Features, Film and TV, Review/Preview

Hollywood Hard Bastards: Volume 6

Watching berserk action movies every day really makes you notice things – like the dire necessity for an evil henchman training school. Without fail, these useless dunderheads are horrible shots, though they do provide excellent cannon fodder for hard heroes like Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1996’s Eraser. In Chuck Russell’s carnage-tastic thriller, Arnie is villain-smiting witness protection agent John Kruger who specialises in ‘erasing’ endangered witnesses, helping them ‘disappear’ to start new lives.

When Kruger becomes embroiled in a case involving high-tech weapons, he battles scores of laser-gun toting bad guys, valiantly leaping from an aeroplane without a parachute and sending some alligators to reptile heaven, spitting the immortal line: ‘You’re luggage!’  It’s silly, violent fun, with a truly incendiary final firefight in one of those clichéd steam-filled warehouse/factory /steelwork places. And, of course, it is Arnie’s birthright that he will get to hold two gigantic lasers in his massive, python-like arms so he can send his adversaries to henchman hell in a blaze of stunning, fiery glory (33/50).

The-Party-at-Kitty-and-Stud

   Stuffed with an altogether different kind of action is Sylvester Stallone’s earliest work, 1970’s psychedelic soft porn smorgasbord The Party at Kitty and Stud’s. Sly proves he’s a master of many talents as ‘Stud,’ mopey, animalistic lover of Henrietta Holm’s hippy chick ‘Kitty.’ This plotless, grotty tale is just an excuse to chronicle the couple’s robust sex-life, with S&M, fellatio and groovy hanky panky parties all shot in surreal, trippy Nic Roeg style by director Morton Lewis.

Close-ups of the Stallion’s dangly bits might give you nightmares and aside from going to town on his missus with a whip, Sly sees little combat. Still, when the whole thing culminates in one big preposterous naked, jiggly game of ring-a-ring-of roses soundtracked by the sort of sleazy funk Ron Burgundy would probably put on before taking you to Pleasure Town, it’s a bloody good laugh (14/50).

on deadly ground

  Far more serious is On Deadly Ground, Steven Seagal’s politically conscious 1994 directorial debut, which sees the Aikido overlord take on the dangers of pollution…by blowing shit up. Seagal is Forrest Taft, an environmental agent who ‘fixes’ deadly situations on dastardly Michael Caine’s poisonous oil rigs, but has a change of heart when he’s double-crossed and left for dead. Rescued by kindly Eskimos, Taft embarks on a furious mission of revenge, in a heady mixture of Dances With Wolves and Commando.

As usual, Seagal sports ludicrous jackets and natters nonsense like ‘What does it take to change the essence of a man?’ but, satisfyingly, the perpetually-underestimated pony-tailed one kicks serious ass. A dozen racist roughneck oil-workers receive some impromptu dental work and later, when R. Lee Ermey’s savage mercenaries are brought in, Taft’s armed-to-the-teeth, bitchslappin’ one man army makes grieving widows of their wives. Never marry a henchman (35/50).

icarus

  Also suffering a change of heart is Dolph Lundgren’s Soviet-trained assassin, determined to escape his past for his kid in 2010’s Icarus. Directed by Lundgren himself, this above-par DTV effort packs a satisfactory wallop, the glowering Swede proving wonderfully frosty as Icarus, the real estate salesman with a cheeky sideline in assassinations, but who struggles to make his relationships work.

When the villains kidnap his kid, Dolph has the perfect excuse to do what he does best: tear baddies to shreds. A gymnasium-set battle sees a henchman’s face pulped by dumbbells, while elsewhere, evil-doers are abused with coffee pots, pitchforks and Icarus’ terrifying, tree trunk biceps. Even in his old age, Lundgren is reliably lithe and sleek, and though Icarus won’t win any Oscars, it’s a pleasant, no-holds-barred reminder that he’s fighting fit and ready for action (32/50).

escape from alcatraz

  Another tenacious old dog is Clint Eastwood in 1979’s Escape from Alcatraz, based on the true story of the only known prison break from the infamous maximum security prison. Eastwood smoulders as mysterious, hard nut inmate Frank Morris, transferred to the Rock, who quickly solidifies his tough-as-nails credentials by battering a con in the showers and ramming soap in his gob. Naked fights are always cool.

Throughout Don Siegel’s examination of regimented, soul-destroying prison life, Clint keeps his impeccable, stoney-faced cool, fending off attempted shivvings, calling the warden an asshole and plotting his escape using naught but a pair of toenail clippers. Though there’s little action, Eastwood’s steely, supercool turn makes watching a man dig a hole exciting as hell, and when he finally embarks on his ballsy escape, it’s as nailbitingly intense as anything he’s ever done (26/50).

Cop land

  On the other side of the law is Stallone’s kind-hearted sheriff of a town populated by cops in James Mangold’s 1997 thriller Cop Land. Realising his hometown is being utilised as a front for mob connections by Harvey Keitel’s crooked copper, Stallone’s partially deaf gentle giant Freddy Heflin must summon the badass within to bring the dirtbags to justice.

Heflin is miles away from the Stallone we know and love, a fallible fuck-up who sports a band-aid on his nose following a spot of drunk-driving and who wrestles with his conscience and loyalties, before his inner-Rambo finally bursts free. In a rousing climax that sees the battered hero let rip with a shotgun on a house full of corrupt lawmen, Freddy reminds everyone that he is, and always has been, a goddamn hero (27/50).

sudden death

  Themes of redemption are also explored in Peter Hyams’ ‘Die Hard-in-an-ice-rink’ actioner Sudden Death, with Jean-Claude Van Damme’s disgraced fireman Darren McCord taking on terrorists during the final of the Stanley Cup. JCVD gets to strut his stuff in numerous rip-roaring set-pieces, including a hilarious scrap with a relentless penguin mascot that features body parts plunged into bubbling chip fat and death-by-dishwasher.

Those hapless henchmen have another crappy day at the office, as McCord offs them in a variety of imaginative ways, including flambéing one with a blowtorch and skewering another with a humongous, conveniently placed, pointy bone. For the ridiculous finale, Mccord takes to the ice disguised as a goalie, making the ‘save of the year,’ before leaping from the stadium roof, swinging down to the director’s box and machine gunning a legion of baddies in an outrageous flourish of badassery. JCVD 1 – 0 Henchmen (34/50).

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