Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '98 - Brandon Smith ""

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Underrated '98 - Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith has been a film junkie since the yesteryears of VHS and Laserdisc, also a hardcore advocate of physical media. @bsmith8168 is dedicated to seeking out any under seen and underrated film from around the globe. In his spare time he helps out the good people at AGFA to help in the preservation and distribution of many of oft talked of titles that many thought lost in the malaise of the grindhouse era.

Jerry and Tom
Classic late '90s crime film that seems semi inspired by Scorsese and Tarantino that has enough life of it's own to create a nice yet extremely dark gangster film. The film centers around two small time hit men through the years as the younger of the pair develops. Some of the film gets a little too quirky for my taste, but the overall vibe has a pretty solid sense of humor that can turn pitch black instantly and without any warning. There is a standout job by the editor by melding scenes together seamlessly that works well with the quickly changing themes. The acting is well done all around with a lot of short cameos.
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Beast Cops
Beast Cops is a slightly lighter film from the usual Category III fare that was the rage in Hong Kong at this time and instead of focusing on sex this film is geared more for the story. A cop (Anthony Wong) that has ties with the Triad gets a new partner that is a lot more straight edge that is highly decorated for his heroics. The two start to bond once they live with each other and hang out at different nightclubs. Meanwhile after a killing a leader of the local Triad who runs the neighborhood goes into hiding after a murder, his younger brother rises to power causing violence and problems for everyone. There is a struggle that forms between the new cop and the younger gangster brother over the older brother's ex-girlfriend. The film has a quick pace and enough action and humor to keep the plot line enjoyable throughout. There is an amazing shootout in the last act that resembles something from either The Raid or Oldboy. The film is slightly harder to find, but there is a cheap import DVD from England that is actually of pretty good quality.

Her Name is Cat
Hong Kong Category III film in which a young gorgeous hit woman falls for a recently divorced man. The film is straight pumping with the typical late '90s cliches of extreme workout montages, rave clubs, and enough techno music to make your head spin. The film is from the director of Naked Killer so the expected absurdity is always present as is the sex and crazy action sequences. Not the best of the genre, but does have plenty to keep your interest invested the whole time. There is almost a Matrix/Run Lola Run vibe going on that seems almost slightly fresh about it.

Bullet Ballet
Shinya Tsukamoto returns as star and director in a tale about a man that is trying to cope with the suicide of his longtime girlfriend and his ever growing obsession he has for the type of gun she used to do it. The film has that kinetic industrial feel as the first Tetsuo film complete with the B&W cinematography and odd romantic entanglements. Tsukamoto shows again that no matter what, the viewer can never really tell what step the film will take next. Bullet Ballet also has a great juxtaposition of cool looking characters that look like villains from Kill Bill against locales that look like abandoned buildings to an almost post-apocalyptic level.
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The Red Dwarf
French genre film that focuses on a dwarf that works for a law firm that doesn't respect him that's located by a circus where he befriends a young trapeze girl. He also gets wrapped up in a case of a wealthy older woman that is in the middle of a divorce that ends in a murder. The film is shot in B&W and has an almost Lynch/Gilliam quality to it that helps with the story that is slightly uneven, but still works. There is a little something for everyone in this film as the themes change from thriller to fantasy to even romance throughout the film.
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Always Outnumbered
This film is shocking that it doesn't receive nearly as much love as it deserves. Fishburne plays Socrates an ex-con that is quick with dealing out violent justice to anyone that messes with him or anyone that he cares for. The film is set in LA and is filled with difficult situations that all get Socrates' attention. The theme of redemption in the film is recurring and Fishburne plays the lead stronger than maybe anything else in his entire career. He doesn't enjoy the violence and injustice that seems to be never ending, but knows that something must be done which will end either in tragedy or it will be resolved. Three of my favorite Bills show up throughout the film as well Nunn, Cobbs, and Duke which always add to everything that they are in. Depressing and harrowing, but it is also a very satisfying film experience.
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The Eyes of the Spider
Early entry from Kiyoshi Kurosawa who also made The Serpent's Path in the same year that is also worth checking out. The film centers on a man that captures his young daughters killer and kills him. Afterwards the man is changed in a way that he is now in a way turned on by his revenge and takes a job with a local hood that begins his career of crime. The main character Niijima is easily relatable and why the film works so well as he starts a game of escalating consequences. Kurosawa's talent is center stage as well with great performances and a way to set the shots in a way that is entirely his own.

Greek horror film that follows a young man as a child and the events that lead up to his mother's disappearance and the strange occurrences around it. Down the road the child is now the head of a motorcycle gang of thieves that come across an opportunity to rob a wealthy old woman that is in the same house where he lived when his mother went missing. Meanwhile the police keep finding statues that are life-size duplicates of people that have been going missing. The film is like a slow burn atmospheric monster hunter film, by slow I mean very slow. In the last act things start to pick up when the medusa showdown starts to materialize. I'm not trying to sound negative, the film builds a great deal of tension in the beginning and has a unique way of showing the unknown which suffices nicely until the action starts.

Unlucky Monkey
Sabu's Unlucky Monkey packs a hardcore punch from start to finish that starts with two men wearing ski masks about to rob a bank. Once they arrive at their destination they realize that someone else is already in the process of robbing the same bank and also wearing ski masks. In a strange turn of events our lead is the only one left holding the bag full of money and a chef knife while running from the police on foot. While turning a corner he accidentally stabs a young hairdresser that will haunt him for the rest of his days. There is also a parallel plot going on in which three yakuza accidentally kill off one of their superiors that sends them on an odyssey of paranoia and escalating violence. This all happens in the first fifteen minutes. The film moves extremely fast and is riddled with comedy and tragedy throughout that makes for an unforgettable time. This is my first foray into the work of Sabu as a director and it was great, his style has some of the same types of flourishes that Miike or Sono show while creating likable and believable characters in the most outlandish situations.
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