CLOSE RANGE (2015)
There are a few solid newer names in the action genre that despite any other failings of the film, are always a joy to watch.
Names like Michael Jai White (Where is my sequel to BLOOD AND BONE??!!!), Tony Jaa, Markor Zaror (of REDEEMER fame, a great, if flawed, action flick, with a middle fight that stands out as one of the best of the decade), IKO UWAIS (RAID 2 fame) Lateef Crowder Dos Santos, Gary Daniels.
And of course… Scott Adkins.
He has been acting since 1998, but arguably it is 2005’s UNLEASHED opposite Jet Li, and 2006’s UNDISPUTED 2 opposite Michael Jai White that really made him a sought after action actor. He followed those movies up with increasingly higher profile films to include UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF REDEMPTION (directed by the impressive 2nd generation director, John Hyams) and EXPENDABLES 2. And he has become a solid and prolific actor in the action genre/VOD market, doing 4 films in 2015 and working on 7 movies in 2016. Now his choices of film are not always the best, but he is always a solid positive in any film he is in.
It is an upward trajectory to take note of, and along with his aforementioned contemporaries, White, Jaa, and Zaror; these men are the natural heirs to the late 20th century generation of Steven Seagal, Jean Claude Van Dam, Jacky Chan, Jet Li, Chuck Norris. They just do it largely in the fragmented world of VOD.
This review is on one of those VOD works, 2015’s CLOSE RANGE, in which Adkins teams again with director and fellow martial artist Isaac Florentine.
UNDISPUTED 2 was also the movie to put Isaac Florentine on most peoples radar, and was his first collaboration with Scott Adkins. And like other directors who found their muse in front of the camera, such as John Ford and John Wayne, John Woo and Chow Youn Fat, Martin Scorsese and Robert Dinero, Spike Lee and Denzell Washington, Tony Scott and Denzell Washington, Florentine definitely found Adkins to be that pairing for him, as the two have worked on (as of this writing) five movies together. And while their movies have been of varying quality, I would Say UNDISPUTED 2 being by a great margin, their best film (in no small part due to Michael Jai White) followed by this film CLOSE RANGE.
Isaac Florentine continues to improve as a director and storyteller, and for the most part CLOSE RANGE shows this off. From the exciting pre-credit onwards, it is a solidly entertaining film.
Among the entertaining items in this film is another unexpected mini-credit sequence for the bad guys, as they drive toward their reckoning. It’s quite charming.
Speaking of bad guys, Jeremy Marinas who stars as Cruz, is the Fight Choreographer of the film, and in both roles he does an exceptional job. His brawl with Scott Adkins being the highlight of the film. Which does make the remainder of the film a bit anti-climatic. He is definitely someone to watch as both actor and Choreographer.
And Director Isaac Florentine shows flashes of inspiration in this film, showing innovative ways to keep fresh an old genre.
CLOSE RANGE is very much an action/western hybrid. Channeling Leone in its use of closeup and stare-off, of making landscapes of faces, while it never rises to Leone heights, it is a darn entertaining action film. It does become a bit repetitive toward the end. Florentine draws out some scenes too long, particularly the final standoff, to the point of self-parody (the problem I had with all of UNDISPUTED 3 , it played more as a parody than a serious film). But these missteps aside overall a very entertaining flick. Grade: B-/B.