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.
UNA NOCHE – A lushly photographed look at young Cuba prior to the return of Capitalism. While many extol the economic virtues of Capitalism’s return, including one of the protagonists of this film seeking to escape Cuba for Miami, I think this film shows you (as background, not main story)the fragile multicultural stew and unity that Cuba has managed, and that will arguably be lost when Capitalism/Colonialism returns.
Shorn of the 60 year old blockade, Cuba will be able to get new cars, and new technology, and new infrastructure, but that comes at a very steep, and very historic price. It comes at the price of also accepting America’s and Capitalism preferred vices, of rule by division, and stratification based on color, and loss of cultural and local and familial touchstones and interdependence.
Cuba of the coming dawn, is poised to trade its minor corruption of getting a radio or tv, for the big time corruption of gentrification and rule by corporations. This debut film by Lucy Mulloy is a wonderful slice of Cuban Neo-Realism, and in its way as interesting as its Italian neo-realist forbears, such as the brilliant ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS.
Get both movies here:
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10 BEST ACTION FILMS on AMAZON PRIME – These are films you’ll come back to, and deserving of buying on DVD or BluRay to have, so you don’t have to rely on a streaming channel, or an ISP, or broadband speeds, to watch them. These are films that you want to have access to, whether or not streaming services go out of business. So watch them for free today courtesy of Amazon Prime, but buy them for their special features, best quality, and posterity.
I AM SOLDIER – Ronnie Thompson with only his 2nd feature film writes and directs this film on the British Elite Fighting Force – the SAS. The film comes off as a love letter, recruitment film for the SAS, but it also comes off as a very good film. The cast is across the board excellent, with Tom Huges being the audience’s entry into this world. Noel Clarke is also excellent in this film, showing the gravitas of that Shakespearean training that was wasted for so many years in his television work. All in all an excellent movie that kept me riveted. Unfortunately there is currently not a decent DVD or Blu-Ray of this film available (By decent I mean that, at a minimum, it would need director’s commentary). So at this time you’ll need to just catch it on streaming till a suitable DVD or Blu-Ray arrives.
– This film starts slow but builds into a FANTASTIC film. If you like NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, you will love THE ARROYO! Unfortunately the DVD is nearly sold out, and the studio seems to be pushing just the streaming option, so when it is gone, it is gone. My suggestion, if you want this movie in a non Internet dependent format… get it now. Best of luck!
The DVD comes with special feature including Director’s Commentary. Great flick!
ANOTHER ZERO IN THE SYSTEM
INK – More fantasy than action, Jamin Winans has two films on Amazon Prime and they are both excellent. He is one of these new breed of festival and VOD directors that are building a name strictly on the amazing content they produce for streaming channels.
EXPENDABLES 3 – While not as good as the first I really enjoyed this film and it was far better than the second one. Director Patrick Hughes managing to juggle massive stars, action, exposition, moments of pathos, and humor all effectively.
BRONSON – More Drama than Action, Nicolas Winding Refn continues to make the most interesting films about Men that are both shaped and shapers of violence, and the oft surreal worlds they inhabit.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS – Obviously more Sci-Fi than Action, however there is no denying the Action is awesome. Just a great film across the board.
6 AVERAGE ACTION FILMS – One Watch is enough
13 POOR, INEPT FILMS ON AMAZON PRIME – I wasted my time trying these, don’t waste yours. Not even worth one complete watch. Movies so bad they should be removed from Amazon to make room for something better
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Join us next time for more of the Great, the Good, and the Inept! 🙂 And if so inclined, please use any attached links as they point you to the recommended versions of these films to order. The DVDs or Blu-Rays with the best commentary, or special features, or picture. I do the research so you can spend more time watching quality movies. Enjoy!
THE LAST TEN- I love short films for the same reason I love short stories, at their best they can deliver a pure moment, unhampered by filler or setup or dressing or fluff, and therefore a memorable moment to the core of us, in a way which only the most masterful feature films can equal.
Dickens was by far the more lauded author of his day, but it is the short fiction of his contemporaries Doyle and the American Poe which remains the mainstay of our cultural obsession to this day. And it is because of their short fiction’s power to completely live in us and be remembered by us, in their entirety; and the very nature of this construction is one of icon-ism rather than specif-ism.
Therefore the characters are ever very personal and close and fleshed out by us; are as part of their brevity ever ruminations on us. Indeed, even Dickens, who while the writer of many long form works, made his livelihood in the serialized market, and arguably his most beloved work, is his short form A CHRISTMAS CAROL, more novelette than novel.
When done well, a short film in a minute or two minutes or five minutes, or in this case under 14 minutes, can present a beginning, middle, and ending that almost all live completely on this razor edge of climax, and satisfy you before your attention wanes.
David Higgs’ THE LAST TEN is short film done as well as it can be done. A premise Hitchcock would have adored, a locked off camera, a single location, and creeping dread. I went into the film knowing nothing about it, as i suggest to you, and was blown away. Writer/Director/Producer David Higgs along with Cinematographer Nicole Heiniger in under 14 minutes creates one of my favorite short films with a haunting final shot.
You can view it courtesy of the Roku channel VIMEO. We all know short fiction is oft seen as a stepping stone to feature film, but the truth is they are two distinct animals. Clive Barker’s short fiction is miles ahead of his long form fiction. If THE LAST TEN is anything to go by, David Higgs is a fantastic short film maker, and I for one would love to see more films by him. At least enough that he could put out a DVD or Blu-Ray complete with special features and monetize some of his excellent work.
Last word on THE LAST TEN? HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. A+.
Pick up the following books if you enjoyed this post and are a fan of what it covers:
Edgar Allan Poe Annotated and Illustrated Entire Stories and Poems
– There are tons of Edgar Allen Poe collections, but only a few sport illustrations by the great Gustave Dore and only one is this affordable. Get the hardcover version while you can.
Major Works of Charles Dickens (Great Expectations / Hard Times / Oliver Twist / A Christmas Carol / Bleak House / A Tale of Two Cities)
-six of his works in this exclusive and sumptuous boxed set of lavish, clothbound editions, designed by Penguin’s own award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith. Part of Penguin’s beautiful hardback Clothbound Classics series, designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith, these delectable and collectible editions are bound in high-quality colourful, tactile cloth with foil stamped into the design.