torsdag 22 december 2016


Previously on Johan Falk:

The mole was revealed to be Lasse, one of the more harmless, less violence prone individuals of GSI.
But still a lot of stuff is revealed. Thje organisation is showing its real face and are gunning for Johan and his family.


At the same time as Johan is hiding his family from teh Russian mob,   coordinated efforts are being made into shutting down their foes from Moscow. We learn that the Organisation taht ahs been a constant threat throughout is a much bigger one than expected. Even part of the events  leading back as far as Johan Falk#2: Executive Protection.

Jibber jabber:

In discussing the finale on facebook ,a lot of people seem to focus on the exact events of what happened. The ending is somewhat ambivalent. They speculate whether Johan is alive or not.And that is fine. It is a lot of fun speculating on the end. All power to you. But I might figure a different, more symbolic approach. As we get closer to Christmas we might want to look closer to miracles or stuff like that

One interesting comparison can be made to Russia. We can perhaps see Russian orthdoxy religion pervade the world of  Johan Falk, as he finally redeem himself for his previous isoation, to sacrifce hmself for the greater good. On Christmas Eve nonetheless as the whole thing from Zero Tolerance started. The entire sereis started on that day and ends on it in a great symbolic way. It started with Falk saving his step daughter. And The End  ( well) ends with him saving his step daughter and her child. Very symbolic that the series ends on Christmas and that birth is given.

Within Russsian Orthodoxy isolation and  seclusion are considered heretic practices. or unapproved of Falk redeems his soul by sacrificing himself for a greater cause.  He starts out as a lone wolf in Zero Tolerance  but gradually throughout the series assimilate himself in society. 

Remember Lasse? He himself , a victim of GSI, was confronted at one point with  orthodox catholic religion. And it may have struck a chord with Johan in the end, because it might have been leading him into a similar course. Now we actually might see some Russian attitudes seeping inside Swedish mentalties in which we may havbe never seen before. People who sacricifce themselves, see themselves as obsolute for the greater good. Lasse  hanged himself, Johan, he may have survived, we don´t know , is though highly indebted to a higher cause. His life for the survavl to the family.

It is interesting to note that some of the more pivotal moments in  the series Johan spends on his back. 

The opening of the GSI series, but also the end of The Third Wave and The Child Infiltrator. Holding Ola, playing with him in GSI. Saving one of the young perpetrators from being  shot in The Child Infiltrator, saving a pregnant Helen in The Third Wave after being shot in the head.

Several sequences in these films symbölizes pivotal moments in Johan Falks life are being spent on his back.

And the last and most important scene of his life is played out as his step-daugher is giving birth as he is being tortured. Symbolic to say the least. On the verge of death as someone is on the verge of giving life. .

This shows poignancy to his suffering. Johan gives up his life for another. Life is given birth as another is offered. Very ritualistic. And Johan finally sacrifices himself for the greater good which brings his story into full circle. In Zero Tolerance he was the isolated shell of a man. And in Russian ortodox religion. isolation is a sin as I have previously mentioned. And now in  that regard he has truly emerged as a man as who symbolicly finally relinquuished his isolated position  and brings order and stability back to the family.

In Russian literature there is a archetype called the superfluous man. It is a certain type of individual who is unable to create any changes in society.. Johan is the american type of individual lone ranger trying to get the job done on his own. But he fails . Crime continues to exist throught the series, there fore he never amounts to much change. The only change he can contribute  is the one in his own vicinity. He manages to save his step daughter through torture. But at the same time bring down the organization through his sacrifice. So for the first time his crimefighting has had greater effect than usual.  

It is a bit of a reach, but that shell of a man that we previously knew has gone trough twenty movies to redeem himself and proven himself from going through from isolation to assimilation. Johan Falk is now truly one of us as he sacrificed himself for the common good, the family. The collective. And the future.

I  like the idea of noticing or intepreting ideas that may or may not intentionally have seeped into the series.  Some of the outside influences that is part of the franchise.  Like; the Estonian lullaby that is introduced in Executive Protection  and keeps recurring musically throughout the series as well as other melodic motifs in the music that are "Russian" or at least "slavic" especially in this third season. with tracks like Kavkaz and the haunting Eg Er Riddarrinn . These musical motifs, I think give some gravitas to the stuff that I have mentioned above.

Also the philosophical ideas of crime/punishment/redemption that stems from orthodox religion introduced in Operation Nightingale, and how it might storywise work itself into on a deeper level throughout the story and try to give the work a  meaning  below the surface level is also something I have come to appreciate. I might be full of shit in these last few paragraphs for this final installment. It´s not exact science. It is an intepretation, should be taken as such,  and as I said I like to give meaning to films that deserve it. And I think in this instance this series is definetly worth it.

Wrap up:

Regardless, of the fate of Johan Falk, his memory lives on not only in the  heart of his loved one but also in the heart of us action fans. Even though we may never see him again, his work lives on in these twenty films. And for new generations to enjoy.

Thank you Mr Johan Falk for all these years!

The End.

tisdag 13 december 2016


Do not read the following unless you want the entire shit being spoiled for you. You have been warned!

Previously on Johan Falk:

A mole exists within GSI. Who is it, and will anyone find out? Does it relate to anyone Johan knows? We finally find out


One of GSIs most loved and respected  gets gunned down by the mole. The police station enters a state of lockdown; which means the building is closed until the perpetraror is captured. And he does.

It turns out the mole is a former GSI-member. You might remember him. You should.  And I should have. I never thought of him, even though I should´ve. I am bad at these detective things.

The GSI mourns and tries to deal with the situation. A situation in which a former cop is actully at the forefront of it. What does it mean?

Helens previous husband has really been making an ass of himself (Johan Hedenberg)

I am an idiot and never should have given birth to anyone

And Helen sorts out a lot of information and is in the course of action quite a smart person who brings an entrire Russian operation down., But thta is for a later discussion. here is NOW:

Jibber jabber:

Lockdown is a great episode. Not only is it startling in the revelations to come, but opens up a different set of view points for how to percieve this very difficult situation. We are left with some doubtful opinions about our own way of life and opens up an uncomfortable final conclusion in The End

Two shots that define the final moment of a disastrous event.

I think Lasses motivations and his encounter   with Hannas religious beliefs are worth mentioning as they might in some way be relevant for understanding The End. In Operation Nightingale between the two of them  Lasse claims he do have a  firm belief. But it lies in his predetermined views of crime and punishment as in most cops do. . It strikes at first as the normal way for a police to judge a person, but on further investigation one could look further. 

Speaking of crime an punishment, that might not be an entirely appropriate term that Lasse used. As a pretentious scholar like myself, you could see it as an allusion to the Dostojevskij novel, with the same name, if one might strike such a claim. In that novel, the discussion focuses on who is in the right of committing a crime; which brings us to the moralistic conundrum of the series.   The justification of criminal activity can be traced back to that 19th century novel of  how to justify a crime with its means.  In broader terms, the crimes are committed by humans, not an abstract being called "criminals". Human behaviour is eternal and needs no specific race.

Lasse is like Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment  guiltridded with his part in Hannas death and has up until now wandered around in some sort of moral vaccum, As an inactive part he has been passive just as Raskolnikov in that same novel. Never present. Passive.  But unlike Dostojevskis novel we never have followed him, even though we might have. He seems like somone who has entered a void, guilt ridden with his actions as he was never someone who was suitable for the job at GSI. He has becoem in some ways become superfluous ( a term we will get back to) to what is going on.

We have not seen him since, bit we can guess his mind of thinking. Not really believing in anything anymore even though he could hardly be blamed for the murder of Hanna.The situation was brought on by the police, the ones who is supposedly in the moral right has put Lasse in some sort of Limbo as he struggles with the consequences.

This is something he blames GSI for putting him into this position. His strong sense of crime and punishment has been part of his belief as a police officer, but seeing and experiencing what GSI has done or been doing may have had a greater effect on the state of his soul. Yeah, that is right. I used that word. Lasse feels someone has done a crime and needs to be punished. His soul needs redeeming, and maybe in his mind GSI needs to be punished.

So crime is not necessarily a queston of a certain type of man destined to be evil , but of a certain kind of behaviour that every man has within himself. Even Lasse who was a sworn police offices proves to be the victim,  There seem to be a certain part of humanity that Swedish cops simply just seem not to grasp or more specifically perhaps Johan Falk? Who knows?

The team tries to deal with the loss of Patrik and now Sophie needs to step up and she does, It all led up to a shift in power so to speak. Now that Patrik is dead, she needs to keep the fire burning or to shift a focus in how to move the team forward.But before she can set change in motion there is need for some spring clean up to take place, and among that spring cleaning one particular Russian woman needs to be swept out. The Baba Yaga  that has haunted Johan Falk; And they do catch her. The Baba Yaga; the Russian witch.

This is both an ideologically interesting episode as it is action packed. The finale throws some exciting action moments at us. But the opening Lockdown sequence is just as well memorable and exciting although more emotionally involving. This episode packs quite a punch in my opinion. And a lot of Lasses baggage at us to ponder. And a lot of that baggae leads us to ponder what will happen next.

In the end, Lasse commit suicide. He becomes the first real victim of the squad. He sacrifices himself. His body disintegrate while what he has done lives on.

Next time on Johan Falk: This is The End

onsdag 16 november 2016


Previously on Johan Falk:

Things has gotten darker for GSI as Johan Falk has been framed for murder and is being extorted by the Russian mafia to help them. At the same time GSI learns they have  a mole in their midst.

Seth and Jack are now open enemies and both crews are desperatly trying their luck on  a diamond heist. At the same time has a new  player emerged; a Caucasian mob that has its base in an MMA club where they recruit talent ( reminds me of how Mr Han operates in Enter The Dragon but he had a kung fu island instead of a puny club.)

Seth gets involved with a woman he might regret as she might be doing someone elses biddings.

The plot:

This one has an undercover suspense story built into it this time.  Niklas ( Alexander Karim) is infiltrating an MMA club run by a Caucasian mob ( the Russian kind of Caucasian) as they are mixed up in the diamond heist. But the heist goes awry and everyone involved , including Niklas, are being holed up on an unknown location as the mob boss wants to find out which of them ratted him out.

Johans wife starts to take an active role in the proceedings, and shit gets serious as brother goes against brother in an all out struggle for control between Seth and Jack

Jibber jabber:

This bring brings back a lot of suspense that I felt Silent Diplomacy lacked, as one of the characters we actually care for is in jeopardy. I´m sorry , but I never really cared for Pernilla in any of the films she was in, She never had a personality to her, but Niklas has developed  throughout the course of the series, given some quirky character traits and comes across as a likeable dude. And we learn that he is capable in the mystical ways of Mixed Martial Arts, which brings me to a trope a I highly miss in todays action-cinema: The Kung Fu Cop. I love it!

I miss seeing movies about cops that are well versed in martial arts, cutting the red tape and go straight to the throat punch instead. We used to get a ton of those in the early 90´s starring Cynthia Rothrock, Thomas Ian Griffith and Don "The Dragon " Wilson. All Academy Award-worthy performances, believe me.  And Niklas follows a fine tradition of Kung Fu Cops in the newer MMA tradition that Donnie Yen may have started  in Flashpoint for instance.  I did not expect to see this in a Swedish action film, but I am happy to. The world need more cinematic kung fu cops who can get the job done, one kick to the throat at the time!

We get to see Niklas do some sparring against Seth in the club. Seth does not rat him out, as Niklas also knows who he is,  They both know their true identities. It is a Catch 22. They are both informers, and again says a lot about the overall theme of the story of how the real world is more diffuse, harder to grasp on a deeper level than what we are being told in simplified newspaper narratives where there is simply room for black/white points of view.

Later when Niklas is trapped with a few others. , unlike Frank,  he is not above above suspicion. We do see early on that he has built up some credibility amongst the crew, but there is still suspicion and therefore has he found himself in this nightmarish situation in which no undercover  cops want find themselves in. See The Textbook  of Undercover Nightmares, chapter 1, page 9.
This is the type of situation a cop can finds himself into, whereas someone who has had time to build a street rep outside a police force, outside the boundaries and restrictions of procedural police work can do much better. We learn how capable he is in situations which are strainous  to say the very least. He keeps his calm and use his wits when he notices perhaps some of the others holed up with him might be easily influenced.

It is nice to see Niklas get some more screentime. Which is a good idea to bring him up, so he can shine in Falkology as well. At first in the very first film of the second season ( see Rules of the game) he is as freshbaked member  of GSI we can see  how he has problems with Johans methods. Now he finds himself in a position in which he has to take matters in his own hands. We see him as a pro active guy, expert in martial arts, talking to people, feeling them out ,a sense of who they are and such.  He should have a spin off series, I feel; Humanistic MMA Cop.

Meanwhile  Johan starts to get squeezed by the Russian Mob who wants him to do a few favors for them. Johan starts to act irrationally violent towards them and is using a gun, threatening them to back off his family.  It almost seems like his PTSD or whatever he has has gotten to him,

Zooms in on Johan, cut to Helen in the kitchen...

Shot on the family

Zooms in on Johan as whirring internal sounds keep escalating
The internal whirring  sound stops suddenly as Helen walks into the frame in the next shot
When Johan comes home to his family after the confrontation we experience his perspective. There is great use of a whirring sound as we finds ourselves in Johans pont of view that is suddenly interrupted as Helen approaches him. We have seen similar techniques employed where we are shut out from the external world to get a sense of Johans isolated position... Once in Executive Protection, when Johan is andering aimlessly around the cemetary  all caught up with the consequences of his action, and clueless on what to do next.  And in both those sequences, Helen shows up and interrupt his internal state which leads him to actually  become pro active again  and to start solve the problem at hand.

Helen is crucial to Johan, she  is the one person that dragged Johan back into the world and made him a family man again. I think these scenes are quite important to understand Johan, and for understanding Falkology.  They are  ways for us to get inside Johans  head and perhaps glimpses of someone who is used to shut the outside world out from him. But now , more than ever, is in dire need of people to help him.

 Good shit.

Next time on Johan Falk: Shit gets real. For real!

måndag 14 november 2016


Oversized weapons that could devastate an entire planet, explosions, witty dialogue, some sexual innuendo, upgradable gadgets,groovy soundtracks and high quality animation and voice acting. man I love the Ratchet & Clank videogames and has a guranteed place in The Explodable World of  Action as they deliver carnage, mayhem and destruction on a level that makes Rambo look like a pussy.

Too bad this film has none of that. 

I mean, it´s not...tahat bad. It is just very very ordinary. And in this climate where Disney/Pixar and Dreamworks deliver high quality animated entertainment , this does not cut it. It needs to be far better to make an impact.This is simply not good enough for a mainstream audience. And not even enough for a fan like me. A shame.

Ratchet is a lombax ( a cat like creature), but also a mechanic who dreams of joining the Galactic Rangers, as his hero Captain Qwark is part of it. Qwark is a narcassistic douche who likes to come across as heroic even though he is not. War is brewing in the galaxy as evil Chairman Drek is destroying planets , since he is evil. And now GalacticRangers are looking for recruits. Ratchet is optimistic of joining the fight. Ratchet also comes across a small robot, a defect from a war robot producing plant who also joins up to combat Drek. And this is basically the plot. It sounds generic. Because it is. It has very  little of the wit and charm of the games.

I don´t know. I don´t want to be snarky about it, but Ratchet and Clank- The Movie is the Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace of Ratchet and Clank videogames.  Which means, it is perhaps the worst possible way to be introduced to what made this series successful in the first place. It´s not really that bad, it´s just feels like Cutscene-The Movie while removing the fun, addictive gameplay that made the Ratchet and Clank experience great.

You should be alarmed by the production history from what you can learn from Imdb. A lot of talented people was actually involved with it from time to time, during the ten year process of bringing this franchise to the screen, Edgar Wright and  Guillermo Del Toro are two, but left because of “creative differences”, which translates to; this movie is gonna suck. Creative differences means, they wanted to infuse creativity into the project, but Sony said; No creativity! Obey!

Add to that that they replaced some of the voice actors from the games with Hollywood celebrities and you can smell the cynical attitude towards maknig this film. Mind you, it is still James Arnold Taylor and David Kaye who voices the main protagonists and they do a great job with what there is to be done. 

Also, apparently, some of the scenes in the film are actually cutscenes in the new R&C-game which came out around  the same time as the film was released. I mean, that is kind of shocking.

Ratchets character  has  changed from the game and anything originally interesting in the dynamic relationship from the original game is gone. Ratchet was the reluctant hero, and Clank , who wants to do the right thing, was also incredibly naïve. That dynamic led to some fun bickering between the two. In this film, they already establishes as friends. And there is no growth to the characters..
In other words,  less interesting story telling than the videogame had. Ouch.

I can´t stay mad at this movie for actually existing and some of the jokes are clever and has some funny timing. But it is weird how something as originally looking on a Playstation can come out with suc a generic-looking style to it. And why did the non-gaming audience not took a liking to it? The games are great and they stuck to the games pretty damn close. I have a theory.

Ironically, one of the reasons why people does not seem to care for it, non-gamers I mean, is simply because it looks gamey. The filmmakers did not even bother at least changing the  character models or anything from the games to make it look interesting for cinema goers. This is the same fifteen year old design in 2016.

This is a case in which they actually stuck too close to the source material. I´ve heard people say that Ratchet and Clank has a terrible character design, which is a sentiment  I do not agree with. But this might be a problem as obviously the character design from the games does not seem to translate as easily to movie goers . When R&C was new, 15 years ago, it was revolutionary to see such high level of animation and developed characters with excellent voice acting in a videogame. That has long been a standard in motion picture history , with great animation and voice acting stretching back to Snow White And that was 1934.

That is a problem, the design of the characters belongs to the gamers and not the mainstream audiences with a completely different point of view in contrast with characters from a newer medium transitions poorly to a medium that has had many decades to develop and therefor R&C comes across as not-great in comparisons. I like the characters, but that is because I was there from the start, fifteen years ago. If the animated films had not progressed and delivered so many movies with high quality stories and characters, maybe this one would have made a success. But I don´t think it is an par with say Kung Fu Panda. Not by a mile.. It lacks a distinctiveness, I feel in comparison.

It also does not help that the acton set pieces are not that memorable. The insane level of destruction and seizure inducing mayhem from the games have translated into typical space shit, that belongs in Star Wars The Clone Wars or something. Speaking of Episode 1, there is a sequence reminiscient of that movie; the pod race, of which this is a much worse version of. It´s like the podrace, without the podrace.

Well, this movie was probably made for fans, which certainly explains why this film was given zero marketing in mainstream media. But even as a fan I expected more. I expected wittier writing, more devastating action,exploding cities and more bullet hells. I expected Rambo 3 in space. And got a lamer version of it.- I got Episode 1- The Phantom Menace level of space action with a sporadic laser blast here and there.. At least that movie has a kick ass kung fu fight at the end that almost redeemed the entire thing in my opinion.. This delivers really nothing satisfying. Ther are some fan service here and there, but I never found them enjoying as the film as a whole is pretty boirng..

I´ll stick to the games and I will most likely never revisit this movie ever again.

tisdag 8 november 2016


This movie opens with a massacre on a Japanese village and in which  a woman gets her throat cut. but also some poor kid gets a shuriken in his fucking face . 

That is definitely  how to set a tone for your Ninja-movie!  It is also quite a staple of Ninja movies, in which the hero´s village gets destroyed, a mythical trope well worth these types of movies as we actually are dealing with archetypes and formulas.

This is also  asurprisingly bloody and violent effort  compared to the other in this Loosely Connected Ninja-franchise made by Cannon. 

Sho Kosugi plays a Ninja, named Cho, whose family gets  entirely wiped out in Japan, except his precious son. Cho is convinced by his friend Braden ( played by American Asshole #3211) to move to the U.S  as apparently it is safer there. Unbeknownst to him, his asshole friend only does it so he can have a nice front to smuggle drugs through. Isn´t that nice? 

His friend shows some sweet sneaky cocksucker techniques. So he must be a Ninja. Which he is. He is American just as Cole, which shows he is sneaky. But instead of Seducing Wife-technique, he employs Convincing Cocaine-Smuggler technique, an even harder technique to achieve. Braden is a far more sophisticated Ninja  than Cole in my opinion. he just does not simply satisfy himself in bed, but satisfy himself financially.

Cho agrees and setups an art gallery of weird and creepy looking dolls who breaks easily. His son accidentally breaks one of these and finds a suspiciously looking substance. And then all Ninja-hell breaks loose. So to speak.

Flour Power

In this film, the American Ninja is seen through a different lense, He is not the protagonist, but instead the villain. He is seen as someone who is manipulative, but in this film not in any glamourous way, It is almost like if Cannon Group knew they dropped the ball on Enter The Ninja and tried to make it up.  The perspective has shifted and lies now with the honorable protagonist Japanese Ninja,Cho, who is desperate in wanting to blend in american society, He is so obsessed in blending in that he yells at his son for being bullied, then fighting back, for actually fighting back. Weird.

The shift is dramatic from Enter The Ninja; now we have an honourable Ninja wanting acceptance within american society. Good for them, It seem like a half assed attempt on the filmmakers part of not trying to demonizing the Japanese, but instead presenting them through positive racist stereotypes instead . Well, it is progress, I guess.

The fights are legit as you now has an accomplished martial artist in the lead instead of that bar brawler Texan from  Enter The Ninja. No offence Franco Nero, but you are neither Ninja nor american.

Japanese culture being exploited for greedy american needs is clearly demonstrated here. The villain is trained in japanese mystic culture, but not as well as our Japanese hero, which actually makes this one seem less xenophobic and just plain awkward in its representatuve delivary of values. The film is hamfisted in ways that is clealry shown, Cho  is manipulated in some dumb way and we never understand why Braden is such a good friend to Cho, and why Cho believes anything this american ninja asshole says. Especailly after his clan is being murdered. 

A more cýnical person like myself, wonders why Cho was never around in the opening scene. Well, after the massacre we see him lurking back together wth Braden, all the Ninjas goes into hiding. The filmmakers do not even bother hiding the fact that the white dude is evil, which makes the argument that Cannon wanted a very different appraoch rom the first one. they wanted a fucking evil American ninja this time.

There are some spectacular setpieces in this. One of them has Ninja climibing a skyscraper, and it is not CGI. It is simply  Ninja. Because in the 80´s Ninja could do anything. CGI could do shit.

And the final at the rooftops is a showcase of anything you dreamed of seeing in a genuine Ninja film. I love it.

måndag 7 november 2016


What better way to sheer oneself up by doing a week full of Ninja-movies? Giving yourself a big soothing bath of  shurikens. Jusr slip into the bath of sharp  metal throwing stars and immerse yourself in the increasing pool of your own blood. Ahhh...

Our first lesson starts with Enter the Ninja from 1981 by schlockfactory Cannon Group, the first in a loosely connected series of ninja-movies, which in all honestly was mostly for monetary reasons, not artistically or for any specific ninja reasons, unless those reasons are hidden deep within the shadows of some Ninja-ass or some bullshit like that.

Anyway, this is one of the earlier ninja-movies that started the trend. A trend that unfortunately has died of, or vanished, like Ninja itself. People today seem to laugh at Ninja. They would be wrong. They can appreciate Ninja, if Ninja is lackey to a supervillain in a superhero. But if Ninja happens to be Super nInja, they think Ninja is funny. Ninja is not funny!! Ninja is immortal. Ninja is powerful. Ninja is sneaky. Ninja will fuck you  up, sleep with your wife and leave.

Enter the Ninja is about  sucg a Ninja, an american. From Texas. How Ninja can that be? Not very Ninja-sounding to me. But he is Ninja nonetheless. His name is Cole (Franco nero). He graduates from Ninja Academy in Japan and visits his Vietnam warbuddy, helps him out a bit, fucks his wife ,gets him killed and then disappears. That is basically the story. Typical of Texas Ninja to exploit his ninja skills this way. His Seducing Wife-technique is impeccable,  employed without higher morals in my opinion. But then again Ninjas are sneaky fucks. Ninjas can seduce your wives. Ninja can fuck them without you even noticing even when you are in bed with your wife.Ninja vanishes. And Ninja makes her pregnant.  Such are the horny powers of Ninjitsu

Before all that,it is worth mentioning that while he manages to graduate from Ninja Univeristy in Japan, he makes an enemy. A fellow Ninja, a genuine Japanese Ninja ( Sho Kosugi) who sees this hillbilly Texan as a threat to his culture.

If I was in Sho Kosugis shoes ( Ko-shoes?), I would also be upset with having a Texan coming in and stealing my Ninja-thunder from underneath my feet. I mean what the fuck does a cowboy know about being a Ninja? He´s been here one week  and know he totally owned us in our own game?  I can sympathize with him.

In between all that, a  ruthless businessman wants the land that  Cole´s friend has.Why? Because of money. And then when he realizes a Ninja is working against him, he starts yelling "I want my own Ninja" like a spoiled brat, so his lackey will have to go to Japan to interview a few Ninja for the job. And wouldn´t you know it. The enemy of our Texas Ninja gets the job. So you have in the climax a  cultural battle between mystical ninjas from the far west and the far east. And as it is an American production the Far west far exceeds the Far East.

Enter The Ninja is definitely the weakest link in Cannons Ninja-trilogy. It is not as legitimately good as a hardcore Ninja-flick as Revenge of the Ninja. And it is not as weird, crazy, borderline-experimental as Ninja 3-The Domination in its ecclectic mix of Ninja, aerobics and exorcism.. But it is preposterous enough in its earnestness so it is worth a watch at least.  And to learn a trick or two about the Seducing Wife-technique to  create some unexpected and unexplained pregnancies without risking a paternity suit.

lördag 5 november 2016

HARD TARGET 2 (2016)

Hard Target 2 is no Hard Target. By that I mean it is not called Hard Target, but Hard Target 2. That is the first evidence in my chain of reasoning. But it is also directed by Roel Reine, not John Woo. It also stars Scott Adkins, not Jean Claude Van Damme.

It is also not as good as Hard Target. The ultimate proof on the matter. But it is most certainly worth a watch (and a purchase).

Now that we have established that Hard Target 2 is not Hard Target,  let us start with Hard Target. An in the end quite compromised artistic vision in many ways. John Woo not being able to be John Woo by Universal Studios.Not enough balletic violence to be blunt about it.  But it still managed to have survived as an iconic Van Damme vehicle, known for its excessive mix of martial arts,  poetic gunplay action and  extreme mullets. But also incorporating a bunch of bitchin doves and some nice visual touches, some stunning slow motion shots and perfect rhytmic editing to match  and you have a pretty sweet film.

Great movie. Highly recommended.

Hard Target 2 takes the formula of rich assholes hunting desperate poor people,, switchning locales from vibrant, desolate New Orleans, to not-so-vibrant  but still desolate Burma. It still looks cool with all the jungle shit and all. Jean-Claude Van Damme is no longer part of this dangerous game of man vs man. Instead we have 21st Century´s version; Mr Scott Adkins( Undisputed 2-4, Ninja 1-2, Universal Sodlier Day of Reckoning)  I´m afraid he has no  mullet, but makes it up with a ferocious agility and some deadly legs to kick ass with.

Like previously said, the plot switches the background of poverty in Lousiana, to a more isolated, manfree environment. Surprisingly considerate by these rich assholes,, as there is less chance of collateral damage. Probably also considerate to the restrictions of the budget. It is also a very tired cliche in terms of  thematics. But I am cool with it. We don´t get enough jungle action these days.

Adkins plays Baylor, an MMA -fighter, accidentally killing his best friend in the ring, gives up his career and ends upp pugilizing himself for a few bucks in remote locations. That is when the villain of this piece Robert Knepper ( Prison Break) notices his talent and offers a one-match only deal in which he can cash in half a million dollars. Too late he realizes all they want to do is hunt his ass.

Compared to the original, this skips to the point fairly fast, like a good exploitation genre mnovie should. But before we get to teh hunt, we also get to know Baylor through several minor fight sequences in which each one makes him progress through the world of underground fighting. His first fight is in a shitty barn and the last fight before the hunt takes place on some rich assholes rooftop  in which Baylor meets the villain.

Besides Robert Knepper, we also have in villainous roles, Temuera Morrison ( Once were Warriors) and Rhona Mitra ( ehhh...) to give the villains at elast some color. Among the hunters is also a douchebag computernerd, claiming himself to be the Mark Zuckerbergs of FPS´s. Jesus, what an ass. There is also a hilariously camp spaniard bullfighter and some dumb hillbillies to round out the villainy.

The film flows along fairly nicely, the action is decent, but the low budget is apparent. They have used some overhead drone shots to give the film more production value, even though it is a bit overused. We don´t need sixty establishing shots of the jungle. But other than that the cinematography is surprisingly nice. The fights could have used some more flair to make it more exciting as there is nothing in the action deppartment that matches Woo´s visceral style from part 1

Roel Reine might not be an auteur, but he is the kind of meat and potatoes-director I can appreciate , as he does not try go beyond  his paygrade but delivers a fairly enjoyable sequel with some nice cinematography, like his previous sequel Man with teh Iron Fists 2. He infuses these type of DTV-sequels with a look that makes the film feel a bit more expensive than it really is and as a whole give it a more roudned presentation than most low budget straight to video actioners.

Adkins proves once again his physical abilities in more ways than in just the fights. He gets to run, climb,swim, and jump around a lot and I am convinced he is doing most of it.

It´s no Turkey Shoot or Hard Target. But it is  Hard Target 2. And that is good enough.

fredag 4 november 2016


When I reviewed William Kaufmans gritty cop action flick Sinners and Saints I might have been slightly harsh against it. It had a good beat to it and a lot of competent action built into it. Now that I have seen his latest film; Daylight´s End, I am convinced this is a very solid Genre film director we are dealing with who genuinely delivers what is promised. In this case a generic postapocalyptic zombie/vampire action romp. And does it serviceable in a way that is satisfying. I liked it. Also it has Lance Henriksen in a good role.

What is good about it, is that it goes straight to the point. There is no worldbuilding, as we have seen all these scenarios a thousand times and how different can it be? No, it relies on our knowledge of the genre, it does not need to tell us, we can guess what has happened and go with it. The strength of a pure genrefilm lies in it knowing what it has to do. And we don´t need another sappy backstory, we don´t need dialogue that tells us of "thou  mankind has fallen" or the struggle of the dormant evil that lies within all of us. Fuck that. I want to see some heads poppin´. 

You have the same sort of survivalist group tensions, without sappy melodrama ( The Walking Dead). You have scenes of looting, scavenging and survivalist speeches. You have the Mad Max-protagonist "shell-of-a-man" which is always good to have in one of these and you have that one particular dirtbag who is only out for himself. And you have a trained pilot who can get them out of there if they can find an airplane. Which they do.  The best scene in the film is when the aforementioned asshole  comes dragging with a car that can only room like three out of the forty of the group. He insists that the pilot comes with him. For him it is every man for himself. And according to him, it´s a shame, you can´t save everyone. Tough shit. And just around the corner comes one of the survivors driving a big ass bus, that can room everyone. Wow. He must feel like a complete prick now!

This has plenty of violence. Although all of it is CGI´d and the generic violence that surrounds the film coukd have benefitted with some some beats of gory details, dispensed properly through out the actionscenes. Like in Dawn of the Dead. That type of visual structure usually gives a higher impact on the viewer. As it is now, you are just over whelmed with generic CGI blood. A shame, the film woudl have benefitted more fro some of those beats,  because what is here works phenomenally well.

It has solid acting, decent production values and a lot of action. Highly recommended to genre fans.

torsdag 27 oktober 2016


The adventures of this vertically-challenged version of  ex military cop, current drifter Jack Reacher continues. This time it is the 20th Book in the series that is being adapted. Last movie simply named Jack Reacher was adapted from One Shot, which I believe was the 9th in the series. This is what I like about these type of episodic pulp heroes. You can basically sink your teeth into which one you want to as prior knowledge is not needed. That is not to say that there isn´t much of a mythology. Quite the contrary, we get plenty of backstory from Reachers days as a Military Police officer. Some books are dedicated entirely to a specific episode from his past. In Never go back, we learn some of his past, but it  sticks to modern day throughout the book,  which is the basic template for the franchise.

Some of the more distinguishing features of the appeal of this character might be worth mentioning. Reacher lives a basically a life as a bum/drifter/nomad,  He wishes not be bound by materialism or steady relationships, but lives instead as a drifter going from place to place and gets into situations. A variant of the Western hero archetype, who belongs nowhere.

It also gives him a very specific idiosyncrasis to him. and a very specific thought pattern to his lifestyle.  His entire life is based around moving on, leaving everything behind. He never bother to wash his clothes, he purchases new ones instead from second hand stores as he has no house he live sin, therefore no wahsing machines( he could use a laundromat, but that mean he need to wander around with spare clothes, which he does not like). All he has is a toothbrush. In one novel , some bad guy who had broken into his motel room  stepped on his toothbrush, his only belonging, and Reacher got real upset about it. Pretty funny. Noone else but Reacher would be upset over the loss of  a toothbrush, which further illustrates his mannorisms. A lot of people are sometimes weirded out by him, and sometimes it becomes humorous as they try to make sense of his lifestyle. Why deliberatly live as a hobo? Huh...?

I´m not quite sure how this kind of living would even be remotely possible in real life these days. Nomad life is actually frowned upon in our western society and  purchasing clothes all the time seems like a false economy in many ways. But Reacher might be a representative from a yearning to be free from all the stuff we allow ourselves to be tied up to (mortgages, loans, cars, houses etc) and in our imagination, for a few hundred pages, allow ourselves to participate in that type of journey. This is what I like about the book and the character. He never moans about his internal state, he actually is living the life as it should be. taking day by day as they come and enjoy life.  He can travel across the country just to see if a strange rumour is true to satisfy his curiosity ( usually his curiousity ends up ,curiously enough , in a shitstorm of troubles).

Minor details, like whenever he enters a diner in a book and discovers to his delight as a coffee addict that the diner has a bottomless cup police is a treat in every book. And when in one book he encounters a diner that has shitty service and no refills he gets bummed out. For me these smaller moments are great. Just sitting down and drinking coffee is a time to take a break and enjoy life. Maybe it is just me mellowing in my older days, but I like the diner scenes in the novels. It´s like Twin Peaks whenever Dale Cooper is having coffee; you enjoy it as a viewer just as much as he does.

The plot of Never Go Back is of that Reacher travels to his former military post in Virginia ; the 110th Military Police to meet Susan Turner, whom he only until this point  known through phone contact. Upon arrival he finds she has been releaved of command and arrested and as he further investigates Reacher unravels a conspiracy. He also finds he may have a fifteen year old daughter, Samantha,  he never knew about. Reacher is also framed for a murder and sees no other option to bust himself and Turner out of prison, find his presumed daughter who may now find herself in harms way as a target for the conspirators. So Reacher, Turner and Samantha  begins a quest to prove themselves innocent but also crack the conspiracy wide open.

Unlike previous installment, this is less procedural . The family dynamic between the three characters put the lone wolf Reacher in a position he is not used to be in which makes this one more emotional involving than Jack Reacher.

On the other hand, this feels a lot more audience friendly version of the  uncompromisingly detached character that Reacher is in the novels. But he has on occasion in the novels been put in situations in which he may had to reflect on his choice of lifestyle, so it makes sense both in terms of action film narrative and as a companion to the books.

The messy plot of the Lee Childs novel has been more streamlined and actually flows a lot better in my opinion, but some of the weirder stuff has been lost. Like a sequence in which Turner and Reacher randomly comes across a random clan of hillbillys. It  was the same kind of weirdness as the guy with a trunk full of rabbits in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. But there is little weirdness or anything quirky about it. It is mostly a solid thriller.  But the relationship between Reacher and his assumed daughter is more developed and engaging and way more thought out than in the book and the family dynamic is sometimes humorous.

Cruise has really grown into the role, (despite that he is quite a lot shorter than Reacher from the novels) and his aging face with more wrinkles and lines, that not only gives him more personality but as a result  make him seem more believable as a bad ass these days. I think I am convinced. I  fully approve of this version of Reacher.

Director Edward Zwick , unlike Christopher McQuarrie dirctor of Jack Reacher 1, adds little in terms of visual touches or anything memorable except for some cheesy black and white effects added for internal purposes. But this is also the director known for bland films and comfortable "couch dramas". More of a director of Oscar bait material than  of low brow genre films of which Jack Reacher most clearly is. But at least he never falls into the trap of  non-genre directors of shaking the camera around in the action set pieces. The fights are still as good as in the first film; swift and brutal in execution as they are in the novels, but also clear for the human eye to register and follow the movements. That is good news. I think it is in the drama scenes perhaps, his strengths lies , which slightly elevates this movir from most blockbusters. You like the characters. Zwick alse makes Reacher a bit more vulnerable, but not too much.

Oh, there are a couple of diner scenes as well. Good.

söndag 23 oktober 2016


Previously on Johan Falk:

Johan has been snared into working for the Russians. He  now has a handler. A  woman which we as of yet has no knowledge of.  From our point of view he has been snared. But from the Russians point of view they have recruited someone to work for them. The grey murky areas continue to make cracks on the ground we walk on.

Meanwhile, there might be a power struggle brewing inside Seth Rydells gang, and the connections between GSI and  Seth Rydell  are slowly getting tighter at the same time there are huge tensions.

Oh yeah, GSI might have been compromised and there might be a cop inside GSI  helping the Russians.


The plot this time takes a bit of a temporary wide turn to tell a story of international political intrigue inside a Middle Eastern country and how it spills over to Swedish soil, involving , for Falkologists, a very familiar face, Pernilla  (Alexandra Rapaport) from Executive Protection, now owner of her own private security firm and privately inside a real shitstorm. In the opening of the film we see she´s been hired to protect the family to a higher ups in an no named Middel Eastern country. But shit hits the fan and her security detail gets ambushed and kidnapped.Pernilla is forced to help the terrorists for reasons unknown at first, but it involves a badass diplomat working on Swedish soil, civil war and some trickery involving money transactions and coimputers. (According to the shooting script one of the security guards is Ralf from Executive Protection, which I did not realize it at first.)

We also get introduced to the owner of an MMA club wanting to buy guns from Seth who has connections with  Czechen  mafia. this subplot will  be more elaborated on in next film. Another chesspiece has entered the board.

Patrik has stepped down as leader for GSI due to his cancer, but he remains as a mentor to Sophie. Also GSI need to find who has leaked. There is an infiltrator within the police. 

Meanwhile , Jack is struggling to cope with  his two failed assassination attempts on his brother-in-arms Seth Rydell. The Pakistanis are pretty pissed about that.  Jack is also  suspecting Seth working for the cops.

Jibber jabber:

The plot is pretty convoluted this time around, perhaps too much so to really care about and invest in. The surface plot with the middle eastern politics seem at surface bland and uninteresting. But thematically one might find one or two things worth mentioning.

Just as Johan, Pernilla is put in a morally grey position as she is forced to help terrorists in a civil war struggle, a conflict that for us as outsiders we have little grasp on.  She seems to also have a handler; one of the terrorists actually says "she is my responsibility". The villains might believe they are doing what is best for their own country. Who are we to judge? We are put in a position to root against them as they threaten Swedes; Pernilla as they hold her personnel hostage against her. But put in a different narrative light, their actions might be understood. Thinking this way it gives the  series another furnish of complexity, that the world is not as easily defined in terms of good and bad.

I think this is the one that is hardest to grasp as far as the narrative goes. Weapon deals, diamond heists, foreign politics and fragile alliances of all sorts. A lot is going on. It becomes more of a espionage thriller, than a straight forward thriller like the last one. Who is who and who does what to who?

In one of the scenes the diplomat  survives an attempt by being a complete badass, overcomes, stabs and kick the living shit out of two assassins even when shot at close range:

A bit of awkwardness occurs as Johan and Pernilla meet for the first time in  like thirteen years.

The scene is fairly straightforwardly shot, shot-reverse shot , with some close ups to the faces to try to see what  reactions can be revealed.. Signaling that these people are professionals that despite meeting each other for the firts time in years, they keep their guard up. It is a poker game.

They´ve never socialized outside their professions before. A line is at the end of the scene exchanged in which they might have lunch someday. I don´t  think so.

Underneath the courtesy lies some suspicion as one line form the script more explicitly states when Pernilla asks "Are you spying on me?. That line seems to have been deleted and instead relied on insinuation. Good.

Later there is a similar confrontation, but with more emotional underpinnings when Jack and Seth reveals to each other their true intentions. 

Similar setup, but with a higher degree of suspicion, underlying threats and explicit earnesty. They have no secrets  anymore. The hostility is in the open it seems.  These are two people with a history, they´ve built tight bonds and go way back, which makes the scene  more involving. You know these people cared for each other. It went beyond  being professionals, they were "brothers". I care more about these criminals than Pernilla and Johans relatonship.


To be honest, I prefer the last movie´s more straight forward approach, but I can appreciate the ballsyness of crafting a more diffused narrative to complement the underlying themes of the difficulty in where to draw a line morally. It is murky, grey and hard to make something of, The espionage elements makes it way more vague and ambivalent, like we have fallen into a dark abyss in which there is no moral, no bottom to plant your feet and grasp your world.   Seth is selling arms to terrorists at the same time he helps the police. It is an ongoing morally ambiguous tale, which this series excel at, but I would have liked to have been more invested in the plot.

I never could figure out entirely what was going on in the politics so as a surface thriller it kind of disappears into blandness. It is what is going on between the characters in the subplots that keeps this one afloat and the overall themes that lies like a blanket over everything that happens.

All this confusion made me think. I don´t know, any more, you guys. Are the Russians any worse than the supposedly good guys on our parts anymore. Should we actually embrace this fear of Russians or is there another way to look at these apparently  unfathomable bunch of people? Are they so strange and weird? Or am I strange and weird for thinking that?

Next time on Johan Falk:

Undercover work within the MMA club and the Czechen mafias stronhold.