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Posts Tagged ‘international co-productions’

The Rookies

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021

a.k.a. DEADLY FORCE: MISSION BUDAPEST

I’ve been a fan of Milla Jovovich since THE FIFTH ELEMENT, but I think it was when I finally watched her in Paul Whenharrymet Sally Anderson’s THE THREE MUSKETEERS that it occurred to me what a genre icon she’s become playing acrobatic heroes or cool villains in digital age B+ movies like the RESIDENT EVIL series, ULTRAVIOLET and HELLBOY. Then, while researching my review for MONSTER HUNTER, I noticed on IMDb that she’d even had a turn as the American marquee name in a 2019 Chinese-Hungarian movie. Jovovich + crazy international co-production = I want to see that, but it hadn’t made it stateside yet.

Written and directed by Alan Yuen (PRINCESS D, FIRESTORM) with action direction by Stephen Tung Wei (HERO, BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS, KUNG FU KILLER), the original title is 素人特工 (AMATEUR AGENT), but the English V.O.D. title is THE ROOKIES, and last Tuesday Shout! Studios released it on DVD and Blu-Ray as DEADLY FORCE: MISSION BUDAPEST. (Yes, that sounds like a joke title I would use for a fake generic action movie, but that’s real.) Jovovich plays a cool supporting role to a younger Taiwanese and Chinese cast in this comedic spy thriller. (read the rest of this shit…)

Down (a.k.a. The Shaft)

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

“We live in a vertical world. If you can’t trust the elevators, what the fuck can you trust?”

After I got aboard the Dick Maas freight train (or elevator, I guess) I decided I shouldn’t skip his English-language remake of THE LIFT. I guess Artisan released it on DVD as THE SHAFT (with a terrible cover), but Blue Underground went back to the original title of DOWN. (And included 151 minutes of behind the scenes footage!? That’s what it says. I didn’t watch it.) One of those stock photo places has a poster from some territory using the DOWN title and it’s ugly but has the excellent tagline “You May Want to Take the Stairs…”

This is part of that strange phenomenon of overseas films remade for American/western audiences by the original director – see also THE VANISHING, NIGHTWATCH, FUNNY GAMES, 13 TZAMETI – but those are usually new directors who caught the eye of Hollywood and were seduced into some shenanigans. “Yeah, it’s great, we loved it, but make it in English now.” This is different because it’s a minor cult movie from 18 full years earlier. In an interview with Rumsey Taylor Maas said that he’d had offers for an American remake since the original movie came out, but was occupied with other projects. But by the ’90s when they were still asking, “Somehow I began taking to the idea… Elevators are a crucial part of American life, so why didn’t it become a subject for one of your big blockbusters? I tried to help you by doing it myself.” (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…)

China Strike Force

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

Some of the great western martial artists have a Hong Kong movie or two under their belts. Cynthia Rothrock did YES MADAM, ABOVE THE LAW, etc. For Brandon Lee it was LEGACY OF RAGE. Darren Shahlavi had TAI CHI II and IP MAN 2. Gary Daniels had CITY HUNTER. Scott Adkins was in that movie EXTREME CHALLENGE. Michael Jai White was in SILVERHAWK.  And of course Paul Rudd stars in GEN-X COPS 2: METAL MAYHEM.

I’ve already noted the heavy Hong Kong cinema influence on Mark Dacascos movies including CRYING FREEMAN and DRIVE, but in this Hong Kong production filmed in Shanghai for the international market he actually got to be for-real directed and choreographed by the legendary Stanley Tong (SWORDSMAN 2, SUPERCOP, SUPERCOP 2, RUMBLE IN THE BRONX, FIRST STRIKE).

It was filmed in both English and Cantonese, so most of the characters don’t seem dubbed. Dacascos plays the lead villain, Tony Lau, a young gangster who’s trying to get his mentor Uncle Ma (Lau Siu-Ming, ABOVE THE LAW, A BETTER TOMORROW II, POLICE STORY 2) to add drug imports to his criminal portfolio. Uncle Ma is dead set against it – he’s able to pay off the police partly because he stays away from drugs – but he agrees to meet with Tony’s American friend (Coolio, BATMAN & ROBIN, DAREDEVIL) about it out of politeness. (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…)

The Meg

Monday, August 27th, 2018

When elite underwater rescue guy Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham, GHOSTS OF MARS) tries to save his friends from a damaged nuclear submarine, he makes a controversial decision to shut a door and leave behind some of the crew, saving eleven others from an explosion. His career and life are ruined by that hard choice. And also because he believes the sub was attacked by a monster and everybody thinks he’s nuts.

Years later he lives in Disgraced Hero Exile in Thailand, drinking all day in his Thai farmer hat, running a small fishing boat. It’s clear that he’s a sweetheart when some little kids wave at him on his motorcycle and he makes a funny face for them. I liked this little touch, though it kind of undercuts the later badass juxtaposition of his friendship with a little girl named Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai).

Of course he’s resistant at first when his old buddy Mac (Cliff Curtis, DEEP RISING, WHALE RIDER, THE POOL, RIVER QUEEN, THE FOUNTAIN… he does alot of water related movies, is my point) shows up to recruit him for another rescue. This time it’s people working for a high tech underwater lab who lost radio contact. And one of them is his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee, THE LOVED ONES). In a refreshing swerve from standard action movie protocol, he just likes and respects her, and is not trying to win her back. He does get to tell her “I told you so,” of course, when they all see that giant monster that they spent years telling him he didn’t really see. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Great Wall

Monday, February 20th, 2017

THE GREAT WALL fulfills two different personal moviegoing habits of mine:

1) trying to see some of the higher profile Asian imports that play at the AMC theater here

2) going to lightly attended afternoon shows of almost every fantasy sword-dude movie that comes out

Maybe you can’t call this an import, because it’s produced by Universal and Legendary, it’s mostly in English and its star Matt Damon (SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON) is an American white in my opinion. And maybe you can’t call it a fantasy sword-dude movie either, because it’s more in a fantasy bow-and-arrow-dude vein. But it is from the great Chinese director of lush historical epics Zhang Yimou (RAISE THE RED LANTERN, HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS), it’s the most expensive movie ever filmed entirely in China ($135 million), and it was released there two months ago and had already made $224.5 million worldwide by the time it came to us. So it’s close enough to these two categories that it piqued my interest.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Enter the Dragon

Friday, June 24th, 2005

BREAKING NEWS: ENTER THE DRAGON is a classic and it’s mainly because of Bruce Lee’s performance. More on this story as it develops.

Okay maybe that’s old news. He’d been trying for years to become a superstar in the US (he only went back to hong kong after being dissed one too many times by the white man). So it was a big deal for him to have his big american co-production. And in the movie he has so much screen presence that they had to build a special type of camera to film him, after going through six different regular cameras that broke because of his power.

Actually that’s complete bullshit, I just made that up. That woulda been cool though. Anyway anything you need to know about why Bruce Lee is such an icon is in this movie: the arrogant persona (his character is actually kind of a dick), the perfect physique, the powerful moves, the cool nunchucks, the occasional philosophy, the greatest theme song of all time (thank you Lalo Schifrin). But everybody knows that. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know if I talk about that. So let’s give some credit to the rest of the movie. For example, co-star John Saxon. (read the rest of this shit…)

Vern reviews Steven Seagal’s BELLY OF THE BEAST!

Friday, November 14th, 2003

Hey folks, Harry here… Vern, being one to only see the arty movies like the ones he mentions below is the perfect choice to review that hero of the Arthouses… I’m of course talking about Steven Seagal and his latest starring success… …ahem… Anyway, lest you get tired of reading about Seagal’s Private Investigator on Drudge-linked stories, now you get the skinny on the top man himself. And if you ever sit down with Seagal for lunch, play the… “How would you kill me” game, where you just continually ask him, once every 4 minutes or so how he would kill you. I hear this is amazingly entertaining as Seagal has an endless variety of ways to kill the annoying fuck sitting across from him. Go on, give it a try!

Vern reviews BELLY OF THE BEAST by Ching Siu-Tung

Boys –

I know you are fans of the hong kong cinema, martial arts, karate, and etc. So I bet you probaly know who Ching Siu-Tung is. Or maybe you know him as Siu-Tung Ching, or Siu-tung Chin, or Tony Tung Yee Ching, or Xiaodong Cheng, or Tony Ching Siu Tung, or just plain Tony Ching. I don’t know, the dude has lots of names. But the point is not what the dude’s name or names is, the point is what the dude does. He may not be as well known in the united states of america as your John Woos or your Yuen Woo Pings or your Tsui Harks. But I bet you’ve seen some of his works before. (read the rest of this shit…)