Sunday, November 30, 2008

A day for cinematic homages to genres long forgotten, not oft' directed, or generally panned and not well enjoyed. I would be the first to admit that my taste n film is generally a bit more subversive than that of the typical Friday night movie-goer... I like to think to a degree that my taste there helps to somewhat illustrate the type of person that I am, though not fully give me away. There's something that's just satisfying about handing over copies of obscure flicks to a clerk at FYE or Blockbuster or Best Buy and seeing them raise their eyebrow out of curiosity, due to never before having had a compulsion to check out the title only briefly in their hands to be rung up and relinquished to me, the consumer. So let's start it up...
Writer/Director: Larry Bishop
Starring: Larry Bishop, Michael Madsen, Eric Balfour,
Vinnie Jones, Dennis Hopper & David Carradine

So a long time ago there existed a genre devoted solely to the sociopathic and unruly behavior of the biker gang. These films were low budget even for their day, and generally boasted one or two standout performances in the midst of bad acting, bad scripting, and general bad behavior. It was not uncommon to find Peter Fonda typecast in a film such as this post-Easy Rider, or Jack Nicholson, whose presence makes Hell's Angels on Wheels one of the most prime examples of this not fully understood category of cinema (though arguably, the genre started with a subtle performance by Marlon Brando in the Wild One).

Subversive film at the time of this genre's heyday was not commercially lucrative, and rarely caught the attention of Hollywood breast-fed critics and film-goers. Nihilism at the movies was generally reserved for the grindhouse, which is unfortunately where these films typically shot to once out of the can and onto the projector. Were it not for that, the biker film may have actually caught on and retained more than 4-6 years of subverted underground popularity. Hellride is an emphatic nod to those films of yore, and pretends to be nothing else.

Violence, sex, and profanity are the staples of this movie, much like it's inspiring genre classics with a story that only matters as a device to keep the movie going. There is a key occurrence in the film that has been argued to be a McGuffin, though I'll bite my tongue only to say that the entire plot itself is the McGuffin. This movie exists only to hear some of the coolest shit ever come out of Michael Madsen's mouth. Seriously, he fucking steals this movie from Bishop, who isn't bad either, and takes it for his own in all of his scenes. Like any Tarantino flick, this bad boy is all dialogue and not much else in the way of substance, which is fine because the dialogue flows exceptionally well and the chemistry between the leads was all sorts of obvious.

My one complaint, regardless of the amazing performance by Michael Madsen, the ten minutes with David Carradine outshines even that. Seriously, it makes me fucking pine for his monologues in Kung Fu he is that good, in a brief 10 minute stint in a flick he probably lent his name to as a favor. But even Eric Balfour had his shining moments, a nice switch considering I most recently saw him in the first season of 24 as a clueless slave to the wiles of Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer. Actually, fuck it, there isn't really a weak delivery to be had in this film, though Bishop's lines do at times seem the most hamfisted, that's not to say he's bad.

People expecting a follow-up to Death Proof just because Quentin's name comes up as an exec producer, and virtually rediscovered Larry Bishop as a Hollywood name need to check themselves, because while it does have its moments reminiscent of Kill Bill, Death Proof, and Reservoir Dogs, it's not even a contender there. What it is a fun fucking movie with little to no point other than to entertain for the duration of its runtime, and really, what the hell is wrong with that?

Director: Ryoo Seung-Wan
Starring: Jung Doo-Hong, Ryoo Seung-Wan

I've had a bootlegged version of this flick for a while now, but due to a $6 pricetag at FYE, I couldn't resist procuring the fully legit 2-disc Dragon Dynasty edition of the movie. Less an homage to one particular genre, The City of Violence is an amalgamation of a ton of shit you've probably seen before (assuming your tastes are similar to mine). To be clear, it's first and foremost a drama flick with some of the most ludicrous action ever choreographed in a film. I would hesitate to liken it to other Far East films, though, since the action is the movie is never less than brutal, and while stylized, it's choreography is far more natural than what we've come to expect from classic John Woo or Johnny To... it's a Korean flick after all, and they're currently the country to watch when it comes to reinvigorating old cinema styles right now.

Basically paying lip service to Walter Hill's the Warriors and some parallel universe' version of Game of Death in the moments that truly matter, AKA the two major scenes in the film it is a grandiose exercise in high drama and invigorating action. Action that is actually so ridiculous the casual watcher will find themselves saying "holy shit" or "what the fuck" or "oh my god" more times than they would otherwise admit to their friends who are too ignorant or stubborn to watch a flick with subtitles.

The only other Far East flicks to have impressed nearly this much in the last two years have also been distributed by Dragon Dynasty, all suitable as homages themselves. Dragon Heat, an ode to the balletic gun porn of classic Woo and To being a less than perfect flick but never less than enjoyable nonetheless. SPL, featuring Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung facing off against each other in one of the most insane final fights I've ever fucking seen in a flick, and Dog Bite Dog, a headfucker in the vein of... well, decide for your damn selves. I wouldn't plug these films if I didn't think they weren't worth watching in the first place.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

fuck. I forgot to call you. I was going to maybe go see Shauna after i got off work but decided my foot pain was too severe and I didn't want to drive that far. fuck. I'm sorry. I'll talk to you soon.