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Non-Review Review: China Salesman

China Salesman is fascinating disaster.

China Salesman is not a good film by any measure, but it is strangely compelling. There is something intoxicating about the film, in spite of its myriad flaws – the awful script, the atrocious dubbing, the clumsy editing, the terrible performances, the muddled storyline, the abundance of nonsensical technobabble. Part of this is down to the sheer abundance of energy that director Tan Bing brings to proceedings. China Salesman whips and whirls, cranks and zooms, pans and swirls with a kinetic energy that renders these flaws almost bedazzling, offering an effect that in some ways evokes a bad trip.

The gun show.

However, China Salesman is perhaps most interesting as a mirror and a prism. It is, like Wolf Warrior II, very much the Chinese equivalent to those old patriotic eighties American action movies like Delta Force or Iron Eagle, the kind of populist nationalist cinema that is currently channeled through franchises like Transformers. As such, there is something intriguing in seeing the image that China Salesman projects into the world, as an assertion of multinational intent to the rest of the world and as a statement of patriotic self-image to the country itself.

China Salesman is terrible. It is also terribly interesting.

The old man and the Seagal.

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Non-Review Review: The Last Stand

In theory, The Expendables demonstrated that age was no real impairment when it came to the task of kicking ass and taking names, even if you might need to put your reading glasses on first. So, you could argue that the issue of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s age doesn’t really need to come up during The Last Stand. We know that he is 65 years of age, and we also know that he’s probably a great deal fitter than most of us will be at that age. (Being honest, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that a hexagenarian Arnie could trump most people in their prime.) As a result, the fixation of The Last Stand on the age of its leading man feels a little strange.

It feels especially strange because it eats into a lot of the film. The Last Stand is mostly functional, but its pacing suffers greatly. We’re going to see an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, so it’s safe to assume that (a.) we’re okay with his advancing age, and (b.) we want to see him kick some whippersnapper ass. Unfortunately, The Last Stand seems to misjudge the audience’s interest in an Arnie film, and as a result our leading man spends most of the first three-quarters of the film doing very little.

The Last Stand is clearly intended to demonstrate the viability of its leading man in this modern age, but it seems to lack the confidence to just dive into the action that this sort of film is meant to provide. The result is a strange mish-mash of a film that winds up wasting a lot of good will long before it reaches its climax.

He's back!

He’s back!

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Non-Review Review: Machete

I really liked Machete. It sounds strange from somebody who was relatively unimpressed with Robert Rodriguez’s contribution to Grindhouse, the lackluster b-movie throwback Planet Terror. I think that Machete works because it’s considerably more obvious in its humour, while still walking through a fairly conventional “exploitation” plot. Although the storyline and characters could easily have come from some dingy shot-on-video-camera b-movie, Rodriguez seems somewhat clearer in his parody here, as if he’s making an intentionally hilarious film, rather than merely trying to create the sense of an unintentionally hilarious film. I think it really works, because it’s everything a film like this should be: it’s gleefully silly, ridiculously violent, hilariously “relevent”, and presented in an insanely over-the-top manner.

Machete don't fold...

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Non-Review Review: Drop Zone

I’m going to level with you up front. I was born in the late eighties, so – in ways – I’m a child of the nineties. I grew up with cheesy action movies, and I have a certain fondness for that sort of outrageously cheesy nineties action thrillers. Hell, I’ll confess to being a huge fan of Demolition Man, for cryin’ out loud. So, in the interest of full and frank disclosure, you should know that I probably have some form of bias in favour of Drop Zone before you read this review. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a great film – I’d struggle to even describe it as “good”– but, if you know what you’re going in for, it can at least be entertaining.

Oh, chute!

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