By: John M Jerva
It’s time to Action Rewind once again and in this installment of my action trip down memory lane, we’re kicking it with former champion kickboxer turned DTV action star Don “ The Dragon” Wilson. With action maestro Jesse V. Johnson unleashing his newest WWII action epic Hell Hath No Fury next month, I’ve been gearing up for it by watching some of the filmmaker‘s earliest efforts. Sure we all talk about such action goodies like Accident Man and Triple Threat but let’s go back even further when the action maestro met The Dragon.
Johnson teams with Wilson for the 2007 sci-fi action opus The Last Sentinel which features The Dragon as Tallis who is the sole survivor of an elite group of electronically enhanced soldiers who are fighting a losing war against an army of deadly drone police. What makes this situation even worse is that the drones were created by us, Terminator style, to quell crime in the country. Just like those pesky cyborgs in James Cameron’s classic, these AI soldiers have turned against humanity nearly wiping out the human race.
Tallis, who we see in flashbacks, was dispatched to fight the surging drone army but unfortunately things went awry and all were killed in a hellish firefight that includes explosions, mini-guns and exploding heads. Now alone, Tallis roams the war ravaged streets in an attempt to stay alive with only his AI talking assault rifle and a pesky pooch to keep him company.
Tallis’ lonely life is shattered one day when he rescuers a freedom fighter played by Battlestar Galactica’s Katee Sackoff from a drone ambush where all her allies were killed. Nursing her back to health, Tallis trains the fearless female known simply as girl to think and fight like a machine and together, the two take on the drone army and it’s leader in a do or die battle where surviving is the ultimate and only prize.
Now if you follow me and my site, then you know I’m a huge Jesse V. Johnson fan and I consider him one of the best action directors out there. He’s a prime example that stunt professionals make the best filmmakers in the action genre because they know how to shoot and choreograph action set pieces all the while engaging the audience with a worthwhile story.
Normally, Johnson sticks to the realistic down to earth plot lines in action but here he goes full on sci-fi just like his other entry Alien Agent with Mark Dacascos. Now in terms of story, The Last Sentinel doesn’t bring anything new to the collective table and the casual viewer will even be able to see the past films that leave their mark on this one. Yes this flick hits the chords of such movies as the aforementioned Terminator but it also dabbles in I, Robot and Universal Soldier. This isn’t a bad thing though as one usually watches a Jesse V. Johnson joint for its obliterating action drenched sequences of over the top violence and carnage. Here it’s no exception and even though the enemy is not entirely human anymore and there’s no blood when they are dispatched, we still get fresh scenes of bullet squibs being used to maximum effect along with a few unlucky humans losing their heads in bloody and spectacular fashion.
Wilson, who is in his wiser years now, still looks phenomenal as Tallis and he shines as he’s always has in the numerous scenes of firepower and fisticuffs. Fans are treated to routine scenes of The Dragon kicking ass and taking names as he takes out countless, faceless drones. Johnson makes sure that he splits up Wilson’s action movie heroics with equal parts shoot ‘em up and empty handed bravado. Wilson is up to the challenge and even in his supposed middle aged years, he still runs the gauntlet with the best of them.
Sackoff is up to the challenge as Tallis’ protege and gets ample opportunity to shine as well in the action department. You can tell that Sackoff isn’t afraid to get down and dirty and it’s refreshing to see a woman in an action film that isn’t a damsel in distress.
We also get a great supporting cast including Bokeem Woodbine and Keith David who are top notch in their extended cameos. They might not be in the movie for long but they always leave an impact. Let’s not forget resident Jesse V. Johnson brother in arms Dominiquie Vandenberg who goes down in a blaze of glory as one of the soldiers in Tallis’ platoon. It’s similar to his last stand scene in Triple Threat and my only complaint is that I would have preferred to see him stick around longer. His death scene is stellar though as always as the man knows how to go down fighting in action cinema.
Johnson knows what fans want and here he gives it to them in spades with sensational battle scenes and practical stunt work that compliments the action and mayhem on screen. Johnson shoots it all in a way that is complimentary to the thrills and even though there’s some shaky cam in some of the scenes, it’s still coherent and pulse pounding.
The running time for The Last Sentinel is loaded with enough action for two movies and the cast dispenses a ridiculous amount of ammunition that would lead one to believe that this portion went to a majority of the film’s budget. Make no mistake though as Johnson knows how to make the most of his modest budget and while the sets look simple, it’s all about the action which is handled with the upmost care.
All the chaos leads us to the inevitable confrontation between Tallis and the supper drone and it’s here where Wilson gets to put most of his fighting prowess that made him a world champion on display. The super drone looks like a cross between an Imperial Guard from Star Wars and a knight from any King Arthur film but it is menacing looking enough to create a formidable opponent for The Dragon. We also get to see some swordplay with the beatdown and it’s orchestrated to full effect by resident Johnson fight choreographer Luke LaFontaine.
While The Last Sentinel might be a little tough around the edges compared to some of Johnson’s most recent efforts, it’s still light years above a lot of the other indie action offerings out there. The action and violence is plenty and worth the watch and The Dragon brings it all together as he punches, kicks, shoots and basically annihilates the competition. The score is also rousing boasting the mood and atmosphere of a world gone mad. Sackoff is always a pleasure to see on screen and she keeps up with Wilson ten fold in the both the dramatic and action sequences.
Before Hell Hath No Fury lights up your television this November, be sure to check out this earlier effort from the man who knows action. Johnson, Jesse V. Johnson.