The young women - in their late twenties but acting ten years younger - are abducted by some swarthy men. These kidnappers do not want a ransom. They are almost perfectly designed as acombination of groups that American audiences would find the most easy to hate. Right-wingers hate them for being Albanian muslims, while left-wingers hate them for being sex-traffickers.
The mild-mannered Brian Mills turns out to be as brutal as Jack Bauer in 24. He tears Paris apart, torturing and murdering anyone who gets in his way. There is not much technology used, because this genre of film relies on tropes from the 1970s.
This film made Neeson, a renowned dramatic actor, into an action movie star. Ironically he was in his mid-50s at the time, an age when most action stars have retired or joined The Expendables .
Brian Mills (Liam Neeson - SW: Phantom Menace ) gets framed for murder, even though he has an easily-verified alibi and there is no physical evidence against him beyond the circumstantial. Does he tell the detective (Forest Whittaker - Species )? Does he get a lawyer? No, he goes on the run and tries to solve the case himself!
Brian’s multiple escapes from the police include a car chase on a freeway, which creates several pile-ups. This is all dumbed down to look cartoonish. Nobody is shown to get hurt, while in reality there would have been several civilian fatalities. And worst of all, his superpowers now seem to include teleportation because he can move instantaneously from the site of a potential explosion to a safe distance away.
Instead of his wife or daughter getting taken, this time they BOTH get taken. And instead of some Albanian pimps, the villains are a Russian mafia gang composed of ex-Speznaz. Luckily the industrialist is around to explain what Speznaz is, in case Brian and his CIA buddy Leland Orser do not know.
This is a 21st-Century action thriller - okay, more of a Whodunit than a shoot-em-up. It is PG-13, so there is no swearing. Except on a text-phone, where the offending word is conveniently concealed under a vertical crack in the phone's screen.
This is a very 1970s thriller, like many of the current crop of action movies. With the exception of the TV show 24, none of them seem to have increased their pacing to take into account the speed of modern communications. The cellular phone, used almost as a gimmick in The X-Files ), is now standard across the English-speaking world and yet barely acknowledged in thriller movies.
The main story takes place in 1999. Yes, this is a period piece set ten years before it was filmed - like Shampoo (1976). The villains use pay-phones and audio cassettes. Sutter uses a microphiche reader in the library, and has to be taught how to use the internet. The search engine of choice is Yahoo, and the Y2K bug is just around the corner. In other words, the changes that took place in the time it took from the script being written until the film was released are very noticeable.
Sutter, now an unlicensed Private Eye, is hired by Kenny (Dan Gordon - Legion ) - another American played by a British actor. Kenny's wife was kidnapped and murdered. Sutter reluctantly accepts the job - not for the money, but because of his deep-seated belief in justice.
This is a grim police procedural, although not as grim as the usual Rape and Revenge fare that is quite common in the Horror genre. This slow-moving suspense aspect seems to go hand-in-hand with the relatively low level of technology involved, because faster technology enables a faster pace in story-telling.
Lauren Cohan is a television reporter working for Billionaire Mr Weyland (Ving Rhames - Surrogates ). Weyland has a huge portfolio, including a TV network and the US Prison system. He may even be related to one of the founders of the Mega-Corp from the Alien series. Anyway, Cohan invents the idea of maximizing TV ratings by turning prison riots into a live, televised spectator sport. This is developed into the Death Race, and when Goss ends up in prison he soon becomes the top competitor.
Weyland Corp may have the contract to run the prison, but they no longer run the Death Race. It was resurrected by a couple of survivors from the original team. The nerdy guy is the inside man, streaming the race live on the dark web, while Danny Trejo ( From Dusk Til Dawn ) handles the book-making on the outside. Their new boss is Baltimore Bob (Danny Glover - Age Of Dragons ).
Weyland's prison governor sends his SWAT team in to get Frankenstein. Unfortunately they walk right into an ambush. Frankenstein has upped the ante for control of the prison, so he ought to expect further retaliation.
The very next day there is an influx of new prisoners. One is an oriental woman with martial arts skills. Another is Zach Magowan ( Black Sails ), a mystery man who is an indestructible killing machine.
The newcomers sign up for the next session of Death race. There are various different tests, including motorbike racing and melee combat. These are to the death, which may seem extreme but the prison has a limited food supply so they need to keep the population down.
The race is more perilous than usual. Our hero has to take a short-cut to catch up, but this means jumping a 200-foot canyon. His car can theoretically go up to 220MPH, but he never thinks to lighten the load by dumping the tombstone.
Stallone leads a rag-tag mix of mercenaries, from fellow 1980s star Dolph Lundgren ( Universal Soldier ) to more recent action heroes Jason Statham ( Ghosts of Mars ), Jet Li ( The One ) and token black guy Terry Crews. When not hanging out in the tattoo parlour of Mickey Rourke ( Iron Man 2 ) they kill Somali fishermen on behalf of a MegaCorp.
CIA goon Bruce Willis ( Surrogates ) hires the Mercs to assassinate a Latin American dictator (the Cuban cop in Dexter). The real target is the dictator's backer, drug baron Eric Roberts ( Dr Who TV Movie ). In order to defeat the villains and save the predictable damsel in distress, the unstoppable crew must kill every man in the town between the ages of 15 and 50. No problems there.
Among other things, this completely fails the Bechdel test. The only other proper female character is Charisma Carpenter , who is Statham's love interest long enough to give him an excuse to beat up a wife-beater.
Basically, the film staggers from one unbelievably OTT action scene to the next one. There is no suspense, we know EXACTLY what is going to happen at every step. That said, nobody really cares. If you liked the most recent Rambo film, you will love this!
The roster gets a shake-up this time. Stallone and Statham are still in charge, supported by Lungren, Couture and Crews. Jet Li and Liam Hemsworth both get a look-in, while the team also gets a token girl. Strangely, she is the only one who is a newcomer - an irony that while the men are all aged over fifty (except Hemsworth), the girl is in her twenties.
One thing that is remarkable is the lack of swearing. Apparently the film was meant to be a PG-12, so it was dumbed down for family audiences. The word is that thanks to a backlash by fans, Stallone was forced to put in extra scenes of ultra-violence. However, despite the on-screen decapitations the dialogue is still child-friendly so Yanks can take their kiddies to see it.
Stallone retires his old team, even though they did great work in the previous two movies. The second act of the film is Stallone recruiting a new team (with help from Kelsey Grammer – Transformers 4 ). This includes relative newcomer Kellan Lutz ( Legend of Hercules ) and the first woman Expendable – Ronda Rousey (a slightly younger version of Gina Carano ). They are more hi-tech than the old mob, using 21st Century hacking techniques to bring this up-to-date with modern techno-thrillers. Of course, it all goes wrong so there is a cliffhanger at the end of the Second Act.
Finally, the climactic third act features Stallone pulling his old buddies out of retirement. This is just as well for Statham, because Charisma Carpenter is nowhere in sight this time. The CIA get directly involved again, with Bruce Willis’ replacement (a foul-mouthed Harrison Ford – Ender’s Game ) arriving with more goons – Arnie Schwartzenegger and Jet Li!
The place is run by Jim Caviezel ( Passion of the Christ ), a vicious SOB who has used Stallone's textbook to construct an apparently escape-proof prison. The head guard is Vinny Jones ( Swordfish ), while the Medical officer is Sam Neill ( Alcatraz ). Yes, Christ and Damien Thorne are on the same side for once!
Luckily, while on the inside, Stallone is befriended by his co-star from The Expendables series, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Our hero is actually an undercover FBI Agent. He pretends to be a member of a popular semi-legal extreme sports sub-culture in order to track down an infiltrate a group of highly successful robbers. If this sounds familiar, that is because it was the plot for Point Break.
The original story had a subplot involving a rival gang. Instead of Surf Nazis, this time the bad guys are Chinese Tong bikers led by Rick Yune ( Die Another Day ) and his henchman (Reggie Lee - Grimm ).
It is amazing to think what this movie has spawned. Perhaps it is the mix of a top-notch cast and some well-shot car-chase scenes that puts this above the average action film. Basically it is a Point Break remake that created a franchise the equivalent of a big-budget Sharknado series. The only thing that slowed it was Vin Diesel's refusal to do sequels, which resulted in his absence from the second two films in this series - just as he skipped out on XXX 2 .
Hobbs (Dwayne Johnston - Journey 2 ) and his sidekick ( Gina Carano ) are after the best hijacker in the world. Dom and his team are retired - but Hobbs has been keeping track of them, and pulls them out of retirement in order to catch the usurpers.
Dom gets his team back together, including Gal Gadot . She teams up with Carano, which is interesting in a couple of ways. Firstly, it means this film is close to passing the Bechdel test. Secondly, the two women were rivals for the role of Wonder Woman (2017) - and their scenes together here allow the audience to compare them.
The good guys no longer care about money. Their goal is far more chivalric - they want to save their friend Letty ( Michelle Rodriguez ), who was supposedly killed in the fourth movie. It turns out that the villain in that film was working for this movie's antagonist, who recruited her and faked her death. The reason she went along with it is due to traumatic amnesia.
The antagonist is an Englishman named Shaw (Luke Evans - Dracula Untold ), former leader of the SAS mobility troop during the invasion of Iraq. Not only does his crew have military training, they also have specialist vehicles. This is far above what Dom and the rest of his crew were doing in the first movie.
The Rock gets the blame for Dom's defection. He gets a burn notice, and ends up in prison with previous villain Jason Statham ( The Mechanic ). Mister Nobody (Kurt Russell - The Thing (1982) ) gets them both out, but now they must work together. Nobody's sidekick Mister Nothing (Scott Eastwood - Texas Chainsaw 3D ) starts as a whiny pencil-pusher but soon becomes the team's token white guy, replacing the Paul Walker character (who has gotten his happy ending with Dom's sister). The result is a formulaic live-action cartoon that glamourises all kinds of car stunts, which is ironic because one of the main actors of the series died in a car crash.
The trailer gives away everything and nothing. Basically the whole movie is two and a half hours worth of car chases, while the trailer is only two and a half minutes of the same. The street-racers use their super-cars to fight a submarine at the north pole. What is next - Fast and Furious in Space?
Harry's son (Ben Foster - Pandorum ) is a loose cannon in search of a purpose in life. Arthur takes the young man under his wing, and trains him as an assassin. So far, so much like the original.
While the original movie relied on a certain amount of subtlety, this one ups the ante and has a lot more shoot-outs and explosions. Where the original would use a glass of poisoned water, this version has a massive fireball. However, this is not a heroic shoot-em-up. Just like the 1970s original, it is a gritty revenge thriller. Foster delivers an amazing performance, as per usual, and is a fitting foil for Statham.
The action starts with Bishop (Jason Statham) on the run after the events of the previous film. He has headed south of the Brandt line, to Rio in Brazil. This makes for the best action scenes set there since James Bond visited in Moonraker .
Bishop then hides out in Thailand with Michelle Yeoh , where he lies low on a remote beach. Jessica Alba blunders into his life, and he is subjected to a blatant ham-fisted seduction. Even Bishop realises it is a setup, but he falls for her anyway. Then she is kidnapped and used for leverage.
The villain's plan is for Bishop to conduct a series of assassinations. The trick is that he must make them look like accidents. Apparently this is Bishop's speciality, as a thinker and not a muscle-man. However, Bishop is also a one-man army who can take out an entire army of bodyguards single-handedly.
The first two victims on the hit-list are generic bad-guys. However, the third and final one is Tommy Lee Jones ( Under Siege (1992) ) who seems to have wandered in from a better film.
This is a generic by-the-numbers Statham shoot-em-up. There are a couple of potentially good ideas in this film. One is the casting of Alba, who was an action star in her own right in Dark Angel . Unfortunately, despite showing off a bit of martial arts skill she was basically cast purely because she looks good in a bikini. The other piece of wasted potential is the villain himself. His backstory is that he and Bishop were raised together as child soldiers. Despite being the old cliche of the personal grudge, this also sets the villain up as being Bishop's equal and thus a potentially worthy and memorable adversary.
The child in question is a Chinese girl who is in the clutches of a Chinatown gangster (James Hong - Big Trouble In Little China ) and his murderous henchman (Reggie Lee - Grimm ). Because she is valuable, she is also hunted by the Russian Mafia. Yes, both sides in this gang war are foreign immigrants - the USA apparently has no gangsters of its own.
The third side is a team of corrupt police detectives commanded by Robert John Burke, who plays similar roles in TV shows like Law and Order: SVU. He works for the corrupt Mayor (Chris Sarandon - Fright Night (1986) ), who has teamed up with Alex (Anson Mount - All The Boys Love Mandy Lane ).
The whole movie takes a turn into an entirely different genre. Our hero is no longer a good man down on his luck who takes a chivalric interest in protecting a small child. Instead he is a poor man's John Wick , a one-man army on a crusade to wipe out the Russian mob. And he also has a new backstory to go with the new direction the story has taken. The down-on-his-luck cage fighter was once an assassin for the corrupt cops, assigned to them after the Mayor recruited him from a Special Forces hit-squad.
This should probably just be a car-chase movie, like Drive . After all, it was created by Luc Besson , the man behind the Taxi series. However, this has a more varied collection of action scenes. After all, Frank is not merely the best driver in the world. He is also a one-man army, an expert in all weapons and all forms of unarmed combat.
The local super-villain sends his murderous girlfriend ( Kate Nauta ) to abduct the boy. She struts around in high heels and lingerie while wielding a matched pair of fully automatic, fully surpressed handguns. The only thing that slows her down is her bumbling henchman (Jason Fleming - Primeval ).
FBI Special Agent In Charge (Keith David - The Thing (1982) ) suspects it is an inside job, so Frank is treated as a suspect. He must solve the case and save the boy single-handed. Well, the French detective from the first movie is in town but he is basically just the comedy relief.
Frank may be a former British Army Special Forces soldier. However, his skillset more closely resembles that of a Hong Kong stuntman. For example, he takes on a group of thugs by using a fire-hose as if he were Jackie Chan. The difference is that Jackie's movies are comedy-thriller romps while this is a more serious neo-noir revenge-type thriller. The result is that the tone of the movie alternates between serious and jokey. In fact, the whole effort is disturbingly bloodless. Even the most gruesome kill scene is without visible bloodshed.
A rent-a-villain named Johnson (Robert Knepper - iZombie ) and his team of goons are pressuring a senior Ukrainian official named Leonid Vasilev (Jeroen Krabbe - Living Daylights (1987) ) to allow them to dump vast amounts of toxic waste in his country. Their leverage is kept in a car, and the plan is to keep the car moving to prevent interception by Vasilev's people.
Frank is anchored to the car by an explosive bracelet. If he goes more than fifty feet from the vehicle, his bracelet will explode and vapourise him. This is basically a variation on the premise of Speed (1994) .
The action scenes are basically copied from the original movie. And in fact, the original movie did it better.
Cage is subjected to a series of dangerous test scenarios, including an encounter with a dangerous drug warlord (Danny Trejo - Machete ).
XXX is sent on his first mission. He must infiltrate a gang of Euro-Trash anarchists run by Marton Csokas ( Xena: Warrior Princess ). The good news is that he gets to hook up with tough-girl Asia Argento .
Gibbons (Samuel L Jackson - Marvel Avengers ) has a rival in the US military-industrial complex. The villain is Colonel Decker - oops, Defence Secretary Deckert ( Spiderman ). If only they had just made Nick Fury versus Green Goblin instead.
US Intelligence boss Marke ( Toni Collette ) has obtained a super-weapon, Pandora's Box. This is just a codename, like the Rabbit's Foot in Mission Impossible 3 , not literally the ancient artefact from Lara Croft: Cradle of Life . She displays the device to a conference of her fellow Intelligence Heads, a group of rent-a-villains like Nigel Bennett ( Lexx ). Then a highly-skilled intruder (Donnie Yen - Rogue One: A Star Wars Tale ) breaks in and steals the weapon!
Marke has a tech nerd ( Nina Dobrev ), but needs a team of specialists for field-work. She finds Xander Cage (Vin Diesel - Riddick ), who faked his death after the first film. Cage has his own team of buddies, including a stunt-driver (Rory McCann - Game of Thrones ) and a sniper ( Ruby Rose ). They go undercover, posing as crooks on the run.
This is a cheesy and cheerful action extravaganza. It displays no respect for the laws of physics, although it dies display a lot of violence without consequences. Like the John Wayne movies of the Hayes Code era, a cowboy can get shot but he never bleeds. The film may have a PG-13 certificate, but that is only because of the language. Dobrev says This is f*cking great! at the end.