Cure your CMCO blues with some brainless low-budget action movie fun

OCTOBER 17 ― The return of the conditional movement control order (CMCO) has made quite a few of us feel a bit down especially when considering that the initial two-week period imposed might very well be extended to at least a month, if not more.

Though clearly not as severe as the movement control order (MCO) which we had to face back in March, the thought that if things still don't improve we might have to return to that is enough to make one long for something cheerful.

So with staying at home very much the order of the day for at least the next two weeks, watching movies at home is all we movie fans have and if you ask me, outside of watching classic raunchy comedies like Old School, BASEketball and South Park: Bigger, Longer And Uncut, watching brainless low-budget action movies is another way to let off steam.

It can run the gamut from 80s macho man classics starring Sylvester Stallone or Chuck Norris through 90s classics starring Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal and even modern fight flicks like The Raid films or the many Scott Adkins direct to video (DTV) movies from the last few years.

Whether it's circumstance or not, it just so happened that I came across not one, but three new low-budget action flicks in the last few days leading up to the return of the CMCO, so let's check them out, shall we?

Seized

Having been a huge fan of their collaboration in the 2 Ninja movies and parts 2 and 3 of the Undisputed franchise, I will absolutely watch anything new with Isaac Florentine directing and Scott Adkins starring in it.

Having not even heard or read that they were doing anything new together (which is understandable, since both of them usually work in the DTV market, which rarely gets any media coverage), Seized dropped sometime last week, and I’m sure fans of the Adkins and Florentine team-up did not waste any time devouring their latest effort.

Adkins plays a widower dad raising a son somewhere in Mexico, selling security systems for a living, and living a curiously low-profile pacifist lifestyle, until the tried and true Taken plot kicks in and his son gets kidnapped, of course.

Where the movie deviates from that formula is that it turns out that Adkins was once a highly respected black ops operative (aren’t they all in movies like these), and the kidnapper is more or less forcing him to use his long dormant set of skills to carry out the kidnapper’s wishes (which is to eliminate a whole lot of Mexican drug cartels) in exchange for his son’s life.

A bit better than their previous effort Close Range in that Adkins at least gets to strut his martial arts fighting skills a bit more here, but those longing for the glory days of Ninja 2: Shadow Of A Tear or Undisputed 3 will still feel a bit disappointed at the relative lack of martial arts fighting here, as this one’s more of a shoot-'em-up flick.

But still, if you’re looking for some pretty decent low-budget action, this one will more than quench your thirst.

The Doorman

Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura has been experiencing a renaissance of sorts, or at the very least a nice second wind, in the world of low-budget American horror flicks.

Not really reaching the heights that people were expecting after the international cult success of his 2000 film Versus, it’s only when he started dabbling in the world of American indie horror with some brutally violent films like The Midnight Meat Train, No One Lives and 2017’s hugely enjoyable Downrange that he seems to have truly found his groove.

The Doorman sees him leaving the comforts of horror and trying his hand at crafting an action film, one of those Die Hard variations that we tend to get every now and then.

The John McClane role here is played by Ruby Rose, a gunnery sergeant now back home after a traumatic experience overseas and trying to pull her life back together working as a doorman at an old apartment complex that is about to undergo some renovations.

So of course some baddies will try to hijack the building, and it’s up to her to save the day using her very special set of skills.

Out of all the Ryuhei Kitamura movies I’ve seen so far, this one is probably the most generically American yet, not only in terms of the archetypal story, but also in terms of its technical execution, from the camerawork to action choreography to the rapid editing.

It looks, sounds, and feels like any other decently budgeted American action flick that owes a debt to Die Hard.

It’s enjoyable enough to pass the time, but I wish there was more of that Kitamura touch in it to make it at least more memorable.

The Mongolian Connection

Out of the three movies I’m writing about this week, I definitely did not expect to like and admire this one the most.

Arriving out of nowhere on home video, from Mongolia of all places, this Mongolia-US co-production, directed by American Drew Thomas but starring a whole host of Mongolian names I’ve never heard before, is a surprisingly good watch!

Yes, it has the most cliched and predictable premise, about an American FBI agent asked to escort a Mongolian criminal he arrested in Texas back to Mongolia to testify against a crime lord, who will do anything to stop them from getting to court, but as with most of the best-loved low-budget action flicks out there, it’s the action that matters.

And boy has Drew Thomas carved out quite the Hollywood action calling card with this movie.

Despite the clearly low budget, Thomas has squeezed out a very professional-looking movie, with plenty of decently staged and shot shootouts, and most impressively, a host of skillfully choreographed, shot and performed hand to hand fight scenes.

That Kazakh guy playing the witness Serik (a truly eye catching performance from Sanjar Madi) looks destined to become a new action star a la Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais if given the chance, so let’s hope that some action movie producers are taking notice of this humble little movie, because there’s something special here.

Since we’re mentioning Iko Uwais, yes, The Mongolian Connection is definitely not in the same league as The Raid, but it more than holds its own against Merantau, and any Iko Uwais fan will tell you that that’s already saying something.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.