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Monthly Genre Recommendations – February – Action

The Divide (2012)

Recommended by: Rainbolt

This movie could have easily been a cliché post-apocalyptic movie with the “Oh-my-god-what-do-we-do-now?” scenarios. But it didn’t, not once. It became a we-are-our-own-worst-enemy movie, and that is downright scary as shit in my book. We never learn who attacked the city or for what reason, we just know there’s a group of survivors locked in an underground bomb shelter set up by the superintendent of an apartment building. Let the cruelty and action of man’s lust for power ensue.

This movie worked for me because it showed how dirty and disturbing trying to survive just might be. It’s really something when people lose touch with their humanity and resort to ultra-violence for pure power struggles in the guise of survival. Michael Biehn as the superintendent tries to lead the group of survivors, but that quickly spirals downward when two buddies have already given up hope and just don’t give a fuck. This is what I liked about the movie most; the Lord of the Flies mentality.

Xavier Gens directed Hitman (which I was disappointed with), but when I saw he was the one who directed The Divide, I had to revisit Hitman to see if I missed something. It still sucked, but my girlfriend swooned over Timothy Olyphant even as bald as a newborn baby. The casting in The Divide was spot on. Michael Eklund (Bobby), who plays buddy of Milo Ventimiglia (Josh), exposes us to the truth and reality of how sadistically insane people can become in a dark and gritty situation. It kept me riveted.

Amazingly, this movie was almost never made. An intern had to ask his parents for a few million to complete the project. I am so glad it was made. I give this movie 5 out of 5 Nerdskulls. Go see it if you get a chance to, as it may be hard to even find the movie. With it opening up on only seven screens, it will hopefully be on DVD and Blu-Ray on April 17th. To further pique your interest, here’s a trailer:

Dead Heat (1988)

Recommended by: Kelly (Anarchy Jones)

Genre movies often follow a set of rules and a basic storyline to classify them as a particular genre. Just because a film will follow certain edicts doesn’t make it bad or unoriginal, but when you can find a film that fits within a genre and also goes outside the boundaries, and does it well, it can make for a surprising good time. Dead Heat is one of those movies, to me, that is mainly an action film but crosses over into sci-fi, horror and comedy, without losing its identity.

***Spoilers Ahead***

Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo play Detectives Roger Mortis and Doug Bigelow. This sentence alone should get you interested. If you need more, Mortis and Bigelow find that recent robberies around town are being perpetrated by previously-dead people. Somebody has built a machine that brings people back from the dead, and is using this power for naughtiness. Early in the investigation, Mortis gets killed, so Bigelow and the local mortician use the machine to bring him back to life. The living/dead duo continues to investigate the mastermind behind the robberies.

If you are somehow still not convinced that you need to see this movie, I’ll mention a few other things. Vincent Price is in this movie. There is a scene in an Asian butcher shop where all the food, and pieces of food, come to life and attack the detectives. Piscopo is as ridiculous as ever and who can say no to that mullet? The dialogue is hilariously bad, and the music is fantastically ’80s. Also for a movie this low budget and low-brow, the makeup effects are outstanding.

One might question whether/not Dead Heat truly falls into the action category. I don’t. At its core it’s a movie about two detectives solving a case and fighting crime. There are gunfights (one of my favorites in any movie ever is when Treat Williams and a security guard are shooting at each other for a good couple of minutes). There are fistfights. Just because there are also zombies and an increasing amount of ridiculousness doesn’t make it any less action-y. It only serves to make the movie more enjoyable for me.

Sure, this movie isn’t for everyone, and at times is cringe-worthy. But you should see it at least once, as there aren’t many movies like it. It’s better to see with a group of people, and it’s a fun movie to introduce to people. Because of the quirky nature of Dead Heat and the fact that it probably doesn’t appeal to the masses, I can only give it 3.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls. You should still watch it, and either thank me or curse me in the comments below. For now, here’s a taste with the trailer:

Ninja Assassin (2009)

Recommended by: Lance

Ninja Assassin stars South Korean pop sensation Rain as Raizo, an orphan as a child, who is raised by a ninja clan to become a hired assassin. The story slightly follows the Snake-eyes and Storm Shadow storylines in GI. Joe. Against his teachings, Raizo starts having feelings for a female ninja in the clan, who ends up in a bad way and she is executed for being a traitor to the clan in front of Raizo’s eyes. In return, Raizo builds animosity toward his master and the star pupil, Takeshi. From one amazingly bloody battle to the next, Raizo plots against his former teacher by foiling their assassination attempts, and eventually he kills both master and pupil.

The ninjas featured in the film are nothing like seen in film before. There is no one seen skulking in the shadows. No American Ninja to be seen. This film depicts the ninjas more along the lines of the legend of the ninja: silent, unseen, and almost magical in their delivery of death. The Wachowski brothers of Matrix legend produced this film. Bringing in their superb knowledge of martial arts films, they helped director James McTeigue, (V for Vendetta) again create a film that pushes the boundaries.

This film is bloody, as it should be. With the arsenal of different weapons ninjas are known for, they use them in the film with precision and mastery. The beginning of the film features a fight scene where the hero is never seen until the end. A swish sound is heard, and one person’s body slides into two halves. One person firing two pistols, “swish,” and both arms fall to the ground still holding them.

Why watch it? Because it has friggin’ ninjas and it’s bloody as hell! Why else? I give this film 4 out of 5 Nerdskulls. It would have been a full five but I think McTeigue could have used a little more help from the Wachowski brothers. Here’s a trailer to show what you’re in store for:

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

Recommended by: Jimmy

George Miller is one of the best action directors of all time. Yes, he is the man behind Happy Feet, Happy Feet 2 and Babe: Pig in the City. Sure, none of these films elicit imagery of explosions, crashes, car chases or battle royales, so how does this director make it into the action category? There’s a character he created in 1979, you may have heard of him: Mad Max Rockatansky.

I admit, I watched this trilogy out of order. My introduction into this post-apocalyptic world was Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, followed by Mad Max. It was not until years later that I finally saw the masterpiece of the trilogy, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. It would be pointless for me to recount the plot of this film. Words cannot capture the pure adrenaline, shock, horror, relief and awe at the action, brutality and carnage contained on this celluloid. Then in the middle of all this chaos is Mad Max; a loner, searching, ostensibly, for the elixir of life: petrol. With any antihero, the journey seems so simple at the start. But given the events from the first film, we know Max is searching for much more than the obvious.

Of course in any hero’s journey, or in this case, antihero’s journey, a seemingly insurmountable obstacle is placed directly in his path. In this case, that obstacle is appropriately named Humungus, the Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah! To ensure maximum carnage, a secondary baddie is included: Wez, played by Vernon Wells. I’d like to think this is Miller’s superior take on a biker badass, to make up for his horrible failed attempt with Toecutter in the original, but that’s a matter for another discussion. These two villains and their gang torment, pillage, torture and rape a small band of survivors who own the one commodity everyone in this awful future needs: gasoline.

There are several attempts to force the survivors to relent, but it is one final push by Mad Max and his ragtag army that allows for a small group’s freedom (scream in your best Braveheart impression if you’d like). And as this final caravan crashes and burns into a winless victory, we see the ultimate twist and the final visage of the lone survivor, the Road Warrior. Without hesitation, I give this film 5 out of 5 Nerdskulls. Here’s a trailer to remind you how awesome this movie is:

Battle Royale (2000)

Recommended by: Peter

When unemployment numbers reach an all-time high and students all over the country start boycotting schools, the Japanese government takes Draconian measures to keep the youth in check, and as a deterrent they pass the Millennium Educational Reform Act. Under this Battle Royale Act, a 9th-grade class is randomly selected every year and taken to a deserted island where the students are forced to kill each other off until only one remains.

This premise may sound familiar, as it shares some fundamental elements with The Hunger Games, the popular young adult novel that was adapted into a soon-to-be-released film version. Both are based on novels, and both take place in a dystopian future where adolescents are pitted against each other in annual televised death matches. While The Hunger Games is now getting loads of publicity, Battle Royale is not at all widely known in the West, especially in the United States. Therefore I feel that this amazing action-thriller deserves some extra attention, hence this recommendation.

Most of the actors in Battle Royale are not well known to western audiences, but you may recognize actress Chiaki Kuriyama from her role as Gogo Yubari, Lucy Liu’s bodyguard in Kill Bill Volume 1. Takeshi Kitano, known for his 2003 portrayal of Zatoichi, plays the class’ former teacher turned BR instructor.

Due to distribution problems, Battle Royale never got a proper release in the United States. That will change when the film is finally released on Blu-ray on the 20th of March, three days before the international premiere of The Hunger Games, which I’m sure is not a coincidence. I advise you to pick it up, and if you have plans to go see The Hunger Games, I urge you to check out Battle Royale beforehand. I think you won’t be disappointed. I give this film 4.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls, and here’s the trailer for the Blu-ray/DVD release:

I grew up on Kung Fu theater movie weekends, a lot of Top Ramen Noodles, G.I. Joe's, Evil Knivels Stunt Cycle and Stretch Armstrong. My Movie reviews and Artist Interviews have been a regular around Nerdlocker.com. Follow me on Twitter @arainbolt. or email me aaron@nerdlocker.com