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Archive for the ‘Martial Arts’ Category

Wing Chun

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

In WING CHUN, the 1994 Yuen Woo-Ping classic, the great Michelle Yeoh plays Yim Wing Chun, a legendary character who was supposedly the first disciple of the Shaolin nun who invented the Wing Chun style of kung fu after seeing a crane fight a snake. The movie’s not about that, but it’s a reworking of a famous story about Wing Chun using her skills to ward off an asshole trying to force her to marry him. I’m not sure, but I think it’s kind of like in western culture if you do a new version of Zorro, Dracula, Hansel and Gretel or whatever you’re probly not gonna directly adapt the version people know, you’re gonna try to take the famous elements and put a different spin or twist or perspective on them. (read the rest of this shit…)

Dragon Blood

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

tn_dragonbloodDRAGON BLOOD (1982) is the third and final John Liu directorial work, and the only one where the American release doesn’t pretend it’s about ninjas. This one is a traditional period martial arts picture, so he can’t play Hong Kong movie star and creator of Zen Kwan Do John Liu. Or at least I don’t think so. But about halfway through he’s referred to by name for the first time, and it’s “John Liu.” Also, his co-star of all three films, Roger Paschy, plays “Paschy.” Maybe they’re older than they look. Or maybe they’re just such iconic characters they can be transported to different time periods, like Mickey Mouse.

This John Liu is the son of China’s best fighter. Dear old dad won that title and two small golden dragons from the Emperor. That was a curse, though, because he spent the rest of his life fighting off Chinese challengers to the title and western treasure seekers. He hated it. A total bummer. Never win the golden dragons, is my advice.

But on his last day he fights a guy who does not want the dragons, just the honor of challenging the greatest fighter, and as a fight connoisseur himself he’s cool with that. But then he gets jumped by another guy so he gives the dragons to the first guy and makes him promise to take care of his son. Personally I would be like, “Well, I mean, I’m flattered, but I wasn’t really looking for that type of a life time commitment here,” but this guy is more responsible so he becomes John Liu’s adoptive father. (read the rest of this shit…)

Ninja in the Claws of the C.I.A.

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

tn_ninjacia“I see you’re running out of Oriental tricks.”

Director/star John Liu followed up his directational debut AVENGING NINJA/ZEN KWUN DO STRIKES IN PARIS with SHA SHOU YING, which has also been called MADE IN CHINA and according to some sources KUNG FU EMANUELLE, but that might be some confusion with the previous one which I have been told has an EMMANUELLE related title. Anyway, I rented it as NINJA IN THE CLAWS OF THE C.I.A., an appropriate followup to AVENGING NINJA since once again he is not playing a ninja. He does toss a throwing star into a guy’s hand, though. Still, a non-ninja movie like this being included in “The Ultimate Ninja Collection” DVD series seems questionable in my opinion just my two cents.

But at least it’s true that he’s in the claws of the C.I.A. So the title is based partly in truth. (read the rest of this shit…)

Avenging Ninja

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

tn_avengingninja“I don’t get it. Why do we have to fight?”

AVENGING NINJA is a movie with no ninjas, and no vengeance. And I don’t think it’s a metaphor, either. It’s just the marketable American video title for a Taiwanese/Hong Kong production that also goes by the more accurate title ZEN KWUN DO STRIKES PARIS.

The movie, which is produced by “John Liu’s (H.K.) Film Corp.”, stars John Liu, a Taiwanese martial artist who was in the SECRET RIVALS trilogy and INVINCIBLE ARMOUR, or “successor to the immortal Bruce Lee legacy,” as the oversized VHS box calls him. And he directs, writes and produces. Also he’s playing himself, John Liu, movie actor and founder of the Zwen Kwan Do fighting system, which he pits against various champions of different disciplines and nationalities. The credits list the championships of the five top-billed actors (“JOHN LIU 1964, 1967 World Karate Champion”). Also there are three names under the category “Top French Movies & TV Stars,” and somebody named “Brigitte Mannequin.” I’m not sure who that is, but I like her.

As the movie begins it’s in the news that John Liu, the disgraced martial arts teacher now working in the Hong Kong film industry, has been summoned to Paris to investigate the kidnapping of his father, a “well known American aerospace scientist.” He’s in no hurry though. He’s still filming a movie, and is told to slow down his moves so the camera can get them, something they used to say happened to Jet Li. But maybe they said that about everybody. (read the rest of this shit…)

Fist of the North Star

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

FIST OF THE NORTH STAR is a straight-to-video live action manga adaptation post-apocalyptic white people martial arts b-movie that I’ve been meaning to watch for about 20 years even though everybody said it was garbage. And I’m sure if I knew the comics or the anime version I would hold it to different standards, but coming to it fresh I gotta tell you this one checks off alot of boxes of the type of shit I enjoy in a movie. I am here to tell you it has merit.

The villain is the head of the Southern Cross martial arts school, who rebuilds a city after World War III and becomes its dictator, and the hero is the last heir of the rival North Star school, whose powerful fighting style is the only thing that can defeat Southern Cross. And even though their names are Shin and Kenshiro they are played by two white dudes, Costas Mandylor (VIRTUOSITY) and Gary Daniels (COLD HARVEST).

Today this would be frowned upon as whitewashing, and fair enough. But I guess I’ve grown up fascinated with white adoptees of martial arts from the ’70s and ’80s kung fu, karate and ninja booms, and to me there’s something sort of awesomely stupid (in a good way) about these muscular dudes with mullets and leather vests without shirts being the last great martial arts warriors of the future. And I have no right to impose this policy on the outside world, but in my mind there’s a statute of limitations that says since he’s not pretending to be Asian in any way Gary Daniels is grandfathered in to be allowed to be named Kenshiro as he practices moves on the bones of western and/or eastern civilization.

One complaint: why no headbands? I have rarely seen two dudes more worthy of cool headbands. (read the rest of this shit…)

Triple Threat

Friday, March 15th, 2019

TRIPLE THREAT is the long-awaited international co-production that teams Tony Jaa (ONG BAK, THE PROTECTOR, KILL ZONE 2), Iko Uwais (THE RAID, HEADSHOT, THE NIGHT COMES FOR US) and Tiger Chen (MAN OF TAI CHI, KUNG FU TRAVELER). That in itself is an event, but wait until I tell you who plays the villains. Directed by Jesse V. Johnson (THE BUTCHER, SAVAGE DOG), it’s not an envelope-pusher like some of the modern classics each of those three have under their belts, but it’s a solid action romp with tons of clearly shot fighting, taking advantage of all the possible match-ups and varying martial arts styles.

Jaa is first billed and shown first, but Uwais is the protagonist and the one with the best hair*. Jaa and Chen play mercenaries duped into a “humanitarian mission” that’s actually an attack on a village in which Uwais’ character’s (very briefly glimpsed) wife and friends are killed. Seeking revenge, he tracks the two to their day jobs as underground fighters… and gets beat up. But they recognize him from the village, explain themselves and become his on again, off again allies as he uses them to try to lure out the criminal syndicate responsible. Meanwhile those two try not to be killed by the gang for knowing too much, as well as to protect a Chinese heiress (Celina Jade, LEGENDARY ASSASSIN, SKIN TRADE, WOLF WARRIOR 2) they discover is being targeted by them. (read the rest of this shit…)

Iron Protector

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

a.k.a. THE BODYGUARD
a.k.a. SUPER BODYGUARD

IRON PROTECTOR (2016) is a fun and pulpy if not groundbreaking modern Chinese martial arts picture with a little bit of a throwback feel. The opening credits are throbbing with kung fu, c.g., three dimensional letters, fire and explosions, and the movie maintains that level of shameless flash, but it’s old school in the sense that it has lines like “Brother, your iron fist has improved alot,” and “Brother, everyone in my bodyguard company is a champion in his own right,” and “I let you help me start my bodyguard company because I wanted to develop the spirit of the Iron Kick,” and “You must live on for the spirit of the Iron Kick.” Also they make a big deal about writer/director/star Yue Song doing all his own stunts and not using wires.

It’s style is not unimpeachable. It has a cheesy transition effect that I think is supposed to remind you of a comic book. I always hate that shit. I guess that’s why reviews like this one on Cinapse call it a superhero movie, but it doesn’t seem to me like super powers as much as just classical martial arts mythology. Our hero Wu-Lin (Song) is the last master of a secret fighting style, the Iron Kick. His feet have stayed encased in metal boots for ten years as part of mastering the technique, so that’s where the Iron comes in. (read the rest of this shit…)

BuyBust

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

(as in a bust during a buy)

Every so often in the world of action movies something or someone comes along that throws down the gauntlet and inspires others around the world to try to match it or top it. THE MATRIX, TAKEN and JOHN WICK are three that might qualify based on imitation alone. I think ONG BAK really started something with its insane stunts and flying knees and elbows originating from a country not previously known for movies. More recently THE RAID ignited an Indonesian action film scene and inspired people in other parts of the world to push the envelope in their own ways.

I’m not just talking about copycats. They might even become classics in their own right. Case in point: the amazing 2018 Philippine drug raid epic BUYBUST, which would’ve definitely made my best of the year write-up if I’d seen it in time. It’s kind of like THE RAID meets ELITE SQUAD. A highly trained team of drug enforcement agents go into a favela-like part of town tailing an informant (Alex Calleja) who is wearing a wire for a transaction with the vicious druglord Chongki (Levi Ignacio) in an attempt to draw out his boss, the elusive Biggie Chen (Arjo Atayde). It turns out to be a setup, the drug gang guns down most of the team and the surviving agents have a long, grueling night battling their way through endless attackers in a labyrinth of narrow, crowded passages and corrugated roofing while trying to figure out who betrayed them and where to find Biggie. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Night Comes For Us

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

THE NIGHT COMES FOR US is another outstanding gauntlet of gory martial arts violence and honor among killers from Timo Tjahjanto, writer-director of the excellent HEADSHOT. Once again the action is choreographed by Iko Uwais (star of THE RAID), and he’s in it and he’s great, but Joe Taslim gets to play the lead this time. Taslim played Jaka in THE RAID and was also in the best FAST & FURIOUS movie (FURIOUS 6) but he doesn’t seem to get noticed like Iko and Yayan. Or at least he didn’t get to be eaten by a monster in THE FORCE AWAKENS with them. So every time I read his name I think of it to the tune of this:

Taslim’s character Ito is one of the “Six Seas,” elite enforcers for the Triads who from the sounds of it are kinda like the Seal Team Six of international crime. For his job he has to be ridiculously skilled and completely heartless, but one day during a routine massacre-of-entire-village he doesn’t feel like killing the last survivor, a little girl named Reina (Asha Kenyeri Bermudez). Instead he guns down his own team and takes off to hide the kid in Jakarta. And sure, this doesn’t erase all the people he’s killed in his three years on the job, but it’s like when the Grinch’s heart grows at the end of his story. Let’s give the man credit for changing. (read the rest of this shit…)

Yes, Madam!

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

(a.k.a. POLICE ASSASSINS on the DVD I watched)

YES, MADAM! is a 1985 Hong Kong action classic starring the one and only Michelle Yeoh as Senior Inspector Ng, hard working cop who should be on vacation and instead ends up searching for some damn microfilm.

She ends up on the case due to a crazy pile-up of coincidences. Her old instructor Richard Nordon (Michael Harry, AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE) is meeting in his hotel room with a thug named Mr. Dick (Dick Wei, EASTERN CONDORS), who ends up killing him. Immediately after that, two thieves disguised as bellboys happen to break into the room. They happen to steal Nordon’s passport, which happens to contain the microfilm of a forged contract that Mr. Dick was after in the first place. And then Inspector Ng happens to come to the room to meet with her old mentor, just in time to see the fake bellboy fleeing the scene and try to chase him.

There’s a dramatic moment in the lobby when Mr. Dick thinks she’s made him and is ready to shoot her. (read the rest of this shit…)