Being such an admirer of John Woo, I want to have something nice to say about Paycheck but I just can’t do it.
I still remember how, when I was nine years old, I thought Face/Off looked incredibly…lame, mean-spirited, I don’t know, but I didn’t want to see it, even with the really cool teaser trailer:
In spite of having seen Con Air earlier that summer and LOVING it, it took my cousin and her then-boyfriend seeing it to convince my parents and I to see it, and that was it. I saw it on vacation in Long Beach Island, NJ at a deadbeat, empty theater back in July ’97. Fuck preconceptions, as I declared it THE BEST MOVIE EVER MADE. I don’t think I was exaggerating that much either.
I had it on tape. I rented said tape several times. I have the HD DVD. I still remember pre-ordering the DVD for the movie off Reel.com back in ’98. There, give me the goddamn key to the movie’s fan club.
I also maintain that Face/Off is Woo’s best American film. Hard Target is a lot of fun too, but it feels thin. I guess it depends on what your cup of Woo is. Hard Target is Hard Boiled and Face/Off is The Killer.
I’m a fan as well, though it’s quite clear your love for Face/Off eclipses mine easily. Especially since I prefer Hard Target.
Felix asks the important questions…
What were your best action flicks for 2011? Speaking for myself, I was really impressed by Faster and The Mechanic.
Best action of 2011:
-The Train Heist at the beginning of FAST FIVE
-The last 20 minutes of GREEN HORNET
-The last 20 minutes of DRIVE ANGRY
Not been much for action movie of the year, but yeah Fast five was a cum shot of cars doing barrel rolls and trains getting fucked.
Hanna also has one of the best hand to hand fight scenes ive seen in years. That steady cam shot that kicks in with the chemical brothers score the second the first punch is thrown blew me in half
Well… Far as I’m concerned, at 5 months in, it’s a little too early for “Best Action Films Of The Year.” But I have to say that, so far, Fast Five is probably the most satisfying entertainment experience I’ve had in a theater.
I’ve had fun with some of the others, but none blew me away like that one did.
It was hardly perfect, but for mindless entertainment it was unquestionably a ‘Full Meal’. I may be nitpicking, but I hate how due to the PG-13 rating, Diesel and The Rock show no evidence of the vicious fight they’ve had. Diesel has a slightlyr red cheek and The Rock just carries on sweating.
My top experience for action in a theater has been 13 Assassins.
DIESELWATCH – 2011
lol dramatic facebook RIDDICK update from the artist known as Vin Diesel:
“DT the writer/director just landed in New York with the good news. We can start filming this summer. However, there is a catch… in order for us to make a true R rated film, I must work for scale upfront. Not unlike the “Find me Guilty” experience (which I wouldn’t have changed for the world)…Money is always second to art, integrity and spirit… but the real issue is deeper. Can I suspend my life, to momentarily venture to that dark place… called Riddick.“
The man makes millions. He can afford to take the pay cut to deliver a good sequel.
Man, the sacrifices Vin will make in order to resurrect Riddick. Fly high you soaring eagle, may your vision keep you gallant and true.
Yeah, its about time he did it anyway. The FURIOUS franchise probably will provide him with enough dough to last for the next 10 years, regardless on how his career goes.
THE MIND OF RENE F RANGEL
Saw Righteous Kill in the theater, and own the dvd.
Transformers 3 looks like a throwback to the 70’s disaster movies, but just with the Autobots and Decepticons fighting it out.
THIS WEEK’S MOVIE
MIKE GETS THE SHAKES FROM SHAKEDOWN
From the inception of this column, Shakedown always had my dibs. If action movies were the United States Department of Agriculture, Shakedown would be the equivalent of a sector of the department that oversees the harvesting of lima beans, and I would be the sad, lonely soul who manned an office whose phone never rings and holds every scrap of memorabilia for the film. Preceding the widespread popularity of the legal thriller genre spearheaded by John Grisham in the 90’s, Shakedown is an interesting fusion of those tales of twists and torsion with a Lumet-esque police procedural backdrop and packaged as a buddy cop vehicle.
Basically, it’s like a Joel Silver production of To Kill a Mockingbird, meaning that Atticus Finch carries a Beretta and curses a lot. Don’t believe me? Peter Weller basically wears the same glasses Gregory Peck wore, only more modern. Further, instead of his insightful and wise-beyond-her-age daughter, his crusade in helping clear a man of killing a scumbag corrupt narc is assisted by a renegade cop. Oh, and in case the poster wasn’t indicative enough, the role of Scout is played by an unshaven, mustachtic Sam Elliott.
While it is commendable that writer-director James Glickenhaus (The Exterminator) tries something new by crossbreeding these genres, manning the screenplay and the camera weakens the film. Despite some strong one-liners, the screenplay and plotting is as convoluted as the red tape that plagues the legal world in achieving fair trials. His rough-edged direction worked in his prior Death Wish aping eight years earlier, but here, he has all the directorial pizzazz of a short-lived midseason procedural that aired Fridays at 10 p.m. after Miami Vice.
Hence, Shakedown has always been relegated to the sort of afterlife involving, perhaps, an occasional stint as a Sunday afternoon feature presentation on syndicated TV (for me and Erix, this would clearly be on WWOR or WPIX) and mounds of VHS re-releases and shitty fullscreen DVD releases from Goodtimes Home Video that you find all over local supermarkets and FYE retail stores. Maybe I saw it listed in the TV Guide once or twice, but my awareness of the film was based around the vague idea of the cover art where Weller wears massive glasses and Elliott brandishes a giant pistol.
I never became truly aware of the film until about ten years ago, when I rented the old MCA Home Video release of Midnight Run (a watershed experience for my 13-year-old self). Much like all of those old tapes, the beginning featured a bumper to Stay Tuned For A Preview of Coming Attractions From MCA Home Video Immediately Following This Presentation1. As many thread regulars already know, I am a complete, unapologetic whore for trailers on old VHS releases, so of course I had to see what was there, and sure enough, the trailer for Shakedown followed. I wasn’t at the age where Weller and Elliott was an automatic sell, so I wasn’t completely excited to see it anytime soon. All I absorbed from it was the fact that, supposedly, it featured an explosive climax set on a rollercoaster, but at that age, RoboCop and The Stranger from The Big Lebowski headlining a film were not yet immediate sells for me.
Upon finally seeing it last year, I realized it was the middle-of-the-road sort of deal that had been cited by numerous thread comrades (with the exception of MIA thread legend Keith Fordyce, who undyingly loves the film), but beyond all the criticisms, I love the film. From the fashion to the omnipresence of the crack epidemic to the flashy neon colors, Shakedown is a film that’s brilliantly indicative of 1988. Beyond its clusterfuck of a screenplay, the film goes commendably bonkers and helps it rise above just another movie for HBO to air at 3:30 in the morning on Wednesday night. Most importantly, it has a staggeringly powerful advantage in its leads; Peter Weller and Sam Elliott share exquisite chemistry here, elevating their stock characters into a territory where they’re able to almost satirically flex their muscles.
Elliott has the more archetypically written role here. Richie Marks is first seen sleeping in a dumpy theater, missing all the fun and excitement of another Glickenhaus film, The Soldier (which I have not seen but, from the clip showcased here, looks like fairly standard action fare). Marks is written as a Dirty Harry type who carries a firearm that’s obscenely larger than standard issue protocol allows, shooting first and asking questions later. Elliott, however, has that golden, droll voice that makes his presence seem fatherly in spite of looking like an outright hobo and having all of the hardened traits of a corrupt “blue jean cop,” using his unscrupulousness to intimidate and extort drug dealers (hence the title).
Marks takes a backseat, however, to Roland Dalton (Weller), the heart of the film’s action. Roland is unquestionably Atticus Finch reinvented for the 80’s, a yuppie who wears glasses that haven’t been in style since, well, the time of its release, and he has an undying fondness for the counterculture era. This fondness for the days of Woodstock and Easy Rider hits us hard and clear in Roland’s introduction at the tail-end of the opening credits. Dressed in a flashy suit complemented by an electric blue shirt and garish yellow patterned tie, Roland pops in a cassette of Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? and blasts “Purple Haze.” He gathers virtually all of the food he has from his pantry and refrigerator, pops out the blender, and with as much energy as one of his public-defense speeches, he’s rocking out to Hendrix and pours milk, orange juice, ground coffee, and a raw egg into the blender and hits “blend.”
Right when you think this is a classier version of Martin Riggs’ introduction, his pouty fiancée—who seems to have been later characterized note for note by Bret Easton Ellis as Evelyn in American Psycho—enters the room, complaining about the disgusting shake and accosting her squeeze that it’s “a little early in the morning for heavy metal.” In only the sort of way Weller can deliver the sort of line when asked about the shake, he jovially but dryly responds that it’s a “homemade Orange Julius” that he’s drinking (straight out of the blender, I might add), and that she’s stupid for being young and ignorant for pinpointing Hendrix as “heavy metal.” It’s a wonderful introduction that takes advantage of Weller’s sensibilities beautifully.
In the past month, this is the third Peter Weller movie we’ve written about, and suffice to say, we here at the B Column love the guy. Whether he’s being slaughtered by Kurtwood Smith or trying to break the sound barrier, Weller is almost impossible to dislike. Even as a villain on 24 and Dexter, he’s got a magnetic charm with that voice and those eyes, and his charm is no different here. Roland is cocky and has streaks of arrogance, blowing off a prosecutor (John C. McGinley) trying to get him to work more because he’s planning to break into Wall Street and cheating on his fiancée with a fellow lawyer (Patricia Charbonneau). From the perspective of the time, however, Weller is completely normal, and in that sense, he’s perfectly likable and endlessly charismatic.
Weller and Elliott are the main draws and elevate the weaker elements—like I said, the plot overwhelms with its complexities, but Glickenhaus, no stranger to exploitation, makes the film an exciting experience with its unconventional aspects. The War on Drugs was at its apex in the Reagan era, and its exploitive approach to the crack epidemic provides a fitting antidote to the “Just Say No” campaign. The drug scene is straight out of New Jack City, kitschy and stylized and perfectly in line with Glickenhaus’s roots, as is the amusement park chase, which is not the climax, but a very deftly paced and staged scene as Marks thwarts a hit on him.
Shakedown is a film that deserves so much more love, primarily because of the leads, and its offbeat execution is the catalyst for why it doesn’t get lauded. If anything, it’s worth checking out solely to see the absolute worst blue-screen effect in the history of filmmaking. And while you don’t get Bob Seger’s sweet Beverly Hills Cop II song in the film, you do get an awesome Red Hot Chili Peppers cover of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” at the beginning (from when the band was still cool and more punk oriented).
1 – Even though they were “coming attractions,” almost always these spots were for older movies. The Dragnet tape had a spot for Doctor Detroit for some reason.
I wasn’t aware of Shakedown at all. I’m also a big Peter Weller and Sam Elliott fan, so that’s even more puzzling. I first came into the knowledge of Shakedown last fall, thanks to Mike Flynn. It was available on Netflix Instant, but I happened to find it used at an FYE. The only one that was still open around these parts, and therein lies some sentimental value for this dvd of Shakedown that I purchased. It was one of the last dvds I ever got there before the place closed down. I was shocked to go there this past January and see that it was now closed. I didn’t even get to get anything from their going out of business sale!
Anyway, Weller and Elliott make a great team, and I’m sure Mike has really gone into lots of details, so I’ll just hit on a few things that make this little under appreciated gem worth watching.
Sam Elliott’s red flannel jacket. Seriously, after seeing him in that cool jacket, I immediately got online and started looking them up, since I wanted one.
Sam Elliott’s home being a grindhouse theater. He sleeps there in the theater like a bum while another Glickenhaus film is on display. He goes to the bathroom, and has his toothpaste and toothbrush hidden. The filthy bathroom is his own personal washroom!
Sam Elliott’s greenscreen stunt at the end. Love how he pulls an Arnold and hangs from the tire.
That cool motorcycle chase. How could you not find that enjoyable. Gunshots and one hell of a cool beginning to that chase.
Peter Weller’s breakfast drink. He puts a hell of a lot of crap into that blender. Makes Arnold’s drink that he makes in End Of Days look tasty.
Weller. The man was on fire here. He was still aways from being in charge of an underwater mining station, but the man owns in this movie.
Elliott. He’s right up there with all the manly men of the silver screen. There’s not many of those left, and he’s one of those guys who really reminds you of the action stars of the yester years.
All in all, Shakedown is a fun little violent romp, and it’s a fine film to watch during a lazy afternoon after you’ve had your ultimate shake.