ActionFest kicked things off with a blast this year. The first full day (at Carolina Cinemas) I was able to catch A Gang Story, The Wild Bunch (in honor of guest stunt coordinator Mickey Gilbert), Sinners and Saints, Headhunters, and Manborg.
A Gang Story has been my favorite so far, and I don’t know if anything will top it. It’s about four retirement age gangsters in France, and when one gets arrested they spring him out before he’s sent off to spend life in prison. Of course this results in a lot of cops dying, and of course they begin trying to take the guys down. But these cops are the lease of their worries, because a rival gang who Mr. Jailbird owes some serious cash starts taking brutal measures to get the money, or get revenge.
I’m not going to talk about The Wild Bunch too much, because I’ve seen it almost a dozen times, and pretty much everyone knows how amazing it is. It was cool to see the Mickey Gilbert highlight reel before the screening, and he claims to have doubled for at least 32 Mexicans during filming. His most recognized stunt in the film was the guy who was drug behind a horse during the first shootout.
Sinners and Saints was pretty much a different telling of the same story Herzog showed us in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. A grizzled, nothing to lose cop begins taking extreme measures to stop a brutal torture killer (Costas Mandylor) with ties to his best friend and a brutal corporation profiting from war. The execution was good, but this is a story we’ve all seen time and time again. Actor Tom Berenger was in attendance, as well as director William Kaufman. My experience with Mr. Berenger was, well, it was odd- but I’ll talk more about that later.
By far one of the best movies on the screen this year is Headhunters. Roger Brown, a top-listed headhunter at Pathfinder who doubles as an art thief finds himself the target of a ruthless ex special forces mercenary, Clas Greve. Oh, and this is after he steals a hundred million dollar painting from Clas’s apartment, denies him a job at Pathfinder, finds his wife shacked up with him, and realizes Clas’s last job was the CEO of HOTE, an elite microscopic GPS manufacturing company. There are countless twists and turns, hilarious sarcasm, black humor, and nothing is revealed until the final five minutes of the movie. Simply put, this is one of the best thrillers I’ve seen in years.
And rounding out the night was a midnight screening of the first full length Astron 6 movie Manborg. If you don’t know about Astron 6, I highly suggest you pick up the Troma DVD of their shorts (What the @#*! Is Astron-6). Hyped up as being this year’s Hobo with a Shotgun, I can say it was the closest to being Hobo, but comes nowhere near being on level. A derpy scientist opens a portal to hell, resulting in Count Draculon and his legion of demons taking over the earth. After Draculon kills his brother and blasts him to pieces, a nameless soldier is somehow transformed into Manborg, a klutz of a killing machine that just might be earth’s last hope against the hell army. Made on a budget of just $1000 (Canadian), this is a funny as hell, bloody, gore soaked film that’s highly entertaining. The entire audience was eating it up, but there’s just SO much going on in every frame that around the halfway mark I was starting to burn out. Even if does drag a little, this is one of the best schlock films in years, and very much inspired by many Full Moon flicks (the biggest being Mandroid, I believe). For someone like me who still thinks Robot Wars is one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, this is a must see.
Day 2 coverage will be posted ASAP.