A Rebel’s Lens: John Carpenter’s Escape From New York

Snake Plissken is one of the great American antiheroes.

Everything about Kurt Russel’s most memorable character screams iconic. From his pirate eye-patch and cowboy snarl to his sneering distrust of all things authoritarian. Snake—who would become the inspiration for the first truly cinematic video game in Metal Gear Solid—is an amalgamation of heroic archetypes, a caricature who appeals to our basest fantasies and who approaches his valiance with an outward unwilling that speaks to our cynicism for authority, while also questioning the very definition of heroism in a political context […]

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Burning Hearts and Iron Curtains: Rocky IV and Cold War Propaganda

The appeal of Rocky Balboa is his status as a flawed everyman.

Back in 1976, director John G. Avildsen gave us the perfect underdog story. Backed up by an Oscar-winning screenplay by Stallone, Rocky was about community and togetherness, shining a sympathetic light on the poor and downtrodden and reminding us that, given the right attitude and determination, anything is possible. It also spoke of family values and the importance of perspective. Stallone was a revelation as the movie’s titular hero, a reluctant thug-for-high whose friendship with an insular store clerk set him on the path to self-discovery […]

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The Exterminator (1980)

The Exterminator is the very definition of Exploitation Cinema.

Landing somewhere between Rambo and Death Wish, it possesses the justifications of neither, adopting the latter’s quasi-fascist vigilante theme and basking in the thrill of the torture. As far as writer/director James Glickenhaus is concerned, poverty breeds paper-thin monsters who would serve well as target practice in an arcade shooter, and becoming a mindless serial killer is the only way to save humanity from stereotype-led damnation […]

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The Heart of the Dragon: Way of the Dragon

So far, my Odyssey of Bruce Lee has toured The Big Boss, a flawed film saved solely by Lee’s presence, and Fist of Fury (aka Chinese Connection), a fittingly grand revenge tale with jaw dropping-action.

Even though Fist of Fury was a huge improvement on The Big Boss, I felt the director, Wei Lo, still didn’t understand exactly what he had in Lee. Of course, the only person capable of understanding Lee’s full potential was the man himself, so it was fitting that for his next movie, Way of the Dragon, Lee parted ways with Wei and took directing into his own lightning fast hands […]

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Seeing Red: Swords, Sorcery and Sexism in Red Sonja.

The eighties were awash with fantasy films.

Some were excellent (Conan The Barbarian, The Princess Bride), some were flawed but entertaining, (Krull, Willow), while others were just boring or just downright awful (Hawk The Slayer, Conan The Destroyer). It was a glorious time for swords and sorcery fans, and though the quality may have been wildly variable, as a budding Tolkien fan obsessed with anything with even a passing resemblance to the fantastical that featured weird creatures […]

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A Sequel in Earnest: Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon 2

There are very few movies that deserved a sequel as much as Richard Donner’s Lethal Weapon; not because it was set up that way, but because of the potential of the movie’s narrative and the ever-burgeoning relationship of its characters.

Although sequels had long been established, it was the 1980’s that saw them grow into an essential component of the marketing beast. The 1970’s had witnessed the dawn of the numbered sequel, but those movies were few and far between, productions such as The French Connection II and The Godfather Part II hardly the products of premeditated money-spinning campaigns […]

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The Glimmer Man (1996)

Seagal has starred in so many second-rate movies during the past two decades you sometimes forget he was once a rather formidable action star.

Back in his early to mid-90’s prime, he starred in some pretty decent efforts, the kind with enough of a budget to attract some top-level acting talent. Take The Glimmer Man for example. Keenan Ivory Wayans may not be first choice when it comes to a humorous, street-talking sidekick, but he’s too good for the kind of bargain-basement efforts Seagal now stars in. Similarly, Manhunter’s Brian Cox and The Shawshank Redemption’s Bob Gunton are both very fine actors whose mere presence can elevate any old nonsense you care to throw at them […]

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Avenging Force (1986)

Dudikoff and James are back in tandem, proving without a shadow of a doubt that they are the very cream of the Cannon crop.

Forget Seagal, Van Damme and . . . well, not Stallone and Schwarzenegger, but for me Dudikoff and James come in at a close third. Any action movie aficionado worth their salt is aware of the iconic duo’s legacy, and for those who aren’t they are the Mel Gibson and Danny Glover of the B-movie scene, starring in such high-kicking classics as the American Ninja series […]

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