Turkey Shoot (2014)

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Fans of Ozploitation will know about the original “Turkey Shoot”, a tight and fun little thriller about “deviants” held in a re-education centre getting hunted and killed – also known as “Blood Camp Thatcher”, a title which held more significance in the early 1980s. Well, any good idea is worth plundering, and that’s why we’re here.

 

I’m sorry, readers, but the trailer fooled me. It looked like a futuristic camp bit of fun, with a stoic Dominic Purcell offing a weird and colourful selection of characters; but what we get is some sort of mix of “The Running Man” and all those “The Most Dangerous Game” ripoffs, with barely any of the original movie. Purcell is Rick Tyler, an army assassin who kills the Libyan dictator in some attempt to stop “World War Africa”, with a mighty impressive bullet which makes his head explode; but the next thing we see is “three years later”, with Purcell in the Neo-Alcatraz prison.

 

These flavours of some sort of dystopian future are dotted throughout (Tripoli is seen as some CGI mega-metropolis, oddly), but really add nothing to the movie and aren’t used in a particularly interesting way. Purcell fights off a murder attempt while inside prison, and then for some reason is picked to be the next contestant on “Turkey Shoot”, the world’s most popular TV show. Round 1 – runner against four trained, armed killers; the runner has 90 minutes to get to a large glowing box and open it with his thumbprint. Round 2 – eight trained killers; and no-one’s ever made it to round 3, where the prize is freedom.

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I suppose we ought to talk about how this movie really doesn’t make a lick of sense, and this is as good a time as any. The show has been going for at least three years, and no-one has ever made it to round 3? Imagine “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” where no-one ever got past £32,000, and how boring that would be. The most famous of the killers is the sniper, “Ramrod”, who just waits for the runner to get near the box and then kills them. Does that sound like a lot of fun to anyone? “Oh great, the massively outmatched guy got shot by the hidden sniper. Let’s be sure to tune in next week!” The rest of the hunters are a colourful, multi-ethnic group of slightly pudgy, unthreatening-looking killers.

 

Oh, and Ramrod used to be in the army with Rick, which makes no sense either – and the General who sent Rick to kill the Libyan leader didn’t really want him to succeed, but then has a crisis of conscience about starting another world war so sends one of his soldiers, Jill (Viva Bianca), to rescue him from Turkey Shoot. Plus there’s the TV network representative who seems to have a finger in every pie…

 

I feel analysis of this movie continuing to slip away. It’s all to do with the assassination, and the way that he ended up in prison because the murders of a bunch of women and children was pinned on him – all of which is crucial to the war, for some reason. So, they really want to kill Rick, but the only way they could think of to do this was have other inmates try and shiv him. Why not have a guard shoot him and blame it on an escape? Why not poison his food? Anything other than “put him on a reality TV show where one of his old army buddies is the chief hunter”, really.

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Let’s talk about the TV show aspect of it for a moment. A nice idea, if a little old hat, but they largely ignore this conceit except for the introduction of each round. When Purcell kills one of the hunters, they should be cutting back to the studio, showing the crowd cheering or booing, having interviews with retired hunters, anything other than the nothing they actually do.

 

The entire thing feels like it was written in the 90s and left largely unchanged. Thinking about the evolution of TV, and how it might be in the future, it hasn’t really got more dangerous or more violent (in the most part). If anything, it’s become much more corporate, with adverts being more fully integrated with shows and whole channels devoted to the minutiae of rich peoples’ lives. That idea that TV will evolve to the stage where murders will be shown live just doesn’t seem like a sensible extrapolation any more.

 

But let’s take it at face value. In round 1, he’s parachuted, mostly unconscious, into a forest. Now, if he’d not woken up before he hit the ground, or had taken a nasty knock on a branch, that would have been show over, immediately. Seems pretty stupid, right? And for round 2, he’s left (again unconscious) in the middle of a dock’s storage area, and as he wakes up he sees a woman riding a bike at his head. If he’d been a little slower to wake up, or she’d been a little faster, his head would have been blown up and the show would have ended in seconds. Again, seems pretty stupid, right? Oh, and without spoiling too much, round 3 is just set on the streets of a major city…and they’ve mentioned throughout how popular Rick is with the public. Do any of them help him? Or, despite the lack of any cash prize, do they just attack him constantly, wherever he goes? I’ll leave that non-question for you to figure out, dear reader.

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I’m sure the filmmakers would defend this film with “it’s deliberately camp, OTT on purpose” but it just isn’t. Some of it is obviously played for laughs, but none of the actual hunt is, and when you get stuff like the President filmed in front of a plain white wall, or an Australian minister filmed in what looks like a filthy back alley, arguing “it’s camp” is just an excuse for not bothering to put any effort into your movie.

 

Purcell’s fine, although he could stand to express a few emotions other than stone-faced stoicism, and everyone else is as good as a bunch of Australians putting on American accents could be. It just looks cheap, though, as if they started making a bit of effort but then the money ran out so they just did stuff in plain rooms and back streets and with security cameras.

 

It’s not the worst movie ever, but it definitely needed someone who was prepared to commit to the concept, or someone who could see the huge flaws in the script (both direction and script are from Jon Hewitt). I can forgive cheapness – it’s an indie movie made in Australia – but I can’t forgive laziness. Stick to the original, or just put a pin in a list of movies which rip off “The Most Dangerous Game”, and you should be able to do better than this.

 

Rating: thumbs down

 

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In The Name Of The King 3: The Last Mission (2014)

Know what might have been fun? Wearing this armour in the movie

Know what might have been fun? Wearing this armour in the movie

The more you think about this movie, the more any meaning it might have slips away from you. It’s so…empty, like the shell of a movie they forgot to add anything to. I’ve got no idea who it was made for, or why; it’s not crazy like a lot of Uwe Boll’s other films, and his sense of humour really struggles to come through. For a fantasy movie, a good third of it is set in present-day Sofia, Bulgaria (the home of choice for low-budget US filmmaking for a good 15 years), too.

 

Dominic Purcell, stoic co-star of “Prison Break”, doesn’t exactly stretch his range by playing an emotionless assassin. Given the job of kidnapping a couple of children (their father is a politician or something) he does so, because he’s a badass, but then finds one of them wearing a medallion that matches a tattoo he has on his arm. BOOM! Just like part 2, he’s through a portal and into…medieval Bulgaria! But luckily, a version of Bulgaria with magic and dragons and so on. He meets two beautiful sisters who are also super-fighters and gets sucked into a rebellion against the evil Prince or King or whatever, who has the replacement medallion he’ll need to get home.

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In case you were wondering, none of this is remotely related to the events of the first two movies (which did have some continuity, after a fashion). Although the computer game that started this franchise is a distant memory, thinking of this movie like it’s a game is the only way to wrestle any meaning from it. Purcell keeps his future-clothes on the entire time he’s in the past, he cruises through both “levels” of the movie almost entirely unhurt, learns new weapon skills quickly and finds himself a beautiful “girlfriend”. It would have been game-normal if he’d got some artefact in the past which helped him in the present, but all he got was a supportive speech.

 

There’s two funny bits, which makes me sad that the person who thought of those didn’t have more control over the entire thing. With the same snappy editing that was used to illustrate Dominic’s kills, he makes himself a cup of coffee in the hotel room of the man he just assassinated (it plays funnier than it sounds); and later on in the movie, in the middle of a ton of flowery medieval speeches, the evil King says to our hero “You’ve come to kill me”, to which Dominic, not missing a beat and not changing his expression one bit, replies “Yup”. Little touches that deserve a better movie around them.

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I was ready to kill the camera operator by the end, though. I’m never normally bothered by shaky-cam, but it honestly felt like they were trying to make me sick. If you suffer at all, then just close your eyes until the sound of metal on metal stops (you won’t miss anything). Luckily, he stopped wobbling long enough to show the castle where the final battle takes place, and I’d bet £££ it’s the same castle used in one of the later “Deathstalker” movies. That’s the sort of analysis you can only expect from the ISCFC!!

 

Poor Dominic Purcell, he at least sort of tries. A bit. Every single other member of the cast is Eastern European, and the accents are pretty thick – to be fair, their English is better than my Bulgarian – which adds another annoying layer to it all. Even if you can make it through all that (and I enjoyed parts 1 and 2, sort of), there’s still that overwhelming sense of “why on earth was this made?” I was really surprised at how little I hated the Uwe Boll movies I’d seen in our recent series on him, but this one broke the trend, and hard.

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For a film that’s one third modern Eastern European action thriller, two thirds medieval wander-through-the-woods adventure, it’s…even worse than that sounds. I suppose, to a smart film fan reading this, the first thing that’ll spring to mind is “Army of Darkness”, but aside from being vastly superior in every single way to this, that spends a great deal less time in the “present”. And it linked the two eras, whereas this just doesn’t bother. If you’re desperate to watch an accidental time-travel action adventure, definitely watch that instead.

 

Rating: thumbs down

Vikingdom (2013)

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There are certain genres where films that do it with a twinkle in their eye and the sense they’re not taking it too seriously will get quite a bad press on release. “Torque” and racing movies, “Super Cyclone” and disaster movies, and along with a hundred other examples we can add “Vikingdom” and historical epics to that list.

“300” casts a long shadow over films with fighting in, to the extent I’m not even sure if people realise they’re ripping it off any more, just that that’s the way it’s done. Dominic Purcell is Eirick, the king of a small country who’s killed in a slow-mo-blood-spurting battle. His voiceover intones “my story starts the day I died” and then flips forward ten years, to where he’s living in a tiny shack in the forest, hunting bears. Turns out that Freya, the Norse goddess of love, so adored Eirick that she brought him back from the dead, and he’s been living a monk-like existence since then. The idea of the “love” for a deity being shown in almost romantic terms is an interesting one, but we don’t have tons of time to dwell on that because Thor is back!

Thor, a villain in this movie, has decided to open the gates of Heaven and Hell, cause havoc, destroy the Christian god and resume his place at the centre of everyone’s worship. Freya’s brother Frey has come to ask Eirick for help – his resurrected status means he can go to Hellheim and back and grab a magic horn. So, he sets off to gather a gang of people to help.

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Here’s where the director’s name might come in handy. Yusry Abd Halim is his name, and he’s Malaysian. Educated partly in the UK, formerly a member of a boy band in his home country, then moved into acting, and now owner of the production company which makes the films he directs. He’s done a superhero comedy, horror and also an East-meets-West historical epic. “Vikingdom” feels more in the tradition of those huge films that have been coming out of the Far East than it does of low-budget Western quest movies, which is definitely how it was sold in the UK. Plus, its slightly dreamy, cartoony backgrounds and special effects definitely set it apart from the mainstream.

A criticism Halim received for his suphero movie “Cicak-Man” is that in the same film, you had people acting entirely seriously and people having a bit of a laugh, resulting in weird tonal shifts. I think the same thing happens here, with Eirick the unsmiling, sober hero, and several of the people round him being slightly less serious- importantly, I think it works though. Craig Fairbrass is fantastic as his sidekick Sven, who plays his entire part as a Cockney hard-man and John Foo is great as Yang, an Oriental slave who they rescue, who happens to be a martial arts super-fighter. There are a couple of magnificent examples of the over-actor’s art on display too, like Conan Stevens as Thor and John Reynolds as the Zombie King, who never met a line they didn’t want to shout with a weird intonation. Add in to this a former “Only Fools And Horses” cast member, and Natassia Malthe forcing her way onto the quest and luckily (for us) forgetting to wear anything remotely protective when going into battle, and you’ve got yourself a decent cast.

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“Vikingdom” isn’t short, either – almost 2 hours – which had me wondering if it was originally intended as a mini-series or something. But there’s no indication that’s the case, and it’s more a matter of, from the cover and advertising, expecting that cheap Asylum / SyFy Channel thing, which this most definitely is not. Also, filmed entirely in Malaysia, which can evidently turn its hand to looking like basically anywhere.

The big thing to say about this is it’s just so much fun! The cast has a great time, it’s lovely to look at and it feels very different to most films of this sort. The comedy tone is handled really well too, and it works because some of the cast play it completely straight (and may not have been aware that others were aiming for laughs). There’s no attempt to match accents, because who cares? It’s not like any of this really happened anyway. The funniest thing associated with this movie is claims from some corners that it’s hate speech towards the Norse people; well, that and when Thor goes to one of his underlings “you lack vision” then pops one of his eyes out of his skull. Yes!

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This is a great movie. A fun, exciting historical romp, with overacting, underacting, crazy special effects and a huge variety of fights.

Rating: thumbs up