TC’s Ten Best Films of 2015


I watched a lot of films last year. The final tally was 371 – I’ve no intention of even attempting to match that goal in 2016, and to make sure I’m not even tempted, January was largely spent falling behind, through a carefully staged process of slacking off and watching TV series instead.  Despite that volume, I think fewer qualify for this article, mostly due to age. Without a Phoenix FearCon this year (we still took submissions, but stockpiled them for the 2016 fest), I was certainly not up on contemporary indie horror, which provided the backbone of last year’s list. Did actually go to the cinema more often, though this was simply a reflection of more “big” films being out which felt that they justified the expense and the effort [both of which continue to weigh heavily in our decision].

Here’s the top 10. As usual, I have a fairly loose definition of “this year”, so if some of these actually appeared somewhere in 2014, I don’t care.

10. Bone Tomahawk. There have been a good number of “revisionist” Westerns of late, but this was the one that’ll stick in our mind – less for the Western aspects, than the sudden shift into Italian cannibal territory that occupies the final reel. That was not expected, and was all the more impactful for it. As noted above, we didn’t see as much horror this year as previously, yet there was one sequence here which was the match of anything in more traditional genre entries.

9. Sicario. Somewhat enhanced by the local interest of being largely set in “Arizona” [quotes used advisedly, since it was filmed in New Mexico], this made an interesting companion piece to Cartel Land, which we’ll get to shortly. If a little bit derailed by the suddewn shift in focus to Guillermo Del Toro’s character during the second half, this still contained tension in buckets, not least during an extended sequence depicting a masterfully constructed cross-border “extradition raid”.

8. Victoria. Yeah, sure. It’s a gimmick, shooting an entire film in a single, unbroken take. But actually having the guts, and no small degree of technical skill, to pull it off? This would likely be a fairly decent film, shot in a “normal” fashion, though the first quarter is rather sluggish. However, the more it goes on, the greater the impact, as you become trapped, right alongside the heroine, without any apparent way out. Not something we necessarily want every film to adapt, yet it works well in this case.

7. Lila & Eve. What feels like it might be a Lifetime TVM from the outside, actually delivers much greater depth. This is mostly thanks to the great performance of Viola Davis at its heart, as a woman who suffers unimaginable loss, and reacts by vowing to take out those responsible. In other hands, this could have been Death Wish Mom [which, actually, might have been fun]; instead, it’s rather more nuanced, and the fact the “twist” is obvious a mile off doesn’t harm the film significantly.

6. Cartel Land. I don’t really review documentaries, but this one packs an enormous wallop. It covers both sides of the US-Mexico frontier and the groups on each side trying to stop the criminal activity which drives much of the economy south of the border. Particularly chilling are the Mexican “vigilantes”, who start out with good intentions, to defend their communities from the predations of organized crime. Yet it doesn’t stay that way for long. Oscar-nominated, and for good reason.


5. Let Us Prey (above). As noted, we didn’t see as much true horror this year, but this was the best, and still thoroughly worthy of inclusion. Anchored in a pair of excellent performances from Liam Cunningham and Pollyanna McIntosh, it succeeds in being disconcerting from the opening sequence, and builds an escalating sense of tension and claustrophobia out what’s close to a single location. Despite my own lack of religion, I’m a big fan of religious horror, and this is among the best in recent year.

4. Mad Max: Fury Road. It was thirty years ago that Beyond Thunderdome came out; must be close to the biggest gap ever between franchise entries. But it was just like yesterday, George Miller bringing the same spectacular carnage to the screen. Sure, Tom Hardy was hardly Mel Gibson; fortunate, therefore, that this turned out to be more about Imperator Furiosa and her journey. The biggest bad-ass of the year, even though her count of functioning limbs failed to pass three.

3. Spy. The year’s biggest surprise: I’d always though of Melissa McCarthy as a one-joke actress. Yeah: she’s fat. So what? But this proved she can be a lot more, in an affectionate yet pointed riff on the “secret agent” film genre, with Jason Statham also deadpanning his way to stealing all his scenes. Need I say more than, underground poison-ingesting crime ring? I laughed, way more than expected, and also more than any other movie of 2015, and find myself genuinely anticipating the Ghostbusters reboot.

2. Spooks: The Greater Good. Sometimes, you can go back. That seems to be the moral here, as once again, Sir Harry Pearce and his crew take on the worst threats Britain can face. It’s just like 24! Only with more cups of tea! But you didn’t need to have seen the TV series (full disclaimer: one our favourites) to appreciate a rather less gung-ho and ambivalent approach to counter-terrorism. Appropriate, given its London setting, that there was an awful lot of grey, in both characters and storyline.

1. The Martian. Yeah, it’s another “hard” science fiction story, marking the third year in a row that one of those has topped our list. I think it’s just a genre that is a perfect match for cinema and feeds into my life-long fondness for space: I almost studied astronomy at university, and films like this make me wonder what path my life might have taken if I had. Yet, as ever, it doesn’t ignore the essential human aspect, with Matt Damon a smart and thoroughly sympathetic hero. If this doesn’t make you want to be an astronaut, you’ve got no soul!

Top 10s: 1998-2015


TC’s Ten Best Films of 2014

The final tally of films seen in 2014 was 317, which is a handful up on last year. Felt like a better selection, with submissions to the Phoenix FearCon representing a very significant chunk of the top tier. Mind you, they would probably also feature heavily if I did a list of the bottom ten films: there were a number of cases where I seriously had to wonder, in what universe this was a movie you’d show to anyone outside your immediate family. But those are already all but forgotten, and finding the gems listed below, which we’d never have seen otherwise, made up for it. Cinema going continues to decline, with traditional theater visits contributing a whopping total of… Two: Godzilla and Lucy.

In vaguely chronological order of viewing, honourable mentions that didn’t quite make the top 10, either because they weren’t quite good enough, or I couldn’t quite squeeze them in to even my famously loose definition of what constitutes “2014”: Wolf of Wall Street, Cat Run, Daddy’s Little Girl, Final Cut, Die Wand, Nurse 3D, Big Bad Wolves, Sharknado 2 [so sue me, it was fun], The Man in the Orange Jacket, Roseville, Mirage Men, Snowpiercer, Dead Snow 2, 009-1: The End of the Beginning and Gun Woman. Said definition is “got some kind of US screening or release in 2014, in one format or another,” and links go to wherever I wrote the longest review, which may be this site, or, in one case, over on


10. Godzilla. There were a lot of complaints about this one, and justifiably so, in the case of a hero who was blander than vanilla pudding. However, it’s worth remembering how little Godzilla there was in the original fifties version too, and what we did get here, was simply majestic. The first glimpse of the big G was one of those moments that made even my jaded, cynical heart beat like a hummingbird’s, and reminded me of why I love film. What we said: “Complaining about the acting in a Godzilla film, is like complaining about cinematography in gonzo porn: it’s missing the entire point of the endeavour.”

9. The Battered Bastards of Baseball. Similarly, this documentary shows a pure love of the sport that’s thoroughly invigorating, It details the efforts of Kurt Russell’s father [yep, that Kurt Russell] to buy and run a minor-league baseball team, independent of any major-league affiliation, recruiting a mix of has-beens and never-weres (the latter including Kurt), and using savvy marketing to survive in Portland. A true gritty underdog story. What we said: “With the game seeming to be increasingly corporate, this film shows there is another way: it may not be more profitable, but it sure looks a lot more fun.”

8. 300: Rise of an Empire. While this may not have made quite the same startling impression as the original, we say in the Sin City sequel that merely repeating the same thing isn’t enough. Wisely, the makers here took the same tech but opted for a broader story and avoiding the uber-macho posturing [rightly skewered in Meet the Spartans]. Instead, it gave us a genuine, kick-ass historical heroine in Artemisia (Eva Green), and a ceaseless palette of visual inventiveness which made for a sequel which was straight-up more entertaining. What we said: “If what you have here occasionally topples over into video-game style, it rarely looks less than lovely.”

7. Circus of the Dead. The first, but not the last, feature on the list which was screened at this year’s Phoenix FilmCon, this would also win Best Performance by an Actor, thanks to Bill Oberst Jr’s chilling portrayal of the most amoral clown ever. He can snap from lovable to psychotic in a second, then back to charming before you’ve caught your breath: without that at its core, this would have been not much more than an empty parade of atrocitities [Hello, A Serbian Film]. Instead, it packs a genuine wallop, taking the viewer over the edge and beyond. What we said: “Hypnotic to watch, and feels like being trapped in a box with a rattlesnake: you cannot let your guard drop for even a minute”

6. Blood Runs Black. Another FearCon flick, this one was the opposite of Circus in some ways: where that was expansive and explicit, this was claustrophobic and understated. But either approach is valid, since it’s the execution which matters. Shot with a crew which consisted almost entirely of the director, this depicts the gradual collapse into insanity of a woman, after her boyfriend leaves on a business trip. But is it paranoia, or is someone genuinely out to get her? The audience is pulled along with the heroine, and you’re never sure of whether what you’re seeing is real or not. What we said: “A textbook example of how a limited budget can be made to work for a film, rather than against it.”

5. Maleficent. This, meanwhile, was a Hollywood blockbuster in all ways, but succeeded simply on the basis of an inspired casting choice. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else but Angelina Jolie as the evil sorceress, yet the film provides an effective back-story, providing a plausible explanation for why she became that way. While I’d love to see some other stories told from the supposed villain’s perspective, they would be extremely hard-pushed to come up with as impeccable a match of character and actress as we say here. What we said: “Jolie as Maleficent? Suddenly, the idea doesn’t just make sense, it became more a case of, why did nobody think of this before?”

4. Mar Negro. This is the first Brazillian horror movie I’ve ever seen – I’ve heard of, but have never watched, any of the Coffin Joe series. On the basis of this, I’ve been missing out terribly, for this is a joyously excessive exercise, perhaps the goriest movie since Brain Dead. It does take some time to get to that point, but even the journey there is still a fun one, filled with quirky characters, an unusual setting and an escalating sense of something being very wrong. Then, when it all explodes – it’s totally glorious. And I haven’t even got as far as the beached whale yet. What we said: “The insanity on view is not just epic, it’s also highly entertaining.”

3. Raze. We’ve been waiting for someone to give Zöe Bell another starring role since Death Proof: we’ve seen her in a few things, but nothing has been quite worthy of her talents. Then this shows up, filling our request with, basically, 95 minutes of righteous Bell ass-kickings. It’s a nasty, brutal and vicious fight flick – so, just the way we like them. The fact that it’s women delivering the brutality, however, renders the entire operation radically original, and with Bell at the core, it delivers a mean grindhouse wallop, surpassed only by Hobo With a Shotgun in the last few years. What we said: “Much like Bell herself, it punches well above its weight.”

2. Berkshire County. After watching this, someone at the Fearcon screening said, “So, why isn’t this in the cinema?” And they were right: this isn’t just the equal of anything cinematically released this year in the horror genre, it thoroughly destroys them.  In terms of storyline, it’s a straightforward “babysitter in peril” plot, that goes all the way back to Halloween. However, it takes this well-known concept and delivers impeccably, adding its own variety of twists, and giving us a “final girl” that’s truly worthy to stand alongside Curtis and Weaver. What we said: “You’ll find yourself frequently holding your breath, for close to an hour after things kick off.”


1. Gravity. For the second consecutive year, hard SF leads the way. Much the same breath-holding is true here, which opens with one of the most bravura and jaw-dropping shots in cinema history, and doesn’t let up thereafter. This is truly what cinema is supposed to do: show us places we’ve never been to, and takes us along with the characters for the ride. No film has ever done such a good job of showcasing the perils of space. But while this pushes the boundaries of technology, it also still keeps a firm grip on the core essential of good movie-making: telling a story that captures your interest, concerning a character you care about. What we said: “Everyone involved here deserves enormous praise for their work in crafting a memorable piece of cinema.”

Top 10s: 1998-2014

Incredibly Bad Film Show: Manos, Hands of Fate

Dir: Harold P. Warren
Star: Harold P. Warren, Tom Neyman, John Reynolds, Diane Mahree

It’s perhaps surprising, given my fondness for badfilm, that I had never quite got round to watching this, often regarded as the worst movie of all time. At one point, it was thus ranked on the IMDb: though it has now been replaced there (the current incumbent is this year’s Saving Christmas, though I suspect it won’t last, and will eventually return the crown to Birdemic), Manos remains in the bottom dozen. A lot of the responsibility for this has to belong to Mystery Science Theater 3000, who plucked the film from near-total obscurity when they picked it as a target in 1993 – to the shock of the cast, who hadn’t seen it in a quarter of a century. I watched their take on the film the morning after watching the “raw” version, and certainly can’t argue with it being perfect material for their satire. But, on the other hand, nor would I necessarily say I enjoyed it more.

Can I find anything to say about the film, that hasn’t been said a million times before? Well, I’ll try. However, I’ll start by dutifully recounting the plot, such as it is. On the way to their vacation, husband and wife Michael (Warren) and Margaret (Mahree), along with their young daughter and family dog, find themselves lost, and forced to spend the night at a remote residence. The caretaker, Torgo (Reynolds), keeps referring to the “Master” (Neyman), as if he is both dead and alive. Turns out, he’s a bit of both, and is the head of a polygamist occult cult with a fondness for human sacrifice (as well as, it appears, an unlimited expense account at Frederick’s of Hollywood), and has designs on both female guests as wives #7 and #8.

Separated at birth
The lead singer of Laibach vs. The Master

However, to me, it doesn’t deserve to be considered the worst film of all time. Writer-director-producer Warren was a salesman by trade, and made this on a bar bet with Stirling Silliphant, a Hollywood screenwriter best known for In the Heat of the Night. But he seems largely aware of his limitations and doesn’t try to do anything particularly excessive. Compare, say, The Creeping Terror, which is equally as bad in most technical departments. but also mocks up an alien creature using what appears to be cast-off remnants of carpet. Such miserable failure is a worse cinematic crime than not trying at all. [There’s a reason monster movies occupy a special place in the temple of badmovie, something which continues to the present day with Birdemic and, arguably, the more self-aware Sharknado and its ilk]


The other element which saves this is John Reynolds’ fabulous performance as Torgo. I wouldn’t necessarily go as far as to call Reynolds a good actor. I’d need to see him in something else to decide that, and this won’t happen as, sadly, he committed suicide between the end of production and the film’s release. It’s also reported that he was frequently high on set, which would explain a great deal about his portrayal of Torgo, which feels completely disconnected, not just from the other performers, but reality in general. However, it seems not just appropriate, but spot-on for an acolyte in a cult, devoted to the Master with an almost brainwashed mentality. Right from the first time you see him, Torgo exudes a creepy air: eyes half-closed, as if is he is frantically masturbating out of the camera’s view.

The film’s status has also helped to generate its fair share of myths. For instance, some legends say Torgo was supposed to have cloven feet and be some kind of satyr creature. While it is generally agreed he did wear leg braces for the film, I’m not certain what the point is, since when you see his feet in the film, there’s no apparent indication of any hooves. It just makes Torgo look gimpy – and this in turn makes Michael seem a dick, as he barks at a disabled guy to carry his bags about. In some retellings, the lore goes further, saying Reynolds wore the braces backwards, with the discomfort caused leading to him becoming addicted to painkillers and factoring in to his demise. This has been flatly denied by Jackey Neyman, who played the daughter, and has documented the experiences of her and her father, both in making the movie, and since its cult renaissance, courtesy of MST3K.

It seems silly and largely unnecessary to make stuff up, since there are many completely woeful aspects worthy of spotlighting.The script, in particular, is badly underwritten, and even at 68 minutes, there isn’t enough going on to cover that length. It doesn’t so much hit the ground running as crawling, with a length opening sequence of little or no interest, which sets the tone for a lot of what’s to come, and then segues – not for the last time – into a lengthy necking scene featuring a pair of middle-aged “teenagers”, who are then hassled by the local cops. Neither group play any significant part in the main story, with the closest approach being the cops almost investigating at one point. Another bit of film lore says the woman was originally scheduled to play Margaret, but broke her leg; Warren added this sub-plot so she could still be in the film. Given the end result, this kindness seems somewhat of a double-edged sword.


I could go through and pick apart every aspect of the film in a similar fashion, but really, what’s the point, beyond burning through every available thesaurus entry for “bad”. But I feel I should mention some of the particular lowlights, starting with the Master’s amazing robe (right). It’s printed with a pair of giant hands on each side; the problem is, you can only see these when he has his arms stretched out at his sides. So, he does it a lot. An awful lot. You could make a drinking game out of that alone. British readers of a certain age may, like me, be reminded of Kenny Everett’s character, Brother Lee Love, another religious figure with similarly over-sized mitts.

However, perhaps my favorite section of the entire movie is the middle, where the master’s wives get into a six-way catfight and Torgo is “massaged to death” for insubordination and having lustful thoughts about the Master’s harem. That phrase was apparently taken from an El Paso Herald-Post review at the time the movie was released, though it isn’t entirely accurate. The last we see of Torgo, he has had a hand removed and turned into a novelty candle by the Master, then runs off into the desert, waving the burning stump around, apparently to light his path. That’s what passes for closure in this film. But given his previously-demonstrated ability suddenly to come out of nowhere and whack the hero across the back into unconsciousness, you spend the remainder of the running-time wondering if there will be an equally abrupt return.

It’s quite a surreal experience all told, and the ending feels to me like Carnival of Souls, which was released four years previously. Indeed, this is one of those rare movies which might have been improved if Warren had used the cop-out, “…and it was all a dream.” While that would not have helped with the shoddy camerawork, bad dubbing (poor Jackey Neyman supposedly burst into tears at the premiere, on hearing someone else’s voice come out of her mouth) and production values that can only aspire to scraping the bottom of the barrel, it would at least have been in keeping with the overall delirious tone of proceedings. If MST3K are remembered for nothing else, they have to be commended for saving this piece of work from the oblivion it richly deserves.


Unlawful Killing – the Princess Diana conspiracy film


Dir: Keith Allen

The phrase “banned in the UK” still has a curious lure to me, even though I haven’t lived there now for over 13 years. So, hearing about this documentary immediately piqued my interest, since it was more or less damned as far as any UK release was concerned – lawyers apparently advised the lawyers that 87 different cuts would need to be made, mostly for reasons of libel. Any US release was similarly shelved after it was was deemed impossible to secure insurance against the possibility of legal repercussions. There are reasons to be skeptical of the film, not least that it’s entire budget of $2.5 million was apparently provided by Mohammed Al Fayed, the father of Dodi, and someone who, it’s safe to say, has something of a prejudiced agenda in the case. Virtually since Day One, he has been banging the drum that the British establishment murdered his son and Diana, because they couldn’t stand the prospect of a Muslim being a step-father to the future King – and, hey, what are the odds, the film comes to exactly the same conclusions, both general and specific.

It’s hugely variable stuff. Some of the claims made in the film are basically ludicrous: such as the one that the entire legal system is “corrupt,” because they all swear allegiance to the Crown. Presumably, that would therefore include the likes of Michael Mansfield, QC to Al Fayed. There’s also no mention of Diana’s previous relationship with Hasnat Khan, another Muslim, which lasted two years and apparently met with little or no opposition from the palace. In contrast, Diana had first met Dodi less than seven weeks before her death, and had probably spent little more than three weeks together, so the claim they were intending to get married seems difficult to sustain. The same goes for the allegation she was pregnant: while the swift embalming of her body would indeed have made it harder to tell if that was the case, all the circumstantial evidence seems to suggest otherwise.

On the other hand, there are items about the affair which still make me go “Hmmm.” Like the way there was absolutely no CCTV footage available anywhere on the route. Or the letter Diana wrote, saying “My husband is planning ‘an accident’ in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry.” Considering what happened subsequently, it is valid to ask why Prince Charles – nor, indeed, any of the royal family, and just about none of their household – was not called to testify at the lengthy inquest into Diana’s death, held in 2007-08. Then there’s the mysterious white Fiat Uno which appears to have hit Diana’s Mercedes and vanished. The film suggests this belonged to French photojournalist James Andanson, who was found, burned to death inside a locked car in May 2000 – with the keys nowhere to be found. The verdict: “suicide”. As I say: hmmm.


The problem is that, if you do the slightest digging into the claims, the film is so one-sided as to be little more than Al Fayed propaganda, despite Allen’s protestations to the contrary. The problem is that the blatant and obvious bias will, in fact, tend to push the undecided away; a more measured approach, acknowledging the weaknesses and providing both sides  of the argument, before coming to a conclusion, is more likely to encourage open-mindedness. Truth be told, it probably works better as a satire of press incompetence, though I’m not sure we really need a dramatic reconstruction of BBC Royal Correspondent, Nicholas Witchell, falling asleep in a tent, amusing though it is. There’s also a strong republican (small r, note) bent, with allegations that Prince Philip is a clinical psychopath. I’m not quite sure what exactly that all has to do with a car-crash in Paris, and it seems to have strayed in from an entirely separate – possibly more interesting – documentary.

This is truly about as far from impartial as it’s possible to get. That doesn’t, in itself, make it a bad documentary, but the best example of the genre, for me, are those which follow the facts wherever they may lead, rather than starting with a conclusion, then highlighting only the facts to be found on the path to the conclusion. The real takeaways here, are, tabloid journalists are lazy, and the Royal Family don’t like having their dirty washing aired in public – neither should come as a particular surprise. Don’t mistake this for definitive, or anything approaching it, and instead you’d be best of to treat it as a scurrilous feature-length special edition of Hello!

Incredibly Bad Film Show: Rescue Force

Dir: Charles Nizet
Star: Richard Harrison, Bo Gritz, Peter Gold, Keiri Smith

Sing me no song, read me no rhyme
Don’t waste my time, show me!
Don’t talk of June, don’t talk of fall
Don’t talk at all, show me!


Ah, the wisdom of Alan Jay Lerner, who may well have been talking about this movie, which also tries to follow the philosophy attributed to Goebbels: “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.” In this case, the latter is exemplified by a hellaciously over-frequent use of captions to try to convince the viewer that Nevada is actually a “PLO Fuel and Ammo Depot near the Syrian border.” Saying it doesn’t make it so, any more than pointing the camera at a desk and captioning it, “CIA office, Beirut.” makes that true – though the automatic weapons hanging on the wall behind the desk there, are a nice touch.

The other defining factor of the badmovie style here is a throwback to the days of a high mistress of the genre, Doris Wishman, who couldn’t afford to shoot sync sound, so had entire conversations showing the backs of people’s heads. The same problem affects things here, but Nizet takes a somewhat different approach, getting his actors to mask their mouths with telephones. A lot. No, really: the first half an hour of the film is a rarely-broken string of phone calls, the chief CIA agent, whom the script never bothers to name, shuffling agents around Europe as if playing a game of Diplomacy on crack. Which is where the “Show me” thing comes in. At one point he tells Lt. Col. Steel (Gritz), “The trade center next to the embassy? Blown up about 30 minutes ago – there are bodies all over the place. Both of our choppers were taken out with bazooka shells not less than 10 minutes ago.” A potentially great set-piece, turned into three sentences of bland monologue.

CIA headquarters in Tel Aviv  gets another needless caption, the wall here having a world map on it, so clearly the nexus of a geopolitical organization. We start on a topless beach in Cannes, where Kiki (Smith) and her breasts are “observing” a terrorist yacht, her boss demanding, “Don’t give me any problems, only questions.” Er.. What? From there is through Paris, Liege, and finally, “Wiskey Pete’s” [sic] resort – actually in Nevada, but still getting a misspelled caption, to convince us of its verisimilitude. Steel calls agent Angel there, ordering her to fly to Paris,  join Candy, go to Brussels. pick up Kiki, then head back to Paris to meet a guy called Striker. What? Checking my notes, Kiki had already been ordered (in yet another phone-call) to London. And wasn’t that to meet Striker? I’m so confused. Why can’t everyone meet in one place? Angel whines there are no cars at the resort, so the only way to the airport is a Flight For Life air ambulance (!). I presume the mention was payback for loaning the production a helicopter elsewhere, and Steel charmingly tells her to get going “before I order you up a hot fudge enema.” But it doesn’t help Candy’s case that, as the ‘copter takes off, one of those non-existent cars is clearly visible in the background.


The only caption which might tell you something surprising.

As far as I can work it out, the story is based on an escalating series of incidents between the terrorists and the CIA. After the former get their “Fuel and Ammo depot” blown up – or, at least, there’s a red cast from off-screen implying this – they kidnap a CIA agent and he has to read a statement in the middle of the desert. Bizarrely, he’s given a desk to sit behind, in the middle of nowhere: I was half-expecting, when he’d finished, for the camera to pan across to a tuxedoed John Cleese, behind his desk, who’d say, “…and now for something completely different.” Instead, he’s executed by an equally-unnamed female KGB agent, who appears to be channeling Dyanne Thorne from the Ilsa movies, right down to her problems with pronunciation, e.g. “InfilItrated.” Unaware he’s already dead, the CIA launch a rescue mission, which represents the first big action sequence. However, it fails miserably, mostly because it consists of 10 minutes of the following elements, edited together randomly:

  • Shots of a plane
  • Shots of the desert, probably filmed from the helicopter mentioned earlier.
  • People loading or firing weapons
  • Things exploding
  • Driving. Lots of driving.
And the 1990 Academy Award for "Least Convincing Arab" goes to...

This is so incoherent, it’s unclear who wins, and only on the post-operation call does the audience discover, “we lost four of our main agents in the attack.” I was genuinely surprised by this. Undaunted, the CIA then hits a terrorist boss at his place of meditation, but this only provokes them further. One of the other leaders reveals, “I was keeping this for later but let me tell you, we do have a nuclear weapon in our hands, in the United States.” Ah, I know where this is going. It’ll end up in a race against time to stop Las Vegas from being nuked: it’s in Nevada, so be easy to film, and what better place to represent the decadent West? Er, wrong. This rogue nuke is never mentioned again. Instead, they kidnap the American ambassador to Israel and his daughter – again, despite them being “heavily guarded,” we don’t see their capture, only them being walked up to the cave that’s the “Arab” terrorist lair. I use quotes because, as the image on the left shows, Nizet is apparently happy to stick a tea-towel on anyone’s head, and call them middle Eastern.

We’ll skip over a few scenes, since there’s nothing much of interest, except for the director proving he’s actually shooting in Paris for realz, guyz, by making sure the Eiffel Tower is visible in just about every shot. Everyone eventually convenes in the Middle East, where Steel runs through the plan of attack. If Gritz actually sounds fairly convincing when playing this part of his role as a military adviser – actually, it’s just about his entire role – it’s because he’s a former Lt. Colonel in the US Special Forces. He’s an interesting guy, has twice run for President, was reputedly the model for Hannibal Smith on The A-Team, and was one of the best speakers we saw at Conspiracy Con 2002. Mind you, he does clearly refer to the terrorists at one point as “the LPO”, but maybe he’s just not a fan of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. But just in case you weren’t clear on the plan, it’s gone over, in painstaking detail yet again, once they hit the ground.


To the film’s credit, the climactic attack is slightly better-constructed than its predecessor. It has more or less the same elements, but they are at least assembled into a coherent order, which progresses the story. Admittedly, it takes the snatch squad about five minutes to make their way through the “ten miles” of caves and knock off the single guard (!) watching over the prisoners. Needless to say, despite using the ultimate terrorist weapon, the non-ironic fist-pump (right), the evil villains are vanquished, and American hegemony in the Middle East comes out, triumphant again.

After one final, meaningless caption, for old time’s sake (“Near Cannes France – Kiki and Angel’s favorite restaurant”), the pair head off to Whiskey Pete’s, pausing only to plug its “great food.” The casino is still open, should you care to visit, and has Bonnie and Clyde’s death car on display. Fairing less well is said “favorite restaurant,” Le Logis Sarrazin in Gourdon, which has some staggeringly bad reviews: 32 out of 35 rating it as “terrible,” at time of writing. There, they hot-tub with a random other character, and Nizet throws us a last, desperate attempt to generate tension, with a mysterious figure heading towards their room. I won’t spoil the ending, even though the director does his very best to sabotage it himself, with any tension derailed by the staggeringly poor use of musical cues, which appear to have been edited with a rusty butter-knife. It’s the final ignominy, and a fitting way to end this abominable excuse for a film. You may not like it – no, make that, “will not.” Hell, for large chunks, it’s actually boring as hell. But there are enough moments of mad idiocy here, that you will remember it.

Here’s the whole film for your viewing pleasure, pending YouTube removing it.


YouTube video