Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Cinema File #49: "Dragon Wasps" Review

I pick up movies for strange reasons sometimes. For example, when I saw Dragon Wasps, I knew nothing about it save the fact that Corin Nemic was in it. Now, while I don't dislike Nemic, I have no special attachment to his work either. I've never thought of him as an actor that I have to see no matter what movie he's in, and yet I picked this up anyway, solely on the strength of his name in the credits. For some reason the guy from Mansquito and that one season of Stargate SG-1 convinced me to watch this movie. And you know what? I think it was a good bet.

There is a moment in Dragon Wasps just prior to the climax of the film that perfectly encapsulates how I feel about this movie. Nemic's dark, no-nonsense military commander is leading the blond sexy entomologist through the jungle in search of the Dragon Wasp hive to save her father and his teammates, only to be stopped by a sound that sexy entomologist instantly recognizes as the rattle of a very specific snake, the deadliest snake in the jungle, despite her specialty being bugs and not snakes. Said snake then immediately leaps out at Nemic, who grabs it in the air and throws it to the ground to be chopped in half by a machete. Oh, and they're both high on cocaine, which they rubbed into their skin because it protects them from the Dragon Wasps. This is the sort of crazy nonsense that made me enjoy this movie probably a lot more than I should have.

Dragon Wasps starts slow, as sexy entomologist and her best friend sexy other kind of scientist head off to the jungles of I wanna say Africa in search of the former's missing scientist father, who was abducted by a wasp early in the film after stumbling across a secret bio-tech company's conspiracy to genetically engineer a previously extinct breed of prehistoric, fire breathing killer insect. As weird as it sounds, the movie knows what its doing without being self aware. There are very few cheeky winks to the audience and within the context of the world, everything is taken seriously, even as the world itself becomes increasingly more insane and silly. In short, this is what schlocky direct to DVD monster movies should be, skating just on the edge of outright parody and serious genre productions. It knows you came for trash, and doesn't disappoint in terms of laughably bad acting and special effects, but also doesn't use that as an excuse to just not try very hard, or worse, try to be intentionally bad to increase its riffability quotient.

Dragon Wasps does its best with its limited resources and everyone involved clearly seems to be having a lot of fun. Nemic steals the show as the bad ass and practically suicidal commando, the type of hard bitten S.O.B. whose tortured past leads him to always take the time to scream Nooooo! really loud into the air over the corpses of his comrades, even as the bullets that felled them are still flying in his direction (somehow never hitting him of course). His character morphs over the course of the film from delightfully gruff to full on Col. Kurtz crazy as he keeps looking for excuses to let his mistress the Jungle claim him. Evidently Nemic has worked with this director before, and I'm currently seeking out Sand Sharks, their previous collaboration, because if it is as entertaining as this was, I'm sure I won't regret the purchase. And yes, even with rough and tumble soldiers in the African Jungle, they still manage to get a Mansquito reference in, which made me smile despite the momentary lapse into self-referential cornball.

The villain in this movie that isn't a giant prehistoric bug is Jaguar, the one eyed leader of a cannibalistic cocaine running cult who has a history with Nemic's character and becomes a momentary ally to the group before things go all to Hell. If Nemic hadn't already made the movie for me, than Jaguar certainly would have. He's the kind of badly acted antagonist whose bad acting is so captivating, that you want him to be in every movie from now on. I don't mean the actor, I literally mean Jaguar, cocaine cannibal. Every time he opens his mouth, pure unadulterated awesome comes out, and by the end, he shapes up to be a much more interesting bad guy than any of the giant bug monsters. The fact that the only reason he's able to do so much damage is because Nemic trusted him and asked for his help despite their history might strike many as too dumb to accept, but if you can get past that, his inclusion in the film is nothing short of inspired.

And speaking of the ending, this movie goes so off the rails and insane in the last ten minutes that even if nothing else that came before it held your interest, I would still recommend staying on for the finale anyway. A twist is introduced concerning the motivations of the wasps, explaining why they have been taking human captives and keeping them alive rather than just eating them, and it is presented in such a brutal and unsentimental way that I would almost call it shocking and legitimately intense. Overall its not that original a concept for a killer bug movie, but it was so unexpectedly and magnificently gross that it turned what was already a mostly enjoyable movie into a surefire hit for me. And if that weren't enough, Nemic's increasing madness comes to a glorious head as he has a final showdown with Jaguar in the den of the beasts.

If you have a low tolerance for these kind of low budget, campy throwback DVD releases, best stay away from Dragon Wasps. But if you can withstand the cheese of it all and just embrace the movie for what it is, there's enough here to entertain you for a night. It's not going to change your life, but it will definitely give you a new respect for that guy from Stargate.

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