By: John M Jerva
THE REVIEW: Do you remember a time when there were actual buildings that you would go into to rent the latest movies on VHS tape and later on DVD? You know what I’m talking about. They were called video stores and every Tuesday was new release day which was basically like Christmas for action fans because there seemed to be a new high-octane title available that was just begging to be put into your machine at home. I’m talking about unapologetic, in your face, adrenalized action flicks that were locked and loaded with spectacular sequences of rapid fire shootouts and bone crunching martial arts action. Heroes like Van Damme, Seagal, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Jeff Wincott and Gary Daniels graced these films and served up heaping doses of raw carnage that was just begging for repeat viewings. Ahhh yes those were the days.
Well I’m here to tell you that those days of rental stores are gone but there are a select few filmmakers out there that are doing their best to bring back those wonderful memories with throwback style action flicks that know what kind of movie they want to be and only true fans will get them.
Case in point is the newly released 80’s style throwback action B movie masterpiece that is Atomic Eden which hails from East German born filmmaker and actor Nico Sentner who is affectionately called “the Godfather of Krautsploitation.” The film has actually been out for a few years overseas but now it finally makes its triumphant debut here in North America. Just like many of you, Sentner grew up watching movies like Assault on Precinct 13 and other action pics and has made it his own personal mission to bring back that special vibe. Watching this particular movie is like getting in a time machine and taking a trip back to 1985 or 1990 when over the top flicks like this were the norm.
Atomic Eden is an ensemble action film which stars the one and only legend Fred “The Hammer” Williamson (you know! The Black Cobra) and if you don’t know that name well then we can’t be friends. Williamson stars as seasoned mercenary Stoker ( a fine action name by the way) who is tasked with retrieving a very deadly doomsday device that was lost after the Second World War. This is the kind of device that if put into the wrong hands would lead to the death of millions of innocent lives and really mess up one’s day so Stoker, with stogie in hand, enlists a special team of experts to help him retrieve this item at all costs. It’s like The A Team of B action professionals to put it simply.
His team features individuals who have special talents that will help win the mission and essentially save the day from certain doom. There is David – “The Fighter” (Mike Möller), Reiko – “The Samurai” (Hazuki Kato), Darwin – “The Texan” (Everett Ray Aponte), Heinrich – “The Priest” (Wolfgang Riehm), John – “The Sniper” (Played by Sentner), Brenner – “The Blade” (Dominik Stark) and Laurie – “The Rookie” (Josephine Hies). Each member is dangerous in their own right and brings that something special to the action table. The cast is spot on with their throwback style performances and they give them with a constant wink to the audience.
This is a simple men, and women, on a mission plot and to make it even better, we have the one and only Lorenzo Lamas as Nathan-The Snake who is as shadowy as they come. Nathan wants the device at all costs so our merry band of Mercs set out for the radiation infected Chernobyl to do battle with hundreds of hazmat suited up faceless assailants which is, of course, a suicide mission with no hope for success. What could be better than that? These men and women know and they’re happy to embark on it.
Make no mistake, Atomic Eden isn’t going to win any awards but what we have here is a throwback B action movie flick that checks all the boxes in spades. There’s over the top acting-check. There’s over the top bad guys-check. There’s endless shootouts and bone crunching martial arts carnage-check and check. There’s Lamas delivering some of the cut jest lines in film history-check! This is the kind of movie that played at your local drive in theater that you shelled out hard earn money to see on a Saturday night with your buddies. This movie reminded me of the low budget action pics of the past that starred actors like Wings Hauser and once again if you don’t know who that is, we can’t be friends.
Williamson, who is well into his golden years at this point, is still going strong and he still has that unmistakable swagger that made him an icon during the golden age of action cinema. The Hammer gleefully goes about his business taking out scumbags left and right with his hand cannon and watching him in this film makes it feel like it’s 1980 all over again.
The plot is simple but the action and cheese is plentiful and genre fans are treated to endless displays of violent old school practical action set pieces that are shot clearly with no shaky cam and no editing issues. There’s also no CGI blood here as Sentner employs countless blood squibs that ups the violence factor to 10. When someone gets shot, the blood spray is in full on effect. With a running time of 82 minutes, the film is never boring and Sentner keeps the pace moving until the credits roll.
There’s stunt work aplenty as well and the ultimate highlight is German martial arts whiz Mike Möller who stars as David. Möller is short in stature but he more than makes up for that as he is basically a human tornado and highlight reel that is able to make his body move in jaw dropping fashion. Sentner sets Möller loose and gives him ample opportunity to showcase his insane martial arts skills on camera in a host of exhilarating fights that were crafted by Möller himself. Mike is definitely one of the most exciting martial arts performers working in the genre today…no question.
The rest of the cast also get their chances to shine and another standout is Hazuki Kato who stars as Reiko the Samurai. Kato is a true femme fatale and she gets ample opportunity to kick just as much ass as the men. Kato is a real life practitioner in the arts and it shows as she dishes out some serious pain.
You’ll read many reviews for this movie where people will dismiss this as trash but I’m here to say that this film wasn’t made for people like that. It was made for the people who live and breath action and can’t get enough of it. Look past the flaws and know that this is indie action filmmaking on a budget and you’ll have a good time. Atomic Eden knows what kind of movie it is and Sentner knows what target audience he is aiming for. It pretty much should call out to any fan who grew up watching any of the epics that Cannon Films put out back in the day.
The music even radiates Carpenteresque vibes and it highlights the action with its homage rhythms of past films that this movie is paying tribute to. The music score from Ingo Hauss puts the exclamation point on each blood filled scene and is definitely throwback like the rest of the movie.
OVERALL: Atomic Eden is balls to the wall, 80’s and 90’s action movie making excess and fans of the genre should turn their brains off at the start and enjoy the insane, chaotic ride. This film makes no apologies and it shouldn’t because it’s just plain fun and everyone involved is having the time of their lives with it. There’s action every couple of minutes and the bullets, fists and feet fly with desired effect. Watching this movie was like going to that video store and seeing it on the shelf on that specific new release day. It’s just plain B movie epic and it should be enjoyed as such. My hats off to everyone involved because they’ve crafted a sincere, bullet riddled and bone smashing love letter to a glorious time when these types of movies came out weekly. Atomic Eden is essential guilty pleasure action at its finest. I think I’ve stated my case.
Check out the first eight minutes of the film along with the official trailer right now to wet your appetite before you check out the film in full. It’s a definite 80’s style B action movie good time! Just turn your brain off and enjoy the indie action mayhem reminiscent to when video stores ruled the world! God, do I miss the 80’s.