VFW plays out like the Senior Circuit version of The Expendables with a greater emphasis on ridiculously over the top violence.
Depending on your gruesome violent scale that might make VFW a non-starter. If you can stomach decapitations, impalements and a variety of creative death scenes, this will prove an entertaining check your brain at the door action piece.
Set in the not so distant future, a drug called Hype has overrun the world and makes its users basically brain-numbed zombies.
Fred (Stephen Lang, Don’t Breathe) is content to avoid them and relive the good old days with his pals at his VFW bar. It’s a run down, decrepit shack much like Fred’s clientele and former troops under his command. When a teenage girl Lizard (Sierra McCormick), steals from a drug lord leader Boz’s (Travis Hammer) stash, she inadvertently brings the fight to the VFW. Only problem for Boz and his crew? They picked the wrong VFW to try and destroy.
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The plot has more in common with Attack on Precinct 13 with the invaders trying to come into one location albeit with less nuance and motivations among the characters.
Fred’s got backup from his squad, Abe (Fred Williamson), Walter (William Sadler), Lou (Martin Kove), Doug (David Patrick Kelly) and Thomas (George Wendt). And it’s probably not a bad thing that current soldier Shawn (Tom Williamson) just so happened to choose this bar to a few drinks in either.
Director Joe Begos loves coming up with various ways to kill characters off. Most of the kills quickly spill over to cartoonish levels of mayhem so it never feels too serious. Beggos clearly isn’t working with a massive budget, but finds smart ways to conceal it such as basing most of the film in a dimly lit bar to hide some less than polished makeup effects. He gets a little stylish with some of the kills, but wisely doesn’t resort to the same tricks like circling around combatants in one battle.
A lot of the film’s charm comes from the cast playing off of each other. Screenwriters Max Ballier and Matthew McArdle understand the strength of the film is the cast and not just the unbridled carnage so there’s plenty of quieter moments for them to interact.
For whatever reason it never dawned on any directors that Stephen Lang could be a superb action hero until James Cameron made the revelation in Avatar. Lang could have been an icon in the same breath as Norris, Stallone and Seagal. He’s got a real leading man’s presence and carries it with ease at 67-years-old.
Sadler, Kove and Williamson provide solid supporting roles. Despite the gore, some of the film’s best moments are just with the old gang sitting back and literally telling old war stories. This offers a greater sense of connectivity to the characters as they start getting put in jeopardy during Boz’s numerous invasion attempts.
VFW isn’t for the faint of heart and while it might be a stretch buying these seniors fighting off hordes of twentysomethings, the cast make it worth checking out if you can handle all the blood and guts.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Fangoria