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Tai Chi Warriors (2008) (V)
Will the power of Tai Chi prevail?, 25 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When college student (?) Henry (Sefton) invites his friend Bruce (Covington) to stay with him while in China, little did they know they would be staying at a run-down orphanage/Tai Chi center run by the aging Master Dragon (Chiang). While Dragon puts them through their paces during training sequences, the guys find a budding romance with Lin Lin (Jacqueline Lee) and Fay (Yan Bing Zhang). However, all is not right in the world of Tai Chi. Master Dragon's former rival is still bitter and angry about...well, their rivalry, and organizes a fight to the finish with his crew of fighters, a bunch of unscrupulous kickboxers led by Yuri (David Majuri). Will the power of Tai Chi prevail? A monument to the concept of broken English (that is, when you can hear the muffled dialogue), Tai Chi warriors is a low-budget Martial Arts film that looks far older than it really is. Maybe older film is cheaper in Hong Kong, but even though the end credits state "October, 2004" (interesting that they would put a month), it looks like it was filmed in the early 90's or perhaps even 80's.

This is the type of DVD you might find in a gas station or other place that sells dollar movies - and the only audio options are English or Portuguese. Go figure. While it does go down a similar road we've all seen before - a road traveled by American Shaolin: King of the Kickboxers 2 (1991), among many others - here we're treated to all the familiar low-budget pitfalls as well: the aforementioned bad sound and picture quality, stilted performances, slow moments, etc., but this time around it all feels very childish. That particular vibe didn't sit well with us, but there are a few bright moments as well...

The scene of "no rules bowling" was a standout, as was the bicycle fight, and there are some classically silly pretexts for fight scenes, but it's all mixed in with some wire-fu and needless Godfrey Ho-style jumping around, plot-wise. Why a White college student in his early 20's would be best friends with a middle-aged Black gentleman was never explained, but it must go to show that people were a lot less racist in the 80's. I mean 90's. Sorry, "2000's". The whole outing is rather impenetrable and even Master Dragon's mullet couldn't save it.

Normally we list misspellings in the credits when we find them, but there are far too many this time around, so we'll have to leave it to your imagination as to which of the many words were spelled incorrectly. Or you could watch the movie for yourself, but we wouldn't necessarily recommend that.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
We absolutely recommend this enjoyable winner of a film., 9 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A mysterious hired killer named Yo (Dacascos) - known as the Crying Freeman because after he executes his victims he sheds tears - is seen practicing his deadly trade by a woman named Emu O'Hara (Condra). Awesomely, he even has exploding guns to help cover his tracks. Soon after their chance encounter, they're both caught in the middle of a Yakuza war, with only the skills of Yo keeping them both alive. Detective Forge (Chong) and Detective Netah (Karyo) are trying to sort it all out, but Netah may have more going on than meets the eye. It may all seem simple, but in the world of the Crying Freeman, nothing ever is. Will the Power of Yo prevail? Find out today...

Crying Freeman is an excellent film that everybody should see. How it compares to the original Manga or Anime we wouldn't know, but as a film in its own right it succeeds brilliantly. In other words, you don't really need to know the source material to appreciate this. Maybe it helps, but there's plenty to recommend even if, like us, you were unfamiliar with its origins and background. Classily directed by Christophe Gans - known primarily for his Brotherhood of the Wolf (2008) - he balances sensitive and poetic passages that are downright painterly and beautiful with violent action setpieces involving everything from Martial Arts, gun-fu, blow-ups, and even a bow and arrow. Its artistic soul meshes well with the violence. The overall effect is intoxicating and adds up to be, we believe, a must-see.

Since this is quite obviously a work where the filmmakers clearly had high standards of quality, the whole thing seems solid and professionally made on every level - writing, directing, and, notably, the cinematography. It's all very solid, and it's comforting feeling you're in competent hands. Naturally, fan favorite Mark Dacascos shines in the role that he was perhaps born to play. Co-star Julie Condra must have been impressed - they later married. They are backed up by some familiar names: Rae Dawn Chong and Tcheky Karyo are on board and acquit themselves well, though, interestingly, Condra and Karyo were overdubbed by Deborah Kara Unger and Ron Perlman, respectively. Other B-Movie stalwarts are here to be found too, such as Byron Mann and Jerry Wasserman (check out our Virtual Assassin review for the reason why we're always pointing out these unsung actors) - and lest we forget fan favorite Mako.

A little over an hour in there's a bit of a lull, but that's common and to be expected. That's really the only criticism we have of Crying Freeman. And unlike most of its other brethren from 1995, this seems far more timeless. Shockingly - criminally - this didn't receive a U.S. VHS release during the video store era, and only came out here on DVD quietly in 2008, and that release is now out of print. There are some fine international releases out there, and even a Blu-Ray now. But why this didn't come out here when it would have done the most good for its reputation is puzzling and maddening. I guess it's all part of the adventure of movie watching and collecting - you never know what you're going to find, or where you're going to find it. Occasionally you turn up a gem like this.

Crying Freeman should be more well-known, especially in the U.S. We absolutely recommend this enjoyable winner of a film.

It tested our patience to the limit, 27 January 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It appears that sometime in the year 2047, some bad guys called the Confederate Central Government, or CCG, is up to no good. Just exactly what they want is not made clear. The top brass at CCG are Colonel Asimov (Hauer) and Major Anderson (Hannah). A soldier on the opposing side, which is evidently called GreenWar (not to be confused with anything else that may be a bit more peaceful) named Ryan Willburn (Baldwin) is sent into some sort of danger zone to collect evidence against the CCG. If they're so all-powerfully evil, we're not sure why this is necessary. The man sending him on the mission is named Sponge (Glover) and he spouts nonsense philosophy and types away on old-school computers. Things get complicated for Willburn's mission when he meets an Avatar-style mutant/alien/whatever named Tuag (Leoni). When the CCG hires a flashy mercenary named Lobo (Madsen) to do God-knows-what, chaos breaks loose. Apparently chaos can be quite boring. Anyway, will Ryan Willburn and Tuag live to look confused in the dark again? Don't bother finding out...

We're not sure what this was supposed to be, exactly. There's no there there. Death Squad is a movie that runs solely on the charisma of the actors involved, and nothing else. If it didn't have Hauer, Hannah, Madsen, and Baldwin, and had a bunch of no-name actors running around in the dark on the one set they had, it would have been complete torture to watch (AKA Albert Pyun-level). As it stands, there are moments that you think just may be entertaining enough to be stupid. Either that, or moments that are stupid enough to be entertaining. We're still not sure which.

Whenever Madsen is on screen, he livens things up. He has a cool coat and even his own theme music. This time, his attitude of not caring is entirely justified. The audience can relate. Rutger Hauer spits out some nonsensical dialogue and seems confused. Daryl Hannah is there as one of the Nazi-esque soldiers, and Baldwin was clearly recalling his role as Weed in the classic Dead Weekend (1995). Danny Glover does what we call a 'sit-down' role, though we think he stands up briefly at one point. There's even what we call the PT (Prerequisite Torture), but this time it's PTT - the Prerequisite Torture of Tuag. All of this should have hit video stores somewhere between 1998 and 2003. Yet, inexplicably, it came out in 2014. Audiences should demand to know why.

While, yes, the movie has no structure, it's filmed on what appears to be one set, in the dark, actors look at computerized screens and say nonsensical things for 80 minutes, and it's all doubtlessly stupid, it's still better than April Rain (2014). That's the tricky thing about watching - and reviewing - movies. Whether you realize it or not, it's all about context. If you watch April Rain, then just about anything else, the movie you watch after that is going to seem good - perhaps better than you'd normally think it would be. Your experience is colored by subconscious comparison. If we had watched something really awesome beforehand, we might be tougher on Death Squad, but because we watched April Rain the day before, we were in a really forgiving mood. All that being said, it still tested our patience to the limit and we came away unhappy.

Irons makes this a classy revenge film, 13 January 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jack Elgin (Irons) is a hardworking magazine editor. He loves his wife, son, and daughter, and he decides to combine work with a family vacation when they all fly to India. Unfortunately, terrorists hijack the plane and kill a lot of people along the way - including two members of the Elgin family. Suddenly, the genteel Elgin becomes irritated and aggressive, and has revenge on his mind. After, typically, trying all the traditional channels to get justice, he realizes the only true justice will come by his own hand. Along his road to revenge he meets CIA agent Davidson (Priestley), FBI agent Bernard (Whitaker), and reconnects with old contacts such as a woman named Kate (Rampling). Will our unorthodox hero iron out the bad guys once and for all...or will he find out he has too many IRONS in the fire? Find out today...

Before Taken (2008), Before Harry Brown (2009), before The Gunman (2015), and before the trend of what Hollywood snidely dubbed "GeriAction", we had The Fourth Angel. If a bunch of high-class British people made a Death Wish sequel in their own milieu, and instead of Charles Bronson got Jeremy Irons, The Fourth Angel would be the likely result. There's something awesome about Jeremy Irons one minute wearing white pants and a polo sweater or off pheasant hunting, and the next minute he's wearing the time-honored Revenge Jacket, speeding down the street on a motorcycle, smoking a cigarette and blowing away the bad guys with an arsenal of guns and grenades.

Director John Irvin, who has had a long and distinguished career but would be known to us and fans of the site as the director of the classic Arnie vehicle Raw Deal (1986) - no one gives Schwarzenegger a Raw Deal, just in case you forgot - and Dot.Kill (2005), does more than a solid job; he is in control of the proceedings and directs with style, excitement, and fluidity. The Fourth Angel rarely gets boring, and you really care about Jack and his son. You truly want Jack to blow the baddies to kingdom come, but with style, aplomb, and some classic British restraint.

The movie delivers the goods on a lot of levels, and is a satisfying watch. Irons is backed up well by his co-stars: Rampling has a small role but always adds something to whatever she's in, Forest Whitaker we all know has charisma and commitment, and Jason Priestley is too old to be a teenager, but too young to be a CIA agent. He's caught in the middle, age-wise, but we're glad he's here. We guessed the filmmakers thought Luke Perry would be too much of a Himbo to take on the role. So naturally they got Priestley instead.

The Fourth Angel is certainly what you would call a classy revenge film, which shows that our favorite subgenre has many flavors and varieties. Just when you think you've seen 'em all, along comes Jeremy Irons to show terrorists the true meaning of "Class Warfare"! We give a hearty recommendation to this fine film.

Very enjoyable to watch., 1 January 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Mark Fierro (Testi) is a pretty top-notch COTE (or Cop On The Edge, as we call them), who is transferred from his normal district of Tampa, Florida to Miami to where all the action is. It seems there is a gang war going on, with drug-related murders galore, and Fierro takes it upon himself, personally, to stop it. Of course, his partner Hoagy O'Toole (Nummi) - who is not an overweight Bond girl - is along for the ride as well. Of course, Fierro finds time for romance with an attorney named Lori (Cavalli) while he fights his way to the main mob boss, Tony Romeo (Guerrini), but he also has to try to repair his relationship with his daughter Paloma (Bellini). In the midst of all the warring factions, will Mark Fierro emerge as the...FIRST ACTION HERO? Of all the contemporary titles to cash in on, it seems sort of odd for someone to pick the classic (?) Arnie vehicle Last Action Hero (1993), especially since this is a sort of latter-day Poliziotteschi and Austin O'Brien is nowhere in sight. We're huge fans of Fabio Testi - his The Heroin Busters (1977) alone puts him in the action movie firmament forever - but, let's face it, he's not the first action hero. That's clearly Jesus. Or maybe Imhotep. We're not sure how far back "first" really entails. The original title, Il Burattinaio, translates from the Italian as something like "The Puppetmaster". Why couldn't they have left it at that? But, quibbling about the title aside, if you love those great Italian crime films of the 70's but always wished you could see one set in Florida and everyone wears 90's-style high-waisted pants, your dream has come true.

We get some funny dubbing, some great, breezy music on the soundtrack (by director Grassia with Aldo Tamborelli), and classic characters like Spuds and Hoagy. Hoagy, of course, not to be confused with Hogie from Detention (2003) and the classic, anguished cry of "HOOOAaaaaggyyyyyy!!!!" The TV show Miami Vice went off the air in 1990, and Miami Beach Cops came out in 1992, so the world was prepared for the Miami-set action of First Action Hero in 1994. It was pretty common for Italian filmmakers to come to the U.S. and shoot their films there, however.

There are some baddies that show up at funerals and hospitals and shoot people with machine guns. That's considerate of them, at least their respective victims are in the right place. Sometimes these masked shooters even wear "X" baseball caps, further reinforcing the 90's vibe. But overall it was great to see a then-53-year-old Testi blowing away the bad guys like nobody's business, mouthing off to his superiors, speeding around Miami, and even letting sticks of dynamite show his enemies his own brand of justice. Even into the 90's, he was an awesome dude with an attitude.

Speaking of which, it all comes to a bang-up climax which is very, very enjoyable to watch. Sure, there are some slow moments throughout the 100-minute-plus running time as Testi puts on his detective hat and tries getting answers from people the old-fashioned way - not to mention the drama entailed by his relationship with his daughter, his partner, and his girlfriend - but all that's to be expected and we really had no problem with it. Especially when that jaunty song comes on, followed quickly by a scene of mindless shooting.

If you've seen every Poliziotteschi movie out there and are still craving for more, First Action Hero, while certainly not perfect, probably shouldn't be last on your list.

Point Doom (2000)
"Grieco Suave", 24 December 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Rick Hansen (Grieco) is a Hollywood talent agent lookin' for love in all the wrong places - namely, the Play Pen, his local strip club. When he goes there to visit his buddy Frankie (The Diceman), the club's owner, Rick is served by a waitress named Stephanie (O'Dell). Instantly enraptured by her, he essentially stalks her until she agrees to do a screen test for him. Unfortunately for the lovesick Rick, Stephanie is in an abusive relationship with a murderous biker named Blackie (Enos III), who has a mean jealous streak. He and his violent gang, the Satan's Slaves - which includes Spider (Galligan) - have stolen some money and drugs, and their rivals, who include Ringman (Ice-T) and Slim (Sebastian Bach) want them bach. Sorry, back. As if all that wasn't enough, Stephanie also lives with, and cares for, her epileptic sister Jessica (Everhart). Does Rick Hansen know the maelstrom of trouble he's just walked into? Will things finally all come to a head at...POINT DOOM?

According to Wikipedia, "Point Dume is a promontory on the coast of Malibu, California that juts out into the Pacific Ocean. The point, a long bluff, forms the northern end of Santa Monica bay." The mysterious elves that write Wikipedia entries might be more right than they realize, as Point Doom is indeed a long bluff, at an overlong 99 minutes - and we're not sure what the point actually was. Once again, we've been snookered by what we call the Lone Tiger Effect - when you want to see a movie because of its great cast, but the movie itself is not so hot. It was directed by our old buddy Art Camacho (we don't actually know him, but we feel as if we do because we've seen his name in the credits so many times), and, yes, it is a low-budget DTV movie from 2000. Our expectations should have been lower because of the latter fact. But let's break this down:

- Zach Galligan - as a member of the Galligang, he plays a heavy and seems to be running from his past as a Gremlin wrangler.

- John Enos III plays almost the same role as he did in Missionary Man (2007), as the memorably-named Jarfe.

- Angie Everhart, like Galligan, stretches in an unglamorous role as a woman with medical problems who mainly wears sweatpants.

- Sebastian Bach was a welcome and unusual presence and deserved more screen time. He must have been a "slave to the grind" of this particular production. Hmm.

- Ice-T had some funny and ridiculous dialogue, which of course was delivered in that inimitable Ice-Tean way.

- Richard Grieco is "Grieco Suave" as he plays the romantic lead - though in the "talent agent vs. biker" fight...well, we'll let you guess who wins.

- Jennifer O'Dell - we don't have much to say, other than that she wears some pretty outstanding outfits.

- Andrew "Dice" Clay steals the movie with his charisma, and is, funnily enough, the voice of reason amongst all the crazy goings-on. His thick Brooklyn accent is unmistakable.

The movie suffers from bad pacing - it starts off with a bang, but it didn't know to quit while it was ahead, and some editing problems hamper things as well. Though on the bright side, there is a PM-style car flip/blow-up, and Enos rides his motorcycle in slo-mo away from the flames. Of course, there's the time-honored barfight, but this one features a White Zombie song during the brain cell-depleting stupidity. Besides some of our favorite B-Movie names in unorthodox roles, Point Doom is also noteworthy in that it features some original songs by the original artists - Motley Crue, Motorhead, and the very catchy 80's classic "White Horse" by Laid Back. But despite the cast and soundtrack, Point Doom is junky, too long, and needed a lot more pep in certain places.

Much like Cape Fear, you'd have to be pretty brave to venture a trip to Point Doom. But if you've wanted to see Sebastian Bach shoot and punch people, this is the movie for you.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
This movie rocks, plus it has...get ready for this - SIX training montages!, 9 December 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Searching for answers about his brother's murder, Danny (Adkins) returns to Green Street and his old Firm (apparently a collection of soccer hooligans who support a certain team) after some time away. If it's one thing the GSE, or Green Street Elite, like to do, it's brawl. But the brawling went too far, and Danny is mad. He's also disappointed that the once-triumphant GSE has decayed and is no longer on top. So he takes second in command, Gilly (Doolan), and whips him and the Firm into shape with a comprehensive training regimen. Meanwhile, Danny and DCI Jones (Ansah) are at odds with how to deal with murder and hooliganism in the Firm (s). In order to get close to the truth, Danny has to now fight in brutal, no-holds-barred group Punchfighting free-for-alls with various other UK Firms. He also finds time for love with beautiful barmistress Molly (Barnfield). The inevitable final battle eventually takes place with arch-baddie Mason (Wilding), and there are some twists and turns along the way to justice…but will Danny get there in one piece? Find out today! We loved Green Street 3, and we're happy that the franchise was re-purposed from an Elijah Wood drama to a Scott Adkins Punchfighter in two easy steps. Notice they took out the word "Hooligans" from the title. Kind of like how Rambo III (1988) should be First Blood III, but who's counting? Anyway, GS3 is everything this kind of movie should be, and perhaps just a bit more. It relies on tried and true 80's traditions to come out with a completely winning formula. Hey, why mess with perfection? The filmmakers had the wisdom to realize this when so many others don't. That's just one reason why GS3 delivers the goods in spades.

Notably, GS3 would totally work as a drama if all the fighting was taken out. It has that gray-skies, "kitchen sink"-style drama the British are so good at - what we call Brit Grit - it just so happens that they added Punchfighting and brawling to the mix, to excellent effect. Fan favorite Scott Adkins is in his element and in top form, and the rest of the cast is top-notch as well. The cinematography is effective and non-junky looking, thankfully. Awesomely, the score by Paul Arnold and Andrew Barnabas is synth-drenched and you can't help but recall the golden 80's. The movie even ends on a freeze-frame. As if that wasn't enough, one Leavon Archer contributes two Totally 80's-style songs, "Pushing Back" and "Trouble", further reinforcing the coolness.

And there ought to be 80's-style songs, as there are - get ready for this - SIX training montages. We haven't seen this many training montages since Rocky IV (1985). We love a good training montage, and we give the movie a lot of credit for having the guts to do this and not caring what anybody thinks. If the music wasn't good and we weren't invested in the story and Scott Adkins wasn't involved, it might not have worked, but it totally does. We wanted to get in shape like Gilly and the gang and we were cheering. Also, they PRACTICE their head-butting technique on the heavy bag. And Gilly goes into Punchfighting brawls wearing a sweater and a collared shirt. Only in the UK, we guess.

So wipe away your depression, grab a few pints, and enter the Punch-brawling (yet another new term?) world of Green Street 3. You'll be glad you did.

April Rain (2014)
A background bag of Kettle Chips steal the show., 24 November 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Watching The Weather Channel provides more thrills and excitement than this movie. Here's our forecast: you won't be watching this anytime soon. Man, we really suffer for this site. We've sat through plenty of turkeys, and...this is another one. While this does have that low-budget, painfully DTV look, those aren't the main problems. The whole tone of the movie just seems off - it will occasionally lapse into being a soap opera, then there's a silly shootout, then some horribly-written dialogue delivered flatly, then maybe some gangsterism, then some CW channel-style teen drama, and all of it comes out of nowhere and serves no real purpose.

Is this supposed to be an action movie? It's hard to tell what the filmmakers were thinking, or even if English was their first language. Maybe something got lost in translation. But they did manage to get some DTV-level names for the cast, which is more than you might expect. Former teen heartthrob Andrew Keegan isn't on the cover of Tiger Beat magazine he's some sort of Russian mobster. And Vincent Spano is a SWAT team member with marital problems. Okay. Luke Goss is a cop who is somewhat on the edge, but doesn't seem to be able to muster up enough enthusiasm to really be on said edge. Ming-Na Wen is his boss. There's a bunch of overlong dialogue scenes that are pretty childish. And speaking of stuff that's juvenile...

A main part of the threat that our heroes are fighting against in this movie is the potential onslaught of terrorists on scooters. SCOOTERS. This is taken gravely seriously in the world of April Rain. To prove this point, there's an amazingly not-badass scooter chase that director Luciano Saber probably thought was amazingly badass. Rather than a fighting force of anti-terror warriors, it looks like a dry-run rehearsal for a Sugar Ray video.

During one of the unnecessary soap opera scenes, which takes place in a kitchen, Luke Goss is on one side of the screen, his wife is on the other, and a bag of Kettle Chips are dead center between them. For a long time. The Kettle Chips steal the show. The dialogue WE were having during this scene was more drama-intensive: "Oh, this family buys Kettle Chips? Cool." "I wonder what flavor?" "Well, that's the red bag, so, what is that..." "I think it may be barbecue." "I don't like barbecue flavored chips. That's like taking a bite of barbecue sauce. I find that gross" "Okay, whatever, weirdo." This is sparklingly witty dialogue compared to the leaden dullery that is April Rain. And there's some of our hated bathroom humor/dialogue that we hate and always rail against. The strikes against the movie are piling up fast.

If you - yes, YOU reading this right now - got your friends together, broke out the old Go Pro or some other video camera, and tried to make a movie, odds are it would be vastly better than April Rain. How unmitigated crud like this gets made and distributed will always mystify us. Looks like it's heading for the sewer...

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Mercenaries is a well-meaning trifle., 6 November 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When the President's daughter travels to Kazakhstan and then gets kidnapped by the evil Ulrika (Nielsen) and her henchman Gregori (Abell), a government agent named Mona (Rothrock) does the only logical thing - she assembles a team of female prisoners (with pasts appropriate to this task, of course). Led by Cassandra Clay (Bell), the other team members include Raven (Fox), Kat (Loken), and Mei-Lin (Bilderback). Armed to the teeth and with nothing to lose, the ladies embark on the deadly mission, facing everything from sexism to RPG's along the way. Will they come out victorious? Will they rescue the President's daughter? What will happen to the baddies when they face the MERCENARIES? In the grand tradition of Hell Squad (1986), Sweet Justice (1992), and Mankillers (1987), Mercenaries is the latest in the lineage of low-budget DTV "assemble a female team" movies. While the brief seems to have been "create a DTV, all-female Expendables", the end result is more in line with the three films mentioned above. Not that that's such a bad thing, of course. But Mercenaries is just a bit too silly for its own good. If they could have dialed down some of the more inane and/or sophomoric elements just a tad, and taken the whole project slightly more seriously, we might have more of a winner here.

Top marks go to our new hero Zoe Bell, arguably the best part of the movie. While the other Mercenaries were off experiencing the time-honored Prerequisite Torture, Bell goes off on her own, and we appreciated that. We hope to see more of her in front of the camera (for those who don't know, she's an experienced stuntwoman). Overall, though, it seems the filmmakers were going for a bit of a lark - a reasonably pleasant piece of entertainment you don't have to think about too hard (or at all). But where's the line between that and something that's just really dumb? Mercenaries certainly defines that line.

Sure, it has some of those needless, modern-day editing tricks, and the production values are very cheap-looking (as befitting of The Asylum production company), and the green screen/CGI quotient is unhealthy, but on the brighter side it has some classic 80's/90's style clichés - the wacky transportation driver, "It's an election year", and some un-PC dialogue (mostly centered around Mei-Lin). The comic-booky vibe is sledgehammered in with some interstitial cuts to comic book frames, an editing device pretty much universally frowned-upon when it came to that new cut of The Warriors (1979). Why Mercenaries chose to do it remains an open question.

There is plenty of groan-inducing dialogue as well, and top fan favorite Cynthia Rothrock has only one, all-too-brief fight scene. All the ladies, generally speaking, acquit themselves well, which is why we wished the overall product had more weight and heft to it, instead of being the aforementioned lark. It's easy viewing, to be sure, and we like the tradition it falls in, so we're willing to cut it some slack. But the silliness/dumbness factor reaches ??? proportions, so it's kind of a wash.

In the end, Mercenaries is a well-meaning trifle, buoyed by Zoe Bell and her cohorts. We personally would have liked some more grit, however.

Ninja (2009)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
It's a fun and enjoyable watch, 23 October 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Casey Bowman (Adkins) is the lone white student at a dojo in Japan, among a class studying the ancient art of Ninjitsu. His father was stationed in Okinawa as a G.I., and this is the only culture he knows. When a fellow student, Masazuka (Ihara), attacks Casey in anger during a sparring exercise, he is banned from the school by the sensei. Naturally, that drives him to become an evil ninja who uses hi-tech weaponry and does the bidding of an evil cult in America. Meanwhile, the sensei entrusts Casey and fellow student/love interest Namiko (Hijii) to protect something called the Yoroi Bitsu, the historical ninja outfit and weaponry. They travel to New York City and proceed to fight waves of baddies to protect their honor and the Yoroi Bitsu. Things get complicated after Casey and Namiko are arrested by NYC cop Det. Traxler (Jensen), but eventually the inevitable happens: the final showdown between Casey and Masazuka. Who will be the ultimate NINJA? Entertainment and good times abound with this throwback to the 80's Ninja Boom. Fan favorite director Florentine is at the top of his game as he delivers action-packed fights and well-choreographed action (along with his trademark "whooshing" sound effects), while frequent collaborator in front of the camera and fellow fan favorite Scott Adkins is also in fine form. Adkins is always enjoyable to watch, and when he's put in roles like this, he can really shine. No wonder there was a Ninja 2 (2013) - fans clearly wanted more, and we can see why.

Like any good action movie, Ninja actually has a strong, central hero in Adkins (and his trusty sidekick Hijii) as well as a super-evil baddie. Ihara makes a great foil for Adkins as he plays the bad ninja - the guy who was expelled from the dojo and proceeds to break from ancient ninja tradition by using cheats like night-vision goggles. Ninja - the movie - deserves credit for actually trying to imbue the plot with history and true ninja tradition. There's a (comically fast) scroll at the beginning informing us of the history of Ninjitsu, and a few re-enactments as well. This sets the stage for the action we are about to see.

Ninja delivers the goods - cool ninja violence and a panoply of engaging fight scenes. If we have ONE criticism it's the over-use (or use, period) of CGI - and because it's Nu Image, we all know what this looks like - but Ninja gets a pass because all the rest is good, and because it's in that Florentine style we all know and love: exaggerated motions and big, oversized actions. And there's plenty of real Martial Arts and stunts as well. So, it's all good. We'll let the CGI stuff go in this instance.

Plus, Masazuka is the first Cyber Ninja we've seen since…well, Cyber Ninja (1988). He's also a Cyber Ninja with a machine gun. This is awesome. We haven't seen a ninja with a machine gun since Ninja III:The Domination (1984), so, it was more than welcome. We also liked the wackier elements of the plot, such as the Temple cult. What made it great is that it wasn't needed at all, but it was totally welcome. A final observation: in the on screen title at the beginning of the movie, in the word NINJA, the "A" is a throwing star. We need more clever, cool details like this in movies. Though due to their censorship and hatred of throwing stars, it's likely that in the UK this movie is called NINJ. We're imagining it crudely crossed out with a crayon.

In the final analysis, this particular Florentine/Adkins collaboration has cranked out another winner and kept DTV from going into the doldrums for the time being. Not everyone could have pulled from the Ninja Boom well and done it so successfully, so, they deserve credit. It's a fun and enjoyable watch, and we recommend it.

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