In the year 2022, Special Forces solider, Captain Robbins, is court martialed for putting a bullet in the head of his commanding officer. After escaping two maximum security prisons and a record of rebellious activity, a corrupt and power hungry warden of the Lactivus prison ships Robbins off to an off shore island called Absolom, where prisoners can roam free with no chance of escape due to 24/7 surveillance by Satellite and rocket launcher armed helicopter gunships surrounding the island perimeter. Island prisoners separate into two factions: the Outsiders and the Insiders. Each with the respective camps, the lawless Outsiders overwhelm the Insider’s numbers by 6 to 1, leaving the small manned community in constant fear of attack and pillage by the Outsider’s merciless leader, Walter Marek. When the insiders learn than Robbins has faced Marek and lived, they take the former solider into their community, but Robbins sole desire is to escape off the condemning rock and with the help of a few good men from the Insiders’ camp, the chances of escape and survival are greater together as long as Marek and his band of starving cutthroats don’t seize the endangered community first.
“Escape from Absolom,” also known as simply “No Escape” in the U.S., is a Martin Campbell directed action film from 1994 that’s futuristic and violent, fun and thrilling, and kitschy without being too cheesy. Campbell, who went on to direct not one, but two, James Bond films, begins a base of epic action that’s toweringly ambitious and pulled off nicely with the stunts and the editing. Based off the Richard Herley novel “The Penal Coloney,” the script is penned by Michael Gaylin who puts pen to paper to scribe a playful, passively aggressive dialogue, but fun and energetic on a the same coy lines of other high visibility action films. Gaylin was able to conform to a story that has no dynamic with the opposite sex in one of the few films that exhibits a rare all male cast.
“Goodfella’s” star Ray Liotta finally got his time to shine as the butch and badass action hero that is Captain Robbins, a highly skilled special forces solider and killing machine whose pragmatic intentions, at first, are hard to read. The cockiness overtop a well-cloaked deadly skill set works to the advantage of the blue-eyed actor for New Jersey. Opposite Liotta is Stuart Wilson (“Hot Fuzz”) as Walter Marek, a 7-year island lifer with dreadlocks and nose bridge piercings to match his psychotic leadership. Wilson does psychotic just fine, but the look resembles John Travolta’s atrocious attire from Battlefield Earth. Lance Henriksen, One of the most recognizable legendary genre actors, has a more serene approach in being a mentor and the leadership figurehead of the Insiders camp when compared to conventionally eccentric, sometimes maniacal performances, but Henriksen has a mellow side to him that conveys are very affectionate kumbaya approach, but any personality compared to Stuart Wilson’s internal rampage would be a stark contrast. “Ghostbusters'” Ernie Hudson has his role as security office in the Insiders camp and the sole black man of the film, for obvious reasons, stands out, but Hudson just adapts to anything you put him in though the Michigan born tended to sway toward the thrilling fantasy/sci-fi genre in the height of his career. Rounding out the cast is Kevin Dillon (“The Blob” remake), Kevin J. O’Conner (“Lord of Illusions”), Don Henderson (“The Ghoul”), Ian McNeice (“Dune”), and Michael Lerner (“Maniac Cop 2”).
All things considered, “Escape from Absolom” is a torrent men-in-prison extravaganza that’s one part Sylvester Stallone “Judge Dredd,” one part Chuck Norris “Missing in Action,” and, as a whole, an endangered brand of droll entertainment. Speaking of Stallone, Ray Liotta did it first as a character who is an expert at escaping the inescapable maximum security penitentiaries and instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dave Bautista as contentious, yet supportive allies, the friendly, yet solidly statured Ernie Hudson and Lance Henriksen share Liotta’s Captain Robbin’s unquenchable lust for freedom, even if it to provide unsheathe exposition of the unethical corporate penal system practices. Far from being a perfect film and extremely blantant on a no underlying message, Martin Campbell undoubtedly has a fine tuned niche of capturing the casual eye with large scale action sequences and an affable character allure.
Umbrella Entertainment releases “Escape from Absolom” on a region-all Blu-ray, presented in 1080p, widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio. The coloring is phenomenally remastered and stable compared to previous transfers. There are times when depth becomes two-dimensional or flat, skewing the picture noticeably, but the overall picture quality is spectacular in the vast amount of Australian landscapes and even in the night scenes that show hardly any enhancing, such as sharpening or contrast. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is laid out nicely with audible poise and precision balance. Dialogue is prominent while explosions have just the right amount of oomph under an exact LFE recipe. The release sports other language Dolby Digital audio tracks such as a German 2.0, Spanish 2.0, Italian 2.0, and a French 2.0. Optional English SDH subtitles are available. Bonus material includes a two part making of featurette from around the production of the film with interviews with cast and crew, four TV spots, trailer, and a reversible cover. Runtime is 118 minutes. Martin Campbell’s “Escape from Absolom” is dystopian dynamite, explosive and aggressive with a flare for enjoyable banter amongst defined and diversified characters inhabiting an utopian island of mostly societal scum.
Two young women, traveling toward a music festival near Lake Tahoe on a lonely stretch of isolated Californian road, hitch a ride with a pair of seemingly harmless guys with a fast, expensive car. Their elated joyride goes south when the car flips over during a torrential downpour and crashes near the edge of a lake adjacent cliff, but this isn’t just any car these kids have completely wrecked. The car is stolen and belongs to a powerful criminal kingpin hellbent on getting the car back in his malefactor grips. With being pinned under the upside down car, sustaining serious injuries, and being accomplices to grand theft auto of a wired traced car, the odds of survival are slim and time is running out as henchmen move into retrieval mode to track down the stolen car and kill anyone they come across involved.
“Cheeseburgers and Ryan Gosling.” That direct quote fairly sums up the Dan Tondowski written and director action thriller titled unambiguously as “Accident.” The 2017 feature is Tondowski’s debut feature film; in fact, it’s his own credited feature film that embraces, or maybe just mirrors, the action sequenced camerawork of Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov, director of “Wanted” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer.” Tondowski begins his film impressively enough with a long take, nearly 7 minutes, of setting up the two women, Jess and Caroline, into their catalytic moment that forces into hitchhiking. After that, “Accident” becomes strictly popcorn cinema on a downward slop of insufferable filmmaking that maintains an afloat affliction with moderately entertaining special effects that include a slow motion car crash, an intense helicopter crash, and a 50 caliber machine gun.
Each and every single character in “Accident” was written without an ounce of redeeming value and Stephanie Schildknecht (“Death Race 2”) and Roxane Hayward (“Death Race: Inferno”), who were Jess and Caroline in the film, couldn’t rile up a brief moment why the plight bestowed upon them should have not have happened to them. The suspicion of how Schildknecht and Hayward received their roles might be due to the fact that they both look damn good in a bikini and black lingerie, featured when they strip to the said garments in a gas station bathroom during an back and forth dialogue. Don’t know why they removed their clothes, but that was certainly an aesthetic highlight. Tyrone Keogh (“Death Race 2” – if you haven’t noticed, three out of the four main stars have been in “Death Race” sequels) and Keenan Arrison portray the two car thieves, Fred and Thomas, who pick up Jess and Caroline to have everything they need, fast car and beautiful girls, so Fred states.
While the production value for “Accident” is top notch and ultra-glossy, that’s roughly the sole positive aspect of the film. The script by Dan Tondowski is a wild hose of loose-to-absent plots and subplots chased with misplaced dramatics and cringe worthy dialogue, the latter already stated earlier with the “cheeseburger and Ryan Gosling” line in the context of being the very one thing a person would want on the brink of death. The overall script as a whole is terribly superficial without much substance to care why these four joyriders should be saved from the pain that’s barreling their way and the answer to that is there is no recourse for any of the characters; no one single redeeming value is actioned or given in exposition to rejuvenate them to a higher standing. Jess is wish-washy with her life choices and a patsy to Caroline, Caroline deceives her mother and neglects her friendship with Jess, Fred wishes everyone dead to save his own butt, and Fred is a potential rapist with pivoting change of heart. Neither of them have self-respect and so when they’re thrown violently into a mix of blood and bullets, an agonizing amount of wait time goes by until their ultimate demise. The plot dissolves around the importance of the car and it’s connection to the great threat that descends upon the four naïve adolescents. At one point in post-crash, the carjackers find a suitcase thrown from the vehicle and they dig through it to only find clothing. The scene is awkwardly out of place and fizzled after the initial “AH-HA” interest that might have shed some light on what the hell was going on.
Exclusively on digital come April 3rd, Well Go USA is releasing Dan Tondowski’s action-thriller “Accident.” The feature-film will be not rated and have a runtime of 89 minutes. The image and audio quality will not be critique for this review due to the digital platform that varies in qualities and no bonus features were included with the digital screener. In closing, “Accident” crashed and burned after the nice 7-minute single take that dapples of nice imagery from then on out and figures to quickly run through the digital market, but with the Tondowski’s cinematography, I expect the filmmaker to only get better from here.
Life is seemingly pleasant and happy-go-lucky when two fully loaded coach buses of high school girls travel down a forestry passageway toward a lakeside hotel until sudden violence and gore turns Mitsuko’s classmates into minced meat. Overcome with shock and fear, Mitsuko escapes the terror only to find herself in another horrifying scenario. The vicious cycle continues as Mitsuko is thrusted into one chaotic, blood-splattering world after another, quickly losing her identity with each threshold crossing, and with no clue of what’s going on and how she got into this limbo of hell, Mitsuko must stay alive and unearth the truth behind the surreality of her being.
Nothing is more terrifying than being in a heart-pounding situation and not having one single clue why bodies are being sliced in half like corks popping violent out of champagne bottles, why childhood mentors break their professional oath and slaughter students with a ferocity of a mini-gun, or why being chased by a tuxedo-decked out groom with a gnarly pig head is in tow ready to drop kick anything, or anybody, standing in the way. Writer-director Sion Sono manifests that very chaos entrenched world in the 2015 action-horror “Tag” and, once again, the “Suicide Girls” director puts Japanese school girls back into the harrowed ways of gore and death over salted with an existential surrealism based off a novel by Yûsuke Yamada entitled Riaru Onigokko aka Real Game of Tag. Yamada’s story is followed more closely to that of Issei Shibata’s 2008 “The Chasing World” that involves a Government influence and parallel universes, “Tag” serves more as an abstract remake that Sono masters a soft touch of irrational poetry bathed in gore and strung with chaos rectified with a tremendously talented cast of young actresses.
Actresses such as the Vienna born Reina Triendl. Being Japanese doppelgänger to Mary Elizabeth Windstead with soft round eyes and the picturesque of youthfulness, Triendl transcends tranquility and innocence when portraying a content Mitsuko in the midst of many of her classmates boorishly bearing the typical, low-level adolescent anarchy. When Mitsuko’s thrusted into phantasmagorical mayhem, Triendl steps right there with her discombobulated character in an undried eye panicky frenzy whose character then spawns into two other fleshy vessels, a pair of recognizable names of J-Pop fandom in Mariko Shinoda and Erina Mano, when Mitsuko enters another zone in her fictional world. Though different in all aspects of their appearance and in name – Misuko, Kieko, and Izumi, the three women share the same existence and fathom a unbroken entity of character that hacks her way through the brutal truth. The remaining cast, Yuki Sakurai, Aki Hiraoka, and Ami Tomite, sport the high school miniskirt wardrobe and garnish a bubbly-violent J-horror persona very unique to the genre.
“Tag” is a plethora of metaphors and undertones likely to be over-the-head of most audiences, but if paying close enough attention and understanding the subtle rhythmic pattern of Sono’s direction, the gore and the fantastic venues are all part of an intrinsic, underlining message of feminism and sex inequality that’s built inside a “man”-made, video game structure thirty years into the future. Sono points out, in the most graphic and absurd method, how men treat women like objects or playthings. There’s also a message regarding predestination with white pillow feathers being the metaphor for fate and being spontaneous is the key to break that predestined logic and all of this corresponds to how Misuko, the main character, needs to break the mold, to choose her path, and to remember her past in order to free all the women trapped inside a male-driven purgatory of pain, punishment, and pleasure. Supporting Sono’s ability to disclose an epic survival-fantasy horror in such a way comes from multiple production companies, one of them being NBCUniversal Entertainment, providing the cash flow that allows Sono to flesh out the gore, to acquire massive amount of extras, and to scout out and obtain various locations.
Eureka Entertainment presents a dual format, Blu-ray-DVD combo, of “Tag” for the first time in the United Kingdom. However, the disc provided was a feature-only screener and a critique on the video, audio, and bonus material will not be conducted, but in itself, “Tag” is a full throttle encephalon teaser warranting a need for no supplementary content aside from conventional curiosity into what makes Sono’s “Tag” tick. When all pistons are firing, from the visual effects of Satoshi Akabane to “The Walking Dead” familiar score, “Tag” is no child’s game with a heavily symbolic, touch-and-go and bloodied pro-feministic essence that would serve as an abrupt and acute wakeup call to all the Harvey Weinsteins in the world that women are not to be simply playthings and that their gender destiny lies solely with them despite the misconstrued male manipulation.
In the dystopian America of 2050, commercialism presides over the middle and lower classes in the constructed wasteland that is United Corporation of States led by an impeccable and blood thirsty Chairman. A popular, carnage-laden sport known as the high octane Death Race has become beloved by all Americans, giving them an escape from their mundane and pitiful existence. The Death Race is simple: war-modified cars trek across the United Corporation of States in a 3-day race to score points by running down citizens of an overpopulated nation as an encouraged way of resetting the out of control producing rate and racers can also seek glory to reach the finish line with best time. Four-time champion, Frankenstein, is the returning crowd favorite and seeks to win a fifth crown, unless the powerful and conniving Chairman decides otherwise.
Under Universal Studio’s filmic sequel and reboot sublabel, Universal 1440 Entertainment’s “Death Race 2050” is a rip-roaring start toward 2017’s best intense action cinema and despite being pre-labeled as just another diluted and benign remake of the Roger Corman produced, Paul Bartel directed “Death Race 2000” from 1975, the modern day G.J. Echternkamp directed and co-directed film with Matt Tamashita honorably doesn’t lose the rich, yet full of cheap thrills, heritage that makes the original “Death Race” so fun, so entertaining, and so campy keeping the pandemonium on four high-performance, face-shearing tires. Even though Death Race has been quiet for over thirty years since 1975, the last decade has been riddled with Death Race films produced by the legendary low-budget filmmaker Roger Corman and all have been complimentary exclusive in their charm, mayhem, and versions of the lead character Frankenstein to thrill audiences, but it’s “Death Race 2050” that revs in true remake fashion of similar plot structure that changes all but one character.
New Zealander Manu Bennet carries the torch in portraying the original character Frankenstein, a four time champion with a leather covered body that’s been ravaged and cybernetically repaired from previous race crashes. Manu’s charisma and rugged image will win over audiences as he perfectly embodies a conflicted champion on the brink of doing what’s right; a tone very similar in all “Death Race” films. Manu is paired with actress Marci Miller, as Frankenstein’s passenger proxy, who dishes out the good girl sex appeal with a self-reliant rind. Beyond these two characters, even with a moniker like Frankenstein, the remaining characters make Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy” a college course of rocket science! Deliveries were timely, actions were precise, and performances couldn’t have been more meticulous in scenes with Jed Perfectus, the genetically engineered and ambiguous pretty boy played by Burt Grinstead, Minerva Jefferson, the wealthy ghetto rapper forged to life by Folake Olowofoyeku, and with Tammy the Terrorist, a cult leader with a celebrity high power portrayed by 2007’s “The Signal’s” Anessa Ramsey. The relatively unknown cast is whole-heartedly glued together by the flamboyant performance of “Clockwork Orange’s” and “31’s” Malcolm McDowell as the Chairman.
One could take a good stab in the dark on what the quality of the effects would be like for any Roger Corman produced film. In this instance, “Death Race 2050” channels much of Corman’s style with Echternkamp and his visual effects supervisor Anthony J. Rickert-Epstein (“Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf”) supplying rotoscope blood and dismemberments that pin-pricks a visual stimulate into the vein of the snobbiest of film aficionados and can be on an everlasting high. The simple, but effect, gasoline based pyrotechnics attest to the dedication of the crew and to the stunt work to know that if they miss their spot, they’re literally toast. However, the sometimes choppy, rapid editing drains some of the juice from the kills that attempt to piece coherent death sequences with humor and action. In fact, “Death Race 2050” redlines just like the modified, manslaughter vehicles used to rundown babies and the elderly to score points by quickly jumping to the next segment in order to sustain all the gory story’s girth.
“Death Race 2050” is adrenaline flowing wildly adjacent with gasoline, exploding with gore, and is terrifically enjoyable. Echternkamp’s script bares no sense with the sensitivities, secreting American wealth, greed, and stupidity in an environmentally degraded America filled with large high fructose corn syrup soda, an addictive cheese whiz byproduct, and borders that are named after corporate conglomerate of brands such as Walmart or Texaco. Universal’s R rated Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD release of the New Horizon film is an 1080p of the 1.78:1 widescreen presentation that makes the film look cheap due it’s hi-def attributes. The image quality is sleek and vibrant with a wide range of rainbow hues and the definition doesn’t ever thrown in the towel. The three option audio selection that consists of an English DTS-HD Master Audio has a lossless appetite that delectable distinguishes the channels where explosions are bombastically LFE and the gory parts are viscerally squishy. The dialogue is surprisingly clear through the amount of chaos. Bonus features include “The Making of Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050,” “The Look of 2050″ featurette,” a closer look at the cars in a segment entitled “Cars! Cars! Cars!,” a cast car tour, and deleted scenes. Even if the story’s timing is a spastic, “Death Race 2050’s” a guilty pleasure from start to finish line under the caustic cinematic eye of Roger Corman!
Recently engaged lovers Daniel and Mina take a trip to visit Daniel’s brother. When they stop to take in one of California’s breathtaking beaches, two vicious bikers, looking for kicks, intrude on the lovebird’s romantic getaway, looking to rape Mina but ending up mercilessly murdering Daniel. Mina’s grief turns the distraught lover into a vengeful bitch, taking the lives of all salacious and beastly men who wish to exploit Mina’s virginal beauty. Meanwhile, Daniel’s brother, a praised police detective, personally takes on the case despite his Captain’s insistence of not getting to close due to his personal connection. The detective tracks down the drug dealer Black Pepper, the head of a notorious biker gang connected to the slaying of his brother, that results in an all out war!
“Dangerous Men” is an action film you hate to love, being so bad it’s good. The film was the non-aborted child of Iranian born, U.S. bound director John Rad, a pseudo name, who had a life-long vision from way back in 1979 to put an eternal awesomeness on the big silver screen and, in one way or another, completed that feat no matter how long the creative process. Only 26 years stood in between John Rad and his masterpiece “Dangerous Men” from being completed and theatrically released to the public, but, low and behold, “Dangerous Men” didn’t succeed into billions or even millions of box office dollars; instead, Rad’s film gained popularity in its notoriety, gaining almost instantly cult status through a niche group of garbage cinema aficionados. By the grace of the provocative arthouse film brew masters at Drafthouse Films and their continuous begging toward Rad’s daughter, “Dangerous Men” redefines the term guilty pleasure.
But what makes “Dangerous Men” so irresistibly appealing? Is it that fact that Iranian born Peter Palian from “Samurai Cop” fame is the most experienced crew member on John Rad’s amateurish, if not solo performing, team? To properly answer that conundrum-filled riddle, looking at what makes “Dangerous Men” so standardly terrible would ultimately lead to the answer. For one, a prominent lead character doesn’t exist in a plot that can’t focus due in part of the two decades the film was shot that resulted in the actors or actresses not being available or unwilling to complete Rad’s work. Various characters, like Mina (Melody Wiggins) or the cop brother (Dutch Van Delsem), come and go in their respective, decade housed plot paths and like one of Drafthouse Films’s bonus features makes light, the film ends on a still frame of characters who have had less than half an hour of screen time. Secondly, the amateur acting in exposition, the cut and dry editing, and the cartoonish foley, by the also writer-director John Rad, hones straight toward gut-punching you to explode into outrageous, painful laughter. “Dangerous Men” is a serious film that’s full of wacky action and some great moments of exploitation, especially scenes involving women knees, but when all the punching and exasperating is of the identical sound bite, like in a “Street Fighter” video game, taking Rad’s film seriously is hard to fathom. Thirdly, the longevity of filming created many production goofs that mistakenly implied the decade. From props, to haircuts, and to clothes, hints of years were obvious to the naked eye. Lastly, a title like “Dangerous Men” should end on an detonative high note; instead, falls just short of a chuckle and a “WTF.”
“Dangerous Men” snuggly finds a spot within the realm of other bad movies not to be missed. “Troll 2,” “Silent Night, Deadly NIght 2” with the infamous garbage day line, “Leonard Part 6,” and “Jaws: The Revenge” would gladly welcome “Dangerous Men” with open arms as a peer in preposterousness. With a little over a measly $2,300 in ticket sales on opening weekend from a film that probably cost John Rad thousands upon thousands of dollars to produce and a whole hell of a lot of time to construct, “Dangerous Men” is most likely an action-packed feature you’ve never, ever heard of before. One positive remark is the soundtrack, which is also composed by John Rad, was, in my humble opinion, swanky and, well, rad – a true testament to the era and the best effort for such bad film. Unfortunately, John Rad never saw his film blossom as he died soon after the release of his masterpiece, sometime mysteriously between 2005 and 2007.
Drafthouse Films, in association with MVDVisual distribution, courteously releases “Dangerous Men” on a sleek not rated two-disc, 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray and DVD set which has a region free presentation that still manages to hold in the cigarette burns and the faded coloring in a sort of time capsule from the 80’s and 90’s. The original print looks to have been kept in good condition for an easy upgradeable and cleanable transfer. The Dolby Digital mono stereo mix is fairly clean aside from some misaligned dialogue tracks with the video and the prevalence of background noise in certain scenes of poor record quality such as the Daniel and Mina restaurant scene. Drafthouse Films doesn’t discriminate amongst the quality of their releases when considering the bonus features. A 16 page booklet featuring documented full-length interviews with director John Rad, audio commentary featuring “Destroy All Movies” authors Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly, “That’s So Rad,” an epigram stemmed from this film, is an original documentary about the film and its initial 2005 release, an interview with cinematographer Peter Palian, Rare footage of John Rad’s appearance on local access television, and the original theatrical trailer. Quite the laundry list of extras! “Dangerous Men” is so spectacularly unspeakable and trashy it shouldn’t go unseen for absolutely anything, not even for the birth of your first born child!