Saturday, 25 June 2011

Peter Falk (1927-2011)

Genuinely saddened at last nights news of Peter Falk's passing. Not that he made many Straight-To-DVD movies in his illustrious career (although Walter Hill's underrated UNDISPUTED was granted such treatment in the UK)
Born in 1927, Falk lost an eye (to cancer) at three years old. Not the best start to any young life (let alone, someone who would go onto achieve the worldwide accolade and fame that Falk did) But (as Sammy Davis Jr, before him) true talent shines through any disability.

Falk made a name for hmself on stage, before slowly working his way up the hollywood ladder. He clocked up some memorable supporting performances in movies like Murder Inc, Pretty Boy Floyd, It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Castle Keep and Anzio. In 1968 he signed up for a NBC MYSTERY MOVIE called Prescription Murder, playing a rumpled detective named Columbo. Although not a huge hit with audiences, the character of Columbo was recommissioned 3 years later (with another one-off episode, Ransom For A Dead Man) leading (later that year) to a seven episode season....the rest as they say is history, and the character made Falk instantly recognizable around the world.

And the movie roles didn't stop there. Now a huge 'name' actor, Falk starred in many classic movies (during his 32 tenure as Lt Columbo) including, Husbands, A Woman Under The Influence, Murder By Death, Mikey And Nicky, The Cheap Detective, The In-Laws, The California Dolls, Wings of Desire, The Princess Bride and (David Mamet's enjoyable) Lakeboat.

Although he'll be forever associated (and rightfully so) with Columbo, Pater Falk not only leaves a eclectic back-catalogue of movies, he also leaves millions of fans mourning at the passing of one the few greats. R.I.P Peter Falk

Got the full set of Columbo DVD's...time for a complete re-watch, methinks?

Thursday, 23 June 2011

DIRECT CONTACT (2009) Dolph Lundgren

As much as I enjoyed THE PUNISHER, ARMY OF ONE or MEN OF WAR, I've gotta' be honest here, and say that I've always found Dolph Lundgren to be the 'eternal bridesmaid' of action cinema, and found his recent movies rather dull. Be it my old age (or the fact that he killed 'Apollo Creed') I've found most of his DTV work to be 'lacking'. He sure looks the part and at 53 years young, 6' 5" tall, he certainly looks after himself....but (as with Wesley Snipes) his DTV work is littered with more duds than hits. None of this stops me from watching his movies.....but truth be told, I'm sick to death of reading stuff like "The Russian Specialist is a kick ass movie" (when it clearly isn't) or PR blurb stating "Command Performance rocks" (only to find a dull and plodding Die Hard Wannabe, hidden behind an otherwise great trailer) So it's with indifferent displeasure (?) that i review the latest Lundgren 'masterpiece' to hit UK shelves (despite it being already 2 year old...which is never a good sign) But looking at the DVD seems to have some plus points, it's an 18 Certificate Nu Image movie, featuring Michael Pare......What could go wrong?

(Quite a seems)

DIRECT ACTION sees Lundgren as lunk-headed (ex-US Special forces) Mike Riggins , residing in an Eastern Europe prison for gun-running. Amidst the many beatings from the wardens, fights with inmates, or the blood drinking Rats, Riggins seems oddly at ease with his predicament. Enter shadowy U.S envoy Clive Connelly (Michael Pare) who offers Riggins a full pardon (plus $200k) to rescue an kidnapped American woman, Ana Gale (Gina May) who is being held by a ruthless criminal, Vlado Karadjov (surely a name worthy of a 90+ score at Scrabble?) Connelly also mentions that anna may be suffering a touch of 'Stockholm Syndrome' and may resist being rescued.

("Ray Liotta was busy filming BEE MOVIE 2")

Riggins gets $20k upfront, a mobile phone and (like any self respecting paroled inmate) heads to the nearest disco/titty bar to arrange a meeting with Karadjov. Of course, as with most Eastern European titty bars...the swarthy types soon betray Riggins, and
he is beaten up (but spared death) by Karadjov and his men. Undeterred, Riggins pays a visit to the local fire-arms seven/eleven...and heads back to Karadjovs base to bring da ruckas to all those muthafuckaz.

(The budget wouldn't stretch to 3D, but Dolph gave it his best shot)

Much fence cutting, bomb planting and knocking out inept guards later...Riggins finally locates Anna...who thanks him for his troubles with a swift kick to the knackers. Our hero punches her in the stomach to keep her from screaming (nice) and despite her protests of "Not being kidnapped", Riggins gets her out of Karadjovs base, much to the displeasure the sadistic General Drago (surely a knowing namesaked 'wink' at Lundgrens most iconic role?)


The chase is on (replete with usual NU-IMAGE second hand action scenes/explosions) Our hero and heroine make it to (brief) safety in a nearby hotel. Riggins phones Connelly (who reveals himself as C.I.A, but little else) and arranges a meeting place for the girl to be handed over and the cash to be exchanged. Riggins smells a rat, attends the meeting alone...and tells Connelly to eat the bird, before buggering off (on another chase sequence.....this time on a motorbike!) leading to more recycled action scenes.

(Dolph was on page 6 of 'The Fatty Arbuckle-sexual Etiquette manual')

Returning to the hotel, Riggins finds that Anna has escaped, but tracks her down to a train station. They both board the train (cue footage from Van Damme's 'Derailed') but Drago's men are there to (badly) shoot the shit out of innocent bystanders, in their quest to miss Riggins with every single bullet they fire. With several thousand rounds of ammo easily dodged, Riggins and Anna leave the train at the next station (which rather inexplicably seems built directly to a sewer filled with homeless people...but wide enough to accommodate a military hummer vehicle)

("No way did Streets Of Fire outperform Masters Of The Universe?")

Evading the army once again, our heroes steal a taxi, leading to a further chase scene (some ropey back projection and further sequences from 'Derailed' ) Fleeing their captors again (god this is getting repetitive) Riggins and Anna head to a nearby cafe. A news story on the TV indicates that Anna is in fact the daughter of (recently deceased) billionaire oil and Shipping magnate Allister Roberts. Now the picture is looking a little clearer about the real motives behind Conellys offer.

(Mmmmm, I wonder who gets shot....The Hero or the The Waiter?)

Anna tends to a graze on riggins stomach (fuck me...a bullet actually got within a yard of Dolph!) and the pair go to meet Karadjov (who it turns out IS a good guy) at a nearby football stadium. Unfortunately, General Drago and his army arrive on the scene...leading to another shoot-out (yawn) and the demise of Karadjov. Connelly arrives in a helicopter and (amazingly) keeps his end of the deal with Riggins (by giving him the money, as promised) in exchange for the girl. Anna (suitably pissed) berates our hero for selling out, but off he drives...leaving the heiress at the mercy of Drago and Connelly.

It turns out that Anna's naughty Uncle Trent is behind the whole shenanigans, and wants her to sign the rights of the company over to him. Connelly treats Anna to a bit of the 'Ike Turner First Date Workout', but (wahey!).....Riggins returns, armed with guns and rifles (plus the worst hand grenade explosions since For Your Height Only) leading to more chase footage (from Out For A Kill) to enliven proceedings (i mean WTF, we haven't had a shootout in the last 2 minutes)

(And the soldiers still fucking miss)

Outrunning the badguys again (for a fucking change!) Riggins figures out that the mobile phone Connelly gave him, is a tracking device (no shit sherlock!) Seeking shelter in a nearby woodshed, Riggins and anna finally get down to (an awkward looking scene of) Rumpy-pumpy. The next morning we see Riggins getting all McGuyver-like on his getaway vehicle (actually we see him lift a small panel of pig-iron...hardly an A-Team montage) This is inter-cut with General Drago and his army shooting the living shit out a group of villagers in his search for our heroes. Heading for the gates of the nearest American Embassy, our heroes are shot at by their own side (Realism at last!) So whats a former ex-US Special forces/gun runner/jailbird/mercenary/suspected terrorist to do...he simply drive into the building NEXT FUCKING DOOR to the embassy for a showdown with Drago/Connelly and various inept soldiers. Although Connellys demise is quite an 'explosive' scene (hint, hint) The movie still ends on a shit-eating grin fest, as Riggins looks at Anna and utters "God Bless America" ("Try lensing a movie there, every now and then Dolph" I say)

(Too hot for cinema)

DIRECT CONTACT is 20 years too late for an action movie (in terms of acting, plot and production values) and rather plodding (despite it's many action scenes) even for a low budget DTV release. Releasing stuff like this after THE EXPENDABLES, won't do Lundgren (and his career) any favours. Any moments of cheesy charm is few and far between (although I chuckled a little at Lundgren spitting up blood in his cell, only for a passing rat to gobble it up) And given the extensive BU-IMAGE back catalogue, they could have recycled much better action scenes (those OPERATION DELTA FORCE movies are also 'pilfered' throughout) Dolph still aquits himself well in the fight scenes, but they're nothing to write home about. Gina May comes across as a second rate Megan Fox (if such an entity exists?) and only Michael Pare walks away from this without any damage (and probably another Uwe Boll movie to make, that very weekend)

(Insert haemorrhoid gag here:)

If my review sounds dire and's because the movie is (oh, yeah, and because I'm a lousy reviewer as well) But the almost non-stop action and messy squib-work, doesn't change my opinion on Dolph Lundgren as a genuine action star...neither is DIRECT CONTACT jaw-droppingly bad enough to warrant a 'So-bad-it's-good' quality. It just sits there for 80 odd minutes, then finishes (like a fairweather friend, you've foolishly invited to your house) Although hardcore Lundgren buffs will probably find plenty to enjoy, nontheless. But given that i watched this movie as a double bill (alongside 'Los nuevos extraterrestres') and found DIRECT CONTACT to be the duller of the two...really says it all.

Then again, it might just be me...I can't stand Michael Dudikoff either?

(Although I didn't hate it, as much as this guy?)