Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Action/Adventure - Steve Grzesiak ""

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Underrated Action/Adventure - Steve Grzesiak

I am, professionally speaking, a writer and commentator on what would be called 'adult entertainment websites' in polite circles. But you can call me a porn reviewer if you want. I was raised on Laurel & Hardy and Clint Eastwood films, went through the obvious Stallone / Schwarzenegger phase, and now I'll watch just about anything. As long as it doesn't have capes in it.
You can follow me on Letterboxd and on Twitter as well.

Breakheart Pass (Tom Gries, 1975)
Often mislabelled as just Charles Bronson returning to westerns, Breakheart Pass is actually nothing like your average western. Well, that is until some 'injuns' come whooping and hollering into scene near the end. Before that, however, this is a mystery adventure thriller based on an Alistair MacLean novel about a train carrying medical supplies to a diphtheria-infected army fort. Bronson is pretty much as you'd expect, as are the always reliable Richard Crenna and Charles Durning. What you don't expect from Bronson is for him to suddenly pull out a drop-kick on someone on top of a moving train....

North Sea Hijack (Andrew V. McLaglen, 1979)
Made during Roger Moore's Bond run, he plays an altogether different kind of hero here. The kind of hero who, for instance, has an obsession with cats, wears a woolly bobble hat, barks at James Mason for suggesting that it's too early for a whiskey ("It's four hours since breakfast! It's LATE!") and is even more of a misogynist pig than Bond is or was. Anthony Perkins hams it up as a terrorist who wants £25 million to not blow up some oil rigs in the titular body of water. It's one of those films that knows exactly how awesomely daft it is, and it's quite right too.

Race With The Devil (Jack Starrett, 1975)
If you come to watching any movie starring Peter Fonda, Warren Oates and RG Armstrong that is pretty much a road movie on paper, what you perhaps wouldn't be expecting is for it to turn into an action adventure horror hybrid somewhere along the line. While Loretta Swit and Lara Parker are asked to contribute nothing more than screaming at the tops of their lungs and looking up devil worshipping in some library books, Fonda and Oates are amusingly gruff while all kinds of splendidly entertaining nonsense unfolds around them. A beautifully chaotic car chase and a brilliantly improbable ending tops it all off nicely.

Sleepless Night (Frederic Jardin, 2011)
It's probably a bit too early for any movie to be tagged as 'underrated' when it's only about 3 years old, but the lack of exposure for Frederic Jardin's claustrophobic action thriller is wholly undeserved. This actioner is almost entirely a one location film, set around a nightclub where a corrupt cop is attempting to find his kidnapped son. Action films almost always require a lot of space to work well in, but Sleepless Night uses its cramped settings ingeniously. An incredibly brutal kitchen brawl and a brilliant use of a dance-along to Queen's Another One Bites The Dust to evade pursuers are just two of the many delights in this relentless French fancy.

Trespass (Walter Hill, 1992)
Ice T and Ice Cube versus Hudson from Aliens and Death from Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. Who's your money on? Walter Hill's action caper plays out like an urban The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, with Art Evans doing the Walter Huston turn - and quite well, actually. Bills Paxton and Sadler are firefighters searching for some hidden treasure in a dilapidated East St. Louis warehouse, and that to me is one of those movie descriptions that I could never resist. Certainly not one of Hill's best but far, far better than being passed off as one of his lesser flicks as many critics seemed to insist that it was.

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