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.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Puncture Wounds aka A Certain Justice (2014)

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I'd seen that this was out for a bit, but when it became available on Netflix it was really on my radar.  I mean, anyone who's been rockin' with the DTVC for any amount of time knows that anything with Dolph Lundgren will automatically be on my radar, and Netflix Instant makes it even better.  We covered this one on the pod as well.  This marked Jamie's second episode as full-time co-host, and her first dip in the Dolph Lundgren pool-- always exciting!; also we had long-time friend of the site Richard Pierce on, to talk not only about the film, but to let us know about his new film, Sector 4: Extraction, which he wrote, and which stars DTVC Hall of Famer Olivier Gruner.  We'll definitely be doing that one in the near future.  But for now, it's Dolph time.

Puncture Wounds stars Dolph as a nasty baddie who's into white slavery, meth cooking, and looking like Danny Trejo.  Cung Le is an Iraq War vet with PTSD who happens to see woman of the night Briana Evigan getting roughed up by her pimps out in the parking lot of his dive hotel.  He comes to her defense and kills the pimps, which was a mistake because those pimps were just low-level guys working for Dolph.  So Dolph has Le's family burned alive in a van for revenge, and Cung Le takes out Dolph's whole operation in response.  A simple tit for tat.

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This movie is dark, and more dark than action flick.  It has some good action, for sure, but it seems to be more focused on being dark.  Rich and I were discussing that, because we both prefer our action PM Entertainment style: simple, fun, and full of explosions.  What this movie did have that worked was a cohesive plot without too many angles that tried to keep things moving.  Dolph was great as the baddie, Cung Le was Cung Le as the hero, and our supporting cast of Vinnie Jones and Gianni Capaldi were solid too.  Jamie, coming from a horror background, appreciated the darker aspects of the film more than we did, so perhaps that's the best way to look at this one: an action flick for people who like their movies a little darker.  A spray tanned action film, if you will.

Speaking of "if you will", what I certain "will" is Dolph.  Great baddie.  Between his work as a pimp/white slaver and the fact that he orders Le's family to be burned alive, this film manages to avoid the Destro Effect, which is not always easy when you cast Dolph as a baddie, especially opposite someone like Cung Le.  Even as despicable as that character was, there was still a part of me that rooted for Dolph to beat Cung Le at the end of the film.  They also tried hard by making him look like Danny Trejo.  Danny Trejo is in so many things though now that you can't really make a character look like him and expect us to say "oh, definitely baddie."  I thought maybe he was going to kill zombies, or do commercials for pre-packaged tacos.  Can you see Dolph doing that?  "What're you makin' your kids for dinner tonight?  Try our new stand-n'-stuff hard tacos and unleash the fun..."

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As we've discussed on here before, fellas like Dolph are not getting any younger, and we need a next generation to step in and fill the void.  We've looked at great guys like Michael Jai White and Scott Adkins in the past, but it seems here that Cung Le is also being tapped for that purpose.  I think the main problem with this film is that his character has no personality whatsoever.  He was good and a lot of fun in Dragon Eyes, which, as a film, was more of a mess than this one was, but at the very least shows us that Le is capable of more if the character is right.  What I'd like to see from him is a straight ahead PM Entertainment style DTV actioner that really shows us what he can or can't do.  And less UFC-esque martial arts too. I don't need my martial arts in a movie to be realistic, I need them to look good.  More kicks, fewer rear naked choke holds.

Among the others in the film, we had the incomparable Vinnie Jones.  He's a bad guy in this, but maybe not as much of a baddie?  He also has a fun scene being tortured by Cung Le.  Gianni Capaldi was something of a revelation.  We saw him in Blood of Redemption, and his character was all over the place and we were wondering why he was there.  Here he was great, got to use his native Scottish accent, had fun with the role, and also added some depth to it when it was required.  Rich mentioned that he's also in Ambushed, so I'll have to check that out too-- obviously it's a Dolph flick, so we'll definitely be checking it out.  Finally, Briana Evigan played the prostitute in need of redemption... or not, I don't really know.  Her character was more of an afterthought but it was one of those afterthoughts that's sold to us as not an afterthought, so when we get to the end the film makers are like "of course you care about what happens to her, right?"  It was kind of a disappointment, because she was fairly solid in Stash House.

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Finally, I often talk about a film being "faux dark", or that their darkness is grafted on, like an otherwise goofy actionfest suddenly becomes "dark" by cutting a finger or ear off with a pair of garden shears.  This film had none of that, no extremities cut off, but was legitimately dark.  I can get behind dark as an identity, what I don't like is this faux dark thing that many modern DTV flicks do, and I think this movie is a good break from that.  One place though where I couldn't go with them though was in killing off Le's friend.  It's one of the worst action film tropes anyway: person who helps hero meets tragic demise for his or her trouble; but I thought here they had mitigated it properly: the friend, an old war buddy, suffering from the fact that he lost his leg, is given a chance at a warrior's death in helping his friend carry out his revenge.  Instead, he's captured by the baddies and dies on his knees when a tool bag henchman character with a gross douchebag haircut stabs him through the neck.  Really?  I expected more out of you movie, and you really let me down there.

Overall though this movie wasn't much of a let down.  It wasn't the greatest thing ever, but it wasn't horrible either.  Dolph was sweet as the baddie, and the darker feel worked.  At least while it's on Netflix it might be worth checking out.  Also worth checking out is the new film that our buddy Rich wrote, Sector 4: Extraction, starring Olivier Gruner.  It's out now on Amazon on DVD and streaming.  As far us, you can check us out live on the podcast every Wednesday from 8-9pm at www.mixlr.com/2nd-unit, and if you miss an episode, the RSS feed on the blog has the five most recent episodes, and all the archives are at http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/134494.

For the episode where we discuss this film, right click here and click "save link as".

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2909476/

5 comments:

  1. Watched this one last week. Dolph looked weird (but had a tasty little kick fest near the end) Cung Lee (as you've said) lacks the charisma to pull off 'dark' (his wimpy voice-over didn't help either) Whilst not having much screen-time in this movie, I've seen worse Lundgren movies (STASH HOUSE being one of them)
    I'd sooner he make something a little more generic (ONE IN THE CHAMBER was pretty cool...HARD RUSH was quirky enough) Hell, I'm all for full-on cheesy (i.e, BATTLE OF THE DAMNED)

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    1. Hahaha, I agree, let's see what happens with Battle of the Damned, though after Dolph's recent bad streak, I'm feeling gun shy about the next Dolph flick, and I never thought I'd say that...

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  2. Nice review man! Dark Dolph Lundgren action film....I'm down! Since it's streaming, I'll definitely give this a shot. Thanks for the recommendation!

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    1. Yeah, it's not the best, but the idea that you have Dolph as Danny Trejo makes it.

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  3. I'll have to give this a go. I'm not going to expect much from Cung Le knowing his background and having only seen him in Man With the Iron Fists.

    Lundgren looks unrecognizable here for sure.

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