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.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Night Vision (1997)
This is one that's been on my radar for a long time now. Two DTVC Hall of Famers, Cynthia Rothrock and Fred Williamson, make it a must, plus Robert Forster, Bushwick Bill, and former NFL standout Willie Gault are hard to ignore. Even if this is bad, it should make for good review material. Also, our friend Ty reviewed this at Comeuppance Reviews. As you can imagine, he couldn't pass up a cast like this either.
Night Vision has Williamson as Dakota "Dak" Smith, a renegade detective who's been demoted to third shift motorcycle patrol cop due to some mishaps and his drinking. Then he has a run-in with this serial killer who spies on his victims using hidden cameras, and creates snuff films out of their deaths. Now this killer wants Williamson, and Williamson wants him too. Helping him out are Rothrock and Forster. Can they bring this guy down before anyone else dies?
I had a lot of fun with this. It was classic late-90s cable TV stuff, like that Cinemax or The Movie Channel thing that might air either really late at night or right smack in the middle of the day-- or both. Williamson was fantastic, and he carried every scene he was in. Forster and Rothrock were excellent too, and they played off Williamson well. It definitely has its silly moments, like Williamson chasing the killer on his motorcycle, and the killer shooting grenades at him, followed by Williamson surviving an exploding bike crash, and the local news crew in the helicopter above catching it, punctuated with the cameraman's mustachioed smile. Yes, that's what I want, big frickin' mustaches. I want Williamson smoking cigars and walking around his apartment in his underwear. I want Rothrock making sexual innuendo jokes with Williamson at the other character's expense. I want scenes set to music that sounds like Phil Collins's "Sussudio", or Weather Channel Smooth Jazz, or Williamson's character's own soulful theme song. Give me all of this, and I'm a happy man.
We'll start with the star, Williamson. Everything about him here works. Even when it doesn't work, it works, if that makes sense. It's just so Williamson-y, and I love it. We see so many films where it's a Williamson cameo or a Williamson bait-and-switch, and this is Williamson in almost every scene, just being Williamson. I mean, the cigars, the briefs, the scene where he's giving confession in a Catholic church, the sexual innuendos-- when I see Williamson's on the cover, this is what I want, and this is what I got. Also, this character, Dakota Smith, is one he uses in subsequent films, of which we've done one, On the Edge, which was also fantastic in its Williamson usage. Can you tell I enjoyed this?
The other DTVC Hall of Famer was Rothrock, and she was great too in a supporting role. She only uses her martial arts here and there, but what I loved about her ability to do martial arts was that it converted her from a damsel in distress or one-dimensional female love interest, into Williamson's equal as a partner. It allows for more of a buddy picture dynamic, which allows Rothrock to play off Williamson better, and makes their interactions much more fun. This is different from her traditional straight ahead actioner, but it works for me.
Among the others, Robert Forster was the best. In a lot of films like these, it's hard to root for him, because you never know if his character will turn out to be the baddie in the end. I can tell you here that that doesn't happen, he's Williamson's buddy throughout, so it's safe to root for him, which makes it even more fun. Forster and Williamson are much better together as friends than they are as foes. And he plays off Williamson so well too. My only complaint was that there wasn't more of him in this. He usually appeared after Williamson created a violent crime scene, and told him "you call this a low profile?" He also tells the heel police chief "you don't mess with a hard-on." Then we had Bushwick Bill, who was Bushwick Bill, which, again, is fantastic. The local TV reporter was played by Amanda Welles, who I thought had been in more stuff, but I was wrong, because she has very few credits on imdb. Finally, Willie Gault has a small cameo as an FBI agent. When I played Tecmo Bowl on the NES growing up, I used the Raiders and would chuck the ball down field to Gault all day. Remember how you'd take the QB and run him backwards, then at the last minute chuck it up? That was so much fun.
I don't know who this guy is here, but doesn't he look like the logical conclusion of Keith "The Dean of Mean" Jardine's DTV acting career? Am I being generous if I say this is where he'll be in ten years, or should I go with five? Nothing wrong with this though, it's better than the beating he'd take if he stayed in the UFC all that time, even if he won most of his fights. Hell, would anyone be surprised if in ten years when Jardine gets to this point, an 85-year-old Williamson is still making movies and Jardine is playing this exact character?
Of course not, and films like this are why. This is the Fred Williamson you came for, with a great Rothrock and Forster to boot. Sure, as a movie it's pretty paint-by-numbers and late 90s low-budget thriller, but you're here at the DTVC because that kind of thing appeals to you, so why not go with it? I think you'll be happy you did.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117177/