By: John M Jerva REVIEW: Attack of the Unknown STARRING: Richard Grieco, Jolene Andersen, Douglas Tait, Johnny Huang, Robert Donavan, Tara Reid and Robert LaSardo DIRECTED BY: Brandon Slagle Official […]
By: John M Jerva
REVIEW: Attack of the Unknown
STARRING: Richard Grieco, Jolene Andersen, Douglas Tait, Johnny Huang, Robert Donavan, Tara Reid and Robert LaSardo
DIRECTED BY: Brandon Slagle
Official Synopsis: A SWAT team transporting a vicious crime syndicate boss must fight their way out of a county detention center during a catastrophic alien invasion.
Pop Quiz Hotshot…what do you get when you have the one and only Richard Grieco in a film about an elite SWAT team battling an invading alien army? You get one friggin’ hell of good time that’s what.
THE REVIEW: In these uncertain times when movie theaters have closed and all major blockbusters have been delayed for the forseeable future, it has fallen onto the hands of indie cinema to provide us with much needed fresh entertainment to make us forget our troubles. Week after week, new product courtesy of Digital and VOD have given us that much needed jolt of adrenaline as we wait and see what happens with the film industry. If one thing is for certain, the pandemic has given these much lesser known films a chance to shine and the platform is ripe for these movies from hard working indie filmmakers to seize the day and show the world what we movie enthusiasts already knew…that sometimes, lower budgeted pictures can indeed play with the big boys and even show them up on occasion.
With that, I give you the new sci-fi action pic Attack of the Unknown from genre filmmaker Brandon Slagle who is responsible for giving us some great throwback entertainment like Escape from Ensenada and most recently Crossbreed. Slagle is one of the filmmakers that gets it and his love for all things sci-fi, action and horror definitely shows in his finished product. The types of films that he makes serves up unapologetic Saturday night viewing goodness and we as an audience are better for it.
Attack of the Unknown is a glorious blend of genres that oozes with Roger Corman-esque 90’s thrills and if Slagle had been making films in the 80’s and 90’s, he would certainly be making them for the likes of Cannon Films, PM Entertainment and Nu Image. At the start, Slagle has been mostly known for delivering horror chills but lately, his undying love for all things action and sci-fi have been present in his latest offerings and business is good people.
From the beginning of the film which gives us a rousing SWAT induced action spectacle to the second half of the movie which pays homage to Assault on Precinct 13, Attack of the Unknown knows what kind of film it is and who its target audience is. If that wasn’t good enough, the flick stars the one and only Richard “Booker” Grieco who many know from the 80’s hit cop show 21 Jump Street and its spin-off series Booker which was a personal favorite of mine. I, however, also know Grieco from such awesome film greats like If Looks Could Kill, The Demolitionist, Phantom Force and lets not forget Raiders of the Damned. Grieco is a leading man that specializes in playing the lone wolf hero to a “T” and he plays an anti-hero even better. Grieco channels his best interpretation of Stallone here as he is tough. heroic but flawed at the same time and it is his character, who is given some very bad news at the beginning, that turns out to be the saving grace for the world. Seeing him in this movie makes me long for a Booker reunion movie. Here he stars as SWAT specialist Vernon who is part of an elite unit of cops who have just apprehended a career criminal in Miguel ‘Hades’ Aguirre played by the always menacing Robert LaSardo. During the heyday of 90’s VHS action, LaSardo played what it felt like the baddie in every major action flick to come out and here he hasn’t lost a step as the slimy and ruthless gang leader who knows more than you think.
Apprehending Hades was costly enough as his capture resulted in the death of one of their own but now this SWAT team must now transport him to pay for his crimes. Unfortunately, a cataclysmic alien invasion has put a damper on things ( I hate it when that happens) and with the world thrust into chaos by an invading alien army hell bent on destroying all of mankind, these brave men and women must now cowboy up and embark on a suicidal mission to save not only themselves but the world at the same time.
From the opening credits, Slagle never lets things slow down and genre fans are treated to some pretty decent action set pieces every couple of minutes that includes firefights and fisticuff aplenty and the supporting cast is more than game to bring it home in the end. Sure the film is lower budgeted but Slagle and co. make a mountain out of a molehill and give us a film that would Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus proud. Besides Grieco, actress Jolene Andersen is one bad ass femme fatale as SWAT team member Hannah and it is her and Grieco that become the true heart of the story. Andersen has many moments to shine and in the end her performance is enough proof that she can become the next big female indie action star. I recently said the same thing of Zara Phythian in Tribal-Get Out Alive and these two ladies should double team their own action movie. I’m thinking buddy cop excitement or better yet a film where they square off against one another. I’d pay to see that.
We also have some great performaces from Douglas Tait who plays Maddox, the teams stalwart leader as well as Paul Gunn as Kai who has one amazing going down with all guns blazing scene on top of a building. Johnny Huang provides the film’s comic relief as social reporter Dallas who gets thrust into this crazy situation and Gerardo de Pablos as C-Los (love that name by the way) brings up the rear for this sold ensemable cast. We even get a cameo performance from Tara Reid as well as genre staple Robert Donavan who plays Weller.
Attack Of the Unknown has enough explosions, bullets and chaos to make Michale Bay happy and Slagle does it all with a wink to the fans becuase we are all in from the get go. The aliens like a lot of the film are done practicle and they truly are menacing and the way they dispatch their victims is perfect for a sci-fi film like this. There is CGI of course but it never takes you out of enjoying he picture and the special effects are amazing for the amount of money spent on it. The film never overstays its welcome and briskly moves from one epic action scene to the next. If Blockbuster was in business today, this film would be proudly displayed on the new release rack just waiting for fans to gobble it up on New Release Tuesday. There are certainly going to be negtive reviews for this picture but they are those that don’t get it and it is the ones that do who will ultimately appreciate what this film has to offer. It’s essentially an R rated alien invasion flick that pays homage to all the great ones that have come berfore it and does it with style and flair to spare. Hey that rhymed. Nice.
In the end, Attack Of the Unknown entertains on a grand indie film scale and I look forward as always to see what Slagle has up his sleeve for the next one. You know what type of film you are getting with this one and during these trying times when we are looking for some escapist fun to take our minds off of things, this pic comes crashing in like a battering ram on a SWAT assault vehicle. Everyone who is involved gives it their all and audiences will have one fun ride with this one, Definitely check it out as it is now available on Digital and VOD from Gravitas Pictures.