ActionFest 2012 – My Favorite Movies

Let the Bullets Fly (2010)

“Set in China during the warring 1920s, notorious bandit chief Zhang descends upon a remote provincial town posing as its new mayor, an identity that he had hijacked from Old Tang, himself a small-time imposter. Hell-bent on making a fast buck, Zhang soon meets his match in the tyrannical local gentry Huang as a deadly battle of wit and brutality ensues. “

This was far and away my favorite movie of ActionFest this year. The writing is superb (yes lots of subtitles to read), the cinematography is great, the action is over-the-top to great comic effect, and the acting is top-notch. There are many reasons why this film is the top-grossing film of all time in China.

Chow Yun-Fat is always excellent, especially in Chinese films but here he is actually overshadowed by the writer/director/star Wen Jiang. The film is over two hours long but I didn’t feel that any of that time was wasted. There are so many wonderful gags/situations but I wouldn’t want to spoil any of them so I’ll only mention that the film opens with an attack on a horse-drawn train.

Headhunters (2011)

“An accomplished headhunter risks everything to obtain a valuable painting owned by a former mercenary. “

My second and third favorite are really close but I think Headhunters edges out God Bless America. A lot of the reviews, press materials, and hype compare this to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Honestly though there are only a few legitimate comparisons: yes it is a mystery, it is Norwegian, Diana is watching The Girl who Played with Fire in one scene, and one car scene is lifted from Dragon Tattoo. Tonally and thematically it is quite different from Stieg Larsson’s trilogy.

Our protagonist, Roger, is a headhunter who moonlights on the side as an art thief. He does this to afford his extravagant lifestyle because he’s afraid of losing the woman he loves. He makes a rather poor decision to steal from a former mercenary/ex-special forces potential client. The client, Clas is played with a wonderful air of confidence and menace by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (last seen as Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones).

Even though Roger is hardly blameless, the battle of wits between Roger and Clas is awesome. The key here is that the movie takes some absolutely wonderful bizarre twists that I wouldn’t dream of spoiling. Basically the less said of the plot the better.

God Bless America (2011)

“On a mission to rid society of its most repellent citizens, terminally ill Frank makes an unlikely accomplice in 16-year-old Roxy.”

“I wish I was a super-genius inventor and could come up with a way to make a telephone into an explosive device that was triggered by the American Superstarz voting number. The battery could explode and leave a mark on the face, so I could know who to avoid talking to before they even talked. “

Headhunters was a complete surprise and constantly headed into new, uncharted territory. God Bless America simply delivers on the excellent trailer. If you’ve seen the trailer, you are not likely to be surprised by anything in the movie – except that the quality is quite consistent and excellent.

This is obviously a darkly humorous film. Bobcat Goldthwait (World’s Greatest Dad) writes and directs a masterpiece. God Bless America is not a relentless wish fulfillment film but it is a constant diatribe on our pop culture of hatred.Goldthwait wisely plays this straight – most of his TV parodies are only slightly different from the real thing, just enough to drive the point home.

Everyman Frank is played brilliantly by Joel Murray (Fred Rumsen of Mad Men) with just the right hint of flatness. Frank gets a long series of wonderful rants such as the one above. Frank is ably assisted (actually goaded) by teen Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr).

The entire film is just a non-stop insightful skewering of pop culture. It is obscene but certainly no more so than the subjects it attacks. This is one I look forward to laughing at again when it hits instant Netflix.

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