J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Astro: Gary Daniels Fights Aliens . . . Eventually, Maybe


Jack Adams is a fifty-year-old Special Forces vet who can still kick plenty of butt, but he is nobody’s idea of an astronaut. That’s okay, his old comrade Alexander Biggs isn’t exactly Elon Musk, but somehow, he is the founder of a billion-dollar aerospace company. There is a shadowy cosmic cabal pulling their strings throughout Asif Akbar’s Astro (trailer here), which releases today on DVD.

We know from the super-confusing in media res opening this tale will eventually end up in space. Unfortunately, it still does not make much sense after the five-day rewind, so consider this fair warning. The widowed Adams was going to celebrate his big Five-O with his daughter until Biggs dispatches a mutual service buddy to lure him to his Texas-sized estate. Apparently, Biggs must recruit Adams for his alien-directed project, because he is a perfect DNA match for an Avatar-looking being from another dimension.

Of course, Biggs keeps his job offer vague, declining to mention the various aliens involved, most definitely including the Boris-and-Natasha duo of Viktor Khol and his glitter-face-painted assistant Vivian, who order him around like the lackey he is. This film is stuffed to the rafters with name characters who enter, pace around the stage a few times, and then promise to return later, presumably because it was conceived as the launch of a multi-platform franchise. Good luck with that.

Frankly, the special effects in Astro are laughably cheesy, but not in a nostalgic, throwback way (the harshly unforgiving lensing does not help either). Without doubt, the best scenes involve Gary Daniels showing off his undiminished chops. There is no question if you want somebody in his 50s, who can throw down convincingly while looking somewhat his age than Daniels is your guy. He still works constantly, but he really should have broken out bigger during his 1990s prime. Yet, you can argue as a British martial arts star, he paved the way for Scott Adkins.

Daniels is also believably protective and dad-like with Courtney Akbar’s Laura Lee Adams, who looks like she worships the ground he walks on (and maybe she should). Despite all the ridiculous things he has to do, Marshal Hilton is entertainingly villainous as Biggs. Indeed, he is emerging as a character actor worth keeping an eye out for, based on his working livening up Astro and Primal Rage. Most likely Louis Mandylor, Max Wasa, Dominique Swain, Michael Paré, and Spice Williams would like to leave their work in this one behind in the rearview mirror, but their presence assures the film will have some level of cult interest.

There is no resolution in Astro, nor is there much narrative cohesion. We’re always willing to give a Gary Daniels star-vehicle a fair hearing, because he can still carry a picture, but this one just collapses around him. Regrettably, we just can’t recommend Astro when it releases today on DVD.

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