Sunday, December 27, 2015

QUEUE CLEANSING: Ardennes Fury (2014)



                “Ardennes Fury” (also known as “Battle of the Ardennes: Fury”)  is a mockbuster.  If you don’t know what a “mockbuster” is, neither did I until I researched this movie.  A mockbuster is a movie that piggy-backs off a major release to either fool people into buying the wrong DVD or to offer less discerning viewers more (but vastly inferior) entertainment on the same subject.  In this case, the target was "Fury".  ”Ardennes Fury” was produced by The Asylum.  It is a studio that has a reputation for straight to DVD releases like “Titanic II”, “Transmorphers”, and another queue dust-gatherer entitled “Flight World War II”.   “Ardennes Fury” was directed, written, and co-edited by Joseph Lawson.  Don’t look for him at the Oscars anytime soon.

                We are dropped into the middle of a fire fight.  Other than the title, there is no reference to the Battle of the Bulge and there is no snow to be seen.  Although low budget, they did not spare on the blanks as the opposing sides hammer away at each other across a field.  No one shames themselves by going prone and there is a lot of firing from the hip.  It’s that kind of combat movie.  The plot centers on the crew of an M4 Sherman tank and a few infantry attached to it.  While the tank waits, a group of four led by Sgt. Lance Dawson (Tom Stedham) go off to rescue an orphanage after encountering Sister Claudette (Lauren Vera).  One of the men is black, which is another clue that the Lawson is not much of a history buff.  While the snowy Battle of the Ardennes did see the rushing of black soldiers into combat, they were still in segregated units and there is no implication that Sgt. Rose (Lawrence Garnell, Jr.) has been separated from his unit.  One of the four is a boat-rocker named C.K. (Bill Voorhies) who clashes with Sgt. Dawson about ass-risking. 
black sarge and white sarge

                The movie becomes something of a chase film as the group tangles with an evil German officer who is not above executing civilians and torturing prisoners (including a rather graphic fingernail removal).  While the men and their charges are on the run, the stationary tank is taking on a series of German tanks with never a miss and nary a scratch.  All of this is happening as the clock ticks towards Operation Ardennes Fury which is to be a massive aerial bombardment of the area.  (The moviemakers seem to have confused this massive bombardment with Operation Cobra of the Normandy Campaign).  The chase whittles down our pursued until the climactic knife fight between Sarge and the bad German.  Their charge is punctuated by a P-47 dropping a bomb between them.  C.K.s redemption arc is completed as the tank comes riding to the rescue.

                Now that I know what a mockbuster is, I will be more tolerant toward movies like “Ardennes Fury”.  I is what it is – a low budget rip-off.  But it is a war movie, it was “free” and streaming on Netflix, and it was entertaining in a low expectations sort of way.  The best c word for it is not cult, it’s cheesy.  The acting is amateurish, probably because the actors were amateurs (or should be).  Stedham does looked grizzled so he matches the sarge role, but his thespian skills are lacking.  The rest of the cast is game, but you get what you pay for.  They aren’t helped by dialogue written by someone who has watched too many 1940s B war movies.  Speaking of which, there are a number of classic clichés that the movie incorporates.  The mission changes for humanitarian reasons.  The small group caught behind enemy lines.  The redemption of the troublemaker.  The evil German pursuer.  It’s all very predictable and unrealistic.  This is tempered a bit by the fast pace.  The music also smacks of a thousand second rate war movies.  In fact, the only thing that separates it from a cheesy Old School war movie is the CGI.  Lawson uses computers to overcome his lack of resources.  Although he managed to score a WWII era tank and a few other vehicles, most of the armored combat involves CGI.  This includes the explosions.  I guess CGI does not work well for tank interiors, so Lawson films the crew as though the tank is a convertible!  A tank with a moonroof - nice option.  Where “Fury” could rightfully brag about its use of an authentic Tiger tank.  Lawson could include several using video-game like graphics.  I will not argue that the cinematography isn’t fake looking, but what do you expect from a movie with its budget.  As CGI improves, the future of war movies is bright.  The quality will improve and with companies like The Asylum so will the quantity.  I assume there will always be enough men who want to play soldier in front of a camera.
five people playing army in the woods

                With all that said, although I don’t regret I watched it and did go in expecting what I got, it still is truly a bad movie.  Watch it with a six pack and you’ll guffaw instead of giggle.

P.S.  When it comes to mockbusters, it's best not to trust the poster.  (see above)


GRADE  = D

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