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Monday, 23 July 2012

Ambush (2011)

Director: Joe B Bauer
Star: Lance Henriksen
This film was an official selection at the 8th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Scottsdale in 2012. Here's an index to my reviews of 2012 films.
In 2010 Lance Henriksen was a special guest at the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival, but not with new material; he was there to introduce a screening of Aliens instead. A couple of years later, he wasn't there in person but yet he was all over the screen. His feature, It's in the Blood won for Best Horror Film; his voice was almost the only decent thing about Monster Brawl; and, most surprisingly, he was the star of an effective short action film called Ambush. Sure, he's a prolific actor, so much so that there's a mockumentary currently in production called Bring Me the Head of Lance Henriksen, in which Tim Thomerson's inability to find work leads him to seek out Henriksen, his co-star in Near Dark and others, to find out how he's managing to land every genre role for an actor over 65. Yet it was still pleasantly surprising to see him so omnipresent. He deserves no less, of course, being a gentleman offscreen and a magnetic presence on it.

This to me was the most interesting of his three films showing at the festival. It's a short film, under fifteen minutes in length, that was written and directed by a man new to both roles, but with a vast experience in film nonetheless. He's Joe Bauer, a Hollywood visual effects man with an impressive and varied filmography that runs from Zu Warriors to Rise of the Silver Surfer via Zathura. Yet, this is far from an effects film. It may not be as gritty as it intends to be, but it uses darkness, dubious lighting and off kilter angles to build a tone and feel that comes off as pretty effective. There should be more actors and more noise in this decaying urban landscape, but it's well envisioned in the sets, costumes and ambience. The few effects are in the news footage and in frequent views of the neighbourhood through infrared sniper scope. Oh, and also in what goes down, of course. The title is there for a reason.

Out on the street is an old man with a flamboyant moustache who's ripped off when he tries to cash a cheque. They take 40% of it as a fee and try for the rest later by force, but he's waiting. There is some more depth to the background but it's pretty transparent, given that the facial hair isn't enough to hide Henriksen and yet he's also on the TV as John Adams Lofgren, a massively rich public speaker and author of a book called Take It Back: The Battle to Retake Democracy. He wrote it because he read in the paper about an Indianopolis homeless man who had been set on fire and couldn't even be identified. On the news he asks, 'Who stands up for John Doe?' On the street he tries to answer his own question. While this works well as a short, it feels like it's part of something more, whether the pitch for a feature or the beginning of one. I'd certainly like to see more but then I always enjoy an opportunity for Henriksen to both look old and kick ass.

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