Cold Harvest (1999) Review

"Cold Harvest" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“Cold Harvest” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Isaac Florentine
Writer: Frank Dietz
Cast: Gary Daniels, Bryan Genesse, Barbara Crampton, David Sherwood, Isaac Mavimbela, Chris Buchanan, Greg Melvill-Smith, Rohan Coll, Ian Roussouw
Running Time: 89 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Reviewing movies retrospectively is always an interesting exercise. Depending on how much time has passed, what was once considered cool may now be terribly dated, and what was once considered a train wreck may have aged like a fine wine. Just check out the opinions on some Lo Wei directed Jackie Chan movies now compared to 20 years ago. Which brings me to Cold Harvest, a movie I wasn’t aware existed, until I stumbled across it while researching a review for director Isaac Florentine’s (at the time of writing) latest, Acts of Vengeance.

Perhaps like many others, Florentine first appeared on my radar with the 2003 DTV action flick Special Forces, which showcased the talents of a certain fledging British martial arts star by the name of Scott Adkins. While the talent on display led me to seek out Florentine’s previous effort, the 2001 Michael Worth starring U.S. Seals II: The Ultimate Force, I never bothered to venture into his pre-2000 filmography. As it turned out, if I had decided to check out more of his earlier work, I would no doubt have seen Cold Harvest much sooner, as it acts as an action vehicle for another British martial arts star, Gary Daniels.

Daniels was already a solid B-movie star by the time he worked with Florentine, and Cold Harvest would mark his last movie of the 90’s (Florentine on the other hand still had one left in him, with the Dolph Lundgren starring Bridge of Dragons). I confess that my lack of enthusiasm towards 90’s American martial arts movies means that my exposure to Daniels has been limited to his work with Hong Kong studios. He puts in a commendable performance fighting against Jackie Chan in 1993’s City Hunter (despite Chan’s own contempt for the movie itself), and would headline the Seasonal Films U.S. set Blood Moon in 1997, which pitted him against Darren Shahlavi.

While his HK collaborations provided the opportunity to work with the likes of Jackie Chan and Tony Leung Siu-Hung, Cold Harvest comes with a similar draw. Both Florentine and the Alpha Stunts team, a group of martial artists and stuntmen known for their high impact choreography, spent most of the 90’s honing their skills on the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers TV series and its various spin-offs. While the founder of Alpha Stunts, Koichi Sakamoto, had worked wonders with Mark Dacascos in Drive, just a couple of years prior, Cold Harvest brought in its co-founder, Akihiro Noguchi, to handle the martial arts sequences. Providing Noguchi with his first credit as Martial Arts Choreographer, in the preceding years he’d notch up several more as either a stunt, action, or martial arts chorographer on the likes of Black Belt, Ninja, and Everly, to name but a few.

So the million dollar question you’re likely thinking is – is Cold Harvest to Gary Daniels what Drive is to Mark Dacascos? Well, not quite. Arguably the biggest advantage Drive has is that it had most of the Alpha Stunts crew on-board (including Noguchi), however that’s not to say that Cold Harvest is a slouch in any way. Taking place in the not-too-distant future of 2010 (well, if we look at it from the time of production), the world has been hit by a comet plunging it into perpetual darkness, and if that wasn’t bad enough, a plague is wiping out large swatches of the population as well. Rising up from this post-apocalyptic world is a no-nonsense bounty hunter, played by Daniels, who makes his living hunting down wanted criminals and delivering them to law enforcement for a tidy reward.

Florentine shows his first affinity here for employing the twins plot device, one which he’d also use in U.S. Seals II with the late Karen Kim, with Daniels taking on a double role. Far from being a tough guy though, the twin role sees Daniels playing a normal civilian (he has glasses!) en route to the ‘Safe Zone’ with his pregnant wife. His wife is one of only 6 people carrying a gene which could cure the plague, and together they exchange loving glances while talking about their dream of opening a mushroom farm (mushrooms don’t require much light see). Daniels acting in the role of the average Joe twin is laughably horrendous, with every line spoken in a tone that implies he’s yet to hit puberty, and sporting an accent that’s all over the place. Thankfully, as in any action movie that employs such a setup (see also Maximum Risk), it isn’t long before a bullet lands between his eyes.

This leads to the crux of the plot, which has Daniels the bounty hunter team up with his brothers widow (played by Barbara Crampton), and go on the run from a group of mercenaries who plan to ransom her (well, her genes anyway) to the government. A post-apocalyptic world. A widow on the run. A bounty hunter looking to avenge his brother. It’s solid B-movie stuff. It’s also worth noting Florentine appears to have believed that, by 2010, wild-west fashion would have made a massive come-back. It may be a post-apocalyptic world, but if you didn’t know any better you’d think the comet struck in the late 1800’s. Florentine’s fondness for the western genre, despite it not being given any explanation whatsoever, does give Cold Harvest a distinct look, with six shooters (capable of unloading much more than 6) and Stetsons featured liberally.

Of course being a post-apocalyptic tale, amidst the wild west themes we still get the prerequisite dune buggies, motorbikes, and dwarves, showing that Florentine was clearly paying attention to all of those Cirio H. Santiago 80’s post-apocalyptic flicks with Richard Norton. Despite most of Cold Harvest playing out on what are obviously the same small number of streets (re: sets – there’s a reason why its permanently dark), being re-arranged a little for each change in location, there’s a charm present that’s sadly lacking in many of the same calibre productions today. No doubt this is due to the zero reliance on CGI that today’s action B-movies come with, instead relying on actual explosions (impressive ones at that), blood squibs, and set design. Going back to my first paragraph, I miss real in-camera effects, which today have been replaced by cheap CGI created in post.

The action occurs frequently, a mix of vehicular (mostly motorbike) stunt work that we have Stunt Coordinator Tyrone Stevenson (Mad Max: Fury Road) to thank for, and the aforementioned fights choreographed by Noguchi. The fights have the Alpha Stunts stamp all over them – a mix of hard hitting blows usually finished off by a kung fu power pose, Daniels is more than up for performing the choreography, and does so with aplomb. Just as much as Daniels though, the stuntmen on the receiving end also deserve equal credit, as Cold Harvest delivers some truly painful looking falls. Bodies go crashing through tables, thrown into walls, and are knocked off elevated platforms while crashing into inanimate objects on the way down. As a showcase of how to perform a wince inducing fall, Cold Harvest is a masterclass, usually captured in sparingly used slow motion.

The head mercenary is played by Bryan Genesse, another action B-movie stalwart best known for his kung fu fighting role in the Street Justice TV series, which ran from 1991 to 1993. Here he keeps his martial arts chops hidden, saving them for a final confrontation with Daniels that has them busting out the ‘shoot at each other from opposite sides of a wall’ move, lifted wholesale from John Woo’s Hard Target and Face/Off, before agreeing to go at it “man to man”. It’s a satisfying fight with plenty of high impact blows and falls, and one which makes you wish they’d had the opportunity to go at it a couple more times throughout the movie. As it is though, their throwdown provides a worthy exclamation mark to proceedings.

While Cold Harvest is a lot of fun, it’s also far from perfect. Florentine knows how to film action, but he’s never been a strong director, and in his earlier efforts those weaknesses especially show through. There are moments of unintentional comedy which could have been avoided, such as a scene which has Daniels suggestively cleaning the barrel of his shotgun while watching Crampton bathe topless (non-gratuitous, for those wondering). I also realized that any name which needs to be yelled in slow motion should only be 1 syllable, otherwise it sounds ridiculous, like when Crampton has to yell the name Oliver (“Ohhhhh…..leeeee……verrrrrrr!”). But these gripes are overall forgivable, and for those that want to see Daniels unleashing some high impact choreography, this is definitely the right place. Now I just need to know exactly what Cold Harvest is referring to.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 6.5/10

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31 Responses to Cold Harvest (1999) Review

  1. Mike Retter says:

    “I confess that my lack of enthusiasm towards 90’s American martial arts movies means that my exposure to Daniels has been limited to his work with Hong Kong studios…”

    Thats a pretty serious confession my friend! Not that there isn’t a great waist-high river of 1990s cinematic-sewerage to trawl through, just to find some of the greater and resilient titles .. But that decade is where Garry Daniels, Jeff Wincott, JCVD, Segal, Dacascos, Avedon, PM Entertainment (an aesthetic world of its own), Lorenzo Lamas and company all did their best work. There is no post-nineties western equivalent to this mighty group of pre-CGI image-realist action stars.

    But despite this potential blind-spot, thats an awesome review about a film whose trailer backs up your statements of its action pedigree. The staging looks great and thats really nice to know it shares some stunt-team with Steve Wang’s DRIVE. And Isaac Florentine is for the most part a complete blindspot for me, his trailers all look visually inspired, what the hell have I been doing? I’v even seen multiple Robert Clouse films, even thought they are all awful, apart from Enter The Dragon.. So I will remedy this, perhaps starting with Florentine’s martial-arts western “SAVATE” and then “Cold Harvest”.

    • Well, I have an excuse – my entrance into the world of martial arts cinema was through the Hong Kong classics of the 70’s and 80’s, which in fairness would be impossible to compare to for any countries film industry, not just the States. Even with the names you’ve mentioned, with the exception of Seagal, I find their best work to be that which had the Hong Kong influence. For Van Damme it’s the likes of ‘Knock Off’ (his best movie – there I said it) and ‘Replicant’, for Avedon his Seasonal Films work, and Dacascos of course ‘Drive’.

      Glad you enjoyed the review, and if you’re not familiar with Isaac Florentine, his collaborations with Scott Adkins are the way to go. Both ‘Ninja’ movies are top drawer stuff (the 2nd one in particular, in my opinion, is one of the best martial arts movies of recent years), as well as the 2nd and 3rd ‘Undisputed’ sequels.

      As for a certain Mr Daniels, if there are any other movies of his with action on a similar level to ‘Cold Harvest’ and ‘Blood Moon’, please let me know what they are!

      • Mike Retter says:

        That was my entrance too, In The Line OF Duty 5: Middleman to be precise, which started a life-long journey with HK cinema. The importance and influence of Hong Kong cinema on American martial arts films is undeniable.

        Van Dammes best movies are Hong Kong influenced, but it aint Knock Off! Its either Hard Target (dir. John Woo) or Bloodsport (which was shot in Hong Kong). Knock Off is very average.. If anything, it symnolises his downfall as a star.

        Although the American martial arts films are HK influenced, that doesn’t mean they dont have their own distinct flavour and contribution to the genre itself.. I think the PM entertainment pictures like Final Impact and Deadly Bet were interesting for their combination of kickboxing and film noir. You should check out some of the films Garry Daniels made with PM entertainment. PM is better known for their straight stuntwork and explosions and not so-much intricate martial arts .. But the Daniels pictures are worth watching.

        Not to keep disagreeing with you, but I have been puzzled for years why the hell people think Scott Adkins is any kind of interesting martial arts star … The man has no charisma or star quality! Unlike B-movie stars of the past, the average person doesn’t know who he is. And those Undisputed sequels are just a bunch of undercranked fights that look ridiculous. The movies are OK. Adkins can fight on screen, but he isnt a distinct figure, he doesn’t stand-out to me like any of the iconic 80s/90s B-stars that are still talked about.

        • From Cynthia Khan to Van Damme. 😊 I love ‘Knock Off’ for many reasons, though most are not associated with the more traditional Van Damme fans point of view. The combination of watching Tsui Hark throw every camera trick in the book onscreen, with Van Damme at his most manically cocaine addled (his on-set interviews in the ‘Making Of’ are priceless), resulted in by far his most entertaining performance. But hey, I know I’m almost alone in that opinion.

          Regarding Adkins, I agree his acting can comes across as sub-par in many of the roles he’s taken on. I don’t think this is necessarily a reflection of his overall ability though, with it being more to do with the poor scripts and rushed schedules the productions he signs up to often come with. I also just wish he’d use his English accent much like Gary Daniels usually did, and drop the American tone. It worked wonders for ‘Accident Man’.

          I certainly wouldn’t say that he’s any less or more charismatic than the likes of his 90’s DTV equivalents though. Gary Daniels, Van Damme, Loren Avedon, and – dare I go there – Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson, all are largely forgettable outside of their action scenes. Audiences watch these guys to see them in action, and on that account, they deliver.

          • Mike Retter says:

            Balderdash! Van Damme is literally an icon of cinema. A freaking movie star who was as big as Brad Pitt. Loren Avedon only starred in a few B-movies many moons ago and is still talked about in hushed tones.. For those in the know, hes a legend. Don “The Dragon” Wilson never really made a great movie, full-stop, so I cant really vouch for his virtues. But I like how you left Jeff Wincott of that list! The man who everyone gives credit for beimng excellent dramatic actor, thus his roles in The Wire etc .. Im not even saying Scott Adkins cant act (Gary Daniels cant) but thats not the point, he just isnt a screen presence and will never be truly iconic. Never!

            • Van Damme is an icon of cinema, agreed. I wouldn’t say he’s charismatic, or even has that much screen presence. He was in the right place at the right time, and worked his niche in a way few others were able to capitalize on.

              Things are about to get controversial (if they haven’t already) – I’ve never seen a Jeff Wincott movie, mainly because I’ve never heard of him. That either means (a) he didn’t leave as much of a memorable legacy as a 90’s B-movie action star as you think, or (b) I’m a fraud and should cease and desist all further writings for COF. 😛

              • Mike Retter says:

                A little of column a) and column b) haha!

                Van Damme no charisma? Are you pulling my leg? The man in his prime was a superstar exuding charisma. I cant think of a more charismatic man in cinema and thats not a joke.

                You can totally be forgiven for not knowing Jeff Wincott, hes fairly obscure in some senses untill you have explored the 90s explosion of sub-Van Dammes..

          • Z Ravas says:

            Don’t worry, Paul – you’re not totally alone. ‘Knock Off’ is my favorite Van Damme flick as well. Tsui Hark’s directing in that one is almost as visually inventive and outrageous as Time & Tide. How could I not love it?

            Personally, though, I find that Van Damme has charisma to spare. He definitely gives off that iconic movie star vibe when I see him onscreen in the right roles.

            • Mike Retter says:

              Thats really funny that you are both saying it is visually inventive … I must admit not having seen it since paying $6 to rent a video tape of it over 15 years ago … I suppose at the time I was looking for great action, clarity of staging, slow motion and impact … But when I watched Knock Off, I was very disappointed and unamused at its comedy and ridiculous plot/CGI .. Frankly, I felt ripped-off! But I did see Time And Tide, the abseiling through windows and jumping on shoulders to break necks was pretty startling/fresh .. So Knock Off may now have reached critical mass for reassessment … Is it better or worse than Double Team?

          • JJ Bona says:

            I’m with you guys on KNOCK OFF all the way. I can’t think of any other film (from any country) that mix knock off goods, undercover cops posed as clothing salesmen, and dolls that create green explosions (WTF?) in one complete package – and the fact that it’s written by the guy who wrote the air-tight script for DIE HARD makes it that much more of a cinematic enigma! It’s insanely ridiculous at times, but it’s light years ahead of the game, visually. For the most part, it still holds up til this very day. What it’s ultimately missing are some beefy fight scenes, but everything else makes up for what it’s lacking. Definitely my favorite JCVD film for the reasons I mention. I feel Hark made the movie he wanted to with KNOCK OFF, after he didn’t get his way with DOUBLE TEAM. As a bonus, you get Micheal Wong, Carman Lee, Paulie from Goodfellas, Deuce Bigalow, Lela Rochon and flashes of Sammo Hung’s brilliant action sequences… what’s not to love?

            • Mike Retter says:

              This is an amazing consensus about something I never expected … Knock Off?? The lack of beefy fight scenes certainly got me annoyed as a chop-socky fiend teen … But I wouldn’t have understood/appreciated “cinema” and visual storytelling technique back then quite like I could now .. So attention is officially spiked.

    • Z Ravas says:

      I agree, I think we need to strong-arm Mr. Paul Bramhall and have him review Gary Daniels in RAGE next. It’s a total guilty pleasure movie produced by none other than the aforementioned PM Entertainment. Here is IMDB’s rather succinct plot summary: ‘A corrupt right-wing militia group chooses a California teacher as the ideal specimen to clone for its army.’ Now tell me you don’t want to sit your butt down to watch that? From my memory, there’s not much in the way of hand-to-hand combat, but the entire film felt like one long chase that saw Gary Daniels running from one outrageous vehicular stunt/explosion to the next.

      • Well, that would certainly kill two birds with one stone – further my Gary Daniels repertoire, and break my PM Entertainment cherry (yes – I’ve never seen a single one of their movies). Would it be fair to say that PM Entertainment were to Gary Daniels in the 90’s what Cannon Films was to Chuck Norris in the 80’s? Plenty of action movies, but few of which fully utilize their martial arts talents (although if you’re making movies like ‘Invasion U.S.A.’, this is surprisingly forgivable).

        From that plot description of ‘Rage’ though, I’m all in. No strong-arming required!

        • Mike Retter says:

          Yeah, a lot of people cite PM as filling the void once Cannon folded/went bankrupt. This was the moment that PM lifted a notch in terms of budget and production value. Their films are never perfect, but they have set-pieces that rival Hollywood (check out The Sweeper). The pure martial arts films they made were in their earlier era, late 80s and early 90s. As a low-budget production house, they had to follow what was popular or what the market/distributors wanted, so as the market changed, so did they, often in strange ways .. There is some reading on this around the web, worth a search to be honest.

  2. Andrew Hernandez says:

    I loved Cold Harvest! Even though the dialogue was awful, the action was satisfying, and I liked picking out the references to other martial arts films. (When Daniels uses Cranston to kick a guy, I thought of Corey Yuen.)

    The “whoosh” effect was used much better here than in US Seals II which abused it, and gave the movie something of a trashy comic book appeal.

    It’s a shame Noguchi has a pretty sporadic filmography, and doesn’t showcase his work as well as Cold Harvest and Special Forces have.

    • Funny, as soon as you mentioned the “whoosh” sound effect, I knew exactly what you meant! You’re right, that sound effect was used rather jarringly in ‘US Seals II’. Perhaps because that one was supposed to be more realistic than the events of ‘Cold Harvest’, so it seemed more out of place.

      Noguchi has been pretty heavily involved in the post-2000 ‘Power Rangers’ universe, usually in the capacity of 2nd Unit Director on its many spin-offs. I need to check out his work on the Salma Hayek movie ‘Everly’, still haven’t gotten around to that one.

      • Andrew Hernandez says:

        Oh yes, I know he does well on Power Rangers, but some of the other things he’s worked on like Devilman and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen arent shining examples of his work.

        I know some of the guys here love Everly, but I felt it was a missed opportunity. I guess I wanted something more like Atomic Blonde out of it.

        • Z Ravas says:

          I thought Everly was a fun Netflixer, but – for better or worse – the production felt more about its outrageous violence/gore and the director staging a bunch of impressive one-take sequences rather than a showcase for Noguchi’s fight choreography.

  3. Dragonclaws says:

    Good solid review Paul, enjoyed reading it, very informative.

    I remember you talking about getting this title over at Kung Fu Fandom forums. Got myelf a copy paired with another DTV movie that I cant recall. Need to dig it out of the parents loft. Post Drive DTV movies, were starting to up their game in the late 90’s. Sadly at same time the straight to video genre was just passed its peak years.

    City of Fear, that came out around the same time?, was not as impressive as Cold Harvest, in terms of the action. Remember Daniels talking about this movies as up-coming projects in IMPACT magazine.

    • Cheers Dragonclaws! I’m guessing we likely have the same DVD, and ironically enough the flick it’s paired with is the very one that you mention – ‘City of Fear’, from 2000. I’ll definitely give that one a watch as well at some point, but good to have the heads up that it’s not on the same level as ‘Cold Harvest’.

      • Dragonclaws says:

        You might enjoy City of Fear more than me, I was just disapointed with it, after watching Cold Harvest.

        • Andrew Hernandez says:

          I have City of Fear on VHS lurking somewhere in my basement. I thought it was decent. The fight scenes aren’t as kinetic as in Bloodmoon and Cold Harvest, but they’re well choreogrphed enough, and better than Daniel’s early and mid 90s fare.

          Although Rage was pretty cool.

  4. Z Ravas says:

    After watching the trailer for ‘Cold Harvest,’ one thing I really appreciate about these early Isaac Florentine flicks like this and ‘U.S. Seals 2’ – even if he tended to overdo the whole ‘WHOOSH’ thing, he had great sound FX for all of the punches and kicks!

  5. DougWonnacott says:

    Nice review Paul. Didn’t realise this was an early Isaac Florentine film. I’ve decided to take a punt and get the UK dvd. But which one should I get off Amazon? The ‘Hollywood’ dvd that comes with three other films for £0.09, or the version someone is selling for £399.00? Decisions, decisions….

  6. jetli number one says:

    i have this movie in my collection my rating 7/10

  7. Scott Blasingame says:

    Oh man! I need to dig this out a watch it again. I remember digging this movie, regardless of the obvious hokieness. And you absolutely have to expand your Gary Daniels filmography. FIREPOWER, RAGE, HAWK’S VENGEANCE, RIOT, & RECOIL to me are some of his funnest to watch.

    I also dig KNOCK OFF and it is way better than DOUBLE TEAM. The hotel fight in DT is the best thing in the film. JCVD is heavily doubled during the end fight with Mickey Rourke, his favorite party buddy at the time.

    And I’m sorry, but Scott Adkins absolutely has screen presence and charisma. Otherwise the character Yuri Boyka (the most complete fighter in the world!) would have been a throwaway character never to be heard from again were it not for Adkins’ talent and portrayal. Not saying he hasn’t made a few stinkers, but that’s paying your dues. And star quality is not always an instantaneous thing to achieve, but his is certainly on the rise, and deservingly so, as his new film ACCIDENT MAN is proof of. As far as being an icon in the Martial Arts Cinema genre, Adkins is every bit one now as JCVD once was.

    Oh, I just had an epiphany! What Adkins should do in a future film is star opposite Daniels. That would be a killer end fight! Two Brits battling it out with some beautiful bootwork.

    • “Oh, I just had an epiphany! What Adkins should do in a future film is star opposite Daniels. That would be a killer end fight! Two Brits battling it out with some beautiful bootwork.”

      That’s what should have happened in ‘Zero Tolerance’, but instead the opportunity was squandered. Still, I’d definitely be up for seeing them onscreen together again…maybe for ‘Accident Man 2’?

    • Andrew Hernandez says:

      If a funny thing with Gary Daniels. His earlier films had much slower choreography and were the very definition of average DTV fare. When the late 90’s and 2000’s came around, an older Daniels started showcasing more energy, and almost seemed better than ever. (Although nowadays, it’s very hit and miss.)

  8. Blake Matthews says:

    Okay, I love Van Damme. It was his KICKBOXER that got me into MA cinema in the first place. I think he has far more charisma than Seagal, Don Wilson, Chuck Norris, and numerous other B/C-level martial arts actors. And I’v always been willing to suspend disbelief at his playing American characters with Belgian accents–as someone who lives in Brazil and speaks Portuguese with an accent that’ll never go away, I can sympathize with him.

    I love his two Tsui Hark collaborations, DOUBLE TEAM and KNOCK OFF. Caught both of them at the theater and rented them multiple times afterward. They are far from his worst films. NOWHERE TO RUN, HARD CORPS, and (probably) DERAILED are far, FAR worse.

    @Paul – I saw my first Jeff Wincott movie last year, although I’m suprised you never knew who he was for a long time. His films were always visible on the video rental store shelves, even if they never interested me.

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