Nighthawks (1981, directed by Bruce Malmuth)


DaSilva (Sylvester Stallone) and Fox (Billy Dee Williams) are two tough New York cops who just want to be left alone so that they can arrest muggers and purse snatchers.  However, because they both have a background in the military, they are assigned to work with an international anti-terrorism task force that is being headed up by Detective Inspector Peter Hartman (Nigel Davenport).  Rumor has it that the notorious terrorist Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer) is coming to New York and Hartman tells DaSilva and Fox that they must be prepared to do whatever is necessary to take Wulgar down, even if it means taking a shot while he is hiding behind a hostage.  DaSilva says he’s not sure that he could shoot an innocent person, even if it meant stopping Wulfgar from escaping.

Wulfgar has no such moral qualms.  Wulfgar is a terrorist-for-hire who claims to be fighting for the people but whose main interest is remaining employable.  Unfortunately, Wulfgar has become so ruthless and so cavalier about killing civilians (including children) that most terrorist groups have started to refuse to hire him.  He brings too much bad publicity to his employers.  Wulfgar has come to New York to lead a bombing campaign, with the hope of once again making himself employable.  Wulfgar’s partner in all of this is the equally ruthless Shakka Kapoor (Persis Khambatta).

Nighthawks was one of the films that Stallone made after he found stardom as Rocky but before he redefined his career by playing John Rambo.  Stallone actually gives a surprisingly good performance as DaSilva.  DaSilva may be another tough cop who plays by his own rules but the script still gives the character some unexpected shadings and Stallone plays him as being more cerebral than you might expect.  It’s interesting to see Stallone play a character who is worried about using excessive force to do his job and, to the film’s credit, it actually takes DaSilva’s conflicted feelings seriously.  Billy Dee Williams, unfortunately, is not given as much to do as Stallone and his character is far more one-note than Stallone’s.  He’s the loyal partner and, with his natural charisma, Williams deserved a role with more depth.  Also appearing in small roles are Joe Spinell (as Stallone’s boss), Lindsay Wagner (as Stallone’s ex-wife), and the legendary pornographic actor Jamie Gillis (as Wagner’s boss).

Not surprisingly, the film is stolen by Rutger Hauer, who gives a performance that, in many ways, anticipates his more acclaimed work in Blade Runner.  As played by Hauer, Wulfgar is a charismatic sociopath who knows exactly the right thing to say but who, because of his own arrogance, is still vulnerable to allowing his emotions to get the better of him.  He and Stallone both play-off each other well and their face-to-face confrontations are intense.  It probably helped that Hauer and Stallone did not personally get along during the filming.  (Both, however, were very complimentary towards each other in the years that followed Nighthawks, with Hauer especially saying that there was nothing personal about their on-set arguments.)

Nighthawks is hardly an in-depth look at the realities of international terrorism but it has a handful of exciting action scenes and two excellent performances from Stallone and Hauer.  It’s currently on Netflix and worth watching.

Cinemax Friday: Blast (1997, directed by Albert Pyun)


Blast opens with a title card telling us that what we’re about to see is based on a true story except that it’s not.  In the days leading up to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the FBI thwarted many potential terrorist plots.  Only one of the plots was a domestic terror plot.  Blast is the story of what would have happened if that plot had not been disrupted.

(What about Eric Rudolph and the Olympic Park bombing?  That’s not mentioned, probably because this film went into production before the Atlanta Olympics actually began.)

Omodo (Andrew Divoff of Wishmaster fame) is a terrorist who does evil things because he’s evil.  He and his group have taken the American Olympic swim team and their coach, Diane Colton (Kimberly Warren), hostage in an Atlanta gym.  They’re demanding money and an opportunity to escape.  The police (led by Tim Thomerson) don’t know what to do.  The FBI (represented by Rutger Hauer with braided hair) are not much help either.  Fortunately, the gym’s janitor, Jack Bryant (Linden Ashby), is a former Olympic gymnast who is a master of Tae Kwon Do!  Jack also happens to be Diane’s ex-husband!

Blast comes from us the time when every action movie was a blatant rip-off of Die Hard and we were all cool with that because Die Hard was so awesome that it deserved to be remade a thousand times.  Blast is more of the usual.  Jack sneaks around the facility, defuses bombs, and picks the terrorists off.  Omodo kills two hostages in cold blood.  Shannon Elizabeth of American Pie fame plays one of the hostages but she doesn’t get many lines beyond, “Help us!”  Why does Rutger Hauer have his hair in braids?  Because he was Rutger Hauer and everyone was probably so happy to have him on set for a few hours that they were willing to let him do whatever he wanted to do with his hair.  Rutger Hauer only gets about five minutes of screentime but he makes the most of them.

Lindsen Ashby is convincing in the fight scenes but I think the movie would have been better if he had just been an ordinary janitor, instead of a Tae Kwon Do supstar who has fallen on hard times.  That would have added some suspense to the story because, as it is, Jack is so obviously superior to his opponents that there’s never really any question as to whether or not he’s going to succeed.  Andrew Divoff is a good actor but his villain isn’t given any good lines and the people working for him are all pretty bland.  One of the best things about the first three Die Hard films was that the villains were just as interesting as the hero but the same cannot be said for Blast.

Blast is forgettable but still, five minutes of Rutger Hauer is better than no Rutger Hauer at all.

Cinemax Friday: Tactical Assault (1998, directed by Mark Griffiths)


War does strange things to people.

Captain Doc Holiday (Rutger Hauer!) was a damn good air force pilot until 1991.  During the Gulf War, he snapped and tried to shoot down a civilian airline that was flying over Iraqi airspace.  The only thing that stopped Holiday from committing a crime against humanity was his best friend, Capt. Lee Banning (Robert Patrick!!).  Banning fired on Holiday, shooting down his plane.  As a result, while Banning’s been moving up the ranks, Holiday has spent the last six years in an Iraqi POW camp.

By the time Holiday gets out, Banning is now a colonel and he’s married.  His wife (Isabel Glasser) is pregnant.  Banning seems to have everything he could want but he’s haunted by guilt over what happened to Holiday.  He arranges for Holiday to be assigned to his unit and tries to make amends.  Unfortunately, for Banning and his wife, Holiday holds a grudge and he’s played by Rutger Hauer so you know he’s not going to let things go anytime soon.

Is Tactical Assault worth tracking down?  It’s a low budge action movie that stars not only Robert Patrick but also Rutger Hauer so the answer should be obvious.  Of course it’s worth tracking down!  Robert Patrick and Rutger Hauer were direct-to-video film gods and putting them in the same movie is like getting the ghosts of Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, and Ralph Richardson to all star in an afterlife production of Macbeth.  Along with being convincing in action scenes, both Robert Patrick and Rutger Hauer could actually act so there’s a little more more depth to Tactical Assault than just Top Gun-style dogfights.  Of course, if all you’re looking for is Top Gun-style dogfights, Tactical Assault has got you covered.  This is a movie that understands that some things can only be settled in the sky.

Finally, the main reason you should see Tactical Assault is because it has a scene where Rutger Hauer chases Robert Patrick … in a tank!  It doesn’t get much better than that!

Scenes That I Love: The “Tears In The Rain” monologue from Blade Runner (RIP, Rutger Hauer)


I just read that Rutger Hauer passed away on July 19th.  He was 75 years old.

Though Hauer played many great roles, most people will always think of him as the replicant Roy Batty in 1982’s Blade Runner.  One of Hauer’s most memorable scenes in that film was his final monologue.  Reportedly, Hauer himself came up with this monologue on the spot, feeling that the lines in the original script didn’t do justice to either the story or his character.

Rest in peace, Rutger Hauer.  He was one of the greats.

Horror Film Review: Buffy the Vampire (dir by Fran Rubel Kuzui)


Watching this movie was such a strange experience.

Now, of course, I say that as someone who grew up watching and loving the television version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Back when Buffy was on TV, I was always aware that the character had first been introduced in a movie but every thing I read about Buffy said that the movie wasn’t worth watching.  It was a part of the official Buffy mythology that Joss Whedon was so unhappy with what was done to his original script that he pretty much ignored the film when he created the show.

So, yes, the 1992 movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer showed how Buffy first learned that she was a slayer, how she fought a bunch of vampires in Los Angeles, and how her first watcher met his end.  But still, Joss Whedon was always quick to say that the film should not be considered canonical.  Whenever anyone on the TV show mentioned anything from Buffy’s past, they were referencing Joss Whedon’s original script as opposed to the film that was eventually adapted from that script.  (For instance, on the tv series, everyone knew that Buffy’s previous school burned down.  That was from Whedon’s script.  However, 20th Century Fox balked at making a film about a cheerleader who burns down her school so, at the end of the film version, the school is still standing and romance is in the air.)  In short, the film existed but it really didn’t matter.  In fact, to be honest, it almost felt like watching the movie would somehow be a betrayal of everything that made the televisions series special.

Myself, I didn’t bother to watch the film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer until several years after the television series was canceled and, as I said at the start of the review, it was a strange experience.  The movie is full of hints of what would make the television series so memorable but none of them are really explored.  Yes, Buffy (played here by Kristy Swanson) has to balance being a teenager with being a vampire slayer but, in the film, it turns out to be surprisingly easy to do.  Buffy is just as happy to be a vampire slayer as she is to be a cheerleader.  In fact, one of the strange things about the film is just how quickly and easily Buffy accepts the idea that there are vampires feeding on her classmates and that it’s her duty to destroy them.  Buffy’s watcher is played by Donald Sutherland and the main vampire is played by Rutger Hauer, two veteran actors who could have played these roles in their sleep and who appear to do so for much of the film.  As for Buffy’s love interest, he’s a sensitive rebel named Oliver Pike (Luke Perry).  On the one hand, it’s fun to see the reversal of traditional gender roles, with Oliver frequently helpless and needing to be saved by Buffy.  On the other hand, Perry and Swanson have next to no chemistry so it’s a bit difficult to really get wrapped up in their relationship.

I know I keep coming back to this but watching the movie version of Buffy is a strange experience.  It’s not bad but it’s just not Buffy.  It’s like some sort of weird, mirror universe version of Buffy, where Buffy starts her slaying career as a senior in high school and she never really has to deal with being an outcast or anything like that.  (One gets the feeling that the movie’s Buffy wouldn’t have much to do with the Scooby Gang.  Nor would she have ever have fallen for Angel.)  Kristy Swanson gives a good performance as the film version of Buffy, though the character is not allowed to display any of the nuance or the quick wit that made the television version a role model for us all.  Again it’s not that Buffy the movie is terrible or anything like that.  It’s just not our Buffy!

Playing Catch Up With The Films of 2017: Valerian and the City Of A Thousand Planets (dir by Luc Besson)


Valerian and the City Of A Thousand Planets is another film, much like The Dark Tower and this year’s Transformers movie, that I watched in a state of total and thorough confusion.

More than once, I asked myself, “What the Hell’s going on?  Who are those people?  Why are they blowing stuff up?  Why are they shooting at each other?  Who’s fighting who?  Wait, is he a good guy or a bad guy?  Is Valerian human or alien?  WHAT’S GOING ON!?”

But I have to admit that it really didn’t bother me that Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets is an almost totally incoherent movie.  After all, Valerian is a Luc Besson film and Besson has always been a supreme stylist above all else.  That’s not to say that there’s nothing going on underneath the glossy visuals of a Besson film.  It’s just to say that Besson is one of the rare directors where the subtext is usually less interesting than what’s happening on the surface.

Take Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  It takes place in the far future, on Alpha.  Alpha used to be the International Space Station but now it’s become a floating city where the inhabitants of a thousand different planets mix and socialize.  It’s a very cosmopolitan city, one where the only disturbance comes from obnoxious human tourists who are all either extremely British or extremely American.  Now, you could argue that Besson is making the argument that Alpha is meant to represent France but, if you spend too much time doing that, you’re going to miss just how amazingly Alpha has been visualized.  It’s not just that everyone in the movie says that Alpha is home to a million different creatures.  It’s that when the film travels to Alpha, you take one look at the screen and you believe it.

The film’s plot … well, this is where it gets difficult. It gets off to a truly brilliant beginning, with an intergalactic summit that takes place while David Bowie’s Space Oddity plays in the background.  After that, the film’s visuals were so amazing that I have to admit that I was usually too busy taking it all in to pay much attention to what was actually going on.  Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevigne) are members of the special police force that has been created to protect Alpha and apparently the rest of the universe as well.  Valerian has strange dreams about a primitive race of people who live on a beach.  Laureline frets about Valerian’s recent proposal of marriage.  They’ve both been assigned to track down a creature, the last of its species, that is currently being sold in a black market.  It all links back to some secrets concerning their superior (Clive Owen) and a plot involving intergalactic refugees.

And, obviously, if you’re someone who insists on finding political subtext in every movie that you watch, there’s a lot to be found in Valerian‘s story about space refugees and government cover-ups.  But, honestly, none of that is as interesting as the effort that Besson has put into making his flamboyant universe come to life.  Valerian may be narratively incoherent but visually, it come close to proving Lucio Fulci’s theory of “absolute film.”  The plot is less important than the film’s visuals and how you, as the viewer, reacts to those visuals.  Even Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne seem to have been cast less for any acting ability they may have and more because the boyishly rugged DeHaan and the achingly pretty Delevingne both compliment the film’s visual scheme.  Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is cinematic pop art.

Movie A Day #333: Beyond Valkyrie: Dawn of the Fourth Reich (2016, directed by Claudio Fah)


The year is 1944 and a group of Germany officials and military officers, all of whom are secretly opposed to the Nazi regime, are plotting to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  A group of American and British operatives, led by Captain Evan Blackburn (Sean Patrick Flannery), have been dropped behind enemy lines.  Their mission is to protect the man who has been chosen to lead Germany after Hitler’s death but, after the assassination fails, Blackburn and his men find themselves with a new mission.  Working with a group of Russian soldiers, Blackburn tries to prevent a group of Nazis from fleeing to Argentina with a cache of stolen good.

The plot of Beyond Valkyrie is rooted in fact.  In June of 1944, Hitler was nearly assassinated by a group of high-ranking Germans who hoped to replace him with a more moderate leader.  (Historically, it’s questionable whether the majority of the conspirators were truly anti-Nazi or if they just felt that Hitler was mismanaging the war.)  At the same time, as it became evident that Germany was going to lose the war, many Nazi war criminals did escape to Argentina, where the government of Juan Peron provided them with sanctuary from prosecution.  Some of the most notorious Nazis reinvented themselves as businessmen in both South America and the Middle East.  (Others, like Klaus Barbie and Reinhard Gehlen, offered their services to any government that would accept them.)

The true story is so interesting that it’s unfortunate that Beyond Valkyrie is such a bad movie.  Basically, consider it to be Inglourious Basterds with none of Tarantino’s style or Christoph Waltz’s smiling menace.  Beyond Valkyrie is a war epic on a budget, a very low budget.  Neither the weak script nor the cheap-looking CGI does much to add authenticity to the movie.  There are a few familiar faces in the cast, though none of them are onscreen for long.  Rutger Hauer provides what little dignity Beyond Valkyrie has.  Tom Sizemore looks like he’s still recovering from the weekend.  Stephen Lang picks up his paycheck.  Sean Patrick Flanery does the best he can but he’s stuck with all the worst lines.

One final note: One of the Russian soldiers, played by Andrew Byron, is actually named Tolstoy.  I waited for Chekhov, Solzhenitsyn, and Dostoevsky to show up but they never came.