"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

The Seventh Curse

Monday, October 21st, 2019

Let me try to explain this in pizza terms. You know how every once in a while you might get a pizza, and it’s not of the highest possible quality? They got all the ingredients there, but maybe the proportions are a little off, or it was cooked too much or too little or something, so it’s not the greatest, but at the same time it has crust and sauce and cheese and toppings and those ingredients together are always gonna taste pretty good? THE SEVENTH CURSE is like that. It’s kind of too gooey and falling apart but it has pineapple, fake ham and jalapenos, and that’s pretty much my favorite toppings. (I’ve come to prefer Mama Lil’s Peppers*, but this one needed more spice.)

It’s a supernatural action adventure with Chow Yun Fat playing the pipe-smoking occult expert Wisely (called Wesley on the subtitles of the DVD I rented), a character from a series of 156(!) novels. In this one he’s kind of a supporting character because it’s based on another book series centered on his colleague Dr. Yuen, here played by Chin Siu-ho (TAI CHI MASTER, FIST OF LEGEND). The books are by Ni Kuang, who in between writing enough novels to make Stephen King look like a lazy no good piece of shit also found the time to bang out screenplays for DIRTY HO, THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, HEROES OF THE EAST, THE 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER, and literally hundreds of other movies.

He didn’t write this one (that was Wong Jing [MERCENARIES FROM HONG KONG] and Yuen Gai-chi [DRUNKEN MASTER II]), but would you believe he hosts it? It opens with him, playing himself, surrounded by women and talking to the camera.

(read the rest of this shit…)

The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

“I make the impossible possible. Takami Tsurugi. Remember that if you want to live long.”

The thrilling conclusion to Sonny Chiba’s STREET FIGHTER trilogy is called THE STREET FIGHTER’S LAST REVENGE, but it doesn’t really feel like a finale. It feels more like another in what should be an endless series of adventures. Though released in 1974, the same year as the other two, Chiba’s black-clad anti-hero-for-hire Tsurugi seems to have evolved his operation. After taking a recruitment call he rotates the phone attached to his wall, opening a secret door to a room full of uniforms, wigs and latex masks. He’s a fuckin master of disguise now!

His mission is to retrieve Go Owada (Akira Shioji, who played a different character in the first movie) from the midst of a violent worker strike at a chemical plant. Tsurugi impersonates a member of the riot squad and breaks ranks to bust through the window, go in and beat the shit out of everybody, steal a specified black mah jong case, arrest Owada, steal a police car and bring him to the mobsters who hired him.

But they pay him with a briefcase full of shredded newspaper, which was not the deal in my opinion, so he fights them and they’re enemies now. (read the rest of this shit…)

Penitentiary III

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

Well holy shit. I’ve taken my sweet time getting to all three of Jamaa Fanaka’s PENITENTIARY movies, but they’ve all lived up to my hopes. If you’re not familiar, they star Leon Isaac Kennedy (LONE WOLF McQUADE) as Martel “Too Sweet” Gordone, a man who is unjustly incarcerated but becomes a legend in the prison boxing circuit. I’m sure it’s an inspiration for the UNDISPUTED series, but Fanaka’s world is angrier, dirtier, and much, much weirder.

Released in 1979, PENITENTIARY was actually the third movie Fanaka made while attending UCLA. Unlike other directors considered part of the L.A. Rebellion film movement, he was more attracted to Hollywood than to political statements, so he made straight up lurid and entertaining blaxploitation movies. But racism, cruelty and injustice are central to his stories.

PENITENTIARY II (1982) brings the action into the outside world, and it’s a little slicker and more expensive, so it features Mr. T and Ernie Hudson.

But PENITENTIARY III (1987) is a Cannon Film. It is not fucking around. It would be an exaggeration to say that Cannon did to the PENITENTIARY series what they did to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE with part 2, but there’s definitely a hint of that sort of unhinged insanity. We find Too Sweet still a free man, competing as a legitimate boxer, when his corner man is paid off to put something in his water. (That he looks over his shoulder nervously and then just openly pours something into the water in front of an audience without anyone noticing is one of many goofy touches.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Rambo: Last Blood

Monday, September 23rd, 2019

You remember Rambo, John J. Vietnam vet, Green Beret, POW camp survivor, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. In ’81, as a homeless drifter, he waged a one-man guerrilla war against the police department of Hope, Washington, wounding several officers, killing police dogs, blowing up buildings and causing one officer to die from falling out of a helicopter. But they let him out of prison for a secret POW rescue mission. Though he earned a presidential pardon, he decided to live in Thailand, living off odd jobs such as stickfighter, temple-builder, snake-catcher or river guide, with occasional missions to help the Mujahideen in Afghanistan or rescue missionaries in Myanmar. But eventually he came home to his dad’s place in Arizona.

It doesn’t seem like it, but that movie was 11 years ago. Rambo has short hair now, wears cowboy hats and runs his (now deceased) dad’s horse ranch. He lives with a woman named Maria (Adriana Barraza, AMORES PERROS, DRAG ME TO HELL), who I guess the photos on the wall indicate was his parents’ maid, and her granddaughter Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal from the El Rey show Matador), who calls him Uncle John and who he says he thinks of as his daughter. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Brink

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

I first paid attention to Max Zhang (aka Zhang Jin) because of the modern classic KILL ZONE 2 (SPL 2). He played the villain’s #1 henchman, a daintily dressed psycho with a fighting style like whirling scalpels. But I’ve come to know him more as a dreamy long-haired brooder like his character in IP MAN 3, who was spun off into the hero of MASTER Z: IP MAN LEGACY. And that’s closer to Sai Gau, the rule-breaking cop character he plays in the, uh, aquatic police thriller THE BRINK (2017).

He’s introduced just going fuckin berserk in a one-man raid on a… penthouse crackhouse? It’s some sort of trashed drug den with broken windows high enough for him to throw people out of and have them destroy the police cars they land on. Psychedelically lit with primary colored lights and with a questionable amount of electric guitars on the soundtrack, he spins and kicks and chops through crowds of criminals. Not all of them survive. (read the rest of this shit…)

Cutthroat Island

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

It took me nearly a quarter of a century to get around to giving CUTTHROAT ISLAND (1995) a shot. Certified by the Guinness Book as the biggest financial bomb of all time, it got poor reviews, bankrupted Carolco Pictures (FIRST BLOOD, T2) before it even came out, diverted director Renny Harlin (following DIE HARD 2 and CLIFFHANGER) from the A-list and failed to create momentum for its revolutionary notion of giving a woman the lead role and top billing on a big budget summer adventure.

But I had reason to be suspicious of its reputation. Many of Harlin’s ‘90s movies, particularly his also-starring-Geena-Davis followup THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, deserve more credit than they got at the time. And there’s definitely precedent for mob mentality panning of movies that have been heavily covered as over budget, out of control productions. This had the additional gossip-bait of the star and director being married to each other, causing mean-spirited speculation that one was only hired because of the other one’s clout. (For example, an informative 1996 Independent article about what went wrong manages to refer to them as “Renny Harlin and his demanding wife.”) On top of all that, you know how it is with what I call the Old Timey Adventure genre. They almost always lose money, even when they’re great. That’s just how it is. (read the rest of this shit…)

Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

As much as I enjoyed the first two Detective Dee pictures (MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME and RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON), the third one, DETECTIVE DEE: THE FOUR HEAVENLY KINGS, far surpasses them. It has the same kind of fun characters and storytelling, but the FX and design are much improved, it has more action and spectacle, and it’s more packed full of weird factions and creatures with cool costumes and gimmicky weapons, often elegantly gliding around on wires. It’s a total blast.

They’ve dropped the “Young” from the title, even though it’s continuing the prequel story starring Mark Chao. I guess the moment he gets his rank and trademark weapon he becomes a man. That’s where it starts: the end of RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON, with our hero receiving the Dragon-Taming Mace and the duty to keep the imperial court in check, at which point Empress Wu (Carina Lau, PROJECT A PART II, the only actor in all three movies) conspires to have the mace stolen from him. This is one thing I love in period martial arts movies: when a specific weapon is treated with reverence, even though it’s just a piece of metal, not some doomsday device. There turns out to be a really good explanation for why she needs to get it away from him, but it wouldn’t matter to me if there wasn’t. All I need is that it’s a legendary badass weapon like the Green Destiny Sword, so they can’t let him have it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon

Monday, September 16th, 2019

Before Regular Age Detective Dee, it only stands to reason, there was Young Detective Dee. Three years after Tsui Hark’s crowd-pleasing supernatural action mystery blockbuster DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME he recast with Mark Chao (THE WARRIOR’S GATE) in place of Andy Lau and gave us a case from early in his career: YOUNG DETECTIVE DEE: RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON.

As the title implies, it starts with some kinda kraken. I have too much respect for you to make a pun out of that. But you can imagine one. Something attacks the Chinese navy, they think it’s a sea monster, so obviously

1) they’re gonna sacrifice Yin Ruiji (Angelababy, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE) to the monster and

2) Empress Wu (returning Carina Lau, SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT) threatens to execute Yuchi (Feng Shaofeng, THE MONKEY KING 2 and 3) if he doesn’t figure out who attacked the fleet in ten days. Kind of a tough boss. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ghost Warrior

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

GHOST WARRIOR is sort of a sci-fi action drama that was made in 1984, but shelved and thawed two years later. It’s about a samurai named Yoshimitsu (Hiroshi Fujioka, Kamen Rider, IN THE LINE OF DUTY III) who’s just minding his own business – okay, I guess he’s fighting some dudes and forced to jump falls off a cliff – when suddenly he wakes up 400 years later in a lab. Somebody found him frozen in a cave and he ended up at the California Institute of Cryosurgical Research.

By the time the man in charge, Dr. Alan Richards (John Calvin, Tales of the Gold Monkey, CRITTERS 3), recruits “Oriental history” expert/narrator of the film Chris Welles (Janet Julian, HUMONGOUS, FEAR CITY, KING OF NEW YORK) to consult, she’s already read rumors about “The Frozen Shogun” in the newspaper, but just thinks it’s an archaeological discovery. It’s immediately clear that Dr. Richards is an asshole because when she walks into the lobby to report to the job he’s standing right next to her and doesn’t bother to welcome her, introduce himself or even look at her. Then he pulls a John Hammond and brings her for a tour without warning her there’s gonna be a live samurai involved. (read the rest of this shit…)

Return of the Street Fighter

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

RETURN OF THE STREET FIGHTER (which, it’s important to note, is “filmed in Actionscope”) has the same director as THE STREET FIGHTER (Shigehiro Ozawa) and came out in the same year (1974). And I’m sure that was possible partly because it’s only 80 minutes long and padded with black and white flashbacks to two of the first movie’s fights, as well as the same childhood flashback, and it has a pretty long section that’s just the people from different karate schools demonstrating different weapons and techniques that will be used against evil-code-of-conduct-following anti-hero Takuma Tsurugi (Sonny Chiba) – punching through stacks of rock plates, or swinging “NUNCHAKU CLUB” or “SAI DAGGERS” or whatever the on screen text calls them in the American release. Somehow it’s still a great fuckin movie. (read the rest of this shit…)