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The Hunt For Red October (1990).

The third review in our Cold War trilogy couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.  Unfortunately, a few days ago, at age 66, author Tom Clancy passed away due to a massive heart attack.  By 66 he had written the Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, the Sum of all Fears and others.  Each book was made into a commercially successful film.  Prior to writing The Hunt for Red October, Clancy apparently sold insurance.  Well that was one hell of a first novel, being made into a block buster movie within a couple of years after publication and having a strong cast.

 

It is also interesting to note that the mutiny portrayed on the Red October was actually based on the mutiny of a Soviet frigate led by the ship’s political commissar, Captain of the Third Rank Valery Sablin, who wished to protest against the rampant corruption of the Leonid Brezhnev era.  Though his aim was to seize the ship and steer it out of the Bay of Riga, to Leningrad and broadcast a nationwide address to the people, not turn the ship over to the enemy.  In the planned address, Sablin was going to say what he believed people publicly wanted to say, but could only be said in private: that communism and the motherland were in danger; the ruling authorities were hip deep in corruption, demagoguery, graft, and lies, leading the country into an abyss; true communism had been discarded; and there was a need to revive the Leninist principles of “justice.”  So while defection was not the ultimate goal of this mutineer, it was the genesis of the Hunt for Red October story.

 

Back to Red October: in the film Sean Connery plays the Russian Captain Marko Ramius, Sam Neill his executive officer, Alec Baldwin portrays CIA analyst Jack Ryan, James Earl Jones the well-respected Admiral Greere, Fred Thompson the commander of an aircraft carrier fleet and Scott Glen Commander Bart Mancuso, Commanding Officer of the USS Dallas.  This is a pretty heavy cast for a first time novel turned movie—and it is well done I must say.

The movie starts a cold dreary port somewhere in northern Russia with Connery speaking to his executive officer (in Russian) Sam Neill about how cold it is and orders the ship to move on its way to start its mission.  What no one but Soviet officials know is that this particular sub uses a new form of propulsion that is virtually undetectable by conventional sonar means.  It is sort of described as the jet engine of the submarine world.  Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) is called to his boss’ office (James Earls Jones as Admiral Greer) rather quickly as new photographs of the sub had been obtained showing unusual ports alongside of the sub.  Ryan goes out on a limb and suggests that these photographs are evidence of a new propulsion system that would permit the sub to slip through all the US and NATO safeguards tracking traditional submarines.  Alarmed by this potential weakness in US defenses, Greer arranges for an immediate briefing with the President’s national security advisor.  Ryan gives the briefing but isn’t told until the last minute.  After his summation to the powers that be, an NSA representative reveals that a phone call was made from a Russian Admiral (Ramius’ uncle) which resulted in the immediate dispatch of the entire Soviet Northern naval fleet with orders to pursue and hunt down The Red October.

Virtually all military personnel at the meeting immediately conclude that Ramius is a madman loose with 23 nuclear missiles in an undetectable submarine heading towards the coast of the United States.  After a few minutes of deep thinking, Ryan starts laughing and claims “the son of a bitch is going to defect!”

Everyone in the room dismisses his comments, except for the national security advisor who says that he’s “a politician and when he’s not kissing babies he’s stealing their lollipops, but it also means he keeps his options open” and lets Jack explore the possibility of this Soviet defection.

 

While en route to the United States Ramius tells his men that in order to motivate them, much like Cortez did when he had his men burn his ships upon landing, he sent a letter to the powers that be that they intended to defect with the ship.  Soon Soviet forces are dropping sonar buoys, torpedoes and other weapons at the Red October, scaring the crew who are unaware of his plans and begin to think something is very very wrong.

 

Ramius’ concerns are not the Soviets though but the Americans.  He is afraid that if they encounter some “buckaroo” a/k/a cowboy all will be lost.  Enter Jack Ryan, who is convinced that Ramius is ready to defect, the only problem is that the Capitan Bart Mancuso, Commanding Officer of the USS Dallas has already received his orders to destroy the Red October.  Ryan convinves him that he knows Ramius so well that he predicted which way the Red October would pull a “crazy Ivan” to clear its baffles.  Mancuso then ups his periscope to communicate with Ramius directly, but is worried that his Morse code is so rusty that he might be transmitting the “[playboy] playmate of the month’s measurements.” Stunned that the Americans have guessed his plan to defect, both subs move towards a very deep part of the ocean where no wreckage could be found in case they have to fake the Red October’s destruction.

 

There is one wrinkle; that is, one of Ramius’s former students Tupolev has been hot on his tail and begins to torpedo the Red October.  After missing his first chance because the safety mechanisms were on, his second shot is with torpedoes with no safeties.  Enter USS Dallas that in a daring move is somehow able to divert the torpedoes into chasing it rather than the Red October and circles around ultimately leading the torpedoes back to their original shooter and destroying the ship.

 

The game is not over yet though as there is a KGB agent on board disguised as a cook’s assistant who is trying to hotwire one of the nuclear missiles to destroy the Red October before she falls into enemy hands.  Ryan is sent in to kill him but not before Ramius delivers a great line warning him to be careful what he shoots at because there are nuclear missiles in there.  Naturally Ryan takes care of business and fools the Russians into thinking that the Red October has been destroyed.

 

Yes I know this has been a long review, but this is an action packed thriller.  Its great cast and the film’s central fear of superpowers engaging in nuclear war, while seemingly quaint in light of today’s more insidious terrorist threats, has added resonance given recent revelations about the USSR’s Cold War designs to annihilate us.  Politics aside, however, The Hunt for Red October is a thrilling edge-of-your-seat trifle that has admirably withstood the test of time.  The film personifies the very real fears of the cold war era, but places itself outside of the dour the Spy Who Came in From Out of the Cold and the somewhat campy Ice Station Zebra.  Proof of its resilience is seen in a 96% Rotten Tomato’s rating and the film that in my opinion all future Clancy novels-turned movies are judged against.

 

This film makes for excellent comfort viewing, hearkening back to an era when all that was American was right and just, Reagan was the father we could look up to, and only a Communist would dare question the inherent gift that God had given to America to rule the earth.  All cinema has its agenda, and this film made little secret of it.  The Cold War must go on, and justify those enormous ‘defense’ budgets, promote the ideology of the good guy.  Though the Bush revolution has had its share of films attempting to pick up where this tradition had left off, they were largely miserable failures, insufficiently blinded by ideology. The days of the 80′s action hero are quite dead.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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How cold could the cold war get? Pretty cold: Ice Station Zebra (1968)

You may ask JPFmovies “Why Ice Station Zebra” as a choice for one of the cold war trilogies?  Our interest in the film stems more from the movies biggest fan that the film itself: the one time wealthiest man in the world Howard Hughes.  The Reclusive billionaire (and this is in the 1970’s) Hughes, had experience both as a movie producer and a defense contractor for the United States, watched a private print of Ice Station Zebra 150 times on a continuous loop in his private hotel suite during the years prior to his death.  The film is the epitome of cold-war era espionage films it stared Rock Hudson, Patrick McGoohan, Ernest Borgnine, and NFL legend Jim Brown.  The films screenplay is loosely based upon 1963 novel of the same name that has roots to in real events that apparently took place in 1959.

As was typical in the cold war, NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations were in a race for something: a satellite and ejected a capsule which parachuted to the Arctic Ocean ice pack.

Leading the race for the U.S. was Commander James Ferraday (Rock Hudson), captain of the U.S. nuclear attack submarine USS Tigerfish (SSN-509), stationed at Holy Loch, Scotland.  He is ordered to rescue the personnel at Ice Station Zebra, a British civilian scientific weather station moving with the ice pack.  However, the mission is actually a cover for a highly classified assignment.  As he soon discovers a secretive Mr. “Jones” (Patrick McGoohan) and a platoon of U.S. Marines are aboard his boat.  While underway, a helicopter delivers combat Commander Captain Anders (Jim Brown), who takes over the Marines, and Boris Vaslov (Ernest Borgnine), an amiable Russian defector and spy, who is a trusted colleague of Jones.

The Tigerfish makes its way under the ice to Zebra’s last-known position.  But the ice is too thick so they decide to use a torpedo to blast an opening.  It really doesn’t work out too well as the crewmen suddenly find the torpedo tube is open at both ends, killing one crewman and sending the sub sinking until its breaking point.  While the sub recovers, and investigation determines that this malfunction should be impossible but Jones describes how someone could intentionally rig the tube to malfunction.  The Capitan and his mysterious passenger Jones each conclude there is a saboteur aboard.  Then the sub finds a patch of ice that is thin enough to break through and boat surfaces.

The team approaches the camp to look for survivors, but it is clear the Jones and his fellow spy are not too concerned with the people but are desperately looking for something.  Ferraday is nobody’s fool and demands that he give him the full story.  So Jones fesses up that Britain’s, America’s and the Russian German scientists stolen after the war created a an advanced experimental British camera was stolen by the Soviets, along with an enhanced film emulsion developed by the Americans. The Soviets combined the two and sent it into orbit to photograph the locations of the all the American missile bases.  However, the camera malfunctioned and continued to record Soviet missile sites as well and then a second malfunction forced re-entry in the Arctic, close to Ice Station Zebra.  Soon after, undercover Soviet and British agents arrived to recover the film capsule, and the civilian scientists at Zebra were caught in the crossfire between them.

As the weather clears, Ferraday sets his crew to searching for the capsule. Jones eventually finds a hidden tracking device.  He is blind-sided and knocked unconscious by Vaslov, who is a Soviet agent and the saboteur they have been looking for.  But before Vaslov can make off with his prize, he is confronted by Anders.  As the two men fight, a dazed Jones shoots and kills Captain Anders due to Vaslov’s manipulation of the scenario.

Hot on their heels are Soviet aircraft heading toward Zebra.  Ferraday and his men find the capsule buried in the ice.  While Ferraday’s crew extracts the capsule, Russian paratroopers land at the scene and their commander, Colonel Ostrovsky, demands the capsule.  Believing that the Americans have already secured the canister, the Russian commander threatens to activate the self-destruct mechanism with his radio-detonator.  Ferraday stalls while Vaslov defuses the booby-trapped capsule and takes out the film. Ferraday hands over the empty container, but the deception is revealed and a brief firefight breaks out.  In the confusion, Vaslov makes a break with the film canister.  Jones stops Vaslov, mortally wounds him, and retrieves the film.

Ferraday orders Jones to hand the film over to the Soviets. However, Ferraday had earlier found a radio-detonator identical to Ostrovsky’s.  The Russians send the canister aloft by balloon for recovery by an approaching jet fighter.  Marine lieutenant Walker makes a desperate attempt to get Ostrovsky’s detonator, but fails and is killed.  Commander Ferraday then activates his detonator, destroying the film.  Both sides leave the area under the pretense that everyone was there to rescue the civilians.

Ice Station Zebra was released on October 23, 1968. The film became a major hit, which gave a much-needed boost to Rock Hudson’s flagging career.

Why does it provide an example of the cold war era?  Simple, once again the two sides are stuck in a stalemate as they both wanted the film that revealed secrets about the other but while on the brink of war, each side actually ends up with nothing.  This was the reality of the cold war: two sides teetering on the brink of conflict but neither one getting the better of the other.  Those of you too young to experience the cold war will never know the feeling of always having to look over your shoulder to see if the enemy was there.

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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Our guest reviewer and ex-military man TV look at Lord of War (2005).

Lord of War (2005) is written, produced and directed by Andrew Niccol, co-produced by and starring Nicolas Cage.  It loosely follows the life and exploits of Viktor Bout (to see Bout’s personal website go to http://www.victorbout.com).  Nicholas Cage plays a somewhat fictionalized Bout, by the name of Yuri Orlov.  Both men are of Ukrainian decent, though the movie does take poetic liberties and outright fictionalizes elements of the Viktor Bout Story (Merchant of Death).  The movie is an exceptional tour de force in revisiting the history of gun running in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

The Movie is essentially broken down into five parts.

1. Young Yuri Orlov’s First Sale

2. Pre-Cold War Gun Running

3. Post-Cold War Running

4. Monrovia

5. Consequences—or lack thereof

Lord of War opens in Brighton Beach New York.  There our young immigrant Yuri Orlov works at the family restaurant.  He goes across to the Palace Restaurant, where Yuri strangely finds his calling as a gun runner while caught as a bystander during a Russian Mob hit.

Soon after Orlov near “hit” experience he begins supplying local hoods with run of the mill Uzi sub machine guns.  Dispirited that the profit margins are too low, he engages his younger brother Vitali as a partner, “Brothers in Arms” seems to be their motto.  Orlov begins selling small arms to Columbian Narco Guerillas, elements of the Druise Christian Militia in Lebanon and the Afghan Mujhahadeen (later known as the Taliban).  During these sales his brother Vitali develops an addiction to cocaine.  The addiction is so blatant that he finds Vitali making a map of the Ukraine with lines of cocaine that he soon snorts.  A new, yet controversial form of cartography.

Once Vitali is in rehab, Orlov recognizes he is not entirely free of the grip of addiction himself as he gazes upon a larger than life ad of his longtime dream girl Ava Fontaine.  Initially, despite her suspicions, Orlov successfully manipulates Ava into believing he is in the global air freight business (not really a lie he just does not mention what the freight is).  Unfortunately, the plot could have been made far better by the addition of the few delete scenes depicting Ava as a U.N. Human Rights model, strictly opposed to the spread of firearms.  Naturally after the consummation of the marriage the Soviet Union collapses opening a torrent of arms sales, unprecedented absent global world war.

Starting with the fall of the USSR, the movie begins to match the real exploits of the Viktor Bout.  Bout, previous to his trial and conviction at the United States District Court Southern District of New York in 2011, had not resided in New York or the U.S.  However, both men did expand the bulk of their operations into Africa selling weapons.  Viktor Bout began selling weapons in Angola then in Sierra Leone.  The movie focuses on Yuri Orlov’s sales to a fictitious “Monrovia” (probably a country like Sierra Leone or the Sudan) led by Andre Baptiste Sr. and his son Andre Baptiste Jr., both are cannibals who believe that eating the heart of their enemies will somehow empower them.

The movie reaches its long climax when the President of Monrovia visits The Lord of War (Orlov) at this New York apartment, because Orlov is unable to run guns due to a pending Interpol investigation and troubles with the wife.  By then Yuri Orlov had been persuaded to eliminate the same competition.

Not being able to say no to significantly increased profit margins our The Lord of War reengages his former client and returns to his station as his main weapons supplier.  The move would prove costly as it was profitable.  In the long run, Orlov’s brother is killed in a (stupidly) failed attempt to thwart a massacre with the very arms Orlov is selling.  Thereafter his own wife rats him out to the authorities, then leaves him for good.  His family disowns him.  The trade, however, must go on.

The movie works for a number of different reasons.  It is well written and well edited.  Nicholas Cage, who does take just about any work throw his way, is tailor made for the role as an amoral antihero with a good mind for business, but no moral compass to guide him.  The supporting cast does a superb job.

Ethan Hawke as Jack Valentine, the incorruptible Interpol agent is the very opposite of Orlov and gives the movie depth and balance.

Jared Leto as Vitaly Orlov, the hapless party animal with a moral compass, but with a more compelling addiction to drugs, alcohol and high end call girls

Bridget Moynahan as Ava Fontaine, the trophy wife and U.N. model is a good contrasting role as well.

Eamonn Walker as André Baptiste Sr. who plays the perfect third world dictator and Sammi Rotibi as André Baptiste, Jr. both are as genuine a portrayal of the Charles Taylor type of dictators who continue to wage wars of completely indiscriminate violence to the day.

Ian Holm as Simeon Weisz, who cautions Yuri Orlov to seek order and balance and to pick sides and is ultimately murdered in the chaos that the Old Guard feared.

Donald Sutherland (voice only) as Colonel Oliver Southern- is a great bit actor, playing the black-bag military operator who lurks in the shadows funding secret wars. And who pays Yuri for the “inconvenience” of being detained by our Interpol agent.

The final scene where I have never seen someone so burned before in my life does carry an interesting message though.  As Yuri is paging through the New York Times he begins pointing to various not so nice groups of armed men.  He then points out that the President of the United States, the largest arms dealer in the world, needs people like him because the President wants/needs to arm certain groups that he can’t be seen doing business with.  Thus Yuri intimates to his Interpol captor that they are both working on the same side just different arms (no pun intended) of the government.  Then the knock at the door . . .

All in all I give Lord of War an A- .  I would advise the viewer to watch it twice.  First to watch it, then watch the deleted scenes regarding Ava Fontaine before the second viewing.  The inclusion of this sub plot would have mate Lord of War a Straight A.  My guess is that the powers that be already though they had enough film as it was already running over two hours in length.

 

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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The Second Half of The City Hunter.

The first half of the City Hunter series really explores the differences in perceptions of revenge.  The father wants the 5 officials assassinated outright whereas the City Hunter wants them to suffer a fate worse than death by publically exposing their corruption, humiliation and eventual imprisonment.

Episodes 10-20 are essentially a race between the City Hunter and his father to find the identity of the responsible officials and how to deal with them; that is, outright murder as the father wants versus the public humiliation and the subsequent fall from grace leading to a “fate worse than death” as advocated by the son.

There are many sub-plots involving the City Hunter’s love with Kim Na Na, a member of the Korean Secret Service that the father is trying to end (even going so far as to try to kill her) because he believes that it will distract the City Hunter from his mission of revenge.

Also, a young aggressive prosecutor is hot on the trail of the City Hunter and his father, knowing who they are but unable to prove it.  To further his problems, the City Hunter is becoming a Robin Hood type hero of the Korean people bringing the corrupt to justice literally gift wrapping them for the authorities.

The City Hunters methods are meticulous and obviously the result of a highly trained Special Forces soldier.  He always has an alibi at a hotel near any missions he must accomplish and has all angles covered from prepared incriminating materials and multiple escape routes.

Here the City Hunter discovers massive embezzlement by the secretary of education who has been hoarding money meant to be distributed to the students to make tuition more affordable.  Well the City Hunter wants it back so he can return it to the students, but so does his father for other reasons.  The Clip is a fine example of the competition between the two to take revenge.

In this next clip the City Hunter publicly exposes the corrupt official while his son is accepting an award for his efforts.  Talk about a fall from grace, the timing could not have been better.  Humiliating both father and son alike for their reprehensible conduct.

One of the remaining officials has become a captain of industry and operates a chemical plant that is slowly killing its workers while denying any responsibility.  Well the City Hunter is determined to prove that the chemical cornerstone of this corporate empire operates in violation of law and thus give the employees the evidence they need to pursue their claims for the resulting life threatening side effects.  While the City Hunter’s father is using the money as bait for the financially troubled corporation so he can later hang them out to dry.

The father even goes so far as to let the President know that he can get to him.  At a lunch for Korea’s industrial leaders, Steve Lee calmly eats his lunch while the President (who is one of the responsible officials) gets shot with a paint bullet.  Showing just how serious Steve Lee is intent on revenge.

The race between the father son team and their resulting styles continues for the remainder of the episodes.  However, I will not spoil it the ending for you.  This is a must see and even appears on the Net Flix instant watch so it is not a difficult series to watch.

We here at JPFmovies assert that the City Hunter it is a fine example of how Asian programing has clearly surpassed the sludge churned out by our domestic entertainment industry.  How the Asians got there I am not sure, but I have acquired several resources on the subject and will keep you updated as my research continues.

There is no excuse not to watch the City Hunter, you have easy access to the series via Net Flix complete with subtitles and I hope it will confirm my theories about where entertainment is going versus where it has been.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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South Korea’s Dramas Have Come a Long Way and May Very Well Lead the Pack in Quality and Originality. Apropos The City Hunter (2012) Part 1.

The “Rangoon Incident” a Little History

On October 9, 1983, then South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan was on an official visit to Rangoon, the capital of Burma.  During the visit he planned to lay a wreath at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum to commemorate Aung San, who founded the independent Burma and was assassinated in 1947.  While the president’s staff and advance team began assembling at the mausoleum, one of three concealed bombs in the roof exploded.  The immense blast ripped through the crowd below, killing 21 people and seriously wounding 46 others.  The explosion killed three senior South Korean politicians: foreign minister Lee Beom-seok; economic planning minister and deputy prime minister, Suh Suk Joon; and minister for commerce and industry, Kim Dong Whie.  Fourteen Korean presidential advisers, journalists, and security officials were killed; 4 Burmese nationals, including 3 journalists, were also among the dead.  President Chun was saved only because his car had been delayed in traffic and was only minutes from arriving at the memorial.  The bomb was reportedly detonated early because the presidential bugle which signaled Chun’s arrival mistakenly rang out a few minutes ahead of schedule.

A North Korean army major and two captains were suspected and caught.  They revealed that they had slipped off a ship docked in Yangon port, and had received the explosives in a North Korean diplomatic pouch.  Two of the three attackers attempted to commit suicide by blowing themselves up with a hand grenade that same day, but survived and were arrested.  The third suspect, a major from North Korean Army, went missing, but was hunted down by the Burmese Army.  The major confessed his mission and links to North Korea to avoid the death sentence receiving life imprisonment.  His colleague was executed by hanging.  North Korea denied any links to the incident and even today in the face of massive evidence continues to deny any involvement in the atrocity.

As a result of the bombing, Burma suspended diplomatic relations with North Korea.  Chinese officials refused to meet or even talk with North Korean officials for months.  South Korea, under pressure from the United States, did not retaliate with anything other than heated rhetoric.

Why is this important?  Because that is the scary, but true, backdrop for The City Hunter series.

The 20 episode series begins at the Rangoon bombing and fictionalizes a South Korean military retaliation hatched by five South Korean official’s code-named “Operation Cleansweep.”  The objective was to enter North Korea and kill several top members of the North’s high military command.  Two Presidential Security Service bodyguards and best friends Lee Jin-pyo (Kim Sang-joong) and Park Moo-yul (Park Sang-min) who were at the bombing, organize a 21-man team for the mission.  While the team effectively eliminates its targets in Pyongyang, the five officials abandon the plan in midstream to avoid an international crisis if the mission is discovered.  They fear that the United States will remove nuclear protection if the mission is made public as Seoul officially declared that it will not retaliate.

Though their mission is a total success, as the troops are escaping by swimming from Nampo to a Navy submarine, snipers from the friendly vessel open fire on their own soldiers.  Park, who is already injured, takes several bullets to save Lee.  Lee, the sole survivor, swims back to shore and returns to South Korea, where he finds out that the assault team’s service and personal records have been erased.

Obsessed with avenging his fallen comrades, Lee Jin-pyo kidnaps Moo-yul’s infant son.  He runs to the Golden Triangle (an area in Southeast Asia second only to Afghanistan in opium production) to raise the child as a trained killer and instrument of his revenge.

Fast forward a number of years later, Yoon-sung, after successfully finishing his college years and attaining a doctorate from MIT, returns to South Korea to implement the plans for revenge against the five officials who murdered the soldiers.  He finds a job at the South Korea’s Blue House as an IT expert.  Obviously making him privy to vast amounts of intelligence and information that could be valuable in discovering and punishing the five officials behind the aborted mission.

The 20 episode series walks us through the trials and tribulations of finding and taking revenge on the responsible officials.

Let’s talk a little bit about why I think South Korea’s (and in general Asian) TV dramas have surpassed the shows pumped out for the U.S. market.

Anyone who knows us here at JPFmovies knows that we quit watching all American live-regular programing (including cable) years ago and went to an all movie all the time format for entertainment-this includes selected U.S. TV series that we do like, but have a policy of only watching via DVD or electronically.  Why?  The reason is very simple.  Several years ago we were watching regularly scheduled programming and realized that the shows were actually making us feel stupider.  Cliché plots, programs that have dragged on way past their useful lives and commercials finally pushed us over the edge, something had to be done.  The switch was made and thus began the search for viable alternatives.

Already conditioned to subtitles, the JPFmovie personnel was forced to migrate to series and films produced in Asia.  Unlike their American counterparts, the Asian’s limit the number of episodes is limited and pre-determined-typically in the range of 4, 10 or 20 shows.  That is it.  The show ends, the viewer gets closure and the series does not suffer a slow painful death.  So you know going in what to expect, the show is not dependent on ratings.  Also, Asian shows are often a melding of history and fiction i.e. The City Hunter, starts off with a real event and moves forward from there.  It is a refreshing change from either America’s cops and robbers or your “fish out of water” stories.  For JPFmovie personnel at least our loyalty has changed.  Ask yourself this, when was the last time an American series went out on top?

Well that ends the complaining for now; stay tuned for The City Hunter Part 2 and more on Asia vs. American TV.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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And I thought being the Third Shadow was a rough gig, it is child’s play when you are acting as Uday Hussein’s body double.

Those of you who read our review of Ichakowia Raizo in the Third Shadow know that people in powerful positions often have body doubles.  In the Third Shadow, Raizo plays a body double to the reigning warlord due to their uncanny resemblance.  As we saw in the Third Shadow, some of the benefits of masquerading as the lord included living a life of luxury, sleeping with beautiful women and getting large stipends.  The same principle and techniques are still being used today.  Uday Hussein was the sadistic psychopathic son of Saddam Hussein and was considered by many to be even crueler than his ruthless father.  Worried about assassination and other attacks, Uday decided that he needed a double like the several his father employed.  An old classmate of his from University, who had an eerie resemblance to the dictator’s son, was chosen to be Uday’s body double.

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Enter the Devil’s Double, a movie which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and was only released on a limited basis throughout the United States.  The movie is based on the book written by Latif Yahia who was forced to be Uday’s decoy and to this day bears 26 scars on his body from bullets, grenades and the like.  After viewing the film, Yahia said it was about 80% accurate the other 20% was toned down for audiences.  Apparently, he has to take pretty healthy doses of Valium every night in order to sleep and fend off the nightmares.

Only knowing what I had seen and heard on the news about the depravity of Saddam’s children this film was a real eye-opener.  In 1987, Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper), an Iraqi soldier fighting on the front lines in the Iran–Iraq War, is recalled to become a “fedai” (“body double” or political decoy) for Uday Hussein (also played by Cooper), the playboy son of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (Philip Quast).  Latif comes from an upper-class family and had attended university with Uday, where everyone would remark on their likeness.  Foolishly, Latif initially refuses the position, but is tortured, and ultimately relents when his family is threatened.  Latif even has to undergo cosmetic surgery to perfect his resemblance to Uday.  Like our protagonist in the Third Shadow, he is given access to all of the luxurious benefits of the Husseins’ fortune, including massive palaces, expensive wardrobes, Uday’s vast exotic cars collection and women (only if Uday gives him permission first).  Latif tries to resist Uday’s exorbitant carousing and erratic behavior only to be stopped, threatened and captured by Uday’s own inner circle of bodyguards.  The first assassination attempt we see in the film is during an appearance at a conference with various Kuwaiti leaders.  There, as Latif is exiting the building a bloody attempt is made on Uday’s (Latif’s) life by a member of the Kurdish rebels.  And who can blame them, after all his father did use poison gas in his efforts to suppress the Kurds.  The real Uday, though, is more concerned with the Kuwaitis, who he believes have been slant drilling from Iraq’s Rumaila oil field.  The first Gulf War is launched with Uday decreeing “The Age of the Sheikhs is over!”  Obviously this chump has his priorities straight.

As the movie progresses, the real Uday becomes more and more debauched to the point of kidnapping 14-year-old girls as well as brides on their wedding day.  Killing them after he’s had his way with their bodies.  Latif sits and watches in disgust as his master sinks further and further into a hellish world of mayhem and self-destruction.  Even Uday’s father wanted to kill him on more than one occasion.  Apparently Saddam had a valet that he trusted and Saddam trusted no one.  During a party authorized by his father, a frustrated Uday takes a bottle of liquor and smashes it into the valet head causing nothing less than severe trauma.  When his father found out what he had done, he showed up with a loaded gun in his hand, pointed it at his son’s head and said if he (the valet) doesn’t live that he (Uday) would not live either.  This moron went so far as to cut someone open with an electric knife at a party given for the President of Egypt’s wife right on the buffet table.  After he realized what he’d done, Uday tried to kill himself by over dosing on sleeping pills.  In my opinion, it was merely a ploy to garner sympathy and avoid torture or execution by his father.  When Saddam shows up at the hospital, he holds a knife to Uday’s private parts and threatens to cut it off only relenting when the Doctor pleads with him saying that Uday will die because of the blood loss.

The film also points out that Latif was not only used as a decoy for would be assassins, but was also a tool for political purposes.  Uday’s double was the one sent to the front to give moral boosting speeches to the troops, where several near miss assassination attempts were made on the decoy who sustained serious injuries.

 

Examples accumulate showing the audience just how sick this Uday was.  Luckily, Latif was able to escape to Malta where a would-be assassin sent by Uday just misses shooting him as soon as he arrives on the island.  Uday calls Latif and offers him one final chance to return to Iraq, threatening to kill his father if he refuses.  Latif’s father encourages him not to return so he is killed.

 

However, Latif does return to Iraq to kill Uday with the help of a man whose bride had killed herself after being raped and beaten by Uday on their wedding day.  In an adapted version of the real attempt on Uday’s life made in 1996, Latif and his partner ambush Uday while he is attempting to lure young girls into his Porsche.  They wound him severely, including–consistent with unconfirmed reports of the real-life attack–mangling his genitals with direct shots.  One of Uday’s bodyguards catches up to Latif as he runs away from the scene.  This guard, however, is one that Latif could have killed as he fled from Uday’s birthday party before leaving the country.  However, Latif spared his life and the guard returned the favor—also, in my opinion, he is silently condoning the shooting of Uday who is clearly out of control.

 

The fact that the real Uday body double said that 20% of the film was toned down shows good taste on the directors’ part.  Otherwise The Devils Double might have been something akin to a gory Asian horror movie.  For me, the film also validates the age old adage that absolute power corrupts absolutely.  It makes me ask how a person who has the opportunity to rule a country wastes such a chance by becoming such a cruel perverted sadist in the true sense of the word.

Good movie.  Donald Cooper, playing both Uday and Latif, does an excellent job by acting in two roles that are polar opposite in their makeup.  I don’t know why the film was only released selectively in the States, but when you get a chance take a look at the Devils Double, if nothing else you will learn a lot about the inner workings of one of the world most ruthless and corrupt families.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2012 in Movie Reviews

 

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