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)

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