Review: VFW

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

vfw bannerPLOT: A young woman on the run from a deranged drug dealer and his punk army takes shelter in a VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) bar, earning their considerable protection after one of the punks mortally wounds one of their own.

REVIEW: I’ve got to hand it to indie horror auteur Joe Begos – he’s assembled a killer cast of legit genre movie icons for his action-horror hybrid VFW. A take on John Carpenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (right down to the Carpenter-esque score), this old genre staple gets shaken up a bit in that, rather than have the bad guys totally outmatch our heroes, the good guys are more than able to hold their own – and then some.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing for VFW. It’s bad because Begos wants to give the film some suspense and tries to disadvantage the heroes by having them be mostly unarmed and somewhat past their prime – but – really – you never for a second believe that Stephen Lang, Martin Kove, William Sadler and Fred Williamson – THE HAMMER – are gonna have any trouble dealing with a bunch of barely armed punks even if they are made out to look like extras from THE ROAD WARRIOR.

However, that also means Lang, Kove, Sadler, and Williamson get a long-overdue action flick where they’re front and center, kind of an EXPENDABLES of eighties character actors. And you know what? None of these guys have lost a beat. Lang especially looks to be in even better shape than he was back when he did BAND OF THE HAND in 1986 as the Nam veteran having a party with his old crew, before being so rudely interrupted. It only takes about a second of chaos before Lang’s wasted the first of many baddies here and Begos, it has to be said, knows exactly how to use his stars. While likely working with a shoestring budget (which explains why the bad guys don’t pack any firepower), he makes the most of it, and none of the fellas are on autopilot here – they seem to relish being front and center and have the kind of easygoing chemistry you’d expect from a crew that’s been through the war together.

Sadler and Kove especially seem to be having a blast. Sadler is Lang’s defacto sidekick/comic relief, taking advantage of the ace comic timing he showed in BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY but then (oddly) never really got the opportunity to show off again. Kove, who, despite being in his seventies looks more or less the same as he did in STEELE JUSTICE, is the one who’s gone softest in his old age but, wouldn’t you know it, has some tricks up his sleeve when the going gets tough. Meanwhile, Williamson plays Williamson, meaning he’s ultra-cool, suave, does karate and has all the best lines.

vfw stephen lang

A couple of other vets show up in smaller roles, with George Wendt cast against type as a Nam vet, while David Patrick Kelly is terrific as gang’s resident stoner – hopefully, the right folks see VFW as a lot of these vets still have a ton of presence and remain legitimately great character actors. Young Tom Williamson also impresses as a vet out of Afghanistan who wanders into the bar for a drink and winds up kicking ass with the rest of the guys. I like how Begos doesn’t waste any time on having the older vets challenge or resent the young guy. He fits in with the boys and more than holds his own opposite the powerhouse older cast.

However, it can’t be denied VFW has some problems, and most of them have to do with the villains. A good action movie is only as good as its baddie and the gang leader here is incredibly bland. If you have icons as your heroes you kind of need icons as your baddies, and no one fits the bill. Rather, they’re an anonymous bunch, making the gruesome action scenes too repetitive. They’re the live-action equivalent of CGI drones. There’s nothing to them – which is a shame as with a good baddie VFW might have been really special.

All that said, I still had a more than decent time with VFW. Is it semi-low rent? Yes, but it knows what it is and Begos has some real flair behind the camera, with a nice sense of pace. The good guys are perfectly cast even if the bad guys are not, and anyone who’s a fan of these guys needs to check it out. My only complaint – where’s Lance Henriksen?




Viewer Ratings (0 reviews)

Add your rating


About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.