Steve Chasman

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Parker Review


Good

Far better made than it has any right to be, this cheesy 70s-style thriller is given a thoroughly engaging kick by veteran filmmaker Hackford working outside his usual dramatic genre. It's predictable and far too long, but Hackford grounds everything in gritty reality, avoiding obnoxious effects work while indulging in entertaining innuendo and riotously nasty action sequences.

None of this is much of a stretch for the cast, and Statham's Parker is essentially the same character he always plays: a ruthlessly efficient, indestructible criminal with a conscience. After a gang of thugs (including Chiklis and Collins) betrays him following a fairgrounds heist, Parker miraculously recovers from his hideous injuries and heads to Florida to get revenge. He uses local estate agent Leslie (Lopez) to find the gang's lair, and she's instantly attracted to the way he fills out his designer suit. Living with her soap-addict mum (LuPone), Leslie is looking for a wealthy man to rescue her. And she's already too involved when she realises that Parker isn't who he seems to be. 

There isn't much to the plot, which is packed with contrived twists and turns and never follows through the intriguing possibilities along the way. At least the film avoids the usual action cliches, as Hackford sharply orchestrates each fight sequence to make it both lucid and startlingly brutal. This earthy approach keeps things relatively believable, until Parker emerges with yet another serious injury that doesn't slow him down at all. Meanwhile, Hackford injects plenty of eyebrow-raising flirtation that keeps us smiling. Statham and Lopez may not be stretching themselves as actors, but they clearly have a lot of fun circling around each other like dogs on heat.

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Killer Elite Review


Weak
Testosterone oozes from every pore of this 1980s-set thriller. It's based on Rannulph Fiennes' book The Feather Men, which claims to recount true events but is frankly very hard to believe. Fortunately, the high-octane cast helps make the false bravado rather entertaining.

Danny (Statham) thinks he's left his black-ops life behind for a quiet farm in the Outback with lusty neighbour Anne (Strahovski), but he's forced back to work when his colleague Hunter (De Niro) is kidnapped. To free him, Danny must kill three ex-SAS agents, which raises the suspicion of a mythical committee of former operatives who protect their own. They send Spike (Owen) to stop Danny and his cohorts (Purcell and Young), but clearly there's an even deeper operation underway, and everyone's heading for trouble.

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Blitz Review


OK
This British crime thriller is so unapologetic about recycling cliches that it's actually hilariously good fun to watch. Even with its glaring plot holes and camp performances, the cast and crew's chutzpah keeps it consistently entertaining.

Brant (Statham) is a bad-boy South East London detective always in trouble with the authorities. But he gets the job done, so his loyal chief (Rylance) protects him. His new challenge is to find a brazen psycho (Gillen) who's killing cops in cold blood. Working with new boss Nash (Considine), who's tormented for being gay, Brant starts bullishly breaking the rules to solve the case. Meanwhile, the killer is leaking information to a tabloid hack (Morrissey). And another of Brant's cop pals (Ashton) is struggling with returning to the job after her stint in rehab.

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Transporter 3 Review


Grim
Remember the Star Trek films theory? You know, the argument that says every even-numbered entry (two, four, six, so on) in the series was great, while every odd numbered movie was mediocre to awful? Well, the Transporter franchise could soon take the place of everyone's favorite serious science fiction romp, except in this case, the conflicting criticisms would be "tolerable" and "oh no, not again." You'd figure that with this third journey into Jason Statham's six pack, we'd have something akin to a guilty pleasure. Instead, all we're offered is a director named "Olivier Megaton," and sadly, both his name and his effort is a dud.

After retiring to an isolated life in France, driver for hire Frank Martin (Statham) believes his transporting days are over. But when a man he suggested as a replacement literally winds up in his living room, expensive sports car and all, our sullen hero finds himself back behind the wheel. His mission this time around? Deliver a package to the Ukraine, in time to stop a high ranking government official from cancelling a contract with some American energy interests. Seems the U.S. wants to use the former Soviet Union as a toxic waste dumping ground, and a concerned cabinet minister wants no part of the deal. Of course, when a Western thug (Robert Knepper) kidnaps his daughter Valentina (Natalya Rudakova) and holds her hostage, it's up to Martin to step in and save the day.

Continue reading: Transporter 3 Review

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson Review


Excellent
Rare is the individual who can leave a mark on his chosen profession. In the case of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, there's an entire school of journalistic thought named after him. Architect of the now infamous "gonzo" style of reporting (taken from a random critical comment offered by a friend), the man who followed the Hell's Angels for a year, struggled to see the America Dream in seedy Las Vegas, and hit the campaign trail in '72 to discover more "fear and loathing," remains an icon to an entire generation. Disaffected and constantly cantankerous, there was nothing predictable about the artist also known as Raoul Duke. Even his abrupt death by a self inflicted gunshot wound in 2005 seemed shockingly apropos.

Along with the more personal documentary Breakfast with Hunter, Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson stands as a seminal work of talking head biography. It tracks down many of the important people in the Kentucky-born bad boy's life, and lets them wax poetic and profound for almost two hours. Within the reminiscences we learn of his initial love of writing, his time as part of the notorious outlaw motorcycle gang, his experiences with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, a run for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado, his eyewitness account of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, and his various run-ins and affiliations with members of both the counterculture and Establishment.

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The Bank Job Review


Weak
Based on some unspeakable, super classified bank robbery that took place in 1971 London, the investigation of which yielded no recovered money nor any arrests, Roger Donaldson's The Bank Job throttles its engines and tosses in just enough criminal bottom-dwellers to keep the viewers' minds away from the fact that it's still just another heist flick with a cockney accent and a taste for pints.

Names changed (get this) to protect the guilty, the whole mess breaks out when political revolutionary Michael X (Peter De Jersey) snaps some shots of Princess Margaret getting double teamed by two young men on a secluded island. Michael, in fact a pimp and a gangster, places this get-out-of-jail-free card in a safety deposit box at Lloyd's Bank on Baker Street. Adjoining boxes hold more blackmail bait for a brothel Madame, consisting of pictures of government officials getting their spank on, and a ledger of corrupt cops kept by local hood Vogel (David Suchet).

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War Review


Weak
The problem with being a connoisseur of B-grade action movies is that eventually you start applying the kind of elevated expectations that this genre is supposed to guard against. You get so accustomed to, say, a late-summer Jason Statham movie providing more thrills than many of its big-budget counterparts that suddenly Statham and Jet Li costarring in a chintzy action picture becomes a victim of perhaps unreasonable expectations.

That pairing of B-movie titans, somewhat inexplicably titled War, is neither a team-up nor a battle royale; it's actually kind of like a low-budget Heat knockoff, with a far larger cast and a far snakier plot than is warranted by the stars' specific and unpretentious skill sets. It begins with FBI agent Jack Crawford (Statham) losing his partner (Terry Chen) to a mysterious assassin called Rogue; so far, so cheesy, so good. But when Rogue (Jet Li) re-appears three years later, involved in a convoluted (or maybe just dull) bit of Asian-mob rivalry between the Yakuza and Triad families, momentum falters. Crawford attempts to navigate the underworld and bring his nemesis to justice, while geeks in the audience become confused by Rogue's inability to absorb Jason Statham's mutant fighting powers.

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The One (2001) Review


Weak
Jet Li has joined the dubious ranks of those martial arts stars playing opposite themselves in a film -- including Jackie Chan and Jean Claude Van Damme. But instead of playing a long-lost twin brother to himself as in the other films, Li's actually himself squared -- another version of Jet from a different parallel "universe." That's right: Only Jet Li can kick Jet Li's ass.

James Wong and Glen Morgan, the guys who brought us the cheesy but mildly entertaining Final Destination (as well as the wonderfully gruesome X-Files episode "Home"), flex their sci-fi/kung fu action muscles with The One. With Jet Li on board, the action side is in great shape. Unfortunately, they come up pretty emaciated on the sci-fi front.

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The Transporter 2 Review


Grim
Michael Bay, the reigning champ of crappy action films, once said, "I make movies for teenage boys. Oh, dear, what a crime." So it is with The Transporter 2, an inoffensive, over-the-top action flick composed of wild car chases and staggering improbabilities that are sure to delight 13-year-old boys everywhere -- and no one else.

The reason for this is simple. Unlike the rest of us, 13-year-old boys haven't yet developed an immunity to mindless spectacle. They haven't been around long enough to realize it's their job as moviegoers to cluck and fuss every time a director tries to pull one over on the audience. Instead of feeling cheated when implausible scenarios pile up and ridiculous actions beget even more ridiculous reactions, 13-year-old boys hoot in approval. The explosions, the fights, the hot chicks, that's enough for them. It's a good thing, too, because that's all The Transporter 2 has.

Continue reading: The Transporter 2 Review

The One Review


Weak
Jet Li has joined the dubious ranks of those martial arts stars playing opposite themselves in a film -- including Jackie Chan and Jean Claude Van Damme. But instead of playing a long-lost twin brother to himself as in the other films, Li's actually himself squared -- another version of Jet from a different parallel "universe." That's right: Only Jet Li can kick Jet Li's ass.

James Wong and Glen Morgan, the guys who brought us the cheesy but mildly entertaining Final Destination (as well as the wonderfully gruesome X-Files episode "Home"), flex their sci-fi/kung fu action muscles with The One. With Jet Li on board, the action side is in great shape. Unfortunately, they come up pretty emaciated on the sci-fi front.

Continue reading: The One Review

Unleashed Review


Good
There is nothing that happens in Unleashed that cannot more or less be surmised from the film's trailer, yet the entertainment value of the film's 100 minutes is scarcely diminished. It is a high concept, yes (Jet Li as human attack dog), but Unleashed turns the simplicity and single-mindedness of such a concept into an asset; it is lean, exciting, and sweet, too, rivaling the better Jackie Chan pictures (both stateside and abroad).

It's about time; Jet Li has not had much luck in his American movies. He functioned all too easily as a simple variable in the formulas that were Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave; he was the innocent, honorable, kung fu master, mostly at the service of rappers. But his damaged character in Unleashed provides workable context for both Li's boyish reserve and his furious fists.

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Invincible (2001, TV) Review


Unbearable
Looking for a wild, kung fu-infused, ass-kicking action movie?

Invincible is about as far from that as you can get.

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Kiss of the Dragon Review


Excellent
Wham, bam, thank you ma'am! Jet Li has finally returned to prime ass-kicking form in his latest kung fu extravaganza Kiss of the Dragon.

Jet Li -- one of the most popular stars in Asia rivaling Jackie Chan and Chow Yun-Fat -- has had an impressive string of over 25 films under his belt in his two decades of kung fu prowess and strong acting turns. But after two dismal attempts at winning over American audiences with a small villain role in Lethal Weapon 4 and the horrendous Joel Silver monstrosity Romeo Must Die, it was looking pretty grim for this mighty warrior. So, Li read the e-mails from his fans, taking their compliments and complaints via his web site.

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