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Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Naked Weapon

Monday, April 6th, 2020

I rented NAKED WEAPON (2002) by “Tony” Ching Siu-Tung, the great director (A CHINESE GHOST STORY trilogy, THE SWORDSMAN trilogy, THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE) and choreographer (A BETTER TOMORROW II, SHAOLIN SOCCER, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS) of Hong Kong action movies, because I thought I heard it was really good. But in retrospect I think I was mixing it up with NAKED KILLER (1992), which is not by Ching and is unrelated, though it’s by the same writer, Wong Jing (MERCENARIES FROM HONG KONG).

No matter. NAKED WEAPON is an odd one, with lots of Ching’s outlandish kung fu and gun violence, and it’s one of those Hong Kong movies made for international audiences that I find so fascinating. It seems to be filmed mostly in English, with primarily Asian-American leads, but filmed in Hong Kong and Manila, with a Hong Kong crew. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wonder Seven

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

You know who’s always good? Michelle Yeoh. Have you noticed that? I guess you have. This one is from 1994, her followup to the classic WING CHUN, and it’s directed by the great Ching Siu-Tung. He had recently been her director for HEROIC TRIO 2 and action director for BUTTERFLY AND SWORD, THE HEROIC TRIO and HOLY WEAPON. The title presumably refers to the special forces team of six men and one woman introduced on dirt bikes chasing a gang of armed robbers through a farm. A guy is dragged through a pile of pig shit. The woman fires an arrow from a musical instrument and it goes all the way through a guy’s leg. One bike drops through a farmhouse ceiling. A guy runs through a pen full of ducks but gets hit in the head by a flying hammer.

All if this is great, obviously, but Michelle Yeoh is not one of these wonder people. The one female is Hilary Tsui (SHAOLIN POPEY), who apparently is playing “Tiny Archer.” The men on the team all kind of blend together to me. Kent Cheng (AH KAM) is the only one who really stands out visually, but unfortunately according to IMDb his character is called “Fatty.” Oh well – in ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA he played “Porky Wing,” and in IP MAN 2 and 3 he’s “Fatso” (Ip Man calls him “Bob” in part 4 though).

Yeoh plays Jing, a cool-sunglasses-wearing woman the Wonder Seven run into beginning with two separate incidents: (read the rest of this shit…)

Magnificent Warriors

Friday, March 20th, 2020

After two great turns playing cops in YES, MADAM! and ROYAL WARRIORS, Michelle Yeoh (credited as Michelle Kheng on the DVD I rented) got a chance to do sort of her version of Indiana Jones. In MAGNIFICENT WARRIORS (1987) she plays Fok Ming Ming, a whip-swinging, bi-plane-piloting granddaughter of a legendary revolutionary. During the credits we see her booted feet and leather-gloved hands as she loads a bunch of heavy crates onto a wagon, before it pans up to say that’s right, it’s a LADY. Can you fucking BELIEVE IT? As if we didn’t already know we were here to see a Michelle, uh… Kheng movie.

The most notable thing about the opening, and arguably the movie as a whole: her smile. She’s so happy in most of this. Of course I’m not telling women and/or Michelle Yeoh to smile more often, but I’m used to her seriousness, so it’s novel to see her playing this type of character. Ming Ming doesn’t have to act tough. She just is. Doesn’t stop her from being delightful and having a fun time. I guess that makes her a little more THE PHANTOM than Indy.

She’s been hired as a driver for some gun runner (Chan Ging, SEVEN WARRIORS, THE STORY OF RICKY) trying to sell boxes of rifles to a remote village. To test out the merchandise the buyers shoot him dead, so Ming Ming has to fight them all to get her money. She kicks them, whips them, sets their huts on fire, rides off chased by a sword-wielding mob, and turns around to shoot their bridge out with a gatling gun. And a smile.

(read the rest of this shit…)

The Master

Monday, March 16th, 2020

“Man in other country, it’s a long story” —translation of lyric from beach montage song

THE MASTER – not the Philip Seymour Hoffman one, the original – is a Tsui Hark movie made in 1989. Its claim to fame is that it was released in 1992 after ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA made Jet Li a superstar, but what makes it interesting is that it’s an ‘80s Hong Kong movie filmed in L.A. It has a theme of Chinese immigration, the idea that the people of China travel all over the world and bring their culture with them.

The primary practicioner of that philosophy, Uncle Tak (Yuen Wah, FIST OF FURY, ENTER THE DRAGON, CLEOPATRA JONES AND THE CASINO OF GOLD, GAME OF DEATH, HEROES SHED NO TEARS, SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT, DRAGON FROM RUSSIA, THE BODYGUARD, MASTER Z, action director of EASTERN motherfuckin CONDORS), is one of three masters the title could be referring to. He owns an herb shop in L.A. within view of the Library Tower (and next to a video store, but we never see inside it). He’s a very good healer and does bone settings for pro-wrestler-looking-dudes who come in after getting injured in fights. (read the rest of this shit…)

Charlie’s Angels

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

CHARLIE’S ANGELS (2019) continues the concept of the original Charlie’s Angels tv series and previous movies: some guy named Charlie (now the voice of Robert Clotworthy, who was in both WHO’S THAT GIRL and HE’S MY GIRL in 1987) who you only hear over a speaker runs The Townsend Agency, which originally was a private detective agency but now seems to be an international spy organization? Its agents are all beautiful, glamorous women who are martial artists, masters of disguise, etc.

Since their helper “Bosley” has been played by many different actors throughout the franchise, this one explains that “Bosley” is a rank, like General, and we meet Bosleys played by Patrick Stewart (GUNMEN), Djimon Hounsou (ELEPHANT WHITE) and Elizabeth Banks (SLITHER), the latter of whom also directed and wrote the screenplay (story by Evan Spiliotopoulos [BATTLE FOR TERRA] and David Auburn [Tony and Pulitzer winner for the 2000 play Proof]. They bring together wild American Angel Sabina (Kristen Stewart, PANIC ROOM) and former MI-6 Angel Jane (Ella Balinska) to protect engineer Elena (Naomi Scott, Jasmine from live action ALADDIN, Pink Ranger from POWER RANGERS movie). Having created a vaguely defined clean energy device called Calisto for her employer, Elena has gone whistleblower after learning that it can be used to give people strokes, and now some tattooed hipster assassin asshole named Hodak (Jonathan Tucker, who played Boon, the last guy Raylan killed on Justified) is trying to kill her. (read the rest of this shit…)

6 Underground

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

“There’s a lot of priceless stuff in this movie, like where we have cars flying between an obelisk. Why they allowed me to have flying cars by an obelisk that’s 800 years old, I don’t know.” —Michael Bay

By popular demand I watched 6 UNDERGROUND, Michael Bay’s mysteriously straight-to-Netflix movie starring Ryan Reynolds (R.I.P.D.). Not that I was against watching it when it came out in December, but I had other shit to do, and you know how it is without a theatrical window – less urgency.

I say “mysterious” because I really couldn’t figure out why Bay – who has spent his entire career with pretty much no other goal but to make the biggest, loudest, fuck-you-est, blockbuster spectacles he can manage – would be willing to make a DTV movie. The explanations I heard were not convincing:

1. “For the money.” I just cannot believe that Bay needs more money than a studio will pay him

2. “They’ll let him do what he wants.” Having seen TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT I also cannot believe that anyone ever says “no” to him.

But now that I’ve seen it I guess I sort of get it. Other than an opening that earned a seizure warning – Bay intentionally trying to be disorienting is a hell of a thing – his messy action plays well on the small screen, and it’s nice to see him applying his anti-social tendencies to R-rated action again. As long as he for some reason doesn’t mind skipping theaters, and Netflix continues to have a magic money tree to dump into expensive things that nobody pays extra to see, they make a good team. (read the rest of this shit…)

Catch the Heat

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

Have you ever noticed what a hell of year 1987 was for action movies? Not only did it give us several stone cold unimpeachable classics, but most of them have a distinct, super-charged, roided out, larger-than-life 1987ness to them that could only really happen at that moment on the verge of ’80s excess sugar crash, between everybody wanting to be RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II and everybody wanting to be DIE HARD. We had PREDATOR, ROBOCOP, LETHAL WEAPON and EASTERN CONDORS. And also we had THE RUNNING MAN, STEEL DAWN, WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, AMERICAN NINJA 2, STEELE JUSTICE and MIAMI CONNECTION. Some day, after finishing some other passion projects, I’d love to write a book just reviewing all the action movies of 1987. Get the Pulitzer ready.

So whenever I come across something that seems like maybe I should see it and then I realize it was released in 1987, that moves it up the list. And I found this one that, while I’m not sure it’s on par with most of the movies on that list, it wouldn’t be too out of place either. It’s a special movie because it’s the only action vehicle for a unique talent named Tiana Alexandra, who was reportedly the first female student of Bruce Lee as well as the first Vietnamese-American to join SAG. She was in THE KILLER ELITE and then the mini-series PEARL and a couple other movies, but this is a full-on showcase for her talents written by her husband Stirling Silliphant, Academy Award winning writer of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, as well as student and friend of Bruce Lee who wrote him into the show Longstreet and the movie  MARLOWE and concocted what became CIRCLE OF IRON with him. (He’s also the writer of VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, SHAFT IN AFRICA, THE ENFORCER, and yes, 1987’s OVER THE TOP). (read the rest of this shit…)

Ballistic

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

BALLISTIC (no relation to ECKS VS. SEVER) is a 1995 DTV joint that I bought after seeing it on Michael Jai White’s filmography, right before his breakout role in TYSON, and after the Don “The Dragon” Wilson movie RING OF FIRE 3: LION STRIKE. He’s thirteenth-billed on its IMDb page so I figured he’d just be standing with his arms folded behind the bad guy in one scene, but I was intrigued enough by the rest of the cast to order a copy on VHS.

The star is Marjean Holden (SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT 4: INITIATION, Sheeva in MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION) as Jesse Gavin, who seems to be a prostitute in the opening scene, until it’s revealed that she’s undercover. She’s trying to bust some limousine-riding creep after selling him a bag of coke, and has to break off her heels to chase him down an alley.

During the pursuit she accidentally pulls her firearm on an old timey stereotype of a bag lady (Rosie Taravella, flight attendant on a three-parter of Who’s the Boss?), allowing the bad guy to sneak up on her and knock the gun out of her hand. When she’s done beating him up, the homeless lady is holding the gun, covering her, and helps carry the unconscious suspect in her shopping cart, before declaring “You know what you are, sweetie? You’re ballistic!”

Unfortunately we already saw the title fired onto the screen earlier, we don’t get it there, but the awkwardly titular dialogue is still appreciated. (read the rest of this shit…)

True Vengeance

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

TRUE VENGEANCE is a 1997 Daniel Bernhardt movie that I bought specifically because it was written by Kurt Johnstad. I think I was looking him up because he wrote ATOMIC BLONDE, and I remembered that he was the guy who wrote 300, 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE and ACT OF VALOR. I saw all of those in the theater and liked all of them, and it turns out his only other movie is this earlier DTV one that never even came out on DVD in the U.S. It’s directed by David Worth (KICKBOXER, LADY DRAGON 1 and 2), and I think you can understand why that combination of people made it something I needed to see.

Benhardt plays Griffin, who was a Navy SEAL and then a hired killer of some kind but after the death of his wife he quit the life to take care of his daughter Emily (Tessa Sugay, “Club Girl (uncredited),” TOKYO DRIFT, “Dancer (uncredited)” THE SOCIAL NETWORK). After a brief, incoherent sniper prologue we meet him cutely joking around with his daughter pretending he doesn’t know it’s her birthday. So yes, she is going to be kidnapped.

He has an older guy he calls his best friend named Sam (Harrison Young, Ryan as an old man in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN), who I think runs a garage and kind of seems like he could be the landlord like the guy in ROAD HOUSE? He’s involved in a great bit of b-movie flavor when he’s doing a crossword puzzle, asking for a word for “something that haunts.” Griffin suggests ‘ghost,’ but Sam says it has to be four letters, and just then a scary dude named Adachi (Keo Woolford, “Airport Worker,” GODZILLA) steps in looking for Griffin, who dramatically declares that “The Griffin you knew… is dead.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Birds of Prey

Friday, February 14th, 2020

BIRDS OF PREY AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN is the movie that says “Okay, we fucked up that SUICIDE SQUAD movie, but Margot Robbie was great as Harley Quinn, right? Didn’t we kinda have something there?” And the answer is yes and yes, so luckily they gave her another movie. It’s the second feature for director Cathy Yan, whose 2018 debut DEAD PIGS takes place in Shanghai but stars Zazie Beetz. She obviously has Robbie’s pre-existing character and David Ayer’s SUICIDE SQUAD sensibilities to build off of here, but I think she makes it distinct – it feels to me like a studio hiring a promising new director to do her thing, not to follow instructions.

Formerly the abused girlfriend/sidekick of The Joker, this is the story of Harley’s life after breaking up with him. No longer enjoying the immunity provided by association with a famous psychopath boyfriend, Harley gets herself into trouble with various factions including but not limited to the gang run by Roman “Black Mask” Sionis (Ewan McGregor, MILES AHEAD, JANE GOT A GUN), police detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez, DANCE WITH THE DEVIL, Widows), somebody she punched in a roller derby bout (stuntwoman Keisha Tucker), and somebody who blames her for his face being tattooed like a clown and can’t fucking believe it when she doesn’t remember what he’s mad about (Matthew Willig, FULL CONTACT [1993], 3 FROM HELL). (read the rest of this shit…)