Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
DTV Junkyard! Forever championing the underdog and the disaffected… and Asylum movies! Actually, since DTV-J began, back in the cold, dark days of January, it’s been largely an Asylum free zone, simply because our UK-based champions of all things schlocky seem to have gone cold on anything David Michael Latt related. Indeed, it was only a couple of years ago when EVERYTHING that these low budget merchants knocked out would find its way into the UK market through Anchor Bay or 4Front. Remember when Metrodome released Titanic 2!? Happy days! Alas in the first six months of 2015, there’s only been TWO releases from The Asylum in the UK, and these people are still pumping out a dozen new movies a year. Where’s Android Cop?, Airplane vs. Volcano? or San Andreas Quake?
I can sense a few hundred sets of disapproving glances at this point, boring into my skull, with the universal response of “what good are they?” Well, we need their irreverent cruddyness, their Amstrad-level digital effects, their nutzoid approach to screenwriters, and their continued help in providing faded DTV stars like Dean Cain with a regular income. I’m proud, yes, proud to say I have an Asylum section in my Video Store, complete with every UK release of theirs since Snakes on a Train, and this week I get to add another, with MERCENARIES!
When the first daughter is captured while touring a war zone, the U.S government races to find an elite team of commandos to lead the rescue mission. Unfortunately, she’s being held in a women’s penitentiary. With few choices within the armed services, the government is forced to assemble an all-female team from prison inmates. Each experts in their respective fields of combat, these female soldiers of fortune show no mercy as they infiltrate the prison, in order to rescue the President’s daughter.
There’s a moment in Mercenaries where the evil Ulrika (Brigitte Nielsen) is conversing with the first daughter, and gets asked about the ransom situation. With an exemplary level of camp she responds, “that depends on the President of the United States. Or as you call him… Daddy”. It’s a moment like that which epitomises the winking trashiness that runs through the spine of Mercenaries. Directed by Christopher Douglas Olen Ray, such chintzy touches that instantly raise a smile, obviously run in the family. The Expendables riff is hard to ignore here, but with a great cast that features Vivica A. Fox (spelled wrong on the sleeve), Kristina Loken (spelled wrong on the sleeve) and Cynthia Rothrock, any similarities are quickly forgotten.
The star of the picture though, is undoubtedly the superlative Zoe Bell. After a mesmerising turn in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, she has gradually picked out some first class DTV titles for herself to feature in, such as Josh C. Waller’s excellent film Raze. Here, she absolutely rocks, and after a slightly flat middle third to the picture, she owns everything about the final half hour, with a performance of fist-pumping feminine fortitude. Everything about Mercenaries screams cheese of the highest order; don’t shun it, this is what DTV action should be like. Embrace it!
Ara Paiaya? Nope, me neither, although a cursory dig around the internet soon reveals that this guy has been a virtual one-man movie-machine for the last ten years or so, as he self-financed a series of low-budget action flicks that feature what he calls “my own brand of action and fight scenes”. He’s a self-confessed control freak too, and even on his latest movie, he assumes the roles of actor, writer, director, producer, director of photography, and more.
Retitled from Skin Traffik, A HITMAN IN LONDON finds Bradley (Gary Daniels) having turned his back on killing for a living, in order to live a life of relative seclusion. However, when he encounters a savage pimp and a desperate woman under his control, he embarks on a quest to save her from the clutches of the brutal gangsters that trade women as currency. Now entangled in a vile underworld of vice and corruption, survival is his primary objective.
Look at the cast! Look at the cast! True, it is impressive, especially if it was 1992, but it’s not. Instead they’re just a group of actors who will happily work on any movie for a fee. Jeff Fahey, Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah all appeared in Richard Driscoll films, so we can gauge how selective they are from that bewildering episode on their resume. Eric Roberts currently has fifty-nine films in production, while Mickey Rourke, sigh, well, so much for The Wrestler. Here he seems to be channelling late-period Tony Curtis, complete with grey, bouffant wig. I’m not dissing sprawling films punctuated with grade A character actors, as there is an undoubted lure about them; Glengarry Glen Ross for example has a mega-ensemble, but it also has dynamite writing. A Hitman in London meanwhile has a mediocre script, and thus the peppering of personalities with little of value to say, becomes a needless distraction.
That pretty much sums up Paiaya’s film. The determination to include so many Hollywood C-listers comes much to the detriment of the picture. Gary Daniels is just great as Bradley, but anytime that the narrative begins to gather momentum and consistency, we get Madsen or Hannah clumsily shoehorned in. Had this been stripped down into just a Daniels-orientated flick, the end result would have been immeasurably more satisfying. Paiaya obviously has a degree of ability with regard to stunt work and hand to hand combat, so if he sticks to his strengths and disregards the need for celebrity, his next film will hopefully be more digestible.
For KILLERSAURUS I sense a Leicester-based conspiracy at hand! Made by Leicester-based production company Creativ Studios, and distributed by Leicester-based label 88 Films, it’s not hard to see some East Midlands shenanigans afoot! There’s also a very complimentary cover quote from acclaimed author MJ Simpson, who happens to hail from a certain city beginning with L !
Lofty connivances aside, what we have here is a micro-budget British dinosaur movie. When a scientist runs short of funding for his life-saving medical Bio-Printing research, he accepts an offer of investment from a shadowy military organisation. In return, he’s forced to use his technology to create the ultimate battlefield weapon – a full size Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Rewind sixty years, and I’ve no doubt this would be the kind of flick playing second feature at your local movie house. Diabolical scientists have loomed large over b-pictures in the movies, with trash-classics like Indestructible Man with Lon Chaney, or Creature with the Atom Brain with Richard Denning featuring scientific experiments run amok. Killersaurus has certainly sprung from that 50s handbook, complete with sketchy science-based exposition that will likely leave you shaking your head in disbelief, not to mention the whole notion of dropping a ten ton creature behind enemy lines.
Shot in a handful of locations, but primarily in a dimly-lit warehouse, Killersaurus must be the lowest budget dinosaur movie to be released commercially. With three minutes of opening credits, and seven minutes closing, we’re dealing with a sixty-five minute run time which pretty much rarely outstays its welcome, albeit the ADHD among you will likely bail early on. The cast are largely perfunctory, although the appearance of Julian Boote as Andrews towards the end adds some much needed vigour to proceedings with a little arrogance and swagger.
My main criticism of the film is its rigidity and lack of playfulness. It’s a crazy concept, but it doesn’t really embrace it, instead veering towards a dramatic narrative which seems a little misplaced. Only in the penultimate scene where Professor Petersen (Steven Dolton) sustains an injury do we get a little dab of wit – “Are you alright?” asks Kayleigh (Helen Crevel), “Yes” replied Dolton, “I’ll print another collarbone if I have to”. Delivered with a dry edge, it’s a perfect line, and its ilk should be more commonplace throughout the feature. As it stands, while Killersaurus should be commended for its low budget achievements, there is a feeling it could have been so much better.