I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

Archive for the ‘Martial Arts’ Category

Paradox

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Remember the great Donnie Yen/Sammo Hung movie SPL, or KILL ZONE as the Weinsteins retitled it in the U.S.? If not, do you at least remember SPL 2/KILL ZONE 2, the even greater Wu Jing/Tony Jaa movie that knocked our asses and hearts into the stratosphere a couple years ago? Well, PARADOX was made as SPL 3. That’s why I got antsy and ordered an import from YesAsia before I read that Well Go is putting it out in the U.S. on May 8th.

Once again it’s not a normal followup, but a thematic sequel, or a spiritual sequel, or a sequel in name only, or a remix. Some of the connective tissue cast-and-crew-wise is that it’s directed by Wilson Yip (who directed the first SPL and produced the second), it’s produced by Cheang Pou-soi (who directed part 2), it stars Louis Koo (who played the crime boss who needs a transplant in part 2), it has a “special appearance” by Tony Jaa (who was the co-lead of part 2), Ken Lo (part 2) is in it too, and the action director is Sammo Hung (choreographer and co-star of part 1).

Also the cool American cover has a wolf on it, which must be a reference to the weird metaphorical encounter at the end of the last one. I do believe this one is wolf-free. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Kung Fu Traveler

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Here’s a new sci-fi/kung fu hybrid that’s honestly not up to my standards of martial arts movie quality – to be fair it was made for cable and a streaming service in China – but it’s such a joyfully ludicrous storyline that I can’t help but sort of recommend it if you’re ever in a b-movie mood. It stars Tiger Chen (from Keanu Reeves’ excellent MAN OF TAI CHI and Jesse V. Johnson’s upcoming TRIPLE THREAT) and it can best be described as a cross between a TERMINATOR movie and a period kung fu movie like, say, FEARLESS starring Jet Li.

It opens in a future where aliens have conquered much of the earth. Chen plays a general in a military force that’s fighting back. He and his partner (Wang Zhi, DRUG WAR) are out in the field battling some aliens when he’s able to defeat one of them using kung fu.

This is the craziest part of the movie, reminding me of BEYOND SKYLINE, where the RAID guys fought against tall alien monster guys. There they got to use animatronic suit effects, here it’s digital, looking like a very ambitious SyFy Channel premiere. But, I mean, I can’t not enjoy shit like this:


He also has a robot arm that goes over one of his regular arms.

(read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Headshot

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

We all know Iko Uwais as the star of THE RAID [REDEMPTION] and THE RAID 2. Those movies showcase him as a likable hero and incredible martial artist, but they’re also a strong collaboration with co-star/co-choreographer Yayan Ruhian and director Gareth Evans. Having also loved their earlier film MERANTAU I want to see that team keep working together as long as possible. Uwais without the others – as is the case with the 2016 film HEADSHOT – is still exciting, so I was frustrated that I couldn’t find it in theaters or on-demand when it came out. But for some reason by the time it finally came to video I sort of took my time getting around to it.

Big mistake! HEADSHOT is fantastic, a reminder to never underestimate Uwais as a performer or choreographer. The directors are Kimo Stamboel & Timo Tjahjanto, also known as the Mo Brothers. They’re known more for horror than for action, having done a segment of the anthology TAKUT: FACES OF FEAR (2008), a feature called MACABRE (2009), and (with Evans) a segment of V/H/S/2 (2013). I tried watching their serial killer movie KILLERS (2014) and it seemed very well made, but the opening was legitimately disturbing and I think I was going through something and I decided I didn’t need it in my life at that time and turned it off. That doesn’t happen to me often! (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Loose Canon: Blood and Bone

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018
Every now and then I write a more-in-depth-than-usual study of a movie I consider important and influential in the evolution of Badass Cinema, or in this case one that I simply think is great. It’s a movie I believe most fans of the genre would love and all should see and have an opinion on. I call this series THE LOOSE CANON.

The Loose Canon: BLOOD AND BONE (2009)

There have been two proud moments in my getting-close-to-20-years of writing about action movies when a truly special one appeared inconspicuously in the DTV market and I was the first person I’m aware of to point to it and say holy shit you guys, check this out. One was John Hyams’ UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION, which later gained attention from some of the more respectable critics thanks to its great and very arty followup UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING. The other is BLOOD AND BONE, directed by Ben Ramsey (LOVE AND A BULLET). I do think it has grown something of a following, but not the credit it deserves as a perfect showcase for an under-recognized star in peak form, or as a stone cold classic of its genre. Like another Michael-Jai-White-starring DTV favorite, UNDISPUTED II: LAST MAN STANDING, BLOOD AND BONE isn’t even available on region A Blu-Ray. What the fuck, video industry? Too badass for hi-def?

The ten year anniversary of BLOOD AND BONE is coming up next year, so I’m giving the rights-holders and the gatekeepers a heads up. I want to see a cool, respectful collector’s edition Blu-Ray with added extras and a painted cover and shit. I want to see theatrical screenings. I am positive this will play great with audiences. Make it happen. A parade would be cool too, but that’s negotiable. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Blade of the Immortal

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL is a 2017 samurai epic from director Takashi Miike. It’s his 100th film! Can you believe that shit? I haven’t gotten into his trademark pervert madman vibe in movies like ICHI THE KILLER, but nothing I’ve seen by him has been a slapdash Fred Olen Ray type affair. There is real effort and craft involved, and he’s made a few excellent samurai films. Instead of remaking an old school chanbara as with 13 ASSASSINS and HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI this one is adapting a manga that ran for about twenty years, so it’s less classically structured, more unwieldy, with supernatural elements and outrageous imagery (crazy face paint, strange weapons, goofy anime hair).

This aesthetic looks particularly cool in the stark black and white of the prologue, where we learn the bloody, convoluted origins of the titleistical immortal. As a young samurai, Manji (Takuya Kimura, Howl in HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE) was tricked into assassinating a whistleblower. He thought it would right things to kill the corrupt officials behind the scheme, but one was his little sister Machi (Hana Sugisaki, Mary in MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER)’s husband, and the grief drove her insane. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Undefeatable

Monday, February 5th, 2018

After recycling his Richard Harrison footage across 25 ninja movies (see NINJA KILL), Chang Cheh assistant turned “Ed Wood of Hong Kong” Godfrey Ho made at least one movie that was shitty in an entertaining way. The proof is the English language, filmed in America UNDEFEATABLE (1994), sort of a poor man’s BLACKBELT, if such a thing is possible. Like that fun Roger Corman produced Don “The Dragon” Wilson vehicle, it combines martial arts with the slasher movie cliche of a deranged serial killer obsessed with his mommy. But this one has Cynthia Rothrock (NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER 2).

The movie itself seems to think the star is some guy named John Miller, who was also in the Ho-directed Rothrock vehicle HONOR AND GLORY the same year (hmmm…) and then was apparently on 20 episodes of Homicide: Life On the Street, but uncredited, so I think he’s just a background guy at the department. Here he’s a supercop introduced with the traditional off-duty interruption of a convenience store robbery, or “just a couple of punks giving me a warmup” as he calls it, before breaking up an organized street fight and confiscating the winnings. He’s actually kind of a stick in the mud hassling fighters. It wasn’t until 35 minutes in when they showed him practicing with a staff that I realized he was a martial artist too.

(read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Ninja Kill

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

As I’m sure I’ve told you before, one advantage as well as disadvantage of the ancient tradition of the video store is that you find random weird stuff you weren’t looking for and end up renting it. This is how I became aware of NINJA KILL. Two of the reasons I rented NINJA KILL:

1. It’s called NINJA KILL

2: This is the cover:

Note the tagline: “BREAK NINJA LAW – SUFFER NINJA JUSTICE!” Words to live by, in my opinion.

This is the story of Ninja Master Gregory (Richard Harrison, HIGHWAY TO HELL) and how one day he’s sitting on top of a picnic table wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a friend from the ninja community comes to give him a tip about an impending assassination plot involving ninjas. He has to pay $5,000 for the information (interestingly he seems to be able to pay this with five bills) and then his informant is immediately killed by another member of his yellow-uniformed ninja clan. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Kickboxer: Retaliation

Monday, January 29th, 2018

I don’t know what I was expecting from KICKBOXER: RETALIATION, the new sequel to 2016’s KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE, which was a remake of the 1989 Cannon classic KICKBOXER. I waited for midnight Thursday to watch it on V.O.D. as soon as it became available, so clearly I was excited. But I didn’t think it was gonna be this good.

The original Kurt Sloane, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, only made it to his part 2 in the form of a body double unceremoniously shot to death in an alley, leaving three sequels to a never-mentioned-before Sloane brother played by Sasha Mitchell. The remake Kurt Sloane, played by stuntman Alain Moussi, gets to stick around. A different Van Damme character, Sloane’s mentor Master Durand, does survive for the sequel and continues to be the heart and soul of the series.

I love when sequels open with the character we know suddenly in a whole different place and life situation. My go-to example is RAMBO III, where we find John living in a temple in Thailand, winning underground stick fights for money. But this is more like a TEMPLE OF DOOM opening because we find Kurt in a tux, sexy salsa dancing with his now-wife Liu (Sara Malakul Lane, Seagal’s daughter in BELLY OF THE BEAST) on a train at night. They get attacked and he has to slow-motion fight some people, including on top of the train in pouring rain as it crosses a bridge, until they all fall off. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Lady Bloodfight

Monday, December 4th, 2017

“There’s no ancient Chinese secret that’s gonna heal broken bones in a single… night!? Impossible!”

My friends, I have been derelict in my duty of making sure the world knows about LADY BLOODFIGHT. Yeah, I know, it sounds like LADYBLOOD FIGHT, or like an all-female reboot of the obscure Bolo Yeung movie BLOODFIGHT, but think of it as WOMEN’S BLOODSPORT. It’s a great DTV fighting tournament movie starring Black Widow stunt double and future action superstar Amy Johnston. I watched it a few months ago, having been put onto it by my readers (shout out to Felix and whoever else mentioned it in the comments) but the write-up got away from me until I watched it again today and I loved it even more.

Johnston is the daughter of a world kickboxing champion, and has studied martial arts since the age of 6. She mostly works as a stuntwoman, but has roles in RAZE and Scott Adkins’ upcoming ACCIDENT MAN, and she starred in one with Dolph called FEMALE FIGHT SQUAD that I’ve heard isn’t as good. But after LADY BLOODFIGHT we better be seeing more of her. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Legendary Assassin

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

After seeing WOLF-WARRIOR-II-mania sweep the globe (especially in the China part of it) I thought I should pay a little more attention to Wu Jing as an up and coming Badass Laureate (director/asskicker), so I went back to LEGENDARY ASSASSIN, his directational debut (co-directed with KILL ZONE 2 action director Chung Chi “Nicky” Li, who also choreographed).

Though there will later be lulls, it’s clear the movie is worth our time within the first 22 minutes or so, because by that time we’ve already experienced two excellent fights and the unveiling of a nice, elegant premise (the screenplay is by Fung Chi-Keung, who wrote SHAOLIN SOCCER and THE MERMAID). Wu plays “Bo,” the assassin of the title, so presumably he’s legendary, although this is not really covered in the movie. He fearlessly walks in to face Chairman Ma (Kou Zhan Wen, TAI CHI II), an evil crime boss who comes at him Shaw Brothers style with a big bladed staff. Bo does lots of leaning and dodging and running up things and defeats him unarmed.

In the morning we see Bo walking up to a dock to make his exit… just as a police officer is turning people away. All boats are cancelled due to an approaching typhoon. And the last boat in unloads a troupe of gangsters looking for the killer of Chairman Ma.

Whoops. This could get messy. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.