At first glance, VFW plays out like an ol’ time blood bath, somewhere along the lines of John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13, as waves of drug addicts storm a little bar defended by a determined band of geezers.
Carpenter-esque synthesizer stabs punctuate the carnage and gang members are decked-out in faux-leather bodywear, as if they’d just returned from a Spandau Ballet video shoot.
The uber-violent skirmish gets rolling when street urchin Lizard (Sierra McCormick) rips off Boz (Travis Hammer), a theatrical drug-dealing psychopath, and seeks shelter at a local watering hole inhabited by combat veteran ass-kickers itching for a little action.
Boz and his ruthless bodyguard Gutter (Dora Madison) inflict some damage, but ultimately they underestimate the tenacity and loyalty of these ancient warriors, resulting in an explosive comeuppance.
The action is nonstop, the blood is plentiful and stylishly rendered. You need further recommendation? VFW is a Fangoria production, so don’t expect a whole lot of dialogue.
Even so, somewhere during the third act, Fred the bartender (Stephen Lang) yells “Come on, you lazy bastard!” at his old foxhole buddy Walter (William Sadler), who responds, “I’m coming, dammit!”
Not a super noticeable moment unless you’re a fan of Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, but it demonstrates that director Joe Begos (Almost Human) and writers Max Brallios and Matthew McArdle know and respect their antecedents when it comes to movies about hopelessly outnumbered men fighting for a cause.
In addition to Lang and Sadler, the pedigreed supporting cast includes Martin Kove (The Karate Kid), Fred “The Hammer” Williamson (From Dusk Till Dawn), George Wendt (Cheers), and David Patrick Kelly (Twin Peaks, Commando), all of whom have swell screentime dismembering, impaling, and perforating platoons of savage tweakers.
Kelly, who distinguished himself as the evilest gang member ever in Walter Hill’s classic The Warriors, is particularly poignant as an old stoner on his last legs who chooses to die with his boots on.
Peckinpah would be proud of this bunch. Carpenter too, probably.