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Van Damme

The new Van Damme Blu Rays…WTF?


I must say I´m so very dissapointed in whoever greenlit these covers.

Why not keep the old artwork of the movie-posters?

These are hackjobs of the worst kind, the blue and grey makes it look so cheap, but seems like a trend there.

Luckily, there are different artworks, depending on the country they get released in…the french Death Warrant looks halfway decent and actually has a picture from the film..they put a frickin scene out of Lionheart on there and a badly photoshopped face..holy cow that`s a hackjob if I have ever seen one!!

They just don`t care it seems….


The Expendables 2 Review


Hey there..back to writing reviews, finally. I wasn`t in the mood the past few weeks , but

Now I feel the need again.

This time it`s The Expendables 2.

And I must say-this film is truly expendable. I wanted to like it, I really did. The first one was a huge disappointment already, I was hoping that it gets better. But in my opinion, it didn`t.

Again, the story is something everybody could write down in a minute on the toilet.

When I have the feeling, that I could have written a better story, that`s when I begin to feel cheated. It is not a low-budget crap movie..it`s some of the biggest names of action cinema!  With that amount of star power, how can you let it become such a poor movie? And that twice, holy cow.

It feels like the last writer`s strike never ended. I was kinda excited for Van Damme as the villain, and for a few minutes I tried to sugarcoat it…but I gave up soon.

His accent , which I normally have little problems with, eventhough he should`ve gotten a few lessons to improve his english, he never did, and here he makes it only worse. The way he says challenge there is just so terrible. Why did nobody say: “ Hey JC, it`s challenge, not challANGE!” Please try that again. And all the shit about the goat and satan and all that..WTF? Terrible. Plus the respect and honor crap, when it`s crystal clear that he doesn`t have any of that?  And killing off the “character” with the weakest background and oh so heartbreaking Afghanistan story?  In the beginning I thought they might kill Rourke`s character, even without actually seeing him, since he obviously didn`t return, it would`ve made more sense, revenge-wise. Opening with a huge onslaught of action that doesn`t mean anything for the following “plot”? What a waste. Even the finale didn`t provide that much action. They surely shot a lot of people, but it wasn`t the same scale as the opening.

Chuck Norris comes outta nowhere, making no sense. And the Chuck Norris jokes were lame.

Also, the I´ll be back and Yippi-kay-yea..so forced and not funny. You might say” It was never intended to have a good story  etc..”..maybe. If so, this kind of  retro-action-parody isn`t for me. I have no desire to watch this again anytime soon. It just has no rewatchability for me.

Just a bunch of missed opportunities. I could think of several scenes that would`ve made a difference. Make Stallone box Lundgren, even in a training situation-you got a nod to Rocky 4. Make Van Damme split and punch someone in the nuts-nod to Bloodsport..and so on.. Even the final fight of Stallone and Van Damme was too short and one-sided. Universal Soldier 4  kicks more ass than this one. Simon West delievered decent action, but all pieces together, it didn`t tickle me much. During the movie I really only waited for the final fight and it was too short.

In the end, maybe it was too silly for my taste. If I want silly, there is always Jackie Chan or Adam Sandler…doesn`t work for me with the action stars of yesterday. The action is decent, but to me felt aimless and uninspired. Ok, enough of the bashing.  I couldn`t invest my feelings into this one, it felt ..well..expendable. The Expendables movies will never find the way into my collection, because I see no long-time value here. I rather  watch me some originals, which even after 20 years or more, are far better and left lasting impressions.


UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (2012) Review FFF 2012


Directed  by John Hyams

 

 

Yesterday I went to see Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning at my local Cinemaxx.

I was quite excited for it, because it was supposed to be bigger and different from the third part, also directed by John Hyams. I didn`t really like that one, mostly because Van Damme looked so tired and bored to death. For a DTV title it sure was pretty good, but my critiscism mostly was due to the story and Van Damme. The second part was ignored(probably a good thing) and yet the story for the third felt very run of the mill-cheap.

From what I gathered, this was going to be pretty violent and in 3D. Both not really a reason for joy, the third was very violent , but it wasn`t fun, except for Dolph`s final moment there.

Well, I´m happy to say that they achieved fun violence here!

The film opened like a horror film and used the 3D for atmosphere , rather than “in your eye-poking” stuff.It`s also shot completely in first-person perspective for the entire opening scene. Ill try to not spoil anything, cuz I didn`t know anything about the story, apart from a few pics I`ve seen online. That`s the way you should go into this, too. If you are lucky enough to catch it at Fantasy Filmfest in Germany or Actionfest in the US. Otherwise  you`ll have to wait til the end of October for it to appear on DVD and Blue Ray. Maybe it gets a limited run at theatres, too.

I have written some ugly stuff about John Hyams, after I´ve been quite disappointed with his past few outings. To me, it was nothing special. Maybe my expectations are too high, possible.

Most seem to like the 3rd UNISOLs outing, I didn`t. But this time, I have to say: They really did something different. Finally, it didn`t feel like run of the mill stuff.

As I said, it opens like a horror-film and it continues to not be your ordinary action movie. A bit film-noir, thriller elements and medical sci-fi all mixed into one dark, but very entertaining experience. For the first time I liked Scott Adkins as an actor. I couldn`t feel much sympathy for him in his earlier movies. After all, he is the central figure in the film and if you don`t like him, the film is pretty much done, right? He did very well. The action-and blood-metre is pretty high in this film, with scenes you would only come to expect in horror films, this is really hard R, for real! And they managed to make it fun, too. There were several scenes that made us cheer and scream out loud in the cinema. (Btw, it wasn`t really packed, only a hundred people there, tops.) I would love to talk about certain aspects of the film, but that would include all-out spoilers, I guess. For now, I must hold back.

I really have to watch the third part again, maybe this time around I could enjoy it more. Also, I must refresh my memory …the Unisols seem to not need any cooling devices anymore, the body overheating and such seems to be no problem anymore. Maybe that was explained in the third, I don`t remember. Andrei Arlovski gets quite a lot of screen time and fights a lot. Dolph Lundgren has a few good scenes and two fights. Van Damme  has some key scenes and a great fight at the end. He is the leader of his Unisols pack, with an agenda of their own. The suspense is held up til the end, with a major twist I can`t spoil as well.

I wish I could revisit it now, but I have to work from memory of one screening only.

It is a brutal mystery sci-fi thriller, refreshingly different. Fans of the main actors will love it, there is no doubt about that .  John Hyams redeemed himself with this one in my mind. If he keeps doing inspired movies like this he has my full support.

From me, if I`d go by a scale from 1 to 10, I´d give this 8 out of  10.

Brutal, fun action galore, a great genre-mix that`s  thrilling til the end. Some very good fights and lots of blown off heads!!! (some scenes are really out there!)

Written by  Ingo

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UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (1992)


Directed by Roland Emmerich

Somehow this came to mind when I was brainstorming on what to write about.

I wanna try and find some films that are not as well-known as this one, next time.

There must be some films that are less known and deserve a wider audience. But now I´m stuck with this, pretty much a mainstream film.

 The first Hollywood gig for the now well-known Emmerich, and he did a damn good job. Not only was it a success, it looks really, really good for a 20 million dollar flick.

He was known to deliver films that look more expensive than the budget would suggest, compared to the output of other directors with a similar budget. And keeping costs down is something they like in Hollywood.

Emmerich said he doesn`t like these kind of films, but yet he delivered. It was his entry into Hollywood, so he did what he was told to do.

He didn`t even know Van Damme and had to watch his earlier films to be able to cater to the fans.  The naked Van Damme , the buttshot…it wasn`t in there cuz Emmerich is gay, it was something Van Damme exhibited in all of his earlier movies and was a sort of “must” shot.

Almost a trademark, a seal of approval.

The making of and the stories behind the scenes are pretty interesting, but I like that kinda stuff anyway. When I first saw it in theatres, I was a few minutes late, and missed the opening scene, in which Van Damme and Lundgren killed each other, only later did I see that. Weird for me,to be late for a Van Damme film, but it happened.

I must say, Van Damme looks damn weird with any kind of helmet on…he has a weird face like that. The naive look he gives you sometimes, that`s also something I always tried to ignore.

But I was too much of a fanboy to really pay attention to that. Now, it`s just one of the things I would like to cut out of every movie he did that in. But overall, he got to play a character with not depth, but versatility. A good role for him. The plot: Dead american soldiers re-animated for a secret special force- is something typical for B-movies, you must leave your brain at the door.

But once you accepted that, it was a great action concept, now copied a hundred times over…

Having Dolph Lundgren as the main villain was genius in hindsight, the fact that he accepted to star in a film not as the hero but the villain paid off.

He could be evil and go all nuts, showing a bit of acting abilities, although in the final fight there is one scene at the end that was really , really bad. But that aside, he was awesome as Sgt. Andrew Scott .

Basically, they both are Universal Soldiers, and both start to remember things from the past.

The last thing they remember is the altercation in Vietnam , when Scott went nuts and started executing prisoners at will, collecting his victims ears on a necklace .

Luc Deveraux(Van Damme ) intervened and they both got shot.

After a hostage rescue at the Hoover Dam, a female reporter is caught snooping around. She gets arrested , together with her cameraman. Scott does what he does best-execute people. Before he shoots Veronica(Ally Walker), Van Damme has a backflash and remembers a similar scene from Vietnam. He again stops Scott, which triggers his memories, too. Funny, that none of the other soldiers have those problems, but that´s the script…

Van Damme escapes from his duties as a Universal Soldier , together with Veronica and a manhunt begins. I`m sure most of you know the film anyway, right?

What follows, is a lot of fun. Van Damme plays his role a bit like a child, very naïve, but(almost) always able to protect Veronica. He slowly awakens from being a Universal Soldier, while they try to figure out how to keep him alive and who is behind it all.

Chased by a very angry Scott, who goes berserk, his only goal-to stop the traitor, with all means necessary.

There is a great chase sequence, lots of funny bits inbetween( I really loved Ally Walker in this), lots of shooting stuff and explosions, and a quite satisfying  and brutal final fight. The film mixes everything very well, it`s funny, has action galore and a nice supporting cast. The remaining Unisols are all wellknown action or martial arts actors, from Simon Rhee to Tiny Lister to Ralph Moeller. I enjoyed Ed O`Ross(RED HEAT) quite a bit, he was a kickass Colonel.

I have seen this so often, I rarely put this on, but when I do , I realise that this is a very well-done action film, that stood the test of time.  Sadly Emmerich went on to do films that are just blockbusters  without much artistic merit, just FX spectacles. Not saying that Unisols is anything deep, it surely is not, but after Stargate, it was all about FX. I liked Independece Day back then, but I am in no hurry to watch it again. Same goes for Godzilla or what came after…

He is just another version of Michael Bay, and Michael Bay at least picks the better scripts, or franchises…the scripts aren`t anything worth talking about,lol.

Emmerich, a good, very talented guy, who wasted his talents on big, ridiculous blockbusters.

Seen them all, but have no desire to see them again, at all.

But Unisols is a solid actionfilm that delivers. And Dolph Lundgren has the best scenes in this, absolutely my favourite performance by Dolph. Sometimes, leading men look better in smaller roles. Certainly the case here. He steals the show. No wonder they cloned him for a sequel, after he was sorely missed in Universal Soldier 2.

If you haven`t watched it 50 times, like I sure as hell did, you may wanna revisit this fine piece of action cinema.

“Are we having fun yet?”…Yes, we do!!!


BLOODSPORT (1988) directed by Newt Arnold


Man, is this really necessary?

Thousands of reviews must`ve been written about this…but hell, I´ll add my 2 cents anyway.

This film singlehandedly made me into a VAN DAMME nut for years to come. I´ve cooled down since then,

but boy, have I spend money on this guy, you have no idea.

It made me start up karate and I collected every snippet on JCVD I could possibly find,

sometimes buying magazines for a single page story, etc. etc.

I worked in a cinema for years and got my hands  on all the posters, banners and

in one case a 35 mm film roll of the trailer to UNIVERSAL SOLDIER 2.

I won`t spend time to tell you the plot, as you should know it by now…

As a teenager, these kind of films made a huge impression on me, as did Rocky or Rambo or anything Arnold.

Van Damme couldn`t have asked for a better entry into the realm of action stars, this film was much debated between us teens, and wars broke out over who would/could possibly kick his ass? Chuck Norris? Bruce Lee, The Hulk? Bud Spencer?

The craziest thing I have ever heard about VAN DAMME was this: That he implanted rubber bands into his legs…hellyeah…sure…

Not long ,before I was an expert about anything VAN DAMME. I tried to track down his early works, in most cases with success, one or two left open to debate, still.  I ended up owning a collection worth showing off to even the most hardcore fans. I imitated him and all that..looking back, a little ridiculous, but that`s what teenagers do, don`t they….

Can`t hurt to have an idol or two, as long as it isn`t Charles Manson. VAN DAMME polarized, just like AXL ROSE or BORIS BECKER, some loved them some hated their guts..and I ended up defending him, taking it pretty personal  sometimes..also something you have to  and will grow out of….

What makes Bloodsport so great and made it leave such a huge impression on a whole genre, like only Bruce Lee did before that, are the diverse fights( MMA  and mixed martial arts are common now, back then it was quite exotic), the fatherly trainer, the perfect hero and a great villain. Add a few funny secret agents and a buddy ( Jackson) , and you have a perfect 90 minutes action flick. I must not forget the fighters themselves, a pretty colorful bunch. Also, the soundtrack wasn`t half bad. Typical 80`s aggro music that set the tone for the fights, plus asian sounds for authenticity. It is pure late 80`s action kitsch in perfection. It spawned an insane number of Bloodsport wannabe`s and birthed a new breed of action heroes, from Olivier Gruner to Don”The Dragon” Wilson etc…

Although my fanaticism has cooled down a lot, Bloodsport remains an unapolagetic personal favourite of mine.

I could go on writing about the production and lots of other details, but since this is all easy to access via Wkipedia or Google I shall spare you that . You probably know most of it already. One thing I will mention, though:

Van Damme took this film and recut it to the version we all know, after it got rejected by the studio, ending up in the vault. Thanks to him this film got saved from the trash, so to speak. For that we should salute him, or else we would`ve missed out on one of the most entertaining martial arts films in history and the subsequent flood of similar films and their stars. Thanks JC.. and thanks Newt Arnold, for images burned forever in my brain.

You Jackson? You look like a Jackson.


UNTIL DEATH (2007)


Directed by Simon Fellows

This was a  title I was very excited for, when the first pictures came in,

and the plot also made me hope for a dark, edgy action thriller, which  it is , in parts.

Van Damme looks pretty cool as the drug-addicted detective with a mean streak.

Anthony Stowe is a tough detective on the streets of New Orleans( yet one more excuse for his accent, it never stops).

After trying to arrest the drug dealer Callaghan(Stephen Rea)( and failing miserably), Stowe has two dead undercover cops to his credit and most of his colleagues  seem to hate him for that, but even before he wasn`t exactly everybody`s  darling.

One of the victims of the bust gone wrong was the wife of another detective, who blames him for her death.

But he doesn`t  take that shit and puts him in his place. (good scene).

Stowe also has to deal with his ex-wife and his heroin addiction, he nails prostitutes on pool tables and knocks out

people who wanna tow his car. So far, so good. Van Damme plays that role pretty convincingly, but sadly, the movie can`t keep its head above water.  I´d say,. the beginning and the end are the weak points here. For  a lot of the middle, this is really good, dark stuff, although some of the story feels very rushed.

A bit later he finds himself in a set-up, that  ends for him with a bullet to the head.

He miraculously survives, and when he awakens from a coma, he changes into a nice guy, wanting to put things right.

Not only with his ex, but also with some colleagues. He doesn`t drink or drug himself anymore.(that may be a little hard to believe, but that`s the story).

Callaghan was very busy during his half-year in a coma,rising to the top spot of evil-doers  in New Orleans.

Callaghan also kills his partner.

Fresh out of the coma, he still is after information about Callaghan, but also busy making up for his bad behaviour, walking the good guy route now. His young informant, who he kinda befriended before his coma, gets killed and his wife kidnapped. I forgot to mention, Callaghan was Stowe`s partner , back in the day, two bad cops, one being a bit badder.  Stowe may have been the reason he got off the force, if there is an explanation in here, I missed it.  By now, the film goes downhill, with a very simple stand-off in a warehouse, with a villain`s monologue that`s  cringeworthy, even though delivered by a respectable actor. The shootout is half-assed, a really weak and low point of the film. I enjoyed it until now, but the scene in the warehouse is truly abysmal.

The film could`ve used a bit more of clever writing, but since Stephen Rea isn`t exactly physically imposing , and lacking martial arts skills, they seemed to have not been able to wrap it up but with a poor shoot-out in a warehouse.

I just found out that the european cut is different from the US cut(the only one I knew until today, since I never bothered to buy a german edition). Seems like the european cut has the end with Van Damme dying, plus a few alternate or extra scenes. Here, both die, shooting each other at the same time.(With two CGI cartridges flying around , so you don`t miss it)

Well, as I said, a lot of this film is pretty dark, and Van Damme really tries to act fucked up, which for the most part,worked well. But the rushed end at the warehouse eliminates much of the promising parts. Rea remains one-dimensional as the villain, that alone took a lot of the potential. A movie needs a good villain, or the whole thing is pointless. The dirty, mean and strung-out Van Damme was great to see, but the end lacked the punch, and ultimately drags this movie into dissapointing territory. Another thing , again, was Van Damme`s  delivery of lines. He really needs to spit out his dialogue a bit more fluently, sometimes it truly hurts to hear him speak. But now it`s too late  to invest into an english teacher. Just sayin`.

This could`ve been something, but the lack of care in writing, the lack of a good ending makes this a missed opportunity.

link to alternate scenes/ending:

trailer:


Dragon Eyes (2012)


Directed by John Hyams

St. Jude Square is a neighborhood living in fear and despair. The dueling gangs of local kingpins Dash and Antuan terrorize the streets and the citizens live without a shred of hope… until mysterious stranger Ryan Hong (Cung Le) arrives in town. He begins to play one gang against the other using his unparalleled martial arts skills, and by calling on the teachings of his brilliant mentor Tiano (Jean-Claude Van Damme) to find the strength to battle back. However, just as he begins to bring the community under control, Hong is confronted by Mr. V, the town’s ruthless and corrupt police chief. At first Mr. V is impressed by Hong’s skill, but soon sees Hong as a threat to his regime, and the two warriors are locked in a head-to-head battle, pitting the fear and corruption of Mr. V’s regime versus the new beginning Hong represents for the people of St. Jude Square. Written by IM Global.

Well, a new Van Damme?

No, far from it. This is the good ol`bait `n switch, as there are many  of them out there, big names that only appear for seconds or a few minutes in the actual film.

This has Van Damme as the “mentor” for Cung Le, while in prison, training him or somethin…

The rest is a c-grade gang flick, with Cung Le as the hero, saving the day.

This you can easily avoid, there`s nothing worthwhile to see here.

The few scenes with Van Damme training also add no excitement to this bad, bad flick.

Kinda hurts, when even Peter Weller plays a role in such a crap.

John  Hyams seems to have learned nothing from his father. He is just one more crap director.

Compared to this, the ever-in the making EAGLE PATH (now renamed I believe in “Soldiers”) must be a great movie.

Don`t waste your money on this, really.Not even a minute of your time.

Trailer to this crapfest below.

UPDATE:

Im glad that there are other, sane people out there, who agree about DRAGON EYES. It sucks!!
I didnt provide a real, in-depth review, but the final product is the same…

After I got flamed by some fanboys on a VAN DAMME forum for telling it like it is, this makes me feel good.

http://www.fightlinker.com/dragon-eyes-review


UNIVERSAL SOLDIER 4 (EX2 protest image) real soldiers are rated!!!


Came across this cool image , made by a member of the Van Damme fan forum www.vandammefan.net .

Related  to the PG 13 stuff going on with The Expendables..I think thats a kickass  photo.


Funny PG 13 EX 2 trailer…..


My friend over at Explosive Action posted this on facebook, and I just have to share it with you, my few but beloved readers. its  just too funny not to share it!!!


Official pics from UNISOLS-4 -VAN DAMME


JCVD  just released 3 stills from UNIVERSAL SOLDIER 4, bald like Bruce Willis.

Not that I have high hopes for this movie, and I am afraid, it will again feature Van Damme in only half the movie, as happened in part 3 already. Movie stills can be very misleading…I remember being stoked, seeing stills for Lundgren`s DIAMOND DOGS, and it was a really crappy movie. But I am always open for a surprise. This is supposed to be in 3D-WHY? It probably won`t play in theatres, and if it does, its gonna be a limited release like ASSASSINATION GAMES.

Whatever….cannot really judge it before it`s out.

Until then, here are the 3 stills  JCVD released on his facebook.


Review – HARD TARGET (1993)


Directed by John Woo

John Woo and Van Damme, what a combination!!!

My buddy Jason over atrobotGEEKS Cult Cinema did his review of Hard Target and missed my video-review of the Hard Target workprint, which I deleted, cuz I felt it was insufficient. Make sure to read his take on it as well.

Now I feel i have to take it on…the theatrical version with additional info to the different versions, including the  workprint.

Van Damme plays an out of work seaman, who  helps a young woman to find her missing father. Turns out he was the victim of  hunting games,  that are held for rich assholes, who can afford to shell out half a million dollars to shoot a homeless veteran. Naturally, they get in trouble, and Van Damme has to put an end to this.

When this came out in 1993, this was heaven on earth for a Van Damme fan, who – just a bit earlier, got introduced to the mindblowing action movies of John Woo.

How  can you not love THE KILLER or HARD-BOILED, BULLET IN THE HEAD or the A BETTER TOMORROW movies…and a few others. Combined with an action-star like Van Damme ( on the height of his career), this could only be awesome…and it is.

Based on THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, this plays  in New Orleans, only to excuse Van Damme`s accent!!!!

The status of both Van Damme and John Woo also brought along a great bunch of actors to support Jean-Claude, who isnt exactly the pinnacle of acting himself. Especially the villains Fouchon (Henriksen) ,

and Van Cleef(Arnold Vosloo). But there isn`t one actor or actress, I would have wanted replaced.The whole cast seems very fitting..and Van Damme is the cheese on this Double-Whopper of an action movie. Van Damme should have gotten someboyd to really learn the english language properly, trying to lose a bit of his thick, french accent. It would`ve helped to deliver his lines a bit more fluently. But french people seem to have a hard time spaking english, and he didn´t seem to have cared that much about that particular problem. And the script writers always made sure he had a french or canadian background, so his stumbling speech would be excused. But initially, I got into the theatre for Van Damme, and I was happy that it turned out to be so violent. The direction of John Woo made this a big cake with an even bigger cherry on top! The suspense of disbelief is a must here, as some scenes are far away from realism, and some scenes more than unlikely(like the almost total absence of any police forces, but there is a strike going on, so okay…). But it`s an action movie, and it does deliver more than a fair share of that. The only problem to me are a few bad edits. The movie was cut to pieces several times, in order to get the R-rating, but that doesn`t excuse the scene  in the beginning, when Chuck Pfarrer as Douglas Binder is chased and seeks refuge in a shack. In the trailer , you see him jumping in it through a hole, but only there…in the movie, that isn`t shown, at all. That could`ve been prevented easily. Hell, it is just one very small scene..add it, and it would make a hundred times more sense. Plus, the cuts are also  evident when he ends up with more arrows in his body than  were shot at him  in the R-rated version….things like that annoy the hell out of me.

Sadly, John Woo didnt get Final Cut here, as it had to get an R -rating. The first video release in Germany was the R-rated US cut.  The UK had two tapes…the first beeing the R-rated US cut, after that they released the full uncut version, too. I know that , cuz I had an internship at an english video store at that time( oh- the good ol`days).Only much later, on DVD, that uncut(official) version (identical to the japanese release) got released in Germany and allover Europe(UNIVERSAL DVD). Hunting down such uncut tapes was a difficult and often very expensive task.  The whole extent of the editing can be witnessed, when watching the workprint version of HARD TARGET.Here, the Hong Kong roots of John Woo are clearly visible, as this is more in line with the insane violence we know from HARD-BOILED or THE KILLER. Somehow its sad, that there even is something like the MPAA or the german FSK, or any other film rating body. If its for adults anyway, then why cut it? I never understood that .

Less of an issue these days, but back then, it was annoying and humiliating to any film-loving adult.

I have , to this day the belief, that there was a scene in the german theatrical version, which didn`t show up in the vhs version anywhere…I might be wrong..but I`m almost sure that Henriksen shot that one guy, after he got bitten by the snake…a sort of mercy killing, as he was clearly suffering from that bite… maybe that slipped through, but later got cut for the vhs release…I will never know,lol.

All in all, this is one of the Van Damme movies really worth seeing, best of course in its uncut glory, if you want even more violence, erasing some of the WTF moments, seek out the workprint…a true fan surely appreciates the unadulterated vision of John Woo`s action sequences.


BLACK EAGLE aka RED EAGLE aka RED HUNTER (1988)


Directed by Eric Karson

PLOT:

One of the US Air Force’s most modern tactical aircrafts, a F-100 with a new laser guidance system, crashes into the sea near Malta – a region where the Soviet forces are highly present, too. The CIA immediately sends out their best secret agent Ken Tami to salvage the system before it falls into enemy hands. To ensure his loyalty, they bring his two young sons to a nearby hotel on the island. Ken Tani’s tough opponent is KGB agent Andrei.(imdb )

This was one of Van Damme`s early films. This got released on Video, I´m pretty sure it never went cinematic at the time. Only later would someone rename the movie to RED HUNTER and release it in german cinemas. Forgot what year, but I´m sure it was around 1990, or even later…they would even resurrect their grandma`s to make some money.

While he had success with Bloodsport, he still had a contract for this movie. But he didn`t get to be the hero, he just played the villain. And he didn`t get that much of screen time.

Sho Kosugi, who sure as hell made better movies before, didn`t exactly impress me here. The movie is pretty slow, and the action is anything but spectacular. Only Van Damme raises the bar whenever he is on screen. This was really a waste of opportunities galore. The location of Malta is pretty nice, somehow after watching this movie very often(I was a hardcore Van Damme fan back then) I want to visit Malta one fine day. Even if it`s not the most exciting island, Black Eagle is burned in my soul from watching this waay too often.

Normally, I would fast forward to the fight scenes, which aren`t half bad. Van Damme shows off his skills and screams. Sho Kosugi had his real life kids to play his sons in the movie, something Van Damme did and does these days as well.

At the end, Van Damme`s character gets killed by the blades of a boat, a really stupid and wasted chance at a big bang ending. Somehow he is good at playing the villain. And I always loved the gelled back hairstyle. Just makes him look way cooler. Sadly thats not the look for Expandables 2.

Maybe cuz he is losing his hair more and more, dunno.

The last time he sported that look was IN HELL, I believe…he had lots of different hairstyles there.

Well, this is a movie you can easily leave aside, watch the fight scenes on youtube, that should do the trick regarding BLACK EAGLE.

But I still have a  soft spot for this, regardless. I just watched it too often, its part of my beeing,lol.


CYBORG (1988)


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LIONHEART aka Leon , Wrong Bet, A.W.O.L., Full Contact (1990)


Directed by Sheldon Lettich

This is one of the earlier Van Damme titles, and one of my favourites.

Actually I like his early work better than  the later ones,

because here he is still working to establish himself as the action character we all know . I think he kept repeating himself  too much in his later work, and I don`t even mean the DTV era movies of his.

The Van Damme I still love is the early Van Damme. That were the movies. Later the big productions, while not totally bad, didn`t have the rawness no more, something I think made him popular. The same is true for Stallone, beyond a certain era, it just wasn`t the same anymore.

Van Damme plays Leon Gaultier, a french foreign legion soldier. He took the blame for a crime of his little brother, and instead of jail, he chose to do his time in the foreign legion.

Sadly, his brother didn`t learn much from that it seems, cuz he gets brutally murdered, as he tries to buy cocaine. But the deal is a set up and  the cocaine is nothing but sugar.When he gets upset  about the fake cocaine, the dealer sets him on fire. Arriving at the hospital well-cooked, he screams for his brother. The wife of Leon`s little brother writes a letter to Leon in northern africa, who asks for a temporary leave from the legion, but it gets denied by his  superior.

When he insults him, he is about to be put into the „sweatbox“, a little torture device that is sure to make anybody comply, sooner or later. He fights off his guards and escapes through the desert. He gets on a ship that leaves for the states, on which he works like a slave.When the ship doesn`t arrive in L.A. as promised, he has a fall-out with the  big guy who commands the ship`s workers, jumping into the water and getting ashore. He needs to get to New York, but how? He has no money whatsoever. Soon, he witnesses a streetfight in the harbour. He  fights a big guy and knocks him out cold. Joshua, a former streetfighter and now turned promoter is impressed with Leon, and introduces him to Cynthia“The Lady“, a beautiful woman, who has high society contacts and also promotes streetfights for very rich customers. She likes Leon from the very beginning, but more in a sexual way. A fight is arranged and of course, impresses them as well. He gets enough money to go to L.A., but Cynthia wants him to keep fighting. When he arrives at the L.A. hospital,  his brother has passed already. He visits the widow of his brother, but she blames him for the death of her husband, curses him and won`t accept the money he wanted to give her. He gets drunk, and Joshua arranges a hotel room for him, paid by Cynthia.

She wants him to fight for her, but even more , she wants to fuck him. It is really funny, how fast she goes over the egde, when he refuses her advances.

Fights are arranged, and Leon becomes the next big thing in the illegal fighting scene. Leon and Joshua play a trick on his brother`s widow by telling her about a supposed life insurance, that will be paid in parts, which is desperately needed, as she struggles to pay the rent and support her little daughter, which now gets the bike she wanted so bad. Unbeknown to Leon, the foreign legion sent two soldiers to arrest him.They eventually track him down, but he escapes them. He then visits her again, and when she sees his wounds from his last fight and Joshua explains , that this is all for her, she warms up to him and the relationship turns normal again.

One more fight is all he needs to take them away, into a new life.

But Cynthia is still pissed about Leon`s sexual refusal, so she arranges a fight, she thinks he won`t walk away from alive, or at least, badly hurt.

She gets the most brutal fighter they have to offer. To potential customers, she makes sure Leon looks like a sure bet, so that she can get the most out of this fight, financially.

Leon injured himself in the fight against the french legion guys, but plays it down, so the big fight won`t be compromised.

Cynthia also arranges for the Legionnaires to get Leon, after the big fight is finished.

Joshua finds out about Leon`s injury, and as the time comes to bet on either Leon or Attila, he puts his money on Attila. WRONG BET!!!! Leon punches Attila to mush.

The two Legionnaires are so impressed with it, that they let him go.

HAPPY END. Well, as I said, it`s one of my top 5 Van Damme movies. The cast is great, the story way more engaging than your average martial arts-themed movie and it features  well choreographed fights, tailor-made for Van Damme.

It is a perfect entertainment package, with sad, funny and dramatic moments that left me feeling good, leaving the cinema. I went to see it again the very next day. For Van Damme movies, I always went the very first day it opened, excited like it was x-mas.

The film exists in different cuts. The US version misses a few dialogue scenes, the european version some of the burning brother in the beginning of the film and a few other , small cuts.

Nothing spectacular, but as a fan it can drive you nuts, in search for the ultimate version.

At least the fights are uncut in all versions. I would like to see a workprint of that, but that never showed up. Too bad, I wish there would be more workprints available. As a fan, it is so damn interesting to see.

CAST:

Jean-Claude Van Damme
Léon Gaultier
Harrison Page
Joshua Eldridge
Deborah Rennard
Cynthia
Lisa Pelikan
Hélène Gaultier
Ashley Johnson
Nicole Gaultier
Brian Thompson
Russell
Voyo Goric
Sgt. Hartog
Michel Qissi
Moustafa
George McDaniel
Adjutant
Eric Karson
Doctor
Ash Adams
François Gaultier
William T. Amos
Drug Dealer
Roz Bosley
Nurse
Dennis Rucker
Irish Legionnaire (as Dennis Wayne Rucker)
Billy Blanks
African Legionnaire


KICKBOXER (1989)


Directed by Mark DiSalle and David Worth

Kickboxer is one of the movies, that  made Jean Claude Van Damme the hottest new action star  of the late 80s and early nineties. We all know that his career took somewhat of a dump, once he left his wife for a whore of a woman, Darcy La Pier, a decision i couldn`t understand then, and til today it  baffles me. He got hooked on cocaine and  basically went nuts. High as a kite and dressed like a homosexual, he  declined a 3 picture deal worth 36 million dollars, asking for 20 million a picture instead, he basically got blacklisted by Hollywood and everything went downhill from there.

But the image of Van Damme, most of us have in their heads, is that of the martial artist in movies like Bloodsport, Kickboxer or Lionheart.

He was young, goodlooking , plus his trademark kicks and a certain demeanor, that simply appealed to us young boys. The concept was always the same, he got beat up first, but then came back with a vengeance , beating the villain to a pulp, literally.

That  changed over time, the films became less and less focused on martial arts, but that`s the iconic image, most of us have in their mind , when thinking about JCVD. Kickboxer was one of those entries, that made him a household name in  every school and every dojo around the world. I went to a dojo, around that time  it was the coolest thing you could possibly do, even before soccer, which is huge here in germany.

But ok, i haven`t lost a single word about the movie yet.

Plot is simple: World Kickboxing champion  goes to Thailand to fight the local champ, and he gets his ass kicked so bad, he ends up in a wheelchair. Funny thing about that is, that he is totally ignorant about the tiny little differences  in fighting style. Muay Thai is a bit different from american style kickboxing.His brother Kurt( Van Damme) witnesses the somewhat disturbing warm up of this guy and tries to warn his ignorant, overly confident brother, to no effect.

But  since the local champ Tong Po fought a bit unfair, his brother Kurt can`t help but wanting revenge. After he brought his brother to a hospital , with the help of a local maxi-taxi guy , and the sad news about his brother Eric staying paralyzed, that`s the only thing on his mind.  So he goes looking for a Muay Thai school that would teach him.But they are just laughing at him, even the little kids. The taxi guy Winston Taylor picks him up, and promises to bring him to a guy who would teach him, but only after having a bit of fun at a local bar.

He tells him a bit about the people associated with Tong Po and some story about his best friend , that needed him once, and he wasn`t there. So he agrees to help Kurt, and brings him to Xian, a former Muay Thai trainer, with a story of his own. If this was STAR WARS, he is Yoda. He is also the main source of fun in this movie, much like Pat Morita in KARATE KID.

At first he is reluctant to help him, but after he beats up some goons, who are extorting the villagers( and in this case Xians niece), he agrees to train him. His methods are somewhat unorthodox, to put it mildly. After he trained a bit, Xian lures him into a situation where he has to prove himself. Xian makes him drunk, but despite that, he is beating up a number of guys in the bar. The local gang takes notice and Xian  suggests a fight  against  one of their fighters.

Kurt beats that guy and screams“Give me Tong Po!!!“ The fight is set up, but they will be fighting the ancient way, with hemp ropes around their hands , dipped in resin and broken glass. Sounds „Ouch“, doesn`t it?

But the underboss, who organizes the fight, doesn`t seem to trust  his best fighter enough, plus he is betting a borrowed million dollars, so he sees the need to pressure Kurt and his friends . Mylee gets raped, but doesn`t tell Kurt, and his brother gets abducted shortly before the fight. He must lose the fight, or else….

While he gets beaten badly in the first half of the fight, Xian and Wilson free Eric, and as they arrive at the cave, where the fight is held, and when Mylee tells Kurt that Tong Po raped her, he gets a second breath and beats Tong Po to mush..Happy end.Tong Po is an awesome villain, and left a lasting impression, much like Bolo Yeung in Bloodsport.

This is, just like Bloodsport, the formula that worked for years in this genre. Nowadays I think it just doesn`t work anymore, there are just to many movies, that used this formula, and it got old. But in the late 80s it worked very well. Be it Stallone or Van Damme, both used it very effectively. Another thing worth noting is the soundtrack. It is filled with those training montage and good-vibe songs, plus the“ im down but i will make it“ tune.

Those 80s soundtracks rock, man. I`m so happy that some of those soundtracks or certain songs are finally available. By now we have Bloodsport, Kickboxer and No Retreat, No Surrender  soundtracks in all its glory available to buy. Even the DEATH WARRANT  Score surfaced lately.

This is classic, early Van Damme. They just don`t make movies like this anymore, it`s a baby of it`s time. Good times.


DESERT HEAT (1999)


also know as: Coyote Moon or Inferno

Directed by John G. Avildsen

Well, it`s a Van Damme flick. Still have a bunch of those to review, but i`m pretty new to the game of doing reviews, so there is a lot to come, and a lot to cover, still.

This is one of my most beloved Van Damme flicks, because it is an allaround fun movie. Pretty unusual , because it isn`t  something you would have come to expect from Van Damme. Regardless of the time it came out, or anything else. It is not big budget, because by 1999, his career was on a decline for years already, after he passed on a 3-movies-deal, that would have paid him 12 million $ each. He was hooked on cocaine by then already, and his ego was so high in the clouds, that he demanded to be paid 20 million a movie, just like Jim Carrey. That`s what cocaine does to you, you lose the ability to be realistic, you think you`re god or something. That`s just what i heard,lol. Seems to be very true.

Desert Heat was his first film that didn`t make it into german  cinemas. That`s too bad, because it is a very entertaining movie, that deserved better. Just my opinion, but i know i`m not alone in that.

Van Damme plays Eddie Lomax, a war veteran, who wants to end his life.He struggles with what he did in the military, and sees no sense in moving on with life.  But before he can end it, he wants the approval of his old friend, Johnny Six-Toes(Danny Trejo), who lives somewhere in the Mojave desert. He brought a bike as a farewell gift, a beautiful Indian motorcycle.

Before he reaches Johnny, he stops in the middle of the desert, to sit down , drinking some whiskey and talking to Johnny, who isn`t really there(which is made obvious later on). He explains his plight and that he needs his ok, to „take the journey“. But then , his conversation is interrupted by some thugs arriving. They soon realise, that he is easy prey, as he is totally drunk and unable to fight them off. He is beaten, and one of the guys gets ordered to shoot him.He pretends to have done it(he simply isn`t as cold-blooded as the rest of the gang).They take the bike and drive away.

A little bit later, he gets picked up by Johnny Six-Toes.  How he found him isn`t really explained, but he is an indian, so he might have had a vision or something.

This first scene in the desert really impressed me, when I first saw it, and it`s still great. It`s filmed pretty well, and Van Damme isn`t half bad  at acting out his desperation. At least i was touched by it, maybe because I was in a bad mental state myself at that time. It was very easy to relate.    But anyway….

Johnny takes him back to his little hut, and treats a bullet wound Eddie suffered from the thugs. During that scene, a coyote appears in the door, and to him that`s a good sign, because:

„In the spring, the full moon shines for the warrior who has lost his way. Coyote is the spirit that leads back to life. If he follows the coyote when the moon is full, the warrior will see the path once more…“ The movie was to be called „Coyote Moon“, or at least the working title. So the Coyote is part of the story. We are by then also introduced to the people living in the small town nearby. A colorful bunch, to say the least.

There is Rhonda, who is a waitress, and a beautiful one , too.

Then there is Mr. Early(Pat Morita), who is alway waiting patiently for his Bertie to come.

An old couple, who is running the only motel in town, and a lot more funny and weird characters. Plus all of the thugs, who are the plague of the town, abusing and extorting the residents. There are two gangs of thugs, who are involved in drugs and anything else, that promises profit. As soon as Eddie is back on his feet, he goes to town, to get back his gun, and most importantly, the bike. It doesn`t take long before he gets into trouble. Actually , it`s the others, who get into trouble, cuz Eddie knows to defend himself very well. He soon befriends  the town people(the innocent ones), and  by fighting the guys who stole his ride, he frees the locals from the oppression of the local gang.He sabotages the gang`s business and makes them fight each other. The process of him doing that is a fun ride, the supporting cast is nothing short of amazing in giving this film a feelgood vibe i have rarely encountered in  other movies.

There is a love interest in the waitress, a few very thankful blondes, who don`t hesitate to thank him with a threesome, and  all the other nice people , who are well worth it to take on the scumbags who ruled them, until now.With the help of Eddie and Johnny, they are fighting to take back their town. And Johnny finds a reason to live again, as he falls in love with the beautiful waitress.

John G. Avildsen , who you might remember as the director of Rocky and Karate Kid, did an awesome job here. As i said before, Van Damme is only as good as his directors.

This is only more proof to my theory.

If you haven`t gotten around to see this yet, you should. It`s a damn good time, it leaves you with a big smile on your face, or so i hope.


Cyborg – Directors Cut/ workprint version


Something we fans of Van Damme or Albert Pyun have wanted for a long time is finally here…

still not the ultimate Directors Cut, just the reworked last cut of a workprint that was used by T. Riparetti to score the film, its a new take on the film CYBORG.

First of all, the famous intro is missing-the Fender speech(i like this world), simply  because it doesnt fit the changed story anymore.

There are a few scenes which Pyun dropped due to quality issues, namely the village massacre scene and a rumored uncut/different cut of the Ralph Möller death scene. That aside, the whole movie is quite different from the offically released version, the biggest difference being the fact that the scientists arent working on a cure to save mankind, but rather seek to re-establish electricity and the means to use technology for their own good(control over the population ). Fender and his gang would like  that tech as well, but for their very own purposes.

So, Van Damme is actually being misled …a  good set up for a possible sequel, but its unlikely Van Damme would star in that. Pyun however, plans to do a few more movies in this universe he created , including a prequel and sequels…lets hope they turn out well….the actors he wants to star in those coming films( wants!!!!) sound promising, but a lot can change til those movies actually materialize.(This is why i wont name any actors).

So, back to the movie….it features a lot voice-over monologue by the Van Damme character, spoken not by him, but somebody else, cuz Van Damme was already working on the next movie… showing his pain and existential plight, asking almost philosophical questions..there are a few new scenes, different cuts and a different version of the final fight( a lot shorter than the one we know). I liked the extra time that the Hayley character got, a lot of scenes truly make the movie better . The score is a new one, something i could`ve done without, really. Its a guitar-driven score by Tony Riparetti/Saad, which to me, doesnt work for the film too well.

You can find it here:

http://www.howlinwolfrecords.com -it kinda explains the guitar themed names, the characters have been given.It was dropped, after Cannon went to rework the movie into the version we all know.

The film itself is cut together from 2 videotapes, there is fullframe and widescreen material cut together, which is sad, but we must be happy that this even exists.

I could go deeper, but i wont spoil all the new elements, this version offers. Its a darker vision, and in many respects(for better or worse) much more Pyun.

In the end, im happy this version exists, im happy i do own it, but its not a 2 hours-full uncut dream version some might have expected. The quality of this version is pretty decent, given its taken from 2 old vhs-tapes, recorded in 1988, and shelved for over 2 decades.

You can contact Albert Pyun( http://www.pyun.com/)  if you wanna give this a shot.

…first impressions can be found on youtube…

Hellford667( 2011)


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