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Hunt for the Wilderpeople: when his foster-mum dies and he’s due to go to juvie, a troubled ‘hoodie’ kid and his grouchy new ‘uncle’ end up going AWOL in the New Zealand Bush. The film’s setup is absolute dynamite, but as the story unfolds it loses momentum & steam, and never matches the heady heights of the opening act. The big car-tank-and-helicopter chase at the end feels particularly lavish and a bit silly, for no obvious reason. The best thing about HFTW is the trio of great performances from the main cast: “Aunt” Bella (Wiata), “Uncle” Hec (Sam Neill), and Ricky ‘the kid’, give it their all and draw a lot of laughter. Everyone else on the other hand feels like they were parachuted in to their scenes and told to just improv-up a few bits of comedy gold at gunpoint (most apparent in the slacker/selfie/flake/horse-girl scene); and unfortunately almost all of the laugh-out-loud moments are given away in the trailer. The broody synth soundtrack feels like a big misstep too, as it doesn’t match the upbeat tone of the film. Hunt for the Wilderpeople comes hurtling of out the blocks towards a top mark; unfortunately it just can’t sustain the high-quality and focus into the final hour. That being said, it’s still undeniably a funny and somewhat uplifting ‘Antipodean-Comedy’ (mostly deadpan and accent-based jokes).

Score: 6.5/10

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The Tournament 2009 Robert Carlyle, Kelly Hu, Ving Rhames, Liam Cunningham, Sébastien Foucan, Scott Adkins, Ian Somerhalder, Andy Nyman, J.J. Perry, Camilla Power, Rachel Grant

The Tournament: every 7 years in an unsuspecting town 30 of the world’s top special forces, serial killers, athletes and assassins fight to the death for a £10M cash prize. To get it out-of-the-way, yes, this film clearly borrows from the likes of Smokin Aces, Battle Royale, Series 7 etc etc. To ensure there’s some dialogue – in what would otherwise be a speechless film – the silly priest storyline is added, although it could have been just as easily done with two underdog killers teaming up. Given that there’s 30 contestants + others watching, characterisation is obviously very thin. Boring things aside, the action in this film is intense and very frequent – the highlight being a strip-club shootout/massacre with blood, guts and limbs flying everywhere. Nothing within the frame is safe, pedestrians, buildings, animals and vehicles (cars, jeeps and tankers all flipping and exploding at some point). Every five minutes there’s a big action scene, and most of it is of a very high standard. For a £4M movie to have such a decent cast, great action scenes and well-directed action (it’s his first film!!) – it’s nothing short of a miracle. Someone please throw more money at the director, Scott Mann to kick off his next project – it’s absolutely the best in class for mindless action; a bloody schlock romp for the guys, full of explosions, guns, blood and tits.

Score: 7/10

The Toxic Avenger: when nerdy gym cleaner (S)Melvin is pushed in to a vat of toxic waste, he gets transformed in to a fugly ping tutu wearing superhero that cleans the streets of crime. This is basically the one film/franchise that is keeping the Troma video label alive and kicking… and with good reason. The comedy is great, and clearly influenced by Brooks / Nielsen, but with a ‘shoxploitation’ / comedy violence twist. The overall attention to detail and SFX are outstanding for a cheap film (very smart editing too), and there’s a ton of inventive gore, epitomized by the car head-crushing scene. Not a single section of society / public / animals are safe from ridicule or violence – everyone gets offended and/or killed off in Tromaville. In classic schlock/b-movie style there’s a lot of nudity and groping going on in this town, a midget being tumble dried, limbs being ripped off, body parts being deep-fried. The Toxic Avenger is great fun to watch, and should be a pre-requisite for all film fans, particularly b-movie lovers & aspiring film makers. It’s also worth hunting down the Director’s Cut for the extra gore-factor.

Score: 7.5/10

The Toxic Avenger Part II Review

22 Bullets (aka The Immortal): A retired mobster-turned-family-man gets left for dead with 22 bullets in him; once recovered, he’s out for revenge, and nothing’s going to stop it. Instantly, you realise that technically, this film is the definition of slick: camerawork, direction, editing, music, and acting – all fantastic. After the initial 30 minutes of set-up and character introductions the rest is all plot progression and action, of a high standard; car chase, bike chase, shootouts, assassinations etc. Reno‘s still got it, most evidently in a couple of high-intensity scenes where he succeeds in sucking you straight into the film, and gets you rooting for the antihero. The female police officer (Foïs) also stands above the bar, although there are no duds in the cast. The publicity material plays off of Leon/The Professional, but this is as good a stand-alone film. While it may not be one of the most original revenge stories, it sticks to the tried formula and comes out way above average. Recommended.

Score: 7/10