You might find more excitement outdoors
It’s the Fourth of July weekend, and while you know you’ve got fireworks in the sky, what about on your TV?
There’s been a spate of action flicks hitting the shelves, but most of them fizzled during their brief runs at the box office. Will they make a bigger bang at home or are they simply duds?
WWE JUST CAN’T LAND A PUNCH
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I’m still befuddled as to why World Wrestling Entertainment has yet to make a dent in their foray into feature films – it’s got a large, loyal audience, compelling characters and crazy storylines.
Yet, each film the group has released has landed with a resounding thud, and that includes 12 ROUNDS (PG-13, 1 1/2 stars), the latest vehicle for WWE champion John Cena. I thought his initial film, “The Marine,” was painfully boring, and this one isn’t much better.
The person I really feel sorry for is Renny Harlin. The Finnish director was the Michael Bay of the early 1990s, but has been stuck in director purgatory for years, never being able to fully shake the fiasco that was “Cutthroat Island.”
So Harlin brings a better pedigree to a low-budget action flick than most, but it doesn’t show in the finished product, which is a retread of so many (better) films.
Cena stars as New Orleans cop Danny Fisher, who draws the wrath of notorious terrorist Miles (Aiden Gillen) when, during Miles’ capture, his fiancée is killed. Flash forward one year later and Miles has escaped from prison, kidnapped Danny’s girlfriend and rigged an elaborate series of challenges for Danny that lead him through the streets of New Orleans.
How Miles was able to do this while in prison is a question for a more interesting film. Here, we are forced to suspend belief while a gaggle of contrivances take place that allow Miles and Danny to play their little game.
Harlin, no dummy, allows for the basics of the action flick to unfold – big car crashes, loud explosions, copious gunfire – distracting us from the ridiculousness of the story.
Cena isn’t going to remind anyone of Sean Penn, but he’s got a visceral sort of appeal, fine-tuned from slamming fools and talking smack in promos. Gillen was on the critically loved “The Wire,” and I hope he was much better on that show that this preening, sneering performance.
You’re better off watching “Die Hard 3” and calling it a day.
WAIT A MINUTE, IS THAT CHRIS KLEIN?
How hard is it to make a decent film adaptation of one of the world’s most beloved video games? Well, when said property is Street Fighter, it must be nearly impossible.
The original attempt, 1994’s “Street Fighter,” is a laughably misguided attempt to be faithful to the game. It’s a bad movie, but one that I absolutely love.
STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN LI (PG-13, 1/2 star) is terrible in a totally different way. A spectacularly awful waste of celluloid, this is 91 minutes of misery and five minutes of small enjoyment (more on that later).
The wooden Kristin Kreuk stars as the title character, a concert pianist/kung fu master who is out to destroy the reign of terror by underworld kingpin M. Bison (Neal McDonough).
Now let’s stop right here. For some reason, Bison has been changed from a power mad general to a businessman with an Irish brogue, which gives you an idea of the creative liberties taken with the property.
Chun Li travels the streets of Bangkok, beating up Bison’s henchmen while raising the suspicions of the authorities working the case. The fight scenes should be this movie’s bread and butter, but they’re chopped to bits because of the rapid-fire editing, giving you no sense of the characters’ power. At least the first film tried to capture the characters’ signature moves.
So while most of this movie is an interminable bore, there is one bright spot.
Former heartthrob Chris Klein, who’s obviously fallen on hard times if he’s appearing in this nonsense, stars as Interpol agent Charlie Nash. For some reason, Klein plays this role as if it were in “The Godfather II,” which makes for hilarious viewing when he seriously intones lines like, “This guy walks through the raindrops.” Every scene he appears in is worth watching.
And that’s about it. They even have the nerve to set things up for a sequel! Considering this made only $8 million on a $50 million budget, I don’t think we have to worry about that.
A BIT LUKEWARM, BUT THE SHOOTING’S GREAT
Corporate banking doesn’t exactly get pulses racing, which is why THE INTERNATIONAL (R, 3 stars) was a major disappointment when released, despite everyone wishing that banks would get their just desserts.
And while this film isn’t filled with explosions, it does have the globe-trotting action of a “Bourne”-lite adventure and one heckuva shootout that’s probably worth the price of a rental.
Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) has been tracking the nefarious activities of the International Bank for years, but every time he comes close to getting some hard evidence, his sources meet a mysterious demise.
You see, the bank is into everything – supporting African genocide, selling nuclear weapons, bilking grandmothers out of their life savings, etc. – and somehow has remained untouchable because every country in the world has its fingers in the pie.
Louis’ latest failure gets both he and the Manhattan D.A. (Naomi Watts) that’s working the case in hot water, but that doesn’t stop them from making one last run at stopping the International.
Their best lead comes in the form of the bank’s hit man, who lives in New York. The trail takes them to the Guggenheim Museum, where the hit man is the target of both the cops and the bank, leading to a fantastic shootout throughout the corridors of the museum (actually a big set).
Owen plays Louis like Clive Owen – a slightly handsome, somewhat disheveled man of action. Owen hasn’t really broken through in America, I think, because he’s too normal. We like our action heroes with some sort of quirk, and a British accent doesn’t count.
Watts is fine in a thankless role. Her character disappears for large stretches of the film, and one of her big scenes involves texting, which makes me think some of her scenes were left on the cutting room floor.
If you like your action with a little less bang, this will work just fine.