Friday, 1 June 2012

Mickey Hardt

Swiss martial artist Mickey Hardt had a better chance than most at becoming the next big action hero. He’d played the lead in a short-lived German series (“Der Puma” 1999-2000) in which his fights were coordinated by Donnie Yen and he’d played a vampire villain in a Hong Kong movie called The Twins Effect (2003) which featured a cameo by Jackie Chan.

For his first English language role, the Taekwondo practitioner was cast in a leading role as Muay-Thai kickboxer turned photographer Max Havoc (I assume the initials are similar intentionally) in what ambitious producer John Laing said “may well be the one of the most exciting martial arts franchises to come along in years”. It wasn’t. The first film, Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon (2004) seemed have a curse of its own.

Directed by Albert Pyun, but with some sequences by Isaac Florentine, Curse of the Dragon had about as much credibility and production value as you can get in a low budget genre film. While not being cinema quality, it featured several marketable names in supporting roles, an exotic Pacific Island location and a very credible stunt team.

Albert Pyun has worked with a lot of famous performers (Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Charlie Sheen) but his films invariably attract derision for one reason or another. Curse of the Dragon not only had a bad script and a pointless cameo by Carmen Electra, but resulted in a legal battle.

Unreleased until 2007, this film about bikini-clad girls pursued by Japanese assassins was apparently supposed to attract interest in Guam both as a resort and a filming location. It only attracted curiosity and ridicule.

Albert Pyun’s style can be plodding and self-indulgent, but when restrained his films can be enjoyably straight-forward in the same league as those of Jim Wynorski or Fred Olen Ray. Curse of the Dragon is like this. Though it looks like a TV movie at times, it’s a film that’s enjoyable even though deeply flawed.

The villains are cartoonish and the plot is threadbare and occasionally confusing but those are fairly typical characteristics. The real problem is that for every element of production value, there’s a counterpoint that demonstrates this is an exploitation film through and through.

The same piece of flashback footage used time and again, grainy stock footage (motorbikes, bustling cities, airport terminals), the fact that 85% of the film seems to take place in a hotel (the Outrigger) and that several scenes outside of it appear to have been shot on the same poorly decorated set. A bar, antique shop, the Grand Master’s lair and wherever the climax is supposed to be taking place all seem to be the same location.

Max is one of those heroes who trouble seems to follow around. He goes to Guam knowing that he’ll see his old trainer but from that point coincidences pile one on top of another. The trainer is now an antique dealer (another odd career change) who comes into possession of a stolen artifact (the jade dragon) and is killed, but not before selling it to desperate art dealer Jane Goody who needs money to put her sister through medical school.

Because of this she continually refuses to hand back the jade dragon (which looks like what it is, a cheap prop) and puts lives at risk, including Max’s. The story goes on and on making little sense, culminating in the obligatory showdown and rescue of a damsel-in-distress.

Curse of the Dragon is oddly less of a star vehicle for Hardt than one might expect. Love interest Jane (Polish-born model Joanna Krupa) seems to get as much screentime as he does and play a much more significant role in the story. She's a more important, if vapid character, that Max just helps out.

He attempts to negotiate peacefully with the villains, an order called The Black Dragons, led by David Carradine as the Grand Master (!), essentially a reprise of Bill from Kill Bill (2003/4), who we also see repeatedly in Max’s flashbacks. The Grand Master has a photograph of Max on his desk (!) which led me to wonder if he was his former manager, but this is never clear in the film.

Because of all the things that are strange, odd or infamous about the making of Curse of the Dragon, Mickey Hardt is lost in the mix. Overshadowed by the likes of Carradine and even Krupa. There’s an emphasis on his angst about taking an opponent’s life (flashback footage repeated ad nauseum) but that’s the beginning and the end of his character development. He’s clearly a skilled martial artist and has notable fight scenes with Johnny Nguyen and Arnold Chon and it's a shame this didn't lead on to better things.

Max was supposed to have a second adventure in Guam; speaking in an interview Hardt said of the sequel that “I’m going to be back in Guam” and how much he was looking forward to it. But after the legal debacle production was relocated to less exotic Canada, while the setting was changed to Washington. No bikini-clad girls this time. I can only assume that the producers were obligated to deliver the planned sequel and had to cut costs to do so.

Max Havoc: Ring of Fire (2006) was little more than a bland reworking of several plot elements from the first film. Once again Max was on a photographic assignment at a holiday resort and his camera is what leads him to meet someone who needs his help; in this case a homeless orphan who steals it ala Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992). He’s still haunted by the death of his opponent (we see the same footage just a couple of times though) and reluctant to deliver any fatal blows.

There are none of the interesting elements of the first film. Pyun had handed the reins over to experienced TV director Terry Ingram, the cast was starved of stars (there was only Dean Cain, Christina Cox, Rae Dawn Chong, Martin Kove and Linda Thorson) and the action sequences, while decent, are not to the same standard. The plot is more simplistic but less silly and the villains less extravagant. While there’s nothing laughable about Ring of Fire, there’s nothing engaging about it either.

While Curse of the Dragon is infamous, Ring of Fire is anonymous. Little seen and with good reason. Feeling even more like a TV movie than its predecessor. Ring of Fire had nothing distinctive about it. Even the fights, coordinated by Steve McMichael, lacked the impact of those by Jonathan Eusebio and J.J. Perry in the first. Max doesn’t have any decent opponents and Mickey Hardt fails to make much of an impression.

Hardt has had no other high profile English-language roles since the premature death of the Max Havoc “franchise”. It’s hard to find DVDs of anything besides the Twins Effect and Max Havoc films, but he has a long list of credits on the imdb. None appear to be leading roles.

Hardt will apparently be amongst the supporting cast of Til Schweiger’s upcoming self-directed action vehicle Schutzengel (Guardian Angel). But the fact that the 43-year-old is apparently credited only as False Police Officer does not sound promising.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Sachiin J Joshi

Filmed in countries such as Poland, Germany and Morocco, conspiracy thriller Azaan (2011) is a Bollywood blockbuster that wears its budget on its sleeve. What's interesting is that it doesn't star someone like Hrithik Roshan or Abhishek Bachchan. The backers of this globe-trotting action movie gambled on an unremarkable newcomer. Or did they?

Plenty of actors are plucked from obscurity to play action heroes, but it seems the only reason Sachiin J Joshi got to play badass counter terrorist soldier Azaan Khan is because his company made the film.  A vanity project, pure and simple.

How do we know this? Well, the banner above the title on the poster and at the start of the film states that the film was produced by JMJ Entertainment PVT LTD. After watching the film I made a quick visit to a search engine and found that this production company is a division of JMJ Group of which Sachiin is Vice-Chairman. His father Jagdish M. Joshi is Chairman and Sachin has sought to add further diversity to the family business's portfolio of interests.

In an outdated biography on the JMJ Group website it says that “Mr. Sachiin J. Joshi took up Feature Film production as a hobby. However, he has not pursued this line due to time constraints.” When he found the time he teamed with director Prashant Chadha to indulge his action hero fantasies (at least that is my perception).

Playing Azaan Khan, Joshi swings through glass windows like John McClane, drives fast cars like James Bond, fights and gets chased like Jason Bourne and mows down armies of opponents with machine guns like Rambo. At one point his character implausibly survives a car crash. He’s apparently unstoppable.

What he doesn’t get to do is deliver a lot of dialogue between the action scenes. The screenplay is crammed with exposition and most of the time it’s being directed at him. 

In a debut action flick (or even direct-to-DVD vehicles for Steven Seagal) it isn’t uncommon for the star to at times feel like a supporting player, but if the role is a strong one it doesn’t always matter. But it’s all very well being a man of action and few words but Joshi lacks any presence. He’s capable in the action scenes but lost in the dramatic ones, of which there are quite a few as Azaan is haunted by his past.

In addition to a lack of dialogue, Joshi wasn’t called upon to do any dancing either. Musical sequences are expected in Bollywood films but all we get in this film is South African model Candice Boucher (a genuine newcomer to acting) being encouraged to cavort before the camera in various locations as though on a photoshoot. Some may enjoy this but it’s out of place in the structure of the film. Boucher appears in ¼ of the film but is ostensibly the love interest.

I wasn’t convinced by Joshi’s attempts to launch himself as the next big Indian star but others seem to have been impressed. Following the release of the film, he picked up a Max Stardust Award for Most Promising Debut. I can’t help but wonder if that selection was influenced by the Joshi family’s status. Sachiin is well known in the business community and apparently close friends with Shah Rukh Khan; a brand ambassador for his XXX energy drink.

It’s also interesting to note that Azaan is not actually his acting debut. While the opening credits have “introducing” above Joshi’s name, this was not the first vehicle for his talents. His attempt to take Bollywood by storm followed several years after he apparently failed to impress Tollywood audiences with films such as Mounamelanoyi (Shyam Prasad, 2002), Ninu Choodaka Nenundalenu (R Srinivas, 2002) and Orey Pandu (SV Krishna Reddy, 2005).

Azaan is not a terrible film, but it’s such a vain folly that it reminded me of the imagined Taste the Golden Spray from The Big Hit (Che-Kirk Wong, 1998). That movie-within-the-movie (we never see any clips) was an inappropriate starring role for a wealthy businessman that had flopped badly. The film isn’t quite as ill-conceived and Joshi at least looks the part, but I’m sure it’s not the hit they’d have hoped for.

Like many Bollywood action films, Azaan (also known as Aazaan) is lacking in originality or innovation. Almost every action scene feels like it’s been cut and pasted from higher profile films. Perhaps the most obvious tip of the hat being the chase across Moroccan rooftops. That scene was shot in Tangiers just like a similar one in The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007); itself arguably influenced by a scene from The Living Daylights (John Glen, 1987).

Despite a large budget, it’s also not as glossy as other faux-Hollywood productions that it’s competing with. It was released around the same time as Shah Rukh Khan’s Don 2 (Farhan Akhtar, 2011), with which this shares a supporting actor (Alyy Khan) and a German stunt team (Action Concept). In comparison to that film, with its extremely high production values and star names, this is practically low budget. It’s also a much more comprehensible film with a very charismatic hero.

Joshi is clearly a man of ambition. An entrepreneur keen to make a name for himself in the film world as well as the business world. Viewing his performance in Azaan, and taking a handful of other staring roles into consideration, his movie star aspirations appear unrealistic but he seems to be a persistent man. I would not be surprised if this was not the last we heard of Sachiin J Joshi.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Michael Power

Product placement was taken to a whole new level in 2003, when a character used by Guinness to boost sales in Africa made his way from TV screens and billboards to starring in a 110 minute feature film.

So synonymous is model and actor Cleveland Mitchell with the role of Michael Power both on screen and off that not many people realise he's entirely fictional. Mitchell didn’t even get credited as an actor in his starring debut.

Filmed over three months in 40 locations in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa, Critical Assignment (2004) opens with the words “Michael Power in” and in the closing credits both character and performer share the same name to maintain the charade.

Of course Michael Power is not the only advertising character to get his own movie. Around the same time as Critical Assignment came out, Rowan Atkinson starred in Johnny English (Peter Howitt, 2003), based on a character created for a campaign to promote Barclaycard between 1991 and 1997. Created by marketing company Saatchi & Saatchi for Diageo, Guinness’s parent company, Power is a handsome, charming, crusading journalist of intentionally ambiguous origin. He’s usually seen dressed in cool black, fearlessly confronting injustice.

What distinguishes Critical Assignment, a British/African co-production, is the fact that it was directly connected to an advertising campaign. Johnny English was called Richard Latham in the 17 ads in which he appeared and didn’t use a Barclaycard in the film. But Michael Power stops every once in a while to enjoy some Guinness with friends (specifically at the 14, 30, 63 & 98 minute points).

Bill Britt reported on the film for Advertising Age and quoted executive producer Celia Couchman, responsible for the original ad campaign, as saying "Product placement only occurs where it's right for the story." Surprisingly, it's not as in your face as in the James Bond films it's clearly inspired by.

The BBC, who broadcast the film in 2008 (it’s never been properly released in the UK), observed when reporting on the premiere that while there is some topical subject matter it sometimes seems “like a promotional film for the African tourist board - a montage of bustling city streets, colourful market scenes, wildlife and culture. Our hero even finds time to go on safari.”

Stripped of the context of an iconic advertising campaign, it is Africa and not Guinness that viewers outside of Africa think of when the film is over.More prominent than the product placement is a message about the desperate need for clean drinking water in Africa. This is an example of Diageo’s “corporate social responsibility” in action and the sentiment is reinforced by a closing message from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). But while director Jason Xenopoulos’s film is attractive and stylish, just like Power himself it's all surface, no real depth.

There’s a lot that’s interesting about Critical Assignment but it’s not a great film. The convoluted plot is uninvolving and at times feels more like a TV movie than the blockbuster action film with a conscience it clearly wants to be.

The journey to expose corruption is a long and familiar one and the film is very light on action. Power gets involved in a foot chase across a rooftop and later borrows a motorcycle to pursue a kidnapper, a chase in which a Guinness truck plays a small but important role, but most of the time he goes from one place to another and smiles a lot. It’s no On Deadly Ground (Steven Seagal, 2004).

Beyond playing the role of Michael Power, Cleveland Mitchell has remained anonymous to international audiences. Although he worked with director Xenopoulos again in the ambitious London under water drama Flood (2008), it was in the insubstantial role of “Armed Policeman” and it would seem even bit parts have not been coming his way since.

As for Michael Power, he seems to have retired.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Billy Ray Cyrus

Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus became an international star when his “Achy Breaky Heart” captured the zeitgeist in 1992 and began to pursue an acting career a few years later.

Now best known as the father of Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray made his starring debut alongside Dedee Pfeiffer (best known as the sister of Michelle) in the independently made Radical Jack in 2000.

He's unrecognisable when his character is introduced, sitting at a bar, unshaven in a bandana, sunglasses and dirty jeans. But after a brief scuffle, a pointless chase and a little exposition, he's tidied himself up again and headed undercover in a small town, working as a bar tender in order to track down the man who killed his family.

Cyrus has surprisingly few scenes in his leading role as CIA agent Jack Reynolds (codename: Radical) and not a great deal of dialogue in the film as a whole. While he’s supposed to be the hero it appears the makers were not inclined to burden him too greatly in his first starring role. The majority of the acting is left to Pfeiffer, whose sub-plot is completely unnecessary. At one point he’s beaten up and spends a significant portion of the film in bed waiting for Pfeiffer to throw herself at him.

Written and directed by James Allen Bradley, Radical Jack is little more than a cheap rip-off of the Steven Seagal movie Fire Down Below (Félix Enríquez Alcalá, 1997). In that film country singers (Kris Kristofferson and Randy Travis) were the villains and the action scenes were decent, but the most interesting difference to note is that while Seagal contributed to the soundtrack of that film, not one song by Cyrus is played in Radical Jack.

There are some classically bad B-movie moments but none of them involve Cryus or action choreography. There’s the moment where Pfeiffer’s character is introduced as a naked silhouette through a window before cutting to some very slight nudity.

But the funniest part is when Mark 'Woody' Keppel as corrupt Sheriff Neil threatens the hot wife (Orly Tepper) of one his deputies. Showing not the slightest fear for her life or concern for her husband, the young woman offers to sleep with Sheriff but after he’s done with her the bastard shoots her anyway. Keppel appears so miscast in his villainous role that it’s no surprise to discover he’s a gurning vaudeville performer known as Mr Woodhead.

Cyrus isn’t a bad brawler but Jack wasn't much of an action hero; Pfeiffer kills more people than he does! clearly wasn’t destined to be a movie star. The fact David Lynch gave him a role in Mulholland Drive (2001) probably says more about Lynch’s absurdist sensibilities than it does Cyrus’ acting talent, but he did star in a moderately successful TV show. It was called “Doc” and cast Cyrus as a Christian country doctor who relocates to the big city (Toronta doubling as New York) and ran from 2001 to 2004 (totaling 88 episodes).

Since the release of Radical Jack Cyrus has largely been a stranger to the action genre. But, perhaps due to his familiarity with fans of the Hanna Montana franchise (in which he’s appeared in alongside his daughter since 2006) he was cast in the kid-friendly action film The Spy Next Door (Brian Levant, 2010) alongside Jackie Chan. He received a Razzie award nomination for his performance.

Footnote: Look out for Radical Jack producer David Giancola’s Craptastic!. The documentary chronicles the making of his disastrous 2007 sci-fi comedy Illegal Aliens, the last film to star the infamous Anna Nicole Smith.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Han Soo Ong

After years cast as villains and anonymous opponents for white heroes, skilled martial artist Han Soo Ong got his first starring role. He followed in the footsteps of Sonny Chiba and shared the screen with Roddy Piper in Last to Surrender (1999).

In the decade that preceeded his first and only starring role, Ong could be seen in bit parts of both big and small budget films. His career often followed Jean-Claude Van Damme’s; his first role was as “Tong Po Opponent” in Kickboxer (1989), a few years later he had an uncredited appearance in the flop Street Fighter (1994) and then he was in The Quest (1996) too. He even co-starred and fought with Van Damme-alike Daniel Bernhardt in Bloodsport 2 (1996).

Ong had begun his career in Thailand, according to a review of Last to Surrender in an old issue of Impact magazine, he was a fitness instructor at a Bangkok hotel and won his first speaking role, in King of the Kickboxers (1990) because it was noticed he had a grasp of English. These small roles eventually led to a showdown with Bruce Lee, or rather Jason Scott Lee, playing the role in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993). The two square off in a fantastically memorable sequence.

Last to Surrender (1999) cast Ong as Wu Yin, a character with no dialogue for the first 20 minutes and even from then on words are sparse. He and Piper play two law enforcers, one a brash, unkempt American (played by a Canadian), the other a smartly dressed and quiet Chinese guy, form an uneasy alliance in order to take down a one-dimensional villain in Burma (actually Indonesia).

Though he shares top billing, Ong is mostly just playing second fiddle to Piper. The film is a combination of Red Heat (1988) and Rush Hour (1998), but whereas Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan could hold their own against the mouthy James Belushi and Chris Tucker respectively, Ong was no match for Piper’s charisma and well delivered one-liners and never emerged from his shadow.

Cast purely to add some martial arts amongst the usual car chases, shoot outs and explosions, Ong only gets to show off his martial arts skills in a couple of mediocre fight scenes. He doesn’t have much to do and spends much of the last act in captivity waiting to be rescued before the climactic showdown.

Following The Killing Machine (1995) with Jeff Wincott, Mask of Death (1996) with Lorenzo Lamas, Last to Surrender was the last of three consecutive action pictures from David Mitchell. Not to be confused with the British comedian, he’s a B-movie director with a penchant for snowy comedies such as Copper Mountain (1983), Ski School 2 (1994), Downhill Wille (1995), Shred (2008) and Revenge of the Boarding School Dropouts (2009).

The film was apparently plagued with production problems. According to the imdb “A traffic accident caused three trucks carrying film equipment to flip over and almost fall off a cliff, a legitimate anti-government riot halted the filming of the city harbor scene, a flash flood in the jungle destroyed a military encampment set, and a plane filming aerial footage crashed into the jungle, resulting in the death of the pilot.” Although according to an article on the film by Dianne Naughton in a magazine called Hong Kong Action, the pilot survived but spent some time in a hospital in Singapore.

Last to Surrender is low on budget and thin on plot, but it’s not light on action. Running a fairly standard 95 minutes, it’s an enjoyable jungle romp and one of the last decent vehicles for Roddy Piper. Sadly because Han Soo Ong didn’t make much of an impression his Hollywood career seemed to hit a dead end. Surprisingly, he then disappeared from screens entirely. There is not a single imdb credit beyond 1999. If anyone knows what happened to him, please leave a comment below.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Dennis Rodman

Back in the 1990s, after producing vehicles for Jean-Claude Van Damme almost exclusively, the prolific Moshe Diamant was charged with turning a flamboyant 6' 6" basketball player into the next action hero. But while Dennis Rodman’s attitude, style and charisma have made him infamous it didn’t attract much attention at the box office.

Diamant is the Israeli producer behind some of Van Damme’s biggest hits and the man who introduced three of Hong King’s most famous action directors (John Woo, Ringo Lam & Tsui Hark) to Hollywood. His last collaboration with one of Hong Kong’s finest was Double Team (1997), a wild spy movie that pitted Van Damme against Mickey Rourke as a terrorist called Stavros.

Though primarily a vehicle for Van Damme, the casting of Dennis Rodman in a “buddy” role was key to the marketing of Double Team. That the title itself was a basketball term indicated this and the bold colour palate for the film seemed inspired by Rodman’s unique fashion sense.

Those unfamiliar with Rodman, anyone outside the USA, were introduced to the sportsman as an arms dealer called Yaz. Bringing his real life bad boy persona to the screen, complete with loud tight clothing, constantly changing hair colour and collection of tattoos and piercings.

Yaz appears throughout the film to assist Jean-Claude Van Damme’s secret agent. He has no importance to the plot, he’s just there to be Dennis Rodman.

Double Team flopped but the studio behind its release, Columbia Pictures, seemed confident that Rodman was the next big thing. He was given Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Supporting Actor (Rodman) and Worst New Star along with Worst Screen Couple (with Van Damme), but the studio ignored that. A Double Team sequel called Double Trouble was mooted but never materialised, however Simon Sez (1999) shares enough in common with Hark’s film that it’s not hard to guess that the script was adapted into a standalone adventure.

Shot in the South of France, Simon Sez was made for significantly less money than Double Team and there was no visionary at the helm. Screenwriter Kevin Elders made his directorial debut and Rodman was the only star, although he was surrounded by a vast number of supporting actors.

To ease the burden of carrying a film, Rodman's co-stars included not one but three comedy side-kicks (the main one is Dane Cook), a love interest, villain and a pair playing a young couple caught up in the mayhem.

Simon Sez was a major box office flop, grossing only $292,152 domestically, significantly less than the $11,438,337 taken by Double Team. But while it’s ranked as one of the worst films, it’s a personal favourite. A major reason for this is Xin Xin Xiong.

After his supporting role in Double Team, Xin Xin again appeared as a highly-skilled henchmen but was also action director. An experienced stunt choreographer, Xin Xin’s skills compensated significantly for the convoluted plot and time-wasting comedic scenes. When the action kicks in it’s a lot of fun.

Notable as one of the first American films to use wirework, it was released prior to The Matrix (1999) and, with its unconventional hero, was something of a forerunner to the extreme sports actioner XXX (2002). It’s failure meant that Rodman’s acting career stalled. A handful of subsequent roles have included Cutaway (2000), which featured Tom Berenger miscast as a cool skydiver called Red Line, and The Minis (2008), a which saw him playing basketball with dwarfs.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Til Schweiger

Though he’s not made a career as a leading man in action cinema, Tilman Valentin "Til" Schweiger is undoubtedly one of the most successful German actors of his generation. Moving between low-budget German films (several of which he has also directed) and Hollywood blockbusters.

Schweiger’s diverse and charismatic, recognisable from Antoine Fuqua’s The Replacement Killers (1998) and King Arthur (2004), not to mention Renny Harlin’s Driven (2001) and many others.

Most notably a member of Quentin Tarantino’s team of Inglourious Basterds in 2009, Schweiger made his debut as an action hero in 2007’s Body Armour. An extremely international co-production shot in Barcelona, the film was a decent low-budget stab at imitating Hollywood action fare.

Released under the title Der Bodyguard in Germany, this British, American, Australian, German and Spanish co-production echoes the likes of Back to Back (1996), The Chain (1996) and Fatal Blade (2001) in its good guy-bad guy buddy formula.

Schweiger plays John Ridley, a retired bodyguard lured back into action to protect the very man he despises, an assassin played by Chazz Palminteri. Borrowing elements from The Transporter (2002), Michael Bay’s The Rock (1996) and John Woo movies, Gerry Lively’s film feels a little too much like a TV movie but is good fun.

Apparently playing an American, Schweiger never convinces because he can’t disguise his distinct accent, but has a strong presence reminiscent of that of Michael Rooker or Robert Patrick. He also has a fun face-off with Khan Bonfils that provides a nice climax to the story.

Chazz Palminteri’s probably the only American in this faux-American production but it’s one of those films that’s all the more endearing for its often lazy efforts at deception.

Body Armour didn’t have much impact in the film world, but Schweiger next turn as an action hero certainly would. Cast as Jack Carver in the feature adaptation of the hit videogame Far Cry, Schweiger was once again the star of a faux-Hollywood movie, this time under the much more experienced guidance of the infamous Uwe Boll.

A Canadian-German co-production, Boll cast Germans in several key roles. Schweiger was joined by the legendary Udo Kier and the mighty Ralf Moeller in a straightforward adaptation of the plot of the game from 2004 that offered Boll the chance to step on the toes of the much more successful German filmmaker Roland Emmerich.

Boll’s film echoes Universal Soldier (1992), in which Moeller had played one of the undead supersoldiers commanded Dolph Lundgren, by teaming its hero up with a female reporter (that most well-worn of clichés). Later, when the love interest needs rescuing, he shares scenes with an awful comedy side-kick, something none of the Universal Soldier films had. Thankfully.

Far Cry is no match for any of the Universal Soldier movies starring Jean-Claude Van Damme (it’s definitely better than the two dire TV movies though) but it’s a better than average Boll. The simple plot allows a lot of room for action with boat captain Carver employing his German special forces training to help our heroine once we get past the 30 minute mark. The last half hour is particularly action-packed.

Schweiger has the help of an obvious stunt double for his more physical moments but certainly looks the part. As in Body Armour he's confident handling weapons and his permanently stern expression would suggest he was born to be an action star.

That said, no action hero roles appear to be in his immediate future. On the contrary, Schweiger looks to be more anonymous in 2012. According to the imdb he'll be playing two characters known only as "FBI agent" in This Means War (starring Chris Pine and Tom Hardy) and The Courier (starring Mickey Rourke and Jeffrey Dean Morgan).