Kickboxer: Retaliation – a year after killing Tong Po to avenge his brother’s murder, MMA champ Kurt Sloan is kidnapped and forced to fight a new underground deathmatch champion. After a dubious opening Bond-lite salsa dance / train fight, the film is rigidly punctuated with some outstanding action set pieces. The choreography in a couple of the fights is jaw-dropping, especially the single takes at the jailhouse (3 mins uninterrupted), and riverside rumble (inexplicably set to the Surfaris ‘Wipe Out’). The ‘Final Boss’ fight against Game of Thrones’ “The Mountain” is 20 minutes of bone-crunching savagery that reaches previously uncharted levels of OMGWTF twists and turns. Outside of the fights however, the film doesn’t feel particularly well put-together: the direction is weaker than the previous outing – jerking between various scenes, locations, filler Thailand Tourist Board type shots… and there’s no attempt at updating anything about the generic 80s action plot. Cast-wise, almost everything else is in the shadow of Moussi’s physicality and technical ability: Bjornsson is an intimidating force (when he’s not strumming an acoustic guitar for no reason!); JCVD’s charisma brightens up his scenes; Tyson hams it up and gets some laughs; but disappointingly, Christopher Lambert has nothing more to do than growl some threats and react to big hits (away from everyone else). What it lacks in originality and direction, Kickboxer Retaliation makes up by leaving no stuntman unscathed and no prop unsmashed; the fight scenes are top-drawer, and it makes you wish that Alain Moussi would get the chance to go toe to toe with the likes of Iko Uwais and Donnie Yen.
Heavy Metal: animated action-fantasy anthology movie for adults. Technically, it should really be called “Heavy Metal, and soft rock, and a great movie score”, but that’s nitpicking… all you need to know is that the soundtrack is very varied and really drives the movie. The over-arching story is ambitious and comes together in the vein of a grand intergalactic rock opera with elements of Noir / Fantasy / Sci-Fi / Sword & Sandals – something for every type of nerd.. The 9 segments were made by different animation studios – giving each one a unique style, and they’re all so fantastically rendered that it feels like a showcase of the best hand-drawn animation of that period. Being a ‘cartoon for adults’ this is packed to the brim with violence, gratuitous nudity, and ladies with unimaginably large waps (it is based on a French fantasy magazine made for alternative teenage boys – duh). As with most anthology movies not all parts are created equally, and ‘trippy’ doesn’t come close to describing the more eclectic parts of the story; clearly all of the drugs were taken during the making of this, it’s probably the most 80s thing I’ve ever seen – at least since Tenebre. You have two choices with Heavy Metal: try to figure it out, fight it, and piece it together, or simply let it wash over you and absorb the crazy-good, now-defunct retro animation.
So Beautiful and So Dangerous
Epilogue (Loc Nar)
Savages (mild spoilers): when two pro pot dealers have their shared girlfriend kidnapped by a cartel for leverage, they don’t take it lying down. This one is absolutely packed to the brim with torture, violence, action sex, drugs and rock & roll – it’s all turned up way past 11. All the characters are all pretty broad stereotypes, however it’s the cast and story that raise this above your standard gang-banger flick. Hell, it’s worth watching this just to see the scene with Del Toro and Travolta – each doing their thing and loving every second of it. For a 2hr30 film, it’s so packed with action and plot that it never drags: as it plays out like a dramatic chess match. Savages barely puts a foot wrong until it doubles back on what would have been a powerful, Shakespearian out-of-the-blue ending – instead copping out at the last second for a crowd-pleaser. The only real downer for me was a sloppy, grating, “ike-OMG-totally-I-was-like-and-she-was-all” So-Cal voiceover that does nothing more than point out the obvious – and annoy the shit out of viewers. After a couple of duffers, this one definitely puts Oliver Stone back on the cinemap, and with ample style to spare.