Immortals (2011)

I knew nothing about this film before sitting down to watch it, and within a minute I went “either this is Tarsem Singh or his non-Union Mexican equivalent”. Lo and behold, it was (don’t start patting me on the back, it wasn’t that difficult). Singh also directed “The Cell”, the Jennifer Lopez-infiltrates-a-murderer’s-dream film, where despite the amazing in-dream visuals, the actual case itself was solved purely by good old police work. A man brave enough to have over half of his film be entirely irrelevant to the plot is a man whose films I want to watch.

 

When I was a young lad, Tony Robinson (off of Time Time and Blackadder) did a kid’s TV show where he went to Greece and did dramatic readings of the famous Greek myths – that, and the films of the great Ray Harryhausen, has instilled  in me a love of those old stories that has carried on to this day. So even films like this rather dream-like retelling of the myth of Theseus will capture my interest, and we start off with a brief retelling of those old myths – there was a war in heaven, and the people we now call the Gods beat the people we now call the Titans, and imprisoned them for ever. The only thing that can free the Titans is a special bow, and wouldn’t you know…it gets lost somewhere on Earth! King Hyperion (played with scenery-chewing magnificence by Mickey Rourke) is looking for it, because he’s upset with the Gods, for some reason.

We then meet John Hurt, apparently just an old man, giving peasant boy Theseus all sorts of education and sword-training, so he grows up into a super-fighter who loves his Mum. Hurt is, of course, Zeus, king of the gods, played when he’s in all his finery by XXXXXXX, who also pops up in “The Raven”, which is going to be my next review. The final major piece of this film are the Oracles, four women who dance about and have visions (well, one of them does, but the other three are cover for her, pals, confidantes, a bit like an extremely sexy Golden Girls). Oh, the main one, who has all the visions, gets her power from being a virgin. This may become relevant later on, just like the sun may rise tomorrow.

The main reason for this film’s existence is the look, and that’s one thing Tarsem does really well. I keep wanting to badmouth the story, but there’s only so far you can mess up a story as good as this one. He tries, I’ll give him that – goddammit Theseus, keep better hold of your possessions! – but there are some clever bits in there. The way he shows how reality becomes legend is clever and subtle, I think, and I like Stephen Dorff (how the mighty have fallen, eh? Third banana in a film like this) as the thief who gradually develops morals.

But, it’s not that good. For every minotaur (a really clever and well-done idea) there’s a gods sub-plot. The gods have imprisoned all the titans, because they’re basically impossible to kill, or something…only when we see them get down to the big scrap at the end, it seems they’re really really easy to kill. I mean, they’ve been imprisoned for eternity, so they might be a bit rusty, but…

I couldn’t give this any more than 2 and a half out of 5. But, you know, it’s worth watching, which is where this rating system falls down a bit. It entertains! It’s bloody lovely in HD!

Immortals on IMDB
Buy Immortals [DVD][2011]

Digital Man (1995)

This isn’t a Poundland purchase, although it would presumably fit right in with their product. Heck, I didn’t pay for it at all – it’s a “watched on Movies4Men2 at 1am” film. I think it’s quite legitimate that people wouldn’t have heard of this film, as a casual view of the promotional literature would leave you a little bit cold. But, you know what? It’s really pretty good!

No caption needed. Just bad-ass-ery.

First things first – throughout this film you’ll be going “hey, I remember that person!” as the cast is full of dependable names from all sorts of B-pictures like this one. You get Paul Gleason, the Dean from “The Breakfast Club”; Ed Lauter, that guy who always plays bald drill sergeants who isn’t R Lee Ermey; the ex-girlfriend from “Better off Dead”, and Patrick Swayze’s brother, to name but a few. What’s called in the business “That Guy” syndrome . Anyway, Gleason and Lauter, as Dr. Parker and General Roberts, find out about a terrorist group who’ve managed to steal the launch codes for 250 nuclear weapons, and dispatch the experimental “Digital Man” to deal with it.

One easy way of dating this film to pre-9/11 days is that the terrorists aren’t Muslims. In fact, they look like a group of eurotrash assholes who just emerged from some expensive club on the riviera after sexually harassing women, and decided to go blow up the world. Digital Man is Matthias Hues, a man who almost literally has appeared in more bad films like this than I’ve had hot dinners…but he’s playing a robot, a casting choice that actors of Hues’ ability must be delighted about. He’s a super-robot, fully armed to do all sorts of cool things, but he’s not quite finished yet. Subordinate Captain West, played by Adam Baldwin off of “Firefly” and “Chuck”, makes the decision to dispatch Digital Man, and it’s on.

 

He makes short work of the eurotrash, and we then cut to the heroes of the film, a small group of marines on some virtual-reality training exercise. Led by Sergeant Anders (Ken Olandt, who was also in one of my favourite 80s horror films, “April Fools Day”), they’re a fine selection of broad types – the hot tech-wizard woman; the ass-kicking woman; the quick-talking black dude, and the martial-arts-loving Asian dude. This group is introduced to us at the same time as we find out Digital Man’s evacuation ship was sabotaged…by Gentle Ben!* Curse him! DM’s ship crashes near the tiny village of Badwater, so he goes off to find a place to transmit those launch codes he retrieved back to base, while the marines are tasked with finding the missing-presumed-rogue DM.

 

The pieces are in place, and I’ve not spoiled too much of the action, I hope. As I read more film reviews, I notice that the good ones don’t just tell you the entire plot – I’d like to get better at this game, so here goes. I think the people who made this film had seen “Tremors” more than once, as there’s elements of comedy woven in with the fairly serious business of monster-killing (although this film is neither as good nor as funny as Tremors). Most of the cast, with the honourable exception of Adam Baldwin, I think realise they’re in a trashy film and have a bit of fun with it – the line between serious genre film and parody is skirted with in the same way that a film like “Torque” did.

 

I’d suggest that there was some disputing the tone of the film with the director, whose work – http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0744985/ indicates a love for cheap sci-fi,horror and similar genre work. Or it could just be me trying to make more of a film, because I happen to like it. I think there’s a lot to like here, though. One of those little touches in films that bugs me is when you see a flashback from someone’s point of view, the shot is always third-person, showing the person whose eyes we’re supposed to be seeing out of, in the shot. This film does it right, and it’s unusual enough that I felt the need to mention it. It’s got one of the best casts ever assembled for a film of this type, it’s got fun, a few nice twists and turns along the way, and it never slows down.

 

Rating: 3.5 secret cyborgs out of 5.

 

 

 

* I know it’s not bloody Gentle Ben, but Clint Howard (famous director / actor Ron Howard’s brother). However, I can only refer to him as Gentle Ben, and I’m not going to change for this review.

 

Digital Man on IMDB
Buy Digital Man [DVD]

Blood Waters of Dr.Z (aka “Zaat”) (1972)

With this film, you get two names for the price of one. “Zaat” sounds a bit too much like some fertilizer additive (which is quite accurate, given the manure this film is – BOOM! This review is going to be a fun one), whereas “The Blood Waters of Dr. Z” sounds like it might be quite entertaining. Oh, how misleading!

I was going to do a review of “Immortals”, because I’m a sucker for films like that, but about half an hour in the sound and picture went crazily out of sync and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, so you’re stuck with this. Dr.Z doesn’t speak during the film except in German-accented voiceover, and we learn from the voiceover that Dr. Z was kicked out of his university research position for wanting a human guinea pig for his experiment to turn a man into a fish. Now, I’ve never been in charge of a University, but I’m thinking ol’ Dr. Z can’t be too upset at only being kicked out, and not, say, arrested. Turns out, as his attempts to get someone off Death Row have failed, he’s going to do the business on himself!

A bizarre, unwieldy bit of apparatus is used so the doctor can lower himself into a nice concrete pool, which may well lead to the sea. Seemingly at random, we’re treated to shots of underwater stuff – mainly octopi and catfish. I’m willing to lay good odds they don’t live very close to each other, and the octopi certainly don’t live anywhere near wherever this film was filmed. But the producers of the film found that stock footage, and by god they’re going to use it! Dr. Z has made some liquid that, when injected…and a bunch of dials on what looks like an old washing machine decorated in fairy lights are turned…and then exactly 5 minutes pass…might, just might, turn a fella into a catfish-man hybrid. Dr. Z has been doing some serious planning, though – he has a wheel of accomplishments, where he crosses stuff off as he does it, like “human testing” and so on. It does look a little bit like the Mayan calendar, which is perhaps a subtle realisation from the filmmakers that watching this makes it feel like all human existence has ended.

The experiment works, of course, and Dr. Z becomes…well, I think he was supposed to be some sort of catfish / human hybrid, because they show you an alleged “walking catfish” at the beginning of the film, but he’s the ugliest-looking thing I’ve seen in many a day. Let’s see if I can get a screengrab of the monster:

This film has sapped my energy for writing funny captions

It looks like our man here took some lessons from the great Don Dohler. Dr. Z has a tub of his mutating goo, which he transfers to one of the things you have for spraying your plants with water – a nebulizer? Plant-sprayer? All this is fairly clumsy, as he’s not got human hands any more…although he does have fur here and there, and I’m not sure humans or anything that lives underwater has fur. This is where things get confusing, and it wasn’t helped by the fact I have a new cat, and watching her bat a piece of paper round the floor of my living room seemed a much more entertaining prospect than forcing my eyes to stay on this film. He takes his spray-gun, goes into the swamp, and sprays stuff. He sprays things on the surface, and bizarrely, sprays things which are underwater as well – to make them into weird hybrid monsters who will grow, pop onto land and kill all the humans. I think he mentioned that, anyway.

Then he swims. Oh god, does he swim. If there was a point to it, I’d understand, but it’s like they fitted a scuba suit to the inside of his monster outfit (this idea courtesy of my wife, who I just think was impressed she’d stayed awake to that late point in the film) and by god they were going to use it! So he swims, and watches a woman bathing, and sees some other people, and moves closer to the bathing woman although in the next shot he’s even further away…basically, the gist of all this is, he’s attempting to conquer the world by killing a bunch of people down by the swamp, then finding a woman to turn into a monster and impregnate, creating some particularly useless master race.

I’ve noticed a trend in my reviews that I lose the will to live, around the one hour mark of my recaps. Well, I’d also like to leave a little mystery for you, the viewer. Does Dr. Z succeed in conquering the world? Do the authorities, so poorly written and acted that I’ve not even mentioned them up to this point, beat him? Oh, there is an interesting bit, the relationship between the redneck sheriff and the black scientist who’s studying radioactivity. Well, they seem quite friendly, and there’s one scene where they’re having a conversation while the scientist is in his pyjamas. Are they lovers? Was this a clever bit of subtext in this godawful film? Probably not. Also, count for yourself how many different outfits the scientist wears. I think the filmmakers had some sort of product placement deal with a gentlemans’ outfitters.

 A bunch of other stuff probably happened around this point. I mean, if you can get through to the last 20 minutes of this film and still care what happens to any of them, you’re a braver soul than I.

This film is bad. I mean, I’ve seen my fair share of bad films. Heck, I’ve seen twenty or thirty people’s fair share of bad films; but this is just the pits. Nothing happens, slowly, and there’s not even any camp laughs to be had. This film is, bizarrely, quite popular in our circles – “Mystery Science Theater 3000” did it in their last, going-through-the-motions season, and the guys at RedLetterMedia did a much funnier and more interesting review than this as part of their “Half in the Bag” series. Whoever owns the copyright to this film is re-releasing it, presumably to cash in with schmucks like us. Don’t bother. Watch literally any other film released on Earth, and chances are you’ll have a better time.

Zaat on IMDB
Buy Zaat [Blu-ray] [1971] [US Import]

Clawed: The Legend of Sasquatch (2005)

Directed by: Karl Kozak

“If you go down to the woods to today. You’re sure of a big surprise.”

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a ferocious beast lurking in the wild. Local folklore taught me about Black Shuck, a wild dog, almost wolf-like, that would roam East Anglia praying on rabbits, badgers and hedgehogs, but never any humans, not even the frail elderly folk who walk their three legged Jack Russell’s through the Broadlands were at risk. Then there was the Beast of Bodmin Moor that would mutilate livestock, many believed it to be an escaped panther from some eccentric posh rich bloke’s private zoo. That’s as far as mythical creatures got in England. They might slay the odd cow or sheep, but they were no risk to people. As a kid I was most fearful of Big Foot, though that might have been because my image of the monster came from the admittedly attrocious sitcom ‘Harry and the Hendersons’. Given that I was so fond of the hairy beast, I expected this movie to be of some interest to me. The idea of Sasquatch is terrifying, since it is a natural anomaly, an enigmatic danger.

The film begins, and one by one these four poaches are savagely attacked in mountainous woodland, but by what? A vicious grizzly bear or something far worse? One of the victims lies dead with his intestines in his hands, the props team seemed to have used poorly made sausages to create the gore, and the others are scratched up violently. Only one of the poachers, an in-bred looking dude called Ed (Miles O’Keeffe) survives. He is desperate for vengeance against the beast that almost killed him.

We’re next taken into a small town high school. We meet Richard Winslow (Dylan Purcell), an average Joe, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of conservation and wildlife. We also meet the token Jock, Jay Kelter (Brandon Henschel), who is Stifler-light. The two opposites are paired up by their teacher to put together an assignment on endangered species.

Ed rounds up a few more of his redneck buddies, and goes back out into the woods to kill the beast that attacked him. In the meantime, Richard and Jay, and two female friends called Shea and Jenny also venture outdoors for a camping trip, they hope to get lucky with the chicks, and also complete their assignment. The elements are there for a good old fashioned blood fest, as the campers and the poachers fight to survive.

‘Clawed: The Legend of Sasquatch’ has been made on a pretty meagre budget, though this shouldn’t be the be all and end all, however it feels significant for this film given that the majority of the dosh appears to have been spent on creating Big Foot’s furry costume, which in fairness looks quite impressive. The film is however let down by mediocre acting, and Karl Kozak fails to make the audience care about what happens to any of his characters. Usually in horror, you have a scream queen, or a plucky underdog that you want to survive. When watching ‘Clawed’ I was willing Big Foot to savage each and every one of these country bumpkin bastards, and it irks me more that this doesn’t even come close to happening.

As for Big Foot, the payoff for any movie about the Yeti, Sasquatch or even Bear Grylls wandering naked after mistakenly eating psychedelic shrooms, should be that you don’t need to catch a glimpse of the beast at all. Leave us waiting; give us the ‘Blair Witch’ treatment. Let’s see footprints, evidence of mutilated torsos, and let’s hear weird noises in the middle of night. Show us fear in the characters eyes. Karl Kozak just doesn’t do enough, and the action is spread too thin, after the opening scene where the poachers die another person doesn’t die for forty five minutes. That time in between isn’t used effectively. We get introduced to a Native American ranger who is in tune with nature and likes to stare longingly at trees as if he has been hypnotized by their swaying branches. He is also accused by Ed of murdering his poacher buddies; maybe Ed drank too much moonshine at the time because there sure as heck wasn’t much evidence to suggest that the Native American ranger was capable of such uninhibited violence. Then there are the teenagers that seem so clean cut they could almost be from an American adaptation of an Enid Blyton novel. Where’s the boozy unprotected sex scene that Kozak hints at by pairing up two sets of horny teens with a six pack of unbranded beer?

‘Clawed’ just isn’t worth wasting a quid on. If you see it in your local pound store, then use the money more wisely, get a couple of cans of Eastern European Energy Drink, or a misshapen Toby Jug instead.

– RJW

2/10

Clawed: The Legend of Sasquatch on IMDB
Buy Clawed: The Legend of Sasquatch [2005]

Preview #2: Hate Crime

There’s already been an excellent review of this film on here, but I’d like to offer an alternate take on it. And not be quite as clever or perceptive as he was. But so be it.

I don’t need to recap the plot for you – https://iscfc.net/2012/07/19/preview-hate-crime/ – so this will be a little shorter. First up, the acting was excellent. Whoever found that group of people who were presumably willing to work for no money is a genius, and credit to the cast themselves, who give the film more than it possibly deserved. For example. it appears that this is Debbie Diesel’s first film (playing Lindsay, the daughter of the family), and I predict bigger things for her.

Also, I’m a firm believer in making do with what you have, and not letting a budget of what looks like zero dollars become a hindrance. It’s the people who complain that they couldn’t do something because of cash, or put in half-assed effects, that annoy me. This film plays with what it has, and more power to it.

 
I’ve also got nothing against violent films, and films with a bleak view of society, as this film certainly has. I feel I need to say this to prepare you for what’s coming up. So far, so good. They’ve got a cast which is excellent, they’re playing within their strengths, and I have enjoyed some fairly gruesome films in my time.

 
Okay, so this film is like being punched in the face for 70 minutes by someone who’s clearly having the time of their lives, only to be told at the end by that same person, “hey, violence and hate is bad, okay? You should definitely not do this”. Its gleeful nature at depicting violence is hard to tally with its literal message. Maybe it’s deliberate, and the filmmakers stripped out anything human, anything approaching remorse, to make a point. I’d like to believe this, but I get the feeling it’s probably not.

 

A problem with this film is a problem with all found footage films, everywhere – all films like this rely on some cast member carrying on holding a camera long past the point it makes any sense at all, to often ludicrous extremes. So, that’s not a problem specific to this film, but a problem inbuilt in this genre.

 
For the first portion of this film, I had a nagging doubt- if these obvious murderers are going to murder these people, why are they bothering wearing masks? Almost as soon as this thought passed through my mind, they revealed they were only supposed to be scaring them out of the neighbourhood. This – being proved wrong about a film almost immediately – is known in my house as a “Mark”, or “being Marked” (named after my good self).

 
We at the ISCFC were given early viewing rights to this film, and for that I want to thank all at PsykikJunky Films for taking a chance on the little film review site that could. They’ve asked us not to spoil the film, as well, and it’s been an interesting challenge. But, the ending…I’ll throw out a hypothetical, and see what you think. Imagine if you’re watching “Cloverfield” and, about 20 minutes before the end, the screen fades to black, and text comes up which just tells you how the film ends. Imagine how bummed out you’d be?

Hate Crime on IMDB

Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler (2009)

Directed by Tôya Satô

There are several mixed messages in Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler. For one thing the protagonist in the film is a loser slacker approaching thirty and the only solution to his problems is to gamble his life away, sure he wins, but ultimately he loses. See, for slackers like me, also considered somewhat of a loser, approaching thirty, I too tend to feel that the only way of getting out of my current bog of a life is to win the lottery. Although given that I haven’t purchased a ticket in months, probably not since that big ol’ Euromillions jackpot seemed so tantalizingly within my grasp, despite the ludicrous odds. My chances of living a jet set playboy lifestyle remain fairly slim.

Kaiji Ito is at rock bottom, struggling to find gainful unemployment, getting himself in unnecessary scrapes, his life is directionless. One day after kicking the wrong car in an act of petty vandalism he is approached by a debt collector named Rinko Endo. She informs Kaiji that financially he is fucked, and either he can spend the remainder of his adult life paying off loans or take a chance by getting on board a ship called ‘Espoir’ where he can take one big gamble, repay his debt, and live a better life. Thinking this is the easiest way to solve his financial problems Kaiji climbs on board.

The film really amps up tension during the gambling scenes that take place on the ‘Espoir’, as Kaiji, and assortment or similarly aged male losers are informed by a shady businessman named Tonegawa that they are playing for their freedom. A simple card game of rock, paper, scissors turns into a tense battleground, with the losers cutting each other’s throats (metaphorically speaking) to get the big prize. Kaiji is tricked by a player called Funai, yet is able to regain the upper hand when he teams up with a meek man known only as Mister. However by helping him Kaiji manages to lose the game, and is faced with the grim prospect of years of underground hard labour.

When the opportunity to play a second game called “Brave Man Road” comes along after months of sweat and toil, Kaiji once again decides that it is better to take a chance then to pointlessly endure the harsh daily grind. The game isn’t all that fun for the competitors as they must walk along a narrow steel girder that connects two high rise buildings. The game requires stamina, concentration, and nerve, one slip and it is curtains. To make matters worse the girder has been electrified, meaning that you can’t crawl across in a safer fashion.

Once he crosses the girder (and this scene takes an eternity, with tension ramped up to comical levels) Kaiji must battle Tonegawa in one final card game – ‘E Card’, which relies on psychologically out witting your opponent. It’s Emperor vs. Slave, Kaiji’s bid for freedom is reduced to one more game of chance over three agonizing rounds.

The films message underlines the difference between the rich and the poor in our difficult worldwide economic climate. The rich in the film, clad in designer suits watch the action through CCTV screens, laughing to themselves as each loser fails. A generation is being lost to debt, and this debt is leading to an assortment of wider personal problems, including gambling addiction.

Tonegawa regularly taunts Kaiji throughout the film, but he does make a salient point, that life is fundamentally unfair. There are several blunt scenes which underline the unfairness of lowly paid manual labour, particularly when after receiving a pittance of a paycheque after a month of underground toil Kaiji is seduced by his foreman into blowing his entire wage on chicken and beer. He realises even small comforts can’t compensate for his frustration.

Coming in at 130 minutes the length of the film allows for a greater exploration of the thought processes of each character. The ‘E Card’ game reveals the inner workings of Kaiji and Tonegawa, as both ponder their each move. Each game’s outcome is explained in detail, just in case you missed out anything during the tense action. This at times seems a little patronizing to the viewer, and is a perhaps overdone.

During the course of his journey Kaiji discovers that you must feel alive, in order to truly live and to do this you must take risks, and endure hardship. The lesson here my friends is that you must throw caution to the wind. Though it’s probably not best do this through reckless gambling. Gamble responsibly folks, and pick your battles sensibly.

– RJW

6/10

Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler
Buy Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler [DVD] [2009]

Preview: Hate Crime

Directed by: James Cullen Bressack

James Cullen Bressack’s ‘Hate Crime’ is a bludgeoning assault to the senses. It is an uncomfortable viewing experience, and harks back to some of the darker moments of cinema history found in films such as Michael Winner’s ‘Death Wish’ and Wes Craven’s ‘Last House on the Left’.

The horror takes place within a normal American family home. A birthday party is interrupted by a gang of nameless masked thugs. The family suddenly face evil in its human form. Bressack, it appears has focussed on realism, the kind of horrific stories that are becoming a regular occurrence on news bulletins. The film is unsettling, and contains several scenes which are bound to cause a stir, and dare I even say when the film shows at various Film Festivals it may even lead to walkouts.

The clever use of the Family’s handheld camera to document the intrusion creates a disturbing intimacy, which places the viewer in the middle of the violence. The acting is very naturalistic; it appears that Bressack told his cast to run with it, to veer from the script. This sometimes leads to some unintentionally dark comic moments from Jody Barton, Tim Moran and Ian Roberts who play the masked men.

True violence isn’t set-up, it happens spontaneously and chaotically. The masked intruders are savage animals that are driven by their own perversions and base instincts. I felt unsettled by some of the film’s content, but it did get me thinking. It wasn’t shock for shocks sake, there seemed to be a point. In many ways I’ve felt similarly about several films from the ‘New French Extremity’ movement. Where boundaries are pushed, and as a viewer I’ve often wondered why I’m watching this, and what it says about me as a person, about how I respond when confronted by human suffering.

I wonder if Bressack is interested in the idea of ‘body horror’, as the family are branded, burnt, and bloodied. In more uncivilized times, death was in our households, it was on our doorsteps. Families were ravaged by wars, and some suffered from hideous diseases. A walk into town saw public executions. The insane asylums were glorified tourist attractions. The weak were punished. There was a distinct lack of love, care or empathy. What I’m trying to say is that horror was an everyday occurrence, people were exposed to it. Today, the evil is still out there, flick on the news channels, read the newspapers, only we are sheltered from it, safe in our own homes. This is where Bressack has been quite clever by disturbing the carefully constructed peace.

Cinema will always hold a mirror up to society. Yes, this is a clichéd idea, but Bressack’s transgressive direction makes a social comment in the bluntest manner possible. Harsher critics might view the film as torture porn. Yet, pornography is something that is actively sought out. This isn’t a film you would want to see, it is a film that you will encounter reluctantly, and likely it will leave an impression.

– RJW

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Lockout (2012)

Like most film reviewers, I struggle with the middling sort of films. If a film’s great, then you can heap on the superlatives and use phrases like “masterful use of mise en scene” to let everyone know you’ve read some books; and if it’s terrible then it’s a big race to see who can use the most hyperbole to dismiss it – “this film made me want to dig up my grandma, reanimate her and kill her again, it was so bad”. But for films like Lockout?

Only the producers of “Taken”? Not interested

 

First and foremost, if you’ve seen “Escape From New York” (and if you haven’t seen it, you really ought to), you’ve seen about 75% of this film. It adds on a sprinkling of scenes you’re most likely to remember from other sci-fi films (the raid on the Death Star from Star Wars, most notably), adds on a bit of a subplot involving the main character being framed, and gives us romance!

 

Guy Pearce is Snow, a CIA agent who’s sort-of framed for the murder of his partner and is about to be sent to SPACE PRISON, called MS-1 (also the name of an excellent Mexican wrestler, which added a layer to my enjoyment). The opening scene is pretty decent, as he’s questioned by Peter Stormare, his old boss and one of the coolest actors around. Snow is way more verbose than Snake Plissken, and seems to be channeling Dennis Hopper from the famous interrogation scene in “True Romance”., and it appears Snow never met a line he didn’t want to deliver with a heavy layer of snark.

 

At the same time, the President’s daughter is on a fact-finding mission to MS-1, to make sure it’s all above board and the inmates aren’t being used as guinea pigs to test stasis and interstellar flight (see if you can guess if she finds evidence of this or not!) One of the Secret Service agents makes plot-driver mistake no. 17: don’t sneak a gun into somewhere you’re not supposed to have a gun, because bad guys will always steal it. President’s daughter, Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace, off of Lost), interviews insane murdering rapist fella, he grabs the gun, kill kill kill, all the other prisoners in stasis get released, whoops!

 

“I’m the way god made me, sir”

Snow is offered an amnesty, if he goes and rescues the President’s daughter. He’s all “oh, no thanks, I’m well up for a lifetime of stasis though” until the CIA guy who thinks he’s innocent tells him the person who knows where this film’s MacGuffin (a suitcase containing all the information needed to free Snow) is – on MS-1 themselves! So, our pieces are in place, and let’s watch the game – Snow trying to rescue the President’s daughter and prove his own innocence; the newly released and rather unhappy prisoners doing what the violent and deranged do; and Stormare and co. on earth, keeping track of everything.

 

This film isn’t terrible. I mean, I could spend several hundred words telling you about the plot holes (as a few IMDB-ers did in a hilarious discussion entitled “100 things I learned from watching Lockout”), but it would leave you with an inaccurate impression of my feelings towards this film. Guy Pearce is wobbling on the edge of being a parody of sci-fi action heroes; and the cast do their best with the fairly ripe dialogue. The problem I couldn’t shake off was the lack of a sense of urgency. The baddies are in one spot on MS-1, and Snow is in another, but there’s no indication given by the film of how close they are, or indeed where anything is inside this massive structure. Because of this, there was no “oh, can they evade the baddies?” or “how close are the baddies to discovering their hiding place?”

 

This film has one of the more unusual endings, where…nah, I can’t tell you. If you’ve seen it, you know how “amazing” it is, and if you haven’t then I’m not sure you’d believe me anyway. The President’s daughter is obviously very pleased with Snow, and after absolutely zero chemistry between the two of them they throw us a “hey, wouldn’t a sequel with these two as teamed-up asskickers be awesome?” bone right at the end.

 

It probably wasn’t as bad as I’m making out. A very long way from being perfect, mind, but it ripped along at a fair old pace, there was something blowing up or someone getting shot every few minutes in case your spirits were dropping, and Peter Stormare was just awesome every time he was on screen. So, if you’ve got some weird OCD thing about seeing every sci-fi film ever, like my friend Julian, then you’ll have seen thousands of films worse than this. If you’re in the middle of a Yasujiro Ozu marathon (another highbrow reference! And so close to the end!), I’d probably not bother.

 

RATING: 2 violent Scotsmen out of 5

 

 

Lockout on IMDB
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