It’s the quintessential moneymaker that has kept various aspects of the filmmaking industry alive since the first time Sean Connery picked up a Walther PPK and made a funny. Whether they’re heavy on people talking while the cameraman gets all kinds of Alfred Hitchcock-ian-like, or they attempt to seize their audience with multiple pursuits over land, sea and air, and lots of things that go “bang,” the action film has always been one of the few genres that nearly every video store in the world can rely on as being worth having a whole section devoted to it (unlike, say, documentaries and musicals — which usually get grouped into some sort of “Special Interest” category)
Picking up an action flick can lead to one of several things. Your choice of entertainment for the day can be an adrenaline-pumping journey into sheer excitement. It could also afford you with a long-awaited opportunity to categorize your least favorite dress shirts — or, in my case, give you the chance to peruse all that porn you’ve been gettin’ behind on on the ‘Net.
In an effort to acquaint you with some newer titles that would more than likely be labeled as “action” (whether they warrant such a title or not) in most video stores, I have assembled this assortment of the good, the bad, and the truly interesting.
· Ip Man 2: Legend Of The Grandmaster (2010) (Well Go USA)
The Short Version: Not to be confused with IP Freely Man 2.
The Slightly-Elongated Version: Hong Kong superstar Donnie Yen returns to inhabit the highly-fictionalized incarnation of Yip Man in this sequel to Ip Man. Joining Donnie this time ‘round are Simon Yam and Sammo Hung. The action focuses on our titular legend’s exploits in Hong Kong towards the end of the 1940s. The movie starts off like your average vintage kung-fu flick (e.g. “You can’t teach kong foo here!”) with Ip Man being harassed by the city’s local martial arts teachers, but concludes with a finale that is not only all-too similar to the first movie, but also too customary for anyone that’s ever seen a boxing drama. But hey, at least there are some great moves here — and it wouldn’t surprise me if a third chapter pops up, just so they can make the most of the real life Yip Man’s schooling of Bruce Lee. Available in both single and double-disc DVD and Blu-ray editions.
· Muay Thai Giant (2008) (Magnet Releasing)
The Short Version: Big guy gets even bigger and fights back.
The Slightly-Elongated Version: Barney Emerald (strongman and former WWE wrestler Nathan Jones) is on vacation in Thailand, but his holiday goes off-course when he is drugged and mugged by a hooker and left on the streets with nothing. After being taken in by two kindly young locals, Barney has an unforeseen reaction to a spicy dish of som tum and malforms into something resembling the Incredible Hulk, giving him unearthly powers of destruction. And comedy. That’s right, this is one of those weird-ass Thai flicks that combines multiple movie genres and makes something wholly other out of ‘em. So, anyway, Barney’s young pals (champion junior kickboxer Sasisa Jindamanee and Nawarat Techarattanaprasert) soon run afoul with a gang of thieves, to wit our once-gentle giant gets a chance to flex his muscles. Originally titled Somtum. Also available on Blu-ray.
· Blood (2009) (Well Go USA)
The Short Version: Japanese samurai vampires from Hell. Or something like that.
The Slightly-Elongated Version: Some of you may recall the 2009 Japanese samurai vampire flick Blood: The Last Vampire, which was based on a 2000 anime title. This particular film — also named Blood — has absolutely nothing to do with those two titles. Ten Shimoyama brings us this oddity about a pair of sword-wielding bloodsuckers (Aya Sugimoto and Jun Kaname) whose on-again/off-again relationship started centuries ago. As the story relocates to modern times, we find one of the vampires (Kaname) under the watchful eye of a police inspector (Kanji Tsuda) that is trying to figure out what’s going on. A couple of sex scenes threaten to liven the film up from time to time, but ultimately back down before they can make good on the deal. Best recommended for diehard fans of high-wire action. Also available on Blu-ray.
· Deadland (2009) (Phase 4 Films)
The Short Version: A man treks across a post-apocalyptic wasteland to save his wife.
The Slightly-Elongated Version: This is one of those movies that would have ultimately benefited from a trailer voiced by someone like Hal Douglas or the late Don LaFontaine. But, since they didn’t (or couldn’t), I’ve gone ahead and typed a script for the trailer myself: “In a world where cruelty is the law, disorder is the command, and death is the only way out, one man is on a mission to survive. They took his life, his wife, and left him with nothing. But this summer, he’s going to take it all back — even if he has to start World War IV in the process. Gary Weeks, Harrison Page, and The Greatest American Hero’s William Katt are in: Deadland. Rated R. Coming soon!” There. Isn’t that better?
· Dead Man Running (2009) (Phase 4 Films)
The Short Version: Another film starring Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. Whoop-de-shit.
The Slightly-Elongated Version: Rapper 50 Cent has made a number of laughable movies since his overly-glorified music career began, but I would have never guessed that the Brits would be desperate enough to flash his name ‘round in order to obtain an audience. Here, Fitty plays a gangster (gee, there’s a stretch) that gives a reformed ex-con (Tamer Hassan) and gives him 24-hours to come up with £100,000 — else the bad guys will kill the poor sod’s wheelchair-bound mum (whom they are holding hostage). Academy or BAFTA Award-winning material, it ain’t — though it might actually be one of the better 50 Cent performances on record (though that‘s probably not saying much). Also available on Blu-ray.
· Ultimate Death Match II (2010) (Cheezy Flicks)
The Short Version: An unwanted sequel to a film nobody asked for to begin with.
The Slightly-Elongated Version: Yet another title from Direct-To-Video Hell bubbles up. Apparently, the first Ultimate Death Match (featured in an earlier Catching Up At The Video Store entry, “”) intrigued at least half of the ten people that willingly picked it up — enough so that some jackass commissioned a sequel. That, or z-grade movie auteur Shawn Cain picked up his video camera once more and paid off his star-struck wrestling friends with empty promises in this continuing saga of shit. A third chapter is in the works, so it’s pretty obvious that Direct-To-Video Hell is backed up indefinitely.
Happy viewing, kids! (or not)