Tag Archives: Christopher Lambert

From the Archive – The Hunted (1995)

Hunted

Directed by J.F. Lawton
Starring Christopher Lambert, John Lone and Joan Chen

Paul Racine (Lambert) is an American businessman. On a business trip to Tokyo, he sleeps with a Chinese…sorry, Japanese woman named Kirina (Chen), only to witness her death at the hands of Chin… Japanese master ninja Kinjo (Lone, who does at least get a ‘why yes, I am of Chinese descent’ speech).

Racine is left for dead, but survives, and his doctor calls in a master swordsman from an ancient Samurai family, Takeda (Yoshio Harada), and his wife to protect him when the ninjas start falling out of the woodwork – sometimes literally; they’re not terribly good ninjas.

It turns out that Takeda is actually seeking a showdown with the supposedly unbeatable Kinjo, and eventually he calls him out. Kinjo brings a cohort of ninjas to the ‘fair fight’, and slaughters all of Takeda’s followers. The ninja then get wiped out by Takeda, who is in turn killed by Kinjo. Racine – having taken some kenjutsu lessons from the drunken old swordmaker – then kills Kinjo.

What’s wrong with it?

The Hunted is pretty slow-moving in places. In particular, it takes too long to get started in the first place, spending far too long faffing about with Racine and Kirina to try and establish that it’s not just a shag, it means something. Then Kinjo poses for ten minutes. The ongoing failure of the ninjas to kill the schmuck bait Racine pretty much saps their credibility, and their assault tactics – kill everyone on the train, just to be sure – are just there to make them marginally less pleasant than Takeda. Also, the ninja only appear to know one move – an overhead swing that gets them chopped in the gut every time.

The score is nothing to write home about.

What’s right with it?

Well, the samurai is very good. A veteran of Japanese cinema, Yoshio Harada plays the role to the hilt, and carries off the swordfights with aplomb (especially compared to his rather useless foes). Also, the finale has some nice touches, with the ninja turning up to the duel with a dozen cunningly concealed buddies. There’s also some decent bits on samurai honour.

How bad is it really?

The Hunted is dull. It has some decent ideas, but does next to nothing with them. While technically interesting, even the best of the fights lack real dynamism, and the score does nothing to cover.

Best bit?

The ninjas popping up to interrupt the duel are pretty good, and the female ninja slicing off her own face to avoid identification is excellent in a wince-inducing way.

What’s up with…?

  • The bargain basement ninjas? They’re frankly all crap, and what’s more they go on about how hidebound the samurai are, but will they use a sniper rifle or a silenced pistol? Will they buggery.
  • The little girl who helps Racine out? She just pops up, hangs around for fifteen minutes and sods off again. Totally random.
  • The American businessman taking out the ‘unbeatable’ ninja after a week of casual sword training? Even with the ninja having been stabbed in the leg already, I didn’t really buy it.

Ratings

Production values – Not bad, but let down by the samey choreography. The lighting is also not the best, and the score is unmemorable. 14

Dialogue and performances – Nothing to write home about. Grumpy old samurai is pretty solid, and John Lone acts his little heart out in a limited role, but Lambert just does his usual thing, and Joan Chen is barely in the film at all (c.f. Judge Dredd). 16

Plot and execution – An interesting idea squandered in a meandering mish-mash of dull fight scenes. There’s little character development, and frankly you might not care if there was. 15

Randomness – The crapness of the ninjas, rivalled only by the crapness of everyone they off. The little girl. The instant sword master. Suspension of disbelief was an early casualty. 12

Waste of potential – The Hunted had some solid ideas in it, but there was just bog all done with them. 18

Overall 75%

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From the Archive – Mean Guns (1997)

Mean Guns

 

Directed by Albert Pyun
Starring…Well, it’s got Christopher Lambert and Ice-T in it

A crime boss in ‘The Syndicate’ (like the Mob, but multiracial apparently) gathers a whole bunch of treacherous ex-employees in a newly built prison, where they are to fight to the death. The last three surviving are to split $10,000,000 between them. As the battle rages, dubious alliances are formed and broken between the killers, until finally it comes down to a four-way face off between Lou (Lambert), Moon (Ice-T), Marcus (Michael Halsey) and accountant Cam (Deborah Van Valkenburg). Pretty much everyone dies, except Cam who gets to split with the cash and the little girl who Lou snatched from her abusive father, because his real daughter was raped; or killed; or something.

It’s never really made clear. Nor is anything else.

What’s wrong with it?

The film makes no sense. Really. Even by the BMM’s standards, it’s pretty bloody random. What little exposition there is is garbled, mumbled, and contradictory. The action scenes are rubbish, largely consisting of one person after another firing a gun off the side of the screen. The whole thing is backed by a bizarre score, which seesaws between sub-Morriconne guitar jangles and Prez Prado mambo numbers.

What’s right with it?

Nothing much.

How bad is it really?

Albert Pyun occasionally shows signs that he is almost a very good director.

This is not one of those occasions.

Best bit?

Random mambo plays while Moon explains that everyone is going to die. When he asks if there are any questions, Lou asks: “Where can I get this CD?”

That really is the high point.

What’s up with…?

  • Lord. Where to start?
  • The mambo? In a book, it might be a little creepy; the idea of killers playing real, live deathmatch to a cheery mambo soundtrack. In the hands of a master film-maker, it might work to have a tense cat and mouse to same. But brutal game of death gunfights to a mambo movie score? Worst scoring decision since Ladyhawke.
  • The set-up? This is supposed to be for the entertainment of the Syndicate, yet they dump the guns on the crowd, thus ensuring a swift attrition. Surely the smart thing would be to distribute them around the playing area, a la Quake.
  • The ambush? Four people setting up an ambush by sitting in an open space, surrounded by an elevated gallery. Now, call me crazy…
  • The shoot-out? Ice-T hands out four Desert Eagles, and Lou’s isn’t loaded. A professional killer had a gun in his hand, and let someone give him another gun, and tried to use it. I don’t think so.

Ratings

Production values – Albert Pyun’s trademark bizarre use of filters (orange outside, blue inside) dominates here, and is the technical high-point. The fight choreography is non-existent, the sound is crappy and the editing sucks. All in all, it looks as if the film was put together by a bunch of monkeys on crack. 18

Dialogue and performances – Even by their own standards, Lambert and Ice-T sleepwalk through these roles. Everyone else is worse. Except the little girl who sits in a car outside the prison all through the movie, who is great. You know; assuming she really was supposed to be the secret head of the Syndicate.14

Plot and execution – More monkeys. They say that enough monkeys with enough typewriters could produce the works of Shakespeare. As my flatmate said – borrowing from something we can’t quite remember – five monkeys; two typewriters. And some crack. Same for the direction, which seems to have been of the order of: “Do this and this, we’ll wave the camera at you” (or maybe just “Ook”). 20

Randomness – Lou shot a kid. No wait, his daughter was raped. No wait, Marcus killed his daughter. What’s going on? And that’s the questions around just one character. 16

Waste of Potential – Brutal cat-and-mouse around a prison; it could have worked. Unlikely; but it could have done. 10

Overall 78%

From the Archive – Highlander: Endgame (2000)

“It will take two immortals to defeat the ultimate evil. But in the end, there can be only one.”

Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski.
Starring Christopher Lambert, Adrian Paul and Bruce Payne (again, readers may come to think of as all you need to know).

Brief Synopsis

Connor’s adopted daughter gets blown up, so he goes into seclusion and is kept sedated on holy ground, only the whole place gets shot up and the attacker – an immortal – kills a bunch of other immortals on said holy ground, because that doesn’t matter any more.

Duncan MacLeod (Adrian Paul) gets threatened by some guys, then Connor shows up. Flashbacks show us that Connor is being stalked by a now-immortal ex-priest named Jacob Kell (Bruce Payne, the man who understudied for the absent Julian Sands in Warlock III for crying out loud), whom he killed when they burned his mother as a witch, and that the guy’s hench-chick – one of several immortal minions who can’t do the basic maths of ‘there can be only one’ – is Duncan’s ex-wife, whom he stabbed to make her immortal without asking her first.

Connor forces Duncan to kill him so that he can gain the strength to fight Kell, who has killed 666 immortals once he offs his henchlings.

Numerous alternate versions exist, but there is little to suggest that any of them make much more sense than that.

What’s wrong with it?

It sucks. Seriously. It’s incoherent, the baddies wear these ridiculous outfits, yet have no sense of theme to tie them together and justify such an outre fashion statement; it’s just as if they all still think it’s the 80s. Nor is there any explanation as to why they a) work for another immortal in the first place, and b) just sit there and let him kill them. It feels half-formed, and none of the violations of the immortal traditions and rules are addressed in any way.

What’s right with it?

There are a couple of decent swordfights. Oh, and it completely disowns II by stating outright that none of the immortals have ever known where they come from or why they’re immortal.

How bad is it really?

Terrible, although not quite so bad as the Quickening.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The fight between MacLeod and a Chinese hench immortal is nicely choreographed, but alas cut short.

What’s up with…?

  • Even more hench immortals? And these ones seem so enamoured of their boss that they just stand there and let him kill them.
  • The incredible reviving love interest? The hench-chick is plainly decapitated by Kell, but in some versions appears alive at the end.
  • Killing on holy ground? Not fighting one-on-one? Even the bloody Kurgan followed the rules, and he was just so much more evil than Bruce Payne. Surely if the rules could be circumvented, he’d have done it? As an observation, Kell wears crosses on the soles of his shoes. Is this some insulation against holy ground? Who knows? Who cares?
  • The hench-chick working with Kell in the first place. She even seems largely immune to Kell’s allegedly overwhelming charisma. The idea seems to be that they work together through mutual hate, but they don’t really say or show it.

Ratings:

Production values – As with The Sorcerer, Endgame picks up a few undeserved points for its general production values. It’s slickly made and competently directed, with some nicely shot and choreographed action. However, it loses serious points on the editing, whatever cut you watch. 12

Dialogue and performances – Workmanlike. Lambert plods rather morosely through the picture, but Paul is a watchable lead, and shite though he is, Bruce Payne chewing scenery is always reasonable value for your bargain buck. Highlander the Series stalwarts Jim Byrnes and Peter Wingard make a good showing in rather limited cameos, but the love interest is lacklustre. The dialogue is likewise unexceptional, but falls short of risible. 11

Plot – The plot is all over the place, and suffers greatly from its attempt to combine nemeses from the two MacLeods’ histories without sufficient rationale or chemistry. 14

Randomness – Oy! Randomness we got! The film feels overfull in places, with the upshot that many, many elements are simply not explained. Ever. 17

Waste of Potential – Unlike the follow-up films, the TV series actually got to be worth watching. That just makes this abomination even worse by comparison. A chance to save the franchise, pissed down the toilet. 20

Overall: 74%

From the Archive – Highlander III: The Sorcerer (1994)

“This time it’s for eternity.”

Directed by Andrew Morahan.
Starring Christopher Lambert and Mario van Peebles

Brief Synopsis

After four centuries trapped in a cave, the evil immortal Kane (‘Super’ Mario van Peebles) – who apparently makes the Kurgan look like a pussycat – is freed by development construction. Will they never learn?

This awakening reactivates Connor’s full powers, although we learn that he survived a fatal car wreck in the highlands which dispatched the love interest of the original film, and he and Kane kill one of the latter’s hapless hench-immortals apiece, before convening for the ultimate showdown, in which Connor wins the prize again. The twist is that, in addition to his mastery of the sword, Kane also possesses the power of illusion, stolen from Connor’s second mentor, the sorcerer Nakano, along with his head and his Quickening.

Along the way, there’s also a romantic plotline with an archaeologist who uncannily resembles Connor’s French Revolution love, and Kane kidnaps Connor’s adopted son to use as live bait. At one point they fight on holy ground, and Connor’s sword explodes.

What’s wrong with it?

The Sorcerer is essentially a rehash of the original with some extra special effects, only this time it isn’t novel and different. It’s woefully short on swordfights, and ‘Super’ Mario just lacks the camp malevolence of Clancy ‘Kurgan’ Brown. Its attempts to rationalise its own existence in the wake of the events of the original are – if less crazed than II’s – still fairly stretched. Far more of the film is set in daylight, and the colouration is better than in the original, which actually ends up detracting from the overall atmosphere.

What’s right with it?

There’s some nifty SFX, and the love interest is of a slightly higher calibre than in the original (largely because there’s a small child to do the screaming incompetence).

How bad is it really?

Unlike II, this film is at least watchable. That said, it’s still pretty abominable.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Even the swordfights are pretty dull in this one. It says a lot about the overall quality of the film that the best moment is probably ‘Super’ Mario proving that Kane is out of touch by trying to eat a condom. And no, it’s not one of those things you had to be there for; that’s really all there is to it.

What’s up with…?

  • This whole power of illusion thing in the first place? Fair’s fair though; at least this time there actually is a new kind of magic.
  • Hench immortals? Why would anyone do it? You know that you’re going to end up dead.
  • The exploding sword? OK, I buy that it’s supposed to be some sort of resistance to immortals duelling on holy ground, but since Kane attacked, why does his katana remain intact? Moreover, why doesn’t he even try to finish MacLeod off while he’s unarmed?

Ratings:

Production values – Pretty good; in fact, almost too good. The whole thing is so well-shot it actually loses the gritty atmosphere of the original because of it. 6

Dialogue and performances – So-so. The dialogue is fairly uninspired, the acting is vaguely competent. Nothing outstandingly bad, but nothing more than workmanlike really. 10

Plot – At best, the plot is patchy. In places, the film feels more like a series of vignettes than a coherent narrative, and the flashbacks to the French Revolution – indeed the entire romantic subplot – feels tacked on, and rather pointless. 14

Randomness – While it has nothing on II, much in The Sorcerer goes unexplained. The exploding sword, Kane’s hibernation, the henchlings, the reincarnated lover. 10

Waste of Potential – Less shameless than the second film, as this does not abuse the mighty Sean, but even for a Super Mario van Peebles/Christopher Lambert film, this is pretty slack. 12

Overall: 52%

From the Archive – Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)

“It’s time for a new kind of magic.”

Directed by Russell Mulcahy.
Starring Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Virginia Madsen and Michael Ironside

In the sequel to 1984’s cult favourite, Highlander, the mysterious immortals from the first film turn out to be aliens exiled by the evil dictator, General Katana (Ironside), forced to fight for the right to either return to their home planet of Zeist or to become mortal and live out their days on Earth, as Connor McLeod (Lambert) has done.

In the future, an aging Connor recovers his powers and his youth when Katana – for no apparent reason – sends two giggling incompetents to kill him. Regenerated by their Quickening and motivated by bad movie sex, he then teams up with a resurrected Ramirez (Connery), and an ecoterrorist (Madsen) to bring down the ozone shield he helped to create and save the world.

The ‘Renegade’ Director’s Cut apparently makes more sense, but may be just a myth. I certainly know no one who has seen it.

What’s wrong with it?

This film is bad on so many levels. For starters, it bears little or no relation to the first film, in which the immortals were weird and mystical, with an unknown source. The degree to which the ‘sequel’ is not trying is indicated by the fact that the aliens were exiled over a thousand years after Ramirez was supposed to have been born in Egypt.

The playing is lacklustre – even Sean Connery and Michael Ironside seem to be phoning it in; the plot is incomprehensible in parts, and drivel in others. Even the sword fighting is minimal, to say the least, with only really two scenes which can even approximate to decent duels.

Yeah, and the continuity is poor.

Also, I don’t know what the female lead’s name is. I could probably look it up on IMDb, but seriously, I ought to know from watching the film.

What’s right with it?

Nothing really.

How bad is it really?

Truly appalling. As a sequel it doesn’t work, and it lacks the justification of being a watchable movie in its own right.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Umm…No.

What’s up with…?

  • In the bit when Ramirez uses his big burst of telekinesis, why does Amazing Grace play on the bagpipes? He’s an Egyptian, and an alien. And how come his katana is stuck in the floor beside him after Connor and the woman leave, yet later on Connor is carrying it instead of his naff little Zeistian sword?
  • How come Katana isn’t dead? He’s supposed to be a mortal on Zeist. And why can’t he get better help if he rules the whole planet with an iron hand? And why does he send them when Connor is about to kark it from old age anyway?
  • Why?
  • Why, God? Why?

Ratings:

Production values – Poor. The lighting is not just muted, in places it’s hardly there at all. The fight scenes are clunky and awkward, and the SFX is pretty rubbish (a few cheap-looking Quickening rushes and an ozone shield that looks like a Los Angeles sunrise). 14

Dialogue and performances – The dialogue is unbelievably bad, even by action-adventure standards, with the standout piece being the explanation of how the whole Zeist-Earth/Mortal-Immortal gig works between Connor and the ecoterrorist chick, which plays like a badly gaffed version of Who’s On First? 17

Plot – There is no plot; only Zool. Slay evil; destroy bad machine. Fire bad; tree pretty. 16

Randomness – For starters, there’s the issue of why it’s called Highlander II, given that with the alien timewarp and so forth it has next to no continuity with the first film. Move past that, and the question of why Katana bothers to go after Connor trips you up. Also, how come none of the stuff they do in this one comes up in the first? It’s pretty out there, and that’s where it needs to stay. 18

Waste of Potential – Maybe Highlander wasn’t Citizen Kane, but this isn’t even Jeffrey Archer’s Kane and Abel. 18

Overall: 83%

From the Archive – Beowulf (1999)

“Unleash your dark side.”

Directed by Graham Baker.
Starring – if you can really call it that – Christopher Lambert and Rhona Mitra

The epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf tells the story of the eponymous hero; a mighty Scandinavian warrior-king of the sixth century.

The 1999 film Beowulf tells the story of the eponymous hero; a black-clad half-man, half-demon kinda guy in a weird, techno-primitive world.

In the epic, Beowulf wrestles and kills the monster Grendel, who has been menacing Heorot, the hall of the Danish King Hrothgar. He is then forced to fight and kill Grendel’s mother, an acid-fleshed water-witch. He later becomes king of his homeland, and in his old age has to fight and kill a dragon, who deals him a poisoned wound which finally sends him to his grave.

In the film, Beowulf engages in fast-cut, acrobatic combat with the monster Grendel, who has seen the Predator one too many times and is menacing the industrial-gothic fortress of Heorot, the hall of King Hrothgar. He is then forced to fight and kill Grendel’s mother, a trampy blonde in a string dress who morphs into a big, muscle-skinned CGI monster. No dragons are involved, but Beowulf does get a pumping techno soundtrack.

The poem has no real love interest, and the only major female character is the Queen of the Danes, who toasts Beowulf’s initial victory over Grendel. The vast majority of Hrothgar’s people survive the poem.

The film has the woman who modelled for Lara Croft, dressed in revealing brown leathers, as a feisty princess. Everybody except she and Beowulf get brutally killed, even the comedy sidekick.

That’s about it really.

What’s wrong with it?

The plot is minimal. The acting is poor, and not at all helped by the laughable dialogue. The techno-primitive setting looks – frankly – like it was cobbled together out of whatever came to hand. The pop-video editing is almost vertiginous at times. The fight scenes are pretty so-so. The gratuitous sex scenes are, well, entirely gratuitous. The female character is nothing but eye candy. Christopher Lambert.

What’s right with it?

The dialogue and plot are laughable enough to be fun, and you can’t entirely go wrong with a pumping techno soundtrack. Christopher Lambert.

How bad is it really?

Beowulf is eye-poppingly bad, but with the almost non-stop motion and that techno score, you almost don’t notice. It’s the cinematic equivalent of rat vindaloo; you wouldn’t eat it if you knew, but it’s hard to really taste how foul it is under the sauce.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Having previously executed a series of dazzling backflips, only to end up getting clocked in the face by Grendel at the end of it, Beowulf executes a series of dazzling backflips, only to get clocked in the face by Grendel’s mummy at the end of it.

What’s up with…?

  • When society breaks down and we revert to an industrial-primitive state, why is it that the first thing we seem to run out of is women’s clothing? However cold it might be, no female character in such films ever seems able to scrape together much more than a tight leather vest and pants; if they’re lucky.
  • And if society has broken down and all we have left is the relics of the past, how come the technically demanding skill of blacksmithing seems to be rediscovered so quickly? There can’t be more than a few hundred real blacksmiths left in the modern world; and presumably the apocalypse will scratch a few of them.

Ratings:

Production values – Pop-video level; more precisely, 80s rock video. The lighting is all over the place and the sets, props and much of the costume seems to be cobbled together from whatever the studios next door weren’t using. 13

Dialogue and performances – Laughably bad. Christopher Lambert just acts the way he always does. Rhona Mitra is not a bad performer as eye candy goes, but the supporting cast is frankly just bad. I’d like to think – because I’m charitable that way – that they weren’t really trying. 16

Plot – Well, in many ways there really isn’t one, just a series of fight scenes and the occasional gratuitous shag. 18

Randomness – An eclectic series of weapons. A monster that bears a striking resemblance to the Predator. String-dress bint. Big, muscle-flesh monster. A guillotine in the form of a giant straight razor. Beowulf’s father was a demon of some sort. Grendel’s mum trying to get it on with Beowulf (among others). Hrothgar is Grendel’s daddy (although this seems to be a popular choice). The crazy never stops. 16

Waste of Potential – Beowulf could make a stunning film, but to be honest, this was never really going to be it. 9.

Overall – 72%