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  VFW On The Defensive
Year: 2019
Director: Joe Begos
Stars: Stephen Lang, William Sadler, Fred Williamson, Martin Kove, David Patrick Kelly, George Wendt, Tom Williamson, Sierra McCormick, Travis Hammer, Dora Madison, Josh Ethier, Graham Skipper, Linea Wilson, Jesse Kove, Brandon Potter
Genre: Horror, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: There is a drug called hype on the streets of America that has laid waste to the inner cities, creating what the police describe as "war zones" there, where the devastation the narcotic has wrought has caused the complete collapse of society. But some folks who are not addicted still live there too, people like Fred Parras (Stephen Lang) who is a Vietnam War veteran; he runs a bar for his local squad of VFW - Veterans of Foreign Wars - at a special post in the heart of the city, where they can shoot the breeze now they don't need to shoot the enemy anymore. However, when Lizard (Sierra McCormick) escapes from the resident gang leader with his stash of hype, all hell breaks loose...

Director Joe Begos had been ploughing ahead with his forte of horror movies with an emphasis on grungy gore effects for a while before he made VFW, but this was more of a crowdpleaser than anything he had concocted previously, working from a screenplay by Max Brallier and Matthew McArdle rather than his own story. It was a conscious throwback to the nineteen-eighties - if you were in any doubt about that check out the physical effects he employed throughout, which offered a lived in tone to the proceedings - with a heavy dose of John Carpenter, rendering this essentially Assault on Precinct 13 amped up with the effects of The Thing, though this was not fantastical.

Well, the amount of bloody wounds and demises here certainly edged the film into the realm of the fantastical, but it was grounded in real world concerns where you could, at a pinch, credit it with a social conscience about the issues the drug problems in America - across the globe, really - were inflicting on communities. But actually this was more of an excuse to provide a bunch of ageing stars a chance to strut their stuff in an action flick context, kind of like how Sylvester Stallone had tried to revive some careers of his contemporaries in eighties efforts with his The Expendables franchise, though if anything, this lot were even more blessed with cult credentials than those other guys.

Lang took the leader role, but backing him up as veterans were faces action buffs of a certain vintage, or a certain point of interest, would be very happy to see, at least one of them in his eighties in age rather than era. He was, of course, Fred Williamson, still proving himself one of the biggest movie badasses around in his autumn years, and putting his younger co-stars to shame by owning the screen in a way that suggested you just had to get the camera rolling on this man and the years would drop away. He was even given (or perhaps insisted upon) an Al Pacino in Scarface moment when in a late on bit he inhaled a pack of the invented drug (a cross between PCP and cocaine, it appeared), all the better to "power up" for the final battle. Basically, the VFW post becomes a siege situation when the recently bereaved Lizard hides out there.

Also along for the ride were Martin Kove, his smartass act perfected a long while ago and remaining his strongest suit, playing a car salesman who decides negotiation is the way forward, William Sadler as Lang's right hand man who sadly was not given quite enough distinctive to work with, though he was better off than David Patrick Kelly who was seriously injured early on and never recovered, and George Wendt who was also the victim of an early exit. Tom Williamson was a younger, recently discharged soldier who happened to be in the post, who was presumably about the third of the age of the main cast, but they all made for a very decent unit to fight back against a very eighties-style crazed gang, indicating that script knew of which it spake when it came to its setpieces, of which there were plenty. Maybe there was not much else to VFW than the nostalgia and gruesome violence, and it was nothing groundbreaking, but sometimes that was all you needed. Carpenteresque music by Steve Moore.

[VFW is available on Digital Download now.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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