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Erik de Castro
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When their parents die, Bianca starts to smoke and Tomas is still a virgin. The orphans explore the dangerous streets of adulthood until Bianca finds Maciste, a retired Mr. Universe, and enters his dark mansion in search of a future.
On a remote island in Southeast Asia, a team of scientists, studying the regenerative properties of the salamander, discovers what their Bangkok headquarters refer to as "The Priceless Gift": an elixir of life. News of the discovery travels quickly, and profiteers begin to circle the island, only to find out just how dangerous a discovery it is. During the research process, they also uncovered an unstoppable disease. When the research team goes missing, it leaves behind a warning: that the disease has spread, and is threatening to go global. Special forces and mercenaries from around the world descend on the island, making apparent that there is more at stake than just profit and ambition, but the survival of humanity. Written by
Nominally about yet another horrible disease threatening to eradicate humanity, the treat here is watching a squad of Russian soldiers battling hordes of sinister Asians. Led by mixed martial artist Fedor Emelianenko who has a nice Jason Stathamesque quality, these guys wreak havoc with every available weapon, including bare hands if need be. Nice to see Russians finally depicted as "the good guys" in an action flick; I'd still like to see their version of a "Platoon"-type saga about Afghanistan, reminding us Yanks how much we failed to learn from their experience, just as we'd failed to learn from the French in Vietnam. (Now if we could just find a new set of movie criminals to replace the "Russian Mafia" who are depicted as almost cartoonishly vast and powerful.) The directors do a nice job of letting us see enough of (but not too much of) the soldiers' "human side"; when Fedor, about to take on an overwhelming enemy force, intones "God save my sinful soul," it's affecting without being corny. The "name" players, Rutger Hauer and Michael Madsen, have what amount to cameo roles, the former as an evil drug company overlord (is there any other kind?) and the latter as a mercenary who works for him leading the above mentioned Asian hordes. Depressing seeing how old Hauer's become; Madsen can still be effective with his squinting underplayed menace and has a great scene terrorizing a female Russian hostage with her hands tied behind her back--is there any other kind? Also on hand is a Korean guy (I confess I forget his connection to the plot, but he seems to be a "good guy" also) who at the end gets to be a kind of one-man Wild Bunch fighting past a phalanx of goons to get to Hauer. So I'll definitely "take the 5th"; maybe it doesn't add up to that much in the grand cinematic scheme of things, but I found it well worth my time and it made me glad I have the "Streampix" function with my cable....
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