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Archive for the ‘Martial Arts’ Category

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…)

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.

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…)

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.

Sanjuro

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

tn_sanjuro“It’s hard to explain. A strange series of events made him our ally.”

Akira Kurosawa probly had no idea when he made SANJURO that he was doing a sequel to one of the greatest movies in all of Badass Cinema. He just wanted to have some fun doing another small, funny samurai story with Toshiro Mifune’s character from YOJIMBO. This time the itchy wandering ronin (calling himself Sanjuro, another name made up on the fly) falls in with nine young, idealistic samurai who have discovered corruption in their clan. They want to do the right thing but they’re kinda dumb and inexperienced and he’s an incomparable swordsman and strategist, so he finds himself advising them, assigns himself to their most dangerous tasks and takes on the army and government mostly on his own. (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 Dragon 2

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

tn_ladydragon2In LADY DRAGON 2, Cynthia Rothrock de-prises her role as Kathy Galagher, ex-CIA underground fighter out to avenge the death of her also-a-CIA-agent husband. This time she plays Susan “The Golden Angel” Morgan, who in the opening scene defends her professional (i.e. not underground) competitive karate title in the presence of her very much not dead yet husband and famous soccer player Sonny (George Rudy). But then later her husband gets murdered and she has to avenge it.

Meanwhile, criminal maniac Diego (Billy Drago, DELTA FORCE 2, MARTIAL LAW II) and his two flunkies (Sam FLASH GORDON Jones and Greg Stuart [QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER]) are stealing diamonds from the mafia, and then staying in the same hotel as Susan and Sonny. Somehow sensing that Sonny’s fame as an international soccer star will get him brushed through customs without much more than a glance, they stash the stolen loot in his luggage and follow him to Jakarta. But when they go to reclaim the diamonds they’re gone.

Before we move on, let me just say that they call it soccer throughout the movie, they don’t say football, so I don’t have to say it either. Those are the rules. I also say shit instead of shite. It’s how I was raised. (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.

Martial Law II: Undercover

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

tn_martiallawiiIn MARTIAL LAW II: UNDERCOVER, our hero Sean “Martial Law” Thompson from the movie MARTIAL LAW has gone so far undercover that he doesn’t even look like Chad McQueen anymore, he looks like Jeff Wincott (MISSION OF JUSTICE). But he’s still with his cop girlfriend Billie Blake (Cynthia Rothrock) and he still opens the movie by stopping some bad guys while in disguise. Last time he was a pizza delivery guy stopping a hostage situation during a jewelry store robbery, this time he pretends to be a confused homeless guy and interrupts some bikers making an arms deal.

In case you forgot, he’s called Martial Law because he is a lawman who does martial arts. In fact he does so many martial arts that this time he gets a credits sequence where he’s silhouetted doing katas in front of flags while smooth jazz plays. He just made detective, but he gets transferred to another city to start a martial arts training program for the police there. He and Billie have the kind of relationship where that’s okay, you can just move away and it’ll be okay, no discussion necessary. (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.

Once Upon a Time in Shanghai

Monday, July 13th, 2015

tn_ouatisAs much as beautiful action sequences are one of the great joys of life, the story really is the important part, it turns out. It can be formulaic and unoriginal – no problem, that can even be a plus sometimes – but it has to be a good engine for the fights and chases, giving us characters with motivations and making us want to see something happen, even something as simple as “I hope he kills that motherfucker” (or “I can’t wait ’til he fights that little guy!” as the guy next to me at THE RAID said). Most of the better Asian martial arts movies are especially story-driven I think, because of their themes of brotherhood, honor, tradition vs. innovation, etc.

So this is unusual but here’s one I’m recommending mostly just for the action. It’s the reverse of so many modern American action movies where I liked it despite the action being weak. I liked it even though I didn’t care much about what was happening until like halfway through.

I mean, there are elements I love here. The hero Ma Yongzhen (Philip Ng, DRAGON SQUAD) has a right fist so powerful his mom made him wear her jade bracelet to remind him not to use it. Donnie Yen’s wife tied a string around his wrist for the same reason in KUNG FU KILLER, but this is a more severe punishment because it’s pretty girly looking. His fist is often shot to look giant, and then we see that gaudy-looking bracelet with a metal charm on it that spins and hums with movement. So every time we see it we remember his vow of punchlessness. (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.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

tn_mmprtm

RELEASE DATE: June 30
RELEASE DATE: June 30

MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS: THE MOVIE is easily the crappiest movie in my Summer of ’95 retrospective so far. Maybe less offensive than BATMAN FOREVER, since it doesn’t seem to be made by professionals who should know any better, but it’s really something. I know it’s an extension of a cheesy kids TV show made up partly of stock footage from Japanese shows, but it’s amazing that a soundtrack album and a little bad CGI was enough to get this into theaters alongside real movies. APOLLO 13 and

JUDGE DREDD came out the same day. Watching it 20 years later POWER RANGERS does not seem like it belongs in the company of either, and the dark, low quality transfer on the DVD isn’t helping things. It didn’t get completely killed at the box office, though. That weekend it came in below APOLLO 13, POCAHONTAS and BATMAN FOREVER, but above JUDGE DREDD.

Like APOLLO 13 this is the story of an elite team of squares chosen to put on uniforms and helmets and fly into space. The Power Rangers are five teenagers chosen by a giant face in a glass tube named Zordon (Nicholas Bell, DARK CITY) to “transform into a superhuman fighting force” and defend the Australian-looking city of Angel Grove, California. That means morphing into masked and color-coded martial arts super heroes and piloting robotic dinosaurs called Zords that combine into a bigger, humanoid robot called Megazord to fight giant monsters. In their spare time the Power Rangers like to skydive, rollerblade and act as role models to local children who don’t know they’re the Power Rangers because it’s a secret identity, although that is never relevant to the story. As far as we see, none of them have parents, schools, jobs, homes or alone time. (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 Killer

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

tn_kungfukillerKUNG FU KILLER also played as KUNG FU JUNGLE (it still says that on the end credits) but the new title fits better. It refers to both the villain and the hero of this enjoyable moosh-up of martial arts challenge movie and serial killer thriller. Donnie Yen plays Hahou Mo, a renowned teacher and fighter who’s in prison for killing his opponent the last time he had a martial arts duel. But when a mysterious killer is targeting other martial arts masters Hahou convinces the police to let him out to help catch the motherfucker. I mean, if Hahou’s gotta go to prison for an apparently accidental and honorable duel-death then surely this murdering creep should be in there too.

Just as John Doe in SEVEN was killing based on the seven deadly sins, Hahou determines that this guy is killing in an order based on traditional martial arts training. He predicts who the victims will be based on who has the best kicks, grappling, etc. To stop the killer he works with police inspector Luk Yuen-Sum, or “Madam” (Charlie Yeung, BANGKOK DANGEROUS remake with Nic Cage), who is suspicious of him, and his wife Sinn Ying (Michelle Bai), who he is very protective of. (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.

Skin Trade

Monday, April 27th, 2015

tn_skintradeSKIN TRADE (actually written as SKINTRADE on screen) is the long-awaited passion project of Dolph Lundgren, who produced and wrote the screenplay with Gabriel Dowrick (an editor and sometimes director) and Steven Elder (an actor who was in GALLOWWALKERS). Over the years Dolph had sometimes planned to direct it himself, sometimes not to act in it, at one point possibly to have Steven Seagal co-star. Eventually he handed over the reins to Ekachai Uekrongtham, director of BEAUTIFUL BOXER and PLEASURE FACTORY, which is about the sex industry in Singapore. To Dolph SKIN TRADE is an attempt to raise awareness about the problem of sex trafficking. For me it is an achievement in having a movie that stars Dolph Lundgren, Tony Jaa and Michael Jai White.

Dolph plays Nick Cassidy, an NYPD detective who gets himself into trouble by gunning down Serbian gangster Dragovic (Ron Perlman, sort of reprising his character from POLICE ACADEMY: MISSION TO MOSCOW)’s prettiest son two seconds after he yells “I will prove to you… I AM MY FATHER’S SON!”

Just another day on the job, you would think, but next thing you know some dudes fire an RPG into Nick’s living room window and he wakes up in the hospital with the side of his face melted and no wife or daughter in his burned down house.

Meanwhile Tony Jaa plays Tony, an undercover cop on a crusade against Dragovic’s sex slavery ring in Cambodia and Thailand. We first meet him wearing a nice suit and being threatened at gunpoint to have sex with a young kidnapped child. He fakes like he’s gonna do it but instead he pulls out his belt to use as a weapon to beat up every sorry sex slaving piece of garbage in the room and dangle their cowering leader (Gigi Velicitat, ELEPHANT WHITE, THE MARINE 2, STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN LI) off the side of the building until he tells them where their next shipment of human cargo is headed. And then he drops him anyway. The guy probly shouldn’t have offered him that freebie on sex slaves in my opinion. That was his mistake. (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 Man With the Iron Fists 2

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

tn_mwtif2My friends, I don’t know about you, but I count myself lucky to live in a world where one of my favorite hip hop producers, the RZA, not only got to write, direct and star in a legit kung fu movie, but got to do a DTV sequel directed by one of the leaders of the form (Roel Reiné, THE MARINE 2, DEATH RACE 23, SCORPION KING 3, 12 ROUNDS 2: RELOADED). If I somehow slipped and fell into an alternate dimension that’s okay. I’m not going back.

Filmed in Thailand with about a third of the first film’s budget, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS 2 is much more normal and low key than the first one, I want to warn you of that up front. There are fewer colorful gimmicks, no crazy Russell Crowe performance, comparably grounded (both literally and figuratively) martial arts, and no mention of the cliffhanger from the director’s cut where I think he had to team up with the X-Blade to save his wife that got snatched by the Falcon Clan and put in a big nest on top of a mountain or something like that. But for me it’s still a very enjoyable sequel because it maintains the most important ingredient: the complete sincerity of the RZA. (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.