a magazine about! action movies!
e about n i z a g a m T is a S A L inema. c U O d Y e v o l n KILL s and u e i other v o r m e v n o o c i t o c a may als s e u s s obably i r p s â€™ e r Future e res. Th n e g ed to d t e a v c o i d e unl d ssues i e dogs. b t o u t o b g a n i s o g nd film a s m l i f dance CE unless I R N E P Y R A G itten by r w t n e t n o c All ated.! otherwise st onym.! d u e s p a s i Gary Penrice
KILL YOU LAST is published by Achingly Chic Press. www.achinglychic.blogspot.com Produced and published in London, late 2012. Some c ontent has a lready run o in a slightl nline y altered fo rmat.!
CONTACT: email@example.com 07944085189
his? t g n i o d ll am I e h e h t y Wh o watch t s d e e n 8 rbergh e d o S n e v Ste Haywire: el 5 n n a h C e 11 r mo d e p o h I s good a s a t o n s er 2 i d i R t s o 16 h G c Vern i t i r c w a : Outl 23 INTERVIEW l l e h V T D ce go to u r B d n a iddy 26 Set Up: F m s i n Vs Commu s i r r o N Chuck : W E I V R E 32 T IN e c e i masterp a s i 2 dables n e p x E e 39 h T card s s e n i s u JCVD’s b eview R e i v o M 40 illis W e c u r B le Forgettab Corner on 42 i t n e t t a of your y h t r o w her is 46 The Punis y r e l l work ga t r a S H V wesome a ’ S H V a Viv 3
WHY THE HELL AM I MAKING A SHITTY FANZINE ABOUT ACTION MOVIES? me is? d to e ng th n i e o p d hap m I at's h why a t o 's s s Ok, nk it dables 2, thing i h w t e f en me a d made g The Exp ière, an nd been e s v ' a e a m n Ther hat h was seei e pre Stallone t h t y l t t a r recen hile. One t again veste tham and l y S i w h as d Sta ing wort en an . n see same room nd Jason r e g h d t n a Lu e yo) and in th rzenegger nd Dolph Adkins, g n i out a be cott Schwa n Damme re ab S e d h t l e o n Va org Arn kip e i laude (can't f elsewher o I’ll s C n a s s Je , te Adkin o wri sterpiece t g n Scott a i s a m 'm go But I at film i hed h finis y. t t . y s w h u o w Cit e j for n t I'v rgo Rock tic a h that t a s d cri op F i n a s g ' n t p man thi lis ff on al cond k Kloster g journa u e t s s e n Th Chuc mazin etentious w the fi a g n n i a ho pr s y read man i illiant, about cidentall r e g t n s i br y ac th Klo l is n a highl You rites e a long l w e B o h i e w p ik t. By Th and s ion of i uy his re, l b t cultu of Saved rilliant struc azon and b n n o o y s c l a e t e f, s nden age d ght to Am ocoa Puf he e p c s 0 n 2 ai g tra y T d C ainin ly go str rugs, An ved B n the t a r S e t d D o al en ne , d tot going t entio n Sex shoul ollectio e aforem g about u n h c nd, b om and i t a h y b t s a e s e d at es .c ut inclu a gre ses trib rantland G o which iece and to ' R p uns N least go G Bell a at with iroad you won't ff. s sem ' u n t e a s c m n e r si oste t his t lik l u i K o h s s k . y i l – chec Halen k Cit air meta o n c a o V R h h I d nd go g a s r u 0 a o e 8 F h u Y (t Cr of ANYWA defence crap nly for tley o y M t t d o e n r r memoi ' Roses a ds are p Riot, if of Crank N s t an y Guns ose b for Quie oundtrack tuall h c t a f t o e s pot d sn' Most oft s ces on th e book i music an se s a th au ow have appearan t bec sed, . But s about h s ) u r r j e i l t' st the oni and e Wre bands – i people, r can h o T , d d an de to by those tuff cally lau rpet s a c s n about e a h criti re me der t cultu ing isn't swept un h y somet ulturall c or is e futur 4
generations, it doesn't mean it isn't important. Kloste rman isn't being ironic, he genuinely loves KISS, and it made me realise just because I lo ve the Coen Brot hers or the Dardenne Brothers it doesn't mean that I can't also unironically love Jason Statha m. All three are just as important to me. There's a terrifically wank y quote Talking Head's frontman David By rne on the back cover, saying that Fargo Rock City “is not just about hair metal bands but also about music feels”. Commando is to 80 s cinema what Mo tl ey Crue were to 80s musi c, and I want to write about how watching Arni e mow down the Va l Verde army feels. But its more than that. Klosterman said he wrote the book because there seemed to be at least semi-serio us books about every other genr e of music apart from metal. He didn't find this surprising; “nob od y literate cares about meta l, right.” And in the same way, nobody actually cares about Ramb o 3, do they? But then he says “Something occurr ed to me: I like metal, and I'm at least semi -literate.” He realised that no ne of the books on metal he could seemed like they were writte n by someone who actually like metal – there's all wanky bullshit called shit like Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociolog y, but nothing by anyone who'd consider themselv es a fan. It's ex ac same with action tly the films. There's pl enty of lowbrow fandom st uff, but vaguely serious stuff is all sneering film studies prof essors. People who write long, dry thesis on st uff them seem to hate – why th e hell would you spend your time doing that? There's a recurr ing thing about how the vi sual pleasure of looking at a big muscley Schw arzennegger allo ws heterosexual action fans to ex press their repr essed homosexual side that really piss es me off. It's not that its homo phobic, it's that you have these academics sneering, lookin g down on people who like action films, ev en claiming that they unders tand them in ways their plebby little minds coul d never fathom. “L ook, he doesn't even real ise that deep do wn he actually likes looking at men’s bodies! Mw aha-ha-ha! We're so clever, we wouldn't watc h crap like that! But it's ou r
neath us it point out how be d an it t ou ab ra and write th A Movie Came Wi n life’s work to Ma on ng ki ate by stic tching it!”. is! Lets celebr red to death wa bo 't en ar we pretending them . I don't love es vi mo on ti ac . I love in film Well, fuck them I have a degree . em th y jo en y think nuinel so I'd like to ) gh (u ironically. I ge ” ry st du “in the in nt action studies and work ing about. I wa lk ta m I' at wh it, I e of e else is doing on I'm vaguely awar no if d an ken seriously, movies to be ta might as well. s suicide. was Tony Scott' ed en pp ha at th The final thing , elf off a bridge ms hi wn ro th 'd ely unced that he ople were genuin When it was anno Pe . es ut ib tr films h with fection for his af y el Twitter was awas in nu ge emed to show g is, had essing it. Thin saddened, and se pr ex in t in ra before he ed no rest – and they show pe people a week ty ylm fi of d ll w po hazard that you' d I' you taken a stra t, gh ou th no way of them what they course, there's died and asked Of . se on sp sort re gative ael Bay' is the ch Mi get a rather ne as d ba as 'Not quite proving it, but . tion I'd expect of overall reac onised r time being li ei th re fo be ly proves. die tragical s Dean to 2Pac me Now, people who Ja om fr ne ly, yo as ever t though. Normal en er ff is nothing new, di s wa t spurs th Tony Scot dies young, it What happened wi r ve oe wh or er or a writ that they out their work when a musician k ec ch d an go For tually ey were alive. th people to go ac en wh g in do iot. But go around to doesn't is an id o never actually wh ne yo An big C. Run-DM expressed what ne yo er instance, I like ev , ed er them, Jay was murd ch they meant to when Jam Master mu w ho d an , nd Yet of the ba d at the time. di ly ab fans they were ob pr I t they were. C's music and how importan that much Run-DM ow kn ly al tu ac though, t ngles. Of course honestly, I don' si wn no -k ll you we r main g a fan of them bi w ho outside of thei y sa to es, it's cool when someone di were.
This isn't what happened with Tony Scott though. Everyone already knew Top Gun and True Romance and Crimson Tide and Man On Fire. But they wouldn't admit they liked them, because Tony Scott was just a director of (mostly) action movies. He wasn't an auteur. But now he was dead they could admit they liked them. No one is going to disagree that dying is the coolest thing an artist can do. Everyone was ashamed to like action movies like Tony Scott made, and it took him jumping off a bridge for people to admit they liked The Last Boy Scout. Well, fuck that. Action direction requires an incredible amount of skill and talent. It requires craft. Don't compare Renny Harlin to David Lynch or Jim Jarmusch. Die Hard 2 might not have the memorising dreamscapes of Mullholland Drive, but I very much doubt David Lynch could direct a decent car chase. People like John McTeirnan, John Woo, Simon West or Jan DeBont might not be artists in the same way that Spike Lee or Fellini are, but they are experts at their craft. They are as perfectly formed as Motown's very best output. And I haven't even got onto the stuntmen, the fight choreographers, the second unit directors et al that are all needed to produce something like The Transporter. Action movies are not an auteur's genre. Action movies don't really work on the same terms that other films do. They are entertainment, nothing more, and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense at all. I hate it when people say you just need to turn your brain off going into them. They stimulate your brain in a physical sense (I'm aware that doesn't really make much sense). They are purely about the experience. You can explain to someone why The Godfather or Vertigo is great, to someone who's never seen them, and they get some sort of enjoyment from you telling them about it. But you can't explain the footchase in Point Break to someone. Well you can, but you just say that Keanu Reeves chases Patrick Swayze. The enjoyment, the fun of it comes from the combination of visuals, of editing, of sound, and everything synchronised together. It essentially what Sergei Eisenstein was on about all those years ago. It is arguably cinema in its purest form. I know I'm being wanky about it. I just like seeing Jean Claude Van Damme kick people. And there aint nothing wrong with that. 7
STEVEN SODERBERGH NEEDS TO WATCH MORE CHANNEL 5 Haywire (Steven Soderbergh 2011) arty to the p st e t a l t e I'm a bi ht be the bigg w o n k I mig Ok, so Haywire een. Not s t u r b e v , e s th i on th it's wor ure I've ( l i , a e f s c r i pe g cinemat bad film Holmes' amazin a y l i r a David necess stic ust for j g n 's fanta letely and i r h o c g e r wat G c p d Ewen M that com ts to do. score an it's just one u it set o , haircut) ils to do what fa ajor utterly s that m i e r i w le y hind Ha saw fema e b h g y r r e o b t r ode ght So the s Steven S on TV and thou r u e t u a arano !". No league r Gina C an action hero e t h g i f MMA ade her uy who m make a na make g n o e g h t m ' y I " an rel Eleven c ight? Su probs, r he and Ocean's C Traffic, ion movie? ct simple a problem. e h t f o e of the eginning n b o e s h i t r s i ecto See this tion dir ted things in c a t a e r g recia Being a east app rbergh is a l t e y t but Sode hardes irector, t a. Yes, d m e ) n t i n c e t d worl couldn' inconsis n i f l i r ( a H c i Renny fantast t e, say, s u a m e a n t h a g e r. c e t b ' n s e o just d han d ffic, it ave made Cliff s are ba h make Tra e n d e l c u s o c n gh ctio feel Soderber ay the a s o t tend to t o o d n y s e ' th h t Tha - but t imes, wi t t o t n a e h r s ond uggi - they' of a sec t's ghtly sl n i o l i s t c o a s i r ever ing a f ng that t i t n u a c e m h g , Soderber gain and again e. a should b e t t i a l s a o o g t thrillin never as lem. eal prob r e h t t 's no an But that launched g y l l a e r s that mple: On m a l x i e f t e c h e t rf Think of r. Here's a pe a t s action
be Jaa. Or may y n o T d n i m k r ther of the arts wunde i e l N a i . t r r e a t m r o i Transp but of Tha et up a role in The g n Bak, the de i r r hey do is s a t t s t a t h s w r i t f hit up u B s ass, fuck s lmmaking. the Stath' i k f c i t k a e r r a g t ple s f s o ey have sim t lets the h a T h t are bastion " . e g s n i i m z e a r hat uy's am simple p to rescue t hit, that g s S reasonable a " h g m n a i h k t n a i ee t h ou t ha. Bruce L chieving. S d a d u e B m and leave y o n s e e l w o a t lso the s they look Van Damme a to get back . t s n a goals that e h m a a n a r J u s o y l. Ton en Seagal i tial arts t v r e a t m S e . t Chinese gir t i n l e e m s tourna nd win an Liam martial art has to go a e t i pply it to l a e u n o a y n f i i w s d k n n wor has to go a formula eve e h T . w a L e f. Above Th Gina Carano gets ca t full-proo a h t ught up s ' t I . Neeson in a complicated we b of lies about rogue CIA agen ts, and er, kidnapped Chines e journalists and Mich ael Fassbender and, er, something. Seriousl y, if I'm trying to keep up wi th the plot, as opposed to watching her fuck shit up, so mething is wrong. It's more than just plotting that's the issue he re though.
As well as being br ain dead story-wise, all the films I've mentioned are dogmatically un-exp erimental in their shooting st yle. They break none of the rules of classical Hollyw ood filmmaking. Shot/ re verse shot all the way. St atham scowls > bad guy qu ivers > Statham's fist. Expl osion > Statham dives toward s camera. Any actual filmmaking would de tract from the visual plea sure of watching a sweaty ma n punch people. In some case s, they even give up with th e concept of storytel ling. Tony Jaa does someth ing awesome? The show it from three angles, just to make sure you get a good look at it. Because that's what you're here to see.
Soderbergh however cannot resist being Soderbergh. He keeps going all Ocean's Eleven - dutch angles, cross cutting, flipping into black and white, dropping out the sound effects for an ambient score. It's completely counter-productive for an action movie. It's as if he feels a straight up action flick is beneath him, so he's going to make an arty thriller instead. And then it struck me - Soderbergh is essentially making Drive. And that analogy crystallizes the problem with Haywire perfectly. Drive did many things for Ryan Gosling. It made him the coolest actor on the planet. It made heterosexual men fall in love with him. But one thing it definitely didn't do was make me think he should be in The Expendables. Despite the head stomping scene, Drive is really all about not showing the violence. We know the Driver can fuck you up not because of his actions, but because of the twitch in his eyes. Ryan Gosling isn't actually a badass in real life (ok, maybe that footage that did the rounds of him breaking up a fight in NYC suggest he is, but bear with me), but it's his charisma that sells it. You look at Gosling and think and any motherfucker that can pull off a satin jacket in public has got to be fucking tough. That's what a film like Drive thrives on. But Gina Carano is the complete opposite of Gosling. She has little charisma and is a poor actor. But that's fine because SHE CAN ACTUALLY KICK YOUR ARSE. So don't have slow-mo close-ups of her face implying her intensity - show her intensity! SHOW HER KICKING THE SHIT OUT OF PEOPLE. When Soderbergh actually does do this, it, it's pretty awesome, and I think Carano has real B-movie potential. Her fights consist of a lot of grappling manoeuvres - arm bars, leg locks etc - which you don't often see in Hollywood fight choreography, and she's got an understandable authenticity to blows (what with being an actually MMA champ an' all). It's just the resulting film that's too lightweight for cinephilles and too dull for movie-after-the-football-on-Channel-Five-crowd. It's only really of interests to weirdos like me who take action movies far too seriously. On the other hand, it does feature Antonio Banderas cosplaying as Saddam Hussein though.
Neveldine / Taylor still this generation's Jean-Luc Godard (just about) Ghost Rider: Spirits of Vengeance (Neveldine / Taylor 2012) I genuinely believe, that in twenty yearsâ€™ time, the Jason Statham masterpiece Crank (and to a lesser extent it's sequel Crank: High Voltage) will be taught in film schools. I say this without a hint of irony. I honestly believe the directing team of Neveldine / Taylor to be the cultural successors to Jean-Luc Godard. Let me explain. Look at Godard's early period (to be honest, I haven't seen a film he made after 1968, so don't ask me about his later work). In particular, his first film Breathless. At that point Godard was interested two things - celebrating low-culture as a "fuck you" to the bourgeoisie; and trying to break every rule of filmmaking. Neveldine / Taylor are doing exactly the same thing with Crank. Godard was trying to emulate B-movie noirs. Nowadays, Noir is on every Film Studies syllabus, but remember this was the early 60s, in France no less. He even dedicated the Breathless to Monogram, the sleazy studio that produced such Z-movie thrillers. That's like Radiohead dedicating their next album to Pete Waterman. Crank is similarly reverential to culturally derided media. It's arguably the first true 'video game movie' - I'm not the first person to say that the film is a lot like when you get bored 11
of the m issions on Grand Auto and Theft just sta rt killi everybod n g y. The f ilm is e bookende ven d with o pening a 8-bit se nd closi quences. ng The cast Statham ing of is anoth er perfe of embra ct examp cing an le unloved the post g enre - i -Matrix, n pre-Expe dark age ndables s of the mid 00s, was the Statham sole bas t ion of t hero. Th h e ere's no action bullet t CGI, but ime or similarl y there' attempt s no at Bourn e or Casin realism. o Royale It's jus t one ba kicking d ass guy ass. It' s the crystall isation of the 8 era. 0s VHS
Ok, I'm just gonna steal a couple of sentences from the Breathless Wikipedia page here, but bear with me: "The film employed various innovative techniques such as jump cuts, character asides and breaking the eyeline match rule in continuity editing... Godard viewed film making as an extension of criticism and was more interested in redefining film structure and style than actually being understood by the public. Often his movies were more about the presentation of a story than anything else." Those sentiments can totally be applied to Crank. There's a great quote from Orson Wells about making a film being like the greatest train set a boy ever had and you can literally feel that joy in the making of Crank. "Let's cut to Google Maps for transitions!" "Let's use fuck-loads of split-screen!" "If the building is bulging with bad guys about to burst out and get Staham, let's make the building physically bulge!" "Let's have visual metaphors like slot machines and African masks appear on-screen, not just in the dialogue!" "If we’ve got subtitles, then you flip to a shot of the other guy, let’s have the subtitles actually be backwards, so it’s from Statham’s POV!" "If he says 'Do I look like I've got cunt written on my forehead?' let's make 'cunt' actually appear on his forehead!" I could go on. 12
mera is their dual ca on ti va no in st te or's grea ld cameras Neveldine / Tayl g separate handhe in at er op em em they th of erblades), and th ll technique - both ro on es im et tion (som ld just following the ac ing room. It shou it ed e th in em ion een th neration's obsess ge cut rapidly betw id Av e th of her case that you end up being anot it so skilfully do ey th t bu , action ing own with over-cutting ess and what's go en ar aw l ia ac sp arted of d hack hasn't st oo never lose sense yw ll Ho y er ev rprised time. I'm genuinely su did with bullet ey th ke li f of ripping it about a ly more excited ab ob pr s wa I y, should have Needless to sa t Rider 2 than I os Gh ed ct re tter how di or y on-screen no ma jo Neveldine / Tayl en I rs to ac w are fe is been. Yet, there and Nicholas Cage m, ha at St n so by Ja than m being directed hi of bad the film is t gh ou th e them. Th stes, om my idiotic ta definitely one of fr gh ou en is k g d Cran ost Rider pissin Gh d the guys what di an ba El s ri u throw in Id especially if yo ler. fire in the trai this ‘review’ part of al tu ac e Th s. … ats, folk only 700 words in Hold onto your se e ’r we d an t, ar to st review is about Spirit Of at Ghost Rider: th er ov sc di to se you least in It may not surpri But it does, at . ve mo t an li il esteem. a br or in such high yl Vengeance is not Ta / e in ld e ve I hold Ne think critics ar t n' do I t parts, show why bu s, ain ty awful review just turn your br h "o It's gotten pret a in t No e right way. ld offer you approaching it th rm - a film shou te at th d te ha ways d just stare off" way (I've al otherwise I coul n, io ct ra te in s to be al iption); it need cr some sort of ment bs su x li tf Ne ve on my film. at a wall and sa veldine / Taylor Ne a of s rm te taken in David S of Vengeance is it ir Sp r: de Ri Ghost ood The problem with know, is a Hollyw t n' do u yo if wrote yer, rhero films. He pe su Goyer. David S Go r fo n ow kn icularly e least screenwriter part Blade 3. He is th e ot wr so al he t s mutant Batman Begins, bu ity of a film. Hi al qu e th r fo r accurate baromete cy. rderline competen bo is er ow rp pe su Goyer d on a script by se ba is e nc ea ng it of Ve t Rider Ghost Rider: Spir re the first Ghos fo be e nc si nd that ou ing ar ceptable script ac y tl that's been kick ec rf pe a el to a 's probably forgettable sequ t film was made. It bu le ab pt ce ac ectly . would make a perf e superhero film bl ta et rg fo t bu able perfectly accept back to or do. Let's go yl Ta / e in ld ve ning at Ne rested in redefi te in But that's not wh re mo s wa od by the Godard. He ly being understo that quote about al tu ac an th e a yl d st e presentation of th t film structure an ou ab re mo nal s movies were itten a traditio wr public. Often hi s ha r ye Go . ng else Taylor story than anythi les. Neveldine / ru l na io it ad tr res to script that adhe
nore the why they try to ig is h ic wh , at th th can't be fucked wi le. physically possib a ng lo as r fo y stor der's alter involves Ghost Ri lm fi e th of ot some Basically, the pl ect a child from ot pr to ng vi ha (Cage) e (really ego Johnny Blaze hesied date becaus op pr me so l ti un l the devil. agents of the devi kid is the son of e th g) in rn wa least an r obvious spoile plain this for at ex to er th bo t n' do Neveldine / Taylor hour. not rm the film - but ha ld ou sh is th c hat gi e conflict etc (t By traditional lo th s, on ti va ti mo aracter three act explaining the ch rd, by-the-book, da an st s r' ye Go in Basically, I'm sure were all g they could do. in th le ib ss po st cted by script) is the be the kid being abdu op st to s il fa Elba d then it crazy monk Idris to get him back an ge Ca c Ni ks e as mum and Cage on th the bad guys, he s hi d, ki e th th ator 2 wi third act, turns into Termin it's head in the s ar re y ll na fi you oles and nothing run. When the plot wh th wi d le dd ri ictable, movies. it's dull and pred r satanic-themed he ot n io ll mi a en in = bad haven't already se story + badly told ll du 's it s, ic it Thus for most cr movie. what e perspective of th om fr it at ok motorbike But I'd rather lo arts a fantastic st lm fi e Th . rk ts wo camera individual elemen 's signatures twoor yl Ta / e in ld ve pears chase, done in Ne Idris Elba, who ap om fr e nc ma or rf eat pe animated style. We get a gr ker monk. Bizarre bi a as y nr He y rr vil. The to be playing Thei Springer is the de y rr Je at th y pl sections that im re aforementioned fi pissing.
One great thing Neveldine / Taylor do is play Ghost Rider essentially the same way as the Incredible Hulk - Nic Cage is wandering globe, trying to contain the evil inside of him and doing anything he can not to let the beast out. It’s a simple, dumb, effect concept much more up Neveldine / Taylor’s alley, akin to “Jason Statham can’t slow down”, which is far more interesting and entertaining than Goyer’s tired plot. And they get the most out of it – plenty of vintage Nic Cage crazy acting, CGI skulls popping out of his face, and an incredible scene where he wigs out to Death From Above 1979. Maybe all of this was in Goyer's original script. But I doubt it. I think what I'm trying to say is that is that the film needs to be approached from the angle that it’s two guys trying to have as much fun as possible with the medium of film. They don’t completely succeed by any means – they never truly get over the stumbling block of the fact that the producers want a bland sequel to a bland film. It’s definitely a minor Neveledine / Taylor film. But there’s enough in there to remind me why I think they are so important. You might laugh now, but in 50 years when the Film Studies text books are written, I’ll be proved right.
VERN: THE GUY WHO WROTE A WHOLE BOOK ABOUT STEVEN SEAGAL I’ve already name-checked Chuck Klosterman as a massive influence on me doing this, but the other guy who I’ve got to give props to in the singularly-named, self-styled ‘Outlaw Film Critic’ VERN. He started out on Aint It Cool, where he carved a niche reviewing straight-to-video action movies, particularly ones starring Steven Seagal. He actually seemed to care about this shit as opposed to just making fun of it, writing with a gruff, working class, unpretentious, no-bullshit kind of way, while clearly being a very intelligent guy. It’s almost as if Bukowski or Harvey Pekar wrote movie reviews. Prior to being a critic he’d done time in prison and he brings an honest, world-weary grizzlyness that easily sets him apart from most whiney nerds on the internet, as well as a genuine, unironic love of action movies. He quickly noticed that was something that set Steven Seagal’s films apart other DTV schlock – not necessarily in terms of quality but in their recurring themes – environmentalist agendas, Seagal always playing someone with a military/ black-ops background, the obsession with showing him adopting other cultures. There’s also the batshit insanity that comes from cash-in straight to DVD fodder – basically, all you 16
need to have is a name action star like Seagal or Van Damme, and a few explosions on the cover and the film will make money in the home video market. It doesn’t matter if the film is incoherent or unfinished, just get it out there in the right box. This leads to mind-melting madness like OUT FOR A KILL in which Seagal teams with MC Harvey from the So Solid Crew and has adventures on three continents that are all the same studio, or FLIGHT OF FURY where he battles the scantily clad lesbian Taliban over an invisible plane, or ATTACK FORCE, that was re-written in the editing room and through ADR to change the bad guys from aliens to Russian gangsters. This lead to Vern self-publishing SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASSKICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, which was later published internationally by Titan. It’s a full length study of Seagal’s full body of work, including his musical career and short lived line in energy drinks. I worked in a bookshop when it first came out, and it was pushed as a ‘wacky’ Christmas present (“OMG, a whole book about Steven Seagal?!? LOL!”), but it’s much better than that. It’s obviously very funny, but ultimately it’s a serious study and case for Seagal as an auteur that stands up to scrutiny, as well as a fascinating insight into the mostly-ignored world of DTV movies. He’s since published another book of reviews with Titan and has a regular column in Mark Millar’s comic CLiNT. Vern was nice enough to answer some of my inane questions via email.
When and how did you realise that Steven Seagal's body of work was worthy of a serious 400-page analysis? VERN: I think it was around 2004, I had access to some promotional screeners from a video store and I was reviewing some of the straight to video stuff for The Ain't It Cool News. Definitely my favorite were the Seagal ones like OUT FOR A KILL. I had been fascinated with him since seeing ON DEADLY GROUND and realizing that he had messages and themes he was putting into his movies. I thought of the idea of the book mostly as an excuse to make me watch all the movies in chronological order. I had a big sheet of paper hanging in my apartment with a chart on it with all the titles and a series of categories like "politics, 17
t how sm" and "jus i l a t n e m n o r i "env where ?" for lines badass is he agal cribe the Se s e d s r e t c a ry r cha on or milita i t a t u p e r s ' oked at character atever. I lo h w r o d n u o r backg I was math problem g i b a e k i l lly it I didn't rea . e v l o s o t trying uld be er people wo h t o y n a m hat k n thi but I knew t k o o b a n i d y intereste horough stud t f o e c n e t s just the exi make me raphy would g o m l i f s i h it. of I had to do w e n k I o s smile, has al's career g a e S y a w e h ms Due to t half the fil n a h t e r o m some panned out, ok are DTV â€“ o b e h t n i r and you cove hingly dull s u r c e r a h le â€“ c of whi ne unwatchab i l r e d r o b y l ome a occasional hem ever bec t t u o b a g n i hat did writ ou worried t y e r e w d n a a slog would become m e h t t u o b a W) reading t doesn't BT I ( ? r e d a e r slog for the ttle e I was a li b y a m , w o n k think I I don't it, I don't t u o b a r e g r her Aspe bout what ot a h c u m o o t st worried rote the fir w I . k n i h t e people would be 100 peopl y a m g n i k n i h was edition t was lucky. I I f i t i d a art e would r h picking ap t i w d e s s e s b genuinely o all those moti fs, so I wasn't bored with the movies . Some of the le sser ones are more interesting as a piece in the larger body of work th an as actual movies, so they stayed interesting to me. I was surp rised how many of th em didn't seem as on the second bad and third view ings. Like, THE FORE IGNER was real ly dull the first time but got better the closer I looked at it.
Are there any other action he roes that you think you could do a similar book on? Have the publishers tried to get you to do any? I don't think there's anyone that stays as consis tent as a bada ss auteur. Most of them, like norm al actors, go arou nd looking for roles and play 18
different types of characters, do some comedies, that kind of thing. Seagal is unique in that he created this career around playing almost the same character and same type of movie over and over again, and controlling the productions enough that he's always putting his fingerprints all over them, including his ideas about government and his obsession with blues music and animals and things like that.
At one time I was talking to my publisher about a book themed around Dolph Lundgren, but at that time I wanted to use him to tie together a variety of action related topics. I think now I would be more interested in actually making it about Dolph's movies, but if I do it it will be much harder to tie together than Seagal was. The last appendix in the book is about you going to see Seagal's band live and then meeting the man afterwards – what was he like in person? (The closest I've come to to meeting him is when I interviewed Michael Caine for my student newspaper - obviously I asked him what it was like working Seagal on On Deadly Ground. He said that when the cameras weren't rolling he basically never saw Seagal, he was always in his trailer with girls – so Caine would sneak off to the nearest town with John C Ginley whenever they got the chance. This story isn't relevant to the question). I couldn't really say I met him, I just shook his hand and said thank you. He seemed very quiet and polite. He put on reading glasses to sign autographs and then would transform into expressionless warrior mode to pose for photos. The whole experience was amazingly surreal. Not only were we standing there with Casey Ryback, but we'd just seen him on stage playing guitar, and he was good. 19
or notably right-wing ve ha s ar st on ti ac A lot of er, Clint, ions – Schwarzenegg at li fi af an ic bl pu Re his Seagal is known for Chuck Norris – but and al rights activism im an , sm li ta en nm ro envi u think independence. Do yo support of Tibetan seem at all? He doesn't er re ca s hi ed ct fe this af cast of ll with most of the we on t ge 'd he ke li the Expendables... went so ON DEADLY GROUND he Well, I think with ted to ing that people star far into the messag rt his and that probably hu see him as a joke, king a He ends that one ma movie star status. get out how corporations ab ch ee sp ng lo ty pret fight for and why we need to away with pollution but 's obviously right, He . gy er en e iv at rn alte an want to hear that in maybe people didn't him that was what made t gh ou th I e. vi mo action book to d to write a whole ha I t bu g, in st re inte le of that. convince other peop was gh I wouldn't say it Other than that thou ys is along with those gu g in tt ge t No l. ca politi he and It seems to me like g. in th o eg an of more other so ys jealous of each Van Damme were alwa of It's probably both g. on al t ge 't dn di they their faults. int – at an interesting po be to s em se er re ca s His seems to embraced hi he ll he V DT of s after year ng a ing in Machete, havi ar pe ap e, lu va y lt nove to see where would you like reality show etc – him to go now? years direct again. A few I'd like to see him INCE OF do a thing called PR to ng yi tr s wa he ago blues ed New Orleans and PISTOLS that involv into d've put his heart ul wo ly ab ob pr he music, 's been the other things he of me so an th re mo d it did URBAN JUSTICE an he me ti at th nd ou doing. Ar ne in re the best he'd do we h ic wh D PE IP WH PISTOL alking a en he's been sleepw years, but since th ve wn on the movies. I' little and slowed do think True Justice, but I ow sh TV s hi d ye jo en ck into features. it's time to get ba
You seem to be a big fan of DTV action movies â€“ why are they so great? I see them kind of like drive-in movies used to be, they're a format that's mostly gonna be crap but there's always a chance for a young talent trying to prove themselves to get something crazy and new through the system. And when they're bad it's usually in much weirder and more interesting ways than the slick, professionally made movies. You're not gonna see Seagal playing a Yale professor or rescuing a pen pal from white slavers on the big screen, you gotta go DTV for that. And obviously that's the other thing: they're a refuge for the stars of '80s and '90s action movies, guys that the mainstream has turned their backs on but that I still like to watch. Now it's gotten to a point where there are some solid DTV directors who know what they're doing and at the same time most Hollywood action movies use the sort of style I don't like where you don't see any action because of the editing and shaky close up cameras. In my opinion most of the great American action movies of this decade have been DTV. What DTV action films would you recommend people seek out? The best of all time is UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION by a brilliant director named John Hyams. I sometimes call it the 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY of DTV action, but that's weird since his dad directed 2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT. Another favorite is BLOOD AND BONE, a LIONHEARTstyle underground fighting movie starring Michael Jai White. And there are a whole bunch of great ones by a director named Isaac Florentine, especially UNDISPUTED II: LAST MAN STANDING (Michael Jai White vs. Scott Adkins), UNDISPUTED III: REDEMPTION Â 21
(Adkins vs. Marko Zaror) and NINJA (Adkins as a white ninja). Also Stone Cold Steve Austin has some good ones, my favorites being DAMAGE and RECOIL. What do you think are the biggest problems with modern day action movies? What recent action films have you really liked? The biggest problem is how many of them either deliberately hide the action or just make no effort to display it at all. It's all about shaking the audience around to imply action instead of carefully staging it to showcase grace and speed and motion and impact. I had to make up the term "postaction" for these movies that have action plots but barely have action scenes. THE RAID is definitely the most recent movie to blow me through the back of the theatre. I also liked that director and cast's first one MERANTAU. I loved Takashi Miike's remake of 13 ASSASSINS. I SAW THE DEVIL from Korea, that's an extremely brutal serial killer movie but the protagonist is a vengeful secret agent so it has incredible chases and fights. As far as American productions go my hat's off to FAST FIVE from last summer. I actually enjoy that whole series but FAST FIVE is the best as far as macho posing and crazy over-thetop action based on practical stunts. Wish there'd been some blood in that Rock vs. Diesel fist fight, though. On the other end of the spectrum I love Steven Soderbergh's HAYWIRE and Nicolas Winding Refn's DRIVE. Those are what I call Arthouse Badass. They're willing to be quiet and slow but when the shit does go down it's way better action than in 99% of the movies that are only about action. The fights in HAYWIRE are all time classics, I rewatch that blu-ray a lot. What's the great action film of all time? For me it's a tie between DIE HARD and HARD BOILED. Some day if there's a movie called BOILED HARD it could become a three-way tie. I kind of think of martial arts movies separately, just so I don't have to rank these against WAY OF THE DRAGON and 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER and stuff. That's too much for my brain to take. Is there anything you'd like to plug? Please check out my reviews at outlawvern.com. My books Seagalogy and Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer are available from Titan Books, both in e-book and actual book forms. If you read comics look for my column Badass Cinema 101 in the back of CLiNT Magazine. 22
50 CENT AND BRUCE WILLIS ENTER DTV HELL Set Up (Mike Gunther 2011)
20 September 2011 (or 17 October 2011 if you were in the UK and Ireland) was a dark day for action cinema. It marked the release of Set Up on DVD, and more importantly Bruce Willis' debut in the world of straightto-DVD schlock.! ! It's a shocking state of affairs when Bruce Willis is making straight to DVD action flicks. I know it's not just Seagal and Van Damme making them any more, with former legit people like Cuba Gooding Junior and Christian Slater now major players in the grubby-but-lucrative DTV arena. Set Up actually had a fairly high-profile release, with big posters on the tube and everything.! ! It's a bank holiday and no-one's around and I've literally just gone to see Take This Waltz on my own so I figured I was ready from straight to video shit. Honestly, it's BRUCE WILLIS, 50 CENT and RYAN PHILLIPPE together at last – who the fuck could resist that?! ! 23
Bruce is ing top billed, be e it sp de a d, ve guesse ly weird to see al re 's As you might ha It s. te mosphere about 15 minu d, murky DTV at ir only in it for we e th in ar t movie st ven't seen a lo ha d an proper fucking on rs pe nable, u are a normal this same undefi ve (if unlike me yo ha ey th s, video film lters to of straight to ion of cheap fi at in mb co to e ably du d-as-hell nasty haze, prob ng on film, blan ti oo sh r ei volved). th ke apathy of all in l make it look li ra ne ge e th d music an reason. copyright-free gazines for some ma ad iP t ou ab rant He does go on a ay for the e Bruce, you st th r fo me co t you migh However, while CENT. MOTHERFUCKING 50 is fucking sh â€“ this film bu e th t ou ab where beat to video thing ht Right, lets not ig ra st c si that clas d an isable names an awful. It's got gn co re w fe a they t ey go it in Tesco, so y bu they know if th ll wi le op ong as it's e sleeve, pe ng coherent â€“ al explosion on th hi yt an ng ki ma ed. about it'll get releas r, le don't even care ai tr a t ad to and you can cu , but it can le ap cr feature length e bl ha l tc wa ads to un their own specia ve ha at th This usually le ts en nsensical tang most insane, no t. place in my hear Set Up. es like that in en sc c si as cl o There's tw
Ok, so the set up of Set Up is this: Fiddy, Ryan Phillippe and some dude are old friends who steal some diamonds in heist that's vaguely reminiscent of The Town. Anyway, when they hand over the diamonds to the guy that's hired them to do it, Ryan Phillippe turns on Fiddy and no name guy and shoots them both. Nobody-guy dies instantly (obviously), but Fiddy doesn't, because Fiddy's been shot nine times and didn't die, so of course he ain't gonna die, and instead vows to goes on a needlessly confusing revenge mission.
So Fiddy's first plan of action is to go and rob a mob poker game, because... er, that will help him get back at Phillippe somehow? Anyway, this leads to mob boss Bruce Willis forcing him to go and rob some Russians with his personal henchmen, UFC legend and crappest Expendable Randy Couture. They do the job, and then on the drive back we are subjected to an extended scene of 'banter' between Fiddy and Couture. Obviously Couture can't act, but I really can't stress how bad an actor Fiddy is. He's like the anti-Nic Cage in that he under plays everything so much I don't think he is even aware of the concept of acting. He has only one expression, and that's the expression of a man struggling to remember his PIN number.! ! Anyway, this awful, awful banter leads to Couture asking Fiddy if he can get him any weed (in the manner of an uncool fourteen year-old bugging his older cousin). So they go to Fiddy's mate's house to pick up. Fiddy's shifty mate, as well as having drugs, has just loads of guns lying around. Like, seriously, they show his coffee table at there's at least forty guns on it. Randy Couture gets all excited and starts playing with the guns, and Fiddy's mate tells him be careful and then makes a Duck Hunt reference (any film becomes 17% more awesome with the addition of a NES reference). Fiddy and his mate go to into the other room to watch TV.! ! And then Randy Couture ACCIDENTLLY SHOOTS HIMSELF IN THE HEAD. Off-screen. He's dead, just like that.! ! I know. I don't get it either. I thought it might be a Pulp Fiction reference or something, I don't know. Then Fiddy's mate panics about having a dead body in house, and Fiddy says he knows how to get rid of it.! ! So Fiddy takes the body to an English butcher, who cuts him up, puts him in a mincer and makes burgers out of him. Set Up is a film where RANDY COUTURE ACCIDENTALLY SHOOTS HIMSELF IN THE HEAD AND THE 50 CENT MAKES RANDY COUTURE INTO BURGERS.! ! The other incredible scene is 50 Cent going into a DIY store to buy a spade. I can't really explain it, but just take my word for it, it's brilliant.!
CHUCK NORRIS VERSUS COMMUNISM
I love it when ! entertainment ! created purely for ! the money ends up ! taking on a new ! significance that ! the makes could never ! have imagined. When ! some churned out for a ! quick buck ends up being ! truly meaningful to people ! in a different context.! ! Which is why the upcoming documentary CHUCK NORRIS VERSUS COMMUNISM sounds so awesome. In 80s Romania, communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu became obsessed with paying back Western debt, and with the average population’s standard of living fast deteriorating, he decided to cut television broadcasts to two hours of propaganda a night. It wasn’t a nice place to be.!
The film tells the story of an illegal VHS tape smuggling ring, bringing black market copies of American blockbusters into the country. Distributed by a network of truck drivers, the films gave the population a rare glimpse of the West and turned Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme and Bruce Lee into underground icons. The documentary particularly focuses on Irina Nistor, a young translator who translated and dubbed nearly all of the films (over 5000 films in all). She was responsible for notable quirk that Van Damme, Norris et al all spoke on the tapes with the voice of a young girlâ€Ś Director Ilinca Calugareanu, who grew up watching the some of the tapes dubbed by Nistor in Romania, told me about the project.
So, can you explain basically what the film is about?! Â ! ILLINCA: Chuck Norris vs Communism is about the pirated VHS tapes of American blockbusters that entered Romania illegally in the communist 80's. They spread throughout the country and turned Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and Van Damme into national heroes, whilst the voice of Irina Nistor, the woman who dubbed the films, became the most popular of the decade. The films allowed millions of Romanians to have contact with the West and escape their grim everyday life. They turned Irina's voice into a symbol of freedom and allowed a whole country to subvert a brutal regime.!
How did you first hear about Irina Nistor and the pirated tapes of American films that flooded into Romania in the 80s? I grew up watching animation dubbed by Irina Nistor and I know my parents watched a few pirated VHS films in the 80s as well. It was Irina's voice that guided me through the world of film and made me fall in love with it. I was quite young then and I didn't understand much of what was going on around me. In a way, this film is also an attempt to find out more about the people who made it possible for the films to reach me and to understand how the phenomenon survived in such adverse conditions. 28
How's the production going? I believe you're heading back out to shoot more stuff...! ! We first shot in Bucharest this March and that allowed us to cut a first trailer and spread the word about the project. We're going back next week as we really wanted to continue shooting before the end of the year. There's so much more to film and so many new stories and leads we come across each week, so we're really excited!! ! What were the conditions like for the average working man and woman in Romania in the 80s under Ceausescu's Communists regime?! ! During the 80s, Ceausescu's regime was becoming more and more extreme. The dictator who had ruled Romania with an iron fist since 1965 became obsessed with repaying Western loans and building a palace of unprecedented proportions, so economically the country was suffering a great deal. Shortages were generalised, food, electricity, petrol were all rationed. The state was controlling every aspect of its citizens' lives. TV was reduced to two hours of broadcasts, focused mostly on praising the dictator's achievements. A third of the population was thought to be Secret Police informers, which created a generalised state of suspicion and fear. It was a time when most Romanians had given up on the idea that things could ever be different.! ! How did having these tough action ! heroes like Chuck Norris and Jean ! Claude Van Damme being voiced by a ! young woman go down?! ! In the beginning there were a few! other competing voices, male and ! female, but Irina's shortly became ! the dominating voice. She was a ! very hard worker and could do up! to 10 films a day. There were ! many reactions to her voice, ! some found it really bizarre that ! she was dubbing all characters, ! male and female, that her voice was ! quite high pitched and sounded a bit ! funny, but very quickly her voice ! became the synonymous with the ! magic, secret experience of ! watching forbidden films and ! getting access into the 'decadent' ! world of the West.! ! ! 29
! How complicated ! was the smuggling! operation getting ! the tapes into ! the country? What ! were the punishment ! for anyone caught ! bringing them in? Did ! people get caught?! ! It was very tricky because ! very few people were allowed ! to travel outside the country. ! It was mostly airplane pilots, ! sailors and truck drivers who ! could leave and bring back products ! that were inexistent in Romania, ! such as jeans, magazines, VHS tapes, ! VCRs. But even they were supervised so they had to get quite creative with their strategies. Zamfir, the head of the operation and Irina's boss, would buy tapes from them but they could only bring very small quantities. So he had perfected his own ways of bringing tapes, very similar to drug smuggling as you will see in the film.! ! Did you pick Chuck Norris Versus Communism as the title as his films had special appeal to Romanians? A lot of Norris' films involve him fighting Communists of one kind or another – did this resonate with the people watching the tapes?! ! The title came to me after a chat with Irina. She told me the most popular actors back then were Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and Van Damme and that maybe on some level people thought that these invincible heroes could come over and serve justice in Romania as well. Chuck Norris did fight a lot of communists in his career (and still does) so I thought he would be the most appropriate to symbolise what these American films meant in Romania.! ! Who were the most popular action heroes amongst the Romanians that watched the tapes?! ! People loved all heroes portrayed by the trio I just mentioned, but also Stallone's Rocky and Rambo, Schwarzenegger's Conan the Barbarian and many others. Bruce Lee was huge. He started a national martial arts craze with improvised dojo's opening in the most unexpected places. Also, quite few Bruce Lee urban myths emerged, the best one placing his death in a small town in Romania.! ! The website for the film mentions that Romanian television at the time was limited to propaganda broadcasts – what sort films and television were legally available to Romanians to entertain them? Was there much of a Romanian film industry at the time?! ! The only Romanian television, TVR, the national television was reduced to 2 hours of broadcast. Most of this time was taken up by!
news reports praising Ceausescu and the regime's achievements. It was very hard to fit a whole film in the time that was left, so they would usually be cut and heavily censored. Anything that might be conflicting with the socialist way of life or depict the amoral, decadent ways of the West in a positive light had to be removed. It sounds unbelievable now, but even Tom and Jerry was causing problems because of those scenes where Tom chases Jerry on the table laden with food, which depicted the West as prosperous. Did the films get renamed when they were translated? Any notable/ funny Romanian names for films we all know? Was any original video box art/ movie posters created? If so I'd love to see it! The titles were always translated in Romanian. The most notable mistake that I remember is the translation of De Niro's The Deer Hunter as Dear Hunter! It wasn't Irina's mistake, it was Zamfir's, as he would label the tapes when the dubbing and multiplication process was over. I'm afraid there weren't any video box art or posters. Tapes were released really quickly so the competition wouldn't pose any threats so I think there wasn't the time for that. What do you hope people will take from the film, especially those who know little about the history of Romania? I want to tell this story because it's perfectly intertwined with Romania's history. This is a particular case but it speaks of suffocating regimes, censorship and resistance. I want to make a film that focuses on the way people dealt with their very difficult situation creatively and speak of Eastern Europe's history in a manner that is light and entertaining. People found a way to escape the state's control and the fact that they did it through film, especially through the films of Van Damme and Chuck Norris, is almost surreal. I hope our audience will learn a little more about Romania and about what was going on behind the Iron Curtain in the 80s. But most of all I hope they will enjoy rediscovering those amazing films and that they will laugh and cry watching such an incredible, surreal episode in history. When can we see the film? And is there anything else you'd like to plug? We hope to finish the film by September 2013, so there's still a lot of work to be done. Besides a festival and hopefully theatrical release, from the very beginning we secretly dreamed of a limited VHS edition, dubbed in English by Irina herself, so people could get the full 80s Romanian VHS experience. CHECK OUT MORE ON THE FILM AT www.chucknorrisvscommunism.co.uk 31
THE EXPENDABLES 2 IS A GODDAMN MASTERPIECE The Expendables 2 (Simon West 2012) I don't get fazed by seeing famous people. Because of my work I'm around them on a semi-regular basis. They're not very interesting. Well, they're interesting to look at for a little bit â€“ it's a Slightly baffling experience to see someone in three dimensions that you've only seen on a screen or on glossy paper before â€“ but that only lasts a few minutes and they you realise they are just as disappointing as the rest of the human race. However, on Monday 13th August 2012 I totally lost my shit at the premiere of The Expendables 2. Being in the same room as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, JeanClaude Van Damme and Jason Statham, two things struck me: how young Statham looked compared to the rest of them; and how I'd never really thought of these people as real people. Normally when I love a film or a writer or 32
a book or something, it's because it feels really real, and directed at me (call it Catcher In The Rye/ Ghost World syndrome). But Arnie feels about as real as Shakespeare or Jesus or Godzilla. Imagine being in the same room as Jesus or Godzilla. Anyway, I'm trying to crudely explain how The Expendables 2 personally affects me. It isn't a regular film. Neither is it a homage or a parody or a pastiche either. Combining Arne, Sly, Dolph, JCVD, Statham, and Jet Li all in one film is an honest, heartfelt, semi-nostalgic (but not too nostalgic), authentic piece of work. It's meaning is built on the meaning of scores of other films, but also on the off-screen past of not only the actors involved but the audiences themselves. Ok, I'm aware I'm being unbelievably wanky about a film where Chuck Norris reads out Chuck Norris facts, but fuck it, the film hit me perfectly. You could argue that the first Expendables did this, just by the sheer virtue of having the cast that it did. But, as much as I enjoyed that film, it wasn't great. Sure, it had some of awesome VHS-era style WTF-ness – in no particular order: Dolph Lundgren smiling whilst hanging a Somali pirate, Dolph Lungren stepping on a guy's head and shouting “INSECT!”, the subplot about Charisma Carpenter cheating on Statham that just disappears half way through the film, Stone Cold Steve Austin getting set on fire and then getting hit by Randy Couture and then crumbling into ash, Dolph Lundgren just coming back at the end despite turning evil and clearly dying on-screen – but it was far from a classic of the genre. The sequel, however, delivers. Not just as 33
an action movie (which as it does), but because it knows what it is supposed to be. Ultimately this change is down to the direction. The first Expendables suffered from Stallone's clunky direction. Don't get me wrong I like Stallone's clunky obviousness - it has a Bruce Springsteen-like honesty to it, and I'm a big defender of both Rocky 6 and Rambo 4 â€“ but it's not what the Expendables needed. The Expendables needed someone like Simon West, which it got for the sequel. Simon West is best known for directing 90s action classic Con Air. Con Air is one of those films that you probably really enjoyed the first time you saw it, but it wasn't until you watch it about four times randomly on Channel 5 that you realise its a fucking great movie. It's a film that's self aware enough for you not to be stupid, but takes itself just seriously enough so that you can actually go with it and not just take it as a joke. In much the same way that West played to the strengths of Nic Cage and Malokovich, he plays up exactly the right things from Stallone and co. (Ok, so we're getting into spoilers here). Right, I want to break it down and explain how perfectly the film is put together. The film starts relatively seriously. After a cracking opening scene (something the first film was sorely lacking) complete with an Arnie cameo, all the focus spins onto new Expendable Liam Hemsworth, and his ludicrously overwrought conversations with Stallone about how he wants to quit the team. The casting of Hemworth is key to the film's genius. On the surface, it's a terrible move. Hemworth's brother Chris is Thor, and that alone would be enough to justify a supporting 34
part in The Expendables 2. But Liam is best known for a) being in the Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Last Song alongside Miley Cyrus, and b) getting engage to Miley Cyrus after meeting her on the set of The Last Song. He's also in the Hunger Games. The casting stinks of studio execs saying that they need to appeal to a younger, female demographic. It's a total sellout. Except it's not. After a quick appearance from Charisma Carpenter and some trademark awful “banter” between the team, they go off on a mission. And after some shenanigans with some big heavy doors, the team encounter villain Van Damme (beautifully named 'Jean Villan') and his henchman Scott Adkins. And JCVD just kills Liam Hemsworth stone dead. Because of course: if Liam Hemworth goes on a mission with Stallon, Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and Terry Crews, OF COURSE LIAM HEMWORTH IS GOING TO GET KILLED. He's just the kid from The Last Song – of course he can't survive with Sly, Statham, et al. The film is saying that you can try and shoe-horn some young teen heart-throb into it, and we're just going to kill him off. The film is about action heroes and actors that are bigger than their characters and grizzled meathead machismo, and all the joy that brings. (One quick aside: If Chris and Liam Hemsworth haven't been tapped up for a buddy movie where they play brothers separated at birth who end up on opposite sides of the law or some other plot stolen from a late 90s Van Damme movie, everyone in Hollywood is an idiot.) So now we've killed off the studio-appointed demographic-chasing flavour of the month, and we're in straight guys-on-a-mission territory. As much as I loved the movie, I do think this next section is the weakest section – Stallone and co just wander 35
around a g eneric Eas tern Europ landscape ean bumbling i nto thing. desperatel It y needs an other acti thing to p o n unch thing s up a bit However, i . t does hav e more of that awful -brilliant awkward 'banter' b etween the actors. It culminates in possibl y my favourite scene in t h e where the film, Expendable s (sans Statham un fortunatel y) are trapped in an abandon ed buildin and sit ar g ound and d i s cuss food. Of course, everyone's choice of favourite meal is ba sed on hilariousl y obvious e thnic stereotype s. It's a sublime pi of anti-hu ece mour, with every line bombing so hard it le aves you i stitches. n And then t he second pivotal moment hap pens. The t eam comes under atta ck from a small army and are st , randed wit h limited ammo. They run out of bullets an all seems d lost. is turns up. And then Chuck Norr
my. s out the entire ar ke ta , en re sc fof the le handedly, what took them out, Chuck Norris, sing k uc Ch 's it at th that it's ly plays. Both the ab ic pl ex in When it's revealed ly Ug e The Bad and Th Chuck Norris theme from The Good nd in hushed awe. ou ar ok lo rs te ac . Much has camera and the char a Chuck Norris joke ke ma d an ra me ca the ures Chuck looks directly into is a film that feat is th at th ct fa scene e if he didn't, the been made about th en ev t bu , ke jo uck Norris ndering Norris making a Ch rently just been wa pa ap s ha k uc Ch a t. ec his own, and after on would still be perf y, tr un co an pe Easter Euro e film around this random n. He is just in th ai ag f of s er nd les? wa just Was In The Expendab is rr couple of jokes he No k uc Ch If Be Awesome t about because Wouldn't It r universe. It's no he ot an rs te en lm e the fi esome action It's the point wher celebrating how aw t ou ab s it e, or to be. ym e an but it doesn't need , narrative coherenc ve ti va no in or t clever and movies are. It's no joyous and honest â€“ e ar es vi mo on acti r-reality. It needs to be what ng in it's own hype ti is ex d an ng ti ra exhila ain e â€“ I hope to expl iv ct fe ef ry ve is ame, ent of Norris e his recent meme-f it (The film's treatm sp de t bu e er wh tail some s based it in a bit more de that his success wa ry eo th a ve ha I . nt to ty crap Right who didn't wa n ia he's actually pret st ri Ch an ic er le, and e Middle Am on a sub-set of th ican in the lead ro er Am nno y el gu va with a , Van Damme et al. er gg ne ze watch action movies ar hw Sc er Norris films ov thus picked Chuck 36
His films are generally clunky and boring, and often incredibly jingoistic. He also seems like a rather awful person, politically (I'd disagree with Arnie's politics, but he seems like a nice guy in person – Norris is venomously against gay rights and recently said that a second term for Obama would lead to a thousand years of darkness). He's also a good ten years older than most of the already ageing cast, and can probably barely move. He shows up for a few minutes, gives the audience what they want, and then buggers off)
The film has now gone off into a delirious spiral of joy. Yet it still holds together by the thinnest of logical threads – instead of going completely insane it holds a bursting sense of excitement and anticipation. You know its about to go completely mental – any film that has a bit like the Chuck Norris scene is going to – but you don't know quite when. The next action scene is played relatively straight (well, straight for a film like this). It give Statham a solo fight scene to show off in, and its a legitimately good scene as opposed to a cartoon. There are winks – a brilliant bit where the whole team just unload bullets into one single guy for 30 seconds – but they are still played straight enough, so that if you didn't get the joke, you'd just think it was badass. Some wonderful dumb action movie logic leads to them being stuck down a mine, and after a bit of Dolph Lundgren magic (seriously, Lundgren has been the break out star of both these films), we get the signal that we're ready to go all out – Arnold Schwarzenegger bursts through the wall and shouts
“I’ll be back!” knowingly for about the millionth time in his career. It's only at this point that the film actually abandons an actual narrative and breaks down into the simple pleasures of watching big muscly men shoot things. There's a shot where it's just Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis just all standing there, mowing people down with massive guns, that probably made me happier than any other shot in cinema history. It's actually the key difference where this film succeeds where the first film failed: Expendables 1 thought it was enough to just have Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis to stand in the same room (and to be far, it sort of was) – but the sequel actually has them come back, and get in the thick of the action, and be part of the film as opposed to just a nod. Hell, even Chuck Norris pops up again, after, I, er, dunno, wandering around on his own a bit longer. A friend of mine made a point that the finale didn't work for him because he there was no real sense of threat – of course the Expendables are going to win, but in the first film they were up against an army. Here they basically outnumber Van Damme's crew. But he's missing the point. The Expendables is about a certain type of action hero. The fun of Commando or Sudden Death or Hard To Kill isn't “Will Arnie survive?” but instead “Let's watch Arnie kill people.” The finale of The Expendables 2 is wonderful montage of seeing bad guys get blown away, which if I'm being pretentious (which, I case you haven't noticed, I am), reaches an Eisenstein or Vertov level of transcendence. And then we get Jason Statham versus Scott Adkins and Stallone versus JCVD and everything is right with the world. There's a final scene though, once the dust has settled, that says a lot about why I love the film. We cut to Paris, and the apartment of Liam Hemsworth's French girlfriend that he went on about before Van Damme killed him. She receives a mysterious package the obviously from Stallone, filled with bundles of American dollars, a letter he told Sly to give her before he died, and a cheesy photo of him in his army gear. It's stupid and cheesy and cliched and laughable, but it's also very dumb and honest. Action movies, the classic-era-80s-VHS action movies that the cast used to make, are dumb and honest. Honesty is a beautiful thing. 38
JEAN CLAUDE VAN DAMME’S BUSINESS CARD ce of acquaintan a , 2 s e l Damme. And e Expendab n h a T V f w o e i e v r r e ard. o inte UK premi business c y enough t k s c So at the i u h l m s i a h w Clark me gave mine Jody t, Van Dam a h t n a h t ok r ich now to h even bette w , d r a c e the own by e showed m ind was bl h m y y d m o J , y w l a s t s viou ece of When I nex wallet. Ob imalist pi s n i i h m n y i l g e n c bore i la s an amaz , it just a f w pride of p o t d I u o r . p t tefac uld be ber such an ar Bateman wo th his num i k w c i , r e t t a i P h w t off design tha mbossed on e ’ D V C J ‘ of beauty. g n i h t the legend a was truly ad to below. It e, we’ve h s r h u o c f O sign. Whic e f it. d o e n h a t c s s n a of rui Jody for y that kind t u b So I asked , ok not ver r o e l b m t u i n s e e SINESS h k t JCVD’s BU ly just ma blank out e g t n a i m k i c t u l f u r mothe , and y. is a shame ever, it’s Thanks Jod t a . h y w a w t y u n B a g. de it interestin g to inclu n i o g m ’ I CARD, and
FORGOTTEN BRUCE WILLIS MOVIE REVIEW TIME Mercury Rising(Harold Becker, 1997)
an to go on d e d i c e o 2 I d wanted t ndables I e p . x e E g n t i s a b So, po annon er on film C i t n c e a t t l o o u-ray a forg old scho Arrow Bl orpion, e c h S t d t e u R azon. sic, b watch ve on Am ren clas i g s d n n e u p L x e h Dolp upidmy new e was st s a e l e through r s g n re i o g me acros lst a i c h w I , n r re. I o e Howev een befo collecti s D r V e D v e s n ' some h I'd flatmate ong with ng, whic r i w s i o R g y y r reall Mercu ouldn't c ht? I d e r lis, rig figu l i W e c u Br late 90s ndest he bla ut to t e b d o ight sing m ir, it turne movie – i R y r ion e fa Mercu an act . To b Well, e n d a a h m t ver s of ller film e ’s lot streets a thri e r f e o h t e ity ions be mor ven explos ng through c f o ple. E o d e a i p e n t n o s u in d r t – ut tw s-face seen i to ls abo l e i v k a h seriou y l t ,you ho has uce on and Br ven't seen i FBI agent w t ha de nds ou i m f if you ays a renega o h st fro d w u l i j p k , e e e c l e u Br litt t. S ilm ouldn' fter a h a s that f u? k e o h n o e l g e n s i 't yo ou've someth tell y before haven n you u o y whe es that ve tim wenty times i e f t u s wher abo t t e u i o v b o a m ly her rl, Probab the ot ssy gi og a l s l a a f o e d it's think lovabl a kid r f o o n d a to a inste comedi e has c g u n r i B k c d a h an wisecr oo muc iterally no t s w o is l who kn There . t ilm. c e prot this f e e s to ings reason o th w t wo were ere ut it. T able h t , h o Ok e ab gly laug l b a not tainin r ente . gs thin
Ok, so the USP of the film is that the kid Bruce has to protect is autist ic. Basically, the sa vant-like kid breaks the US government's most unbreakable-code -ever, because it was hi dden in a puzzle magazine (WTF?), and therefore dodgy CIA chief (pre-30 Rock Alec Baldwin) decides he needs to kill the kid in the name of national secu ri ty. This means we get a we ll intentioned bu t absolutely hilari ous depiction of autism. When the boy firs t cracks the code , we get this ludicrously over the top scen e with a pounding John Ba rry score, superzo om-ins on his pupils, an d worst of all, Matrixstyle number crun ching sound effe cts. BECAUSE AUTISTIC PPL ARE LIKE ROBO TZ, INNIT. It reache s it's nadir at one point where Bruce is tr ying to get a he lpful girl to let him into his apartment. Understandably, she doesn't want to open the door, so to convince her he ju st lifts the autistic kid up to the spy ho le by his arms like he was a puppy or someth ing. She goes “d'awww” an d lets Bruce in. The other thing I liked was that it featured what I like to call “Peo ple Using The Internet In The 90s LOLs.” At one point Bruce is on the phone to an info rmant, the guy on the other end gets dragged away and tells Bruce “I'l l email you. I'll se t up an address (pause). .. It'll be Eins tein!”. I'm pretty sure eins firstname.lastname@example.org is taken. And einstein@gma il.com as well. Bruce then goes to a librar y to get internet access and with the help of a friendly li brarian manages to track down the email ad dress. Al Gore would be so proud. And of course, th e password is E= MC2.
The Pun isher i s worthy of your attenti on The Punisher (Jonathan Hensleigh 2004) So the other weekend I re-watched 2004 Marvel Comics adaptation The Punisher, starring Tom Jane. I'd always pegged it as an underrated film. I was expecting to be proved wrong. And let's not beat about the bush, it's not a classic. Hell, it's probably less interesting than the other two Punisher films (the first being classic VHS era Dolph Lundgren, and the third having a completely insane turn from Dominic West). But there's a few things that make this completely forgotten film really worth looking out. The film is far from perfect. According to the director's commentary (yes, I have listened to the director's commentary on The Punisher. I'm that fucking cool), the budget was slashed at the last minute and a big opening Iraq-set battle scene was cut. But it's also hampered by a crushingly slow opening act and a needless convoluted plot. In the comics, Frank Castle is a 'Nam vet who's wife and kids are killed in the crossfire in a gang shootout, and thus becomes a gun-toting vigilante who hates crime. Simple. But in this there's some overly complex bollocks about him being an undercover cop who family is killed by mobster John Travolta as revenge for, er, i dunno... 42
However they do make one amazing improvement: instead of just his wife and kids biting it, the bad guys attack at Castle's family re-union, meaning that that they KILL OFF EVERY SINGLE ON OF HIS LIVING RELATIVES. Cos, y'know, just killing his wife and kids aint really much motivation is it? But enough whining . There are three things in this film that make it TOTALLY WORTH YOUR ATTENTION:
1: THE RUSSIAN do the Travolta's mob best whole "Get the to get t assassin we go d call this guy" bit an played in The Russian, estler by old-school wr only Kevin Nash. Nash one appears in this a scene, to have own wordless smackd er, and with the Punish andout it would be a st tion scene in any ac to movie you care mention. It runs through several y who clichĂŠs ("big gu you don't react when nt hit him," "viole action scene contrasting with l music ironic classica here's soundtrack,â€? "t side music playing so t hear characters don' ke the fight and jo her about in the ot y"), room obliviousl but it's just so welleffective, and y, and staged, and funn perbly brutal. It's su t edited, has grea d every sound design an ment little body move ession and facial expr is spot on.
2: HARRY HECK The other assassin then get in to get The Punisher is Harry Heck, a weird sort of Mexican Johnny Cash (played by semifamous country singer Mark Collie). A meek waitress (Rebecca Stamos) who lives in The Punisher's building finds him beaten and bruised and takes him to have pancakes. The Punisher is sitting in a diner eating pancakes and then this crazy mariachi guy just bursts in, plays this amazing evil song, and then says "Like that song? I wrote that for you. I'm gonna sing it at your funeral." And then just storms off.
He attacks The Punisher in the next scene (and gets killed obvs.), but what makes it so amazing is there's no scene going "Let's call in Harry Heck" or any foreshadowing. He just appears from nowhere. It's so random. And is never mentioned again. I presume he's hired by Travolta, but the film makes no attempt to explain it. It feels like something that's wandered in from a David Lynch movie. 44
S WIFE ' A T L O V OF TRA E T o A F e got t v ' I t 3: THE u here, b rgotten
fo ry letely territo p m r dd o e c l i d o k and o t I' n sp r a i a h d t e r w g ' o n e W thi hows h ut one eally s r n how d n point o a early o ilm d so f d l e o h t t ife. An 're w e w s about i , h y l inking a is of Basical into th Travolt it is. m n i h h o and J k ive right h to tric s s i e h possess g a h n t a tel ir wi isher m same ho an affa e h g The Pun t n i n v i a and seen e's h works, hem be that sh t t I g n . i c k t e ge and ma bills, lous ra a man, by e e n j o h alk a p aking for a w up into e f d i e w k r room, f s to o gets w akes hi dge on t i a r t n b l e o h a v t a f Tr He lm her of is guy. is a fi throws s i e h g t kills h a r f ight: W HIS a fit o hat's r TO THRO T Y . U n G and in i a D n. THE BA ming tr ark, ma VINCES d an onco N O g C n i O k R s fuc HE HE IN. It' where T A R T A worth DER her is s i WIFE UN n u ck P and sti ink The , h y t n n y u l f e n but eakly I genui odd, bl ry slow e , v k Anyway, r s a i d he lf It's wards t o irst ha t f f e e f seeing. h u t and hat ting st ecause s s b e e l r t b e i a t d n h wit ry i Expen some ve ove The l I , n there's ai ow. en I ag do I kn t a h end. Th w o s unner, Blade R
Viva VH S’ amaz ing VHS cov er art gallery on ho S H vaV guy w ed i V ka esome reach a , oyd an aw . I ‘ e of l L m s s Dale ter, i S tape ect so action l Twit cts VH to se TT VHS e m O coll to hi azing his is h ’ m m t t a o u o st rs fr , pad ut o m the e cove to, er lly. B here, t movi ction ut rea me shi e o o coll this e awes t some om the e m u r whol e’s so cked o part f und in o ther e’s pi uff (a ch I f ! h t i . and lent s ne, wh brary) l o i HS V exce ywood tral l a v @V i c o m ! r Boll ey Cen e t d. t y n i o k w l T el Hac n l o a d le w. a w ! D w ow ut Foll heck o c and
Lust For Freedom (Eric Louzil 1987) - Heron
Real Bullets (John Gazarian 1988) - Apollo
Ram Balram(Vijay Anand 1980) â€“ Famous Video
Slash(John Gale 1984) â€“ Trans-Global Pictures
Target Removed(Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi 1974) - Ambassador
Terminal Entry(John Kincade 1986) - IVS
s ’ f f o k i d u D l e a Mich e r u t n e v d A n o i t Ac Theatre Michael Dudikoff was a lower-rung action hero of the the Regan era, most notable for starring in the awesome American Ninja series of films. In the mid to late 80s he was a BIG FUCKING DEAL.! ! So big in fact that notorious schlock merchants Cannon used his name to shift a line of cheaply imported Italian exportation crap, under the “Michael Dudikoff Presents Action Adventure Theatre” banner. As well as plastering his face and name over the US video covers, Dudikoff even recorded little intros to each film, where he sat in a dusty screening room and explained to the viewer that “hard hitting action films are at the top of my list went it comes to pure, no holds barred entertainment.” (whatever that means). ! ! The four titles that were released under the banner were CROSS MISSION, URBAN WARRIORS, THE BRONX EXECUTIONER and BRIDGE TO HELL. I’ve only been able to get hold of good quality scans of the later two. Also for your viewing pleasure is the UK cover for Bridge to Hell, which loses the Koffmeister but includes 100% more explosions. ! ! ! 53
Next issue: Â
dog movies! 55