Black Rain (1989)

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God I love this movie! One of Ridley Scott’s most underrated movies in my opinion. Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas) is a cop in New York City who is under investigation from Internal Affairs for his part in a bust where drug money went missing. Nick and his partner Charlie Vincent (Andy Garcia) are in a cafe when some Japanese men enter and begin to hassle some mafia members. One of them, Sato (Yusaku Matsuda), steals a wooden box and kills the men. Nick and Charlie give pursuit to Sato and his men. Nick manages to catch up to Sato and over powers him.

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Nick is told that Sato is wanted in Tokyo and that he is to be brought back immediately. Nick tells his superiors that he wants to be the one to bring Sato back and that Charlie is to accompany him. Nick, Charlie and Sato reach Tokyo where they are met by a group of policemen who have been ordered to collect Sato. Nick and Charlie hand Sato over and begin to get off the plane. Another group of policemen show up and say they are there to collect Sato, Nick realises that he’s been duped and gives chase. After losing Sato, Nick tells the chief of the police in Tokyo that he wants to retrieve Sato. Nick is told that he is not a Japanese policeman and that it will be left to Masahiro (Ken Takakura), a detective in the Tokyo police force, to catch Sato.

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Not willing to accept to simply be an idle bystander, Nick teams up with Masa and they both work together to catch Sato. Also helping them is an American working girl in Japan called Joyce (Kate Capshaw). As the case goes on, things happen that cause it to be more personal to Nick, giving him a chance at redemption.

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I really do love this movie. Tokyo looks like such a brilliantly vibrant city, I would love to visit one day. Everybody is on top form. Michael Douglas is brilliant as Nick, Andy Garcia brings a level head as Charlie and Ken Takakura is fantastic as the honourable Masa. However Kate Capshaw feels wasted in her role as Joyce, not really contributing anything to the story that I felt was needed. Yusaku Matsuda is menacing as Sato, bringing a real intensity to the role. Sadly he was dying of cancer during the making of this movie. Definitely worth a watch if you dig 80’s action with a kick ass synthy score.

4/5

JM

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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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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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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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A Bittersweet Life (2005)

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I remember when I first saw this movie. I was working in Blockbuster (RIP), and as we were allowed free rentals I decided to give it a whirl as I’d heard a lot about it and thought it’d be rude not to really since I didn’t have to pay. I can say that I was blown away. This film really is fantastic. It’s not a fluke either, there are some amazing movies that have come out of South Korea, all of which are well worth seeking out.

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The story concerns an enforcer and hotel manager called Sun-Woo (played by the awesome Byung-hun Lee) who is tasked by his ruthless boss to shadow his mistress named Hee-Soo, who he suspects is cheating while he is away. He is told by his boss to kill Hee-Soo and whoever she is seeing if it turns out to be true. Sun-Woo begins to follow Hee-Soo and slowly begins to develop an attraction for her. He discovers that she is cheating on his boss and savagely beats the mystery man, only stopping when he sees how distraught Hee-Soo is becoming. He promises to spare their lives if they promise never to see each other again. Sun-Woo’s boss finds out that Sun-Woo disobeyed an order and tortures him to find out why, leaving him for dead. He doesn’t bank on Sun-Woo killing anyone in his way on his quest for revenge.

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The action is incredible. There are some blistering fight scenes, particularly one in a warehouse where Sun-Woo takes on almost 30 people. There are also some fantastic shoot outs and one particularly memorable scene when Sun-Woo goes to buy some guns which is comical and nail bitingly tense all at once.

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Byung-hun Lee is fantastic as Sun-Woo. Most movie fans will recognise him from the G.I. Joe movies where he plays Storm Shadow, but he has made some fantastic movies in his native country. One of the films that he made which is definitely on par with this is ‘I Saw The Devil’. I have done a review of that movie, however to read it you will need to visit my good friends blog http://www.stigmatophiliablog.wordpress.com as it is appearing as an exclusive on their blog soon.

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This film really does rock. If you are one of those people that doesn’t watch subtitled movies, for whatever reason, then I urge you to break that habit and watch this. It really is fantastic. It’s full of bone crunching action, awesome fight scenes and blisteringly good shoot outs. Seriously, give it a go.

5/5

JM

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NARC (2002)

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Henry Oak is a detective. Henry Oak is a very volatile detective. Played by Ray Liotta to perfection Det. Oak is partnered with Nick Tellis who is played by Jason Patric. Det. Tellis is a disgraced undercover cop who has been demoted to a desk for a botched arrest in which a member of the public was seriously injured. They are tasked with investigating the death of Oak’s ex partner Michael Calvess. Secretly though, Tellis has been tasked to investigate Oak’s involvement in Calvess’s death, as the superiors reckon he knows a lot more than he is letting on.

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The story moves along swiftly, with a flashback constantly popping up of what happened the night Calvess died. The flashback get’s longer as the movie progresses, but changes slightly too when Tellis hears different people’s version of events, all before the truth is revealed.

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The acting and dialogue are amazing. Joe Carnahan (The Grey, The A-Team) who directs, also wrote the script, and it just pops. Liotta and Patric deliver their lines with relish, and there’s a multitude of crazy characters that they come into contact with on their journey for the truth. Liotta as Oak is a man possessed. The anger his character exudes is scarily believable. Patric as Tellis is weary and slightly on edge, as being an undercover cop meant he had to push himself further than he’d like.

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The movie just rocks. If anyone has heard of it, but never taken the time to sit down and watch it, then I urge you to rectify that. You will NOT be disappointed, I assure you. This movie left such an impression on me that I grew a goatee just like Liotta’s. True story.

5/5

JM

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The Beast (TV Series) (2009)

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I think, as with most people I imagine, I wanted to see this program to see how Mr Swayze could cope acting a whole season in his condition…and I must say he does this with the same grit and determination he showed his disease!

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He is astounding as FBI agent Charles Barker. He is given a new rookie partner,Ellis Dove (Travis Fimmel) who unbeknownst to Barker, is actually there to investigate the rumour that Barker is a rogue agent. As the series progresses, Dove begins to understand Barker and respects his ways, as does Barker of Dove. Together they uncover a conspiracy about a group of rogue FBI agents that operate outside the law. An absolute gem of a TV series, full of action and suspense.

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The format is a combination of problem of the week with a mix of an underlying story. Swayze is magnetic in his performance. He just nails it, and Travis Fimmel is well able to match him as Ellis Dove. I know it’s been four years now since this was on TV, but if anyone from ABC reads this, please do a season 2 casting someone equally as grizzled to take up Swayze’s role as Charles Barker.

5/5

JM

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