Skyscraper

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The obvious point of comparison for Smith would be Pamela Anderson, another Playboy playmate who moved into films of doubtful quality, but any such comparison would be unfair. To Anderson, that is, who given the right role, is not actually too bad. With Smith, you get the feeling she simply has no talent, and any character would be a stretch, let alone the Shakespeare-aware, ace helicopter pilot and crackshot she is supposed to portray in this shameless Die Hard clone.

She is trapped in a tower block by a bunch of criminals who are after a computer chip which…er, well they never actually say what it does, but they clearly want it bad. Just like Brooce, she’s bickering with her other half, a police officer – “I wanna have a baby,” she whines, not long after the immortal line, “Well, excuse me for still believing in Sunday walks in the park and little babies.” It was at this point, that my sympathy for her character made its excuses and left.

Other points of similarity with McTiernan’s classic action film:

  • Hero/ine crashes in through a plate glass window, half-way up the building.
  • Slimy worker tries to cut a deal with the terrorists, only to get a fatal come-uppance.
  • Bad guys are largely European types – though in Skyscraper they look pretty gay, too.

When in motion, the general execution is not so bad, and the first of these probably provides the film’s best sequence, as Smith leaps onto a window-washer’s cradle, and dangles from a cable, trying to avoid gunfire from the rooftop. Not brilliant, I admit, but compared to much of the rest of the movie, it stands out as tense and well-staged.

The script and the acting sink this one early, and it’s damned further any time Smith opens her mouth. The chief villain – associate producer Hubner – quotes Shakespeare badly, mixing in the odd Biblical quote for good measure: his performance is mercilessly skewered in one review which includes a highly amusing parody of his style. Another article, now sadly lost, spent half its time detailing a Saturday night search for a copy of the video. The other supporting characters such as the cowardly security guard are, at best, good ideas badly implemented, and at worst, pointless wastes of space (who are probably also associate producers – there’s a coincidence!).

Smith whips ’em out four times: one shower scene, two consensual sex scenes (one as a flashback, while she’s right in the middle of evading the terrorists!), and one rape – the last of these might actually have some vague relevance to the storyline, but the others certainly don’t. Her attempt at any kind of action are ultra-lame as well, presumably out of fear that any kind of sudden motion could rupture an implant. She might have been better served by trying to smother the terrorists, Double Agent 73 style.

It’s easy to imagine the pitch for this one: “It’ll be Die Hard with tits!” Given the vast number of other clones in that style made before and since, such an endeavour was probably inevitable – and in the right hands, or at least with the right leading lady, might have had some potential. Instead, the main reason to watch this is for some cheap laughs at the most woeful acting performance since the early days of Pia Zadora. Bad movie fans will likely love it; everyone else should stay clear.

Dir: Raymond Martino
Stars: Anna Nicole Smith, Charles M. Huber, Richard Steinmetz, Branko Cikatic

Return to Savage Beach

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This was Sidaris’s last film, and after the disappointment of Warrior, it’s nice to see him return to a more straightforward approach, with little of the post-modernity attempted there. It is largely a sequel to Savage Beach, with a raid on the LETHAL offices puzzling Willow (Strain) and her agents, because the only thing accessed was the files on that case, which have long been closed. However, it turns out the villain there, Rodrigo (Obregon) did not die in a fiery, explosive-tipped crossbow bolt explosion as thought, and now sports a nifty mask, apparently lifted from a production of Phantom of the Opera. He sends his blonde minion in her submarine(!), along with his ninjas(!!), back to the island to claim a priceless Golden Buddha buried there, and it’s up to Cobra (Smith), Tiger (Marks) and their himbo colleagues, to stop him.

There are plenty of elements to provoke amusement here, witting and unwitting. The former would include a response to an agent’s description of her revealing dress as “Just something I threw on”, which is basically, “Looks like you missed low.” The latter? Their ‘Lacrosse’ satellite, which they use to track bad guys, but whose footage is clearly not taken from anything like overhead. There’s also the return of the remote-controlled toys, used to dispatch more than one guy, Ava Cadell’s reprise as the bikini-clad radio host of KSXY (along with the co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as her engineer Harry the Cat!), and how all the heroines and villainess are inevitably caught right when they are changing. I also enjoyed the nuclear countdown, which doesn’t just countdown, but does so in ever more hysterical tone.

There are still some negatives: in terms of drama, the movie effectively ends with that countdown, but there’s still 20 minutes to go. So it’s mostly filled with a rambling explanation by Rodrigo of everything that has happened to him in the decade since…which turns out to be completely irrelevant [“How many endings does this story have?” asks one character, with justification]. It’d also have been really nice if they’d brought back not just Obregon, but also the female stars of the original Savage Beach, Dona Speir and Hope Marie Carlton, rather than just use stock footage; their IMDB credits don’t show them as exactly having been busy. Still, with lines like “Now, what about that swim?” – and, oh look, their tops have come off – this is a fitting memorial to Sidaris, containing all the elements which made his films what they were.

Dir: Andy Sidaris
Star: Julie Strain, Shae Marks, Julie K. Smith, Rodrigo Obregon

Day of the Warrior

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Andy was back on the helm for this one, but appears to have opted to go beyond subtle self-referential digs into full-blown camp, and I tend to think this takes away from the overall experience. The intent is clear when we are brought into the office of Willow Black, the head of L.E.T.H.A.L. (The Legion to Ensure Total Harmony and Law), and find her exercising on a treadmill in an outfit more suited for an exotic dancer. Which makes sense, because if you’re a female agent of LETHAL, you can bet you’ll be going undercover as a stripper or a porn actress – not quite the empowering government job one might expect. It also appears that breast enlargement surgery is required for all such operatives.

The target this time is the Warrior (Bagwell, who was a fixture in WCW at the time), a former agent turned professional wrestler(!) turned liberator of ancient artefacts and runner of a range of dubious business enterprises, ranging from bootleg films to diamond smuggling. LETHAL have several agents undercover, but someone hacks into their computers (which seem strangely retro from this viewing point). So the spies have to be brought in from the cold by Tiger (Sidaris newcomer Marks) before their cover is blow, including Cobra (Smith), the aforementioned undercover stripper – though there’s not much of her under cover. There is also, for no readily apparent reason, a Chinese Elvis impersonator (Gerald Okamura), though I have to say, he is kinda engaging.

The problem is, when it’s obvious the makers aren’t taking this seriously – and that’s clear from the handicap wrestling match which is the climax, between Willow and Elvis Fu on one side, and the Warrior on the other – why should the audience bother? And though the tone is clearly intended to be light-hearted, it’s not actually very funny: the comic hamming of the Warrior’s surfer-dude sidekicks is particularly dreadful. There also seems to be a lot of padding, such as stock-footage shots of Las Vegas, which go way beyond anything necessary or interesting, and you get far more uses of “I need to get something off my chest,” than are in any way amusing.

And if ever I become an evil overlord, I will instruct all my minions on the perils of hiding out in a shack with “Fuel Supply” spray-painted on the side, especially when the opposition has access to an explosive-tipped crossbow… It can never end well for those seeking cover.

Dir: Andy Sidaris
Star: Shae Marks, Julie K. Smith, Marcus Bagwell, Kevin Light

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

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“2 Fast, 2 Furious.”

A sequel to one of the most successful action heroine films of all time was perhaps inevitable, but this proves the difficulty of catching lightning in a bottle. What seemed light and breezy, an effortless concoction of bubbly entertainment, first time around, now appears forced and contrived. Put simply, it tries too hard, and as a result is significantly less successful than the original.

This time, the heroines are tracking down the villain responsible for stealing two rings that give access to the database of the Federal Witness Protection Program [note to government: I recommend not storing sensitive information on something quite so easily stolen] It hits close to home, since before becoming an Angel, Dylan (Barrymore) was given a new identity through the program. The Irish gangster she jailed (Theroux) is now out, and after her blood, as well as the rings.

ca2bThen there’s Demi Moore as a former Angel, now gone bad – which might be a shock if it hadn’t been promoted in every puff piece about the movie. Hey, at least she gets to use a gun, again otherwise mysteriously absent from the Angels’ world. Her role is smaller than you might expect, but unfortunately, is not the only bit of stunt casting. With a deep breath, we plunge in…

John Cleese, Bruce Willis, the Olsen twins, Pink, Luke Wilson, Matt LeBlanc, Robert Patrick, Eric Bogosian, Jaclyn Smith, Carrie Fisher… You get the concept? It’s my experience that films so burdened with celebrity cameos are usually trying to divert you from weaknesses elsewhere. The only one to make any impact is Cleese, as Alex’s father, who operates under the impression his daughter is a prostitute; his facial expressions as she describes taking on twelve sailors at once (and subsequent need for a shower) are the comic highlight of the film.

Speaking of comedy, Bernie Mac is largely unintelligible as the new Bosley, making you yearn for the subtlety (or, at least, audibility) of Bill Murray, and the film grinds completely to a halt so that the Angels can do a little dance number to M.C. Hammer. It’s not funny, and it’s not clever. After the Showgirls sequence – another showstopper in the worse sense of the word – you’ll be fairly sure all three are equally viable candidates as the ho. [See our review of the original if you need an explanation] Last time, the heroic trio had clearly differentiated personalities, but now, they seem like Barbie dolls with interchangeable heads, wardrobes and boyfriends.

ca2cI confess I did kinda enjoy watching the movie at the time, but as I’ve been writing this review, its grade has been steadily tumbling, since I can hardly remember anything positive to justify it. Oh, yes: Crispin Glover is back – inexplicably, since he died first time round, but he comes close to stealing the entire movie. We even get to see his background, which is as weird as you’d expect, and probably more entertaining than most of the film’s genuine plot-points. The start, with a Mongolian rescue mission, is also nicely done, but is about the only time where the costumes are more than pointless excess.

The action was one of the highlights of the first, thanks to a great deal of influence and help from Hong Kong. Here, it has some wonderful moments, but never works as a coherent whole – rarely do two seconds pass without some gimmicky piece of editing. The “extreme sports” focus is also weak: surfing, motocross, street luge, and boarding didn’t work in XXX, and they don’t work here, since you know full well the actresses were safely tucked away in their trailers, far from any risk or danger.

Rumour has it, Diaz demanded they shell out $200,000 to retouch her eyes digitally, making them bluer. They really would have been better spending the money on a less self-indulgent script. Despite much improved calendar position (June vs. November), this sequel made less money in its opening weekend than the original, and you can see why. There’s little point bothering with the new movie; you can just watch the original, turn the surround-sound up to 11, bury your head in the speakers and experience the same over-frenetic migraine that Full Throttle will cause.

Dir: McG
Stars: Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz, Justin Theroux

Charlie’s Angels (movie)

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“…and then there’s the ho.”

Making movies based on a TV show is always fraught with danger. You’ve got to convince the audience to pay good money to see the same thing they can watch for free at home, yet you can’t stray too far from the central concept, or you’ll alienate the fans. One possible countermeasure is to go for an old show, less likely to have a rabid fanbase, which you can update safely. Yet this too is problematic: anyone see The Mod Squad?

Charlie’s Angels, however, avoids most of the pitfalls, and is a thoroughly enjoyable blast – little wonder it took more money at the box-office than almost any other female action movie in history. While not faultless (the lack of characterisation is particularly woeful), it never sets out to be any more than a good time, and in that capacity it succeeds admirably, mixing violence, sex and humour to optimum efficiency. The plot can be easily dismissed: the trio investigate a kidnapped computer tycoon, only to find things are not quite what they seem, as they uncover a plot to kill their unseen boss, Charlie. There – that’s that out of the way.

Almost as rapidly put aside are the lead characters: Alex (Liu), Natalie (Diaz), and Dylan (Barrymore). Margaret Cho once said – partly in reference to the original Charlie’s Angels TV series – that whenever you get three female friends, there’s the smart one, the pretty one…and then there’s the ho. True to form, the movie replicates this: Alex’s main scene has her as a ferocious efficiency expert, the main ambition for Natalie seems to be to appear on Soul Train (in a totally irrelevant but good-natured sequence), while Dylan beds the client without even reaching a “first date”. Work out which is which yourself. :-)

If there’s nothing there to keep you interested, the film makes up for it in lots of other ways. The aim was to make it seem like turning pages of a comic-book, and this certainly succeeds – there’s always something going on. While the nods to political correctness are kinda irritating (the villain and all his henchmen can muster precisely one gun between them), no-one is really taking it seriously, and the tongue-in-cheek approach saves the whole thing. The supporting cast are good, too: Bill Murray as their overseer is his usual laconic self, while Kelly Lynch and Crispin Glover give good support to Sam Rockwell.

The film manages to capture the spirit of the original show, without being a slave to it. I appreciated the nods to its predecessor e.g. the voice of Charlie being the same actor, and I believe even the speakerphone was the very one used on the TV show! The soundtrack, similarly, is a nice mix of old and new, though points must be deducted for the film being partly responsible for inflicting Destiny’s Child on the universe at large.

 It is, however, the action scenes which stand out and, frankly, make up for the film’s deficiencies in other areas. Yuen Cheung-Yan is the brother of Yuen Wo-Ping – perhaps the greatest exponent of HK action – and while not quite as innovative or super-smooth as his sibling, he’s clearly cut from the same cloth. At the risk of sounding sexist, don’t forget we’re talking a bunch of girlies here – Diaz, Barrymore and Liu all came in without significant martial arts experience, and making them look as good as they do is a great feat. Kudos, too, for the actresses in question, who clearly put in no little effort themselves. [Thank heavens Thandie Newton, who single-handedly destroyed the first half of Mission Impossible 2, was unable to take part, and Lucy Liu stepped in.]

The pacing is a little weird though; apart from one impressive battle between the trio and Crispin Glover in a back-alley (to the tune of the Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up), all the martial arts is concentrated in one 20-minute span near the end. At one point we have Cameron Diaz taking on Kelly Lynch, Lucy Liu going toe-to-toe with Glover and Drew Barrymore taking on a whole roomful at virtually the same time, and the cross-cutting does get a little aggravating. Barrymore’s battle is very show-offish: she tells her opponents what she’s going to do, pauses in mid-stream to name the fighting techniques, and moonwalks out of there when she’s done. A tap on the wrist and a warning not to do it again, Drew.

Indeed, much the same could probably be said of the entire movie. It works beautifully, despite its flaws, but it wouldn’t bear frequent repetition. It’s no bad thing that, because of scheduling conflicts, the sequel isn’t due out until three years after the original. Candy is indeed dandy, but it’s not the sort of thing from which you can form your staple diet.

Dir: McG
Stars: Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz, Sam Rockwell

Bloody Mallory

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“From bad to hearse…”

It has been a long time since we’ve enjoyed a film so much. Right from the start, which shows a bride, in her wedding-dress, being stalked by a demon (or does it?), this grabbed our attention, and hardly let up for a second until the finale. I have to say, the odds are that you will either love this film, or fail entirely to ‘get’ what it’s trying to do and dismiss it as a lame Buffy ripoff. But in our living-room, it got four enthusiastic thumbs-up from the viewing panel, and seems like the perfect complement to beer and pizza.

After the opening, things for Mallory (Bonamy) go from bride to worse. [Hey, so I squeeze every drop of use from a pun. Sue me.] She’s now head of a team that investigates, and deals with, paranormal attacks – France seems to be the only country which has realised that such evil critters actually exist. She loses one member of her squad while repelling ghouls at a convent, and at the same time, new pope Hieronymus I (Spielvogel) is being kidnapped. She discovers he’s being held hostage in a nightmarish alternate dimension, so has to follow, and save the world from demonic invasion through the Hellmou…er, portal which is going to be opened, oh, any minute now.

There’s no doubt that director Julien Magnat was influenced by all the “right” films when it came to constructing his heroine: Mallory has Lola’s hair, Buffy’s martial-arts skill, the intensity of Michelle Rodriguez, and some of Resident Evil‘s Alice too. But none of them ever had gloves with ‘FUCK EVIL’ on the knuckles, drove a hearse, ran over black cats because “you never know”, or wore a tight, red waistcoat with a big ‘M’ embossed on the back [how there’s room in it for a large gun remains a charming mystery!]. Portrayed by Bonamy, who is unknown outside France (her only English-language role is a schoolgirl in Merchant-Ivory’s Jefferson in Paris), Mallory comes across as a convincing and original entry in the action heroine genre.

The other members of the team are hardly less imaginative – or, at least, the females, the guys are nowhere near so colourful or interesting. Completing the heroic trio are Vena Cava (Ribier – I think the character’s name is a Diamanda Galas reference), a six-foot “action transvestite”, as Eddie Izzard would say, an explosives expert with automatic weaponry in her platform soles, and Talking Tina, a mute telepath who can transfer her consciousness into animals or the dumber end of humanity. Both are excellent supporting characters; in a kinder universe, they would merit franchises of their own, Cava, in particular,

Less effective or interesting are the men, and it’s abundantly clear where Magnat’s passion lies. Father Carras (Collado), the Vatican priest and papal bodyguard is bland and colourless, despite having a name borrowed from The Exorcist. The best is actually Mallory’s demon husband (Julien Boisselier), now stuck in limbo after the murderous end to their marriage. The pair have a relationship which is genuinely touching, in a way which Joss Whedon could only dream of.

On the side of evil, again, the femmes rule, with Valentina Vargas and Sophie Tellier, as Lady Valentine and her shape-shifting sidekick, Morphine, giving performances which are suitably excessive and on the money. However, the climax of the film is disappointing, largely because Mallory has no genuine nemesis, with whom she can go toe-to-toe at the end – who’s she going to beat up, the Pope? [Actually, given his intolerant statements, you’ll likely be rooting for this from the get-go]

Some of the effects definitely leave a little to be desired – the demon masks look extremely rubbery, although personally, it reminded me of another energetic B-favourite, Rabid Grannies. However, the digital effects are great, particularly the exploding bodies; we especially loved the effect of Mallory’s cross-shaped holy-water spritzer. There were many moments where we went “Cool!”, at little things like the blood-red, swirling sky in the demon realm, the evaporation of Mallory’s husband into a cloud of rose petals, or the transformations of Morphine.

The attention paid to details like these helps immeasurably, and Magnat succeds admirably in his avowed intention of making something which has the look and feel of a Japanese comic-book come to life, with a lot of Dutch angles [this week’s pretentious technical term – it means the camera’s not level]. There’s almost no natural light at all, and each character has their own colour scheme: red/black for Mallory, blue/purple for Vena, burgundy/gold for Lady Valentine. Indeed, the soundtrack is by Kenji Kawai, whose credits include Ghost in the Shell.

Perhaps what we enjoyed most was the balance Magnat strikes between parody and drama. This is clearly not intended to be taken seriously – but the characters keep such admirably straight faces, that it became very easy to buy into the whole mythos, which in reality wouldn’t stand up to ten seconds of close scrutiny. There’s none of the self-awareness that plagued the later seasons of Buffy, and nor is there much angst or whining. The heroine has a mission to complete, and gets on with it, in a refreshingly straightforward manner.

Magnat’s wants his next project to be a return to The All-New Adventures of Chastity Blade, expanding on a 32-minute short film he made in the summer of 1999. This starred Lisa (Nightmare on Elm Street) Wilcox, playing a housewife who finds herself sucked into the world of the titular 1930’s pulp-fiction heroine after getting a bullet in the head. If he brings the same sense of style and wit to that concept as we enjoyed here, it promises to be worth our attention. Meanwhile, Mallory was picked up by Lion’s Gate in November 2002, and was passed by the MPAA (R, natch) in April last year – the same week as Gigli! Since then, nothing. However, a quick search on Ebay reveals it’s available from, ahem, the usual sources. [Update: It’s due a September 2005 release on DVD] And if you see only one film about a red-headed, hearse-driving demon-hunter this, or any year, Bloody Mallory should definitely be it.

Dir: Julien Magnat
Star: Olivia Bonamy, Jeffrey Ribier, Adrià Collado, Laurent Spielvogel

The Dallas Connection

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Among Sidaris fans, I imagine arguments over whether this one counts, much like the Never Say Never Again debate among 007 lovers. For this was directed not by Andy, but son Drew; Dad and Mom were merely executive producers. However, the content is much the same, though (and I can’t believe I’m writing this) Drew lacks the subtle touch of Sidaris Sr. Case in point: the very first shot is of the Eiffel Tower, establishing that this is Paris. However, the point is then rammed home with footage of the Arc De Triomphe, Place de la Concorde and Notre Dame. Similarly before the ‘South African’ scenes; we get so much wildlife footage, it feels more like the Discovery Channel.

The story, also by the director (using his first name, Christian), is equally poor; something to do with a plan to steal chips being used in a new satellite system. Details are vague, too many sequences, such as the one at the race-track, are just meaningless filler, and the writer literally doesn’t know his acronyms from his anagrams. On the plus side, Julie Strain makes a good impression as a bad girl, leading her coven of killers who drop their tops at the drop of a…well, not just hat, but virtually any other piece of clothing.

They operate out of what appears to be a combination line-dancing bar/strip-club called Cowboy’s in Dallas, where the four chips are scheduled to be integrated into the system. For safe keeping, the “bureau” give one to each of their agents – what’s wrong with a bank vault? – led by the ludicrously over-inflated Samantha Maxx (Phillips). Another key clue is bullets found at the scene of a drive-by shooting, days after the event. I’d have words with your forensic technicians.

Long before the end, we were making our own entertainment, and you’ll probably get more fun from mocking this. One line is, “I told you – I bite”, to which the correct response is, “Unlike the rest of the film, which simply sucks.” “Do you think those are real?” asked Chris at one point, regarding a particularly scary pair of mammaries. “Yes,” I replied, “and the Pyramids are a naturally-occurring rock formation.” Little wonder Drew has since been relegated by Dad to second-unit work.

Dir: Drew Sidaris
Star: Sam Phillips, Bruce Penhall, Julie Strain, Wendy Hamilton

Enemy Gold

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While containing many of the same elements as usual e.g. boobs and bombs, this does at least throw in a new angle, in the shape of some Confederate gold buried in the woods since the Civil War – I can only presume Sidaris must have befriended a Civil War re-enactment battalion. Out enjoying a bit of off-road action, amusingly-named federal agent Becky Midnite (Simpson) and her two co-workers stumble across a diary written by one of the soldiers transporting the gold. However, their plans to search for the treasure are disrupted by efforts to kill them, courtesy of mob boss Santiago. He is upset after they shut down his operation that involved shipping drugs in hollowed-out watermelons. Fed up with the ineptness of his minions, he hires even more amusingly-named assassin Jewel Panther (Strain) to carry out what they have failed to do.

There’s a loopy insanity to elements of this that are kinda endearing, such as with Strain’s bizarre topless sword routine, which comes out of absolutely nowhere, or her costume when she meets a couple of park rangers, which is not your usual hiker’s attire, shall we say. No-one but Strain could probably pull that off, and she’s fun to watch as usual. However, after a prelude which explains the gold, the first half abandons it entirely, and goes off in a totally different (and not very interesting) direction, involving the raid which get Midnite and her squad suspended, amid political shenanigans and an agent who’s secretly working for Santiago. The final showdown between the various parties concerned is, quite possibly, the worst ever committed to celluloid, even allowing for the fact that Santiago is apparently a “hands on” criminal overlord, who believes that if you want a job done well, you should do it yourself.

The action around the forest is well-staged, with a decent vehicle chase whose danger is enhanced by the lack of helmets worn by the participants, and you’ve got to love the crossbow whose bolts explode three seconds after embedding in the target. The sole purpose of this delay seems to be in order for the target to get a “Wile E. Coyote” moment of horrified realization before exploding. Hey, I laughed…

Dir: Drew Sidaris
Star: Suzi Simpson, Bruce Penhall, Tai Collins, Julie Strain

Fit To Kill

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Hang on, two movies ago, criminal mastermind Kane was Japanese – now, he’s the son of a Nazi officer who went on the run after the war with a diamond stolen from the Russians? I know I’m watching these all of our order, but still… They even refer to a pendant with a tracking device in it, given to the Japanese version of Kane, even though Moore now appears to be channeling Julian Sands, not Pat Morita. I’m so confused. Still, logic, continuity and coherence are not really the point here, are they?

This centres on said diamond, which a Chinese businessman plans to return to the Russians. When the jewel is stolen during a ceremonial party, Kane’s presence makes him the obvious suspect, not least because he has hired infamous assassin Blu Steele (Strain), turning her to his side after her attempt to kill him is foiled by a bulletproof vest. However, is everything what it seems? It’s up to Donna and Nicole (Speir + Vasquez), and their friends, to solve the puzzle, while dodging remote-controlled attempts to kill them (including a particularly-dumb pair of assassins known as Evel and Knievel), pausing only for changes of costumes, hot-tubs and the occasional spot of soft-core love-making. In other words, business as usual for a Sidaris film.

There’s a cheerful innocence to much of the nudity here, which harkens back to the 60’s, e.g. the radio station receptionist who has a hot tub as her desk, in which she sits topless. I actually prefer this approach to the more “intimate” scenes, and the relatively intricate plot also helps make this aspect a cut above [Kane and Donna end up having to work together after both are captured, which marks the first time I’ve genuinely been surprised by a Sidaris storyline development]. However, it does flag in the middle, and the obsession with remote-controlled models is not one I personally share, though overall, this still remains one of the better productions, with Strain fitting in perfectly as a villainess.

Dir: Andy Sidaris
Star: Dona Speir, Roberta Vasquez, R.J. Moore, Julie Strain

Hard Hunted

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It’s very easy to mock a film, when the lesbian necking starts before the meaningful dialogue, and is immediately followed by a musical number where Cynthia Brimhall channels the spirit of Jimmy Buffett. Yet the endearing loopiness on display here did a better job of keeping my interest throughout than many movies made with far larger budgets. The plot centers on a jade Buddha, containing a nuclear trigger, which starts off in the hands of Kane (Moore), only for it to be swiped by an undercover agent: she is gunned down, but passes it to Donna (Speir), who has to try and keep it out of Kane’s clutches. However, an unfortunate bout of amnesia leaves her partner Nicole (Vazquez) and the other agents trying to find her first.

This is the usual mix of decent production values [if too much footage of aircraft flying], dumb plotting and breasts; the preferred method of communication is radio host Ava Cadell – who occasionally does her show topless from the hot tub. Just don’t drop the microphone. It’s harmlessly entertaining nonsense, and even has some local interest for us here in Arizona, with sequences shot in Phoenix and up the road in Sedona, though the geography on view is a little flakey. We particularly enjoyed Kane’s incompetent henchmen, Wiley and Coyote – as they helpfully point out, “Those are codenames” – with their Acme brand hovercraft. While it’s clear the film doesn’t take itself seriously (the intelligence community is not, presumably, at it like knives on an almost permanent basis), more of this kind of genuine humour would be welcome, letting you laugh with the film rather than simply taking the mickey.

You do get the feeling that Sidaris could make this kind of thing in his sleep: there’s nothing remotely innovative or challenging to be found here. Yet for what it is, this is slickly-made, with more ambition than usually found in the genre. Er, at least as long as the genre is that narrow subset of movies where horizontal action is of equal importance to any other kind – if you know what I mean, and I think you do…

Dir: Andy Sidaris
Star: Dona Speir, Roberta Vasquez, R.J. Moore, Rodrigo Obregon