Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Junesploitation 2024 Day 25: Vigilantes!


  1. MISS MEADOWS (2014, dir. Karen Leigh Hopkins)

    Miss Meadows… school teacher, animal lover, avid gardener, cold-blooded vigilante. She is probably the most polite vigilante ever. Katie Holmes portrays the quirky titular character in this surprisingly comedic take on vigilante movies. This is a hard film to describe. It is the blending of different tones that makes or breaks Miss Meadows, and I think the film mainly succeeds. The ending is where the film does fall apart, but certainly not enough to earn my dislike. The personal darkness that motivates Miss Meadows’ acts are merely hinted at. Sprinkled between the violence is romance, teaching, and trying to deal with life. There are some Hallmark Movie moments that made me wonder about what I was watching.

  2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014, dir. Jonathan Liebesman)

    Plot synopsis: They're teenagers, they're mutants, they're ninjas and they're turtles.

    Why does every remake/reimagining/re-whatever have to have this grand mythology where everything is connected? April O'Neil can't just be a reporter who happens to come across the Turtles, she has to have a prior connection to both them and the villain. Peter Parker can't just be a guy who gets bitten by a spider, his dad must have been involved in creating it. Rey can't just be a nobody, she has to be related to someone from the Original Trilogy.

    But I digress. This movie's pretty bad.

    Exterminator 2 (1984, dir. Mark Buntzman)

    John Eastland has retired from his vigilante days and found love, but a new, ruthless criminal gang is on the rise and when they attack his girlfriend, John recruits his garbage man best friend to take on the criminals together.

    Robert Ginty's still no action hero, much less a romantic lead, but the manic Mario Van Peebles as a gang leader, the delightful Deborah Geffner as the love interest and the goofy Frankie Faison as Ginty's new best friend (I guess he had an opening for a black best friend since Steve James died in the first movie) pick up some of the slack. And the one rollerskating gang member steals the show every time he's on screen. The plot takes a while to really get going and Ginty's romantic scenes are just awkward, but your patience will be rewarded when they pimp Faison's garbage truck into an armored combat vehicle.


    RECOIL (2011, YOUTUBE)
    SAFE (2012, FREEVEE)

    While Steve Austin and Jason Statham both qualify for the above title, there's a gulf of charisma and production value between the wrestler-with-DTV-cred flick and the swimmer-turned-action-superstar studio release (respectively). And while both films lean closer to revenge than vigilante tropes you're guaranteed to have some fun watching our heroes kick butt, mow down dozens of baddies and saving "the girl."

    At one point toward the end of "Recoil's" second act former Dallas cop Ryan Varrett (Austin) sets a drug-dealing biker on fire in front of a bar/headquarters in the middle of Hope, WA where gang leader Drayke Delgado (Danny Trejo) is seething in anger. When asked what to do by one of his underlings, Delgado shouts to "kill... everyone!" WHO IS DANNY TREJO TALKING ABOUT? Except for the half-a-dozen principals Hope has no civilians on the streets or its local businesses... ZERO PEOPLE LIVE IN THIS TOWN! :-D Somehow this "Punisher"-inspired DTV action flick cannot afford to hire a single extra, but can blow a couple of buildings/vehicles real good while featuring actual gunshot squibs. Serinda Swan (Karla Dixon on Prime's "Reacher" series) looks supermodel pretty despite being a widow and running a motel in a town with no tourists, but she's the closest to a civilian voice reflecting on the fear Trejo's The Circle gang has brought upon Hope.

    What "Recoil" lacks in production values/acting it compensates for with decent melee fights (bar brawl, half-sunken ship) that put Steve Austin's physicality and Danny Trejo's personality to good use. Acting and charisma aren't Stone Cold's signature, so the filmmakers wisely don't give him much to do and say but the basics. Trejo is allowed to mug a little too much, but who's gonna tell Machete to reign it in? :-P I wasn't expecting much from "Recoil" and it gave me a little bit more than that. 3 ELECTRIFIED METAL CAGES (out of 5).

    "Safe" blew me away with its mix of Philadelphia-as-New York City location shoots mixed with well-chosen NYC 2nd unit footage, tons of extras (the opposite of "Recoil") and crazy stunt work by then-future "John Wick 1-4" director Chad Stahelski. Luke Wright (Statham) goes from married MMA fighter to widowed homeless bum after his fixed fight rebellion angers the Russian mob, who spare his life just to enjoy mentally torturing him with his wife's (off-screen) death. Turns out Luke had (surprise!) distinguished military history in his past, so when he returns to Gotham after a year's absence his former law enforcement partners can't wait to make Luke pay for ratting them out. As he contemplates ending his life in the subway (which Statham conveys with just his pained expressions because, unlike Steve Austin, the man can act) Luke stumbles upon a little Chinese girl named Mei (Catherine Chan) whose "Hidden Figures"-type mathematical mind and ability to memorize numbers is pursued by Chinese and Russian gangsters. NYPD corrupt cops are also after Mei so they can use whatever she knows as a bargaining tool to extract higher extortion percentages from both sides.

    Written and directed by Boaz Yakin ("Fresh," "Max") "Safe" is peak Jason Statham, a star vehicle that'd be less fun if he wasn't outgunning, outmuscling and outsmarting Russians, Chinese, NYPD and corrupt-as-hell City Hall. Chris Sarandon, Anson Mount, James Hong, Robert John Burke and virtually every Russian that has ever appeared in a "John Wick" flick is here, and the way Statham either beats/kills them or forces them to work with him is early 2010's action badassery. Technically Luke Wright's getting personal revenge against three of the four factions he's protecting Mei from, so by including the Chinese it becomes... vigilante-by-proxy? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I went into "Safe" expecting Statham greatness and I got exactly that and a little bit more. 4.15 PAIRS OF NIKE SHOES STOLEN FROM HOMELESS SHELTER CORPSES (out of 5).

  4. I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)

    I've been waiting for a chance to check this one out ever since I heard Quentin Tarantino talk about it in a podcast years ago.

  5. THE COURIER (2019)
    It’s Die Hard in a parking garage! A hard-fightin’ female courier must protect a mob witness as they’re trapped in the garage surrounded by gun-toting baddies. It’s slow going at first, as the filmmakers want us invested in the mob family drama. But once the action starts, it’s pretty solid. We’ve got gunplay, motorbike stunts, and some sweet hand-to-hand brawls. Is Olga Kurylenko secretly one of the best actresses around? Seems that anytime she shows up in something, she’s good.

    THE HEROIC TRIO (1993)
    Female superheroes battle an evil kidnapper – and occasionally each other – across the city streets at night. Is this Hong Kong cinema’s response to Tim Burton’s Batman? I’m thinking you could make that case. Either way, the movie is big fun, with the flashy, stylized fight choreography and pyrotechnics we love from classic Hong Kong action. Recommended!

    Bonus Universal Monster-sploitation: ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948)
    Bud and Lou are hilarious in their over-the-top reactions to the monsters, but also in bedroom farce scenes where Lou is wooed by two duplicitous ladies. But Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Wolf Man are played mostly straight, and we finally get the monsters interacting in ways that the previous "mash-ups" promised but never delivered. It’s a Halloween favorite for a reason.

  6. Vigilante (1982, dir. William Lustig)

    Robert Forster is great as always, but it's Fred Williamson who DESTROYS in this movie. Usually he plays the coolest, most charming badass imaginable. In this movie he is not messing around. His character is pure simmering rage and intimidation. He's not even coming close to cracking a smile. I loved it.

  7. Death Sentence (2007)
    James Wan directs Kevin Bacon in a fairly standard "I would rather be watching Death Wish" movie. Just didn't land for me the way I wanted it to.

  8. Miss Bala (2019): perfect timing, the Blu-ray came in the mail just today. Less revenge than i thought, but i'll count it anyway. I bought this on a whim from eBay because it was cheap and I like Gina Rodriguez. I also like director Catherine Hardwicke, she's often hit or miss, but she knows how to direct a movie. It's a fine movie with a lot of obvious problems, but that didn't stop me to enjoy it, especially when Rodriguez turns on her kickassery towards the end. I also learned today that it's a remake, and now I have to track that one down. I'm sure the original is better.

    1. I haven't seen the 2019 one to compare, but I remember really enjoying the 2011 original. I was renting DVDs back then, and I have it ripped onto a hard drive, which I only did with DVDs I really liked.

    2. Crap, i got the wrong day, it's Vigilante today, not Revenge

      Anyway, i'll check it out

  9. High-Ballin’ (1978)

    Peter Fonda comes to town to help his buddy Jerry Reed battle a string of independent truck high-jackings. While it takes awhile to get to the actual vigilante-ing, it’s a fun, action-packed Canadian country outlaw offering in the vein of Convey and Breaker Breaker. Well worth checking out. The heavy wears an ‘Elvis Lives’ shirt and everyone carries a .44 magnum.

  10. Darkman (1990)

    I got burned out on the Marvel Universe a few years ago and haven't seen a lot of them. This, however, is exactly what I want from a comic book movie. Not only is it a reminder of how incredible Sam Raimi is at directing this kind of material, but this is closer to the format of the old Saturday morning serials. This is a rainy day, lay on the couch, type of comfort film. Plus, it's really wonderful to see Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand doing this kind of work. I have a few quibbles with some of the logic of the script, including the strangest carnival game scene ever, but nothing terrible. And, Bruce Campbell!!

  11. Taken 2 (2012)

    2 bad this wasn't as good as the original (which I honestly haven't seen since it came out). I did like when the daughter was just chucking grenades everywhere.

  12. Death Wish 3 (1985)

    I grew up more a Dirty Harry guy than a Death Wish fan. That being said, I liked this flick. A Cannon Films cheese fest that is tonally all over the place. Lighthearted to the point of parody for most, but still a few very hard scenes, with a gang that looks like they are auditioning for RENT meets Death Wish The Musical, and Charles Bronson as wooden as ever. It's bananas but a perfect midnight vigilante pick!

    1. (PS: if there's ever a sploitation category as niche as "80s Action Gun P0rn", this will win. Mack10, LAWS rocket launcher, and a ridiculously huge handgun that they make sure to describe as WAY bigger than Harry Callahan's 44mag. )

    2. PSS: The final 15m have to have one of the highest death counts in a prolonged theme park like action stunt spectacular. It's plays like a demo reel of every classic practical stunt gag ever.

    3. "They killed the Giggler!" There are so many fun moments in Death Wish 3. The insanity of the ending always entertains me. Having a wooden facial expression was Bronson's trademark, but there are many films when he gives more of a performance than he had to for this.

  13. Taken (2008)
    I had not seen this since it first came out, but I was impressed by how entertaining it is and how well it holds up. Very well directed, the film gives its audience credit for actually being sentient beings. Structurally, it breaks down into three 30 minute pieces, each with two action sequences. I like to count things. We should make it an F This Movie tradition to watch this every Father’s Day.

  14. The Substitute (1996)

    When a school's too tough for Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, or Cindy Crawford, they call in... Tom Berenger.

    This movie knows how pulpy its premise is, and isn't afraid to lean into it. The result is a movie teeming with fun action and just the right amount of dopey humor.

  15. Irréversible (2002)

    Disorienting and disturbing. Artsploitation at its finest.

  16. The Star Chamber (1983 Dir:Peter Hyams)

    This might be my favorite first time watch of June. Douglas is a good judge who after being forced to release multiple people known to be guilty due to loopholes in the law. He is offered and accepts a role with a group of people of judges also frustrated with the system that meet together to reassess the cases and vote whether to have the guilty person assassinated.
    Although the movie makes a weird swerve and tries to go a little action heavy towards the end its still an excellent thriller. A very smart movie that asks a lot of questions about not just an obviously flawed justice system and the death penalty but also on who the morality of the judges making the decisions.