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Archive for the ‘Martial Arts’ Category

Bangkok Revenge

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

tn_bangkokrevengeBANGKOK REVENGE is a story about, yes, some type of revenge that takes place in or near Bangkok. It starts out almost like a Thailand-set remix of HARD TO KILL where the good cop attacked by the corrupt cops is not that hard to kill, he dies instead of going into a coma, so it’s his son who has to set things straight years later. The kid, Manit, got shot in the head, but he survived, and like Sonny Storm (or the Skywalker twins) he was hidden away from the bad guys. In this case it’s a kind nurse who sneaks him to a friend who, reluctantly at first, gives him shelter and martial arts training.

Actually, at this point it switches to KICKBOXER. Young Manit trains on roped posts and hanging coconuts, aging to adulthood (and the actor Jon Foo) during a montage. They even do the scene where the teacher takes him to a bar and convinces a bunch of toughs that he talked smack about them so he’ll have to fight them off. The fight is done in an interesting, partially successful handheld POV type approach. (read the rest of this shit…)

Close Range

Monday, February 1st, 2016

tn_closerangeCLOSE RANGE is the new one from the DTV action power team of star Scott Adkins and director Isaac Florentine. That’s an event because it’s been two years since NINJA 2, and it seems like longer.

I think this is Adkins’ gruffest performance without a Russian accent (he plays American). This time his character Colton MacReady is

1) an ex-Special Forces guy who’s
2) now on the run because he
3) “disobeyed an order that would’ve disgraced him and his uniform” and then
4) “put his superior officer in the hospital” so
5) “He’s been on the run ever since.”

That’s a backstory that could’ve been created with a refrigerator magnet set of action movie cliches, but I’m not against that. Those are good magnets. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ip Man 3

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

tn_ipman3I’ve watched and enjoyed all the movies made about Ip Man so far, but IP MAN 3 is the first one I’ve seen on the big screen. A really big screen at a multiplex with only four other people in the audience. I feel like I should send AMC a thank you card.

After three years Donnie Yen returns to what has become one of his greatest roles, the real life Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, most famous here as a guy who taught Bruce Lee. Director Wilson Yip (SPL/KILL ZONE) and writer Edmond Wong (DRAGON TIGER GATE) also return, but the great fight choreographer Sammo Hung has been replaced by the also great Yuen Woo Ping. The weird thing about that is that Yuen did Wong Kar Wai’s rival Ip Man movie THE GRANDMASTER.

Part 2 took place in the early ’50s, with Ip Man and his family moving to Hong Kong, where he set up a Wing Chun school. Now it’s ’59 and he’s still living humbly in a small apartment with his wife (still played by Lynn Hung) and youngest son. We don’t really see him teaching anymore but apparently he is because he still has all his fiercely loyal disciples, and he’s getting into trouble with the wife and the kid’s school (math and reading type school, not fighting) for always working too late.

Once again this story involves a public challenge by another martial arts teacher trying to prove superiority over the local legend. This time it’s not a different style against Wing Chun, it’s a guy saying that he has pure Wing Chun and Ip Man is peddling some bullshit watered down autotune Wing Chun. This guy shouldn’t be fuckin with Ip Man, but he’s a sympathetic enough character that I didn’t initially realize he was gonna be the antagonist. (read the rest of this shit…)

Balance of Power

Monday, January 18th, 2016

tn_balanceofpowerIn BALANCE OF POWER, Billy Blanks plays Niko, one of those martial arts instructors who teaches disadvantaged kids, in one of those neighborhoods where gangs go door-to-door demanding protection money. He makes the kids pick up litter in the neighborhood and lectures them if they think “the most important thing about karate” is “kicking some butt, man.” Niko is sensitive and truly cares about the kids, but he maintains a tough love exterior, hoping it will keep them in line. He’s especially worried about Billy (Adam Bonneau) because he told him not to ever go to the playground (inhabited by scary gang members) and then the dumbass went there for a girl.

Meanwhile Niko’s in trouble because the mob guys just noticed that they have mistakenly forgotten to ever shake him down for money. Embarrassing blunder there. So some thugs, including long-haired Shinji Takamura (James Lew, MISSION OF JUSTICE), come in, he refuses, they break some glass and give him an ultimatum. When he still doesn’t pay up the main enforcer guy drives a car by the playground and one of his ski masked guys does a drive-by on Billy. (read the rest of this shit…)

Beatdown

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

tn_beatdownBEATDOWN is yet another movie to add to my list of formulaic underground fighting movies that I found pretty enjoyable. It’s produced by the company Tapout, and to be honest I don’t 100% know what Tapout is, but this definitely seems like a movie aimed at the people who wear their t-shirts. It’s about small town working class folks who drive gigantic pickup trucks and only care about cage fighting. They all have some sort of tragic past involving a dead and/or abusive parent, which they talk alot about. The soundtrack is all a type of rock music that makes me cringe with embarrassment, but I can acknowledge that it might sound good to the target audience. It’s a little weird though when a singer is wailing and grunting about “a wildfire in the streets” over a scene that takes place in a barn.

It’s the story of Brandon, a young underground fighter whose brother gets murdered and gangsters tell him he has a week to fulfill a $60,000 debt. There’s no way he can do that so he decides to get away from it all. He gets on his motorcycle, participates in a driving montage, and ends up at his dad (Danny Trejo)’s trailer in some hick town outside of Austin.

I’ve been systematically going through every movie of this type even if I know nothing about them or their stars. It took a bit before I realized that Brandon was played by Rudy Youngblood, the star of APOCALYPTO. Did you know he got an action vehicle after that? I like that. (read the rest of this shit…)

Angel Town

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

tn_angeltown“Jacques, as long as I’ve known you you’ve been in deep shit. I expect this.”

Even though I have this weird feeling that French kickboxing champion turned VHS-era action icon Olivier Gruner doesn’t like me, I’m open to watching his movies. I actually didn’t realize while watching it that ANGEL TOWN was his debut, but it makes sense. This is his L.A. gang movie, which came out after COLORS but before BOYZ N THE HOOD or MENACE II SOCIETY (or New York movies like NEW JACK CITY and JUICE). And I’m not saying it’s as good as any of those, but it’s a fun b-action take on the subject, and it makes a decent argument for why Gruner should be in movies.

He plays Jacques, a Frenchman renting a room in a gang neighborhood while attending graduate school in East L.A. He ends up there because he gets into town late and all the student housing is filled up, but also we learn he was born in a French ghetto and lived in one in Hong Kong too. It’s not relevant, but I want to mention why he’s late to school: when he was about to leave he went to visit his father’s grave and then his girlfriend showed up distraught that he was leaving and she took off her fur coat and she was naked so he fucked her right there on his father’s grave. And that must’ve taken a couple days, I don’t know. (read the rest of this shit…)

No Retreat, No Surrender 2

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

tn_nrns2NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER 2, sometimes subtitled “Raging Thunder,” which is also the name of the opening credits song, picks up exactly where part 1 left off: with Corey Yuen directing movies. But it has no characters or story that have any relation at all. Like it would’ve been hard to throw the ghost of Bruce Lee into a scene or two.

Instead of being about a karate student in Seattle learning kung fu from the ghost of Bruce Lee to fight Russian Jean-Claude Van Damme in a karate tournament this is about Scott Wylde (Loren Avedon, KING OF THE KICKBOXERS), an American kickboxer, getting into some shit in Thailand. It seems like he’s a tourist, there to visit his old friend Mac Jarvis (Max Thayer, MARTIAL LAW II, ILSA, HAREM KEEPER OF THE OIL SHEIKS), but then we find out he has a fiance there, Sulin (Patra Wanthivanond). She’s from a rich family and she brings him to a restaurant for a huge feast of TEMPLE OF DOOM type food such as tiger balls and monkey brains. “Very funny, sweetheart!” he says.

But four guys break into his apartment with big knives and little guns and kidnap Sulin to the tune of inappropriately upbeat music. Two stay behind to fight Scott, and it’s immediately clear that the fights (action choreographer: Corey Yuen) are better in this than in part 1. It’s a very acrobatic fight inside the little dingy apartment, jumping off the bed, slamming against the flimsy walls, kicking a guy through the door and across the hall and through the neighbor’s door (where of course he surprises two people who are having sex). And there’s alot of banging heads against walls. And he kills them. (read the rest of this shit…)

Azumi 2: Death or Love

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

tn_azumi2Thanks for the warning, fellas. AZUMI 2 is no AZUMI. I had known director Shusuke Kaneko as being good at giant monster and horror type pictures, and I really thought his cleverness and style would apply well to our little badass raised in the mountains to be the ninja assassin orphan girl with the purple cape. But maybe with this one he caught a tough break. Either the budget was much lower or they just didn’t know how to use it as well as Kitamura did. Lots of standard woods and dirt, looking cinematic than ’90s syndicated TV show. Like Xena or something.

I didn’t really mind that (spoiler? unspoiler?) negotiations prevent us from having a huge climactic massacre like in the first one. That part feels kinda ballsy, I can respect that. It’s progress for the character and her story instead of just more of the same. What was disappointing was that the first one had that incredible village set that was so integrated with (and wrecked by) the battle. This one is just in an ugly clearing. She could’ve killed 700 people, it still would’ve seemed like a step down. (read the rest of this shit…)

Game of Death II

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

tn_godiibruceleeiconGAME OF DEATH II is a weird proposition. How the hell do you make a sequel to Bruce Lee’s unfinished final movie and pretend he’s still the star? It’s like if they tried to figure out how to keep Paul Walker in FURIOUS 8. It’s a little different because some of the best fights Lee ever shot were for GAME OF DEATH and they didn’t bother to use all the footage in the first one. But I guess they thought it would be cheating to use that stuff. Instead they took a bunch of his closeups from ENTER THE DRAGON and cut them into scenes of a lookalike always shown either from the back or at a distance. Lee’s character Billy Lo is worried about his brother being too into sex and not enough into practicing kung fu. He finds his kama sutra and leaves him a letter and a Jeet Kun Do manual to counter its harmful influence.

Also Billy talks to his master, who tells stories about his youth, illustrated with clips from Chinese movies Lee made at 6 and 15. Instead of letting you figure it out (like Soderbergh using clips from POOR COW as flashbacks in THE LIMEY) they use onscreen text to tell you, breaking any illusion that this is the character Billy Lo, famous movie star who faked his death. In the younger one he’s picking on an old man, headbutting him in the gut, pointing a gun at him and saying he’s gonna kill him. Weird. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

tn_sanshirosugata2“I always imagined Sanshiro Sugata would look more fierce. You know, with a mustache or something.”

I don’t know if I’ve seen an earlier sequel than this, and it’s a pretty good one. It’s also the earliest example I know of the international fighting movie. IP MAN 2 also took this idea: the legendary martial artist is pressed into pitting his style and national pride against westerners. This part 2 has a better excuse though: it was made near the end of WWII at the behest of the government. I don’t give a shit though, I still like it. You lose, propagandaists.

It all starts with a conflict between a young Japanese rickshaw driver and his customer, an asshole white sailor (I think he’s supposed to be American, but his accent sounds otherwise). The sailor causes the driver to flip over and then blames him and wants to fight him. (read the rest of this shit…)