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Cinema-Maniac: Outlaw: Gangster VIP (1968) Crime Movie Review

Crime cinema is one of the most interesting genres for me, but typically also one I spend the least amount of time exploring in my area of interests. Quality films in the the crime genre are abundant so that’s not a issue for me. What is are usually the kind of stories that can be told in this genre, and how typically I don’t find myself caring much about these crime stories leading characters. I find the amount of memorable character, for me, even harder to find as after a single film I never seen them again. However, as I venture more in depth into foreign (outside of the US for me) cinema I learn there take on the subject I find a bit more interesting. Hence, my venture into the first of six (one of five films to come out in 1968) in the Outlaw: Gangster VIP franchise.

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Hey, did you know 2 out 3 Japanese men don’t know how to wear the sleeves in their clothing. Crazy right?

Outlaw: Gangster VIP follows Yakuza Goro Fujikawa (played by Tetsuya Watari) becomes disenchanted with his lifestyle after serving three years in prison, and seeing a changed Japan. Starting off strong, Outlaw: Gangster VIP shows a glimpse of Goro rough life as a child during the opening credit sequence, and the film never loosen its dramatic grip on you. Establishing early on in the film characters history, motivation, and displaying Goro contrast of his rough exterior compare to his inner kindness. At 90 minutes, Outlaw: Gangster VIP is very bold, and ambition in narrative storytelling is quite a successful accomplishment. Nearly everything in the film from a writing perspective works better than the film probably intend it too.

For example, throughout the film snippets of certain characters are given to the viewers at different points in the story. These snippets are later expanded on as the film progresses into discussing it themes on violence, loyalty, and moving forward through a slow pace. In particular, the character Takeo Tsujikawa (played by Mitsuo Hamada) embodies all these themes greatly. Serving somewhat as a surrogate of the new youth idolizing the life of the Yakuza while Goro Fujikawa is the wise old veteran trying to set him on the right path. Several scenes in the film illustrate why Goro wants to set Takeo on the right path, and as well facing the consequences that comes from his misguided view on the Yakuza lifestyle. It’s a classic dynamic you’ve seen in many films, and here it works all the same.

Continuing on, another aspect of the film that greatly serves it narrative are the characters, and the interactions they have with one another. A no brainer of course, but the dialogue, and the discussion among the characters in the film feel so natural. It doesn’t come across as if the film itself is dictating how these character talk. Rather, it’s the characters themselves moving the story forward, and their storied history. The way the character speak to each other, and how they react to an individual does as much to convey character traits as much as the spoken words.

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What’s with that look? I swear we didn’t have the dog for dinner last week.

If there’s any area Outlaw: Gangster VIP falters in is the romantic subplot involving Goro, and Yukiko Hashimoto (played by Cheiko Matsubara) is only half convincing. From Yukiko point of view her romantic feelings for Goro is sensible with what’s reveal about her in the film. However, from Goro perspective his romantic feelings for Yukiko don’t add up entirely. It simply comes off as a facade to get out of a uncomfortable situation. It’s a spoilerific scene that makes Goro yearn for Yukiko be questionable. Aside from that small drawback, the film plays out without a hitch. The seemingly large cast of characters never become too much to keep track off. It balances the small human aspects of it story without it losing itself with this Yakuza gang war that develops in the background. In spite of its many theme, and relatively short length at 90 minutes there’s always something important in occuring in the film. Finally, thematic exploration especially since by the end of the film you end up with a film that’s a lot thoughtful than the name would imply into a nice package.

Tetsuya Watari plays Goro Fujikawa (a character based on a real ex-gangster) in the first of many ventures. Watari excels in this portrayal of the Goro in both the physical, and emotional aspect required of him. His exterior, much like the character, is rough, and his line delivery shows no hint of a gentle soul. However, his eyes tell a different story whenever the camera focuses on him. Goro is a layered, and therefore Watari switching between contrasting personality for the same character feels natural. You will believe that Tetsuya Watari can defend himself against a  against an entire gang of knife wielding Yakuza by himself relatively well because of his commanding on screen presence. Simply put, Watari creates an quite an iconic character for the crime genre, even if the series as a whole is relatively unknown as of this writing.

Another noteworthy performance is by Mitsuo Hamada who plays Takeo Tsujikawa. He’s given more ranging material compare to Watari, but given a less layered character to portray. However, is able to hold his own much like Tetsuya Watari. Tsujikawa portrayal is more expressive of his overall turmoil, and happiness that his character faces. Relying less on body language, but doesn’t take away anything from his scenes. Whenever Tetsuya Watari ain’t the main focus Mitsuo Hamada is a fantastic choice to share the spotlight with. His scenes often relies on his comedic timing, and dramatic chop to make scenes. It’s a delicate balance that if done incorrectly a scene would have easily appeared too comedic, or too dramatic. Understanding this delicate balance, Hamda knows exactly how to deliver his lines in every scene. Plus, the times he shares the screen with Watari makes for some splendid bit of acting, as well as make for some of the best moments in the film in terms of writing.

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Trust me, no stills from the film’s action sequences can do them rightful justice.

In terms of supporting cast members, besides Mitsuo Hamada, there’s Kyosuke Machida whom in spite in being in the film as much as Hamada, but he gets to shine in some heavily dramatic scenes. Tatsuya Fuji also gets a small part as Suzuki, but unfortunately his role is also brief ending before making much of an impression. Same thing for Yoshiro Aoki, although he’s more of the lacking variety sort since he’s villain of the film, and has to appear more scummy regardless of the scene he’s in. Yet, in spite of the small roles the supporting cast receives they all turn in good performances with what little they’re given. Finally, there’s Chieko Matsubara, and Kayo Matsuo whom are the only ladies of any noteworthy roles. They play the supportive ladies which tended to be common in films in general during the 60s, and earlier. Both actress do fine in the role, but only in her final scene does Chieko Matsubara get to deliver a good scene. However, her co-star Kayo Matsuo despite appearing less leaves a bigger impression. Helps with the fact her scenes in the film tend to be other topics instead of constantly delivering dialogue on how much she wants to stick with her man.

Finally, this review (and any other on this film for that matter) would do a huge injustice if not mentioning action coordinator Kakuo Watai, and cinematographer Kurataro Takamura. Firstly, Kurataro Takamura eye for visuals gives the film plenty of classic wide shots, and long takes to absorb late 1960 Japan. Making the film look very beautiful throughout many points in the film. I would even say thanks to the visual choices made it visuals have gotten better with time. There’s also the action sequence by Kakuo Watai which surprisingly are impressive considering the year it was made in. Granted, like with action sequences during this era of filmmaking there’s the usual suspects of spotting actors standing waiting for their cue to perform in the sequence. All the film’s set pieces have these issues made easier to spot thanks to the long takes, and white shots, but they don’t diminished the elaborate (for the time at least) set pieces. Being an obvious highlight of the movie, even if they’re more over the top in comparison to the rest of the film. The execution of them, and staging of these action sequences ensures it warrant a viewing from any viewer. Lastly, the score by Harumi Ibe is pretty good. Fitting tonally whenever it’s used, and sometimes adding more impact to a scene.

Outlaw: Gangster VIP is a slow drama thick with great storytelling, and a fantastic cast of characters. Director Toshio Masuda crafted a film that age extremely well visually, and narratively. Many of the themes in the film are given careful thought in how they’re explored while also never forgetting about its characters. Balancing the large scope gang war with the human element thrown in you have a film huge in its scope that succeeds in what it sets out to do. That’s also including the technical achievement of the film which at times, along with everything else working in great cohesion with each other, will make you forget you’re watching a 50 plus year old film.



Cinema-Maniac: Brothers in Arms (2017) Crime Movie Review

As mentioned before, exploring the unexplored territory of film making, and any medium is a huge interest for me. Sometime you could be among the first to see great talent emerge from nowhere like I did when I first saw Gareth Evan’s Merantau (2009) before the release of The Raid: Redemption in 2011 which launched the writer/director into mainstream success. Here, it’s not the same discovering a hidden talent waiting to be recognized, but rather seeing if the filmmakers can hone their talent, and improve their crafts later on in their career.

Brothers in Arms follows four unemployed college graduates discontent with their lives turning to a life of crime. If the premise sounds interesting it’s made further unfortunate that it’s pedestrian in its understanding of crafting story, and characters. For starter, it starts with a flash forward of a bank heist in progress which only takes half an hour to get to that point. What happens before then offers very bluntly its characterization, and story. This could be forgiven, but as the film went on it became harder to forgive since it kept telling everything to the viewer leaving nothing to the imagination. There’s a scene a couple minutes before hitting the one hour mark where characters Michael (played by Nick Tag), and Ann (Katelyn Kenyon) in the most direct way possible talk about Michael flaws as a person. It’s this scene that encapsulate the amateur writing in a nutshell. From the beginning of the film Michael struggle to grow up, and as the film progresses there’s nothing else that fleshes out that conflict.

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Dude, you sure we can pass off as college graduates?

The best chance the film had in rising above it limitation is with the character of Michael. He’s a young man who had a opportunity to make a better life for himself, and didn’t take it. Witnessing him live with that regret is a focal point for about 20 minutes before deciding to rob banks. Now, with a discontent character who bluntly (like this passage) who casually have its characters spell everything else to the viewer one would expect being a stagnant in life for a motivation to go into robbing banks. Sadly, the actual motivation becomes one of out a sheer boredom for Michael after bank robbery is just casually suggested as a possible activity to relieve boredom. Thankfully, this motivation changes later on in the film, and evolves into something else entirely in a positive manner. Although, it becomes a taste of the good life sort of deal that only brought up on a surface level. If a bit longer, the film likely would have expanded more on how the accumulating wealth changed them more than what it actually shows.

Another thing about the film is it’s pretty standard as a heist film. However, the acknowledgement of these flaws within don’t make them any less inferiority. For example, in preparation for their first bank heist the four unemployed college graduates decide to watch a bunch of heist movie, and nothing else. They don’t bother practicing performing heist, practice to be better marksman, practice to be better getaway drivers, or anything. These four guys take notes during the stakeouts, having the lookout watch for cops, a loose canon, someone who keeps track of time, and the calculating leader. Those familiar with heist films will find common ground plastered all over the film. Including the illogically classic scene that won’t die regardless of what year it is where you have a character who gets shot, and taken to a veterinarian to get treatment.

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This is the most dramatic the movie get ever gets.

As someone who consumes media frequently on, and offline suspension of disbelief is assured to a product. Granted, it doesn’t excuse anything of poor quality. However, if something is engaging, or entertaining enough to make me forget about it shortcoming enough than any dumbfounding moment can be forgiven. This film has no many of them that could have been avoided, and half of them should be common sense. For example, if you’re planning to rob banks it’s best not to discuss the matter in a public bowling alley, or later on in the film talk about one last job in a restaurant. It’s also another thing to see people who never had training shooting with guns magically being better than trained police officers. The other characters sadly don’t get much scenes to themselves like you would rightfully expect in other heist films. It either focuses on Michael, or Detective Sinclair (played by John Welsh) attempting to solve the case. There groundwork is good here for a good story, and well defined characters, but the execution lacks the polish needed to pull it off.

When it comes to the acting it’s all around modest. Generally being okay, to acceptable, and the rare occasion of “are you even trying to act”. Nick Tag is the star the movie virtually hold a majority of the film on his shoulder. His character drives the story, Nick Tag is able to carry the film fine. Tag doesn’t delve too deeply into his character never having a single scene where he gets overly emotional, but shows restraint in scenes that he could have easily overacted in for dramatic tension. There’s Nick Tag costar Dexter Masland who plays John whom comes off as a college jock type of character. The portrayal is one sided, but is enthusiastic in playing the comedic relief at times despite the poor film humor. If given better material Masland could have gotten a laugh, or two out of me.

Zeph Foster plays Levi who suffers from a lack of range. Imagine Bill Paxton’s classic line “Game over, man. Game over!”from James Cameron’s Aliens taking physical form as a fictional character. Sure that sounds like cheesy fun, but Foster is unable to have any fun in his portrayal. He’s bland in his reaction, even in his more comedic moments he doesn’t come off as convincing. Granted, none of his other costars are technically convincing, but they are at least passable enough to not be distracting. There’s finally Cory (Not in the house) de Silva who plays Christian who is the most uptight among the characters. He has to displays the most resistant to his friends plans of committing heist. Being just the right amount of whining, and soft spoken to not come across as annoying. The only other noteworthy cast members are Katelyn Kenyon, and John Welsh who both can be best described as screen fodder. Kenyon is simply cornering while Welsh just has one facial expression for most of the film to get across he’s serious about catching these bank robbers.

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Yes, that’s what actually said in the moment.

On a technical level I can give praise to director Caleb J. Phillips who manage to make a professional looking film on a obviously small budget. Demonstrating a clear understanding of making the most out of very limited resources. Asides from the prop guns in on scene, nothing screams cheaply made when viewing it. It’s looks nice thanks to cinematographer Laura Jansen, the sets while ordinary have a lot in them, and understands what not show in certain sequences to hide its shortcoming. I can also appreciate Trevor Doukakis earnest attempt in crafting a good story. However, the one technical area that will make, and have made a majority of viewers quit the film is the awful sound balancing in beginning of the movie. Since it starts with a flash forward of a bank heist the audio is loud, and obnoxious while playing the classical music “In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Kevin MacLeod. In fact, around half the music in the film can be found on incompetech which has tons of royalty free music. So that’s aspect is pretty cheap, but the loud bombardment of noises is enough to make some viewer stop seeing it. I would encourage them it gets better, but there’s no pay off for putting up with a rough start.

Brothers in Arms (2017) is competent student filmmaking on a technical level, but everything else falls far below that. The writing feels genuine in crafting a good story, but is unaware how to do it being a constant misfire of comedy, drama, and basic common sense. The filmmakers here show they can possibly make a good movie, and care about what they’re doing in a cinematic language. Brother In Arms (2017) is not a film I enjoyed, or consider good in any long stretch, but there’s talent here, and witnessing it possibly turn into something good makes the experience worthwhile for me.


Cinema-Maniac: Extraordinary Mission (2017) Action Crime Movie Review

Extraordinary Mission follows undercover police officer Lin Kain (played by Xuan Huang) who attempts to take down a drug trafficking syndicate from the inside. The first half of Extraordinary Mission is standard undercover cop happenings; main character is in too deep in his current assignment, deal goes wrong escalating the undercover job, rising up the ranking earning the big boss trust, collusion in the police force, and other familiar territory. It’s these familiar traits while well executed thanks to pacing do make the viewer wonder for an hour if it’ll lead anywhere rewarding. Another drawback is the main character Lin Kain isn’t as compelling compare to the supporting characters. Lin Kain is simply the hero of the film with the position of an outsider put into a situation with characters whom all have a history with each other. Supporting characters are fleshed out, have clear motivations, and a rounded arc that is completed by the end of the film. These developments come in slowly, though do pay up in favor of the narrative. For example, the film’s main villain, Eagle (played by Yihong Duan), is surprisingly given more depth to him than initially introduced. Not only that, but his backstory makes him somewhat sympathetic in the story. Somewhat because you know he’s still in the drug selling business.

Lin Kain, as implied earlier, is the protagonist who has the least going for him out of the major characters. His backstory, and reason for becoming a cop is looked into, but not a whole lot to make him a fleshed out character. One flashback with just one tragic event doesn’t do enough to convey Lin Kain much as a character. He simply comes across as a nearly flawless hero with a strong sense of duty. An attempt to give him a flaw is made by making him addicted to drugs. However, it’s a plot thread is simply mentioned in passing in dialogue after a certain point. Seeing Lin attempting to overcome drug addiction is something that helps the viewer bridge a stronger connection with him, but it’s simply making something come across more significant than it actually is in practice.

Still from a good scene introducing to the film’s villain in the movie.

Regardless how good the film turned out in the end both fans of crime films, and action cinema will find the flick overall polarizing in its narrative. An action junkie will find it to have too little action spread out through the film with a lead whose underdeveloped, and crime film fans would find it familiarity meandering to sit through. What the script writing does accomplish with ease is blending action cinema, and crime drama into a singular vision. The sillier aspect of the action side of Extraordinary Mission, like a seemingly unkillable villain who can take multiple gunshots does not contrast strongly against the crime drama vision. Expertly using crime drama familiarity to as an excuse to eventually provide good characterization, and using action cinema setups to provided the entertaining set pieces. In tangent of that, it operates on action cinema logic hence no mention of the passage of time in the film, and the resiliency of the heroes bodies despite what they endure during the climax. While also using the crime drama aspects of it writing to keep the story moving forward at a good pace. In spite of its major writing issues, Extraordinary Mission is clearly written by a person who knows how to work well in different genres, and know how to best combine them to their strength.

Xuan Huang takes on the leading role of Lin Kain delivering a very good performance despite some of his characters limitation. Huang excels in humanizing Lin Kain more than the script does playing off the cool, and collected side of Kain with ease. Another positive is Huang has a plenty of range as an actor so not only is he convincing while performing his action sequences, but is versatile in portraying Lin Kain more vulnerable side convincingly. Huang does such a good job as a leading man it makes it that much easier accept the same character you see struggling not to take drug is also the same character easily killing dozen of henchman in the climax.

The standout performance of the film is Yihong Duan as the film’s villain Eagle. Much like Xuan Huang, Duan delivers a good performance making a great flick duo on screen. He’s on par with Huang in the acting department; however, is able to crafts a carefully balanced character. Never going into the melodramatic Duan provides the sympathy his character demands. His mannerism differs greatly from the rest of his co-star typically speaking in a calmly, collected gesture regardless of context. Another appreciated aspect of Duan performance is never entering into the over the top. Much like Huang who would have been for to solely play a tough hero, Duan also doesn’t take it easy solely coming across as evil in his portrayal.

Only other noteworthy supporting actor is Jiadong Xing who plays Li Jianguo who does a good job who brings thing around in terms of creating a good actor trio. Jiadong holds his own fine with the two leads sharing convincing chemistry with them. While the silent Yueting Lang gets a thankless role. She remains silent for virtually the entire film, and her character ends up going nowhere. Lastly, the actor Ding Yongdai whom plays Zhang Haitao is the only other noteworthy character. His role is small, but well acted. Though, not enough to believe he can shot a gun flawlessly for being imprisoned as long as he has.

The climax just make Xaun Huang look like a badass.

Action choreography is handled by Chung Chi Li whom over the top nature in action is kept in line thanks to director Alan Mak. The action in this film, for the most part, aims for realism while the physical feats of its performers have no limitations. Creativity is very high in the two action sequences in the beginning of the movie. Starting up with a single man drug bust before going into a car chase. There’s also a brief gunfight involving Xuan Huang meant to display his proficiency with a gun compare to the criminals. After this shootout, it pretty remain inactive on the action front until you get a flashback of a particular event in the story.

Finally, the film biggest selling point to casual viewers is the action climax which makes up around the last 25 minutes of the film. In this climatic actions sequence proficiency is made very clear between the heroes, and the villains. Despite their enemies larger numbers, our heroes use less bullets firing their weapons, and using cover constantly to avoid getting shot. The professionalism is obvious as the criminals are constantly moving around making up for their lack of skills for fire power. It’s a strange thing to compliment since many action movies do the same of proficient heroes vs sloppy evil henchman, but it’s rarely taken into account when it comes to choreography as much as it is here.

The climax is constantly moving from one area to another not just on foot, but eventually on vehicle which offer some cool moments. Either be it a cool shot of Xuan Huang on a motorcycle with a explosion behind him, Xuan Huang on top of a vehicle dodging bullets while taking out some henchman, or one cool looking car crash. It doesn’t try to constantly up the antics during climax, but slowly escalate into cooler, and cooler moments making the final impression the film have you be a positive one. Only drawback is notable usage of CGI, but they are rare in their usage in this sequence. Lastly, Alan Mak direction is fantastic in the movie blending two genre together for a visually coherent film through, and through. There’s only one jarring moment in the film that happens in the film which involves drawings coming to life into, but aside from that one moment Mak direction work fine.

Extraordinary Mission tackles very familiar territory for half of it run, but eventually is able to turn it around to make it a far more interesting character driven story, and displaying some exciting action in a very lengthy climax to end things on a high note. Genre fans of both crime, and action cinema will find individual aspects polarizing. However, anyone who likes both genre equally will witness a film that does a fine job of combining the two.



There was a time when going straight to home video was considered a death sentence for anyone working in the film industry. However, ever since the popularity of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and many others the image of it has turned around. Now more than ever it’s more common to find a surprisingly profitable home video market, especially in the action genre as it’s more unlikely to be saturated with CGI action, or incompetent handling of action sequences which tend to be the common complaints from action fans about major action film productions. While most of these straight to video action movies are of bad quality. From my experience, you can come across some that are worthwhile as Ninja 2: Shadow of A Tear, and Close Range as brainless entertainment. As unlikely as it to come across the solid straight to home video movie the name Scott Adkin is one you can be assured to contain good action sequences, but quality films isn’t one thing he specializes in.

Eliminators plot is so bare bones, much like its characters, that any sort of attempted exploration, same with a simple synopsis, can be classified as a spoiler. A majority of the movie is basically Scott Adkin getting chased by Stuart Barrett (who is best known for his WWE in ring name Wade Barrett), and looking for his daughter. However, there is so little to the story that I struggle to write anything about it besides simply stating it’s thin, has flat characters, and can go for several minutes of nothing significant happening. For example, when Scott Adkin enters a child services building from the moment Wade Barrett begins to chase after Scott Adkin it stays on this single chase sequence for around 14 minutes of screen time. In this very prolong chase the only piece of information that is gathered is Scott Adkin obtain the location of his daughter right at the beginning of this chase sequence. After that, it’s simply playing a game of avoiding Bad News Barrett’s bullets. This sequence also contains a continuity error as it begins in day time when Scott Adkin enters the child services building, and then becomes night time when both Adkin, and Barrett leaves the building. Implying that yes, this whole portion in the child services building possibly lasted hours, even though only a couple of minutes just passes for the audiences.

I’ve got around 7 bullets of bad news to deliver to you.

The reason movies like Mad Max: Fury Road, and Ninja 2: Shadow of A Tear work in spite of their slim story is they know how to have the action scenes to drive further engagement. In Fury Road, it’s a constant ongoing spectacle with gorgeous visuals that is upping the antics, and Ninja 2: Shadow of A Tear crams as much well choreographed action scenes as possible while it briefly makes work of its very generic story. In these two films, while the writing were weak they attempted to fill the void by having events in the films play out so it wouldn’t be a chore to view when there isn’t action on screen. Eliminators takes the structure of these two bare bone story movies, and decides to have even less story, and prolong action sequences.

So now comes the question if the story, and characters are bare bones does the action sequences make up for them, and the answer is simply no. With little to invest in it became difficult to care about the action scenes the more frequently they came up. The first fight scene has Scott Adkins fighting against two hooded robber with bats attacking him. It’s a amusing short fight, and the subsequent fights aren’t quite as fun to watch since Adkins make quick work of everyone else. That is until Stu Bennett appears in the film, and participate in the best action sequences with Mr. Scott Adkins.

One of two highlight scenes from Eliminators

The two fight sequences between Scott Adkins, and Stu Bennett are actually pretty good. A surprise given one is an martial artist, and the other is a pro-wrestler. There’s also a large height difference as Stu Bennett simply towers over Adkins. However, with both actors being professional in choreographed fights, Tim Man (the film’s credited fight choreographer) takes both men backgrounds incorporating their fights. Stu Bennett is very commendable for keeping up with Scott Adkins during their fight sequences, and visibly takes enjoyment in no selling the many Scott Adkins kicks he takes. During their first encounter Adkins, and Bennett don’t do any complex reversals, or complex techniques it’s still a good fight both men pull off. Basically ending up just being a showcase how much of a beating both man can endure in long takes, yet still continues performing the more of the action sequence.

Thankfully, Adkins, and Stu Bennett fights are enjoyable because they are the only while action sequences in the film. Whatever action the rest of the film has to offer isn’t quite as exciting, nor impressive to see. In particular a very lazy gunfight between Adkins, Daniel Caltagirone (whose character is forgettable), and Bennett in a single place. All that occurs in this gunfight is both men firing, missing hitting each other, one takes cover while the other does more shooting, and repeat the process for the rest of the sequence. Gunfights in Eliminators usually lack urgency since you know the main participants in them won’t get hurt. Sure, that’s same criticism can be applied to other action movies, but in Eliminators when your two top stars have to participate in all the action sequences it’s more noticeable neither will get taken out. Editing in them are fine, but the lack of interesting cinematography choices. Especially the last gunfight in the film where Adkins despite having the disadvantage of carrying a shotgun, and fighting against two goons whom have AK-47 (appearance wise at least) makes quick work of them. It’s their stupidity that gets them axe. One of them definitely deserves if they unload an entire clip of bullets onto a scarecrow.

In terms of acting Stu Bennett (a former WWE Wrestler) comes away the best in the film. Despite being asked to hardly deliver any dialogue Stu Bennett did the best he could. Without much to bite into his character Bennett visually sold his role of Bishop well coming across as a viable threat to the almighty Scott Adkins. Remaining silent for most of the movie, and given what his purpose of the film he’s easily the best actor. Scott Adkins is again is a reliable man of action, and his performance in this is a nice departure from his usual tough guy shtick he sticks with. He’s in a slightly more vulnerable state constantly seeing him either partially retreat in a action sequence, or seeing Bennett giving him a good beating does wonder for an actor who seemingly appears invincible in his movies. The supporting cast, same with the music, are forgettable addition to the flick. It’s simply better to look up clips of Scott Adkins, and Stu Bennett fight scenes, and not put yourself through a bare bones movie just for those scenes.

Eliminators is a bare bone action film that is unable to sustain its momentum through its entire run time. Thin characters, and a very basic story without much substance can’t be save by action sequences alone, especially when one of its major actor has to be kept alive in order for their to be someone competent for the hero to fight. It provides the goods in terms of action, but even with your brain turned off there isn’t enough here that warrants your visit.



Cinema-Maniac: The Dragon Family (1988) Chinese Movie Review

In 1986, in China that is, a little film known as A Better Tomorrow by John Woo was released. The influence the film had in its region film industry is an understatement, and often credited as setting the template for the heroic bloodshed genre. Due to its unpredescant success due to having virtually no advertisement at the time marking its influence on several films, and filmmakers at the same time to capture the same gold. Thus, today’s film in question is one of those films that is heavily influenced by A Better Tomorrow. Like many other films at the time, many try to capture the magic of the film that inspired them, but couldn’t duplicate the critical, or financial success. However, in spite of its heavy influence The Dragon Family (1988), unlike other films of a similar nature, is able to stand as a good film outside of A Better Tomorrow’s shadow.

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So, this is how the movie got funded.

The Dragon Family follows the leader of a group of 4 triad families on their decision go straight and stop dealing in drugs, 3 of the 4 follow suit, but the 4th decides to continue with their illegal dealings, and frame the son of the boss to climb up the ranks. During my viewing of the film it became very evident that this film’s premise wasn’t going to live up to its full potential as I would have hoped it would. The groundwork is laid here for a gripping, and compelling crime epic with a few action scenes thrown in for a good measure of thrills. However, due to its run time of 90 minutes everything from characters, story, and themes come off as cookie cutter. For example, you get the usual blood brothers (A Better Tomorrow), followed by a betrayal by someone high ranking in the triad (Flaming Brothers), death of a loved one orchestrated by traitor triad (Tragic Hero), and an explosive finale involving the traitor (A Better Tomorrow again). This outline is simple to follow, and its formula is predictable for those familiar with these kind of Hong Kong action films post the release of A Better Tomorrow. 

Same thing applies for the characters as you have the wise old veteran whom everyone looks up to as a father, the young hot headed trouble maker who can’t go straight, the youngest member who has bright future ahead of him coming back into the criminal fold, the loving collected mother, and so forth. Sadly, almost all of the characters don’t have much to them beyond these descriptions. Only a few characters whom survived past the sixty minute mark receive any added characterization, but even then it leaves much to be desired.

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Cameraman: “You’re joking right? This ain’t your entire family?”

Fortunately, everything else that is streamlined is in favor of the film, and the viewing experience. Much like the vein of a similar movie I recently reviewed, City War (Yi dan hong chun), it starts out like crime drama at first for around fifty minutes of its runtime. However, the difference is plain as day; the pacing is brisk, and scenes are to the point not prolonging any obvious plot points. Spending the first half entirely setting up events, and characters before its goes in the realm of a action revenge flick. Cookie cutter characters are sympathetic in their cause as well as not reaching higher than it knows it can actually achieve in its length. Something that’s quite baffling since Eddie Chan Shu-Chi, and Yuen are credited for the screenplay, and the story are credited to Lau Kar-wing, Clarence Yip, and Wong Jing making the total of five writers who worked on this. In its modesty, you’ll also find a film that actually tries to add some depth to the topic of vengeance. It doesn’t end up going anywhere meaningful, but the characters history in the field of crime, and some of them attempting to achieve a better life gives it some worth.

The cast listing for the film is ridiculously long, and they include Alan Tam, Andy Lau, Max Mok Siu Chung, Ken Tong Chun Yip, Norman Chu Siu Keung, Michael Miu Kiu Wai, William Ho Ka Kui, Lisa Chiao Chiao, Stanley Fung, Kent Cheng, Ku Feng, Lau Kar Wing, Shing Fui On, Philip Ko Fei, Wayne Archer, Charlie Cho Cha Lei, Kara Hui Ying Hung, Blacky Ko Sau Leung, Nick Masters, O Chun Hung, Pak Man Biu, and Sin Ho Ying. Yeah, that’s quite the cast, and especially attention grabbing for anyone who explores Hong Kong action cinema. In spite of the large cast it’s surprisingly easy to summarize the quality of acting within the film. The older the actor is the better the performances turn out. Granted someone like Shing Fui-On whose villain like appearance lend itself to Fui-On smooth portray a criminal wouldn’t find it difficult to disappear into his small role. Same with O Chun-Hung who portrays a father like figure to the younger generation could easily sell viewer on his portrayal thanks to his appearance as well. However, with the two examples given you wouldn’t be far off in thinking the older cast members make good out of general onenote roles.

The Dragon Dragon Family 3

Younger actors like Andy Lau, Max Mok/Mok Siu-Chung, and Alan Tam completely take the lead once the film gets over the halfway mark. Before then, these three actors are still in the film, but the film attempts to give equal screen time for other actors to get in their stuff in a good move that, especially if you go in blind, will make you wonder the outcome of characters throughout the film once the action hits. Out of Andy Lau, Max Mok, and Alan Tam the best performance is easily given by Alan Tam. Unlike a majority of his co-stars, he’s given more range to portray a more dynamic character who can at least allow him to come off as responsible, caring, and eventually brave. Andy Lau, and Max Mok portrayals follow largely the same trajectory. However, all three actors can equally share praise in performing their action scenes, along with some of their other cast members. Lau especially whom puts his body through quite the endeavor for the audience amusement. What saves this film from others A Better Tomorrow wannabe is Lau Kar-wing fine direction as never once throughout the film is he, or any of his crew ever confused on what type of film they are making, and when in the story they are making such a film.

The action choreography is handled by Chia-Liang Liu who won an Golden Horse (Taiwan/China equivalent to the Academy Awards) for Jackie Chan’s The Legend of Drunken Master (1994) renowned for its famous final fight sequence. It’s a factoid that will go largely ignored for the average movie viewer, but won’t be ignored is Chia-Liang Lui craftsmanship of action sequences. Lui first action sequence, which doesn’t appear until the second act, ensures to reward the audience, in particular action junkies, patience with a good shoot out. In this sequence, in a small room dozen of people are simply massacre heighten by tension thanks careful craftsmanship of seeing attempt after attempt of people trying to escape, or survive fail one after another. This first set piece does an excellent job displaying how harsh the criminal world can be.

The second action sequence, in vein of the first one, is also centered around survival/escaping from setting where the sequence takes place. Taking place at night, the choreography, and cinematography keeps the action at a distance, but also capturing the helplessness of the situation as the characters you follow struggle to stay alive. Showing in true desperation using household objects around them to fight off goons. Unlike the first action sequence, this one is more reliant on fight choreography, though is one sided for this sequence.

Yep, don’t like criminals at all.

Without a doubt, the standout sequence in this entire movie is easily the finale of the film. Combining gunplay, and several uniquely choreographed fight scenes together all in one sequence. Unlike the previous two sequence, the climatic action sequence is a all, or nothing setup. The gunfight it starts off with isn’t just cover, and shoot, but constantly moving around. Despite the constant movement of the gunfight the cinematography never loses sight of the action, and editing makes it all flow seamlessly. It’s quite an exciting sight seeing a gunfight that while quick has a lot going on in it besides ducking, and shooting. Once the guns are finally scrapped the fight sequences take over, and this time fights are even. Requiring the actors to take some serious painful falls, and throws through some rough objects to demonstrate the rough confrontation. Succeeding in truly ending the film on a high note.

The Dragon Family is the kind of film that makes you wish it was more fleshed out in its writing on all fronts, but in the end turns out to be a fine way to spend 90 minutes on. The few action sequences it offers are the true standout of the film while everything else does enough to not drag down the experience. Those familiar with Hong Kong action cinema post A Better Tomorrow will find familiarity in the material it threads on, but also find an enjoyable action flick. It won’t ever surpass the film that inspired it, but unlike many other imitators, The Dragon Family won’t remain the shadow of its inspiration.

Final Rating: 7/10

Random Factoid

I didn’t know where to place this random factoid, but if you look up posters for The Dragon Family (1988) you’ll notice Andy Lau headlines the movie. No surprise since even now Andy Lau is still a big name. However, what you likely didn’t know is that within the year 1988 Andy Lau headline 10 movies! The reason I didn’t put this random fact into the review itself is because I felt it ruined the flow of the review, and distracted from it.

Cinema-Maniac: Boxing Helena (1993) Review

Boxing Helena (1993) is an extremely divisive film with very little discussion surrounding it. In the realm of controversial films such titles like I Spit On Your Graves (1978), Cannibal Holocaust (1980), Natural Born Killers (1994), A Clockwork Orange (1971), and other such films draw plenty of film lovers (and sometime an uninformed outsider) sharing conflicting viewpoints, and sometime ideology gets thrown into the fold. These are the kind of films that make you ask if a film can go too far. Obviously the answer is yes they can go too far. I draw this conclusion with my experience with the 2012 Ron Morales film’s Graceland which briefly had full frontal nudity of minors. However, such cases are extremely rare as I go years without even thinking a film has gone too far with its material. You might be wondering where exactly Boxing Helena stands in terms of controversy? If we’re purely talking about the content in the film than it’s nothing special. It’s simply an experimental indie film that went to the mainstream public with a traditional Hollywood studio treatment resulting in extreme divided reaction towards the film.

Boxing Helena tells the story of an Atlanta surgeon Nick Cavanaugh (played by Julian Sands) dangerous obsession with Helena (played by Sherilyn Fenn), a woman he had a one night stand with. This is the kind of film where knowing specific parts of the story will spoil the experience on first time viewing. That sounds like a no brainer, but you’ll be amazed how many reviews for Boxing Helena from paid professionals, and amateur reviewers online basically give away 42 minutes worth material. This plot point is usually given away in synopsis (if the review has one) when the film is reviewed. That’s not even including the possible hundreds of film sites that also give away a major plot point that should be have been a surprise instead of just given away in a synopsis. Before hand, I of course went on IMDb to check what the film premise was about, and unintentionally spoiled something that should have been shocking, but instead I didn’t expect for the film to take 1/3 to get to that point. I read about the film Boxing Helena before going on IMDb when checking up a list of controversial films (I occasionally like a challenge in discussing a film) so that’s what sold me on it. However, I advise anyone who has an interest in seeing this film to be cautious when reading reviews on this film. If it sounds like a synopsis, just skip it, and read whatever left in the written review. Best advice I could give to go into this as blindly as possible.

Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk to you again.

On to the actual meat of discussion in Boxing Helena story. The story is slow moving while introducing interesting concepts in the first act. Nick Cavanaugh is shown being neglected by his mother at a party, and not being affected much by his mother death as an adult by leaving his mother funeral early. Raising a question of what kind of relationship Nick had with his mother? To bad the film almost immediately stopped poking around with the idea. Last time Nick mother has anything to do with the story is a hallucination where Nick sees his naked mother in an attempt to imply they had an unhealthy relationship, but how far it went is uncertain. It’s a “connect the loose dot” form of writing done badly when there’s little foundation to connect concrete information given to the viewer. What’s concrete is Nick had a trouble relationship with his mother, but everything else in association to that is kept vague. There isn’t enough to make the connection between Nick relationship with his mother, and the type of woman he’s attracted to come off as viable. At best, it’s imaginative speculation, but at worse making something significant out of something that ain’t there to be found.

In terms of characters they’re just plot devices. To an extent all characters can be considered plot devices, but there are capable writers who are able to masked this. Jennifer Lynch was not able too. I wouldn’t need to count on my hand the amount of characters that were fleshed in this movie because they don’t exist. All supporting characters are basically one trait exacerbated too inconvenient Nick. In the film, Nick has a girlfriend, Anne Garett (played by Betsy Clark) whom he just has a relationship with. If the film dabble a bit on Nick obsession perhaps being greater than his love for Anne there would have been a point to Anne in the film. Anne, much like the implications of Nick troublesome relationship with his mother, provides little in the way of something concrete to confirm themes, and ideas. In one of the very few scene Anne is in she treats Nick in a motherly way. As mentioned before, there’s speculation to be had that Nick might have a thing for women that remind him of his mother, but there’s not enough established about the characters to make it more than mere speculation.

The loose dots could have been remedied halfway with Dr. Lawrence Augustine who is played by Art Garfunkel…I don’t know why he just is in the movie. It’s mentioned briefly that Lawrence helped with Nick on his obsession with Helena, the woman Nick had a one stand with, but to what extent is kept vague. All the viewer is told about Nick mother is that she’s neglectful, and in one instance of the film Nick see’s an image of his mother when Helena is choking him. Does that mean that Nick had an abusive, or perhaps had sexual relation with his mother? The viewer will never know since there is nothing much to Nick’s mother, nor does Dr. Lawrence provide much insight as a friend of Nick. You think Art Garfunkel, of all people to have been cast, would have imparted on Nick some wisdom about relationship, but that’s the sound of silence.

Julian Sands: “Got breast milk?”


Another plot device comes in the form of Ray O’Malley played by Bill Paxton. Ray O’Malley is more of a possessive friend with benefits who loves having sex with Helena. Ray contribute slightly to the film’s story, but then there’s the ending which undoes virtually all his contribution in the film. For Helena who is the other main character on the other hand, throughout the film she does speak about how almost every man she comes across only love her for her looks. Helena is played by Sherilyn Fenn who is stunning in the film which makes such an idea easy to swallow. Her personality on the other hand has little to dig into as for most of the film she’s verbally, and physically fighting against Nick possessive nature over her. This mostly due to the fact that the film’s ending once again undoing what development, and characterization the viewer thought there was in the film. So Helena fears to commit to a relationship through her arc means nothing in the end. In particular, if Helena arc did mean something than it would require an incredible amount of disbelief that two people experience the same exact thing while unconscious.

The ending to Boxing Helena is single handedly the most polarizing aspect about it. It’s so fundamental to how viewers perceive their overall view on the film it’ll change your perspective into an extreme. On one hand it could simply be viewed as a cautionary tale of an obsessed doctor psyche. However, since the ending rewrites the rules it makes it come off as clueless writing when scenes not involving Nick Cavanaugh are shown to the viewers. The twist ending, despite how much it undoes still retains Nick Cavanaugh characterization, and can still be viewed as cautionary tale of being incapable to overcome his obsession. A character in the film, due to this ending, basically stroke Nick Cavanaugh ego as being a superior man holds some weight. However, because of the ending many of the implied themes, and ideas have even less of a foundation to be more than mere speculation. As you can probably tell by this review the film’s ending makes a non-spoiler review challenging to write around.

Not the first time both of these get wet in this film.

Julian Sands stars in the film to good, and bad degree of acting. The good being Julian Sands is able to make his character come off as a truly pathetic person, and the bad being the material doesn’t make his character sympathetic. Another good in Julian Sands performance are some of the heavier dramatic scene that requires a burst of anger, or subdue emotion he pulls off. There’s a scene of Julian Sands with Sherilyn Fenn out on the porch in heavy rain. Sands yells at Fenn character to scream out for help, but also in the same scene he’s still comes across as vulnerable despite having power over Fenn character. A bad side to some of Sands dialogue delivery is he’s unintentionally hilarious. One moment that stands out in goofy delivery is when Sands says Helena as desperately as he can before Helena experience an accident. On the whole, Sands performance could be considered positive with occasional mishaps along the way.

Sherilyn Fenn also stars opposite of Julian Sands for a majority of the film. While the film does rely heavily on her looks, and pulls of creating a sorta seductive aura around her. Fenn comes off convincingly in later scenes too that rely less on her looks. Unlike the rest of the cast, Fenn is slowly given limitation to her performance preventing her from being as expressive as the other cast. Yet, she’s still able to be convincing in her role coming off as vulnerable, and strong. A downside to this is most of the time she’s constantly screaming her lines, and doesn’t have as many vulnerable scenes compared to Sands. It doesn’t help either that there isn’t much to Fenn character either so Fenn gradually changing into a different person sadly go to waste due to context of the film.

The only other noteworthy performance comes from Bill Paxton who dress up like a dated, 90s greaser in the film. Aside from his silly appearances, Bill Paxton only appears in four scenes, and is silly in all of them. He hams it up in his short screen time, and makes an impression. The other supporting actors in the film are fully onenote. Art Garfunkel doesn’t do much in terms of range, Betsy Clark doesn’t do much either with her time, and Kurtwood Smith despite playing his small part well won’t stay with you because once again, very limited screen time. Also, since it’s wholly a serious movie the whole supporting cast performances eventually mesh with each other being indistinguishable from one another.


Game over man. Game over.

Jennifer Lynch direction is fine for a first a time director. There are certain shots that are questionable in the way they’re frame. For example, there’s a scene of Julian Sands looking out at the front of his Mansion garden, and is unable to see a clearly visible crouching Bill Paxton behind some branches. It makes you wonder how Sands wasn’t able to see Bill Paxton when he’s as visible as he is. Another bad shot is when Helena is hit by a car, and lingering on it for too long exposes the bad effects used in the moment. Jennifer Lynch was both subtle, and heavy handed with some of her imagery. Heavy handed when cutting to a bird in cage whenever Fenn is failing to escape the grasp of Julian Sands. The subtle imagery comes in how very selective shots are framed to make it appear it’s actor are stuck in boxes. As for anything else I would say the selection of music is fitting, but none of the original music stands out. A lot of the music choices are orchestrated pieces with rare inclusion of insert tracks. The only piece of music that stands out is a cover of Bonnie Raitt “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Venice. To Lynch credit, it fits perfectly into what she was trying to get across in her film.

This would usually be the end of the review with me posting my closing thoughts, but there’s still one other thing left to talk about, and that’s the ludicrous statement that this film is sexist towards women. The criticism came from the 90s when it was release, but as of the moment of this review being posted it’s as relevant as ever. Labeling this a male power fantasy is silly since Helena is constantly fighting back against her captor for the entire film. Helena wants nothing to do with Nick, even when holds her captive, and Nick is doing anything to prevent her from escaping. If anything, it’s actually against power fantasies since Helena fight every chance she gets. Nick isn’t rewarded for his action which is proven by the film’s ending.  Another thing that disproves the film so call “sexism” is Nick does not enjoy obsessing over a woman he had a night stand with. In his own words regarding his obsession, “I’m still haunted for my love for her”. Even if I take into account the way the film is shot it’s still part of Nick character whose otherworldly attraction to Helena is presented by those images, and having seen the film entirely Nick does not enjoy seeing Helena the way he does. It’s negative for his mindset, and negative in his life. Just imagine if the film were to be release in 2016, and it would have caused a far greater riot. I clearly don’t think highly of Boxing Helena, but there’s one thing that Jennifer Lynch didn’t come across when directing her film, and that was sexist.

Boxing Helena I see as a lost opportunity. Beneath the many faults I do feel if handled by a more experience director could have been great. By a first time director, Jennifer Lynch lacked the experience she needed to pull off such an experimental project, and couldn’t reach the high mark she set for herself. None of this is further evident with the ending, and scenes that go against the notion of the ending. Much like its title character, the film itself is trapped in a metaphorical box, but instead of going outside of the box, and sticking to it guns with an ending that would have garner it some respect, even among some detractors. It’s ending plays it safe which goes along with abstract theme of society putting people in boxes, but at the cost of giving the impression Boxing Helena is not worth taking out of its box, even among the more “artsy” film lovers.


Side Stuff: Casting Controversy

There’s also the controversy of casting when it comes to this film. I read one review that made a joke out of it for a closing statement. Granted I wanted to do the same, but someone else beat me to the punch. Originally Madonna was meant to play the part of Helena, but dropped out due to unexplained reasons. Afterwards, Kim Basinger was set to star, but once again stepped down from the role. Unlike Madonna, Kim Basinger exit from the film caused her to go to court, and file for bankruptcy. Her exit from the film cost to pay around, allegedly, $9 million dollars to the film’s producer. Given that Kim Basinger would win best supporting actress four years in 1997 L.A. Confidential I doubt Kim Basinger regret passing up on Boxing Helena.

Sources (this side content):

LA Times: http://articles.latimes.com/1993-08-29/entertainment/ca-29280_1_david-lynch

EW.com: http://www.ew.com/article/1993/04/09/boxing-helenas-controversies

Backup Link for source: https://web.archive.org/web/20160906193722/http://www.ew.com/article/1993/04/09/boxing-helenas-controversies

Cinema-Maniac: Brooklyn (2015) Review

Simplicity isn’t something I demand when it comes to films. One reason being I prefer films that offer plenty for me to analyze either on a technical, or narrative level. Another reason being when it comes down to it simple stories, and simple characters are easy to fully comprehend on one viewing. Leaving very little to ponder once the film ends. Sometimes offering no reasons to rewatch a simple film in the future if I understood everything I wanted on a single viewing. At the same time it’s a necessity to have simplicity in films because not every great story, and masterpiece needs complexity. I would much rather have films like Whiplash which while not an amazing viewing experience soars in accomplishing its single minded goal as opposed to something that collapsed under its own weight. Brooklyn I would place alongside with a film like Whiplash; both films didn’t provide anything amazing of an experience from the reception they received, but they accomplished what they set out to do with little to no hiccups.

Brooklyn is about an Irish immigrant, Ellis (Saoirse Ronan), who lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local while being torn up between two countries she loves. The film is a simple mixture of coming age, and romance that doesn’t get elaborate. It follows a simple three act structure, and is linear as a film can traditionally get. What differentiate it from a traditional romance film is nothing in the film is overly dramatize. Conversations feel natural with dinner scenes serving to get across the passage of time without directly stating it. These dinner scenes also provide the films with most of the jokes as well as some insight into some it characters. Everything in the film is written to get across the most amount of information with simple dialogue. Working wondrously for the film.

Oh, been wondering what happened to Carrot Top.

The romance isn’t the main focus of the film, but rather use as a narrative tool to show growth in Ellis life. Showing Ellis as young timid girl to eventually becoming an adult woman. Her interaction with her love interest, Tony (Emory Cohen), changes her as a person, and seeing those changes is what makes the romance effective. Much like Ellis, Tony feels like an actual person expressing the kind of life he desires with Ellis. In his own understated way contributes more to the film than just being a love interest. Another appealing aspect of the romance is how it portrayed. There’s no flair to any of it. One example of this is when Tony confesses to Ellis he loves her, and the scene is neither accompanied by music, nor characters making a big deal out of it. Simply being treated as another part of the relationship. Granted a love confession in serious relationship is significant, but the way it written it intently wants the audience to know every moment between these two is significant no matter the context.

As a coming of age film it has the message of growing up is filled with hardship, but an added bonus is actually seeing the character growth in the film. It does not end when Ellis experience a life altering event by moving to 1950s America. The film instead uses the opportunity of Ellis growing to make her face a serious dilemma. Viewing the conflict she face with in a new light as oppose in the beginning of the film where she viewed it like a young adult simply going along with what everyone else wanted. It’s also very clever how it uses a one off character within the first act of the film to be a fulfilling showcase of far of a person Ellis came in her journey. In terms of a tone it plays out a bit like a fantasy before the third act where reality comes crashing down. While there is the issue of living in an entire country feeling homesick, and trouble socializing it never overcomes Ellis life. She is simply able to deal with her problems directly. If not, then she’ll asks her friends, or family for advice.

Creed: With arms with open.

If there is any serious issue with the film writing it would be the climax of the film. Once Ellis has to decide to live in Ireland with a newfound purpose, or go back to the US to a life that helped her transition into adulthood. The catalyst, or motive that determines Ellis decision feels tacked on plain, and simple. Throughout the film, it makes an attempt to make both 1950’s America, and Ireland as desirable places to live without any serious problems that is too much to handle. However, after a conversation with someone Ellis didn’t like in her past it reminds her of everything she hated that particular country. Here lies the simple problem of the audience not knowing what Ellis specifically means. This film starts out with Ellis spending her last day in Ireland before going to America, and that’s honestly all the viewer is given on Ireland. She experience similar events in both the US, and Ireland. Viewers only gain a full understanding of how much the US means to her as oppose to Ireland where it comes across as a repeat of what Ellis experienced in America. However, like the rest of the film, this is an understated moment that does not dramatize the climax “movie moment” kind of way. The same applies to the ending. While subtle in showing how much Ellis grew as a person it is also understated. Everything about the is simple to comprehend, and in a understated execution succeeds in what it tackles.

Much like the screenplay by Nick Hornby, the acting is once again understated, but for simple reasons. None of the performances are powerhouses, though they’re all fine because of the film’s direction. Saoirse Ronan takes leading the role as Ellis portraying in one of her most challenging role. She comes off as awkward, naive, sincere, funny, and other shades of her character. What is best about this performance is how steadily she transition into becoming an adult. It’s a steady change that retains her character established traits with a new boost of confidence. She expresses through her performance how much she matured, and her facial expressions gets it across vividly. There is a not a scene in the film where you’ll be impressed by her acting since the entire film is subdue in emotion. Taking a timid woman at the start of the film, and convinces viewers she’s now a strong individual. Still, it’s another noteworthy performance from Saoirse Ronan who doesn’t have to put up a fake American in this film which is another plus.

I’ll take any opportunity to post a image of Saoirse Ronan. What? I like her.

The other performances are overshadowed by Saoirse Ronan. Of course it’s because she the leading actress, but there’s rarely a scene where she’s not present. Only Emory Cohen gets the most of amount of screen time of the supporting cast. His performance is also sincere, and very believable in his performance. The moments he shares with Saoirse Ronan are sweet. They’re both good onscreen together. Acting veterans like Jim Broadbent, and Julie Walters aren’t utilize much in the films. Walters can deliver a funny line, but with the exception of one scene she’s mostly spent her time in the dinner scenes with some kind of reference to god. Jim Broadbent is in the film less so since his only purpose seems to be to deliver a plot point to get the story rolling. He doesn’t get to do much in the film, but doesn’t takes it seriously nonetheless to not be a distraction. Then there’s Domhnall Gleeson who only appears in the third act. His chemistry with Saoirse Ronan makes it possible to believe why Ronan character can like him, even if they spent less time together. 

Supporting actors like Hugh Gormley, Brid Brennan, Maeve McGrath, Emma Lowe, Barbara Drennan, Fiona Glascott, Jane Brennan, Eileen O’Higgins play typical characters. Being used mostly to portray the nice old lady, the woman who has trouble maintaining relationship, the depressed mother, the irritable old woman, and other archetypes. As you might have imagined none of these archetype are exaggerating the personality. Director John Crowley doesn’t miss anything when it comes to details in the costumes, and showing visually showing good distinction between two countries. Yves Belanger cinematography is visually the most interesting part of the film. Offering some standard wide shots, but it’s at it best when it comes to showing the most out of its actors performances. Music is composed by Michael Brook offering a classic sounding soundtrack to the film, and having some Irish music. John Crowley is smart enough to know when to place music, and when not too.

Brooklyn is a film that will leave viewers conflicted at the raving reception it received. While in no way close to resembling a bad film it’ll nonetheless contribute to disappointment by its many raving reviews that it receives. This will make some viewers expect something grander than what they will actually see. On the contrary, if you want a coming of age, and romance that is more down to earth than Brooklyn is the film for you. It’s has sweet moments of romance without being sugarcoated. Has the ability to gripping without over dramatizing any events. By all, it’s a simple film that knows how to tell a simple tale without many layers on it, and when it works nearly this flawlessly it doesn’t have to be more than it is.


Cinema-Maniac: I Saw the Devil (2010) Review

If there’s another genre that had a bigger fall from grace it would be the horror genre. Much like the action genre, allot of fans can agree the 80s was where it peaked in popularity. However, horror can still continue to push the boundary of what is acceptable both visually, and from a creative perspective. How much is too much when it comes to blood, and gore. How in depth of an character exploration can you create before you begin thinking like a killer. Horror has the ability, more so than other genre, to put viewers in a uncomfortable situations, and even scare them in some cases. As someone who doesn’t see allot of horror movies it’s unfortunate very few horror films from the 90s, and 2000s didn’t entice me in viewing the genre without a preconceived notion. What made matter worse is despite having seen very few horror films, most of what I was exposed to by friends, and family were generally trite films within the genre. There were eventually films that won me over like 1931 Frankenstein, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 1974 (the only horror movie to scare me to date), and George A. Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead which is my all time favorite zombie film. That’s why I’m happy to write about I Saw the Devil. A modern horror film that is hybrid with a psychological thriller, and succeed for all the right reasons work as well it should have.

Choi Min-sik: “Mmm, I could use this arm for a pie.”

I Saw the Devil is about a secret agent exacting revenge on a serial killer through a series of captures and releases. While not entirely a horror film, one admirable trait that I Saw the Devil accomplishes far better than general horror films is contextualizing the blood, and gore. Too often do many films within this genre disregard characters, and story for the sake of bloodshed. The film is deliberately slow paced for this singular reason. For starter, it slow pacing helps it create an atmosphere of dread over it’s main Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee). What it also allows for is to display impatience within Kim Soo-hyeon witnessing him losing sleep over finding his wife’s killer. Showing Kim Soo-hyeon will do anything in his position in the name of vengeance. Splicing scenes of both Kim Soo-hyeon, and Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi) current activities in the film to never lose focus of time. Showing the two men psychology are similar in certain ways, but makes it easy to determine who the film wants you to sympathize with as Kim Soo-hyeon is going after killers while Kyung-chul goes after women to kill.

Another aspect of the story that is appealing is putting a twist on a familiar premise. In some horror films, if the victim of the deceased faces with the killer it’s either save until the climax, or becomes a film where the victim tortures the killer until someone dies in both scenario. By the end of the first act, the film victim Kim Soo-hyeon confronts killer Kyung-chul in which, surprisingly a choreographed fight scene ensues. After this confrontation, the film still continues by using a hunter, and the hunted mentality for its characters. At certain points in the film, this mind game between the two characters are discussed in the film. One attempted to be persuaded to simply let up on the vengeance, and ponder if there’s any value in it. For another he receives a taste of his own medicine while also deriving pleasure of how to get under the skin of whoever chasing him. In terms of characterization enough is given about Kim Soo-hyeon to understand his action. Simple things like having a wife, and caring for his family is as deep as it goes for Kim Soo-hyeon as a person. It’s enough to give an idea of his mentality before he decides to take revenge, and seeing how his act of revenge ultimately affects eventually becomes a dynamic characterization.

Come at me bro!

The same cannot be said for those it represent as killers since the film never bother exploring the psychological aspect of what can motivate its criminals to do the things they do. There’s a cannibal in the film who loves eating people, but that’s about as deep as it goes. All the criminals function as criminals. They’re meant to be evil for the sake of being evil in order to take pleasure in their deaths. It could be debated the intention was to to debate in the act of revenge itself is justified, but on the other hand the film does not lay down any ground work for greyness. Nothing is more evident of this than the usage of its female characters. From the victims perspectives they respect women as people, but every time a criminal interacts with a woman it’s with the intent to do whatever the criminal desire to do with them. It’s portrayal of representing both sides is one dimensional at best. Just fine for a revenge fantasy film, but when the script tacked on a family aspect to Kyung-chul character it says it wanted to be something more thought provoking. Made even noteworthy when it wants to use Kyung-chul family to get across a specific agenda that doesn’t work out since they’re only included in one before popping back up again. It hard see the film for anything other more than just a piece of revenge fantasy where viewers takes satisfaction in seeing its main character harm criminals.

Other issues within the film are specifically connected to the horror genre itself. Moments in the film required higher suspension of disbelief in order for the film to function the way it wants too. One of these problematic plot point is not Kim Soo-hyeon not killing his wife’s murderer when he’s given three good opportunities to do so. It’s given context, and established motivation for why Kim Soo-hyeon won’t simply kill Kyung-chul. What is not explained in the film is how Kyung-chul manage to find personal information of Kim Soo-hyeon within a quick span of time. There’s no mention in the film he’s connected with anyone in the police force, nor has ties with many criminals that can provide this information. Another issues comes in the form of useless police officers for the film both as characters, and narrative devices. Within the film, the police officers biggest contribution is making an arrest after Kim Soo-hyeon has another encounter with Kyung-chul. As far as usage go they give minimal remarks on how they dislike killers receiving medical treatment in a hospital despite their crimes, and does not provide additional characterization for any of the criminals. A miss opportunity for the police officers is providing a semblance of a man hunt. Rarely is there a mention of the police making progress of finding a suspect who is going after serial killers. There’s is a moment where it seems like the police are close to tracking down Kyung-chul, but it ends up being forgotten plot point. I would mention that the police did provide Kim Soo-hyeon information needed to track down his wife murderer as a positive from the police inclusion, but he’s a secret agent so information gathering wouldn’t be as difficult to obtain if he was an ordinary citizen.

Choi Min-sik ain’t happy with this buried alive prank. 

I Saw the Devil is entirely reliant on talent of two highly regarded actors from Korea who are Choi Min-sik, and Byung-hun Lee. Choi Min-sik as the psychaotic Kyung-chul is a  performance that is show stealing. Portraying a psychopath whose proud, and takes pleasure in the accomplishment of his killings. Embodying the truest essence of a killer without going over the top. Choi Min-sik subdue portrayal makes his character much more memorable because of it. Coming off as human as possible making it believable in one moment he holds your best interest to then later on want to chop you up into pieces. Withholding any urge to exaggerate his mannerism, and body language. At the same time, despite how often the viewer will see him get abused, Min-sik is a talented actor that he’s still manage to make his character despicable. The character of Kyung-chul has remotely no essence of any likable traits, yet Choi Min-sik understanding of his character paints a clear understanding of his mentality. In the all best possible ways, Choi Min-sik delivers a performance is very impressive to see unfold as much as it is capable to make you immerse within the film.

Byung-hun Lee who plays isn’t too shabby himself in the film either. Lee does a excellent job displaying a character whom seem to have all life sucked out of him. Remaining calm in any situation, even when to face with the killer. Despite displaying a humanless exterior for most of the film when the situation demands it Byung-hun Lee, in a few scenes is able to be emotional. There’s a final moment as the film closes where in a single moment Lee be expresses how mentality broken his character has become. When it comes to the sequences that require to fight him against actor Choi Min-sik, and neither of whom are expert in martial arts their performance of these sequences can fool anyone. Especially Byung-hun Lee whose swift movement can make a viewer further believe he encompasses his perfectly. As for the rest of the cast they’re at best character actor being good at playing off that one specific trait of their characters. It’s no exaggeration when saying the film is essentially a showcase for actors Choi Min-sik, and Byung-hun Lee than. Given the film aims that’s not a negative. The (I’m surprise to have) stunts work in the film are have good work put into them, and in certain scenes amaze by its creativity.

I’m huntin wabbits!

The film is directed by Jee-won Kim who also has a writing credit in the film. His direction in the film is basically flawless. Despite sporting a beautiful look thanks to Mo-gae Lee it still manages to create scenes that master of the horror genre would be proud off. One important tool in Kim framing of a horror sequence is lightning, and showing specific details of the environments. In the opening sequence, Jee-won Kim makes it clear how helpless one of Choi Min-sik victims is in the environment. A recurring feeling Jee-won Kim goes for is making the viewer feel trapped in certain environments. Rarely showing what’s on the outside of an car, or building when a horror set piece is in place. His usage of wide shots is minimal in the film mostly being reliant on close on medium, and close ups whenever in buildings, and cars. What it accomplishes is not showing any blind spot to where an escape route is possible. Another aspect Jee-won Kim avoids is the common horror trope of people tripping while they run. Since there isn’t a high death count that never becomes an issue. If there’s any moments where Jee-won Kim becomes indulgent it’s mostly towards horror fans. He makes up for the lack of kills by going all out in showing good practical effects of body parts, makes sure lots of blood is spilled, and doesn’t cut away from hard to watch sequences. There’s a scene there you see a character cutting off an Achilles tendon, and the viewer sees the entire process. Another standout sequence execellent direction revolves around Choi Min-sik riding in a taxi with suspicious characters. Without being specific, this particular is carefully constructed to be bloody displaying Choi Min-sik stabbing people multiple times in a taxi, and having little blood spill on the camera as it spins around taxi. Jee-won Kim is relentless where it counts, but not overboard to the point where it’s indulgent on blood, and gore.

I Saw the Devil is wonderful combination of horror, and a psychological thriller understanding the best of both genre. The horror elements allows it to go into dark places as well as be bloody in presentation. Balance elegantly with the psychological mind games of two characters who simply hate each other guts to fuel it story after its first act. It’s a wonderfully twisted cat, and mouse game even when it’s clear at points it wants to be more than just revenge fantasy entertainment. On a technical level alone it offers two great performances from two good actor which alone makes it worth viewing. If you haven’t seen a good usage of horror within films, or simply a fan of horror movies I Saw the Devil will satisfy viewers who simply want the blood, and gore, while also offering viewers who are looking something more than just meaningless bloodshed.


Cinema-Maniac: The Man from Nowhere (2010) Review

In the action genre it’s difficult to find a universal meaning for what classifies a great action movie. For some it could simply mean the film in question has plenty of violence to satisfy adrenaline junkie. While for others it could simply mean the story took it time to make the preceding events meaningful if it comes of the cost of little violence being shown. If there is a middle ground in the genre it’s often not dictated by it main character, but rather the writer. Anyone who writes action films must understand their main character thoughts, and physical limitations (if any) before the presence of a threat ever appears. If not accounted for this crucial building block can misguide the writer. For example, if the writer is attempting to do the everyman hero archetype correctly than viewer exposure to seeing them perform superhuman feat, and surviving multiple impossible scenarios will serve against the everyman hero archetype. There’s also the argument that the action genre already peaked unable ever surpass the classic films whose influence is still present in the genre today. I on the other hand would say since the 80s the genre has been improving in certain areas, especially when it comes to crafting characters, and stories that never loses the viewer attention even when no violence seems presence. Jeong-beom Lee’s film, The Man from Nowhere/Ajeossi, understands the genre, but thanks to smart choices in the script, and execution of a familiar template creates a film that embodies the best aspect it genre at it most meaningful.

Go make me a sandwich you emo!

The Man from Nowhere follows a quiet pawnshop keeper with a violent past taking on a drug trafficking ring in hope of saving the child who is his only friend. Our leading character is Tae-sik (Bin Won), who on the surface is the every man action hero archetype who seems distant from people. In the action genre, the mysterious loner who some innocent person (usually a child or navie young woman) befriends by being persistent isn’t new in films. What matter most when it comes to familiar ideas, and plot devices is the usage of them. In The Man From Nowhere it gets virtually everything right about good writing from the very first scene. Setting up story elements that will later be expanded into greater significance as it progress. It sets up important story pieces for about half an hour establishing its central relationship with simple key scenes, and setting up intrigue in Tae-sik without directly revealing anything about him. You know from the premise Tae-sik cold attitude towards his neighbor child isn’t without reason. How writer, and director Jeong-beom Lee uses this plot device correctly was not reserving, displaying Tae-sik emotional attachment solely for its climax. By doing this, Jeong-beom Lee film benefits from this decision since it allows Tae-sik to be further developed as a character, and let the film not be reliant on showing the cold hearted protagonist become emotional for its central storyline.

It’s first thirty minutes are significant to how well the story is structure. Starting off like a character drama before switching gear in its second act to be an action thriller. For example, one moment in the film shows Tae-sik paying his respect to a woman whom nothing is revealed about. As the film eventually reveals Tae-sik connection to this woman the pieces fall into place for his attachment towards his neighbor daughter Jeong So-mi (Sae-ron Kim). It becomes a meaningful revelation since before Tae-sik past is revealed he is shown to care for Jeong So-mi. Another example of a well executed plot device is from a simple phone call. It’s between two criminals where a simple exchange is in placed to move the story forward. What detail is given, but not placed directly at the viewer attention is a snippet of dialogue. In context, it does more than move the story forward as a couple lines is given more significant later in the film. One of the best part of the story is how plot devices are more meaningful by the way they were used, and when to use them at the right time. The only serious issue to be found with the writing in its first act is in a scene where Jeong So-mi talks to Tae-Sik in a alley. It’s basically the equivalent of Jeong So-mi breaking the fourth wall to tell the audience to feel bad for her since she has a terrible life. It doesn’t help that the way it filmed explicitly shows Jeong So-mi character turning around, and describing how she is use to being neglected. It’s a heavy handed moment despite being well acted by Sae-ron Kim.

Freeze…get it guys cause it cold, and raining?

Once the story kicks in it never lets up, nor does it undermine the importance of focusing on characters. As it story expands into something larger Tae-sik becomes more developed as the film progresses. Another positive of the film is never forgetting about its characters preventing itself from oversimplifying the conflict. While it is easy to know whom to cheer for in the film, the execution of it the story makes it clear that a good guy, or a villain is not just a label certain characters carry. Succeeding in giving characters small traits that attempt to make them more human than just an obstruction of its main character goal. The film weakest character are easily the policemen whom serve to reveal information on the current situation, and discovers details on the protagonist of the film. What Jeong-beom Lee accomplishes through his writing, and choices is delivery an action film that places equal importance on providing a good story as well offering familiarity within the genre. Action junkies, and casual viewers will probably know the beats of this specific premise, but it’s much more than a well written film. It’s a step forward for the genre that often recycles ideas by giving it more depths than what was expected of it in the past. Displaying a willingness to take the genre to greater heights in a different way.

Actor Bin Won takes the lead as the quiet, hardened pawnshop keeper. Striking a balance between the everyman, and the cold character he display on the surface. One contributing factor to his performance is being able to balance the material he’s given with ease. Won does not deliver his dialogue emotionlessly when he speaks. Knowing through his delivery how to properly express himself in the context of certain scenes. When it comes to scenes where Bin Won has to display other range of emotion it feels consistent for the character. Bin Won does not overact in any facet of his character so he is never too robotic sounding, nor too emotional when it demands him. Another advantage to Bin Won performance is seeing him performing the action sequences himself. There’s a stunt in the film where Bin Won is an executing a leap from the second storey of a building, leaping through the window followed by a roll on the ground to break his fall, and all done in one swift take. Moments like these further emphasizes not only Bin Won ability as an actor to commit to a role, but further makes his character more involving knowing the actor himself is performing these scenes blurring the line between actor, and character. 

Little girl. You begging doesn’t work like this right?

Actress Sae-ron Kim does well in the role of playing the film naive, persistent child Jung So-Mi who befriends the quiet pawnshop keeper. She makes her character sympathetic, and in the few scenes she shares with Bin Won they play off each convincingly. Never once does she come across as pouty, or annoying the film. It’s remarkable that in her young age in the film, she actually has an understanding of how to deliver her material properly. Kim Hyo-seo plays Hyo-Jeong (So-Mi’s mother) is in few scenes, but contributes to the film nonetheless. Her few moments in the film shows the actress playing a struggling mother. Despite the length of time she’s actually makes good use of her time. Then there’s Kim Hee-Won, and Kim Sung-Oh both of whom do a good job in their roles. Usually in action movies whenever an actor is given a villainous character they go all out. However, both Hee-Won, and Sung-Oh performances are grounded making their characters more human. By portraying them as criminals it helps take them more seriously if they simply went out to be comically evil.

The supporting cast in general places good effort into the film no matter the size of their role. Actor Thanayong Wongtrakul is probably the last actor worth mentioning in the film. Wongtrakul plays Ramrowan who’s basically the adversary of the film protagonist. Like his other co-stars whom play criminals, Wongtrakul performances is also grounded making his character more memorable than it would have been otherwise. The film score is composed by Hyun-jung Shim. His score does include the bombastic sound one might expect from the action genre, but the noteworthy tracks are the ones that evoke feeling of a different genres, or uses unorthodox instruments to compose an epic sounding soundtrack despite its modern setting. Two outstanding tracks from the film are Chain of Mystery that evokes feeling of uneasiness perfect for a horror film, and the tracked named after the film itself. Thankfully, director Jeong-beom Lee knows when to implement the soundtrack to emphasizes a scene to make it more impactful, and when not to use too.

Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to just chill here until one guy arrived.

From a technical standpoint Jeong-beom Lee film has the polish look of a blockbuster. Tae-yoon Lee cinematography is simply beautiful to look at, even during the film’s darker moments. Lee isn’t afraid to show the few instances of darker material thus giving the conflict a greater sense of weight. Thankfully, Jeong-beom Lee also knew to use shots of dark material sparingly so the effect wouldn’t diminish over time. When the film finally gets to the action scenes they are well worth the wait. Despite the gap between action scenes, and length between them all of the set pieces aces good filmmaking techniques. Not only does Lee use long takes of his actor performing the action sequences, but make sure to never lose the audience. The film first fight scene last less than a minute, but the performance, and the way it shot doesn’t diminish it’s a good action scene. Bin Won convincingly performs the fight in the speed it was required to pull it off. The film’s climax is easily the film’s most memorable sequence. Not only contextually is it the most satisfying set piece since the film builds up to this moment, but the actual action scene by itself is well choreographed. It doesn’t exaggerate Bin Won ability within the scene, and does a good job in giving multiple performers within in the scene something to do. So you won’t see an actor in the background simply seeing the hero killing someone making it also feel grounded. There’s also some practical blood splatter effect in the film for added effect in its brutality. When the film gets to the knife fight between the hero, and his adversary it’s more believable than one might expect. The blades of the knives barely clash with each other with the fight sequence playing more on overpowering the other opponent. It also doesn’t last too long to take away from the serious tone of the scene.

The Man from Nowhere excels in execution, and delivery of its own material creating a must see film. There are films I shower with endless praise, and there’s also films I personally would recommend reader to check out, even if it means they might trust my viewpoints on films less if we disagree. This is a film I would personally recommend to anyone reading this. While it does the carry the label of an action film, and contains familiar story beats the execution makes the film more meaningful than the simple label of being an action film. It might not succeed in making you emotionally invested, but an action film like this that places equal importance on good characters, and story as well as providing of what expected of it within the genre are commendable traits. Standing as a good example of pushing the action genre forward in a positive direction, and offering more than what audiences demanded of such films from the past. It’s a masterpiece in the genre, and is one of the most satisfying (and crowd pleasing) film the genre has produced.


Cinema-Maniac: Homicycle (2014) Review

When determining what films to see, and review I welcome taking a “risk” once in awhile. By “risk” I mean going blind into a film that is not discuss in professional reviewing outlets, or among bloggers. What makes these “risks” satisfying is discovering a great film, and giving it exposure no matter the size of your contribution, or readership. Every review on an obscure title praising a good unknown anything will give it a better opportunity to grow. This is one aspect of the internet I embrace than no matter how I end up feeling about a finish product I get expose to all sorts of media I probably wouldn’t have checked out my limited knowledge. Of course there are films like Homicycle that make me question if the word standards is like a myth to certain filmmakers. Sometime there are bad films I encourage seeing either for building standards, or to find entertainment in a way that wasn’t intended. However, Homicycle is filled with so much deadweight I advise you not to see it to save your time on something better. As of this very moment, this is the worst film I’ve seen that has cycle in its titled. Yes, it’s even worse than the time I saw I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle.

Homicycle is about the titled character who dispenses vigilante justice against a criminal organization. It sounds cool, but that didn’t translate into a product that resembles entertainment, or even competency by bad filmmaking standards. For starter, the film quality of writing along the line of one of those kind of films that just has a single thin idea stretched out. In Homicycle, if we removed the filler material of the film than the actual meat of the film is 50 minutes long. With the filler, it’s only 70 minutes, yet feels allot longer than it actually is. The film has little essence of substance even on a surface level as neither story, or characters are expanded on beyond the basics. Scenes just go into random scenes disconnected from any semblance of progress. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the film self aware tone is what kills the film. It knows the setup is right up a traditional 80s B movie throwing in a simple story, odd characters, and some occasionally awful dialogue. However, intentionally making a bad film does not translate into an unintentional comedy. Since it knows what kind of trashy film it is making it impossible to enjoy to enjoy from a so bad it’s good perspective.

As for the actual story itself it’s one of vengeance. The film never confirms the of identity of Homicycle, but the single clue the film gives to the audience leaves little to the imagination who it can be. A character connected to the vigilante spells it out to the viewers by saying his name. Removing any possible mysterious aura from him. Another aspect about Homicycle is the lack of confirmation of what exactly he is. In one scene, he punches through a guy guts in order to kill him, but within the same scene get beaten by a normal man. Then there’s the fact the film suggests a character in the story, Eddie (Mac Dale), came back from the dead to seek vengeance. Having already explained the film doesn’t go beyond the basics. What kind of force made him come back to life isn’t surrounded by concrete material. If it was something supernatural it wouldn’t fit since nothing otherworldly is mentioned in the film. However, it doesn’t work the in the “realistic” vein either since it means Eddie survives a shot to the head at point blank, his wife buried him in her backyard, and been buried for who knows how long in better condition than he was alive. A film can’t just assume it audience will accept anything at face value if they did nothing to earn that trust.

Public Service Announcement: Don’t jerk

What follows Homicycle around is a string of bad jokes escalating to sheer boredom. It place randomly with toilet humor, or innuendos jokes. When jokes are used to pad out the running it’s quite sad. Characters relationship don’t go beyond the basics. You’ll have to assume what archetype characters fall into. For instance, the villain of the film Brock (Peter Whittaker) is the best developed character in the film. He dresses up as a pirate, has odd fetishes, and is a criminal lord. That’s it. Nothing about why he acts the way he does, dresses the way he does, or what his goals are is shown. Picture the rest of the film characters being less developed than Brock. Filling the screen with characters that just mesh with one another in a forgettable manner. Having no personality of any kind.

The filler material consist of a sleazy producer talking about how scary the film apparently is. This is your introduction into the film. So, this sleazy film producer claims the film is so scary there’s sexy nurses are in the lobby ready to dispatch to help if the film causes you health problems. If I was watching this introduction in a film theater it makes since, but at home it simply tells me the filmmakers were to lazy to write the exact same scene simply changing two words to make it work when viewing it at home. Also, if you happened to die during the viewing of the film your family will immediately inherit 1 million dollars according to the sleazy producer. If that wasn’t pointless than the film inclusion of a bikini contest certainly will be. Sometimes when filmmakers know they’re losing their audience they’ll throw in some sex appeal to keep viewers awake. This bikini contest adds nothing of value to the film. The contestants names are Candy, Mandy, Brandy, and Sandy. Why all the contestants have Andy in their names I can’t tell you. Probably it was meant to be a joke, but that would be giving the film too much credit if I acknowledge it had any idea of what comedy is.

For the last time. I’m not a Vampire. They suck.


The biggest waste of time in the film, besides the whole thing, is an intermission with ads for concession food. Homicycle, if we’re being generous, is 70 minutes long so an intermission is not needed. Besides being insulting that the filmmakers believe viewers can’t sit through a 70 minute long movie. This intermission is also pointless. Another pointless addition in the film is a concert that you might have guessed by now adds nothing of value to the film. These filler moments of the film break pacing as it brings things to a sudden stop. Another point of filler are repeating two scenes. A flashback showing Eddie death is shown twice in the film. Though, the biggest middle finger is the film opening sequence when is the same scene used to end the film. No variation as it plays the same opening sequence in its entirety for its ending. So when taking it all in, the film went in circles, and accomplished nothing pass the starting point.


From a filmmaking point of view there’s also no passion shown in its production. The most amount of effort put into the film was copying the grainy image of a 80s B movie, and duplicating shots from that era. However, the visuals don’t improve the story, nor is able to hide the horrendous acting. Director Brett Kelly couldn’t be bother fixing easy mistakes. One of them was showing an actor firing a nail gun, and no nail being visually shown coming out of the nail gun. He lingers on special effect shots too long you can see the hose where fake blood is coming out when a person’s head is decapitated. Another trait of Brett Kelly is his sheer ability to add random things in post production. For instance, there’s a shot that last for a few seconds, and in the background the sky is purple. No reason why, it’s just there just because Brett Kelly can.

The one scene in the film that showcases Brett Kelly lack of understanding as a director is the film shootout in a warehouse. Brett Kelly made his fake gun muzzle effect, and fake splatter very noticeable in this sequence. The slow motion in the scene makes the poor special effect very noticeable. Apparently in the same scene, Kelly felt it was necessary to place render images of blood splatter in the background, yet whenever there’s a cut the blood splatter that was in the background is longer there. So Brett Kelly went out of his way to ensure there these special effects are in the film, but didn’t care enough to maintain continuity which defeats the purpose of adding special effects in the scene. He also forgets to place fake muzzle effects when a background actor is shown shooting at Homicycle. Another inconsistency are the CG bullets that come out of Homicycle automatic guns. Then for some reason Brett Kelly doesn’t bother placing CG bullets coming out the guns even though the rest of sequence he had them there before. Within the same sequence, Brett Kelly forget to show certain goons getting killed on screen, and absolutely forgets bullet holes despite the fact he chose to add fake blood splatter in post production. Also, the goon despite not being obstructed by anything all missed shooting Homicycle. This is the worst shootout I’ve seen in a homage film.

The acting much like everything else is awful. Only actor Peter Whittaker is noteworthy because of his over the top performance, and fake eyebrows. He puts effort into his performance attempting to make badly written scene funny. However, he’s unable to make jokes work because his co stars don’t bother putting effort into their performance. Peter Whittaker isn’t talented enough to make a joke work on his own. Brett Kelly not caring about producing anything of value spread to his actors which is why they phone it in. Special effects are cheap looking when they’re lingered on too much, and every single practical effect is badly executed. Music is forgettable, and the cinematography while good visually duplicating 80s B movie imagery is enough to hide the many issues of the film. If anything, I want to spotlight Trevor Payer, Jennifer Mulligan, and David A. Lloyd who are all given writing credits. Between three minds they couldn’t come with enough material to create a feature length film. That’s embarrassing.

Homicycle is the worst kind of film that doesn’t offer anything worth of value. When negatively dissecting the film, the self aware tone tells you the filmmakers made an intentionally bad movie so there’s not much to learn from it. There’s not much to dissect either as it’s dead air through it 70 minutes run, and 20 of those minutes are filler material that could have been out. In the end, you’re left with a film that is worthless. If the filmmakers didn’t put any effort to create a film of any value viewers shouldn’t put any effort themselves in seeing this garbage either.