Wednesday, April 23, 2014

#DoubleFeature - The Last Stand/Bullet to the Head

Stallone. Schwarzenegger.

The two most badass names action film fans from the 1990s will recognize instantaneously. Now back for an almost-simultaneous double feature release nowadays!

It's a competition between SLY and SCHWARZIE in these following reviews:

The year is 2013.

Appearing in less big budget explosive blockbusters over the years, Sylvester Stallone finally made a well-deserved comeback in highly acclaimed sequels to both the Rocky and the Rambo series. Sly was back and better than ever. This marked his true return to the action genre. Now he was back making new films more regularly.

Meanwhile Arnold Schwarzenegger kind of had to leave Hollywood for California when he became "The Governator". With his tenure coming to an end in 2011, Schwarzie wanted to make his longdue comeback to big summer blockbuster hits. After rumors of a new Terminator (finally happening as I write these lines!) or possibly a Predator film, Schwarzie finally settled on a little low-budget action film, akin to some of his early 80s material.

2013 marked the big return of both stars in gritty fast-paced action flicks. Both separated by mere two weeks apart their respective release dates.

Was this action films back in due form like they used to be back in the 1980s/1990s or just modern popcorn flicks at their worst? Let's dig in...

Movie: The Last Stand 
Directed by Kim Jee-woon 
Release date 2013
Genre Action film
Country USA

Schwarzenegger's big return to action flicks!

What is The Last Stand? Not a huge billion-dollars blockbuster flick. Rather, a simple old school fun little frontier-like story. 

The Last Stand follows a simple "good guys vs bad guys" scenario.

It was directed by popular South Korean film director Kim Jee-woon who has developed a big fan following over the years. This was his big Hollywood debut. And apparently he simply wanted to make a simple fun old school action film - probably the way he liked those when he was younger.

The film stars Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Jaimie Alexander (Thor's Sif!) and even Johnny Knoxville! Yeah. Yikes. 

As much as I loved Jackass "in my older days" when I read this name attached to the film almost all my early enthusiast about it died instantly. But for some reason, Johnny Knoxvill wasn't as bad or annoying as I feared. Thankfully Knoxville didn't end up as an annoying Rob Schneider-like sidekick and his character was actually fun (and not as much used as marketing and the trailers made it so).

The film features this great little cast of fun characters, I almost didn't wanna see any of the small-town cops die (but that's probably just me).

The story opens as

The film as the FBI is about to transport this big cartel leader sentenced to death row to another facility. Shit happens, and the villain escapes.

The rest of the film follows Forest Whitaker and the rest of the FBI chasing after him as he races to the Mexican border...

But something they didn't plan for happens. The most badass small-town cop ever gets in the way.

Schwarzie plays here Police Sheriff Ray Owens, who lives in Sommerton, Arizona. A small town where nothing happens... usually.

Arnold is the last guy on the way the bad guy has to pass through... and he will prove up to be a much bigger threat to his objective he originally anticipated.

Our Sherrif's staff his all kinds of inexperienced, dreaming of what being a cop in a big city would be like... Heh.. They seem to have no clues regarding basic police procedures...

In the final act the film turns into a pure Mexican standoff... on the Mexican border!

The Last Stand is kind of stupid at times. But it's such a kickass action flick!

It plays well with our older Ah-nold

Kim Jee-woon's direction is great and effective. Played like a badass action film. Sure most of the plot can feel a bit cheesy and cliché, once you come down to it. But it's also a lot of fun.

The film turn into this kind of violent bloodbath during the shootouts.. Probably moreso than most past Schwarzenegger films. Violence has always been more synonymous with Stallone films in my eyes.

During the gunfights, bullets fly around.. It's epic! With tons of baddies dying left and right at the end.

Schwarzenegger's back in the action genre. It goes as well as expected... It's loud, akin to old 80s shoot 'em up films. With some laughs and winks at the camera. 

He said he would be back! 

Overall: Schwarzenegger final "true" action film was appropriately named last Last Action Hero. How à propos Arnold's big comeback almost sports the same name.

Despite bombing at the box office (my opinion? general audiences prefer big expensive movie treats nowadays.. sigh..), it's really fun.

I really thought this was one of the best surprises of the last few years.

The film also features as badass score composed by Mowg. A true tribute to Old West/frontier films.

Fast-paced highly recommenced entertaining film, almost campy during its final act (like that could be a bad thing! ha!).

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Films!

Movie: Bullet to the Head 
Directed by Walter Hill
Release date 2013
Genre Action film
Country USA

While Stallone was already technically "back" to the genre these last couple of years, making old school action film in the form of the new Rambo, Rocky and The Expendables, Bullet to the Head was him back to a darker Hard-R Rated violent film, with plenty of gratuitous violence and gore. 

Bullet to the Head was directed by 48 Hrs, The Warriors and Schwazie's own 1988 classic Red Heat director, Walter Hill. A man no stranger to fast-paced explosive blockbusters. Yet, I kinda think he sort of let us down on this...

Bullet to the Head was based on a little well-received French comic simply similarly titled "Du Plomb Dans La Tete", by Alexis Nolent (who probably actually had Schwarzenegger in mind for the role, from the looks of his original character).

Alongside Sylvester Stallone it stars Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christian Slater (long time no see!) and Jason Momoa.  

It follows a buddy cop formula and probably should have gone for a full Noir-like vibe....

The film takes place in Crescent City, New Orleans.

It follows this hitman ridiculously named James Bonomo (Stallone). Following a hit, his partner gets ambushed by a contracted killer to clean "all loose ends". ('guess killing doesn't pay out...?)  

Meanwhile this rookie Washington DC Detective, Detective Taylor Kwon, is investigating on the death of this corrupt cop - the same guy Bonomo killed.

Somebody was trying to cut threads leading to him. Bono' tries to get at his employer but it seems the corruption gets further up the food chain.

But wait, there's more! This hulking "henchman" is looking for revenge.. Wait, he was the one originally sent to kill them, why is he looking for vengeance? Or does he simply wanna set the score right? I dunno.. It's kinda difficult to make heads or tails.. Anyhow! He decides to turn the tables on anyone on his path for vengeance justice hate. And will get through anything to get at Stallone!

Our protagonists are forced to team up to face a common foe.  

Fun fact, it was Thomas Jane that was originally cast in the role of the Washington cop. But I kinda ended up liking this Sung Kang guy anyway, he was pretty fun in the role of this technologic-cop, obsessed with his smart phone. 

The film is pure non-sense and the plot is as silly as it gets in these kind of films. From the inexperienced Washington Detective who becomes a badass gunner by the end to Stallone's ability to face dudes twice his size.

Bullet to the Head biggest offense is that it probably didn't truly deserve its R-Rating (mostly compared to Last Stand above!).

Stallone does his job the best he can, shouting one liners and whatnot. 
short on words

Jimmy Bonomo appears to be the kinda mercenary who has no problems gunning down henchmen yet retains a sort of moral code that will prevent him from killing his good cop partner. He's kinda a charicature of past Stallone characters.

The film features almost no soundtrack at times, during action scenes. But Steve Mazzaro composed a fantastic score that mostly goes underused.

Our heroes end up respecting each other at the end of the day. 

The ax-wielding fight scene at the end his almost worth the price of the entire film. Strangely, the real villains end up mostly killing each other... 

Overall: It's pretty fun, a blast really. Reminiscent of Stallone's older films, and back on the big screen nowasays! 

Bullet to the Head is also kind of slow-paced at times.

Some dark humor saves some scenes. But this is far from Stallone's best work which it desperately tries to act like...   

The film has not a lot going for it in my eyes, but beneath all this there were no doubt the basis for a much better film....

Fans of Stallone and Walter Hill past films will obviously regard this with some nostalgic values, but it would be much better to simply look back at their older films... 

I give it:
1.5 / 3 Films!

There was a sort of return to basic action flicks in 2013 for some reason. A lot of similar films were released through the year. Nostalgia? I very much think so.

But it was really only these two - The Last Stand and Bullet to the Head - that really tried and managed to be the better release of the genre that year (ugh... A Good Day to Die Hard...).

While both are pretty fun highly entertaining action flicks, Bullet to the Head didn't manage to capture my imagination as much. It actually feels like a cheap direct-to-video film. Almost kind of bad, in a fun way.

Last Stand on the other hand turned out to be so much fun. Not only did it live up to the hype for me it actually feels much closer to past hyper-violent Stallone films (that's right, that's not a typo!). Much better than Stallone’s Bullet to the Head.

Anyway, it seems the 1980s are back, several decades later.

That's all for this time's DoubleFeature!

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