13 Assassins (2010)

  
How I haven’t already reviewed this amazing movie I don’t know. So I am making up for that now. This is in my top 5 all time favourites and by the time you watch it, I’m pretty sure it’ll be in yours too. Viewing this for the first time is an experience that I’d love to feel again. 

  
The plot begins when the master of Namiya clan commits speppuku. A samurai warrior by the name of Shinzaemon Shimada (Kôji Yakusho) is summoned by the shogun’s advisor to hear the tale of a man who’s son and daughter-in-law were brutally slain by the evil Lord Naritsugu. Shinzaemon also meets a woman who was mutilated by Lord Naritsugu. She writes with her mouth pleading with Shinzaemon to kill Lord Nartisugu. Shinzaemon gathers 11 other warriors and together they seek to dispose of Lord Naritsugu. 

  
The build up is amazing. Some folks may watch this and worry it’s moving along too slow, but I implore you to bear with it, because the final third is quite possibly one of the greatest 40 or so minutes ever committed to celluloid. Takashi Miike who is normally known for his brutal Yakuza films and seriously disturbing dramas such as Visitor Q, has created possibly the finest samurai movie ever made, and yes I have seen Seven Samurai. There is some great drama delivered here, and the action is spectacular. Lord Naritsugu is one of the vilest villains to ever grace the screen, and you are willing the 13 Assassins to complete their herculean task. 

  
Every actor involved is magnificent, really bringing to life what it was like during those dark times. There is the odd helping of humour to lighten proceedings, mostly coming from the stranger that helps the 12 warriors become 13, which really rounds off how great this film is. I cannot recommend this enough, and 10 years down the line this, if it isn’t already, will be labelled a classic. This is a movie seriously worthy of your time. I urge you to see it. 

5/5

JM

  

The Park Is Mine (1985)

  

Tommy Lee Jones plays Mitch, a Vietnam veteran who takes over Central Park after the suicide of his old war buddy. He decides to take drastic action to highlight the plight of veterans living in the U.S. whom he feels are unfairly neglected and forgotten about when they cease to be of use to anyone. 

  
Thought of as a loser by his ex-wife and struggling to hold down a job, Mitch feels that doing what he’s doing will give him a purpose. However the police seek to rid New York of what they see as a menace and go all out to bring Mitch to justice, dead or alive. When a reporter Valery (Helen Shaver) enters the park to cover the action, it’s up to Mitch to make sure that both of them are able to leave the park alive. 

  
Tommy Lee Jones is excellent as Mitch, a disillusioned veteran looking for some meaning in a world he no longer feels apart of. Helen Shaver is passable as the reporter, but never really feels like she has much to do. The score by Tangerine Dream is suitably atmospheric also. 

  
It’s well worth watching if you can get hold of it. This copy of The Park Is Mine was graciously provided by http://www.twistedanger.com and is available now to purchase. 

4/5

JM 

  

The 13th Warrior (1999)

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Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan (Antonio Banderas) has been banished from his homeland after sleeping with the wife of another man. On his travels he comes across a group of Norsemen who have been requested to go to the aid of a village that is being terrorised by ‘monsters’. A wise woman tells the Norsemen that 12 of them will be chosen, and that the 13th warrior will be a man not of their land. Ahmed is chosen to join the warriors in their journey.

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Whilst on their journey, Ahmed begins to earn the respect and admiration of the group, who see that he has a lot to offer them in their quest. Upon reaching the village, the group meet with the King. The King tells them that the monsters come when the “worm” has been seen in the mountains. When the ‘monsters’ attack the group, the group find that the ‘monsters’ are in fact ordinary men, albeit cannibals. The group decide that if they are to put a stop to the attacks, they must seek the enemy in their lair.

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However striking at the heart of the enemy, doesn’t quite have the effect the warriors hope for, leading to a brutal and bloody showdown. I absolutely love this movie. It has that old school epic quality to it. The story and acting are top notch. Everyone is clearly enjoying their respective roles. The action itself is visceral stuff, and doesn’t skimp on the gore.

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The film is based on a story by Michael Crichton called ‘The Eaters of the Dead’. Directed by John McTiernan, it truly is pulse pounding stuff. Omar Sharif has an extended cameo as Ahmed’s companion Melchisidek. I did read that there were problems on set and that Michael Crichton had to come in and oversee the directing of the film, but it doesn’t show. It is a brilliantly entertaining movie and one I wholeheartedly recommend.

5/5

JM

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Soldier (1998)

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Todd 3465 (Kurt Russell) is the best of a group of genetically engineered soldiers, bred to kill from a very early age. He is a decorated war hero, with hundreds of kills to his name. Now…he is obsolete. A new group have soldiers have been created by the villainous Colonel Mekum (Jason Isaacs). The soldiers are led by Caine 607 (Jason Scott Lee) who is the best soldier. He is faster, stronger and meaner than Todd 3465 or any of his team. Colonel Mekum orders Todd’s superior, Church (Gary Busey), to dispose of Todd and his crew. They are all slaughtered and dumped on a planet which basically used as one big dump.

 

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However Todd does not die. He finds that the planet he is on is inhabited by friendly people just trying to survive. At first they are weary of Todd, but slowly begin to accept him. He stays with Mace (Sean Pertwee) and Sandra (Connie Nielsen) and begins to bond with their son. Colonel Mekum decides to test his new batch of soldiers on the planet where Todd was dumped. However he never banked on Todd being alive. Now Todd will show these new killers what a real soldier is.

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I really dig this film. However it got absolutely panned on release and I don’t know why. To me it’s like a futuristic version of Shane. I remember also reading that Kurt Russell had offered his fee back to Paul WS Anderson has he felt bad that the film didn’t do well. I think people expected it to be balls out action and that’s not what it is. It’s more restrained than that, showing an inhuman killer like Todd what it means to really feel and to have something worth fighting for.

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Don’t listen to the hate. Give it a watch and be prepared for a subtle story with bursts of violence. The final 3rd is one of my favourite bits in any movie. Todd is just a bad ass and to watch him teach these upstarts what it’s like to be a real soldier really is a sight to behold. Well worth a watch in my book.

4/5

JM

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Southern Comfort (1981)

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A weekend of training exercises turns into a frantic fight for survival when a group of National Guardsmen anger the local Cajun’s in the swamps of Louisiana. They are led out by Poole (Peter Coyote) who is taking them down to the swamps for some serious Army exercises, getting them ready should they ever be needed. Things go awry however when they steal some canoes to help them get down the river. Whilst inside the canoes, one of the men thinks it funny to shoot blank bullets at some Cajun fishermen, not realising the dreadful events they have set in motion.

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With no live ammunition to aid them, then group of men find themselves fighting for their lives. Hunted by the locals in a terrain they have no knowledge of, the men are picked off one at a time and must learn to work together if they have any hope of coming out alive. However some of the men let fear and panic take over, making it harder for them to work as a group.

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Two of the men Spencer (Keith Carradine) and Hardin (Powers Boothe) seem to bet the only two guardsmen who realise the magnitude of the situation the men find themselves in. This film was viewed as an allegory on Vietnam on it’s release. Directed by the brilliant Walter Hill (The Warriors), it showed that the same lack of respect the Americans showed the Vietnamese, is the same thing that will get these National Guardsmen killed if they don’t treat the Cajun’s with respect.

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This is a riveting piece of cinema. I remember first watching it with my Dad and just loving it. It was nail bitingly tense and the cast were amazing. There are a lot of recognisable faces in the supporting cast and it’s fun spotting who’s who. This is well worth a watch.

4/5

JM

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Rolling Thunder (1977)

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Major Charles Rane (William Devane) has spent 8 long years in  a POW camp, being beaten and tortured. He returns home greeted as a hero, with his friend Johnny (Tommy Lee Jones). However life has moved on while the major has been away. His son doesn’t really know him and his wife has met somebody else. The Major is given a nice new car and a box full of silver dollars as a thank you for all he did during the war. A group of greedy thugs see him being presented with the gifts on TV and decide they want the silver dollars for themselves. The thugs break into the majors house and wait for him to come home and reveal the location of the silver dollars. When the major refuses, his wife and son are viciously murdered in front of him and his hand his shredded in a waster disposal.

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After months of recovery the major decides he is going to track down those responsible and seek retribution for his wife and son. All leading to a bloody and ferocious shoot-out in a brothel. Now fear not, I haven’t spoiled anything by revealing the death of the wife and son as it all happens in the first 15-20 mins. The rest of the movie consists of Major Rane recovering, learning how to use his hook hand and seeking down those responsible.

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Quentin Tarantino has named this as one of his favourite movies. So much so that he named a distribution company after it. William Devane is magnificent as Major Rane. He brings a raw intensity to the role, and I have always really rated him as an actor. Tommy Lee Jones is also great as Johnny Vohden. He doesn’t seem the brightest but his character is infused with a strong sense of loyalty, especially when the major tells Johnny that he’s found the ones that killed his family, all Johnny says is “I’ll get my stuff”.

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The script is written by Paul Schrader who tends to write a lot of these dark scripts, focusing on folks on the outskirts of society. Directed by John Flynn who also directed my favourite Steven Seagal flick ‘Out For Justice’. The final shoot-out is just amazing. Fizzing with energy you can see that both men are back where they belong, right in the thick of it. I really recommend this movie. If you’re a fan of gritty 70’s movies, then give this a shot.

5/5

JM

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