Miscellaneous Reviews Festivals Lists Interviews

web analytics


The Films of Mark L. Lester

Steel Arena

Truck Stop Women

White House Madness

Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw


Gold of the Amazon Women

Roller Boogie

Class of 1984


Commando (January 31/16)

More than 30 years after its original theatrical release, Commando remains one of the best and most exciting action movies ever to come out of Hollywood - with the film's myriad of thrilling sequences heightened by star Arnold Schwarzenegger's magnetic, consistently engaging performance. The streamlined narrative follows Schwarzenegger's John Matrix as he embarks on a mission to rescue his daughter (Alyssa Milano's Jenny) after she's kidnapped by a ruthless warlord (Dan Hedaya's Arius), with the endeavor teaming Matrix up with a panicky stewardess (Rae Dawn Chong's Cindy) and, eventually, pitting him against a former colleague (Vernon Wells' Bennett) with a serious grudge. It's quite remarkable, really, just how quickly director Mark L. Lester and scripter Steven E. de Souza kick the story into high gear, as Commando, after opening with a cute (yet undeniably cheesy) sequence establishing the relationship between Matrix and his daughter, progresses into a propulsive midsection revolving entirely around the central character's unstoppable efforts to get back his child - with the mission bringing Matrix face-to-face with a number of now-indelible goons and bad guys (including David Patrick Kelly's smarmy Sully and Bill Duke's brutal Cooke). The film's momentum continues to grow as it marches into its almost breathtakingly violent third act (in which Matrix singlehandedly takes on an entire army!), and there's little doubt that the final showdown between Matrix and Bennett is as electrifying and satisfying as one might've hoped. The end result is an action classic that remains just as potent now as it surely did back in 1985, with the film's proliferation of memorable one-liners (eg "don't disturb my friend; he's dead tired") certainly the icing atop a very delicious cake.

out of

Armed and Dangerous

Class of 1999

Showdown in Little Tokyo (January 8/16)

A hopelessly generic actioner, Showdown in Little Tokyo follows mismatched cops Chris Kenner (Dolph Lundgren) and Johnny Murata (Brandon Lee) as they team up to take down a vicious Yakuza boss (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa's Funekei Yoshida) - with the task turning personal after Chris discovers that Yoshida murdered his parents decades earlier. It's a solid premise that's employed to consistently (and frustratingly) underwhelming effect by Mark L. Lester, as the movie lurches from one action sequence to the next with nary a thought of character development or a cohesive narrative. And while the majority of said action sequences possess a pleasingly over-the-top '80s vibe, Showdown in Little Tokyo contains too few elements designed to keep things interesting and it is, as a result, impossible to work up any sympathy for the protagonists' continuing endeavors. It doesn't help, certainly, that there's no real chemistry between the two leads, as both Lundgren and especially Lee deliver flat, unconvincing performances that exacerbate the movie's less-than-engrossing feel. (Tagawa's scenery-chewing turn as the broadly villainous bad guy remains a highlight, however.) The less-than-electrifying climax, violent as it may be, ultimately confirms Showdown in Little Tokyo's place as an almost total disappointment, with Lester perpetually unable to infuse the proceedings with the sort of energy and excitement that defined his earlier masterwork, Commando.

out of

Extreme Justice

Night of the Running Man

Public Enemies

The Ex

Double Take


The Base

Hitman's Run


Sacrifice (June 17/01)

Sacrifice is a mildly entertaining serial killer thriller that is, unfortunately, weighed down with useless subplots. Michael Madsen stars as a convict that finds out a serial killer has murdered his daughter. He quickly breaks out of prison (during a transfer, so it's not completely unbelievable) and gets to work finding the "sick son-of-a-bitch" that did it. He eventually hooks up with Jamie Lunar and the two work together (and get romantically involved). Sacrifice is pretty silly, but it's basically watchable - mostly due to Madsen. Here's a guy who's undoubtedly resigned himself to the fact that he'll never be a big star, and instead spends his time accepting roles in exceedingly quirky films like this. But what keeps Sacrifice from being a whole lot better is the manner by which it keeps shifting to various subplots, in order to make up for the fact that (I guess) the writer didn't have enough to say about this serial killer. For one thing, there's a couple of cops (one of them is played by Bokeem Woodbine) on Madsen's tail ('cause he's an escaped con, you see). These scenes are a complete waste of time and have nothing to do with the central story. It doesn't even make sense that Madsen had to be an escaped con. And while I didn't guess exactly who the killer was (only because you don't actually meet him/her until about 15 before the movie ends), it's pretty obvious what field the killer works in right from the get-go. No, this isn't Se7en. But if you're a Madsen fan, you'll probably (somewhat) enjoy this.

out of

Guilty as Charged


Stealing Candy

White Rush



Poseidon Rex

Dragons of Camelot

© David Nusair