January 26, 2013

High on Hyams

It’s been a fantastic few years for this very talented director. It has been even better for his audience, and because of this it has built up an audience now that will watch a film just because he is listed as director. The son of the great director Peter Hyams (The Relic, Sudden Death, Time Cop & the phenomenal Outland with Sir Sean Connery) has really done something utterly remarkable and it has been said many times over the last few months; he turned a franchise that was arguably dead into a critical success, not once but twice!

You get the feeling a lot of directors for direct to video or limited release films would be quite happy to make these films, fulfill their contract & hang out with these action stars on & off set (well, I got that vibe from a few of Seagal’s efforts over the last decade). Hyams didn’t seem in awe of anything; it is obvious within seconds of 2009’s Universal Soldier: Regeneration that he meant business. He saw an opportunity to make a great movie & he did so. While this film had a built in audience to fan boys like myself, I always like to gauge the reaction of people whom are not really obsessed with film like myself, since these are the people who provide the majority of box office receipts.

I really do enjoy showing films that I know to be good to people who have not seen them; seeing reactions of friends, one good scene after another is pretty cool. The point I am trying to get to, is even though every film is not for everyone, Hyams seemed to have bridged that gap between the traditional action movie, and the modern action movie (like the Bourne style movies that the majority of the population have got used to). A perfect example of this is Van Damme’s incredibly fun & brutal scene where he went into a disused building & took out a tonne of bad guys in the most cold manner possible; Hyams filmed it in a way familiar to the modern day audience with the great camera work & almost 3D movement (I have no idea what the correct rhetoric for use of the camera work that is used, but it was impressive) of the camera. I could go on all day about how many great things were in this movie, what I would like to stick to is the director.

Last year saw the release of Hyam’s second dip into the franchise, the eagerly awaited Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning. Realizing that he had pretty much already made the ultimate super solider film, along with getting a smaller budget this time around, he decided to move in a very dark & equally original direction. After release, I looked online to see good review after good review; the film also made it onto many best of 2012 lists (including ours), which is an utterly incredible achievement for a film of this scale & distribution. Again I will follow up with an in depth review over the coming weeks. But what I would like to reflect on is what seems to be Hyam’s greatest quality, using the actors correctly, especially this site’s 80’s action heroes Jean-Claude Van Damme & Dolph Lundgren. He maximized two of my favorite actor’s strengths, without any weaknesses being noticed. In other words, he used common sense, which is frustratingly vacant in so many films nowadays. The characters were not bogged down with unnecessary dialog or nonsensical direction. Hyams made sure that every scene we got them in over the two films was special.

The question is, what now? If he does not get noticed by the money men in Hollywood with this great body of work, it would be a travesty to the mainstream audience. The next non-Universal Soldier project is very important (the reason I say that, is I think he is on such a role that he could easily make another great 3 or 4 Universal Soldier films). At the end of the day, I do not know Hyams, or what his future plans are, but I would like for him to do the Universal Soldier films or another franchise that would get a wide mainstream opening.

Looking over projects, the one that jumps straight out to me is the Blade franchise. There are so many parallels; first off you have a troubled actor like Wesley Snipes whom I am 100% certain that someone of Hyam’s caliber would get the best out of, he has form. You have to remember, while Jean-Claude Van Damme got great reviews for JCVD, it is my certain belief that his turn in Universal Soldier: Regeneration was the turning point for him to a better standard of action film, eventually leading to a role in the Expendables sequel. We all miss Snipes & we miss Blade. Seems like a match made in heaven for me.

Blade being a hybrid obviously ages, I would love to see how his character copes with this, but you can’t make a film with the tone of Trinity with a 40 something Blade. The next installment has to be gritty because of that, Blade Trinity hurt so many fans & even Snipes himself. Hyams again proved he can do gritty & then some. He has proven he can save a franchise, and not only save it, but reinvent it. This all has me dreaming if Hyams could collaborate again the modern action hero Scott Adkins, could you imagine him & Blade squaring up on the big screen? If you have seen the fight scene with Adkins & Arlovski, on a budget that small, could you imagine what this trio could be capable of? It would be worth the admission alone!!

The future is bright for John Hyams, & I have had my geek moment dreaming of what someone of his talent could do with something like the Blade franchise, but coming back down to earth, I really eagerly await his next picture.

The next project is going to be interesting regardless, all I know is I will be there watching it, wherever or however I can.

About the Author

Born in 1985 & having a brother 20 years older than myself I was in the lucky position to be in the perfect demographic for this generation of action. Like many people, I had Rocky 4, Die Hard, Aliens, Terminator & Predator on perpetual replay. Going to my brothers, 'borrowing' his videos was one of the funnest parts of my early childhood, and not much has changed...



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