The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
This is one I've been meaning to do for a long time now, and even with it's availability on Netflix Instant for almost as long, I still haven't managed to make it happen. Well, now we're finally rectifying that and getting after it. One of our friends who already got after it is the great Exploding Helicopter, written though by guest reviewer and other friend of the site, Ninja Dixon. You can go there to see what they thought, and read further to see what we thought.
DNA has DTVC favorite Mark Dacascos as a doctor in a small hospital in Indonesia who is approached by Jurgen Prochnow to further his work on an experimental serum that boosts the human immune system. The problem is, he's trusting Jürgen Prochnow, and that proves costly as Prochnow double crosses him and uses the serum to resurrect this alien killing machine that looks exceedingly derivative. Now Dacascos, with the help of a beautiful CIA agent (Robin McKee), is looking to take Prochnow down and stop this beast.
While this is a DTV flick, it looks so much like it could have been widely released theatrical flop from the same time period, between the special effects and the canned dramatic wannabe John Williams orchestral music. In that sense it's cool to see Dacascos in a film like that, but beyond that, what are we doing here? Who knows why it wasn't a theatrical picture, but one guess is how derivative it is. How many times have we seen this before? And while we see it so much still on SyFy, at least those ones are bringing a camp element that this doesn't. All time special effects great William Mesa directs this, so he gives the film a competence that on some levels works against it, because the story is such well-worn territory that it's crying out for camp. At the same time, this is still 1998, so even his great special effects look dated at times, not to mention he probably didn't have the budget here to do what he could in some of the pictures he's known for. The film's one exploding helicopter comes to mind as an area where his visual effects missed in a hilariously bad way, probably due to that lack of budget, and it stands out as a fun schlock moment, one that unfortunately wasn't indicative of the film as a whole. Overall, while this isn't horrible, it's too unremarkable for a recommendation.
Mark Dacascos is a solid lead as always. Don't know if I liked the hairdo after the beginning, but beyond that he's good. I'm not sure why he didn't get more bigger roles, but I wonder if it was a film like this being relegated to DTV in the late 90s that held him back. I wonder too if he lacks a certain on-screen charisma, which isn't as evident in his films where he's allowed to showcase his superior martial arts skills, but in a film like this rears its ugly head and holds him back in the lead. I don't know. One thing that would be really cool is if he can get a spot in the next Expendables film. I know for guys like Scott Adkins and Gary Daniels, seeing them opposite more of the heavy hitters did a lot to showcase them to newer audiences, and I think that would be key for Dacascos as well.
Okay, do we want to do Jürgen Prochnow, or Proch-later-- Hey-oh! The thing I don't get is, how does Dacascos not know what Prochnow brings to the table? He's one of the ultimate baddies, of course he's going to double cross you and try to kill you-- Cenk Uygur voice: "of cooooourse!" He is one of those ready-made baddies though, where you can just take him out of the package and insert him into your film and you're good to go. I don't know what this one was trying to do by passing him off as a potential good guy for the first ten minutes, they weren't fooling anyone, but hey, good of you to try though. Here's to you Jürgen Prochnow, you're one of the good ones.
Robin McKee as the CIA agent helping out Dacascos was so 1998. She doesn't have a lot of other roles on her CV, and most of the ones she does have are small ones, but here she is 1998-ing it up. Between the hair, the outfits, the make-up, it was all like "just give me the Friends look", and I gotta say, I loved that time. It's an interesting fashion period, because the kids today miss it in favor of the more notable early 90s fashions, not the way guys getting their tips frosted has been embraced by them, even if they lump it in with early 90s Chess King style, as if the 90s existed as a monolith (sorry if I sound bitter about twentysomethings butchering my decade...!). The only places I ever see the 1998 aesthetic exist today outside of movies like this are in tributes to Friends or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it is there that it will survive and exist for posterity.
What travesty did this film commit that truly sunk it for me? No, not the fact that it's story was derivative, it was the addition of the kid. Argh! Why do movies do this to us? And this isn't an indictment of the kid playing the part, it's an indictment of the actual plot device in toto. Kids in action movies are annoying. Period, end of story. And this film makes it worse by committing the classic two wrongs don't make it right, by killing the kid off later on. You can't do that. The only thing worse than kids in action movies is killing kids off in action movies, so you can't fix the mistake of including him by having his death scene near the end. All sauteed in wrong sauce.
Okay, let's wrap this up. Beyond being there for a Dacascos completist or exploding helicopter connoisseurs, or maybe even Philippine movie connoisseurs-- check out the great Jim Gaines with a cameo up there!--, but it's a pass for me. Even the nice run time and availability on Instant can't save it for me. While it's not bad, it's not all that good either, and the fact that it's that unremarkable kills it in a sea of other options for you.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118912/