Joe Begos (director)
14 March 2020 (released)
14 March 2020
Joe Begos is nothing if not productive, and consistent, following up the visceral, visual feast of Bliss with VFW in less than a year. There are very broad similarities with the drugs and night concentration but VFW is much more conventional in its execution and tips its hat to early Carpenter with the score and the set up.
The US is awash with a drug called Hype that has led to the cities going feral and the rise of Gothic drug lords overseeing deals and dispensing their justice. However there’s a place of reactive calm where war veterans get to hang out in their VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) posts to talk about the old times and generally pass life in a time-bubble as the world disintegrates around them.
The VFW is managed by Fred (Stephen Lang) who hosts a bar full of regulars, filled with salty stories and banter. They are joined by a young soldier Shawn (Tom Williamson) back from action. They are more rudely interrupted by Lizard (Sierra McCormick) who having just helped herself to drug boss Boz’s (Travis Hammer) property, is being chased by a bunch of Hype addled loons, lands in the bar. A fight ensues which sees off part of the gang though leaving them in a state of siege from the rest.
VFW has superficial similarities with the likes of Assault on Precinct 13, Rio Bravo and at a stretch The Alamo, though the under sieged in those films were a hotchpotch of characters forced to work together whereas here they have a more natural bond.
The fine earthy script by writers Max Brallier and Matthew McArdle is more than served by Begos’s visuals that hold nothing back as the vets go gung-ho on the gang as they attack in waves.
The violence is gleefully over the top and imaginative mixed up with moments of contemplation and a break - a trope that most will be familiar with - from the action.
There’s not a lot new to be honest it’s just all good bloody fun. And adding to that is the very experienced cast that Begos has assembled. The aforementioned Lang is joined by William Sadler, Fred Williamson, George Wendt, Martin Kove and David Patrick Kelly. The early scenes where they banter are a joy, looking like they are having fun which translates to viewer.
As such the rest of the cast tend to be a bit in the shadows. However McCormick holds her own acerbically dealing with the veterans, as is Williamson who is more understanding. The villains are fairly predictable but no less engaging.
After the flourish of Bliss this may appear meat and potatoes filming and story. And to some extent it is but is also ably demonstrates that Begos can work in a variety of scenarios and successfully translate other people’s work to the screen.
Presented a FrightFest Glasgow on 7 March 2020. Its now available on Digital Download and on DVD and Blu-Ray from 6 April.