Probability Zero killcount

Probability Zero (1969) a.k.a. Probabilità zero

Probabilità zero

Starring Henry Silva

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Silva kills 21

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Probability Zero rights held by Aurigo 68.

AMB: Mercenaries (2014)

Mercenaries

[THE RUNDOWN]

The Asylum, the film studio responsible for such films as The Day The Earth Stopped and Transmorphers has built a fairly successful business model producing “mockbusters.”  Mockbusters are described as  usually low-budgeted films meant to capitalize on the marketing of major studio releases and ignorant filmgoers.  I can see this working, too.  I once worked at a video store.  More often than even I’d like to admit, customers would come in and not have any real clue as to what the title of the film was they were looking for.  Someone looking for, say, Transformers might call it “Trans-Robots” or “Change-bots.”  Transmorphers is sure to get plenty of hits just from those people alone.  Add to that the fact these studios are only making and remaking these kinds of nonsense films because of what they perceive as some kind of name recognition factor, and The Asylum’s business model almost smacks of a certain kind of brilliance.

Sure, the film fan and quality control part of my brain knows this is a special kind of evil.  I accept that.  But the schadenfreude I feel here is too strong.  So when I heard The Asylum was making a version of The Expendables, I was fairly pleased.  Here they were making one of these knock-offs of a film I actually enjoyed, albeit about four years too late.  It turns out, however, this film is more to do with the ongoing concept of an Expendables spin-off, featuring a cast of entirely female Expendable characters, currently going under the title The Expendabelles.

Sit-rep

Mercenaries concerns the attempts of a group of four female convicts hired by the C.I.A. to rescue the President’s kidnapped daughter in exchange for full pardons of their past crimes.  Women kicking ass ensues.

[THE HEROES]

Bell

Zoë Bell is Cassandra Clay

Zoë Bell is one of those women who really deserve better than she’s gotten as far as headlining a movie.  She’s got a gruff physicality that easily lends credence to playing tough types and a certain amount of grace and vulnerability that would make for an interesting lead.  While Bell’s character here isn’t the deepest of written characters, she is the deepest of this particular film, and when allowed to soar (even through this movie’s miniscule budget), Bell makes it work.  Ditching her natural New Zealand accent, Zoë becomes the group’s de facto leader, a hard and resourceful woman, strong and sarcastic, with excellent fighting skills.

Lokken

Kristanna Loken is Katherine “Kat” Morgan

Loken will likely always be remembered as the T-X from Terminator 2: Rise Of The Machines, and that’s kind of too bad because she’s a good presence and works well in an Action setting.  Though this role is largely a waste of her talents, I’d say it does benefit the film to have her piercing gaze.  It’s fun to have someone as expressive as Loken play the team sniper and resident tough member.

Mei

Nicole Bilderback is Mei-Lin Fong

Bilderback plays the team’s explosives expert and token Asian team member.  I can’t say I know Nicole Bilderback from much else, and she’s nearly a non-presence here, but does what she can.  She’s far more jokey than any of the other team members, and gets some truly cringeworthy dialog.

Fox

Vivica A. Fox is Donna “Raven” Ravena

Fox here does well in the sort of genre film she was born to be in.  Like her character in Kill Bill, Fox is a former hitwoman, as lethal with your back facing her or away from her.  Fox seems to be having fun here, and if this is really an Expendables mockbuster, then she is Mercenaries’s Dolph Lundgren.

Mona

Cynthia Rothrock is Mona

Ah, it’s always nice to see Rothrock pop up in these kinds of flicks, even if she’s still dying her hair in a million different colors.  She’s never had the best or strongest presence, but Cynthia’s more than earned her pedigree.  I might not believe her character is the ass-kicking C.I.A. chief she plays, but I definitely know and believe Rothrock is a bad-ass.

[THE HEAVIES]

Amazonian She-bitch

Brigitte Nielsen is Ulrika

I really don’t know what to say about Brigitte Nielsen.  I mean, have any of you seen Flava Of Love?  So I’m just going to try and talk a bit about Ulrika.  Rothrock’s character refers to her as an “Amazonian she-bitch”, and that’s about as apt a description as any.  She’s a man-hating, woman-eating monster of a character.  Ulrika’s as close to making this movie feel like the film it wants to be, too.  I can’t tell if it’s because Nielsen’s picked up some key acting pointers over the course of her career, or if it’s because Brigitte’s become some sort of “it” creature, almost unreal, and so fiercely unapolotic enough that it translates to the screen.  She’s genuinely scary, and feels like a real threat, something her lackeys are all seriously… um, lacking.

Grigori

Tim Abell is Grigori Babishkova

He’s Ulrika’s right hand weirdo, a mass rapist and all around filthy pile of two-legged scum.  The film helpfully fills out his backstory with this slide.

[THE SEX AND VIOLENCE]

Free to make their films without fear of censorship, The Asylum have the power to make some of the most truly violent and sexualized flicks ever made.  I mean, they put a lesbian subplot in their Transformers knock-off.

The Closest You're Gonna Get In This Movie

That’s why I am astounded at no just how little death there is in Mercenaries, but how this movie completely dodges most films of this type’s innate urge to exploit the female aspect.  No shower scenes?  No shirtless fights in the mud?  The Hell, you say!  But it’s true.  This is, perhaps by accident, one of the most progressive Action films I’ve ever seen.  It even passes the Bechdel test.  The shot above is about as close as you’ll get, wherein Kristanna Loken feigns asking Vivica A. Fox for help undoing her bra, a scene that’s (painfully) played for laughs.

Still, we get plenty of bloodshed when people get shot.  They didn’t squelch on squibs (though there are also some awful CGI blood bits).

[THE BEST OF THE REST]

Mercenaries is confounding at times.  It’s less Charlie’s Angels than it is The Dirty Dozen, but definitely of less quality than either.  I might prefer to watch this over either of the McG-directed Charlie’s Angels films, but that’s really not saying much.  But in this cheap and often bland experience, we do get some good things for our time.

Rothrock

Cynthia Rothrock fights Vivica A. Fox.  No, it’s nowhere near as good as the Bride/Vernita Green fight from Kill Bill, but it’s a nice reminder that Cynthia’s still got it.  Plus, when you think of this movie in Expendables knock-off terms, you’ll soon realize Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t do much of anything in their short cameos in that film.  Cynthia’s got the boys beat in that area.  Ball’s in your court, Expendabelles.

Also worthy of note is a great shooting-while falling bit from Zoë Bell, who also gets another bad-ass moment of her own.  After battling about a dozen guys in some intense slow-motion hand-to-hand combat, a huge dude with a machine gun in both hands steps into frame, screaming maniacally.  Zoë, nearly out of breath from fighting the others, says,

“You’re kidding me!”

Fightend

And blows his brains out in a single shot.

[THE EXECUTION]

Look, no one is going into any movie from The Asylum with expectations of high art.  That Mercenaries is watchable on a basic level is an achievement, let alone any kind of enjoyable.  But I’ll say it: I kind of liked it.

Cheapness

Oh, it is as cheap-looking and completely lacking in any kind of style as you would expect, but it delivers exactly what it advertises.  It’s a silly little Action movie that happens to be about women bad-asses fighting a crazy woman warlord.  It’s generic, but it works.  And quite honestly, I think the guys over at The Asylum should be proud of what they’ve accomplished here.  Had they gave it a little more polish, and maybe a bit more of a budget, it really could have been something awesome and memorable.  But I don’t like looking at movies for what they’re not.  Not really.

At times, Mercenaries feels like it’s truly attempting to reach beyond its limited scale.  There’s an entire fight sequence set in the back of a cargo plane and a crash landing.  In a big budget film, the CGI used here would be jarring, but it doesn’t phase me here.  Instead, I was kind of surprised they bothered using any computer graphics.

Comic book style

In between scenes, they occasionally change the color tone to sepia, and go into a comic book style, using panels and everything.  The pictures are random and the effect is a bit forced, but I’m glad to see the creators had some ambition here.  During Zoë Bell’s standalone one versus man fight sequence, there is a lot of slow motion intermingled with quick cuts that almost feels like the editor knew what he was doing.  It’s easily the most energetic part of the movie, though I do also quite like that above-mentioned airplane battle as well.  So I’d say check this one out, if you’re one those who can be bothered to sit through DTV films.

[LAST WORDS]

Ensemble Action films ain’t just for men.  And at less than an hour and a half long, there are worse ways to spend your time.

[THE AOBG ACTION CHECKLIST]

[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor” (Rothrock: Wushu and Bell: gymnist)
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[  ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Factory/Warehouse/Castle
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[X] Manly Embrace(s)
[X] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting (Zoë Bell counts)
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[  ] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[  ] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[  ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[  ] Unnecessary Sequel
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice

[TOTAL: 20 outta 25]

© AllOuttaBubbleGum.com

The Asylum accidentally made a "good" movie?

Scanners killcount

Scanners (1981)

Scanners

Starring Michael Ironside

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Ironside kills 15

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Scanners rights held by Canadian Film Development Corporation (CFDC), Filmplan, and Victor Solnicki Productions.

AMB: ASSASSINS (1994)

[THE CHALK-OUTLINE]

Assassins (1994): Breakdown by Kain424

On his way to retirement, a hitman is suddenly challenged by a deadly up and coming assassin.

[THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THEIR BADASSITUDE]

THE GOOD GUYS:

Robert Rath

Sylvester Stallone is Robert Rath a.k.a. “Joseph”

Sly is pretty solid here, mostly because he has Banderas to play off.  Still, we get another turn from Stallone as the strong, silent type with a hidden wit.

Electra

Julianne Moore is Electra a.k.a. “Anna”

Computer hacker and “ghost”, Moore manages to give enough presence and strength to an otherwise very limited role.  Her fear and resistance stand out, making her the most human of the characters.  I actually quite like her in this, and I rarely like Moore.  I don’t think I’d like a single one of her characters again until Don Jon.

THE BAD GUY:

Bain waits

Antonio Banderas is Miguel Bain

The film’s MVP and blast of amazing.  Banderas kills it here, as a hyper-intense, psychopath of a hitman who loves history as much as he loves the hunt.

[THE SEX AND VIOLENCE]

EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY:

Sly Smooches

Not really, unless you count that smooch shot from the original trailer, or that part where the undercover agents are pretending to make out.

MURDER BY NUMBERS: [ 19 people and a couple of peaches ]

Sly practically kills no one in this, something that was fairly common during his 90s stretch.  It’s ok though, because Antonio picks up his slack, retiring 17 more.

Watch their kills HERE.

[THE BEST OF THE REST]

EPIC MOMENT:

Bain's Birthday Candle

In one of the more resourceful moments of Robert Rath’s screentime, he rigs Electra’s apartment up to explode with some matchsticks and the oven’s gas line.  Miguel barely survives by using an overturned table to brace himself as he’s blasted out the second story window.

BEST LINE:

Separated by bulletproof glass, Rath and Bain are forced to get to know one another knowing that if either one of them leave the cab they’re sharing, the other will shoot him down.  When Rath turns away for a moment, Bain tries the to shoot through the glass.  Laughing at Rath’s apparent displeasure of this breech of their momentary truce, Bain quips:

Bain Tests The Glass

“I had to try! I mean, who knows? Maybe it wasn’t made in America!”

[THE EXECUTION]

I’ve occasionally been accused of shitting on the Action films of the 1990s.  I guess I just see them as too technology-dependent and soft.  I like my Action to have a bit of gruffness and resourcefulness the action heroes of the 90s seemed to severely lack.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t think well of plenty of 90s flicks.  Assassins is one of those I quite like, actually.  I think most people skip right by it, but it’s surprisingly good.

Action Pose

After the one-two punch of success Sylvester Stallone had with Cliffhanger and Demolition Man, suddenly our favorite underdog actor was on fire in Hollywood again.  He could pick about any project with about any actors and almost any director.  Unfortunately for Sly, the studios were still powerful enough to veto him on the director.  When he wanted do get in on the sleazy sexy 90s thriller genre that had swept Hollywood following the success of Basic Instinct, Stallone was able to get Sharon Stone herself but not David Fincher.  Fincher would achieve massive success, however, with his own thriller (Se7en), pummeling Assassins at the box office.   Without Fincher, Stallone was still strong-armed into the project (which eventually became The Specialist), which had been considered one of the hottest scripts ever written, by trigger-happy producers.  By most accounts, The Specialist was a troubled production, with Stallone reverting back to his prima donna attitude and fighting with the other creative forces on the set.  This happened again with Judge Dredd, after the producers rejected Sly’s attempts to get The Coen brothers and later, his Cliffhanger director Renny Harlin, attached to the project.

Sly soldiered on, however, and grabbed onto another script.  Having been cribbing from the Assassins script already in The Specialist, he decided he would just go ahead and make the thing.  Assassins was written by Larry and Andy Wachowski, and Mel Gibson was originally interested in directing the film, with Sean Connery pitched as the lead.  Gibson eventually went on to be far more successful with his epic, Braveheart, and passed on directing duties for Assassins to his friend and Lethal Weapon series director Richard Donner.  Donner wanted the film toned down, less violent and more simplistic in plot.  Even after filming, this necessitated many cuts and the excising of an entire love story subplot between the two main protagonists.  And while I think the original script is quite good, I still enjoy Assassins a great deal.

this is real

As written by the Wachowskis, Assassins owes a great deal to the Charles Bronson classic, The Mechanic, and Jean-Pierre Melville’s Alain Delon hitman film Le samouraï.  Stallone’s Robert Rath (heh, I see what you did there) is a lonely man, driven even lonelier out of the necessities of his occupation as a hitman.  His only contact with another human being he isn’t about to kill comes in the form of terse back and forth responses on an internet relay chat on his laptop.  In the original script, Rath pays an escort just to listen to him talk, something that should remind fans of Bronson’s Arthur Bishop as much as Delon’s Jef Costello.  Assassins can make for great character studies.  They are loners by their very nature, paranoid, and generally morally conflicted.

Rath sad

Unfortunately, Sylvester Stallone does not seize this opportunity with much vigor.  This is a shame, because, as an actor, his best work comes out of being the outsider type.  He works well as a man struggling with choice and consequence.  Think Rocky Balboa, John Rambo, or Freddy Heflin.  The Robert Rath of this film is basically interchangeable with Ray Quick from The Specialist or James Bonomo from Bullet To The Head.  You don’t really remember these characters or their names because it’s Stallone being boring Stallone.  It’s the worst kind of Stallone, really.  It can work in the right circumstances, like in Cliffhanger or to some extent Demolition Man, but only if everything around Stallone is insane.  We need something to cling to with Sly.  It’s too bad they cut out a naked Rath doing Tai Chi in his room, but then again, they did that in The Specialist.

It sounds like I’m shitting on this movie already, but let me tell you about this film’s saving grace:

Bain smiles

Antonio Banderas, like James Woods in The Specialist, sets this thing on fire.  He has no reason to be as watchable as he is in this schlocky little thriller, and yet here he is.  Glaring through his long 90s hair with his burning eyes, motormouthing, taunting, and showboating, Banderas is entrancing to watch.  Hot off of the critical success of movies like The Mambo Kings and Philadelphia, Banderas feels like he’s ready to burst as a performer.  Having already showed off his Action chops that summer in Robert Rodriguez’s impressive Desperado, it feels only natural to have him face off against one of the previous decade’s biggest Action stars.  Thankfully, Banderas’s energy makes it seem only natural for Stallone to be playing it so straight.  Antonio becomes the movie’s Joker (or… Bain?) to Sly’s Batman.

Whenever Stallone is interacting with Banderas, he comes to life and so does the movie.  This is especially good because the movie itself is a rather generic form of your usual hitman movie.  We get the seasoned assassin on his “last” job, but something goes wrong.  Here, it’s that Banderas’s Miguel Bain intercepts Rath’s target right out from under his nose.  When Rath attempts a second “last” job, Bain is there again.  The twist here (if you can call it that), is Rath doesn’t “retire” his target this time.  Instead he uses her to get the edge on his eager new opponent, and in the process forms a relationship.

Moore in love

Again, most of this relationship was lost on the cutting room floor (though you can still see Sylvester kissing Julianne Moore in the original trailer), but I think it still works.  They come off as something of a platonic partnership, but there are hints of more still left in the movie.  In fact, there’s a nice scene where Rath admits his feelings to her, only to find out he was just talking to himself.

But lets talk about the Action.  This is an interesting movie in this category, because it’s not really about big bangs and lots of bodies.  The Action here succeeds because it is rather masterfully built to a slow boil through tension and a sense of inevitable confrontation.  We anticipate a duel between our primary forces, but Richard Donner wisely keeps our heroes apart.  Even when they are first face to face, they are separated by a pane of bulletproof glass.  And the guns are almost entirely set with silencers, giving us a fairly unique-sounding series of gunfights where our heroes fire continuously at one another with low-velocity .22 caliber silenced pistols.   As such, we get several great stand-offs, tense as hell, with a gloriously fun turn from Antonio Banderas and a somewhat solid 90s outing from Sylvester Stallone.

There’s been a lot of griping about this film’s deviation from the Wachowski’s original script, but I can’t say I was honestly too impressed with the script in the first place.  It definitely had a higher bodycount, with the Bain character shooting much of a restaurant full of people down for no real reason, but the film is largely true to what was on the page, minus several 80s video game and comic book references and plus a silly new twist at the end of the movie.  The only thing I miss about the script, really, was a fun instance where Bain starts playing Tetris in the middle of a a gun battle.  But what we have is a clever and tense little thriller.  The direction is clear and competent (I mean, I have to belive things like having Banderas accidentally drop his gun in fron of an anti-N.R.A. sign were done on purpose), and there are a few very inventive Action sequences well worth checking this one out.  It doesn’t reach the fun of Demolition Man or the inspired heights of Cliffhanger, but it’s still pretty damn good.  It’s dated now, but in a good way.  And not many movies from the 90s can boast that.

[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]

NRA

Don’t kill people for a living.

[THE AOBG ACTION CHECKLIST]

[ ] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[ ] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Factory/Warehouse/Castle (abandoned motel)
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[ ] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[ ] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[ ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[ ] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[ ] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[ ] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[ ] Vigilante Justice

[TOTAL: 11 outta 25]

© AllOuttaBubbleGum.com

Zatoichi On The Road killcount

Zatoichi On The Road (1963) a.k.a. Zatôichi kenka-tabi a.k.a. Zatoichi 5

zatoichi-on-the-road-movie-poster

Starring Shintarô Katsu

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Katsu kills 44

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Zatoichi On The Road rights held by Toho.

Sabotage killcount

Sabotage (2014)

Sabotage

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger

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Schwarzenegger kills 11

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Sabotage rights held by Open Road Films, QED International, and Crave Films.

King Of New York killcount

King Of New York (1990)

king-of-new-york-poster

Starring Christopher Walken, Lawrence Fishburne

and Wesley Snipes, David Caruso

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Walken kills 10

Fishburne kills 10

Snipes kills 2

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King Of New York rights held by Reteitalia, Scena International, Caminito, and The Rank Organisation.

The Marksman killcount

The Marksman (2005)

the_marksman

Starring Wesley Snipes

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Snipes kills 35

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The Marksman rights held by Andrew Stevens Entertainment and Castel Film Romania.

Zatoichi And The Doomed Man killcount

Zatoichi sakate giri (1965) a.k.a. Zatoichi And The Doomed Man a.k.a. Zatoichi 11

zatoichi-11

Starring Shintarô Katsu

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Katsu kills 75

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Zatoichi And The Doomed Man rights held by Daiei Studios.

The Firing Line killcount

The Firing Line (1988)

FiringLine

Starring Reb Brown

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Brown kills 82

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The Firing Line rights held by Cine Excel Entertainment.