Author Archives: abcsofaction

H is for… Hidden Agenda

The running gag while watching Hidden Agenda was asking each other, “Does the ‘hidden’ part refer to the plot?”

There was a basic, followable plot that was buried under endless characters, though I do have to give the movie props for naming all of its characters and using their names enough to remember who everyone is. Sometimes I have a heck of a time learning characters’ names.

But, back to the complicated plot of this thriller… It was sort of like the agent/witness protection equivalent of watching a killer animal movie where the writer and director think, “Okay, there’s going to be a shark.” “No, a robot shark.” “A robot shark with a jetpack!” “A robot shark with jetpack and lasers that shoot out of its eyes!”

The result was a simple plot with a likable main character and cast that had a bad guy split across five different characters, and nothing was quite explained well enough–or it was overly explained which slowed down the actual narrative story.

Regardless, Hidden Agenda, directed by Marc S. Grenier, stars Dolph Lundgren as Jason Price, a former FBI agent who specializes in witness protection, or hiding people who need to vanish for their own safety. He has a team who helps him with this, comprised of Connie (Brigitte Paquette), Kevin (Harry Standjofski), and Charlie (Christian Paul). His former childhood friend Sonny (Ted Whittall) is still working for the FBI, but becomes a witness/accessory and needs to use Price’s protection network, Daedalus, to vanish.

Complicating matters are a feud between FBI agent Sam Turgenson (Alan Fawcett) and NSA agent Powell (Francis X. McCarthy) as they hunt down the man Price is currently protecting, Paul Elkert (Serge Houde). Elkert was caught in a sting set up by Sonny, and has a hit out on him. He is followed by Renee Brooks (Maxim Roy), who claims she needs Elkert to get into his safety deposit box.

It’s made quite clear that Price, his team, and the Daedalus network are very effective at hiding people who need protection, and when Sonny is killed while within the network, it is suspected that the Cleaner, an assassin, is inside the network and is hunting for Elkert. Price needs to trace Elkert’s path to find him and protect him, while Renee tags along for her own reasons.

Everything culminates in Montreal, with half the cast dead or arrested, and our heroes receiving an excellent payday while Price and Renee sail off into the sunset with their share of the money.

I wish I could do the plot a little more justice, but as I said, the whole “Price runs Elkert through his network, finds his own life in danger, and has to find Elkert and discover the truth” is buried in a ton of explication and characters. I didn’t even mention Yoesky (Andreas Apergis), who is the one who is actually angry with Elkert.

Anyway, on to the criteria.

A is for… Accents

Dolph is clearly still battling his Swedish accent here, but I don’t know if it would be noticeable to someone who didn’t know that English isn’t his first language.

Yoesky has a…European? accent.

B is for… Bad Guys

It’s clear from the first time they meet that FBI agent Turgenson and Price don’t get along, when Price helps hide Moretti (Jeff Hall), Turgenson’s target. Ultimately he makes Price think the Cleaner is inside his Daedalus network so Price has to go within it himself, and Turgenson can follow him to Elkert. At the end it’s revealed that Turgenson had killed various people within the network, and is wanted on five counts of murder in the first degree.

NSA agent Powell works with Turgenson as much as he has to for the common goal, but it’s ultimately revealed that he’s been using the syndicate (I’m not sure who that is) to “illegally divert weapons to some dirty little war somewhere,” as explained by Price. Elkert knew this, but Powell didn’t want the FBI to know.

Sonny is Price’s friend from childhood, and they grew up in the foster care system together. He is the one who lured Elkert into the sting, and Elkert later explains that Sonny liked the mob lifestyle. Sonny fakes his death during the course of the movie.

The Icarus Group–I totally missed who they are–I think Elkert’s band of villains, thieves, and scoundrels.

The Cleaner is an assassin who threatens Elkert and kills other people during the grand jury hearing, which was secret and so could only be known by someone on the inside. Renee describes him as expensive and that he never misses, and his presence inside Daedalus means there’s a risk he’ll expose all of the targets Price is trying to hide, giving the FBI visibility on where everybody is. At the end it’s revealed that the Cleaner doesn’t exist. …or is it Renee?

Paul Elkert stole money from Yoesky, and is hiding from the FBI. Price’s goal is to use his Daedalus network to get Elkert beyond the vanishing point.

Yoesky was robbed by Elkert, and put the original hit out on him. Elkert made everyone look bad, and is in bed with the FBI.

C is for… Chases

The Feds chase Blue Leisure Suit Man (Moretti, but I like BLSM better) through the Dulles airport, and ultimately onto a runway with an airplane coasting down it. The drive down the runway would have been enough, but with that airplane in the background, gaining on them… let’s just say the chase ended a bit more sedately than it could have, considering what was being telegraphed.

Price and Renee chase after the long-haired thug in Boston, who turns out to be Sonny.

D is for… Damsels

Renee Brooks explains to Price that she was Elkert’s associate at Icarus. She took care of his finances, including setting up shell companies to hide Icarus’s practices. She also goes to the bathroom a lot, for a movie character. Price clearly is interested in more than her skills in handling assets.

Connie is Price’s teammate/coworker, and it’s clear they have a past together. She’s depicted as quite uptight and serious and she doesn’t trust easily, but we also never see her either not at work or not shoved in with Renee, who she clearly doesn’t like (clearly because she’s jealous, for obvious reasons).

E is for… Explosions

The fuel truck involved in the chase on the runway gets stuck in the mud and explodes.

Renee’s car–specifically said to be a rental car–explodes during her super obvious long walk up to it, though it’s later revealed that she used a remote to do it herself.

Price rigs the Boston warehouse to explode.

F is for… Flashbacks

No flashbacks here, though they may have helped clarify people’s relationships.

G is for… Guns

A remote controlled sniper rifle is used to attack the courthouse.

In Pittsburgh there is a sniper.

Price and Sonny have a shootout with the bad guys in the Boston warehouse building.

The climax in Montreal is one giant shootout.

H is for… Helicopters

Despite not one but two helicopters on the dvd cover, there is not a single helicopter in this film. Very disappointing.

I is for… Improvisation

In the beginning Blue Leisure Suit Man uses his suitcase as a sort of battering ram to get through the police when escaping the bathroom.

Elkert is pretty slick using his toupee as a way to hide his safety deposit box key.

While in Jerry’s sporting goods store, Price uses a convenient fishtank as an interrogation tool.

Price uses one of his restaurant’s tables as a projectile.

In Boston Price uses a fire escape as cover and also a way to launch himself at the disguised Sonny.

J is for… Jumping through Solid Objects

In a surprising attempt at real physics for an action movie, the Cleaner makes sure to shoot out the window first, and then make his kill shot. Glass deflects bullets. The glass depicted in the courthouse actually looks like glass, too, not that shattery stuff usually used in movies.

K is for… Kill Count

Sonny shoots a thug, but it’s unclear if Price kills anyone. It doesn’t appear that he does.

L is for… Limitations

Price is unsure if there is actually a break in his system or not.

Renee is a loose cannon that he cannot trust.

Daedalus is a complicated system, and Price is unsure if Elkert dropped or not.

Also, Price is grieving Sonny’s death.

M is for… Motivation

Price needs Elkert’s money to get out of debt and pay his team.

Renee is in it for the money.

Elkert wants to be free from the target on his head (and preferably with his money).

Yoesky wants Elkert dead.

Turgenson wants to get back at Powell, and get the money. He is also going to nail Sonny if he didn’t penetrate the system.

As the film progresses, Price wants to find Elkert.

N is for… Negotiation

Elkert will pay Price one million dollars for the use of the Daedalus network. Price comes back with he needs five million, plus half of the money Elkert stole to go to the charity of his choice.

Powell wants Elkert, and he tells Price he has a lot to lose. Price tells Powell that the only losers will be the marks he ran under for him. “On a need to know basis, there’s some pretty important people who’d rather not be known.”

Renee wants to get to Elkert and needs Price’s help, and in exchange she’ll make sure Price gets his money.

O is for… One Liners

“Do you know who I am?”
Price: Ed McMahon and the Prize Patrol?

“Where’s my money?”
Price: Behind door number one, asshole.

Price: I’ve got to install a revolving door.

Price: Is this pillow talk, Sam?

Price: Can we be adults for two seconds here?

Price: At least you two didn’t strangle each other.

Renee: Where are we going?
Price: If I told you we wouldn’t be safe.

P is for… Profession

Price is a work for hire on a need to know basis. He uses his restaurant, The Breezes, as a cover for his Daedalus protection system. He does two freebies for the NSA in exchange for access to the network.

He graduated from the FBI academy in ‘81 at the top of his class, and was the youngest special protection agent in division history. He has eight commendations, including a Presidential citation. He was suspended twice for insubordination, and the NSA picked him up to use in East Germany.

He devised the Daedalus system, the most sophisticated protection system in the world. The system is used for hiding western agents who’d been exposed. He went private after the wall came down, and has a deal with the NSA.

He’s also handsome, suave, and a good hand-to-hand fighter.

Q is for… Quagmire

Never once did I feel as if Price was outgunned or put in a truly precarious position.

R is for… Reality, or Suspension of Disbelief

I’m sure something similar to the Daedalus network exists, especially now.

There weren’t any stunts or anything that seemed outlandish.

S is for… Sidekicks

For the Daedalus network:
Kevin runs transportation.
Connie runs the comm lines.
Charlie seems to work mostly hands-on with the network, and does the route permutations.
Moretti is called in for his knowledge of bank systems so they can pinpoint Elkert’s bank.

T is for… Technology

The Cleaner uses night vision goggles.

The Daedalus network uses a Mersenne prime algorithm that makes it hard to use shadow tracking. “There is a handheld unit with an encrypted flash memory card, and there are more than 150 links along the way when hiding someone. Daedalus uses the least used providers in the NSA system who won’t know what it is all about, but are looking for a trigger code, a break in the chain, an infiltrator that needs to be disposed of. If there is a match, he gives up a new envelope. He’ll get birth certificates, passports, subscriptions. Then on to the next link.” There are also static drops, using safes with codes, and if the wrong code is used, the safe explodes. “If he gets through without mistakes, his trail will forever be erased. He’ll be a ghost.” (This was all Price explicating.)

Dental records are used to confirm Sonny’s death, but they say there are only a few teeth, which doesn’t seem like enough to confirm a death. Guess it makes sense considering Sonny’s not actually dead.

The screen on the Daedalus handheld unit must be rubbed, which leaves DNA behind.

Sonny keeps tabs on Price by putting a tracker in a necklace he gives him.

An email with a Trojan is sent.

U is for… Unexpected Romance

As if the romance between Price and Renee isn’t telegraphed the moment she shows up, particularly with their little wine scene, and then the fake kiss to avoid being seen by the police car. Then of course the weird love scene Price fantasizes about. Gross.

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

There really aren’t many vehicles in the film, other than the chase scene on the runway, where the fuel truck pushes against the pickup truck.

W is for… Winning

Price’s team tracks down Elkert, and sends an email with a Trojan virus, alerting everyone to his location in Montreal.

Renee kills Elkert, Turgenson is arrested, and Powell’s corruption is exposed by Price.

Five million dollars gets deposited Connie’s, Kevin’s, and Charlie’s accounts, Daedalus is dismantled, and Price and Renee ride off into the sunset, so to speak.

X is for… X-rays, or Maybe You Should See A Doctor

Renee treats Price for a gash on his head, but other than that he seems fine.

Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem

Everyone seems to know each other–it’s a small world. Strange bedfellows and all that.

Z is for… Zone, In The

Every time any part of Daedalus is explained, Price starts narrating like discussing the network is the most fun thing for him.

In Summation

This movie is a confused mess, and I’m sorry I can’t do it more justice. There are a lot of things that are enjoyable, including Lundgren and his team, but concisely outlining the story is challenging. There isn’t even a Wiki page to use for guidance, nor an IMFDB page. It’s not even close to the least watchable movie I’ve reviewed on this site, it’s just the hardest to explain. As I said before, the bad guys are spread across several people, and it’s hard to narrow down who is doing what.

As far as stray observations are concerned:

There’s some weird Ho Yay between Sonny and Price when Sonny is leaving to be put through Daedalus, but that can be due to them growing up together.

LOL at the overweight Jerry trying to take on Lundgren.

There are a lot of weird quick, circular camera angle changes that are reminiscent of Saw.

There’s a lot of hand-to-hand combat used instead of guns, which was just sort of weird considering everyone was either a bad guy or government agent. Maybe the movie was just showing responsible uses of force by the agents. Then again, in Montreal, no one had any jurisdiction to be shooting anyone else.

The audience really needed to be shown a dry run to properly understand this Daedalus system, not just Price explaining it.

LOL again at Elkert’s shout of, “Kill them. Kill them all!” to incite the melee in Montreal.

Price has facial hair stubble on the dvd cover, but not in the film. It’s like they took a screenshot from another film entirely to use as the cover here.

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G is for…The Glimmer Man

What can I say about The Glimmer Man?

It’s not crime-y enough to be a crime movie.

It’s not action-y enough to be an action movie.

It’s not buddy-y enough to be a buddy cop movie.

What it is (beyond a slog) is yet another vehicle for Steven Seagal (who not only stars as LAPD Detective Jack Cole, he was also a producer) to show off his skills at slapping grown men. For what the film lacks in genre, it makes up for it with slapping.

A-yup.

The film, directed by John Gray, opens with a dark credit sequence featuring deaths and Christian imagery. Eventually the viewer is introduced to Detective Jim Campbell (Keenan Ivory Wayans), who is working on the case of the Family Man, a serial killer who murders entire families and paints Christian symbols with their blood. Lovely, no? In Campbell’s office is a man wearing a long necklace that is clearly the focus of his outfit, and of course this is Cole. At first the two men don’t get along very well, but they never do get along well even at the end of the movie.

They’re sent to investigate another Family Man murder, but soon wind up at a local Catholic school, where student Johnny Deverell (Johnny Strong) is threatening his class with a gun. The scene is designed like a similar opening scene in Lethal Weapon, to advance the plot but really to demonstrate Cole’s skills in talking people down/supressing them. Another scene used to illustrate Cole’s abilities is the scene where he and Campbell fight the Russian Mafia.

The Family Man eventually kills again, but this time it’s Cole’s ex-wife and her husband. Cole’s prints are found on his ex-wife’s body, making Campbell question his new partner’s history and purpose. He has a right to be concerned, considering the viewer also knows Cole is friendly with Mr. Smith (Brian Cox), a man who clearly has crime syndicate connections.

One of those connections is Johnny Deverell’s father, Frank Deverell (Bob Gunton). The first murders Cole and Campbell investigated were for Deverell’s Russian translator, Sonya Roslov (Susan Reno). Eventually Cole realizes that the recent Family Man killings were not done by the actual Family Man Christopher Maynard (Stephen Tobolowsky), and that there’s a larger cover-up going on, likely orchestrated by Deverell.

Meanwhile, Campbell is attacked in his home, and his apartment is eventually burned down.

Cole and Campbell talk with Johnny, who explains that the copycat crimes were committed by his father’s head of security, Donald Cunningham (John M. Jackson), and also that his father has been working with Mr. Smith. Cole is able to torture Smith to the point of admitting that Deverell is smuggling chemical weapons from Russia so he can sell them to the local mafia. They leave Smith to find his own way to the hospital, and pursue Deverell.

Deverell is holding a meeting with the mafia and Donald, and of course when Cole and Campbell show up everything goes to hell. Donald shoots Deverell and everyone else winds up hurt if not dead, including Campbell, who is shot and falls through several windows. These events leave Cole to challenge Donald one-on-one, where of course Cole eventually emerges victorious.

Let’s get a glimmer of the criteria, shall we?

See what I did there?

A is for… Accents

The leader of the Russian Mafia of course has a Russian accent.

Smith has a Texan accent, which just seems weird in LA.

The maitre’d at Lento’s speaks with a fake Italian accent when on the phone with customers.

B is for… Bad Guys

Deverell is revealed to be smuggling chemical weapons into the country from Russia, which he will then sell to Serbian freedom fighters.

Smith is a government operative who Cole has worked with in the past. He is the one who supplied Deverell with his Russian contacts, and the Mafia brokered the deal.

Donald is Deverell’s head of security.

Christopher Maynard is the Family Man killer, though he was framed for the murders of Cole’s ex-wife and husband, and the Roslovs.

C is for… Chases

There isn’t an actual chase, but when the fake IA agents kidnap Cole, he fights and the camera cuts in and out of the car, and the whole scene has the vibe of a chase scene, complete with it ending with an explosion.

D is for… Damsels

There really isn’t a woman in the film outside of Cole’s wife, Jessica (Michelle Johnson). She barely plays a part, seeming to only be in the film to add some depth to Cole’s character.

E is for… Explosions

During the kidnapping scene, the IA agents use another car as a ramp, and that car explodes for some reason.

At the end of the scene, the IA agents crash into a tanker truck, which explodes.

Honorable mention goes to Campbell’s smashed TV burning down his apartment.

F is for… Flashbacks

No flashbacks, unless you count the clips during the opening credits.

G is for… Guns

Check out details at the IMFDB.

The first truly recognizable shot of the film is of a gun with a silencer being used to kill a woman.

Cole seems to like to engage in weird Mexican Standoffs, even though he’s a cop and shouldn’t have his gun out at every possible opportunity. With Johnny, and then the Russian Mafia, things escalate awfully quickly because of his handgun that he waves about.

Cole’s ex-wife and her husband are also killed execution-style, like the Roslovs.

Yet another standoff ends when Cole shoots Maynard in the chest.

When kidnapped by the fake IA agents, Cole grabs the one’s handgun, and pistol whips him bloody.

Everyone has a gun at the Ovington Hotel, and everyone seems to die in that room, with the exception being our stars and Donald.

H is for… Helicopters

The credits cite a helicopter pilot, but I don’t recall seeing a helicopter.

I is for… Improvisation

While not really an improvisation, I have to mention the credit card with the blade on it. Not only is it sneaky, it’s extremely effective against the mafia goons.

Cole uses a rotary phone as a club on Donald during their fight.

J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects

In the first ridiculous moment in this film, Cole somehow manages to push Johnny out a window and across an alley into the building next door. Two windows, two people, zero laws of physics followed.

A mafia thug gets his head smashed through a car window.

Cole throws two thugs through two different glass walls/partitions at Lento’s.

Campbell has no choice but to leap through the window of his apartment when it catches on fire. Luckily a car breaks his fall.

During the kidnapping scene, the car drives through a glass window.

Campbell is shot and falls out a window, and then when Cole rescues him, they swing through yet another window.

Donald is smashed through a window at the Ovington.

K is for… Kill Count

Cole kills at least one mafia thug during their fight.

He definitely kills, if even indirectly, the two fake IA agents.

He also kills the thug at Johnny’s.

Several thugs are killed at the Ovington Arms during the final fight, but it’s impossible to tell how many.

L is for… Limitations

Due to his mysterious past and a fingerprint on a murder victim, Cole is considered a suspect in his ex-wife’s murder, though that doesn’t really seem to limit him too much.

M is for… Motivation

Cole is a cop, and he is trying to solve the cases of the Family Man. Of course, he eventually has to do a lot more than that, like break up a Russian Mafia crime ring.

Smith and Deverell are in it for the money, not surprisingly.

N is for… Negotiation

“Tell me or I’ll shoot you.”

Leave Cole alone and forget he exists, or he’ll kill him. –I have no idea who this is in reference to; my notes are not specific enough.

Cole has recorded evidence against Deverell, and he says he’ll give up the tape to Deverell if his name gets cleared for the murder of his ex-wife. After he kills Donald, of course.

O is for… One Liners

Campbell, upon meeting Cole: Look, Mr. Love Beads, you’re going to have to seek higher enlightenment somewhere else.

Cole: I like to testify as to what actually happened.

Campbell, to a Chinese saleslady: Do you know I’m black? I have no idea what you’re saying.

Thug: What bruise?
Cole hits him in the face: That bruise.

Campbell: No, I didn’t say tomato, I said terrorist.

Cole, to Smith: Listen, I only shot you in one foot. Hobble to the hospital.

Campbell, after almost shooting two kids: Showdown on Sesame Street. Big Bird will pop out of one of these doors next.

Donald: I woke up happy, and I’m going to bed happy, because you’ll be dead.

Campbell, to Cole: Not one good thing has happened since I met you.

Pretty much everything out of Campbell’s mouth is a one-liner, so I had to limit the ones I chose.

P is for… Profession

Cole came to LA from NYPD Homicide. He’s won medals, and seems to be a good cop, even though he waves his service weapon around at every hint of an opportunity. In fact, even when he’s kicked off the LAPD, he still shoots Smith in the foot and hand to get information.

Beyond the NYPD, his background is described as “smoke and mirrors.”

Smith helpfully explains, “He was a brilliant soldier. West Point, that kind of thing. I found him in Vietnam. Recruited him for a special project unit. The Program, we called it. He handled a lot of… odd jobs, for us. To the people he hunted for us, he was known as the ‘Glimmer Man.’ There’d be nothing but jungle…then a glimmer… then you’d be dead. He was booted out of the program in ‘84. Went native on us. Made up his own assignments, disappeared for months.” (This seems like a lot of Seagal characters, no?)

Cole says he was saved by a holy man, which is why he is a Buddhist.

Q is for… Quagmire

This is a Seagal film… He barely has any limitations, let alone something he seemingly can’t escape.

R is for… Reality, or Suspension of Disbelief

There isn’t anything too extreme, aside from the usual “Can a guy really survive crash-landing on a car?” and that sort of thing. And that ramp-car exploding for some reason.

S is for… Sidekicks

Jim Campbell is a good cop who likes old movies like Casablanca. He also is open to drinking Chinese tea and using holistic Chinese remedies, but it’s unclear whether these are actual traits or used merely for comedic effect. Campbell is effectively the movie’s buttmonkey.

T is for… Technology

This is yet another older movie where the technology is a distraction, such as the rotary phone used as a club, and the tape recorder used to record Smith.

However, cell phones are used to trick Johnny into thinking Cole was in the school office, rather than right outside the room. However, Cole charges in immediately after, ruining the effect.

U is for… Unexpected Romance

There are no women in this movie, except for Cole’s wife, so there is no romance of any sort.

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

During the IA kidnapping scene, the car scrapes against stuff as Cole tries to survive.

W is for… Winning

Cole and Campbell record Smith confessing everything, including the guilt of Deverell. He tells them Deverell will be meeting with the mafia at the Ovington Arms hotel.

Donald learns of Deverell’s deception and shoots him. Most of the mafia is killed or injured in the shootout.

Campbell is also shot once he and Cole get involved, and winds up falling through two windows before getting rescued.

Donald and Cole fight hand-to-hand, and eventually the DVD I was watching skipped a few minutes so I couldn’t see how it ended. Fortunately, the whole final fight is on Youtube, so I can tell you that Cole smashes Donald through a window, after which he gets impaled on an iron fence. Overkill, much? …literally.

X is for… X-rays, or Maybe You Should See a Doctor

Cole is, of course, fine.

It’s Campbell who winds up bruised, battered, shot, cut, etc, and he eventually does get strapped into an ambulance.

Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem

A guy with no past on the police force? What could possibly be strange about that? It’s Smith knowing Cole that has Deverell framing him, though it’s Cole knowing Smith that cracks the case open.

Z is for… Zone, In The

Cole is shown praying at his Buddhist temple, but he’s never really in a mental zone as far as fighting/training is concerned.

In Summation

As I stated at the beginning, The Glimmer Man is a genre mess. It’s certainly not the worst film out there, but it’s far from the best, too. It’s just… not interesting or fun to watch. Seagal is Seagal, and the rest of the cast is just sort of distracting. Campbell doesn’t really do much except take the hits and make jokes, and the villains are blah. What was noticeable was the music, which was simply bizarre at times and didn’t fit what was happening on-screen.

A few things of note:

The DVD I borrowed from the library was so old, or at least so poorly-designed, that the main menu didn’t have an option for “play.” I had to click to the “select a scene” page to actually find the “play movie” button.

Why was it raining basically the whole movie, when it takes place in Los Angeles? I’m sure it rains there, but most films focus on the heat and humidity, not pouring rain and thunderstorms. It was actually really distracting.

The film came out in 1996, but even assuming it was filmed in ‘94 or ‘95, it just looks way older than that, like from the late ‘80s.

The Asian wardrobe, including the Tibetan prayer beads, were very distracting. I know they were part of the character, but it was still distracting. I think I’m just traumatized by the endless leather fringe jackets in On Deadly Ground.

Bob Gunton’s presence was also distracting, through no fault of his own. I just too strongly associate him with the character of “Junction Jack” on ”Greg The Bunny”.

Those Russian Mafia tattoos were the most blatant tattoos ever–there is no way to cover them up!!

I’ve already mentioned Seagal’s hand-slappy fighting, but I’m going to mention it again.

It’s stated by the polygraph technician that a poly can be beaten if someone completely controls his emotions, but “I don’t know anyone who can pull that off.” …really? There’s a reason they aren’t admissible in court. So long as a person believes what he’s saying, he’ll pass it, or if someone controls his heartrate, etc.

The doves at the Roslov house made me think about John Woo movies.

There are real flames in the explosions and in the apartment fire. I don’t want to say it’s nice to see flame, but real pyrotechnics are a far cry above CGI fire.

I know Cole is supposed to be the “Glimmer Man,” but he really stands out a lot, with his height and his beads. A movie about him actually being the Glimmer Man would have been more entertaining.

There were certainly a lot of ways to go with this film, and picking one of them, rather than seemingly mixing several, would have resulted in a better film.

Miscellaneous Post: Batman v Superman v Captain America

****Spoilers for both Dawn of Justice and Civil War below!***

I love Batman and the Bat-family.

Let me clarify that at the beginning of this little essay.

It’s hard, sometimes, to choose who I like more, out of Bruce, Dick, or Tim, and by extension their associated cohorts (such as Clark Kent, Roy Harper, or Conner Kent).

When I first heard that Ben Affleck was to portray Batman in the sequel to Man of Steel, I was highly skeptical. And I don’t dislike Affleck, like so many people seem to do. I was just… underwhelmed by the casting choice, I suppose.

And then he turned out to be the highlight of the disaster that is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

…Let me start from the beginning.

I knew that Man of Steel was going to be terrible from the very first trailer that I ever saw for it. It looked gloomy, with a washed-out color scheme. It looked overly dramatic, and not in a superhero movie sort of way. Then of course came the ultimate stamp of impending doom: it was a Nolan/Goyer-written production. The team that brought you a growling Batman in a city that is clearly Chicago despite the wonderful world-building in their first movie, among further travesties to canon, logic, and the passage of time in the third installment of the Nolanverse trilogy. And it was to be directed by Zack Snyder, the man that brought us a fairly faithful rendition of Watchmen, or so I’m told as I’ve never read it, yet had one of the most horrifically awkward sex scenes ever.

Fast forward to actually seeing Man of Steel, and all of my fears–and then some–were realized: it was boring, barely had any Clark in it, had a stupid-useless death of Pa Kent, hideous dialogue (evolution does not always win!), and more “destruction porn” than you can shake a stick at, if you were prone to shaking sticks at ridiculous, over-the-top things.

So, when I heard that the inevitable sequel to Man of Steel was to have Batman in it, I was less than pleased. We had just suffered through Nolan destroying the character; did Snyder really need a chance to do it, too?

And gradually it became much more than just an extension of a personalityless Superman glowering and a potentially miscast Batman arguing with him. The film was to introduce Wonder Woman. And Lex Luthor. And somehow Aquaman and Cyborg. And then the Flash. Most of whom seemed to have questionable casting choices–Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor? A woman I’d never heard of but who is apparently underwhelming for Wonder Woman? Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth?

My fears–or perhaps skepticism is a better word–were realized when the first ten minutes or so of the film were spent on Batman’s origin story. You know, the story that makes up a good chunk of Batman Begins, which came out a mere eleven years ago. The story retold in countless cartoons and books, and previous Batman movies. The story that pretty much EVERYONE going to see the movie is familiar with, and really served no purpose in the overall film, especially considering Batman is not a young man just starting on his quest at the beginning of BvS.

Oh wait, without the retelling of the story, we might not know that Bruce’s mother is named “Martha.” Like the camera doesn’t focus on her gravestone quite obviously when Bruce is moping there.

You know what they could have spent that runtime real estate on? Explaining why Bruce Wayne is living in his guest house, with his mansion burned to the ground. Or perhaps giving Wonder Woman a better introduction; she isn’t even NAMED ON-SCREEN except by a flight attendant. Maybe developing the actual Lex Luthor and not some weird knock-off version of the character? Maybe they could even give Superman–or better yet, Clark–a personality. Or maybe use those precious minutes spliced throughout the film to tie together the next two hours into an actual cohesive narrative, rather than a bunch of unrelated scenes that happened to have Bruce, Superman, or Lex in them?

But no.

Oh, no.

The viewers were not allowed nice things.

The film began with an unnecessary backstory, and ended with an utterly unconvincing death.

Mixed in were too many dream sequences to count, unearned deaths of canonical characters (I didn’t even realize the photographer at the beginning was Jimmy Olsen until later on), an awkward bathtub scene, needless fighting, the ultimate Superman big bad villain shoehorned in for no conceivable reason other than to facilitate that needless and unconvincing death, and a Lex Luthor that has the same haircut as Black Widow.

All of it overlaid by the color gray, a visual representation of the depression the overly-serious film caused. Canonically Batman and Superman are snarky with each other–Batman isn’t always grim, the same way Superman isn’t always the Boy Scout. There can be a level of humor injected into any film, no matter how serious; there has to be to break the tension. It’s a movie, a comic book movie in fact, not a documentary or breaking news.

And I didn’t even yet mention some of the utterly infuriating parts, like where reporter Clark Kent doesn’t know who businessman Bruce Wayne is (despite the fact Bruce owns the Daily Planet). Or how rather than talk with Superman, Batman just wants to kill him, especially when it’s clear that Superman has something important to say about MARTHA. Or how Superman doesn’t use his powers to find his mother, or find the bomb in the courtroom, or save Jimmy, yet when Lois manages to fall from a building, he’s right there.

One of the criteria I use to analyze action movies for this site is “M is for… Motivation.” Most of the time the villains want money, or power, or revenge, while the hero wants revenge, or to save a loved one, or to stop the destruction of a particular region or group of people. One of the biggest problems in BvS is that the characters’ motivations are unclear. Why is Lex building a Kryptonian monster (that, yes, turned out to be Doomsday, but why is he doing that?)? Why was Batman just SO ANGRY with Superman that he saw murder as the only way out, considering they’re barely shown interacting the entire film? Why didn’t Superman do anything to make himself memorable or interesting in his own movie, so that he wasn’t overshadowed by the weirdo villain(s) and his…nemesis? Was Batman even Batmanning at all during Superman’s Supermanning? Do they know each other well enough to hate each other the way they do?

It was all just a mess, and not one where I think, “Well, I should see it again so it’ll make more sense.”

Please, don’t make me sit through the travesty that is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice again.

It’s as if the sole purpose of the movie was to get the Justice League started so DC could finally compete with Marvel on the silver screen, a goal for which DC is so woefully unprepared it would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

Actually, it’s still pretty funny, transparently shoving a handful of extraneous characters into what should be a Superman movie in order to launch a team. Why not just… do a movie that develops the team? Just do a live action version of the first episode of Justice League, or something similar. The cartoon is proof that it works.

I know that once upon a time, BvS was supposed to open the same day as Captain America 3: Civil War. The powers that be wisely chose to not have that happen. Instead, BvS opened first, to lackluster reviews (my favorite of which makes me laugh out loud at a particular line), and a precipitously dropping box office. Confirming with Box Office Mojo, the total box office haul as of May 12th for BvS is $868,185,193. That’s an impressive total for a movie that hasn’t even been out for two months, right?

Sure, until it’s understood that in less than a week, Cap 3 has grossed $765,868,509.

Wow.

I don’t normally care about box office, considering the way ticket prices are highway robbery and sales don’t at all reflect the quality of a movie, but I thought it an interesting comparison here, with similar movies with presumably nearly identical audiences coming out only a few weeks apart. People aren’t seeing BvS for a second time. I’m going to see Cap 3 again tomorrow.

In almost any category, at least in my opinion, Cap trumps Supes. It’s not fair to discuss casting, because everyone in Cap 3 was already established, but that’s related to one of the strong points in the film–all of the characters exist, and the film develops them even more than they were already. The film successfully juggles 10 existing heroes and a new villain, while introducing two new heroes, and also moving the overall universe’s story, while also having a coherent plot and a villain with clear motivation.

In Cap 3, my heart went out to everyone–Cap, Tony, Bucky, all of the former friends fighting each other. Towards the end, when Tony watches his life flash before his eyes, if you know what I mean… Ouch. He really thinks Cap is going to smash his face in with that shield.

In BvS, I was bored by Supes’s death (especially knowing there’s no way he was going to stay dead for keeps), and still confused by what Doomsday was doing in a movie where the main draw–Batman fighting Superman–was so poorly written that the whole “Martha” thing was just hilariously awful, and awfully hilarious. Why not do a better job writing the actual story, and spend less time shoving a major villain into the last fifteen minutes? Was it just to give Wonder Woman something to do? Didn’t anyone learn from the franchise-ruining catastrophe that was The Amazing Spider-Man 2?

Also, if I were a Superman fan, I’d be pissed that Batman clearly won their fight. Especially considering it was theoretically Superman’s movie.

I seem to be digressing again.

Cap 3 has heart, and agony, and a hell of a lot of humor that is in no way misplaced despite the gravitas of the main storyline. The characters’ motivations are clear, and there aren’t any obfuscating dream sequences or oppressive gloom.

It’s a film that can be watched many times and enjoyed for what it is: a solid superhero movie that delivers on its promises, without raising major questions about simple things like the plot.

It’s actually almost unfair to compare and contrast Dawn of Justice and Civil War, considering the former is the second film in a seemingly forced multi-movie universe, and the latter is the thirteenth film in a giant universe that just keeps expanding. But how does Cap 3 balance all of those characters and history, while BvS can barely keep interest in the handful of characters it has and doesn’t have to worry about continuity across a dozen other films?

All of the special effects and gimmicks in the world can’t compensate for the basic foundation of a film: its story. It needs a cogent plot, well-developed characters, and a reason to care about them, and BvS just doesn’t have enough of any of them.

I love Batman.

But Batman v Superman simply can’t compete with Captain America 3, other than illustrating that being an orphan is the first step to becoming a superhero.

The lack of ability for comparison really is almost embarrassing.

Maybe they should let Affleck direct the rest of the Batman/Superman/Justice League movies. I think everyone can agree he’s a much better director than he is an actor.

Just think of that when remembering that his Bruce Wayne is the highlight of BvS…

F is for… Faster

I came upon Faster recommended on a list of the 100 best action movies. It’s a bit confusing because even though the DVD case itself quotes a review calling it “…the best straight-up action film of the year,” the film isn’t really what I’d call an action movie. It’s not a bad movie by any means, it’s just that there are a lot of other much better movies out there that are true action movies. Faster is more of a revenge movie, which is fine. I guess I was just expecting a little more from the list, and the DVD cover.

…and yes, I’m aware that several movies I’ve reviewed for this site aren’t quite “action” movies, but those are the ones I hadn’t seen before reviewing them, including this one. This site is a work in progress to expand horizons and see and review a lot of kickass movies that might otherwise not be seen nor reviewed.

All of that being said, Faster, directed by George Tillman, Jr, is an engaging if slightly confused film starring Dwayne Johnson as Driver, a man sent to prison for being the getaway driver during a bank heist. The second he gets out of prison, he literally runs back into town and starts killing people. Through the use of flashbacks, it’s explained that after the successful bank heist, the group of robbers is slaughtered by a second group that steals the stolen money. The initial thieves, including Driver’s brother Gary (Matt Gerald), are all killed, and Driver should have been dead but the bullet shot into his head merely traveled along his skull, not through it. Driver is hunting down everyone in the group that slaughtered his friends and brother.

Investigating the case is Cop, played by Billy Bob Thornton. The case is originally assigned to a tough as nails detective named Cicero (Carla Gugino), but she lets him sort of tag along if he makes himself useful. Cop investigates Driver’s kills with the help of a video taken of the murders of the robbers, while also shooting heroin and dealing with his bossy ex Marina (Moon Bloodgood) and unathletic and lonely son.

Meanwhile there’s also Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a handsome renaissance man who is hired to assassinate Driver. He seems to be able to track Driver fairly easily, all the while dealing with his own personal demons in the form of marriage.

After Driver kills the first two people involved in the executions, he attacks but doesn’t kill the third one, only puts him into critical condition. When he realizes this he immediately goes to the hospital where the victim is being held and shoots him in the operating room. Cop, who had predicted Driver would come to the hospital, engages Driver in a gunfight, but Driver doesn’t kill him because he doesn’t have a reason to. As Driver leaves the hospital, Killer catches up with him and they also have a brief shootout, and Driver also lets him live.

The big showdown comes at the scene of an evangelical revival meeting, where Driver tracked the last person involved in killing his brother. Despite the man’s involvement, Driver lets him live, possibly because he’s changed his ways and works to help people. Killer finds Driver sitting by himself, and realizes that Driver thinks he’s done getting his revenge. He then points out that there has to be one more person involved–whomever hired him and knew that Driver was hunting everyone involved in the deaths. Enter Cop, who also knew where Driver would be heading next. He then shoots Driver, and it’s revealed that Cop was the other person involved in the murders and had in fact been the one to shoot Driver in the back of the head, and that he had hired Killer, thinking that Driver would eventually be after him. When Cop realized at the hospital that Driver had no idea who he was, he tried to call off Killer, but Killer wanted to complete his job.

Meanwhile, Cicero had put the pieces together–Driver’s victims were all members of Cop’s CRASH unit, comprised of prison snitches. Marina had been Gary’’s girlfriend, so she knew of the bank heist, and told the others about it. Cicero isn’t able to get to the revival tent before Driver is able to kill Cop and Killer escapes. She doesn’t let anyone know what she figured out, so that Cop’s family can receive his benefits.

Driver, mission complete, drives off into the sunset, while Killer returns to his wife.

It’s a simple but fairly well-done story, if a bit heavily focused on developing the characters of Cop and Killer at the expense of properly developing Driver, the guy the audience is supposed to be rooting for despite his actions. Yes, there’s the scene where we learn Driver left a pregnant girlfriend behind when he went to prison, and the scene with his mother where we learn of his difficult childhood, but these moments don’t really add much to the plot, they just sort of slow things down. I suppose I wanted to know more about who Driver is now, rather than who he used to be. On the other hand, Killer was very intriguing, what with his adrenaline rush issues. Cop was the most blah character to me, but that could be due to his introductory scene consisting of him scoring heroin, and I have no tolerance for drug use, which causes me to not like characters who do drugs.

Anyway, let’s move on to the criteria!

A is for… Accents

Faster is a fairly accent-light movie, especially considering the last few I’ve reviewed. The only character with a noticeable accent is Killer, who is British.

B is for… Bad Guys

This is one of those films where the protagonist is just as bad a person as the antagonist, but the viewer knows he has to root for him. Driver is initially seen in prison, and the very first thing he does after getting out is shoot someone, and the viewer doesn’t know who the victim is or why Driver shoots him. Of course everything is eventually explained, but it’s still a little hard to identify with Driver. He’s very matter-of-fact and doesn’t really have much dialogue to soften his actions. I suppose that’s where those scenes with his ex-girlfriend and mother come into play, but I didn’t really know enough about him to find the scenes helpful and not hammy.

Killer is a bad guy, but he’s not exactly a true antagonist because Driver, while he does interact with him, isn’t trying to get anything from him. Driver simply seems to know Killer is trying to kill him, but doesn’t really seem to care why. Killer is simply doing a job that it is ultimately revealed that he does for fun–he only charges a dollar for his kills, and he has the dollars framed and mounted on his wall. Killer was already a successful software pioneer before “beating yoga” and climbing mountains; he is always looking for the next challenge when he becomes bored. He’s sort of reined in by his girlfriend-then-wife Lily (Maggie Grace), who wants him to quit being a killer.

Cop shouldn’t be a bad guy, considering he’s a cop, but he’s clearly a corrupt cop from the get-go, and ultimately is revealed to be the connection between Driver and Killer. He’d been the one to originally shoot Driver when his friends and brother were killed, and he tried to kill him again only to be foiled by the metal plate put in Driver’s skull after the first bullet. As much as he’s a professional screw-up, Cop does seem to be trying to do right by his son, if not by Marina, a recovering addict to whom he provides more drugs.

C is for… Chases

During the bank heist, the cops chase the robbers in a scene designed to show off Driver’s driving skills, though he doesn’t really use them in the rest of the film except when Killer is chasing him after they both leave the hospital.

D is for… Damsels

Lily is Killer’s girlfriend then wife in the matter of the five days during which the movie takes place. She wants Killer to stop working, even though he points out that she used to be attracted to his work. She is beautiful and doesn’t seem to have a job herself, though considering how rich he is, she doesn’t need to work. She seems to be similarly interested and skilled in fast cars and guns, and is heartbroken that he didn’t quit when he said he did.

Cicero is a tough and competent cop who seems to be the only one who puts together all the pieces and reach the conclusion that Cop is also involved in the murders of Driver’s friends and brother. She chooses to keep quiet and let his family inherit his benefits after his death.

Marina is a former drug addict and snitch, though she uses drugs during the film after Cop gives them to her. She wants Cop to be a better father, and seems to entertain the idea of getting back together with him. She had been Driver’s brother’s girlfriend during the initial bank heist, and it was through her that everyone else learned of the score and decided to take it and kill everyone.

E is for… Explosions

There isn’t a real explosion in the film, but during the shootout in the hospital basement, bullets hit an electrical box that then sparks.

F is for… Flashbacks

Flashbacks are used extensively to depict past events from Driver’s point of view, including the bank heist and the death of his brother and friends. Considering the theme of the film and the simplicity of the narrative, the flashbacks are an effective method of telling the story without having Driver talk to himself, considering he’s alone most of the time.

G is for… Guns

Check out the full listing at the IMFDB.

There’s a revolver waiting for Driver in the provided car when he gets out of prison.

Killer, not surprisingly, has an armory in his garage.

The informant crew uses a shotgun on the robbers.

There’s the shootout at the apartment building between Driver and Killer, and then the shootout at the hospital between Driver and Cop.

For some reason Driver chooses his gun over a different weapon every time except in the strip club, where he uses a knife.

H is for… Helicopters

Sadly, there are no helicopters in Faster.

I is for… Improvisation

Considering Driver leaves prison in the first scene and doesn’t seem to have any resources except his car and his gun, he doesn’t seem to have to improvise ever. No one does, really–everyone has actual weapons.

J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects

Sadly, no panes of glass or weak walls have a person thrown through them.

K is for… Kill Count

Driver’s first victim is the Telemarketer, whom he shoots in the head.

He then stalks the Cameraman at his apartment, and shoots him in the head.

For some reason he doesn’t shoot the guy who actually slit his brother’s throat, preferring to stab him repeatedly. It is unclear why he doesn’t either use his gun or slit his throat, unless he doesn’t actually have his gun because he had to pass the bouncer to get into the club (and then why not wait until his victim is outside?). Regardless, it would have been poetic for him to slit his throat rather than just stab him. When it’s revealed he’s alive, Driver does indeed shoot him at the hospital, multiple times.

He knows better than to kill Cop at the hospital.

He doesn’t shoot Killer when he has the chance, merely shoots out his tire so he can’t follow him.

He doesn’t kill the preacher, though he does fire a shot next to him.

He ultimately shoots Cop after learning of his involvement with everything.

L is for… Limitations

Driver is alone, using his acquired intel to complete his mission by himself. Other than that, though, he’s never really shown to be struggling, just very focused on what he’s doing.

M is for… Motivation

Driver’s motivation is clearly revenge or vengeance for his brother’s murder.

Cop is expecting Driver to eventually target him, and he wants to cover his tracks and take him out.

Killer wants the rush, and the conquest.

N is for… Negotiation

None of the three main characters really talk to each other, so there isn’t any negotiation between them.

R.G. (Mike Epps) tries to negotiate for more money for his intel, but Driver wants nothing to do with it, and ultimately gets the intel and his money back simply by being a badass.

O is for… One Liners

Killer’s therapist: Are you off your meds?
Killer, giddily: Yes.

Cop: We’ve got a telemarketer and a sex offender. What’s next, a lawyer?

The bouncer, indicating Driver’s arms: You got any weapons on you besides these two guns right here?

Driver, to the preacher: God can’t save you from me.

Driver, to Killer: You’ve got issues.

Cop: I created my own Hell.
Driver: And I’m the demon who crawled up out of it.

P is for… Profession

Driver is… the getaway driver for one of his brother’s bank heists. He’s depicted as being a decent sort of businessman, because he made a lot of money running a contraband ring in prison. The warden describes him as never asking for trouble, but also never turning it down. His mother says that he was never a criminal until he was helping Gary.

It’s unclear why he served ten years in prison for being the getaway driver, especially if he didn’t have a previous record.

It’s also unclear what sort of career he can have after the film if it isn’t murdering or driving, because those are the only two skills he’s shown using. Perhaps salesman or businessman, but it would have to be for something illegal, considering he’s a fugitive.

Q is for… Quagmire

In the revival tent, Killer has his gun trained on Driver. Then Cop comes in, and actually shoots him. Driver actually likely would have died if he didn’t have the metal plate from the first shot to the head.

I believe this is the first film reviewed for this site where the main character actually should be dead, he was in such a quagmire.

R is for… Reality, or the Suspension of Disbelief

It’s a little hard to believe that no one connected the pieces together before, but perhaps there truly wasn’t enough evidence to piece together Cop and his ring of informants.

It’s also really hard to believe that Driver jogged all the way from the prison to the junkyard in the desert heat, even if it was only a few miles. Maybe his determination saw him through.

S is for… Sidekicks

R.G. is the one who left the car, weapon, and first victim’s information for Driver for when he got out of prison. He also provides the complete list of informants that Driver needs to kill.

T is for… Technology

There are an awful lot of surveillance cameras in the telemarketing office.

The Cameraman making his own snuff film is the only information the police seem to have on Driver’s bank heist group execution.

U is for… Unexpected Romance

No unexpected romance in Faster. Unexpected former romantic entanglement yes, but no romance for Driver moving forward.

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

At one point during the chase from the hospital, Driver maneuvers his car in front of a tractor trailer to the point that the tractor trailer has to merge to the right, cutting off Killer and forcing him to stop to avoid a collision.

W is for… Winning

Driver seems to have completed his mission, until Killer explains that there is one more member of the gang that executed Driver’s friends and brother. Before Driver really has time to process that, Cop shows up and shoots Driver. He and Killer then talk, and he tries to pay Killer for completing the job. Killer turns it down, then goes home to Lily. Cop continues walking, only to be shot by Driver, who’d been saved by the plate in his head.

Killer quits to be with his wife, Driver drives off into the sunset, and thanks to Cicero, Cop’s family gets its inheritance.

X is for… X-Rays, or Maybe You Should See a Doctor

A quite literal example here, considering Driver was shot in the head and survived, and now has a metal plate in his head. He should probably get that thing checked out considering he was shot again. And surely he must have a terrible headache, no matter how diesel that thing is.

Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem

This theme is the entire focus of the movie–Cop and his gang killed Driver’s friends and brother, and tried to kill him. Upon leaving prison, Driver made getting his revenge on all of them his number one priority. Had Cop been successful the first time, there would be no movie. Had there not been a snuff film, perhaps the police would never have put the pieces together. If Driver’s brother hadn’t been daring Marina, Cop wouldn’t have learned of the heist in the first place.

Z is for… Zone, In The

Driver is so single-minded that he’s pretty much always in the Zone, focusing on his current or next kill.

In Summation

Faster has a lot going for it, including a good cast and a simple story that allows it to focus on other things, like how to tell that story. That becomes sort of its problem, too, the fact that the story is so simple it needs a little padding to make it long enough. One reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes wishes Faster were either smarter or dumber, and upon watching the film the analysis makes a lot more sense. The plot could be less simplistic, or the action could be turned up to eleven, as a way to apply the sentiment.

Some notes:
It’s extremely nitpicky, but I hated the yellow tone to the whole movie, making it look like it was perpetually sunset. It certainly didn’t do Bakersfield any favors.

Cop mentions several times that he’s only a couple weeks away from retirement. It was a giant smoking gun with neon lights screaming that he wasn’t going to survive the movie.

The yoga fan service…. Yowza! Oliver Jackson-Cohen can do more almost-naked yoga whenever he desires, in my book.

This was the second movie in a row I’ve reviewed that used the theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

There were way too many storylines, and attempts to add character development. Okay, Killer clearly had mobility issues as a child, but obviously worked through them. Are we to assume it was those health issues that led him to become the results oriented, conquer-focused man he became? I guess maybe, but it was unnecessary. As for Cop, hey, the drug addict cop has family issues and isn’t around for his kid? I’m pretty sure that’s part of the character for EVERY COP MOVIE EVER. And the scenes with Driver’s ex and mother, so boring and unnecessary, easily replaced by quick flashbacks.

I hate to say it, but a lot of the scenes with the women made the film drag. Driver’s ex, with the tale of woe of the abortion and having to break up with Driver, and she has a new family and new life… It’s been ten years, it’s expected and boring–there’s got to be another way to make Driver seem more human. And again with the mother, where we have Driver’s childhood with his abusive father and favoritism toward the son that actually belonged to the father, and how he was actually a good boy and never did anything wrong until his brother needed his help… Not interesting enough to warrant the whole scene, when a series of short flashbacks could have been used, especially considering that the film was already using flashbacks. Then Killer with Lily, and wanting to settle down, and they get married and go to their cabin on the lake and she wants him to quit… It’s like the coinciding story to the workaholic cop, the woman who wants him to quit for her. Speaking of which, Marina didn’t really serve a point except to be the connection between Cop and the brother. And of course to yell at Cop for being a terrible father. Normally I’m on the side of the policeman in these scenarios, because the wives should understand the work their husbands have to do, but considering he’s a dirty, drug using cop, I couldn’t really care less.

The only woman whose character deserved to be developed, Cicero, didn’t get developed, I suppose because she didn’t have a connection to the three main men.

How many lines does Driver actually have? He’s pretty much alone and walking, driving, or shooting the entire film.

There are a lot of overhead shots of the car spinning, I guess to look cool and illustrate how good of a driver Driver is.

During the scenes in the tent, especially during the revival, all I could think about what how hot it must have been inside when they were filming. That location for the revival was beautiful, though, with the lake.

So, Faster had a lot of good things, and a lot of negative things, but is certainly enjoyable enough to watch as a revenge story, if not an action movie.

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E is for… The Expendables 2

The Expendables 2 is everything I’d expected from The Expendables except it truly delivered; it was over-the-top action, hilarious in-jokey one-liners, and cameo after cameo. It’s a lot of fun, easily rewatchable, and definitely one “for the history books” (or a museum).

The Expendables 2, directed by Simon West, stars Sylvester Stallone as Barney Ross, leader of a group of mercenaries who right wrongs by committing other (even similar) crimes. His team consists of Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), Toll Roll (Randy Couture), Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth), and Yin Yang (Jet Li). Along the way they acquire tech expert Maggie (Nan Yu), and find themselves working with Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Church (Bruce Willis), and Booker (Chuck Norris).

The film opens with the Expendables on a mission to rescue a rich Chinese businessman, which they do by caravanning into the Nepalese camp where he’s being held and kill everyone, pretty much. Also being held captive is Trench, another mercenary, who’d been trying to rescue the businessman as well. After the successful mission the group celebrates, and Billy informs Barney that he’ll finish out the month before retiring to be with his girlfriend. CIA agent Church ambushes Barney and tells him to either pay him the debt owed to him (five million dollars), or go to jail, or complete a mission for him to retrieve a stolen case from a crashed plane in Albania.

Barney chooses the mission.

Church sends tech expert Maggie with the Expendables, much to Barney’s chagrin as he doesn’t want to have to “babysit” the “woman.” She does, however, prove she’s competent and can take care of herself by retrieving the case from the plane. Unfortunately, Billy managed to get captured by villain Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), and after Maggie sacrifices the case Vilain kills Billy anyway. The Expendables pursue Vilain and his men, both to get back the case and avenge Billy’s death.

They eventually learn that Vilain is in charge of an army called the Sangs, and that the Sangs have imprisoned the region’s men and forced them into slavery in a nearby mine housing plutonium left over from the Cold War. The case held blueprints with the exact location of the plutonium, and now that Vilain knows where it is, he can ramp up the digging and also enslave the region’s women and children.

In a fabricated city used as a Cold War training camp, the Expendables are pinned down by the Sangs, only to be rescued by Booker, an old comrade of Barney’s who hunts the Sangs full time. He’s invited to join the Expendables, but Booker explains he always works alone. He does, however, point them in the direction of one of the villages overtaken by the Sangs. The Expendables meet the women there, and the women explain what Vilain is doing in the mine and what he has done to their families.

The Expendables infiltrate the mine by crashing their plane into it, but that doesn’t really seem to do much other than get them and all the slaves trapped after Vilain blows up the mine. Gunner tries to make a bomb but it’s a dud, and everyone seems resigned to dying in the mine. However, a digging machine rumbles its way through the debris. It’s Trench! Trench and Church are working together to help the Expendables kill Vilain and take back the plutonium.

The climax of the film takes place at an airport, where the Sangs and the Expendables engage in an epic gunfight while Barney hunts down Vilain. The two leaders face off one on one while the Expendables slaughter the Sangs. Ultimately Barney prevails, and he, Trench, and Church discuss the mission, the future, and themselves. This final scene is memorable not just for the quippy one liners, but also for the multiple shots of three action greats together at once.

The film ends with a care package being sent to Billy’s girlfriend, and the Expendables traveling together on a new mission while toasting their late team member.

Just thinking of the three greats on screen together is making me smile.

On to the criteria!

A is for… Accents

It would almost be faster to note who doesn’t speak with an accent or noticeable speech pattern.

Statham is of course British.

Li is Chinese.

Schwarzenegger is Austrian.

Stallone is Stallone.

Van Damme is the “Muscles from Brussels.”

Yu is also Chinese.

I’m also going to throw in that Hemsworth is Australian, but plays an American so he hides his native accent.

B is for… Bad Guys

Vilain runs the Sangs, and is trying to find the five tons of weapons grade plutonium hidden in a mine by the Russians during the Cold War. He enslaves the region’s men and forces them to dig in the mine, and is ready to move onto the women and children by the time the Expendables catch up with him. He explains to his second in command, Hector (Scott Adkins), that the plutonium is worth four million dollars a kilo.

Booker describes the Sangs as a robbery, kidnapping, and assassinations cartel for hire.

C is for… Chases

The Nepalese gang chases after the Expendables in the opening, after they’ve rescued the Chinese businessman.

The Expendables can be seen as chasing Vilain, but they’re really more following him to try to find the mine.

D is for… Damsels

Maggie Chang is a technology and martial arts expert Church sends to Barney so she can crack the code on the safe holding the case. She also reveals herself to be a language expert, history expert, and torture expert. She is very much not a “damsel in distress.”

Christmas has his girl Lucy (Charisma Carpenter) that he plans to marry, even though Barney tells him she’s going to cheat on him.

Billy has his girlfriend Sophia.

The women in the village Booker leads them to are doing what they can to protect their families–they engage the Expendables in gunfire as soon as their truck stops, even though the women can’t hit anything. They have their sons locked away so they’re harder to find. They team up with these strange men (possibly because they have a woman with them) and fight the next round of Sangs that infiltrates their village.

E is for… Explosions

At the Nepalese camp the gas pumps are ignited.

There’s of course a rocket launcher.

An explosion is used to break into the room housing the businessman and Trench.

Barney’s plane has torpedoes, used twice to blow up bridges.

F is for… Flashbacks

There’s expository dialogue from Billy to explain his time in the army, but no actual flashbacks.

G is for… Guns

Check out the complete (and long) list at the IMFDB

The vehicles in the Expendables’ caravan are mounted with a ton of guns and other weapons.

The opening scene is a bloodbath as the Expendables mow down just about everybody.

Another shootout occurs in the simulated American town on the abandoned Russian base.

The women in the village have a lot of guns, but don’t know how to use them.

A massive shootout occurs at the airport during the climax; it basically rains bullets the entire duration of the scene.

H is for… Helicopters

The Nepalese villains have a military helicopter.

Vilain has a chopper, of course.

Church (or the CIA) has one at the airport.

During Statham’s fight with Hector, the viewer is just waiting for Hector’s head to connect with the blades on the rear rotor.

I is for… Improvisation

Yang throws his gun at the thugs in the camp. He then uses frying pans he finds as clubs.

Caesar shoots out the legs on a water tank to create a “wet wall.”

Christmas, dressed as a priest, uses his thurible as a club.

To infiltrate the mine, Barney crashes his plane through its doorway.

Gunner tries to make a bomb by scraping phosphorus from the rock in the mine. It doesn’t work.

Barney uses a chain as a weapon in his fight with Vilain.

J is for Jumping Through Solid Objects

Yang knocks a thug through a glass wall that seemed to be there solely for that purpose.

Trucks are driven through the glass windows at the airport.

Various villains are thrown through windows at the airport.

K is for… Kill Count

All of them. They kill all the bad guys. If the bad guys aren’t killed, they’re severely hurt. Booker even says he’s leaving the area because they “killed all [his] business.”

L is for… Limitations

The Expendables are hindered by their lack of knowledge about their adversary until Booker fills them in.

They also have to react as they go, rather than form solid plans.

M is for… Motivation

Church tells Barney to either get him the case from the safe or he’ll be put in Gitmo.

Once the case is stolen by Vilain and Billy is killed, Barney et al want to intercept Vilain from getting the plutonium, and also get revenge for Billy’s needless death. Eventually they want to save the villagers as well.

Vilain is in it for…wait for it…the money!! Four million a kilo for the plutonium!

N is for… Negotiation

Barney can either work for Church or go to Gitmo.

If Maggie gets hurt, Church will ensure the Expendables are never seen again.

Vilain will kill Billy if he doesn’t get the case. Unfortunately, he kills Billy anyway.

O is for… One Liners

Barney: What are you doing here?
Trench: Saving this Chinese billionaire.
Barney: So are we.
Trench: Then we have a scheduling problem, don’t we.

Caesar, to Trench: If I don’t get this back, your ass is terminated.

Gunner: Did you win?
Yang: Of course I win.

Caesar: I got your gang bang right here!

Barney: You missed!
Christmas, half incredulous: You’re aiming!

Barney: Kid’s amazing.
Christmas: Really? So am I. You’re just used to me.

Gunner: Then who am I supposed to pick on?
Yang: You will find another minority.

Barney: Take off, Rover.
Vilain: I’m impressed. Very good use of intelligence.

Christmas: What’s the plan?
Barney: Track him, find him, kill him.

Christmas: What’s she going to do, give them a pedicure?

Christmas: Can you hold them off?
Barney: Maybe with a tank. Oh shit.
Christmas: What?
Barney: They have a tank.

Barney: I’m still alive.
Christmas: That’s a matter of opinion.

Booker: I’ve mellowed.
Barney, looking at the bodies: Not that much.

Villager: Who you are?
Barney: We’re Americans.
Christmas, disgusted: Since when?
Gunner: Swedish.
Caesar: Blackfoot.
Maggie: Chinese.

Barney: Please. Your ego is like the size of a dinosaur. Huge.

Christmas: I now pronounce you man and knife.

Barney: Rest in pieces.

Christmas: You got any ideas that won’t get us killed?

Christmas: You’re going to need a new plane.

Gunner, after his bomb is a dud: The phosphorus must have been wet.
Christmas: Yeah, right.
Caesar: Or you suck.
Gunner: There is that.
Maggie: Don’t cry, Gunner.
Barney: You almost had an idea.

Trench, breaking through the rock wall: I’m back!

Trench: I’m almost out. I’ll be back.
Church: You’ve been back enough. I’ll be back.
Trench: Yippee-ki-yay.

Trench, after seeing Booker: Who’s next? Rambo?

Trench: My shoe is bigger than this car.

Vilain: I’m out of bullets.
Barney: That’s your problem.

Barney: That thing belongs in a museum.
Trench: We all do.

P is for… Profession

The Expendables as a group are hired mercenaries who have special ops or military training.

Billy was a sniper in the Army.

Christmas is the knife expert.

Gunner has a Master’s in chemical engineering.

Caesar is the gun expert.

Toll Road is the demolition expert.

Q is for… Quagmire

Everyone gets trapped in the mine, with no food or water, and no way to get out.

R is for… Reality, or the Suspension of Disbelief

They actually acknowledge running out of bullets, and not necessarily just for moving the plot.

The rest of it is a bit extreme, but not in a ludicrous way.

S is for… Sidekicks

Everyone on the team is each other’s sidekicks.

Ultimately Booker, Trench, and Church become sidekicks.

T is for… Technology

Despite Barney flying a 60-year-old plane, the film features an extremely high-tech safe that has a combination that changes every 120 seconds. If the correct code isn’t put in, it explodes.

Vilain uses a remote detonator on his bombs in the mine.

U is for… Unexpected Romance

Gunner clearly fancies Maggie, but she wants nothing to do with any of the guys. The only exception is some weird tension between her and Barney.

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

There are a lot of vehicles in this movie. There are tanks, electric bicycles, trucks, jet skis, pontoon boats, airplanes, motorcycles, trams, and helicopters. Most of those are within the first ten minutes.

The Expendables’ vehicles are loaded with guns, battering rams, anything to make them beyond just a means of transportation. One even has a cow catcher to push obstacles out of the way.

When unsure of how to defeat a Nepalese helicopter, Barney throws a motorcycle into it.

W is for… Winning

With Trench’s help, the Expendables successfully free the miners. They then chase after Vilain to the airport, where with Church’s, Booker’s, and Trench’s help, they slay every single last Sang. Barney follows Vilain and engages him in a one on one fight that Vilain insists be done without weapons. Finally using chains, Barney strangles Vilain and stabs him with the knife Vilain had taken from him.

Trench, Church, and Barney talk outside about their past and future, admitting they’re “too old for this shit,” to borrow a phrase from Leathal Weapon.

X is for… X-Rays, or Maybe You Should See A Doctor

Barney is roughed up a little bit, to the point where Christmas tells him he should learn how to fight, but everyone else gets off entirely unscathed.

Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem

Barney stole five million dollars from Church, which is why he’s on this mission at all. If Vilain hadn’t killed Billy, the Expendables might have spared his life, even considering his other atrocities.

Z is for… Zone, in the

Any time the Expendables are spraying bullets at a group of men, they are in their respective zones.

In Summation and Other Thoughts

The Expendables 2 certainly picks up where the first film left off in terms of cameos, one liners, and action, and overall it’s just plain fun. I’d’ve liked the final fight between Barney and Vilain to be longer, but I’ll take what I can get.

The shot of the caravan of vehicles coming over the ridge and down into the Nepalese camp was weirdly reminiscent of Mad Max: Fury Road, with weaponized vehicles traversing the sand.

The film is really bloody, like surprisingly so, but I read that the blood was added in post, which is disappointing. The “R” rating exists for a reason, so why not use it? I know, I know, they want the revenue from teenagers, but still. The nostalgia trip involved in this film is over the heads of most teens, and is more so for the target audience.

I kept thinking I should know the guy who plays Vilain’s second in command Hector, but I have no idea who he is. It would have been funnier to me personally to cast Robert Davi or Andrew Divoff.

The Chuck Norris cameo, complete with the theme from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, is pure gold, omg. Completely epic.

When Trench rips the door off of the smart car, I can’t help but think of John Matrix ripping out the car seat in Commando. Tell me that part doesn’t crack you up in that film.

It’s disappointing that Bruce Willis demanded so much money to appear in The Expendables 3. The series is partially a celebration of his work, and seeing him here is just a reminder that he needlessly priced himself out of the sequel, and for what? What did he gain other than a smear on his reputation?

I wish The Expendabelles would get out of development hell, but it doesn’t seem as if that film is being produced any time soon.

I guess we’ll also see if there’s a fourth Expendables movie made. Seems to be in limbo as well.

D is for… Double Impact

I wasn’t sure where to go with my next “D” movie, and it was suggested I do Double Impact. The suggestion was then followed by a laugh, so I knew it would be one of “those” sorts of action movies, more along the line of On Deadly Ground or Commando than Die Hard or Killer Elite. I enjoy Van Damme, so of course I was in.

If only I’d know what I was in for…

I kid, I kid–Double Impact, directed by Sheldon Lettich, is a lot of fun, and fits almost all of the action movie criteria as outlined in this site. Van Damme does a great job playing twins Chad and Alex Wagner, and Geoffrey Lewis does a good job as Frank Avery, Chad’s guardian and the twins’ sidekick. Also notable is that in addition to Alex’s girlfriend Danielle (Alonna Shaw), there is another female character with lines and a name, Kara, played by Corinna Everson. A lot of these movies have only one woman, often the damsel in distress.

Double Impact opens with the conclusion of a civil engineering project between Paul Wagner (Andy Armstrong) and Nigel Griffith (Alan Scarfe), specifically opening the Victoria Harbour Tunnel between Hong Kong and mainland China. Wagner has his wife Katherine (Sarah-Jane Varley) along with their twin sons, Chad and Alex, and sends his bodyguard, Frank, home for the evening. However, Griffith betrays the Wagners and has them killed by the Triads, led by Moon (Bolo Yeung) and run by Raymond Zhang (Philip Chan). Frank is able to rescue one twin, Chad, while the twins’ nurse (Wu Fong Lung) rescues Alex and drops him off at an orphanage.

Twenty-five years later Alex’s whereabouts are discovered by Frank, and he whisks Chad off to Hong Kong to reunite the brothers. Understandably they don’t like each other much at first, but eventually they grudgingly work together in order to protect their birthright by exposing Zhang and Griffith. Danielle works for Griffith and is spying on him, so she is their man on the inside, so to speak.

Frank, Chad, and Alex hole up in a derelict hotel on an island, which seems like a difficult place from which to launch an attack, but it seems to work, more or less.

Zhang and the Triads try to convince Alex, a smuggler, to join Zhang’s crew, but they don’t realize they’re talking to Chad at the time. Rather than accept the job, Chad tells Alex and Frank about the drop Zhang told him about, and they blow up the factory that appeared to be making drugs. They also infiltrate and blow up a nightclub where Zhang and Griffith are doing business.

Kara, one of Zhang’s/Griffith’s henchmen, lets on that she knows Danielle is up to something, and wears a wire, which has Danielle calling Alex to tell him that her cover is blown. She reaches Chad, who hustles to the mainland to save her. Kara and some other henchmen chase them and follow them via helicopter, and she realizes they must be staying at the hotel. They come back the next morning and abduct Frank and Danielle in order to draw out Chad and Alex.

The plan works, and Alex and Chad follow them to a ship, where Frank and Danielle are held hostage in the boiler room. Chad and Alex fight and shoot their way down to them, killing the henchmen and Moon in the process (and stabbing Kara, but there’s no way she could be dead, if movies have taught us anything about realistic consequences of a small knife wound to the side). They rescue Frank and Danielle, and go after Zhang and Griffith. The film of course ends on a high note, with the twins emerging successful, though how countless murders mean they can get their family fortune back is unclear.

But navigating Chinese homicide and estate law is a topic for another time.

Kidding!

Let’s move on to the criteria!

A is for… Accents

The Wagner parents and Griffith are British.

Chad’s Van Damme accent is explained by Chad having been raised in France.

Alex has a less pronounced version of Van Damme’s accent, sort of, but if he grew up in Hong Kong, wouldn’t he have more of a Hong Kong accent? It’s doubtful English would have been his first language.

Zhang and Moon of course have Chinese accents.

Danielle is…maybe a different region of Britain? It was different from other more common British accents used in films.

B is for… Bad Guys

Griffith worked with the Wagners, and had them murdered when he no longer needed Wagner’s expertise on the tunnel project. He was an equity partner and secured the loan from Zhang’s family. His company is Transworld Exports.

Zhang is a crime lord hired to take out the Wagners. He seems very professional, and always wears a suit except for when his men are infiltrating the hotel, when he wears a camouflage shirt.

Moon is Zhang’s lead henchman. He’s initially seen in awkwardly-fitting suits, but the suits were covering up his massive upper body. His face is scarred during the opening gunfight with Paul Wagner and Frank, so he must stand out among other Triad members.

C is for… Chases

When Alex, his partner, and Frank and Chad are smuggling the two Mercedes, the police discover them, resulting in a relatively slow and drama-less chase on boats through the harbor.

Kara and the other henchmen chase Danielle and Chad on foot through the streets once Danielle’s cover is blown, and they end up climbing from boat to boat.

The ultimate climax of the film (for there are two, it seems, one with the deaths of Moon and Kara, and the other with the deaths of Zhang and Griffith) takes place in a shipyard, with Alex and Chad chasing Griffith and Zhang through the maze of cargo crates.

D is for… Damsels

Danielle is Alex’s girlfriend, who works for Griffith and has been trying to spy on him, though not very successfully, it seems, until now. She’s bottle blonde and beautiful, and Alex adores her to the point of irate drunkenness when she spends time with Chad.

Kara is one of Zhang’s henchmen, and for some reason she dresses like a dominatrix and sexually harrasses Danielle. She’s super tall and is a good fighter.

E is for… Explosions

After Chad tosses the two Mercedes overboard, Frank shoots the gas tanks to make them explode, letting the boat get far enough away from the police.

Alex, Chad, and Frank blow up Zhang’s factory using C-4.

At the Climax Club, Alex and Chad plant crates labeled as “cognac” that are actually bombs.

The flammable drums on the ship during the climax catch fire and explode.

F is for… Flashbacks

No flashbacks, though the probably would have helped explain Alex’s life a little better.

G is for… Guns

For details check out the IMFDB.

When the Wagners get back to their house after the tunnel is opened, they are met with guns. In the resulting shootout, the Wagner parents are killed and Moon is injured.

While smuggling the cars, Alex et al are forced into a shootout with the police.

Alex, Frank, and Chad have quite the arsenal in the derelict hotel.

Before blowing up Zhang’s factory, there is of course a shootout, during which Alex fires two handguns while rolling on the floor, and Frank has a gigantic telescope on his rifle.

At the Climax Club, the fish tank gets shot out.

When storming the hotel, Zhang’s men fire gas grenades through the windows. They then engage in a shootout with Chad and Alex whenever they find one of them.

There are of course various shootouts on the ship during the climax.

H is for… Helicopters

Zhang has one, or maybe it’s Griffith’s. They use it to hunt Chad and Danielle, then transport Zhang to the hotel.

I is for… Improvisation

Chad realizes that their boat is too slow because of the heavy cars on it, so he sends them into the water to make the boat lighter so it moves fast enough that they can get away from the cops.

Chad throws a gun to a thug so the thug reflexively catches it, allowing Chad to fight him.

Moon uses barrels on the ship like he’s Donkey Kong and Chad is Mario.

Zhang uses the fire extinguisher on Alex.

Alex uses huge gears on the crane to crush Zhang’s arm.

J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects

The long-haired henchman is kicked through a glass window.

K is for… Kill Count

Moon kills his own thug when the thug fails to injure Chad (whom everyone thinks is Alex at that point).

This is one of those films where it’s hard to really count the kills because there’s so many and because it’s unclear most of the time what’s a “kill” versus a “knock out.” Alex and Chad do kill the two guards on the ship when they first get there.

L is for… Limitations

Alex and Chad clearly have a difficult time working together, but anyone would if he or she suddenly learned they had a twin and had to infiltrate the Hong Kong underworld in order to claim their birthright.

It’s unclear what resources are available to Alex, Frank, and Chad. They obviously have a lot of weapons, including guns and C-4, but they are staying in a secluded, rundown hotel on an island. They have a boat and a cellular phone, but don’t seem to have anyone to turn to except the guy who runs the club Alex frequents.

There don’t seem to be any language barriers, but I don’t recall if Alex speaks Chinese in the film at all, even though it should be his first language. (then again, the little kids at the orphanage are singing “Frère Jacques,” so who knows.

M is for… Motivation

Zhang and Griffith killed the Wagners for the money. It seems that Zhang and Griffith didn’t even know that Alex, whom they seem to know, was one of the twins, though why would they? Once they realize there are two Alexes and thus one of them must be Chad, they want to kill him to get them out of the way and stop any further attacks.

Alex and Chad are prodded by Frank to take back what’s theirs. They want to collect the dividends earned on their father’s blood.

N is for… Negotiation

Zhang wants Alex to work for him and gives him time to think about it (though he’s talking to Chad at the time).

When it’s clear during the climax that Alex is going to kill Zhang, Zhang offers him half of everything to join him.

O is for… One Liners

Chad, during the goods exchange interrupted by the police: I almost got killed! …And by the way the cops are still chasing us.

Chad, at the derelict hotel: Can you show me one spot on the floor without bird shit on it?
Alex: Oh, sorry, we forgot to call the maid.

Chad, proud of his brother: I love Alex!
Alex, thinking Chad is sleeping with Danielle: I’m gonna kill him!

Alex: Now I’m drunk. Tomorrow I’ll be sober. But he’ll always be a faggot. (the line is funny because Alex is upset that he thinks Chad is sleeping with Danielle, which wouldn’t happen if Chad were gay.)

P is for… Profession

Chad is a fitness/aerobics/karate instructor in Frank’s business, and is perhaps a partner as well.

Alex is a smuggler and criminal in the Hong Kong underworld.

Q is for… Quagmire

Zhang and Moon abduct Frank and Danielle, and at that point the twins are not only fighting the thugs alone, they want nothing to do with each other. They must learn to set their differences aside in order to rescue their friends.

R is for… Reality, or the Suspension of Disbelief

There aren’t any unbelieveable stunts. However, it’s hard to imagine that Chad, a fitness instructor in Los Angeles, becomes a killer in a couple of days. It’s even harder to comprehend the plan: let’s kill everyone so we can claim our birthright! I know nothing about Hong Kong law, but I have to assume that if two guys come to me claiming to be lost twins owed money from twenty-five years ago, and that they can prove it because they killed a couple dozen people and caused some property damage, I’m more inclined to throw them in jail than have a sit-down about how to get them their money. It’s unclear how much evidence they have about anything at all, and certainly killing everyone involved can’t help.

S is for… Sidekicks

Frank Avery was the Wagners’ bodyguard, and when they were killed he raised Chad as if he were his nephew. He’s the one who finds Alex and brings Chad to Hong Kong, and provides necessary sniping and fighting.

Danielle is Alex’s girlfriend, and works for Griffith. She does eventually find information linking Griffith to the Wagners, but not before she raises too much suspicion. After that she gets abducted.

T is for… Technology

Alex uses a gigantic cellular phone, the kind that looks more like a radio than a phone.

Kara wears a wire when she tries to get Danielle to confess to espionage.

U is for… Unexpected Romance

There’s never any romance when the main character already has a woman, but Alex’s utterly irrational jealousy and fear has to be pointed out. Danielle never shows any interest in Chad once she understands that he’s not Alex, and Chad doesn’t seem like the type of guy to steal his brother’s girl. But rather than have faith in his lover and brother, Alex gets himself worked up into a jealous, violent fit by assuming Chad sleeps with Danielle. It’s ridiculous.

Unless, of course, the writers were trying to manufacture a way to have Chad and Alex fight, ensuring the audience got a Van Damme vs Van Damme fight that may have been promised in a trailer.

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

There really aren’t too many vehicles in the film other than Alex’s boat.

W is for… Winning

Zhang abducts Danielle and Frank, and takes them to his ship. Once they follow them to the ship, Chad and Alex work their way through several henchmen while trying to reach the boiler room, until Chad electrocutes Moon by knocking him into an electrical box and Alex stabs Kara while she’s trying to strangle him.

Zhang and Griffith flee to the docks, but Alex and Chad chase them down until Alex lets Zhang fall from a crane, and Chad crushes Griffith with a shipping container.

Cue the camera freeze-framing on Chad giving the “okay” symbol.

X is for… X-rays, or Maybe You Should See a Doctor

No one really gets severely injured here, beyond some bumps, scrapes, and cuts.

Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem

Obviously if Zhang’s hit on the Wagners had been completely successful, the twins wouldn’t have survived to come back. They wouldn’t have survived if Frank hadn’t chased after the Wagners once Paul knew they were being followed–had Zhang’s men not tried to copy Frank’s car to blend in, Paul wouldn’t have noticed because he’d told Frank to go home. It was seeing the identical car that piqued his suspicion.

During the shootout, Frank saw Griffith with Zhang. Why didn’t he go to the police then? Instead he abducted a baby and sat around for twenty-five years, letting the case get colder and colder, and giving Griffith more time to conceal the evidence?

Z is for… Zone, in the

Chad and Alex didn’t really seem to be in any sort of zone at all. Chad by his nature wouldn’t be, because he’s out of his element entirely. Alex is obviously comfortable with fighting and guns, but he’s never really shown to be making the plans, thinking through strategies, or executing flawlessly.

In Summation and Final Thoughts

Double Impact has a lot going for it, including a lot of action scenes, good casting with Geoffrey Lewis, Alonna Shaw, and Bolo Yeung, and of course the always enjoyable Van Damme. However, it suffers from an illogical plot. It’s easy to buy the twins-reunite-in-a-revenge-story plot, but unless their goal is to simple kill the people responsible for their parents’ deaths, they aren’t going to get anything for their efforts.

The film opens on a parade with a Chinese dragon. The last time that happened, I had to suffer through Year of the Dragon. This was not a good omen.

If the film takes place in roughly 1991, its release date, then the opening scene takes place in 1966, which explains why those infants are riding around in the backseat of the car with I don’t even think a seatbelt on them, let alone a proper child seat. It’s horribly jarring.

Paul Wagner realizes they’re being followed, so he just goes home? If they’re following him, they might know where he lives and have other people lying in wait.

The fake blood used during that opening shootout is a little too red and fake-looking.

Alex was dropped off at an orphanage, with no visible name tag or anything, yet he still grows up with the name “Alex.”

Van Damme’s characters are said to be only twenty-five years old. Even though Van Damme was only roughly 30 at the time of the production, he still didn’t look 25.

The introduction to the adult Chad prominently features a way too long take of his backside. We get it, he’s in great shape and can do splits.

The other karate instructor has a fantastic ‘80s mullet.

Chad takes the news of Frank not being his actual uncle quite well. “I’m not your uncle, even though that’s what I’ve been telling you your whole life.” “Okay.”

Those pink shorts Chad wears in Hong Kong… Clearly he’s wearing them so everyone can make fun of them, and deservedly. They aren’t even flattering. Combined with the shirt/tie combo he’s wearing during the Mercedes smuggling scene… Yikes. The ‘80s attack.

Van Damme and the wardrobe people did a great job of separating Chad and Alex, from the way they dress to their hair, to the way the twins carry themselves and the way Alex is always sucking on cigars. If I were just flipping through channels and not really paying attention, I might not have realized both roles were Van Damme.

Surprising for a movie or show about identical twins, they never do an intentional identity switching gambit. Instead, Chad is merely mistaken for Alex, and at the climax club they just make sure to dress alike and have only one of them visible at at time.

Speaking of cigars, between Zhang and Alex, there are a lot of cigars in this film. It’s very distracting, especially when Alex is speaking while holding one in his mouth. It’s not necessary.

I’d noticed during the scene where Zhang thinks Chad is Alex that Moon was wearing an oddly ill fitting suit, but it became apparent why when he strips down during the climax to display his huge upper body.

The film has one of those weird ‘80s action movie keyboard-heavy scores.

I’m not sure what to make of the lesbian scene where Kara hits on Danielle. Is she merely trying to make her uncomfortable because she suspects she’s spying? Or is she really interested in her? Is the scene simply fanservice?

Chad and Danielle hide out in the club Alex frequents, and constantly look out from the hidden room into the main bar through a fishtank. …it’s a fishtank, not two-way glass–eventually someone will see them if they keep standing there!

Danielle asks what proof they have that Griffith is corrupt, and Frank says they don’t need proof because he was there. Um… Yes, Frank, you do need proof. You get nothing without proof on a 25-year-old crime, especially when you eventually kill everyone involved.

Both Van Damme and Yeung eventually get shirtless, so there’s fanservice in the other direction.

The climax taking place on a ship and in the shipyard is sadly reminiscent of Wake of Death, a Van Damme venture that was not as entertaining as this one.

The film would probably be a minute or two shorter except there are many slow motion shots during the fighting. Kicks alone accounted for 16 slow motion shots.

The end credits credit the actors as portraying thugs, smugglers, and guards–not a lot of the characters have real names.

The end credit music–“Feel the impaaaaact,” by Gen. Classic.

C is for… Crank

After an unanticipated hiatus due to the library not supplying the DVD I requested, I am excited to finally present you with Crank. If Commando hadn’t been the supreme obvious choice for my first C movie, I would have done Crank in the first round of movies. I enjoyed it when I saw it when it came out, and enjoyed its sequel as well. It just…stood out, somehow, as a different sort of film–a serious (in an action movie kind of way) storyline with a heck of a lot of humor.

Crank, directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, stars Jason Statham as Chev Chelios, a professional hitman poisoned with “that Chinese shit” (aka the Beijing cocktail) by small time gang member Ricky Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo). The poison is expected to kill Chelios within an hour, but he can postpone his death by keeping up his adrenaline level, thereby flushing the poison through his system so it doesn’t bind to his adrenal glands. This results in a chase around Los Angeles as Chelios tries to find Verona to enact his revenge.

As he hunts down Verona with the help of various acquaintances including his boss Carlito (Carlos Sanz) and his friend (?) Kaylo (Efren Ramirez), he gets tips on how to keep up his heart rate from his doctor, played by Dwight Yoakam. After he lengthens his life by stealing epinephrine from a hospital, he has a moment of clarity where he explains to his girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart) that he is a professional killer. She doesn’t believe him. For some reason.

Kaylo eventually calls Chelios to tell him he knows where Verona is, and Chelios goes to meet him, only to find Kaylo dead on orders of Carlito. Chelios realizes that Verona’s claim that he and Carlito “are boys” is factual, and decides to take both of them out at Carlito’s penthouse. Here, the man who Chelios supposedly killed (Don Kim, played by Keone Young), whose death was the reason for the hit put out on him, starts a gunfight.

Verona kills Carlito, and Chelios and Verona engage in a fistfight while hanging out of a helicopter. Chelios is able to kill Verona, and while he falls to to his death he leaves a peaceful message for Eve on her answering machine.

I don’t normally like movies where the main character dies at the end, but this one was so different and fun and, well, adrenaline-rush-inducing, that I can’t help it. I think it was the first time I had ever seen Jason Statham in anything, and considering he’s in every single scene, it’s a pretty good introduction. The film is simly different, and has a lot of good things going for it including its action, humor, and soundtrack.

On to the criteria!

A is for… Accents

Jason Statham of course has his British accent, but it’s not explained why he’s a Brit working as a hitman for a Spanish man and killing Chinese men in Los Angeles.

Verona and Carlito are Hispanic.

Don Kim only speaks a few lines, but has his Chinese accent.

B is for… Bad Guys

What’s interesting is that the film is told literally from Chelios’s point of view a lot of the time, and the other shots focus on him, so the viewer doesn’t really know much about the other characters other than Chelios’s relationship with them.

We know Verona poisoned him, and eventually learn Carlito ordered that hit.

Carlito is who Chelios worked for, and orders the hit on Kaylo once Chelios’s rampage through Los Angeles to find Verona gets too out of hand.

Don Kim is a Triad drug lord that Carlito wanted to get rid of.

C is for… Chases

The whole film can be viewed as a sort of chase, as Chelios tries to outrace his dying heart.

The police chase Chelios through a mall, which is hilarious because the viewer never really sees him enter the mall, just him being in it after speaking with his doctor and explaining that’s where he is.

Chelios gets chased by the cops through the hospital.

Chelios gets chased by thugs at Don Kim’s shirt factory, first on foot and then away from the factory by car.

D is for… Damsels

The only woman in the film other than the doctor’s answering service (Valarie Rae Miller) is Chelios’s girlfriend Eve. She seems very sweet, if a bit ditzy. Amazingly she has absolutely no idea that her boyfriend is a hitman; he told her he designed video games. Once she believes him, she becomes vocal about it, and is saddened by his impending death.

Of note is that Carlito’s penthouse is decorated by women sitting in clear plastic spheres, purely as decoration. It’s unclear if these women alternate with the ones who get to sit around the pool.

E is for… Explosions

The only sort of explosion is the police motorcycle that catches fire.

F is for… Flashbacks

No flashbacks, just rehashing the video Verona made.

Well, Kaylo has a flashback to the previous night in a drag club.

G is for… Guns

Not surprisingly, Chelios carries a handgun around with him.

When he confronts Orlando (Reno Wilson) in the bathroom of his club, Reno’s posse shows up, all of them with handguns pointed at Chelios.

Some of the thugs at Carlito’s penthouse have rifles.

Verona’s brother winds his way through a restaurant kitchen with his gun, and Chelios ultimately uses this gun to kill the brother.

It’s not clear where Chelios thought he’d hide his weapon when he changed into the hospital gown, and it’s actually pretty funny the way he has it tucked into his armpit.

He steals a motorcycle cop’s handgun as a distraction so he can steal the motorcycle.

There’s a shootout above Don Kim’s shirt factory between Chelios and Carlito’s thugs.

The climactic shootout of course between Chelios and Don Kim against Verona, Carlito, and his men.

Verona shoots Carlito point blank in the chest.

H is for… Helicopters

Carlito has a helicopter on the roof of his penthouse, and later on in the film it’s where Chelios makes his last stand against Verona.

I is for… Improvisation

Throughout the film Chelios must improvise ways to keep up his adrenaline level:
-speeding
-cocaine
-a gang fight
-headbanging to “Achy Breaky Heart,” of all things
-energy drinks and packets
-nasal spray with epinephrine in it
-he has a nurse shock him with a defibrillator
-the entire epinephrine syringe
-standing on a moving motorcycle
-burning his hand in a waffle iron
-public sex
-“Haitian shit”
-roadhead
-synthetic ephedrine through an insulin pump

In addition to these ways to keep himself alive, he must also do the usual action hero thing and use his environment to his advantage:
-steals a cab and distracts the crowd by yelling that the driver is part of Al-Qaeda
-uses a cleaver to chop off Verona’s brother’s hand
-steals the motorcycle cop’s gun, then throws it away to distract him
-spills the contents of Eve’s purse to distract her from him killing a thug
-shoves a thug’s hand through a sewing machine
-uses a wine bottle as a projectile

J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects

When driving through the mall he crashes through various displays and kiosks.

He crashes his stolen motorcycle and smashes into the tables outside a cafe.

K is for… Kill Count

Verona’s brother.

The second thug at Eve’s apartment (and he seriously injured the first one).

The thug on the roof of the shirt factory. He clearly knew him.

At least two thugs at the shirt factory. After that, it’s hard to determine who he kills or just injures.

L is for… Limitations

Obviously Chelios has the mother of all distractions while he’s running around Los Angeles–he has to keep running or he’ll die.

His judgment is also clouded by his obvious and all encompassing need for revenge.

He has a very tight time limit, which means he’s not doing anything carefully and has the police looking for the guy rampaging through LA.

M is for… Motivation

Verona wants to get rid of Chelios for the hit he supposedly completed against Don Kim. After Chelios kills his brother, he wants to kill Chelios for revenge.

Chelios wants to stay alive, or at least prolong the inevitable until he can get revenge on Verona.

Carlito explains that Don Kim was supposed to get his bullets, and in return Hong Kong would get a goat (Chelios) to take the fall.

N is for… Negotiation

Chelios tells Orlando, “Tell me where he is, or I’ll blow your brains through the fucking toilet.”

Chelios tells Don Kim to disappear for 48 hours or he’ll complete the hit.

Chelios tells Verona to meet him in order to get his brother’s necklace back, or he’ll give it to a prostitute.

O is for… One Liners

The doctor’s answering service: Spell that for me.
Chelios: D-E-A-D, Chelios.

Kaylo: Where are we?
Chelios: I’m dead, and you’re simple.

Chelios: I’m going to get that fucker if it’s the last thing I do. …It might be the last thing I do.

Verona: We’re tight.
Chelios: You haven’t been tight since your brother fucked you in third grade.

Chelios: I’m looking for something that starts with an E.
Pharmacist: England?

Eve: Don’t talk to him like that–My boyfriend kills people!!

P is for… Profession

Chelios is a professional killer, and does work for Carlito specifically, and in general he “freelances for a major West Coast crime syndicate.” He was assigned to kill Don Kim, but the supposed hit brought too much attention from Hong Kong, so he had to die himself.

One of the funniest lines in the movie is when he tells Eve, “You know I told you I was a video game programmer. …That was a lie.”

Q is for… Quagmire

Throughout most of the movie Chelios can be considered to be in a quagmire, what with the time limit, mission he set for himself, the fact that he has to keep moving or die, and just the sheer amount he has to improvise and make things up as he singlemindedly goes to find Verona.

R is for… Reality, or Suspension of Disbelief

The basic idea is probably real enough, but the film plays fast and loose with how well each method of maintaining his adrenaline would work. This is one of those movies where the viewer has to “just go with it.”

S is for… Sidekicks

Kaylo’s relationship to Chelios is unclear–is he a friend? Partner? Coworker? All the viewer really knows about him is he enjoys drag and tacos. He dies needlessly and horribly.

The doctor is readily on the phone with Chelios, but it’s unclear what type of doctor he is, or if he’s a real doctor, or if he only works with the criminal element. He does his job, though, keeping Chelios alive long enough for him to kill Verona.

T is for… Technology

We’re finally getting to the point of technology where seeing a DVD in a film is distracting because of the antiquated tech.

The only way Chelios is able to accomplish anything is because he has a cellphone. He never would have been able to stay alive as long as he did either with his own limited knowledge, or by having to stop constantly to call people. He even makes a point, in his first message to Eve, that she needs a cellphone.

Verona is in the backseat of an SUV with TVs in the backs of the front seats, and his thug is playing a videogame on one.

U is for… Unexpected Romance

Unlike most of the films reviewed on this site, the main character has a girlfriend whom he seems to really love and care about, enough to run away with her, but not enough to leave her out of his torrid business.

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

Chelios drives his car through a mall. He also crashes a motorcycle. He’s not really using the vehicles as weapons, but he does make a mess.

W is for… Winning

Chelios engages in a standoff with Carlito and Verona. He mimes shooting a thug with his finger, but the man is actually shot by Don Kim, who has teamed up with Chelios. There’s a massive shootout on the roof of the penthouse.

Carlito’s helicopter lands and he climbs in, only to be shot by Verona. Verona throws him out and takes his place, but Chelios is able to grab onto the railings as the helicopter lifts off the roof.

After an intense fistfight, considering Chelios is barely alive and Verona had shot off most of the fingers on his left hand, Chelios pulls Verona from the helicopter. As they fall, he breaks Verona’s neck.

Chelios continues to fall, and leaves a rather sweet message on Eve’s answering machine. The last shot of the film is him landing on a car in the street and bouncing off of it and out of frame, then landing facing the camera. He blinks, the film cuts to black, and there’s the sound of one heartbeat.

Roll credits.

It’s a bit of a downer ending until the viewer remembers there’s a sequel (one that was just as entertaining as the first film).

X is for… X-Rays, or Maybe You Should See A Doctor

Chelios probably should have sought medical attention from the second he realized Verona injected him with poison. But if he did that he wouldn’t have been able to hunt down Verona.

While his heart is alternately racing and stopping, Chelios is in a lot of fist- and gunfights, and does get banged up.

He crashes that police motorcycle while still wearing the hospital gown. He should be in a lot of pain and probably be bleeding.

There’s no way he’d be able to function well and fight the way he does after burning his hand in the waffle iron.

He is SHOT IN THE BUTT and keeps on running. The doc does give him meth later and likely stitches him up, but he’s got to be in some level of pain.

Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem

Chelios was contracted to kill a guy he shouldn’t have been contracted to kill, which is why Verona poisoned him.

In an interesting turn of events, Chelios likely only lives to kill Verona because Don Kim is still alive and helps him at the penthouse.

Z is for… Zone, In The

Chelios is seemingly always in his element–The entire movie sort of plays out as a preparation montage seen in other action movies. He’s always a step in the right direction, planning where he’s going next or acting immediately on the information he’s given. There aren’t a lot of wasted minutes because he doesn’t have any.

It’s more helpful to point out when he isn’t in the Zone, because he’s hilarious awkward when he’s not trying to be the ass-kicking hitman, such as when he’s trying to be a regular boyfriend in Eve’s apartment (fixing the microwave), or when he standing in line at the hospital pharmacy. He looks much more comfortable rampaging through the convenience store in the beginning of the film, or using Kaylo’s body for a shield in the shirt factory, than he does being a normal guy. He even rocks the hospital gown covering his erection.

In Summation

I enjoyed this movie when it came out, and I enjoyed watching it again for this review. It’s surprisingly funny, has a lot of action, and even though he’s kind of a scumbag, you care about the main character.

Notes:

The soundtrack is great. There are a few outlier songs, including “Achy Breaky Heart” and “Let’s Get It On,” but the music really fits the action on the screen and gets the viewer revved up.

There’s a clear videogame feel to the film, from the 8-bit design credits, to the words occasionally put on the screen, to the post-credit scene that actually depicts Chelios as a videogame character. It’s a unique way to tell the story of an action movie that isn’t actually about video games.

I remember finding his name distracting the first time I saw it, and remembering that was distracting now. “Chev Chelios” is too similar to “Chris Chelios,” a professional hockey player around the time the film came out, or even before. Neither here nor there, just kind of distracting.

Some of the shaky camerawork is reminiscent of Saw, particularly the scenes in the latter where the victims are first discovering they’re in a trap, and also when James Wan and Leigh Whannel had to make it look like they were filming a sort of car race with two stationary cars. The plotline is reminiscent of the old film DOA, except instead of having a couple days to figure out who killed him, Chelios has an hour to figure out how to kill Verona. Other parts, specifically the running montage after he injects himself with the epinephrine, and when he’s walking around with the erection, are reminiscent of segments on Jackass. Watching the film is also like watching someone play Grand Theft Auto.

Snorting coke off the bathroom floor of a club? So incredibly gross. It’s unclear if Orlando is grossed out at that point because of the snorting it off the floor thing, or because he thinks Chelios’s hands are shaking and he spills it because he needs a hit so bad.

Chelios’s phone’s ringtone was incredibly annoying, but I can only surmise it was chosen to represent Chelios’s heart–it starts out strong, the fades away as it continues.

The many different uses of camera techniques and editing really add to the frenetic pace of the film, and always keep it visually interesting and different. There’s a lot of different sorts of camera angles, security footage, split screens, Google Maps establishing shots, text printed on the screen, and random screens and visuals throughout. A lot of work was put into having the visuals match the theme and the music match them both.

Crank is a very fun film, and definitely worth at least one viewing.

B is for… The Bourne Identity

For some reason I had a lot of trouble coming up with a B movie to do. Even the one I ultimately chose, The Bourne Identity, is more suspense/thriller than action. However, on the action scale, it beats out several films I’ve reviewed, including Vehicle 19 and Year of the Dragon, but those lowered the bar of comparison so incredibly far, it’s not saying much to surpass them. I remember seeing The Bourne Identity in theaters, and remember not being blown away by it, and after watching it again, I can understand why it didn’t blow me away back then.

The film itself is based on the novel by Robert Ludlum, and stars Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, a man who wakes up on a fishing boat with no memory of who he is or how he got there. All he has is a bank account number that was in a small device implanted in his hip. Obviously his first stop once the boat reaches the mainland is to get to Zurich to go to the bank. At the bank he has a safety deposit box which houses several identifications, a gun, and thousands of dollars in cash in various currencies. Even though he lives in Paris, according to the passport he finds, he knows he is American and goes to the American Embassy in Zurich.

Meanwhile, the story keeps cutting to the CIA, and its agents (lead by Chris Cooper) describe in vague terms that Bourne must be dealt with. He is attacked at the Embassy, narrowly escapes by climbing down the side of the building, and negotiates a ride to Paris with Marie (Franka Potente), a German woman with no money, no place to live, and nowhere to go due to identification issues. Once in Paris they find his apartment, where they are ultimately attacked by an assassin activated by the CIA. Bourne figures out that obviously there is someone trying to kill him, and narrowly escapes either of them being killed or captured. They hole up in a hotel, and Bourne tries to determine their next move.

Meanwhile, the CIA keeps talking about Bourne and an African radical, Wombosi (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), who Bourne was supposed to kill while posing as John Michael Kane. Wombosi tracks down this identity after his supposed death, but knows he’s still alive because he body at the morgue hadn’t been shot. Wombosi’s storyline is ended when another assassin activated by the CIA shoots him through a window with a sniper rifle. Bourne and Marie track John Michael Kane’s last movements and learn he was interested in Wombosi and his yacht, which is all the more apparent when Bourne sees that Wombosi signed the visitor log at the morgue while looking for Kane.

In an attempt to escape and find asylum, Bourne and Marie go to a home of a family member, not expecting him to actually live there. The assassin who shot Wombosi finds them there and dies while trying to hunt Bourne. Before he dies he gives Bourne information about Treadstone, and Bourne has enough pieces to know he is also an assassin trained by the CIA’s Treadstone. At this point Marie leaves with her family and most of Bourne’s acquired money, and Bourne goes back to Paris. He arranges a meeting with the CIA, but knows the man he wants to meet isn’t alone and doesn’t fall for the trap. Instead he sneaks into the hotel where the CIA agents are staying, and learns from them the truth about himself, that his Kane identity was supposed to shoot Wombosi and make it look like an inside job, but he wasn’t able to complete the mission. The CIA agents are left alone while Bourne fights more assassins in the staircase.

Ultimately, the CIA agent’s boss has him assassinated by another Treadstone assassin, and project Treadstone is shut down due to it not being financially sound (supposedly, of course). The last scene of the film is Bourne finding the scooter shop Marie opened, and them rekindling their relationship.

And they lived happily ever after.

Until the sequel.

On to the criteria!

A is for… Accents

The film is very indicative of the linked nature of European countries. Bourne winds up on an Italian fishing boat, then travels to Zurich, where he meets a German woman, then travels to Paris, yet ultimately he is hunting down an African man.

B is for… Bad Guys

It’s a little hard to pin down the villain in the film, because Bourne himself doesn’t know what’s going on. It eventually becomes clear-ish that if we’re rooting for assassin Jason Bourne, clearly the CIA agents are the bad guys, because they’re trying to kill our hero. Bourne is the CIA’s operative and he failed his mission, so therefore they need him dead. To do so they activate other snipers in the Treadstone project, whom Bourne must fight while he tries to figure out what’s going on.

Wombosi is described as being a CIA whistle-blower, implicating high-level agents in dubious activities, which is why they need him killed.

C is for… Chases

Bourne is chased on foot through the American Embassy in Zurich.

There is a long car chase through the streets of Paris after Bourne and Marie are found there. This chase is visually very interesting because the second half of it is against oncoming traffic, so it must have been hard to film.

D is for… Damsels

Marie is introduced in the Embassy, having trouble getting her identification sorted out. She also clearly needs money. The CIA describes her as a “domestic disaster” and a “gypsy” who is hard to track because she moves around so much.

After she and Bourne survive being shot at and chased, he gives her money to go off without him and start a new life for herself.

E is for… Explosions

At Marie’s relative’s farm, Bourne shoots a truck to create a fireball that will provide him cover as he runs away from the house.

F is for… Flashbacks

At the end of the film we finally get some of Bourne’s memories as he remembers sneaking through Wombosi’s yacht, all set to kill him, gun against his head. Then he sees that the man’s children are there, and Bourne has second thoughts and does not kill him.

G is for… Guns

Check out details at the IMFDB.

One of the items in the security box in the bank is a handgun.

When accosted in the Embassy, Bourne snags a handgun off one of the guards.

The Embassy itself has a room full of assault rifles.

The assassin who attacks Bourne and Maria in the Paris apartment has a rifle, and Bourne fires back with another rifle.

Bourne is shot at at Maria’s relative’s farm with a sniper rifle, but he ultimately shoots that assassin with a shotgun.

Bourne and the CIA agent have a standoff at the hotel.

After he tries to leave the CIA agent, Bourne is involved in a firefight in which he fires a handgun upside down. There’s then a shootout in that staircase.

A higher-level CIA agent has the agent after Bourne shot by another assassin from the Treadstone project.

H is for… Helicopters

A rare example of an action movie that has no images of a helicopter at all.

I is for… Improvisation

When escaping the Embassy, Bourne hangs underneath a tiny balcony so he isn’t seen. He then climbs down the side of the building.

When attacked in his apartment, Bourne uses a regular pen to successfully incapacitate his attacker.

J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects

The assassin at the apartment charges through a glass door to get inside. After he is defeated he throws himself through the glass door to the balcony and over the edge to fall to his death in the street.

Bourne, to get away from the shootout in the staircase at the hotel, leaps through the center of the stairs and falls to the floor, using the body of one of the assassins as a cushion.

K is for… Kill Count

Despite Bourne being a trained assassin, he only kills three of assassins who are trying to kill him (the one in the field and the two at the hotel). The first assassin kills himself.

L is for… Limitations

In addition to the no memories thing, which I’ll talk about below under “Quagmire,” Bourne gets headaches as a side effect of the Treadstone programming.

He also cannot trust anyone because he doesn’t know who he is or who is after him.

Like any movie where the protagonist has a civilian sidekick, that sidekick is always a liability, not matter how helpful he or she may be.

M is for… Motivation

At first Bourne’s sole motivation is to find out who he is. Once he starts being chased and hunted, he’s also trying not to die. Once he learns all he can, he wants to stop the Treadstone project (or at least his part in it) and the agents involved, so that they leave him alone.

The CIA agents and Treadstone want their asset, Bourne, back, because he botched the mission and they need to end him.

N is for… Negotiation

Bourne, to Marie: You need money, I need a ride out of here.

The CIA Agent, to Bourne: Come in, or we have to kill you.

Bourne makes the CIA agent meet him on his own terms, alone on the bridge, which the Agent of course can’t fulfill because he needs other agents with him.

When Bourne is face-to-face with the CIA agent, he tells him: Tell them Jason is dead. Do not follow me, or I will bring the fight back. I’m on my own side now.

O is for… One Liners

Bourne: I don’t remember anything before two weeks ago.
Marie: Lucky you.

Bourne: I’m trying to do the right thing.
Marie: Nobody does the right thing.

CIA Agent, about the Paris police not knowing how to properly do a stakeout: Why don’t they hang a banner that says, ‘Don’t come back.’

CIA Agent: Do you have a better idea?
CIA Agent’s Boss: You’ve given me nothing but a trail of collateral damage from Zurich to Paris. I don’t think I could do much worse.

CIA Agent: Why don’t you go upstairs and book a conference room? Maybe you can talk him to death.

Bourne: You think I could rent a scooter?
Marie: You have ID?
Bourne: Not really.

P is for… Profession

There are several hints towards Bourne’s profession throughout the early parts of the film. One is that he is a polyglot and knows at least English, French, and German.

He is also highly skilled in hand-to-hand combat, even if he doesn’t remember any actual training, as evidenced by his fight on the Italian fishing boat, the German policemen in the park, and the guards at the American Embassy.

He’s also highly observant, as demonstrated during his conversation with Marie at the diner where he explains everything he’s noticed about their surroundings.

Eventually it’s explained that Bourne is one of the assassins trained in the CIA’s Treadstone project, which trained men to be assassins using a sort of behavioral software that taught them to follow protocol. The CIA Agent describes them as being “government property,” and that he doesn’t simply send the assassins in to kill, he sends them in to be invisible. The assassin at the farm explains that they always work alone.

Q is for… Quagmire

The driving crux of the movie is that Bourne has no idea who he is, and the majority of the film is him following clues to determine his identity. As he explains to Marie, “[he doesn’t] know who [he] is or where [he’s] going.” He can’t make any real decisions without the clues, and other than his training he can’t really make any educated choices about his next steps. Meanwhile, while’s he’s trying to piece together his life, he’s being hunted.

R is for… Reality, or Suspension of Disbelief

Everything in the film seemed entirely plausible except for the fall through the stairs at the hotel. He should have broken his legs.

S is for… Sidekicks

Like many of the other films I’ve reviewed, here the “damsel” is also the “sidekick.” With the exception of the drive to Paris, her involvement is educated and voluntary. She seems to find Bourne attractive right away which may be why she stayed with him so long.

T is for… Technology

The CIA offices are full of clunky looking huge gray computer monitors, which seem like they’d be anachronistic, but maybe tech really did change that much since 2002.

Bourne uses several payphones, which makes sense considering he doesn’t have a phone, but it’s noticeable.

The CIA uses security cameras to track Bourne, and they must have a good network connection to receive them from Zurich that quickly.

The Treadstone agent uses various bits of surveillance equipment to track down Bourne and surveil phone lines and police bans.

U is for… Unexpected Romance

One of the many films where the romance is tacked-on and utterly expected. There’s a picture of Bourne and Marie kissing on the DVD case! The problem is that it seems kind of forced or illogical; if I just had to flee for my life with a stranger, I don’t think I’d sleep with him, no matter how attractive he is.

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

During the car chase through Paris, Bourne steers so that cars around him crash and block the police from getting close to him.

W is for… Winning

Bourne eventually learns of his existence in the Treadstone project, and corners the CIA agent at a hotel, where they have a standoff and he tells the Agent to leave him alone and not come after him. Bourne leaves by shooting two more assassins. The CIA agent is killed by another assassin, sent by his boss, who was tired of the agent’s incompetence. The Treadstone project is decommissioned, or that’s what a board of agents is told.

Bourne himself tracks Marie to her new life on the coast as a scooter salesperson.

X is for X-Rays

Bourne doesn’t seem to have a scratch on him until he falls several flights onto a floor with only another body as his cushion, and even then he seems to only have a cut on his head.

Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem

Clearly something was wrong with the Treadstone programming if Bourne can’t remember anything, and failed his mission.

Z is for… Zone, In The

Anytime Bourne uses his hand-to-hand skills must be considered as him being in the zone because he isn’t thinking about anything he’s doing, it’s all just muscle memory.

In Summation

The Bourne Identity is a well-received film that spawned three sequels already, the others also based on books. Without the books as source material, it’s unknown if the film sequels would have been made. I personally find the film a little slow for my own liking.

Staircases seem to be a major theme; that, or they’re just very noticeable. There’s the massive staircase in the background at the bank, there’s the staircase chase at the Embassy, there’s the pretty staircase in the apartment building, and the tall staircase at the hotel where Bourne has his final stand.

My basic German came in handy; I could read “Die Zwei Hunde” as “The Two Dogs” on a building behind Bourne at one point.

Marie goes with Bourne to his apartment in Paris, and then immediately decides to take a bath. Is that strange? I think that’s strange. Asking to use his bathroom doesn’t immediately conjure up permission to bathe, in my opinion.

The Paris police and the CIA Agents are absolutely terrible at keeping a low profile in order to capture Bourne. Even in the scene where the main agent is supposed to be meeting Bourne alone on the bridge, he’s wearing a clearly visible earpiece. They should all be embarrassed.

The Treadstone project seems to be run by a woman, which is pretty cool.

The description of each CIA agent and assassin is left vague due to the film’s depiction of them that way.

So, the movie has a lot of good things to it, even though it’s more of a spy thriller than an action movie. It’s just not really my personal cup of tea.

A is for… Air Force One

It originally hadn’t occurred to me to do Air Force One for this site because I’d seen it many times when I was a teenager, and didn’t remember it quite fitting my (admittedly broad) model. But I kept seeing it on Amazon, and also remembered that Andrew Divoff (of Interceptor fame) plays a terrorist, and I figured that I could round out a nice little trio of ‘films with airplanes that also have dogfights,’ (after Interceptor and The Zone), and bring my list back around to movies my readers might have actually seen (the last of which I’m guessing was XXX, and isn’t that a sad little nugget?).

Thus, I sat down for Air Force One, a movie I haven’t seen in a long time, but had seen many times in high school. I enjoyed it a lot, and realized it fits this site better than I remembered, even if it is a little ‘Hollywoody,’ for lack of a better term.

Air Force One, directed by Wolfgang Petersen, opens on American soldiers raiding a military base in Kazakhstan, and the movie informs the viewer that Kazakhstan was formerly part of Russia. It’s bizarre to think that people wouldn’t know that, but Kazakhstan had been an independent country for only a few years at the time the movie was made, so they probably wouldn’t have at that time. Anyway, the American soldiers arrest General Radek (Jurgen Prochnow, who I’m now realizing played the villain Phillips in Interceptor), and the film jumps to United States President Jim Marshall (Harrison Ford) receiving an honor for his work catching Radek. He then gives a rousing speech about how the US will no longer negotiate with terrorists, and will no longer sit idle while they terrorize.

Cut to Air Force One being boarded by the President, half of his cabinet, his family, and a news crew. Of course it’s not long before the news crew is revealed to be a group of terrorists led by Ivan Korshunov (Gary Oldman), who take over Air Force One in order to have Radek released, and they are secretly aided by a Secret Service Agent (Gibbs, played by Xander Berkeley) who is loyal to Radek. The President is shoved into the escape pod, but of course instead of leaving the plane, he stays aboard to save his family.

The rest of the film is a “Die Hard on a Plane” sort of thriller where Marshall tries to outwit Ivan, even as more hostages get killed as the Vice President Kathryn Bennett (Glenn Close) tries to meet Ivan’s demands, or at least pretend to meet them. Marshall fights off a number of Ivan’s men, and eventually makes it to the conference room where the hostages are being held. They come up with a plan to parachute out of Air Force One, and most of them make it. However, Ivan had smartly separated Marshall’s family (wife Grace and daughter Alice, played by Wendy Crewson and Liesel Matthews, respectively), so Marshall has to continue fighting to find them.

Marshall is ultimately taken, and finally agrees to free Radek when Ivan threatens to kill Alice. The final showdown occurs between Ivan and Marshall at the cargo area of the plane when Ivan tries to escape and threatens Grace. Marshall is able to fight him and strangle him with a strap and the force of an open parachute. So, all is well, and everyone is safe.

Except not, because when Marshall shot and killed Ivan’s second in command, Kolchak (Elya Baskin), he killed the only person who knew how to fly the plane. The rest of the movie is almost a typical “Can anyone fly this plane?” disaster movie, as Marshall and one of the officers, Major Caldwell (William H. Macy), have to try to fly the plane. But wait, there’s a dogfight between Kazakhstani militants loyal to Radek (who was killed as he tried to escape prison), and US fighter jets sent to guide Air Force One.

In the dogfight, Air Force One is badly damaged, to the point where attempting to land would prove fatal. A so-crazy-it-just-might-work zipline-style rescue mission is concocted, and another military aircraft connects a cable between itself and AIr Force One to provide a means to get the remaining passengers off of Air Force One. It is only when there is one last strap to slide down and there is still Marshall, Gibbs, and Caldwell to transport that Gibbs reveals that he was the the traitor all along. Sadly, he shoots Caldwell, and then he and Marshall fight over the strap. Marshall of course is victorious, and as Air Force One crashes into the sea Marshall flies along behind it on the cable that had connected the planes. It’s a harrowing few minutes, but of course he is rescued, and everyone can celebrate.

On to the criteria!

A is for… Accents

Obviously, Ivan and his men are from Kazakhstan, so they have a Russian accent. Here is just one film in their careers where Gary Oldman and Andrew Divoff are able to showcase their dialect and language talents.

B is for… Bad Guys

General Radek is described as a militant Kazakhstani soldier who wants to overthrow the new government and return to Communist roots.

Ivan is a Radek supporter, and takes the President’s plane hostage in order to secure Radek’s release from prison. Ivan is depicted as arrogant and methodical, and is also a zealot trying to rid his country of western influence, and the “infection [called] freedom.” Oddly, he smokes on the plane, which is just a terrible idea.

Gibbs is Ivan’s inside man on Air Force One, who kills other Secret Service agents and unlocks the weapons locker so Ivan and his men can get at the guns. Gibbs has any number of chances to demonstrate his disloyalty to Marshall, but supports him up until the very last second when only one of them can survive. Ironically, had he come out as a traitor earlier, Marshall might have kept him prisoner–alive–instead of killing him (albeit indirectly). No reason for his treason is given.

C is for… Chases

Again, with a film that takes place mostly on an airplane, it’s a little hard to have a chase scene, but Radek supporters do take off after Air Force One in MiGs. It’s actually a fairly harrowing sequence, considering Air Force One is being piloted by two guys who have no idea what they’re doing, and the Radek supporters are highly angry. Fortunately American fighters get to Air Force One before it is shot down.

D is for… Damsels

Marshall’s main motivating force in the film, even above his duty to his cabinet and country, are to his wife Grace and his daughter Alice. Grace is a fairly typical damsel in distress at first, kind of sitting there crying, but during the final showdown with Ivan she keeps insisting Radek not be released, and then when Ivan has a gun to her head, she knocks it out of the way long enough for Marshall to fight him. She also holds a gun on them while they fight, just in case she gets a clear shot. After Marshall kills Ivan, he and Grace embrace and kiss, and she notably pushes him away and tells him to make sure Radek doesn’t escape. It’s great she can put international security in front of reconnecting with her husband, considering all he went through to try to make sure Radek wasn’t released. To quote Seth Gecko (George Clooney) in From Dusk Till Dawn, “Fight now, cry later!”

Alice is described as being twelve years old and eager to grow up, and she does stand up to Ivan as much as she can while tied up.

Marshall’s VP is Kathryn Bennet, who is of course depicted as fierce and no-nonsense, because otherwise she shouldn’t be Vice President. One of her attributes that makes her such a good partner for Marshall is of course that she has unwavering faith in his abilities as a leader, and does everything she can to support him from thousands of miles away while he’s fighting for his life on Air Force One.

E is for… Explosions

In another tiny connection to Interceptor, Air Force One must be refueled in midair. Unfortunately the cargo bay door, when it opens for the parachuters, sends an alert to the cockpit, and Ivan realizes that his hostages are escaping. When he has Kolchak pull away from the fueler, sparks fly from the broken equipment, and the tanker is quickly engulfed and explodes.

During the dogfight, Air Force One’s fourth engine is caught by machine gun fire and explodes.

Three MiGs are shot down by American fighters, and boy, do those things go up like they’re made of C-4.

Halo 2, one of the American fighters, sacrifices himself rather than let a missile hit Air Force One.

When Air Force One crashes into the water and breaks into pieces, it does not explode in a fireball like a person might expect. Either the producers wanted Air Force One’s final moments to be visible as it smashes into pieces, or they remembered that Air Force One was low on fuel, so it blowing up wouldn’t make much sense.

F is for… Flashbacks

No flashbacks; the film basically takes place over the span of a few hours, with no backwards storytelling.

G is for… Guns

Check out full details at the IMFDB.

The film opens with parachuting soldiers firing silenced guns at Radek’s men.

There are tons of little firefights aboard Air Force one, but they are notable because the terrorists are using the guns that were already aboard Air Force One, because as the Secretary of Defense (Dean Stockwell) explains, there is no way to actually get guns aboard the plane.

It’s just a little unbelievable that so many guns would be used aboard an airplane. Yes, Air Force One is bullet resistant, but it’s still an airplane flying at 30,000 feet in the air. You’d think that Ivan would want to minimize the chance of someone puncturing the fuselage.

H is for… Helicopters

All of the helicopters in the film are military, and include the one that takes Radek away from his compound, and the one that brings VP Bennett to the White House.

I is for… Improvisation

Ivan shoots at C-4 on the door handle in order to break into the cockpit.

Marshall turns up the volume on the TV to get a thug’s attention.

When cornered by the bathrooms, Marshall, rather than hide in them, tricks the thugs into thinking he’s in them, when he’s really riding the galley’s elevator down to the supply area.

Knowing he needs more at his disposal than whatever weapons he can find lying around, Marshall digs through people’s luggage, though it’s unclear whether he’s specifically looking for a phone, or is simply looking for anything that might prove useful. He seems to stop after he finds the phone.

Marshall figures out that he might be able to force the plane to land by dumping the fuel.

A thug, unable to get into the locked cargo bay when the hostages are escaping, uses a canister as an explosive (by shooting it) in order to get the door open.

Marshall, when his hands are bound by duct tape, uses broken glass to cut the tape.

J is for… Jumping Through Solid Objects

Marshall smashes Divoff’s character’s head through the glass door of a refrigerator. (Divoff’s character is named Boris Bazylev, but I don’t think he’s called that in the movie.)

K is for… Kill Count

After a while it’s hard to tell how many thugs Marshall is able to take down because there are so many gunfights, but he very clearly kills the thug outside the conference room when he puts him in a sleeper hold, and Kolchak when he shoots him in the head.

L is for… Limitations

You’d think being trapped on an airplane hijacked by terrorists would really be a limitation, but by being able to reach the White House with a cell phone, and by being able to reach his staff on the plane, Marshall really isn’t in all that terrible of a position. Relatively.

One problem is that on the ground, the Secretary of Defense says there are no “airborne scenarios” if Air Force One is hijacked, which seems crazy. Even Bennett asks if it really is that easy to take the plane, which clearly it is, so why aren’t there any scenarios? Scrambling for possible scenarios given the inherent limitations is somewhat reminiscent of the scene in Apollo 13 when a tub of equipment is dumped on a table and the scientists are told to figure something out. The difference is that in Apollo 13 they do figure something out, while in Air Force One the Secretary of Defense says all the scenarios are terrible.

Perhaps Marshall’s biggest hindrance is that his family is on board; even the Secretary of Defense tells Bennett that Marshall is acting as a husband and father, not a President. His is not thinking as clearly as he might if he didn’t have a personal stake in the outcome.

M is for… Motivation

Ivan’s motivation is to free General Radek because he wants Kazakhstan back under communist rule.

Marshall of course wants to save his family and his staff, and also his reputation, the one he just established about not negotiating with terrorists.

N is for… Negotiation

It is said several times throughout the film that the President will not negotiate, and Marshall stands pretty firmly on that tenet until Ivan has a gun to his daughter’s head.

Ivan’s initial tactic to get Radek released is to tell Bennett that he will execute a hostage every half an hour until Radek is released.

The Secretary of Defense describes Ivan as a zealot who will be tough to negotiate with, and that the only thing that can be done is to wear him down.

Vice President Bennett tries to negotiate with Russian President Petrov (Alan Woolf) in order to get Radek released so that the Americans can apprehend him as soon as possible, but Petrov says he’d only do it if he could guarantee Marshall is still alive, but no one yet knows of his whereabouts at that time.

When the Security Advisor (Tom Everett) is killed, after trying to explain to Ivan that the Vice President can’t actually do anything and if he weren’t on the plane he’d be in charge, Ivan explains to Bennett that the advisor is a very good negotiator, and that he bought everyone an extra half hour when he shoots him.

After Marshall dumps the fuel, Ivan he tells Bennett that he will kill one hostage every minute until the plane crashes or it gets refueled.

Ivan explains that once Air Force One crosses into Kazakhstan, the American fighters must turn around, and if they violate Kazakhstani airspace, he will execute a member of the first family.

After Radek is in the process of getting released, Ivan tells Marshall that if anything happens to Radek, he will kill his wife.

O is for… One Liners

Marshall, after being told the Russian was a nice touch to his speech: Tell my mother. She wanted me to study French.

Press Secretary Melanie Mitchell (Donna Bullock): I told them you’d give them a soundbite about life in the White House.
Marshall: There is no life in the White House.

Secretary of Defense: I’m in charge here.
Bennett: Seems to me they’re in charge.

Marshall, to the communications woman (Messiri Freeman) who comes up with the idea of the fax machine: If this works, you get to be Postmaster General.

Marshall: Have you no honor?
Ivan: I’ll count to five.

Grace: You said you were going to release us.
Ivan: Forgive me, I lied.

Marshall: Get off my plane!

P is for… Profession

Marshall is obviously the President of the United States of America, and is one of those with formal combat experience, specifically as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He has also flown small planes. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service.

Marshall is depicted as a man who does what should be done, not necessarily the safe thing. He has no intention of giving up Radek until it’s his daughter who is directly threatened.

Q is for… Quagmire

Towards the end, when Ivan has the Marshall family tied up, and knows he has all the control, Marshall really would be in a quagmire. ….except the viewer knows he has the broken glass and will be able to cut through his bindings.

All things considered, Marshall really does have a lot of control of the situation compared to other characters who have been in similar situations.

R is for… Reality, or Suspension of Disbelief

Like Bennett, I’m wondering if it’s really that easy to hijack Air Force One. To quote Judd Hirsch in Independence Day, “It’s Air Force One, for crying out loud.” There have got to be more countermeasures against terrorism when it comes to, as Melanie Mitchell says, an aircraft that can run a war if it has to.

The zip line rescue at the end seems insane. Beyond it being terrifying, those cables and the brackets they clip to have to be pretty darn strong to stand up to the wind as the planes move.

S is for… Sidekicks

Marshall has various sidekicks, but they are all relatively small roles, not truly defined sidekick counterparts.

Major Caldwell is perhaps the most prominent one, because it is his idea to parachute out of the cargo hold, he is the one with the gun who backs up Gibbs to ensure the thug doesn’t yell to Ivan that the hostages are leaving, and he also helps Marshall copilot Air Force One after Ivan and his men are dead. It’s upsetting when he dies, especially because it happens after he insists Marshall finally get off the plane.

The Chief of Staff (Paul Guilfoyle) takes a bullet for Marshall during the final scuffle, though he seems to live at the end.

Bennett is Marshall’s only true ally on the ground, because she seems to be the only one who doesn’t think Marshall is compromised by the circumstances of the mission.

T is for… Technology

In order to get aboard Air Force One, the news team must have their thumbprints read by a laptop.

Marshall finds a cell phone in someone’s luggage, but he has to look through the manual to use it. It does seem strange that what appears to be a regular phone can reach all the way to the White House while it’s above eastern Europe, at least for 1997.

U is for… Unexpected Romance

Because Marshall is happily married, there is no out-of-left-field romance, though Grace gets extra points for repeatedly telling Marshall that the mission/his policy/Radek comes first, not her. It’s great when she pushes him away after their initial liplock when Ivan is killed; she knows what’s important, and when the proper time is for romance.

V is for… Vehicles as Weapons

Other than the various fighter jets having missiles, and Air Force One having defenses, there really aren’t vehicles being used in order to hurt people or manipulate the situation.

W is for… Winning

After Marshall frees himself from the tape and kills Kolchak, Ivan drags Grace to the cargo bay, and throws out all of the parachutes, basically condemning everyone aboard to die, because Air Force One can’t land without someone to land it. Ivan holds a gun to her head, but Grace knocks it away, which gives Marshall enough time to pounce on him. The two get in a scuffle, as Grace holds a machine gun on them, and Marshall is eventually able to wrap a secured strap around Ivan’s neck. He pulls the ripcord on the parachute Ivan is wearing, which pulls Ivan backwards, and the strap around his neck snaps his neck. Marshall cuts/releases the strap, and Ivan floats away in the parachute, dead.

Marshall and Caldwell then get walked through how to fly and land the plane, but Kazakhstani MiGs engage them in aerial combat, and before the American fighters can chase them off, Air Force One is damaged too badly to land. The zip line rescue is attempted, but Air Force One can’t stay in the air quite long enough for everyone to be rescued according to (the hastily concocted) plan. This is when Gibbs finally reveals that he was Ivan’s inside man, and throws the parajumper assigned to rescue Marshall out of the plane, and shoots Caldwell. Gibbs and Marshall struggle over the remaining strap, but ultimately Marshall’s hand-to-hand is better, and he is able to attach his carabiners and get hooked to the strap. Of course, the anchor for the strap breaks off of Air Force One, so Marshall flies along behind the rescue plane (Liberty 2-4) while Gibbs moans from the doorway as Air Force One crashes into the water and smashes to pieces.

Of course, Marshall is eventually pulled into Liberty 2-4, which changes its call sign to Air Force One.

X is for… X-Rays, or Maybe You Should See a Doctor

Perhaps it’s because Marshall is wearing a suit the whole time, or perhaps it’s because of the limited fighting room aboard the plane, or maybe because he’s just that good, other than a few bruises on his head and his cut-up hands from the glass he used to cut his bindings, Marshall is pretty good. No broken bones or massive bleeding cuts. It’s the Chief of Staff who was shot in the chest and who probably wouldn’t have lived in the real world.

Y is for… Yesterday’s Problem Becomes Today’s Problem

If Marshall hadn’t been so vocal about his new foreign policy, Ivan might not have been so determined to hijack his plane. If the Americans hadn’t imprisoned a communist general, Ivan might not have had any motivation to hijack the plane at all. But then there wouldn’t be a movie, either, or it would be a more standard “for the money” motivation.

Z is for… Zone, In The

Marshall looks the most at home when he’s engaged in a firefight. He looks comfortable holding machine guns, and doesn’t have a problem with using them (once the stakes are clearly outlined to him).

In Summation

Air Force One seems to not be a outstandingly-rated film, at least with respect to its rating on the IMDb, but it sure is a lot of fun. It has a lot of really good elements, including a dashing, if serious, protagonist, an intense and vicious antagonist, and the sense of adventure, limitation, and danger inherent in a film that takes place predominantly on an airplane. It’s maybe a little schmaltzy at times, like with the Postmaster General line, but it’s got heart, what with the first family becoming the main target. It’s got more action that I remembered, and enough real-world politics to be relevant.

I’m glad I decided to rewatch it for this site. It’s actually the first movie I’ve reviewed that I’d seen before since Sudden Death. I think having watched a film before lessens my criticisms of a film, while watching a film for the first time means I have a more balanced viewpoint on it.

Speaking of criticisms… There is absolutely no way a film would get made today with nothing happening during the opening credits. The majority of the opening credits happen over a black screen while music–albeit pretty music–plays. Those two minutes seem to take forever in our current world of instantaneous everything. It was like a return to old movies where all the credits are shown before the movie actually starts.

There is a lot of action outside of the plane, which makes the movie feel less claustrophobic. There are a lot of shots of the plane itself, especially with the fighters around it, so the viewer isn’t wondering if everything is shot on a soundstage, or over the course of different times. Or, at least, it’s not as apparent as in other movies (I’m looking at you, The Zone).

One of the most intense scenes actually has little to do with the inside of the plane at all; when the hijacking is first announced and the pilots try to land the plane, the sequence of them trying to land while Ivan tells them to get the plane in the air, and Air Force One careens down the runway in Ramstein, is actually quite harrowing. Up until AIr Force One banks away from Ramstein, I was on the edge of my seat (metaphorically, as I was comfortably reclining). The whole sequence was perfectly paced and very well put together, and it was very easy to believe that the plane was going to crash or run over a lot of people.

It’s awesome that there’s a female Vice President, and that she didn’t let the men take over.

Back to my love of Andrew Divoff, and me again wondering why he isn’t a bigger star. Big star or no (more of a character actor, I guess, and voice over artist), he really does have a long sequence all to himself with Harrison Ford, which I think is awesome. How many people get to say Harrison Ford beat them up and put them in a sleeper hold? Not too many. All of my attention in the scene was on Divoff, and I wish he’d star in more movies.

There are many parallels to Die Hard (and I can’t seem to write a post without referencing Die Hard in one way or another).
–Melanie Mitchell is shot by Ivan while he’s trying to negotiate with Marshall to reveal himself, the way Hans shoots Ellis while trying to get McClane to come forward.
–Ivan thinks Marshall is a Secret Service Agent, while Hans thinks McClane is a security guard
–Bennett and the rest of the cabinet try to help Marshall from the ground, the way Al and his officers try to help McClane from the ground (each facing antagonism, from the Secretary of Defense and Agent Robinson, respectively)
–in both films, the heroes’ wives are taken hostage (though Hans didn’t know Holly and McClane were related at first), and eventually separated from the other hostages
–the hostages are led to perceived safety by the hero (McClane to the roof and Marshall to the cargo bay)
–Ivan and Grace fall down the stairs, while Hans and Holly fall out a window (and Ivan, if he’d gotten to parachute out, might have taken Grace with him)

The hostages escape by parachuting out the back of Air Force One, which is great, yay escaping the terrorists, but do those parachutes have trackers on them or anything? Or did 32 American citizens just leap into eastern Europe, many of them likely without identification on them? I hope they find some nice people who speak English, and not any hidden cells of Radek supporters. Are they even over land? Or did 32 people just drown? Or break their legs because they can’t see the ground in the dark and don’t know what they’re doing?

The film does an excellent job of creating palpable feelings of relief, or perhaps that’s just me, but I really felt relieved when certain things go right and the tension is released as the music swells–such as when the fax goes through, the plane starts to decrease its altitude, the one guy comes to tell Bennett that “we’ve retaken the plane,” and of course when Liberty 2-4 says, “Liberty 2-4 is changing its call sign–Liberty 2-4 is now Air Force One,” because that last one means the President is finally safe.

Philip Baker Hall plays the Attorney General who tries to have the cabinet declare Marshall compromised due to the nature of the mission. Hall is one of those actors who is horrendously distracting in anything I see him in, because I so strongly associate him with his role as Bookman the Library Cop in Seinfeld. Every time I see him in something I expect him to interrogate someone about their library books.

I remember when I first saw Air Force One that I thought the CGI of the plane crashing at the end was terrible. Watching it now, it isn’t as terrible as I remember, so maybe it’s a different cut of the film or it was fixed up before it went on Amazon. Or perhaps I’ve seen even more horrible CGI since then. Nothing quite compares to well-done miniatures, models, and practical effects. …but I guess they couldn’t really smash up the real Air Force One, or even a real plane painted to look like Air Force One.

My final verdict is that Air Force one is a very entertaining movie if a person is in the mood for some action, a little politics, and Harrison Ford kicking ass while not being Han Solo, Indiana Jones, or Jack Ryan. It’s also really interesting to see a movie where the President of the United States is the main character. The only list I could find online of movies starring or heavily featuring Presidents is here at metacritic.com. I’ve seen In The Line of Fire (also directed by Wolfgang Petersen) and Vantage Point, and remember liking them. I almost considered doing Vantage Point for this site, but it’s more thrillery than actiony, if that makes any sense. We’ll see how desperate I am when it comes time to do another “V” movie, though it certainly can’t be worse than Vehicle 19. So, for the ass-kicking President alone, watch Air Force One!