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Kickboxer: Vengeance – when his brother is killed in an underground deathmatch by the brutal Tong Po, a young fighter plots his revenge with the help of a master fighter (JCVD). I love martial arts movies and despite what you’ve read elsewhere this is a solid remake. First off; there’s shitloads of fighting – as in every five minutes, fight fight fight. There’s all the punches, all the kicks, a homoerotic rain fight, workmen walking through fights with panes of glass… there’s even a couple of street / marketplace fights that remind you of something like Ong Bak. Director John Stockwell clearly knows and respects the ancestry of this film; retaining key markers like the training montages, and bringing back key cast members; he even throws in some gratuitous boobs… however, most of the cheesier elements have been dropped and the story is more (Tong) po-faced. Just when you think they missed out the infamous car crash drunk dancing scene our new lead pays his respects with some truly horrendous Van Damme jivin’ during the end credits. Casting-wise, the new lead (Moussi) isn’t much of an actor, but what he lacks in charisma he makes up for with some high end fighting/action/stunt prowess; Batista doesn’t have a whole lot to do, although he’s a larger-than-life baddie; meanwhile JCVD steals all of his scenes with his cheeky acting chops, legendary moves, and unbelievably shredded torso. My only real niggle was the weirdly flashy subtitles clearly aimed at people who don’t read subtitles!. There’s a lot of misplaced nostalgia for the original Kickboxer: it’s ultra-80s, it hasn’t aged well, didn’t actually contain much fighting or action, and was basically a showcase for JCVDs moves. Kickboxer Vengeance however is a worthwhile and respectful remake that’s short on acting but crammed full of action. A sturdy modern martial arts movie.

Score: 7/10

Fast and Furious 6 Poster, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Sung Kang, Luke Evans, Gina Carano, John Ortiz, Gal Gadot, Joe Taslim, Rita Ora,Fast & Furious 6 (Fast Six, Furious Six, Fast 6 etc) [Mild Spoilers]: the gang reunite with federal agent Hobbs to track down a dangerous group of car-based (duh!) paramilitaries; but when a ghost from the past re-appears, it gets personal. The film feels a little action-lite to begin with, as the first-half re-introduces all of the characters, sets up their backgrounds, and shows us the evil crew’s work – for one of the rare times in the franchise, it cops-out of showing a perfectly good action sequence, instead giving us the charred aftermath. The second half however has some of the most outrageously and unsympathetically over-the-top action set-pieces in the history of cinema: the tank chase that culminates in Vin Diesel actually flying; the subway fights that push the human body to the absolute limits; and the finale that that seems to take place on the longest runway in the world… all crazy-good, but ensure that your disbelief is left fully suspended. What’s disappointing is that despite pushing stuntwork and physical/real effects as far as the movies have, the script is still so hackneyed, and the over-emphasis on drama / family / plot is poorly judged – it’s obvious by now that nobody in the cast is cut out for ‘proper’ acting. Also, considering the whole 4th film was about the death of Letty, it’s absolutely ridiculous to have her just get written back in as an amnesic. Being part-set in London, I was loving the bawdy accents, Cockney stereotypes, scenic shots, red busses and general English shenanigans. Fast Six is a great action film – it was however the first time that the action went from flat-out cool, in to silly territory, with people in the crowd LOLing at a couple of moments. Overall, the movies have slowly transformed from niche, nut-and-bolt level car-porn films through to top-tier summer action blockbusters – quite the achievement given the origins and cast!

Score: 7.5/10

Fast Furious 6 Jump Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Sung Kang, Luke Evans, Gina Carano, John Ortiz, Gal Gadot, Joe Taslim, Rita Ora

The Fast and the Furious
2 Fast 2 Furious
Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Fast & Furious
Fast Five (New Review) / Fast Five (Old Review)

FAST FURIOUS GEARBOX

How many times can you downshift in a race?!?!?!?!

Haywire: when an ex-marine – now hitwoman – is framed for murder she has to set the record straight, by going straight to the top of the conspiracy. So it’s not the most original story, but the execution and tone make it stand out from the genre. It’s a stripped down travelogue spy thriller – somewhere between a Bourne film and The American – with a throwback feel, like those old-fashioned spy movies you watched with your grandparents. The action is gripping, particularly the Dublin chases and all hand-to-hand combat fighting. The lead actress (an MMA fighter by trade) works surprisingly well, even though she’s been surrounded by decent actors – as sensible backup – she doesn’t stick out much. There’s an interesting soundtrack with the odd scene having retro spy music, but mostly authentic audio that works very well during fights (grunting / punches / breathing), chases (footsteps / cars / traffic lights)… this pushes the dramatic envelope beyond what you normally get. Not unlike Contagion, Soderbergh has firmly rooted everything reality – I also see this as an important breakthrough role for Carano, who I envisage carving out a Statham/Dwane action niche. Continuously credible, and intense for the most part, Haywire is as good as it can be with the knowingly limiting story, and is as honest and believable a spy thriller as you’ll ever see.

Score: 7.5/10