2/09/2017

Crying Freeman (1995)

Crying Freeman (1995)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Christophe Gans

Starring: Mark Dacascos, Julie Condra, Rae Dawn Chong, Jerry Wasserman, Byron Mann, Tcheky Karyo, and Mako








A mysterious hired killer named Yo (Dacascos) - known as the Crying Freeman because after he executes his victims he sheds tears - is seen practicing his deadly trade by a woman named Emu O’Hara (Condra). Awesomely, he even has exploding guns to help cover his tracks. Soon after their chance encounter, they’re both caught in the middle of a Yakuza war, with only the skills of Yo keeping them both alive. Detective Forge (Chong) and Detective Netah (Karyo) are trying to sort it all out, but Netah may have more going on than meets the eye. It may all seem simple, but in the world of the Crying Freeman, nothing ever is. Will the Power of Yo prevail? Find out today...

Crying Freeman is an excellent film that everybody should see. How it compares to the original Manga or Anime we wouldn’t know, but as a film in its own right it succeeds brilliantly. In other words, you don’t really need to know the source material to appreciate this. Maybe it helps, but there’s plenty to recommend even if, like us, you were unfamiliar with its origins and background. Classily directed by Christophe Gans - known primarily for his Brotherhood of the Wolf (2008) - he balances sensitive and poetic passages that are downright painterly and beautiful with violent action setpieces involving everything from Martial Arts, gun-fu, blow-ups, and even a bow and arrow. Its artistic soul meshes well with the violence. The overall effect is intoxicating and adds up to be, we believe, a must-see.

Since this is quite obviously a work where the filmmakers clearly had high standards of quality, the whole thing seems solid and professionally made on every level - writing, directing, and, notably, the cinematography.  It’s all very solid, and it’s comforting feeling you’re in competent hands. Naturally, fan favorite Mark Dacascos shines in the role that he was perhaps born to play. Co-star Julie Condra must have been impressed - they later married. They are backed up by some familiar names: Rae Dawn Chong and Tcheky Karyo are on board and acquit themselves well, though, interestingly, Condra and Karyo were overdubbed by Deborah Kara Unger and Ron Perlman, respectively. Other B-Movie stalwarts are here to be found too, such as Byron Mann and Jerry Wasserman (check out our Virtual Assassin review for the reason why we’re always pointing out these unsung actors) - and lest we forget fan favorite Mako. 



 A little over an hour in there’s a bit of a lull, but that’s common and to be expected. That’s really the only criticism we have of Crying Freeman. And unlike most of its other brethren from 1995, this seems far more timeless. Shockingly - criminally - this didn’t receive a U.S. VHS release during the video store era, and only came out here on DVD quietly in 2008, and that release is now out of print. There are some fine international releases out there, and even a Blu-Ray now. But why this didn’t come out here when it would have done the most good for its reputation is puzzling and maddening. I guess it’s all part of the adventure of movie watching and collecting - you never know what you’re going to find, or where you’re going to find it. Occasionally you turn up a gem like this.

Crying Freeman should be more well-known, especially in the U.S. We absolutely recommend this enjoyable winner of a film. 

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 

1/27/2017

Death Squad (2014)

Death Squad (2014)- * *

Directed by: Alessandro Capone

Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Daryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer, Neva Leoni, Danny Glover and Michael Madsen









It appears that sometime in the year 2047, some bad guys called the Confederate Central Government, or CCG, are up to no good. Just exactly what they want is not made clear. The top brass at CCG are Colonel Asimov (Hauer) and Major Anderson (Hannah). A soldier on the opposing side, which is evidently called GreenWar (not to be confused with anything else that may be a bit more peaceful) named Ryan Willburn (Baldwin) is sent into some sort of danger zone to collect evidence against the CCG. If they’re so all-powerfully evil, we’re not sure why this is necessary. The man sending him on the mission is named Sponge (Glover) and he spouts nonsense philosophy and types away on old-school computers. Things get complicated for Willburn’s mission when he meets an Avatar-style mutant/alien/whatever named Tuag (Leoni). When the CCG hires a flashy mercenary named Lobo (Madsen) to do God-knows-what, chaos breaks loose. Apparently chaos can be quite boring. Anyway, will Ryan Willburn and Tuag live to look confused in the dark again? Don’t bother finding out...

We’re not sure what this was supposed to be, exactly. There’s no there there. Death Squad is a  movie that runs solely on the charisma of the actors involved, and nothing else. If it didn’t have Hauer, Hannah, Madsen, and Baldwin, and had a bunch of no-name actors running around in the dark on the one set they had, it would have been complete torture to watch (AKA Albert Pyun-level). As it stands, there are moments that you think just may be entertaining enough to be stupid. Either that, or moments that are stupid enough to be entertaining. We’re still not sure which. 


Whenever Madsen is on screen, he livens things up. He has a cool coat and even his own theme music. This time, his attitude of not caring is entirely justified. The audience can relate. Rutger Hauer spits out some nonsensical dialogue and seems confused. Daryl Hannah is there as one of the Nazi-esque soldiers, and Baldwin was clearly recalling his role as Weed in the classic Dead Weekend (1995). Danny Glover does what we call a ‘sit-down’ role, though we think he stands up briefly at one point. There’s even what we call the PT (Prerequisite Torture), but this time it’s PTT - the Prerequisite Torture of Tuag. All of this should have hit video stores somewhere between 1998 and 2003. Yet, inexplicably, it came out in 2014. Audiences should demand to know why.

While, yes, the movie has no structure, it’s filmed on what appears to be one set, in the dark, actors look at computerized screens and say nonsensical things for 80 minutes, and it’s all doubtlessly stupid, it’s still better than April Rain (2014). That’s the tricky thing about watching - and reviewing - movies. Whether you realize it or not, it’s all about context. If you watch April Rain, then just about anything else, the movie you watch after that is going to seem good - perhaps better than you’d normally think it would be. Your experience is colored by subconscious comparison. If we had watched something really awesome beforehand, we might be tougher on Death Squad, but because we watched April Rain the day before, we were in a really forgiving mood. All that being said, it still tested our patience to the limit and we came away unhappy. 

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett