Over the last 10 or 15 years, much has been said and done about the Grindhouse aesthetic. Since Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez unleashed their double-bill feature of Death Proof and Planet Terror 2007, many directors have tried and (mostly) failed to capture the gritty glory days of the 1970s drive-in experience.
However, Joe Begos knows exactly how to replicate the style and tone of those movies. He knows that you can have crazy situations, but you need to treat the material seriously. It’s not about the nod and the wink, it’s about knowing how far to deliver the craziness. With films like Bliss and Almost Human, he’s been able to deliver low-budget films which feel like a true vision and never a comppromise. Begos knows how to craft something gritty and gnarly – and VFW is the perfect example of Begos’ style.
Stephen Lang, William Sadler, Martin Kove, David Patrick Kelly and Fred Williamson are a group of old soldiers hanging out at their local VFW (Veterans of Foreign War) station when Lizard (Sierra McCormack) crashes through the door with a bag full of stolen drugs. She’s taken the narcotics from Boz (Travis Hammer), a villainous low-life with an army of drugged-out weirdos. Box wants his drugs back, but our band of pension-age ass-kickers won’t give them back without a fight.
With a tone that is heavily inspired by John Carpenter (the synth score is a delight), VFW plays like a modern update of Assault On Precinct 13, with an added splash of Escape From New York. Joe Begos doesn’t rip-off Carpenter’s movies, he simply uses them in the way that The Master Of Horror homaged the work of the great Howard Hawks. It’s an appreciation of cinematic history, albeit one which might not get taught in film school.
The cast have a blast as they kick all sorts of ass, using whatever weapons they have at their disposal. Stephen Lang makes for a wonderfully gruff lead, while the rest of the gang all get their moments to shine as the horde of druggies descend on their run-down bar. This is what happens when you cast a group of actors who all understand the tone of the material.
Fast, violent and great fun, VFW is the perfect modern-day movie which replicates the Grindhouse experience. It’s never going to take home an Academy Award but it doesn’t need to, it’s going to become one of those movies which will live in the hearts and minds of all who watch it.