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Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

A Hard Way to Die a.k.a. Sun Dragon

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

After seeing the 1977 Bruce Li movie SOUL BROTHERS OF KUNG FU and wondering about his young African-American co-star Carl Scott, I decided to watch this 1979 followup which comes up under both A HARD WAY TO DIE  and SUN DRAGON on Prime. I guess if I had to pick, the latter comes closer to having something to do with the movie.

This is another Hong Kong production from the same director as SOUL BROTHERS OF KUNG FU, Hua Shan (THE SUPER INFRA-MAN), but the interesting thing is that it was filmed in Phoenix, Arizona. You don’t see that every day. Unfortunately, it’s a period piece, so they stay away from urban areas and just shoot in, like, a strip of ugly grass, or a gravel pit. The Hong Kong setting of the other one was far more interesting to look at. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

The second movie in the SISTER STREET FIGHTER series is from the same director, Kuzuhiko Yamaguchi (KARATE BEARFIGHTER), and screenwriters, Masahiro Kakefuda (KARATE FOR LIFE) and Norifumi Suzuki (KARATE BULLFIGHTER), and came out the same year (1974). It’s mostly a retread of the first one, but the story is much tighter and faster, so its a great time.

After the traditional hero-doing-katas-in-front-of-blank-backgrounds credits (lots of nunchakas and split screens) we find ourselves in an alley in Hong Kong, where a well-dressed gang have cornered a guy and are stabbing him. Koryu (Etsuko “Sue” Shihomi) steps out of a door, casually eating an apple and wearing her blue suit with the red dragon embroideries to chase them off.

It’s too late to save the man, but he tells Koryu “You have to tell Professor Enmei Oh” and plucks out a false eyeball with circuitry and microfilm inside. The professor (Hideaki Nagai, Ultraman) explains that the dead man was Hong Kong police detective Kidai Sha, who has been investigating the kidnapping of the professor’s daughter Birei (Hisayo Tanaka, THE GREAT CHASE), coincidentally a high school friend of Koryu. The photos show Birei at a place in Hong Kong called Osone mansion, where “many martial artists are gathered,” kind of like the evil mansion in the first film. Also, the late detective had a plane ticket to Hong Kong in his pocket, so the professor asks Koryu to please take it and try to save his daughter. Mission accepted. (read the rest of this shit…)

Soul Brothers of Kung Fu

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

We’ll get back to Summer of 1985 soon, but it’s time for a kung fu break. SOUL BROTHERS OF KUNG FU is a 1977 movie that I never heard of until Quentin Tarantino mentioned it a couple times on the Pure Cinema Podcast. He also said that RZA liked it, and when I noticed the poster for it on a background for RZA’s 36chambers film screenings it reminded me to look it up.

It’s available on Amazon Prime, but be warned that it’s dubbed and with a garbage transfer. Tarantino has said he prefers to watch movies of this era dubbed, but he’s probly seen it projected on 35mm with an audience, which I’m sure makes it more fun. At home streaming it’s amusing, but doesn’t strike me as the classic he considers it.

According to the Hong Kong Movie Database this is also known as LAST STRIKE, KUNG FU AVENGERS, INCREDIBLE DRAGON or TIGER STRIKES AGAIN. The Chinese title, 被迫, seems to translate to something like COMPELLED or FORCED. But calling it SOUL BROTHERS OF KUNG FU emphasizes the presence of African-American newcomer Carl Scott, marketing it for the largely black audience for kung fu movies in the U.S. at the time. Though the poster says “Bruce Li and Carl Scott are the SOUL BROTHERS OF KUNG FU,” the movie focuses more on the relationship between the two Chinese leads, so I thought they were probly the “soul brothers,” bonded like brothers. In their souls. (read the rest of this shit…)

Debt Collectors

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

DEBT COLLECTORS comes to V.O.D. tomorrow, May 29, and to DVD June 2nd. This review has mild spoilers (including my favorite line) if you want to hold off until you’ve seen it.

Friends, the Scott Adkins/Jesse V. Johnson streak continues to continue. In just four years the martial arts star and director have collaborated on SAVAGE DOG, ACCIDENT MAN, THE DEBT COLLECTOR, TRIPLE THREAT, AVENGEMENT, and now DEBT COLLECTORS, a very welcome plural sequel to their singularly titled criminal-lowlifes-on-the-outskirts-of-L.A. buddy movie. Like the first one it’s written by Johnson and Stu Small (ACCIDENT MAN).

I loved THE DEBT COLLECTOR and thought it was a shame they got shot up at the end since I would have loved to see those characters have more misadventures. Honestly even if it had ended with them alive and a TO BE CONTINUED I wouldn’t have taken it for granted that they’d be able to make another one. So I’m thankful. If you need to know how the story continues, it’s pretty much the 3 FROM HELL approach: yes, they got shot, isn’t it amazing they survived? One in a million. (read the rest of this shit…)

A View to a Kill

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

May 24, 1985

On the subject of James Bond movies I’m ignorant. A very casual viewer. I come to A VIEW TO A KILL as an ordinary civilian perusing the films of Summer 1985 and hoping this could be a good action movie for its era. According to publicly available data, it is the seventh and final of Roger Moore’s outings as 007. All of his except THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN were summer releases like this, attempting to fulfill that popcorn blockbuster kind of slot, drawing in regular chumps like me along with the generations of die hards.

Last year I reviewed LICENCE TO KILL in my summer of ’89 series and it was cool how much that one combined the standard Bond material with the tropes of ’80s action movies, to the point that he turned in his badge to go get revenge on a South American druglord played by Robert Davi. During the opening credit sequence of A VIEW TO A KILL I could imagine it being a very 1985 Bond in a similar way, and for that brief moment it was beautiful. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rambo: First Blood Part II

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

May 22, 1985
(yes, 35 years ago today!)

RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II was a phenomenon. And an unlikely one. It’s right there in the title: FIRST BLOOD PART II? How the hell do you do a FIRST BLOOD PART II?

Sure, the makers of FIRST BLOOD famously went with the ending where Rambo didn’t die, as he did in David Morrell’s book. But the character doesn’t exactly lend himself to a rousing second adventure. He wasn’t your typical action movie protagonist, a hero who comes along and saves the day. He was a drifter who was mistreated and fought back hard. Went on a rampage. Single-handedly waged a war against law enforcement (one guy died falling off a helicopter), wrecked a whole town, finally broke down about his experiences in the war and then turned himself in. A great movie because of its simple, character-driven story mechanisms, emotional center and excellent, largely internal and physical (and finally blubbering) performance by Sylvester Stallone.

So what’s Rambo gonna do, get out of prison, try to go straight, and get hassled by some other sheriff? Nope. They figured we got a perfect killing machine, let’s plug it in. Let him out for a dangerous mission, a one-man DIRTY DOZEN.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Code of Silence

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

May 3, 1985

Just like with GYMKATA, I’ve reviewed CODE OF SILENCE before, and I had some good jokes in there. I also wrote about it a little in Seagalogy, as a comparison to ABOVE THE LAW. But it’s one of the movies that was playing when the summer of ’85 began, and representative of the type of action movies that were summer moviegoing events in those days. So I thought it was important to revisit. And just do a quick 3,000 word deep dive.

CODE OF SILENCE stars Chuck Norris as respected Chicago P.D. sergeant Eddie Cusack, part of a team trying to take down coke gang brothers the Comachos. He’s spent a month planning a sting operation that goes horribly wrong in two ways. First, a rival gang coincidentally goes in right before them and machine guns all the Comachos, kicking off a brutal gang war. Second, one of the guys on his team shoots and kills a young civilian in the apartment building hallway. As a cop with a moral code, a strong work ethic and good karate kicks, Cusack will spend the movie trying to deal with the repercussions of both of these things. Also there’s a robot.

Let’s set the scene a little. Norris was already well established as a movie star, having released one movie a year since ’77 (and two in ’82). His first independent starring vehicles BREAKER! BREAKER!, GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK and A FORCE OF ONE were all successful, leading to studio releases THE OCTAGON, AN EYE FOR AN EYE, SILENT RAGE, FORCED VENGEANCE and LONE WOLF McQUADE. MISSING IN ACTION, his first film on a new multi-picture deal with Cannon, had been a big hit. (read the rest of this shit…)

Gymkata

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

MAY 3, 1985

GYMKATA is another Summer of 1985 release with a Cold War context. On screen, it involves a mission with the ultimate goal of installing an American satellite monitoring station. Behind the scenes, it stars a gymnast who was favored to win gold at the Olympics in Moscow until the U.S. team boycotted.

I reviewed GYMKATA for The Ain’t It Cool News in 2007 when it first came out on DVD, so you can read that for more details. I have some pretty good lines in there, for example

“this movie and Osama bin Laden are both unintended consequences of [the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan]. And I can say objectively that the better of the two is GYMKATA. GYMKATA is better than Osama bin Laden.”

But it’s a pretty damn 1985 movie so I decided to revisit it for this series. It stars Kurt Thomas, five-time NCAA champion and International Gymnastics Hall of Famer who won six medals at the 1979 World Championship before the aforementioned protest of the 1980 Summer Games. He plays Jonathan Cabot, also a gymnast of some kind. We see him on the parallel bars, and then all the sudden some suit from the Special Intelligence Agency is briefing him for a top secret mission to the secluded country of Parmistan. His dad (Eric Lawson, who played a sheriff in TALL TALE, RUMPELSTILTSKIN, WHEN TIME EXPIRES and KING COBRA) was an agent who disappeared there competing in “The Game,” a thing they apparently do frequently where foreigners try to run an obstacle course while locals on horses with helmets over ninja masks shoot arrows at them. If somebody actually survived the country would offer them any favor they want. Help you move, give you notes on your screenplay, anything. (read the rest of this shit…)

Shaolin and Wu Tang

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

SHAOLIN AND WU-TANG a.k.a. SHAOLIN VS. WU-TANG is the 1983 directorial debut of Gordon Liu, made right before THE 8-DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER. Liu also co-stars as the young representative of Shaolin in the titular rivalry. It’s an independent production (distributed by Hing Fat Film Co.) but feels very much like Liu’s Shaw Brothers movies, maybe partly because it’s produced and choreographed by 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN director Lau Kar-leung.

Jun-kit (Liu) and Fung-wu (Adam Cheng, ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, SEVEN WARRIORS) are the respective top students at Shaolin and Wu Tang schools in the same city. Although their masters (Han Chiang and Hoi-San Kwan) have a bit of a rivalry when they run into each other in town, their students laugh it off and hang out at the brothel together. But they make the mistake of sparring there, showing off their abilities in a friendly competition. Word gets to the local Qing Lord (Wang Lung Wei, MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE, THE BOXER’S OMEN, THE SEVENTH CURSE), who says “If what you say is true, the Shaolin and the Wu Tang could be dangerous,” as famously sampled by Wu-Tang Clan on “Bring Da Ruckus.” So he decides he must learn both styles to protect himself. (read the rest of this shit…)

Drunken Master II

Monday, May 11th, 2020

When we last saw Wong Fei-hung (Jackie Chan), he was a bratty kid always getting in trouble, getting disowned by his martial artist/physician father Master Wong, trained in drunken boxing by Beggar So, learning to fight really well if he has access to a gourd he can use to get blitzed out of his, you know, gourd.

Now its… I’m not sure how long later. But it’s the early twentieth century. There are cars and shit. Though he’s presumably an adult, he still lives with his parents – now played by Ti Lung (A BETTER TOMORROW) and Anita Mui (RUMBLE IN THE BRONX) – and fucks around and gets in trouble constantly.

When DRUNKEN MASTER came out in 1978, Jackie was just beginning to explore his comedic approach to kung fu movies, and it established him as a major movie star in China. Sixteen years later, when DRUNKEN MASTER II (a.k.a. THE LEGEND OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER) came out, Jackie and martial arts cinema were in an entirely different place. Jackie had moved over to Golden Harvest, directed ten movies, started the POLICE STORY and ARMOUR OF GOD series, even done a few American movies. And then he returned to the famous folk hero character in the only time he was ever directed by the great Lau Kar-leung (EXECUTIONERS FROM SHAOLIN, THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, HEROES OF THE EAST, DIRTY HO, THE 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER, TIGER ON BEAT). But they fought about the shooting and fighting styles and Jackie took over to direct the final fight that the movie’s best known for. (read the rest of this shit…)