Friday, January 23, 2015

(Pre) Ask Me a Question: Only the Strong & Lionheart w/ Sheldon Lettich

Any Texans out there?  The Alamo Drafthouse's Greg MacLennan and series Tough Guy Cinema are bringing two Sheldon Lettich cinematic classics to the big screen with 35mm presentations of Only the Strong and Lionheart with Mr. Lettich in attendance for Q&A!  The martial arts mayhem all goes down on Sunday, February 8th at the Austin Ritz location.  Yours truly will be here so please drop me a line if you will too.  As if you could ever forget, Sheldon was my first real guest for a Dammaged Goods Presents night as The New Beverly hosted three nights of Double Impact and BloodsportLionheart co-stars Harrison Page and Brian Thompson showed up, the audiences were awesome, great stories were told and we plain had a Van-tastic time.  I met Greg at an anniversary screening of The Terminator here in Los Angeles where we instantly bonded over our love of action films and his admirable attempt to hold a screening of Predator in the woods before being rained out.  After telling him how Universal didn't have a print of Lionheart, Greg explained he had found a print and screened it in the past.

A true action movie lover, he's responsible for many a macho movie marathon starring the likes of Van Damme, Seagal, Bronson, Russell and more.  This past weekend at the Alamo's Yonkers, New York location a mystery day of Van Damme fare included Sudden Death, Lionheart, Knock Off and Hard Target.  Using the power of #MovieBro's I introduced Greg and Sheldon and now here they are, doing the Damme thing.  I've never been to an Alamo or Austin so I'm pumped to see how they kick ass.

First up is Only the Strong, 1993's capoeira VS Miami street thugs flick starring a yoked Mark Dacascos and Geoffrey Lewis.  The D plays a former special forces soldier who learned the Brazilian, dance based martial art while on assignment.  Upon returning to hometown Miami he finds his former high school overcrowded and full of drugs and gang bangers.  Teaming up with old friends and flames, Dacascos sets about to straighten out the worst kids in the school and dealing with their local crime lord relatives.  With kicks, flips and ba-na-na-way chant music.  Lettich directs and co-wrote the script with Luis Esteban.

Then it's time for 1990's pseudo update of Charles Bronson's street fighting man tale Hard Times starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Harrison Page and Brian Thompson in Lionheart.  JCVD is Leon, a French Foreign Legionnaire who finds out his brother has been killed by drug dealers on the mean streets of Los Angeles.  Going A.W.O.L., Leon lands in LA and scrambling for cash, ends up fighting in a street match organized by Joshua (Page), whups some dude's ass with his "foreign shit" and is dubbed the Lion, king of the jungle.  In an interesting story twist, Leon doesn't spend any time searching for the guys who killed his brother (they were believed caught by police) and sets out to help bro's widow and young daughter.  By fighting.  In a parking garage, racquet ball court, empty pool, a converted tennis court and anywhere with a little open space.  Lettich directs and co-wrote with Van Damme himself in this surprisingly dramatic fight flick that contains the most heart of any JCVD flick outside mockumentary JCVD.

In March, Sheldon and Harrison Page head to Germany for a Lionheart blu-ray release event where a European cut of the film has been cleaned up and digitized for a special features packed release.

You got a lot of heart, Lionheart!

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