The Girl From the Naked Eye (2012)
Former martial arts competitor turned action star Jason Yee beats the shit out of a lot of people, shoots a few dozen more, and generally makes a menace of himself in director David Ren’s “The Girl from the Naked Eye”, a moderately budgeted action movie dressed up as a noir Detective story. The hero is one Jake, a driver for an escort service who falls (and vice versa) for his latest charge, the sweet Sandy (Samantha Streets). After Sandy is murdered, Jake makes it his mission to find her killer (or killers). This pits him against his buddy Simon (Ron Yuan, who also doubles as the film’s fight choreographer) and Simon’s slimy cop partner Frank (former Brit middleweight Gary Stretch, though disappointingly he never throws down).
After a slow first 20 minutes, “The Girl from the Naked Eye” picks up noticeably, offering up a couple of nifty fight sequences that usually involves Jake taking on multiple opponents. The film also offers up its own version of the infamous “Oldboy” hallway fight, albeit on a lesser scale. Star Jason Yee is more than up to the task of the film’s many beat-downs, and is a pretty decent actor to boot. Samantha Streets, as the wayward hooker, also gives a nice performance, as does the aforementioned Ron Yuan, who plays the put-upon Simon. Yuan kills in a couple of choice comedic moments that surprised me. The film runs a lean and mean 80-minutes (if not less), so it’s a quick watch if you wanted to indulge in some noir-style asskicking.
One last note, though: Despite the box art proclaiming porn star turned actress Sasha Grey in the cast (she’s standing very prominently behind the film’s male lead), she has what amounts to a minute-long cameo in the entire film. She shows up for one scene. That’s it. Likewise for Dominique Swain, who actually has two scenes, but probably for just around one minute total. It’s too bad Streets gets the shaft by the film’s marketing department. Along with Yee and Yuan, she’s the other reason to watch “The Girl from the Naked Eye”.
The film has been out on overseas DVD for a while now, but will finally arrive Stateside on DVD or Blu-ray July 24, 2012.
Steve Niles’ Remains (2011)
At this point, it’s hard to do anything new with the zombie genre. Which is probably why it’s best to just accept that everything that could be done has been done, and continue on from there. “Remains” (officially “Steve Niles’ Remains”) does just that. It doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but takes what you already know about zombies, and spins its own yarn with its own set of characters in its own chosen locale. In this case, a bunch of small-time casino employees in Reno. When the shit goes down and most of the world’s population turn into zombies (something about a nuclear blast or some such), the only people left standing is boozing blackjack dealer Tom (Grant Bowler), his sometimes girlfriend and waitress Tori (Evalena Marie), and amateur magician Jensen (Miko Hughes), who for some reason is gay. I guess they just felt like spicing up the cast. The trio are soon join by Victor (Anthony Marks), a survivor with very strong survival instincts. Essentially, dude will sell you out in an instant. Eventually the military shows up. And if you’ve seen any amount of zombie movies, you know that nothing good ever comes of the military showing up.
“Remains” is based on the comic book by Steve Niles (hence the “Steve Niles’ Remains”), the man behind the vampire franchise “30 Days of Night”. The best thing about “Remains” is just how unsympathetic all of its characters are. Mind you, that doesn’t make them unlikeable. I very much enjoyed them, especially the sometimes-doltish Tom and Evalena Marie’s Tori, perhaps the toughest, asskickingest, cowboy books-wearing Vegas waitress around. Marie steals the show for much of the movie, playing Tori like the biggest bitch around. And yet, sticking to her will probably keep you alive longer. Plus, she’s super easy on the eyes. “Remains” throws a couple of curve balls at familiar zombie tropes. These zombies sleep, are fiercely territorial, and later, an even more rabid, dangerous strand of the undead arrives to feed on the living and their lesser undead brethren. “Remains” is nothing you haven’t seen before, but it’s nonetheless a good time, especially for fans of the genre. As a bonus, Evalena Marie simply kicks all kinds of ass.
“Remains” certainly has a lot of “Dawn of the Dead” in it (the original and the remake), but again, it’s hard to do anything too original with the genre nowadays. The film features some nice bits of comedy, horror, and the characters, for the most part, are all pretty solid. At least, I never got bored watching them trying to survive the apocalypse. And in a zombie movie, that’s half the battle right there.
“Remains” has been out on the Chiller network for a while now, but you’ll be able to buy a copy of the film on DVD or Blu-ray August 7, 2012.
Watching Guy Moshe’s “Bunraku” is like watching a film by a playwright who one day decided he’d like to try his hand at a martial arts movie. But instead of leaving Broadway behind, he incorporates the two genres, and voila — “Bunraku”. Creative animation informs us that the film is set in the near future, where guns have been outlawed, and martial arts and bladed weapons are now back in fashion. Gangs rule the cities, but they can be challenged. Josh Harnett stars an an unnamed Drifter who arrives in one of the film’s dystopian cities for some gambling action. He meets a variety of people, including the Bartender (Woody Harrelson), who is looking for a few good fighters to help start a revolution, and Yoshi (Japanese pop star Gackt Camui), a wandering Samurai with his own agenda. Together, they confront the town’s criminal element — a gang of red-suited toughs led by Killer No. 2 (Kevin McKidd) and his boss, Nicola (Ron Perlman, looking like he was shuttling between the sets of “Bunraku” and “Conan the Barbarian” and never bothered to replace his wardrobe). Demi Moore plays Nicola’s trophy wife, a mostly gratuitous character with ties to the Bartender.
At over two hours long, “Bunraku” looks like a brighter, more upbeat version of “Sin City”. Writer/director Guy Moshe certainly has no issues with you knowing that his film is a mish-mash of various genres, not to mention hyperbolic style over substance. There are plenty of martial arts action, with Harnett and Gackt throwing down at regular intervals. You can see why it took “Bunraku” so long to get made, though; every sequence feels like a major undertaking, with flashy sets, intricate action choreography, elaborate camera movements, and specific lighting cues. The film features excellent fight choreography, and Harnett is surprisingly convincing as a fast-punching gunfighter-style hero. His fighting style makes for an interesting contrast to Gackt’s more elaborate, Japanese fighting technique. Kevin McKidd and Ron Perlman as the bad guys don’t look nearly as convincing, but I suppose they make for decent villains in a gruff, guys desperately in-need-of-killing sort of way.
If you have a couple of hours to kill, “Bunraku” is highly recommended. It’s got style to burn, and despite the overly pretentious voiceover narration, is surprisingly fun. The film has the makings of a cult hit in the years to come, though finding it on free TV may prove hard. It’s incredibly violent, for one. But for those who do take the time to look for it, they will be rewarded with a very good time.
“Bunraku” is currently available on DVD and Blu-ray.