Thursday, 22 April 2010

Jorgo Ognenovski

When people talk about good/bad movies they’re talking about films like Warrior of Justice (1995), the starring debut of wannabe action hero Jorgo Ognenovski.

Almost certainly in the same league as Ed Wood’s “classics” Glen or Glenda (1953) and Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), it’s awesome for all the wrong reasons and it’s no surprise that Ognenovski failed in his bid to become the Macedonian Jean-Claude Van Damme.

In that most cliché of roles, he plays a Karate instructor called George Pendovsky who investigates the mysterious disappearance of one of his pupils. Of course he finds out it’s all to do with death matches organised for the amusement of wealthy and decadent spectators and he goes on a lone mission for justice.

Seeking the help of his own Sensei, called Doug, George intensifies his training (cue montage) and arms himself with a crossbow to turn vigilante and make an assault on the villain’s lair in the final act.

They don’t make them like this anymore, there’s a villain with an eye-patch, gratuitous nudity, a “love scene” played out against a cheesy ballad and a soundtrack of synthesizers and wailing guitars.

Also known as Invitation To Die and The Steel Ring, Warrior of Justice was co-written and co-directed by Ognenovski and has all the hallmarks of a vanity project. Not only does the star take his shirt off on several occasions but his pants too; his misguided sense of confidence evident as much in his “love” scenes as his fights.

From the opening credits in which Ognenovski demonstrates his moves against a black background to the training montage, Warrior of Justice sticks rigidly to the conventions of the genre. No cliché is left untouched. The fight choreography by Bill Ruysaki (the spelling on imdb is Ryusaki) and Ognenovski himself is routine at best, generally like watching rehearsal footage rather than convincing confrontations. But such an accusation can be weighed against many other low-budget action movies and it’s not Ognenovski’s lack of screen presence that makes this such a hoot.

The weakest part of the movie is not its fight choreography but it’s soundtrack. A significant amount of dialogue is inaudible and when you can hear it’s often terribly written. The score is also intrusive, with sound levels rising and falling throughout. It's formulaic, sleazy and often incoherent.

Much unintentional humour comes from the terrible script, but there’s plenty of amusement to be found elsewhere too. Richard Lynch is miscast as martial arts master Doug and villain Jorge Rivero has a two-minute “foreplay” scene that’s completely pointless.

But it’s Ognenovski who’s on screen for the best/worst moments. The most memorable being a) when he shakes his fist when a child is hurt, b) strips naked and wriths away on top of his female co-star in a dojo, c) exchanges his deadly crossbow for a garden rake during the climax and d) has a poorly staged climactic swordfight with Rivero.

Ognenovski has two other obscure credits as director and actor, Stalked (2000) and Black Hole (2002), but it’s hard to imagine that either of those titles would bring as much joy as this.

To buy a copy of this film click here.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Colin Egglesfield

Quite how model turned actor Colin Egglesfield wound up cast as the lead in a kung fu vampire flick is a mystery to me.

Though a recognized US TV star, did the producers of Vampires: The Turning (2005) think fans of soap All My Children would flock to see an action-packed horror movie?

Egglesfield looks a bit like Tom Cruise and apparently trains in martial arts, but when you watch the movie the casting choice seems unusual, but then so is the film.

Shot in Thailand, it’s the second sequel to the underwhelming John Carpenter movie Vampires (1998) but it’s hard to believe as it shares so little in common with its two predecessors.

Vampires and its sequel, Vampires: Los Muertos (2002), were about teams of Vatican-financed vampire hunters, led by James Woods and Jon Bon Jovi respectively. This threequel is completely different thematically, the slayers are little seen, there’s a different vampire mythology and wire-fu action scenes aplenty.

You get the impression that D.B. Farmer and Andy Hurst’s script was initially completely unrelated to its predecessors and lazily tailored to suit this wannabe franchise.

The slayers, similar to those that appeared in the first two films but now led by Belgian Patrick Bachau’s Raines, are relegated to supporting roles and the lead is an outsider played by Egglesfield. Fearlessly tracking down the bad guy who’s kidnapped his girlfriend, he finds himself in the middle of a war between good and evil vampires.

We first meet Egglesfield’s character Conner at a kickboxing match. He tells us, via some heavy-handed expository dialogue with his on-screen girlfriend, that he’s “studied and trained Muay-Thai since I was a kid” and before you know it she’s been kidnapped and he spends the rest of the film trying to rescue her.

Low budget but notable for production design and cinematography that’s heavy on shades of red, The Turning is an unremarkable action movie and a lame sequel. Acrobatic, bike riding vampires enliven proceedings on occasion but for the most part it’s slowly paced and takes itself far too seriously. Egglesfield spends the majority of the film looking bewildered but handles himself well during the action scenes with the villains with the claws and contact lenses, though he has some help from stunt doubles Dean Alexandrou and Kawee Sirikhanaerut, also the film’s stunt coordinator.

Egglesfield was never destined to be an action star. After starring in Marty Weiss’s film he continued to build a following on daytime TV before briefly moving to prime time in the resurrected drama Melrose Place. However his character was axed after 13 episodes.

With no other significant projects on the horizon, according to imdb, Egglesfield is likely to be keeping himself busy with auditions and the running of his clothing company Shout Out!. The T-shirt company is “based on the concept of customizable, interactive apparel and accessories that facilitate and promote creativity and self expression.” Which is a fancy way of saying T-shirts that you can stick Velcro letters on.