interview The Doc and I did with The Hammer, I, of course, wanted to see it.
The plot, very briefly, is that the Nazis built a doomsday machine which has stayed buried for years under the radiation fall out of Chernobyl. However, since it is now, apparently, safe to enter the contaminated area for short period of time, it is up to Fred Williamson's hastily assembled "Expendables" style team to go in and stop the device falling into the wrong hands.
The movie, after a fairly swift first act, basically becomes a siege movie with action set pieces interspersed with the minimum of plot and character exposition and, honestly, for a low budget, European, independent production it sustains all that pretty well.
Yes, The Hammer brings his star power, spouts the odd one-liner, does a little bit of the physical stuff and shoots a gun a lot, which is all tremendous, but the real eye opener in the film is the martial arts of Mike Möller. Its the ambition of the stunts and of the fight choreography that really sells the film, even if the direction and photography is occasionally a little slow and flat.
What I will say though is thankfully there isn't a lot of shaky cam and there isn't some fake, 70s, flickery, grindhouse film effect on it. It's lit well, shot adequately and with a little quicker editing and some more dynamic camera work it could really elevate itself above its B Movie trappings.
The design of the faceless bad guys is very similar to George A Romero's The Crazies with them all wearing white radiation suits and gas masks. It's a great look and a good cheap costume for multiple people at once for a low budget production. The only thing is I would've requested all the extras wear black shoes because some wearing trainers/sneakers and some wearing boots etc. gave away the fact they were all just random extras. Impressive the production was able to get so many to turn up and some to do stunts, wear squibs etc. It added a lot of production value.
All of the characters have their own special expertise, style and nickname. This is a great throwback to the ensemble war movies of the 60s and 70s and adds a good light hearted camaraderie to the proceedings. The acting throughout, however, sadly isn't amazing and some of the line deliveries, especially the guy attempting a Texan accent, can be a little cringeworthy but the sheer balls of the project, the sturdy presence of The Hammer and Wolfgang Riehm, the martial arts of Mike Möller, good sound and clear photography win the day.
Definitely not the greatest low budget action film I've seen but far, far from the worst and as the debut feature from writer, director Nico Sentner, it's an impressive start and hopefully he goes from strength to strength in the future. I will watch future films of his for sure.
A sometimes flat but ambitious and enjoyable debut 6.5/10
- The Kick Ass Kid
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Friday, January 30, 2015
After a fantastic and prolific run of films from The Expendables through to Redemption/Hummingbird, Homefront, while it was good fun, seemed a bit like treading water for old Stath. Then last year we only had the lacklustre Expendables 3 in which Stath was relegated to the sidelines, first with the appearance of the wonderful Wesley Snipes (which we didn't mind) but then bizarrely and wrongly for Ellen Klutz!
2015 though is shaping up to be more of a usual run for Jason Statham. It begins with Wild Card, we have his first foray into big budget comedy with Spy and a lead baddie role in the much anticipated Furious 7. Then hot on the heals of all that he kicks off 2016 with a sequel to his awesome take on Bronson and Winner's The Mechanic with Mechanic: Resurrection.
Ok, so to Wild Card then, what's the verdict?
Well the first thing I should point out is that it's not really an action movie, in the traditional sense. There is action in it and two of the scenes in particular are joyous, violent, exciting, well shot, brilliantly executed and suitably cathartic but overall I would describe it as a character piece with a slice of crime drama and action/revenge film tacked on for good measure.
I have read tons of reviews coming down on this movie, mostly criticising The Stath, and I have to say that they couldn't all be more wrong. The two best things about this movie are Statham and Simon West, the director. The third best thing is Vegas.
First though, let's get the bad news out of the way. The one thing the other critics won't say or do is criticise the Hollywood legend William Goldman who penned this film, the book it's based on and the Burt Reynolds version of the same story Heat from 1986. I, however, am not most critics. This script, which is almost identical in places to Heat, has no structure, pretty weak dialogue and never quite delves into the character of Nick Wild in the way the movie sort of suggests it should.
Let me explain that last part.
The film is made up of lots of little strands of plots. A crime story involving the mob and a battered woman's revenge, a wealthy kid who hires Wild to bring him out of himself and be more of a man and, all the while, Wild wanting to leave Vegas but also never quite being able to. None of which are ultimately, really important as they are all meant to just add up to a character study of Nick Wild who, we learn, is a well liked security expert/bodyguard/problem solver with a rough exterior but a heart of gold who has a little issue gambling.
It's the 'throw enough bits in a pot and you'll be able to cook something' approach to screenwriting.
What depth, character and moments there are to be found are brought out by the collaboration of Simon West and Jason Statham, not by anything readily apparent in the script and the pair of them are superb here.
It's a difficult watch though because it's not a standard narrative. The crime story sort of has a three act structure but not really and the film, if it was a traditional film, just sort of ends.
The other thing that threw me out of the film a little was the whole world Nick inhabited was populated by famous actors but all of them just showed up for one, sometimes two small scenes. It's an interesting way to cast a film but it did leave me sitting there thinking 'what the hell are they doing in here for just 5mins? that's a bit mad' rather than fully engaging with their characters.
Stanley Tucci, Jason Alexander, Sofia Vergara, Hope Davis, and Anne Heche all just crop up and are gone almost as soon as they appear. They play such innocuous, nothing roles as waitresses, card dealers, a lawyer, a mobster... just random 'that guy' roles but being played by recognisable, fairly high tier, character actors.
Due to the nature of the plot and the nature of the casting, when the film ends you sort of wish you could spend a lot more time in this world. I have heard this said by another critic but it's something I agree with, it's almost like a pilot for a Statham driven show on HBO or Showtime. It has that kind of plot and casting. A TV Show, I might add, I would watch every week. However as a film it does feel slightly like 90 minutes of set up and no pay off.
All that being said Vegas has never looked so 50s, shabby and cool. Simon West directs with the sure hand of an old pro while also putting in some welcome style and interesting editing. It has a 50s meets 70s feel, it's scored with groovy, slow versions of Christmas songs and it's very very cool.
Nick Wild is also a great Statham character because while he can handle himself physically, and he does in some tremendously choreographed, beautifully shot, violent as all hell fight scenes, he also has a nice sense of humour, a strong moral principle and a weakness for the cards. It is only this last aspect, the gambling addiction that traps him in the purgatory of Vegas, that just doesn't come across very well. There's either not enough time spent on it, the script doesn't write it well enough or it just belongs in another movie like a "Leaving Las Vegas" style thing perhaps. Statham does his best to sell it though.
If I had to pitch it to you it's Drive (the Ryan Gosling film) meets Leaving Las Vegas the TV Show pilot with Jason Statham.
oh look! It's Lee Christmas! wait... wrong movie...
- The Kick Ass Kid