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  • The Blade

    The Blade

    ★★★★

    78

    "In a pivotal scene from Chang Cheh’s The One-Armed Swordsman (1967), hero Fang Kang, having lost his right arm and seemingly all hope of improving his swordsmanship, is thrown a lifeline in the form of a kung-fu training manual, given to him by the kindly country girl who nursed him back to health. Although more than half the booklet was destroyed in a fire, the remains turn out to be conveniently accommodating to his injury: it was solely the…

  • Face/Off

    Face/Off

    ★★★★

    78

    A maximalist absurdist comedy in which Cage plays Travolta trying to play Cage and Travolta plays Cage trying to play Travolta. The sweet spot occurs in the movement from steps 2 to 3, during which each star stages the process of becoming themselves.

  • Foxy Brown

    Foxy Brown

    ★★★½

    72

    "Looks like a pickle jar or something."

  • Pedicab Driver

    Pedicab Driver

    ★★★★

    82

    The last 30 minutes of this are insane. They strike a diamond-rare balance between lightning spryness and hard-hitting brutality, all while featuring some of the most dynamic action editing/framing/choreography I’ve seen in a long time. I need more stuff like this in my life.

  • The Night Comes for Us

    The Night Comes for Us

    ★★★★

    77

    The lack of narrative momentum makes The Night Comes For Us less fun than, say, The Raid, but I found the sluggishness oddly compelling this time, especially when viewed alongside the film's fleshy, sloppy-elegant martial arts action. Dragging its feet one loosely-connected scene at a time toward a climax that feels like it could've arrived 20 min earlier or later with little effect on overall story structure, the movie sometimes seems to verge on becoming an avant-garde art piece,…

  • Wild at Heart

    Wild at Heart

    ★★★½

    74

    This one didn't blow me away overall, but the two scenes in which Sailor serenades Lula are showstoppers.

  • Heat

    Heat

    ★★★★

    81

    The hard and the soft; machismo and emotion; action and melodrama; professional patois and unchecked feeling; technical know-how and a city soaked in light; man's best-laid plans and the tide of destiny. A Michael Mann film. 

  • A Good Day to Die Hard

    A Good Day to Die Hard

    24

    Demonstrates total incompetence in basic continuity editing and no consistency to the visual chaos to evince any alternative aesthetic paradigm. It’s a bunch of shots and scenes lazily strung together along a lazy plot “driven” (if we can even call it that) by lazy performances. Cynical cash grab 101 lacking in momentum or charisma of any kind. My new benchmark for bad action movie.

  • Speed

    Speed

    ★★★★

    82

    "It’s easy to forget that Speed (1994)—a film so famously invested in relentless forward motion—begins vertically. Before Keanu Reeves’ Jack Traven boards an L.A. bus rigged with explosives, set to blow if the speedometer drops below 50 mph, we get a hostage rescue from within an elevator shaft, and, right before that, an opening credits sequence that distills the rescue scene to its essentials: dizzying heights and the fear of falling. At first glance, this sequence seems simple, perhaps…

  • Transformers

    Transformers

    ★★★

    57

    Sits at the aesthetic juncture between Honda commercial and army recruitment ad, a gleaming slab of teal-orange homogeneity that feels as aggressive as it is visually dull. I'll concede that the robots' shape-shifting remains a delight of meticulous micro-macro synergy, every little gear turning in its own little way to power a 50-foot machine, but the action sequences in their full duration get bland and repetitive pretty fast. Some diverting comic beats help liven the affair (Anthony Anderson has a charmingly zany supporting bit), but this was definitely more of a slog than I remembered.

  • Die Hard: With a Vengeance

    Die Hard: With a Vengeance

    ★★★★

    84

    I saw snatches of this on TV as a kid but apparently never the whole thing all the way through. Really glad I remedied that just now. In the best way possible, this movie's basically three action flicks crammed into one, a crazy succession of set pieces propelled by a twisting plot and electric, hilarious rapport between Willis and Jackson. All of it's spread across the sprawling, variegated geography of New York City, a timeless genre playground that is…

  • Eraserhead

    Eraserhead

    ★★★★

    77

    Can't wait for the slimy, putrid, cacophonous, claustrophobic, sleepless high anxiety alien hellscape that is parenthood!