• Flesh+Blood (1985)

    Historical action thriller Flesh+Blood by renowned director Paul Verhoeven and acting legend Rutger Hauer was indexed for decades in Germany for its portrayal of violent fights and gang rape scenes. Germans rather prefer slow-paced thrillers in depressive settings. The movie got finally released six years ago and is now available in its original and intended form.

    Flesh+Blood takes place in 1501 and follows charismatic mercenary Martin, played by a very cool Rutger Hauer. His ruthless gang gets betrayed by a nobleman who hired them to conquer a walled city. The gang gets its revenge by kidnapping the fiancee of the nobleman's intellectual son and takes refuge in a castle. The intellectual young man uses his inventions and hires his father's former commander to confront the gang of mercenaries and prostitutes.

    Flesh+Blood is unlike most movies portraying the Middle Ages and Renaissance. There are no heroes to be seen in this movie. Everything looks decayed, dirty and muddy. The characters are superstitious, opportunistic and mean. An innocent nun gets critically injured and is then forced to work as a farmer. A young fiancee gets raped by a gang of thugs and falls for the leader. We meet a dying child suffering from the plague whose entire family gets murdered. We see a young girl who was raped by bandits at the age of twelve and got her tongue cut out. A sick dog gets shot and cut into pieces to be used to poison people. If you are looking for charming princes and innocent princesses, you've got it all wrong. There isn't anything romantic about this movie.

    The story might be simplistic but the movie remains intense despite a long running time thanks to its shockingly realistic portrayal of the past, a selection of nasty characters and a mixture of violent action scenes and pornographic elements. Flesh and Blood is actually a euphemism for sex and violence. This type of movie certainly isn't for everyone and shouldn't be watched by children or even teenagers. A movie like this couldn't be made anymore nowadays due to its portrayal of sexual abuse. However, the movie is very unique, very realistic and very entertaining. Flesh+Blood has stood the test of time as its intended impact is as intense nowadays as it was three and a half decades ago upon its release. It remains one of both Rutger Hauer's and Paul Verhoeven's greatest movies and also features a memorable performance by a very young and very nude Jennifer Jason Leigh.

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  • Double Team (1997)

    Double Team is a movie that has as many flaws as strengths.

    To start on a positive note, this explosive action movie is entertaining, fast-paced and relentless from start to finish. The chases, fights and special effects are executed with care by experienced director Tsui Hark. The characters are equally colourful and especially an expressive Dennis Rodman is quite controversial and will either be adored or hated by viewers. The locations are also flamboyant and lead us from France over Belgium to Italy and from secret islands to famous sights. The movie includes numerous nods to popular series and films, for example the hidden island which was clearly inspired by television series The Prisoner.

    The movie though also has numerous flaws. The story is very flat and one sometimes wonders why the numerous characters are fighting one another at all. Despite some big names on screen, the acting performances lack depth, precision and talent as Mickey Rourke fails to play a captivating villain and lead actor Jean-Claude van Damme doesn't seem to have any emotional facial expressions. The movie also has so many goofs that it's almost ridiculous. There are especially numerous continuity errors. Dennis Rodman's hair style seems to change in every single scene.

    In the end, Double Team is a dynamic, entertaining and unpretentious action movie that looks still decent more than two decades after its release. Its acting performances, numerous goofs and shallow plot prevent it from being recommendable to anyone but genre fans looking for a wild but brainless ride.

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  • Crawl (2019)

    Alexandre Aja's Crawl certainly is no spectacular movie but it's entertaining and gets to the point.

    At the very beginning, I wasn't too sure about that. The viewers get introduced to a young competitive swimmer who has a slightly strained relationship with her sister. She also has taken some distance from her father after her parents' divorce. We are also introduced to a police officer who seems to know her sister and her rather well. None of these plot elements are significantly going to be picked up again and only serve to quickly introduce the charactets and the plot in less than ten minutes.

    What follows is a fight for survival as the competitive swimmer tries to save her father from the basement of their family home as a hurricane intensifies and alligators roam the area.

    The special effects are surprisingly solid, the pace keeps going until the very last minute and the action scenes are rather realistic. Classifying this movie as a horror film would be inappropriate since there are only very few scary scenes. This is a fast-paced survival action flick.

    The movie also made me think about the Sunshine State and why anyone would live there. Florida is regularly hit by natural catastrophes, dangerous animals roam the state, there are numerous serial killer cases, there are thousands of noisy tourists around all year long and the state voted for Donald Trump during the last Presidential election.

    To keep it short, Crawl is an entertaining survival action film that grips you while it lasts but ultimately fails to leave a deeper impression. It's a good movie to watch at the cinema on a lazy night.

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  • John Wick: Chapter Three - Parabellum (2019)

    John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is the most spectacular film of the franchise that will obviously carry on beyond this movie. It shows how the hunter has become the hunted as professional hitman John Wick gets chased around the globe and must reconcile with allies from the past to save his life. The story gets some more depth towards the end as a web of conspiracies, intrigues and lies unfolds and offers a few minor surprises and twists.

    The action sequences are even grittier than in the two convincing prequels. The body count in the first fifteen minutes alone is very elevated and will keep the audience on the edge of its seats. The characters don't only use weapons like pistols and daggers but also martial arts techniques inspired buy jiu-jitsu and judo in particular. Other memorable action scenes include a fast-paced escape on a horse, a motorcycle chase and the final scene on a rooftop. Let's also point out that two dogs have some quite remarkable appearances in this film that can be considered highlights of the franchise.

    The locations are also quite intriguing this time around. Aside of locations familiar from the first two films, we discover a Russian theater linked to John Wick's past, an elegant skyscraper made of glass and the city of Casablanca in Morocco as well as the nearby desert. The combination of stunning action scenes, beautiful locations and a few plot twists keep the film entertaining from start to finish.

    In the action film genre, the John Wick franchise is the best thing you could watch these days. This is what the Expandables franchise should have become like as Keanu Reeves faces some prolific actors of the action film genre like Marc Dacascos and Yayan Ruhian. If you analyze the fascinating universe the three movies of the franchise have put together, the sum can even be considered greater than its parts. The only reason why this movie doesn't get a higher rating is because it remains very formulaic, predictable and traditional beyond its entertaining values.

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  • Cold Pursuit (2019)

    Cold Pursuit is a remake of the Norwegian movie In Order of Disappearance. While I usually dislike Hollywood remakes, this film is a quite positive surprise.

    The director of the original movie was also given the chance to direct the remake and it is obvious that he has put all his creativity, heart and soul into this project.

    The locations have changed from Norway to the United States of America but manage to be quite similar since the film takes place in the wondrous winter landscapes of Denver and Kehoe in Colorado.

    The lead character seems to be a perfect role for Liam Neeson who plays yet again a quiet family father with a thirst for revenge. He stars alongside other great actresses and actors like a particularly emotional Laura Dern and a versatile Tom Bateman who incarnates an unpredictable psychopath.

    The conflict between arrogant white drug dealers from the big city of Denver and calmer yet equally deadly First Nation members from the remote winter resort of Kehoe adds some depth to the movie in form of a socio-critical undertone that shows how white men have mistreated First Nations for centuries.

    Cold Pursuit also convinces with a shot of black humour and even some situation comedy. The former can be witnessed in form of the names of deceased characters that appear on screen during the movie and in the credits to pay homage to the title of the original film. The latter is exemplified by the memorable performance of Elizabeth Thai who plays a particularly angry, domineering and headstrong wife who overprotects her husband.

    The movie only has a few minor negative elements which are related to the plot. It seems unlikely that the leader of a drug cartel kills the son of a long-term associate but potentially dangerous opponent based on a few vague assumptions. The fact that the lead character kidnaps the son of the drug cartel leader and carelessly drives around with him is also a headscratcher. The fact that the final confrontation is poorly prepared by the lead character despite his murderous objectives is also surprising to say the least.

    If you are able to ignore some strange plot twists and at times illogical character development, you will enjoy a gritty tale of revenge with excellent actresses and actors, equally enchanting and sinister locations and a particularly elevated death count. Even by Liam Neeson's gloomy standards, this is one of his most brutal films ever and certainly not a movie for the whole family. Cold Pursuit is the movie to watch during this harsh winter season.

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