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Urban Justice (2007)
Seagal back in fine form.
Since 2001 life has not been too kind for Steven Seagal fans who watched him come back to the number 1 charts with the box office hit exit wounds nearly 7 years ago only to stumble with the less than stellar half past dead,and from there it was dtv jail without passing go. And if that was not bad enough the majority of his dtv films have been howlers aside from a few. Urban Justice had a lot riding against its success as most fans are jaded,but let me say that Urban Justice turned out to be his best and most violent film since exit wounds.
Seagal is Simon Ballister who is attending his policeman son's funeral that was premeditated by crooked cops or local gangsters and Simon is here to simply find out who killed his son and take them to hell. We don't get much exposition on his character other than he is a man with a "dark past",and for the most part it works just fine. Eddie Griffin and Danny Trejo show up for as rival gang leaders with danny's role running about 5 minutes at best. Both men come off well.Yes.Even Eddie Griffin this time.
The real surprise is the lack of stunt doubles and the fact that Seagal is doing all his own fight scenes here.Bones are broke,necks snapped,ball shot upon ball shot,maiming,and gratuitous violence for all as only Steven Seagal can deliver.There are also some nice gunfights that recall Under Siege and a really good car chase.Director Don E. FauntLeRoy does a really good job of directing this time out.
As for Seagal? he is just fine here aside from a Brooklyn accent that pops into an urban drawl and back again. It kind of gets on this viewers nerves.Other than that he is totally hellbent and has that scrappy charm that we remember from the good old days is back.
Until Death (2007)
Van Damme and Fellows hit the mark.
I really hate it when action stars are given no kudos for they're acting like Sly Stallone who wowed everyone in Copland and Jet Li who surprised as well with Danny the Dog.Jean Claude Van Damme is no different and while he has put in decent gigs in such movies as Lionheart,Double Impact,Hard Target and Maximum risk that were overlooked rather unfairly.
Something has happened since JCVD's fall into dtv land is that he has been a lot choosier most of the time with his projects that are top-notch like Replicant,In Hell,and Wake of Death.Its a shame these have been neglected to DTV being that they are better than some of his last big screen theater releases!
Until Death continues the trend of JCVD playing darker and more sinister characters as he plays a corrupt cop named Anthony Stowe who seems like he was ripped from an Abel Ferrara movie.
Anthony it seems has blurred the line between good/bad that his fellow cops despise him,His emotionally neglected wife is cheating on him,Stowe has a nice heroin habit to contend with,and a twice-as corrupt(sublimely played by Stephen Rea) ex-partner gunning for him who has designs on being the new mob boss.It changes with the flash of a gunman's bullet that leaves Stowe in a coma for several months and upon awakening he sets out to ease his conscience as well as bloody retribution.
This has got to be Van Dammes best ever acting job as he leaps onto the scene growling,snarling and making life difficult for everyone around him.His deranged look in the first half of the movie was striking and a lot of viewers are going to be surprised into thinking he let himself go.Even better is the after effect of the coma.
Selina Giles does an good job as the wife.Adam Leese has a couple of nice moments as Van Huffel.The actor who plays the fat Sargent gets the loud cop mode just right and has some good moments near the end.
The real shock is Stephen Rea and how sublimely underplayed Callaghan is by him.I thought we would get a real tour-de-force from him along the lines of Lance Henricksen as He only seems to come to life in his scenes with JCVD at the end which are fun to watch.If only he had put more into it than just taking a paycheck.
Simon Fellows does a good job here with his creative touches that seemed to fail in SIC and its pretty clear his strength is getting the performances and working with the actors.The grimy New Orleans setting is also plus.Some of his shots recall Early De Palma.
The only real fault of the movie is the action.Its not that the action scenes are done badly,but it needed more kick.The gunfights are good and bloody,however the last gunfight is a bit of a jip.
Where was the commentary on the state of a post-Katrina New Orleans?That would have been great explaining on the crime wave that is going on there right now.
It seems to me after the Shepherd JCVD might have just couple more action movies in him.What more does he need to prove if his best efforts get dumped to dtv?Dare I say he might wanna nab another drama?
Until Death was a nice surprise after the down shift into the average SIC and okay Hard Corps.
Even better to watch JCVD out-act Stephen Rea!
Hodder engages,the rest of the movie doesn't.
With a catchy title like the Butcher of Plainfield this Ed Gein variation and Kane Hodder playing him will no doubt fly off the shelves for a couple of weeks.Most viewers will be bored silly with this latest take on the life of Ed Gien.
The movie focuses on Ed's rampage and gives us a(few)glimpses into his Psycosis and dwelling in Plainfeild.Its these scenes that give the movie a much needed jolt.
What ruins this is the constant focus on other characters lives and focuses less on Eds.Big mistake here.
Kane Hodder is a strange choice to play Gein,but He does pull it off quite well,and deserves more acting credits than he gets these days.Prascilla Barnes and Micahel Barryman also show up.
Smokin' Aces (2006)
Aces Just misses the mark.
Smoking Aces directed by Joe Carnahan(Narc) gives us the ever-simple tale of one stoolie about to turn his back on the Outfit that made him resulting in MANY assassins that come in all shapes and sizes to make him sleep with the fishes.
Joe Carnahan was very wise to turn down the pedestrian MIA 3 in favor of this high-octane outing that delivered so much action,Gore,and comedy that will make ones head spin.But I missed the quiet and coherent intensity of Narc which has been jettisoned in Smoking Aces.
Think Mad mad world or Cannonball Run but with Hit men instead without the lowbrow humor not that there's anything wrong with it.
We have a Monster cast here while most are very good,some fail to register or get bogged down by the many subplots and stereotypes,From Redneck,Gangster,Crooked Fbi agents,Psycho,or bad-ass Lesbian.
Its kind of a hollow but enjoyable outing for the action overkill and Jeremy Piven's Over the top run.Good to see Ben Affleck return for a little while.Andy Garcia,Peter Berg,Alex Rocco,Kevin Durand,and Nestor all make a dent here.What is up with Mathew Fox and that bad wig? Someone get Ryan Reynolds a sitcom so he will not ruin another movie please?Alica Keys was less than convincing.
Last but not least a little advice to Hollywood:Give Ray Liotta a leading role will ya cause he rocked here.
High octane but hollow in the end.
Attack Force (2006)
How to waste 12 million dollars.
I look around in the video store still in shock how Steven Seagal with his track record of Bad action movies can still have 3 movies hit the shelves in less than a Year.Attack force being the 3rd no less promised the first-time entrance into the Sci Fi Genre for our ever widening Seagal.Visions of bad movie entertainment flashed before my gullible eyes.Sadly this is not the case one bit with no entertainment and a movie as bad as they come.
Seagal rebounded a tiny bit with the Trashy-but enjoyable Shadow Man last time we saw him.However Attack force has to be his absolute worst movie ever!Don't argue for out for a Kill,Ticker,or even Black Dawn folks.This is the bottom of the Septic tank here.
Anyone who says this is Steven Seagal's return to form should be forced to write a 100 page essay on the word Taste.
Seagal is yet another agent/I'm a supreme bad-ass yet again named Lawson wants revenge for the killing of his Team that leads him to a nefarious plot to distribute a really bad drug to the unsuspecting public.Not to mention the dealers are not from around here.
The whole Production from Directing to the acting is poor.Was this movie shot in the Dark?Its gotta be the most poorly lighted movie since Howling 2.The action is terrible and very badly done.
The Producers have also unwisely decided to do what the fans hate the most:throw in stunt double after stunt double and horribly dubbed Steven Seagal.Who seems to show little enthusiasm here.Can ya blame him?
While it has been said that Attack Force was not the movie Stevie signed on for(originally Harvester)and surely has to be better than Attack force.The post-production tampering has not made it more coherent and made Seagal look worse.I feel bad for Directer Michael Keusch and writer Joe Halpin as they are gonna be judged forever for the ill-advised production re-shoots.
So Now This leaves Seagal in the impossible position to come up with something to atone for this mess.But after seeing how bad Attack Force has turned out do we really want him to make another movie?
Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes (2006)
Mediocre return for Pumpkinhead.
Pumkinhead(1988) is considered to be a minor classic by most horror fans.It was generally well-received during its limited run that year and remains a video favorite.Naturaly a schlock-sequel,Blood wings,was conceived in 1993 that met such universal scorn,it was dumped on video with no theater run whatsoever.
After rumors and false starts Pumkinhead has finally returned in a Romanian-shot sequel that aired on the Sci Fi channel October 28th.
A corrupt town Doctor(Doug Bradley)and his grave-robbing family are the cause of the Demon's revival this time around by vengeful family members.As the body count rises they start to learn that revenge has its price to pay.
Doug Bradley is does a great job as the real "Heavy" of the movie and its a Shame he does not get more high-profile gigs.Wise choice by the producers to get Lance Henricksen to play Ed Harley again.The rest of the cast over-acts or under-acts.Another wise choice for the continuity to the first movie,and the ignoring of the 2nd.
What bugged me the most the the cinematography in this one which did not have that eerie feel of the first and cheapens the movie more than it truly is.Pumkinhead is just one step away from being another generic monster of the week.They should have him reacting and interacting more.Don't get me wrong he looked very cool.They just handled him wrong.Most of the characters were just redneck-clichés.One after another.
Is this the sequel that fans have been asking for over a decade?
Yes and No.
But if I were going to bring s well-loved monster out of the mothballs like Pumkinhead,it would have been in a much better movie than this was.
Cradle 2 the Grave (2003)
Waste of Talent.
Cradle to the grave should have set a new standard for action movies with Jet Li and Dmx re-teaming with Joel Silver after the very good Romeo must Die.Throw in Marc Dacascos,Gabrille Union,Kelly Hu,Tom Arnold,and Anthony Andersen for a great action movie right?
Wrong on all counts.What we get here is an 80 minute music video that seems content to play a new Dmx song every other minute,action scenes that are so poorly conceived,a lack of logic,and wasted talent that made me throw my popcorn at the screen.
Jet Li and Dmx seem uninterested and going through the motions.Both men deserved much better.Gabrielle Union is serviceable.Kelly Hu barely registers.Dacasscos is utterly wasted and ill-used as the main villain.
The only bright spots are Andersen and Arnold 's comedic banter and the awesome fight between Li and Dacasscos that nearly save the movie if not for one of the really lamest demise's in history for a villain.
Whatever style Bartkowiak displayed on Romeo must die and exit wounds is nowhere to be found here.Anywhere.The movie jumps all over the place with barley any coherence.
fans of Jet Li need to avoid this at all costs.
The Hard Corps (2006)
Entertaining Van Damme/Lettich collaboration.
Hard Corps reunites Jean-Claude Van Damme with frequent collaborator Sheldon Lettich for the 4th time.The first time was 1991's Lionheart,followed by the classic Double impact,until 2001's interesting,but flawed The Order.Hard Corps is a nice return to form for the talented director who should clearly be making more movies than he has.
On one side we have battle-traumatized soldier Phillip Savuage(JCVD) who lands a gig as a bodyguard to a head-strong(but well to due) Boxer named Barclay(Raz Adoti) all the while answering to his sister played by Vivica Fox.Tensions arise when a Gangster with an army of thugs put away by Barclay is released from jail wanting serious payback.Can Savauge rise to occasion?
The production looks like a medium-budget movie.Good photography and locations add to the "american" look of the movie.
We get a lot of character detail.Some nice fights.especially the Savauge/Barclay throw-down.Some nice humor involving rap music form critic Savuage.A rather Macabe scene that revolves around the "feeding" of Singleterry's dogs.
HCs gives JCVD a fully rounded character for once.There is a nice sub-plot that is handled very well involving his character's battle record and misplaced guilt.He still has the chops that developed very well at the start of Replicant and shined through WoD.He is a way more subtle here though.Why can't Hollywood see this?
Vivica Fox is very commanding and reactive.Charming as well.She has some nice Chemistry with JCVD.Shame she does not get to go Kill Bill for a few scenes though.Raz Adoti is very likable as the Boxer-turned-entrepreneur.He gets better in every movie he is in. As gangster Singleterry Viv Leacock gets to set on the sidelines and bark orders and does not make that imposing of a villain.That part is left to the imposing Ron Selmore.The supporting cast is good.
The only real fault is that the action scenes are far and few between scenes.At 110 minutes you would think there would be more.A lot of opportunities end up wasted.I was expecting a little more myself after some of the stand-out action seen in Hell and WOD.
However no bad CGI Trains,helicopters,Jets,Moths,or bad slow-motion is nice for once.
Black Dawn (2005)
Steven Seagal returns in Black Dawn.Cool title.I cannot say the same for the movie though.It ranks as the Worst Seagal movie yet.Yes.It is worse than Out for a Kill.Did we really need a sequel to the Forigner that bad?
Steven returns as Jonathon Cold.Assassin for hire.This time he is out to stop a group of Terrorists and prevent Nuclier Bomb from hitting Los Angelas with the help of CIA agent Tamara Davies.
This idea seems okay.The Jonathon Cold character once again gives the big guy a chance to tarnish his clean-cut cinematic Image.You get the feeling with a decent director and production team this movie could have went somewhere.If this cost 15 million I wanna know where it was spent?It was not spent on the movie?!!
The action scenes are not bad.The movie was obviously shot like a Doug Liman flick.Its just that most of the Time Seagal is doubled so much you cannot take the movie seriously whatsoever.The script seems...what script?!Logic is Black Dawned for a dozen low-budget action movies.
Seagal is not too bad here for a whole 15 minutes he is engaging then goes about the sleepwalking that he has done for his last 2 movies.Whoever is doing his fighting is doing a commendable job.
The light that shines through is Tamara Davies as Cold's sidekick.She has the chops,skills,looks and drive that give Black Dawn a little kick in the action department.How she got in this movie is a riddle.She should be a bigger star.Nicholas Davidoff and John Pyper Feruson are not believable bad guys.
Whose idea was it to make a sequel to a bad movie in the first place? It did not set the world on fire to my memory.I can only hope they inject the next Forigner sequel with some class,imagination,Less stunt doubles and a livelier Seagal.If not then leave Jonathon Cold on Ice.
Knock Off (1998)
Superb (2nd)Teaming of Hark and Van Damme.
I cannot understand why Knock off is one of Jean Claude Van Damme's most ripped apart movies.I mean the critics and fans were not nice to this movie.I think it had a lot to do with how JCVD was perceived to the public back then.If they look a little closer they will see it is not the steaming pile they say it is.I also think there was shock as to why Tsui Hark would make another movie with Van Damme after Double Team got the shaft by critics.
Van Damme is Marcus Ray also known as the king of Knock off's in Hong Kong who has just went legit with the help of his partner Tommy.(Rob Schinder)They have a devil may care attitude until running afoul of the Russian mob,Covert CIA agents,and the local mafia in an effort to stop the distribution of Nano-Bombs.
Van Damme does a good job in Knock off.Don't mistake him for Anthony Hopkins yet.It's just that Knock off gives the fallen karate man something he's rarely offered:Comedy.His timing is okay.Its a nice character change for him.He delivers very well in the action department as usual.
He also gets a lot of help from the multi-layered casting of Rob Schinder as his Quirky partner,Gorgeous Lela Rochon as a take-charge Clothing executive who is not what she-seems,and Paul Sorvino offers a lot of Menace as a CIA boss.Asian Actors Wyman Wong,Glen Chin,Carmen Lee,and Michael Wong also show up.
Let me just say that Tsui Hark goes all out with the action sequences here.Over-kill might be the word.A dazzling Rickshaw race through the streets of HK.A violent frenzy-like fight for life at a fruit market. Lots and lots of shoot outs,stabbings,fist-fights,explosions,and a surprising death scene that rivals the latest James bond flick for sheer lunacy.Also we get to see Schinder kick ass.Rochon has the Pam Grier Moxy working well for her.
The camera-work is totally over the top here.The Hong Kong back drop is a nice contrast to the on screen events and is awesome to behold.Nice touch to set this against the handover of 1997.The pacing is non-stop and barley lets you breathe.
There are the obvious problems in the seemingly rushed idea of the plot.Green Explosions?Paul Sorvino is kind of wasted here as just another stock villain.
Knock Off is a true Hong Kong-styled movie in every sense that people seem to forget.However Its nice to see that it is gaining a better rep of late.