Saturday, 31 July 2010

SUCKER PUNCH (2008) Ian 'The Machine' Freeman

With new British movies (usually Danny Dyer cockney rat-boy flicks) clogging up your local sainsburys dvd shelves week-in, week-out, it's refreshing to come across a hidden gem like SUCKER PUNCH. A loose remake of the Walter Hill classic 'THE STREETFIGHTER' (1975) that starred Charles Bronson and James Coburn (like you didn't know that already?)

Sucker Punch, concerns a drifter named 'Charles Buchinsky' (a respectful homage to Charles Bronsons REAL name) who we first see in flashback format (getting the shit kicked out of him, by some huge crazy bald fighter) Turns out Buchinsky is whats known as a 'Hitter' (bare knuckle, no-holds barred streetfighter...for cash) and with this many flashbacks, he's obviously out to revenge his defeat.

(Not quite Charles Bronson...but hey)

At this point, we are introduced to (Del Boy wannabe) small-time (constantly in debt) hustler, Ray (Harley) Davidson...and his (permanently stoned, geriatric sidekick) Weed. You recognise Harley as CAT from Red Dwarf (a show, i detest) and chances are you'll recognise Weed from 'crimestoppers' (despite his near catatonic performance, he steals nearly every scene with his total non-delivery of dialogue)

(Weed displays his full emotive range, whilst Harley secures another free fry-up)

Oh, and just in case you thought Tony Montana had some 'plush dwellings'....check out this 'Des-Res' which belongs (not only) to 'Premier Wines' (fine purveyors of the 'grape' and piss-weak Australian lager)....but also the HQ of Harley and Weed. Harley also tries to juggle promoting fights, with taking care of his long suffering pregnant girlfriend.

(Southfork Ranch, had to downscale)

Harley it seems, in on a losing streak (no shit, look at his digs) with his deadend bets on likewise fighters, and is looking for a ticket out of the gutter (or at least to move above a 'Threshers') and whilst at another deadbeat fight, he notices Buchinsky, who easily wipes the floor with another fighter. Could this be Harley's dream ticket? The only snag is that all the top fighters and all the big stakes are run by Geordie crime lord/porn Baron/general all-round shit-kicker extraordinaire Maitland (played by real-life UFC legend Ian 'The Machine' Freeman) And let me tell you...this guy could be tyne-sides answer to Robert DeNiro (if he didn't sound like a deleted cast extra from 'When The Boat Comes In) But as it stands, Freeman is the best thing in the movie *

(Victor Maitland...runs this toon, bonny lad!)

Buchinsky meets Melanie, one of Maitlands porn-star actresses. She and the 'Hitter' become lovers, but quite frankly you never know where her loyalties stand (as she's that dull a character......but hey i guess the movie needed a sex scene) Meanwhile, Maitland keeps trying to lure Buchinsky from Harley, but the 'hitter' insists on just making money. Several fights are staged (with increasingly dirtier tactics) but Buchinsky remains unbeaten.

(Not 'Madison Square Garden'...but 'Maidstone Street Garden Centre')

As Maitland increases the stakes, Harley finds himself turning to loan-sharks to raise the capital. And one of these loan sharks is played by none other than Antonio Fargas (a.k.a Huggy Bear.....who's obviously in the UK serving his duties on some 'reality' show, and needed the £25 on offer, for his short, but sweet cameo)

(Even Huggy Bear still manages some 'trim')

Harley turns to a ruthless businessman called Mr Harriman, who agrees to loan him the money he needs, but goes to great lengths to point out the danger of not paying it back. Harriman has an enforcer named 'Mr News' and although his dialogue is tough and hard bitten...the actor portraying him has no grasp of line dilivery, poise or timing. Added to his 'strabismus' affliction (yes, i looked it means 'cross eyes') his ineptitude keeps the film afloat (just as it threatens to get respectable) I sincerely hope that the actors playing News and Weed (Joe Long & Jimmy Kent) get their own spin-off movie (it would probably go 'Straight-To-betamax''d be THAT good)

(Mr News - a cheeky grin, a wink for the ladies, and bin-liners full of charisma, this actor is going places....preferably to my address with that pizza i ordered half an hour ago?)

And if the (ahem) star factor of Antonio Fargas wasn't enough, we are treat to a pointless (but always welcome) cameo from Tamer Hassan (co-star of many a 'cockney rat-boy' saga, himself) as a used car-salesman, who (like most sensible people in this movie) gives Harley a wide berth.

("Didn't you used to be in RED DWARF?" asks Tamer Hassan)

Maitland lines up the fight to end all fights, by sending for the hardest hitter he knows, Mr Coburn (another reference to the source material, methinks?) Coburn is another Geordie type ruffian (feared and revered, and likewise incapable of stringing a sentence together ) but the stakes are too high for Harley to resist, and he signs up Buchinsky for the fight. Little does he know, that Buchinsky (has decided to drop the flashbacks) and left town. Maitland resorts to kidnapping Weed (and Harleys pregnant girlfriend.) Just as it all seems lost....Buchinsky returns to face Maitland and Coburn, and rescue his friends. Buchinsky bets Maitlands business'. Maitland laughs at the suggestion that drifter could match his stake...and then the film-makers pull an eleventh hour twist. It seems that secretly, Buchinsky has sought backing from rival gangster Harriman. And a smug Mr News arrives in time (with all the confidence and demeanor of a carpet salesman) to match the bet.

(Boss eyed Joe, The Streetsweeper and an off-colour James Coburn, join forces)

Just as you pick yourself up from the floor (as you clearly left 'edge of seat' a while back) Buchinsky stipulates that he doesn't want to fight Coburn....but instead demands a 'straightener' with Maitland (as it transpires that the beating that Buchinsky took in the numerous flashbacks, was at the hands of Maitland)......and now it's payback time.

The fight is drawn out and brutal. Both men knock seven shade of shite out of one another. Battered (but not beaten) Buchinsky defeats Maitland.

Maitland the 'Mackem mauler' hangs his head, like a king dethroned. Mr News (with all the subtlety of a brain tumor) advises Maitland that he'll be round in the morning to reposses everything. Whilst ex pornstar/Buchinsky/Maitlands on/off girlfriend, melanie tends to the wounds of her fallen geordie warrior (i guess it shows were that slags loyality lies?) With his demons defeated, the (ever so mysterious) Buchinsky leave town, and Harley is informed of the side deal his hitter had arranged as part of the wager. Harley inherits all of Maitlands properties and assets (hooray...a happy ending)

SUCKER PUNCH is a cheap and cheerful movie. If you can accept some of the ropey performances, it's a fun little flick (my nephew and I have watched it a few times now, and can quote most of the dialogue) Ian Freemans 'Geordie' accent alone is funnier than anything Adam (fucking) Sandler has done (or ever will) The makers behind it, might not have the budgets that messers 'Ritchie' (or even Nick Love) posses. But they have a passion for storytelling, good taste in remakes, and a genuine interest in characterization (which points out the birth of Harleys child)
Weed is left (literaly) 'holding the baby', and it's a nice touch, that adds to what (i think) is a genuine low budget gem (but then again, i'm partial to Number One, starring Bob Geldof...what the fuck do i know?)

(You wouldn't trust this guy to 'hold-in' piss...let alone hold a newborn baby)


Maitland - "I'll match any bet, any man in this town could ever make"

(* = I'd better say that, in case he kicks my fucking head in)

Friday, 30 July 2010

ATTACK FORCE (2006) Steven Seagal

After a long delay (sorry guys, I've been watching back-to-back eisodes of DALLAS) I thought I'd return with a biggie (in every sense of the word) in the form of Steven Seagals 2006 (Sci-fi/Romanian mobster/is it/isn't it/sci-fi/horror/dub-fest) masterpiece ATTACK FORCE.

(The photoshopped 'slightly large head' should tell you all you need to know)

As usual with most of Seagals DTV movies, constant re-writes are as standard (titles also change....usually to work around the tried and tested '3 word formula', associated with the Stout Sensei's movies) SUBMERGED (another classic, i can't wait to review) was originally intended to be a movie about underwater sea-mutants (sounds fucking awesome) but eventually was dropped, in favour of the old 'special ops' mission movie (and only featured about 15 minutes screen time, actually in a submarine)
But in mid 2005, it was stated that HARVESTER was to be Stevens first foray into Sci-fi. Seagal would be battling a deadly alien queen, in a pumped up, kung fu version of SPECIES. Sadly, the plot was almost completely re-written...and any previously filmed scenes containing 'superhuman' strength, were altered to fit round a deadly new super drug called 'CTX Majestic'

But "how do you change the entire genre of an already filmed movie?"...i hear you ask. I'll tell you how...You dub the shit out of it (with voices that sound more like Peter Falk on angel dust) and frantically chop-and-change the scenes, whilst heavily doubling/dubbing your main star, and giving all the fight scenes to his sidekick. Thus is the (once seen, never forgotten) legend of ATTACK FORCE.

(When the sensei sees red, forgo your rights to breathe)

Seagal stars as (the incredibly named) Marshall Lawson, leader of an elite 'special Ops' unit. A role that Seagal can (and does) play in his sleep. We re first (rather confusingly) introduced to Lawson, as he drives around in a hummer, whilst action and explosions go on elsewhere. This sets a pattern in the movie, of having Lawson take a back seat, whilst the other brave idiots get their heads blown off. It's also apparent, that the voice we hear coming out Seagals mouth, is not his own. And to top it all off (the Peter Falk sound alike) is only one of the many voices that dub seagal throughout this movie (I'd say around 80% of Seagals lines are dubbed)

Anyhow, Lawson gets the drop on the surviving bad guy, from the earlier (seemingly unrelated) disarming him of a foot long scythe-style blade, and returning it (like bad library book) back to the saps cranium. So-far, so-Seagal.....

(Marshall Lawson....The 'Fabio' of the C.I.A.)

Seagal is then seen in a bar in (not-so-sunny) Romania, with his trusty sidekick, Dwayne and the rest of his young rookie strike team. Later that night, the strike team talk amongst themselves about Lawson, and the newest rookie asks the immortal question (in a line of dialogue, that wipes the floor with John Barrowmans 'line' from SHARK ATTACK 3)

"So...Marshall Lawson, what do you guys know about him?......I mean the guy walks with an air of confidence, rarely seen in this day and age"

His colleagues laugh, but are quick to offer the following (self-congratulatory) piece of advice (that i'm sure Seagal himself added to the script)

"There's just two things you need to know about Marshall's and bad motherfucker......and two...he's a BAD motherfucker"

With Lawsons (already) bad-ass credentials suitably set up, his team of young soldiers request a bit of R&R to view some of Romania's cultural high spots, to visit it's many fine monuments and to take in those sweeping vistas......Actually they head straight for the nearest (quote) "Titty-Bar" and soon strike up a deal with this shady looking (Richard Hammond-alike) below, for 'use' of one of his (ahem) 'Ladies of the night'

(This bad guy sells TOP GEAR....geddit?)

Take note of this 'Richard Hammond-alike' as (apparently) he's the criminal mastermind, behind the ensuing carnage to follow. Oh, and it's probably not the best time to mention that this actor was recently jobbing it, as the resident doctor in EASTENDERS (a career high or low, depending on if you can stay awake throughout this review...let alone the actual movie?)

Anyhow, the 3 man unit, take the 'Lady' back to their hotel, for some 'naughty' R&R, and amidst the 3-way rumpo, the woman's eyes change from normal to cat like (in probably the movies FX highlight) This sequence was probably the left-over stuff from the (planned) HARVESTER footage. Anyhow soon this dusky beauty is tearing the 3 man unit into a 12 piece (red) puddle.

And it's in this small sequence, when there's a genuine glimmer of what sci-fi/horror potential this movie might have had. Even the rookie (who praised Lawson earlier ) and wasn't getting much Romanian Rumpo not spared the wrath of this eye-changing alien queen...(err sorry, i mean 'under the influence' psychopath of superhuman strengh)

Of course, Lawson discovers the mutilated bodies (despite casually slamming their lifeless bodies out of his way, when they block his doorway) and despite their hotel room being covered in more blood than humanly possible for 3 guys, Lawson (after little soul-searching) confidently tells Dwayne (as he checks the bodies for pulses) "Don't bother...they're dead" (Lawson is a pro, and knows shit like this)

Understandably pissed (but nicely coiffed) I'd like to say that Lawson goes on a kill crazy rampage of death and destruction.....When in reality, all he does is tries to get clearance into his old CIA building, and peacefully walks away, when refused entrance (but his hearts in the right place) But luckily Lawson has a mole that still works for the 'Company' .....a leggy blonde named Tia (who was once Lawsons lover, and probably still is?)

Anyhow, Lawson sits in a few restaurants, whilst Dwayne 'pumps' him with 'intel' (f'nar, f'nar) about the investigation. It seems that the Richard Hammond look-a-like has been arrested, but the authorities can't touch him. Although soon (and rather confusingly) enough, Lawson and his team get the drop on the prostitute that murdered his unit. Lawson may well grimace over a threatened outbreak of 'CTX Majestic' into Romania's water supply, but i'd be slightly more wary of his on/off girlfriend Tia (as the drugged up prostitute throws her through 3-4 walls...and she gets up, as if she'd been thrown through polystyrene....which she actually was.....but we the humble viewer are not meant to know that)


Lawson (sick of fucking around) gives the superhuman bint a few slaps, before questioning her. It gets nowhere, so he stabs the shit out of her (with her own weapons, the previously mentioned scythe like wrist blades) Soon Tia (when she's not getting thrown through walls) uses all her C.I.A technology, and (confusingly) adapts the same weapons to react to Lawsons (no doubt) 'amazing' hand speed. I don't know how the fuck she does it, but we (the lucky viewer are treat to a computer read out, stating: ASSIMILATION COMPLETE) which means one thing...enough of this fighting women shit....LAWSONS ABOUT TO KICK SOME FUCKING ASS!!!!!

Anyhow, the threatened CTX pollution of the towns water supplies goes ahead. And various army units (not Lawson, by the way) siege an attack against the infected (who all have the same 'cat-eye' look and murderous intent)
(Even the smiles were forced on the set of this movie)

After a few fistfights (errr....none of them featuring Lawson) our heroes finally dispatch the bad guy, before coming face to face with another (fucking) woman (seriously Steve, only Ike Turner would approve) and whilst Dwayne fights various bad guys (in some pretty nifty scraps) Lawson is forced (and probably content) to fight another superhuman female (who kicks his ass a little) before he lovingly impales his blade through her skull.

(Seagal attempts to win the 'Rick-James-Mano-O-Womano' smack down of 2006)

After such a monumental battle of (not quite) epic proportions, you'd expect the film-makers to inject a final scene (that could possibly hint to a sequel, or at least tie up the 47 loose threads)....but no. Lawson helps Dwayne limp out, and the next shot is a car driving away. Picture fades, end credits appear.