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Archive for the ‘Martial Arts’ Category

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…)

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…)

Sister Street Fighter

Friday, May 8th, 2020

I’ve reviewed and enjoyed Sonny Chiba’s three STREET FIGHTER movies (THE STREET FIGHTER, RETURN OF THE STREET FIGHTER and THE STREET FIGHTER’S LAST REVENGE), so now it’s time to get started on the SISTER STREET FIGHTER quadrilogy. It was marketed (at least in the U.S.) as a spin-off of the other series, but star Etsuko “Sue” Shihomi is not playing her character from THE STREET FIGHTER, or her other character from THE STREETFIGHTER’S LAST REVENGE, and Chiba is in it not playing “Terry” Tsuguri. There’s no narrative connection, but it is in a similar vein of funky contemporary karate blast full of fun comic book gimmicks, cool ‘70s fashion and exaggerated violence.

Shihomi (GOLGO 13: ASSIGNMENT KOWLOON) plays Koryu, a Hong Kong martial artist who gets sent to Yokohama to search for her brother Mansei (Hiroshi Miyauchi, Kamen Rider, Go Ranger, Spider Man, REBORN FROM HELL II: JUBEI’S REVENGE), a narcotics agent who disappeared while undercover in a heroin smuggling ring. Kuryo has other family there. She beats up some assholes in front of her restaraunteur uncle (Hiroshi Kondo, GRAVEYARD OF HONOR, WOLF GUY), who is delighted that she’s “still a tomboy,” and cousins (Tatsuya Nanjo [TOKYO DEEP THROAT] and Nami Tachibana), who ask her for lessons and tell her she’s famous in Japan as the Hong Kong Martial Arts Champ. (Nobody else seems to recognize her.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril

Monday, May 4th, 2020

LONE WOLF AND CUB: BABY CART IN PERIL is #4 out of six LONE WOLF AND CUB films, and comes pretty directly out of the stories from the late Kazuo Koike’s manga about the former Shogun’s-executioner who was framed by the god damn Yagyu Clan (fuck those guys) and now travels Japan with his young son Daigoro, working as a freelance assassin along his “Demon’s Path” toward vengeance and damnation. He usually ends up doing something very honorable that seems a little more like redemption, but he doesn’t see it that way. He thinks he’s the devil. This was before heavy metal, too.

This one’s kinda got an A and B plot. One of them (take your pick which letter it is) involves the badass Oyuki (Michi Azuma, who played a different character in BABY CART AT THE RIVER STYX – they should do that in more American movie series), a former “sword mistress” gone rogue so she can avenge her former mentor for raping her. One of her trademarks is to cut off the top knots of all the motherfuckers who come after her, which in their culture seems to be even more humiliating than when Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake used to badly shave the heads of those he defeated in the ring. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rumble in the Bronx

Monday, April 20th, 2020

In February of 1996, when RUMBLE IN THE BRONX was released in the U.S., it was an event. I don’t know if it was the zeitgeist or a concerted marketing effort or what, but it came along at the exact right moment for Jackie Chan to achieve his dream of hitting it big in the States. He’d tried twice before with American movies filmed in English: Robert Clouse’s THE BIG BRAWL a.k.a. BATTLE CREEK BRAWL in 1980 and James Glickenhaus’s THE PROTECTOR in 1985. Neither caught on. But he finally did it with a re-edited and dubbed version of one of his Hong Kong movies.

For some of us, we’d had a few years of fiending to see and learn about whatever Hong Kong action cinema we could. Trying to find rentals or bootlegs of subtitled John Woo, maybe Ringo Lam, THE HEROIC TRIO, FONG SAI YUK, THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR, or anything Jackie.

Most of those were about a certain poetry, a certain vibe, a mix of style and cool and honor and brotherhood and violence that seemed thrilling compared to what we got at home. But the excitement of Jackie was entirely about the miracle of human movement. A guy who can flip and run up walls and jump off buildings and onto or over moving vehicles. A daredevil and a silent comedian and a kung fu master all rolled into one. He wasn’t cool in the same way that Chow Yun Fat was. He was kind of a dork. But also a god. (read the rest of this shit…)

Supercop 2

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

As I believe I’ve made clear in many reviews over the years, as well as this week’s Profiles in Badass column on Rebeller, I’m aware of Michelle Yeoh’s wide range of talents and accomplishments. I love her most for the movies that really showcase her fighting and her swagger, like WING CHUN, and YES, MADAM!, or her fighting and her regret, like CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, and the totally-worth-checking-out straight-to-Netflix sequel, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON: SWORD OF DESTINY. I also very much admire her dramatic acting chops from AH KAM to CRAZY RICH ASIANS. Still, the timing of my specific movie-watching path, discovering Hong Kong action in the ‘90s, means that I will always think of her as Michelle “jumped a motherfucking motorcycle onto a motherfucking train in SUPERCOP Yeoh. That’s just a fact. (read the rest of this shit…)

Butterfly and Sword

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

BUTTERFLY AND SWORD is from 1993, so it’s after Michelle Yeoh had already done YES, MADAM! and even SUPERCOP, but it’s her first straight up wuxia movie. Let me put it this way: in the opening scene in “West Chamber, Eunuch Li’s Mansion,” I do believe we see a guy’s face get ripped off and thrown into a pile of snakes. So this is not a drill. This is the unadulterated, berserk kind of kung fu fantasy film where there pretty much aren’t characters who don’t jump 25 feet in the air and shoot some kind of weapon.

Our male lead Brother Sing (Tony Leung, HARD BOILED, RED CLIFF, THE GRANDMASTER) is introduced bouncing off a string to fly through the air like an arrow, causing at least half a dozen dudes to explode as he hits them. He also has a cool method of holding a bow behind his back and firing his sword. Yeoh’s character Lady Ko gets a quicker but even more fanciful introduction flying in with a fanfare of confetti and a web of unfurling purple silk scarves. (read the rest of this shit…)

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…)