The Phantom (1996)

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Based on the characters created by Lee Falk, this 1996 actioner stars Billy Zane as Kit Walker/The Phantom. The Phantom comes from a long line of heroes who have defended Bengalla for years. Kit Walker is the 21st Phantom. The role of The Phantom is passed through the generations to make anyone who would commit evil think that The Phantom is a single immortal figure.

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The Phantom stumbles across tomb raiders who are looking for an ancient skull that if used with two other skulls, will grant the user unimaginable power. The Phantom has been protecting these skulls as he knows that if they fall into the wrong hands it could spell doom for the entire world. After foiling the tomb raiders, one manages to escape with the skull, a man called Quill (James Remar). Quill works for an amoral business man in New York called Xander Drax (Treat Williams). Drax has been resorting to any means necessary to retrieve all three skulls as he is looking to rule the world.

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Hearing rumours of Drax’s nefarious acts a woman named Diana Palmer (Kristy Swanson), is sent to Bengalla to investigate rumours of Drax’s business methods. When Diana is captured snooping around it is left to her ex-boyfriend Kit Walker/The Phantom, to save her.

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Diana tells Kit of the rumours about Drax, leaving it up to The Phantom to track down and stop Drax from completing his goal. I’ll be honest this film is incredibly cheesy, but in a very fun way. I remember seeing the trailer when it was being advertised in the cinema and thought it might be something I’d enjoy.

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It is a perfect Saturday afternoon movie. It’s entertaining and has a hint of Indiana Jones about it. Billy Zane is actually quite good as The Phantom. He is cocksure, but presents a brilliant, chiselled, comic-book style hero. Kristy Swanson is unconvincing as Diana. I have never been entirely convinced of her acting abilities at all. Treat Williams is great as Xander Drax. He hams it up perfectly as the cackling villain, bringing a hint of menace to the role. He is an actor I have always liked, never been mainstream sadly, but still a good actor. This is worth watching. It won’t win any awards no, but films that win awards are not always very entertaining. Well in my opinion anyway. Give this a go though, I think you’ll like it.

3/5

JM

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The Gauntlet (1977)

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Ben Shockley (Clint Eastwood) is given the apparently mundane task of escorting a prostitute by the name of Gus Mally (Sondra Locke) from Las Vegas to Phoenix so that she can testify in a mob trial. However standing in their way are a horde of mob enforcers, bikers and dirty cops who don’t want them to make it.

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If Mally testifies then a lot of dirty cops stand to be sent down. Shockley thinks it’s odd that he be tasked with escorting Mally. Only later realising it’s because his superiors don’t think he’s that good a cop, and he’s not on the mob payroll either. Shockley first senses something’s  up when he sees a horse, or what he thinks is a horse on a betting shop board called ‘Mally No Show’, who’s odds are increasing every hour. It’s then up to Shockley to protect Mally, even though they may end up killing each other before anyone else does. With no help from his own people, the odds are stacked against Shockley and Mally. But little do his superiors know, betting against Shockley from doing his job is asking for trouble.

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The action is incredible. There are some fantastic chase scenes and the climax is breathtaking stuff. Clint Eastwood used to cast Sondra Locke in a lot of his movies as they were husband and wife at the time. However I did notice an alarming pattern. In the majority of the films that Eastwood cast Locke, her character is sexually assaulted. Very disturbing. Kind of makes you think of what sort of toxic relationship they had in reality.

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There are some witty lines in the script and Eastwood is basically channelling Harry Callahan in his role as Ben Shockley. I do recommend this. I’m a sucker for gritty 70’s action anyway and this doesn’t disappoint. If you have never seen it then seriously give it a go.

4/5

JM

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