onsdag 11 juli 2018


Atomic Blonde directed by David leitch, one of the co-directors of the marvellous sleeper sensation John Wick  is one film I had high hopes for. It looked fantastic with its retro inspired late 80´s look and soundtrack. Like a Luc Besson film of the 80´s. It still does. But a missed opportunity was squandered here I think. It could have been a wonderful movie with the level of worldbuilding of John Wick but set in East Berlin at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

John Le Carré, a british writer of Cold War spy novels did that. Created all these mysterious organizations and shadowy characters that was and still is so compelling.  Spy stories invite to world building I think thanks to the levels of intricacies involved.

But what we are left with is a fairly superficial nonsensical spy nonsensical film, that tries to blend genres, but perhaps it was the two genres that never should be melded. The action film and the spy drama.

Action films are propulsive by nature, moving forward, creating momentum. Spy stories are reflective with its elliptic narratives, quite the contrary to action films. And this film is an example of how bad they mixed.

I once tried to mix red and white wine in the same glass. A hopeless effort and stupid  endeavour. They were never going to match.

So, what is the story?

Well, an East German defector with a list of spies needs to get across the border.  And Atomic Blonde ( I can´t remember her real name) played by Charlize Theron is tasked by the British Intelligence to get the list back and the defector.

That is basically the story, but it is hidden by pointless elliptic flashbacks told through an interrogation after the events and ends with an even more pointless twist. Spy stories usually have unexpected turns, but I found this one ill fitted.

But what do we have, if we can´t rely on a solid story? Well, we have  a soundtrack that at least deviates a lot from the usual nostalgic 80´s back catalogue, because a lot of these songs are German which frames the story very nicely. We also have the usual blue lighting commonly associated with late 80´s action films.

Since it´s a film directed by the co-director of John Wick, it is sprinkled with dynamic fight sequences throughout. I say, sprinkled, because unlike John Wick, this is not a very focused movie. John Wick- the character was a dynamic character with propulsion which fitted the narrative nicely. And the fights functioned well with the rest of the movie.

There is nothing wrong with the choreography here. In fact they are a highlight of a rather superficial effort. But Theron's character requires a rather more dynamic plot to suit her own dynamic presence.

In the end, we have a slight action film, with little to recommend it outside the phenomenal fight scenes. Charlize Thereon proves she can kick ass, but needs a vehicle to provide her so she can stomp the pedal and really go all in.

tisdag 6 februari 2018


The original Ninja is a fantastic throwback to the Golden Age of Ninja-movies ( the 80´s). A ninja flick with the correct B-movie sensibilities only hampered by the lack of consistently awesome Scott Adkins fightingry. Ninja 2 makes up for it by being a simple string of fight set pieces. It lacks the strong ninja mythology pathos of the original but instead shows a dynamic pacing and quite frankly is never boring.

Apparently neither Ninja 1´s director Isaac Florentine or/and its star Scott Adkins were happy with the first outing. They thought it looked too cartoony so in this movie they adopted a more grounded approach to the fight choreography with the listing of Swedish stuntman/martial artist Tim Man ( a Swedish Ip Man).

It starts out, instead of a montage of ninja lore, with some outrageous WW2 propaganda footage that warns of Ninjas in the pacific. NINJA! BEWARE! This sets up the rather lacklustre plot that at least never hinders the enjoyment of the film.But some elements might be worth examining.

It feels less Ninja-esque than the original film but instead it really highlights Adkins phenomenal acrobatic skills as a cinematic martial artist, seldom has his skills been put to better use than in this, the Undisputeds not-regarding.

Scott Adkins plays American Ninja Scott Whatever. He is settling down with his Japanese wife, only to find her dead as he returns from some bullshit errand she sends him on in the middle of the night. He gets a visit from an old friend, Nakabara, played by Kane Kosugi. Old Friend who happens to have a dojo in the same country as the clues Scott finds out about his wife´s murderer leads him to. The same guy who purposefully throw some metaphorical  Ninja Dust in Scott´s brain by delivering some heavy handed exposition about the same ninja shit during WW2 that we encountered in the opening.

You shouldn't trust what you are being spoon fed is the gist of it. The opening propaganda film serves as a foreshadowing of the events to come. We laugh at the silly propaganda from the olden days but later when Scott gets blindsided by being spoon fed  some historical nonsense we see the idea of how little informed we are can determine how we act or respond. Scott knows shit about the history and cannot question anything he is emotionally upset by his wife´s death and goes on a quest of vengeance unquestioningly. Something we can learn  some very hard lessons about in this day and age.

So , Scott is being sent to kill a rival to his Old Friend which turns out to be a pretty unspectacular villain. The only thing mentionable about it is the second lieutenant, played by Tim Man who has perhaps the single best fight in the film with Adkins.  With the exception of the final showdown when Scott throws down with Nakabara. A true delight for fight fans.

The plot is pretty complicated compared to Ninja, but it also makes sense. The first movie introduced us to the idea of Ninja.  Part of being Ninja is being shadowy, shoving dust in peoples eyes, construct distractions. 

Ninja-Shadow of a tear does all  that. But also advance the notion that Ninjas can create fake news, fake stories to construct how we see things. Beware of Ninja! It may not be strong on Ninja mythology, but it is strong on the implications of being a Ninja and being extremely current  and topical in how ninjas is being depicted for a 21st century.

fredag 18 augusti 2017


About the Books:

I have to admit. I am not a fan of works of fantasy. Most of them consists of endless number of books that are more interested in world building than to tell an exciting or concise story.

I know, that is a pretty back handed complaint. I am sure many of them are worthy of a long time investment and a big sore ass from reading them lying on my shitty couch.

So I figured since I already spend most of my time lying on my ass on my shtty couch reading Stephen King books collecting sores  I might actually give his longwinded sweeping epic fantasy series a chance.

I don´t regret that. But I will have to describe some of my previous  attitudes towards literature. Before I read King I read mostly hardbioled crime fiction. Elmore Leonard. Donald Westlake/Richard Stark, James Ellroy and so forth. I had a very specifc demand on story telling. Plot was everything. That was what I used to think mattered. And I was somewhat wrong. In the hands of a writer with a vivid imagination it can really open your mind when you let things breathe. King is the type of  writer who uses a lot of internal psychology , digressions in story using flashbacks and a lot of descriptive words to flesh out the world and the characters  and would have left a lot of my favourite writers shaking their head at. He spends time with people and the world.

His prose is perfect for worldbuilding.

I immediately learned to love his style because it has heart. I read a lot of prose  hardboiled ones, that are mostly cynical. But King is a humanist at heart. He understands people on a fundamental level I never thought a human being could do since Dostojevskij.. When he wrote The Dead Zone he saw the flaws in human nature that could give rise to a political monster like Donald Trump.

His horror stories may be about monsters. But mostly the ones that are closest to us. He shies not away from difficult issues or situations and that is why people respind to him

The Dark Tower is his magnum opus that collects not only a lot of his previous works, but also on a meta-level descripts on a deeper level how much stories means to us people. Which brings us to a bunch of people responsible who has no idea what the idea of story is or what it should mean. To them it is just a three act structure. The deeper meaning of the human condition has no meaning. The monsters lack all kind of meaning. What is left is a shell made by robots. Shame of you. You shoudl really be ashamed of yourselves.

About the actual film:

A young teenager ,Jake Chambers, has nightmares surrounding some imagery about a big Tower. He is being put through therapy as his parents thinks he is crazy. Earthquakes happens because in another world we get to see how children are forced into machinery that shoots out beams to hit the tower Jake is dreaming about. Jake visualizes a house of great importances and finds a portal to a world in which he finds a Gunslinger whom he also has imagined in his dreams. Together they form a journey. The gunslinger, Roland is hunting a man in black who killed his father. The Man in Black as we find out is also responsible for the ongoing destruction of the Tower. Somehow Jake wants to save the Tower. Blablabla....

It has been a well documented troubled production. A lot of people have been involved in trying to bring Kings work into fruition for a number of years. The end result is a by-the-numbers action/sci-fi/fantasy adventure that has the emotion of desert sand. It is so dry and uninspired, which is a shame as the product has a lor of promise. 

It lacks pretty much anything worthwhile from the books. The heart is gone and is replaced by a generic three act structure that nobody would be impressed with. A script that is heavily underdeveloped and is barely saved  by the editing and some performances.

The lacklustre budget does not help. It is clear that this did not have the financial backing it deserved. For instance, the aftermath of the Jericho Hill battle is barely portryaed beyond a couple of corpses. And the few impressive effect sequenzes are restricted to similar beam explosions to the tower to signal the deadline-type of urgency that is so painfully familiar to the shittiest of screenwriters.

It seems the climax is where the attention has been targeted at as it is not the tiresome bloated CGI-fests of Marvel/Dc but actually a fun and well constructed gunfight in which the elaborate skills of the Gunslinger Roland really gets shown. It ends with a funny schlocky Magic Vs Bullets showdown of Resident Evil-proportions as Roland and The Man in Black clash. It is pure unadultered pulpy schlock and that is the only sequence that is worthy of mentioning. Maybe that sequence should have been more prevalent in the rest of the film. At least the Gunslingers abilities could have been utilized more. 

I did not hate it as much as a lot of people has. I don´t think it is as terrible as some think, just generic. But that might be the problem. It lacks heart Any heart of the Stephen King novels that I learned to love is gone, At least you wont have to wore out your ass in the couch as I did when I read the books when you catch it on Netflix as it is only 90 minutes long.

The Dark Tower has not forgotten the face of its father, it is just  a simpleminded  stepchild who never even knew the face of his biological father.

A shame. A goddamn shame.

onsdag 26 april 2017


No not the one with Walter Mathau and Jack Lemmon. Although it would have been better if it had ended with a kung fu showdown. No this one stars Sammo Hung and Lau Kar Wing ( brother of legendary martial arts filmmaker Lau Kar Leung) as two rival weapons masters that one day each year meet up to decide once and for all who is the best of them both. And every year it ends with a tie so they end up taking up pupils to fight for them instead. It´s a great showcase of some of teh best weapons work in a martial arts film ever. And this final fight si breathtaking.

lördag 22 april 2017

NINJA (2009)

Good ninja movies  are hard to find these days. They seem to have disappeared in the popular consciousness with a big smokebomb. They used to be everywhere in the eighties. Hell I remember they were even in the soap opera Falcon Crest back in the day , but don´t quote me on that one. My memory is pretty hazy. Like mist in the past clouding my ninja memories.

Ninja directed by Isaac Florentine is a beautiful breeze of fresh air in Ninja-cinema. An actual solid Ninja movie for the 2000´s using a lot of the mythical tropes we associate with the pop art version of Ninja. I am not sure if what we associate with the word Ninja has any historical validity. But history is sketchy anyway.

Scott Adkins stars as American Ninja Scott Bowman, adopted as an orphan into a japanese dojo by Sensei Takeda played by Togo Igawa (Street Fighter:Assassins Fist). But he has a rival on the school, Mazasuka who don´t care for gaijin or outsiders. Like Sho Kosugis character in Enter The Ninja never cared of Franco Nero in Enter The Ninja. So already we have established a conventional conflict in Ninja cinema, in which Ninja adhers to. Mazasuka  wants to become the next sensei of Ninja-school so he can get the family treasure ( a bunch of awesome ninja shit), but he gets his ass banished from said Ninja-school during a friendly matchup against Casey, but ends up not-so-friendly. He vows revenge..blablabla and soforth. Casey is on route to become the next sensei instead, while Mazasuka finds a new career path as an assassin for a ridiculous cult of white priviledged men out to kill its business competitors and strikes a deal with them.

Later he kills Sensei Takeda and comes after Casey and the treasure. That is the plot. And it is pretty basic compared to the convoluted affairs of the sequel. 

Florentine and Adkins has gone on  record saying they were never really pleased with this first Ninja outing, that it was too reliant on wirework and CGI. I can see that. But the more I watch this the more it feels like a true ninja-film of yore with shurikens, katana-blades and a vast array of different Ninja weaponry. And there are a lot of excellent fight scenes in this as well. Scott Adkins goes up against a whole room of scumbags and dispatches them in a most beautiful way. There is also a very impressive subway fight that, according to Florentine, was one of the few scenes he was proud of in the making of Ninja.

I think the more heightened impact the wirework and CG actually gives this film the type of flavour it needs. The silliness of ninjas and their almost supernatural skills is something that eighties nnja-cinema exploited in intriguing ways and the exoticism of japanese culture was at a highpoint so it would not be completely out of place of having this exaggurated look at a pop culture phomenon that has not been relevant in decades. As such I think the film works as a film belonging to a tradition of Ninja-filmmaking long gone.A tradition that has vanished in thin air to suddenly re-appear in 2009 to ambush the audience with its silly but awesome  sets of trickery.

The seuqel Ninja-Shadow of a Tear takes the fight scenes to a more grounded level to accommodate Adkins abiliteis better , because apparently Ninjas more japanese style of fighting  that the fight choreography was built on suited Scott Adkins poorly. I don´t know,  he looks pretty great in this, and that is probably a testament to his physical skills. because  of that this a damn fun film to watch.


This film is a favourite of mine. As a sequel it builds and expands on the claustrophobic survivalhorror elemts into an Infernal Affairs-esque gangster epic with many more colorful characters a more complex plot and fight sequences staged so beautifully they could be part of a museum exhibit. The kitchen fight at the end is something else. Brutal, fast, energetic. A classic.

torsdag 20 april 2017


Another Scott Adkins joint. This is a slight spoiler as the real villain is not revealed until the end. But if you have son of legendary Sho Kosugi in the same film as Scott Adkins, you can bet your sour smelly ass that they will clash against one another. This is a great finale to a perfect B-action film that contains enough story beat to put the fights together but never deviate from what the film want to capture. This is Scott Adkins at his finest.