2.22.2011

Showdown (1993)

PLOT: A bullied, fatherless teen seeks guidance when his efforts to make friends at a new school only make trouble. After his attempts lead to ass-kickings, a kindly janitor with a shadowy past shows him the finer points of self-improvement, self-defense, and cleaning toilets.

Director: Robert Radler
Writer: Stuart Gibbs
Cast: Billy Blanks, Kenn Scott, Ken McLeod, Patrick Kilpatrick, John Mallory Asher, Christine Taylor, Mike Genovese, Linda Dona, Brion James, James Lew


PLOT THICKENER:
Almost no cinematic story is as frequently rehashed as Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 film Yojimbo. A tale of a loner arriving to a new land and being thrust into a conflict between two gangs, it has formed the basis for countless films. Released over 20 years later, Karate Kid is the story of a loner arriving to a new land and getting his ass kicked by karate-fighting bullies before being trained by a wise elder to fight. Similarly, it has countless imitators. Director Robert Radler (Best of the Best) and Billy Blanks teamed up in 1993 for Showdown, a copycat with no shame whatsoever about its inspirational origins.

In yet another film role in which his character is named Billy, Blanks plays a well-meaning police officer with a distaste for his department-issued firearm. On patrol one night, his partner, Spinelli (Genovese) encourages him to carry it while investigating a house party disturbance. When they arrive it’s the usual smattering of drunk kids, loud music, and Patrick Kilpatrick and his on-screen brother being drunken pricks. As the ruffian Lee, I presume Kilpatrick is supposed to be young here, but dude was like 43 years old when this shizz was filmed. Not totally weird, since we’ve all had our share of creepy old guys at our alcohol parties. Billy asks them to chill out, but Lee’s little brother struggles for Billy’s gun and falls to the ground, smacking his melon on the marble floor. Billy tries to shake him back into consciousness but the accident proves fatal.


Billy lets out the requisite “NOOOOOOO!” as Lee is arrested, and this moment of disbelieving grief then dissolves to a fat, naked Spinelli showering in the men’s locker room. Uh … interesting transition there, Radler. Spinelli tries to convince his partner that accidents happen and he needs to deal with the situation in order to cope, but Billy can’t even stand the sight of his own uniform and effectively resigns.

The story refocuses on Ken Marx (Scott), a Kansas-bred teenager who moves to the West coast for his senior year of high school. He’s your classic underdog: he’s short, wears dorky oversized clothes, and brings a Thermos to school. In an entertaining performance as ball-busting Assistant Principal Kowalski, Brion James introduces Ken to a madhouse of a public school where nerds, meatheads, and gangbangers all intermingle. For better or worse, Ken has a couple of other peers on which to lean during the transition.


Showdown features two spouses -- one current, one former -- of more famous people in prominent supporting roles. As Mike, ex-Jenny McCarthy squeeze John Mallory Asher is the film’s primary comic relief and Ken’s only friend. He does his best to warn Ken about the school’s various characters, including the smelly kid, the neo-Nazi clique, and Julie, the beautiful girl in math class. Played by Christine Taylor (Ben Stiller’s wife), Julie is a sweetheart but has fallen into the pattern that most attractive high school girls tend toward: she dates an asshole.

Around these parts, that asshole is Tom (McLeod), a kickboxing whiz with his own gang of jerkoff lackies. While he oozes confidence and has hair to put Flock of Seagulls to shame, Tom is also violently overprotective. His standard operating procedure: fight anyone who talks to his girl. Ken doesn’t get the message, which leads to several beatdowns that leave Ken bruised and his spirit broken.

Billy, now working as a janitor, finds the teen in the aftermath of one of these confrontations and eventually teaches Ken how to defend himself. In assuming the role of the tough but soft-spoken guru, Blanks seems far more natural and relaxed dramatically than when playing cops or former special forces soldiers. His usually stiff line delivery is mostly absent and while he’s a quality action lead, he’s up to the task as a strong supporting character here. The only downside is that Blanks keeps the lid on his trademark fight screams and awesome facial expressions. There’s also an interesting behavioral nuance to flesh out his character; he’s often tinkering with random electronic circuitry. To what end, though? A time machine? Robot? We never find out, but Billy has bigger fish to fry. Namely: illegal fights and his past. (Neither of which are fish, but everything is better fried.)


Years after the house party incident, Lee is a changed man. He has well-kempt facial hair and stylish turtlenecks. Once an obnoxious drunkard acting a fool, he’s now a stoic and feared martial-arts sensei who teaches that “successs is control” and “control is success.” Fuckin’ genius. Tom is his top pupil and a regular competitor in Lee’s illegal underground matches and his right-hand chick, Kate (Dona) actively recruits new talent for the festivities. Unfortunately for them, Billy catches wind of their venture and aims to put an end to it.

Unlike most other movies aping Karate Kid, Showdown has some semblance of self-awareness and knows what kind of territory it occupies. During training, Ken is cleaning toilets under Billy’s supervision. He stops and concludes that, based on these unorthodox Miyagi-lite training methods, he’s learning martial-arts techniques. Not so, Billy says, you’re learning humility. I call bullshit on this: it’s just a way for Billy to get Ken to do his shitty janitorial work.


The film nearly chokes on its own saccharine sentimentality but Blanks manages to dislodge the blockage with several kicks to the diaphragm. While the action isn’t spectacular, it’s passable. Blanks and legendary stuntman James Lew have a fairly entertaining fight which sees them lay waste to a high school drama set. While they're few and far between, Kilpatrick's action scenes are scripted competently enough to mask his lack of martial-arts training. Instead, Kilpatrick goes the pro wrestling heel route with his character by playing to the crowd, gouging eyeballs, throwing opponents into guardrails, and using his belt to whip fallen opponents. Not very sensei of him, but it works.

Aside from the maudlin overtones, my biggest criticism with the film is the music. The film's main score sounds like something that would play over the opening credits of a TGIF sitcom in 1990. Perhaps I’ve been conditioned to dig rock tracks or orchestral scores during my fight and training montage scenes but keyboard arrangements don’t cut it. They make these scenes a lot less dramatic and not even the occasional sax line can save them. You throw some stabby synths or squealing guitar in there and the movie instantly takes on a more brutal ass-kicking tone.


VERDICT
While not a great movie, Showdown is a personal sentimental favorite from my formative years and one of the better Karate Kid clones of its era. It does nothing new but Radler is a competent director, it has some fun moments, and there’s enough action to keep your attention. Even better, there are legitimately good performances here. As the villains, Kilpatrick chews up all kinds of scenery and McLeod is sufficiently dickish as the thirtysomething attempting to play a high school bully. Asher is a total cornball but stops short of being outright obnoxious and as mentioned, Blanks is great as the mentor and father figure. Kenn Scott is a reasonably sympathetic central character and his martial-arts skills are adequate (as an aside, he went under the latex shell to play Raphael in TMNT: Secret of the Ooze.) He also sorta looks like mini-Ben Stiller all jacked up on Pixie Sticks so maybe his brand of short, dark, and handsome is what prompted Christine Taylor turn to her future hubby’s show on MTV and say “He will be mine. Oh yes, he will be mine.”

AVAILABILITY
Your best bet is VHS but you might luck into an out of region disc on Amazon or EBay.

5 / 7

2.18.2011

Cyborg Cop (1993)


PLOT: A former DEA agent receives an urgent message from his former DEA agent brother and travels to an island in the Caribbean to find him. Once there, he must battle Gimli from Lord of the Rings and his army of cyborgs, doodads, zoozanks, and thingamajigs.

Director: Sam Firstenberg
Writer: Greg Latter
Cast: David Bradley, John Rhys-Davies, Alonna Shaw, Todd Jensen, Ron Smerczak, Rufus Swart


PLOT THICKENER:
Genre hybrids in cinema are as old as the medium itself, but one in particular gained traction during the 1990s despite no real box-office success to justify it: the sci-fi-martial-arts movie. Following the smash success of Robocop and Terminator 2 and the mild profitability of Universal Soldier, filmmakers were falling over themselves to figure out ways to integrate cyborgs and lasers with their tired martial-arts cops-and-robbers plots. The trend was so pervasive that few if any prominent martial arts actors working in the 1990s went without a science-fiction chopsocky film on their resume. Today we take a look at Sam Firstenberg’s 1993 film, Cyborg Cop, or its working title: I’m a Cyborg in a Direct to Video David Bradley Movie, But That’s OK.

Jack and Phillip Ryan, played by David Bradley and Todd Jensen, respectively, are hotshot DEA agents. They also happen to be brothers, and not the cold, distant, borrowing-money-but-never-paying-it-back type of brothers, but the warm and friendly type with a sweet nickname: the “Double Trouble Psycho Cops.” Yeah...really creative, guys. During a hostage negotiation, Jack takes out the captor -- the son of a newspaper publisher -- with lethal force. For obvious reasons, the news media has a field day with the botched operation. Following a wrongful death trial, they both resign.


Unemployment often leads to odd career choices, and the universe of Cyborg Cop is no different. Phillip tells his brother that he’s going to the third-world island of St. Keith to bust up a heroin distribution outfit. (An especially odd choice since St. Keith isn’t a real place.) The target? A gadget-obsessed British drug kingpin named Kessel, played by John Rhys-Davies in a ridiculously over the top check-cashing performance. He stands around yelling about science, he flies remote-controlled airplanes rigged with explosives into trespassers, and he even has dozens of randomly topless women working in his heroin facility. In a master stroke of entrepreneurship, Kessel is using his dope money to fund a cyborg manufacturing project and has plans to sell the product line as elite assassins. In his infinite shit luck and general clumsiness, Phillip gets captured and transformed into the latest model.


Fortunately, Jack packs his bags and heads to the island to investigate after receiving a mysterious package from his brother containing a toy truck and some heroin. Perhaps appropriate during the holiday season but a bit suspicious for a random Thursday. Since he only has a random vial of air-mailed heroin as evidence but no dealer’s name to stick to it, Jack has to do some sleuthing to determine the drug’s origins.

In order to blend in with the locals and take advantage of the tropical weather, Jack wears jeans and a leather jacket for the majority of his Caribbean getaway. As Matt of Direct to Video Connoisseur dutifully pointed out in his review, Jack also has an unusual dependence on the fannypack. As compared to Zubaz pants or aviator glasses, this is a fashion accessory that doesn’t get nearly enough attention within the 80s and 90s action movie set. The only reason you don’t see them more often is pure quantum physics. If a fannypack, Zubaz pants, a denim jacket, and aviators occupy the same space, the fucking universe explodes.


Early in the trip he also encounters an irritable journalist played by Alonna Shaw, perhaps most famous for playing the meek British girlfriend who gets groped by Cory Everson in the 1991 Jean Claude Van-Damme flick Double Impact. As Kate, she shows some range and plays an openly hostile psycho hose beast with terrible fashion sense. She and Jack almost instantly hate each other and this inevitably leads to romance, partly out of the bubbling sexual tension but mostly out of Jack’s refusal to pay for a hooker. Their love scene is abnormally thrusty for this type of movie and it represents something of a sad fall from grace for Shaw. In about two years’ time, she went from pretending to bang JCVD in a major studio release shown in over 1700 theaters to pretending to bang David Bradley in a straight-to-video action movie. We can safely presume he was wearing a fannypack during the proceedings.


While the film lacks the requisite power ballad, composer Paul Fishman constructs a mix of tunes that are … interesting. The song played during the opening title sequence would have Bruce Dickinson bobbing his head along to the voluminous amounts of cowbell. Virtually any scene that shows Jack driving his rented pick-up truck along the St. Keith roads is accompanied by a bizarre disco beat with electric guitar. That is, unless he’s being pursued during a chase scene, then it’s banjo and fiddle. There’s even a bar scene featuring some genuine island “riddim.” Fishman clearly set the score to “randomize” before hitting the self-destruct button.

This is probably somewhat of a given since this movie was filmed in South Africa and directed by a Polish guy, but authentic representations of islanders are nowhere to be found and the lack of political correctness here is enough to make a grad student’s head spin. Virtually everyone is happy to take bribes and there’s even one guy with dreadlocks working in a morgue who smokes a massive doobie while playing steel drums before he takes a bribe. The only thing they left out was the practice of voodoo. So yeah … if you’re looking for more positive stereotypes of Caribbean people, you should really just watch Cool Runnings. Such a heartwarming movie.


Despite a dearth of actual martial-arts, the film’s action still manages to come out on the plus side. There’s an amusing shoot-out in a morgue and a few scenes with Bradley kicking cyborgs and impoverished drunkards, but Cyborg Cop succeeds here in large part due to Firstenberg’s emphasis on camp. During an early cyborg demonstration, there’s a decent bit of gore as Kessel’s original model punches through the head of a volunteer victim. We also get hot cyborg-on-cyborg action in which one actually suplexes the other through a metal staircase in a smashing set-piece that might elicit chants of “ECW! ECW!” if it took place in a Philadelphia bingo hall, but since it happens in a cyborg laboratory in a drug kingpin’s lair, everyone just sort of stands around watching.

VERDICT:
There’s no such thing as essential viewing when it comes to the science-fiction-martial-arts genre and Cyborg Cop does little to change this. Access to lasers and random bleeps and bloops jacked from the Star Trek Sound Library does not a sci-fi film make. Beyond a couple of short fights between Bradley and various islanders, there’s little here to even qualify this as a martial-arts film. What are we left with? Bradley’s fannypack, some decent shoot-outs, a clunky love scene, cyborg fights, and John Rhys-Davies screaming about science in regular intervals. In a word: uhhhhhhh...

AVAILABILITY:
If you have any intention of watching this, it's currently available on Netflix Instant. If you go the purchase route, cross your fingers for an out-of-region DVD or a cheap used VHS via Amazon or EBay.

4.5 / 7

2.10.2011

China O'Brien (1990)

PLOT: After an accidental shooting, a big city cop quits the force and returns to her rural hometown to find an evil network of businessmen and crooked officials plotting a power grab. Somewhat predictably, they discard their plans after she bats her eyelashes and asks them in a cutesy Southern drawl to help her fix a flat tire.

Director: Robert Clouse
Writers: Robert Clouse, Sandra Weintraub
Cast: Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Keith Cooke, David Blackwell, Patrick Adamson, Steven Kerby


PLOT THICKENER:
Humid Southeast Asian jungles. Maximum security prisons. Sparsely populated rural American towns. What do all these things have in common besides a lack of wi-fi hotspots? They’re all popular locations for action films. Unlike the more exotic settings, the small town is often perceived as warm, friendly, and familiar. It is positioned as a place to which those from the same humble beginnings can return to rest their heads after long tours of globetrotting, war, or big city prosperity. Of these small-town action flicks, too few have had female martial-artists in the lead role. Cynthia Rothrock, titular star of Robert Clouse’s 1990 film China O’Brien, kicks that disparity right in the throat.

O’Brien is a martial arts instructor and tough-as-nails cop in an unnamed big city. She strikes fast, kicks hard, and shoots straight. Unfortunately, the latter of those is what lands her in trouble; during an off-duty altercation she shoots an armed assailant who happens to be a minor. Wracked with guilt, she resigns from her post, vows to never again use a firearm, and heads back to her quiet hometown to escape the city’s hectic pace and its alternating odors of urine, garbage, and fresh-baked pizza.


The first stop on her return home is the local police department, where her father serves and protects as town sheriff. She instead finds his second-in-command, Deputy Lickner (Adamson). While he possesses none of the same charm or dramatic chops, Adamson undoubtedly attended the Joe Spinell School of Bad Skin and Wispy Facial Hair. In addition to his kindly nature, he sports a sweaty mullet and some equally unkempt sideburns. But if cinematic history has taught us anything, it’s to never trust a supporting character with a moustache.

While continuing her search, O’Brien comes across old friend and flame Matt Conroy, played by frequent Rothrock collaborator Richard Norton. It’s unclear as to how this Australian martial artist joined the U.S. Special Forces only to end up in Hicksville, U.S.A. as a high school teacher jogging with his students, but the important thing to remember is -- HOLY SHIT LOOK AT NORTON’S STUBBLE. Serious Don Johnson action going on there.

O’Brien’s next stop is the local watering hole, the Beaver Creek Inn. Owned by a local businessman by the name of Sommers, it’s a good place to grab a drink and solicit a prostitute before getting in the inevitable bar brawl. Unfortunately for O’Brien, small-minded rural intolerance rears its ugly head as a former classmate (i.e. hooker) finds her use of multisyllabic words to be insulting, and the bartender derides her “chop suey” fighting when the tension boils over into violence. Over dinner that night, she finds out from her father that the Inn and many other parts of town have been rotted to the core as the result of Sommers’ influence.


During the bar scrum, we’re introduced to a mysterious drifter named Dakota (Cooke). An avid dirtbiker and arcade game enthusiast, he also wields what looks like a medieval hand vice designed to prevent masturbation. How he’s able to play Asteroids with it is a total mystery. We learn in time that it’s actually a permanent fixture of his hand after being irreparably mangled years ago by Sommers’ goons. (IMDB SEZ: Cooke’s hand was legitimately broken before China O’Brien started filming and was written into the story.) Throughout the rest of the film, Dakota trails China and proves righteous by helping her during moments of danger.

That danger comes in the form of the Sommers Gang of Evil Hick All-Stars. Apart from his legitimate business dealings, Sommers is involved in judge-buying, cop-corrupting, meth-making, hooker-torturing, and many other hyphenated criminal activities. Worse yet, after unceremoniously forcing Sheriff O’Brien out of his job, Sommers is chomping at the bit to install one of his cronies as the new head lawman. China and friends refuse to allow that to happen and she announces her intent to run for her dad’s old position.

The back-half of the film resembles 1972’s The Candidate if Cynthia Rothrock were cast instead of Robert Redford, and had more choreographed violence and car bombings and less thoughtful commentary on American politics in the age of television. China O’Brien demonstrates that elections are not won or lost because of canvassing, parades, and populist ideology but rather on voter trust, hard work, and turning every campaign rally into a full-contact martial arts demonstration.


Despite the obviously low budget, veteran martial-arts director Robert Clouse does a fair job of filming the action and giving the fight choreography room to breathe; cuts are in the flow and he uses a good mix of shots to blend movement together. While the villainous stuntmen in the film offer little resistance and even less martial-arts prowess, their collective timing is good and their falls are convincing, thereby making the heroes of the film look sufficiently bad-ass. There’s something oddly satisfying in watching Rothrock beat the shit out of obnoxious drunks and crooked rednecks, and Norton and Cooke are as great a supporting cast as you could get for an action movie at this time. Norton utilizes some brutal arm-based takedowns and even mixes in a few pro wrestling moves (ex. cross-body block, dropkick) while Cooke gets to show off his athleticism and kicking prowess, broken hand and all.

Perhaps lost in the excellent fisticuffs is the film’s rather subversive subtext. I’d argue that China O’Brien is a cinematic treatise on the dangers of firearms; inciting incident aside, none of the heroes fires a weapon in vanquishing their well-armed adversaries and O’Brien explicitly mentions more than once that she’ll never pick up a gun again. The film isn’t overly preachy on this point, but it does allow Rothrock and company to focus on the strengths and virtues of their respective martial-arts crafts instead of trying to match the firepower of the opposite side.


VERDICT:
If I theoretically told you that a film was filled with drinking, politics, fighting, and car bombs, you’d likely assume it was about the Irish Republican Army. Fortunately, China O’Brien is all of those elements and a bit more and is really just a fun romp of an action movie. You can tell that Rothrock, Norton, and Cooke are enjoying the material and Clouse directs with a steady hand in making a tidy and well-paced cult actioner. Of her American films, this is almost definitely Rothrock’s best as the lead performer.

AVAILABILITY:
Flailing in dreaded Save limbo on Netflix and will cost you a pretty penny on Amazon if purchased new. Your best route is to buy used, buy VHS, or the *cough* YouTube clips *cough*.

5.5 / 7

2.04.2011

Under the Gun (1995)

PLOT: Over the course of a single evening, a nightclub owner is thrown into a pressure cooker of maladies: gangsters, corrupt police, drugs, marital problems, double-crosses, a red-eye flight to Mexico, and a really persistent pimp. Fortunately, all of these issues can be resolved through kickboxing.

Director: Matthew George
Writer: Matthew George
Cast: Richard Norton, Kathy Long, Robert Bruce, Peter Lindsey, David Serafin, Ron Vreeken, Roland Dantes


PLOT THICKENER:
Multitasking has almost always been trumpeted as a virtue. Whether it’s attending a conference call while manipulating pivot tables in Excel, or drinking a gin and tonic and smoking a cigar while getting a lap dance, multitasking allegedly makes life easier and more efficient. Is the ability to complete several tasks during the same time frame ever a bad thing? If you’re a disgraced hockey player turned nightclub owner named Frank Torrance, abso-fucking-lutely.

Played by legendary Australian facekicker Richard Norton, Torrance has a lot on his dinner plate: the baked potato of uncertainty, the skirt steak of deception, and the grilled asparagus of bad luck. His backstory is not entirely uncommon: he was a successful pro hockey player sentenced to a year in prison after refusing to testify in a teammate’s drug trial. Following incarceration, he utilized his business acumen to open a nightclub backed by capital from the Italian mob and is now forced to run errands for them, usually drug deals. If I recall correctly, this describes nearly half of the NHLPA 93’ roster for the Sega Genesis.


The film opens with Frank closing a heroin deal with a crew of Triads led by Filipino action legend Roland Dantes and things quickly go awry. After pummeling the Asian gang members in a tornado of splinters and China White, Torrance walks away from the wreckage with the drug money and the stash. His plan is simple: screw over the Triads and his mafia backers, steal the drug money, falsify a purchase ledger so he can sell his club to an interested buyer, and oversee completion of the club’s expansive renovations in time to board a plane to Mexico with his wife later that night. As fate would have it though, there are a few sugary bumps along the road in this cakewalk.

Since the club opened, Torrance has had his old hockey teammate Harry (Lindsey) on staff as head of security. To repay this compassion from a guy who did a prison stint over his drug scandal, Harry has devolved into a stuttering and aloof junkie. So despite the mutual loyalty, it’s no great surprise that Torrance hires a fellow ex-con named Tom (Serafin) who expresses interest in working as a bouncer. Can he be trusted? In an effort to save time on the background check and payroll set-up, Torrance instead kicks his ass to test his mettle and Tom passes with flying colors. This was practically the same hiring process at Papa Gino’s when I was 15 years old.

Meanwhile, a businessman named Linpow pays a surprise visit to the club with his accountant in tow, and they want to close the deal to buy the property. Only problem? Frank’s accountant has the business ledger and has gone missing. To stall the proceedings, Torrance entertains his company with a premium blend of booze and a blonde, gyrating woman.


Unsurprisingly, the surprises don’t end there. Triad enforcers come to the club looking for revenge and the stolen drug money, the gyrating woman’s pimp gets progressively more agitated, and an old police friend named Lisa Krause (Long) shows up to warn Frank about a corrupt cop with a vendetta (and a swanky eye-patch -- yarrrrrr!) Inevitably, all of these elements boil over in a climactic goulash of bullets and blood.

Martial-arts film plots in the West are notorious for being either riddled with cliches or needlessly convoluted. Rather uniquely, George takes the most direct path to both: in combining so many cliches he achieves convolution. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because he weaves the different threads together well and the film’s pace kept me invested throughout the runtime. In keeping the plot points fairly shallow, George is able to avoid getting bogged down for too long in any one of them, and he uses the action very effectively to flesh out the film.


It goes without saying that I like my action like I like my women: consistent, creative, and extremely violent. That said, despite the fact that it goes without saying, Under the Gun is one of the hottest women I’ve seen. At least this week. The action quotient runs high and Norton brings a ton of experience to the table in choreographing each fight sequence. While most of the other actors are bulkier and therefore not as quick, Norton and Long still put their skills to good use and shine. Norton in particular has some choice moments using props like mops, pipes, and lamps to fight off enemies. There’s even a portion of a fight in the club’s alleyway where Norton predates a set-piece used in Ong-Bak by a good eight years. After walking through a puddle of freshly-spilled cooking oil, he voluntarily puts his feet into a burning fire and starts fire-kicking the shit out of his adversaries.

Norton isn’t all flash and fire, though. I’ve admittedly not seen a ton of Richard Norton starring vehicles outside of his work with Cirio H. Santiago where he played a brooding loner in various post-apocalyptic wastelands. Elsewhere, he’s been cast as the gwailo villain, one half of a tandem, or a supporting character in an action ensemble cast. Under the Gun is very much Norton’s movie though, and it gives him a chance to show off some humorous touches and acting chops. When the scene requires it, his demeanor fluctuates from sarcastic to serious, frustrated to exhausted, enraged to relieved. He also strikes a blow for every consumer burned by shitty airline service by first expressing agitation (“Bitch!”) then anger (“Fucking bitch!”) to a snooty customer service rep. He’s not going to win any Oscars for his dramatic skills, but Norton’s Frank Torrance is a more fully-formed character than we’re used to seeing from him specifically and martial-arts films in general. For an authoritative lead performance from Richard Norton, this film is a great place to start.

Did I mention he kicks a dude while his shoes are on fire?


VERDICT:
In the end, Under the Gun is the portrayal of one man for whom the ability to multitask ultimately betrays him. If he had instead renovated his club on Monday and Tuesday, then sold the club on Wednesday, and fucked over the gangs on Thursday before flying to Mexico later that night, he could avoided such an action-packed mess. He also could have taken advantage of Thursday airfare rates, which are typically cheaper than flying on Fridays. Lesson learned here? Don’t procrastinate.

AVAILABILITY:
In permanent "Save" limbo on Netflix, but this shouldn't cost you more than $10 on Amazon.

5 / 7

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