Saturday, September 13, 2014

Lessee now...what did I last watch?

The Narrow Margin [dir. Richard Fleischer]
A 1952 suspense-noir set aboard a train...what more could I ask for? Here hard-boiled detective Charles McGraw is escorting by train to a court hearing Marie Windsor, a mob widow carrying a list of her late husband's associates. Things are hardly smooth sailing between McGraw and Windsor, who proves a hard-bitten and selfish woman that he holds responsible for his partner's death. To add to the mix are a ruthless team of professionals hired to prevent the widow from showing up with her list in court. This is a tense and atmospheric tale with a good amount of snappy dialog. Interestingly enough, there is no background music in the film save for the odd scene where a phonogram is actually playing. The twists towards the end are IMO unnecessary and a little hard to swallow, but Fleischer's direction is solid, and at a breathlessly entertaining 71 min doesn't give you much time to mull over its flaws.

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning [dir. John Hyams]
I thought US: Regeneration was a pretty decent if not particularly memorable lower-budget action flick, but its 2012 successor destroys it and every previous entry in this franchise, including the first one. Despite what the advertising would like you to think, Scott Adkins is the lead in the film, with JCVD and Dolph Lundgren essentially playing extended cameos. But this is all for the better. Adkins has incredible action chops (check out his blistering extended scrap with Andrei Arlovski, another repeat for this series) and even manages to convey a certain amount of pathos for his character. I can't speak about the other stars for fear of giving out spoilers but I found both the aging veterans a delight, especially JCVD's is-it-funny-or-just-plain-insane rip on...well, let us just say a certain famous actor in a certain famous movie. The screenplay's inspirations are not hard to spot, but it is still refreshing to see a primarily DTV venture tackling ideas normally considered out of its sphere. In a way the film is even a meta-physical rumination on the B-budget action genre.Which is not to say that there is any skimp on what the paying public have come to see. If anything the unrated version of the film showcases some of the most brutal onscreen displays of combat - "Holy shit" doesn't begin to cover it.
So whether you're interested in an offbeat story or balls-to-the-wall visceral action, US: DoR has something for you.

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