KATE is the straight-to-Netflix Mary Elizabeth Winstead action movie produced by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski’s company 87North (formerly 87Eleven). As you’d expect from that pedigree, it has excellent action scenes, with JOHN WICK fight coordinator Jonathan Eusebio acting as second unit director and stunt coordinator. He did BIRDS OF PREY too, so I gotta wonder if Winstead asked, “You got any more of those JOHN WICKs laying around?”

The screenplay is credited to Umair Aleem (whose only previous credit is EXTRACTION – no, not that one – the Bruce Willis/Kellan Lutz/Gina Carano one), and the story is admittedly more standard than a JOHN WICK or a NOBODY. Elite assassin wanting to retire, yes, but none of the fanciful stuff. Working with her handler Varrick (Woody Harrelson, DOC HOLLYWOOD), who trained her since she was orphaned, Winstead’s titular character adeptly infiltrates, beats up, parkours and rooftop snipes whoever they send her after (which seems to mean Yakuza bosses, since she seems to live and work out of Japan). The first hit we see is successful, but she has to kill the guy in front of his daughter, which upsets her so much she decides she’s retiring after wrapping up the job. The second one we see she misses, making it much more exciting because we get to see her leap and somersault across buildings to get a second shot and then improvise an escape, stealing some dude’s ridiculously pimped out pink and yellow ride for a SPEED RACER/2 FAST 2 FURIOUS neon-blur car chase.

She’s not losing her touch – she has radiation poisoning. You fuckin knew she shouldn’t have hooked up with the guy from Haunting of Hill House (Michiel Huisman, BLACK BOOK) at the hotel. A doctor tells her she’s got about a day, so she steals a bunch of stimulants and flees, intent on fighting/threatening/interrogating her way up the Yakuza totem pole to terminate whoever ordered it. I don’t want to spoil her fun but I wonder if she considered just letting it go, buying the most expensive bottle of liquor she can find, maybe running a bath and putting on some records? I just feel like that might be a better last day than trying to stab and headshot a bunch of guys like she’s in THE RAID. I don’t know. Maybe I’m getting old.

A life of tragedy and violence has hardened her emotionally, and empathy doesn’t come that easy to her, which is the beauty of these type of characters. It’s gonna come, she just doesn’t want to admit it. Cryin’ macho. What I like about this format is we get the excitement of the action movie thrills (and there are some graphic stabbings, let me tell you) but also get to be proud of this character for starting to think better of it. Like in NOBODY, there’s a scene where she goes to avenge a motherfucker and then learns more context, sees them as human and shows mercy and/or pity.

When she decides to kidnap Ani (Miku Patricia Martineau), the very same teen she recently orphaned, she drags her around by the arm, yells at her, stuffs a sock in her mouth (presumably not one fresh out of the laundry) and leaves her taped to a public restroom toilet. Rude. She’s holding her hostage to get to her uncle Kijima (Jun Kunimura, HARD BOILED, GODZILLA: FINAL WARS, UNFORGIVEN remake, MANHUNT) for ordering her death. But when Kijima’s right hand man Renji (Tadanobu Asano, ZATOICHI ’03, MORTAL KOMBAT ’21) tries to kill the kid for a power play, Kate has the common courtesy to save her and, after being followed around by her for a while, agrees to work with her.

I’m a sucker for the grumpy badass taking care of a kid stories (LONE WOLF AND CUB, KIKUJIRO, LOGAN, GRAN TORINO, The Mandalorian, THE MARKSMAN). But I’m a little sensitive about how many movies seem to believe that a childless life is an empty waste and only through last minute parenting can you find any type of fulfillment. Especially when they do that to women. Ripley, Sarah Connor and Beatrix Kiddo are incredible mother characters, but in lesser movies (which is 99% of movies) it starts to seem like “Oh, I get it, you can’t picture anything meaningful for women to do with their lives besides raise kids.”

So I was relieved that, contrary to some reports, this is not about that. It seemed more like a big sister or aunt relationship to me – someone who can support her, having been through similar experiences, but isn’t gonna raise her. And there’s no sense of “You’re gonna come live with me now,” since she’s dying.

Kate ends up in a t-shirt with a Totorro-ish cartoon face on it, covered in blood, an example of how this movie cheekily contrasts cutesy/girl things with blood and bullets, something that Harley Quinn and other characters have done well, but that has quickly becoming a cliche. I think part of the reason it works here, though, is that it’s not really Kate’s personality, it’s something Ani gives her, and she goes from an awkward oh jesus, you want me to put this shit on? face to an I make this look good attitude. (Also, because it’s Japan we accept that when your shirt is too bloody you buy a new one from a vending machine.)

A criticism I’ve heard (mostly pre-seeing-the-movie) is do we really need to see a white woman in Japan killing a bunch of Asian people? Fair enough, and if that’s a problem for you I won’t try to talk you out of it. But I saw a couple people saying the only reason to set it in Japan was to have cool looking locations and homages to Yakuza movies – as if those aren’t good reasons! Okay, you watch the version where she’s in the usual New York or L.A. (or Vancouver) fighting the usual Italian or Russian mobsters, no GHOST-IN-THE-SHELL-looking cities, no Japanese cast, no Japanese pop music soundtrack. See if you like that better. I’ll keep this one.

(An argument could be made that it should’ve been set in Thailand, where most of it seems to have been filmed. One of the stunt coordinators is Seng Kawee, who did ONG BAK and BORN TO FIGHT and many American productions that film in Thailand like RAMBO, STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN LI, THE MARINE 2, THE SCORPION KING 3: BATTLE FOR REDEMPTION, ONLY GOD FORGIVES, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS 2, MECHANIC: RESURRECTION, HARD TARGET 2, TRIPLE THREAT, EXTRACTION [yes, that one this time] and DA 5 BLOODS.)

Furthermore, this is a MAJOR SPOILER, but this is not a movie where Asians are the bad guys. Kate has been raised as a killer by one of the only two white men in the movie who, we learn, is responsible for the death of her family. (And it’s a “I’m going to kill them and then take their kid” situation not a “I feel bad about it so it’s my responsibility to take care of her” one.) There’s a sense of overkill as she plows through low level gangsters she believes have wronged her, she learns in fact it’s the white man who poisoned her (would’ve seen that coming if she’d seen SOLO) and teams with the Yakuza boss against him.

The action is plentiful, in varied locations, using a variety of weapons, never feeling rote, always intense. She gets backed into a whole lot of corners and has to improves ways to get out. The fights are full of those little touches that add personality, like when a guy has her by the hair and she has a knife so she escapes by slicing off a chunk of her hair and a bunch of the guy’s fingers and then the shorter hair turns out to look cool on her.

Or the scene where she has a brutal champagne-glass-stems vs. scissors duel with Jojima (Miyavi, KONG: SKULL ISLAND) and Ani gets ahold of a gun but spends so long trying to figure out how the fuck to load it that she can’t intervene, and then when she finally does she accidentally shoots Kate instead of Jojima. (I’m sure I would do even worse!) Hats off to this scene also for the first time I’ve ever seen the ol’ “ends the fight by conking him over the head with a vase or something” supplemented with a graphic shot of a meaty head wound. There’s also some violence Kate’s not involved in. I like that an old timer is called a “samurai” mockingly and then he proceeds to perform an awesome samurai style beheading.

It’s fun to watch Winstead fighting, grimacing, strutting around with blood on her and white sunglasses the kid gave her. She has skills, but her biggest strength is taking a multitude of shellackings and repeatedly, if just barely, getting back up. She’s a McClane, after all. And as with Willis or Eastwood the best part is the vulnerability shining through the cracks of that cockiness. There’s a genuine sense that she has some things in common with Ani, and the goal becomes preventing Ani from becoming her replacement. I like this relationship because the kid has the same well-earned fuck-you attitude toward the world that she does, and for a while they insult and disrespect each other and really mean it and we get we’re they’re coming from. And we know this is just setting the stage for an eventual bond as they realize they both have the whole world against them and might as well each get to have one person on their side.

The director is Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, who was the effects supervisor and second unit director on SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, then graduated to director for THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR, which I have not seen. Seems to be a good craftsman, at the very least. I’ll watch for his next movie, but most of all I hope Winstead gets to do more stylish mid-budget asskickers. If she makes ‘em, I promise I’ll watch ‘em.

* * *

Trivia: one of Winstead’s additional photography stunt doubles was Athena Perample, the Queen zombie from ARMY OF THE DEAD.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 28th, 2021 at 7:12 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

52 Responses to “Kate”

  1. I liked that this echoed movies but didn’t directly riff on them (outside the John Wickian templates). Especially the third act which felt like Die Hard. But also Aliens – Winstead’s channeling some serious Ellen Ripley in this movie with the shortish green jacket, short hair, and even some scenes when she’s running.

    I also got a big Danielle Harris in The Last Boy Scout vibe from Ani/Miku Patricia Martineau in this one. In a good way!

  2. I watched GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE the night after I saw KATE, and it’s weird how GM is basically the exact same movie except a comedy. And also worse in every important way. And also somehow less funny than the non-comedy movies that it’s ripping off.

  3. I can see the complaint about a white woman ravaging through an Asian populace, but I thought the setting was one of the best parts of the movie. I guess the best way to fix this kind of thing is to cast an Asian actress. Except the other best part of the movie was Winstead. So, let’s make better movies for Winstead to star in that don’t kill a bunch of Asian people AND cast Asian actresses in badass movies set in Asia. Problem solved.

  4. Is it weird that I have never heard of this movie’s existence? Or maybe I did, but all those Netflix action movies seem to blur together in my head recently. I don’t know.

  5. This sounds like it’s better than Gunpowder Milkshake, which had some genuinely cool fights, but also had dialogue that tried so hard to be clever that it veered straight into stupid.

  6. GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE doesn’t fully add up but it’s made of great ingredients. I like that it didn’t even pretend anybody would be able to lay a hand on Michelle Yeoh and that it let lCarla Gugino put the movie in her purse and walk off with it like she does anytime she’s in a movie.

    THE COURIER and THE DOORMAN are other recent female-led action programmers that are not gonna change lives but are worth watching.

  7. I liked this a bit less than The Protege and a bit more than Gunpowder Milkshake, which is to say I’m fine with MEW action vehicles. I remember admiring how committed she seemed to the Scott Pilgrim moves so I’m glad she’s been able to keep at it and develop them further.

  8. This left me cold for some reason. Winstead is fine but i hated Ani.

    I haven’t seen GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE yet.

  9. Man is it bad as soon as I saw her sitting with woody harrelson I knew the twist that was coming. Like no way does he stay a good guy throughout the movie.

  10. “A criticism I’ve heard (mostly pre-seeing-the-movie) is do we really need to see a white woman in Japan killing a bunch of Asian people?”

    This is a very good point in time to just close our ears, minds and hearts to this type of radioactive sludge dripping off the ‘Net.

    KATE isn’t anymore a White Avenger Annihilating Hordes of Asians movie than EXTRACTION:HEMSWORTH EDITION is a White Savior one or that the upcoming Bond is “Woke” or MATRIX:RESURRECTIONS is a Lana Wachowski commentary on transgenderism.

    Manufactured outrage for click-bait or more cannily, funneling traffic to highly monetizable platforms. Let’s give it the attention it deserves….NONE.

  11. I prefer my choice of considering it and offering my conclusions while being open to disagreement.

  12. No complaints that this one’s about a woman going around killing hordes of men, so long as we need the heroes and villains to both be in the same category?

    I don’t know, aside from this being almost the exact same movie as Gunpowder Milkshake (albeit without the bordering-on-distastefully-overused Russian mobsters and janky backstory; I’ll take–gasp! shock!–villains being an ethnicity other than white over a bunch of Slavs getting gunned down for the million time in an assault on the sheer concept of coming up with an interesting villain)

    the most memorable thing about this thing (in a bad way) was the weird moral-of-the-story bit where a spiritually pure and enlightened *Yakuza crimelord* opines on how the younger generation (of *Yakuza crimelord*) has been corrupted by the evils of the decadent West. I was left trying to imagine the elegant way this old samurai dude would prefer to deal drugs and force women into prostitution. Obviously, no one wants to see the Japanese treated as slant-eyed devils, but does that mean we also have to give them this wise, saintly portrayal where they can only be bad if a white guy seduces them to the Dark Side? It’d be hokey if Seagal were doing it back in the 90s, but in 2021, it’s ludicrous.

    Weird to say it, but Tokyo Drift spends the same amount of time in Japan, with a hero of the same skin color, and is more nuanced and subtle in its depiction of Japanese characters.

  13. THE COURIER? That’d be the 2019 Kurylenko-takes-down-Oldman movie, not the 2020 Cumberbatch espionage one, obviousy. Yeah, I thought that was all right; Kurylenko seemed game. I wanted to like THE DOORMAN more than I could; it has lots going for it, but I struggled to take Ruby Rose seriously; she seems cool rather than actually good, and the Bucharest sets looked a bit too familiar.

    JOLT, filmed in Bulgaria rather than Romania, I think, was more fun. Beckinsale has real action chops, and she’s very funny in it. But really, Jai Courtney? Who here wouldn’t see that coming?

    CLOSE remains the gold standard for these mid-budget female-led action things, and the sooner Noomi Rapace makes another one the better.

    Of course, in an ideal world, someone would let Amy Johnston have a go at one of these.

  14. “[Ruby Rose] seems cool rather than actually good“

    I’m okay with that. I mean, couldn’t you describe most action stars that way, male or otherwise, at least for their first several movies? How many years did it take Van Damme to be able to convincingly stand there and deliver a line that sounded like he knew what it meant?

    Rose doesn’t have the nuances down but she has the right vibe for the job. I’m willing to give her some time to grow into it.

  15. Not to be too contrarian, but Van Damme is an expert martial artist. You forgive the weak acting because of the spectacular stunts and fight scenes. If someone has the thespian skills of Tony Jaa, but also pulls off fight scenes with the same baseline competence as your average Matt Damon, that’s a prob.

  16. There were no spectacular fight scenes in Van Damme’s output for quite some time, unless your idea of awesome action is watching the same roundhouse be delivered eight times at different angles, and then some slo-mo kicks. Van Damme didn’t go a movie with actual decent action until Universal Solider and even THEN it was just baseline. Not until John Woo got his hands on Van Damme did he do spectacular fights and stunts. So he coasted for a looong time. I mean shit the Bourne fights with Damon are better than what Van Damme did with the first chunk of his career.

    And how do we know the new Matrix ISN’T a commentary on transgenderism? Clearly someone who made that life change might be using those thoughts and feelings in her movie about someone awakening to a different reality than he thought he had to lead? We gonna act like that’s SUCH a stretch?

  17. Roundhouse *and* butterfly splits.

  18. “There were no spectacular fight scenes in Van Damme’s output for quite some time”….hmmm….that’s a pretty big roundhouse dump on BLOODSPORT, KICKBOXER, LIONHEART & DOUBLE IMPACT, all of which featured plenty of terrific fights.

    Like everything else, fight choreography evolves, and if your current benchmark is ONG BAK, RAID, SPL or top-tier Adkins, then it can be argued early Van Damme fights were probably a little too stylized with an over-reliance on slo-mo and looping. But it doesn’t take away from their entertainment value, much of it down to the sheer charisma and athleticism JCVD brought to the screen.

    ALL screen fighters re-use their signature moves. Watch enough Adkins and MJW, and you’ll see them resort to the same style of kicks and punches. The “helicopter kick” was Van Damme’s so you saw a lot of it.

    And since you brought up UNIVERSAL SOLDIER….really? Look man, I fucking love that movie, but outside of a diner brawl where you saw some slick Van Damme moves, the much awaited showdown between him and Lundgren was a disappointment. 2 Grade A Martial Artists, and you just have them punching each other most of the time?

    Ditto HARD TARGET… which featured spectacular action, but I’d certainly not reference it as an example of great Van Damme fights, I recall one slo-mo heavy fight outside a diner and somewhere in the end, he shoots a guy 250 times and then roundhouse kicks him in the head. Fun, not spectacular.

    And finally…far as I’m concerned MATRIX RESURRECTIONS could be about ancient Aztec Sexual Practices for all I fucking care. I just refuse to form an opinion until I’ve seen the damn movie. I equally refuse to engage with assholes who stir shit up for the sake of it. Most of them don’t come across as people willing to have an honest conversation, just insecure and easily triggered dickweeds. Suddenly you get all these opinion pieces on the new Matrix flick based solely on the fact that you know the director’s transgender? All these “Bond is Woke” opinions because you saw a 2 minute trailer which happened to prominently feature a Black Woman? And I’m willing to bet my left nut most of these criticisms of Kate are from those who haven’t seen it. Like I can practically plot out the trajectory at this stage: Read Kate’s synopsis….White Woman….Takes on Yakuza…Yakuza is Japanese…..Japanese=Asian…White Woman killing Asians……Outrage! Funny, John Wick slaughtered a bunch of Asians within the 1st 30 mins of JW3. Guess that’s cool cause Keanu is part Asian? And I’m with Kaplan, what about the hordes of Russians and various assortment of Eastern Europeans who have functioned as the primary Cannon Fodder in action movies this last decade? Guess it’s ok cause they’re white and I guess most of them are members of crime syndicates and specialists in sex-trafficking?

  19. “I mean shit the Bourne fights with Damon are better than what Van Damme did with the first chunk of his career.”

    Let me get back to you on that once I’ve played them at quarter speed and seen exactly what the fuck is going on.

  20. Bloodsport not only had shitty fights, it even had shitty fights for the time. Karate Kid had better fights, actually really good fights and that was between two kids with no previous experience who weren’t doubled. And Van Damme gives a few slo-mo kicks repeated on a loop. And then a roundhouse punch they show six times real fast to make it exciting but not put in effort. I also didn’t say the fights in Universal Soldier were GOOD, I specifically said they were baseline. Yeah Hard Target didn’t have a lot of “fights” per se, but the were delivered with energy and coolness and awesome moves, which were forgotten in the Cannon shit.

    The later Bourne movies went overboard on the crazy camera, but I thought the first one was quite good…fast and energetic but not unbearably so.

    And Eastern Europeans make for decent generic villains right now because if you look into organized crime right now, that’s where it’s at assuming you want to set the movie in the US. I know a lot of FBI guys and so much of that shit goes right back to Russia.

  21. Let’s look at it this way…thinking Van Damme movies had boring shitty action isn’t me looking back at them with all of the movies made in their wake and I found them lacking. I thought they sucked back then too.

  22. The heroic, traditionalist yakuza soldier fighting against corrupt, Westernised upstarts — you guys realise this isn’t the first movie to show that, right? There are hundreds of these things! This is the genre called ninkyo eiga, “chivalry films,” and there’s even another example in English (THE YAKUZA). So you could take the story line here as a comment on U.S. imperialism, or as a patronising sketch of exoticised foreigners, or whatever you like, but I think that argument needs to start by acknowledging that Kunimura’s character here is a tribute to all those other yakuza films.

  23. My thoughts on early Van Damme notwithstanding, I kinda accept Majestyk’s argument and I hope he’s right about Ruby Rose. But I still came away disappointed from THE DOORMAN, and maybe I’m just laying all that disappointment on her. Did Mandylor and Rose even get to fight? I’ve forgotten already. SPOILER She certainly doesn’t take him out, nor does she get to take out Jean Reno’s boss villain; they both get killed by the weaselly henchman. Under different circumstances that might be seen as clever subverting of expectations, but here it looked like a mistake. If you’re trying to make your protagonist look cool, and cool is what she’s got going for her, let her do the cool stuff.

  24. Matthew–I realize that the ‘honorable old-school gangsters versus dishonorable new blood’ is a trope pretty much everywhere, but I found it sore thumby here because

    1. The whole movie is deconstructing the ‘assassin raised from birth’ concept, so to see them present an honorable Yakuza guy with an utterly straight face feels weird. The theme of the movie is “no one would mentor a little girl to kill people without being an evil, duplicitous bastard,” so to reveal that figure has a counterpart that actually is morally upstanding and sincere… it’s like if in the middle of a John le Carre spy movie, George Smiley revealed that his car has machine guns behind the headlights.

    2. Having the new generation be not just corrupt, but specifically corrupted by American culture (with the guy saying this practically looking at the camera), is over-the-top. I’m sure if you saw a movie where an evil Japanese corporation corrupted otherwise goodhearted American businessmen to force their employees to work long hours and not be properly insured, you’d feel it was ridiculous that those sins were being blamed on external factors instead of something the businessmen were capable of all along. Why not give this Japanese villain the agency of having chosen evil because he’s a greedy bastard all on his own? It’s not like in John Wick 2, Santino was a good egg until he fell under the influence of the Crips.

  25. In SAS: RISE OF THE BLACK SWAN they let Ruby be the villain. And I think she really pulls it off. It’s directed by Magnus Martens, who did episode 3 in season 3 of BANSHEE, and it’s actually quite cool.

  26. Thanks, Pegsman. Noted. I confess I’d dismissed that as being some Andy McNab thing without noticing Martens’s involvement. Also, at the back of my head, I knew Jing Lusi alleged Noel Clarke propositioned her and threatened her during the making of it, so it may not have had the widest release, at least here in the UK where Clarke was big news back in the Spring.

  27. Kaplan: “Honorable old-school gangsters versus dishonorable new blood” is, yes, a trope pretty much everywhere. New blood “specifically corrupted by American culture” is ninkyo eiga. These movies arose in Japan in the early ’60s when the American occupation still rankled, and the villains’ tastes in clothing, cars, drinks, and music generally coded them as Westernised. You’ll see this in all kinds of post-war Japanese movies. Take a look at which characters drink whisky and which drink shochu. Outside the ninkyo eiga genre, this isn’t always shorthand for relative morality, but it’s still meant to reveal something about their personalities.

    The filmmakers here are pretty obvious fans of Japanese culture, and they cast a lot of familiar faces from yakuza movies, so I’m sure they’re aware of all this.

    Do child-assassin films really need deconstruction? Movies already depict that as a bad thing more often than not. Our hero in KATE is a killer and kidnapper; I don’t think the pink-neon landscape here is meant to resemble the real world, and I don’t think the film is trying to say much about ethics.

  28. it’s like if in the middle of a John le Carre spy movie, George Smiley revealed that his car has machine guns behind the headlights.

    Uh, that would be awesome

  29. Muh, well as someone who wore out VHS tapes of early Van Damme through sheer overplay, am gonna obviously disagree with you, but to each his own.


    Karate Kid had actually “really good fights”????? It had a lot of heart, soul and charm (Parts 1&2 specifically, 3 and the Hillary Swank one can go hang). What it categorically didn’t have was really good fights. Never has a lead’s lack of martial arts ability bringing down the quality of fights been more bleeding obvious than in the case of Ralph Macchio. The Crane Kick is a laughably ridiculous finishing move, upstaged only by him taking down a far superior opponent in Part 3 via some “Senior Citizen Tai Chi” moves. I’d take 25 precision delivered Van Damme Roundhouse kicks to this. Every one of “Daniel-san’s” opponents looked like they could floor him in 30 seconds flat and walk away with his girlfriend. It’s like if every ROCKY installment continued to throw increasingly vicious opponents at him, but Rocky himself fought like he throws a punch maybe twice a year.
    I loved the KARATE KIDS films, even while acknowledging their sub-par choreography because there was other stuff in there to engage me.

  30. My vote for new generation of female bad-asses would go to Kurylenko and Rapace, who can channel both bad-ass and vulnerability.

    Rose, on the other hand is dreadfully one note, whose face and general demeanor fail to sell me as a Lead. But it does make her a pretty effective baddie, as JW2 and SAS RED NOTICE effectively demonstrated.

  31. I want to see more Kurylenko action-thrillers too, but I’m not sure if THE COURIER is the most impressive calling card. I liked SENTINEL better, which does a nice job of blending its PTSD drama with a pulpy revenge plot.

    She’s fine in THE COURIER too, don’t get me wrong, but lower your expectations. I might have enjoyed it more going in if I’d known that pretty much the entire thing would take place in a parking garage.

  32. KayKay, the fights in Karate Kid are more energetic and well choreographed than anything Van Damme has ever done. Look at the end fight again. Is Macchio a little weak sometimes? Maybe. But so is the entirety of Cyborg so there ya go. I’m not holding up Karate Kid as some amazing action, but for 80s fights it was better than a lot of stuff starring action heroes. Honestly of you think those have sub-par choreography while thinking the complete lack of choreography in the supposed martial arts movies a real martial artist was doing, tells me you have nostalgia goggles on.

    The funniest part of Bloodsport is how no one even even attempts to block the clearly telegraphed slow kicks that are on the way.

  33. Well, I’ll give KATE this… it’s consistently awful. Mid shots, drone shots, CGI blood, CGI chases, lousy child-like dialogue. Nice colours, though!

  34. “KayKay, the fights in Karate Kid are more energetic and well choreographed than anything Van Damme has ever done”…oh for God’s sake ,Muh, just say you’re not into Van Damme and be done with it if you’re gonna resort to hyperbole like “ever done”! Bloodsport’s first cut was a disaster and Van Damme took over the editing but maybe there was only so much he could do. I certainly don’t consider it a turd like you obviously do and by the time we got to KICKBOXER, LIONHEART, DEATH WARRANT and DOUBLE IMPACT, the fights had gotten exponentially better and polished. But none of them featured a crane kick..so fuck, guess they don’t measure up. And BTW there’s a reason I didn’t mention CYBORG not my fav Van Damme, Pyun went way overboard with the looping.

    “but for 80s fights it was better than a lot of stuff starring action heroes”

    Hardy Har Har!

    Ok, so the fights in some top tier early Norris like EYE FOR AN EYE,THE OCTAGON,FORCED VENGEANCE, Phillip Rhee’s BEST OF THE BEST, Don Wilson’s BLOODFIST, Rothrock’s CHINA O’BRIEN, Kosugi’s PRAY FOR DEATH, Dudikoff’s AMERICAN NINJA, Seagal’s ABOVE THE LAW among others can take a long hard nap once Macchio and his Crane Kick enter the arena? That I presume is the point you’re trying to make?

    Make a deal with you…take off YOUR nostalgia goggles, and I’ll do the same. Christ Almighty, I like KARATE KID, but fuck me if I’m ever gonna even consider it’s fights alongside the best of 80s martial arts action. I’ll drop GYMKATA into the conversation before I even think of THE KARATE KID.

  35. Gymkata? American Ninja? So like, you’re 50, right?

  36. “So like, you’re 50, right?”

    Nice debate technique. You slander 80s action and then, when nobody cosigns your weird junior high grudge, you get ageist when appropriate counterexamples from the era are brought up. Not a good look. You picked the wrong venue if you think anybody here is gonna consider being closer to 50 than 30 a sick burn.

  37. Well obviously seeing the kind of movies you guys champion it’s pretty obvious it’s an older board. But that’s fine, and clearly I wasn’t expecting a cosign. Also it might help if you realize that I wasn’t slandering 80s action in general, just Van Damme in particular. If you want to get involved try to keep up.

  38. Are you sure that’s safe? I wouldn’t want to break a hip trying to run with a feisty young whippersnapper like you.

  39. Asking if he’s 50 is not a burn. Is that he’s basically giving me what I can only bet is all the movies he grew up with as a little kid and thinks they’re good. So it’s like discussing that new he-man cartoon with someone who goes to bat for how much i asking if he’s 50 in a bit self is not a burn. Is that he’s basically giving me what I can only bet is all the movies he grew up with as a little kid and thinks they’re good. So it’s like discussing that new he-man cartoon with someone who goes to bat for how terrible it is because it’s not like the one from the 80s. Except the problem with that is the one from the 80s version was dogshit and they’re just looking at it through nostalgia goggles they can’t get off.

    But the 80s actually had good fights that could be named that weren’t Gymkata. Like for instance, the scene where Rambo escapes in first blood and takes out the police station is an excellent fight scene. Roadhouse and point break have a good fight scenes. Big trouble in Little China a good fight scenes. Steven Seagal actually did deliver some good fights although they ended up suffering eventually because they were all so one-sided. Actually Stallone tend to always deliver in his fights, even a horrible movie like Tango and Cash had good fights, not to mention the Rocky movies.

  40. Muh, I would like to ask you to consider Dalton’s advice and “be nice.” It’s okay to start from a place of “My tastes may be different from yours, but here’s what I’m looking for in a fight scene” and “to me Van Damme’s fights are boring because” and “to me, the little karate parts in THE KARATE KID count as fight scenes because” instead of pushing your idiosyncratic tastes as THE ONE AND ONLY ACCEPTABLE STANDARD OF QUALITY and everyone who disagrees with you (which in this case is everyone who has spoken up, I think) being a dumb asshole or middle aged person helplessly in thrall of their nostalgia.

    In my case I am a middle aged person who did not see the Van Damme or KARATE KID movies until I was in my twenties and I’m obviously going with Van Damme. (But I agree they are not the most sophisticated fights compared to Hong Kong cinema, ROAD HOUSE or modern standards. The stories are what make them good. That’s why Trump should’ve been impeached for saying he fast forwarded to the fights in BLOODSPORT.)

  41. Hi Muh, in the interest of joining the conversation on a (one-post basis) to offer anything positive that may be found in anothers’ vantage point, I thought I’d politely offer how your comment had read to myself.

    As I’ve mentioned here before, I frequent this place for quality of writing and conversation, not any particular interest in the action genre – so despite being a Van Damme fan to a degree (who used to get in trouble for yelling “SHINGO! GO TO YOUR STUDIES!” in a remedial class full of distracted kids in the eight grade, don’t get me wrong) I really do not have a “dog in this fight”. I like action comprehensibility, but beyond that the finer points of this issue are lost on me.

    Due of its lack of content otherwise, the post where you mentioned your feeling on Majestyk’s hypothetical age bracket very much sounded like a burn and a dis to me – and a burning dis at that, a very direct one. I’m not saying that is WAS – you’ve given a better articulation of your point and a better dialogue can continue from there – but it did seem like you were giving Majestyk the biz in kind of a “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” kinda way.

    Take a look at Vern’s mentioning of any of the movies he saw theatrically or early concerts he attended and do the math. Who has less “nostalgia” oriented taste than Vern? I don’t think an unarticulated “What are you, fifty?” would fly in response to any of Vern’s thoughts that you disagree with. I have literally major political issues with many of the films he likes – and I have tested this forum’s patience with such discussions – but I’d never, ever accuse his interest in movies I literally have much bigger problems with than badly-edited kicks being from a root cause of “nostalgia”.

    I think Majestyk deserves some “cred” for being a guy with weird, idiosyncratic tastes. If he’s a guy who loves Bronson yet hates McQueen and is bored by Bruce Lee movies, he is obviously not a fellow who revels in easy, unthinking viewpoints.

    If anything, I find fifty-ish year olds to be less nostalgia-oriented as a rule, if only because the nostalgia culture (for products/”brands”, not times, nobody mention Happy Days, please) didn’t really start until about ten, fifteen years after they would not have given a fuck. (Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to read a bunch of Dinosaur Dracula posts about Ecto-Cooler and buy a bunch of shirts on redbubble.com and cry for a while.)

    I agree with you about He-Man though, that shit is boring and stupid. I’m thirty-six, so I was obviously familiar with the guy at one point in time, and yeah, is that show ever dull. In the words of the late, great Robin Harris: “He-Man, ain’t that a bitch? FUCK HE-MAN. I won’t let my boy watch none of that shit. He-Man! Turn to Bugs Bunny, gw’on.”

    I enjoy your posts and contributions, so please do not think I’m just “siding” with Mr. M just because he’s the Jim Gordon to Vern’s Batman or whatever. I like to think we’re all, you know, the funny-ass 1980s Justice League International here, and sometimes Booster Gold and Blue Beetle types like yourself and myself can be argumentative (in what is hopefully a funny way) when we genuinely believe in our being correct, with this being a forum that generally allows it. But we gotta aim for that Keith Giffen level of dialogue when we’re being hardheaded. In my opinion.

    Without wanting to create a false equivalency and if I may be so direct – it’s like you responded to discussions of what you feel are lesser action movies in the Maggie Q thread – or BIRDS OF PREY, wherever – with “What are you, a woman?”.

    One of the reasons this is the few places on the internet in which the anonymity is actually healthy is because it removes us from being judged by our qualifiers, and minimizes our qualifiers even when we’ve mentioned them.

    Anyway, “THAT’S ENOUGH, SHINGO!” (With Shingo being myself.)

    Guy Gardner, Warrior

  42. I think the Epic Battle of Van Damme vs The Karate Kid has become my favorite fight we’ve ever had on here.

  43. Oh dear, look what I done stirred up.

  44. I’m not going to touch the Van Damme vs The Karate Kid debate – though I don’t think the former would have done quite as good in CROSSROADS. But the “nostalgic old geezer” stuff if interesting. From what I gather I’m pretty much the oldest one here, and my generation is considered to be the most nostalgic there is. But our stuff came from the 70s and early 80’s, so I firmly believe that the most nostalgic people out there are you 90s guys. You got your own stuff, and I guess that’s why you’re really intense about it.

  45. RE: That whole “White girl kills Asians” thing, I think it’s legit to be pissed off by such a movie in the middle of the (already oddly forgotten by the media) #StopAsianHate movement and the plea to give Asians bigger and better parts in Hollywood movies, but I also doubt that anybody involved tried to make a racist statement and cater to the MAGA crowd and they were instead just making a stylistic choice and pay homage to their favourite movie genre. So…yeah.

  46. I think I may just have the edge on you, Pegsman, but I in no way claim seniority. Nor could I. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to get into the core Van Damme vs The Karate Kid debate either, but I do have some thoughts on nostalgia.

    For the most part my movie tastes have been fixed for 50+ years. Generally, movies I liked back when, I still like now, unless I am now repelled by political subtext or attitudes I was too dumb or naive to notice in my youth. I recognise that technology has made some things easier and some things less likely, for good and bad. Buster Keaton drove a train off a bridge in THE GENERAL, the most expensive shot in history at the time, but in THE LONE RANGER Gore Verbinski used CGI. The fights in THE RAID or SPL2 are unrivalled by anything in the Shaw Brothers’ back catalogue. But I can love them all without recourse to suggesting that nostalgia is colouring my judgement. I hope nevertheless that I am open to the new and to the possibility that things I might have previously dismissed are worth revisiting. At least up to a point – I still haven’t made my peace with HIGHLANDER II despite all the love it picked up here.

    What I am more wary of is falling foul of consensuses about what is hip or cool, something I’ve definitely been guilty of in my musical tastes. As someone who was a teen during punk it took me a long time to be able to listen to disco and prog without bringing a lot of punk baggage with me. These days I have a lot of love for music I know I would’ve hated when it was new, but I don’t think that’s rose-tinted nostalgia or a yearning for lost youth or some such bollocks. I’d like to think that’s wisdom.

  47. Also, I’m unconvinced one generation is more or less nostalgic than another. The commercial nostalgia busines runs on a 20-30-year, generational cycle. People in their 30s, 40s and 50s have the most buying power and can be interested in the cultures of their youth. Right now 90s nostalgia seems strong because that’s where the money is. Nevermind!

  48. If THE GENERAL came out when you were young I guess you have the edge on all of us.

    A theory I used to wave around in my younger days like a loaded gun, is that innovation stopped in 1995 and recycling took over. That’s why my generation seriously think it’s the last hip generation in history. And the ironic 90s kids think everything cool was invented just for them.

  49. I’m 52 (pegsman and borg9, do I de-throne you as this site’s resident old geezer?).

    First off, no offense taken at your question, Young Muh, so to paraphrase Vin Diesel in FATE OF THE FURIOUS…”I’m gonna keep it about the movies”.

    Where I do need to set you straight about a few things is:

    The idea that I’m fondly remembering fights through a hazy nostalgia mist in movies I last saw 30 years ago.

    Au Contraire, Mon Ami, all those movies I listed occupy pride of place on my DVD shelves, and I’ve re-watched them any number of times up to about 5 years ago, so I remember them quite well. KARATE KID I watched as part of my re-visit of all 4 movies prior to checking out COBRA KAI and this was about 2 years ago. So let’s fling those imaginary nostalgia goggles out the window, shall we? Unless it’s you wearing them, which leads me to ask the following: When was the last time YOU watched KARATE KID? And have you seen any of the movies I listed above and how long ago was that?

    That list of movies I mentioned was just a random sampling I curated to rebut one particularly asinine comment of yours: “I’m not holding up Karate Kid as some amazing action, but for 80s fights it was better than a lot of stuff starring action heroes”

    Which either strikes me as one of those deliberately contrarian statements people make just to stir up a debate or you genuinely believe this shit. Either way, it came across as Bovine Fecal Matter of the highest grade.

    So, I pulled up examples of fight heavy movies (since you obviously think KARATE KID is a fight movie) of the 80s (since you consider it superior to apparently almost all of 80s fights)to demonstrate that ANY random fight in ANY of the films I stated could walk up to the piddly fight choreography of KARATE KID, kick sand in it’s face, tell the Crane Kick to kiss it’s sweet ass and then proceed to beat it senseless.

    It’s one thing to not like Van Damme or his movies, quite another to hold up some pretty average choreography as some high watermark of 80s fight action when there are dozens of examples of that era that would prove you dead wrong.

  50. ” though I don’t think the former would have done quite as good in CROSSROADS”

    Ah! But could Macchio do a JCVD which is the other great question of our times.

  51. CJ, I think the media’s moved on from #stopasianhate because the same people who were looking to blame Chinese people for covid 19 are now saving that energy to be hostile to vaccinated people and/or defensive about their own lack of vaccination.

    I was born in 1979, and for the record, the sweet spot of cinematic nostalgia for me is o.g. Trek, THE CROW, and pre-MARS ATTACKS Tim Burton. The only KARATE KID I’ve seen in its entirety is the one with Hilary Swank, because they shot it one town over from mine. I feel okay about that. More embarrassing to admit is the fact that the only Van Damme I’ve ever seen is MAXIMUM RISK, and that is 100% because my high school friends and I thought Natasha Henstridge was hot.

  52. Yes, I thought as I was writing that THE GENERAL might throw people off the scent of my real age. For what it’s worth, THE LADY AND THE TRAMP is actually the first movie I saw in a cinema. But it was a re-release; I’m not in my 60s just yet. Anyway, I don’t remember that occasion but I can live with it. I think the remark about being a teen during punk is probably a better clue as to my age.

    THE GENERAL interests me though. Keaton’s filmatism and stunts pushed the boundaries, and still stand up today, but Johnny Gray rushes to join the Confederate Army, and he ends up a hero of the Confederacy, which for the modern viewer produces a queasy feeling, much as Vern noted in his review of THE OUTLAW JOSIE WALES. It’s a recurring problem with westerns, even the ones that don’t celebrate genocidal land theft. Times do change.

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