ONE MORE BULLET WON'T KILL YOU  |  ACTION FILM BLOG

 

Exterminators of the Year 3000 Review

February 8, 2016

I don’t think I’m blowing too many minds when I repeat information online that this Italian-Spanish co-production is a Mad Max 2 derivative. Thanks to the glut of independent companies releasing cheap films from yesteryear to home video, it’s easy to spot these cinematic wannabes and have a quick laugh. Whether these laughs last the running time of the film is all up to the viewer. Exterminators of the Year 3000‘s director Carnimeo is known more for his spaghetti westerns and sex comedies and he clearly finds himself struggling with a sci-fi action film. It has even less of a unique personality than Enzo G. Castellari’s 1980s attempts. Among the characters here, we have a complete rip-off of Wez from Mad Max 2 named Crazy Bull (played by Fernando Bilbao) and Robert Iannucci as Alien, who resembles Mad Max only in uniform. Alien lacks the character arc of Max and seemingly just drives around as a lone wolf, jumping from being a villain to hero every other scene.

I mean, it’s not hard to spot the similarities. Even in Spain, the film’s poster even says, “Hey audience! It’s like Mad Max!”

Exterminators of the Year 3000 Spanish poster
Spanish film poster is at least not trying to bullshit us about the films origin

The script, by Lucio Fulci regulars Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti, fills the film with bizarre dialogue. The writers get pretty phoney here with lines from Crazy Bull referring to the crew as a bunch of “mother-grabbers”. Far too much of the script sets up problems that are resolved way too quickly to make any impact or are solved in lame ways by cheap sci-fi toys. Got a locked door? Why kick it down when you can just use my device that plays an annoying high-pitched sound effect that inexplicably unlocks things. The screenwriters are also aware that it’s an Italian production, so it’s not above showing children getting maimed. One of the more bizarre scenes in the film features a young boy (with the surprisingly un-Mad Maxish name of “Tommy”) has his arm ripped straight off by bikers. But don’t worry folks – it’s revealed to be a robotic arm (!) and is partially repaired by Alien, who puts it back together with duct tape(!?)
The only slightly original villain comes from singer and model Beryl Cunningham, in her final film role. Her weapon of choice is a glove with surprise spiked knuckles that shoot out whenever a camera zooms in on it. She wears this glorified switchblade glove along with a spiked leather bodysuit. . Seeing Cunningham in the suit makes one wonder if the role was intended for someone else, as the suit doesn’t appear to fit! Even a pinch saggy, Cunningham appears to be in great shape here and you think an exploitative film would want to make the most of this.

exterminators-3000-skeleton

One of the few unique action scenes. I dig the Skull rollin’

The action scenes are just as delightfully stolen from Mad Max 2. Did you ever not want to sit through the entirety of that film to get the final chase? No worries, Exterminators of the Year 3000 gives it to you during the second big action scene. Outside a few Castellari styled slow motions shots, we get some very obvious issues such as the cars moving far too slowly to represent any real chase (imagine a slight traffic delay around your local highway during rush hour) or any shot from the inside of a vehicle where it’s way too easy the spot that vehicles are not in motion. Later scenes involve vehicles surrounding their captives in a circle which resembles a demolition derby. This type of capture would make sense on horseback, but I gather that Carnimeo perhaps only had a budget to destroy a select few cars.

As is the trend since the release of Drive, is that every single film is getting it’s score re-released. Even Exterminators of the Year 3000! There are several samples here that include the sillier dialouge from the film. Reminds me of the Diabolik bootleg soundtrack in that sense.

I’m afraid this isn’t too great of a soundtrack, probably just due to the limitations in both time and budget to record it. At least it doesn’t go the Sammo Hung route and just steal the score from Halloween and Rambo.

So we have a generic film without much to recommend outside a few goofy scenes and to see the extent to which filmmakers go in ripping off Mad Max 2. After my viewing of Exterminators, I began questioning the criticism of being “original” in film. What makes a rip-off an instant write-off while sequels are “highly anticipated”? Let’s imagine it’s an alternative universe where the producers of this film somehow get the rights to Mad Max franchise and would officially make this the third film in the series. Would it still be a rip-off? No one from the original film is involved, but would they be less criticized if we didn’t know the production history? Let’s look at Aliens by James Cameron. What if Cameron didn’t get the rights from Walter Hill and the other producers of Alien to continue the next picture, but he made his own Alien-killers-from-space film. Would people bash it by saying “Hmm. Clearly taken bits and pieces from Alien” or would would they give it a free pass as they do now because it’s an officially sanctioned follow-up?

In the case of Exterminators of the Year 3000, it’s problem is not that it took from the Mad Max series, but that it’s mostly poor action, bizarre acting and delivers less quality than we have been set-up with in the Future Barbarian genre. So I encourage viewers to not pass off on films if they appear to be derivative. I hope to one day find the Mad Max film that trumps some

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Righting Wrongs Review

September 21, 2013

When people think of Corey Yuen, their thoughts turn to two things: Jet Li’s partner in crime and the person in question when text is tattooed across a DVD cover shouting, “From the Director of The Transporter.“ For me, Yuen is probably just as important as Tsui Hark for getting Hong Kong films up to American production standards. Where Tsui Hark was importing Hollywood visual effects artists for Xu Warriors From the Magic Mountain or producing films for up and coming directors, I feel Corey Yuen always had an international audience in mind and was doing it in his own way.

Need proof? Corey Yuen was the first New Wave Hong Kong directors to make an American production via the (Fist of B-list favourite) No Retreat, No Surrender, a film that just missed being a big hit by premiering at 11th place in the American box office when released. But hey! It still beat John Woo to the punch for directing in the United States. Corey Yuen’s second film as director was the multi-titled Yes, Madam!, which was the debut film of white American Cynthia Rothrock. Rothrock’s role was probably producer Sammo Hung’s idea, but they still had the lone white American who could showcase her martial arts chops well enough for her stand out as being a token white girl in these types of films. People still talk about Rothrock today, right?

In the same year as No Retreat, Corey Yuen starting working on what would be one of his most memorable Hong Kong Films: Righting Wrongs. For this film, my theory is that Yuen was reaching out to an American audience. Yuen not only got Rothrock front and center again, but there’s also Canadian kick boxer Peter “Sugarfoot” Cunningham who Yuen worked with on No Retreat as well as stunt actress Karen Sheperd who Rothrock gets in a fancy foot chase with. Of course, the film’s real star is Yuen Biao, but even with him as the star, the film still has more ties to American productions. Biao has even stated that Righting Wrongs’ production was planned early on, allowing for less of the “make-it-up-as-we-go” spirit of other Hong Kong action films of the era. It’s far less scattered than Yes, Madam! and this planning is evident.

Righting Wrongs also is a big change from Yuen’s previous Hong Kong production Yes, Madam!, as it’s nearly free of the “wacky” Hong Kong comedy that takes up a lot of Yes, Madam!’s running time. Even the film’s villain, played by Melvin Wong, acts without the usual scenery- chewing habits of other pulpy baddies, thus marking his character more realistic and memorable. In comparison to Yuen’s previous films and other Hong Kong films of the era, the story is played far more straight, which I believe was done as Yuen had a foreign audience in mind. Clearly, Corey Yuen was Hong Kong’s flag-waving all American patriot.

corey-yuen-american-patriot
Corey Yuen: All-American

That’s probably an overstatement, but the American influences are hard to miss and it’s still one of his better films Yuen has directed in America or Hong Kong. Righting Wrongs succeeds due to its successful action scenes, which are a huge step-up from what appears in No Retreat, No Surrender and Yes, Madam! in their intensity and creativity. I was entertained enough to forgive the occasional rusty editing. Take this car park battle with Yuen Biao. The audience I watched it with got some giggles when the car impossibly gets some air time when it leaps out one of the car park windows, but after witnessing the mayhem, the car could have sprouted wings and flew off and I wouldn’t have so much as batted an eye.

Another freeze-frame worthy scene involves some very obvious stunt doubling for the major cast members in the action scenes. It becomes especially amusing during the scenes where Rothrock is doubled by a Hong Kong male stuntman. Take a look:

cynthia-rothrock-stunt-double-above-the-law
I like how he shaved his legs. That’s stuntman commitment.

Other separations from the norm include a rare woman vs. woman fight scene. Yuen films the women respectfully and not merely for titillation as it’s free from faux-orgasmed “oohs” and “ahs” of films like Charlie’s Angels. Then again, who knows if that was even running through Yuen’s mind? He did direct So Close over a decade later which has a somewhat famous fluffy bathroom scene, so it’s hard to view Yuen as any sort of filmmaker with a female-empowerment message to get across. [Note: Sorry for linking to a video titled “Hot Asian Chick bathtub fight (catfight)”, but everyone needs at least one sketchy thing in their browser history.]

So what’s holding this film back from being known as well as something like The Legend of Fong Sai Yuk? It’s had a weird life on home video with multiple titles and the current Hong Kong Blu-ray’s subtitles are a complete mess, making it’s plot frustrating to follow. The film’s plot isn’t helped by a side-story involving Wu Ma which doesn’t effect the main plot significantly or compliment the action scenes in any way. Worst of all, like Yes, Madam! previously, it has a needless bummer of an ending involving the death of pretty much every likable character in the film. Who screwed that up? Barry Wong is credited as the screenwriter for both of these two Corey Yuen films, so is he the culprit? Or did someone’s contract demand “no sequel” and decided everyone should die? Who knows!

I doubt there will ever be any serious critical analysis of Righting Wrongs released written, nor will it receive a 30th Anniversary re-release anytime soon, so my questions will probably remain unanswered. However, it’s a film that is very easy to recommend to fans of Rothrock, Corey Yuen, and of course, Yuen Biao. I’d recommend the Dragon Dynasty DVD (where it’s titled Above the Law) over the Hong Kong blu-ray due it’s better subtitles and bonus features. It’s a solid action film – just fast-forward as soon as you see Wu Ma – and you’re set!

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Steele Justice Review

July 29, 2012

Steele Justice is 1980s cheese-action gone sour. Here we have a film having trouble deciding whether it wants to delve into every 80s cliche (by doing this, it cribs far too much from other good to average 80s action films) and unintentional humor (which sadly, only comes in brief spurts). The film stars Martin Kove as John Steele who we meet in Vietnam in the 1970s. How tough is Steele? Well he’s got a great set of neck ware with his plastic snake necklace.

Coral Snake Steele Justice
Sneak in your pets by disguising them as your regular army gear.

I promise the next clip isn’t from Hot Shots, as this is Steele Justice seals the deal with the incredibly silly rat with grenade attached to it. And we’re only 5 minutes into the film.

Mouse Grenade
Grenade on a rat!! It’s officially that kind of a film

I’m not even going to bother including the scenes that follow up involving Kove having a gun that shoots knives because this movie just starts out with actions that would make Italian rip-off cinema blush. I’m also not including it as the movie suddenly changes tone completely and drops any goofy weaponry when the film announces that it’s about 15 years later. Steele find his partner killed by Vietnamese gangsters who have also offed his partner’s family. The last family member remaining is Cami played by Jan Gan Boyd. Boyd is manicly miscast looking to be just as about as old as her mother. The film takes influence here from quality adult films and just give her pigtails. Instant teenager, right?

I’ll admit I’m being a bit harsh on the small stuff but this is all that remains firmly in memory after watching Steele Justice. Outside a few goofball choice it just turns into a poor man’s mish-mash of Rambo, Commando, and the Missing in Action films. It lacks the strange logic of Andy Sidaris films or Ninja III and instead focuses on being a far too familiar action film. Ronny Cox even plays a police sgt that’s basically the same role he had in the Beverly Hills Cop films. In my mind, it makes both these films take place in the same universe. Steele Justice for me is unofficially a spin-off of Beverly Hills Cop.

It’s not an 80s action film until you have your training montage with anthemetic rock blasting, and of course Steele Justice has one. The film does take some bizarre turns in musical cameos however. If you are into country-rock, there are some scenes of Chris Hillman (formerly of The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Band) performing with his 80s group The Desert Rose Band and a scene involving Astrid Plane, the original lead singer of synthpop group Animotion performing some delightfully poor choreography. Check out the backup dancers.

Astrid Plane Funny 80s Dance

Does poor dance choreography lead to poor action scenes? In this case yes, the fights are sparse and many involve either Kove either knocking out people with a single punch or running away from battle. Only in the final showdown scene is there any element of interesting cinematography and atmosphere to give the still poorly choreographed swordplay any grit it needs to deserve your attention.

Steele Justice is not available on DVD and I manged to see it theatrically at a midnight show at the Mayfair Theater. Their was even a pre-recorded video involving Martin Kove introducing the film. Kove didn’t get into too many details about the film outside that he was excited to not play a bad guy in his role and that the film was a fun movie to make. It’s not quite as fun as Kove may hope as in between a bad film’s overtly goofy moments we have a film that’s too afraid to keep up with these more bizarre risks and just hops into the realm of safe clean action film making that I can only recommend to people who have worn out their Missing in Action tapes and need to pick up a quick bargain tape off e-bay.

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Vote in the Lovehkfilm.com best films of the 1980s!

February 25, 2012

Flag of Hong Kong pre-1997
1980s Hong Kong Flag

Greetings and Salutations to all who read this still. Just a quick post before I get into lengthy discussions on the merits of the films of Rudy Ray Moore. If you like action films, you are bound to like Asian cinema. If you like Asian cinema, you know it goes beyond action films. To help expand the word on Hong Kong cinema, I am promoting one of my favourite film sites,Lovehkfilm.com. The reviews are humorous, self-aware and escape all types of fan-boy knee-jerk reactions that sometimes occur with such country or genre specific film sites.

One of the features on the Lovehkfilm.com I frequently return to is their Best of the Decades polls which readers nominate their best films of the decade. It’s a good reference for those taking their first baby-steps into Hong Kong cinema and for seasoned vets who need to seek out the more forgotten titles. The site has already done lists for the the top 100 of the 1990s and the top 50 of the 2000s and are currently doing one for the 1980s. If you have an e-mail, you can vote so it’s easy as just following the instructions here. Be sure to take time and think of not just films you think are obviously the best but films you think that deserve more respect or support. I’m looking forward to the results and hearing about what your votes are. Be quick though as the poll closes on February 29th. Get out and vote!!

That’s all for now, I’ll try to get back to real posts on my own content sometime in the near future. Get out and vote!

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A Better Tomorrow Review

April 27, 2011

A Better Tomorrow / Hard-Boiled
The controversy of whether you put a dash between Hard and Boiled continues

I’m still slightly recovering from the sensory overload that was the double feature of A Better Tomorrow and Hard-Boiled at the Mayfair theater weeks ago. Seeing these two films again is a good refresher on how to make a superior action film. I don’t want to waste too much time on these films as you probably know that they kick all sorts of ass, but let’s continue.

For now, let’s discuss a quick history of the impact of A Better Tomorrow. This was director John Woo’s first important hit. When it was released in 1986 in Hong Kong it was not only the highest grossing film of the year, but the highest grossing Hong Kong film at that point making HK$35 million. According to Karen Fang’s book A Better Tomorrow, the film grossed thirty-five million Hong Kong dollars. In comparison, the second highest grossing film of the year which was Millionaire’s Express (starring big names like Sammo Hung , Yuen Biao and Cynthia Rothrock) made HK$28 million. Sammo’s films were already popular but this was when John Woo was known as comedy filmmaker and Chow-Yun Fat was known a comedic actor in television. Hard to believe that was ever the case. The film had two sequels, a remake, and several derivatives such as Wong Jing’s Return to a Better Tomorrow.

Of course, sales and popularity mean nothing unless the product itself is strong and can holdup nearly 30 years later. I’m happy to report that A Better Tomorrow does hold up despite not being as popular as Woo’s other Hong Kong flicks, namely Hard-Boiled and The Killer. It is noticeably different, A Better Tomorrow is less action-oriented and more operatic than either of those films. But thankfully for fans who can be won over without truck loads of action, it’s just as flashy and stylish as Woo’s best work. How stylish?

A Better Tomorrow is Stylish
Obviously very stylish.

Of course if it were all just slow-motion shots with a flimsy story than we wouldn’t be talking about A Better Tomorrow still today. Unlike many of Woo’s imitators who think it’s enough to have an actor flying across the screen with two-guns blazing, Woo does have the cinematic elements like characters, plot and his own pet-themes on his mind that give the stylish scenes the extra meat they need to last many views. Plot-wise, this film trumps Hard Boiled in my books. The films ganger-oriented story about honor and brotherhood between police offers and gangsters is a favourite theme of Woo’s, and he had been waiting for years to tell this type of story at this point in his career. It shows as it’s jam-packed with ideas with almost no wasted scenes. Everything is tightly woven and is delivered by some of the best actors Hong Kong has (including Chow Yun-fat and Leslie Chung who were showing up in all the best late 80s and early 90s Hong Kong films). Chow Yun-fat is especially enjoyable as he is given all the best lines in A Better Tomorrow. No wonder fans are still asking Woo to this day when they are working together next.

If the film has a sour note, I’d say it involves some earlier lighter scenes involving a music rehearsal. They seem out of place as they don’t make sense sequentially as comedic relief, nor are they particularly funny. You do get to see producer Tsui Hark as a music judge who gets his car’s rear-window smashed in however. On that note, Tsui Hark looks almost exactly the same now as he did 20 years ago too, does this guy ever age?


John Woo shows how he really feels about Tsui by smashing up his car.

The print at the Mayfair was excellent without a scratch or speckle. It was either brand new or from a private collector who takes very good care of their prints. It had English credits and only English subtitles which suggest it wasn’t a Hong Kong print, but it did include music that is not on my Anchor Bay DVD of the film. The main musical cue that I recall is the famous restaurant scene which you can see here. The YouTube video showcases the version I saw with it’s more quirky Cantonese music opposed to the saxophone and guitar music on the Anchor Bay release. I’ll take the original music over any soundtrack that involves a saxophone. Saxophone solos sound more dated than a synthesizer score to me. I haven’t seen the Region 2 UK disc of A Better Tomorrow, but from what reviews I’ve read, I find that it fares even worse than the Anchor Bay one.

I’m babbling like a fan boy here, but let’s just say that A Better Tomorrow could easily sneak into a list of the top crime films of the 1980s. If this print comes to your town, you owe yourself the pleasure to see this classic.

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