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Replicant DVDReplicant - Directed by Ringo Lam – 2001 – 101 minutes – Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michael Rooker, Catherine Dent, Brandon James Olson & Pam Hyatt. If like me, you were slightly disappointed that Van Damme’s flambuoyant villainous portrayal in big screen Action extravaganza The Expendables 2 wasn’t afforded the screen time he richly deserved, then Ringo Lam’s criminally underrated Replicant is the perfect antidote to replenish your need for Van Dammage. Co-starring with the ever reliable Michael Rooker, Jean-Claude Van Damme takes on one of his infamous dual roles in this unique Sci-Fi-Thriller. We are initially introduced to Van Damme in a shocking scene where he brutally murders a mother, setting her on fire and leaving her small baby in the burning building to perish. Van Damme is Edward Garrotte, an emotionally disturbed Serial Killer with serious mummy issues. Garrotte is nicknamed ‘The Torch‘ by police, due to his trademark burning of victims. Rooker is Detective Jake Riley, a hardened veteran cop who has been after Garrotte for some time, without much success. After one particularly close encounter between Jake and Garrotte, the Detective is approached by a representitive of the National Security Agency, who offers him an intriguing proposition. Apparently they have cloned Garrotte using DNA found in a strand of his hair, and they want Jake to work with the killer’s clone and use him to try and track Garrotte. This is when the fim really becomes interesting, as the clone, referred to as ‘Replicant’, allows Van Damme to deliver one of his most impressive performances to date, portraying the Replicant as a child-like innocent, whose only knowledge of the outside world comes from the information the laboratory provides him with. As the Replicant’s knowledge is limited, he is initially unable to speak, allowing Van Damme to deliver a compelling performance based soley on physical acting and use of body language to convey the clone’s feelings and emotions. An underrated actor, the oft high kicking Belgian is astonishingly unselfconscious in a deceptively tough role which could have easily been mishandled by a lesser performer. Jake ultimately takes the Replicant into his custody and the pair leave the NSA headquarters and head into the outside world, where their fractious relationship begins. The Detective initially mistreats the clone, due to his physical and thereby psychological association with the murderouse Garrotte, while the innocent Replicant can’t understand what it is he has done to merit such ill treatment. It’s not all Drama and Psycho-analysis though, as Ringo Lam is a man who knows how to shoot Action, as anyone who’s seen any of his masterful Hong Kong Thrillers would testify. The action here does not disappoint, with several kinetic set pieces which really get the blood-pumping. There is also the inevitable climactic fight between Garrotte and the Replicant; a mouth watering prospect, this Van Damme mano-a-mano is accomplished mighty effectively on screen. The film features the muscles from Brussells in his best dual role to date, delivering the goods in the dramatic stakes, whilst also serving up more than enough high kicking action mayem to satisfy his core fanbase. A direct to video gem which holds up exceptionally well to repeat viewing. Trivia: The term ‘Replicant’ is derived from Ridley Scott’s cult Sci-Fi Classic Blade Runner [1982], which invented the term to be used instead of the traditional term ‘Android’. If you like this you might also like: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer [1986] – Replicant co-star Michael Rooker delivers a superlative portrayal of a Serial Killer in this extremely harrowing and horrifyingly convincing hybrid of Crime and Horror. Based on a true story. Maximum Risk [1996] – Excellent earlier collaboration between Van Damme and director Ringo Lam, co-starring Species’ starlet Natasha Henstridge as the eye candy. A sturdy Action Thriller which certainly delivers the goods on those fronts.

Retroactive DVDRetroactiveDirected by Louis Morneau – 1997 – 103 minutes – Starring Kylie Travis, James Belushi [K-9], Shannon Whirry, Frank Whaley, Sherman Howard, Jesse Borrego and M. Emmet Walsh. A taut, tense, highly effective time travel/road movie with a novel set up, Retroactive was one of the finest films of 1997. The film begins when central protagonist Karen's [Kylie Travis] car breaks down; she is ultimately picked up by two strangers, Frank [James Belushi] and his girlfriend Rayanne [Shannon Whirry]. Frank is a shady character who unbeknownst to his fellow travellers, is on his way to meet a contact to sell them some stolen computer chips. However, after repeatedly calling Rayanne’s fidelity into question, Frank eventually resolves to violently blow her away. Karen manages to escape the car with a crazed Frank hot on her heels. She finds her way into a fenced off laboratory, where it transpires that a time travel experiment is being worked on; she forces the lone scientist to send her back in time to prevent Rayanne’s murder. The time travelling device works and she finds herself back in Frank and Rayanne’s car earlier that day. Unfortunately her plans to save Rayanne’s life are continually beset with unforeseen circumstances; every time she travels back in time something goes wrong. Moreover, certain acquaintances of Frank become increasingly involved at various junctures, leading to an escalating bloodbath which ultimately spirals out of control. To divulge any further details would ruin the surprises the film has in store, suffice it to say that Retroactive is a clever, witty, Action-packed Sci-Fi Thriller about the consequences of time travel which gives a stale, tired subgenre a much needed shot in the arm. It's an adrenaline fuelled blast. Trivia: The film received a straight to video release in the UK. Former US President Bill Clinton’s brother Roger appears in a small role. Roger Clinton also co-starred as the Mayor in Pumpkinhead 2: Bloodwings [1994] and played ‘Agent Clinton’ in the Leslie Nielson ‘comedy’ Spy Hard [1996]. Star Kylie Travis was a regular on short lived 90’s television show Models Inc, a bitchy babe-fest of epic proportions. If you like this you may also like: A.P.E.X. [1994] – Enjoyable time travelling Sci-Fi nonsense about a robot drone being sent back in time from 2073 to 1973, an experiment with disastrous consequences which adversely affect the time line, leaving humankind overrun by murderous robots.
Road Games DVDRoadgames - Directed by Richard Franklin - 1981 - 101mins - Starring Stacy Keach [Escape from LA], James Lee Curtis [Halloween], Grant Page, Marion Edward and Thaddeus Smith. Also know as Road Games. A very enjoyable and underrated Australian horror thriller. A serial killer is on the loose on the motorways murdering hitchhikers and then disposing of their dismembered bodies en route. In possibly his finest film role, Stacy Keach is wonderfully cast as Pat Quid an eccentric long distance lorry driver who begins to suspect that a van driver on the same road could be the killer. As Pat begins to investigate and gets closer to discovering the truth, he finds that the murderer is actually one step ahead and he is being framed for the murders himself. Jamie Lee Curtis co-stars as a hitchhiker, who gets herself caught up in the deadly game of cat and mouse. It has a touch of Duel (the 1971 road rage movie from Steven Spielberg) about it at times, combined with some very nice Hitchcockian touches - Director Franklin is obviously a Hitchcock fan, he went on to make Psycho 2. Trivia: Writer Everett De Roche and Director Richard Franklin also worked together on the cult classic 'Patrick' about a hospital patient with deadly psychokinesis skills. Franklin also directed Psycho 2 and F/X 2. If you like this you may also like: The Hitcher [1986] with Rutger Hauer perfect as the cold blooded killer toying with C. Thomas Howell. Breakdown [1997] in which a confused Kurt Russell tries to find out what has happened to his wife who disappears on the highway. Duel [1971] and early Steven Spielberg film in which Dennis Weaver upsets an unseen lorry driver.

Road House DVDRoad HouseDirected by Rowdy Herrington – 1989 – 114 minutes - Starring Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch, Sam Elliot, Ben Gazzara, Jeff Healey, Kathleen Wilhoite, Red West, Julie Michaels, Terry Funk and Marshall R. Teague as ‘Jimmy’. An immaculate Martial Arts/Exploitation film about the life of a tough, Tai Chi trained, almost mythically legendary Bar room bouncer. His name is Dalton [Patrick Swayze], and he doesn’t know the meaning of the word pain, as he remarks to the sexy female Doctor [Kelly Lynch] stitching up one of his wounds: ‘Pain don’t hurt.’ A mark of his status is conveyed by a running joke whereby any time he meets somebody new they greet him with; ‘I thought you’d be bigger.’ The story begins with Dalton being hired as head bouncer at the Double Deuce, the toughest Bar in Jasper, Missouri, where a brutal punch up/glassing is never more than a minute away. With his level-headed, hard-arse efficiency it doesn't take Dalton long to clean up the bar. However he hadn’t reckoned on dealing with Brad Wesley [Ben Gazzara], a crime boss with the whole town under his thumb. Wesley takes a disliking to Dalton when the latter sacks one of his boys from the Double Deuce; he likes him even less when he discovers he’s courting his ex-wife. The conflict between the two men escalates, with Dalton calling on his old amigo Wade Garrett [Sam Elliott] to assist him, while Wesley uses his power to divert alcohol supplies from the Double Deuce and sends his Martial Arts lackeys to rough the place up. The scene is set for more violent confrontations – Dalton has the power to tear out a man’s throat - and more outrageous dialogue -‘I used to fuck guys like you in prison!’- than you can shake a bloody great stick at. Excellent fight choreography abounds in this extremely well made, flawlessly paced, shamelessly entertaining brew of ultra-cool, knowingly silly action goodness which stands as a true classic of its kind. Trivia: Keith David [The Thing, They Live, The Rock, etc.] cameos as a bartender. The late Jeff Healey, who features predominantly as blind singer/guitar player Cody, was in reality a blind singer/guitar player, the front man for The Jeff Healey Band. Co-star Terry Funk is a well known and highly regarded Wrestler; he also co-starred in and choreographed the fights for Sylvester Stallone’s Paradise Alley [1978]. If you like this you may also like: Murphy’s Law [1986] – An enjoyable Charles Bronson vehicle featuring a more prominent role for Road House co-star Kathleen Wilhoite as Bronson’s foul-mouthed comic foil. Striking Distance [1993] – An enjoyable subsequent film from director Herrington, starring Bruce Willis as a waterlogged cop. Walker, Texas Ranger: One Riot, One Ranger [1993] – Head Road House lackey Marshall R. Teague is upgraded to head villain in this feature-length TV movie pilot to the long running Chuck Norris series.

Runaway DVDRunawayDirected by Michael Crichton – 1984 – 99 minutes – Starring Tom Selleck [Magnum P.I.], Cynthia Rhodes [Dirty Dancing], Kirstie Alley [Cheers], Gene Simmons, G.W. Bailey [Police Academy], Stan Shaw, Joey Cramer, Chris Mulkey and Anne-Marie Martin. Tom Selleck stars in this underrated Sci-Fi Thriller from director/novelist Michael Crichton. Set in a future where robots are so commonplace they help out with everyday chores, the film’s hero is Sergeant Jack Ramsay, a specialist in malfunctioning machine cases. Ramsay is partnered up with the attractive Officer Karen Thompson [Cynthia Rhodes] and the two of them become embroiled in a mystery involving robots inexplicably turning into murderers. Dr. Charles Luther [Gene Simmons] is the villain responsible; he is the instigator of an insane plot designed to raise an army of killer robots for him to be able to command at his every whim. As well as boasting a suspenseful opening featuring a house robot going haywire and a subsequent cat and mouse hunt between it and Ramsay, Runaway also features several memorable Action set-pieces throughout. Jerry Goldsmith provides the film’s strange electronic score, which sounds slightly dated now and remains an acquired taste; however it is undeniably stylish. Runaway of course considerably benefits from the presence of Tom Selleck, a sorely underrated actor with considerable range; he is believable as ever as Ramsay, ably conveying the fragile, human side of his character as well as nailing the tough, heroic Sergeant characteristics; this remains one of his best film roles to date. Fans of Sci-Fi Thrillers should definitely give Runaway a look and it also contains all the requisite thrills your average Action fan craves. Trivia: Head villain Gene Simmons is better known for being the front man for rock band Kiss. If you like this you may also like: Westworld [1973] – Michael Crichton’s highly influential 70s Cult Classic starring a brilliantly cast Yul Brynner as a malfunctioning robot cowboy. Crichton sure does like his malfunctioning robots! Magnum P.I. [1980-1988] – Tom Selleck’s signature role as Hawaii based Private Investigator Thomas Sullivan Magnum III. A truly great series with a wonderful cast, Magnum P.I. has aged like a fine wine.

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