I have a confession to make as much as I am a cognisor (some might say snob) of movies and filmmaking, I do have a couple of vices which continue to tighten there; well vice like grip on me. The particular vice in question would be b-grade action movies, more predominantly DTV action epics, I mean there is something that is so cheesy about these low budget pictures that still continue to put a smile on my face. Almost a film version of a comfort blanket if you will, as most of them are ludicrously entertaining both in terms of acting (which is bad) and action (which can be so bad it is actually quite good).
There are several acceptations to the rules of bad action movies, for instance the recent DTV sequel “Universal Soldier: Regeneration” proved that a low budget and a great location can make a taut and brutal action thriller. Ok strictly speaking the aforementioned film (highly recommended by the way) does not actually break any new ground, it does make for an exciting 90+ minutes of mayhem and carnage. By being completely stripped back to basics with the story telling it allows the visuals and action to dictate a flowing narrative.
But for every “Universal Soldier: Regeneration” there are the outlandishly stupid and most inept pieces of action filmmaking known to man (or at least the casual / die hard action fan), and for this one name is on the tip of my very own tongue…..Steven Seagal. For anyone who has ever read “Verns” Seagalology you know what I am talking about, for those that have not let me explain. Seagalology is an actual film theory set up by reviewer “Vern” from “Ain’t it cool News” as a way to add a light hearted theoretical context to Seagals pictures. Which include such choice nuggets as what the title refers to, how badass is his character, improvised weapons used, how many sheets of glass are broken, how many fights happen within a bar? Basically it is breaking down laughable nature of a recent Seagal picture and producing a thoroughly good laugh for fans and curious folk alike. Unashamedly I have always enjoyed a Seagal film (actually any of the 80s action stars) and next to Die Hard, Nico-Above the Law was one of the first films I sneakily watched behind the sofa when my uncle was unaware. Seeing all of that bad acting and bone breaking madness stayed with me and over time slowly accepted that these films where a thoroughly stupid but enjoyable time.
SEGALOGY: The Art of Steven
Now any self respecting action fan will know, Seagals best decade was the late 80s to mid 90s when he made films from Hard to Kill all the way through to Under Siege 2, then the DTV era happened and we where blessed (good for bad depending on preference) with Fat-Seagal. But like all good/bad DTV action experiences (and believe me some of his most recent ones really are mind boggling) they were designed for one reason….To sell more beer and for an avid fan (the only time I will use that sentence in a blog) of Seagals trash beer really does help to enhance the already crazy viewing experience, not to mention the fact some of the best drinking games can be derived from viewings with mates.
Now besides Seagal I have recently rediscovered a long lost action star and I know what your thinking, but no…hold it!! Chuck Norris never left my consciousness (come on Hero and the Terror is still a tense, if slightly routine cat and mouse thriller) but another 80s action hero, albeit a slightly minor one who arrived to become a DTV star long before Van Damme, Seagal and Norris. It can only mean one name DOLPH LUNDGREN!! Yes the giant swede has managed to karate kick his way back into my action movie heart with some genuinely well made DTV revenge flicks. Again very little of these films are original, but yet there is still something that makes for compulsive viewing that lately, I just can not get enough of this charming giant.
The film which really caught my attention was his second directorial film The Mechanik (or The Russian Specialist) which makes for a rough and ready revenge flick with a 70s action vibe. It shows that not only does he know how to make an enjoyable action flick, but also shows he is still a compelling screen actor that seems to get better with age. It really is a enjoyable DTV flick and certainly worth checking out along with Missionary Man (another of his directorial features) which brings action filmmaking back to basics and leaves out the quick cut editing which is so prominent (and personally a hindrance) to the genre. It only makes me more excited for “Icarus” or as us Brits are currently calling it Dolph Lundgren is The Killing Machine, when it is released in early august.
The point that I am haphazardly trying to make is that if taken with a pinch of salt, DTV action films can become an entertaining waste of 90 minutes, mostly any of the bad ones. But when you do stumble across those select few which really show potential and are entertaining for all of the right reasons, they only continue to warm the cockles of my heart in such a familiar way that it is hard to ignore and have a wide grin as you unwind for the allotted time. It is like they are bringing back a piece of the past, but with more modern filmmaking techniques and there is one thing I will continue to do which is embracing the downright craziness of a low budget action flick, no matter how my tastes change over the years this will remain like an old friend that happily allows me to revisit to say “having a good time?….well here is a beer to make it even better”.
Now as I walk towards camera with a well timed but oddly placed explosion behind me I have one last thing to say….
DTV action films…..I salute you!