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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Mongolian Connection

September 30, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Mongolian Connection

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #524: The Mongolian Connection


Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival Review Marathon: Week 4

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never been in a multi-person martial arts brawl on a train, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and twenty-four, the Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival Movie Review Marathon continues with the badass action flick The Mongolian Connection, directed by Drew Thomas.

The Mongolian Connection


The Mongolian Connection stars Kaiwi Lyman as Wade Dalton, a badass FBI agent who, after arresting a prominent criminal in the Mongolian underworld (Serik Ibrayev, played by Sanjar Madi) during a botched undercover operation in Texas, escort Serik to Mongolia in order to testify against a big deal crime lord who specializes in human trafficking and gold. Dalton’s contact in Mongolia is local cop Ganzorig (Amarsaikhan Baljinnyam), a badass in his own right who is also dealing with some sort of mole in the police force (we first see Ganzorig during a botched undercover operation in Mongolia). Bringing Serik to Mongolia will be tough, as the authorities are undermanned and the criminals want to make sure Serik doesn’t say anything to anyone (you know, the code of the street and all that shit). On top of that, Ganzorig isn’t totally sure that he can trust Dalton not to completely screw this whole thing up because he doesn’t know him. And Dalton is unsure of the whole situation because he doesn’t know anyone in town, either (he also doesn’t speak the language). How the hell is this going to work out for the good guys? That, essentially, is the plot to The Mongolian Connection.

Now, I’ll stipulate that the plot to The Mongolian Connection isn’t all that original. If you’re an action movie fan, especially a modern, low budget action movie fan, you’ve no doubt seen some version of the “mismatched cops/federal agents/badass good guys who take on human traffickers” plot in something many times before (I know I have). But that lack of plot originality shouldn’t keep you from checking out The Mongolian Connection. I mean, come on, how many action movies have you seen where the bad guys are drug smugglers or gun runners or some version of both? What makes The Mongolian Connection stand out is what makes all good action movies, well, good action movies.

First, the heroes. Kaiwi Lyman does a terrific job as FBI agent Wade Dalton. He has the right look and the right attitude to make this character work. He’s a determined guy who cares deeply about his job and taking on the bad guys, but he also has a certain detachment from everything that doesn’t allow him to be one of those obsessed/potentially depressed heroes. Even when he’s dealing with heavy shit, Dalton has a sense of humor. And, when you consider that he’s in a big time “fish out of water” scenario, he’s going to need it in order to survive mentally (for instance, throughout his time in Mongolia Dalton keeps getting into cars “on the wrong side,” as the steering wheel is on the right side of the car as opposed to the left side like in America. That kind of thing could really mess with a person’s mind). Actor Lyman also looks terrific in his fight scenes and looks like a legit badass martial artist of some sort. I don’t know if he actually is (imdb claims that he has practiced Brazilian Ju Jitsu but it doesn’t say how much he’s “practiced”) but, at the same time, he doesn’t come off as a guy who is “just going through the choreography.”

Amarsaikhan Bajinnyam is excellent as the local Mongolian cop Ganzorig. This guy has a tough job in a dificult world. He manages to get through each day without going insane. He’s a badass, too, but a different kind of badass. He’s a little more measured as compared to Dalton. Ganzorig will fuck you up if he has to, but he’d rather be mellow about life (because life is already hard enough without adding more shit to it). Of course, in the midst of his mole investigation, Ganzorig’s demeanor changes because it has to, he’s dealing with stuff that’s above and beyond what he’s used to. Still, considering the stress he’s under, and all of the shootouts he has to endure while participating in this prisoner transfer case, it’s a wonder he doesn’t flip the fuck out and just go batshit. Ganzorig looks like he has some martial arts skills, too.

Sanjar Madi, who sort of becomes a hero towards the middle of the movie as Serik, is the wildcard of the movie because he starts out as a full on criminal (he runs a brothel in Texas, after all) and then sort of switches sides by the middle. Madi definitely looks the most graceful in terms of his fight scenes, especially his final fight scene, which is one of the most exciting cinematic knife fights in some time. Madi also has an innate coolness about him that will make him a favorite of action movie nerds for years to come when The Mongolian Connection gets a wide release.

Second, the villains. From the lead villain to his henchmen, they are all vicious assholes who you want to see die or go to jail. I’m not exactly sure who plays the villains (I missed their names in the credits and I don’t recognize any of them on the movie’s imdb page) but they know how to make these guys the worst of the worst. The main henchman has that high priced leather coat wearing arrogance that so many great top henchmen have had in previous action movies, and he has a terrific knife fight with Madi. As for the main villain, all you really need to know about him is he kicks an old man into a mine shaft and then orders his underlings to fill in the mine with dirt. What kind of douchebag does that? This guy also has a swanky leather coat that just screams “I’m a tough bad guy that everyone is afraid of.”

Third, the action. From brutal hand-to-hand fight scenes to gun battles to real deal car chases, The Mongolian Connection has it all. The first major fight scene in the Texas brothel comes out of nowhere, happens quickly, and is nasty to everyone, including the hero. The best fight scene in the movie happens on a train and looks like it took forever to shoot as there are so many things happening all at once. And, of course, that knife fighting scene is just awesome. The gun battles are quick and exciting and everyone wielding a gun looks like they know how to use a gun. My only real quibble here is the gun shots aren’t loud enough sometimes, especially the gun used by Ganzorig. Instead of a “pop” sound it should probably be bigger, more robust. The “pop” sound works, but I still think it should be louder. As for the car chases, it looks like director Thomas was able to stage actual car chases featuring actual cars on real roads. If there is CGI enhancements here you can’t really see it. That never happens with new low budget action movies. It’s usually mostly CGI and hyper editing bullshit. It’s refreshing to see a modern, low budget action movie with actual car chases in it.

Fourth, the direction. Director Drew Thomas knows how to shoot action. The “quick cut” nonsense is kept to a bare minimum and you can actually see what the hell is happening most of the time. Thomas, alongside fight choreographer Tolga Degirmen, knows how to stage a fight scene, too. Thomas also knows how to keep the story moving and make the “scenes in between all of the action” interesting. And Thomas also knows how to get the most of what he has to work with. The Mongolian Connection isn’t a big budget action extravaganza, but it sure as hell looks like one and acts like one. It looks glorious on a big screen in an actual movie theatre, a place that few will likely get a chance to see it, but I suspect that the movie will look and play great on TV, too.

And fifth, the movie takes place in a country that few action movies seem to take place in. Yes, the plot isn’t anything new, but how many action movies take place in Mongolia? I can’t remember the last one. The various Mongolian locations help give the movie an edge it wouldn’t have if it was made in Bulgaria (and there’s nothing wrong with Bulgaria or making movies in Bulgaria, but tons of movies have been made in Bulgaria).

Every aspect of The Mongolian Connection is top notch stuff. It’s an excellent action movie through and through. As I understand it, it has played in Mongolia and Kazakhstan and maybe a few other places. I’d suspect that it will start to play at many more film festivals as time goes on before it gets some sort of wide North American release (home video, streaming, whatever). And it will eventually get some sort of North American release. I just don’t see how it won’t. The Mongolian Connection is just too good not to be seen. And that’s what you should do. See The Mongolian Connection. If it’s playing at a film festival near you, make an effort to see it. It’s definitely worth your time. I loved it, and I can’t wait to see it again.

See The Mongolian Connection. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: Lots. It’s over 20.

Explosions: A few small ones.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: Cigarette smoking, a sting operation, a case of full money, hot food to the face, a wicked restaurant shootout with multiple headshots, a horse track in Texas, another sting operation, SWAT team attack, serious cop killing, mega martial arts, bullet through the foot, serious neck breaking, sleeper hold, more head shots, a cut up dead body that’s in two different car trunks, painkiller issues, a hot girlfriend, of screen plane trip to Mongolia, mine stuff, purse to the face, cigarette breaking, off screen beer stein to the head, another big deal police operation, taxi cab hooey, dirt bike hooey, lock picking, metal pipe to the face, a total lack of a bullet proof vest, safe house hooey, a fucked up card game, another SWAT team attack, more mega martial arts, dead guy head butt to the balls, slow motion shooting a guy into a car, a wicked car chase, woman beating, cell phone bullshit, slow motion martial arts in the background, a shootout on a train, a martial arts brawl on a train, a wicked headshot, knife play, thumb into the eye with gore, a vicious hand-to-hand knife brawl, serious bleeding, and a slow motion ending that sort of ties everything up.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Mongolia, an old guy carrying a transistor radio, a diner where they cook your food right at the table, tea, multiple instances where the steering wheel is “on the wrong side of the car,” gold mining, burying an old man alive, karaoke, lock picking, Mobil 1 banners on practically everything, a montage, people openly using the metric system, slicing the femoral artery, and a Mongolian legal proceeding.

Best lines: “Zuchi, why don’t you give me a gun? Maybe I’ll give you a bullet,” “I know, you rape Mongolian girls,” “Nice car, Lt. Starsky. Starsky drove a Torino,” “Then get a marshal to do it, that’s what they’re there for. Sending me to Mongolia, that’s,… that’s bullshit!,” “How was your lunch yesterday?,” “The Russians took all of the gold that was here,” “Why are you with this fucking foreigner?,” “So how many dollars does it take to get your thighs wet?,” “Detective, your fat partner doesn’t look anything like me,” “Ganzorig, I’m thirsty,” “Get back in the fucking car!,” “Why do you have the dog’s pills?,” “I guess watching me is better than anything on Russian TV,” “You speak fucking English?,” “That wasn’t helpful. It was just a succession,” “You let him drive? His handcuffs stayed on,” “Almost like house arrest,” “America didn’t want you? Lady Liberty kicked me out. And she used her foot!,” “Are you ready to testify now?,” “Like good old times,” “Look at the mess we made,” and “Do me a favor, Ganz, don’t ever get used to it.”

Rating: 10.0/10.0


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Things to Watch Out For


John Carpenter’s Vampires Collector’s Edition: This Shout! Factory/Scream Factory release is a must have for the special features alone, especially the interview with star James Woods because, really, I’ve never seen or heard him actually talk about Vampires. Woods did an episode of Inside the Actor’s Studio and he wasn’t asked about the movie, which pissed me off. Anyway, Vampires all alone is fucking awesome, one of Carpenter’s best, and its soundtrack is maybe the best soundtrack he’s ever done. And Vampires has everything: blood, gore, action, James Woods ad libbing like a motherfucker, and one of the coolest ideas ever for a vampire movie: a squad of vampire killers bankrolled by the Vatican are taken out by the first vampire ever, with only two guys surviving, and they have to find a way to stop that vampire (Valek, played by Thomas Ian Griffith) before he finds an ancient relic that will allow him to walk in the daylight. I can’t wait to get my hands on this Blu-ray. Oh, and check out my appreciation for Vampires that I wrote a few years ago.


The Tracker: The great Dolph Lundgren stars in this low budget action thriller that, if you watch the trailer, sort of looks like a Taken clone, but not so much that it’s an exact copy. The movie had a very small theatrical run earlier this summer, and I believe it’s been on Video On Demand all over the place for a few months. I’ll eventually check this out since it’s a new Lundgren movie, but I’m not sure when. Anyone out there see this? Is it any good? Is it one of those low budget Lundgren movies that really, really, really bogs down in the middle?


Daughter of the Wolf: Gina Carano stars in this new low budget action flick where she plays a badass woman who has to take on a band of lunatics in the mountains or some shit, and the head lunatic is played by Richard Dreyfuss. Yes, that’s what I said. Richard Dreyfuss. I think it’s cool that Carano is still making these kinds of movies (any kind of movie, actually), and that Dreyfuss said yes to this one. I’d love to know how the producers convinced him to do it. What did his agent say to him to convince him to do it? How much money could he have gotten for being in it? And how many more of these types of movies is he going to do? Will he eventually take on Jean Claude Van Damme? Steven Seagal? Gary Daniels?


The Black String: A low budget horror movie starring Frankie Muniz? Why wouldn’t I want to watch that? And I plan on doing it, too, as I will be doing a review for this movie very, very soon. There’s also apparently some sort of paranoid conspiracy thing going on with the story, where the Muniz character thinks there’s something sinister going on. Why? We’ll all know when we see the movie. Right? It’s Malcolm in the Middle, man!


A Score to Settle: The great Nicolas Cage stars in this low budget crime thriller where he apparently plays an ex-mob enforcer that decides to go apeshit on his old bosses after being in prison for decades. Or something like that. Benjamin Bratt is in the movie, too, so that’s cool. The title of the movie is pretty badass, too. A Score to Settle. You’re goddamn right there is. How could there not be?


Anna: The great Luc Besson is apparently back in the badass female assassin movie game with his new Anna, which played for a brief period of time this past summer in actual movie theaters. I have no idea if it played anywhere near me. Anyway, Helen Mirren is in it, as are Luke Evans and Cillian Murphy. The actual star of the movie is Sasha Luss, who apparently appeared in Besson’s movie before this one, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, another movie I need to see. Based on the trailers I’ve seen for Anna, it looks pretty good although it doesn’t look all that special or new. Anyone out there see this? Anyone at all?


Child’s Play: This remake seemed to divide audiences. Some people really liked the idea of a wacked out robot Chucky killing people, and some people hated that the supernatural conceit of the original was jettisoned in favor of something sci-fi. No one seemed to complain about Mark Hamill doing the voice of Chucky, so at least it has that going for it. I didn’t see the movie so I have no idea if it’s any good or not. I don’t even know if it made money to warrant a sequel (I could probably find out if it made money but I’m not curious enough to make the effort). Definitely worth a rental, just to see if it works. Who out there enjoyed this?


Shaft (2019): Okay, so this particular Shaft functions as a sort of sequel to the 2000 Shaft directed by John Singleton and starring Samuel L. Jackson and as a kind of franchise reboot. It also has the original John Shaft, the immortal Richard Roundtree in it, so the movie also functions as a sequel to all of the Shaft movies he did, too. It’s also a comedy that works more often than it doesn’t. Movie going audiences really didn’t show up for this when it was in theatres (I saw it in the theatre but attendance was, at best, sparse, on opening day), but I have a feeling that it will find an audience now that it’s on home video. Now, does anyone out there think that this movie would have, maybe, found an audience if it had a different title? Like Shaft: The Next Generation or something like that?


Next Issue: The Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival Movie Review Marathon concludes with Haven’s End!


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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

The Mongolian Connection

Amarsaikhan Baljinnyam– Ganzorig
Kaiwi Lyman</b<- Wade Dalton
Sanjar Madi– Serik
Zhandos Aibassov– Tenzin
Tsetsegee Byamba– Khulan
Kate Amundsen– Hannah
Brandon Fobbs– Troy
Deborah Puette– Commander Pierce

Directed by Drew Thomas
Screenplay by Caleb Monroe and Drew Thomas

Produced by Hollywood Film Academy and IFI Production

Not Rated
Runtime– 98 minutes