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.

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--Matt

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ides of March aka Ultimate Target (2000)

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This movie has a very interesting back story.  Made in 2000, the production company went bankrupt before the film was released, so it sat on the shelf.  Then, somewhat recently, a copy taken from a Russian TV recording surfaced, the only problem being that it was dubbed in Russian.  No good for us, right?  But there was a rumor of a Greek DVD release, which would mean an English language version if the rumor were true.  Turns out it was, and a friend of mine was nice enough to hook me up with a copy.

Ides of March has DTVC Hall of Famer Gary Daniels as a hit man working for a large hit man corporation. He has a falling out with his fellow hit men, among them DTVC favorite Michael Madsen, and now they're after him.  Daniels sends his family away up north, and establishes himself in a small town in New Mexico, waiting for his pursuers to arrive.  When they do, will he be able to take them all down?

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This isn't very good, and perhaps sat on the shelf for a good reason.  We have a lot of plot exposition with nothing really happening.  The mindset was that this plot exposition was entertaining and funny and filled with enough irony that it was worth keeping us from the action.  It couldn't have been more wrong.  It was supposed to be a mix of 90s Neo-Noir and Pulp Fiction style action/macabre comedy, and ends up missing on all accounts.  We get it, two killers are discussing Crunch Berries while eating breakfast over the dead body of one of their hits.  Great, it's so off-beat and ironic, I can't contain myself.  In another instance, we have what would've been a great fight scene between Daniels and some samurai sword wielding thugs, only to have it interrupted by a hit man talking on a cell phone with his mother.  Oh, such sweet comedic irony, I can hardly stand it.  The problem is, when the action was there, it was so good, especially the Western-style/modern action showdown at the end.  If we'd had more of it, this would've been a winner.  This is another example of the old adage: keep it simple.  Trying too hard to be a talky-90s indie flick when you could've been a solid DTV action flick is a bad formula.

The biggest reason why getting my hands on this was such a priority, was Mr. Daniels here.  Any time we're talking DTVC Hall of Famer, I want to see their movies and review them on here.  Unfortunately, because we're dealing in low budget DTV flicks, this kind of thing happens where we can't find them-- in fact, Daniels has a few others that I've had trouble tracking down.  In terms of how he is here, when he's allowed to let his action star prowess come through, it's all there.  The thing is though, he doesn't get much.  When we get to the end, it's almost like he's unleashed, which is good, but when I'm coming to the table for a Daniels film, I want more of him fighting and less of him doing glib voice-overs.  Even in his English accent, they don't work.

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Then we had Michael Madsen.  He was great as a competing hit man.  The thing with Madsen is, he can take a lackluster script, and make it enjoyable.  It's always interesting to see an actor of his quality fall through the cracks and end up in films like these, because most of the other actors are there because that is the ceiling of their ability-- which is fine, I'm not knocking it, but Madsen is on a different level, and you can really see it in something like this.  Always good to see Madsen.

Another major notable in this film is veteran character actor George Cheung-- also known as "George Kee Cheung", which, if you look at the image I got for the cover, the names "Kee" and "Cheung" accompany "Madsen" and "Daniels".  That's right, one man listed twice, not to mention, that young fella in the middle in the picture, he's not even in the film, I have no idea what he's doing there.  Anyway, back to Cheung.  Among his 175 credits on imdb, he was in the Seinfeld episode where Elaine tries to get flounder delivered from a Chinese restaurant, and has to pretend she lives in a janitor's closet.

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Finally, here are our two hit men discussing Crunch Berries over their deceased hit.  Everybody together now: "wacka wacka waaackaaa!"  This is one of those things that sounds great at the time, but the whole idea is that it's supposed to be so ironic that two hit men that just killed someone would sit in the guy's house and discuss Crunch Berries, and as much as the people making the film might thing that was so creative and unique, the rest of us have seen it so many times.  Even in 2000, when this was made, the whole irony mixed with people killing each other had beyond run its course.  How many potentially great action films were felled by the 90s irony movement?  More than I care to count.  Put this one down as another.

If you live in Greece you can find this on DVD, or if you have a region free DVD player and want to get it on the secondary market from there.  I won't go so far as to say it doesn't deserve to be released here in the States, because there have been a lot worse, and this has some big enough names that it deserves at least a $5 DVD; but would I say it's worth going through the trouble to track it down?  Probably not.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0243327/

13 comments:

  1. I loved your sarcastic replies to the supposed ironic situations in this film. I've not seen it but It's certainly not heading to the top of my wants list anytime soon. I did however just score Fatal Blade cheap, also starring Daniels, so let's see how that one goes.

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  2. Haha, thanks. Yeah, definitely do the more readily available Daniels first before you go for something like this. If anything, it's only for completists.

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  3. Good review, man. It was a fun read. I'd still probably like to check it out someday but, based on your review, I am not rushing to Greece to find it.

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    1. Thanks man, and yeah, I think it was good to finally get past the mystery of what this film was all about. It would be nice still for it to have a US release, but I wouldn't go too far out of my way to get it before then, if that ever happens.

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  4. Great write-up! Always wanted to check this out, that is unfortunate it's not as good as I hoped a Daniels\Madsen flick would be.

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    1. Yeah, it's too bad, especially with it looking so promising.

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  5. Congrats on tracking this one down Matt. I've been looking for it for ages with no luck. The closest I could get to it was a trailer on youtube (which actually makes it look pretty cool - guess that's not the case).

    I think I'm writing in saying that this was the same director as Black Friday and the two films were shot back to back. Was kind of hoping that this would turn out to be secretly awesome and Black Friday was just a dud they rushed to finish alongside it. Oh well.

    Keep up the good work man.

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    1. Thanks Jack, and if it's any consolation, this is better than Black Friday.

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  6. But I should still "beware the Ides of March"?

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  7. I was in this movie. I'm the bald guy with the beard that gets his ass handed to him by Daniels and eventually shotgun blasted by Madsen in the trailer. It was an honor to be killed on screen by Mr. Madsen, in fact we had a little summer friendship, hung with his son, had lunch at his Malibu home... It was a fun summer making this movie. Got that union money both in acting and being the directors personal chauffeur. Only thing I didnt get is a copy of this movie. Apparently it was NEVER released anywhere. No one I know that was in it or part of it has ever seen it. The "money man" David Dadon was a shady dude, barked orders at people the few times he showed up, brought prostitutes to the set in a limo (for himself and his entourage), threatened a few people with hired violence, etc. (google him). I've searched high and low for a copy to no avail. Anyone got one? Spot on review of the movie though, it was fun, but it should be bargain bin status for sure. PS. A couple of set stories: We filmed at the now demolished Ambassador Hotel (where Bobby Kennedy was killed, they filmed many movies here and featured prominently in the Tom Hanks flik That Thing You Do) and were WARNED not to venture off... But we did anyway every night we were there. I laid in the kitchen where B.K. was gunned down and pans and metal stated clanging. Weird whispering, and scratching. I dont believe in ghosts but this place was scary scary scary!!! Definitely haunted!!! Special effects by William B. Doane known for the Brad Pitt flik Se7en. The guy in the killing Viet Cong from the helicopter scene in Full Metal Jacket makes a small cameo. "GET SOME!!! GET SOME!!! Here's the link to the trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ww5Cyx7ZB1E

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  8. This is all great info, thanks for commenting! As far as releases of the film go, there was a Russian TV version, that was dubbed in Russian, then a Greek DVD, which is an English language version. If there's any money being made off this, it's being made there, but who knows how that would work with Greece's economic situation.

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  9. Review is very spot-on and this is a very unusual film to analyze. I'm sorry to hear that it befell the issues that most troubled productions did which was either a lousy release or with the actors getting crappy treatment but you never would've guessed that going by all this stylized Tarantino-type premise with snappy/slick editing.

    BTW, can anyone tell me how this ends? I managed to find a rip of the Greek DVD online but the ending of the movie refuses to play on any format I convert it to.


    SPOILERS FOLLOW:






    It's after Daniels is wounded by Michael Madsen who is towering over him & George Cheung is going "Nice of you to join us, Thomas." Can anyone please tell me how the whole conflict ensues/who kills who? Thanks in advance.

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