Film Review: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Release Date: January 19th, 1996
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Quentin Tarantino, Robert Kurtzman
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Quentin Tarantino, Juliette Lewis, Cheech Marin, Fred Williamson, Tom Savini, Salma Hayek, Ernest Liu, Danny Trejo, Michael Parks, John Saxon, Marc Lawrence, Kelly Preston, John Hawkes

Los Hooligans Productions, A Band Apart, Dimension Films, Miramax, 108 Minutes

Review:

“I know what’s going on. We got a bunch of fucking vampires out there, trying to get in here and suck our fucking blood. And that’s it. Plain and simple. I don’t want to hear anything about “I don’t believe in vampires,” because I don’t fucking believe in vampires, but I believe in my own two eyes, and what I saw, is fucking vampires. Now, do we all agree that what we are dealing with is vampires?” – Seth

I should preface this by saying that I love the hell out of this movie and it’s probably my favorite out of the films that Robert Rodriguez has done. I also hadn’t seen it in a really long time so a revisit was certainly long overdue.

This movie also features my favorite performance by George Clooney, an actor I have always loved and thought was cool, since first seeing him on The Facts of Life and Roseanne, as a kid in the ’80s. I’m glad this cool sitcom guy I liked actually carved out one of the greatest acting careers of his generation and really, any generation.

The reason why I like Clooney in this so much is that it is the greatest departure from the roles he usually plays, which are calm, chill, often times heroic people. While he’s always been cool, this is him at his coolest, going full throttle with no fucks given. It’s a real sight to behold, especially if you consider yourself a Clooney fan and have never seen this.

The rest of the cast is also great with Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis and Quentin Tarantino, who surprisingly did a solid job as his character, a guy that’s pretty much a psychopath.

Additionally, the cast is loaded with other memorable but smaller performances from Salma Hayek, Fred Williamson, Tom Savini, Danny Trejo, John Saxon, John Hawkes, Kelly Preston, Michael Parks and Cheech Marin, playing three different roles.

The thing I like most about this movie is that it’s like two films in one. The first half feels like a Tarantino crime picture and since he wrote it, it makes it that much more akin to say Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown or True Romance. The second half of the film turns into an over-the-top, balls out vampire action movie that is reminiscent of exploitation horror. Being that this has Fred Williamson in it, it just adds to that motif.

My only real gripe about the movie is in its use of CGI special effects, which I thought looked shitty even way back in 1996. The film also uses some incredible practical effects done by maestro Tom Savini. Savini’s work is as superb as always and with Robert Rodriguez having that guy at his disposal, I don’t know why he didn’t let him work out the kinks and help design the more elaborate effects shots. The creature makeup just looks so incredible in this picture that when it resorts to using CGI for vampire transformations or deaths, it’s really fucking jarring and takes you out of this otherwise awesome flick.

Like Savini’s stupendous practical effects, I also thought that the set design and general costumes throughout the picture were incredible. This is such a finely crafted, cool film that unfortunately has the rug pulled out from under it due to the bad CGI moments. Honestly, the CGI really undermines the work that went into creating this unique and fun world.

In the end, though, From Dusk Till Dawn is still a solid fucking movie. The pros definitely outweigh the cons but it’s frustrating that those cons weren’t avoided in the first place.

Rating: 7.25/10

Film Review: Heat (1995)

Release Date: December 6th, 1995 (Burbank premiere)
Directed by: Michael Mann
Written by: Michael Mann
Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Jon Voight, Val Kilmer, Dennis Haysbert, William Fichtner, Natalie Portman, Tom Noonan, Kevin Gage, Hank Azaria, Danny Trejo, Henry Rollins, Tone Loc, Ricky Harris, Jeremy Piven, Xander Berkeley, Martin Ferrero, Bud Cort (uncredited)

Forward Pass, New Regency Productions, Warner Bros., 170 Minutes

Review:

“You know, we are sitting here, you and I, like a couple of regular fellas. You do what you do, and I do what I gotta do. And now that we’ve been face to face, if I’m there and I gotta put you away, I won’t like it. But I tell you, if it’s between you and some poor bastard whose wife you’re gonna turn into a widow, brother, you are going down.” – Vincent Hanna, “There is a flip side to that coin. What if you do got me boxed in and I gotta put you down? Cause no matter what, you will not get in my way. We’ve been face to face, yeah. But I will not hesitate. Not for a second.” – Neil McCauley

I saw this movie in the theater on a date during my junior year of high school. I think that my then-girlfriend was really annoyed because she wanted something “long and boring” so that we could fool around in the back row. Unfortunately, for her… this movie grabbed my attention and I couldn’t look away from it from start-to-finish.

Heat just clutches onto you immediately with the armored truck heist and how shit in that heist goes sideways, even though the criminal gang does successfully pull it off. The whole sequence was just absolute perfection, though, and it set a really, really high bar for the rest of the picture. However, that high bar would be surpassed with the bank robbery that starts the third act of the movie.

Never has there been a better bank robbery sequence on-screen. At least, I’ve never seen one and I’ve seen many. It’s just cinematic perfection. I love the way it’s shot, the way everything played out, the lack of any music and the absolute intensity of the rapid gunfire, as the criminals and the cops turn downtown Los Angeles into a literal warzone for several minutes. The tension building of the robbery itself, just before the bad guys hit the streets, was incredible!

Apart from these stupendous heist sequences, the film is full of great scene after great scene. Credit really should go to everyone involved in the movie, though.

The cast is one of the most talented ever assembled in this movie’s era and the direction by Michael Mann was damn near perfect. Mann’s pacing, visual style and tone all closely matched what he did with the original Miami Vice television series and the film Manhunter. While this lacked the ’80s panache it was still very stylized and just felt like a more refined and updated version of what I see as the patented Michael Mann style.

For a film that’s just under three hours, there isn’t really a dull moment in this thing. Every scene matters and even the most minute shit ends up having some sort of impact on the story or the characters within.

As I’m getting older, my attention span is getting worse and sometimes, sitting down to watch a movie this long is a real turnoff. I’m also surrounded by distractions and it’s hard to give a lengthy picture like this my full attention. However, Heat is so damn solid, all the way through, that it’s damn near impossible not to get lost in it.

And when you get to that first scene between Pacino and De Niro, you will feel chills. I still do and I’ve probably seen this a half dozen times over the years.

Rating: 9.5/10

Film Review: The Hidden (1987)

Release Date: October 30th, 1987
Directed by: Jack Sholder
Written by: Bob Hunt
Music by: Michael Convertino
Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri, Richard Brooks, Claudia Christian, Chris Mulkey, William Boyett, Clu Gulager, Ed O’Ross, Danny Trejo, Lin Shaye, Robert Shaye (uncredited)

Heron Communications, Mega Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 97 Minutes

Review:

“No one deserves to die like that. I don’t care what the man’s done.” – Doctor, “He killed twelve people, wounded twenty three more, stole six cars, most of them Ferraris. Robbed eight banks, six supermarkets, four jewelery stores and a candy shop. Six of the ones he killed he carved up with a butcher knife. Two of them were kids. He did all that in two weeks. If anyone deserves to go that way, it sure in the hell was him.” – Det. Cliff Willis

I recently found out about this movie, which kind of sucks, as I was robbed of its greatness, as a kid. I would’ve loved the hell out of this movie back then but it’s also kind of cool discovering it 33 years later and seeing it for the first time.

One thing that immediately struck me about the plot is that it’s essentially the same idea that was used in that ’90s Denzel Washington film Fallen. In that film, Denzel fights a demon serial killer that changes bodies. In this film, it’s an alien and he isn’t so much a serial killer as he is just an asshole that takes what he wants and kills those in his way, sometimes just for fun. Regardless, it seems like Fallen stole this movie’s concept.

That being said, I like this a lot more than Fallen and it has similar vibes to They Live, I Come In Peace and even the comedy zombie movie Dead Heat. Other than They Live, this movie is better than those others. I’d also say that it’s pretty close in quality to They Live and frankly, this should probably be held in much higher regard than it is.

Watching this, I also have to wonder if it was a favorite movie of David Lynch. It stars Kyle MacLachlan, as an FBI agent, which he would be most famous for playing again in Lynch’s Twin Peaks, just a few years later. Additionally, Lynch tapped into the cast of this film for other roles in Twin Peaks. Plus, Michael Nouri’s role in this film plays like it was used as a template for Miguel Ferrer’s character in Twin Peaks. Additionally, seeing MacLachlan play an agent in this makes it hard not to draw allusions to his role as Cooper in Twin Peaks. However, in this film, there’s a twist where you discover that he’s not exactly who he appears to be. Granted, I figured out that twist pretty damn quickly.

I really liked the story in this film, its progression, the constantly changing villain (especially, when it was Claudia Christian) and the big finale that starts with a violent shootout in the police station’s jail.

More than anything, I loved the practical special effects. Especially, in regards to the alien creature, whose first appearance was kind of shocking and terrifying. I can’t imagine how it caught people off guard in the theater who saw this on a whim, not knowing until that exact moment that this was a sci-fi/horror picture and not just some B-movie action flick.

The Hidden is an underrated gem. I dug the hell out of it and will probably watch it again in the near future. It features one of my favorite Kyle MacLachlan performances of all-time and he’s an actor that’s been a favorite of mine for years.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: They Live, Fallen, Dead Heat, I Come In Peace and Alien Nation all immediately come to mind.

Film Review: 3 From Hell (2019)

Also known as: Los 3 del infierno (Mexico)
Release Date: September 15th, 2019 (Fantasy Filmfest – Germany)
Directed by: Rob Zombie
Written by: Rob Zombie
Music by: Zeuss
Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, Richard Brake, Sid Haig, Danny Trejo, Dee Wallace, Daniel Roebuck, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Emilio Rivera, Clint Howard, Richard Riehle, Sean Whalen

Capital Arts Entertainment, Spookshow International, Saban Films, Lionsgate, 111 Minutes

Review:

“Um… some old broad next door saw me gut that bitch. Um, think we should think about rolling out of here soon.” – Baby

Well, it took fourteen years to get a sequel to The Devil’s Rejects. If I’m being honest, the previous film had a perfect ending and it didn’t need a followup. I’m also not sure if Rob Zombie ever intended to do a third film. It feels like this was more or less done for fan service to get back on the good graces of those who liked his early movies, as everything since his Halloween remake hasn’t been received very well by most.

That being said, this is better than his more recent movies but it is definitely the worst of The Firefly Family Trilogy. Also, this is left open for a possible fourth movie but it should’ve ended with the second because you can only milk a cow so long before you start getting pus.

The problem I have with this film is two-fold.

First, this plays like the seventh movie in a row where Rob Zombie is basically creating a vehicle just for his wife. It’s more of his, “Look, guys! Isn’t my wife hot and crazy?!” The thing is, I initially liked Sherri Moon Zombie but she has been used to death and the focal point of all of Rob Zombie’s films that I’m kind of over it. Actually, I’ve been over it since Halloween II. She’s not a good actress and every character she plays is pretty much the same with her crazy dial adjusted to whatever the scene calls for. But I get that she is a main character in this film series. But maybe seeing her return to this role would’ve actually been welcomed had she not been the star of every movie Zombie’s directed since The Devil’s Rejects.

My second problem is that this is a movie with multiple personality disorder.

The picture is really two films wedged into two hours. With that, this doesn’t have what feels like a traditional three act structure but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Where this is bad, however, is that the first half is terrible, almost cringe worthy minus a few highlights. The second half is much better but it still isn’t up to par with the two films before it.

The first half of the movie deals with the family members surviving a shootout that definitely should have killed them, their time in prison and then their eventual jailbreak. This excludes Sid Haig’s Captain Spaulding, however, as he is executed. This was primarily due to Sid Haig being in poor health and only being able to film for one day on set. Sadly, he passed away a few weeks back but he did go out with a bang and delivered the best dialogue of the picture. Luckily, for Haig fans, he has two more movies slated to come out next year.

The second half of the film sees Otis and Baby with their cousin Winslow escape to Mexico, where they think that they’ll be safe from the national manhunt that wants to see them brought to justice, once again.

I mostly like the second half and it at least woke me up from the slumber of the first hour.

In Mexico, we see the family hole up in a shitty motel brothel with some other rough characters. However, their hideout vacation is quickly invaded by a Mexican cartel in lucha libre masks that want revenge for something that Otis did. So we get a big war between the Firefly Family and the lucha cartel in a rundown Mexican brothel. In some ways the setting is pretty much a rehash of the confrontation the family had in Charlie’s brothel in The Devil’s Rejects, except there is a lot more action, the extra flair of the Mexican locale and it feels more like a western standoff.

I think that the one saving grace of the film is Bill Moseley, who hits it out of the park once again, as Otis. But I also really enjoyed newcomer Richard Brake, who played the new, third member of the family. While he doesn’t makeup for the severe lack of Haig’s Spaulding, he was still a fun character with a lot of charisma and he meshed well with the dynamic of Otis and Baby.

3 From Hell is the weakest chapter in the trilogy. That’s mainly due to the first hour and frankly, that half of the film could’ve been edited down to a half hour. This would’ve benefited from being a 90 minute movie instead of a two hour one.

Ultimately, it’s bogged down by scenes that didn’t need to be there because they didn’t advance the plot. This should’ve rolled forward at a swift pace and not have started out as such a slog to get through.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the two films before it: House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects.

Film Review: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)

Also known as: Death Wish IV (working title)
Release Date: November 6th, 1987
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Written by: Gail Morgan Hickman
Based on: characters by Brian Garfield
Music by: John Bisharat, Paul McCallum, Valentine McCallum
Cast: Charles Bronson, Kay Lenz, John P. Ryan, Perry Lopez, Soon-Tek Oh, George Dickerson, Dana Barron, Danny Trejo, Tim Russ, Hector Mercado, Irwin Keyes

The Cannon Group, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Who the fuck are you?” – Rapist, “Death!” – Paul Kersey

As I said in early Death Wish reviews, the film series starts to fall off after the third movie. However, this installment was actually better than what I remembered. Maybe that’s because I hadn’t seen this one in a really long time and because I am a Cannon Films junkie that just needs unapologetic, high octane, violent, ’80s action pumped into my veins on a regular basis.

That being said, Charles Bronson still brings his fucking A game in this one.

Now the plot is kind of a disjointed mess with a swerve as to who the real villain is and while I like that in the noir films of the ’40s and ’50s, it isn’t done in a very clever way. It’s also kind of predictable and you see it coming once the guy who is presented as the big bad is killed with about a half hour to spare.

But all that means is that you get a final showdown between Charles f’n Bronson and John P. Ryan, another man’s man and old school action film badass. In fact, Ryan has a fate that is very similar to the baddie of Death Wish 3.

Now out of the first four films, this one is the weakest. I definitely remember the fifth being the worst, despite boasting the talents of Michael Parks, as its villain. But this was still a satisfying movie that gives you just about everything you want in a Death Wish or Cannon Films motion picture. But nothing could have followed the last twenty minutes of the third film, which is the best balls out action sequence of the 1980s and maybe of all-time.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown still shines though. Plus, not only does it feature Bronson and Ryan but it also gives us a young Danny Trejo, Tim Russ before he was Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager, Soon-Tek Oh as a dirty cop and Hector Mercado as a drug dealing shithead.

Sure, the film could have been better with a more fluid narrative but do you really care that much about that stuff when watching a Chuck Bronson murder festival? I don’t. I just want to see the scum of the Earth meet violent ends. In Death Wish 4, like its predecessors, that’s exactly what you get.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Death Wish movies and the Dirty Harry film series.

Film Review: Predators (2010)

Also known as: Predator 3 (working title)
Release Date: July 7th, 2010 (Austin premiere)
Directed by: Nimród Antal
Written by: Alex Litvak, Michael Finch
Based on: characters by Jim Thomas, John Thomas
Music by: John Debney
Cast: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, Oleg Taktarov, Mahershala Ali, Danny Trejo, Derek Mears

Davis Entertainment Company, Troublemaker Studios, Dune Entertainment, Ingenious Media, 20th Century Fox, 107 Minutes

Review:

“We’re being hunted. The cages. The soldier. All of us. All brought here for the same purpose. This planet is a game preserve. And we’re the game. In case you didn’t notice, we just got flushed out. They sent the dogs in, just like you if you were stalking boar or shooting quail. They split us apart and they watched. Testing us.” – Royce

I threw this on because I wanted to refresh my memory with the quality of this film before watching the more recent sequel, 2018’s The Predator.

This has held up well after eight or so years. I still really liked it, it’s far better than either AvP film and it is the best Predator picture after the original two from 1987 and 1990.

Adrien Brody was already an accomplished and impressive actor before this but this is where he convinced me that he can also be a great action star. In fact, I really loved this version of Adrien Brody and would love to see him team up with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch from the original Predator for a future film. That probably won’t happen but fanboys can dream and sometimes dreams do come true.

What’s great about this movie is that Brody could have carried it on his own but he didn’t have to because the ensemble cast was pretty fantastic, as well.

Alice Braga, now a well-known actress thanks to her show Queen of the South, was a damn good female lead and a total badass. Topher Grace was a character with an interesting twist. Then you have Laurence Fishburne as a great mad man, Danny Trejo as Danny Trejo and Mahershala Ali before his Oscar winning fame. Plus, Walton Goggins is also in this and if you’ve been reading Talking Pulp for awhile, you should know how much I love Goggins in anything.

One really cool thing about this movie, is that it is a good sequel and a fantastic homage to the original. It recreates some of the iconic moments of the first picture without being ham-fisted or cheesy. And the average person might not notice these subtle homages unless they’ve seen the original ten dozen times like I have.

I also like that they add some new elements to the Predator mythos. It introduces a new type of Predator alien and hints at a sort of civil war between the two types.

This movie has great action, a perfect pace, some solid mystery and marvelous performances with some good twists.

This is how you make a good Predator film. Keep it simple, keep it action heavy and just go balls out.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Predator and Predator 2.

Film Review: The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

Also known as: House of 1000 Corpses 2, House of 2000 Corpses (working titles)
Release Date: July 22nd, 2005
Directed by: Rob Zombie
Written by: Rob Zombie
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon, Matthew McGrory, Ken Foree, William Forsythe, Leslie Easterbrook, E. G. Daily, Geoffrey Lewis, Priscilla Barnes, Kate Norby, Lew Temple, Danny Trejo, Diamond Dallas Page, Brian Posehn, Michael Berryman, P.J. Soles, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Mary Woronov, Tyler Mane, Tom Towles (cameo)

Cinelamda, Lionsgate, 109 Minutes

Review:

“I am the devil, and I am here to do the devil’s work.” – Otis Driftwood

This was a film that I had in constant rotation for a few years after it came out. It has been quite a long time since I’ve seen it, however.

Most of what I remember is that I love the characters of Captain Spaulding and Otis and that they made it a fun experience. Granted, I recently revisited House of 1000 Corpses, so I was reminded of my appreciation for these characters. But they are played by Sid Haig and Bill Moseley, so why wouldn’t they be fantastic?

In the years since this was released, I was disappointed every single time that Rob Zombie made a new movie. Each one seemed to get worse and he showed himself to be a one trick pony. In fact, I gave up and I think I’ve missed a couple of his pictures now.

That being said, this is Rob Zombie’s best movie, as I assume that even the last couple don’t measure up, based off of what I’ve read about them.

This takes the world of House of 1000 Corpses, a decent homage to slashers and the “creepy family in the woods” shtick, and turns it into something else entirely. Where the first film feels like a combination of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th, this film is more like Natural Born Killers. This takes the three main characters from the crazy killer family and puts them on the run from the law. And the law is led by a cop that turns out to be just as insane as the killers.

The most interesting thing about this picture is that it flips the script on the bad guys. The ones who tortured and murdered countless people end up in the victim’s chair when the sadistic cop finally has them in his possession. The hunters become the hunted and really, this is a film full of nothing but shitty people doing shitty things to one another. But it is still a neat little experiment to experience.

Sid Haig and Bill Moseley really take their game to a whole new level here and both were fantastic, charismatic and entertaining. Unfortunately, Sheri Moon, Rob Zombie’s wife that he always puts front in center in all of his movies, is pretty terrible. She sort of just exists to be some psychotic eye candy that spends more time showing her butt to the camera than doing anything worthwhile. I’ve also always found her voice to be annoying. Sorry, she just sticks out like a sore thumb in the worst way possible in everything that she is in. This film is no different.

One things this film does well, is it utilizes a lot of old school horror legends in good ways. The characters played by Ken Foree and Michael Berryman are entertaining and add a lot of depth to the film, as just following the three main characters starts to wear thin. Foree really comes in at the right time, diverting some attention away.

The film also has a cool bounty hunter duo played by Danny Trejo and Dallas Page. I liked them a lot and actually wish they got some sort of spin off. They had good chemistry, were enjoyable in their roles and probably have some other stories worth telling.

The most impressive performance, however, was by William Forsythe, who played the psycho sheriff hell bent on revenge against the killer family that murdered his brother in the previous movie. Forsythe was sick and twisted but had a badge and police force to back him up.

The Devil’s Rejects is far from a perfect film but it is better than House of 1000 Corpses and certainly a lot more polished than that film was.

Apparently a sequel is coming, even though the family gets gunned down in the final moments. I’m not looking forward to it though, as this was a good ending to the story and Zombie’s track record since this picture has been terrible.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Its predecessor House of 1000 Corpses.

Film Review: The Replacement Killers (1998)

Release Date: February 6th, 1998
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Written by: Ken Sanzel
Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams
Cast: Chow Yun-fat, Mira Sorvino, Michael Rooker, Jürgen Prochnow, Danny Trejo, Clifton Collins Jr.

Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, WCG Entertainment Productions, Columbia Pictures, 87 Minutes

Review:

“Hostage etiquette: kidnapper pays the incidentals.” – Meg Coburn

I haven’t seen this since it was in theaters twenty years ago. I liked it back in the day, especially because it gave American audiences a look at the great Chow Yun-fat, a guy I loved in several Hong Kong gangster films. Plus, back in the late ’90s, I was crushing hard on Mira Sorvino. I probably still am, truth be told.

This is a pretty fast paced film with a fairly short running time. But that’s good, as it doesn’t really let up once it gets going, which is almost immediately.

The story follows John Lee, a hitman hired by a Chinese mob boss to kill the young child of a police officer who killed the boss’ criminal son. Lee has the young kid in his crosshairs but decides not to murder the child. In doing so, he is marked by the mob boss for betrayal all while replacement killers are hired to kill Lee and finish his mission. Fearing for his own family’s safety, Lee goes to Meg, a master at forging passports. All Lee wants is to get back to China to protect his loved ones. While at Meg’s place, he gets her caught up in his drama and she is then pulled along for the ride. They have to try and survive and also do everything they can to prevent the cop’s kid from being killed.

This film was made early in Antoine Fuqua’s career. He did a good job with it, as it matches the tone and intensity of a lot of those Hong Kong gangster films that Chow was in, especially the ones directed by John Woo.

In addition to Chow Yun-fat and Mira Sorvino, we are also treated to the talents of Michael Rooker, who excels in action movies. Rooker plays the cop and the father of the kid who is the mob boss’ target. While he gives the heroes some difficulty, initially, he changes his tune when he realizes their situation and sees them risk their lives for his kid.

This isn’t close to being the best Chow Yun-fat movie out there but it is still pretty damn enjoyable and a great English language vehicle to help make the guy a household name in the English speaking markets.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Marked For Death (1990)

Also known as: Screwface (working title)
Release Date: October 5th, 1990
Directed by: Dwight H. Little
Written by: Michael Grais, Mark Victor
Music by: James Newton Howard
Cast: Steven Seagal, Joanna Pacula, Keith David, Danny Trejo, Danielle Harris, Kevin Dunn, Peter Jason

Steamroller Productions, 20th Century Fox, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Look upon this madman! Him dead and him don’t even know it!” – Screwface

I’ll be honest, I was never really a Steven Seagal fan. I didn’t dislike him, however. But when I was younger, I was more into Jean-Claude Van Damme because BloodsportKickboxer and Lionheart were just better pictures than anything Seagal put out. However, I did remember liking the one where he fought evil voodoo Jamaicans. So I figured that I would revisit it, all these years later.

Marked For Death isn’t a good movie but it is a passable 1990ish action film. It’s high octane, balls to the wall and well, it features awesome evil voodoo Jamiacans. It also features one of my favorite badasses, not Seagal but Keith David, who will always have a special place in my heart for They Live and The Thing.

The film also features a young Danielle Harris, a still unknown Danny Trejo and a small part by a guy who is in a ton of movies I love, Kevin Dunn.

The story sees a DEA agent come to the realization that he has become just as bad as the criminals he tries to bring down. He quits his job and returns home to decompress. However, his town is overrun by Jamaican drug dealers. Seagal then gets caught up in it and makes it his personal mission to act as a rogue agent and take these bad guys down.

The leader of the baddies is a scary looking voodoo practitioner named Screwface. The guy is legit scary and one of the coolest action movie villains of the era.

There’s guns, explosions, voodoo and all sorts of sinister voodoo trickery. The last act of the film sees Seagal and Keith David track Screwface back to Jamaica for a final showdown. But we get two final showdowns because of some of that sinister voodoo trickery.

Marked For Death is certainly watchable and I’ll be honest, it’s kind of fun. This is the best of the early Seagal movies, as far as I remember, but I’ll probably rework my way through them, as it’s been awhile since I’ve indulged in Mr. Seagal’s flicks.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: Machete Kills (2013)

Release Date: September 19th, 2013 (Austin Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Robert Rodriguez, Marcel Rodriguez, Kyle Ward
Music by: Carl Thiel
Cast: Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofía Vergara, Amber Heard, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr., Walton Goggins, William Sadler, Demián Bichir, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Jessica Alba, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexa Vega, Tom Savini, Elon Musk, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan

Quick Draw Productions, Troublemaker Studios, Open Road Films, 108 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2013.

“Machete don’t tweet.” – Machete

I was a big fan of Machete when it came out. It kept alive the modern revival of grindhouse cinema, which was reintroduced to the world a few years back by the films Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s own Planet Terror. Both films were released together as a double bill feature called Grindhouse. Between the two films, there were a series of faux trailers for other grindhouse pictures. One of those was for a film named Machete. The fake trailer was so popular that Rodriguez decided to make the film. Once that was successful, he decided to make this film. There is also a third planned.

Machete Kills doesn’t hold a candle to the first Machete film. Don’t get me wrong, it was enjoyable and had some awesome moments but it was lacking in energy and in scope. It felt smaller and more linear, whereas the original film was a wild ride taking many different unexpected turns. This film went from point A to point B and then introduced us to a point C. Had it not been for the awesome performance by Mel Gibson as the main antagonist of this film, it would’ve fallen much flatter than it did.

The cinematic style of this movie, mirrored the first and for the most part, stayed somewhat true to the grindhouse vibe. The problem I have with these modern grindhouse films though, is the use of CGI effects. I get that it is more affordable and that these films have a tight budget but the whole essence of grindhouse films is over-the-top violence and action and often times gore. In the old grindhouse days, they had to find ways to pull this off with very limited resources. Part of what made those movies so effective and respectable, was the ingenuity of the filmmakers. This film, like its predecessor really lacks in this area. It takes the easy road and frankly, I expected more from Robert Rodriguez.

I do love that Danny Trejo finally has a starring vehicle though and I do look forward to the next sequel. I could watch new installments of Machete for years to come. He’s a great character and at the end of the day, despite the few issues mentioned above, these films exceed the standard blockbuster action fare that Hollywood keeps pumping out at $300+ million dollar price tags.

Rating: 5.5/10