Directed by Isaac Florentine. Written by Michael Weiss. Cast: Michael Worth, Damian Chapa, Karen Kim, Marshall Teague, Kate Connor, Sophia Crawford, Andy Cheng, Hakim Alston, Plamen Zahov, Daniel Southworth, George Cheung, Burnell Tucker, Velizar Binev. (R, 95 mins)
Anyone who's seen the deliriously insane U.S. SEALS II knows the significance of that sound. Like its predecessor a year earlier, U.S. SEALS II went straight to video and only features two minor supporting characters held over from the first film, so knowing the events of U.S. SEALS is utterly unnecessary. As the audaciously batshit PUNISHER: WAR ZONE was to the disappointing THE PUNISHER, U.S. SEALS II is a different beast altogether, almost completely abandoning the stale, cliched military plot and instead delivering a cartoonishly balls-out martial-arts orgy that exists on no known level of reality. This complete shift in tone comes courtesy of director Isaac Florentine, an Israeli-born martial-arts expert who got his start as a stunt coordinator and then a director on the MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS TV series. Over the last decade or so, Florentine has become a major cult figure in the world of straight-to-DVD action films, based largely on U.S. SEALS II, but also BRIDGE OF DRAGONS (1999), and his two sequels to Walter Hill's 2002 film UNDISPUTED: UNDISPUTED II: LAST MAN STANDING (2006) and UNDISPUTED III: REDEMPTION (2010). Florentine's films have a kinetic, unique ferocity all their own, and I'm surprised he hasn't yet graduated to A-list fare. Usually working with the folks at NuImage, it's possible that he enjoys the relative freedom they give him to do what he wants, especially since he wasn't pleased with the outcome of his one recent film done for others (the 2009 Van Damme actioner THE SHEPHERD: BORDER PATROL). Sure, a lot of U.S. SEALS II is ridiculous and stupid, but it's so incredibly ridiculous and stupid that surely some of it is meant to be comedic. Or at the very least, winking.
|Michael Worth as Lt. Casey Sheppard|
|Karen Kim in action|
U.S. SEALS II isn't Florentine's best film, but it's probably his most well-known (his two UNDISPUTED sequels are awesome). It became a word-of-mouth hit among video store employees and bad movie fans with its constant whoosh sound effects whenever someone moves. I'm not kidding. Whether someone's aiming a gun, engaged in a martial-arts battle, signaling with their hand, or simply peering around a corner and turning their head, nearly every physical action is accompanied by a whoosh sound. This fight scene with Kim and Crawford (includes SPOILERS) is a perfect example. Even flowing hair whooshes.
(SPOILERS again) But no discussion of U.S. SEALS II would be complete without addressing the unforgettable demise of Chapa's venal, smirking Ratliff. Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot's Marty McKee has called it one of the top five villain deaths in all of cinema. That's really not an exaggeration. The main issue with its presentation is that its ambitions like beyond any budget or VFX capability that NuImage was willing or able to provide. The CGI is wonky, but as McKee has said, it works based on sheer intent and outrageousness. The sequence below is part of a larger one, intercut with Kim fighting Crawford and Andy Cheng, but the YouTube user edited it to just focus on Worth and Chapa, which explains why it's choppy. But the fight choreography and the action are top-notch and often brilliantly inventive in their presentation. Florentine is one of the best action directors in movies today. Why isn't he directing THE EXPENDABLES 2?
Yeah! You just saw that shit! And did you hear it at the very end? Go back and listen again. At 4:09 into the clip. One final, subtle, beautiful...whoosh.
Bravo, Maestro Florentine. Bravo.