Born to Raise Hell [Blu Ray]: an Interpol agent assigned to Eastern Europe gets a replacement partner (his last one died on the job) to help him take down a Gypsy gang. The first time director constantly misses the mark with a poorly handled rape/burglary, then laugh-out-loud ‘intimate scene’, and a ton of woeful action moments. My biggest gripe surfaces with entire minutes of filler shots and blurry cam montages between the scenes. It’s amateur hour behind the camera, and in front of the camera we have Seagal (!!) with an ominously lit face and awkward gun-holding poses. He and his crew do the script justice, with classic lines like “lemme see yo hands bitch”, “wat the fuck is wrong wit chu boy” and every other Seagal sentence ending with “maaaaan”. His new colleague even dares to whisper the line “I’m one month away from becoming a father” – I WONDER IF HE WILL MAKE IT TO THE END?!?!!? Written solely by Seagal, It’s little surprise that he penned himself as a one-man-army cop with an unfeasibly hot girlfriend and mad fighting skillz – despite being a big oaf. The Bucharest setting is in more bad taste than you could imagine, everyone’s has a crazy Russian-esque accent, but talks English, is involved with drugs and works as a gangster or stripper. The entire film just reeks of cheap and is possibly the flattest and most uninspired Seagal flick you could imagine – it makes his ‘Lawman’ TV show look like Oscar Bait. The Blu Ray’s decent enough, but there’s nothing here worth watching. Proof if proof be needed that Seagal definitely is a
one-no-trick-pony-tail. Why are people still letting him do films?
War: (Blu Ray) A gritty cop is out to avenge his partner’s death at the hand of the cockiest and most conspicuous hitman on the planet. Initially, this one doesn’t bat too high; with flashbacks referencing the start of the film after 20 minutes!! It’s also totally textbook, from the archetypal spy/metal music & story-progressing montage through to the constant ‘satellite’ shots and swooping cuts of cars driving over bridges. However, the last 30 minutes or so make this film more than worth persevering with – and in general the film was slicker and smarter than the uninspired synopsis and general image gives it credit for. There’s a lot of decent and original action/choreogrphy threading through the film – the best being an awesome footchase, and a jaw-dropping steakhouse punch up. You know what to expect from Statham and Li, and neither disappoint. The uncompressed audio mix bursts out of every speaker for the full duration creating one of the best soundscapes I’ve heard to date – every word, footstep, punch, gunshot and shatter is crystal clear and mixed in perfectly with the film’s fully orchestrated score – it’s truly an aural delight that should be a must-have for anyone with a home theater system, indisputable demo material. The picture’s generally good, but has a few bum scenes. Overall, if you like your cop-revenge-action films this is definitely one of the better ones out there – and while it’s not outstanding, there’s a lot of good touches that elevate it above expectations.
Reservoir Dogs: (Blu Ray) Follows a bunch of – not so – professional criminals after a botched heist – Tarrantino’s debut. Like his later movies this one is stuffed with obscure music, bloody violence, fragmented storytelling, and dangerously high levels of pop-culture. Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi lead the cast for me, but you can’t really fault anyone’s performance. It’s stylish, some of the longer shots are frighteningly smooth & effective and there’s cool ideas peppered throughout; standout being the anecdote about the drug deal being told in various situations. The realistic and brutal violence will shock some, and even for the start of his career the homage isn’t subtle. Like his other early works it’s also questionably racist – strange gamble for an up-and-coming director. The picture’s alright in parts but the sound’s quite rubbish, not worth the BD upgrade. Although the story and characters aren’t groundbreaking, you can’t deny how original the delivery and presentation are. Cult classic, and rightly so.
Face/Off: is what happens when John Woo makes a film about a cop and a baddie swapping bodies. The rule is that any film that opens up with a double-assassinaton attempt, fake moustaches and a kid getting shot is going to be great. The first 40 minutes are filled with ridiculous over-acting and pseudo-science; a fully working face swap, really?!? Neither actor can pull off the madness of Caster Troy convincingly and when he wasn’t making ridiculous noises and faces, Cage was trying his damndest to un-act. Then there’s the action, and Face/Off is crammed with huge slabs of over-the-top action, culminating in the apartment shootout carnage with ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ pumping through the speakers; one of the most epic and intense action scenes I can remember. Because both guys’ families are in danger it makes the story more gripping. There’s a lot of face touching, religious symbolism and bad parenting throughout (what ever happened to the hot goth Dominique Swain?). Despite the cheese and clichés this is my top action film of the 90’s, perhaps ever. If you’ve not seen this yet, where have you been hiding?