ORBzine - Techno-Thriller 2014 Movie Reviews


Argo (2012)

Argo (2012) This is based on a true story from the 1970s, painstakingly reconstructed with decent attention to detail. It starts with a History lesson about the Persian Empire We get as far as the late 1970s, when the American-backed dictator was deposed by a violent revolution. The US Embassy was captured by rioters, and the employees there were held hostage. But six employees managed to escape from the riot, and hide in the Canadian Ambassador's house. However, the CIA are then left with the task of getting the Americans out of the country without getting caught!

CIA exfiltration specialist Ben Affleck ( Daredevil ) and Hollywood insider John Goodman ( Evan Almighty ) create a fake scifi movie, glamourising the Iranian Revolution, and propose to scout for locations in Tehran. The escapees will join the film scouts, using fake Canadian identities, and slip out of the country unnoticed.

This is a drama - the thriller aspects have been amped up a bit to make it artificially exciting. The writers have added lots of last-second escapes and other cliches of the thriller genre. In fact, its non-violent problem-solving makes it a diametric opposite of Zero Dark Thirty, its rival for the Oscars which deals with the same theme (America's real-life relationship with the Islamic world).

All in all, it seems like a whitewash of the Carter Administration's mis-management of the situation. Operation Eagle Claw is never mentioned by name, although it is alluded to. And the political nature of its Oscar win (Best Film) is illustrated by the fact that Ben Affleck was never even nominated for the Best Director award!

Delete (2013)

Delete (2013) This is a Syfy channel techno-thriller. But ironically, because it is a 2-part TV mini-series, the quality is much higher than if it had been a movie!

Fearless girl reporter Erin Karplunk meets a teenage hacker in the hope he can introduce her to a conspiracy of Hacktivists.

The Hacktivists believe that The Singularity has occurred. This involves the appearance of a self-created Artificial Intelligence on the Internet. Unfortunately, the AI has the Modus Operandi of Skynet in the Terminator series.

The US military's top brass include such distinguished TV actors as Blu Mankuma ( Robocop: The Series ), Matt Frewer ( Max Headroom ) and Gil Bellows ( Shawshank Redemption ). But there are all flummoxed, as the plot demands.

The computer tech is very up-to-date, which means it will all date very quickly. The visuals are quite good - the computer chat uses an on-screen texting display like the one used in Cherrybomb. This is mixed in with satellite footage, to add a 24 type feel. The result is the kind of surveillance society that Will Smith faced back in Enemy of the State (1999) ...

Delete (Part 2)

The amateurs go on the run, and hide out off the grid with Seth Green ( Buffy ). Seth is actually quite grown-up now, with a beard and a stack of automatic weapons. Unfortunately he thinks he can take on a SWAT team single-handed.

The NSA run out of ideas in dealing with the Singularity. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (Blu Mankuma) wants to destroy every networked server it might be using. He decides to unilaterally detonate thermo-nuclear warheads over every city on Earth. Not only will this reduce the human race to the Steam Age, but the PRC's response will reduce everyone to the Stone Age!

Double Team (1997)

Double Team (1997) Jean Claude Van Damme ( Time Cop ) is a Government gunman, after villainous Mickey Rourke ( ). But Van Damme messes up his shot, like Nic Cage in Face/Off . So he decides to quit ...

Ex-spies are imprisoned in The Colony run by Paul Freeman ( Raiders of the Lost Ark ). Van Damme must escape this inescapable prison - a reference to the 1960s TV show The Prisoner . Then he teams up with Dennis Rodman.

The climax is an OTT grudge match, with real-life boxer Rourke against kickboxer Van Damme.

Dredd (2012)

Dredd (2012) Mega-City One - a futuristic North America that looks like parts of Johannesburg. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban - Star Trek ) takes rookie psychic Judge Cassandra Anderson ( Olivia Thirlby ) on a test run, to see if she can be a cold-blooded killing machine like him.

The building is controlled by the drug-dealing Ma-Ma Clan, run by a scar-faced Lena Headey . This is an original character, but she fits in so well she could easily have featured in the comics.

The plot is simple enough. It is the same as The Raid, which was an Indonesian rip-off of The Rock. Our protagonists enter a building controlled by heavily-armed villains. They have to fight their way towards a climactic confrontation with the arch-villain.

What makes the film work is its style. It was made in 3-D, and this works really well in the scenes where characters use a drug named Slo-Mo. All in all, this corrects all the mistakes made in the Sylvester Stallone Judge Dredd movie.

Gamer (2009)

Gamer (2009) Dexter is a computer super-genius. He has invented tech that allows people to get brain implants, and be used as Avatars by computer-users. This gets used to create hi-tech gladiatorial games for Death Row inmates, a globally-televised urban combat scenario. This is the hi-tech way of being a serial-killer and killing OTHER serial-killers.

Gerard Butler ( Dracula 2001 ) is the protagonist, the finest warrior in the games so far. Dexter wants him dead, so he sends Terry Crews ( The Expendables ) to kill him. Luckily, a group of Resistance fighters have worked out how to cable-hack the broadcasts - like Eyes Only in Dark Angel .

Yes, the show is basically an updated version of Running Man . But this falls flat compared to the Schwarzenegger version. If nothing else, the mixture of shaky-cam and the frenzied high-speed editing makes it almost unwatchable.

Amber Valetta is Butler's wife, who is an Avatar in a less violent (but sexually exploitative) version of the game. Other familiar faces can also be spotted - Sam Witwer ( Smallville: S9 ) as a shrink and Milo Ventrigliari ( Heroes ) as a TV show presenter.

In Time (2011)

In Time (2011) Justin Timberlake lives with his mother ( Olivia Wilde ) in a dystopian future where everyone has a time-clock bio-engineered into your body. Nobody ever ages (like in the Gor books), but when you stop earning time-credits for your body-clock then you just drop dead.

By sheer chance, Justin gets a treasure-trove of time-money. He tries leading the rich life, and encounters slimy billionaire Mr Weis (Vincent Karthusier - Angel ) and his daughter ( Amanda Seyfried ).

Justin and Amanda go on a Bonnie and Clyde crime spree together, falling foul of Police detective Cillian Murphy ( Batman Begins, Sunshine ) who prances around in a stylish leather trench-coat and 1970s pursuit car. Yes, in the future everything will be inexplicably Retro.

The result is a luke-warm crime thriller sent in an unconvincing future that is a metaphor for the vicious US capitalist system.

Knight and Day (2010)

Knight and Day (2010) Tom Cruise is a secret agent and action hero like in the Mission Impossible series. Cameron Diaz is a ditzy blonde, like in virtually every film she has been in. The result is an Action Comedy, a perfect blend of the two genres. If anything, it is disappointing to see Diaz in such a passive role when she played an action heroine in her own right in Charlie's Angels .

Cruise massacres a horde of CIA goons in order to protect the McGuffin, in this case a battery that acts as an eternal power source. This is to prevent it falling into the hands of a Spanish arms dealer. This ignores the fact that Spain is a NATO country, and thus the USA would be able to buy the battery back at a reasonable price.

Lockout (2012)

Lockout (2012) Hard-ass CIA Agent Snow (Guy Pearce - LA Confidential) is framed for espionage. Before he can be sent to the orbital Maximum Security Prison, the US President's Daughter ( Maggie Grace ) makes a humanitarian visit. IRA thugs Vincent Regan (Eureka Street) and Joseph Gilgun (Rudy in Misfits ) promptly stage a takeover.

Like Snake Plissken in Escape from New York , Snow is sent in as a one-man rescue team. Pearce acquits himself well in the role, which would be better suited to an established action star like Vin Diesel. Grace is a feisty heroine, and they make the standard bickering pair (as in Romancing The Stone ). They can even bluff their way through the convicts, an entirely Caucasian bunch - despite being set in a US prison, it was filmed in Europe so the ethnic mix is off. The token ethnic person in the cast is Snow's CIA buddy Lenny James ( Jericho, The Walking Dead ).

This was based on an Original Idea by Luc Besson . No doubt he had it while watching a marathon of 1980s action films.

Phantom Racer (2009)

Phantom Racer (2009) Greg Evigan ( Tek Wars ) and Ian Somerhalder ( Vampire Diaries ) are Nascar drivers. They crash, and a mind-swop occurs.

Real Steel (2011)

Real Steel (2011) Hugh Jackman ( X-Men ) is a loser who tries to earn a living in Robot Boxing matches. He gets custody of his 11-year-old son, and it becomes a heart-warming family drama. They bond as they build up a robot fighter, and put it through several matches.

The story follows the Rocky mould - No real surprises, it is all predictable enough. Evangeline Lilly is Jackman’s sort-of-love-interest - it is very family-friendly.

Red Faction: Origins (2011)

Red Faction: Origins (2011) This is set a generation after Robert Patrick ( Terminator 2 ) led a socialist insurgency against the Earth's military-industrial complex. Patrick's son, Brian J Smith ( Stargate: Universe ), is the new square-jawed hero of Mars.

Our hero has to evade the Marauders, led by Kate Vernon . He teams up with Gordon Kennedy ( Robin Hood (2006) ) and his nephew, the poor white trash version of the Magic Negro cliche. Yes, despite lacking skills or weapons they let their hillbilly charm guide them to inexplicable success.

They end up facing off against Gareth David Lloyd ( Torchwood ) in one of his youngest-looking and most uninspired performances.

Running Man, The (1987)

Running Man (1987) Arnold Schwartzenegger ( Predator ) is a cop in a Dystopian future. He defies orders to fire on a food riot, and gets sentanced to die in a televised gladiatorial contest where condemned criminals are hunted and killed live on air. Arnie's fellow convicts (akaRunners) include Maria Conchita Alonso and token black guy Yaphett Koto ( Live and Let Die ).

This is based on a novel by Stephen King . It works well as a satire on the US TV system - unlike the more recent versions, such as the more shallow Hunger Games .

Surrogates (2009)

Surrogates (2009) This is set in the near future, where people use lifelike androids as avatars. A bit like a real-life version of Second Life. It is all a bit redundant, in other words. But it is apparently based on a comic, which explains how it is style over substance.

The plot is a standard pseudo-noir whodunnit/conspiracy thriller. Police Detective Bruce Willis investigates a murder, and uncovers a conspiracy. Somehow, someone can kill people by killing their android! Suspects include the inventor of the Avatar androids (James Cromwell - Star Trek: First Contact ) and his opponent, the neo-Luddite Ving Rhames ( Death Race 2 ).

The concept of Avatar Androids falls flat, and as a mystery thriller this is unoriginal. For example, it is nowhere near as good as Will Smith's somewhat similar I, Robot .

Wanted (2008)

Wanted (2008) This is based on a graphic novel, The original storyline involved supervillains. This was dumbed down to be about assassins who have supernatural powers - there is no other way to describe it, although they try to make it plausible in a mainstream kind of way.

James McAvoy ( X-Men: First Class ) lives a boring humdrum life - like Neo in The Matrix or Ed Norton in Fight Club . Then he meets beautiful hit-woman Fox ( Angelina Jolie , looking scarily thin compared to her healthier Lara Croft days). She recruits him into a fraternity of assassins run by Sloan (Morgan Freeman - Oblivion ). The assassins' targets are designated by a magical loom, which functions like The Machine in Person Of Interest .

Cyborg Franchise

Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow (1993)

Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow (1993) This is set in a Dystopian future. Martial Arts instructor Elias Koteas ( Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ) works for a typically duplicitous Mega Corporationx. He runs off with an android that looks like a teenage Angelina Jolie . They are pursued by B-movie bounty-hunters, including Karen Sheppard and Billy Drago ( Vamp ).

This owes a lot more to Blade Runner than it does to the original Cyborg film with Jean Claude Van Damme. Jack Palance ( Hawk the Slayer ) steals the show with his supporting role.

Doom Franchise

Doom (2005)

Doom (2005) A monster attacks a group of scientists in a research station on Mars. A group of Space Marines (led by The Rock - GI Joe 2: Retaliation ) are sent in to do the requisite Bug Hunt. Reaper (Karl Urban - Dredd 3-D ) is the team hard-ass. They get tech support from Dexter Fletcher ( Kick-Ass ) and background info from Doctor Grimm ( Rosamund Pike ). Naturally, the monster starts to pick them off one at a time.

Lots of cliches start to crop up. The Rock is kill-crazy. The only reason that the hero does not have the female lead as his love interest is that she is his sister. What sets this apart from other monster-movie shoot-‘em-ups like Resident Evil (also based on a computer game) is the references to the original source material. The Rock’s goal is to find and use the B.F.G. (Big Force Gun). There is a brief sequence where the movie’s format becomes first-person shooter, like the game itself.

Doom: Annihilation (2019)

Doom: Annihilation (2019) In the near future there is a secret laboratory on Phobos, the moon of Mars. The scientists there decide to open a Stargate , but their base is quickly overrun by Predators .

A group of space marines awaken in their crypto-sleep pods. Yes - not CRYO-sleep, which would be cryogenic, but CRYPTO-sleep as in secret. They are not as memorable as the team in Aliens (1986) , but we can certainly see what inspired them.

This is a remake of a movie about a First Person Shooter video game that drew heavily on tropes from a sub-genre of 1980s films. As a result, there is very little that is original about it. Worse, this seems to have been made on a TV show's budget. Unfortunately the director was unable to save it. Everything seems to be shot in medium frame, which leads onto yet another comparison with a TV show. Similar genre movies, such as the original Resident Evil (2003) , do a much better job of raising suspense.

Grindhouse Trailers

Machete (2010)

Machete (2010) This is based on the trailer in the Grindhouse double-movie release by Tarantino & Rodriguez . Machete (Danny Trejo) is a Mexican cop who goes on a crazy vendetta against drug kingpin Steven Segal ( ).

Years later Machete is in Texas, where Federal Agent Jessica Alba is hassling Michelle Rodriguez for helping illegal immigrants. Corrupt businessman Jeff Fahy ( Lost ) hires Machete to kill an anti-immigration Senator (Robert DeNiro - Mary Shelley's Frankenstein ). However, it is a double-cross. Machete is framed, on the run ...

Rodriguez's writing can be overly self-indulgent, for example in his third Mariachi film Once Upon A Time In Mexico . But this is deliberately OTT, like Planet Terror . There are lots of deliberate mistakes, and the climax is completely OTT.

  • Machete Kills!
  • Machete Kills! (2013)

    Machete Kills! (2013) Machete (Danny Trejo - 3-Headed Shark ) is back in business. He is partnered with ICE Agent Jessica Alba . The violence is OTT, and logic need not apply.

    Machete has blundered into a much bigger case. He is hired by the US President - played by a newcomer named Carlos Estevez, who is the spitting image of Martin Sheen in The Dead Zone . POTUS gives Machete a CIA handler ( Amber Heard ), who sends him off to rescue a hooker held prisoner by Sofia Vergara and her sidekick Alexa Vega .

    Just as in the original film, this is a parody that encompasses many cliches of action movies. As such, there is no point in applying logic to the plot.

  • Machete
  • Hobo With A Shotgun (2011)

    Hobo With A Shotgun (2011) This is set in America, but was filmed in Canada. The title character (Rutger Hauer from Blade Runner ) ends up in a city run by a sadistic gangster (Stanley from Lexx ) and his twin sons, who cruise around in an armoured DeLorean.

    The result is the Canadian version of Machete , the far superior Robert Rodriguez film that shares its origins as a trailer in Grindhouse .

    Mission: Impossible Franchise

    Mission Impossible (1996)

    Mission Impossible (1996) This is the first film in the modern IMF Franchise, and has been copied by all its successors. Unfortunately, they copied the bad aspects and the cliches, not the actual bits that make this film work so well. Director Brian Depalma is best known for his Hitchcock -style twists, which in later films are replaced with explosions and shootouts.

    Basically, an undercover mission goes badly wrong. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise - Legend ), sole survivor, is the obvious suspect. He must go on the run, and recruit a new team of expert spies to save the world, without backup. They must break into the CIA's most secure data vault and steal the NOC list - a reliably lo-tech mcguffin more recently used in the James Bond effort Skyfall .

    In a 1990s update to the old cliche, the climax is not aboard the Orient Express but the Eurochunnel train.

  • Mission Impossible 2
  • Mission Impossible 3
  • Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol
  • Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation
  • Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol (2011)

    Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol (2011) Does anyone actually remember the original TV series, when the team would have a plan and outsmart the villains? Now we have Mission: Predictable, an endless rehash of the previous films. The title, Ghost Protocol, refers to the entire IMF Agency being disavowed. About goddamn time! The first three films have all featured traitors who had top IMF clearance, it is evidently the training-ground for the world's greatest terrorists!

    Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise - Legend ) and his team of expert spies have to save the world, without backup. Luckily Hunt can rely on:

  • Ethnic supermodel type Paula Patton , who does the Sidney Bristow stuff from Alias
  • Jeremy Renner is the backup man. Just like his character Hawkeye in Marvel Avengers Assemble , the only superhero who did not actually get his own movie. He is like the Marvel Universe's version of Aquaman!
  • Simon Pegg returns as the tech guy - just like Scottie in Star Trek XI , by the same director ( JJ Abrams ).
  • The villain is the bad guy from the Swedish adaptations of the Millennium books. He is no longer a communist who wants to destroy society, he is a Nihilist who wants to destroy the world! His plan is to trick the USA and Russia into starting a nuclear war with each other. Just like the Bond villains of outdated Cold War movies ( The Spy Who Loved Me, You Only live Twice ). Yes, this is an updated version of a 1960s plot.

  • Mission Impossible
  • Mission Impossible 2
  • Mission Impossible 3
  • Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation
  • Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation (2015)

    Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation (2015) Now we have Mission: Predictable 5, an endless rehash of the previous films. Even this review owes quite a bit to the reviews of the previous films. Let us look at the storyline of the other films:

    Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise - Legend ) is framed and disavowed, so he cannot use the IMF's infinite resources to save the day. He and his team of expert spies have to save the world, without backup.

    A top spy with world-class IMF-style training has gone rogue, and only Ethan Hunt can stop him. Ethan is still the IMF’s top field agent, despite being only five years younger than Jim Phelps (Jon Voight – Tomb Raider ) was in the first film twenty-ish years ago. Not only has Ethan passed the age of retirement from field duty, he was a trainer and then he actually retired in the third film. What the heck a middle-aged fifty-something man is doing on the front line is never adequately explained.

    A beautiful lady spy helps Ethan, but her loyalties are unclear. This time it is Rebecca Ferguson , a relative unknown who does the Sidney Bristow stuff from Alias . She is the best sight in a thigh-slit dress since Maggie Q a couple of movies ago. She is twenty years younger than Cruise, though she has not aged as well.

  • Benji (Simon Pegg – Paul ) is Ethan’s tech support. He is technically a field agent, and he is good enough to fool the CIA’s best lie detector. However, he is basically doing the job that Barney the Token Black Guy did in the original show. Luckily for the cast’s racial balance they still have Luthor Stickell (Marsellus Wallace – Surrogates ) in a supporting role, as Hawkeye’s tech support.
  • Jeremy Renner is the backup man. Just like his character Hawkeye in Marvel Avengers Assemble , the only superhero who did not actually get his own movie. He is like the Marvel Universe's version of Aquaman!
  • The villain wants something that is locked in an impregnable vault, so Ethan must steal it for him. The villain uses one of Ethan's friends as leverage and gets Ethan to hand it over.

    Those pretty much happen in all the other movies. What do you want to bet that this film has exactly the same story?

    The villain, Solomon Lane (no, not Solomon Kane ) has a creepy English accent. In Hollywood movies this is shorthand for villainous and should not indicate any particular country, but there are only five superpowers (permanent members of the United Nations Security Council) and when you rule out Russia, China, France and the USA then there is only one left. Another clue – the film’s title (MI-5) is also the name of a certain counter-intelligence agency ...

    There are a number of unanswered questions. Why does The Syndicate run around committing acts of global terrorism? Who is funding them, since the goal of their mission is to access a specific supply of funds? After all, this is basically the storyline of Swordfish - which ironically was pulled from cinemas in its final week because of the destruction of the World Trade Centre on 9/11. Where did a government dedicated to financial austerity get thousands of millions of dollars to spare, and how did a relatively small government agency get that money into its off-the-books black-ops budget?

    Finally, the UK Prime Minister is repeatedly referred to as the PM of Great Britain (with no mention of Northern Ireland) ... one would have hoped that a film largely shot in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would get small details like the name of the country correct!

  • Mission Impossible
  • Mission Impossible 2
  • Mission Impossible 3
  • Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol
  • Mission Impossible 6: Fallout (2018)

    Mission Impossible 6: Fallout (2018) Now we have Mission: Predictable 6, an endless rehash of the previous films. Even this review owes quite a bit to the reviews of the previous films. Let us look at the storyline of the other films: Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise - Legend ) is framed and disavowed, so he cannot use the IMF's infinite resources to save the day. He and his team of expert spies have to save the world, without backup.

    This is a direct follow-up to the previous film, the events of which still haunt Ethan Hunt. He is hanging out in Belfast when the exposition tape arrives.. To blend in, the courier has adopted what sounds like an American attempt at a Dublin accent.

    The briefing includes exposition of the aftermath of the previous film. Finally we have a movie in the series where consequences have actions. The antagonist of the previous film, Solomon Lane, is now portrayed as an anarchist. His Rogue Nation, formerly called The Syndicate, has now become a group of nihilists called The Apostles.

    Hunt has a small team to help him this time. Just his two nerds, in fact - Edgar (Simon Pegg - Shaun of the Dead ) and Luthor (Ving Rhames - Guardians of the Galaxy 2 ). This is rounded out when he gets partnered with over-eager CIA goon Walker (Henry Cavill - Man Of Steel ).

    Normally Ethan and his team get disavowed. Once it was by the old CIA Director (Alec Baldwin - ), who is now the Secretary of State who Ethan works for. This time it is the new CIA Director ( Angela Bassett ) who gets suspicious that Ethan might be a traitor. How many times can a man be accused of treason by his bosses before he gets so sick of it that he actually becomes a traitor for real?

    The all-male good guys need more gender diversity on their team. Luckily, Ilsa ( Rebecca Ferguson ) from the previous film is still around. In the modern days of woke male feminism, this might be portrayed as a form of gender equality. The truth is that it is just another rehash of tired old tropes. The ass-kicking female secret agent is basically a femme fatale. Ethan's other love interest, his ex-wife ( Michelle Monaghan ), is basically a damsel in distress. But the thing is, the film works perfectly well anyway. Those tropes and archetypes fulfill important functions in story-telling.

    The villain is Solomon Lane's former sidekick. His plan is to bring about nuclear armageddon. Shockingly, he might actually have a good reason for doing this.

  • Mission Impossible
  • Mission Impossible 2
  • Mission Impossible 3
  • Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol
  • Purge Franchise

    First Purge (2018)

    First Purge (2018) The basic premise is that in the near future, the USA has a utopian civilisation with an unpleasant undercurrent. A new political party has arisen to power - the New Founding Fathers. They are apparently different from the mainstream Republican party, but basically represent the Religious Right of America. They back a scientist ( Marisa Tomei ) who wants to test her new theory about how to lower the crime rate. One night a year, all Government services (Police, Fire Dept, Emergency Medical Services) have a 12-hour step-down from 7pm to 7am. During that time, all crime (including murder) is legal.

    The zone chosen to test the theory is Staten Island, New York City. It has a working class community of African Americans, exactly the kind of people that the New Founding Fathers want to murder. We spend the first half of the movie getting to know some of the locals. The female lead is a tough protestor who opposes fascist government. The male lead is a tough gangster who controls the local drugs cartel. Yes, lots of cliched characters.

    The night starts off easily enough. Naturally, people take advantage of the lawlessness to have a good old-fashioned street party. However, all it takes is one violent scumbag to ruin things for everyone else. In this neighbourhood, the worst dude is a tattoo-faced junkie who has given himself the nickname of Skeletor. He is the one who thought up the name The Purge, and he is also the one who makes the first kill of the night.

    The Founding Fathers decide to up the ante. They unleash a group of mercenaries and white supremacists, who are clad in Klu Klux Klan regalia and racist black-face masks. Luckily the black gangsters are on the warpath. Just like in the 1970s blacksploitation movies, we discover that one black man can take out three or four heavily-armed whites with the greatest of ease. Yes, this turns from a though-provoking drama about the corruption of society into a shoot-em-up action movie with no introspection.

    The Purge (2013)

    The Purge (2013) The basic premise is that in the near future, the USA has a utopian civilisation with an unpleasant undercurrent. One night a year, all Government services (Police, Fire Dept, Emergency Medical Services) have a 12-hour step-down from 7pm to 7am. During that time, all crime (including murder) is legal.

    Ethan Hawke ( Gattacca ) and Lena Headey live in a nice, remote suburb with their cliched teenage offspring - the sexy schoolgirl daughter and the tech-nerd son. Unfortunately they have a couple of unexpected visitors, and end up being besieged by an updated version of Alex and the Droogs from A Clockwork Orange .

    The real gut-wrenching scenes are not the conflict with the Droogs. It is when the veneer of middle-class suburban civilisation is stripped away, and the protagonists try to placate the villains by torturing a homeless man.

    The Purge 2: Anarchy (2014)

    The Purge 2: Anarchy (2014) This is set in the same universe as the original film, but is not centred around the same characters. Instead, it goes more into the conspiracy theories implied in the original. While the people in poor neighbourhoods go out to Purge their negative emotions, someone else is Purging THEM - using military-grade weapons (a minigun and a SWAT team)!

    The political subtext of the film is an indictment of wealthy people who choose to Purge - even though it benefits poor people. An urban revolutionary (Michael K Williams - Flash Forward ) wants to protect the poor from this murderous system.

    A small group of people band together, trapped on the streets of a city where the inhabitants have gone feral for the night. As well as gang-bangers on the prowl, they also have to escape the conspiracy's SWAT team. Luckily, one of the good guys is a Special Forces soldier with all the necessary combat gear. Of curse, this means he is Purging too ...

    What is most shocking about the concept of the Purge is that when murder is decriminalised, every grudge (including domestic disputes) becomes murderous. Is law (and fear of prosecution) the only thing that prevents everyone from becoming a killer?

    The Purge 3: Election Year (2016)

    The Purge 3: Election Year (2016) A US Senator ( Elizabeth Mitchell ) is standing for election on an anti-Purge platform. Sergeant Barnes (Frank Grillo - Captain America: Civil War ), a survivor from the second film, is her head of security. However, it is the night of the annual Purge. The Government changes the rules, and takes away the protection that the senior officials (such as Senators) normally have during the Purge. Yes, she is targeted for assassination by a team of killers with SWAT armour and automatic weapons. She and Barnes go on the run, but they have to stay alive until morning.

    Mykelita Williamson ( The Final Destination ) is a shopkeeper in a deprived part of town that is a short walk from the Senator's mansion. He and his employees decide to help the Senator. After all, the murder-squad on her tail are White Supermacists.

    An anti-Purge revolutionary is also in town for Purge night. This character seems to be based on the one played by Michael K Williams ( Flash Forward ) in the original. Presumably Williams was unable to participate in this film because he was too busy appearing in Ghostbusters (2016) .

    The story is a case of white middle-class liberals and the black working class taking on the white aristocracy and white working-class extremists of America. Yes, the politics are very heavy-handed. The Liberal female Senator is obviously a reference to Hillary Clinton, while her religious fundamentalist opponent could be any one of the Republican candidates.

    Forever Purge, The (2021)

    Forever Purge, The (2021) This starts with some Latinx immigrants illegally entering the USA. Well, recent movies like Rambo 5 and Sicario 2: Soldada have covered the same issue - but from a different perspective. They followed the right-wing tropes of the immigrants as gangsters or drug mules. In this movie, they are decent people who just want a better life for themselves.

    Ten months later, the immigrants are working on a Texas horse-ranch owned by Dylan Tucker (Josh Lucas - Hulk ), his pregnant wife Cassie ( Cassiday Freeman ) and father Caleb (Will Patton - Punisher ). While the Purge was ended by the previous administration, now it is back again. The usual rules apply, so all the families shelter in secure areas while the Purgers spend the night on the rampage.

    The real story starts the morning after the official end of the Purge. It turns out that the White Working Class is on the warpath. They stage a class uprising, combining white nationalism with socialism. Yes, that is exactly what it looks like. Although the upper class send in the military, the poor whites have the upper hand. Class war is portrayed as race war, because of how divided American society is.

    The Latinos, with the Tucker family as the token good whites, must fight their way to freedom. Now they have to journey south, in a reverse of the illegal immigration trope.

    As action movies go, this is pretty sub-par. The fight scenes are mostly shot in extreme close-up, and multiple flashy editing cuts are the new equivalent of shakeycam. Well, presumably the Director left it to the Second Unit while he himself concentrated on the more subtle aspects of the plot. Unfortunately the plot lacks subtlety the same way that the action scenes lack thrills. The villainous Purgers embody hate, fear and violence while the Liberals and POCs are portrayed as the True Americans (tm).

    Tron Franchise

    Tron (1982)

    Tron (1982) Jeff Bridges ( True Grit ) and Bruce Boxleitner ( Babylon 5 ) end up trapped in a dystopian computer world!

    Tron: Legacy (2010)

    Tron: Legacy (2010) After the events of the first film, Jeff Bridges ( True Grit ) got home, bought his company back, and became a Billionaire. Then he disappeared a few years later. His son grew up to be an extreme sports fan. Hero Junior gets a tip from Bruce Boxleitner ( Babylon 5 ) and finds his dad's secret lab. He ends up in a dystopian computer world - in glorious 3-D!

    Our hero, with Olivia Wilde , must re-enact the first film (but with updated 3-D SPFX). Pure style over substance, nothing original here.

    Universal Soldier Franchise

    Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009)

    Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009) Russian extremists, with a freelance scientist who has his own super-soldier, take over Chernobyl.

    The UN sends in US Special Forces and UniSols. Unfortunately everyone (terrorists and Merkins alike) uses crap tactics - the regular forces stand in the open and wait to get shot, while the UniSols split up and wait to get picked off one at a time.

    Meanwhile, Luc Devereux (Jean-Claude Van Damme - Replicant ) is the last of the original Vietnam-era UniSols. He is undergoing therapy, but gets re-activated.

    The villains also have a Dolph Lungren ( View To A Kill ) clone. Lots of fight scenes ensue.

    This is the fifth film in the series - it shows how far the stars have sunk, that they will now do this again.

  • Universal Soldier
  • Universal Soldier 2: Brothers In Arms
  • Universal Soldier 3: Unfinished Business
  • Universal Soldier: The Return
  • Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
  • Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012)

    Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012) Luc Devereux (Jean-Claude Van Damme - Replicant ) has become a Colonel Kurtz figure, like in Apocalypse Now . With Dolph Lungren ( View To A Kill ) as his High Priest, he runs a cult of UniSols. Unfortunately this male-only environment, filled with genetically enhanced testosterone, is very unhealthy and overly competitive. Well, in a world where women go to college and men go to prison this is going to be the status quo rather than the exception.

    However, an Agency of the US Federal Government is sending assassins after the UniSols. Since only a super-powered soldier can take on the UniSols, the Government hit-men are basically the next generation of cloned Unisols. The protagonist is Scott Adkins ( Accident Man ), who is not a big name but is basically the new JCVD.

  • Universal Soldier
  • Universal Soldier 2: Brothers In Arms
  • Universal Soldier 3: Unfinished Business
  • Universal Soldier: The Return
  • Universal Soldier: Regeneration
  • Assassination Games (2011)

    Soon Some corrupt Interpol agents are after Roland Flint (Scott Adkins - Accident Man ), a top-level assassin who stole a fortune from them. They arrange for Flint's arch-enemy, an East European gangster, to get early release from prison. Naturally, Flint gets informed by his sidekick Culley (Kevin Chapman - ) and comes out of retirement.

    Unfortunately, a rival assassin named Vincent Brazil (Jean-Claude Van Damme - Universal Soldier ) is also out to fulfill a contract on the gangster. The two killers have to team up against the common foe.

    The interesting thing this movie offers is an upgraded version of the gun platform from The Jackal (1997) . While that version was manually assisted, this one is semi-automated. A nice sci-fi gadget for what would otherwise be a standard kickboxing thriller.

    Nemesis Franchise

    Nemesis (1992)

    Nemesis (1992) LAPD assassin Olivier Gruner ( Codename: Eternity ) fights terrorists in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Thanks to director Albert Pyun , every time an inanimate object gets shot it explodes as if it were filled with gasoline. Luckily, even though hero is a cyborg and the villains turn out to be android duplicates, none of them actually hit what they are aiming at with the first shot.

    Gruner tries to resign. However, LAPD goons Tim Thomerson ( Trancers ) and Brion James ( Alien Mine ) force him into a secret mission to Java. He meets some other cast members who are slumming it, in more ways than one. Deborah Shelton from Dallas looks like she has become a weight-lifter, and Thomas Jane ( Deep Blue Sea ) has a small part - no pun intended.