Monday, May 13, 2013

The Package - A Kick Ass Kid Review

Recording the podcast with Dr.Action brought me in contact with a lot of 80s and 90s action films and film stars that I was either not aware of or only had name recognition at best. It's been a genuinely rich and fantastic time with last years Speaktember (The films of Jeff Speakman) and our recent Gary Daniels The Britkicker month being particular highlights.

Around the same time and post Expendables  I was aware of a whole new batch of straight-to-video action films filling the shelves of my local retailer or filling up Netflix. So recently I have been delving a little bit into those and, if I am honest, despite them all having their plus points and featuring pretty decent action, they were a mixed bag. This was, usually and sadly, down to the directors and editors of these cheaply shot, quickly produced and distributed movies. Terrible shaky cam, erratic and often comically bad editing, poorly done color correction and all of it bathed in irritating, loud hip-hop soundtracks. This is a shame because the scripts were usually pretty good, the cast were doing their best and the action was clearly where they spent the money.

Tonight, however, I got to see The Package and, while I know it's not the only example of this, it surprised me, specifically, with how good it was made, not just as a straight to video actioner starring the always reliable Lundgren and the charasmatic, steely gazed, shit kicker Austin but as a proper, decent film. Much in the same way that something like a First Blood transcends the trappings of the 'action film' label and becomes something more, something classic, so The Package rose high above the standard low-budget action fare to become something damn good and interesting.

Just quickly for the record I like all types of action from the shot on DV stuff to the multi million dollar franchises, the above paragraph is really to just sing the praises of The Package's surprising production values, plot and script, depth of performance and editing.

The plot revolves around Austin's character who is ex-military and working as a goon/bag man for a leading crime boss. He is doing it to help his prison inmate brother out of trouble and out of debt and also because, sadly, he feels, there is no other work paying this well for a guy with, what he sees to be, his limited set of skills. He has a woman he loves but can't tell her as he seems ashamed somewhat and knows the danger of this job he's fallen into. Austin conveys all this mental conflict quite well and his scenes of reflection and scenes with his lady are charming and touching in an unexpected way.
The crime boss, the excellently named Big Doug, then approaches our hero with a proposal: deliver a package to 'The German' (Dolph Lundgren) in British Columbia and he'll wipe his brother's debt off the books.
It turns out there are two other second tier crime lords besides The German, all vying for the same power and territory. One, foolishly, attempts to kill The German, with cool, ass kicking Lundgren consequences and the other dispatches a team to intercept Austin and get the package from him, headed up by the always awesome Brit, Darren Shahlavi. The German is dying and The Package everyone is after may just hold the key to saving him.

Steve Austin, who I have only seen in The Expendables, Tactical Force and this, is a great find for me. He has the look, he has the fighting skills, he has a sense of humour and he's not a bad actor at all. After the last couple of films I have seen him in, I will definitely be checking out more.

From dramatically and artistically staged fight scenes to moments of dark humour and containing some lovely thoughtful, internal and even nuanced performances from Austin and, especially, Lundgren, this really was, pardon the bad joke, the complete package. The direction is assured and restrained and, in fact, without the explosive gun play, this could easily feel like a cool 70s crime film as the pacing is welcomely slower when compared to other ADD infused films. The setting of the North Western United States and West Canada also allow for the film to look and feel a bit different. It's overcast, often raining and pleasingly moody without being purposefully gritty and over reaching.

If your a fan of the action or crime genres I strongly urge that you check this out and see why there is definitely life in this old punch-throwing, action bird yet.

- The Kick Ass Kid

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