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Movie Reviews: Action Films

Updated on July 17, 2020

ASHFALL (2019)

Director: Lee Hae-jun, Kim Byung-seo
Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Ha Jung-woo, MaDong-seok, Bae Suzy, Jeo Hye-jin
Plot: A volcano threatens the whole Korean peninsula and its up to a military team to prevent it
Mood: Action and comedy in an end-of-the-world scenario
Tags: Volcanic eruption, Suicide mission, Late heroics

The dreaded Mt. Paektu on the China-North Korean border erupts sending massive earthquakes that devastate nearby cities. A final major eruption threatens to leave the whole Korean peninsula in total ruin unless a South Korean team of military specialists successfully detonate an uranium bomb deep inside the volcano thus preventing it from blowing up. Well, that’s the plan and who’s to argue the science behind it? The tricky part is that the nuclear bomb they need is up North, and the “Southies” are not the only ones interested, there are the Chinese gangsters and the American military. The movie has a kickass cast led by Lee Byung-hun, Ha Jung-woo and MaDong-seok. This big budget epic has eye-popping special effects and large sets, and was a box-office success.

The Verdict: 7/10. It’s a movie that was intended to make money and not wow critics. It’s a disaster movie, and that alone makes it hard to resist since we are all suckers for scenes of massive destructions.

THE OLD GUARD (2020)

Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Cast: Charlize Theron, Matthias Schoenaerts, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kiki Layne, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Harry Melling
Plot: An army of immortals carry on missions that have important effects on world history
Mood: Highlander with guns
Tags: Comic book movie, Elite killing machines, Body count

Charlize Theron leads a small group of mercenaries who are immortals whose primary mission is saving people, which in turn makes the world a better, safer place, or something to that effect as the story would reveal. I don’t think they ever referred to themselves as the old guard in the movie. Do they need a name? Probably not. And probably do since this is based on a comic book written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Leandro Fernandez which makes this basically, a superhero movie and it obviously plays like one. The characters are very distinct and multi-racial that no one seems to look like anyone else, except of course, the uniformed bad guys, the mortals which the old guards dispose of quite easily. The plot is expectedly about a big corporation who wants to know the secret of their immortality and how to manufacture it for monetary gains. I would hope that in the succeeding sequels it would be more deeper than that. Yes, this is bound to be a series of movies with an ending, because it turns out that their powers are actually, not infinite.

The Verdict: 6/10. Theron is bar none, the heir apparent of the action heroine. She was Aeon Flux, Furiosa and the Atomic Blonde! The Old Guard rely heavily on her star power and here she puts on another show. The movie is very violent and high octane, but, we’ve already seen a lot of this kind of movies before. The action sequences are like, put all of them in one room and let the carnage begin. There was little imagination, and there should’ve been because this is comic book fiction. What you can do is what’s infinite. I’m a fan of Greg Rucka’s other work, Lazarus which is TV series-bound for which I am more excited about. As for The Old Guard, I’m expecting something new in the upcoming sequels.
7/12/20

THE MILLION EYES OF SUMURU (1967)

Director: Lindsay Shonteff
Cast: George Nader, Frankie Avalon, Shirley Eaton, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Klaus Kinski, Krista Nell, Maria Rohm
Plot: An all-woman group plan world domination by eliminating top leaders of the opposite sex.
Mood: With Frankie Avalon in it, it’s like a beach party with assassinations.
Tags: Femme Fatales, Island sanctuary, Hong Kong setting

After her Bond-girl turn, Shirley Eaton tried the top villain role reminisce of the Bond movies, here as Sumuru, megalomaniac ruler of an island of femme fatales whose primary mission is to eliminate male world leaders so as to conquer the world. She and her sexy sirens look to succeed if it weren’t for two pesky, wise-cracking Americans played by George Nader and Frankie Avalon out to thwart their plans. Nader and Avalon seemed to be the right testosterone-driven actors for the part but their delivery of jokes were flat. Abbot & Costello would’ve made this one a classic. Or Hope & Crosby. Or Martin & Lewis. Or any of the funny tandems. Nader & Avalon just didn’t click. One redeeming thing though was Klaus Kinski’s cameo as President Boong, ruler of fictional Sinonesia.

"Bingo!"
"Bingo!"

The Verdict: 4/10. Forgettable even if it turned a sequel. Shirley Eation herself said they were bad films. Who are we to argue with its star?
6/28/20

FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION: JAILHOUSE 41 (1972)

Director: Shunya Ito
Cast: Meiko Kaji, Fumio Watanabe, Yukie Kagawa, Kayoko Siraishi
Plot: A violent convict attempts escape along with other female prisoners
Mood: Exploitative and explosive, there’s no telling what the bitches would do
Tags: Sex & Violence, Arthouse, Women in prison

Abused by his captors, female convict Matsushima known as Scorpion is kept in isolation in the most horrific way, tied behind her back in a dark and damp chamber. She has a history with the sadistic warden whom she had attacked and taken his eye out. A year’s worth of dirt on her body as the warden proclaimed is evidence of her long punishment that was meant to make her go insane. But she doesn’t, instead Matsushima with her strong defiance inspires a riot among her fellow inmates. To quell further revolts, the Warden has her humiliated by gang rape during hard labor under the sun with everyone witnessing it. That works, but enroute back to prison, Matsushima and several others were able to escape and kill their escorts. What follows is a cat and mouse chase on desolate landscapes and along the way are more rape and death towards a more violent end.

They love blue more than any other colors
They love blue more than any other colors

The Verdict: 8/10. It is cult among women-in-prison grindhouse circuit and therefore a must-see. Shunya Ito artfully directs a somewhat overused storyline but its eyecatching and as the mood suggests, it is explosive. With striking colors and an effective use of dramatic lighting, characters are well-defined and everything that needs to be exploited sees the light of day. Female Convict 701: Scorpion precedes this as do other movies and remakes.

6/26/20

A FORCE OF ONE (1979)

Director: Paul Aaron
Cast: Chuck Norris, Jennifer O’Neill, Bill Wallace, Clu Gulager
Plot: Cops turned up dead and the bureau hires a Karate expert for assistance.
Mood: TV Cop episode with in-ring fighting
Tags: Unknown assailant, Drug-related, Karate dojo, Kickboxing

In only his third starring role, Chuck’s karate chops were in full display. His acting chops however, was a work in progress. Enter Jennifer O’Neill who is quite convincing as a narcs officer, made you believe you were actually watching a movie instead of one long promotional gimmick for enrolling in karate. The plot is quite "out there." Two undercover narc agents are murdered and their colleagues are baffled by the precision of their injuries, they have no idea who did it. Then somebody shouted, “It must be one of those Karate weirdos like in the movies!” The script by Ernest Tidyman who created Shaft and won an Academy Award for his screenplay of The French Connection, has none of his other movies’ street smart, grit or even charm. He must’ve thought the action scenes would carry the movie but they were not as impressive as they should’ve been considering Chuck choreographed them. Again, it’s early Chuck. Director Paul Aaron could’ve at least made them look better with good camerawork. And the title is a bit of a misnomer. Chuck was not like a force of one against many, he was mostly fighting one-on-one. So, there were none of those thrills.

"Careful with the moustache, alright?"
"Careful with the moustache, alright?"

The Verdict: 4/10. Not Chuck’s best. But the in-ring fighting is good.

6/18/2020.

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