Action Films

Cop movies, revenge films, fisticuffs, martial arts and war movies.

Assassination Games

assassination-games-dvd-packshot_09,11The best weapon against an enemy is another enemy.

Assassination Games begins with a quote from everyone’s favorite cranky syphilitic German, Friedrich Nietzsche — a line which sounds like it’d work well, badly dubbed in a Hong Kong kung fu caper.

But this film is a gangster flick starring Ubermensch Jean Claude Van Damme as Vincent Brazil, who’s a heartless murder-for-hire type and not a Chippendale dancer like his name would suggest.

Brazil lives a furtive existence in a hidden apartment, accessed by a lever in an abutting bathroom, complete with lovely art and violins (he’s an amateur violinist) and a pet turtle.  Somewhere in Romania (that Eastern Euro action hero tax shelter purgatory), he fashions an existence, identity mostly obscured by a ridiculous poor boy cap. His neighbor is a pimp who beats one of his women (a gorgeous brunette of course), who then takes shelter in Vincent Brazil’s palatial pad. (Now, we’ll let it slide at the moment that a guy whose life is perpetually in danger and whose pad contains what look like priceless museum artifacts, would take in a lady of the evening and give her free rein of the place).

Brazil is given an assignment (“double his normal fee” — Van Damme’s character is paid in diamonds) to take out a drug kingpin, only to find out that someone else wants the same people dead. And that guy is willing to do it for nothing, waiving the usual fee. Why? Because they did something nasty to his wife and she’s ridiculously hooked up to an IV and being tended to by this personal support worker, also with a background in ass-beating.

Now, Assassination Games could’ve had both Steven Seagal AND Vinnie Jones, that perfect second-rate action duo but instead we’ve got Scott Adkins (Expendables 2) as our man Flint, JCVD’s competition.

Assassination_Games_1Eventually, the hit-men decide it’s in their best interests to work together to take out a common enemy after some disagreement (“Excuse me, a partner with a vendetta? Just what I need.”)

Minus a half a star for that hackneyed staple of action films, the “you know what? the two of us aren’t that much different” but Assassination Games is a minor treat, with lots of intrigue, double-crossings and even some corrupt Interpol cops for good measure.

Van Damme uses poison-tipped arrows, pistols that look like they might’ve seen action robbing trains during the Great Depression, as well as AKs and high-tech laser guided weaponry.

And of course, Assassination Games comes with lots of ass-kicking.

*** (out of 5)

Rambo: First Blood Part II

rambo_first_blood_part_iiHe’s the “chosen one.” There’s no Obi-Wan to be found, but who needs him, when you’ve got Stallone?

Rambo: First Blood Part II, is the prototype for all special forces-type commando movies. After the subtle understatement of First Blood, there is moon-bat action aplenty in the sequel, with Rambo sweating his way through two head bands, and baddies who wear the wrong color camo in the jungle.

John J. Rambo (JJR) is working on a chain gang, when he’s approached by Colonel Trautman for a covert recon mission to rescue POWs who are still being held captive in ‘Nam.

And naturally, it’s a suicide mission. And of course, there’s a timeline attached to it, part of what management/business types would call a critical path — where he’s supposed to be when, what weapons he’ll use, what he’ll encounter there, etc. It’s a cheap and cheerful way for screenwriters to ratchet up the tension.

In Rambo: First Blood Part II, he’s got 36 hours, and to prove how awesome a specimen JJR is, he doesn’t eat or take a dump for the whole duration.

Of course his prowess is questioned by disbelieving military folks, who have access to the latest and greatest weaponry and a wall of giant 80s computers. But Rambo says (rightly) that “the mind is the best weapon.”

Still, you can’t have an 80s action movie without a spectacular arming / weaponry montage, and while the mind may be the best weapon, a machine gun is really what’s top-drawer when it comes to blasting khaki-clad extras off rickety wooden boats in muddy rivers.

And because it was the 80s, Russians, not just the Viet Cong, made for fantastic bad guys (they still do, decades hence). They make all kinds of macho patter when they could’ve easily cut Rambo’s throat rather than subjecting him to a mud bath of leeches.

rambo-first-blood-part-iiRe-watching Rambo: First Blood Part II, one is staggered by the hack chutzpah of Bruno Mattei, whose cornball 1987 hit, Strike Commando, is a note-for-note walk-through of this movie, complete with a scene where Mike Ransom has to make a radio address under duress and cradles a dying boy, much like JJR does Co-Bao (the Razzie-nominated Julia Nickson).

Luckily, George P. Cosmatos and not Mattei, is behind the camera for Rambo, he of the exemplary Tombstone, and the enjoyably asinine Leviathan. And under his tight direction, we get something pretty glorious.

And while we love Reb Brown, he is clearly no match for the steely mullet of prime-beef Stallone.

***3/4 (out of 5)

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