Action

Predator

Predator

80s movie posters were... something else

dir: John McTiernan

1987

Maybe I’m misremembering the reality here, but was Predator an action classic back in the day when it came out? I was still a teenager in the heady last days of the 80s when this would have shown up on tv, heavily censored, of course. I seem to remember that it was big amongst teenager boys, big like acne and premature ejaculation. I mean, we didn’t have broadband internet access or iPods to keep ourselves occupied with back then, and the closest we came to god was watching Arnie chew his way through scenery and co-workers in his wonderful moofies.

This was back when the 11th Commandment was still “Thou Shalt Watch Every Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie”, and it held for at least a little while longer. Sure, he’s the goddamn Governor of California now, but back then he could be relied on to keep teenage boys in thrall.

For reasons I can’t explain, because they’re inexplicable, of course, I felt compelled to pick up a DVD of Predator yesterday and watched it last night (10/4/2007). Twice, the second time with the director’s commentary on. I usually never listen to commentaries, because generally they either have nothing to say that I want to hear, or else-wise they ruin the experience of watching a film I love by telling me something I didn’t want to know but can’t forget. But since I watched it through, and was convinced of one particular fact so strongly I couldn’t sleep without confirmation, I wanted to watch it with the commentary on to confirm my supposition. And also, I listened to the commentary because I hoped the director would have the balls to say what a nightmare it was working with this bunch of jerks. Especially Arnie.

In vain, all is in vain.

Predator was a minor hit back in the day, at least according to Box Office Mojo, and spawned one direct and one indirect sequel. It was a pretty big deal for Arnie, who starred and pretty much owned the film, despite the roster of big men and big personalities on screen. It solidified his claim as a genuine cinematic presence, a big man with big muscles and a lot of charisma.

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Mad Max

Mad Max

This poster is fucking hilarious

dir: George Miller

1979

Some works of art are classics because they have a universal, timeless quality that transcends era, class, eyesight, and anything else you can think of, in order to be beloved by many throughout the ages. Others are classics only because people have been saying they’re classics for long enough to fool the world itself.

Mad Max is a classic because people have been calling it such for so long that no-one remembers just how amateurish and cheap it truly was. In the mouths and fingertips of many, Mad Max put Australian flicks on the international map and launched several careers in the movies, not least of which being Mel “the Jews are out to get me” Gibson. Sure, it did kickstart Gibson’s career, and the production juggernaut that was Byron Kennedy / George Miller.
But the flick is pretty crap. An enjoyable crappy flick on some levels, but a crappy flick nonetheless.

After the passing of nearly 30 years, the flick doesn’t really stand the test of time. It is a product of its time, certainly, but it really just a ripoff of plenty of other American flicks of the era. The 1970s threw up a fair few flicks where the main point of the story (not the least of which being Dirty Harry) would be some lone figure standing against the tide of criminal barbarism that threatened to engulf society.

It’s not a very different concept from the rugged individualist cowboy mentality of a much earlier time in American history, but it is enhanced by the under siege mentality of middle class people being threatened by the hordes of the great unwashed common to the era. And revenge, sweet revenge; that dish best served icy cold also rears its petulant head.

Mad Max heartily rips off that concept, and puts the cop in the role of moral authority /avenger and as bulwark against rowdy bikers in a post-apocalyptic future. Max Rockatansky (Gibson) is a cop in the Main Force Patrol, and he cruises the badlands in his yellow (but masculine) cop car pursuing the nasty buggers that infest the dystopian landscape.

Through nothing so much as street signs speaking of Forbidden Zones, and a few cryptic remarks in dialogue, we get the feeling that something bad has happened to the world, and the hot rodding dragster cops are the only element keeping society together. The fabric of society: that tissue thin piece of underwear threatening to tear asunder if some nasty pervert so much as breathes on it funny, can only be saved by leather clad cops chasing hoons on country roads.

Like the ads used to say, ‘Country people die on country roads.”

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Hard Boiled (Lat Sau San Taam)

Hard Boiled

Thank you for dying noisily

dir: John Woo

For my money, by my reckoning, there has never been a finer gun action film than Hard Boiled. Chow Yun Fat has never been cooler, and John Woo, after making the move to Hollywood, never came close to replicating the majesty, the carnage/artistry, the sheer awesomeness that is this film.

I know, my praise is over the top, completely over the top. Many might watch it and see nothing but a routine actioner, with some pretty dire dialogue. But the great thing about not having to justify any of my worthless opinions to anyone on this planet is that I don’t have to justify any of my worthless opinions to anyone on this or any other planet.

Although, if that was strictly the case, then the very act itself of writing a review of a film would be, by my definition, pointless. All I would arrogantly need to do is bellow “I hated it, and I don’t have to tell you why, Good Night and Good Luck, and in the immortal words of Edward R. Murrow, Go Fuck Yourselves!”

And no-one wants to read that. Except maybe masochists who like being abused by the written word. Kinda like those people who voluntarily read those Dan Brown books that are still pretty big at the moment.

At least people are still reading books, I guess. But this review isn’t about literature and high art. This is about something that happened, at a crucial juncture of time, space and matter, in the early part of the 90s, to change action films forever.

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