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)
The B-Action Thread Round Up by Rene F. Rangel. Brought to you by Jean-Claude Van Damme and Coors beer.
The action starts on page 1477 and ends on 1481.
New thread member, SecretAsianMan sees Miami Vice and is impressed with it. He also checks out Erix’s brilliant blog on it.
Jean-Claude Van Damme pimps Coors beer in his Chance get up.
I finally saw Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and liked it. Then again, I’m a fan of the series.
Green Lantern is mentioned as being a wash. Blame falls on Martin Campbell, but some of us rally to his side.
John Matrix renews his membership in Team Rookie.
Erix does some daredevil stuff at work:
Today I had to attend a Ropes Course with a group of colleagues at work. In case you don’t know what that is, it’s a series of dynamics meant to strengthen teamwork and fraternal values at the workplace. Long story short, I had to cross a collapsed bridge (wooden planks affixed to a high-tension wire) suspended about 20 meters in the air… It was about the length of a small city block. The last portion of it had no planks and I just had to walk on the two wires… Needless to say, I was about ready to shit my pants. But I made it across and would like to dedicate my action stunt to the brethren in this thread.
Mister Falcon joins Team Rookie, and the team gets larger by another member. If you haven’t seen this 8th wonder of the world, and have read this column or the thread, SEE IT and tell us about it in the thread.
The B-Action Essentials List gets talked up, and we discuss about re-doing it and adding some new films.
The cool sword and sandals film, Conquest gets talked about and the trailer is posted.
Moltisanti posts news about Jason Momoa being cast in the Walter Hill/Sly Stallone project, Headshot, as a heavy.
A discussion on Smokey And The Bandit is spurred by me finally seeing all 3 films in their entirety after only seeing pieces of the first 2.
All of us go apeshit over The Killer Elite trailer and how Statham throttles Owen with the friggin’ chair he’s tied to and ROBERT DE NIRO DOING HAND TO HAND COMBAT. Yes, this will be the event picture of September.
It also starts a discussion about The Scorpions.
THE MIND OF RENE F. RANGEL
Watching Ordinary People right now. Never seen it before. Loving the scenes between Timothy Hutton and Judd Hirsch. At one point Hirsch asks Hutton “What are you thinking?” then Hutton responds with “That I jack off a lot.” then Hirsch says “Does it help?” Hutton responds with “For a minute.” Hutton later on has an outburst where he says he thinks Hirsch goes home and fucks the living daylights out of his fat wife, and Hirsch says that sounds good to him.
THIS WEEK’S MOVIE
KAIN 424 SINGS THE PRAISES OF FULL CONTACT
Every time I see Full Contact‘s title come up just as Ann Bridgewater gives us a nice crotch shot, and I am immediately smitten. Whereas some Chow Yun-Fat films have an emotional impact and/or and action quality that speaks for itself, it seems I generally have to defend this one. I’ve read the movie is an adaptation of the Donald Westlake novel, The Hunter, which was made into the Lee Marvin flick Point Blank and Mel Gibson’s Payback. I will freely admit I haven’t read the books, but I have seen the movies. And despite the same sort of set-up (protagonist betrayed and left for dead), I don’t see too much in the way of similarities. In particular, Chow Yun-Fat’s character, while a bouncer with a strict code of rules, is far from the anti-hero type offered up in either of the previous versions. He is not after personal gain, but is using his deserved retribution to pay for the hospital bills and more medical care for an innocent bystander that was horribly burned and orphaned when Gou Fei was betrayed. Full Contact is much more in tune with the Heroic Bloodshed genre than the violent revenge one.
Ringo Lam has been called “John Woo-lite”, which I don’t think is fair. He certainly owes much to Woo, his emphasis on themes of brotherhood and its strain is but one of the many elements borrowed. And yet Lam does have his own kinetic style, which may lack the restraint of Woo but also makes Lam’s movies far more edgy than anything Woo ever put out (save for maybe Heroes Shed No Tears or Bullet In The Head).
This is probably the most most physical and bad-ass Chow has ever been in an action movie. He’s not the cool, suave character he usually plays, but is equally straight and yet far more ferocious. A street fighter with the will to pull through, Gou Fei ( in some versions “Godfrey” or “Jeff”) is a relentless force of nature who will never stop coming back until the job is finished.
But like I said, he has a certain code, and Chow plays that aspect exceptionally.
That being said, Anthony Wong probably comes off the best here, acting-wise. He has a serious arc, going from something of a meek sidekick type to a hardcore legbreaker and then to a loyal friend to the death. Compare his role here with the evil arms dealer he plays in Hard Boiled and you’ll see what I mean. As much as it is Chow who heads out the cast here, it’s Wong who carries the movie, and it’s his relationship with Chow’s Gou Fei that really brings home the film’s message about the necessity of forgiveness among friends.
Simon Yam has a blast chewing up the scenery as a gay villain who may or may not also moonlight as a magician. And while gay bad guys in Hong Kong cinema are not unheard of (see Way of the Dragon), it‘s still less common to see them given weight and impact or even seen as a real threat for the antagonist, let alone back in the early 90s when this film was made.
This is part of Lam’s blunt subversion, pushing as many taboo things as possible onto the screen. In what probably infuriated the Thai more than anything else, Lam has a skanky Ke$ha-like woman being dry-humped on the edge of a Thai boxing ring. As rings are the holiest things next to temples over there, and with women only recently in history being allowed near them, this is particularly inflammatory.
The imagery, generally meant to shock, can also evoke the same unintentional emotional response at times. In one shot I always notice, there’s a huge swastika on the wall behind Chow Yun-Fat. As this is the buddhist symbol for eternity, I can only guess this is Lam’s semper fi brotherhood statement, given the scene and its context. But to a westerner, I immediately see it as a sign of impending doom. Still kinda works though.
It’s also an interesting choice to have one of the film’s most dramatic moments be immediately followed by an exotic dance sequence set to what I can only describe as Donkey Kong Country music, but it sort of works. The movie is just so damn weird. And yet amid the surreal imagery and intense violence (often against women, no less!) it’s only Ann Bridgewater’s character who seems to understand her place in the events unfolding throughout the film. She alone is wise enough to stay with the more right-headed Sam Fei (Wong) instead of full-on converting
to the dark side like Porter’s wife in Payback or Walker’s wife in Point Blank. She has no dependency on the vices of those characters or the men in her life. Instead, she truly cares for those around her and when she sees what has happened and what is likely going to happen, she is the only character smart enough to get the fuck out of town. It would be easy to go for an easy out here and say Mona is a stripper with a heart of gold, but that’s simply not the case.
She’s a stripper with a brain and she knows she’ll never be happy with people who aren’t just happy to be with her.
Of course, the violence may be a turn-off to some. I can understand that. But for me, the only weak point in the film occurs right before its ending, where a certain necessary sacrifice (it’s sad, yes, but punctuates the story in a powerful way) is taken back in order to maintain a “happy” ending. Of course, even with that addition, the movie wasn’t a hit in China. Its popularity (if it has any) is almost entirely a thing among western audiences.
It’s the little character touches like Chow’s butterfly knife tricks, compounded with the imagery of a former Hong Kong bodybuilder blasting an M-16 at point blank into a couple cops, that make me love Full Contact and forget about the final few seconds that deflate the ending. The rest of the movie is weird, yes, but it’s also damn good. plenty of action, suspense, drama, and even some pre-bullet time “bullet time” just to give it that special edge.
NATHAN WISHART FOLLOWS SUIT
Sometimes I miss Ringo Lam and his brand of craziness, he could be serious when he wanted to but when he wants to cut loose, he really cut’s loose. Take this film for example, it’s pretty much your standard revenge flick but Lam takes it and infuses a violent garishness into it, it’s sexually vulgar and it kicks ass.
So in the Lee Marvin/Charles Bronson name your own badass role we have Chow Yun Fat who plays Jeff, a bouncer/small time criminal who works with his partner Chung and friend Sam Sei (Anthony Wong). Sam ends up in debt to a local gangster, forcing Jeff to come to his aid. In order to get the needed cash, Sam
convinces Jeff to come in on a robbery with another gang led by Judge (Simon Yam). Jeff and Chung are doublecrossed and left for dead. Jeff ends up in
Thailand, get’s better and comes back to kick everyone’s ass.
From that description it sounds pretty conventional, and it is. The film largely coasts on Chow Yun Fat’s charisma and Simon Yam’s demented performance.
The character of Jeff is world’s away from the suave assassin of The Killer and badass cop in Hard Boiled, there’s a fundamental grittiness that can only be
found in Ringo Lam’s world (or possibly Johnnie To’s). Although Chow is absolutely magnetic here, Simon Yam takes an absolutely absurd character, a
psychotic gay man and has the time of his life with it, there’s no grey shading here, Anthony Wong has always been a chameleonic actor (before To got ahold
of him anyway) and here, Wong plays the weak willed Sam Sei to nice effect, Ann Bridgewater get’s the girlfriend role (think of her as the Asian Penelope Ann
Miller, who dances in nightclubs), Bonnie Fu at least get’s to be sexually vulgar (that’s not an improvement, I know) but gives the film a real sexual charge with
Frankie Chin as her meathead lover Psycho.
This is probably Ringo’s most stylish film, it’s certainly his most entertaining, his other films tend towards being relentlessly gritty affairs and although some of
that grittiness is retained here, it doesn’t weigh down the film. Ringo creates some terrific action scenes, the botched heist in Thailand, the kinetic nightclub
shootout which created the first instance of bullet‐time, not the advanced version which the waxhowski brothers would employ in The Matrix but a POV
shot of a bullet as it races toward it’s target, I don’t know how Ringo pulled it off but it’s a pretty ingenious shot.
The film races towards it conclusion in bombastic fashion, it has kick‐ass guitar‐rock, the image of Chow Yun Fat rising as the guitar riff kicks in is just pure
badassery all the way.
So there it is, pure, fun craziness that could only come from Hong Kong.