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Jarhead 3: The Siege (2016)

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The U.S. Embassy is under attack and the Marines must come to the rescue in this in-name third installment of the military action films.

Marine Cpl. Evan Albright has been stationed to a U.S. embassy in the Middle East. Every day, the embassy is met with protestors. Albright, known to be a loose cannon, does his best to get along with his fellow Marines and stay in the gunnery sergeant’s good graces. However, one day, he notices a mysterious figure watching them from below. When Albright may think he knows the identity, he goes straight to Ambassador Cahill, thus face the wrath of both Gunny Raines and RSO Kraus.

However, Albright’s suspicions prove to be correct when the embassy is suddenly attacked by a band of insurgents led by renowned terrorist Khaled Al-Asiri, who was thought to have been killed in a drone strike just two weeks prior. The Marines set out to protect both the Ambassador and a local, Jamal, who is revealed to be Khaled’s brother, having turned over a new leaf. With the body count rising, Albright, Raines, and the rest of the squad must do whatever it takes to protect the embassy and take down the insurgent group.

The Jarhead series is quite interesting as the original film was based on a true story. Capitalizing on their “straight to DVD” sequels, Universal’s 1440 brand brought us Jarhead 2: Field of Fire, an unrelated sequel and then comes this third film, which only has a small relation to the original with Dennis Haysbert making an extended cameo as Major Lincoln. However, Lincoln is just on the back burner for the most part.

Charlie Weber makes for a good lead as Albright, the troubled hero who joined the Marines due to his affected childhood. Albright feels the world is against him but he has something to prove to himself, he tends to be at times reckless, causing the ire of both superiors and fellow Marines, with Scott Adkins in a non-martial arts role as Gunnery Sgt. Raines. Adkins pulls off a Midwestern or Southern American accent as Raines, who takes nothing from no one and proves to be a worthy leader when it comes to action. British actress Sasha Jackson is quite well as Olivia, the assistant of the Ambassador whose life is in jeopardy when the insurgents attack. She also plays a vital part of the mission in two key scenes. As for Hadrian Howard, he pulls it off nicely as the lead terrorist with Charlie de Melo playing a vital role in Jamal, the reformed brother of lead terrorist.

While the action mainly consists of bullets flying and explosions, there is a major scene involving fisticuffs. The scene involves Albright and fellow Marine Lopez, played by Erik Valdez, going hand-to-hand with two insurgents in the ambassador’s residence. It is a nicely shot close quarters action sequence with stunts and beats of comic relief despite Dante Basco’s government worker and blogger Blake being the real comic relief of the film.

Jarhead 3: The Siege is what you would expect from a straight-to-DVD military action film. Some great sequences, some one-liners, and a pretty good cast including Charlie Weber and Scott Adkins leading the way. If you can get past the fact Adkins doesn’t showcase his fight skills and brings more of a straight edge acting role with some gunfire, then you will enjoy this film.

WFG RATING: B

A Universal 1440 Entertainment production. Director: William Kaufman. Producers: Jeffrey Bach and Phillip J. Roth. Writers: Chad Law and Michael D. Weiss. Cinematography: Mark Rutledge. Editing: John Gilbert.

Cast: Charlie Weber, Scott Adkins, Tom Ainsley, Sasha Jackson, Dennis Haysbert, Stephen Hogan, Erik Valdez, Dante Basco, Hadrian Howard, Charlie de Melo, Joe Corigall, Romeo Miller.

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Mom and Dad (2017)

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Have you grown tired of getting disrespected by your kids and want to do something about it? The insane version of that answer lies in the solo directorial debut of Crank director Brian Taylor.

Carly Ryan is about to have the worst day of her life…literally. She learns that her parents are not letting her see her boyfriend Damon and instead stay home to see their grandparents. When Carly heads to school, things are about to get worse. Meanwhile, a series of attacks have been unleashed on children. When parents arrive at the school, the students wonder why the parents would all of a sudden show up. That is, until the parents begin to launch an attack on their own kids, killing or maiming them.

Carly soon finds herself running home and worried about her little brother Josh. Meanwhile, Carly’s father Brent and mother Kendall slowly begin to go through life’s stresses in a way that soon becomes unimaginable. When they return home, they too fall for the epidemic that has plagued children and begin to go after Carly and Josh. Having no other choice but to defend themselves, Carly and Josh must find a way to make sure they survive the night before their parents turn them into victims.

Brian Taylor, one half of the Neveldine/Taylor team behind Crank and its high-powered sequel, appropriately titled Crank 2: High Voltage, has crafted one of the craziest dark comedies with this Purge-like tale where for 24 hours, parents go postal and violent against their own kids. Perhaps the intention is to live out parents’ dark fantasies about what they would want to do about their kids when they show blatant disrespect and things go crazy from there. Even the opening titular sequence has a sense of the madness Taylor brings as it purveys a 70’s grindhouse effect.

The titular Mom and Dad couldn’t have been played better than by Selma Blair and Nicolas Cage. If you thought Cage has done some insane performances before, then Taylor lets Cage goes completely bats**t crazy in his role. Even in flashback sequences, Cage is truly as his craziest. There are times when you may question why Taylor would certain scenes include out of nowhere, but if you know Taylor’s repertoire, then that’s what expected. As for Blair, the usually level headed character actress gets a chance to break against type and is wonderful when she goes into savage mode.

Anne Winters holds herself well as a potential scream queen as Carly, Cage and Blair’s characters’ daughter who is seen as the typical teen female when it comes to having a sense of wanting to do as she pleases and gets all frustrated when she doesn’t get her way but then fears and fights for her life against her parents. In a way, some may feel the actions of the parents is a result of her blatant disrespectful ways but she does care about protecting her little brother, played by Zackary Arthur. Sure, little brothers can be annoying and he starts that way with Chloe, but ultimately he needs Chloe. Another shocking twist is the mindblowing cameo appearance from legendary actor Lance Henriksen, who right from the beginning of his scene, makes a heck of an impact.

Mom and Dad is basically a maddening family version of The Purge that truly is fun to watch as we get see Nicolas Cage at his craziest and Selma Blair against type in the insane titular roles and a potential scream queen in Anne Winters.

WFG RATING: A-

Momentum Pictures present an Armory Films production in association with Zeal Media. Director: Brian Taylor. Producers: Christopher Lemole and Tim Zajaros. Writer: Brian Taylor. Cinematography: Daniel Pearl. Editing: Rose Corr and Fernando Villena.

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Robert D. Cunningham, Lance Henriksen, Samantha Lemole, Olivia Crocicchia, Rachel Melvin.

Momentum Pictures will release this film in select theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on January 19, 2018.

No Tears for the Dead (2014)

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Korean actor Jang Dong-Gun truly makes his mark in the action genre with this tale of redemption and revenge in which he unleashes one of his best performances.

Gon is a Korean-born man who was abandoned by his mother and is raised by Dai Ban, a Triad leader. He has become one of Dai Ban’s top assassins who is known for carrying out his missions flawlessly. That is, until one night, he makes a mistake that is destined to change his life forever. Accidentally killing a young girl in his latest mission, Gon is forced to carry out one last mission before Dai Ban offers to let him go.

The mission takes Gon back to a place he has not seen in many years: Korea. However, he learns that the target is Choi Mogyeong, who happens to be the mother of the little girl Gon had killed. Mogyeong is a risk manager at an investment firm who unknowingly has evidence against her very own boss, John Lee. Like Gon, Mogyeong is in a downward spiral, taking care of her sick mother while indulging in pills and alcohol to ease her pain. Gon ultimately decides not to kill her, unleashing all fury from both John and Dai Ban, who are revealed to be in cahoots. Dai Ban decides to send his top three enforcers, Juan, Alvaro, and Chaoz to Korea to deal with Gon. Meanwhile, Gon finds himself on a road to redemption to protect Mogyeong but will ultimately have to tell her the truth about her daughter’s death.

Jang Dong-Gun is truly one of Korea’s best known faces and while the film did modestly at the box office, this showcases one of the actor’s best action and dramatic performances to date. As Gon, Jang brings a sense of three personalities: the hard-boiled, take no prisoners assassin; the sorrowful man who feels as if he has nothing in the world and since being a kid, shows that emotion through crying; and finally, a man who seeks redemption to make the wrong things right no matter what it takes and no matter what it can cost.

As for Kim Min-Hee’s Choi Mogyeong, she has a striking similarity to Gon as she feels sorrow through the deaths of her both her husband and daughter. Ironically, Gon is the one who set the wheels in motion for Mogyeong, who despite her top position, indulges in pills stolen from a pharmacist friend and alcohol to ease her pain. While she unknowingly has the evidence against her boss, she soon realizes that she is a wanted target and ultimately must rely on the voice of the very man who caused her sorrow to stay alive.

The film definitely has international flavor, with dialogue in both Korean and English. Brian Tee, best known for his role as “DK” in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, looks menacing as lead enforcer Chaoz, who seems to have a soft spot for Gon because of their sworn brotherhood. Out of the trio of enforcers, he seems to have the most respect and loyalty towards Gon as evident in some key scenes. Meanwhile, fellow enforcers Alexander Wraith and Anthony Dilio don’t really care about Gon and would rather make his life hell while Kim Jung-Seong’s John goes from slick businessman with a care to menacing psychopath in a matter of minutes. However, it is his right hand man Byun, played by Kim Hee-Won, goes from loyal sidekick to one insane menace when he realizes he could do much better than where he is now and sets some wheels in motion.

The action scenes are a thrill-a-minute. While most of the film consists of guns blazing and explosion, there are some close quarter combat scenes that don’t rely on the dreaded “shaky-cam” effect. In one stunning piece of a major action sequence, Jang pumps bullets into a

goon and when the goon proceeds to reload his weapon, Jang runs full speed at the goon and delivers a flying knee strike that would make Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais proud. The finale itself is quite nicely done with one of the most “predictable yet shocking at the same time” moments of the film.

While it is not as prolific as The Man from Nowhere, writer-director Lee Jeong-Beom truly crafted a very intricate thriller that is driven by an exciting performance by Jang Dong-Gun. Brian Tee actually helps drive the film as well. Definitely worth a rental with a strong option to buy.

WFG RATING: A-

CJ Entertainment presents a Dice Film in association with Musa Productions. Director: Lee Jeong-Beom. Producer: Kim Sung-Woo. Writer: Lee Jeong-Beom. Cinematography: Lee Mo-Gae. Editing: Nam Na-Young

Cast: Jang Dong-Gun, Kim Min-Hee, Brian Tee, Kim Hee-Won, Kim Jung-Seong, Dana Lee, Kim Min-Jae, Lee Young-Ran, Anthony Dilio, Alexander Wraith, Rich Ting, Angela Bullock, Kang Ji-Woo

Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight (1991)

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After two outings as Jake Raye, kickboxing legend Don “The Dragon” Wilson is back in this third installment…as a prisoner.

In prison, Jimmy Boland attempts to protect a friend from a local bruiser gang when he sees his friend being assaulted. Using martial arts, he ultimately kills the leader of the gang and when the warden gets wind of what has happened, he decides to send Jimmy to the worst prison block. The reason is because the warden knows that Blue will seek revenge against Jimmy. Luther was Blue’s drug supplier and now that the supply is gone, Blue does indeed plot his revenge.

Upon his entry in his new “home”, Jimmy meets Wheelhead, the leader of a band of white supremacists. When he invites Jimmy to join the gang, Jimmy, who is Asian-American, refuses and Wheelhead, feeling offended, also wants to get rid of Jimmy. Meanwhile, Jimmy has eventually bonded with his new cellmate, Stark, who is set to be released soon. However, Blue and Wheelhead have decided to put aside their differences to take out the common enemy and that common enemy is Jimmy.

With his starring role in Bloodfist and Bloodfist II, where he played the hero Jake Raye in two different tournaments, kickboxing legend Don “The Dragon” Wilson returns in this third installment that takes a different route. To start, Wilson plays a brand new character in Jimmy Boland. In addition, the film is set in a prison and it was released at a time when the infamous tale of Rodney King occurred. Perhaps the reason why this film was made was to bring the effects of racism in the midst, but in addition, make for a decent action film.

Kickboxing legend Don “The Dragon” Wilson once again shines as this time, he is in the middle of a race war that puts him as the common enemy between two stereotypical gangs. One is the African-American drug dealers led by Blue, played by the late Gregory McKinney. The other is a gang of white supremacists led by Wheelhead, played by Rick Dean. Like its predecessors, the film also features real-life martial arts champions in roles as pretty much thugs sent to kill Wilson’s character. They include Australian kickboxing champion Stan “The Man” Longinidis and former kickboxing champion Ian Jacklin as members of Wheelhead’s gang and Peter “Sugarfoot” Cunningham, who is sadly wasted when compared to his performances in both No Retreat No Surrender and Above the Law, as a member of the drug dealing gang.

The original Shaft, Richard Roundtree, brings a more grounded effort in the role of Jimmy’s cellmate Stark, who serves as a mentor to Jimmy. Stark believes in equality rather than separation and it is after one of Wilson’s confrontations that his voice is heard as perhaps the catalyst that brings a sense of unity amongst some of the prisoners. And naturally, this angers the two villains of the film. There is an additional side character in Diddler, played by John Cardone. While his crime isn’t completely revealed, the appearance of someone during visitor’s day gives the viewer quite a guess and it is when he helps Wilson’s Jimmy that brings a sense of redemption for this character.

Paul Maslak, Eric Lee, and Don “The Dragon” Wilson choreographed the film’s fight sequences and while there are fisticuffs in the film, it is sporadic compared to a more dramatic element that is meant to serve its purpose in terms of the effects of racial prejudice. The fights though are not too bad for the most part. The Longinidis-Wilson brawl in the prison yard is a short and sweet fight that makes good use of both the martial artists’ skills. While McKinney and Dean are not exactly martial artists, they do quite well when it comes to being masterminds and manipulators. Richard Paul’s warden is also quite a manipulator as he intends to make life hell for everyone to keep his authority in line but even that tends to have some possible consequences.

Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight is a pretty good installment of the film series, all in part to its message about racism while at the same time, making the most of its fighting cast.

WFG RATING: B

A Concorde (New Horizons) production. Director: Oley Sassone. Producer: Roger Corman. Writers: Alison Burnett and Charles Mattera. Cinematography: Rick Bota. Editing: Eric L. Beason.

Cast: Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Richard Roundtree, Rick Dean, Gregory McKinney, Richard Paul, Charles Boswell, Brad Blaisdell, Stan Longinidis, Peter Cunningham, Laura Stockman.

Boyka: Undisputed (2016)

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“The most complete fighter in the world” is back in this long awaited fourth installment and it is clear that Scott Adkins drives the film once again in his iconic role.

Since his escape from prison, mixed martial arts fighter Yuri Boyka has been competing in the underground circuit. However, he has a chance to qualify for a major pro tournament in Hungary. His first professional fight is against Viktor Gregov. The fight ends with Boyka beating Viktor to the point where he is sent to the hospital. When Boyka learns that he has accidentally killed Viktor, he learns that he has a widow, Alma, in a small town in Russia.

Despite the death of her husband, Alma owes a debt to local crime boss Zourab and to pay off the debt, Alma must work nights as a waitress at his local nightclub, where he holds underground fights for the patrons. When Boyka meets Alma, he is met with resistance from Zourab and his men. However, despite Alma wanting nothing to do with Boyka after his confession of accidentally killing Viktor, Boyka decides to find redemption. He makes Zourab a proposition too good to refuse. Boyka offers to fight in a series of battles in exchange for the debt. Zourab agrees but how far will Boyka go and will it affect his lifelong dream of becoming a professional fighter?

Well, it is clear that this long awaited installment took over five years due to a long withstanding issue in the movie industry: pirating. When Undisputed III was released in 2010, the pirating of that film practically put the fourth installment on hold. Flash forward five years later when Scott Adkins first announced that Boyka was finally going to make his return in a new film. However, thanks to the aforementioned issue, the budget was cut down and focused more on a straightforward story featuring local actors in supporting roles yet thankfully, the film still has a taste of stellar casting in terms of fighting. However, Isaac Florentine takes a step back this time, serving as producer and leaving Todor Chapkanov to direct the film.

Yet, the one thing that must be said about the character of Yuri Boyka is that while he was that very strong prisoner, he had a thing for religion. His introductory scene in 2006’s Undisputed II: Last Man Standing showed him saying a prayer. To Boyka, he feels God has given him the gift of becoming the fighter he is today and religion does in fact play a very important piece in this installment. While he first competes in underground matches, he spends his days helping out at a local church when not in training.

The rest of the film is another road to redemption as he sees to redeem himself and find forgiveness from the widow of the man he accidentally killed. This brings a pretty good performance from Bulgarian actress Teodora Duhovnikova, who plays the constantly grieving and troubled widow Alma. Don’t expect a romance between the two, but clearly someone who needs all the help she can get even if it is someone who she eventually warms up to and sees in some manner, needs help himself. As for Alon Moni Aboutboul, who also played the main villain in London Has Fallen, he once again oozes villainy in the role of mob boss Zourab.

As for the fight scenes themselves, it is clear they are the highlight of the film. Under Adkins’ main choice of choreographer today, Tim Man, Adkins once again shows why Boyka is the most complete fighter in the world. Adkins’ introductory fight here is short for the taking, but it follows with a fight against stunt performer Emilien De Falco, who nearly matches Adkins kick for kick in the role of the fallen Viktor. Adkins gets to take on the likes of Man and Jackie Chan Stunt Team member Andy Long as the Ozerov Brothers in a blistering two-on-one fight.

The first of two main events pits Adkins against the very talented Brahim Achabbakhe, who had doubled for Adkins himself on Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear. The final fight pits Adkins against his most hulking adversary yet, British-born bodybuilding champion Martyn Ford as Koshmar, who is revealed to be Boyka’s replacement as the champion of the prison where Boyka was hailed as their champion. The ending itself may be either predictable or even unpredictable depending on your guessing.

In the end, Boyka: Undisputed 4 is a worthy installment of the film thanks to Scott Adkins driving the film in his signature role with a great fight support cast and a pretty good performance from Teodora Duhovnikova. If you enjoyed the previous films, you will clearly enjoy this latest installment.

WFG RATING: A-

Millennium Films and Nu Image presents a NuBoyana Films/UN4 Productions Inc. production. Director: Todor Chapkanov. Producer: Isaac Florentine. Writer: David N. White. Cinematography: Ivan Vatsov. Editing: Irit Raz.

Cast: Scott Adkins, Alon Moni Aboutboul, Teodora Duhovnikova, Julian Vergov, Brahim Achabbakhe, Paul Chahidi, Valentin Ganev, Martyn Ford, Emilien De Falco, Tim Man, Andy Long.

TRAILER: The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Rivals must become allies and do so in what look to be a funny action thriller from Patrick Hughes.

Ryan Reynolds plays the world’s number one bodyguard whose latest client is a former enemy, a top rated hitman, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who has become a target when he must testify at the International Court of Justice. Reynolds and Jackson together is surely a winning formula for action and comedy as the trailer shows.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is set for an August 18, 2017 from Lionsgate.

 

The Marine 5: Battleground (2017)

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2017, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/WWE Studios/Hemisphere Entertainment

Director:
James Nunn
Producer:
Michael J. Luisi
Writers:
Scott Wiper (original characters)
Declan O’Brien (original characters)
Ed McHenry (screenplay)
Rory McHenry (screenplay)
Cinematography:
Luke Bryant
Editing:
Paul Harb

Cast:
Mike “The Miz” Mizanin (Jake Carter)
Anna Van Hooft (Zoe Williams)
Nathan Mitchell (Cole)
Bo Dallas (Alonzo)
Heath Slater (Chase)
Curtis Axel (Deacon)
Trinity “Naomi” Fatu (Murphy)
Maryse Mizanin (Ana)
Sandy Robson (Vincent)
Yusuf A. Ahmed (Taylor)
Paul Acheson (Rodrigo)

WWE Superstar Mike Mizanin is back for a third round of action as Jake Carter, the titular Marine. However, this time around, he is joined by five of his fellow superstars with some action that proves that with time, one can truly improve.

Cole, a parolee, and Taylor, another man, are hired to shoot Rodrigo, the leader of local biker gang The Lost Legion. When Taylor performs the hit while Cole is the driver, the group are shot at. Taylor is mortally wounded while Cole is seriously injured. To escape the bikers, Cole drives to the parking lot of a closed down amusement park where he calls 911. The EMTs are Zoe Williams and her new partner, former Marine Jake Carter, whose on his first day on the job.

After unsuccessfully saving a young woman from a car accident, Carter feels remorse. However, when they arrive to the parking lot entrance, they find a dead Taylor and a seriously injured Cole. Things get complicated when members of the Lost Legion have arrived as well with the plans to find Cole and Taylor. When they learn the EMTs are there to treat them, they decide to cause havoc. However, what they will soon learn is that EMT Carter will do what it takes to save both his partner and Cole, even if Carter learns the truth about what has transpired and why.

When Mike Mizanin, or simply “The Miz” as he is known in the WWE Universe, took over for John Cena and Ted DiBiase in The Marine franchise, it was met with a bit of resistance. However, Mizanin did well enough to warrant his returning to the role in a superior follow-up in The Marine 4: Moving Target. Once again, Mizanin is now going round three as Carter, who we now know has given up his private security job and found his calling as an EMT. WWE truly seems like they have found their new action star in Mizanin, who judging from his performance here, has improved with each installment since his debut in The Marine 3: Homefront.

What makes this quite interesting is not just the plot, which is all set in one night’s time at a closed down amusement park is the core supporting cast. Aside from local Canadian actors Anna Van Hooft and Nathan Mitchell, who perform well in the roles of Carter’s partner and the man he must protect, there are a total of six WWE superstars alongside Mizanin, with The Miz’s real-life wife Maryse in a cameo appearance. The other four superstars, Curtis Axel, Heath Slater, Bo Dallas, and Naomi (aka Trinity Fatu) as members of the Lost Legion.

Out of the group, Bo Dallas brings the most impact to his role of the unhinged Alonzo. When seeing Dallas’ character in the squared circle and compare it to his role here, he truly brings it quite well in the role of a lead villain. Curtis Axel provides some heavy muscle against The Miz with a fight scene in which Axel’s name gets played on quite well in his role of Deacon. Heath Slater and Naomi get minimal action in their roles and seem like something one would usually expect normal stunt performers to play, but this does add a bit of WWE “star power” to the roles.

The action not only consists of firepower, but fight choreographer Andrew Chin utilizes the talents of the cast and despite a few minor flaws in the action, they are for the most part pretty well done. There are loads of close quarter combat with The Miz using not only some wrestling skills but uses mainly a style similar to Krav Maga in his arsenal when it comes to hand-to-hand combat. In one interesting part of the film, Carter wisely uses the entire amusement park as his battleground (pun intended) against the Lost Legion.

The Marine 5: Battleground is an improvement over the previous two films as it is clear that Mike Mizanin improved with each film as Jake Carter. With the support of his fellow WWE superstars, specifically Bo Dallas in his villain role, this is truly a heck of an action-packed installment in the franchise.

WFG RATING: B

DVD/BLU-RAY

The Last King (2016)

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2016, Newgrange Pictures/Nordisk Film Production/Paradox Film 3/Proton Cinema

Director:
Nils Gaup
Producer:
Stein B. Kvae
Finn Gjerdrum
Writer:
Ravn Lanesskog
Cinematography:
Peter Mokrosinski
Editing:
Christoffer Heie
Tomas Täng

Cast:
Jakob Oftebro (Skjervald)
Kristofer Hivju (Torstein)
Torkel D. Soldal (Egil)
Ane Ulimoen Øverli (Inga)
Nikolaj Lie Kaas (Orm)
Pål Sverre Hagen (Gisle)
Åsmund Brede Eike (Stale)
Søren Pilmark (Bishop)
Thorbjørn Harr (Inge)
Lia Boysen (Queen Margrete)
Jonathan Oskar Dahlgren (Baby Håkon)
Benjamin Helsted (King Håkon)

The story of the future King Håkon Håkonsson IV comes to life as we see the toddler king under the protection of two loyal members of the Birkebeiner in Nils Gaup’s latest adventure.

In the year 1204, the civil war in Norway is at an all-time high. A plot is revealed by royal constituent Gisle, who conspired with King Håkon Sverresson’s stepmother, Queen Margarete, to ensure she keeps the throne. When Håkon is murdered by poisoning, Margarete is forced to flee to her native Sweden while the King’s concubine, Inga, is forced to stay in Norway. That is, until it is revealed that Håkon had bore a son with his namesake from Inga, who was born in the rival Bagler territory.

Escaping with the baby, Inga enlists the help of two members of the King’s most loyal soldiers, the Birkenbeiner, to protect the young baby Håkon. In the two years since birth, Skjervald and Torstein successfully brave the winters as they take the child and mother to safety. However, the rival Baglers as well as members of the kingdom led by Gisle, intend to find the child and kill him. When Skjervald’s beloved wife and son is killed as a result of refusing to disclose Baby Håkon’s location, Skjervald and Torstein now find themselves determined to do what it takes to make sure the baby grows up to take his rightful place on the throne while Inge, Gisle’s half-brother, takes the throne in hopes to keep the peace.

Norwegian director Nils Gaup is known for epic films such as Pathfinder and the Disney adventure Shipwrecked, an underrated family epic of sorts. For his latest film, Gaup delves into the history of his native Norway. The film depicts the true story of the young infant who would become Norway’s King Håkon IV (1204-1263) and two of the King’s most loyal soldiers, the Birkenbeiner, who protected him at all costs so he can rightfully take the throne.

The film’s two leads are played by Jakob Oftebro and Fate of the Furious co-star Kristofer Hivju, and they are great together. The duo play the loyal Skjervald and Torstein, who go to great lengths to protect the young baby Håkon from both the rival Baglers, who pose a threat to the kingdom and surprisingly, from internal conflicts within the kingdom. What becomes interesting is that for Skjervald, it is more than a mission to protect the future King, but it becomes a personal mission of vengeance for the death of his family at the hands of their rivals.

The battle scenes for this film are beyond great for this historical epic. There are loads of axes swinging, arrows flying, and swords blazing in the wintery landscapes of Norway. There is even a load of ski chases that drive the film including a three-minute chase sequence that proves to be great when it comes to this brand of epic. The battles indicate that both Skjervald and Torstein will do what it takes, even if they have to pay the ultimate sacrifice, to make sure they complete their mission to ensure the safety of the king. Brilliantly, Gaup complements these epic battles with the drama and strife that depicts the civil war in Norway as well as the treachery within the kingdom itself.

Nils Gaup continues to cement his reputation as one of cinema’s great “epic genre” directors with The Last King. Excellent performances by the two leads combined with both epic drama and battles make this one to definitely check out.

WFG RATING: A

DVD/BLU-RAY

An Action Fan’s Dream Film in “Threat”

You have got to hand it to stuntman turned filmmaker Jesse V. Johnson. Recently completing work on Accident Man, Johnson’s next film will have a dream cast for action fanatics everywhere.

Triple Threat is Johnson’s next film which will begin production in April in Bangkok, Thailand. The film’s titular trio will consist of Thai action star Tony Jaa, Indonesian action hero Iko Uwais, and Man of Tai Chi lead actor Tiger Chen.

In news announced earlier this week, the trio will be joined by action veterans and fan favorites Scott Adkins and Michael Jai White along with former UFC fighter Michael Bisping.

The film will revolve around a billionaire’s daughter who is targeted by a mercenary cartel. As a result, she hires two down-on-their luck fighters and they are joined by a third member who has his own vendetta against the cartel. Elliot Tong, Ying Ye, Mike Selby, Mike Gabrawy, and Gary Hamilton alongside Chen are producing the film from a script by Joey O’Bryan.

Look out for Triple Threat later this year as shooting begins next month.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Combat Mortal (2004)

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2004, Z Productions/Reel Asian Films/The Supreme Ultimate Fist

Director:
Dr. Zee Lo
Producer:
Dr. Zee Lo
Writer:
Dr. Zee Lo
Cinematography:
David Austin
Editing:
Kate Johnson

Cast:
Dr. Zee Lo (Billy Lee/Master Qi/Inspector Couseau)
Nikita Ager (Nicole King)
Joe Ho (Wu Feng)
John Milios (Zoh)
John Truong (Hwang)
Sid Campbell (Capt. O’Rourke)
Samuel Lima (Det. Lopez)
Steve Heinze (Capt. Goldman)
Karina Karrington (Kay King/Anna)
Bryan Handy (Troy)
Sky Nicholas (Jeannie)

Bruce Lee’s Grand-student, Dr. Zee Lo, creates perhaps the ultimate Americanized-Bruceploitation film in his directorial debut, in which he opens with “imitation is the highest form of flattery”.

Billy Lee is a martial artist who aspires to be an actor, but to make ends meet, uses his skills as a bounty hunter. When his latest assignment is to capture martial arts master Hwang, Lee tracks him down and after a fight, is able to get a name of his boss, Wu. Billy makes the arrest while attempting to go to auditions to live his real dream of being a martial arts film star. Nicole King is an international supermodel who only under the advice of older sister Kay, has done it all on her own with no outside interference. However, crime boss Wu Feng has threatened Nicole that if she does not work for him, she will face certain danger.

Kay, concerned about the situation, decides to hire someone low-key to serve as Nicole’s bodyguard. Enter Billy, who at first is reluctant to take the job, but ultimately accepts the offer. When Billy soon learns who has been threatening her, he learns that Wu Feng is the one who was raised practically as his brother when they were kids. Now, Billy, loyal to the job at hand, must do what it takes to protect Nicole, even if it means having to face his own “brother”.

When you see the words “imitation is the highest form of flattery” superimposed on the screen, one may think is this going to be a spoof. Instead, Dr. Zee Lo has basically made his own version of the popular cult subgenre that is “Bruceploitation”. Interesting enough, he took the character names from his film debut, The Deadly Cure, and once again made them hero and villain and yet added a dash of secrecy in the fact that these two were once blood brothers who have now become sworn enemies.

Lo lifts elements from films such as Fist of Fury and more notably Game of Death. The GOD reference involves our hero Billy aspiring to be an actor where in GOD, Bruce Lee’s Billy Lo is a martial arts film star who gets himself caught in a situation with a syndicate. Plus, in a scene being shot by a “Mr. Weintraub” (an obvious reference to Enter the Dragon producer Fred Weintraub), Billy and good friend Troy, played by Bryan Handy, are re-enacting the GOD nunchaku fight between Lee and Dan Inosanto. Billy even reads a line from Enter the Dragon in his office before receiving a call from his boss. Dr. Z also plays two supporting characters, Master Qi and a play on The Pink Panther’s bumbling Inspector Clouseau, here a filler character who works for villain Wu Feng.

Nikita Ager plays a strong woman in supermodel Nicole, who has done it all on her own, but only needs protection in order to prevent the worst. She only pulls the damsel in distress in the final act, because let’s face it, that’s what one would normally expect in this brand of film. Joe Ho doesn’t look intimidating as lead villain Wu Feng. His look and demeanor look more as if he should be playing a henchman or a right-hand man, but not so much a lead villain. John Truong and John Milios provide mainly action support and fit their roles of Hwang and Zoh, two martial arts professionals working for Wu Feng while Sid Campbell makes a cameo as Capt. O’Rourke in a filler scene where Billy helps him teach police cadets self-defense.

Dr. Z’s fight scenes allow him once again to emulate Bruce Lee, but this time, that is his intention to make his own version of emulating Bruce and does it to a tee. He does the movements, the screaming, and even does the backflip kick done in Enter the Dragon. However, once again, Lo feels it is necessary to use a constant use of double, triple, and even quadruple taking of action and while it may be a good idea to do it, there are certain scenes where it is completely unnecessary and even goes as far as using slow motion in very unnecessary moments of the film.

Combat Mortal is without a doubt Dr. Z’s answer to Bruceploitation and it is not completely bad, but the unnecessary slow motion and multiple shots in some of the action can be more seen as annoying. However, Dr. Z gets an A for effort for trying.

WFG RATING: C+

This film is available to buy on Reel Asian Films, Dr. Z’s film distribution company.