7 obscure but outstanding action films

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Night of the Juggler (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
A tough, New York City ex-cop relentlessly searches for his kidnapped teenage daughter whom is held by a twisted psycho after mistaking her for the daughter of a wealthy businessman. (101 mins.)
Director: Robert Butler
“ Long before Josh's pop James Brolin became Mr. Barbara Streisand (yeah I know, cheap shot), he proved his manliness by starring in 2 back to back quality action films, High Risk (1981) and this absolutely stellar film, Night of the Juggler. Made in 1980 it retains the authentic look and gritty feel found in 70's era cinema. The backdrop is the urban city as Brolin's daughter is mistakingly abducted, and refusing to sit at home waiting for a phone call from the police, he sets out on foot in search of his child. A simple premise that is brilliantly executed, and no doubt would today offend the PC crowd, as well as the darlings over at the ACLU with the interactings Brolin, as the film's protaganist, has with those that populate the urban landscape. If you ever have the oppurtunity, see this film. ” - actionfilm-2
A Grande Arte (1991)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
An American photographer in Rio de Janeiro becomes involved in the world of "knife culture" when he sets out to find the killer of one of his models. (104 mins.)
“ A Grande Arte (a.k.a. Exposure) stars voiceover actor extraodanaire Peter Coyote. Certainly not an action film per se, it shares a theme of revenge as well as other elements that are staples within the action genre, here presented in a fairly realistic fashion. With a simple and short introduction the film captures our attention as Coyote, a freelance photographer, documents a lone figure defending himself from multiple armed attackers, by way of a knife. What follows is a fascinating story that is not as predictable as it first appears. Crucial to the film is it's setting, Rio De Janiero, as well as one of the finest performances seen from the talented French actor Tcheky Karyo (La Femme Nikita, The Bear). He brings a menacing yet reserved demeanor to his role as the man who guides Coyote's character thru what's known as the knife culture (the titular "great art"). While on paper we've seen this character dozens of times, Karyo delivers a singular rendition that other actors would do well to study closely. This is one of only two films that I know of, that has as it's central element the art of knife fighting (the other being William Friedkin's The Hunted). Highly recommended. ” - actionfilm-2
Darker Than Amber (1970)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
Professional beach bum and 'knight errant' Travis McGee goes up against psychotic body-builder Terry Bartell. McGee pulls out all the stops when he joins a Carribean cruise to bring the killer to justice. (96 mins.)
Director: Robert Clouse
“ Rod Taylor portrays John McDonald's famous literary detective Travis McGee in this terrific pulp film. McGee is witness to a young lady being thrown into the drink with an 80 lb weight tied to her ankles, he of course attempts to rescue her but to no avail. Now another man might move on having given it his best shot, but McGee is no such man and refuses to let the crime go unpunished, making it his business to find those responsible. Rod Taylor is perhaps best known for his roles in "The Time Machine" and "The Birds", but this film and "Dark of the Sun" are two of his best films in the action genre. Veteran heavy William Smith turns in a stellar performance as a psychotic bodybuilder, and B-film director Robert Clouse so impressed the legendary Bruce Lee with this film he requested Clouse for his now classic "Enter The Dragon". One reason no doubt is the brawl scene that takes place between Taylor and Smith, a brief but absolutely brutal affair that ranks as perhaps one of the single best fights captured on film. Pulp fiction at it's finest. ” - actionfilm-2
The Hitmen Diaries: Charlie Valentine (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.5/10 X  
Charlie Valentine (Raymond J. Barry), notorious crime boss/mobster, attempts to pull one last heist before slipping into "retirement"... (96 mins.)
“ Charlie Valentine is a self absorbed and aging gangster, with a wealth of knowledge concerning the lifestyle. He searches out the son he vaguely remembers and takes advantage of the young man's desire for a father and son relationship. Don't get the mistaken idea this is a family melodrama, Charlie Valentine is a gangster film thru and thru.

While big studios put much money, star power, and effort into making standard quality gangster films like Public Enemies and American Gangster, along comes an unassuming writer/director named Jesse Johnson who, with a fraction of the time schedule and budget, makes producing a quality crime film look as easy as a ringin' a bell. Interesting three dimensional characters, solid pacing, smart dialog, skilled cinematography, well staged and believable action, these are just a few of the elements that make this an above average project. These days plenty of films sport an entire cast made up of familiar faces with name recognition, but making proper use of the talent is another matter altogether. No such problem with Charlie Valentine, as it uses it's cast to great effect. Raymond J. Barry as the titular Valentine is excellent and Michael Weatherly as his son compliments him well, meanwhile veteran actors like Steven Bauer, James Russo, Keith David, Vernon Wells, and Tom Berenger, all step up to the plate and deliver the cinematic goods. Charlie Valentine (a.k.a. The Hitman Diaries) is the second film in what writer/director Jesse Johnson describes as a crime film triptych, the first film being The Butcher (with Eric Roberts), with the final piece being an already written but yet to be filmed project.

Is this on par with the best of Scorcese or Bogart? No, though that's a very short list, but Charlie Valentine easily rises above many of it's gangster film contemporaries. ” - actionfilm-2
The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1989)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A tough sergeant and his sidekick roll into a demoralized firebase and proceed to rebuild morale and fortifications in advance of the climactic battle with the VietCong. (99 mins.)
“ Vietnam 1968. R. Lee Ermey and his squad of grunts, which include his corporal/best friend (Wings Hauser), arrive at Firebase Gloria and find the compound in complete dissaray with its C.O. (commanding officer for you civilians out there) ready for a section 8 and a straight jacket. Having witnessed a great deal of enemy activity while in the bush, R. Lee knows that Charlie is up to no good, so he takes charge of the poorly organized base. Just in time as Firebase Gloria is about to experience an onslaught of VC attacks that coincide with the now infamous TET offensive and will test the mettle of every soldier caught in the middle.

A low budget affair, The Siege of Firebase Gloria remains an action packed Vietnam war film with perhaps three times the amount of combat than the average war film. Both R. Lee Ermey as the sage career soldier Sgt. Maj. Bill Hafner, and Wings Hauser as the two fisted Cpl. Joseph L. 'Nard' DiNardo, give solid performances. Another familiar face in the film is Albert Popwell, best known for his line “I gots ta know” as he stares down the barrel of Clint’s Magnum in the first of the Dirty Harry films (he had roles in all but The Dead Pool). R. Lee (well known for his role in Full Metal Jacket, the former Marine is also host of the cable show Mail Call as well as official spokesman for Glock firearms) also does the film’s narration, which is not at all distracting as is sometimes the case with the device, here it actually enhances the story. The battle scenes are well staged and though considered a B movie actor, Hauser gives a grade “A” performance. Don't like war films, don't bother, otherwise highly Recommended. ” - actionfilm-2
Mirageman (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
A club bouncer with a dark past and great fighting skills decides to become a superhero. (90 mins.)
“ Don't let the cheesey cover art fool you, this is not an episode of Power Rangers, but rather a reality based look at one man's attempt to fill the role of masked hero to a crime ridden city. Filled with humor, pathos, and some of the best staged fight scenes outside of Asia (seriously). Star Marko Zaror has the movie star good looks and the moves to match. In a cinema market filled to the brim with martial artists, his fighting technique and the film's choreography is absolutely crisp, with the Chilean stunt team performing flawlessly. Writer/director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza scores a solid A+, he and Zaror are a filmmaking pair to keep an eye on. ” - actionfilm-2
Elite Squad (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
1997, Captain Nascimento has to find a substitute for his occupation while trying to take down drug dealers and criminals before the Pope comes to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (115 mins.)
Director: José Padilha
“ A world gone wild is the picture painted in the Brazilian film Tropa De Elite (Elite Squad), as BOPE, acronym for "Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais" (Special Police Operations Battalion) goes head to head with those operating the drug trade inside Rio de Janeiro. The city's police force is as infested with corruption as the slums are with drugs, allowing the existence of the semi autocratic and completely unforgiving elite squad known as BOPE.

Don't let the subtitles dissuade you, this is as engaging a film as you are likely to see, and the kind of film few in Hollywood appear capable of making (or at the very least find extemely difficult to make). An excellent lead, stellar performances, brutal action, tight and skillful direction, and a story and script that exudes authenticity. The critically acclaimed Brazilian film City Of God recieved so much praise it appears little was left over for this film, Elite Squad works as a brilliant companion piece to City Of God. Unfortunately, it was largely ignored due to a misrepresentation regarding it's content, which was percieved as facist by many poorly discerning critics. Of a quality that, relatively speaking, very few films acheive. ” - actionfilm-2