I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Posts Tagged ‘Sammo Hung’

Seven Warriors

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

tn_sevenwarriorsDon’t get your hopes up as high as I did, but SEVEN WARRIORS is kind of cool because it’s the 1989 Hong Kong take on the SEVEN SAMURAI story. So that means the version with the most complex and acrobatic action.

I had been under the impression it was a Sammo Hung movie, which is not accurate. The credited director, Terry Tong, has a total of nine directing credits, mostly movies that have not made it to the States. He has bit parts in DANGEROUS ENCOUNTERS OF THE FIRST KIND and TWIN DRAGONS, so maybe he is a Sammo associate, and maybe IMDb has a reason to list Sammo as co-director. But the credits and other reference sources do not. He does have a small cameo in the opening scene, which is a weird place for a cameo. It’s a much smaller part than Bruce Campbell in CONGO.

The screenwriter is Kan-Cheung Tsang, who wrote ROYAL WARRIORS and a bunch of Stephen Chow’s movies including SHAOLIN SOCCER and MERMAID. He sets this version in “the Warlord Era” or “Chaotic Era” of China, when veterans wander around as mercenaries or thieves, some of them led by hairy-mole-faced Piu (Lo Lieh, CLAN OF THE WHITE LOTUS) to terrorize and extort a defenseless village. So of course a couple of the villagers go into town and they find Chi (Adam Cheng, ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN), a once respected, now alcoholic commander who was in the war with Piu, to gather up some of his old troops. They’re a colorful set of characters, the most impressive being the suave knife thrower and Karl, the big blacksmith who walks away from repairing some lady’s pan the second the Commander asks for help. He carries around a giant spiked club, almost as big as a person, which is enjoyable in any genre. We could use more of those in cinema. (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 Bodyguard

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
tn_bodyguardA few weeks ago at the Seattle International Film Festival I saw THE BODYGUARD, or MY BELOVED BODYGUARD as it’s currently listed on IMDb. It’s the new Sammo Hung vehicle, and his first time directing since ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA AND AMERICA in 1997. That’s a long fucking time! I didn’t realize it had been that long, but it was still thrilling to see the credit “Director and Action Director: Sammo Hung” not only splashed across a big screen, but in front of a sold out crowd. Unfortunately I can’t say the movie fulfilled the promise of those words.

Hung plays Ding, who we hear through both expository dialogue and seemingly-third-person narration was an elite agent in the Hong Kong equivalent of the Secret Service. He recently witnessed a gang murder and might’ve put a major gang figure away, but in the lineup he couldn’t remember him because “We think he has dementia.” (I feel like there might’ve been a more dramatic way to reveal that information than to just have a cop say it in the opening scene.)

There’s a little Clint Eastwood in the movie’s quiet, gentle portrait of Ding’s lonely life fending off advances from his landlord (Qinqin Li) and mourning his relationship with his daughter, who won’t speak to him because he lost her daughter (to a child murderer?) when he was supposed to be watching her. It’s never fully explained, but seems doubly tragic because we can assume his condition played a part in what happened, but his daughter seems to blame it on him just being a piece of shit.

(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.

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.

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.

She Shoots Straight

Monday, June 16th, 2014

tn_sheshootsNote from Vern: I’m working on a write-up of the Cinefamily Seagalogy event, but for now please enjoy this review of an obscure Hong Kong gem thanks everybody.

SHE SHOOTS STRAIGHT (aka LETHAL LADY) is an action vehicle for Joyce Godenzi, who stole the show as the Vietnamese double agent in the classic EASTERN CONDORS. She had been in a bunch of movies before this, but I believe this is her only starring vehicle. Today she’s known as the wife of Sammo Hung (who has a supporting role in this), but it should be noted that she didn’t marry him until 1995, so that’s not why she gets a movie, it’s not because of nepotism. Actually, it’s probly because she was Miss Hong Kong, 1984. But I’m glad they thought of doing that because she is incredible.

Here she plays Mina, a supercop who recently got a promotion and also married her handsome co-worker Tsung-Pao (Tony Leung, the one from A BETTER TOMORROW 3).

And you’d think she’d be happy as a clam on Zoloft but she’s got this problem that now she’s got a gaggle of sisters-in-law who are fellow cops who all hate her. They’re worse than the sisters in THE FIGHTER. They’re jealous of her success at work, they try to undermine her authority, disobey her commands, embarrass her. They whine about her getting all the credit for an operation where she clearly deserved the most credit. If they were honest with themselves they would acknowledge that she was the one who slid down the side of a parking garage, jumped onto a moving cab, climbed through a bus, jumped out the other side onto the moving getaway car, got shot at and rolled off and almost run over by a motorcycle which she then commandeered and chased the car literally through a wall of fire, drove over it, ducked a bullet, skidded out the bike and jumped off so the car would hit the bike, flip and roll without hurting the princess. Yeah, the sisters helped, but Mina did the Jackie Chan shit. Plus, the attack happened when most of you ladies were in the bathroom. (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.

Ip Man: The Legend is Born

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

tn_legendisbornipmanTHE LEGEND IS BORN: IP MAN isn’t related to the Donny Yen movies IP MAN and IP MAN 2. I mean obviously they’re all based on the same Wing Chun master famous for teaching Bruce Lee, but this isn’t the official prequel to those ones, because it doesn’t have the same director or producers or anything. It’s like if right now somebody who’s not Spielberg made their own prequel to LINCOLN.

Well, I’ll try to be open-minded if they do that, because when I finally got around to this LEGEND IS BORN one I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a very effective martial arts melodrama with alot of the classic themes: brotherhood, loyalty, betrayal, finding a master, challenging tradition, falling in love. As kids Ip Man and his adopted brother Tin Chi go to live and study with the Wing Chun master Chan Wah Shun (Sammo Hung) and become friends with a girl student named Mei Wai. The three grow up to be very close, in fact an incomplete love triangle (Tin Chi loves Mei Wai, Mei Wai loves Ip Man, Ip Man doesn’t notice). (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.

Eastern Condors

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

There’s alot of big movie anniversaries this summer. Everybody’s celebrating 30 years since the Summer of ’82 shit like E.T., THE THING, BLADE RUNNER, CONAN THE BARBARIAN. And I’ve been trying to commemorate the important summer of ’87 ones like PREDATOR and ROBOCOP. Little did I know that there was another movie, originally released July 9th, 1987, worthy of that kind of respect, but that I never saw before.

Geez, man. What have I been doing these last 25 years that was so god damn important I couldn’t be bothered to watch EASTERN CONDORS? Nothin, that’s what. Why did nobody convince me to watch this one before? This is my new favorite movie until further notice. The only legitimate reason to not watch it is if you’re worried that it will be hard to find another action movie to watch after that, because not many hold up to the EASTERN CONDORS standard of fun. (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.

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

tn_detectivedeeDETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME is the latest directorial work from Mr. Tsui Hark. Yeah, admittedly I still mainly love him for the Van Damme/Rodman/Rourke picture DOUBLE TEAM, but he’s actually a respectable director too. This was nominated for best picture in last year’s Hong Kong Film Awards. It lost to GALLANTS but #1 I personally liked this better than GALLANTS and #2 Tsui won best director anyway. Like Soderbergh over Ridley Scott. Take that, GALLANTS.

DETECTIVE DEE is playing in American theaters now so check it out, but it’s also come out on legit UK blu-ray so that’s how I saw it.
(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.

Kill Zone (SPL: Sha Po Lang)

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

tn_killzoneBefore Wilson Yip directed Donnie Yen in the IP MAN series the two had already done a bunch of movies together. Their first collaboration was the 2005 crime movie SPL: SHA PO LANG. The title has to do with Chinese mythology and every man’s capacity for both good and evil. That’s hard to translate for Americans so the Weinsteins called it KILL ZONE. It’s about a zone of killing.
(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.

Ip Man 2

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

tn_ipman2Ever since the runaway Hong-Kong-equivalent-of-best-picture-Oscar success of the Donnie-Yen-starring biopic IP MAN in 2008, Ip-Mania has swept the globe. In the U.S. it’s quickly become one of the most popular martial arts imports since ONG BAK, and this year will have its own balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (at least I assume so. I sent them several letters demanding that). in Hong Kong it already has a (unrelated?) prequel and this very good sequel from returning director Wilson Yip.

IP MAN was very episodic and ended early in Ip Man’s life, so there was a natural opening to continue the story. But the movie had such a perfect blend of character drama and martial arts action that it’s alot to live up to. And in recent years the sequels to the international action phenomenons have been pretty iffy. I enjoyed ONG BAK 2, but it’s a big mess that lost alot of people, and I ahven’t heard anything good about part 3 yet. DISTRICT B13 ULTIMATUM was watchable but completely underwhelming. So this was far from a sure thing. There’s curses to overcome.
(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.