South Africa

The Forgiven (2018)

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Forest Whitaker and Eric Bana pull off powerful performances in this adaptation of Michael Ashton’s stage play set in post-Apartheid South Africa.

At the end of Apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela has been elected President. In an effort to ease tensions between Afikaners and native Africans, a committee is formed for prisoners and violators who are willing to be given asylum if they confess to their crimes against humanity and witnesses to crimes against human rights are allowed to give statements. The chairman of what would be known as the Truth and Reconciliation Committee is Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Going to Cape Town, Archbishop Tutu is plagued by nightmares and can’t sleep. Making a promise to help a family whose child has disappeared, Tutu is contacted one day by an Afrikaner on death row in an effort for a chance at reconciliation before he is set to be executed. Going to Pollsmoor State Prison, Tutu meets the man, AWB Piet Blomfeld, a former security forces member who offers vital information for Archbishop Tutu on the his very case he intends to solve. Through a series of meetings, Tutu and Blomfeld attempt at keeping the faith and for the latter, a last chance as redemption before his fate is met.

When someone adapts their own work into a film feature, then you know in most cases, it will be a good film because it becomes a collaboration between the writer and the vision of the director. In this case, playwright Michael Ashton takes his stage play The Archbishop and the Antichrist and adapts it with the help of renowned director Roland Joffé, who co-wrote the film’s script with Ashton, to make a very powerful film about faith and redemption between the old ways and the ways of today in South Africa.

The very heart of the film are the performances of Forest Whitaker as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Eric Bana as death row prisoner Piet Blomfeld. Nearly unrecognizable as the real-life humanitarian, Whitaker continues to prove why he is truly a great actor as he plays Tutu as a man of faith and one who makes a promise to a family and will stop at nothing to make sure that promise goes through. However, where in the case of some films, Tutu doesn’t necessarily need to go on the offensive as Tutu is a man of peace. Yes, he gets plagued by nightmares and sometimes feels a sort of distance when it comes to his own family, but for him, doing what is right is not a job, but a privilege for the people of South Africa.

As for Eric Bana, this is perhaps one of his best roles yet. The Australian actor, who many will remember playing Bruce Banner in Ang Lee’s 2003 take of the Hulk, has done his share of versatile roles. However, as the embittered Piet Blomfeld, Bana brings force a driven and emotional performance as a man who killed due to the effects of Apartheid but seeks redemption by helping Tutu solve the case through a series of meetings. At first, the tension between Blomfeld and Tutu is there to a tee. However, things soon become better and in his last shot at faith and redemption, Blomfeld ultimately does something unexpected for everyone involved and this just proves that people can truly learn to adapt when there is a major change within a country once known for its harsh sense of racism.

The Forgiven is a very moving, powerful, and emotional film that brings out some of the best performances by leads Forest Whitaker and Eric Bana along with a climactic turn that just proves that with political change, some people can in fact change themselves.


Saban Films presents a Light and Dark Films/Jeff Rice Films production in association with LB Entertainment, thefyzz facility, and Flexibon Films. Director: Roland Joffé. Producers: Craig Baumgarten, Zaheer Bhyat, and Roland Joffé. Writers: Michael Ashton and Roland Joffé; based on the stage play “The Archbishop and the Antichrist” by Ashton. Cinematography: William Wages. Editing: Megan Gill.

Cast: Forest Whitaker, Eric Bana, Jeff Gum, Morné Visser, Terry Norton, Rob Gough, Debbie Sherman, Warrick Grier, David Butler.


Merchants of War (1989)

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In the vein of 80’s military B-movies, this action packed film is a wild ride for one man who intends to go against the odds and get his buddy back.

Nick Drennen and Frank Kane are the leaders of a mercenary group, codename Wild Bunch. The other core members include Tom Harris and Harry Gere. When they successfully rescue a kidnapped ex-soldier in Beirut, the only survivor is Middle Eastern crime lord Musa Alwi, who sets a plan of revenge. When Nick and Frank are hired to do a job for the CIA in Angola, the mission is a failure when both Nick and Frank have been taken hostage.

Nick has learned that Musa is behind the “mission” and has allied himself with the maniacal Vaisal as the two plan to use Nick and Frank for an upcoming summit of terrorism. With the help of 10-year old Bugsy and former buddy Gordo, Nick manages to escape and return to the United States. When he learns Frank may be alive, he is determined to return to Angola to find his friend. At first reluctant, Tom and Harry decide to join Nick in his mission to rescue Frank and get his own revenge against the duo of Vaisal and Musa.

During the 80’s, loads of B-movies in the action genre were that of the military action film. This film from director Peter M. McKenzie is one of the straightforward yet action packed films that make good use of its lead actor, Asher Brauner, and why not? Brauner also co-wrote the screenplay and came up with the story.

Brauner takes the lead as Nick, a hot-headed mercenary leader who makes the promise of one last mission to his wife only to find himself kidnapped, only to be able to escape and band his old buddies to rescue his fellow mercenary. Brauner makes the most of his role with some stereotypical one-liners and somewhat of a bit of overacting in one scene, where he’s determined to get his buddy back when he meets with old buddies Tom and Harry, played by John Barrett and Robin Smith.

However, Brauner’s acting in the film is nothing compared to the overacting of one of the two primary villains, Vaisal, played by Gerald Weir. Vaisal clearly spends most of his film angry, yelling most of his dialogue and even stands behind a podium in the final act shouting anti-American sentiment that goes beyond the borders of laughable. As for the other main villain, Adrian Waldron’s Musa, the villain has a look that could come out of an 80’s hair metal band with pretty horrendous accent.

While the overacting is expected in these type of films, making it forgivable, the action is pretty fun, truly having a Cannon Films-style influence in the numerous shootouts and explosions. Co-star John Barrett also served as the film’s “stunt advisor” but don’t expect his trademark martial arts in the film aside from a spin kick and a roundhouse in the final action scene. It’s more firepower and done with such style that this truly a definitive 80’s action B-movie.

Merchants of War is truly an 80’s B-movie lover’s dream military action film that has it all: stereotypical villains, overacting, and Cannon-style action sequences. In other words, a fun action wild ride!


Triax Entertainment Group presents an Anglo Pacific Films production. Director: Peter M. McKenzie. Producers: Chris Davies and Lionel A. Ephraim. Writers: Asher Brauner and Eric Weston. Cinematography: Rod Stewart. Editing: Simon Grimley and Peter M. McKenzie.

Cast: Asher Brauner, Jesse Vint, John Barrett, Robin Smith, Adrian Waldron, Gerald Weir, Calvin Tau, Japan Mthembu, Bonnie Beck, Norman Anstey, Tullio Moneta, Graham Armitage, Richard Sibaya Nzimande.

“Tremors 6” in Production with Gross and Kennedy Returning


Bart and Travis , the father and son duo who took on the deadly creatures in Tremors 5: Bloodlines are returning for a sixth intallment.

Tremors 6 has begun production in Cape Town, South Africa under the direction of Don Michael Paul, who helmed the previous installment. Returning are franchise star Michael Gross returning as Bart and Jamie Kennedy as Travis.

Burt Gummer and his son Travis Welker find themselves up to their ears in Graboids and A**-Blasters when they head to Canada to investigate a series of deadly giant-worm attacks. Arriving at a remote research facility in the artic tundra, Burt begins to suspect that Graboids are secretly being weaponized, but before he can prove his theory, he is sidelined by Graboid venom. With just 48 hours to live, the only hope is to create an antidote from fresh venom — but to do that, someone will have to figure out how to milk a Graboid!

Joining Gross and Kennedy are Tanya van Graan, Rob van Vuuren, and Greg Kriek. The previous installment’s scripter, John Whelpley, scripted this follow-up with Mike Elliott production and Hein de Vos doing cinematography.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has set a release for Tremors 6 on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2018.


REVIEW: Redemption – Kickboxer 5 (1994)

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1994, Kings Road Entertainment

Kristine Peterson
Michael G. Murphey
David S. Goyer (original characters)
Rick Filon (screenplay)
Paul Michelson
Kert VanderMeulen

Mark Dacascos (Matt Reeves)
James Ryan (Negaal)
Geoff Meed (Paul Croft)
Tony Caprari (Moon)
Greg Latter (Bollen)
Duane Porter (Bull)
George Moolman (Pinto)
Denney Pierce (Johnny Styles)
Rulan Booth (Angie Croft)
Robert Whitehead (Tito)
Gavin Hood (German Champion)

Just when people thought the Kickboxer saga was dead after the very terrible fourth installment, a surprise comes in the form of this fifth installment, which in some ways lives up to its name. However, Sasha Mitchell is out and in comes the future “Chairman of Iron Chef America”, Mark Dacascos, leading the way plus a familiar face to martial arts film fans returns as well.

For those who wonder what had become of the Sloan clan, the film opens in South Africa, where a ruthless ex-kickboxing champion, Negaal, has been trying to form his own organization with every champion in the world. When David Sloane refused to join the Negaal Kickboxing Federation, Negaal sends his henchmen to kill David. The opening credits sequence show a shadow-esque pictoral of David Sloane’s untimely death.

Back in Los Angeles, an old friend of David’s, Matt Reeves, has retired from competition and has become a teacher. That night, Matt heads to the local arena to see old friend Johnny Styles compete for the U.S. Heavyweight Kickboxing Championship. When Johnny wins the title, he meets Negaal’s men and asks him to join his federation. When Johnny considers having a meeting with the trio, Matt learns that the same trio were around at the time of David Sloan’s demise. Matt realizes that Johnny will be killed and that is what happens. However, Matt is able to dispatch one of Negaal’s goons before they escape.

Negaal, frustrated about Matt’s interference, sends Paul Croft, a prisoner, to kill Matt. However, Paul doesn’t kill Matt and only accepted to do the job to go back home to South Africa. Matt, determined to find Negaal and seek revenge for the deaths of David and Johnny, heads to South Africa as well. Soon enough, Matt finds himself an unlikely ally in Paul as they are constantly pursued by Negaal and his goons.

After appearing in the capoeira film Only the Strong in 1993, it was fitting that martial artist Mark Dacascos take the mantle to complete the Kickboxer saga after Sasha Mitchell’s departure from the series. Written by Rick Filon, instead of just having Dacascos play David Sloane, it was written off the bat that the Sloanes’ youngest brother is killed off. Dacascos gets to showcase his talented skills as Matt Reeves, who has something in common with David Sloane. Both are former kickboxers who retired to become teachers. While Sloane would get back in the ring, Reeves settled for a life as a teacher.

It is somewhat of a shame that Dacascos never really got to make the big A-list of films as a lead actor in an action film. Along with Only the Strong, this movie has some of Mark’s best skills in both acting and martial arts. Both would come into play as he would be known today as the Chairman on the Food Network’s popular show Iron Chef America.

However, the big surprise comes in the form of James Ryan. The South African born martial artist and actor is best known for two films made in his homeland, Kill or be Killed (1977, released in 1980) and Kill and Kill Again (1981). While Ryan, an expert in karate, made some more lower budgeted fare after his South African martial arts films, this is a welcome return for Ryan to the martial arts action film genre. Ryan makes for a very good villain in Negaal. In one scene, Ryan uses his karate skills against a refusing German champion, played by Gavin Hood, who would direct the Academy Award-winning film Tsotsi and the recent blockbuster X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Geoff Meed makes for a pretty good ally in the role of ex-prisoner Paul Croft. Meed, a practitioner of various martial arts, shows some pretty good martial arts moves. He may have somewhat of a villain look, but he truly shows his true colors as both an ally and friend to Matt. Meed and Dacascos recently reunited for the rip-off film I am Omega, which Meed wrote the screenplay and played a villain while Dacascos played the hero of the film.

The fight choreography was done by Mark Dacascos and martial artist Burton Richardson, who makes an appearance as one of Negaal’s financial planners. What can be seen as laughable is Dacascos strutting a pose and whipping his arm before beginning to unleash his skills at times. However, there is one sequence that made absolutely no sense. Near the finale, which takes place in Negaal’s home, we are treated to a kung fu fighting casino dealer, played by martial artist June Castro. She wasn’t part of the intricate plot, so the question that still comes to mind is what is she doing beating the heck out of Negaal’s goons? That is something that remains a mystery to this day.

Despite this miscalculated flaw, Redemption: Kickboxer 5, lives up to its name as it puts an end to the martial arts saga on a decent note and it proved to be a bankable lead role for martial artist extraordinaire Mark Dacascos. Definitely worth at least a rental.