Movies Till Dawn: The Tough Ones

Furie” (2019, Well Go USA) Though she’s at odds with her village because of her job (debt collector) and her status – she’s a former criminal with an illegitimate child – Veronica Ngo (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) finds that her past has also given her the right amount of grit to put paid to the traffickers that kidnap her daughter. Vietnamese action-thriller from veteran writer-director Le-Van Kiet rises above its well-worn revenge-driven plotline by virtue of Ngo’s performance – she nails both the maternal and enforcer sides of her character – and ferocious fight choreography by Yannick Ben (“Ghost in the Shell”) and Kefi Abrikh (“Jason Bourne”) drenched in neon-noir hues by cinematographer Christopher Morgan Schmidt. Well Go’s Blu-ray/DVD set includes interviews with Ngo, Kiet, the stunt team and co-star/extreme athlete Phan Thanh Nhieh, who plays a cop trying to keep up with Ngo.

Hellboy” (2019, Lionsgate) Reboot of the fantasy-horror franchise (spawned from Mike Mignola‘s comic) with David Harbour of “Stranger Things” taking up Hellboy’s horn stumps and stone hand to fight sorceress Milla Jovovich, who intends to use his demonic heritage to bring about the end of the world. Critics savaged this R-rated take by director Neil Marshall (“Game of Thrones,” but also the terrific “Dog Soldiers” and “The Descent”), and they weren’t wrong – the leaden, convoluted script lacks the dark fairytale tone of Guillermo Del Toro’s “Hellboy” films (nothing here approaches the colossal plant-god spewing a shower of delicate plants as it dies in “Hellboy 2: The Golden Army”). It’s not without positives – Ian McShane as Hellboy’s adoptive father, and Harbour gets the mix of sullen teen and superhero right – but for the most part, it’s a lot of blood and little else. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray/DVD has a three-part making-of featurette with numerous interviews, as well as deleted scenes.

The Tough Ones” (1976, Grindhouse Releasing) Hard-nosed cop Maurizio Merli tears up the city of Rome and its lawbooks in his pursuit of lunatic criminal Tomas Milian, who has a literal chip (a hump, really) on his shoulder for Merli’s strong-arm tactics. No-holds-barred poliziottesco from Italian genre workhorse Umberto Lenzi, who paints an ugly picture of the Eternal City as a cesspool of crime that can only be cleaned by a cop as brutal as the thugs he pursues. The grim tone and tough talk is made palatable for Eurocrime devotees by a barrage of jaw-dropping shoot-outs and (unauthorized) car chases and Franco Micalizzi‘s fuzz-funk score. Grindhouse’s two-disc Blu-ray set overflows with extras, from commentary from filmmaker Mike Malloy and a feature-length overview of Lenzi’s career to interviews with Milian, Micalizzi and many of their cast and crewmates, as well as countless promotional materials, a CD of Micalizzi’s score and informative liner notes by Roberto Curti.

Heroes Shed No Tears” (1986, Film Movement Classics) Chinese mercenaries led by Hong Kong genre vet Eddy Ko are sent into the Golden Triangle to capture a notorious drug lord, which puts them on the wrong side of everyone from a vicious Vietnamese general (Lam Ching-ying) to the drug lord’s army. Golden Harvest shelved this relentlessly violent action film until its director, John Woo, broke wide with “A Better Tomorrow“; it has little of his signature (and highly influential) visual style, but wall-to-wall gunplay and brutal beatings – so much so that at times, “Heroes” seems to both celebrate and lampoon the histronics of ’80s action. Film Movement Classics’ Blu-ray features a lengthy career interview with Ko and excellent liner notes by Grady Hendrix.

Double Impact” (1991, MVD Rewind Collection) Identical twins, both played by Jean-Claude Van Damme and distinguishable by their hairstyles (varying degrees of mousse), team up to regain the family fortune from their father’s double-crossing business partner and his Triad backers. Co-written and co-produced by Van Damme as a means of showcasing his talents outside of 90-degree kicks, “Double Impact” is noisy and silly , but does offer Hong Kong locations, the always dependable Geoffrey Lewis (Juliette’s dad) and Bolo Yeung in headcrusher mode as consolation; MVD Rewind’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray pays homage to the film’s apparent cult status with a two-hour making-of featurette (with Van Damme), deleted scenes, B-roll footage, scene breakdowns, vintage promos and more.

Fort Yuma Gold/Damned Hot Day of Fire” (1968, Mill Creek Entertainment) Two-fer of Italian-made Westerns on a single Blu-ray: in “Fort Yuma Gold,” Confederate POW Giuliano Gemma must stop an assault on the titular Union fort by renegade Rebels, while “Day of Fire” (a favorite of Quentin Tarantino) revises history by sending Union soldier Robert Woods after the Mexican bandit (a scenery-chewing John Ireland) that kidnapped Richard Gatling and his eponymous proto-machine gun for the South. Plentiful action in both films, along with a colorful array of Stateside ex-pats (Woods, Ireland, Dan Vadis) and Continental regulars (Evelyn Stewart, Jacques Sernas) on display. Mill Creek’s Blu-ray offers watchable if well-worn prints for both films (“Day of Fire” is culled from various sources).

And: Arrow has “The Running Man” (1963), with Laurence Harvey faking his death for the insurance money and Alan Bates as the investigator on his trail, and “Willie Dynamite” (1974), with Roscoe Orman – Gordon on “Sesame Street” (!) – as a pimp whose vice mini-empire is taking heat from all corners, while Warner Archives Collection has Richard Brooks’ western “The Last Hunt” (1956), with Robert Taylor and Stewart Granger as hunters whose divided opinions on slaughtering buffalo and Native Americans are deepened when Taylor captures a young Indian girl (Debra Paget). While the returns for each title range from modest to satisfying, all boast excellent leads and support from Diana Sands in “Willie,” Lee Remick in “Running Man,” and Lloyd Nolan in “Hunt.”

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About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and The Fix, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for Amazon.com from 1998 to 2014. He has interviewed countless entertainment figures from both the A and Z lists, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and George Newall, who created both Schoolhouse Rock and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson, and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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