November 20th, 2012

EL GRINGO (2012) ***

Scott Adkins. The man continues to be the most underrated action star of the new millennium. Mainstream audiences got to see a glimpse of what Adkins can do in The Expendables 2 this year. But if you really want to see what he’s all about, you need to check out his DTV action films. El Gringo is Adkins’ latest flick and if you loved him as Boyka in the Undisputed movies, you’re gonna love him as El Gringo.

Adkins plays an undercover agent who narrowly survives a shootout in the middle of the Mexican desert. After walking in the blazing sun for hours, he happens upon a small town where it’s seemingly impossible for him to get a drink of water. As it turns out, the citizens have been instructed not to talk to gringos by the drug dealers who run the town. Predictably, Adkins falls for a sexy bartender and he eventually decides to help clean up the streets.

A lot of people are going to confuse this with the Mel Gibson flick Get the Gringo, just because they have the word “Gringo” in the title. That’s okay though, because they would make a great double feature. Like that film, El Gringo features some great action beats, including a terrific shootout in the streets of the town and a memorable bit involving Adkins popping out of a trunk. And since Adkins is the star, the flick contains several well done martial arts sequences as well.

However, some of the action sequences are nearly undone by a lot of needlessly amped up editing. Adkins has a potentially great fight with a henchman named “El Jefe”. It starts off just fine, but the comic timing of the fight (El Jefe stops fighting Adkins every time his hat falls off) is almost ruined by the jarring editing; not to mention the pointless whooshing and whizzing on the soundtrack that accompanies each edit. I could’ve also done without the unnecessary graphic of character names popping up every time a new character is introduced. (Dragon Eyes, the previous After Dark Action Fest movie I reviewed, also suffered from the same thing.)

That’s okay though because the overall tone of the film is quite fun. (It often feels like a pseudo-Spaghetti Western version of Quick Change.) And the running gag of Adkins trying to find a glass of water is often very funny. I also dug the cheesy post card graphic that pops up every time someone said, “Acapulco”.

Adkins gives a great leading performance. Previously, he had been playing the strong, silent types. El Gringo is a good opportunity for him to lighten things up a bit and show he can play an easy-going likeable guy. Christian Slater also provides solid support as the dirty Fed that’s on Adkins’ trail.

Sure, it has some pretty bad editing (and runs on about ten minutes longer than it probably should), but El Gringo is a lot better than the usual DTV action fare. There are enough ingeniously staged action sequences here to make El Gringo worth the plunge. If anything, it’s further proof that Scott Adkins is the real deal.

IT CAME FROM THE THRIFT STORE: SNAKE EATER 3… HIS LAW (1992) ***

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Trailers: K2, Trancers 3, and Time Out: The Truth about HIV, AIDS, and You starring Arsenio Hall and Magic Johnson.

I’m a big fan of the original Snake Eater starring Lorenzo Lamas, but somehow I missed Snake Eater 2. I’ll have to check it out some time. If it’s as good as this one, Lorenzo will be three for three in the Snake Eater department.

Before I begin though, I have to point out that “…His Law” might be the greatest subtitle for a sequel ever. It’s right up there with Electric Boogaloo. Any time you’ve got ellipses in your title, you’re winning in my book. I have a feeling the filmmakers wanted to call it Snake Eater 3: There’s Only One Law… His Law, but they probably decided all of that wouldn’t fit on the marquee.

Soldier Kelly (Lorenzo Lamas) is back. About five minutes into the movie, he gets kicked off the police force. He then gets hired by an old couple to find the bikers who gang raped their daughter and gave her a laundry list of STDs. Solider then teams up with a private investigator named “Cowboy” (so named because of his penchant for wearing cowboy hats) to take down the bikers.

Snake Eater 3: …His Law gets things kicked off with a great opening scene where Soldier foils a diner robbery. It’s not as hilarious as the stakeout scene from the first film, but it’s still pretty badass. Once again, Lorenzo Lamas brings his patented charm to the role of Soldier Kelly. He has an awesome scene in a bar where he mops the floor with some bikers. But Lamas is just as effective in the quieter scenes in the film, like when he tries to unzip his girlfriend’s jumpsuit.

The film has its share of lulls in between the good stuff, but no more than the first flick had. Snake Eater 3 is at its best whenever Lamas is squaring off against the late pro wrestler Scott “Bam Bam” Bigelow, who plays a biker named “Goose”. I won’t spoil his death scene, but it is one of the most inventive deaths I’ve seen in a long time.

Bottom Line: I gotta get off my ass and check out Part 2!

Next week’s movie: Jack Palance in Portrait of a Hitman.

TOP LINE (1988) **

Italy has made some terrible movies throughout the course of their cinematic history. Top Line is not the worst movie to come from that country, but it is certainly the most boring. Seriously folks, I fell asleep on this movie three goddamn times before the halfway mark; a Video Vacuum record. But I’m glad I gave this movie a fourth shot because it actually gets pretty nutty near the end.

Franco Nero stars as an alcoholic writer on vacation. He discovers the wreckage of a UFO and the government tries to shut him up. Nero never dreams just how vast the elaborate cover-up is.

I like Franco Nero as much as the next guy, but even his presence is unable to save this stinker. The pacing for the first hour or so is nonexistent and whenever something does happen, it’s usually pretty lame. (Example: The awful car chase where Nero gives his pursuers the slip by throwing eggs at them.) During the first 75 minutes of the movie, the only thing worth a damn is George Kennedy, but that’s only because his familiar gruff voice has been replaced and dubbed by in somebody else.

Top Line is bottom of the barrel in just about every way until it introduces a killer cyborg into the mix at the 11th hour. And naturally, before long, half of his face is missing just so you know the people who made this movie are James Cameron fans. But that’s not even the best part though. That comes when the cyborg gets gored by a charging bull! It’s also pretty funny to see Franco Nero’s wife turn into a slime monster in the end too. Ultimately, Top Line isn’t a complete waste of time, thanks to the shit-the-bed crazy ending. Good luck making it that far though.

AKA: Alien Terminator.