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Hardcore Henry (Хардкор): when he is resurrected with no memory and new robotic limbs, Henry must save his kidnapped wife from a telekinetic psychopath who has plans to weaponise a robo-army. From the opening credits (graphic, but blackly comic violence) you can tell this isn’t your usual action film – most of the movie is shot from a ‘First Person’ perspective, from the point-of-view of ‘Henry’ using an intricate head-cam rig. The film is basically 90 minutes straight of Henry running / jumping / shooting / punching through a long line of obstacles; with some awesome freerunning & parkour (seemingly no wires – or brains!), and high intensity and very high quality stuntwork: the elements combine to create a truly unique  and awe-inspiring action spectacle. There’s also a great anarchic/punk sensibility to the movie; anything goes, and there’s a lot of crazy & zany elements… it even using things like subtitles to make a few jokes with. The biggest problem is that when everything is up at 150% the whole time, you end up becoming a bit numb to it towards the end. Another downside of the FPS style is that the camera is very shaky and has a warped fish-eye lens which distorts a lot of the outer frame. Hardcore Henry is a film that is truly cutting edge, in that it couldn’t have even been made a couple of years ago – the only remotely close comparison you could draw would be a less offensive, but higher-octane version of the Crank films. It’s fun, impressive, and completely mental, but overall struggles to engage after a while. Best viewed after consuming a twelve pack of Red Bull.

Score: 7/10

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NOTE: The entire film was spawned from this music video – if you fancy 90 mins of this, look no farther than Hardcore Henry.

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Mechanic Resurrection: a retired hitman gets pulled back into action when his new girlfriend is captured and he’s forced to whack three seemingly unconnected criminals. Being the sequel to a somewhat derivative remake expectations going in aren’t exactly high; but the film just about meets them. Everything that isn’t an action/fighting scene is there to set up the next action/fighting scene; including a nonsensical plot and some ultra-dubious character motivation: within 10 mins a pragmatic contract killer has fallen and is risking it all for a random babe?!? It’s also ‘subconsciously Bond,’ with multiple exotic locations, submarine pen shootout, Rio cable cars, exploding boats etc. Not content leaning on one franchise, the story’s also centered around three “Impossible missions”: a prison kill, swimming pool kill, and boat-chaos… all fun, but none are particularly tense as Arthur Bishop never loses the upper hand. We get a rent-a-baddie (Hazeldine) with no charisma, personality, or memorable traits; and a rent-a-babe (Alba) with a suspiciously small wardrobe and whose cleavage is deeper than her character. On the upside, Jason Statham is back in his bone-breaking action lane; Tommy Lee Jones is chewing it up (but is literally in two scenes) and the film has an aesthetically pleasing, vibrant, Lucy-esque visual style (although some of the CGI is very ropy). Mechanic Resurrection is an uninspired action film with only one reason to watch it; Statham returning to his action roots… if you like mile-high body counts, entertaining dispatches, and Jason Statham punching & shooting his way through obstacles look no further than this.

Score: 5.5/10

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Yakuza Apocalypse, frogman, 極道大戦争, Gokudō Daisensō, Takashi Miike, Yayan Ruhian, Rirî Furankî, Hayato Ichihara, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Riko Narumi, Pierre Taki, Ryushin Tei,

Yakuza Apocalypse: a virus that turns everyone into a yakuza mobster is sweeping through a sleepy Japanese town; along with some vampires, goths, and a ninja frogman. There are two fairly major signs that you’ll either love or hate this film: firstly, the ‘Mangalogo guarantees some mental Japanese stuff; secondly, Takashi Miike directing is another indicator of mental Japanese stuff. Suffice to say that there’s so much silly, random, and mental Japanese stuff (like a bird goblin man, kung fu frogman in a frog suit – mostly for no obvious reason) that it becomes a chore to keep up with. You get the feeling that Miike was going for a ‘Happiness of the Katakuris’ vibe, but got bogged down in the randomness and forgot about the plot. It opens with an ultra-violent bloodbath, but stalls immediately after and never really hits the top gear again: even the anti-fight at the end is a disappointing reductive idiom gag (massive build up / deliberately rubbish fight). A disappointing non-film from one of the most hit-or-miss directors on the planet. One for the Manga / Japanese / Miike fanboys only.

Score: 3.5/10

Yakuza Apocalypse, Boss Fight, Finale, 極道大戦争, Gokudō Daisensō, Takashi Miike, Yayan Ruhian, Rirî Furankî, Hayato Ichihara, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Riko Narumi, Pierre Taki, Ryushin Tei,

Yakuza Apocalypse, Poster, 極道大戦争, Gokudō Daisensō, Takashi Miike, Yayan Ruhian, Rirî Furankî, Hayato Ichihara, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Riko Narumi, Pierre Taki, Ryushin Tei,

Taken 2: Bryan Mills and his ‘very particular set of skills’ are hunted down by the relatives of the bad guys from Paris (Taken). If Mr Megaton had stuck to the surefire winning formula of the first film, he’d have been OK, however, he strays way off topic. Action, drama and no-brain story: 66% – this is far to silly to have any sense of drama or threat. Hard-hitting fight-scenes: 33% – my beloved, worn-down, Taken DVD is 18-rated, this was a 12A, with all of the bloody bone-crunching edges are taken off. Liam Neeson acting well: – 15% – he totally looks like he can not be arsed here, as do most of the cast. A brief list of the memorable moments tell you more about the tone of the film that any sensible review could:

  • Maggie Grace gratuitously running around in a Bikini
  • Maggie Gracehaving not passed her driving test – executing perfect evasive/offensive driving
  • Maggie Grace throwing grenades on Istanbul roofs so Neeson can locate her.
  • Neeson being left in a room, alone, for a long time
  • Neeson having a mini-phone in his pocket
  • Neeson walking through Istanbul navigating using only his ears.

Overall, it feels like far more like a “Shit, we accidentally got a worldwide hit from a B-movie – may as well cash-in with a rushed sequel” affair, over a well-thought out, original, nasty, well done action flick. All that being said, Taken 2 is nowhere near as bad as the critics have made it out to be, there’s more than enough mindless action scenes to keep audiences entertained.

Score: 5.5/10

The Spy Who Loved Me: after dispatching a bunch of goons that chase him down a mountain (it’s becoming a regular nuisance) Bond is paired up with his Russian counterpart XXX to solve the disappearance of some nuclear submarines.

Bloody women drivers, huh?!

In the opening seconds we see the first visible boobs in franchise – nudey posters in submarine. Starting as it means to go on, and staying true to the pornographic nature of the book, the intro’s essentially shadow-porn, and the rest of the film has so many random busty women, bikini/lingerie clad models, beach babes and general skin on display it’s unreal. Did Russ Meyer direct this? We even see a woman in the shower, totally buff, and it remains a PG?!?! AWESOME!

Not leaving much to the imagination

What with all the sexiness flying around, it’s no surprise that James Bond capitalises on the amour; some random hottie he’s just met literally takes a bullet for him. There’s a painful-to-watch ‘Women Drivers’ scene that makes you glad XXX knocks him out! Also, with lines like “Keeping the British end up, sir” it’s like Bond’s happily swapped his 007 badge for the ‘double entendre’ one. Not to mention the fact that his name is almost Rodger More!! Carry on Roger!!!

In your end-oh!!

Despite showing Russia and the UK working together in the height of the cold war the film’s unapologetically patriotic. From the Union Jack parachute to the continual references about Bond’s queen and country. He’s definitely out to win the hearts and minds of the British public! The evil plan to abuse nukes would have also played to contemporary fears of a WWIII.

She's a damsel, in distress, with boobs!

For being such a goofy giant with metal teeth Jaws comes across surprisingly menacing, no doubt attributed to his lack of dialogue. Even though he’s comically indestructible and not the smartest peanut in the turd you can’t help but think that he’ll do some proper damage to Bond at one point. He also gets the 3rd train fight in the series!

Tin Grin

Other unforgettable moments from this are the underwater lotus, fantastic theme song (top 5 of the 22 to date), the exotic backdrops of Egypt and Sardinia, the ‘tie’ scene on the roof (emulated in later Bonds and Oldboy). The age disparity between a ‘seasoned’ Bond and the Bond girl that could be his daughter… There’s also a lot of exciting and tense scenes, given the tone of the film; disarming the nuke, bombing ship, gunfights etc. Finally, the massive submarine-swallowing ship at the end is the the epitome of a villain’s base; scores of henchmen, operations control room, klaxons, monorail, tannoy updates and everything your modern baddie needs!

No matter how rubbish this looks, you still always want one

Being the 10th film in the franchise this one had to be a hit, and even though Stromberg blends in to the ‘generic villain’ category with a recycled ‘evil scheme’ this one’s saved by Jaws, Bond, Egypt, action, and miles of cleavage!

Score: 7.5/10

1 cropped frame and two gratuitous bikinis!!

TOP TRUMPS

Villain: Stromberg – underwater world fantasy. Certifiably mad! Webbed hands. 7
Henchmen: Jaws: kicked out of train, car crashed into building, blown up in base, shot in face. kills a shark with his face!! Total Bad-ass, indestrictable but least realistic! 9
Bond Girl: Marine Biologist bikini girl Naomi and XXX. 7
Action: Ski Chase / Rooftop Fight / Lambo run – underwater / on-ship action. 8

... you get the idea

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There is one scene where the girls face is the focal point

AND FINALLY…
No look at The Spy Who Loved Me would be complete without Alan Partridge’s narration of the introduction. Enjoy.

Hard Boiled: a classic cops Vs Triads flick by John Woo, arguably at his peak. This is almost always cited as one of the best action films ever made, and with good reason. The bloodshed is so, so stylish and cool: slow-motion, intricate and technical. The action is completely mesmerising in places with explosions, bullets, bodies, weapons and debris all dancing around the frame. This is the closest thing to an action-ballet you’ll see, with long swooping shots, that make the even the most intricate of scenes seem effortless. It also has a real cinematic quality for the most part, with brilliant camera work jumping out in places – peaking with a meticulous 2 1/2 minute single-shot through hospital corridors and lifts, like a shoot-em-up game. The story is pretty standard – fallen colleague, hostage situations and undercover cops – but Woo avoids cliché by putting 90% of the focus on the action. There are some minor downsides to Hard Boiled; the hospital siege goes on for far too long (well over 40 minutes), The 1980s synth soundtrack is incredibly out of date and there’s a bizarro Jazz motif throughout. It’s also the only foreign film I deliberately watch with English dubs because the original audio is in worse synch than the voiceovers. All in, Hard Boiled is the definitive action film that takes all the best parts of a tired genre and makes them great again, and so much more watchable.

Score: 8/10