We Want (90s) Action: The Big Hit (1998) & The Replacement Killers (1998)

the big hit One of my favorite aspects of Netflix is checking in every few weeks to see which movies have been added to the Instant side of things. A lot of times, the newer releases to pop up are actually discs that I got from the service less than a month prior, but for the most part, there’s usually a few things I stumble across that I’m pretty excited about. Recently, The Big Hit made its way on there and I got stoked because I remembered liking that movie around when it came out to the point where I grabbed a copy on tape, though I’m not sure where or when.

Here’s the funny thing though, I don’t know if I ever actually watched the movie when I owned it because the last 20 minutes or so of the film were a complete mystery to me. That actually made it kind of fun, but there was a lot of inadvertent content already making me have a great time. I’ll get to that in a few.

The film, directed by Kirk Wong (Crime Story), stars Mark Wahlberg as Melvin, one of the nicest guys on Earth, a real people pleaser who also happens to be an incredibly acrobatic hit man. He works with a group of killers made up of Lou Diamond Phillips’ Cisco and Antonio Sabato Jr.’s Vince, though he only shows up in the beginning and end of the movie. Cisco gets Melvin in on a side job that happens to be a kidnapping. Turns out the girl they snatch (China Chow) is actually the god daughter of their boss. Meanwhile, Melvin’s dealing with a visit from his girlfriend’s (Christina Applegate) parents played by the amazing Elliott Gould and the incredibly annoying Lainie Kazan while also trying to keep the kidnapee hidden. All this culminates in a pretty epic battle between Cisco and Melvin that’s worth the price of admission. 

Before going any further I just have to say that The Big Hit might be the most 90s movie of all time. The movie is super bright and overly complicated. The above description doesn’t even mention the member of their crew who decided to give up sex in favor of self love or Melvin’s other girlfriend or China Chow’s dad’s failed movie career or the subplot involving a nerdy video store clerk pestering Melvin about returning a copy of King Kong Lives. It’s not just that there are too many people in this movie, but everyone has a crazy quirk. Is this what people talk about when they mention the negative effect Quentin Tarantino’s movies had on other films? If so, it seems so far removed from the source to be almost untraceable.

And then there’s the clothes, which are all brighter than they need to be, especially when you consider the fact that you’re dealing with hitmen who probably don’t want to be so easily seen. And, boy, the soundtrack is just bonkers-90s. You’ve got your Fun Lovin’ Criminals, your Save Ferris and even some Mark Wahlberg up in there for good measure.

Speaking of Wahlberg, he’s fantastic in this movie, even if his character doesn’t actually make any sense. It’s like they built the circumstances of the character first and then tried to cram his actual thoughts and feelings into that box. “He’s a nice guy hitman, that’s hilarious!” But, it doesn’t make sense for a people-pleaser to spend his time murdering folks. Or cheating on one girlfriend with another. Still, he’s got that soft-spoken charm that’s pure Funky Bunch plus the spikey hair to go with it. Phillips also seemed to revel in the chance to play an over-the-top bad guy.

It might seem like I’m not a fan of this movie, but I really am. It’s a dumb, fun action movie with pretty people doing cool things, plus it works as a strange cultural artifact from a bygone decade that had way too much influence on me.

the replacement killers Antoine Fuqua’s The Replacement Killers is a far better movie, but it wasn’t quite as much fun. Then again, that’s not really the point to this Chow Yun-Fat/Mira Sorvino jam from the director who would go on to helm Training Day.

The gist here is that Chow Yun-Fat’s hitman character decides not to kill dirty cop Michael Rooker because he’s playing with his son, which obviously puts our hero in danger. On the run, he goes to Sorvino who makes fake passports. While there, the bad guys attack, assume they’re working together and they both have to do everything they can to survive an onslaught of bad guys with guns.

This was another film I remember renting in high school from Family Video. I only watched it the one time, but enjoyed it enough. I had an equally fun experience watching it this time. In its own way, this film is also very 90s, but in a much different way than The Big Hit. While that movie was concerned with being bright and cool, this one’s all about being dark and cool. There’s lots of leather jackets and black clothes and odd looking sunglasses and spinning around while shooting and, the worst trope of all, turning a gun sideways.

When this movie came out it was a pretty big deal for action fabs because it marked Chow Yun-Fat’s first American film. It might sound crazy in the day and age when I watched this on a streaming service right in my house, but back then it was much harder to get your hands on some of the more international films like Hard Boiled and Full Contact. This would have also most likely been the first time audiences got to see his moves on the big screen. Personally, I prefer him in these kinds of films as opposed to the more historical  ones like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Speaking of the cast, remember how big of a deal Mira Sorvino was in the 90s? It seemed like she was involved in all kinds of films from Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite to Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. Heck, in that time she even played Marilyn Monroe and Daisy in a TV version of The Great Gatsby! I was under the impression that she hadn’t done much in the pasy decade, but IMDb tells me she’s keeping plenty busy.

Anyway, I’d say to give both of these movies a look, preferably as a double feature with a group of pals, a vodka watermelon, pizza and a few cases of beer. Damn, that sounds like a lot of fun.

Drive-In Double Feature: Going The Distance & The Other Guys (2010)

The missus and I have been wanting to head to the Warwick Drive-In all summer, but the pairings of movies have either been uninteresting or we’ve either been out of town on good weekends. See, they’ve got three screens set up and each one shows two movies. We had never been to this drive-in, but we had a great time when we went last night to see Going The Distance and The Other Guys. As an added bonus, I could see the screen showing Expendables and kept peeping the awesome action scenes while listening to Other Guys.

Before getting into my review of Going The Distance, which I dug, doesn’t that not look like Drew Barrymore in the poster to the left? It’s kind of unsettling. Otherwise, I dig the poster.

Anyway, the movie’s about Barrymore and Justin Long a pair that meet in Brooklyn’s Barcade (one of the few hip places I’ve been in the city, though I could barely handle the overabundance of hipsters, go fig), but the problem is that Barrymore is an intern at a NYC paper and will be heading back to California in a few weeks. They don’t plan on making a big deal of their relationship, but find that they really dig each other and give the long distance relationship thing a shot.

Sounds kind of formulaic, right? Yeah, it kind of is. Both Long and Barrymore have sexy friends and coworkers of the opposite sex who make the partner jealous. But, even with all of that, I thought the movie was surprisingly funny. I didn’t realize it was rated R and they really go with it, having the usually disgustingly saccharine Barrymore dropping F bombs and drunkenly telling a huge biker to suck her dick. So, I went in expecting yet another Barrymore romantic comedy with Long’s awkward comedic stylings (which I like for the most part), but with the inclusion of Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day as Long’s friends and Christina Applegate and Jim Gaffigan (who is the only comedian in recent memory to make me laugh so hard I cried) as Barrymore’s sister and brother in law there’s a lot of funny moments going on like when Day, Long’s roommate, starts DJing Barrymore and Long’s first hookup and they’re both okay with it. Those unexpectedly funny moments made me laugh.

The problem with some of those moments and others where they seem to be letting Sydeikis or Applegate riff is that the movie feels about 10 minutes too long which is fair considering it’s 102 minutes. I’m a strong proponent of comedies not exceeding the magic 90-minute marker. Instead of cutting the funny bits, though, I would have just gotten rid of Applegate’s sexy British work friend who winds up disappearing after an awkward moment between the two when Barrymore gets super drunk. All in all, though, I was surprised at how funny the movie was and how much I didn’t mind the tropes of the romantic comedy genre shown by some legitimately funny actors and actresses.

I’m not a huge fan of writer/director Adam McKay’s but I’m getting there. Anchroman befuddled me when I first watched it, but I think that’s because I didn’t know what to expect and definitely wasn’t thinking it would be a life-like cartoon. Talladega Nights and Stepbrothers were pretty good, but didn’t blow me away, however, I really loved the shorts he did with his daughter Pearl “The Landlord” and the like. Plus, he wrote tons of sketches for SNL that I’m sure I loved during his long tenure on the show where he met up with Will Ferrell, the star of all the aforementioned movies and videos.

The Other Guys is about two low-men-on-the-totem-pole cops played by Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg who go after a low level criminal which winds up being a huge deal, referencing many of the financial problems we’ve seen in this country over the past few years. The plot reminds me of a lot of 80s and 90s buddy cop action movies I like, which is fun because they reference that genre by featuring the Rock and Sam Jackson as your action-packed cops.

I was glad to see Ferrell not playing his usual manchild character. Sure, he’s cartoony, but this time around he’s more buttoned up, but has a dark side. Meanwhile, Wahlberg plays the caricature of the pent-up cop perfectly. You’ve also got actors like Damon Wayans Jr., Rob Riggle, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan and Eva Mendes doing great, funny work in the movie that makes it a lot of fun to watch. There’s lots of silliness going on here, but I think it’s the most grounded movie that McKay and Ferrell have made, which would probably also make it the most accessible (having Wahlberg and Mendes can’t hurt either). I dug this movie and appreciated that I could watch the action scenes in Expendables and not miss any plot points. Speaking of action scenes, the one in the beginning of Other Guys features the Rock and Sam Jackson in a car chase that gets stuck in a double decker bus. It’s awesome.

Both movies were set in New York, so it was fun looking for the few locales I’m familiar with. The two movies also had some interesting connections for Six Degrees fans: Rob Riggle appears in both as an asshole and both feature The Golf Club at Chelsea Piers, a driving range that overlooks the Hudson River. I’ve never been there and didn’t even know it existed until I saw Long, Sudeikis and Day hitting balls there in the first movie and then a helicopter landing on it in the second. Fun stuff!

The drive-in experience was a lot of fun. We took the missus’ car which has a hatchback and built ourselves a nice little nest in the back. I wasn’t sure how comfortable it would be lying in the back, but it was pretty great and the weather was perfect. The food we bought there wasn’t too bad, but the snacks we brought in were kind of unnecessarily and I wound up with a stomach ache (combining hamburgers, chewie Jolly Ranchers, soda and Kit Kats is not the best idea). Hopefully we can get a few more double features in before the end of the season! Also, I think I might have seen a UFO!

They Can’t All Be Winners

2009-02-25
2:06:36 am

I haven’t been having a ton of luck lately when it comes to watching movies. Aside from falling asleep about a half hour in exactly no matter how cool the movie, I’ve been picking some duds (though still a few good ones). I couldn’t even get into watching Repo: The Genetic Opera for some reason. I’m not going to pass judgment on that one now because I was really tired, but I wanted to keep our Netflix queue going so I sent it back.

I did not however like an action movie I tried watching last night called Kiltro (2006). I made it about a half hour into that one before I fell asleep. I was hoping for an awesome action movie (as advertised), but instead I got a story about a guy who likes to fight and has a crush on a girl who blah blah blah. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I want my action movies (and my giant monster movies for that matter) to be less talking and more destruction, unless they happen to be actually funny like Police Story 1 and 2. Again, I don’t really consider this a review, because I didn’t watch the whole movie, just letting you action fans out there know not to waste your time.

I also watched most of a movie called Hickey and Boggs (1972) which has a lot going for it in that The Warriors writer Walter Hill wrote it and Bill Cosby stars as a tough guy private detective along with Robert Culp who also directs. I didn’t have any problem with this movie, though it is a bit slow, I just haven’t finished it yet because it’s kind of long and it expires from Netflix on March 1. It’s in the same vein as Dirty Harry and is pretty cool, so I might finish it up today. Oh, and if you were wondering, yes it’s kind of weird seeing Bill Cosby as a tough guy, but he also pulls it off really well. It’s fun to watch. Again, not a real review, but just some thoughts.

That being said, I do have four ACTUAL reviews:

POPCORN (1991)

Man, the 90s were a weird time for horror movies. You’re looking at a time after the slasher glut greatly hindered the genre, but before Scream made them cool again. Popcorn is kind of a weird movie. The basic premise is that a college film club decides to hold a movie marathon to raise some money. But this isn’t any movie marathon, they’re showing movies with a gimmick like smell-o-vision or shock-o-rama. As such, they need an old movie theater to show their flicks in and a crazy old guy to help out (and then completely disappear) in the form of Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian). If you really liked the beginning of Scream 2 where there’s all kinds of craziness happening in a movie theater, then this is right up your alley as it seems as though a counterculture guy from back in the day wants his weirdo movie to be seen so much he’s willing to kill people for it (that’s not exactly the plot, but I don’t want to give too much away). There was enough quirky charm to keep me watching even though the movie isn’t awesome by any means. So, if that sounds interesting (oh and the fact that someone gets killed via giant fake mosquito), check it out.

THE ROCKER (2008)

I was really surprised with how much I liked this Rainn Wilson flick. I was also surprised with the huge number of cast members I not only recognized, but knew by name (for the most part). Wilson stars as a drummer who got kicked out of what became the biggest band of the 80s right before they blew up. Now, in modern times, Rainn’s down on his luck, but ends up joining his nephew’s band, which garners its own huge levels of success. Aside from the cast that includes Christina Applegate, Emma Stone, Jeff Garland, Jane Lynch (from 40 Year Old Virgin and a hundred other things), Jason Sudekis, Will Arnett, Fred Armisen, Jane Krakowski, Bradley Cooper, Lonny Ross (30 Rock), Demetri Martin and Aziz Ansari, I was really impressed with how well they pull off some moments that could have come off as cheesy. There’s also one part where Rainn offers up the emo lead singer some songwriting advice (paraphrase “let’s speed it up and switch it to I’m NOT bitter) and he actually takes it without flinching. Sure it’s kind of similar to a scene in That Thing You Do, but in this case the lead singer just decided to go for it instead of being a d-bag. The Rocker is one of those flicks that seems like it either went up against some huge other movie or their producers didn’t have the juice to put much/any advertising cash behind it, because there’s no reason that this shouldn’t have done way better (though I said the same thing after seeing Speed Racer, which I still really enjoyed, so what do I know).

I also watched a couple movies all the way through that I wasn’t really into and those were Bangkok Dangerous (2008) and The Crazies (1973). I’ll be honest, the only reason I wanted to watch BD is because I’ve laughed a million times at the Best of The Wicker Man video on YouTube starring BD’s Nic Cage. Man that’s a funny video. You can get to it here after reading an AWESOME article I wrote about horror movie remakes for ToyFare. Unfortunately, BD was no where near as ridiculous as I was hoping it would be (I mean, COME ON, it’s Nic Cage as an assassin!). Instead, it’s a pretty run-of-the mill story about an assassin who has all kinds of rules, but is starting to not want to be an assassin anymore. You’ve seen it a million times and this doesn’t really offer up anything new, unlike Grosse Pointe Blank which is completely awesome.

The Crazies (1973) is the first non-zombie George Romero movie I’ve ever seen. It was okay, but not all that interesting. Instead of focusing on characters and how they react to these crazy situations, it seemed like Romero was more focused on showing a lot of dudes in white hazmat-type suits rounding people up after a virus that makes people go bat-poop nutso, gets released in a small town. There’s nothing all that wrong, really, it just didn’t grab my attention like my favorite Romero (and horror) flick Dawn of the Dead does.

Last Weekend Roundup

2008-11-24
4:58:28 am

Whew, it’s been a busy few weeks. I was pretty exhausted for most of last week, but Em and I did watch a bunch of movies last Sunday to celebrate the new TV. Instead of watching special effects heavy movies like Iron Man or Transformers we went in the opposite direction and watched a pair of romantic comedies. Not exactly my usual, but I did enjoy both flicks.

The first was a movie that had been sitting near our TV for a few weeks along with Drop Dead Gorgeous which Em borrowed from her friend Lee (hey Lee). It’s called The Sweetest Thing (2002) and stars Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate, Selma Blair, Jason Bateman and The Punisher, er, Tom Jane. I’ll be honest, it’s been over a week and my memory’s definitely fuzzy, but basically Diaz falls for Tom Jane in a club and then tries to go after him at what she thinks is her brother’s (Bateman) but is really Jane’s. Plot-wise, it’s a pretty standard romantic comedy, but it’s the flourishes that make this a pretty good flick. Diaz and Applegate have some pretty over the top scenes and they often sneak into annoying territory with their catch phrases and Diaz’s mugging for the camera. But all in all, if you’ve got to watch a RomCom, it’s a pretty good one.

We also checked out Run Fatboy Run (2007) which also falls into the romantic comedy genre and follows a lot of the standard tropes, but I’m a big Simon Pegg fan and David Schwimmer did a great job directing him, Hank Azaria and Thandie Newton. Pegg plays a dude who ran out on his pregnant fiance (Newton) on their wedding day. Now it’s five years later, they’ve got a kid, he works as a security guard at a clothing store where he runs down bra-stealing trannies and Newton’s dating the super succesful Azaria who likes to run marathons. Pegg realizes how big of a mistake he made and now wants to made good by showing people (mostly her, his kid and himself) that he can run a marathon in England (where he lives).

What I do like about RFR is that, even though it is kind of paint by numbers, Schwimmer uses a few different colors than you might expect. Like a lot of other RomComs, we see that Azaria’s maybe not the greatest guy and we do feel good when Newton finally realizes this. But, and this is a SPOILER at the end, after Azaria’s out of the picture and Pegg’s proven he’s a good dude, it’s not like he and Newton just fall in love again. I appreciate that.

So far, I haven’t seen Pegg in anything that I didn’t like, except for the flick that he co-starred with Schwimmer in called Big Nothing which really didn’t do anything for me. He’s even the reason I’m looking forward to Star Trek, though now that I’ve seen the previews, that movie is really making me want to see it, so kudos to the marketing team.

Yeah, I know romantic comedies probably aren’t what you expected to read about in this first post after a slow week, but I’m trying to catch up on what I read and watched over the week. Until next time…