Friday, December 30, 2016

Sinners and Saints

   There is an ineffable quality to the action stars of the 80's and 90's. From the lower rung, featuring guys like Dolph Lundgren, and Carl Weathers, to the mid range like Jean Claude Van Damme, and Steven Seagal, to the top two genre titans: Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. You can beef up and snarl one liners to your heart's content... but you still won't be one of them. Action movie throwbacks like Sinners and Saints do their best to generate that same quality, but while the movie is a lot of fun, it only ever captures the same aftertaste quality of this latterday action resurgence.

   It could be that star Johnny Strong doesn't have a fancy accent. Think about it. Schwarzenegger had his Austrian accent. Stallone had his nerve-damaged drawl. The Muscles From Brussels had his trademark accent. Lundgren had the growly baritone. Even Seagal had his goddamn whispering. Johnny Strong has the tough guy look and swagger down pat, but there's no accent. So, while he may not have the action figure quality that Stallone and Schwarzenegger had, he has something else. Something all his own. I'm not quite sure what it is, but I enjoyed it. He definitely has the jawline though. In fact, he's like God's gift to action fans as an apology for how Kevin Sorbo ended up. The two are thematically identical.

   Having said that, Sinners and Saints is much more of a Raw Deal/Lethal Weapon flick instead of a Cobra or Commando type of movie. It's a cop thriller that's far too self-serious for it's own good. It's never boring, and consistently entertaining, but even Lethal Weapon had a sense of humor. Damn. Sinners and Saints is so frickin' dour. Although, director William Kaufman does seem to have a genuine affinity for the genre, and he does his damndest to deliver some old school crime thrills. The more the movie went on, the more I was into it. By the time the guns-blazing climax rolled around, I was sold. I really ended up liking Sinners and Saints.

   What the movie lacked in originality, (don't start comparing it to Lethal Weapon because you literally won't be able to stop) it made up for with practicality. No CGI blood, no ridiculous computer generated stunts, just old fashioned special effects, real fake blood, and at one point, I'm 90% certain the filmmakers actually blew up a house for a scene. This is what makes Sinners and Saints a throwback. Action movies rarely do crap like that anymore, but it makes all the difference to a fan like me. Sure, I would've preferred a more neutral visual aesthetic, and less directorial flair, but Sinners and Saints easily stands apart in the genre of low budget DTV action.

   Also, can I talk about this friggin cast for a second? Jurgen Prochnow, Sean Patrick Flannery, Bas Rutten, Costas Mandylor, and Tom Fuckin' Berenger? I don't know how Kaufman managed to get so many familiar faces under one roof. Maybe it's because their hayday has already past, but it goes a long way towards making Sinners and Saints feel like a forgotten 80's movie. Unfortunately, most of the especially familiar faces have small roles. But, that's not a big problem. Cop procedural stuff and bloody action scenes take center stage in this gutsy little flick. It's not perfect, but for a genre fan like me, it's a real damn treat. I'm aware this isn't Johnny Strong and William Kaufman's only movie together, and you can be sure I'm checking out the others.

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