VFW is the latest film from Joe Begos and it will melt your face, your mom’s face, and the face of everyone you’ve ever met. A throwback to gnarly ’80s B-grade action and horror, the film stars genre greats Stephen Lang, Martin Kove, William Sadler, Fred Williamson, and George Wendt as a group of Vietnam vets who have to defend themselves and their bar from an onslaught of mutated zombie drug addicts. It’s kind of The Expendables movie that we never got, but always deserved.
The film takes place in a world gone to shit, where a drug called Hype has taken over the streets and the police and government have essentially given up trying to control it. It’s highly addictive and turns its users into mindless, violent, bloodthirsty beings who will go to any measure for their next fix. One night, our aging soldiers have come together at the local VFW Hall to celebrate the birthday of their de facto group leader and bartender, Fred (Lang). Plans for a debaucherous evening change when a girl enters the bar, seeking shelter from the minions of a local gang member after having stolen his entire supply of Hype. The group jumps back into duty to defend her and their beloved home from annihilation.
When a bunch of Vietnam vets go up against an army of drug-fueled mutants, carnage is obviously going to ensue, and VFW employs a breathtaking amount of gore. Blood splatters, body parts fly, heads explode, and the death toll rises. War is an ugly business, but it has never looked more fun. Begos also uses a great deal of kinetic camerawork to place the audience at the very center of the action and it really gives the film life.
In addition to reaching new heights of badassery, Begos’ film is surprisingly touching. These soldiers are banding together to defend the only place that is really their own. They have a bond with one another, as the world has moved forward and forgotten what they gave up in the name of service. They have the bar and each other. When their home is threatened, they have to band together to protect it by any means necessary. Yes, the action is wild, but the character beats are just as strong. The script gives these amazing actors enough room to stretch and really settle into their roles before the shit hits the fan, which gives us characters that we know, connect with, and root for.
VFW is insanely fun. Our surly group of heroes will have even the most dour viewer cheering, and it is a gift to watch these veteran actors tear it up in the same film. Begos delivers something that is both stylish and substantive, and it’s a film that you won’t want to miss.
Movie Score: 5/5
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