Thursday, May 29, 2008

Who Would Win in a Fight? Willis versus Willis

The other day I was having a lunchtime discussion with a couple of friends about who would win in a fight, Superman or a Jedi. The conversation inspired what I'm hoping will become a regular thing on Action Direct, where we pit two characters from different action movies against each other, and discuss who would win in a fight. Pretty straight forward. So, to kick things off, who would win in a fight, Bruce Willis as John McClane from the original Die Hard (1988) or Bruce Willis as Joe Hallenbeck from The Last Boy Scout (1991)

Casey: Here's the thing, John McClane is NYPD and Joe Hallenbeck was once a Secret Service agent. So basically, they both know how to throw down. But if you were to put them both in a concrete pit with nothing but their wits and ask me to choose the last man standing, I'd have to put my money on Joe Hallenbeck. This is the guy who once said, "touch me again and I'll kill you" and then followed through with an open palm to the nose of his captor. He is clearly capable of inflicting no frills deadly force without blinking an eye. 

Another thing that gives me confidence in Hallenbeck is the fact that he clearly has nothing to lose. He's a deadbeat whose wife cheats on him and whose daughter hates his guts, both for good reason (namely, he's a little psychotic and a lot alcoholic). Hallenbeck doesn't survive through The Last Boy Scout because his life-preserving instinct is strong. No, Hallenbeck kills the bad guys because they pissed him off. It would have been all the same to him if he'd died in the process, as long as he got those bastards. In fact, Hallenbeck would kick McClane's ass and then climb out of the pit and own me for making him kill a guy like McClane, who he otherwise would probably have gotten along with just fine.

That being said, McClane has always demonstrated a knack for innovation in a tight spot (i.e. icicle in the eye in Die Hard 2). You never know what kind of trick he might pull out of his hat. While I think that Hallenbeck would win, he's hardly a shoe-in. Needless to say, it would be a brutal fight. What do you think, Chris?

Chris: While my head agrees with Casey for the same aforementioned reasons, my gut wants to go with John McClane on this one. While both characters can obviously take a hit and have worked their way out of numerous tight spots, McClane has to take the award for most shit thrown at him (bullets, explosions, hostage situations, glass raining down on his bare feet, etc.) and come out not only in one piece, but still able to continue throwing down with terrorist big boys. 

Let's just take a look at the kill count shall we? While McClane has gone head to head with a number of well trained mercenaries, specifically the blonde behemoth from Die Hard (I believe his name was Karl?), we also know that he later goes on to take down a number of men in hand to hand combat who are much better trained than himself, ie Col. Stuart in Die Hard 2. I don't know if the reference to a later movie violates the term of the "Who would win in a fight" or not, but I think that it is worth mentioning that John McClane can fight beyond his skill level through the sheer ability to take a lickin' and keep on tickin'

Now don't get me wrong, Hallenbeck gets his ass beat in full throughout The Last Boy Scout, and his battle with Milo was pretty vicious (not to mention he can kill a man with a single blow), but I don't think he's got as much heart as McClane. And when you're putting two evenly matched opponents in a pit, I think heart goes a long way.

*Casey thinks that the Jedi would own Superman, but its hard to say how the Man of Steel would fare against the Force.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fight of the Week: Bar Scene in Out For Justice

The current Fight of the Week belongs to our favorite arm breaker, Steven Seagal, in one of his earlier films, Out for Justice (1991).  Seagal plays a cop named Gino who's grown up on the wrong side of the tracks in Brooklyn, New York and who's childhood friend Richie (William Foresythe) has become the city's local crime lord/mafioso. In an effort to track down his friend turned arch-nemesis, Seagal begins asking questions in the local bars that he knows to be fronts for Richie's drug business. Needless to say, a fair bit of ass kicking ensues.

    There are several key factors in this bar room brawl that set it apart from your typical Seagal vs. 20 henchmen fight scene, the first being the hilarious manhandling tactics that Seagal uses to taunt the mafia underlings into giving him information. For example, we've got some great verbal abuse with an over the top Brooklyn accent,

"You know why your brother aint here? 'Cause he's a chicken shit fuckin' pussy asshole." Or the ever effective "Is this your new girlfriend?" when referring to the aging bar hag sitting next to your target.

Not to mention some creative uses of space as Seagal pushes greasy haired mobsters into pool cue closets while he strolls the bar room floor bouncing a cue ball from time to time. This cue ball becomes pivotal in the second key factor of the fight scene which pits Seagal against every man in the bar with his cop badge as a trophy to the goomba who can kick his ass. Up until the moment I saw this fight scene as a 14 or 15 year old kid, I had always been curious what a cue ball to the head would do to a man (having owned a pool table as kids, Casey and myself would often speculate on this), and Seagal answered that curiosity in spades as he wraps a cue ball in a bar towel and proceeds to knock the teeth out of oncoming henchmen. 

    Of course, no Seagal fight scene would be complete until the token martial arts expert that the mafia keeps on staff (not to mention the only asian guy in the bar) takes a crack at the big man. Now for those of you who haven't seen this movie, I don't want to spoil it for you, but it turns out that Steven Seagal is more than a match for this guy. In fact, Seagal totally fuckin owns him.

    Obviously this battle is just one of many in Seagal's repertoire. And while it isn't necessarily the best (don't get me started on the knife fight in Under Siege), it is a great example of Seagal in his element, acting to the best of his ability while leaving a trail of blood and mayhem in his wake. For those of you looking for an in depth study of this master of disaster, allow me to recommend this comprehensive guide: Seagalogy.  I think you will find it to be both informative and entertaining.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Moment of Silence for Indiana Jones...

It's done. Finished. 

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has ruined any chance of a classic action legacy becoming a legend.

A moment of silence for Indiana Jones. 

Friday, May 23, 2008

Steel Dawn (1987)

There's nothing quite as pleasant as beer and post-apocalyptic action on a Friday night. Basically, the trailer says it all. In Lance Hool's Steel Dawn, Patrick Swayze is a man without a name (dubbed "nomad" in the credits) trying to make his way in this crazy world after the war that left it a wasteland. He is good with a bow staff and even better with a sword.* Haunted by his past, he is compelled to defend the innocent. Basically, Steel Dawn has all of the right ingredients for a really strong B-action movie.

As I was watching the Swayze and Sho (the antagonist played by Chris Neame) duke it out in the final action sequence, it dawned on me that Sho's haircut was not a commentary on the cultural trends that will follow an inevitable nuclear war, but a reflection of what was cool in 1987. And then I realized the same was true about the Swayze's do. I guess I'm glad that I missed that era of popular culture. Yet part of me couldn't help but calculate how long it would take to grow a pony-tail mullet...

It is hard not to notice the obvious influence of the spaghetti western in Steel Dawn. Although it was filmed in Namibia, Steel Dawn exudes that badass drifter with a heart of gold attitude. There is one point where the Swayze is out in the middle of the desert taking a bath when a couple of bandits ride up on horseback and ask him to join the opposing team. It is a scene that belongs in A Fistful of Dollars, and would have been indistinguishable had it not been for the Swayze's mullet. 

The Swayze's performance here and elsewhere gives me full confidence that he will win his battle with pancreatic cancer, and just in time for a triumphant come back as Bodhi in the Point Break sequel. Patrick Swayze, Action Direct salutes you.

* I was actually quite impressed by Patrick's sword play. Unfortunately, his sword was clearly a product of inferior craftsmanship. Put a Hatori Hanso blade in his hands, or better yet, the Green Destiny, and there is no telling what he'd be capable of.

Fight of the Week: Predator

As my first post on this groundbreaking new blog, I would like to initiate the "Fight of the Week". Every week, Casey or myself will pick an epic fight scene that deserves a bit of analysis and open it up for discussion. This week, in response to last week's poll winner, we will honor the final battle scene between Major Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and the alien stalker who has been hunting him for sport in John McTiernan's masterpiece, Predator

One of the great elements of this fight is the amazing build up that we experience as a viewer. After granting only a few glimpses of the Predator throughout the movie- and most of those occur while the Predator is cloaked, McTiernan smacks us in the face with an all out brawl that allows not only a full view of the alien itself, but one without its mask no less! I don't know about you guys, but I still poop in my pants a little every time I watch that scene as the Predator slowly unplugs all his sweet gear and you hear the quick hiss of gas being released from each of his mask tubes. And let's face it, the unmasked Predator is one ugly mutha' fucka.

Beyond the wicked ass beating that ensues, we also have a slew of homemade booby traps ready to be tripped throughout the fight (these were set up earlier in what I like to call Arnold's 'boy scout' montage). While the old hanging log trick eventually vanquishes the alien foe, it was good to see the Predator's alien intelligence didn't allow him to fall for all of Arnold's tricks, as is evident when the Predator decides to walk around Arnold's sharpened stick studded trench to reach his prey on the other side, even with Arnold taunting him to the best of his ability ("C'mon, take me! I'm here!"). The resulting 'Oh shit' moment is both comedic as well as enthralling.

And of course, the crowning glory of this vicious melee is the self destruct mechanism set off by the Predator when he knows that he's been beat. The odd alien count down sequence on the Predator's CPU, along with the fantastic use of Billy's laugh (one of Arnold's badass fallen teammates) leave us all yelling "get the fuck out of there!" at the screen as Arnold takes his sweet time realizing that now would be a good time to run.

This battle is living proof that fancy choreography and martial arts, while nice to have, are by no means necessary to produce one sweet motherfuckin' fight scene. Hats off McTiernan, you've made our lives just a little bit more badass.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Leo Ain't No Tetsuo

While I think that generally the recent trend toward remaking classic action movies has been ill-advised, one or two good things have come of it. Ill-advised or not, there is more to come. Here are couple of potential remakes/sequels that could be good/horrible:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Universal Solider (1992)

Universal Soldier (1992) is the story of Sergeant Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) and Private Luc Devereaux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), a pair of unlikely Vietnam soldiers who kill each other in the first five minutes of the movie. Never fear, both are immediately put on ice and enrolled in an off-the-books government program to create the ultimate fighting machine

Just how the government manufactures these super soldiers is a little hazy. But from what I gather, hyper-acceleration of the bodies turns dead flesh into living tissue... its genetic. The end result is an invincible "unisol". Unfortunately, the serum used to keep the hyper-accelerated veterans' past lives at bay fails to do so in the case of Scott and Devereaux. In no time, memories of the conflict that ended in their original demise come flooding back, and hi-jinx/karate ensue.

I think the one thing that this movie is missing is a good training montage. What kind of action movie doesn't have a training montage? I guess director Roland Emmerich thought that he could get away with it because he includes 1) an armored semi-truck that drives across the country putting down the occasional hostage situation, 2) a sassy female reporter who doesn't play the game by the rules, 3) and Damme's sweet little smile.

Overall, I don't think that Universal Soldier is one of Van Damme's better movies. Damme belongs in a loin cloth fighting a guy with a unibrow or a pony tail. Not in army fatigues. However, it is one of Lundgren's top three, along with Rocky IV and Masters of the Universe. As it turns out, this was the last good thing he did.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Point Break... LIVE?

You better believe it. The movie that defined the surf-action genre (Surf Ninjas...?) is finally getting the recognition that it deserves. Point Break LIVE! is a tribute to all that is pure and good about the mid-nineties action film. 

In other news, one of my avid readers informed me that a Point Break sequel may be in the works: Point Break: Indo. Holy $!#@! My palms are already perspiring. 

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Total Recall (1990)

Today's featured film is Total Recall (1990), directed by Paul Verhoeven and  starring your favorite action hero, Arnold Schwarzeneggar. Based on the short story by Philip K. Dick, "We Can Remember it for You Wholesale", Total Recall  touched a generation of action junkies and awkward teens. 

Total Recall is what one might consider the perfectly executed amnesia story. Schwarzeneggar plays Douglas Quaid, a construction worker with the sneaking suspicion that he was meant for something greater. The crisis in this hero's paradigm occurs when Quaid suffers from a "schitzoid embolism" which brings back a flurry of erased memories of a past life as a secret agent on Mars. With a little help, Quaid makes his way back to Mars where he eventually joins rebel forces in the struggle against Vilos Cohagen, the man who controls the tirbidium, and therefore, the air on Mars. I don't want to spoil the end, but rest assured, by the end Quaid kills the bad guys, gets the girl, and saves the planet.

I'll admit that my early fascination with this movie was due, at least in part, to the frontal shot of the five-breasted mutant prostitute on Mars. But Total Recall boasts much more than a few extra breasts. Some of the most memorable one-liners of Arnie's career come out of this movie, including "See you at the party, Richter", "Get your ass to Mars", and "Come on baby. You know you're the girl of my dreams", to name a few. And I've never scene the hologram used as effectively anywhere else. 

Now, to be clear, there are some aspects of Total Recall that are completely absurd, particularly so to the unseasoned action fan. There are times when director Verhoeven (also responsible for Robocop and Starship Troopers) must be indulging some kinky fantasies; i.e. hooker midget with a machine gun. And there are times when Arnie's poor acting can only be explained by the size of his biceps...? But the absurdity results in some ingenious characters which, to date, have not been matched. I mean, the the rebel leader is a psychic mutant baby who happens to live in Marshall Bell's stomach. This kind of theatrical device could only have succeeded in the early nineties. And succeed it did.

If you haven't seen this movie, then bump it to the top of your queue. And maybe watch Robocop in the meantime....