Comic Tales: Superman IV - The Quest for Peace May 16, 2008Posted by Ian W in : Film Reviews, Action, Science Fiction, Comic Book , 3 comments
Christopher Reeve’s reign as The Man of Steel comes to a rather ignominious end with this, his fourth outing. Not that Reeve is bad, in fact he clearly still had a lot of affection for the character, and the basic idea is a good one - Superman taking on an almost godlike role in order to save mankind from itself – it’s the execution that lets it down.
Sidney J. Furie was once a director with talent, producing, amongst others, The Ipcress File, here though he displays none of the flare he once showed. The Quest for Peace is the work of a talentless hack, the Superhero equivalent of Plan 9 from Outer Space but without that films charm. Superman decides to rid the world of nuclear weapons and the world governments (and I mean ALL of them) say “gee thanks Mr Superman, without you to throw the nasty bombs into the sun we’d never have thought of getting rid of them”.
Rather than pit Superman against the world’s leaders, the filmmakers give us, once again, Gene Hackman as comedy villain, Lex Luthor. The problem is he’s just not funny anymore. Batman, Spider-Man, and The X-Men all get new villains in each new outing but it’s like Superman has only got one bad guy. Someone should really buy the producers of the Superman films some comics, after all Bryan Singer continued this preoccupation with the bald headed master of menace in Superman Returns.
Luthor isn’t the only villain though, but the less said about Nuclear Man the better. Played by Yorkshireman Mark Pillow (with voice provided by Hackman) he looks like he’d be more at home in Spinal Tap. He does provided the funniest scene in the film though, flying off into space with Mariel Hemingway. Even little kids know there’s no air in space but apparently Hollywood filmmakers don’t.
It’s little wonder the franchise stalled for almost twenty years after this travesty, with Superman finding success on the small screen in the intervening years with Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Smallville. Maybe Last Son of Krypton isn’t cut-out for the bog screen.
Comic Tales: Death Note – The Last Name April 25, 2008Posted by Ian W in : Thriller, Fantasy, Comic Book , add a comment
This sequel to the original Death Note picks up directly where the first film left off, no real surprise as the films were made at the same time, and has the same strengths and weaknesses as that film. The plot gets ever more intricate, as do the machinations of Light Yagami when he tries to keep the fact that he’s the vigilante Kira a secret.
As with the first film, it’s the plot’s twists and turns that keep you hooked, with the Gods of Death lacking substance as both CGI creations and as characters. They merely serve as catalysts to pit Light and “L” against each other. This time a couple of different characters get their hands on the Death Note book (or books, as there is a second one featured this time) but as they are both manipulated by Light we don’t really get to see how someone with a lesser sense of “justice” would handle it.
The final resolution is well handled, you’re never quite sure if Light will get away with his scheme or if “L”, who always seems to know, or at least suspect, more than he lets on will come out on top.
There is plenty of the mythology of the Death Note and the Gods of Death still to be explored, with one follow up already having been made. L: Change the World focuses on the enigmatic sleuth with a sugar habit and, with Hideo Nakata, of Ring and Dark Water fame, taking over the director’s chair it could well top both the original and this and should almost certainly be more visually inventive as well. I’m looking forward to seeing Ken’ichi Matsuyama again, his portrayal of “L” is the best thing about the Death Note films and he’s someone I’ll be keeping an eye out for in the future.
Comic Tales: Fantastic Four April 17, 2008Posted by Ian W in : Film Reviews, Action, Science Fiction, Comic Book , 3 comments
Anyone expecting the serious minded superheroics of X-Men, or the angst-ridden thrills of Spider-Man would perhaps have been a bit disappointed by Fantastic Four, but for me it does a decent job of capturing the fun tone of the original comic. The X-Men are outcasts from humanity, Spider-Man is a masked vigilante who does what he does out of guilt over the death of his Uncle Ben, the FF on the other hand are public figures, they don’t hide their identities behind masks, they’re celebrities and the film portrays them as such, or rather there evolution to celebrity status following the accident that gives them their powers.
The film’s heart may be in the right place, but its casting is a hit and miss affair. First the misses - Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards/Mr Fantastic and Jessica Alba as Sue Storm/Invisible Woman. Gruffudd lacks the presence for Reed Richards, the part calls for someone who can command the screen, whereas when Gruffudd’s with the other three he’s the last one you look at.
I like Jessica Alba, she’s undeniably beautiful and a capable enough actress given a part that plays to her strengths, said strengths not including playing a technobabbleing scientist. The film tries to get around this by that old standby when depicting intelligent characters – have her wear specs. Sadly this ruse doesn’t work, and Alba only gets to make an impression in the scene where she suddenly becomes visible in her undies. That she and Gruffudd have little onscreen chemistry doesn’t help matters.
Still, if half of the four miss the mark, the others makes up for it. Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm/The Thing is the grumpy old man of the team, tortured by his disfigured appearance and the fact that, unlike the others, he can’t turn his power on and off at will. Yet for all his soul searching Grimm is the source of much of the films (and comics) humour, and Chiklis gets the balance right between tortured monster and comedy ogre.
It’s Chris Evans though who steals the film, could there be a more perfect actor to play Johnny Storm/Human Torch? The Torch is the one member of the team who relishes his new powers right from the start and Evans shows us that youthful exuberance and recklessness. He’s the member of the team the audience can best identify with; after all wouldn’t it be cool to have superpowers? Evans and Chiklis work well together, far better than Gruffudd and Alba, and do a credible job of bringing one of comics great double acts to the screen, in fact it’s their relationship that captures the essence of the source material best.
Julian McMahon, as the villainous Victor von Doom, doesn’t feel quite right. The character is far removed from the tyrannical despot of the comics, being instead a superpowered executive with a strop on, while the scorned lover subplot between him and Alba does nothing to strengthen either character. Plus I’ve always though of Doom as having a European accent but McMahon goes for an American accent (at least I think it’s meant to be American, although there are times he may be trying for English).
The film has a couple of decent action sequences but never really sets the screen alight. Even the climax is a little underwhelming, just when you think we’re going to get a real superhero/villain donnybrook its game over. Of course this is partially down to budget, with the film costing half what Spider-Man 2 did, but I think it’s also due to the lack of experience and talent of the director, Tim Story. He may be an enthusiastic comic fan but he’s not a great action director.
For all it’s faults Fantastic Four is an entertaining film, one that occupies that middle ground of comic book movies – between classics like Spider-Man 2 and X2 and stinkers like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Comic Tales: Superman III April 10, 2008Posted by Ian W in : Film Reviews, Comedy, Action, Science Fiction, Comic Book , 1 comment so far
With Superman II we got a blend of two visions - Richards Donner and Lester - and while the finished article wasn’t perfect it was certainly an entertaining ride. With Superman III we got the full undiluted Richard Lester and oh boy, was it bad.
Lester must have misunderstood when Ilya Salkind asked him to make a comic movie and made a comedy movie instead. How else do you explain Richard Pryor as one of the films villains? Or a credit sequence that’s akin to Benny Hill (and even features Bob Todd!)? The juvenile comedy runs throughout the film but the laughs are few and far between.
Of course Lester isn’t completely to blame, he was after all hired by Ilya Salkind, and it’s Salkind who’s responsible for the lower budget which doesn’t just mean special effects that are a lot less special, but a cut price cast as well. Why pay Gene Hackman a small fortune when you can get Robert Vaughn to play virtually the same part for a fraction of the cost? And while you’re at it why not do away with Valerie Perrine in favour of Pamela Stephenson? Margot Kidder not happy as Lois? Cut her part down to a cameo and introduce Annette O’Toole as Lana Lang to provide another love interest for Clark Kent, that’ll show Kidder she’s not indispensible. In every sense this is a budget Superman, an attempt to milk a little more money out of the Superman cash-cow.
Richard Pryor is painfully unfunny throughout the film; he’s so bad I almost wanted to stop watching to save him further embarrassment. Pryor was always a bit hit and miss though, so it’s perhaps not too surprising how bad he is here. Robert Vaughn does Luthor-lite, accentuating the silliness and cutting back on the menace (which is a shame as he could have made a good villain). Stephenson may as well have been grown from Perrine’s cells and any hint that there may be more to her character stays undeveloped.
Still there is one bright spot in the shape of Annette O’Toole. Her Lana Lang is a breath of fresh air after the bossy, rude and self-centred Lois. Here we have someone we can believe Clark could fall for. If the film had focused a little more on them and less on Pryor it would have been a better movie (not a good one, but better).
Instead we have Superman facing off against a super-computer for a tension free exercise in cheap special effects and panto-villany. Could things get any worse for The Man of Steel? Well Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was only a few years away.
Comic Tales: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen April 4, 2008Posted by Ian W in : Film Reviews, Action, Comic Book , 2 comments
With its big, special effects laden, action sequences it’s easy to dismiss The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as just another Hollywood blockbuster but look a little closer and you’ll see there’s a lot more going on here than initially meets the eye. There’s a political subtext that most reviewers missed on the films initial release, with the League formed by the world’s most powerful nation to search for The Phantom and his weapons of mass destruction only for the enemy to be revealed as someone far closer to home. M/Professor Moriarty is clearly an analogy to George W. Bush, just minus the Texas drawl, with James Robinson’s biting script offering a very negative view of the War on Terrorism.
Oh, who am I kidding? This is utter crap, the kind of film that gives comic book adaptations a bad name. Right from the start, with the introduction of Allan Quatermain in the aging but still virile form of Sean Connery, it’s clear that this is going to bear little relation to Alan Moore’s graphic novel. Gone is the drug addled has-been of the comic and in his place the athletic Sean, besting the villains in both hand-to-hand and armed combat.
Such deviances don’t make it a bad film though, what does is a script aimed at the under twelve’s. Why God only knows, because I doubt you’ll find many cinema going kids who know who Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Mina Harker, Dorian Gray or Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr Edward Hyde are (even from Moore’s comic which hardly has much appeal for kids).
Add to the witless script some bloated action sequences that lack any sense of urgency, woefully poor special effects (what were they thinking with that Mr Hyde Vs doppelganger fight at the end?) and such insipid performances that mangle some of literatures best loved creations into charisma free shadows of there true selves.
With Blade, Stephen Norrington made one of the better comic movies. With The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen he turned that on its head, making a bloated, shallow and very tedious film that didn’t know who its audience was and consequently didn’t get one.
The after effects of this movie still linger, Connery’s given up making films, having had such a dire experience working on it that even Spielberg and Lucas couldn’t tempt him back for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, while Norrington hasn’t directed a film since, instead doing some special effects work here and there. That could change though, as he reportedly signed to direct a remake of Clash of the Titans at the end of last year, it’s time for Ray Harryhausen fans to learn the meaning of fear…
Comic Tales: Daredevil – Theatrical Cut March 28, 2008Posted by Ian W in : Film Reviews, Action, Comic Book , 1 comment so far
Matt Murdock was blinded as a child in a freak accident that heightened his remaining senses and gave him a new one, a ‘radar’ sense that allowed him to ‘see’ what was going on around him. This, along with the murder of his father, a boxer who refused to throw a fight, sets the course of Matt’s future – by day he’s a lawyer, defending those no one else will, by night he’s the masked vigilante called Daredevil. Into his dual world comes the beautiful Elektra Natchios and Matt is smitten at first ‘sight’ of her. But Elektra’s father has links to Wilson Fisk the ‘Kingpin’ of crime and, when he attempts to sever his ties, Fisk hires Irish hitman Bullseye to eliminate both him and his daughter.
Mark Steven Johnson’s Daredevil gets so much right it’s easy to forgive its failings. The ‘origin’ section of the film is a pretty faithful adaptation of the original comic story, with David Keith playing Matt’s pugilist pop and Scott Terra doing a pretty good job as the young Murdock. He’s particularly good once he’s been blinded and starts learning to use his newfound abilities. The main problem with this section is it’s a little rushed but that’s to be expected – this isn’t a film about a child coming to terms with a disability, it’s a superhero action movie and the audience wants to see grownups beating each other up, not kids.
Cue Ben Affleck as the adult Matt, a man who, it’s fair to say, has issues. Dressing up in a red leather ‘Devil’ suit is bad enough but he also has an anger management problem. This isn’t Peter ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ Parker, Murdock’s credo would be more like ‘with power comes the ability to beat the crap out of bad guys the law failed to punish’. When he meets Elektra he finds more than just a girlfriend, he finds salvation and purpose. Affleck isn’t the greatest actor in the world but this is well within his range, emotions are writ large here, it is after all a comic book movie and they’re not exactly renowned for their subtlety. What helps his performance no end is the onscreen chemistry with Jennifer Garner, who plays Elektra. Their playground fight should be ridiculous (and really is) but the pair seem to be having so much fun that the audience are pulled in as well. It’s probably my favourite Elektra moment in the whole film.
It’s not just with the heroes that the film gets it right, the villains are pretty impressive too, perhaps surprising given how much they deviate from the source material. Colin Farrell’s Bullseye is Irish and doesn’t wear a costume (he just has a bullseye carved into his forehead) and yet he captures the spirit of character perfectly, utterly without conscience and totally demented, he gets all the best lines (and make sure you keep watching after the credits for a little more Bully, something I failed to do when I watched it at the cinema). The comic Kingpin is white and Michael Clarke Duncan clearly isn’t and much fuss was made about that by comic book geeks when the film was released. This ‘geek’ didn’t have a problem with him being black, I just didn’t think he had the range to pull off the part but I was wrong. Duncan does a great job, dominating the screen, not just with his size but his personality.
Rounding out the cast are another couple of inspired choices - Jon Favreau as ‘Foggy’ Nelson, Matt’s friend and partner (when he’s not wearing the DD suit that is) and Joe Pantoliano as reporter Ben Urich. Both manage to do more with what they’re given, which is almost nothing, than you’d think possible, but maybe that’s just me filling in the blanks because I know both characters so well from the comic.
By now you’re probably wondering when I’m going to get around to mentioning what those ‘failings’ that I alluded to earlier are, well the wait’s over. My main gripe is the CGI, Daredevil is a normal man with heightened senses, he’s not Spider-Man, so it shouldn’t really be necessary to have him depicted by a computer and what makes it worse is, it’s such bad CGI. My next moan is about the wirework. Some of it is excellent, fitting in seamlessly with the fights, but there are moments – DD’s fight with Bullseye in the church and Elektra’s confrontation with him on the rooftops – that take you completely out of the film. Daredevil’s showdown with both of the villains is also a bit of a letdown after some of the earlier action, with the barroom fight probably the films action highpoint.
Still, it gets more right than wrong and uses Frank Miller’s run on the comic as its inspiration, complete with religious imagery, Matt is a good Catholic boy at heart.
I’d love to see a sequel to this, which is what Johnson should have done instead of Ghost Rider. Actually he should have done anything instead of Ghost Rider. Affleck apparently isn’t interested in reprising the role and after the less than spectacular Elektra, Hollywood is probably a little wary, but you never know, if the Hulk and Punisher reboots go well we may yet see The Man Without Fear on the big screen again. Until then I’ve still got the Director’s Cut to look forward too, which by all accounts is superior to this version.
Comic Tales: Superman II February 1, 2008Posted by Ian W in : Film Reviews, Action, Science Fiction, Comic Book , 2 comments
The problem with Superman is that he’s Superman. He’s almost omniscient and it’s hard to find a worthy challenge for him. Superman II manages it by pitting him against three Kryptonian villains, each with powers equal to his own.
When I first saw Superman II at the cinema I thought it a better film than the original. As a fifteen year old comic geek it had what the first film lacked, namely super villains. For the first time we got to see a real Superhero vs. Supervillain knock-down-drag-out fight. There were faults – the romance with Margot Kidder never really worked for me (and still doesn’t) and Superman’s mum lying to him that, after choosing to become human, he can never go back, was always a pretty big plot hole.
The forty-three year old comic geek who just watched the film still loves the fight scenes (although some of the effects seem a little less special than they used to) and Terence Stamp and Sarah Douglas are still excellent bad guys (even if General Zod does go a bit Cockney at times, particularly the TV broadcast from the White House).
Now though I can also see the faults – sllly comedy moments and some ropy dubbing (how many characters does Shane Rimmer voice?), Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor completely superfluous to the plot, too little Ned Beatty, E.G. Marshall’s atrocious wig. Plus the whole Superman becoming human (for all of about five minutes) subplot isn’t really needed. The film runs over two hours, not as long as the first film, but then that had to tell the origin story, with Superman not making an appearance until an hour into the film. Superman II could have been trimmed by about thirty minutes and not lost anything of importance.
I’ve yet to see the Richard Donner cut of the film, I’ve got it lined up for a future “Comic Tales”, but I’ll be interested to see if it improves on Richard Lester’s version. Hopefully it excises come of the more overt comedy elements.
Comic Tales: Death Note January 25, 2008Posted by Ian W in : Film Reviews, Action, Fantasy, Comic Book , 1 comment so far
The Death Note of the title is a book with the power to kill, all you need to do is write your targets name inside and hey presto! they’re history. Of course there are some conditions; you need to know what they look like for one – if for example you wanted John Smith to die, how’s the book going to know which John Smith is your intended target? On the plus side you can even pick the time and method of departure for your victim.
When this book comes into the possession of Light Yagami, a law student who’s lost his faith in the legal system, he uses it to dispatch criminals the system, for one reason or another, has been unable to convict. He’s like The Punisher with a pen, no need to get your hands dirty when all you have to do is scribble in a book.
The authorities are understandably not too happy with this one man judge, jury and executioner (dubbed Kira by the press) but how far will Light go to protect his secret identity? The “god of death” Ryuuk, the original source of the book, is Light’s sole confidant. Only someone who has touched the book can see Ryuuk, who looks like a Goth version of The Joker with wings.
I’ve not read the manga on which the film is based, so I had little idea what to expect but was pleasantly surprised, although the film certainly has its faults. First among them is that it’s visually pretty dull. You’d expect a film based on a manga to be something of a feast for the eyes but the look of the film is flat and uninspired. Also on the down side is Ryuuk, a completely computer generated character who looks like he’s stumbled in from the animated version of the comic. Apart from eating a few apples (he’s got a taste for them) he doesn’t really interact with the environment at all.
Without flashy effects the film has to rely on the story and luckily it’s more than up to the task. Intricately plotted, with the Death Note allowing for some clever twists, it engages the brain if not the eye. Central to the film is the competition (both characters treat it like a game) between Light and the mysterious “L” who works with the police, helping them close the ever tightening net on the vigilante.
Tatsuya Fujiwara, who starred in Battle Royale, plays Light. He gives a terrific performance, you see him go from idealist to… well that would spoil the fun, but it’s an interesting character arc to be sure. How much wrong would you do to keep doing what you believe is right? And is there, in the grand scheme of things any real difference between the two? These are the questions Light wrestles with.
The thing I loved the most about the film is the cat and mouse game played by the two leads. It brought to mind Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty and “L” is very much a Holmes type - brilliant, arrogant and undiplomatic. He’s a teenage Sherlock with a sweet tooth, with the police relegated to pawns in a deadly game of chess between two super brains. As the enigmatic “L” Ken’ichi Matsuyama brings new meaning to the work quirky, perching birdlike on a sofa while eating the sort of foods that would give a dietician a heart attack, he steals every scene he’s in.
It’s surprisingly long at almost two hours but I never found the time dragged and the ending left me eager to watch the sequel (also included in the rather nice Korean 3 disc set) and I’ll be revisiting the world of Death Note again in the near future.
Comic Tales: Spawn January 18, 2008Posted by Ian W in : Film Reviews, Action, Fantasy, Comic Book , 1 comment so far
I was a big Todd McFarlane fan, I’d loved his Spider-Man work and I enjoyed Spawn. Not only did I like his art, I thought what he was doing with Image comics was a commendable endeavour. I went to see Spawn at the cinema and, while it was certainly a watered down version of the comics, it filled my craving to see comic book heroes translated to the big screen. With the exception of Batman and Superman few had made the transition and, with no new Superman film for 10 years and Batman on a downward spiral (1997 was the year of Batman and Robin), anything new was cause for excitement.
Just over 10 years later much has changed. McFarlane has been revealed for the money grabbing executive he is, Image no longer publish anything of interest (apart from Fell) and these’s now an abundance of superhero action on the big screen.
With films like Spider-Man, X-Men and Batman Begins showing how to make a comic based film that will appeal to more than just the geek audience, the dark days of 1997 seem a long time ago. Re-watching Spawn now shows what a poor film it really was. The effects look truly awful (hard to believe ILM had a hand in this) and it’s amazing they had the balls to put so much in the finished film.
It’s not just the effects that made this revisit a painful one, the film is full of simplistic characters with Martin Sheen’s villainous turn, that’s straight out of the “How to play a Villain” handbook circa 1923, (all he really needs is a top hat, a train track to tie Spawn’s wife to, and some moustache twirling and he’d be perfect) the worst example. He’s far from alone in being bad; Nicol Williamson redoes Merlin as Spawn’s mentor and provides a voice over narration for anyone with ADD, while Michael Jai White’s Spawn elicits about as much sympathy as a politician in a sex scandal.
There is one bright spot, John Leguizamo’s evil clown. Crude, rude and lewd he’s the only character that improves on the comic version. Funny, but also unpleasantly creepy as only a clown can be, he really deserves a better film.
Thank god for Sam Raimi, Chris Nolan and Bryan Singer (even if he did make Superman Returns) for elevating the superhero movie to new heights and ensuring that comic fans no longer have to rely on trash like this to get their fix of big screen thrills.
Comic Tales: The Punisher – Extended Cut January 11, 2008Posted by Ian W in : Film Reviews, Action, Comic Book , add a comment
When crooked businessman Howard Saint’s son is killed in an FBI sting operation Saint wants the man responsible, undercover FBI agent Frank Castle (Thomas Jane), dead. He sends his men to kill Castle and his family but, while they manage to kill his wife and son (along with a large proportion of his extended family), they fail to kill Castle himself. Big mistake! Frank comes after Saint looking to dish out a little punishment.
The Punisher isn’t your usual Marvel Comics superhero and Jonathan Hensleigh’s film isn’t your usual comic book movie. This is a throwback to the ‘80s action films, featuring the sort of extreme brutality you don’t see often in action films anymore. It’s surprising that, in an era where a Die Hard movie gets a PG13 rating, the studio had the gumption to go for an R rating rather than tone the film down for the teen market.
Hensleigh didn’t just direct the film, he also co-wrote the script and it’s reasonably faithful to the source material. Its a little uneven, the origin section drags a bit and the likes of Roy Scheider and Samantha Mathis are wasted in underwritten parts, but when it gets going it really hits the spot. The film’s high point is the fight with The Russian, a hitman hired by Saint and a character straight out of the comics. It’s so exuberantly violent that I couldn’t help smiling as the pair crash through walls and pretty much destroy Castle’s apartment. From there on out it’s almost nonstop action as The Punisher takes down Saint and his army of hired guns.
The plodding script that’s littered with duff dialogue early on comes into its own when the action hots up, with Thomas Jane delivering some nice one liners. Jane does a fine job of bringing Marvel’s vigilante to life, fleshing out devoted family man Frank Castle as much as the script will allow but really making an impression as the single-minded, vengeance seeking, Punisher.
In Swordfish John Travolta gave us an over the top comic book villain, so it’s a little surprising that his performance here is so restrained, at least by Travolta villain standards. He never really feels threatening, either physically or intellectually. Castle outwits him, turning him against his own people, before finally settling things; the only question is how many of Saint’s goons he’ll have to kill before facing him man to man (the answer is quite a lot).
Hensleigh clearly sees the film as a modern western and sticks in a couple of gunfights that pay homage to Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti westerns. In fact the film is peppered throughout with sly nods to other films and TV, from the reference to Castle having worked for CTU to the El Mariachi inspired hitman who serenades him in the dinner. Rather than intrusive it just adds to the enjoyment, particularly on repeat viewings.
This extended cut adds a subplot about the man who betrayed Castle, an FBI colleague and ex-army buddy, who gives up Frank’s name to Saint. The storyline doesn’t add greatly to the film as a whole but it does reach a suitably satisfying conclusion. There’s also a pre-credits Kuwait sequence that was never filmed and is instead shown in a rough animation style that uses the original storyboards as a guide and features Thomas Jane’s voice. It adds a little more background to the characters but it’s easy to see why it was never filmed, it would have been a costly sequence to film and the movie works perfectly well without it.
This version may not be perfect but it’s a big leap forward from the previous cinematic incarnation of the character that featured Dolph Lundgren in the title role. Hensleigh’s film is a big dumb action movie, the kind they don’t make anymore, choc full of gratuitous violence. It did well enough at the box office to warrant a sequel which should reach screens latter this year. Sadly this films two biggest plus points – Jonathan Hensleigh, who showed that he had a real gift for action, and Thomas Jane who made the part his own – will be absent from the follow up.