The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Project Shadowchaser II aka Night Siege: Project Shadowchaser II (1994)

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I first saw this during TNT's movie block that used to follow Monday Night Nitro. For my money, that block combined with TNT's Joe Bob Briggs show on Saturday nights made TNT the premier bad action, horror, and sci-fi movie channel on cable in the late 90s, even slightly better than USA's Up All Night-- which was still pretty solid on Fridays and Saturdays, don't get me wrong.

Project Shadowchaser II doesn't exactly pick up where part one left off. Whereas part 1 felt like it took place in the future, this one feels more like the present. Either way, what we have is a nuclear facility taken over by our favorite android, Frank Zagarino, this time so he can get his hands on some nuclear weapons and blow everything up. To stop him, we have hapless drunk maintenance dude Bryan Genesse, along with scientist Beth Toussaint and her son (annoying kid alert!). That's about it.

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This is as close to a paint-by-numbers Die Hard rip-off as you can get. Christmas Eve? Check. Geeky guy hacking into computers and using sports references? Check, this time in the form of DTV action mainstay Todd Jensen. Firing rockets on the cops? Check, Mr. Zagarino does the honors using a few SAMs. Other than that, this is pretty original, right? I was torn on Project Shadowchaser II actually, because on the one hand, it ramps up the bad action factor of the first one pretty well, from the railing kills and hatchets to the foreheads to roundhouse kicking flaming stuntmen to the shimmying scientists blasted with machine gun fire, this hits all the spots-- hell, even Santa gets it. On the other hand, there's a lot of stupid stuff, like the kid-- seriously, who watches Die Hard and says "you know what this is missing? An annoying kid!"-- and the ending where Beth Toussaint is able to out-muscle an android with superhuman strength. It feels like for every great thing the film did, it mailed it in on something else.

Gotta love Genesse though. No one does all-American Orange County pure-bred varsity letterman high school quarterback like him-- which is great considering he's Canadian! He does us better than we do, doesn't he? But that works so well when he's driving a vintage muscle car and talking baseball and staring at the baddie with a silly look on his face, or telling Beth Toussaint she has a nice ass under his breath. On top of that, he's a great martial artist. Roundhouses left and right, great hand-to-hand stuff, and a pretty solid end fight with Zagarino. Genesse is definitely a guy I plan to do more of in the future, and I have a few in mind to go to, so don't worry.

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Mr. Zagarino, building on his performance in part one to give us something even better: a sense of humor? Absolutely. Man Frank-- can I call you Frank?... all right, sorry, Mr. Zagarino-- have you been holding out on us? Not just a sense of humor, but an all around great baddie. Yes, the no shirt under the leather jacket was a tad obnoxious, but hey, obnoxious is what we're here for, and it looks great with the rest of the Susan Powter motif, so rock on. Frank Zagarino, where have you been all our lives?

We're back with the annoying kid factor again. I want to make clear, this is not an indictment of the people who played these annoying kids, it's an indictment of the whole concept. What is a kid doing in an action movie? Getting in the way and being annoying. That's it, that's the whole purpose, and for me, a plot device that's only purpose is to annoy is useless and a detriment to the film. To every action writer out there drafting up treatments, if a kid is in your plot, hit the damn delete button and save us a lot of pain. Thank you.

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I'm a moron (I'm sure a lot of you are reading that and saying "no shit!"). Here I am so worried about capping an image of Ted Le Plat, the guy who played the reporter in American Kickboxer I and it's unofficial sequel To the Death, that I didn't know Gavin Hood was in this as well, and by coincidence just happened to have capped an image of him getting electrocuted, which is okay, but you can't see his face. Don't know who Gavin Hood is? He directed Tsotsi, a South African film that won for best foreign language picture at the Oscars in '06 (and made my top ten of the oughts), and also directed X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Yep, and I never thought to check imdb before I sent the DVD back to Netflix, meaning that pic is the best one I have of him from Project Shadowchaser II.

But that's neither here nor there. This one is available on DVD as part of a double feature with part three-- which I'll get into when I write the review for it. I don't know, I think for all its faults, this does all right. I think it would be cool if this were paired with part one though, because they'd make a great bad movie night double feature, but unfortunately that isn't the case.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110901/

11 comments:

  1. Excellent review. Will have to check out both sequels. The electrocution pic is great. Gotta love the blue special effect.

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  2. Zags and Genesse are friends in real life and been in quite a few films together. Shadowchaser 1 is available on DVD in Australia and some Eastern countries. Shadowchaser 2 is more easily available and, unlike the US DVD, usually features the unrated version with even more blood squibs.

    I like both. Zags is great, Kove and Genesse are brilliant heroes, but both have something wrong. With the first one, it was Meg Foster. With those eyes, she should've also been a cyborg. And with the second one, it's the kid, as you mentioned. Oh man, when the kid jumps at Zags near the end and Zags just catches him... If only they had the balls to make Zags snap his neck like a twig... But no. Still, overall I'd say these two are the best films John Eyres was ever involved with and good Die Hard-clones.

    Didn't much care for Shadowschaser 3 or 4, though. 4 is just bad, despite Todd Jensen. And 3... Zags in space I can live with, but when Kove and Genesse are followed by Sam Bottoms and Christopher Atkins...? Honestly, the young blonde geek from The Blue Lagoon as an action guy in Shadowchaser 3 and Payback? That's just embarassing for everyone, especially Atkins, who STILL looks like a young blonde geek.

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  3. Not only do you have to love the blue special effect, but you have to love that it was done on a guy who directed one Oscar winning film and an X-Men movie. Does it get any better?

    And we'll be doing the other two Shadowchasers eventually.

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  4. Argh, annoyingly only Shadowchaser 3 and 4 are available on DVD in the UK. Always put off buying them, despite their ridiculous low price, because I haven't seen 1 and 2. But looking into it, it sounds like none of the films really connect other than having Frank Zagarino as a cyborg.

    Gotta agree on Genesse - he makes for an above average action lead (ie. he can actually do some martial arts and can do one liners without them falling flat.)

    Also nice connection between Genesse, Zagarino, Jensen and Gavin Hood. All four have been in Operation Delta Force movies.

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  5. I actually liked part 4(which is called Orion's Key over in the US), it was pretty weird but fun overall, didn't think much of part 3 though(which is called Shadowchaser 3000 over here) as it was basically a second-rate Alien rip-off with little excitement.

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  6. Haha, that is great. Someone should interview Gavin Hood about these movies.

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  7. Yeah, I think Hood started out as a stunt coordinator or something, but he's in a lot of action flicks filmed in South Africa, which this was. It's still a trip though. It'd be like Darren Aronofsky with a mullet in a Van Damme flick or something.

    And Jack, I think the reason why the first two Shadowchasers aren't available on DVD in the UK is because you guys get first crack at all the Steven Seagal flicks. You guys gave up access to the Shadowchasers in the bargain.

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  8. That's true - Seagal seems to love us in the UK. We seem to have got the first run of his TV show True Justice.

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  9. It's not even close either. It was six months I think between when you got <a href="http://www.mattmovieguy.com/2011/05/born-to-raise-hell-2010.html>Born to raise Hell</a> and we did; and we haven't even gotten a sniff of that new TV show.

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  10. Love the SHADOWCHASER movies. Both me and my nephew will crack open the alcohol, and chuckle away at some 'Romulus' action. Didn't know that SHADOWCHASER 2 had a DVD release. Gonna have to hunt that one down (the UK vhs is edited for violence)

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  11. Yeah, the Shadowchasers are a lot of fun. I saw the edited version on TV over ten years ago, so I don't remember how much better this is than that, but I have to imagine it's pretty good.

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