No Contest

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“No originality, no budget… But no disaster, either.”

An almost-entirely shameless Die Hard rip-off, this stars Tweed as Shannon Bell, the host of a beauty-pageant, which is interrupted by Oz (Clay) and his gang, who take a half-dozen of the beauty-queens and Bell hostage, up in the penthouse, and demand $10 million in diamonds for their release. Bell manages to slip away and, fortunately, her character is an actress, famous for playing action heroines [yeah, it’s all a bit ‘meta’ – except, it came out in 1992, largely before ‘meta’ became popular…]. So she gets to go all John McClane on their asses, crawling round air-ducts and assisting ex-federal agent Crane (Davi), who was bodyguarding one of the participants, who is a politician’s daughter, but popped outside the building for a fortunately-timed smoke.

The script is hackneyed, certainly, but it’s a stellar B-movie cast, that works well, and largely keeps things entertaining. This is where the thought has gone in. While Oz is undeniably brutal, he is as far from Hans Gruber as can be imagined, a foulmouth sleazeball rather than a suave sophisticat, and Bell, similarly, is the opposite of McClane, despite her action pedigree (one character describes the roles she plays as, “Bruce Lee with boobs”). Endearingly, she bursts into tears after she has to kill someone. Davi, of course, was in the original, playing Special Agent Johnson [“No – the other one…”], and we’ll watch anything with Piper in it, after They Live. It’s clear Tweed is not exactly in the realm of Lee, but does credibly enough to paper over the cracks, action-wise, and perhaps surprisingly, keeps her clothes entirely on.

Things do fall apart at the finale, which is convoluted and strained, to say the least: the film is much better when sticking to its basic premise – or, more accurately, someone else’s basic premise. But, having sat through much the same film with Anna Nicole Smith in the lead, this is an enormous improvement. Certainly, it’s cheap and cheerful, the kind of thing you can imagine seeing in an early 90’s videostore, with an appropriately lurid cover. But it is entertaining, and given the sights of the makers were clearly aimed no higher than that, has to be judged a success.

Dir: Paul Lynch
Star: Shannon Tweed, Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay, Roberto Davi, Roddy Piper

Girls Guns Girls Guns

Frank, the creator, sent me this one. It’s not a trailer for an actual movie – more’s the pity – and only runs about 35 seconds, but I think you’ll find, even given its brief duration, it pushes all the appropriate buttons!

Monica la mitraille

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Bonnie et les Clydes.”

I think this really comes down to a question of managing expectations. Hearing this was a film based on the life of Monica Proetti, Canada’s premiere female bank-robber, responsible for 20+ hold-ups before being gunned down by the cops… Well, seems like plenty of potential for action, doesn’t it? The reality is less concerned with the robberies, than the events which lead up to them. Monique Sparvieri (Bonnier) lives in the Montreal slums, working part-time as a hooker, for fun and profit. Her first husband Michael (Schorpion), is a safe-cracker who vanishes after his planned robbery is snatched from under his nose. She then hooks up with Gaston (Huard), another member of the team, and begins her own life of crime. When he is sent to jail in the mid-1960’s, she is left with limited options to provide for her children, and goes full-bore into the banking business, with yet another lover, Gerald (Dupuis).

It certainly shines light into the “whys” of her life, one that offered little or no hope of escaping the poverty of her upbringing. Crime, of one form or another, was the main way out, and that led to an extremely relaxed attitude towards law-breaking for Monica. The film does take too long to make this point: it’s 125 minutes in total, and could easily lose half an hour off that, though the performances, Bonnier’s in particular, are solid enough not to make it too much of a chore. But the raids themselves are perfunctory. They’re more snatch-and-grabs, with the gang aiming to spend little more than 30 second in the bank. The only one where there’s any real tension is the final robbery, where the gang gets lost in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, while Monica’s previously-jailed confederates huddle round a radio tuned to the police-band, from prison.

What we have here illustrates the tension between real-life and cinematic drama. The two rarely align perfectly, and I get the feeling this example was more concerned about factual accuracy and, inevitably, the entertainment value suffers as a result.

Dir: Pierre Houle
Star: Céline Bonnier, Roy Dupuis, Patrick Huard, Frank Schorpion

Requiem pour une Tueuse

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“Emotionally chilly, and not as clever as it thinks, but well-acted and shot.”

The French have a decent pedigree of action heroines, going back to Joan of Arc. Cinematically, the likes of Bloody Mallory, Adele Blanc-Sec, and one of the most influential of them all, Nikita, have kept the tricouleur flying. This is closest to the last-named, with Lucrece (Laurent) fed up of the assassin game, but talked into that old standby of the genre, one final mission, by her agent (Karyo, who of course was also in Nikita). This involves posing as a classical singer and taking part in a performance of Handel’s Messiah. For the target is the bass singer (Stills), whose Scottish distillery occupies land an oil company wants for their pipeline. Lucrece is pretty disenchanted with the whole thing, and this may explain why her early attempts mis-fire. Fortunately, the special agent (Cornillac) sent to track her down, is equally as unenthusiastic. But is Lucrece the only killer in play?

The picture is pretty misleading, since Lucrece never touches a gun the entire movie – she’s a poisons specialist. It’s pretty chilly, emotionally, but both Laurent and Cornillac do bring some humanity to their roles, and are both very watchable [there’s one scene between them that is particularly good]. It seems to be aiming for a Hitchcockian twistiness rather than an action-packed thrill-ride; it doesn’t quite pull this off, and you’re left to appreciate the Swiss scenery and the classical music more than the plot. It’s too heavy on the cliches of the genre, and feels more like a lazy effort to tidy up loose ends on a long-running TV series, than a solid standalone work – Lucrece’s relationship with her daughter seems particularly thrown in. A character like Lucrece would certainly have plenty of interesting stories to tell; this doesn’t seem to be one of the more memorable.

Dir: Jèrôme Le Gris
Star: Mèlanie Laurent, Clovis Cornillac, Tchéky Karyo, Christopher Stills