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Would have been far more absorbing with Kwan at its centre, 3 December 2017

Peter Weir's The Year of Living Dangerously is now an Australian classic and, along with the likes of Panic at Hanging Rock and Gallipoli, helped establish Weir as a film-maker to watch our for and eased his inevitable transition to Hollywood. Living Dangerously may now be a more obviously flawed film in 2017 than it was back in '82, but it still retains a sense of raw power stemming from an uncanny sense of place and danger. The setting is Indonesia, 1965, and President Sukarno's grasp on power is quickly fading. It's the eve of his overthrowing by the military and the communist purge that quickly followed, and journalists in Jakarta huddle in sweaty bars, feeding on scraps thrown to them by Sukarno, knocking back beers and chasing tail to pass the time.

The last guy left in a hurry, so young Australian foreign correspondent Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) arrives in Jakarta without a single informant or friend to lean on. The diplomats and fellow journalists who inhabit the same bar every night take no pity on him, but sympathetic Chinese-Australian dwarf named Billy Kwan sees something in the handsome, chain-smoking young man and decides to help him. Kwan believes strongly in Sukarno, the President his own people has dubbed the 'Puppet Master' due to his ability to keep the peace between the Communist Party and the military, and that he will save his poverty-stricken people from starvation. As well as setting up a key interview for the young journalist, he also introduces Hamilton to Jill Bryant (Sigourney Weaver), a beautiful assistant working for the British embassy. As the conflict heats up and the stories become juicier and more perilous, Hamilton must choose between his job, his lover and his close friend.

The flaws of The Year of Living Dangerously are more apparent now, 35 years after its release, as the idea of cinema's tendency to 'whitewash' is now more openly discussed. It becomes clear very quickly that the most interesting character in the film is Billy Kwan. He has a much more personal attachment to the events playing out, and proves a more charismatic screen presence than Gibson's blander outsider. He is also played astonishingly well by Linda Hunt, the only actor to win an Academy Award for the playing a character of the opposite sex. When Kwan retreats into the background around the half-way mark, the focus shifts to the blossoming romance between Hamilton and Bryant, and the film becomes far less interesting in the process. However, there are some terrific individual scenes. The initial excitement of shooting a violent protest quickly gets out of hand, and a horrifyingly tense slow-drive through a heavily-armed road-block will leave you holding your breath. Yet it's difficult to shake the feeling that Weir's movie would have been far more absorbing with Kwan as the driving force at its centre.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Chilling and oddly beautiful, 2 December 2017

The premise of David Lowery's A Ghost Story is very simple indeed. A man (played by Casey Affleck) dies in a car crash, only for his spirit to remain in the land of the living to watch over his grieving widow (played by Rooney Mara). He stays with her in the home they made together - a home, we will come to learn, that she wanted to leave, despite his wish to remain in the quiet, isolated area he felt so comfortable in. It sounds like the stuff of emotionally manipulative Hollywood schmaltz, but Lowery's interests stretch much, much further than themes of sorrow and the search for closure. It reaches way into the cosmos, seeking to understand our place in the universe and within the infinity of time itself.

One of the most striking aspects of A Ghost Story is the appearance of the ghost itself. Draped in a white sheet complete with cut-out eye holes, Affleck drifts through the film with slow steps, longing stares and brief fits of rage. As his lifeless body lies on the mortuary table, the camera lingers for what seems like an eternity, as we wait for the jump-shock that horror movies have taught us to expect. However, when he sits up slowly, sheet still draped over his face, and begins to study his surroundings like a lost animal, the effect is miraculous. It's certainly chilling, but also oddly beautiful. I don't know if much thought went into the design and weight of the white sheet, but Affleck manages to express himself astonishingly well without the benefit of being visible. Things start to get weirder and more ambitious as Mara's character moves out of the house to move on with her life.

We witness the passing of time from the ghost's perspective. In the blink of an eye, a Hispanic family has moved in. This enrages him, and the family experience poltergeist activity. Then, some party- goers inhabit the house, before it is eventually knocked down and replaced by office buildings. Still the ghost stalks the corridors waiting for... something, occasionally conversing with the ghost next door. Time passes like half-remembered memories, and we eventually come full circle. Made quickly and cheaply shortly after post-production for Pete's Dragon had been completed and reuniting Lowery with his Ain't Them Bodies Saints stars, the slow and deliberate pace of A Ghost Story will likely put many viewers off, especially those seeking out a traditional spook tale. But patience is a virtue, and the effects are long-standing, resonating far deeper than most movies could ever dream of.

5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Style over substance, 1 December 2017

There is a scene about two-thirds into Atomic Blonde that will likely go down in cinema history as one of the most exhilarating displays of visual trickery and good-ol' fashioned stunt work that the action genre has ever offered. Charlize Theron's MI6 spook enters an apartment building in pre-Wall collapse Berlin with a wounded informant and battles gun-toting thugs up and down stairs, in and out of various rooms, using fists, knives, a crowbar, and just about anything else she can lay her hands on. It's a kinetic, utterly dazzling set-piece that eventually takes the violence outside and into a moving car, all in one long, mind-bogglingly complex take. It comes as no surprise that David Leitch, an uncredited director behind 2014's sleeper hit John Wick, is the man calling the shots.

This spectacular moment justifies whatever entry fee you paid to see Atomic Blonde, and highlights just what can be achieved with action cinema when a director like Leitch is the puppet-master behind it. Yet it also underlines the lack of heart and intrigue contained within the rest of this tale of double-agents and double-crosses whenever Theron's Lorraine Broughton isn't kicking butt. She is sent to a Berlin bristling with tension and distrust after MI6 agent James Gascoigne (Sam Hargrave) is murdered by KGB agent Yuri Bakhtin (Johannes Haukur Johannesson) and a wristwatch containing a microfilm list of intelligence agents is stolen. Her task is to find the list, assassinate a double agent known as Satchel, and rendezvous with David Percival (James McAvoy), a fellow agent who has recently 'gone feral'. Matters are complicated when Lorraine falls for young French agent Delphine (Sofia Boutella), and Stasi informant Spyglass (Eddie Marsan) reveals that he has memorised the contents of the microfilm.

Based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart's graphic novel The Coldest City and re-titled Atomic Blonde to suit the 80's setting, the film looks slick, colourful and chocked full of period detail. While the grey streets of Berlin are laced with ice and stalked by shadowy double agents, the interiors show the German capital in 1989 as a catwalk for the newest fashions and a platform for great music. Theron dons a variety of outfits to suit whatever role she is playing in her mission, naturally looking great in the process, and will likely make many teenagers' dreams come true in her steamy scenes with Boutella. It's all very superficial, with very few characters succeeding to engage on an emotional level. Spyglass, a man trying to save his family from falling into the hands of the Russians and using every tool at his disposal to do so, is the most interesting character in the film. Marsan is always a delight to watch, and it's a shame he doesn't feature more than he does.

Although she certainly looks terrific, Lorraine doesn't really seem to do all that much. Her approach is to enter a room looking fabulous, receive information from the dodgiest-looking person in there, and proceed to dispatch anybody foolish enough to confront her. She's a wafer-thin protagonist, but Theron brings a great physicality to the role, and the actress is now the most accomplished action star working today. As Percival, McAvoy continues to impress with his ability to juggle the good guy, bad guy act. He did so to great effect in Trance and Split, and here he injects a Tyler Durden-esque fashion sense and swagger to his punk- rock rogue agent who may be Lorraine's largest obstacle. Ultimately, Atomic Blonde is a handsome, exciting action movie with fantastic physical performances all round and a central set-piece that will leave you as breathless as its participants. Anyone hoping for a deeper exploration of the shady world it so wonderfully sets up will leave frustratingly underwhelmed.

Grand Hotel (1932/I)
Would go on to inspire as much greatness as it would drudgery, 30 November 2017

Back in the early 1930's, the big Hollywood studios were most comfortable allotting just one major star to their productions, or maybe two if the feature was particularly romance-focused. This was still the early days of the 'talkie' era, and directors were too busy exploring new ways to exploit this wonderful new technological advancement to focus their attention on much else. Studios preferred to have a large roster of A-list talent under contract, leading men and women whose name alone on the post could attract a crowd. But one day, MGM producer Irving Thalberg had the bright idea to lump them all together into one massive superstar extravaganza. Adapted by William A. Drake from his own play (which was based on Vicki Baum's novel Menschen im Hotel), Grand Hotel went on to inspire the ensemble movies of Robert Altman and Paul Thomas Anderson, as well as the A-list smorgasbords of Garry Marshall's holiday-themed dreck.

The magnificence of Berlin's Grand Hotel attracts all kinds of people, each with their own story to tell. Baron Felix von Geigern (John Barrymore) has squandered his vast fortune and spends his time trying to recuperate his losses playing card games and stealing jewels. He has his eyes set on a pearl necklace owned by depressed Russian ballerina Grusinskya (Greta Garbo), but he is enough of a decent chap to befriend Otto (Lionel Barrymore), a dying accountant who decides to live life to the fullest before his time runs out. Otto's arrogant boss Preysing (Wallace Beery) is also staying at the hotel, fretting to his new stenographer Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford) over an important business deal that appears to be heading south. While attempting to swipe the valuable necklace, Felix finds himself in love with the sad dancer and unable to go through with the heist. With money to re-pay and a late-night train to catch, will fate and the events at the Grand Hotel allow them to be together?

Winner of Best Picture at the 1932 Academy Awards (despite failing to receive a nomination in any category) and now entered into the U.S. National Film Registry, Grand Hotel's reputation and influence may flatter the actual film somewhat. This is pure Hollywood fluff, laying the foundation for a formula still employed today. Yet Edmund Goulding's film is also witty and well-performed by a cast of recognisable faces, particularly the two Barrymores and Garbo: The latter's immortal line "I want to be alone," became a famous metaphor for the actress's personal life. William H. Daniel's cinematography refuses to remain static like many features of the 30's, using the impressive set to its maximum potential and establishing the luxurious building as a character itself as it influences its inhabitants' lives and decisions. It's no year's best picture, but its fascinating to watch the groundwork being laid for a formula that would go on to inspire as much greatness as it would drudgery.

One of the more intriguing entries into the short-lived folk horror sub-genre, 27 November 2017

Michael Reeves' horror classic Witchfinder General made an impressive turnaround at the box-office in spite of its modest budget. Following the witch-hunting exploits of Matthew Hopkins in 17th century England, the movie was disturbing, gruesome, and neatly disguised as a history lesson in an attempt to dodge the censors. The success of Witchfinder naturally led to more witch-trial horror films, most famously being Ken Russell's The Devils, although he denies he was inspired by a film he called "nauseous." It was a big hit in Germany, and their own stab at the folk horror sub-genre came in the form of Michael Armstrong's Mark of the Devil. Using clever marketing (posters warned of a V for Violence certificate and theatres handed out vomit bags to the audience), it was a runaway success, although it has spent the past few decades caught up in the video nasty storm and hacked to pieces in the editing room.

In a small town in early 18th-century Austria, residents are routinely treated to public executions of those accused of dabbling in the dark arts. In charge of finding the witches hiding in their midst and torturing them to confess is Albino (Reggie Nalder), an ugly man who accuses any unfortunate young woman who spurns his advances of performing witchcraft. Albino enjoys and abuses his position of power, until the dashing Count Christian von Meruh (Udo Kier) arrives in town, quickly catching the eye of beautiful, buxom barmaid Vanessa (Olivera Katarina). He is there to announce that famed and highly-respected witch hunger Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom) will soon be joining him to put an end to the folly carried out by Albino and his cronies. But when Vanessa stands accused of false charges of baring the 'mark of the devil', the Count starts to question his master's methods and motivations, as well as that of the Church.

Mark of the Devil is one of those few horror movies that actually lives up to its reputation. While it certainly isn't the most horrifying film ever made and won't upset your stomach (as the poster claims), it revels in the many scenes of torture and death. Joints are ripped from sockets, digits are squashed, a tongue is removed, and many are burned alive, and almost every torture device imaginable is employed. These scenes initially have the desired effect, but the narrative quickly falls into a repetitive cycle of violence and badly handled love scenes between the Count and Vanessa frolicking on the grass, made all the worse by some atrocious dubbing. It does make a legitimate point however, and points a finger at the hypocrisy of an institution who torture and murder 'by the book' while looking down on the likes of Albino for doing the same for sexual gratification. It would be difficult to admit to 'liking' Mark of the Devil, but it sits as one of the more intriguing entries into the short-lived sub-genre.

Brimstone (2016)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An exercise in misery, 26 November 2017

Only a few famous cinematic figures can get away with using their surname only when headlining a poster or introducing a movie's title. Schwarzenegger and Stallone get away with it, as would the likes of Spielberg, Kubrick and Hitchcock if they were that way inclined. In an incredible display of confidence in his work, Dutch director Martin Koolhoven opens his latest film with the title of 'Koolhoven's Brimstone', a brave move for a filmmaker few outside of the Netherlands will have heard of. He clearly takes himself very seriously, and Brimstone just may be the most serious film of the year in the way the director soaks the film with such a biblical doom-and-gloom atmosphere that it would be difficult to watch without a chin-stroke or two.

Focusing on the life of a young mute woman named Liz, played by Dakota Fanning, in a particularly brutal Old West, Brimstone is a commentary on both the strength of woman and the sadistic nature of man. Liz holds a position of respect in the town due to her midwifing skills, but when a problematic birth leads to a decision between mother or baby, she is targeted by the residents as a murderer. Things get worse when The Reverend (Guy Pearce) walks into town. He is a stoic, imposing figure eager to reinforce God's fury to his congregation, and expects total obedience in return. Liz clearly shares a history with him, and is eternally terrified in his presence. This is the first of four stories played out of order, flashing back to Liz's time in a brothel under the orders of violent owner Frank (Paul Anderson), and forward again as Liz tries to escape the clutches of The Reverend.

At first, the non-linear narrative structure is interesting, unfolding the story carefully in order to reveal truths that change your outlook of the story. When the film finished, it felt as though it was a mere distraction from the boring central plot. Brimstone is a film about punishment, and the 149-minute running-time seems like a deliberate choice from the director to punish us in the process. It's a gruelling watch; alongside the violence and misogyny of many of its characters, there's also paedophilia, rape, incest, infanticide and hangings. It seems to wallow in the very things it is rallying against, particularly an uncomfortable scene in which The Reverend humiliates his wife (played by Carice van Houten) and forces her to wear a metal bridle in an attempt to destroy her. Things liven up slightly when Kit Harington's injured outlaw arrives on the scene, but by this point you'll be too beaten down by the relentless atmosphere for it to make much of a difference. Brimstone is bold and will likely provoke discussion, but ultimately little more than an exercise in misery.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Feels nothing like a final product, 24 November 2017

Adapting a series of beloved novels spanning thousands of pages and countless characters and worlds into a consumable stand-alone movie was never going to be an easy task. Over the years, many names have been attached to developing Stephen King's Dark Tower novels, including the combined efforts of J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof during their Lost days, and Ron Howard. When it became apparent that these novels were indeed unfilmable, they understandably bailed, and the film found itself in limbo once again. After 10 years of rewrites and personnel changes, The Dark Tower finally arrives in the hands of Nikolaj Arcel, the director of fantastic Danish period drama A Royal Affair. Reports of heavy re-shoots and a frustrated cast was never a good sign, and while it isn't quite the incoherent, tumour-inducing non-entity of Josh Trank's Fantastic Four, The Dark Tower will leave fans of the novels shaking their heads and newcomers scratching them.

The final result is a stuttering mess of disconnected scenes loosely held together by a baffling plot that seems to throw in every fantasy element except the magical kitchen sink. We have a western without the West, a fantasy without the fantastical, and a familiar 'Chosen One' thread fronted by a forgettable child actor. In part a sequel to King's novels and an origin story of sorts, The Dark Tower doesn't know what it is, and increasingly throughout the film it feels as though the studio just stopped trying in the hope that it would eventually make its money back from book fans and teenagers hungry for some fantasy action. Scenes play out with seemingly no connection to what came before and -although I don't know if I was just imagining it or simply looking for something to distract my attention from the sheer tedium of the plot - actors' lips seemed to have been altered by CGI as the script was re-written after scenes were shot. You may also find yourself jolting awake every 5 minutes at the sound of Idris Elba's magical guns.

Eleven year-old Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) possesses the 'Shine', a power of shady definition but one which allows him to subconsciously peer into other worlds. In his dreams, he has visions of a giant dark tower, an evil man in dressed in black intent on bringing down the tower, and a mysterious gunslinger. He draws his visions and hangs them on his bedroom wall, so naturally his mother and douchebag stepfather think he's crazy and arranges for him to spend some time away in a psychiatric facility. He runs away to find a building from his dreams (which just happens to be in his home city of New York), and finds a portal which transports him to the apocalyptic wastelands of Mid- World. There, he quickly encounters the gunslinger from his dreams: A man named Roland Deschain (Elba) who is part of an ancient order of knights who carry out justice with guns forged from Excalibur. He is also visited by the man in black, a sorcerer named Walter Padick (Matthew McConaughey) who aims to harness children's screams in order to topple the Dark Tower holding all the worlds together.

When the film isn't trying to explain everybody's backgrounds to the audience through endless exposition, it expects us to simply accept this nonsense. I haven't read King's books, but it carries a reputation as being a complex and detailed piece of work requiring audience investment to drink in its slow-build approach. Arcel's movie opts to cram as much as it can into just 95 minutes, without dedicating anywhere near enough time to properly explain the universe's mythos. For a film so short and convoluted, it's almost impressive how boring it manages to be. Elba, like he does in most franchise-building, big-budget affair, seems to huff his way through the film with his eyes half-closed as though he is waiting for his next 'serious' project. McConaughey at least injects some energy into his poorly-developed bad guy, although he may just be happy he's not making horrible rom-coms anymore. It's scant praise for a movie that feels nothing like a final product, and more like a bunch of outtakes found in a bin and glued together with Pritt Stick by a janitor with a penchant for generic fantasy CGI.

Intense and well-staged, but nothing we haven't seen before, 22 November 2017

After Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan reinvented the way the brutality and chaos of war was depicted on the cinema screen back in 1998, Hollywood went slightly nuts for all things World War II. At one point, it felt as though we were getting one every other week, and fatigue naturally kicked in, especially since none measured up to Spielberg's visual masterpiece (if very flawed film), other than Terrence Malick's superior The Thin Red Line released the same year. By 2002, attention was moving towards the Vietnam conflict, an unjust and borderline psychotic war that resulting in heavy losses on all sides. It was a favourite topic for many filmmakers in the 1980's, and produced a few greats, but interest seemed to wane as we moved into the 90's. In 2002, We Were Soldiers was supposed to rekindle our fascination with Vietnam, but has since faded into a long list of half-forgotten war movies.

Based on the book We Were Soldiers Once... and Young by Hal Moore and Joseph L. Galloway, Randall Wallace's film attempts to cover the Battle of Ia Drang from three perspectives: the 400 American men fighting at the front, the 4,000 Vietnamese troops they're up against, and the wives at home fearing the arrival of a taxi cab bringing them unwanted news. The bulk of the action follows Moore (Mel Gibson), then a lieutenant colonel, through training his troops and eventually onto the front line, where intelligence is so sparse that they have no idea what they are up against. It turns out that the Americans are greatly outnumbered, and so begins one of the bloodiest battles of the entire war. He is later joined by reporter Galloway (Barry Pepper), who captured much of the conflict on camera as well as picking up a rifle himself. At home, Moore's wife Julie (Madeleine Stowe) intercepts all the letters informing the devastated wives of their loss to hand-deliver them herself.

We Were Soldiers feels like more of a complete overview on the battle thanks to this unique perspective, while the action is some of the toughest and most unflinching in the genre. Perhaps down to its more observational approach - apparently the events take place almost exactly how it played out in real life - the film often gets criticised and labelled as a pro-war movie. I don't feel that what we see is glamorising or promoting war in any way. On the contrary, it refuses to really to take a stand, and this is what makes Wallace's movie far less interesting than it should be. It all boils down to 'war is Hell', but most people know this already whether they have experienced combat or not. The battle scenes are intense, horrifying and well-staged, and demand to be admired from a technical point of view. But it's nothing we haven't seen before. Despite Chris Klein's failure to really convince as a human, We Were Soldiers features many impressive performances, most notably by Sam Elliott as Sgt. Major Plumley, a gruff Sam Elliott-type who mows down his enemies with a revolver while the rest of his men pack automatics, and Gibson himself, who helps tug on the heartstrings during quiet moments of reflection.

Cars 2 (2011)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Feels like a straight-to-DVD short stretched out over 106 minutes, 20 November 2017

Pixar's Cars is now remembered as one of the great studio's rare misfires; a formulaic animated movie that had far more to offer to the children in the audience than to the adults paying for them to be there (although I think it's one of their most misunderstood movies and well worth a re-visit). Despite this, it was a box-office smash and a dream in terms of merchandising. A few years ago, Pixar may have thought twice about extending the story of Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and the town of Radiator Springs without having something new to say, but ever since Disney took over, they've taken a more relaxed attitude towards bending to audience demand and churning out an underdeveloped and unworthy sequel. The result is Cars 2, a mess of a movie with an absence of any real laughs that feels like a straight-to-DVD short stretched out over 106 minutes.

Now a four-time Piston Cup champion, the world-famous Lightning McQueen returns to Radiator Springs to see his old friends, much to the delight of best chum Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). However, formula champion Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro) challenges McQueen to join him in the World Grand Prix, an event created by Sir Miles Axelrod (Eddie Izzard) to advertise his new fuel Allinol. McQueen, along with Mater, Luigi (Tony Shalhoub), Guido (Guido Quaroni), Fillmore (Lloyd Sherr) and Sarge (Paul Dooley), heads to Tokyo, where Mater's buffoonish behaviour starts to grate on the racing star. Meanwhile, weapons designer Professor Zundapp (Thomas Kretschmann) and his cronies are taking out cars using an electromagnetic pulse in an attempt to scupper Axelrod's plans and secure oil profits. This catches the attention of international super-spy Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and his partner Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer), who mistake Mater for a fellow spy and hire the clueless tow truck to help with their mission.

This may sound like a bold move for a franchise built on low-key themes of friendship and humility around a traditional fish-out-of- water story, and Cars 2 fleetingly captures the imagination as McMissile swings onto an enemy oil rig, gadgets at the ready. But this is no longer Lightning McQueen's story. Instead, they push Mater, the comic relief best served in tiny doses, front and centre. Not only do his shenanigans increasingly annoy, they are also painfully unfunny. Many of the memorable supporting cast from the first movie are either heavily sidelined or given the boot altogether, and the story is so disjointed that it's difficult to keep up with the endless roster of forgettable, newly-introduced characters. Kids will love it though, and that's all that really matters when it comes to box-office receipts. There's enough colour, slapstick and racing action to keep them on their seats, and the animation again is truly wonderful. While this may get a pass if released by Dreamworks, mediocrity never used to be on Pixar's radar, and the high standards are still expected. One need only look at their Toy Story trilogy to see how inspired their sequels can be, which makes the middling antics of Cars 2 all the more crushing.

Clearly the weakest of the trilogy, 16 November 2017

In Tony Scott's True Romance, from a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, Christian Slater's Clare Worley takes his date to the movies to see Sonny Chiba's Streetfighter trilogy. When he is questioned about Chiba's questionable 'heroics', Worley responds that, "he ain't so much a good guy as he is just a bad motherf****r." A long-time fan, Tarantino hits the nail on the head here (he would go on to cast his idol in the Kill Bill films). While Bruce Lee was wowing the world with the speed and agility of the martial arts, Sonny Chiba was demonstrating its brutal, more unforgiving side. In The Streetfighter's Last Revenge, Chiba's anti- hero Takuma Tsurugi is at his most sadistic. He may have punched a guy's eyeballs out of his head in the previous instalment, but here he calmly burns a thug alive in an incinerator.

Much of the appeal of Chiba's movies lies with his sneering approach to the ancient arts, where he is far more comfortable sadistically beating a bad guy to a bloody pulp than he is with finding inner peace. This trilogy-closer has upped his mean streak, and made things a hell of a long weirder. The Streetfighter was excellent, Return of the Streetfighter was passable, and The Streetfighter's Last Revenge comes across as a bunch of scenes discarded from the previous movies for being too bonkers. Not only is Tsurugi a near- unstoppable punch, kick and throw machine, but he now dons Mission: Impossible-esque face masks to disguise his identity, and at one point bears vampire fangs for unexplained reasons. There's also a villain even James Bond would chuckle at: A mafia hit-man who dresses like a mariachi with a giant sombrero and shoots invisible laser beams out of his hands.

The plot itself is incredibly simple. Tsurugi is hired to rescue Go Owada (Akira Shioji) from a police riot in exchange for a hefty payment. When he goes to collect his loot, he is handed a bag of cut-up newspaper and is attacked by the Owada family's men. Furious, he decides to take revenge on the gangsters. There's also a stolen tape and a master foe in Kunagami (Koji Wada). Noticeably less violent than the previous entries, this third feature shares more in common with a spy film than the martial arts genre. As a result, it's less fun, and only manages to pique the interest when at its most idiosyncratic and just plain daft. It's also nice to see exploitation icon Reiko Ike in a supporting role as Chiba's wannabe sidekick. But ultimately, Last Revenge stutters through a threadbare story, failing to deliver the sort of gory chopsocky that made the original so wonderful. Clearly the weakest of the trilogy.

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