Escape Plan (2013)

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Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) and his business partner Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio) run a company which tests prisons all across America. Ray is put into various prisons and exposes their weaknesses and escapes, thus helping future prisons to be designed so that they are escape proof. Ray is asked by the CIA to test out a new super max prison. The prison is designed to hold the most dangerous terrorists still waiting to be interrogated by the government.

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Ray agrees to take the job,and within a day is bound and gagged to be transported to the new prison. There Ray meets the sadistic Warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), who duly informs Ray that he will not be leaving the prison. Ray is told that someone has paid good money to ensure he never sees the light of day again. Whilst in prison, Ray meets a man called Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who tells Ray that Hobbes has been keeping him in prison as Rottmayer has information on the whereabouts of someone who could rock the financial world.

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Together Ray and Rottmayer hatch a plan to escape the prison. Seeking the help of other prisoners and the prison doctor, Dr. Kyrie (Sam Neill), they come up with a way to escape and bring the prison down. There are bit parts for Vinnie Jones who plays a sadistic prison guard, and also Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson who plays a computer tech, looking to help find out where Ray has been taken. The story is not nearly as ingenious as it thinks it is. It has some clever moments, like when Ray escapes the prison at the start of the movie, but for the most part it feels very tame. Arnie is still finding his feet after being out of the acting game for so long, and looks uncomfortable in some scenes. Stallone is also a bit wooden, but it’s Stallone so he gets a pass. Jim Caviezel is wonderfully as the hammy almost camp Warden Hobbes. He delivers his lines with understated menace and seems to be having a blast.

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Folks like 50 Cent and Vincent D’Onofrio feel wasted in the small roles they have, and don’t really have much to do. There is also the obligatory scene in which Arnie holds a massive machine gun, which happens so often it feels like it’s a clause in his contract. The action is so-so, but the setting means there’s not as much as you’d expect when two action titans meet. Overall however it is worth a watch, and is perfect beer and pizza fodder.

3/5

JM

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Commando (1985)

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When John Matrix’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano) is kidnapped by a group of mercenaries led by Bennett (Vernon Wells), John is faced with a race against the clock if he wants to see her alive again. John and Bennett used to be army buddies before John had Bennett kicked from the unit as he seemed to enjoy killing a bit too much. Now Bennett has joined forces with ex-president of Val Verde, Arius (Dan Hedaya). Arius was ousted from power by John and his team, and now wants John to help him stage a coup and win back his presidency.

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Bennett and his goons have kidnapped Jenny as an incentive for John to do as they say. John is escorted to the plane by Sully (David Patrick Kelly) and accompanied on the plane by another one of Bennett’s men. John kills the man he’s with and manages to decamp the plane before it takes off. He then sets his watch to the time it will take the plane to reach Val Verde. Knowing that once the dead body is discovered, word will get back to Bennett and he’ll kill Jenny.

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Assisting John in his plight, albeit reluctantly, is flight attendant Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong). Cindy is coerced by John to help him track Sully and try get some information on where they took Jenny. Using Sully, John slowly begins to track down the rest of the men, leading to a brutal and bloody showdown with Bennett and his small army.

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This movie is fucking awesome!!! I’m not overstating it. I just love it. For me it’s Arnie’s best role. He just cuts a bloody swathe through close to 100 men, and it rocks. No it’s not highly realistic. I mean the soldiers fire shots and nothing hits Arnie, yet he hits the target every time. But it’s fun. Fun because it’s just balls out action, and the sort of kick ass popcorn flick that sadly, I feel, Hollywood doesn’t make any more. It’s full of the obligatory cringe worthy one liners from Arnie. Vernon Wells is great as Bennett. He overacts big time and it’s wonderful. His costume however leaves a lot to be desired. Some dodgy porno tash, coupled with an ill fitting mesh vest and leather trousers and you have one of the least intimidating villains in history. Alyssa Milano doesn’t really have much to as Jenny, but Rae Dawn Chong is great as the whiny Cindy, who slowly warms to John.

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It’s good old friday night entertainment. Definitely one for a few beers and a pizza. Like I said they sadly don’t make movies like this any more as it’s all business with Hollywood. They would rather water shit down for teens, just to increase ticket sales, than give the people what they want. So enjoy this, and remember the good times.

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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Stone Cold (1991)

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Joe Huff (Brian Bosworth) is strong-armed by the FBI to infiltrate a dangerous gang of white supremacist bikers who have been drug running. Huff doesn’t want to do it, but he’s on suspension and the FBI leave him no choice. He travels down to Mississippi using the name John Stone. There he comes face to face with the gang leader called Chains Cooper (Lance Henriksen) and his second in command Ice (William Forsythe).

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Stone has to convince Chains that he’s for real before they let him join the gang. He’s told to kill a man as part of his initiation to prove his worth. He uses his agency contact to help him fake the persons death and his accepted. However Ice has his doubts about Stone and begins to spy on him. The whole thing culminates in blood and bullets.

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I must say I found this to be good fun. It’s a typical weekend evening movie, sitting back with a nice takeaway and relaxing. There is lots to love here. The script is cheesy as hell and the acting is questionable in places. However William Forsythe and Lance Henriksen are on scene stealing form as usual. I find that they are always good value for money. Sam McMurray is also great as Joe Huff/John Stone’s FBI contact Lance. Always looking out of place wherever they meet.

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I’ll hold my hands up now and also say I dug Brian Bosworth’s performance here. Honestly. He gives it a good go and he makes for a convincing action hero. He’s built like a brick shithouse and delivers a solid action performance. There are some great shoot-outs and awesome fights. The final third is brilliant. I’ve seen this a few times now. Brian Bosworth never really made good on this early promise, instead was left languishing in DTV hell. Give it a go though, it entertains, and that’s all that matters isn’t it? The poster below is the best poster I’ve seen for this movie, however I could only find the German version. Why they made it look like a Terminator poster is beyond me.

3/5

JM

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Firestorm (1998)

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Ahhh memories. I remember renting this on VHS way back when that was the done thing. I also remember thoroughly enjoying it. It’s not gonna win any awards, but it entertains and that’s all I really ask for. I’ll try to keep the hype to a minimum as I watched it having never heard of it before. The film kicks off with our hero Jesse Graves (Howie Long) who fights forest fires, also known as a ‘Smoke Jumper’, aided by his best buddy Wynt (Scott Glenn). Jesse is essentially one of the best at his job…blah…blah…blah…you get the drift.

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After a major forest fire breaks out, Jesse springs to action, believing that some of his fellow firefighters are trapped in the midst of a fire. Unbeknownst to Jesse the ‘trapped firemen’ are actually a group of dangerous escaped prisoners, led by the villainous Shaye (William Forsythe). The prisoners are using the fire as a distraction while they search for a ton of stolen money. While this is going on Jesse also has to save a trapped ornithologist (Suzy Amis) from the fire.

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Like I said this film will not win any awards. That being said I really did enjoy it. It’s full of cheesy acting, explosions, action and the obligatory ‘Arnie style’ quip. William Forsythe who is the go to bad guy of choice is menacing as Shaye. He is always good value for money in whatever film/show he’s in. Howie Long is decent enough as Jesse. He was never going to hit the dizzy heights that Schwarzenegger did, but he does well regardless.

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Suzy Amis and Scott Glenn are also good in their respective roles. This is the sort of movie you’d catch late at night on something like Channel 5. It’s good fun though and I would recommend giving it a whirl.

3/5

JM

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Battle Royale (2000)

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Could you kill your best friend? That’s the dilemma that faces a class of 15yr old students in Japan. Their class think they are going on a school trip, however the reality is that they have been chosen at random to take part in a new scheme. The scheme which has been dubbed the ‘Battle Royale Act’ by the government involves the whole class fighting to the death. Their teacher Kitano (Takeshi Kitano) tells them they are all to be tagged with an explosive collar that will detonate if removed. Then they are given a map and a bag containing food and water plus a randomly selected item, which could be a weapon like a gun or a knife, or something useless like a frisbee.

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At first the students think it to be a sick joke, that the government wouldn’t be sick or crazy enough to make them kill each other, but it’s not a joke. Crime is an epidemic and the youth are seen to be the cause of it. The government has been running the scheme with great success, and seem willing to continue it. Now before anyone says this isn’t a rip off of The Hunger Games, as this is over a good ten years older than that rubbish. This is a far more sophisticated beast, and one full of real violence and mayhem.

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At first the students try to resist harming each other, but it’s futile. Mainly down to the fact that the island they are on has been split into sectors. Each day another sector is made unsafe, and if a student remains there, then their collar will explode. So sooner or later they will meet in the centre of the island.

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This is a fantastic film. Directed by the late, brilliant Kinji Fukasaku, it’s bristling with menace. You can’t understand that a government would ever sanction something so bloodthirsty, but you can kind of understand the desperation in tackling youth crime. The sequel which was directed by Fukusaku’s son is terrible. It is just a car crash of a movie and is painful to watch. It’s obvious watching it that the talent for directing ended with Kinji. I definitely recommend this for anyone who has never seen it. If you can, seek out the directors cut which adds a little bit more flavour to proceedings.

5/5

JM

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The Punisher (1989)

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My wife has been saying I should do a review of the Dolph Lundgren version of The Punisher, so here it is. I’ve got a lot of love for this movie. I understand it gets a lot of shit because The Punisher in this version doesn’t have a skull emblem on his shirt. Many people have said that’s like having Superman without the S, and I used to agree. However I noticed something after all these years. To the untrained eye it looks like Dolph is rocking some serious mascara and fake stubble, but now I see there was a method to the madness. Rather than have a skull on his shirt, the director Mark Goldblatt wanted to have Frank Castle’s face look like a skull, hence the dodgy looking make-up.

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For many years a shadowy vigilante called The Punisher has been killing criminals all over the city. Many believe he is a myth but there is one police officer, Jake Berkowitz (Louis Gossett Jr.) who believes he knows the identity of The Punisher. Det. Berkowitz believes that The Punisher is his ex-partner Frank Castle who supposedly died in a car bomb along with his family. Berkowitz believes he is close to catching The Punisher and is given help by a young police woman named Sam Leary (Nancy Everhard). Some new criminals from Japan have surfaced and are looking to take over all of the Mafia’s business interests, forcing The Punisher to join forces with an enemy in order to bring the Yakuza down.

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I really do like this film. I remember watching it in early ’92, so it evokes some great memories for me. Dolph Lundgren is great as The Punisher. He cuts an imposing figure and is the closest to the comic Frank Castle in my opinion. Jeroen Kraabe is ok as Gianni Franco, though doesn’t really make a convincing Italian mobster. Louis Gossett Jr. is always worth watching as he always gives 100% in whatever film he’s in. There are some fantastic action sequences, particularly when The Punisher attacks a shipment at the docks.

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If you have only ever seen the Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson versions, then I can definitely recommend watching this one too. The script is a bit stilted in places, but overall it’s perfect beer and pizza entertainment!

4/5

JM

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Battlefield Earth (2000)

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I felt compelled to review this turd of a movie so that others may never make the mistake I did. Dear god what a car crash of a film this is. A vanity project for John Travolta, as the story it’s based on was written by the batshit crazy L. Ron Hubbard who is the man that created Scientology. Scientology for those who don’t know is the celeb religion of choice. I use the term religion loosely as they are a bunch of parasites that live only to make money and destroy the lives of those who decide to leave. Anyway my pet hate of Scientology is something to discuss another time.

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How John Travolta manages to keep fucking up his career is nothing short of astonishing. He was given a lifeline from Tarantino with Pulp Fiction after making some truly horrendous films, Look Who’s Talking Now to name just one. He then followed Pulp Fiction with films like Broken Arrow and Face/Off. However seeming like a man who believes his own hype he went forward and made this utter waste of celluloid.

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There are so many things wrong with this film that I barely know where to start. Never mind the fact that Terl (John Travolta) has a head shaped like a turkey’s arse and a hand full of penises. The costume design is horrendously bad. All of the alien race walk around on what look like 6inch platforms, have oversized bulges in the crotch area and look like rastafarian wannabes. The camera films at a slant for nearly 80% of the movie, and a blue lens tint is also used which does it no favours. How it took two people to write this script is beyond me. The lines being delivered are shocking, the fact that everyone is acting like it’s a school play make it ten times worse.

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How Travolta convinced actors like Barry Pepper who plays the “man-animal” Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (I know) and Forest Whitaker who plays Ker, to star in this movie i’ll never know. I can understand Travolta’s wife being in it but those two guys? No, sorry.

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The ‘plot’, if you can call  it a plot, involves a group of aliens called ‘Psychlos’ who rule earth in the year 3000 and have done for a 1000yrs. The Psychlos have captured most of humanity which they use as slaves, the rest live on the outskirts away from Psychlo control. Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper) is captured by the Psychlos and forced to mine for gold by the commander of the Psychlos Terl, played by John Travolta. Jonnie is chosen to be a foreman for the other slaves and is educated by Terl in the language and history of the Psychlos. However Jonnie escapes and organises an uprising against the Psychlos. It’s not as exciting as it sounds. Full of plot holes and terrible acting.

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I don’t think I really need to say anymore, but if for whatever reason I haven’t been clear enough let me just reiterate….STAY AWAY FROM THIS MOVIE!!! However that being said, should you be curious enough to check it out be warned, you cannot un-see it. Just saying.

1/5

JM

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Hard Target (1993)

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Natasha Binder (Yancy Butler) arrives in New Orleans looking for her father who she hasn’t spoken to in some time. She meets Chance Boudreaux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) who rescues her from some street thugs. She asks for his help in finding her father.

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Natasha and Chance find her father who has been murdered. He was a homeless veteran who was hunted down by a rich group of businessmen who hunt human prey for sport, headed up by the ruthless Emil Fouchon (Lance Henriksen) and his equally dangerous second in command Pik van Cleef (Arnold Vosloo).

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Chance and Natasha go to the police to tell them that something is wrong and that people are going missing. They find an ally in a Det. Marie Mitchell (Kasi Lemmons), who tells them she will investigate it. When Chance and Natasha begin to uncover what is happening to all of the homeless people in New Orleans Emil and Pik decide to up sticks and move on, but not before one final hunt with Chance as the ultimate prey.

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Directed by John Woo, this film was his calling card to the U.S, letting them know what he was all about. He brings the same amount of razzle dazzle to proceedings that he did in his bombastic Hong Kong movies. Some of the stunts are just amazing, and for me this is still Van Damme’s best movie to date. I have seen it numerous times and still love it.

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The supporting cast is excellent too. Yancy Butler is great as Natasha, bringing the right amount of vulnerability to the role. Wilford Brimley is great as the wily old Uncle Douvee, though his cajun accent leaves a lot to be desired. Arnold Vosloo brings menace as Pik. He casts a striking presence in the movie and also has some great lines. Lance Henriksen has always been a cult favourite and his role as the menacing Emil Fouchon is great, and you can tell he is having fun chewing up the scenery. The score by Graeme Revell is brilliant. The awesome bluesy guitars are in full swing and it fits brilliantly with the movie.

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Seriously if you’ve never seen this and you’re looking for a film for a friday night that will be the perfect accompaniment to beer and pizza then look no further. As I have always said to my buddies “It’s all about Hard Target”. Great movie!

4/5

JM

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Dobermann (1997)

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H-O-L-Y CRAP!!! This film is just insane. I had heard about it many moons ago, so I decided to have a look for myself. This film is too crazy, almost too much for words but I’m gonna try anyway.

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It concerns a ruthless gang of armed robbers, who believe it or not are the good guys. The gang is headed up by Dobermann (played by the enigmatic Vincent Cassel). He is joined by his real life wife Monica Bellucci who plays his deaf girlfriend Nathalie. The gang commit a brutal and daring robbery in Paris, which just happens to bring them to the attention of the sadistic and amoral police officer Sauveur Cristini (played by the brilliant Tcheky Karyo). Cristini is told by his superiors to catch Dobermann by any means necessary. Cristini goes to brutal and borderline illegal lengths to carry out his task, culminating in a truly epic shoot out at a night club.

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The action is just incredible. This film was described as ‘hyper-violent’ upon release and it really doesn’t disappoint. Everything is ramped up to 11, it’s like injecting speed straight into the brain. Everyone is on top form. Tcheky Karyo practically chews the scenery up whenever he is on screen. The intensity in which he plays Cristini is scary, he really is brilliant in the role. Cassel is fantastic as Dobermann. He strolls through the movie with a massive shit eating grin on his face, that you would follow him anywhere if you were in his gang. The action is kinetic and just bursts off the screen.

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I have heard a rumour that a sequel is in the works. I really hope that is true because if the sequel is anything like this in terms of insanity and pure spectacle then we really are in for a treat. A film like Dobermann now would give cinema a much needed kick up the arse, the film screams originality. If you can get hold of it then I urge you to do so, it really is something else.

5/5

JM

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