Two Action Films from Sony
The Cutter (March 3/06)
The Cutter casts Chuck Norris as John Shepherd, a cop-turned-P.I. who finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy involving two mythical diamonds dating back to biblical times. The overstuffed and thoroughly ridiculous storyline also manages to incorporate a former Nazi and a holocaust survivor/master jeweler, a deadly assassin, and sundry other absurd details. There's not a whole lot one expects out of a Chuck Norris flick aside from copious action sequences and snarky one-liners, which makes it awfully difficult to overlook The Cutter's conspicuous lack of both those elements. Director Bill Tannen's decision to infuse the film with intrusive editing tricks and needlessly flashy camerawork quickly proves disastrous, while Bruce Haskett's exposition-heavy screenplay is tedious and convoluted beyond belief. The inclusion of a few old-school fight scenes towards the film's conclusion (particularly a hand-to-hand battle between Norris and the central villain aboard a crowded city bus) temporarily elevates the proceedings, but there's simply no getting around the fact that the majority of The Cutter is just dull. Having said that, one can't help but admire Norris' justification for throwing a baddie out of a third-story window: "I needed some air".
The Russian Specialist (March 4/06)
The Russian Specialist marks Dolph Lundgren's second directorial effort, following 2004's The Defender (which featured Jerry Springer as the President of the United States). The actor reveals himself to be a surprisingly competent filmmaker, and his decision to eschew flamboyant camerawork in favor of a more old-school vibe is certainly an effective one (though it's hard not to question the inclusion of a fade-out at the close of virtually every scene). Lundgren stars as Nick Cherenko, a former special forces soldier who watches helplessly as his family is killed by a ruthless mob boss. Years later, he's hired to retrieve a kidnapped girl and is pleasantly shocked to discover that the man holding her is the same thug that murdered his wife and son. It's an awfully thin storyline that becomes more and more problematic as the film progresses; there's just not enough going on here to hold the viewer's interest, despite Lundgren's best efforts to infuse the movie with random spurts of action. It probably doesn't help that Lundgren delivers an expectedly impassive performance, making it virtually impossible to really connect with his plight. There's a prolonged shootout towards the end that initially seems as though it's going to be the highlight of the film, but it eventually wears out its welcome due to Lundgren's refusal to edit it down to a reasonable length (it goes on for almost a full half-hour!) Ultimately, The Russian Specialist isn't quite as effective as its premise might've indicated - though there's no denying that it's far better than the majority of the straight-to-video action flicks coming down the pike nowadays.