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VFW Movie Review

Written by Joel Harley

Released by The Movie Partnership


Directed by Joe Begos
Written by Max Brallier and Matthew McArdle
2019, 92 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on April 6th, 2020. VOD Release 9th March 2020.

Stephen Lang as Fred Parras
Sierra McCormick as Lizard
William Sadler as Walter Reed
Martin Kove as Lou Clayton


A typical night in a grimy veterans' bar takes an unexpected turn when a desperate teenager bursts through the doors, pursued by a gang of junkie punks. Outnumbered and outgunned – but certainly not outclassed – the old timers within face one last fight for their lives. And with an embattled Stephen Lang leading the old fogeys, one doesn't fancy the punks' chances.

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William Sadler, Fred Williamson, Martin Kove, David Patrick Kelly and George Wendt round out the old-timers; a who's who of grizzled badasses, war dogs and, uh, George Wendt. The script, by Max Brallier and Matthew McArdle gives each of them a chance to shine in their own way, and enough personality that you'll actually care once the shit hits the fan. The punks are a far less textured lot, so drugged up to the hilt as to essentially act like a horde of mindless zombies for the Vets to take apart, wave after wave.

What this translates to, under the direction of rising cult star Joe Begos, is some nutso version of From Dusk Till Dawn crossed with Hobo With a Shotgun – or a variation on Green Room in which the punks are the bad guys. This could have been a flag-waving conservative wet dream in the hands of any other director (lookin' at you, S. Craig Zahler), but thankfully Begos and the writers have the good sense to keep their political statement vague and their heroes flawed. The influence of John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 runs thick through the veins of this one, and that extends to its characters and villains.

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As the leader of the troop, Lang gets a gratifyingly meaty role, and one which allows him to express a surprising amount of vulnerability, to boot. Sadler is good value as the comedy sidekick, while Fred Williamson hardly appears to have aged since From Dusk Till Dawn. Crucially, they can all hold their own against the torrents of violence and abuse Begos throws their way, delivering some of the best action you'll see in a genre flick this year. Bathing the whole thing in purple neon, the film oozes Grindhouse. It also oozes plenty of gore, featuring numerous disembowelments, dismemberment, stabbings and impalements. VFW knows exactly the sort of film it aspires to be, and plays to it, from the vulgar dialogue to the over-the-top violence.

But beneath that brash front, there's a heart of gold, glimpsed in the friendship between Lang's bar owner and teen-on-the-run Lizard (Sierra McCormick). It's there in the young soldier (Tom Williamson), just trying to get home to his wife, and in the camaraderie between the old dogs. This particular flavour won't be to all tastes of course, and those less inclined towards violent, mean and crude action films will find little to enjoy in VFW.

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This lean, mean action throwback is a couple of memorable villains away from greatness (think the bikers in Mandy, or Hobo With a Shotgun) and slightly too dingy for comfort. Nevertheless, its action (when you can see it) is tremendous and the film boasts an excellent cast, well utilised. VFW doesn't reinvent the wheel so much as tear it off the damn truck and weaponise it, turning in one of the dirtiest, nastiest and most exciting action films you're likely to see this year.


Movie: 4 Star Rating Cover
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About The Author
Joel Harley
Staff Reviewer - UK
Haribo fiend, Nicolas Cage scholar and frequently functioning alcoholic. These are just some of the words which can be used to describe Joel Harley. The rest, he uses to write film criticism for Horror DNA and a variety of websites and magazines. Sometimes he manages to do so without swearing.
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