Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mortuary Blues Review

Jeff Lau's Mortuary Blues is a prime example of the anything goes nature of Hong Cinema's golden age. Made in 1990, with it's crazy mix of comedy, horror and adventure, Lau proves again he's a dab hand at films of this nature, having made numerous similar movies before including Haunted Cop Shop and it's sequel.

The thin excuse for a plot is largely irrelevant here, the ingredients being ghosts, a treasure map, a police investigation, a Peking opera troupe and a pagoda. Put all this into an industrial strength blender and blitz for an hour and a half or so. Indeed such is the frenetic energy of the movie, you'll probably feel like you've been thrown in too come the end.
So what does the film offer? If you're familiar with Jeff Lau's work, more of the same is the answer, occasionally funny but seriously low brow humour, which to be honest can be quite tiresome, the insane energy level I mentioned which certainly helps when the humour sags and some fast and funny action from Corey Yuen.

As well as handling the movie's action scenes, Cory Yuen also stars in the film as a cop, other members of the cast include Lowell Lo, Amy Yip and Charlie Cho. Mortuary Blues isn't really an actors film, so it's difficult to talk performances but I must mention Sandra Ng, who puts in one of her ugly duckling performances and manages to out mug even herself in this film. She must be one of the most improved actresses in world cinema, it seems impossible to believe this is the same actress who was so great in Juliet in Love.

The standout scene is when the characters enter the pagoda where the ghosts are leading to a stop start slapstick chase that this kind of HK film does so well. Lau riffs on his own work from Haunted Cop Shop II, rather than female ghosts being subdued by grabbing their breasts as in that film, here it's by grabbing their ass, leading to the fantastic subtitle "Is she an ass ghost?". That isn't the only great subtitle either, there are quite a few in a scene where two characters play dead, with one laid on top of the other, including "Why are you erecting then?"
The finale has an amusing Scooby Doo like feel as the characters dress up in order to fool the head ghost, it may sound stupid and I suppose it is but it fits this film perfectly.

If you're a non believer as far as Jeff Lau is concerned, you certainly won't find anything to change your mind here, trust me. If you're a fan, you'll know exactly what to expect and should find enough to keep you entertained throughout the movie's running time, even though it's nowhere near his best work. If on the other hand you like the genre and you're a Lau virgin, give it a go, you may just like it.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cool Crap Halloween Edition Re-Animator Poster

Due to work commitments we're doing Halloween today, and I've lined up a couple of movies for tonight's viewing. I realised I hadn't done any horror posts for a while and so my single post for Samhain is the Australian poster for Stuart Gordon's excellent Re-Animator. One of my favourite horror films of the 80's and probably of all time, this is an original and while not in the best condition, it's my favourite of all my posters (Apart from the Hong Kong ones of course).

It's a great poster that really captures the spirit of the movie, in a way that few posters do, helped tremendously by the tagline, "Herbert West has a very good head on his shoulders - and another one in a dish on his desk"

Friday, October 28, 2011

HKMS : Peking Opera Blues

A series of HK movie synopses regurgitated verbatim from the dvd/vcd/laserdisc cover.

In 1913, the political situation in China was turbulent. The separation of the country among warlords makes people have no means to make a living.

Singer Sheung Hung (Cherie Chung) is a venal woman. She accidentally got pieces of jewels at a mutiny when she was performing a play at the house of Commander-in-chief. However she carelessly dropped the jewels on the cart of a theatrical troupe. Sheung followed the troupe and met Bai Niu (Sally Yeh) and Tsao Wan (Brigitte Lin). Bai was an enthusiastic performer not accepted by the feudal society and Tsao was patriotic. They grew up in total different ways with distinctive ideals. In this riotous environment, they met with one another to mark the best moment of their lives.

This synopsis is taken from the blu ray release of Peking Opera Blues and shows even on a premium film on a premium format, little to no care is taken on the English translation. After all these years as a Hong Kong cinema fan, I don't really know why that last sentence has a surprised sound!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Last Blood Review

1991's The Last Blood is quintessential Wong Jing, an enjoyable but completely forgettable mix of exploitation, balls to the wall action and crappy comedy. Andy Lau stars in one of his many "Rascal" parts from the period, alongside Alan Tam and an incredibly annoying Eric Tsang as the not very comic, comic relief.

When Japanese terrorist group The Red Army plan to kill the Daka Lama, Interpol agent Alan Tam is assigned to protect him. Unable to prevent the terrorists attack, Lui Tai is left with a serious problem, the Lama is seriously wounded along with innocent bystanders caught up in the attack. One of them is the girlfriend of Andy Lau's Triad, both her and the Lama require blood, and wouldn't you know it, they are both the same exceptionally rare blood type. The Red Army go after the three potential donors, and quickly assassinate two of them, leaving only Fatty (Eric Tsang) able to donate the rare blood. With the Red Army quickly on his tail, it's up to Alan Tam and Andy Lau to work together to keep all three alive.

An excellent concept, and thanks to some muscular action sequences, one that's pretty successful. The lame comedy is a major drawback however and almost ruins the entire film, it isn't so much it shouldn't be there, more that it's just not remotely funny and kills the otherwise frantic pacing. What the movie does well is to leave you unsure as to who is going to survive as the violence is aimed at pretty much anyone and everyone, leaving a feeling that no one is off limits. It's also quite bloody, a highlight being a superbly splattery suicide via an uzi in the mouth!

A competent cast do what's required of them, Andy Lau is basically the same as he is in most of his movies from this period, I suppose the thinking being if it ain't broke... By far the most fun is had by Chin Ho as the main bad guy, he really chews it up, spits it out and then has another chew, just to make sure he chewed it up enough first time! The true star of the show though is Blacky Ko who handled the action design. The amount of carnage he achieves on a low budget is very impressive and is undoubtedly what makes the film worthwhile.

Many UK fans were disappointed by this movie when, in a move that Wong Jing himself would have been proud of, Eastern Heroes released this film on VHS as Hard Boiled 2 at the height of Woo mania. Unfortunately this took away from a pretty solid action film, that probably would have been received in a much better light without the deception.

Made during the golden days of Hong Kong cinema, revisiting The Last Blood for the first time in probably fifteen years made me long to have those days back again. Days where excitement and anticipation surrounded seeing any new Hong Kong movie. Yes, plenty of rubbish was produced but so many great films were released it didn't matter, when you saw a dud, the next one was sure to be good, if not then the next one and so on. Compared to the scraps we HK cinema fans feed on these days, the Last Blood probably feels more special than it actually is,  but you could however, do so much worse than give it another spin to relive the glory days.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

HKMS : Her Vengeance

A series of HK movie synopses regurgitated verbatim from the dvd/vcd/laserdisc cover.

Kit Ying, the head of a Macau dancing group, has a peaceful and calm life. One day, five drunken men, who were the murderers of Kit Ying's dad, came to watch the show and had a brawl with Kit Ying. On her way home, Kit Ying got caught. She was raped and tortured by them. After that, Kit Ying felt herself sick and was contracted the venereal disease. Therefore, she decided to go to Hong Kong to seek vengeance. She met a journalist and stayed at in his home. To earn a living, Kit Ying worked as a barmaid at a bar of Chow, her sister's ex-boyfriend with the help from Susan. One evening, Kit Ying saw one of those five men when she was on the way to work. Susan lured him away so Kit Ying could kill him. Kit Ying then started a trail of bloody revenge.

From the Joy Sales dvd, it proves even recent releases are not immune to Chinglish. The standout line being "After that, Kit Ying felt herself sick and was contracted the venereal disease." Most amusing!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cool Crap : Election Spanish Poster

Spanish poster for Johnnie To's Election. To's movie was the first film I saw in a Hong Kong cinema upon it's release in 2005, I had wanted to see a local film on my previous two visits but due to poor timing nothing was actually worth seeing during my stays. I can't remember what the choices were in 1998 but on my second trip in 2004, with HK film in a terrible state, the only choice was The Twins in Protege de la Rose Noire, nuff said!

The experience of seeing Election at the Broadway Cinematheque in Yau Ma Tei was amazing, from the first few notes of the score to the end of the movie, it's something I'll never forget. I had been warned of the freezing air conditioning in Hong Kong cinemas but I was still taken aback by just how fridge like it was in there.

I've never managed to get hold of the HK poster for the film, but managed to pick up this Spanish version on ebay, unfortunately the seller didn't use a strong enough tube and the result was the damage you can see in the picture. It's cool anyway though, and my crappy photography skills don't really do it justice (this was the best of six attempts!).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Best Seller review

Directed by John Flynn and written by fan favourite Larry Cohen, 1987's Best Seller hits the ground running. Opening in 1972, with an armed robbery on a police evidence depository, that turns brutal when the robbers needlessly kill all the cops on duty with the exception of Dennis Meechum (Brian Dennehy) who despite being wounded manages to fight back and stab one of the robbers. Flash forward to the present day, Meechum is still a cop but is also an author, having written a best seller based on the robbery he was involved in. Struggling with writers block since the death of his wife, enter Cleve (James Woods) a vicious, sociopath in the form of a sharp dressing hitman. He knows all about Dennis and his problems and comes to him with an idea for a book guaranteed to be another best seller. Based around his work for Kappa industries, a powerful corporation grown by David Madlock (Paul Shenar), who used Cleve's talents to grow the company. Madlock has put Cleve's nose out of joint, and as punishment Cleve wants to bring the whole corporation down. Meechum is sceptical at first but as the pair delve deeper into the conspiracy, it becomes clear to him Cleve is telling the truth.

Best Seller's strongest asset is the electrifying presence of James Woods, his portrayal of Cleve adds much needed complexity to the character and the film itself. Woods is so perfect, it's hard to imagine any other actor playing the role and it would be interesting to know if it was written specifically for him. His mix of malevolent charm, manic intensity and viciousness making for a very memorable character. Ably supported by the always solid Brian Dennehy, the two make a fun double act, thanks to Larry Cohen's sarcastic and unsentimental script. Always underrated as a director, Cohen is perhaps even more so as a writer, who consistently delivers excellent concepts for genre movies. Muscular direction from John Flynn who made two of my favourite crime films of the 70's with The Outfit and Rolling Thunder, adds a no nonsense quality to the film, always a good choice for a film such as this, Flynn really should have been a bigger name.

My criticisms of the film would be the score is poor, sounding resolutely of it's time and not in a good way, it does little to add anything to the film at all. There's a terrible performance from Victoria Tennant, who thankfully doesn't have that many scenes in the film. To be fair to her, she is completely believable in a tough to watch scene where Woods terrifies her with a blade, although this is more down to Woods' intensity than anything else and her fear was probably real! Finally, the film could have done with a stronger villain or henchmen, Shenar is suitably smarmy but lacks any real menace, and never feels like he could be a match for the pairing of Woods and Dennehy. Given Shenar previously had Woods to do his dirty work, the film could maybe have done with someone his equal for the inevitable final confrontation.

Best Seller may fall short of greatness but has plenty to offer the jaded genre fan, the fantastic central partnership of Woods and Dennehy, a fun script and a couple of decent action sequences. What raises the film above the masses is the truly great performance from Woods, and is an absolute must for anyone who appreciates him, as I do, as being one of the finest actors of his (or any) generation.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Recent Buys October Everything Else

If you read this post from last week then you will be aware this recent buys posts will be my last for a while at least, some great and some not so great stuff and then Jennifer's Body!

Don't think I need to say anymore about this one!

Halloween II. Not seen this for years, I can't even really remember that much about it, but this new blu ray release has received great reviews and this is certainly the month to rewatch it.

Tucker and Dale Vs Evil. A fun horror comedy, with a pair of excellent performances from Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine. It has such a clever concept, it's hard to believe no one thought of it before.

Machete. Another really fun film, Danny Trejo is perfect and there's a great supporting cast. I much prefer this to Hobo with a shotgun, a similar film that had a great central performance but little else to back it up.

Tango and Cash. The fun just keeps on coming, with this Stallone and Russell team up. Read my review here.

Best Seller. 80's favourite, written by Larry Cohen and featuring a blistering performance from James Woods and solid support from Brian Dennehy. Review to follow soon.

Special Effects. Written and directed by Larry Cohen, I've never seen this but always wanted to, with Zoe Tamerlis and Eric Bogosian.

Gymkata. This film has received plenty of excellent coverage on other blogs recently including Comeuppance reviews and robotGEEKS cult cinema. It's one I remember seeing on the shelf at the video shop but for some reason I never rented it. The tagline is irresistible "The Skill of gymnastics. The Kill of Karate.

Army of Shadows. A real masterpiece from Jean Pierre Melville on Hd-dvd, one of my favourite films ever. If you haven't seen it, track it down and see it asap.

Cross of Iron. A welcome blu ray upgrade for Sam Peckinpah's classic war film. Another fantastic tagline, this one's almost literal! "Men on the front lines of hell"

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Recent Buys October Hong Kong And Asian Movies

If you read this post from earlier in the week then you will be aware this and the next recent buys posts will be my last for a while at least, some great stuff and some stuff that felt like a good idea at the time! I need to get to where it's all killer and no filler. Anyway on to the discs.

Michelle Yeoh in Magnificent warriors, I haven't seen this for such a long time, VHS days in fact, so this Hong Kong legends dvd will do nicely.

Finally picked up Kim Jee Woon's I Saw the devil on blu ray, this was one of my earliest reviews and ever since seeing it, I've wanted to revisit it. The blog coverage this film has received has fascinated me, almost everyone seems to love or hate it, with seemingly little middle ground.

New Blood is another early effort from Soi Cheang, this time in the horror genre.

Another film that seems to divide audiences is Tsui Hark's Detective Dee and the mystery of the phantom flame. On first viewing I liked the film quite a bit. As well as a return to form of sorts for Tsui Hark, it inspired a feeling of the Hong Kong film style of the late 80's/early 90's, particularly the cavern sequence. I had issues with the pacing, particularly the first 30 minutes or so but I'm really looking forward to revisiting this on blu.

Her Vengeance, another category III film, this time from 1988 and from the maker of The Story of Ricky, something tells me it's not going to be as much fun as that one though!

Jiang Hu The Triad zone on blu ray, a real favourite of mine and finally a welcome upgrade from the horrible old HK dvd, read another of my early reviews here.

Blu ray of Tsui Hark's classic Peking Opera Blues, another huge favourite of mine, not sure how much of an upgrade this disc will be but it has to be better than my old dvd.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Michael Mann's Thief Review

Thief, Michael Mann's 1981 directorial debut was originally known as Violent Streets, why I'm not sure as Thief is the perfect, to the point title for the movie, rather than that horribly generic alternative. Based on Frank Hohimer's novel The Home Invaders, Thief is perhaps one of the most under appreciated films of the 1980's.

Frank (James Caan) is the titular Thief, an expert safe cracker, hiding behind the cover of two legit businesses (a used car lot and a bar), he and his team pull diamond jobs as and when they need to. When Frank is introduced to Leo (Robert Prosky), the usually defiantly independent and guarded thief is seduced into working for him, seeing this as a chance of a way out for himself and wife Jessie (Tuesday Weld) into his long cherished, collage version of the American dream. One huge score for Leo and he's out of the thief game for good, but when are things ever that simple?

As with most Michael Mann films, Thief centres on the professionalism and skill at his job of the lead character, and on how this often leaves little room left in their life for anything else. Mann effortlessly introduces Frank's ability as an expert safe cracker in a superbly executed diamond robbery at the beginning of the film, as mesmerising a piece of cinema as you could wish to see. As the film progresses the icy cool of Frank at work is juxtaposed with the other less successful facets of his life away from the cold metal of a safe door. Alternately needy and childlike one moment to a hot headed thug the next, with the professional somewhere inbetween, it's a fantastically nuanced performance from Caan adding serious weight to what on the surface appears to be a simple crime thriller.

Willie Nelson, has a small but pivotal part as Okla, a father figure who taught Frank everything he knows. When he disappears from the film, Leo ruthlessly exploits the hole left behind, Prosky who is probably best known for his role in Hill Street Blues is superb as the manipulative gangster, who turns violent when pushed. Tuesday Weld is also really good in a difficult part as Jessie, Frank's girlfriend/wife and they share an electric scene in a diner where Frank explains his life to her. The supporting cast is filled with good performances, all creating a fleshed out and believable world with a solid James Belushi in an early role and a shamefully underused Dennis Farina also popping up.

Technically the film is stunning, the photography by Donald Thorin is simply gorgeous, as is usually the case with a cinema stylist like Michael Mann. It's easy to see how Thief influenced Nicolas Winding Refn's recent Drive. Not only in it's photography but also in it's soundtrack, an amazing pulsating synth score from Tangerine Dream that propels the film. While looking up to see if Caan received an Oscar nomination for Thief (He didn't but really should have done), I noticed the film was nominated for a Razzie for worst score, which just seems unbelievable to me. The heist scenes are truly impressive, with every detail researched to achieve a level of realism unseen in movies before and probably since, with a measured pace to allow the viewer to soak up all the detail.
Thief, has a distinctly 1970's flavour to it's story and characters, which is a huge compliment given the legacy of quality in crime films from that decade. Importantly though it also has a feeling of futurism, purely in filmmaking technique with Mann's style immediately apparent from the opening moments of the film.

I saw Thief on the recent region 2 Optimum dvd release, a dvd with a couple of issues. The dvd had a few video glitches, nothing serious but nevertheless noticeable and more problematically the dvd has sound level issues where the dialogue is drowned out by the score and foley effects. This may have been how the film was mixed originally but it required remixing for home viewing, as I had to keeping raising and lowering the volume from scene to scene, not conducive to a great viewing experience.

Despite the presentation issues with the dvd, Thief has immediately become a firm favourite of mine, with Caan's best ever performance lifting an already exciting and occasionally shockingly violent crime movie up into the upper echelons of it's crowded genre. I simply cannot recommend Thief highly enough.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thank You Megan Fox

What could yours truly ever have to thank Megan Fox for? Read on and I'll tell you.

I've been struggling lately with this whole blogging lark, if I were a writer I guess you could call it writers block, since I'm not, let's just call it block. I've had a few problems lately, which I don't feel the need to burden you with but let's just say my mind has been clouded and I've really struggled with being able to focus on anything at all, never mind writing. These last few days we've made a breakthrough and made a few huge decisions about our future, leaving me scared and excited for said future, and this my friends is at least partly down to the lovely Megan.

Megan Fox, Hollywood hottie bar none to some, loud mouthed, obnoxious talentless trollop to others, she seriously polarises opinion. To me, she will now forever be the girl who cured me of my O.C.D. of buying dvds and blu rays. How?

Jennifer's body, the cure! I saw this pop up on, available from Amazon for £3.97. Most people would have just ignored it, but not me, before I knew it it was in my cart and ordered. I couldn't help myself, it was cheap.
Don't get me wrong, I quite liked Jennifer's body, the movie took a lot of uncalled for flak in my opinion, it's pretty entertaining in a switch your brain off kind of way, but and this was the big question I asked myself afterwards, does anyone actually really need to own Jennifer's body? And on blu ray no less.

I tried to cancel the order but it was too late, and the blu ray arrived yesterday. As if to mock me further for my choices, the disc came in a suitably vacuous slipcover featuring Jennifer's moulded, pneumatic body sticking out at me.

Not only that but the distributor tried to sell the movie with this on the cover, not that the movie is better on blu ray but that Megan Fox is.

As a result, after this months recent buys posts, they will become a thing of the past. I have enough unwatched films to last me a lifetime and a lovefilm subscription to go with them. I like buying movies, but I feel like I've been buying too many Jennifer's bodies, and it's time to stop. I guess the failure to cancel the order was a good thing, in that now I have Megan's bumps to hang on to and remind me should I waver at all. So, thanks to Megan Fox for helping me regain my focus and come to my senses, and for that I'll even forgive you Transformers 2.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Beyond Hypothermia Review

Beyond Hypothermia was the first production from Milkyway Image, produced by Johnnie To and directed by John Woo protege Patrick Leung. The film stars Wu Chien Lien and Lau Ching Wan and riffs on Luc Besson's Nikita along with a wide range of HK action thrillers, not surprisingly including John Woo's The Killer. While the action in the film is up to par and in certain scenes truly exhilarating, the same cannot be said for the dramatic aspects of the story.

Wu Chien lien plays an assassin, whose body temperature is 5 degrees below normal, for no discernible reason, other than the purely symbolic and to give the film a title. She has been raised as a killer by her aunt and handler (Shirley Wong), way to parent Shirley! Deprived of any kind of childhood and disconnected from a real life, our assassin longs for a little human feeling. Enter Lau Ching Wan as a local friendly noodle stall holder. An awkward relationship is formed as after each hit job she visits Lau for noodles. All is well until she takes out a powerful Korean mob boss, and in response his disgraced, faithful bodyguard (Han Sang Woo) vows vengeance!

Before the recent spate of mainland targeted Hong Kong movies, it was common to see HK films targeted at other Asian territories, usually by having a huge star from whichever pan-asian country and having part of the film shot there. Beyond Hypothermia follows this formula and has a pronounced Korean presence, with Han Sang Woo amongst others featured in the cast and some of the film shot in South Korea. This gives the film a significantly different feel to the many other similar Hong Kong films, and gives it a chance to shine. Which it does to some extent, though not entirely.

Wu Chien Lien is excellent here, as unlikely as she may seem as a literally cold blooded killer, she sells the idea, bringing a childlike innocence to her scenes with Lau Ching Wan but also the steel necessary for for handling the heavy duty weaponry and action scenes. Perhaps the standout (non action) scene in the film is where, having never been allowed to have photos, she joyfully takes a series of fun self portraits. Lau Ching Wan, despite a dramatically under written role shows real glimpses of the great actor he would go on to become. He somehow provides a grounding to the film, no matter how ridiculous it gets, he's there to anchor it to something approaching reality, no mean feat in this film!

In typical Hong Kong cinema fashion the film wants to have it's cake and eat it in regard to it's mix of genre and tones. Aiming for a delicate balance of romance and action, due to the poorly developed script the mix is decidedly one sided towards the action, which I suppose is at least the right way to lean. The action sequences are brutal, bloody and spectacular, in particular the foot chase after the killing of the Korean boss is incredible and worth seeing the movie for alone. Involving a very busy, multiple lane highway, numerous henchmen and plenty of traffic, it's like pinball with cars and bodies!

Patrick Leung does a good job here, resisting the temptation to copy his mentor, the violence portrayed here is much more gritty than in Woo's movies, and again considering the weak script Beyond hypothermia is a solid first effort for Milkyway Image. Action wise at least the film is very impressive, not only that but it's an important indicator for where their films would go for the next few years at least. Boasting an impressively downbeat ending that, rather than just being there to subvert expectations is actually earned throughout the film, I mean come on, how else could it play out?

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Colt Is My Passport Review

A 1967 film from the Japanese Nikkatsu studio, A Colt is my passport is a brilliant piece of genre blending cinema. Directed by Takashi Nomura and starring Jo Shishido (perhaps best known in the west for Seijun Suzuki's amazing Branded to kill) the film is shot through with European influences but remains a truly Japanese creation.

Boiled down to it's essence, Jo Shishido is a stoic and slightly maverick hitman who along with his young partner (Jerry Fujio) takes on the job of killing a mob boss. After the hit everything becomes complicated as shifting allegiances within the underworld contrive to make their escape increasingly difficult.

That's the story in a nutshell, more characters are introduced but like most good genre movies it's kept tight and pretty simple. What elevates A Colt is my passport to excellence is the craft of the filmmaking and those influences I mentioned. Despite colour having been available in Japan for years when the film was shot, Nomura went with high contrast monochrome and this was a perfect choice for this film, it looks fantastic. The 2.35:1 framing of the movie gives the action a much grander feel than the obviously low budget would suggest possible, with inventive shot composition and excellent use of unusual angles all adding to the aesthetic. Given how much the Euro western "borrowed" from the Japanese Chanbara genre, it's pleasing to see the favour returned here. The film has a European vibe to it, with the ending feeling particularly Leonesque. The score for the film is basically a spaghetti western one, with a few jazzy elements thrown in here and there. The European influence doesn't just end with westerns, Jean Pierre Melville's wonderful gangster films seem to have also had an influence in A Colt is my passport. While Melville's main influences were the Hollywood gangster movies he loved so much, his film's were also hugely influenced by the Samurai code. It's great to see the Japanese film makers reflecting back their own cinematic conventions with a European perspective.

For all it's myriad of influences, A Colt is my passport remains a thoroughly Japanese film. Utilising excellent locations and a great cast led by the chipmunk faced Shishido, with excellent work from Chitose Kobayashi in particular. Nomura's film is a great example of the pulp genre. It's great fun from start to finish and has a fantastic opening and a truly superb ending, one so good it made me want to watch the film again immediately.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tango And Cash Review

I have a confession to make, I'm a terrible action film fan. Not only had I never seen Tango and Cash before but I'd tried to watch it and given up after five minutes, despite being a huge fan of Kurt Russell. Criminal I know, I should have been arrested by Ray and Gabe and thrown in a cell to do time with Robert Z'Dar! I've now seen the error of my ways and picked up the recently released blu ray and having watched the movie, it's a riot of fun.

Of all the big budget 80's action movies, this has to be the most stupidly fun and cheesy one of all. A mismatched buddy cop film in the tradition of Lethal Weapon, Sylvester Stallone plays Ray Tango, the sharp dressing, indestructible, stock market playing, self proclaimed number one cop in LA. Kurt Russell plays Gabriel Cash, the disheveled, indestructible, maverick, self proclaimed number one cop in LA, can you tell where this is going?

In a truly ridiculously contrived series of events, Yves Perret (Jack Palance) L.A's big bad, deals with the menace of Tango and Cash by framing them, so they end up in prison rather than killing them outright. He manages this with the help of his team of bad guys including James Hong, Marc Alaimo and the awesome Brion James, not to mention a hell of a lot of cash to buy seemingly every other cop and prison guard in L.A. Clearly you wouldn't expect the two number one cops in L.A. to just take this, so they put aside their differences and plan a prison break to prove their innocence and restore balance to the universe.

Throw into the mix Maniac Cop himself, Robert Z'Dar, Teri Hatcher as Tango's sister and Cash's love interest, Michael J.Pollard as a Q like inventor for the L.A police and even Mr Blue, Eddie Bunker. A cast list you would be hard pushed to top for this or any other kind of movie.

Directed by Andrey Konchalovsky of Runaway Train fame, Tango and Cash is a strange beast to say the least. I can't say that I'm familiar with the rest of the directors work but I would take a shot in the dark and say that he hasn't made anything else quite like this one. Written by Randy Feldman, with the kind of dialogue that only existed in the 80's (take that as a positive and a negative) and scored horribly by Harold Faltermeyer of Axel F fame. The film has some impressively staged action sequences back from the days when everything was done practically, leading to a few hilariously obvious stunt stand in moments.

What makes the film so much fun though are the two leads, with Stallone playing against type as the more straight laced character and Russell playing basically Russell, not that that's ever a bad thing! The chemistry between the two is superb and while Stallone occasionally struggles to keep up in the banter scenes, overall he does a great job. Palance is fun but the stand out part in the whole movie is Brion James, someone involved decided he would make for a great English villain, complete with an arsenal of English harsh language and the most hilarious accent with which to deliver it.

Have you ever wanted to see an uncomfortably long nude shower scene between Stallone and Russell? If the answer is yes, then this is the film for you. Have you ever wanted to see Russell in drag, not just any old drag but fishnets and heels type drag? Well again this is the film for you. These are just two of the reasons to see Tango and Cash (or not if you're of a sensitive disposition!) and there are many more. The UK blu ray is uncut and looks very good for an older title, and it's available for around £5. I really wasn't sure if I'd enjoy it but ended up having a total blast with it, and it's a film I will undoubtedly revisit in the future.

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