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Joe Begos Old School Grindhouse Film ‘VFW’ Kills It At Fantastic Fest

"VFW" is definitely a throw back to the exploitation films of the 80's. It's got plenty of grindhouse gore but what sets it apart from many of those films of yesteryear, is director Joe Begos.

If you have a love for old school, grindhouse-like films, featuring outlandish plots and gory scenes you’ll absolutely love the gritty  ‘VFW” from talented Indy director Joe Begos (Bliss), and part of the Fangoria relaunch.

“VFW” premiered at Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX September 2019

Story

“Lizard” (Sierra McCormick) tries to get revenge for her sister’s addiction to a crazy drug called “Hype” by stealing the drug lord’s stash of money. It was a spur of the moment robbery and she doesn’t have an escape plan as she ends up running into an old VFW bar to escape a zombie like crowd of people out to kill her. The heroes in this bar are not just pictures on the wall. Slinging drinks and hanging out recounting old war stories is Fred (Stephen Lang – Avatar) who takes immediate charge of the men in the bar to make an effort to save Lizard after a quick look reveals a large group of  “zombies” who have been promised drugs in exchange for getting the stolen money back.

Cast

Martin Kove (L), Stephen Lang (near R) VFW director Joe Begos (C) laughing at Fantastic Fest
Photo: Fantastic Fest

Could there be a cooler group of actors? Leader of the assembled War Dogs is “Fred” played by actor Stephen Lang (Avatar) who brings an innate ass-kicking vibe to the story. He’s tough and gritty and doesn’t take any bull. He physically represents as “Fred” and after seeing the film, couldn’t think of a better actor for the role.

The other “vets” including Walter (William Sadler – Bill & Ted Face The Music), Lou (Martin Kove – Cobra Kai), Doug (David Patrick Kelly -John Wick Chapter 2), Thomas (George Wendt – Cheers), Abe (Fred Williamson – From Dusk til Dawn) who team up on screen to take on the drugged up minions that kingpin Boz (Travis Hammer – Godless) sends out to recover his stash are incredible together on screen.

What’s very key here, in regards to the actors in the bar scenes, is that every one of them is given a character that has more than 1 or 2 dimensions. They all portray what feels like genuine people with real back stories. The writing is excellent and it’s quite hard to know how much of that was strong writing or a combination of that and just really experienced actors? Nevertheless, the effect is what seems like a “B” movie / exploitation type but in fact is an “A” in quality and performance (despite the gore and exploding heads!).

The ensemble in the bar scenes recounting their various war stories, and the addition of the new vet ( Shawn Mason) that joins also created a great dynamic. It’s hard to single out one actor without feeling like you are betraying the quality of all the others, so just know that all of them were very fine in their performances with their comedic timing and allowing space around each other’s performance to make this more than just an homage to older films in this sub-genre exploitation film.

The Verdict

“VFW” is definitely a throw back to the exploitation films of the 80’s. It’s got plenty of grindhouse gore but what sets it apart from many of those films of yesteryear, is director Joe Begos. He was careful to include plenty of squirting blood shots and explosions, but made the wise choice to make sure his characters made sense and had solid character motivations, one of the things often missing in similar genre films.

He also shot his movie on film giving it that grainy look that works so well for the genre. Though “VFW” is not a movie for all audiences, it still plays really well for those who like some solid action and don’t mind some visceral violence. With a phenomenal cast, and a siege story shot with attention to physical effects,  “VFW” is a solid good time!

Screened at Fantastic Fest 2019 / Austin, Texas

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