Posts Tagged ‘jeff fahey’

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There’s no doubt about it — between recently-released titles such as Abandoned MineAs Above, So BelowMine Games, and the flick we’re here to take a look at today, director Ben Ketai’s 2013 effort Beneath, underground is the place to be in horror right now. You’d think that the success, both critical and commercial, of The Descent back in 2005 would have spawned a legion of imitators at the time, but for some reason it didn’t happen until 8 or 9 years later. Go figure.

The  natural question now is — was it worth the wait?  I guess that all depends on how naturally claustrophobic you are.

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To be sure, what Ketai has crafted here is far from a masterpiece, but at times it is surprisingly effective, provided that tight, confined spaces frighten you as much as they do me. It takes an awfully long time for the tension to get going, though, as this story, which proclaims itself to be “based on true events” (which “true events,” specifically, are never mentioned, and let’s face it — the sad, and actual, truth is that mines have been collapsing on people for a long time now and thus any number of tragic disasters could suffice as being the “basis” for the screenplay here) throws out a few real whoppers in terms of the straining your suspension of disbelief before kicking things up a notch, the biggest of which is that last-day-on-the-job (and, by the look of it, Black Lung sufferer) pit supervisor George Marsh (Jeff Fahey, one of the few recognizable faces among a cast of largely unknowns) would consent to let his grown daughter, Sam (Kelly Noonan, who’s certainly easy on the eyes but struggles mightily on the acting front  in what is essentially  the film’s  lead role) accompany him to work on his final shift, and that his bosses would agree to such a proposition given that she’s an environmental lawyer who’s probably looking for any number of health and safety violations to slap them with.

In any case, down she goes with the crew, right after a previously-undiscovered section of the mine is found (what a coincidence), the roof collapses, and everybody’s fucked. The air starts running low, everybody starts hallucinating — or maybe not, as  questions begin to arise as to how much of what they’re seeing is real or imagined.

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The production values here go a long way toward helping the movie establish a reasonably high level of atmosphere and frankly are called upon to do most of the heavy lifting since, ya know, credibility and plausibility are out the window from the outset, and I give Ketai props for successfully evoking much of the feeling of what it must be like to be trapped in a cave-in with the clock ticking against you in spite of the fact that there’s no way his central character would, or could, ever find herself in such a situation in the first place. I’ve always suffered from recurring nightmares of being buried alive  and slowly suffocating to death(file that under WTMI, as the kids would say), so if concepts like that scare the shit out of you at a core level (welcome to the club, glad to meet you), chances are you’ll agree that Beneath is, at least, reasonably successful in terms of achieving its fundamental goals.

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Anyway, if you’re so inclined, Ketai’s modestly-budgeted number is now available via Netflix instant streaming (which is how I saw it, hence no DVD/Blu-ray specs included in this review) and if sounds like your cup full of coal dust, then hey,  it probably will be.

"Machete" Movie Poster

In recent months, fans of exploitation cinema have been given one hell of a gift — no less than three new films that show that the ethos of the grindhouse is still alive and well, namely Black Dynamite, Piranha 3-D, and the subject of our little missive here today, Robert Rodriguez’s much-anticipated Machete.

HE’S BEEN SET UP! DOUBLE CROSSED! LEFT FOR DEAD! BUT THE BAD GUYS DON’T KNOW — THEY JUST FUCKED WITH THE WRONG MEXICAN!

Can you resist that? Didn’t think so.

Th tough thing about reviewing Machete is hitting on all the things that this flick gets absolutely and unequivocally right — I’ve jogged my brain time and again looking for any flaws in this movie whatsoever, and I honestly can’t find any.

We’ve got veteran supporting player Danny Trejo finally getting his props in a title role, and it’s the part he was absolutely born to play : an ex-federale whose wife and kid were murdered by a ruthless drug lord before he himself was SET UP! DOUBLE CROSSED! LEFT FOR — oh, you get the point. Machete’s looking to make his way as an anonymous day laborer in south Texas after a rescue attempt he undertook while still with the Mexican police force went horribly wrong (the girl he goes in to free is in on the set-up and friends, you won’t believe where she hides her cell phone — I’ll say no more) and left him a childless widower.

Enter a political sleazebag named Booth (Jeff Fahey),a guy with a lot of money, a lot of connections, and a decidedly un-fatherly interest in his own daughter (Lindsay Lohan, who spends a good chunk of the movie buck nekkid — and yes, it’s a body double). He wants Machete to take out a rabid anti-immigrant, xenophobic state senator named John McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro), a guy who’s running on a platform of building an electrified fence along the Texas-Mexico border.

It’s all a dastardly set-up, of course — Machete seems to have a way of walking into these things — and that’s when the shit hits the fan/ all hell breaks loose/ pick your favorite semi-vulgar cliche.

Machete’s gotta go underground, but he’s got help from “The Network,” the kind of organized support organization for illegal immigrants that right-wingers think actually exists but doesn’t, run by taco-stand operator-with-a-heart-of-gold Luz (Michelle Rodriguez).

He’s got some help from less likely quarters, as well : there’s his former-hitman-now-priest brother Padre (Cheech Marin — and yes, that’s the only name he’s ever given — and wait until you see how he meets his maker, but I’ve probably given too much away already) and by-the-book-ICE agent Sardana (Jessica Alba), who sees the light and joins the good guys (and falls in love with Machete to boot, naturally), for instance.

But will this ragtag band of undocumented workers, an ex-federale, and a law enforcement agent on the lam be able to take on powerful political insiders, TV-advertising assassin Osiris Amanpour (former FX whiz-turned-musclehead-actor Tom Savini), a Minutemen-style anti-immigrant vigilante army lead by the ruthless Lt. Von Jackson (Don Johnson — billled, for whatever reason, on the poster as being “introduced” in this film —  in a terrific scenery-chewing performance ), and the forces of Torrez (Steven Seagal — speaking of scenery-chewing), the  ruthless Mexican drug lord responsible for killing Machete’s family who’s somehow connected with these far-right, Tea Party-on- steroids type forces?

The answer, dear reader, is — of course. Along the way there’s severed heads and limbs aplenty, a guy who gets his intestines used as a grappling rope in a daring out-the-window-escape, plenty of naked boobs, lots of bad-ass low-rider vehicles, a ruthless killing of a pregnant woman, more backstabbing backroom deals than you can count, and blood n’ guts galore, but there’s never any doubt about who’s gonna come out on top of this fracas.

Rodriguez , co-director (and longtime editing partner) Ethan Maniquis, and co-writer (and brother) Alvaro Rodriguez really pull out all the stop on this one, people — if you loved the phony preview for this that ran before Planet Terror on the Rodriguez/Tarantino Grindhouse double bill a couple years back, rest assured every scene in there made it into the finished product, plus a whole hell of a lot more.

In essence, this is a blaxploitation flick with all the stops pulled out, only with Latinos instead of African Americans. It’s Mexploitation for an American audience, and if you don’t pump your fist in the air at the sight of Machete leading an army of low-riders into battle, or at killer lines like “Machete don’t text” and Jessica Alba screaming “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us!,” then I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Machete kicks ass and takes names and like the best exploitation flicks of the 70s it uses its sleazy veneer as cover to address contemporary issues much more openly and honestly than big-budget Hollywood studio fare would ever dare to. Like its titular hero, Machete is a film with brass balls that doesn’t fucking compromise.

Look, I’m not on crack — I won’t tell you that Machete is destined to be the best movie of the year. But it’s the best time you’ll have at the movies all year, and that’s a lead pipe cinch.  We’ll finish this up with some promo stills to whet your appetite to get out and see this immediately — or to see it again if you already have. Machete is the shit. Case closed.