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Flick finds Navy SEAL Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal) serving as a cook on the battleship USS Missouri for disciplinary reasons. It’s the captain’s birthday and a big celebration is planned. Rogue Navy officer Commander Peter Krill (Gary Busey) uses the celebration as a cover to bring in terrorist William Strannix (Tommy Lee Jones), an ex-CIA operative, to take over the ship with his men. Now it’s up to cook Casey and a stripper hired for the party (Erika Eleniak) to outwit Strannix and his thugs and take back the Missouri and save the crew.
Arguably Steven Seagal’s best film, Under Siege is directed by Andrew Davis (Code of Silence, The Fugitive) from a fun script by J. F. Lawton. Davis takes the now classic Die Hard scenario and milks it for all it’s worth in his battleship setting. There is a lot of action, some taunt suspense and some nice humor mixed in with Seagal’s trademark martial arts. He gets one of the liveliest performances out of the usually stoic action star and some very strong but entertaining villains in Busey and Jones. The film used a real battleship as it’s setting, the USS Alabama, and the cat and mouse chase between Strannix and Ryback works really well in the claustrophobic setting. Just so it doesn’t wear out it’s welcome, the filmmakers find a few reasons to get the action outside and on deck now and again. There is a generous amount of violence and bloodletting, as Seagal’s style of hand to hand combat and weapons handling gives him plenty of opportunities to stab, shoot and break numerous bones, when not blowing up bad guys with booby traps. It’s a lot of fun and very fast paced, though does take enough time to establish it’s characters which are colorful.
As for those characters the film has a top notch cast. This might be one of Seagal’s best performances, as the action star gives Casey a bit more of a sense of humor and heart than his usual straight-faced tough guys. He has some nice charm and can act a bit. One of the reasons he gets to do this is being paired with Erika Eleniak’s terrified and out of place Jordan. The Baywatch star, at first, is just scared out of her wits, but the character grows from a frightened young woman to a fighter and solid part of the resistance, when she and Casey go on the offensive. The script gives the two some nice scenes together and the actors have a good chemistry between them. Busey and Jones make very good bad guys. Both go just over-the-top enough to be fun, but not enough to make a joke out of the proceedings, or lose their threat factor. They are both dangerous men. Rounding out is a great Colm Meaney as one of the lead henchmen, Nick Mancuso as a sleazy CIA operative, real-life Marine war vet Dale Dye as a navy officer, Andy Romano as Admiral Bates, along with Bernie Casey, Dennis (Retribution) Lipscomb and even Kane “Jason Voorhees” Hodder. A great cast, both main and supporting.
A classic action flick and depending on what you look for in one of his films, Steven Seagal’s best flick and performance. There is plenty of action, strong suspense and tension and some great characters, who interact wonderfully. You get the traditional elements from both a Steven Seagal movie and a Die Hard-esque thriller, yet Under Siege has it’s own heartbeat. Solid directing from veteran Andrew Davis and a tight, fun script from J.F. Lawton and you have pretty much all you could want from an action flick.
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) cooks who moonlight as SEALs.
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It’s 1973 and Major Charles Rayne (William Devane) has finally come home after a seven year incarceration as a POW in Viet Nam. He receives a hero’s welcome, but the celebration is short lived. His wife has fallen for another and wants a divorce and his young son hardly knows him. His crumbling family is the least of his problems, though, as some thugs break into his home to steal some silver dollars he was given as a welcome home present. They torture and mutilate Charlie, grinding his hand in a garbage disposal to get him to talk. When they finally get what they want, they kill his wife and son and he is shot and left for dead. Now Charlie, wearing a hook for a hand, begins to hunt down his assailants, one by one, with payback on his mind!
Rolling Thunder is flatly directed by John Flynn from a script by Paul Schrader and Heywood Gould. It is considered a cult classic by many, but is actually kind of a dull revenge flick. All the characters speak their lines in the same monotone delivery and pacing of the film is slow, even for this era of filmmaking. Aside from the brutal torture/robbery scene, there are a few sparse scenes of action/violence till the bloody shoot-out at it’s climax, which is somewhat effective though not enough to really turn the film around. The flick just doesn’t really live up to it’s reputation and forty years later, the violence that does occur, including the trash compactor mutilation of William Devane’s Viet Nam vet, isn’t as startling as it may have been in 1977. The film is a bit too trashy to be an A-list thriller, yet there is not enough blood, boobs and bullets to be a true exploitation flick. The by-the-numbers direction really doesn’t help matters, either, as one wishes the film had a little more life to it, at least when the bullets finally start to fly. It’s another cult classic that doesn’t seem like all that big a deal when finally seen…or at least hasn’t aged well enough to still grab you all these years later.
The flick has a decent cast, though the monotone delivery of all the dialogue real keeps it from firing on all cylinders. William Devane is a good actor, yet here he adds little emotion to a man who is given much to emote about. His war veteran has been traumatized by his experiences as a POW, true, but he reacts to everything with the same emotional detachment including the murder of his young son and his own mutilation. He’s the emotional center of the film, yet he displays very little emotion. Same can be said of pretty Linda Haynes as Linda, a young woman who falls for Charlie and is along for most of the ride to revenge. Again that same monotone delivery although she is a bit livelier than Devane. Considering Charlie’s emotional flatline, Linda’s attraction to him never really clicks. As a fellow solider, Tommy Lee Jones also acts emotionally comatose and it also doesn’t help his character that he disappears for almost an hour and then simply follows along when Devane needs help during the final confrontation. We never really get to know him. As for the bad guys (Luke Askew, Charles Escamilla, Pete Ortega and James Best), they are all generic thugs and aside from their vile actions during the robbery, we don’t really get to know them well enough for them to really resonate as strong villains. They are just stereotypical bad guys. The only one that stands out a bit is Askew’s Automatic Slim, who is the one who torments Devane. Other than that, there is nothing special about these guys to make you really feel the hate for them.
This is another much talked about flick that didn’t live up to it’s reputation when finally caught up to. Maybe it was effective back in it’s time, but now the violence isn’t all that shocking and the film’s pacing is rather slow for a revenge flick. The actors all deliver their lines in the same emotionally detached monotone and the direction is very by-the-numbers with no real flair, even in the climactic gunfight. It has some effective moments, like the cruel robbery Charlie suffers and the final shoot-out at it’s climax, but in-between the movie never maintained a firm grip to really keep one emotionally invested in the journey down the road to revenge. Ultimately the film was a bit too trashy to be considered an A-list thriller, yet not quite trashy enough to be a real solid exploitation film. I suppose it’s worth a look to see what the fuss is about, but not really worth all that fuss.
I know I have covered both these films before but, it is 4th of July weekend and what is more appropriate then Captain America!
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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2012)
Captain America is a good flick and there definitely is some fun to be had and I enjoyed it but, It’s not quite the great popcorn flick it could have been. The film is well directed by veteran Joe Johnston with some nice, nostalgic old fashioned war movie touches but, it’s in how the film is structured that is where the weaknesses lie. The biggest chink in Cap’s shield is the pacing. The film takes a lot of time with his origin and while what we watch is entertaining, it takes far too long to send him on his first mission to rescue POWs from a Hydra instillation. Once he does officially take on the mantle of superhero and supersoldier, there is a quick montage of him in action and then the film slows down for more dialog until the final confrontation and that itself is underwhelming and over too quick. Why is Hydra thought of as such a threat if they can be defeated so easily? And I shouldn’t have to read the comics to find out what this glowing cube is that Hydra uses to power it’s forces. It’s origins are vague and we don’t really learn about it until The Avengers.
Another big problem is that they take so much time to develop the character of Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans), that everyone else is short changed. Main villain Red Skull, played by the always good Hugo Weaving, hasn’t enough screen time to develop a threatening enough screen presence. He’s a pretty generic villain for a classic comic character and Cap’s arch villain. The showdown between Cap and Skull is also far too short and leaves not enough impact though, the scene that follows does have some nice emotional resonance to it. Of course a lot of this has to do with how Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s script is written as Johnston does the best he can with it. It’s not a bad script but, a bit of an underwritten one on a character level.
The cast is good with what little they have to do. Evans makes a very humble and noble hero. Hayley Atwell looks serious and pretty as Agent Peggy Carter who is Rodgers’ love interest and is a tough cookie when she needs to be. Tommy Lee Jones barks alot of orders as Col. Phillips who doesn’t quite believe in Rodgers’ abilities at first but, not given much else to do and the charm of the actor helps expand the role and make him endearing. Cap’s sidekick and old friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan) might have 10 minutes screen time, if that so, Stan is given little time to make an impression. The Howling Mad Commandos also have very little screen time and you need to watch the credits to find out all their names. Dum Dum Dugan (a perfectly cast Neal McDonough) is another classic character wasted with little to do.
All in all, it is entertaining but, at the same time, also somewhat disappointing. Also stars Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark and Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine, who creates the super soldier serum that turns Rodgers into Captain America. As with all Marvel flicks stay though the credits.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a rare breed much like it’s noble hero, Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans). It’s an intelligent, mature, action/thriller that is also a kick-ass popcorn movie and one that lives up to it’s hype and more. Cap’s latest solo adventure finds him still trying to adjust to modern life and more importantly to being a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. whose methods are getting less and less to his liking. Steve Rodgers is a man of old-fashion values and he is seeing echos of an enemy he has fought before in the intelligence organization’s practices. Especially it’s plan to launch three heavily armed heli-carriers into the air for constant surveillance and “threat removal”. And be wary he should, as more then one specter from his past are about to rear their heads, one deeply rooted in the organization he works for and the other close to his heart. And when Cap, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) begin to suspect a serpent in the nest, a mysterious metal-armed assassin known only as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) marks them for death. But, this may be one adversary Captain America may not be able to fight.
All I can say is that Marvel has delivered one hell of a solid movie. Certainly one of the best of the Marvel film series so far. The script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely is smart, complex yet, incredibly easy to follow and is loaded with some really nice character touches, not only with our cast of familiar faces, including Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) but, with new characters such as Sam ‘The Falcon’ Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a new hero, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) a high level S.H.I.E.L.D. head and the mysterious Winter Soldier, a deadly assassin not without his own secrets and complexities. The film is expertly directed by Anthony and Joe Russo who boldly give this film a more moderate pace to give the story time to develop and our heroes time to unravel the twisted web they find surrounding them. I loved that the film simply told a good story and didn’t sacrifice that story or character development for action… not that there isn’t plenty of that, cause there is. And the action is fast paced and spectacular when it does come, with good old-fashioned chase scenes, shoot-outs, hand to hand fights and a literal war above Washington D.C. that rivals the ending of The Avengers. And the Russos never loose track of the multiple characters or scenarios during that action especially at the climax where our heroes are spread quite thin in their attempts to thwart a plan that runs deep with treachery and betrayal. The film also has some really nice surprises and cameos that help round out the story and take it to the next level and is not without a sly but, unobtrusive sense of humor. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a film that had so much to offer yet, remained so entertaining. In terms of the Marvel series, this film is a grand slam among home runs. Maybe not as consistently fun as The Avengers but, it has a lot more substance and still provides the thrills and series references we come to expect. The slow moments have just as much to offer as the explosive ones, the way it should be.
And the cast are all guided well by the Russos and give their best portrayals yet in their perspective roles. Evans truly shines giving us a noble and headstrong hero who is learning to deal with the modern world and how things are done in his line of work but, without sacrificing who he is and what he stands for. Cap is Cap and he’s going to do things his way even if it means going it alone. Scarlett Johansson gives her best turn yet as Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff. Not sure who is to credit, be it the actress finally locking in on her character or the filmmakers for giving her the guidance and script material to do it. Her Widow is strong, tough, a bit aloof but, she has a dry sense of humor and her exposure to Rodger’s old school sense of honor brings a little of the woman out from underneath the cold spy. I like that the character finally had some development and Johansson portrayed it well. Jackson’s performance is what we’d expect from the veteran actor and his Fury finally also gets more to do then in the previous films and we get to see a little more of what makes him tick and I hope it continues. Mackie is a wonderful edition to the cast as a war veteran with special skills who will valiantly join this new fight and he works very well with Evans and Johansson and they make a solid trio of heroes to root for against all odds. Sebastian Stan does a really good job with not only creating a formidable and dangerous adversary in his phantom-like Winter Soldier but, gives the character some nice depth and a touch of conflict that I won’t spoil for those not familiar with the comic character. Redford is an acting legend and is perfectly cast as Pierce, a man of character and secrets and it’s great to see him in a film like this. Rounding out is Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow, a strong secondary villain who is a thorn in Rodgers’ side, Cobie Smolders once again is fun as the tough Maria Hill and Emily VanCamp shows some moxie as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who takes a shine to Steve Rodgers and believes in him when doubt is cast by scheming villains. There are also a couple of nice touch cameos too, that I won’t spoil here… and, as usual, stay through the credits for not one but, two post credits scenes.
An absolute blast of a movie that delivers the action, as well as, a smart story loaded with intrigue, suspense, surprises and some really strong character moments mixed in. Bravo Marvel, Bravo! I loved it!
A little 80s action/adventure for this week’s double feature with these two fun 80s thrillers. We’ve already covered Shakedown, but it does make a fun pairing with the John Carpenter penned Black Moon Rising for a nostalgic good time and we haven’t taken a look at Black Moon till now. Both films have two leads who work really well together, a fair share of thrills, action, humor and are very representative of their era. Enjoy!…
Shakedown is an 80s action guilty pleasure from Exterminator director James Glickenhaus that is not only his best film, but a darn entertaining cop thriller that is one of the last to take place in NYC before the 42nd street clean up and thus presents New York in all it’s sleazy pre-90s glory. Shakedown is the story of public defender Roland Dalton (Peter Weller) who is moving on to a Wall Street law firm, run by his future father in-law, and as his last case, defends a drug dealer (Richard Brooks) accused of killing a cop. But the dealer says it was self-defense as he was defending himself in a robbery and the officer never identified himself. Dalton investigates along with lone wolf cop Richie Marks (Sam Elliott) and they discover a conspiracy of criminals and dirty cops who now want them both dead.
Aside from it’s dirty backstreet depiction of New York and some over the top action scenes, what really makes Shakedown work is that Elliott and Weller makes such a great team. They work very well together and it’s a shame the film never caught on enough to further the adventures of Marks and Dalton. The characters and the actors who portray them, really click and begged for a series. Supporting cast all perform well, too, including Antonio “Huggy Bear” Fargas as drug lord Nicky Carr and hot Patricia Charbonneau as the assistant D.A. and Dalton’s former flame. Sure some of the action is a bit overblown and the FX in the final showdown very cheesy, but Shakedown, as directed by Glickenhaus, is a down and dirty good time with a New York City bathed in neon lights, covered with empty crack vials and where sex, drugs and murder are a common occurrence. Add some 80s nostalgia to the mix and you have a whole six pack worth of Saturday night entertainment. One of my favorite 80s guilty pleasure action flicks. A fun movie.
MONSTEREZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: The original title for the film and it’s title in other parts of the world was Blue Jean Cop which is a term used in the film for a cop on the take (dirty cops can afford designer jeans as opposed to Wranglers or Levis). Also, Director Glickenhaus made a few more flicks, including the campy Gary Busey action vehicle Bulletproof, before leaving show business to work at his father’s investment firm and became a successful investment professional and car collector.
3 and 1/2 bulletts!
BLACK MOON RISING (1986)
Originally written by John Carpenter, Black Moon Rising is a fun and sadly ovelooked 80s action thriller starring Tommy Lee Jones and Linda Hamilton. Jones plays professional thief Sam Quint who’s forced, when a hot pursuit gets a little too hot, to hide a stolen cassette in a protoype for a revolutionary new car “The Black Moon”. When Hamilton’s car thief Nina steals the prototype, Quint needs to get it back before his employers terminate his employment permanently. Now Quint needs the pretty car thief’s help and since Nina is not exactly happy with her own employer Ryland, (Robert Vaughn) she might just help the former CIA agent get what he wants…and it might just get them both killed.
Directed by Harley Cokeliss this is a fast paced and entertaining little movie that is so delightfully 80s at this point. It’s a combination of action and heist thriller and while it has the look of a TV movie from the time, it makes up for it in entertainment. Cokeliss takes Carpenter’s script…adapted by William Gray and Desmond Nakano…seriously, but also knows when to have a little fun and let the audience in on it. Carpenter’s influence can still be felt in the film with characters and some of the dialog bits being distinctly John Carpenter, despite his not being involved in the film’s production.
Rising has a good veteran supporting cast who all play their roles straight, including Keenan Wynn, Bubba Smith, Lee Ving as Quint’s slimy rival, Ringer and Richard Jaeckel as the Black Moon’s creator, who gets drawn into helping steal back his own car. Leads Jones and Hamilton have a nice chemistry together as the two thieves eventually join forces and there is a lot of fun watching them break into villain Robert Vaughn’s highrise fortress to steal the title vehicle back.
An entertaining little movie with a nice blend of action, suspense, romance and laughs that has sadly been forgotten, but definitely deserves to be rediscovered if not for the 80s nostalgia alone. It’s not perfect, there is some clunky dialog and it’s low budget keeps it somewhat restrained compared to some of today’s big budget caper thrillers and it’s final action set-piece could have had more impact, but it’s heart is in the right place and it tries hard. A fun flick that deserves a little more attention then it got.
…was it me…or did Fast And Furious 7 totally rip this flicks finale off in the Abu Dhabi scene!