VFW is an action thriller from Bliss director Joe Begos and RLJE Films. The film stars Stephen Lang, William Sadler, Martin Kove, David Patrick Kelly, Fred Williamson, Sierra McCormick, Dora Madison Burge and George Wendt. Here’s my review:
A typical night for veterans at a VFW turns into an all-out battle for survival when a desperate teen runs into the bar with a bag of stolen drugs. When a gang of violent punks come looking for her, the vets use every weapon at their disposal to protect the girl and themselves from an unrelenting attack.
Here’s the thing – I still haven’t seen director Joe Begos’ critically acclaimed ‘Bliss’, so I was NOT prepared for the filmmaker’s distinct visual style whatsoever… VFW may look and feel like a throwback 80’s B-Movie at first glance and although yes you will see SEVERAL machete and axe strikes that would make Tom Savini more than proud, but there’s a lot more going on under the surface of this weird and gritty slaughterfest. The premise is simple – you have a bunch of old war veterans having some drinks and reminiscing about old times until a young lady who just stole a psychopath’s stash, makes her way into their club and brings with her a hoard of drug thirsty pseudo zombie punks. Commence the death parade – I don’t think anyone can swing an axe the way Stephen Lang does either and you will see him do that in VFW – a lot… Every moment of impact is terrible and awesome. The practical effects really nail down the tone as if you’re watching a movie that was made in the 1980’s but it happened to be one that time forgot about, until now.
The cast… My god that cast of acting veterans was superb. William Sadler is always a gem in everything he does but he isn’t holding up a spinning blade and mowing down a train of drug addicts in Shawshank Redemption now is he?! Sadler gets to play loose here and I loved that. It’s always nice to see David Patrick Kelly (FIRE IT UP!) so that was an added surprise and the few quiet moments of dialog he has before the madness sets in are REALLY good. Kelly is one of those actors that just steals every scene he’s a part of and he continues to do that here in a movie that is packed with familiar faces. The Hammer Fred Williamson! If you don’t remember his iconic and now legendary 70’s run of blaxploitation classics then you’ll sure as Hell recall him in From Dusk Till Dawn and that’s all the homework you require before watching VFW.
I haven’t seen a movie quite like this one since 2018’s Mandy – a similar film in that it was made with love for another time period of filmmaking but was still created with enough visual flair and unique touches that it transcended the older films and works that inspired it. VFW has that same vibe in that it is most definitely NOT just some throwback B-Movie romp. Begos is absolutely creating art amidst a canvas of mayhem and blood. I love that the most inspired cinema of the past few years has been created in a genre that has always been criticized by the mainstream as being the very opposite. From the score, to the direction, to the brilliant performances – VFW is one helluva wild ride that pushes all these boundaries while paying incredible homage to a genre that typically goes unnoticed and that’s the coolest part of this movie. I mean… aside from watching Stephen Lang KILL EVERYONE.
VFW is a thundering 90 minutes of pure chaos and fun. Come for the shotgun blasts to the face but stick around for that magical Begos touch, which sounds way dirtier than I intended. But seriously – VFW kills and it absolutely earns that ‘Fangoria Presents’ sticker of approval. This is The Expendables by way of classic John Carpenter and that formula is freaking delicious.