When you look at his work, film director Jeff Begos’s resume reads more like a love letter to cult genre directors. Lynch and Cronenberg especially come to mind when watching Bego’s films Bliss and Mind’s Eye. And Begos has continued this nod to his influences with his latest film, VFW.
While being a science fiction film, this every bit a love letter to John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13. The story of VFW is set in the near future when a new drug called Hype has turned America into a war zone. Fred, the owner of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) bar, Fred and his old Vietnam war buddies practically live out of a decades-old bond and a sense of honor to their fellow soldiers. One night, a young girl, Lizard, steals the Hype supply of the local drug lord, Boz. Lizard, by chance, runs into the VFW as she’s chased by Boz’s men and drugged up, punk-mutant army. Fred and his boys, bound by their sense of duty, defend Lizard and what follows is a massacre that would make Carpenter himself proud.
Begos knows his audience and delivers on absolutely every front, 98% of this film is bathed in deep red and blue lights that truly brings out the (slightly cheesy) 80’s-style grainy film effect that Begos has treated the film. Despite the fact, the story takes place in just one location, and 80% of this movie is a mutant massacre, Begos allows these characters the time to feel. And it speaks to Begos’s talent as a filmmaker that even when he allows his characters time to breath, it still feels just as kinetic as it is when the mutants attack.
And when these mutants attack, it’s practical gore effects and a truly impressive amount of violence Begos has crammed into 92 minutes. And this cast, despite their collective ages, truly delivers on the action front. the veterans leader, Fred, is played by Stephen Lang. Who can bury a massive fire ax into a man half his age in a fraction of a second. Martin Kove, William Sadler, David Patrick Kelly, and Fred Williamson make up the remainder of the VFW.
VFW is every bit what you wanted The Expendables to be as Begos plays this ensemble cast masterfully. Everyone has their moment, nobody’s lost to the background. And every one of these aging legends prove why their names are said with respect in the genre world.
On the other end, Travis Hammer plays Boz, the drug lord. Hammer embodies the old saying speak softly and carry a big stick as he proves from the off that Boz is not someone you want to mess with.
Dora Madison and Sierra McCormick are especially impressive in a film that is 99%, alpha males. Madison plays Boz’s right hand. Always at the front of his army and ready to kill in a heartbeat. Despite the imposing look of this veteran cast, she’s there to kill them all and you actually believe her that she will. McCormick’s Lizard spends the entire film with Lang and the veterans and does not once give any of the screen to them. It talks a lot of the talent this 21-year-old has.
VFW is every bit a send up to John Carpenter and that includes the violence. Begos again shows his love of the ’80s by using 95% practical kills with everything from fire axes, swords, guns, spiked bats, spears, and everything in between including the flagpole.
VFW is a shining jewel in a world of 200 million dollar superhero CGI-filled fights. It’s not only a love letter to a different style of filmmaking it reminds us of the reason why we go to the theatre. This is a fun film and well worth 5 out of 5 stars. VFW isn’t trying to reinvent the genre, it isn’t trying to be anything other than two fun hours of escapism. And there is absolutely no problem with that.