Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Listomania: A Double Dose of Dolph with a Side of Adkins

To celebrate our new makeover (all praise goes to Tom on that end), I’ve decided to do a Listomania post.  That sound you just heard was Tom fainting.  So here are a few smaller reviews of recent views.

We’re big fans of both Scott Adkins and Dolph Lundgren here at Video Junkie.  Adkins is the new breed of action hero (sadly, still waiting for major studios to notice him), while Lundgren is a (mostly) consistent veteran from the action packed ‘80s.  Their first time onscreen in THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012) didn’t really give us much of them together, but their subsequent vehicle UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (2012) blew our socks off.  So when a reteaming on another film being made in China was announced, we stocked up on sock garters.  Unfortunately, this is as far from their previous film as possible.

LEGENDARY (2013) – Crypto-zoologist Travis Preston (Adkins) spends his time traveling the globe looking to discover nature’s hidden animals.  The film opens with him and his crew in Russia tracking a species of super-bear. Along for the hunt is tracker/bounty hunter Harker (Lundgren), who is more concerned with bagging both the big game and credit. Naturally, this combination ends in the death of young student at the hands…er, claws of the bear and Preston feeling his career and enthusiasm suffer.  All of that changes when a lawyer (James Lance) shows up offering Preston a big-time job for an anonymous client to help find a monster scurrying around the hills of rural China.  Seems an industrial group was setting up a pipeline and didn’t count on a salamander-like thing the size of two cars chomping down on their workers.  Preston and his team arrive at the location and quickly find out that this aquatic beast isn’t their biggest problem as Harker is also on the scene in an official capacity and not to happy to share any perceived glory.

Fans hoping for the non-stop, martial arts action Adkins displayed in films like UNDISPUTED III (2010) or NINJA: SHADOW OF A TEAR (2013) will definitely be disappointed in this film. Chosen by Adkins to be more of a downtime project (he was recovering from knee surgery) this is more of an adventure with more in common with a 1950s dinosaur flick.  It isn’t bad by any means and flows pretty quickly through its 92 minute running time (the film actually ends at 85 minutes and we get 7 minutes of end credits).  Adkins is fine in his role and Lundgren does his patented “guy who kills people” routine that involves him speaking slower.  The problem with the film is it exists in a world where it doesn’t really fit in.  Co-funded by a Chinese company, the $12 million dollar budget ensures it can’t compete with something like GODZILLA (2013) and the serious, non-snarky tone won’t allow for viewings from people who like their cult films fed to them a la SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE (2013).  That second fact is reinforced with some wonky creature CGI work.  In small shots, it is pretty effective, but when we finally get to the monster’s cave in the end the beast gets too much exposure and ends up looking like the GEICO gecko on steroids with a bad skin rash.

So who was this ultimately made for?  Well, lots of Chinese investors (the end credits boast a jaw dropping 22 producers!) for one and probably Adkins and Dolph fans who have no life and will watch anything they are in…oh wait, that’s me!  Recommend only if you suffer from that latter affliction.  Just do not go in expecting anything as cool as that Japanese cover above (there is nary a helicopter in sight!).

BATTLE OF THE DAMNED (2013) – One of Dolph’s releases previous to LEGENDARY – and in between a couple of those terrible Giorgio Serafini vehicles that even I, a Dolph-addict, can’t stomach – was this sci-fi/horror hybrid. Again, while a far cry from the insanity of John Hyam’s UNIVERSAL SOLDIER sequel, this is another fun time killer that sees Dolph in a futuristic land of the dead.

Following a zombie/virus outbreak, an unnamed city is teeming with the dead and quarantined. Major Max Gatling (Lundgren) is hired by an industrialist to head into the city to find and save his estranged daughter, Jude (Melanie Zanetti). Damn, you know you got family problems when your kid would rather spend time in a zombie-infested city than with you.  And you know your script is lacking when you rip off ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996).  Gatling assembles his team and they head out on their apocalyptic mission.  They find their target in relatively quick order, but soon find out she is living with a whole crew of survivors and that she is (cue the strings) pregnant.  With the numbers of attacking undead increasing, Gatling decides to rewire some robots to become zombie killers. Why he is the first one to think of this is beyond me.

As the blurb says on the cover there: “Explosions, bullets, zombies, and robots…”  Jeez, if they had thrown in “boobs” I think we might have the perfect film.  To be honest, I don’t give a damn about 99% of the zombie films nowadays as that subgenre has been beaten to death (haha).  Yeah, my 15-year-old self is weeping right now.  A zombie film really needs a hook to get me to bite and I think they may have done it with explosions, bullets, and robots.  Oh, and Dolph!  Writer-director Christopher Hatton previously made the robot-heavy ROBOTOPOLIS (2011), so he definitely had the credentials for this and he manages to get some effective and haunting visuals from his locations in Malaysia. As mentioned earlier, this isn’t top tier Lundgren but keeps going at a quick enough pace that I was never bored.


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