Walter Hill’s Assignment is Twisted

If there’s one movie you’re not supposed to like this year, it’s “The Assignment.” If you’re a member of the LGBT community, you’re supposed to be offended by its mere existence. If you’re the regular average Joe, the themes of sex change combined with copious male and female nudity will offend. Conversely, we at GROIN kind of like it! “The Assignment” (2016) is the new film by Walter Hill, a consistently good director whose work includes “The Warriors” and “Streets of Fire.” Perhaps dissatisfied with well-crafted but non-distinctive recent work like “Bullet to the Head,” Hill has opted to make the first action flick (that I know of) about a sex change.

Sigourney Weaver plays a brilliant, quite mad doctor who wants revenge for the death of her estranged brother. Frank Kitchen (played by Michelle Rodriguez) is a super-macho gangster who committed the crime and is about to get the surprise of his life. He is now a she, and will have to discover his feminine side as he enacts bloody revenge for an operation he never wanted. Meanwhile, the audience gets graphic male and female nudity so we are convinced that Frank is authentically male and female.

This movie kind of trashes the SF Tenderloin District lifestyle in its immorality and seediness. In between scenes there are comic book like jump cuts reminiscent of his earlier classic The Warriors. The antagonists include mad plastic surgeons, psychiatrists, Chinamen Mafioso types, and dive bar trolls. The best thing is the quick pace of the film, and the high number of action sequences. The film’s use of SF as a dark backdrop of societal collapse is effective. This movie subversively does not give the gay lifestyle a pass. As such, it is a brave film.

We are supposed to be offended, apparently, that Frank didn’t want the operation and doesn’t like being female. I was more interested in the performances of Rodriguez and Weaver. Rodriguez, who was also good in “Girlfight,” is convincing as the transgender protagonist, We believe her as both sexes, and we also believe she is tough and unhappy. For Weaver, this is her best work since the 1990’s. Proclaiming her superiority to all of mankind and outraged that more people don’t know Shakespeare and Poe front and backwords , she is the most memorable antagonist in a long time. Rent it to sneer and watch it to gasp, because “The Assignment” is the rare B-action flick that doesn’t suck.

Jeepers Creepers 3 Makes the Cut

“Jeepers Creepers 3” is a rip-roaring monster movie. Exuberant with its gore and humor, it concerns what happened with the creeper between the first and second films. It brings back three actors from the first one: Brandon Smith. Gina Philips, and, of course, Jonathan Breck as the Creeper. Also starring is the legendary, green-eyed Meg Foster, from such classics as “They Live,” “Leviathan,” (1989) and “The Emerald Forest,” as well as Stan Shaw, a character actor from “Rocky” and many others. The film concerns a massive attempt to hunt down the Creeper by law enforcement. As the hunt continues, many innocent people get caught in the cross-fire.

I enjoyed the film’s sense of humor and that it is an old-fashioned B-picture. Particularly amusing is a customized tank that is utilized to fight the creature, as well as the booby-trapped The Creeper vehicle (which two characters get stuck in). The special FX are not as impressive as in the first two, but the film is still a great deal of fun.

This is a very controversial film because director Victor Salva is a convicted sex offender in a 1988 case involving a boy in his film “Clownhouse.” His crime was quite heinous and he was lucky to receive only a 3-year prison sentence. That said, does that have any bearing on his films? No. Victor Salva makes entertaining films. “The Nature of the Beast,” “Powder,” and “Jeepers Creepers” are good films. So, to a lesser extent, is “Jeepers Creepers 3.”

I saw the film at a special one-time only show. A lot of people went to see this film, so they added a special show for Wednesday, Oct. 4. If you’re a fan of the series, go see it!

One last thing: after the film, they showed an interview with Jonathan Breck, the actor who plays the Creeper. His warm memories of making the films combined with his enthusiasm for his fans and the series in general sent those remaining in the audience out on an up note.

Parents + Why I Love Randy Quaid

Since the 1971 classic “The Last Picture Show” and spanning all the way to 2005’s “Brokeback Mountain,” there have been few better modern character actors than Randy Quaid. With his unique demeanor, which can be bumbling, serious, or seriously imposing, he is an unstoppable force. I reflected on this while watching the new Vestron Collection Limited Edition Blu-Ray of 1989’s “Parents,” which is perhaps the greatest horror comedy ever made. It is about the Laemle’s, a typical 1950’s family whose life looks good from the outside-until you realize that young Michael (played by Bryan Madorsky) is mentally ill, while his parents (played by Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt) seem to be hiding something. Could they be… CANNIBALS?

This movie almost makes “Blue Velvet” look like a walk in the park. We share young Michael’s perspective for the entire film, and we share his apprehension about the “leftovers” his parents keep trying to get him to eat. Michael is a strange kid himself, rarely talking and with a young girl friend who claims to be from the moon. Eventually a social worker (played by Sandy Dennis) becomes in his case, but this is not a family sympathetic to outsiders.

This movie plays the audience like a piano, with great 1950’s-style music (mostly by Angelo Badalamenti) and period recreations. We never know what’s going to happen next. Ultimately, the clash between this strange boy and his stranger environment is what the film is about, and the film leaves an indelible impression.

At the center of it all is Randy Quaid. Comedic and nerdy one second, unbelievably menacing the next, his performance is one of the best ever for a horror film. This film scares me like few others do. The picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are excellent, and so are the extras. The director, Bob Balaban, explains on the commentary that the film is about him and his childhood. What a scary childhood he must have had!

Randy Quaid and his wife have been in some trouble with the law over the past 10 years or so and currently reside in Vermont. Apparently he has retired from film and TV acting. Well, Randy, have a great retirement, because you are awesome! Don’t miss “Parents” on Blu-Ray!

Mr. No Legs Wrecks House

Tired of lame Hollywood action films? How about “feel-good” Hollywood films about disability? If you said yes to either of these questions, I’ve got a movie with you. “The Amazing Mr. No Legs,” aka “Mr. No Legs,” is a very low-budget but nevertheless satisfying film about a gritty, tough double-amputee crime boss who knows martial arts and gives the cops fits. Such actors as Richard Jaeckel and John Agar are helpless against our villain, played by Ron Slinker. Basically, the film is a showcase to show that a disabled guy can be just as badass as Bruce Lee.

In this film the star actually was a bi-amputee. That doesn’t stop him from doing flying jump kicks in slow motion from his wheelchair. The star takes the role seriously and seems to have tried to develop an actual martial arts fighting system which a bi-amputee can utilize. It is mostly based off of forearm strikes and blocks, while making Bruce Lee ‘waaa!’ type sounds. The lead is an inspiration to people everywhere, that there is never any excuse for not kicking complete ass! Sure, this guy could have stayed homed collecting disability. That would be way too easy though. Instead, our hero becomes a hit man for the mob. Even that is not a tough enough assignment for him. So he takes on the mob directly.

The production values are poverty row but it doesn’t matter. Quentin Tarantino needs to remake this film as soon as possible. Both the film and Ron Slinker are headed straight for the GROIN hall of fame, and this hard-to-find film is a must-watch. Go, Mr. No Legs, go!

D.C. Cab is a Riot

Unlike today’s comedies which tend to be juvenile and mean-spirited, Joel Schumacher’s 1984 comedy “D.C. Cab” is genuinely funny and a quick-witted affair.  Although unheralded at the time, this flick about a struggling cab company has matured into comic gold.  Starring Mr. T, Gary Busey, Paul Rodriguez. and Adam Baldwin, this film has very little plot but nonstop madcap antics.  Although well-deserving of its R rating, the film is never sexist or disgusting.

Additionally, all the stars deserved better than they got; the film is much funnier than the current Will Ferrell comedy “The House,” for example.  In this film and the classic “Car Wash,” which he also wrote but did not direct, Schumacher displays a real skill for ethnic humor.  He knows that plot is unimportant but a quick pace and constant jokes are key.  Based on this film, it is borderline tragic that Mr. T. didn’t get better roles.  He is great here.  This film seems to lack the cult following it deserves, so we here at GROIN are putting it in our hall-of-fame as one of the greatest comedies of the 1980’s. We recommend renting it or buying the DVD today!

Phones That Kill

Imagine if you could be killed for answering the phone at the wrong time. Well, that’s what veteran director Michael Anderson (“Logan’s Run,” “Orca”) did and the result is “Murder by Phone,” a 1981 thriller so outlandish that I’m shocked it hasn’t been available since a 1982 VHS release. The idea is this: a disgruntled former phone company employee has found a deadly phone signal. First, you make the mistake of answering his call. Then, he pushes a button and the signal is transmitted. First, you go deaf from the signal. Then, your head fries. It all takes about 10 or 20 seconds.

Who can stop this maniac? Well, ecologist Richard Chamberlain (from “King Solomon’s Mines”) is on the case, while Academy Award winner John Houseman looks on. While not a well-known film, this film delivers great cheesy deaths and a rousing anti-corporate message. The strange electronic score is by John Barry. If you can find this movie, you will amaze your friends with this bizarre and entertaining film. After seeing this film, you will be very glad that everyone can now screen their calls. In short, “Murder by Phone” (aka “Bells”) dials the right number for terror.