How ‘Guyver: Dark Hero’ Created its Own Ultimate Anime/Action Niche

The rare rubber suit monster R-rated martial arts action flick that could!

In his brief career as a movie director, Steve Wang immortalized himself with the crazy martial arts actioner Drive. Leading up to it, he honed his skills as director with the two Guyver films that were based on the Japanese manga and anime series Bio Booster Armor Guyver. The first Guyver was not a bad film, if you can find entertainment in cheesy Sci-fi action with monsters in rubber suits. It was more of a kids action flick, not unlike the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films, but nowhere near as good. The second installment, Guyver: Dark Hero, was a much improved sequel, even though Wang had to work with a budget of barely one million USD.

Sean Barker is bonded to the alien Guyver suit that transforms him into a superhero when activated. He lives a secluded life after defeating the evil alien Zoanoids in the first movie, but learns about an archaeological dig where mystical symbols were discovered that are strangely familiar to him. He travels to the site, and before long Sean needs his Guyver powers to face otherworldly evil again.

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Good Guyver Vs. Evil Zoanoids = Massive Carnage

The film starts with an ultra-brief recap of the first part and makes not a lot of effort to expand on the world-building as the plot progresses. But all you really need to know is: good Guyver vs. evil Zoanoids leads to massive carnage.  The acting and dialogues are not the worst you could get in a one million dollar movie, but everything that happens outside the action sequences drags a bit occasionally. Compared to the first film, there’s also no intentional comic relief this time, but then how serious can we take goofy alien monsters that are all kung fu masters.

For a low-budget flick the special effects are some of the best you’ll ever see, it’s amazing what Wang managed to pull off without plundering his savings account (or maybe he did?). The suits of the Guyver and the monsters look pretty cool with lots of creative details, and are leagues above the  shoddy prosthetics of many 1990s cheapo Sci-Fi flicks. There’s also lots of neat practical blood and gore effects, plus a couple of admittedly ultra-budget CGI. All in all, the special effects benefited tremendously from Wang’s skills and enthusiasm.

As much as we should commend the special effects, the real reason you should watch Guyver: Dark Hero are the fights. Wang brought in the expertise of Koichi Sakamoto who would go on to become stunt coordinator for the Power Rangers franchise two years later. The guy knows his stuff, and he created a couple of high quality fight sequences. It’s all hand-to-hand combat (or claw-to-claw, to be more precisely), done Hong Kong style.

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The Best Film in the Genre of Rubber Suit Monster R-Rated Martial Arts Action

The stunt guys in their giant rubber costumes pull off some crazy moves. Of course the wire work helps to carry the weight, but it’s still all pretty impressive. The film also more than earned it’s R-rating with a nice array of gore effects: ripped throats, pierced eyes, smashed skulls and slit bellies. And the icing on the cake is a fluid cinematography that is devoid of the often horrific editing in US martial arts actioners where one kick was shot in four separate takes.

Guyver: Dark Hero created its own unique niche that no other film has been able or dared to follow into: the rubber suit monster R-rated martial arts action. It is another ultimate gem of 1990s DTV action fare, and one of the rare entries with expertly choreographed fight sequences from the US in the 1990s. The movie was also the perfect warm-up for Wang towards his ultimate masterpiece Drive that came out three years later.

Silent Trigger: Dolph Lundgren’s Underappreciated Experimental Art Film

It’s brooding, it’s sexy, and it’s easily one of the most innovative action films ever made.

One night, one building, one hell of a good time! Russell Mulcahy’s Silent Trigger stars Dolph Lundgren as Waxman, a highly-trained assassin working for a secret government organization. Assigned to kill an unknown target, Waxman is paired up with Clegg (Gina Bellman), a spotter who’s worked with Waxman in the past. With one night to complete their assignment, Waxman and Clegg face off against a doped-up security guard and existential dread. 

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UAMC Reviews Silent Trigger (1996)

It’s not every day that you see an action film as unconventional as Silent Trigger, which is what makes it so interesting. The basic plot is just enough to get the film going, but Silent Trigger hits its stride when it’s focused on character and atmosphere. Action movies generally tend to move with a sense of urgency, but Russell Mulcahy is more interested in slowing things down rather than setting up the next set-piece. The constant rain, ambient score, and grungy cinematography firmly establish a downbeat existential sense of dread that does not let up for the entirety of its runtime. These reasons alone make Silent Trigger feel more like a horror film than an action film. The only thing keeping it from being a horror film is Dolph Lundgren, who brings his action credentials to the forefront.

Lundgren has always been an underrated talent, but when utilized correctly, he’s a tremendous asset. Whether playing a cold-blooded boxer in Rocky or a mentally unhinged soldier in Universal Soldier, Lundgren’s physicality is what helps him stand out and Mulcahy takes full advantage of Lundgren’s imposing frame. The character of Waxman doesn’t get to say much, but the expressions on his face manage to say more than any line of dialogue could. From the opening sequence, it’s clear to see the inner conflict within Waxman and his hesitancy to kill other people; he’s a guy who’s made bad decisions looking to make things right. Lundgren might be the face of the film, but it’s his co-star Gina Bellman who is the emotional anchor.

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Dolph Lundgren and Gina Bellman

Clegg is the audience surrogate through which we experience the film’s events. She’s also the one who provides us insight into Waxman’s psyche. Waxman’s cynicism played against Bellman’s bright-eyed inexperience is the spark that makes their dynamic engrossing. There’s also a hint of sexual chemistry between the characters. 

Rounding out the cast list is Christopher Heyerdahl as O’Hara, a security guard for the building where Waxman and Clegg are stationed at. While Lundgren and Bellman play the straight-laced protagonists, Heyerdahl gets free rein to dial up his performance! O’Hara is one of the vilest and most memorable movie villains in a DTV action film! The performance works so well because it’s in sync with the film’s overall aesthetic. The performance is equal parts hammy as it is frightening and Heyerdahl does not falter in balancing both aspects of the character.

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The film’s atmosphere is both the film’s strength as well as its weakness. While it may be advertised as an action film, most action junkies might be put off by its pacing and sparse display of action sequences. The plot itself doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things and largely serves as background noise to a film that’s largely interested in the existential dread of its characters. Even when the action happens, the sequences are rather pedestrian and would be largely dismissed in any other action film. 

For some, the experimentation of Silent Trigger might disincline those looking for a straightforward action flick, but for those looking for something unconventional, you simply can’t go wrong with this film! This is one of the more interesting performances that Lundgren has ever given and it’s largely because he gets to play the action lead in an experimental art film. The style that Mulcahy goes for will be the main takeaway for first-time viewers. It’s brooding, it’s sexy, and it’s easily one of the most innovative action films ever made. If you want an action film that goes against the grain, then Silent Trigger is the way to go!

Dolph Lundgren at His Absolute Best in ‘Army of One’ / ‘Joshua Tree’

Why James Bond Must Survive, No Matter What

A case to not kill off the most beloved action heroes of all time.

“That’s a Smith & Wesson, professor. And you’ve had your six!” – Sean Connery uses his licence to kill on his first performance as James Bond in Dr No, released in 1962.

Not so long ago I went to buy a couple of DVDs at a store I haven’t been to for a long time, and the manager, who knows I’m a James Bond fan and I have in fact bought him a couple of Bond stuff some years ago made me the inevitable question: “What do you think about the latest film?” Inadvertently, he asked me something whose answer makes me get into trouble with many people because if you have been a Bond fan for almost 25 years, the ending of No Time To Die will not leave you indifferent, as many reviewers have pointed out.

When I opened up regarding my opinion, which you will see in the next couple of paragraphs although the headline anticipates where do I stand, my acquaintance went to the point: “What do you think of James Bond dying? I mean, is there one of the novels or any source material where he actually dies?”

There was a long time ago a film titled Casino Royale and it was produced by Charles K Feldman, who had the rights for the original Ian Fleming novel, reason why the Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman duo or their company EON Productions couldn’t adapt it for the big screen until 2006, some years after the rights issues were settled. In that version of Casino Royale, James Bond dies.

As a matter of fact, all of the “James Bond 007” codenamed recruits hired by David Niven’s Sir James Bond are blown to bits in an explosion. Similarly, Niven’s Bond has a daughter he’s barely aware of and begins the story in retirement, pushed for “one last mission” that involves his enemies (one of them a relative of his) spreading a virus throughout the world. Looks a bit familiar, doesn’t it?

David Niven and Jean Paul Belmondo in a scene of the 1967 satirical version of Casino Royale, produced by Charles K Feldman.

The point is… that film was done as a spoof, since Feldman was unable to reach an agreement with EON and, afraid to compete against Sean Connery’s version, took a chance to turn the material into a comedy using names like Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Orson Welles, Woody Allen and John Houston, who was one of the many directors of the expensive production. The fact that James Bond could die was part of the joke, and a poetic license Feldman took as a way to show the film wasn’t meant to be taken seriously – emphasised by the very last scene where all the Bonds are dressed as angels playing the harps in heaven, except for Woody Allen’s Jimmy who goes to a place where it’s terribly hot.

There was a much more serious and dramatic take on Bond’s death in a 1985 novel by Jim Hatfield, The Killing Zone. In the penultimate chapter, the secret agent is surprised by one of his enemies and ferociously strangled by him. Although he succeeds in defeating the intruder, 007 falls dead into the arms of his female companion, Lotta Head, and the very last chapter features a naval funeral akin to the one of the film adaptation of You Only Live Twice. So… did they kill Bond in the novels?

Not so fast. The Killing Zone was, essentially, a fan novel. Hatfield, an ex-convict, sent the manuscript to a publisher under the guise that it was sanctioned by Gildrose (now Ian Fleming Publications) and for a reason at least two copies were printed by Charter. But no, the company managing the publication rights of Bond’s creator never green-lit it.

Speaking of the Bond creator, let’s go back to where Barbara Broccoli says she goes back every time she is stuck, as per her legendary father’s instructions: Fleming. Did Ian Fleming kill James Bond in a novel? Does the final Ian Fleming novel, The Man With The Golden Gun, features the ace of the British spies departing this world in some way?


Fleming did toy, however, with the idea of killing Bond off, reason many outlets and writers frequently like to point out the character’s fate was always to die – which, I allow myself to say, it’s wrong. A prime example is one of John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s favourite novels, From Russia, With Love.

Published in 1957, the book that inspired the second film in the EON series begins with a meticulously planned konspiratsia by SMERSH, the executions branch of the Soviet Union, to give a demoralizing blow to the West. Trying to find someone they would regard as some kind of a hero, someone who has foiled all of their operations, the name of James Bond is uttered before the nefarious General G.

And so begins what we saw in the film: the idea of luring 007 to a trap involving a beautiful cryptographer defector and causing his death amidst an international scandal to make the British lose face. SMERSH didn’t count that the girl would have a heart and fall for Bond, but unlike the 1963 film, the book ends with Soviet agent Rosa Klebb poisoning the secret agent with deadly venom and he crashes “headlong to the wine-red floor”.

Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, showing some of the vices he lent to his character. 

This is cited by many as the prime example that Ian Fleming killed Bond indeed and had a last-minute change of heart and made him survive in the next novel, Dr No, published less than a year later. To make it more curious, in Il Caso Bond, a 1964 book of essays on the character written by renowned intellectuals like Umberto Eco, it is noted that a newspaper reported that 007 had indeed met his maker at the end of the new Ian Fleming novel and thus thousands of readers complained to Fleming, who explained that Commander Bond was on a recovery phase and ready for new adventures, which they would witness in the book that served as the adaptation for the first EON film. 

But even if Fleming hadn’t clarified that the conclusion of From Russia, With Love is, at best, ambiguous. And is closer to a cliff-hanger than a definitive conclusion, like the Cary Joji Fukunaga film and swan-song for the Daniel Craig era is. Bond’s physical reactions to the poisoning are very visceral, but even in that situation he allows himself to make a joke about having met “the loveliest girl” in Tatiana Romanova, moments before his French ally Mathis, who only notices that his friend “looks tired” wants to invite him to “the best dinner in Paris” with “the loveliest girl to go with it”. A far cry from the fatalistic conclusion of No Time To Die, where Craig’s Bond radioed a goodbye to Madeleine Swann and praised their daughter in common, Mathilde.

Let’s move on now to the second “death” of the literary James Bond, which takes place at the end of You Only Live Twice, published in 1964, the same year Fleming passed away as Goldfinger turned Bond into a sixties cinematic phenomenon.

Daniel Craig’s version of James Bond meets the leader of SPECTRE and his foster brother, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), imprisoned in Belmarsh in 2021’s No Time To Die.

Many elements that would make a book Bond fan pleased were adapted in No Time To Die and they would be welcomed if they hadn’t been pitifully taken out of context. One of them is Bond offing Blofeld by strangling him amidst a gruesome swordfight and murmuring the words “Die, Blofeld, Die” while avenging his wife. You probably know this happens in the 2021 film inside a Belmarsh prison interrogation room where the nemesis is fully restrained and this action only causes Bond to act as a pawn of the main antagonist, Rami Malek’s Lyutsifer Safin, who wanted the SPECTRE leader dead for his own reasons.

I describe this because in You Only Live Twice, once Bond strangles Blofeld he sees the villain’s castle is about to blow up and attempts a daring escape by projecting himself over the sea with the aid of a rope tied to a hot air balloon. “Bond let go with hands and feet and plummeted down towards peace, towards the rippling feathers of some childhood dream of softness and escape from pain,” the chapter ended. The next chapter is a full transcription of Commander James Bond’s obituary for The Times, where M catalogues his man as “missing, believed killed” and reports that “hopes of his survival must be abandoned”.

Daniel Craig gives James Bond an explosive send-off in the divisive finale of No Time To Die.

People compare these moments to the “final ascent” of Craig’s Bond, and it’s impossible not to do so because it is very obvious that screenwriters Neal Purvis & Robert Wade (with collaborators that included director Fukunaga, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Scott Z Burns) were based on these passages. As this Bond is turned to ashes, letting himself die over a rain of missiles because Safin has poisoned with a virus that would kill Madeleine and Mathilde on touch, we move to London and the not-so-affectionately nicknamed “Scooby gang” of M (Ralph Fiennes), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), Q (Ben Wishaw), Tanner (Rory Kinnear) and introducing Nomi (Naomie Harris), the 00 agent who was 007 for a long while and gave the number back to Bond because “it’s just a number”.

In a darkened room at Whitehall, they all toast to his memory and Fiennes’ character reads a quote from a book: “The proper function of a man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time”. This is actually a quote from poet Jack London that Mary Goodnight suggested for Bond’s obituary, as it represented very well the secret agent’s philosophy of life. It is important to note that Fleming only quotes the second sentence and not the first, which has a much more fatalist interpretation. On the contrary, “I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time” has an emotional charge that is close to laissez-faire and the way of life of 007’s creator, who died at 56 of a heart attack and health damaged by an excess of alcohol and tobacco. In Fleming’s vision, he wouldn’t mind dying at a relatively young age if that meant enjoying some pleasures he couldn’t live without. But one would hardly imagine Fleming smoking 100 cigarettes and drinking two bottles of gin while making a teary goodbye to his wife Ann and his son Casper. Unfortunately, the interpretation done in the No Time To Die script is much closer to that of killing yourself if you can’t get what you want.

Not everyone believes in God, but by saying “I shall use my time”, Fleming and the literary Bond are already giving a superior being the decision of taking their lives away, in the case of Fleming was at 56, but it could have been at 51 or 63 or perhaps even more – we know of rockstars with not-so-healthy habits who have reached 70. Craig-Bond, in this case, decides that his time has arrived, right there when the cluster missiles fired by the HMS Dragon are about to impact on the villain’s island, a loose adaptation of Blofeld’s “Garden of Death” in You Only Live Twice. He even looks at them as if they were fireworks and the script describes them as “strangely beautiful”. Wasn’t that a bit too much?

Dust jacket for the first edition of Ian Fleming’s final James Bond novel, The Man With The Golden Gun, published by Jonathan Cape in 1965.

So, what is the ending Ian Fleming wrote for James Bond? We have to go to the last chapter of his final novel, The Man With The Golden Gun. Far from the finale of its 1974 film adaptation, where Roger Moore and Britt Ekland sail on the villain’s junk in a slow and romantic boat trip to China, the 1965 book has James Bond convalescing in a hospital after a ferocious shootout on the Jamaican swamps with the title villain, a Cuban hitman under the KGB’s payroll. He is bloodied and battered, with Mary Goodnight by his side. Two things happen here that contradict things we have seen in No Time To Die: the first one is that Bond categorically rejects a knighthood and, while doing so, he also expresses himself against that kind of pretentiousness, adding that he barely used his Commander rank except for a couple of official documents.

In the 2021 film, he unnecessarily remarks to Nomi that “it’s Commander Bond, by the way”. But the most important contradiction with the events of Craig’s final 007 outing is that, while Bond is not in the idyllic state in which he usually ends his assignments in the film series, he is alive and defends his way of life: as Goodnight is assisting him and they share some romantic chat and kisses, James concludes that her love wouldn’t be enough as it would be like “taking a room with a view” and “for James Bond, the same view would always pall”. A celebration of polygamy

There you have it. The literary James Bond didn’t have a proper ending and authors that continued the work of Ian Fleming haven’t terminated him: authors like Kingsley Amis, John Gardner and Raymond Benson took him from the late 1960s to the early 2000s, while Sebastian Faulks, William Boyd and Anthony Horowitz placed him again in period-piece novels set in-between the Fleming novels, which makes the character already impossible to kill unless the upcoming With A Mind To Kill proposes some kind of an alternative continuity. [Horowitz has recently said he wasn’t satisfied with the ending of NTTD and he didn’t kill Bond in the novel.]

But looking beyond the prose of Fleming, we have to look at the context that led to the inception of James Bond and what he came to represent in this world. Fleming wasn’t particularly happy with having to marry at the age of 43 and to calm his nerves he created this exaggerated fictional version of himself (or what he would have liked to be) one day in January 1952 at his Jamaican estate. While it contains great doses of violence and the hero is physically and emotionally hurt at the end, Casino Royale allows the reader to feel the tension of a high-stakes baccarat game in a casino located in the South of France.

The rest of the Fleming novels, while many times much darker in tone than the movies, did allow the reader to experience firsthand the pleasures enjoyed by Bond, be it a beautiful girl –usually in her mid-20s, slightly suntanned and with a deep red lipstick as the only makeup element–, a breakfast made of the finest elements, an expensive cocktail and the lightness of a Sea Island cotton shirt, all in the most exotic places in the world: Jamaica, Turkey, the Bahamas, Switzerland, the Seychelles islands or Japan. “My opuscula do not aim at changing people or making them go out and do something. They are written for warm-blooded heterosexuals in railway trains, airplanes and beds,” he wrote in 1963 adding that he was not “engaged or involved” and had “no message for a suffering humanity”. While others described themselves as authors, he described himself as a writer. While others’ literature was aimed at the readers’ heart, his books “lay somewhere between the solar plexus and, well, the upper thigh” and insisted they were far from the Shakespeare stakes and had no ambition.

Robert McGinnis’ promotional illustration for Thunderball (1965), a good example of what the essence of James Bond is: danger, thrills and seduction.

Not much time before the inception of James Bond, George Orwell wrote 1984, published in 1949. Both writers were British and lived through the depression and shortage caused in their countries by World War II, but while Orwell emphasized the poverty, depression and lack of hope in a dystopian version of Britain and its despotic government; Fleming wrote stories about a British agent who fought a despotic power like the Soviet Union and enjoyed the finest things in life. Much like Winston Smith, the literary Bond suffered horrible tortures at the hands of his enemies and went through really hard times and moments of deep depression, but there was something inside him that made him fight for his life, an instinct of survival that kept him going knowing that his allies and his Nation depended on him. A paragraph from Dr No exemplifies this quite assertively:

“Now he was finished. Now it was the end. Now he would fall flat and slowly fry to death. No! He must drive on, screaming, until his flesh was burned to the bone. The skin must have already gone from the knees. In a moment the balls of his hands would meet the metal. Only the sweat running down his arms could be keeping the pads of stuff damp. Scream, scream, scream. It helps the pain. It tells you you’re alive. Go on! Go on! It can’t be much longer. This isn’t where you’re supposed to die. You are still alive. Don’t give up! You can’t!”

Needless to say, in most novels Bond enjoyed the warriors’ rest after enduring challenging moments throughout his mission and/or he succeeded in foiling the enemy’s plan. In the case of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, he foiled Blofeld’s plan of provoking a bacteriological attack on the United Kingdom. We have that satisfaction even in the tragic ending of the novel where Mrs Bond is brutally shot, and the satisfaction becomes even bigger in You Only Live Twice when Bond terminates Blofeld for good. Although he loses his memory and is believed dead, he shares moments of bliss with Kissy Suzuki that is quite romantic until his past comes back to him and that directs us to the thrilling first chapters of The Man With The Golden Gun

The big problem with No Time To Die regarding the villain, the tragic ending and the “hope” felt at the end when Madeleine Swann wants to tell her daughter “the story of a man named Bond, James Bond” lies in the fact that Ian Fleming’s secret agent is not only a very loose adaptation of his true self but the fact that he is essentially a secondary character for two-thirds of the story: Malek’s antagonist has no clear purpose, we don’t know if he wants world domination, money or simply revenge.

The point is that his main target is Madeleine Swann. In fact, the whole film seems to be dedicated to her and her hope to get rid of “the masked man” (in reference to the day Safin, wearing a Japanese Noh mask, stalked her in her childhood during a moment that opens the film), which she does to the cost of losing Bond in a poor –and rather insulting– twist to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Why would Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All The Time In The World” be featured as an incidental instrumental in Hans Zimmer’s score or its original 1969 recording during the end credits?

That song, tailored for the ill-fated romance between James Bond and Countess Teresa Di Vicenzo, was reinterpreted for a love story that even the most loyal Daniel Craig era supporters labelled as rushed and depth-lacking.

James Bond (George Lazenby) marries Tracy Di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the film “We Have All The Time In The World” was written for, with Louis Armstrong lending his voice for the last time in his life.

Much like The Spy Who Loved Me, a novel Fleming himself disliked to the point of adding a contract clause that inhibited EON to use any element of the story except for the title, No Time To Die neglects the legendary 007 to be the saviour of a girl tormented by bad experiences and a lunatic chasing her. Safin doesn’t even have anything against Bond and pushes him to suicide only to destroy Madeleine’s life.

It was already bad for long-time Bond fans to see their hero letting go of this world, but seeing him crawling and bowing to the villain –even when it was a tactic to withdraw his Walther PPK– felt like an unexpected kick in the gut. Bond has never reached this point of humiliation and it was even admired by his enemies and considered someone hard to cross paths with. Take, for example, the film version of Francisco Scaramanga, played by Christopher Lee in the 1974 film The Man With The Golden Gun: the deadliest assassin in the world, the one that “only needed one bullet” to complete his million-dollar contracts, elevated Bond’s reputation to the one of Al Capone. In his funhouse lair, both Al Capone and James Bond had wax statues challenging duelling guests to his island.

And we are talking about Roger Moore’s Bond here, which is usually considered the lightest one in terms of deadliness. In 2002’s Die Another Day, the villain reaches the point of admitting his brief encounter with Bond left him a lasting impression, forcing him not only to change his appearance through a DNA transplant but to base his “disgusting” personality on his enemy’s “unjustifiable swagger” and mannerisms. James Bond is St George to each villain’s dragon. No Time To Die, unfortunately, does exactly the opposite: making it clear that is the villain whose damage will remain even after he’s gone, and no matter what Bond can do, he has succeeded in dooming him.

And never forget, he doesn’t even want to destroy Bond like SPECTRE or SMERSH wanted to do in From Russia With Love (both the 1957 novel and the 1963 film adaptation), he’s doing this to ruin the life of Bond’s companion! 

GoldenEye takes a lot of screen time to develop the character of Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco), before she crosses the path of James Bond (Pierce Brosnan).

James Bond is the most important character in every James Bond adventure, no matter how much development you want to give other characters: computer programmer Natalya Simonova in GoldenEye was hugely developed and she never got to diminish his presence, she got her own opponent in the figure of hacker Boris Grishenko, but the big battle lied between Bond and his former friend and colleague Alec Trevelyan, once known as 006. Both The Living Daylights and For Your Eyes Only place 007 and the girl between the crossfire of two old sworn enemies, but as strong or important as these characters are Bond is not undermined at all.

A James Bond adventure, be it a novel or a film, should always represent a tacit chess match between Bond and the villain, as Umberto Eco analyzed in Il Caso Bond. When 007 is left aside and we stop mattering about him, a Bond adventure stops being a Bond adventure. This is evidenced first and foremost in the classic gun barrel sequence in No Time To Die, where right after shooting to the screen the Craig-Bond just fades away and there is no blood dripping down, foreshadowing the film’s finale and driving us straight away to the first encounter between Safin and Madeleine Swann, some two decades before the events of the film.

Created by Maurice Binder in 1962, the gun barrel sequence is the perfect symbol of the secret agent’s strength and invulnerability against every enemy. Anyone could be looking through the barrel: young, old, British, foreigner, man, woman, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that no one can stand a chance against James Bond: soon enough, he will turn, shoot, and the anonymous enemy will bleed.  Bond was meant to survive, even if he has to bear with the survivor’s guilt and shake it off occasionally. He can mature, but he can never get old, as author and former Ian Fleming Foundation member John Cork once said: “Bond is, in the long run, timeless. He is old enough to be a seasoned professional, yet young enough to be in top physical condition”. One could argue that the Fleming novels spanned 12 years and this made it easier to keep him somewhere between the age of 35 and 38, but the grace of the films is that the character has rarely shown a sign of ageing beyond the 40s. 

The first of James Bond’s gun barrel sequences, with Bob Simmons standing-in for Sean Connery in an animation used for the first three films in the series. From 1965, each actor shot its own version and the barrel design suffered many changes.

Producers Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman understood this timelessness of Ian Fleming’s character to perfection: instead of giving credit to the notion that Bond is old-fashioned and could only live anchored to the 1950s or the 1960s through period-piece films, they made him relevant to the 1970s and 1980s without betraying his essence. Even current producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli did it brilliantly in the 1990s and the 2000s, unfortunately leaning on the Marvel type of field with follow-ups, reboots and retcons in the 2010s.

“The world changed, but Bond didn’t” was screenwriter Bruce Feirstein’s mantra for the relaunching of the series with Pierce Brosnan in 1995’s GoldenEye, a notion kept by director Martin Campbell when he rewatched the preceding films and sustained that it wasn’t necessary to change what the character was because it enamoured millions of people all over the world this way.

Despite Daniel Craig’s James Bond was turned to ashes in a quicker way than Sean Connery’s Bond almost did 51 years ago when trapped alive inside a coffin in the Slumber funeral parlour in Diamonds Are Forever, the end credits of No Time To Die still announce that “James Bond Will Return”. Unfortunately, I’m not that optimistic about that return for many reasons related to the way Bond is conceived by the producers.

Normally, one would say that they would reboot the series again or maybe that this ending was just a cliffhanger to introduce a new actor in an original way. But whatever they do, No Time To Die has hurt the image of the character much more than any financial flop. 

Despite the dramatic nature and the twists to the formula that Licence To Kill (1989) suffered, Timothy Dalton’s James Bond had his much deserved warrior’s rest in the arms of Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell).

Due to coronavirus and troubled production, the film took more than five years to get to theatres, almost the same time as the infamous gap that separated Licence To Kill and GoldenEye. The last Timothy Dalton film didn’t prove to be successful at the box office or as well regarded in 1989 as it is now, but despite the overabundance of violence and a plot that married personal vendettas with drug trafficking, Dalton’s Bond exited the scene victoriously, as one would expect of 007.

Waiting for GoldenEye was hard, but the producers proved that despite the world has changed by 1995, Brosnan’s Bond could still echo the best antics of his predecessors and not only attract old fans but create a new wave of 007 enthusiasts. In other words, we waited six years to see Bond victorious again and the numbers of Licence To Kill were soon forgotten, along with those who said the character had no place on the verge of a new millennium. 

In the past 30 years, people were insisting that Bond was over, but EON contradicted them, and not just with box office figures, but by placing the character in these times and making him mightier than ever. In 2021, EON finally proved them right and delivered a movie that shows a world without James Bond. In GoldenEye, Bond has beaten modernity besides the title satellite weapon and the treacherous 006; in No Time To Die, modernity has beaten Bond along with Safin and (surprisingly, or maybe not) missiles fired by the Royal Navy where he belonged.

To me, the sole admittance that there could be a world without James Bond, even if then the character is rebooted somehow, hurts way more than any commercial or critical failure. As the saying goes, “You are never lost until you admit you are lost”. And here, EON admitted their character had lost.

The Man With The Golden Gun (1974): Roger Moore may not have been the deadliest Bond, but assassin Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) regarded him well enough to have his manikin exhibited on his hideout, along with Al Capone and other famous figures.

And in these times when the producers take more than four years to produce a film, the ending of No Time To Die falls flat on its face, particularly as the diamond jubilee of the film series is celebrated in 2022. Barbara Broccoli has recently said “it’s going to take some time” to find a new actor, yet her recent films took a lot of time even with Daniel Craig locked in the role or just by trying to convince him to return.

Had the continuity of the Ian Fleming novels On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, You Only Live Twice and The Man With The Golden Gun had been respected somewhere in the 1960s or 1970s, when Bond films came every one or two years, a cliffhanger with Bond’s apparent death wouldn’t have hurt too much.

I don’t know for certain who had the idea of killing off this version of Bond, although Daniel Craig has repeatedly said it was his idea and Barbara Broccoli went for the deal. He also insisted that the idea came to him in 2006 as Casino Royale hit theatres, but it’s very unlikely considering the reboot arc of Bond was clearly made on the way: notice how the “everything has led to this” tagline from the No Time To Die trailers were also used in some SPECTRE TV spots, or how it turned out that Silva from Skyfall wasn’t a freelancer but a member of the Quantum organization that turned out to be SPECTRE and Blofeld was behind it all, including the death of Vesper in the film that opened this era.

Whoever came up with this idea, was permanent damage. I don’t want to be that person saying that James Bond is over, and I know that somehow EON will exploit the trademark in the future, considering their other films like The Rhythm Section and Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool weren’t precisely successful. Bond is their golden goose. But what we can all agree on, or at least many will agree with me, is that the magic is over. Once you see James Bond dying, you don’t see the character in the same way.

It may be too late to say this, but James Bond must survive. Always. He isn’t a tragic hero or a doomed character. On the contrary, he is full of life in a context of death and loss, his lifestyle proves it better than anything.

As someone once said: “Stop getting Bond wrong!” 

Top 10 Action Films for Mother’s Day

Ranking the best films featuring bad-ass action movie moms!

Female action heroes rightly have become just as prevalent as their male counterparts in the last two decades. The action heroine usually pursues her mission rather recklessly, but when she has kids things suddenly become more complicated (and often more interesting) as it’s not only her life that is on the line. It’s Mother’s Day, and we have compiled the 10 best actioners featuring bad-ass mothers or their offspring doing some damage. So to all you mothers out there, happy Mother’s Day, and we hope you enjoy the list!

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10) Daughter of the Wolf (2019)

The abducted child and the ensuing rampage of the parent to get him or her back to safety, is a popular theme in action films since Schwarzenegger’s Commando, and Daughter of the Wolf is one of several films on our list with premise. Claire’s (Gina Carano) son Charlie has been abducted by a group of people who demand ransom, and also harbor a grudge towards her family. The film has a distinct low-budget look and the action are scenes not particularly impressive.

They keep coming at a good rate, though, and are beautifully embedded in spectacular takes of the snowy Canadian mountains and forests. There also are some hints towards a mystical connection between Claire and the wolfs roaming the wilderness, as they usually show up in the right moments to rip her adversaries to shreds. Daughter of the Wolf is a by-the numbers actioner that is saved from total mediocrity thanks to Gina Carano’s charisma and physical prowess.

9) Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)

Parents willingly or unwillingly are role models for children, and if your mother is a professional killer, it’s only natural to follow in her footsteps. Sam (Karen Gillan) discovers her conscience while on a hit job, saves a young girl, and incurs the wrath of her employer. On the run she gets reunited with her mother Scarlet (Lena Headey) who abandoned her at a young age, and together they take the fight back to their pursuers.

Sam and her mother are hammering and shooting her way through bowling alleys and doctor’s offices, all filmed with a superb action choreography. The film has a colorful comic-book vibe, tongue-in-cheek humor, and ultra-bloody action sequences, there’s nothing else we could ask from an action flick. Gunpowder Milkshake is a fun ride, and you’ll never look at a librarian the same way after watching this film.

8) Kidnap (2017)

Kidnap already states its premise unambiguously in the title. Karla (Halle Berry) sees her son getting kidnapped at a fair. She immediately gets into her car and embarks on a relentless chase to rescue her child. The film follows Karla’s ordeal almost in real time, and most of it is a car chase that never steps on the brakes. Her car is the only weapon she has at her disposal and rarely has a vehicle been used so fiercely in an actioner as in Kidnap.

The mini-van mayhem leads to a couple of cool car stunts and lots of wrecks. Halle Berry delivers an intense performance as a woman pushed over the edge, oscillating between desperate and total bad-ass. Kidnap is 90 minutes pure adrenaline, and you’ll be surprised how much ass this film is kicking.

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7) Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)

Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 play like one single film, but only in the second part we get to know the Bride’s daughter. After being shot by Bill and left to die at her wedding rehearsal while being pregnant, Beatrix Kiddo believes she had lost her daughter. After taking out the first two members of Bill’s crew in the first part, she gets closer to him, but first needs to endure more grueling ordeals, the worst of them being buried alive.

Her rendezvous with Bill is less than warm when she finally finds him, and learns that he has been raising their common daughter for four years. Fortunately he gets what he deserves in a manner that can only happen in a Tarantino movie. Uma Thurman immortalized herself as one of the most formidable action heroines in this action-packed and totally bananas masterpiece.

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6) Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)


Terminator 2 is an action classic for eternity, and the relationship between Sarah Connor and her son John is a central aspect of the film. If you are the predetermined savior of the human race from the machines, Sarah Connor may seem like the perfect mother, training you in military combat and leadership resolve.

Tragically, she forgot than John is also a child, and after the T-800 frees Sarah from a psychiatric ward, their relationship remains strained. As the film progresses, John seems to be able to relate more to the cyborg than to his living and breathing mother.

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5) Peppermint (2018)

Peppermint opens with a grim premise for a Mother’s day film. The husband and daughter of Riley (Jennifer Garner) are killed by hitmen. When the shooters are acquitted by a corrupt judge, Riley disappears and returns a few years later to exert bloody revenge on everyone who had a hand in the killing of her family. Like in every good revenge flick, a massive tragedy is created to justify the ultraviolent events that follow.

Garner is a complete bad-ass with some serious fighting skills, and Peppermint is a welcome return to her roots as action heroine in the Alias TV show. The film does not add anything new to the classic revenge rampage plot, but is focused at all times on maximum carnage and would make Charles Bronson proud.

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4) Furie (2019)

Vietnam’s take on the parent rescuing their abducted child premise is one of the best ever created. The films tells the story of Hai, who gets by as a debt collector, and her daughter Mai. When Mai is kidnapped, Hai follows her captors to Saigon, where she is haunted by her former life in the criminal underworld. If done right, the abduction of a loved child creates a big emotional investment for the viewers, and Furie introduces introduces us effectively to Hai and the somewhat troubled relationship with her daughter.

Vietnamese superstar Veronica Ngo delivers some impressive fights even though she is not a martial artist by training. Furie is beautifully filmed with dark and neon-infused visuals, not unlike the John Wick films. Similarly, the hard-hitting fights are staged with a superb choreography that catapult Furie easily into the first tier of martial arts actioners.

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3) Chocolate (2008)

One of the two films on our list where not the mother, but mostly her child deals the damage, is another high-octane martial arts actioner with some seriously heartbreaking moments. Autistic girl Zen lives with her mother, who is suffering from cancer and is unable to pay the medical bills. Zen uses her martial arts skills to collect money from people who owe her mother from back in the days when she was a gangster bride.

The film throws a large dose of sentimentality at us, a sick mother and an an autistic child (with a from what I can tell respectful portrayal of autism in children and teenagers). Soon-after the film flips into a manic martial arts fest. Yanin Vismitananda in her debut displays some pretty awesome skills in her role as Zin as she takes up one gang after another.  Each fight is getting more violent and spectacular, with elbows and knee delivering crippling strikes. Director Prachya Pinkaew who created the Tony Jaa classics Ong-Bak and The Protector stages it all perfectly, and Chocolate is another awesome entry into Thai martial arts cinema.

2) Everly (2014)

One room, a kid, her mother and grandmother, a stack of weapons and a Yakuza army are the ingredients for this campy bloodbath by genre specialist Joe Lynch. Salma Hayek is Everly, a prostitute for the Yakuza who takes lethal revenge on some gang members. Boss Taiko wants her dead, and sends his henchmen to attack the apartment where Everly is hiding with her daughter and mother.

The film is a non-stop showdown with ultraviolent killings and demolitions, and a great variety of villains (among them assassin prostitutes, killer dogs and torture specialists). Hayek is the ultimate heroine, a ruthless killer and caring mother at the same time. Everly is absurd, crazy and gory, and it’s also a Christmas movie!

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1) The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

Our winner is one of the best 1990s actioners, and in addition to featuring a mother-child story it’s yet another film randomly set around the Christmas time. Samantha leads a happy suburbian life, but suffers from partial amnesia. When she gets hit on her head in a car accident, she is assailed by flashes of a violent past. After defending her home during a brutal home invasion and an uncanny display of knife skills she goes on a dangerous journey to protect her family.

Geena Davis is just perfect in her role, a caring mother that gradually transform into an assassin. She is supported by Samuel J. Jackson as private investigator with his usual loose mouth. Director Renny Harlin and writer Shane Black created some awesome action sequences full of destructive chaos, and the insane finale will have you jump like a pinball with excitement. The Long Kiss Goodnight is full of humor, great characters and high-octane action, the perfect film for every action fan, but especially on Mother’s Day!

Top 10 Walter Hill Action Movies

CROSSROADS, director Walter Hill, 1986, ©Columbia /

Ranking the best action movies from legendary director Walter Hill…

Walter Hill is one of the great directors of action cinema. He started to break into the genre when action films became popular, and he had a big contribution in shaping its style from the late 1970s and beyond. In this article, we have compiled a list of his 10 best action films. Every single film on this list is a classic in it’s own right, but as it’s a ranking, we need to put some numbers to them according to our taste, so here we go!

10) Undisputed (2002)


Undisputed is an unpretentious action drama, and the last film Hill made until now that can be recommended without reservations. Monroe Hutchens  (Wesley Snipes) is the uncontested boxing champion of Sweetwater prison, and when former world heavyweight boxing champion George Chamber (Ving Rhames) is transferred there, mobster and bookie Ripstein arranges for a fight between the two. Hill paints prison life as a romanticized microcosm, and the usual cruelties we often see in this type of films are absent.

There are no surprises, every scene serves its purpose of laying out the path towards the inevitable showdown between Snipes and Rhames, and both of them nail their antipodal characters perfectly. The film features a few brawls, but we need to be patient until the big fight, which is a fine piece of boxing action. Undisputed never rises to the dramatic heights of Rocky vs. Drago, but still is an entertaining journey into the prison boxing world.

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9) Last Man Standing (1996)

Hill’s remake of the classics Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars places the story of a drifter (Bruce Willis) exploiting two rivaling gangs into a deserted town at the Texan-Mexican border during the prohibition era. Willis is perfect as the laconic man with no name (John Smith), and the film impresses with a desolate mood. Hill creates a world without rules that is inhabited by violent and greedy idiots who are armed to the teeth.

The fantastic action sequences may be a nod to John Woo with people being perforated with bullets, and copious amounts of blood painting the sand deep red. This is only speculation, but maybe Woo himself may have drawn some inspiration from Hill’s early classics that were full of bloody shootouts, so we could be coming full circle here. Last Man Standing is a bit hard to enjoy occasionally due to its depressing vibe and repulsive characters, but it is an explosive action thriller for sure!

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8) The Warriors (1979)

This action fairly tale is an iconic genre entry of the late 1970s that has become of a cult flick for many people. In New York the night is owned by the gangs. After the leader of the most powerful gang is murdered, the Warriors are accused, and every other gang in the city goes after them. Hill creates a pervasive dark atmosphere mixed with a comical vibe as the colorful gangs light up the night, and infuses his film with the raw and sometimes destructive energy of adolescents.

There’s plenty of violent clashes between the gangs with some intense brawling thrown onto the screen. Maybe the action is the only part of the movie that has not aged so well, but it’s all still a blast to watch, and The Warriors is one of Hill’s coolest and most energetic movies.

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7) The Driver (1978)

Every action film in the 1980s needed to have a car chase to be even halfway credible, and this tradition can be traced back to a couple of genre classics from the 1970s, among them Hill’s The Driver. Its impact on art-house actioners such as Drive and Baby Driver has been mentioned, but we will leave the discussion of its cinematic legacy to the professional critics, and judge The Driver only by its spectacle value, which is enormous!

A mysterious get-away driver is hunted by a detective who sets up a sinister scheme to capture him. Hill created a film with simple, elegant visuals that is sparse on dialogue but big on atmosphere. The car action looks terrific to this day, with relentless chases and brutal-looking crashes. The Driver has it all: classy cars, classy people and classy visuals, a perfect package.

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6) Trespass (1992)

Trespass is another mean action thriller by Hill, who took the classic trope of the hunt for a hidden treasure and placed it into a modern urban setting. Firefighters Vince and Don find a map that points to a treasure stashed away in an old factory building. They show up at the right place but at the wrong time, when they become witness to a gang execution.

The siege between the treasure hunters and the gang is on almost from the beginning. It’s a simple setup with both parties just separated between a door and a wall. And yet Hill keeps up the tension with tense verbal exchanges, shifting allegiances, and lots of action. There’s plenty of intense clashes in the confined setting, with gun battles in hallways and through doors. Thanks to Hill’s tight direction, everything falls into place nicely in Trespass, a stand-off that delivers maximum excitement!

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5) Red Heat (1988)

Rambo 3, Red Scorpion and Red Heat all came out in 1988, and the former two did not paint a benevolent picture of the Soviet Union. In the spirit of Glasnost, Red Heat balanced things out a bit, and Hill created an awesome riff on his very own masterpiece 48 Hrs. Russian police officer Ivan Danko (Arnold Schwarzenegger) sees his partner shot by drug lord Viktor Rostavili, who flees to the US and is arrested. Danko takes the journey to extradite him, but Rostavili escapes, and together with cocky cop Art Ridzik (Jim Belushi) he picks up his trail.

It’s fun to see Schwarzenegger in this role, and his charming performance is the main reason Red Heat rises above standard action fare. Every once in a while Hill throws in an action sequence with his trademark bloody shootouts, but the real gold are the exchanges between Ridzik and Danko, and a script that is poking fun at both capitalism and communism. There’s never a dull moment in Red Heat, this highly entertaining piece of 1980s buddy cop action.

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4) Southern Comfort (1981)

With Southern Comfort, Hill painted a grim picture of a Louisiana National Guard reserve squad indulging heavily in what today would be categorized as toxic masculinity. Sent on a training mission to traverse a swamp, their only concern is to get to their evening dates with some prostitutes as fast as possible. They steal some canoes from a Cajun camp to take a shortcut across a river, and become prey in a deadly hunt by the locals. The tragedy unfolds in much detail and intensity in this hobby squad of bullies.

Hill gathered a great ensemble cast, each one of them almost singling out a particular human trait, with the voice of reason regular being hooted down. A handful of intense action sequences are properly embedded into the story, and after each violent incident things only get worse for the reservists. Southern Comfort is an absurd and violent tale, and a spectacularly thrilling insight into the darker aspects of the human condition.

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3) Streets of Fire (1984)

This self-proclaimed “Rock’n’Roll Fable” is another timeless banger from Hill. Famous singer Ellen is abducted by the kooky Raven and his motorcycle gang. Her former boyfriend Cody is called for help, and together with Ellen’s manager Billy and army veteran McCoy they go on a music-fueled journey to rescue Ellen. Vintage cars, shotguns and rockabilly fashion are just some of the ingredients Hill throws into the mix to create one of the most unique 1980s actioners.

Dialogue is cheesy and the plot is all over the place, but Hills genuine love for film-making radiates through this film like no other from his career. He also does not forget to shine in the action department featuring plenty of cool brawls and street fights. With awesome musical interludes, a goofy charm and feel-good vibes all over, Streets of Fire is just a ton of fun!

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2) Extreme Prejudice (1987)

Testosterone, sweat and blood are the main ingredients for this epic 1980s action thriller. A border town is plagued by drug traffickers from Mexico, and a violent triangle is created between Jack Benteen (Nick Nolte) and his Texas Rangers, the drug cartel led by the charismatic Cash Bailey (Power Boothe), and an undercover government task force. Extreme Prejudice is so hard-boiled, it borders on the ridiculous.

The dialogues are chock-full of macho outpourings every manly man would want on their coffee mug. And a dream cast of character actors contributes enormously to the success of the film: Nick Nolte, Powers Boothe, Clancy Brown, Michael Ironside and William Forsythe. The action sequences are the best Hill made in his career, with iconic shootouts full of brutal and bloody violence. Extreme Prejudice is one of the meanest and most bad-ass films ever created!

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1) 48 Hrs. (1982)

The film that launched the buddy action genre and Eddie Murphy’s career is our winner, and every other buddy cop actioner owes its very existence to Hill’s opus magnum. San Francisco Detective Jack Cates (Nick Nolte) cop gets convict Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) out of jail for 48 hours to help him find escaped killer Albert Ganz. Hill and his co-writers created an ingenious recipe that was copied countless times. Two characters of fundamentally opposite character are forced to work together and complement each other in unexpected ways.

Murphy’s quips and Nolte’s constant aggravation give rise to many funny moments. Hill also inserts his trademark graphic violence with the classic suite of fights, shootouts and car chases, and every single one of them hits like a train. Hill followed up with a sequel in 1990, that turned to be just another entry in a huge wave of buddy actioners, so let’s just stick with the original!

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The Chinese Boxer: The Ultimate Blueprint for All Kung-Fu Movies

A look back at this ultimate martial arts classic from Jimmy Wang Yu…

You know what they say: they don’t make ‘em like they used to and they certainly don’t make ‘em like they do in Asia! “Jimmy” Wang Yu’s The Chinese Boxer centers on Lei Ming (Wang Yu), a young and noble martial artist. Following the murder of his master and friends at the hands of a group of karate experts, Lei Ming goes out for blood against the men responsible. Hailed as the first kung fu film, The Chinese Boxer’s influence continues to be felt to this day. Even with how intricate and complex action cinema has become, what makes The Chinese Boxer so compelling is its simplicity.

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Much like the American Western, the premise is simple: it’s a revenge flick where the good guy goes after the bad guys. Without a charismatic leading man, however, the thrills of the action sequences wouldn’t carry the weight the weight that they need to. Thankfully, Wang Yu’s performance as Lei Ming is up for the challenge. The real strength of the performance lies in Wang Yu’s ability to carry out the choreography. The film sets up Lei Ming as a young, bright-eyed student with a natural talent for kung fu and Wang Yu fits the role like a glove.

A hero is only as good as his villains and The Chinese Boxer’s  villains are instantly detestable, but delightful to watch onscreen. The mustache-twirling campiness of Lo Lieh’s Kitashima fits the film’s tone very well; it’s not overtly serious, but these aren’t villains to take lightly either. As we witness Kitashima and his crew slaughter their way through the kung fu academy, the stakes are established for Lei Ming and you fear for his safety.

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Jimmy Wang Yu’s Abilities on Full Display

Wang Yu’s abilities are on full display not only in front of the camera, but also behind it. The cinematography isn’t showy but it’s effective in visualizing all the necessary information. There’s a clear sense of geography in every set piece and the choreography moves at a fluid pace with very few cuts and edits. Modern action filmmaking seems to shy away from showing the choreography of their performers, but Wang Yu’s confidence in his actors are center stage with impeccable wide shots. There’s also a sense of space that provides a deeper immersion into the film.

This is a lean and mean film with no wasted time. The first five minutes of the film already display some exciting fight sequences, but Wang Yu also takes that time to set up the story going forward. Following the first encounter with Kitashima’s student Diao Erh, Lei Ming’s master talks to his students about the art of karate and its intent to harm and kill. The only way to defeat it is with “great agility” and “hands like iron.”As we see in the exciting training montage, Lei Ming takes his late master’s teachings to heart.

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From the fluid cinematography to the graceful choreography, the fight sequences are all memorable in their own right. The fake blood and exagerrated deaths are part of the charm of The Chinese Boxer. It’s so over-the-top that you can’t help but laugh at how much fun you’re having. Every fighter gets their chance to show off their combat skills and it results in sequences that are always fired up. There’s a mixture between hand-to-hand and swordfighting that keeps the viewer on their toes and constantly having something new to see.

The Chinese Boxer certainly deserves to be seen by every martial arts fanatic and is the blueprint for all kung fu films moving forward. The fight sequences are visceral and the cinematography captures it in all its glory. Simplicity is key here and Wang Yu’s bare bones filmmaking makes The Chinese Boxer a must-watch.

The Best Action Movie Sequels from the 1980s and 1990s

The 1980s and 1990s witnessed some of the greatest action movies of all time and these innovative films resulted in some of the best movie sequels in the genre. Some even claim that these sequels are better than the originals, but we’ll let you decide if that is true! Let’s examine some of the best action movie sequels from this period.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day was released in 1991 and is the sequel to the 1984 film The Terminator. The movie was written and directed by James Cameron and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger. The movie really set the standard for action movie sequels as it made use of new technology to set it aside from the original. The Terminator franchise used the critical acclaim of this sequel as a springboard to further success.

The franchise now includes a total of six movies as well as TV versions and various web series. We have also seen the Terminator in other forms of media such as video games like Terminator: Resistance, released in 2019 and set during the ‘Future War’ and a Terminator 2 slot game can be played at the best online casinos in Michigan. In this game, players will see famous characters like Sarah Connor, her son John Connor and the menacing T-1000. Clearly the success of the original Terminator movie and the sequel have contributed to the success of these innovative spinoffs as fans are drawn to new products featuring one of their favorite movies.

Aliens (1986)

Aliens was released in 1986 and is the sequel to the 1979 science fiction movie Alien. The movie, which was written and directed by James Cameron, saw Sigourney Weaver reprise her role as Ellen Ripley and is generally accepted to be an improvement on the original. Indeed, the movie magazine Empire dubbed Aliens the greatest movie sequel ever. The movie franchise continues to inspire reboots and innovations, with FX planning an Alien TV series.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior was released in 1981 and is the sequel to the 1979 movie Mad Max. The movie starred Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky and its reception was encapsulated in a New York Times review which said: “Never has a film’s vision of the post-nuclear-holocaust world seemed quite as desolate and as brutal, or as action-packed and sometimes as funny as in George Miller’s apocalyptic The Road Warrior, an extravagant film fantasy that looks like a sadomasochistic comic book come to life.” Director George Miller’s experience as an ER doctor gave him the inspiration for some of the more brutal scenes in the movie.

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

Another sequel starring Mel Gibson is Lethal Weapon 2, the 1989 movie is the second in the Lethal Weapon franchise following Lethal Weapon in 1987. The movie which saw Gibson star alongside Danny Glover and Joe Pesci, was the third most successful box office draw of 1989, earning $227 million worldwide, behind Batman and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Despite the success of the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, many view Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom as the better movie. The original starred Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones and won five Academy Awards in 1982, including Best Visual Effects, Best Art Direction, and Best Sound. This makes it a bold argument to suggest the sequel (or to be accurate, the prequel) ranks above it, but there are many who believe this to be true.

So, it is clear that some of the most successful movie franchises from the 1980s and 1990s have benefited from successful sequels in terms of box office revenue and critical acclaim. Arguments will continue about whether the originals or the sequels were better, but it is clear that these franchises produced some of the best movies of the genre.

Fire Down Below: Seagal’s Most Laid-Back and Last Great Movie

Steven Seagal violent plea for environmental conscience was the last — but perhaps the best — mainstream action flick of his career.

In the 1990s, Steven Seagal started to become an advocate for protection of the environment, even though what he exactly meant by that always remained a bit fuzzy. In his crazy classic On Deadly Ground he lashed out against Big Oil, and the film marked the start of an unofficial environmental-themed trilogy.

In 1997, he followed up with Fire Down Below that broached the topic of illegal dumping of toxic waste and the incapability of the Environmental Protection Agency to deal with it. So let’s check out if this violent plea for environmental conscience became another slam dunk for Sensei Seagal!

EPA agent Jack Taggert is sent to a small Kentucky town to investigate the death of a colleague and rumors about the illegal dumping of toxic waste. He goes undercover as a carpenter, befriends the locals and gets into the crosshairs of crooked industrial magnate Orin Hanner and his henchmen.

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“You are accused of dumping 4 million barrels of toxic waste 42 times in 13 different locations”

You know you’re in Kentucky when people are flaring gas in their front yard. Aside from that, the film paints a sympathetic picture of a peaceful rural community surrounded by a beautiful countryside. We get to see the benefits of a slow life, and the village could be a great place to live if it wasn’t for Orin Hanner and his goons. The chill vibe is enhanced by plenty of country music on the audio track. Six-String Seagal himself picks up the guitar in a scene at a party that rapidly escalates into a brawl with some of the more unsavory village folks, and it’s not because they didn’t like his musical performance.

All these elements give Fire Down Below a surprisingly mellow vibe. The action keeps coming at a good rate and is anything but mellow, but the film retains the impression of the most laid-back actioner Seagal has ever made. His performance is nicely in tune with the overall atmosphere, and while his Taggert still likes to patronize everyone, he dials back on the macho attitude outside of the fights significantly. When facing his adversaries, he is also in an unusually good mood almost all the time, and cracks a lot of jokes before beating everyone to a pulp. And his display of half a dozen eccentric leather jackets worn throughout the film only adds to the fun.

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Seagal’s Most Laid-Back and Last Mainstream Movie

A good supporting cast helps to further elevate the quality level, among them the late Harry Dean Stanton, Stephen Lang, and apparently half a dozen famous country musicians. Marg Helgenberger plays Taggert’s troubled love interest, and never has Seagal been more courteous to a woman on-screen than to her! Kris Kristofferson gives a great bad guy show as ruthless entrepreneur who likes to humiliate his poor son that is running the waste dump operation The sleaze level of his character is further enhanced by nice touches such as having a bedroom next to his office for his “secretary”.

All is not well in Kentucky, and Jack Taggert is keen to clean up all the chemical waste and the human scumbags. There are some signs of Seagal enjoying the good life a bit too much, as he moves a tad slower than in his previous films, and his wide jackets maybe hide the onset of some love handles. He’s still got it, though, and no squad of goons is a match for Seagal’s Taggert, who aikidos everyone into the ground who gets in his way. It’s all a bit less graphic than in classics such as Out for Justice but we still get out fair share of broken wrists, cracked noses, and shattered kneecaps. And watch out for the physics-defying move where he takes out three baddies with a single kick to their groins! 

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“I will show you a new meaning to the word violation”

Apart from the numerous fights, there’s a nice variety of other action-packed scenes. Production values are excellent, and part of the sizable budget was reserved for pyrotechnics. The two largest set pieces, a shootout in a cave in the midst of fluorescent toxic waste and a car chase, are actually the weakest parts of the film. Both of them are somewhat sloppily filmed even though their destructive conclusions are ultimately satisfying.

Fire Down Below stands out from Seagal’s filmography with lots of firsts (and lasts). A laid-back vibe, an ecological message, the beautiful landscape of Kentucky and country music are mixed with a big chunk of kick-ass action, and it all works like a charm! It’s a fun flick from beginning to end, and unfortunately was Seagal’s last truly awesome film before he started his descent into the realm of DTV actioners.

Is Indiana Jones The Most Influential Action Hero Ever?

When Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark landed on cinema screens in 1981, it forever changed the world of action-adventure films.

Harrison Ford was already a big star thanks to his role as Han Solo, but he took center stage in Steven Spielberg’s epic. Viewers were glued to the screen as Indy ran, jumped, and fought his way to the film’s conclusion, setting off a chain of canonical events still producing films, but a chain of real-life events that saw hundreds of imitations spring up across digital media.

There’s no denying that without Indiana Jones, there would probably not be a Lara Croft. The fantastic Tomb Raider character first appeared on home consoles as early as 1996 and has since become an action hero in her own right, but the stories and themes borrow heavily from the Indiana Jones series. That’s only the tip of the iceberg, particularly in video gaming, where Indy has become so aped, copied and mimicked, he has almost created his own game genre!

Some characters are loosely based on Indy, the first being Rick Dangerous. Interestingly, Rick Dangerous was a game developed for Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari St and that era of home computers, but it came from Core Design, who were also behind the original Lara Croft. The similarities here are striking; Rick Dangerous, the star of the game, travels to the Amazon Jungle to search for a lost tribe. His plane crashes, and he has to outrun a boulder to survive; it’s a game bordering on copyright infringement as it’s so heavily laden with Indy themes and plots.

Rick Dangerous came out in 1989, and there was a sequel, Rick Dangerous 2, and it seemed they tried to shed the Indy vibe; his iconic hat was even blown off in the game’s opening sequence. Still, six years later, Core Designs had refined the idea of a tomb raiding hero with Tomb Raider.

It isn’t just direct platform games that we see the Indiana Jones inspiration either. A visit to the Gala Bingo range of online slots reveals a game called Book of the Fallen, featuring a character who looks suspiciously similar to Indiana Jones. It isn’t the only title from the provider that leans on themes from the film either; Book of Ra Temple of Gold has a similar character, albeit female, wearing Indy’s iconic hat. Elsewhere on mobile devices, titles such as Temple Run lean heavily on themes thrown up in the Indy films, as does the recent release Secrets of the Temple.

Some games make no apology for their Indy influence. La-Mulana, from 2005, was developed for the Wii, PC, Mac, Linux and PlayStation Vita but was designed to feel like a platform game from the time of the Indy films. There’s a definite Indy clone on the cover with that recognizable hat. The game was a huge hit, to such an extent that Destructoid revealed a sequel was crowdfunded and released to a waiting audience.

We could go on and on. Spelunky, another platform game, featured a protagonist with a whip exploring caves full of enemies. Flight of the Amazon Queen was set just after World War II and featured a protagonist afraid of snakes. Pitfall, released on Atari 2600 in 1982, clearly sought to cash in on the film’s success before licensing became such a thing. There have even been direct interpretations such as Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures. In fact, the only action film of the era that is likely to compare is Star Wars, again featuring Harrison Ford.

Most action movies do influence video games; everything from Die Hard to Lethal Weapon has had a video game, and the influence of some films can be seen in games such as Grand Theft Auto. However, it seems unlikely that any action movie has had the same cultural impact or lasting effect as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The A-Team: Perfect Kick-Ass Family Entertainment

It doesn’t get more wholesome than kick-ass 80s action nostalgia!

If you were a kid in the 1980s, and love old-school action movies up to this day, chances are you were sitting in front of your TV every time The A-Team was on. This eccentric quartet of rogue mercenaries led by the cigar-smoking Hannibal Smith was a guarantor for kid-friendly action with cool car stunts, shootouts and explosions where miraculously no one ever died or even got seriously hurt. Director and action specialist Joe Carnahan took up the challenge to recast the original template into a feature film. I remember I had a blast watching The A-Team when it was released in 2010, and I will already say I still enjoyed it a lot during my recent re-watch. So let’s jump in and see if Carnahan’s plan came together!

Hannibal, Face, B.A. and Murdoch are the A-Team, an elite US Army Rangers unit specializing in the most difficult covert operations. During the second Iraq war, they go on another secret mission to retrieve a stolen suitcase of US dollar printing plates in Baghdad. The operation turns out be a setup, and the four are locked up for the alleged murder of a high-ranking US military officer. Their escape from prison is the beginning of a wild adventure to prove their innocence and bring the bad guys to justice.

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A High-Octane Revival of the Classic TV Series

Several classic TV series have been given a modern treatment, with The Fugitive (and more recently The Equalizer) still being the gold standard for a successful movie adaptation. The A-Team was part of a small wave in the 2000s with other series such as Starsky & Hutch, 21 Jump Street and The Dukes of Hazzard also getting converted for the big screen. Those three didn’t really know what to do with their source material, and became comedy flicks bordering on spoofs.

The A-Team fortunately takes a different route with Carnahan and his writers showing great respect for the original show, and embracing its ridiculousness without ridiculing it. The cheesy dialogues are upgraded appropriately with lots of witty lines and irony. Many familiar elements are back, such as B.A.’s legendary van, the physics-defying tinkering, and even two fun cameos from the old cast. It’s more than just a fan service, though, Carnahan weaves it all together masterfully, and the film moves at a frantic pace.  The A-Team came out in the same year as The Expendables, and – please forgive me for saying that – our four rogue operatives are actually a more fun bunch than Stallone’s all-star ensemble.

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Embracing the Ridiculousness of the Original without Ridiculing it

DF-13961r (left to right) Bradley Cooper as Templeton “Face” Peck, Sharlto Copley as H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock, UFC light heavyweight Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as B.A. Baracas, and Liam Neeson as Col Hannibal Smith in The A-Team.

There’s Liam Neeson as the authoritative and strategizing Hannibal Smith, who is complemented by his confidant Face (Bradley Cooper), bon vivant and womanizer. The other Duo Infernale is formed by Quinton Jackson as the brawler B.A. Baracus with a serious fear of flying, and Sharlto Copley as unhinged master pilot Murdoch, who indulge in a terrific love-hate relationship.

Every single of them does a fantastic job in bringing their characters to life. Their on-screen chemistry is awesome, the dialogues are full of funny banter and awesome one-liners. From the rest of the cast Patrick Wilson stands out as arrogant and cunning CIA agent, and Jessica Biel as military investigator trying to capture the fugitives. She is pretty is awesome in her own way with a totally hard-ass and unironic performance that stands out from all the craziness that is going on around her.

A lot of fun is also to be had with the action sequences. The opening sets the stage with plenty of firepower and pyrotechnics as well as introducing us to the characters and their quirks. Carnahan cranks the level of mayhem up quite a bit from the TV series with bigger explosions, heavier shootouts, and more cars being demolished. And while no one is getting killed visibly on-screen, it slightly violates the spirit of the original by implying that a few people are actually killed in the proceedings.

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“We can get this done, minus all the bloodshed!”

But it’s not a big deal, and with tanks flying through the air and our heroes having a firefight while hanging on the outside of a skyscraper, it’s all a blast to watch! And while the action rocks, it is edited a bit choppy occasionally (that was still a thing in 2010). The big finale also unnecessarily goes a bit over the top with the CGI-laden demolition of a container ship.

The A-Team was not a box office success so we never got the chance for another adventure beyond this origin story. But it was another testimonial to Carnahan’s talent, who would go on to become a trademark name in the action genre to this day. And we can be grateful to him and his crew for creating an easygoing and fun actioner that ranks high on the list of TV shows turned into films. It’s also perfect family entertainment for every family who appreciates a kick-ass action movie.