Posts Tagged ‘femme fatale

29
Jun
17

(NSFW) Firecracker aka: Naked Fist (1981) Explosion of Brutality

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What are firecrackers, exactly? Small packaged explosives, we light the wick, run for our very lives and they explode into brilliant colors sending sparks raining down on a crowd of eye popping onlookers. But that’s it. A booming loud, colorful flash int he pan you won;t remember five minutes after you see it. IF this is the case, the 1981 martial arts meets mafia extravaganza, Firecracker, doesn’t just have a clever name.

Firecracker is, for all intent and purposes, a retread of TNT Jackson, but with the additions of much more bloodshed, a bit more nudity and a white girl in the lead. Firecracker tells the story of a young female martial arts instructor, Susanne Carter (played by a very game a frequently nekkid Jillian Kesner) , who rushes off to the Philippines to track down the person who murdered her little sister and exact bloody, merciless revenge! What she stumbles across is a martial arts nightclub where people place bets on fights to the death while you enjoy five star Philippine cuisine. It is soon revealed that, of course, this business is a smoke screen for something far more insidious than murder… DRUG TRAFFICKING! Susan sets course for vengeance and begins to get close to the inner circle of folks running the operation, and even ends up falling madly in love with the sadistic top fighter and sadistic murderer in the process.

Let me tell you, to be honest, Firecracker is basically a bunch of chitchat between fun and weird fight scenes. If this movie could bottle the energy from the fight sequences and spread it throughout the film, it could have been a far more memorable flick. As it stands, the film is missing a certain form of spark that really make it a memorable piece of Trash Cinema. However, that spark CAN be found in abundance during a handful of truly outrageous, brutal, messy, freakish fight sequences sprinkled throughout the movie as if to make up for all the standing around in front of gorgeous scenery and talking about lame exposition sequences.

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I’m talking about one scene in particular that could be edited together as a short film unto itself. It;s tonal shifts from absurdist comedy, slapstick, slasher gore fest, brutal crime drama and sexploitation picture is so bonkers and changes on a dime, it had my head spinning about twenty seconds in. Susanne is getting chased down the back alleys of the Philippines by two wannabe rapists brandishing switchblades and filthy hardons of violence and shame. Susanne run to avoid conflict onto a construction site guarded by a goofy looking armed guard, Susanne run right past him and leads the two rapists right into friendly, funny looking, minding his own business guards path. I was expecting them to maybe push him, he’d slip on a banana peel, land on a shovel and a bucket of paint would fall on his head. No, these mother fuckers shove him onto a PICK AXE! The pick axe stabs him in the back. and one of the rapists then steps on the guys slowly making the pick axe rip through his back and out of his chest. It’s so callous, bloody and shockingly mean spirited I was literally shaken. I mean, yes, these guys are rapists in waiting, but man, that’s some super cold and nasty shit to do to this guy.

So, we now know without a doubt that these scum bags as vicious and cruel beyond compare and we are now deeply concerned for our young martial arts instructors safety. We then recall that Susanne can hold her own in a fight, which makes it all the more strange that she didn’t lift a finger to try and defend the goofy security guard who was just slowly murdered while she stood and watched… It isn;t long after she witnesses this savagery that Susanne decides to fight back! And as she does so, the killer rapists come at her with scythes and knives, ripping articles of clothing off as they go. Now, is this now supposed to be titillating? Because, you know, the way it is shot, they certainly arent afraid to show close ups of her goods as she reacts in startled, somewhat goofy expressions, but I am still terrified of what these guys are going to do. There;s a very strange duality in this scene between wanting to be sadistic and mean while also being sexy and funny. By the time one of the rapist’s head has been split open by a buzzsaw and Susanne is doing nekkid flying jump kicks through the air, I had my head between my hands as my filthy mind experienced some form of existential crisis. This scene literally haunted me for weeks…

The scene is soon followed by one of the greatest action exploitation CONSENSUAL sex scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Susanne and her prize fighter fuck buddy find themselves alone in his bedroom. He tosses her onto the bed and pulls out a knife and begins slowly, seductively slicing her clothes off. Her blouse, her bra and so fort, until she is stark nekkid. Then it’s her boy toy’s turn as she starts slicing his trousers REAL close to his wangdoodle all while whispering arousing bon mots like, “”I can feel the blood pulsing inside your head.” Woah, baby, this is one weird boner I’ve got standing up here.

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These two scenes and a brawl to the death at the end of the film featuring a pleasant up close and personal eye gouging outing are the wonderful reasons I would recommend Firecracker. It’s not a terrible Trash Cinema flick, but it is a tad bit on the dull side for a considerable amount of it’s run time, with moments of campy fun popping up occasionally.

I’m rating this puppy THREE out of FIVE Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

02
Feb
13

Here’s Parker! He’s the best professional thief in hardboiled fiction, and he’s in a film under his real name for the first time. But is it really him?

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a review by Joe Sheer in Omaha
I love Richard Stark’s work.  If you like dark, intelligent crime fiction and a raw, stripped-down storytelling style, you will too.  Donald E. Westlake was a master of the crime story and of multiple styles, and his alias varied with his characters and approach.  I’ve enjoyed every guise of his I’ve read and the characters they created, but Stark and his perfectly amoral creation, Parker, are my clear favorites.  I like a redeemable protagonist with decent motives as much as the next guy, maybe more so.  But the cold, clinical, brilliant and animalistic crime machine that is Parker fills a very specific niche for me.  He’s not a hero.  He’s not even an anti-hero.  He’s a pure non-hero, a bad man that you find yourself rooting for because he gets what he wants and brooks no fuckery.  Also, among the lesser thieves and cutthroats who fill out his stories, at least he’s honest.

To date, nobody’s hit the Parker nail quite on the head.  The Brian Helgeland director’s cut “Payback – Straight Up” is probably the closest in tone (see it if you haven’t.  It’s one lean, mean piece of cinema).  I think a perfect Parker film is unlikely, but to my mind a solid recipe would be either “The Seventh”, “Firebreak” or “Breakout”, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, starring Josh Brolin.  I always appreciated that Stark/Westlake allowed film adaptations, but never allowed any film to use the Parker name because nobody got the character right and didn’t intend to make a series.

So, when I saw that this new “Parker” picture was on its way, clearly based on “Flashfire”, my hackles went up right away.  How could the Westlake estate allow this?  The man’s not alive to approve it, so the Parker name should stay retired (except for Darwyn Cooke’s excellent graphic novellizations, which do Parker right and had the author’s blessing before he passed).  Even worse, Jason Statham says right in the trailer: “I don’t steal from people who can’t afford it, and I don’t hurt people who don’t deserve it.”  That’s not Parker.  Parker doesn’t care about people.  Okay, to be fair, he probably wouldn’t steal from people who can’t afford it, because they wouldn’t have enough money for it to be worth his time to steal.  And he was always careful to avoid killing during a heist if at all possible, but not because he had any respect for human life.  No, it was only because the law looks harder for a killer than for a thief.  So that one line in the trailer just smacked of a moralist streak so alien to the character that I was primed to cry foul.

 

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The casting of Jason Statham gave me pause as well, but only slightly.  I am a Statham fan, no question.  The man has charisma for days, and it is never, ever not fun to watch him kick the crap out of people.  I also think he’s a damn funny guy and his comic talents are woefully underused, but that’s neither here nor there, as that’s not the talent he should use as Parker.  My only hang-up with his involvement was the genuine skill as a martial artist he’s displayed in past action films.  I assumed that would be brought into play here, and that’s not Parker either.  Parker doesn’t win in a fight because he’s a trained martial artist — he wins because he is a strong man with a keen eye for weaknesses and absolutely no scruples.

And then there’s the problem of the title.  As a general rule, I hate titles that are just the main character’s name.  “Parker”.  To a general audience, it means nothing.  To fans of the series, it’s a source of irritation because we’re going in assuming that the character should NOT carry this name.  Even if he earns it,  “Parker” is not a good title.     You know what’s a good title? “Flashfire.”  Why can’t they just leave a good thing alone?
So, obviously I made a number of assumptions, and as we all know, doing that can make an “ass” out of “u” and “mption,” so I was determined to keep an open mind.  After all, even an abysmal take on Parker can still render a good escapist crime film, especially if they stick with the novel’s basic plot.  So I went alone to the theater, downed a shot of Wild Turkey, and settled in to see if I’d been wrong in pre-judging.
Had I been?
Yes.  Almost completely.  We open on the heist of the day’s take at the Ohio state fair.  It’s a very nicely put together sequence showing the nuts and bolts of a well-planned strongarm heist.  It’s old-school all the way, with no hacker needed and no unduly complicated maneuvers.  Parker is cold and efficient and professional, and this is the only time in the film he mentions the two “rules” listed above.  He does it in the context of keeping hostages calm, which is something Parker was always pretty good at.  He would always give a simple, logical explanation of why everyone will be better off if they don’t try to resist, and would even try to avoid unduly challenging the manhood of anyone who looked like they wanted to fight back, just to reduce the likelihood that they’d do something stupid and make him kill them.  In this sequence I feel he went a little soft, was a little too kind in talking down a hysterical security guard, but on the other hand it was effective, so I can see the logic.  In any case, the whole “I don’t steal from people who can’t afford it, and I don’t hurt people who don’t deserve it” thing was delivered in such a context that there’s no reason to believe the man means it.
The opening heist is quite a bit fleshed out from the quick pass it gets in the novel, and its venue has changed, but from that point on we get a pretty faithful adaptation.  Parker is crossed by his crew after the job when he declines to contribute his share of the loot as seed money for a bigger, riskier job, is shot and left for dead, and has to claw his way back to health, steal some operating capital (and a new car every few hours, it seems), and track these back-stabbing bastards down so he can wait out their risky second job, kill them all and take their new loot as compensation for his trouble.
There are a few deviations from the source material, of course.  Parker’s woman Claire is now the daughter of an invented mentor character, which isn’t at all needed but Nick Nolte grizzles and rasps his way through the performance with enough style that I was happy to see it.  Parker displays the odd social nicety or bit of humanity here and there (telling a sick old man in a wheelchair, who he just used to escape a hospital, to “get better”, giving Jennifer Lopez a lingering, regretful look at one point that makes us think he may have given a shit about her), but none of it ever affects his actions.  He kills those who cross him, without hesitation.  He’s quick to wound an innocent guard who doesn’t follow instructions.  And my assumption about the martial arts prowess was without merit.  Parker doesn’t come off as a trained special forces man, but simply as a fast, mean bone-breaker with an incredibly high pain tolerance.  My favorite scene from the book, a hilarious bit wherein Parker escapes assassination at the hands of a couple of syndicate hit men because a band of south Florida swamp-dwelling white supremacist survivalist yahoos happen by and lend a hand, is gone for the sake of economy, but it’s been replaced by an impressively brutal hotel room brawl to the death, so all is well.
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Jennifer Lopez, for her part, turns in a very good performance as a woman who’s been dealt a bad hand, is at the end of her rope, and has an ethical code barely more substantial than Parker’s, though without all the experience.  She’s depressed, insecure, and desperate for a change, and is more than willing to help a stranger rip off some jewels if she can get a cut.  She’s far sexier than the character was written, which is not a surprising change, but she still plays the insecurity very well, and it’s good fun watching her try to be a femme fatale and just fall flat, not because she’s unappealing but because she’s trying to seduce a man who simply can’t be manipulated into doing anything he wasn’t already planning on.
The movie wins no particular points for style.  It was well made but without much visual flair.  Parker should always exist in a dark, shadowy neo-noir world, and the presentation here was solid, if under-stylized.  For that reason, I fear it may go down in the annals of film history as a relatively forgettable bit of genre fare, memorable only to the Parker completists like myself.  This, I think, would be a shame, because it’s a competent action film and a refreshingly simple throwback of a heist picture.  The cast does very well all the way around, the story was right, and Parker deviated from his strictly amoral roots little enough to keep me happy.
Almost.  The last thirty seconds or so of this film were the only major exception.  The final scene feels like a tacked-on apology for how badass the protagonist was, and it was terrible.  It’s the sort of scene that makes you want to hit a guy twice, then bury him in the hole he dug in his basement.  Next time I watch this film, I know where to hit STOP, to keep my genuine admiration for it intact.  I have a feeling Mr. Stark would agree with me.



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