THE GOOD, THE TOUGH, & THE DEADLY Book Review + Series
I was sent a review copy of Author David J. Moore’s action encyclopedia The Good, The Tough, & The Deadly, and I’ve been thrilled by the results. What I couldn’t tell from pictures I’d seen is that this is a glorious hardback in the style of a coffee table book, giving it an almost scholarly feel. Moore’s mission behind the book is to cover a very specific era of action film that I find to be often overlooked even though it’s a personal favorite genre. Focusing on the stars of action cinema from the 1960s to the present, the mold of the modern action era is focused on here in this book. Moore provides capsule reviews for an astounding number of action films, all listed alphabetically. There are interviews sprinkled throughout, and occasional reviews provided by a team of collaborators including internet action film expert [Outlaw] Vern, and Austin’s own Zack Carlson. With the alphabetical listing, as well as indices listing various action stars and their bodies of work which are covered in the book, I’ve found The Good, The Tough, & The Deadly to be a joyful experience of discovery. Rather than something you might read cover to cover, I’ve bounced from review to review, skipping to the star index to find out more about a previously undiscovered star, then cross referencing back to other films they had been in, and so on.

Since Cinapse is a site dedicated to film discovery and discussion, I decided to put Moore’s book into action and seek out some films from within its pages that I had never seen and cover them here. There’s nothing quite like the joy of discovery, so, inspired by Moore’s work, I’m planning to focus on reviewing some films from action heroes I’ve always known about or seen box art for, but have never experienced until now.

So check out The Good, The Tough, & The Deadly, or consider picking it up for the action aficionado in your life. It’s filled with deep cuts and old favorites, and it’s certain to expose even the most well-versed action film fan to new joys, just like it did for me.

NEMESIS [1992]

Albert Pyun’s Nemesis has been somewhat of a holy grail for me. I’m an active fan of the director, and had always heard this film was more or less his opus. And despite growing up in the 80s and 90s as I did, I’d also somehow managed to avoid seeing any of the films of Olivier Gruner until quite recently. The Alamo Drafthouse had recently done a Nemesis screening in 35mm here in Austin, but I wasn’t able to make it. And I seemingly couldn’t find the film at any of our local video stores either. And then, Lo, that holy night arrived when I was randomly deep digging around Hulu to see if there was anything on there worth a damn… and there it was! Nemesis! And in a pretty glorious widescreen format that frankly looked fantastic. It was a great night for streaming video, let me tell you.

Claims that Nemesis is Albert Pyun’s opus aren’t exaggerated. One can’t help but spend the runtime of this movie wondering whether it’s a staggering work of geek genius or a pastiche born out of youthful ignorance and passion, signifying little. There’s little question as to whether it’s entertaining… because this weird little film lives to please.

Gruner plays Alex, a cop in a Blade Runner-esque future where cyborgs and cybernetic enhancements are all the rage. He himself is “more machine than man”, and this seems to keep him isolated and feared among his peers. Alex is rebellious and troubled, and his relationship with his chief (Farnsworth is played by Doll Man himself, Tim Thomerson) is ambiguous at best. The film doesn’t follow a super clear plot, perhaps a stylistic choice, perhaps a path chosen by storytellers who didn’t know any better. Basically there are lots of loyalties being betrayed and various people who are secretly robots or cyborgs, and a war brewing between humans and machines. While the plot itself feels off throughout, the visuals are astounding for a film such as this.

Filled with remarkable practical gore and robotic effects, there are creature/character moments here that feel practically Cronenbergian. Teeth and breasts and extremities will merge with machinery in disturbing and satisfying ways. There’s even a Terminator-esque action sequence towards the end featuring an early 90s stop motion effort with an endoskeleton that results in a wince-inducing scalping. The technical effects are a joy to behold… something you just don’t see anymore, but also something you wouldn’t expect to be of such high quality and entertainment value in a film this largely forgotten. On top of the effects, there’s a whole lot of inventive camera trickery that elevates some wonderful gun battle action set pieces. With a John Woo style two-fisted gun approach, Alex slides around firing from both hands like it’s no big thing, and these sequences are hugely entertaining. Pyun is able to pull off something with his visual creativity and sense of style that perhaps never quite bled over into clear and effective plotting.

Gruner looks great in the lead but Alex is a dreary and beaten down kind of character in a depressed futuristic world. It’s not a bright and sunny film. But Thomerson never met a film he couldn’t liven up with his presence, and on top of those two, you’ve also got a super young (and super naked) Thomas Jane making an appearance, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat’s Shang Tsung, among dozens of other roles), Brion James, and even Jackie Earle Haley. It’s the kind of film that you have a blast watching in spite of how dour it is trying to be.

I found Nemesis to be a pretty glorious work of low budget creativity and vision, even if the reality is that it’s no Blade Runner or Terminator. That said, if you’ve seen those films a hundred times and want to be thrilled by similar themes and visuals in a whole different package… Nemesis is right at your fingertips on Hulu!

And I’m Out.

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the author

Ed changed careers and moved halfway across the country from Maryland to Austin with his amazingly understanding wife just to figure out how to earn a living watching movies. He once heard it said that NY/LA are where you go to MAKE movies, but Austin is where you go to WATCH movies. And that is the truth. But seriously, if anyone knows how to make a living watching movies, please let him know. Twitter: @Ed_Travis

  • Combaticron

    If I’m not mistaken, Pyun got the jump on everybody else (John Badham, Robert Rodriguez) in adopting the John Woo “spicy-handed” shooting style.