Well Go USA nabs Jacky Wu and Scott Adkins’ ‘Wolf Warrior’

"Wolf Warriors" Theatrical Poster

"Wolf Warriors" Theatrical Poster

THE MOVIE: Special Force: Wolf Warrior (aka Wolf WarWolf or Warg) is Wu Jing’s second directorial project. You’ll likely recall Jing (also known as Jacky Wu) from recent movies like Sha Po Lang aka Killzone, in which he fought against Donnie Yen, as well as Legendary Assassin, which he also directed. No plot details or release dates have been set.

Special Force: Wolf Warrior also stars Scott Adkins (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning), Kevin Lee (Pound of Flesh), Vincent Zhao (True Legend) Deng Ziyi (Pay Back), Sona Eyambe (Zombie 108), Kyle Shapiro (Dragon Blade), Samuel Thivierge (In the End) and Nan Yu (The Expendables 2).

Updates: The official Scott Adkins Facebook page has unveiled some new set photos from the upcoming Wolf Warriors, featuring Adkins and Jacky Wu. | First teaser trailer.

BREAKING NEWS: According to SD (via FCS), Well Go USA will be releasing Wolf Warrior in North American and Canadian theaters in April. Expect a Blu-ray/DVD release to follow shortly. Stay tuned for more details!

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Deal on Fire! The Last Supper | Blu-ray | Only $9.39 – Expires soon!

The Last Supper | Blu-ray & DVD (Random Media)

The Last Supper | Blu-ray & DVD (Random Media)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Lu Chuan’s The Last Supper.

The story focuses on the famous Hongmen Banquet, which was held in 206 B.C. by one warlord with the express purpose of assassinating his rival.

The Last Supper features an impressive cast, including Yu Liu (Curse of the Golden Flower), Daniel Wu (New Police Story), and Chen Chang (Crouching Tigger, Hidden Dragon). Don’t miss the trailer.

Order The Last Supper from Amazon.com today!

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Vivica A. Fox joins Will Smith-less ‘ID4′ sequel

"Independence Day" American Theatrical Poster

"Independence Day" American Theatrical Poster

During an interview with EW, Roland Emmerich (ID4, White House Down)  has revealed details about the upcoming ID4 sequels (ID Forever Part 1 and Part II), which will be set 20 years after the first film.

Here’s what Emmerich told EW: “The humans knew that one day the aliens would come back. And they know that the only way you can really travel in space is through wormholes. So for the aliens, it could take two or three weeks, but for us that’s 20 or 25 years.” Emmerich has hired James Vanderbilt (White House Down) to revise his first draft of the script.

Updates: Emmerich says Will Smith is too expensive to cast for the studio. | According to movies.com, Q&A, Emmerich stated that both Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum are on board for the ID4 sequel. | Movieweb reports that Independence Day 2 has a back-up script in case Will Smith doesn’t return.

Will Smith has turned down the ID4 sequel. | ID4 sequel is going through script re-write by newcomer Carter Blanchard (Diver). | Deadline reports that the ID4 sequel will start production in May 2015, with a release date still set for June 24, 2016.

According to The Wrap, Liam Hemsworth (The Expendables 2) and Jessie Usher (Survivor’s Remorse) will be starring in the ID4 sequel. Also, Jeff Goldblum is reprising his role as David Levinson.

BREAKING NEWS: According to Collider, Vivica A. Fox (Kill Bill) is set to return as Jasmine Dubrow.

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Drool on this trailer for Ringo Lam’s action flick ‘Wild City’

"Wild City" Teaser Poster

"Wild City" Teaser Poster

Hong Kong legend Ringo Lam, the action director behind gritty classics like City on Fire, Full Contact and Full Alert, is set to make his first film since 2007′s Triangle, which was a collaboration with Tsui Hark and Johnnie To.

The upcoming project is called Wild City (aka Intoxicated City of Mazes or Hustle) which will begin production in June, following a Summer 2015 release. Nothing is known of the plot, but it is an “action film” starring Daniel Wu (Shinjuku Incident) and Shawn Yue (The Guillotines). “I’ve always wanted to work with Lam, so I’m very happy that he asked me to be in his film. I hope we can start filming soon so I can learn from him,” Yue told Apple Daily.

Updates: Ringo Lam’s Wild City has recently started production in Kowloon, Hong Kong. The cast (see on-set photos) includes Shawn Yue (From Vegas To Macau II), Taiwanese singer Joseph Chang (Missing), and veteran actor Jack Kao (Full Alert). It was previously reported that Daniel Wu would be a part of the cast, but now it looks like that may not be the case. | Louis Koo (Flash Point) and Mainland TV actress Tong Liya have been added to the cast. | Film Comment has an interview with Ringo Lam, where he talks about Wild City.

Screen Daily has reported that Wild City is now in post-production and the tentative release date will be in the second half of 2015. Its international rights have been acquired by Hong Kong-based Distribution Workshop. The plot details have also become available: “A cop-turned-bar owner befriends a drunken woman at closing hours and finds himself pursued by her former lover and the thugs he employs. The chase turns deadly when the bar owner’s deadbeat brother and a suitcase full of cash enter the picture.” – Thanks to Sam the Man

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the first trailer for Wild City!

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Brett Ratner to remake Bruce Lee’s ‘Enter The Dragon’?

"Enter the Dragon" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Enter the Dragon" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Yes, you read it right: Brett Ratner wants to remake Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon, the 1973 kung fu classic about a martial artist (Lee) who agrees to spy on a reclusive crime lord (Shih Kien) using his invitation to a tournament there as cover.

AICN reports that Ratner mentioned this idea at a recent screening of Rush Hour and reassured everyone that he is not trying to find the next Bruce Lee. Instead, he wants his film to be a ‘reimagining of Robert Clouse’s iconic showcase for Lee’s talents’.

What do you think of this news? Who would you like to see play Bruce, Shih, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Bob Wall, Angela Mao and Bolo’s role? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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2nd thrilling trailer for ‘Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation’

"Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation" Theatrical Poster

"Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation" Theatrical Poster

THE MOVIE: Audiences around the world enjoyed Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, to the tune of some $680 million dollars. That makes a sequel pretty much a given at this point. Although Paramount had been grooming Jeremy Renner to take the reins to the series, general response has been that Tom Cruise (and Tom Cruise doing ridiculous aerial stunts) remains the big reason why people go see these movies.

Updates: Great news for fans of the highly underrated crime movie The Way of the Gun. The writer/director on that film, Christopher McQuarrie, is directing the next Mission: Impossible film. McQuarrie rocketed to fame back in 1995 by penning the screenplay for The Usual Suspects, but he most recently worked with Tom Cruise on the forthcoming Jack Reacher movie. Both Cruise and the Paramount are reportedly happy with McQuarrie’s work on Reacher, so we can expect an announcement for M:I5 in the near future.

According to Collider, Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (aka Mission: Impossible 5) will be released on July 31st, 2015. In addition to Tom Cruise; Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton are rumored to return. Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) has declined the female lead, but Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen) has stepped in. | First cast photo from MI:5, courtesy of Collider. | According to Variety. Zhang Jingchu (Beast Stalker, Seven Swords) has joined the cast and has a major role opposite Tom Cruise. | A video of Tom Cruise hanging from a plane 5,000 feet in the air in Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, thanks to Collider.

Thanks to Collider, we have a few non-spoiler details: Maggie Q was unavailable to return; Composer Joe Kraemer (Jack Reacher) is “playing with something retro, of course” for the score; Sean Harris (Harry Brown) is the film’s villain; The film will have the feel of an episode of the old show; There will be some score-less action scenes as in Jack Reacher and McQuarrie’s first film, The Way of the Gun; There are specific Brian De Palma references; McQuarrie broke his personal record for footage shot. | 1st trailer.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the 2nd full trailer now.

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Gangnam Blues (2015) Review

"Gangnam Blues" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Gangnam Blues" Korean Theatrical Poster

AKA: Gangnam 1970
Director: Yu Ha (aka Yoo Ha)
Writer: Yu Ha (aka Yoo Ha)
Producer: Yu Ha (aka Yoo Ha), Yu Jeong-hun
Cast: Lee Min-Ho, Kim Rae-Won, Jung Jin-Young, Seol Hyun, Kim Ji-Su, Lee Yeon-Doo, Jung Ho-Bin, Eom Hyo-Seop, Yoo Seung-Mok, Lee Suk, Choi Jin-Ho, Han Jae-Young
Running Time: 135 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Former poet turned director and script writer Yoo Ha makes his long overdue return to the gangster genre with Gangnam Blues. Ha, whose 2006 movie A Dirty Carnival is considered a genre favorite, has shown a deft hand at whatever genre he’s worked in, be it high school fight movies like Once Upon a Time In Highschool, or sexually charged period dramas like A Frozen Flower. However with his 2011 mystery thriller The Howling, following a pair of detectives on the trail of a murderous wolf dog, Ha seemed to take a misstep, and the movie was received poorly both by critics and the box office.

Three years later, and on the surface Gangnam Blues looks to be a return to the genre the director is most well known for. The movie stars Lee Min-ho and Kim Rae-won as brothers who grew up in an orphanage together. Min-ho has a huge fan base world wide thanks to his good looks, and despite having a small role in 2008’s Public Enemy Returns, his popularity largely comes from being a staple of K-dramas, including the Korean version of City Hunter, in which he played the lead. Gangnam Blues marks his first time in the lead of a movie. Rae-won on the other hand has consistently worked in both the TV and film industries, most notably playing the gangster lead in the 2006 movie Sunflower.

While their characters aren’t related by blood, the bond they formed growing up is one that’s bound them together, and as the movie opens we meet them as a pair of poor twenty something’s, collecting street rags to sell in an attempt to get by. When they receive a notice to evict their ramshackle dwelling to make way for re-development, a fight breaks out on the day of the eviction, which ultimately sees them overpowered and thrown in front of a gang boss played by Jeong Jin-yeong.

As it happens, on the same day Jin-yeong is short a few men for an attack which is going to lay waste to a political meeting, so he forces them to join in to make up for the low numbers. In the middle of the fracas though, the brothers get separated, and as the police close in Min-ho is ultimately left with no choice but to leave without Rae-won, who’s been knocked unconscious in the bathroom. This separation forms the lynch pin of the story. However the tale of the two brothers plays out against the background of a much bigger story – the fictionalized tale of how Gangnam was turned from peaceful farmland, into the sprawling metropolis that it is today.

It’s fair to say that the area of Gangnam itself is as much of a character in the movie as any of the actors, and Ha creates a sprawling epic that sees a plethora of shady characters and corrupt officials all vying for the land, in an attempt to get rich off the real estate. In many ways Gangnam Blues does for Gangnam what Martin Scorsese’s Casino did for Las Vegas. While a similar comparison was made between Scorsese’s Goodfellas and Nameless Gangster, usually it was to point out the inferiority of the latter in comparison to Scorsese’s masterpiece. Thankfully that’s not the case with Ha’s movie though, as he very much creates his own world, and the similarities are a compliment rather than a comparison.

Taking place in the early 1970’s (notably the Korean title is simply Gangnam 1970), Min-ho and Rae-won see themselves working their way up the ranks of different gangster organizations, who in turn are both attempting to woo counselors and politicians to leverage deals off the precious Gangnam land. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Gangnam Blues could well be called a real estate gangster flick, as there’s just as much talk about land deals as there are brutal beatings. However this shouldn’t act as a deterrent, as the script never strays into being superfluous or dull, instead remaining tight and effective throughout, constantly weaving the many characters and their dealings through a myriad of betrayals, bribes, and beatings.

Indeed the setting of the movie is one of the aspects that make it the most interesting. On the brink of the era that kicked off Seoul’s rapid advance into modernization, it’s a period that many classic Korean movies of the time took place in, like The Road to Sampo and A Small Ball Shot by a Midget (which ironically also centers around a family forced to evict by a real estate agent). It has to be said that the production design captures the details of the era perfectly. The high end production values of most Korean output recently almost seems to be a factor that’s taken for granted these days, but Gangnam Blues is a movie that reminds you of just how much work must go into re-creating the period detail that’s on display here.

Of course, being a gangster movie, proceedings wouldn’t be complete without a healthy dose of gangster violence. Ha gave a distinctive touch to the action in A Dirty Carnival, occasionally throwing in some nice Tae Kwon Do kicks amongst all the down and dirty brawling, and he maintains those welcome flashes of stylistic action here as well. Just about every trope of the Korean gangster genre is ticked off – stabbings, beatings with planks of wood, beatings with anything the characters can get their hands on, and surprisingly for a Korean movie, even some gun action as well.

Many fans of A Dirty Carnival will no doubt remember the huge brawl in the mud, a scene that arguably served as an inspiration for the prison yard brawl in The Raid 2. For Gangnam Blues Ha also gives us a mud drenched brawl, but ramps it up to epic proportions compared to his previous effort. Taking place during a rain soaked burial, several gangs converge at once in the muddy field and proceed to go at each other with everything from axes to scythes to umbrellas. It’s a sight to behold and definitely the action highlight. Korean filmmakers seem to have a thing for fighting in the mud, and the brawl here happily stands alongside the likes of similar scenes found in Rough Cut and Emperor of the Underworld.

If any criticism can be held against Gangnam Blues, it would have to be that in first third of the movie, so many characters are introduced – all with similar motives and dressed in sharp black suits – that they almost become indistinguishable from one another. On first viewing it all becomes clear as the move progresses, but proceedings could certainly have benefited from defining the key characters more clearly early on.

All in all though this is a minor gripe in a tale which is overwhelmingly ambitious in its scope. Ha deserves full credit for maintaining a steady hand and not allowing all the events and characters to derail proceedings, something which would be a foregone conclusion under a lesser director. If there’s any justice in the world, hopefully Gangnam can now be associated with Ha’s excellent return to form, and not some guy dancing like a horse.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8/10

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Louis Koo leads Johnnie To’s crime thriller ‘Three on the Road’

"Drug War" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Drug War" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Shooting for Johnnie To’s crime thriller Three on the Road has officially begun. The upcoming film, which will be released later this year, stars Louis Koo (Accident), Wallace Chung (Drug War) and Gao Yuanyuan (Robin-B-Hood) and Vicky Zhao Wei (14 Blades).

Official plot, according to TFC (via DiP): Realizing that he will be defeated in no time during a police showdown, a thug shoots himself to force the cops to cease fire and take him to the hospital. In the hospital, he claims human rights to refuse immediate treatment in order to bide time for his underlings to rescue him. The detective in charge sees through his scheme but decides to play along so as to capture his whole gang once and for all.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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Deal on Fire! Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection | Blu-ray | Only $64.99 – Expires soon!

"Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection" Packaging

"Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection" Packaging

Today’s Deal on Fire is for Shout! Factory’s Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection. The set includes both Blu-ray and DVD copies for 1971′s The Big Boss (aka Fists of Fury), 1972′s Fist of Fury (aka The Chinese Connection), 1972′s Way of the Dragon (aka Return of the Dragon) and 1978′s Game of Death.

Also included are three full-length documentaries: 1983′s Bruce Lee: The Legend, 1973′s Bruce Lee: The Man, The Legend and 2012′s I Am Bruce Lee, plus a bonus disc featuring two hours of exclusive content. The Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection also comes packaged in a full color, bookcase-style packaging.

Order The Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection from Amazon.com today!

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Jet Li’s action epic ‘Investiture of Gods’ loses Cecilia Cheung

"The Sorcerer and the White Snake" Japanese DVD Cover

"The Sorcerer and the White Snake" Japanese DVD Cover

After a 2-year hiatus, Wilson Yip, the director of Donnie Yen’s Ip Man and Ip Man 2 (and currently Ip Man 3), is teaming up with Jet Li for a supernatural action epic. The upcoming film – co-directed by Koan Hui (Snow Blossom) – will be based on the 16th-century Chinese novel by Xu Zhonglin titled Investiture of Gods.

Also starring in Investiture of Gods is Shu Qi (Legend of the Fist), Louis Koo (Flash Point), Huang Xiaoming (Ip Man 2), AngelaBaby (Tai Chi 0), Tony Leung Ka-Fai (A Better Tomorrow III) and Cecilia Cheung (Legendary Amazons).

Updates: Hong Kong media (via Sam the Man) is reporting that actress Cecilia Cheung has been fired from Investiture of Gods because of failure to attend filming and out-of-control behavior on set when she did turn up. She was originally cast for the role of Nezha.

Cheung responded by stating that it was all due to misunderstanding, but her ex-manager and one of Investiture’s investors, Tiffany Chen, said that there was no ‘misunderstanding’ at all and criticized Cheung for not valuing the opportunities that she was given. It is estimated that the investors would lose tens of millions in HK$ due to the need to reshoot Cheung’s parts.

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French poster for Jason Statham-less ‘Transporter Refueled’

"Transporter Refueled" French Theatrical Poster

"Transporter Refueled" French Theatrical Poster

Luc Besson’s company, EuropaCorp, is releasing The Transporter Refueled on June 19th. The new film, directed by Camille Delamarre (Brick Mansions), will center on the lead character’s origin story, which not only makes it a reboot, but also a prequel.

Official plot: Frank Martin is the most highly-skilled transporter money can buy. The stakes are greater and technology better, but the same three simple rules apply: never change the deal, no names and never open the package. When Frank is hired by cunning femme fatale Anna and her three stunning sidekicks, he quickly discovers he’s been played.

The Transporter Refueled stars Ed Skrein (Game of Thones), Loan Chabanol, Lenn Kudrjawizki, Tatiana Pajkovic, Ray Stevenson and Radivoje Bukvic.

Updates: Yesterday, the film’s first first trailer and Michael Clayton-style poster were revealed. Today, the French poster for Transporter Refueled arrives!

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John Woo to shoot remake of the Japanese classic ‘Manhunt’

"Manhunt" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Manhunt" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Here is some exciting news for all the fans of Hong Kong action films out there! John Woo, the man behind action classics such as A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, Bullet in the Head and Hard Boiled, is finally making a return to the genre that made him an internationally acclaimed director.

After years making Hollywood films and big budget Chinese epics like Red Cliff and the recent The Crossing, Woo is going to remake the 1976 Japanese classic action thriller Manhunt (which starred Ken Takakura, who passed away late last year). The story is about a man who is accused of multiple crimes and trying desperately to clear his name. Woo is reportedly a big fan of Takakura and was hoping he would get the chance to work with the actor.

Filming for Manhunt will begin later this year and the film will be in Chinese, English and Korean. Until we have more details, don’t miss the film’s teaser poster here.

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Heroic Ones, The (1970) Review

"The Heroic Ones" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Heroic Ones" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Shaolin Masters
Director: Chang Cheh
Writer: Chang Cheh, Ni Kuang
Producer: Run Run Shaw
Cast: David Chiang, Ti Lung, Chan Chuen, Lily Li Li Li, Chan Sing, Bolo Yeung, Ku Feng, Chin Han, Wang Chung, James Nam Gung Fan, Chan Feng Chen, Cheng Hong Yip
Running Time: 121 min.

By JJ Hatfield

In a time when warring factions fought for a divided China, a powerful Mongol warlord and his thirteen generals ruled the territory with swift and savage force. Any and all who dared challenge their authority were summarily dispatched. They were an invincible force none could defeat, meeting every challenge with supreme confidence, never doubting certain success. To those who counted them on their side they were The Heroic Ones.

Amidst the chaos and conflict of the latter part of the Tang Dynasty, Li Ke-Yung, played by Ku Feng (My Rebellious Son), together with his thirteen generals, is a power to be reckoned with. Li considers all the generals his offspring, lavishing them with the best of everything, denying them nothing. His generals are as enthusiastic about bloody battle as they are about drunken debauchery – every one of them a fierce fighter and arrogant as hell.

The Heroic Ones is directed by the prolific Chang Cheh (Five Deadly Venoms) with David Chiang (Kung Fu Jungle) and Ti Lung (A Better Tomorrow) having standout roles in the large cast. Though an early ‘Iron Triangle’ film, Chiang has the lead role to himself with the most screen time as Li Tsun Hsiao, the youngest of the thirteen and the fond favorite of Li Ke-Yung. Tsun Hsiao is deadly in combat being exceptionally skilled with a spear. He also carries out a unique piece of action choreography during an encounter with an enemy general played by Bolo Yeung of Enter the Dragon fame.

Ti Lung is Shih Ching Szu, the only other brother to recieve much attention from Li Ke-Yung. Though he isn’t the focus of the film, Ti manages to shine in an epic warrior battle against a barrage of hundreds of the enemy. Not only an impressive display of valor but one of the longest fight scenes to be found in a martial movie of any age.

With The Heroic Ones, Chang and his co-writer Kuang Ni (The Pirate) drew from the late 800′s – early 900′s China for the basis of the story with more more than a few liberties taken with the facts. The movie has been noted by some for the effort afforded to costumes and set pieces consistent with the time period and culture, but it should not by any means be taken as a true portrait of history.

If The Heroic Ones was being filmed today, it would feature computer generated armies with one or two actual people doing battle. In 1969, they did it the real way with a couple hundred people and Lau Kar-leung, Tony Gaai, and Lau Kar-wing orchestrating the training and directing for the throng of actors, stuntmen and extras who must appear to be familiar with weapons. The hard work paid off in the realism of fight scenes, many times with one general against a multitude.

Once the onslaught begins, the torrent of enemies rarely lets up. Purely on an action level fans will be thrilled with the profusion of nearly non-stop combat and The Heroic Ones certainly delivers on that count. Unfortunately, the size of the cast is unwieldy even in Chang Cheh’s usually capable hands. And though the film clocks in at a little over two hours, Chang spends little time on character development for the majority of the cast. That decision on Chang’s part ultimately renders the film’s ending unfulfilling, lacking the impact The Heroic Ones could have had.

JJ Hatfield’s Rating: 7.5/10

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Pound of Flesh | Blu-ray & DVD (Entertainment One)

Pound of Flesh | Blu-ray & DVD (Entertainment One)

Pound of Flesh | Blu-ray & DVD (Entertainment One)

RELEASE DATE: June 23, 2015

Entertainment One presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Pound of Flesh, directed by Ernie Barbarash (Assassination Games).

In Pound of Flesh, a man’s (Van Damme) heroic attempt to help a woman in distress ends up with him waking up the next day without a kidney and plotting his revenge. The film co-stars Kristopher Van Varenberg (Enemies Closer), Darren Shahlavi (Ip Man 2), John Ralston (Degrassi The Next Generation), William B Davis (The X-Files) and Charlotte Peters. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Pound of Flesh from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | Tagged | Leave a comment

‘Scarface’ reboot gets a new writer ‘Straight Outta Compton’

"Scarface" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Scarface" Japanese Theatrical Poster

THE MOVIE: Universal wants to bring back the iconic titular gangster originally conceived by Rio Bravo’s Howard Hawks and reimagined by Carrie’s Brian DePalma in yet another remake which they’re not calling a remake.

Updates: Training Day’s David Ayer has been hired to write the script. | Rihanna is rumored to be pursuing a role in the Scarface remake. Wonder who she’s going for: Gina or Elvira? | The remake will tackle Mexican drug cartels. David Ayer (End of Watch) is still on board as screenwriter, with Paul Attanasio (Donnie Brasco) punching up the script.

BREAKING NEWS: THR reports that the reboot is moving forward with a rewrite by Jonathan Herman (Straight Outta Compton).

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Deal on Fire! Dragon | aka Wu Xia | Blu-ray | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

Dragon (aka Wu Xia) Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

Dragon (aka Wu Xia) Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for 2011′s Dragon (aka Wu Xia), directed by Peter Chan (Comrades, Almost A Love Story).

In this loose remake of 1967′s One-Armed Swordsman, Liu (Donnie Yen) is a villager whose quiet life is shattered when he saves a man from two notorious gangsters. He comes under investigation by a detective (Takeshi Kaneshiro), who is curious on how Liu single-handenly took on the gangsters.

Dragon (read our review) also stars Jimmy Wang Yu, Tang Wei, Kara Hui and Yin Zhusheng.

Order Dragon from Amazon.com today!

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Michael Biehn returning in Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Aliens’ sequel

"Alien" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Alien" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Writer-director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium and the upcoming Chappie) took to Instagram to confirm that his next movie will be an Alien (aka Alien 5) film.

This exciting news comes weeks after Blomkamp shared some “personal” concept art for an Alien movie that had been running around his mind. The artwork – featuring the return of both Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn) – was a warm welcome to fans of the franchise, especially given the acclaim Blomkamp has received for his influential work.

Updates: According to sources, Blomkamp’s Alien sequel will basically ignore Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection: “I want this film to feel like it is literally the genetic sibling of Aliens, so it’s AlienAliens and then this film,” said the director.

BREAKING NEWS: According to FM, Michael Biehn has confirmed that he’s set to reprise the role of Corporal Duane Hicks from 1986’s Aliens in Neill Blomkamp’s as-yet-untitled Alien sequel.

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Blind Woman’s Curse (1970) Review

Blind Woman’s Curse | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

Blind Woman’s Curse | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

AKA: Black Cat’s Revenge
Director: Teruo Ishii
Writer: Teruo Ishii, Yoshitada Sone
Producer: Hideo Koi
Cast: Meiko Kaji, Hoki Tokuda, Makoto Sato, Hideo Sunazuka, Shiro Otsuji, Toru Abe, Tatsumi Hijikata
Running Time: 85 min.

By Kyle Warner

Teruo Ishii was an incredibly prolific filmmaker, directing nearly fifty movies in the 1960s alone. Referred to in Japan as “the King of Cult”, Ishii dabbled in many genres: he made exploitation films such as the Joys of Torture series, a large collection of gangster pics like Female Yakuza Tale, and also some horror films like the controversial Horrors of Malformed Men (which I believe is still banned in its native Japan). His 1970 film Blind Woman’s Curse could almost be described as a sampler platter of the themes and styles he worked with throughout his career. Blind Woman’s Curse is a very strange film – part yakuza revenge tale and part grotesque horror show – but it’s a whole lot of fun to watch.

In the stylish, slow-motion opening sequence, female yakuza Akemi Tachibana (Meiko Kaji) and her gang raid a rival’s stronghold. As she’s striking down the rival’s boss, her sword accidentally swipes across the eyes of the old man’s female underling. The woman goes down screaming and out of nowhere a black cat appears to lap up the blood that gushes from her eyes. Tachibana goes to prison for her crimes, but the prison bars are the least of her worries – she believes she has been cursed by the cat: “A black cat that loved the taste of blood.” Three years later and Tachibana’s out of prison. She reforms her gang, now mainly operated by women she met in prison, all of whom are decked out with the same dragon tattoo. Tachibana’s problems multiply as a new rival wants her turf… and her past comes back to haunt her.

The story really gets interesting when a blind swordswoman enters the picture. The blind woman resides in a grotesque theatre-based freak show, and is aided by a crazy hunchback and an evil black cat. From her theatre, the vengeful swordswoman plots against Tachibana, and the hunchback picks off members of the Tachibana crew one by one, cutting the dragon tattoos from their backs as trophies.

It’s an interesting mix of genres and for the most part it succeeds in throwing competing styles into the same story. However, some scenes stand out so much that they seem to belong to an entirely different movie. There’s just so much going on in Blind Woman’s Curse – so many unique visuals and crazy ideas – that perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when some of it doesn’t make that much sense. What’s frustrating, though, is that the film doesn’t allow all of its various themes and plot points to reach a satisfying conclusion. Is something truly supernatural going on or is it just made to seem that way? Did all of our heroes survive the final battle? You’re not likely to notice this until after the film is finished – during the film you’re gonna be having too much fun with the nonsense on screen – but in the hours or days after holes in the film may seem to develop. I really enjoyed the film, but the execution can be a bit messy.

At the center of it all is Meiko Kaji. The film came out as she was beginning her steady rise to fame and Kaji puts forth a strong performance as the center of the film’s ensemble. It’s actually a warmer character than most US fans would expect from her, but you can see the traits that would later find their way into more well-known roles such as Lady Snowblood, Female Convict: Scorpion, and Wandering Ginza Butterfly in the years to come. In the 1970s Meiko Kaji would become one of the most popular and highest paid Japanese actresses, so it’s interesting to watch Blind Woman’s Curse and see some of that star power as it first started to present itself.

There are also some fine comedic performances from Hideo Sunazuka (Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster) and Ryohei Uchida (Shadow Hunters). Uchida’s character is a real oddball – he plays a foul-smelling gangster that goes around in a bowler hat, jacket, and red loincloth. I think Uchida’s exposed backside receives more close-ups than his face does. It’s stupid, cheap comedy, but somehow it feels right at home in a movie like this.

Blind Woman’s Curse can also be seen as a film that helps represent the ending of an era. The film industry in Japan had been incredibly successful in the 50s and early 60s, but by the end of the 60s ticket sales were steadily declining. Much of this was thanks to the rise in TV productions in Japan –why go to see a movie when you can stay at home and see some of the same stories on TV for free? Major studios like Daiei were folding while other studios were forced to make fewer movies on smaller budgets. Nikkatsu, the studio behind Blind Woman’s Curse, went in a different direction. Starting the year after Blind Woman’s Curse, Nikkatsu changed its entire production model and moved towards almost exclusively filming Roman-Pornos (or pink films). Much of the talent that had been groomed at Nikkatsu – including Meiko Kaji – wanted no part in this change and quickly jumped ship, joining other studios instead. In recent years Nikkatsu has gotten back to producing films for general audiences again and has a hand in such films as Yakuza Apocalypse, Tokyo Tribe, and Killers.

Blind Woman’s Curse arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Arrow Video. Film buffs in the US should definitely be excited that Arrow has chosen to cross the pond and release Blu-rays stateside. Similar to Shout! Factory and Criterion, Arrow uncovers gems from years past and gives them the care they deserve, with great picture and interesting extras. Blind Woman’s Curse is now 45 years old and it looks absolutely excellent on Blu-ray. For extras we get a commentary from Japanese film expert Jasper Sharp, a trailer for Blind Woman’s Curse, four trailers for the Stray Cat Rock series which Meiko Kaji starred in, and a booklet with an essay on the film from Midnight Eye’s Tom Mes. Jasper Sharp’s commentary is very informative, lending lots of information about Ishii, Kaji, and the state of Nikkatsu at the time of the production. I enjoyed listening to it. Sharp also mentions that the film was once known to some foreign audiences under the title of The Haunted Life of a Dragon-Tattooed Lass — which is such an awesome title that I’m shocked they changed it.

Blind Woman’s Curse is often strange and sometimes nasty, but Ishii’s colorful style is infectious, giving the viewer plenty of shocks and laughs along the way. The film’s many bizarre ideas don’t always connect to make a cohesive whole, but it’s a fun film experience and one you won’t soon forget.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7/10

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‘I’m Not Bruce’ moves forward despite unsuccessful funding

"I Love You, Bruce Lee" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"I Love You, Bruce Lee" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Looks like documentarian Mark Hartley may have some furious competition ahead of him. Hartley’s first film, Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008), examined the deranged side of Australian cinema; his second, Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010), explored the tropical storm of some of the most wackiest movies produced in the Philippines; and his latest feature, Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014), reminded us how an insanely productive B-movie company was responsible for corrupting our childhoods with sex ‘n violence (as Paul Bramhall states in his review).

Now, the upcoming I’m Not Bruce, a documentary that centers on “Bruceploitation” flicks – a sub-genre that had actors mimic the look, style, and mannerisms of martial arts legend Bruce Lee – is currently in the works by filmmaker Nickolas Nielsen (Critical Fumble).

I’m Not Bruce promises to uncover questions like: Why did they make so many knock-off movies imitating Bruce Lee? How did these projects come to fruition? What’s their story? And most interesting of all, Nielsen is planning to locate Bruce Li (The Chinese Stuntman), Bruce Le (Mission Terminate), Dragon Lee (Enter Three Dragons), etc., so we can finally meet the real clones as they reflect on their infamous careers.

The producers are aiming for a December 2015 release. Until then, you can help fund I’m Not Bruce by visiting its Kickstarter page – or by simply spreading the word about this ambitious project. Until then, be sure to check out our extensive list of Bruceploitation reviews.

Updates: The Bad News: The documentary did not reach its Kickstarter goal (only $2,344 of $96,000 was pledged); The Good News: Director Nickolas Nielsen is still moving forward with it! In addition to already-filmed interviews – with Leo Fong (Killpoint), Deborah Dutch (Bruce Lee Fights Back from the Grave), Andre Morgan (producer of Enter the Dragon) and Mel Novak (Game of Death) – Nielsen is currently wrapping up an interview with Martin Kove (Karate Kid). We’ll keep you updated on I’m Not Bruce as we hear more. We definitely commend Nielsen for his continued dedication to making the documentary happen!

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Jason Statham poses solo in the new ‘Spy’ poster!

"Spy" Teaser Poster

"Spy" Teaser Poster

Jason Statham (Parker) will be starring alongside Melissa McCarthy (The Heat) in Spy, formerly known as Susan Cooper, an upcoming action-comedy directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids). The film also stars Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Bobby Cannavale, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Peter Serafinowicz, Miranda Hart, Allison Janney and Morena Baccarin. It hits theaters on May 22, 2015.

The thought of Statham doing an “action-comedy” with McCarthy isn’t as odd as you think. We’re obviously used to all the testosterone-filled movies he currently does, but let’s not forget that he wasn’t always the action star that he is today. In films like 1998′s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and 2000′s Snatch, it was more of his comedic performance that ultimately caught Hollywood’s attention.

Updates: New Red and Green Band trailers for Spy.

BREAKING NEWS: Check out one of the latest posters featuring Jason Statham.

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New U.S. posters for Tony Jaa and Lundgren’s ‘Skin Trade’

"Skin Trade" Theatrical Poster

"Skin Trade" Theatrical Poster

In Skin Trade, a tough-as-nails New York cop finds his family murdered by a drug kingpin, he then swears revenge and hops on a plane to pursue their killer to Bangkok. Once in the seedy Thai underworld, he teams up with a local detective to bust heads and right what has been wronged.

While this may sound like a familiar set-up for a buddy/cop movie, action buffs should be pleased to hear that this movie will unite Dolph Lundgren (The Expendables) as the NYC cop with Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak) as the Thai detective!

Skintrade will get a limited theatrical release on May 8th through Magnolia Pictures. You’ll be able to catch it before then if you opt for Video on Demand, as Skin Trade will arrive there on April 23rd.

Skin Trade is directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham (Beautiful Boxer) and also stars Ron Perlman, Michael Jai White, Celina Jade, Peter Weller and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.

Updates: You may recall that Dolph and Tony made something of a deal: Dolph would star in a Thai movie with Tony – the currently filming A Man Will Riseand then Tony would make the trip to America to shoot a movie with Dolph. Now we know that American film is Skin Trade. | New teaser montage. | Official trailer. | Mangolia films poster.

BREAKING NEWS: A couple of new posters ( 1 | 2 ) have emerged, thanks to FCS/Uproxx. Also, in case you haven’t yet, check out the new U.S. trailer, courtesy of Tony Jaa’s official facebook page.

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Strike of Thunderkick Tiger (1982) Review

"Strike of Thunderkick Tiger" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Strike of Thunderkick Tiger" Korean Theatrical Poster

AKA: My Name is Twin Legs
Director: Park Woo Sang
Writer: Raymond To
Producer: Thomas Tang
Cast: Charles Han, Casanova Wong, Bak Min Wong, Han Jee Ha, Peggy Min, Lisa Lee, Billy Yuen, Alfred Ma, Chan Taiyun, Dragon Lee, Phillip Leung, David Kao
Running Time: 85 min.

By Paul Bramhall

The Korean old-school kung fu movie is without doubt the most bastardized genre out there. To this day, the number of legitimate releases of old school Korean kung fu on DVD, which contain the original Korean language track, original title sequence, with an uncut run time, equate to a grand total of zero. Robbing the western world of its chance to see these Korean movies in their original format usually comes down to the man named Godfrey Ho. A Hong Kong filmmaker who became legendary in the 1980’s for creating the ‘cut and paste’ movie – usually involving purchasing the rights for low budget Thai or Filipino movies, re-dubbing them, and splicing in newly filmed ninja footage in an attempt to create a whole new movie.

When Ho wasn’t busy with his cut and paste jobs, his production company Asso Asia Films, which he ran along with Joseph Lai and Tomas Tang, was also in the habit of purchasing overseas distribution rights for Korean movies. While the Korean productions would usually escape the fate of being cut to pieces and inserted into other footage, the alternative wasn’t much better.

The typical case would see a new opening sequence inserted over the original one, replacing the actor’s names with English pseudonyms, adding a whole new title, and using a fake director’s name. The plots would then be re-dubbed, usually in a bizarre mix of heavy cockney, stiff upper lip English, and straight-out-of-a-western American. It may sound like a potent combination, but it worked, the companies policy of aiming specifically for the English language market at bargain prices saw their made over (or perhaps ‘under’ is a better term) flicks become distributed far and wide.

Skip forward to around 35 years later, and it’s these versions that remain as the only available options to check out Korea’s entries into the kung-fu genre. Strike of Thunderkick Tiger is one such example. Originally released in its native Korea in 1978 under the title My Name is Twin Legs and directed by Park Woo-sang, Asso Asia got their hands on it and released it in 1982, with a credit sequence which lists the director as Henry Wong.

What’s interesting in the case of Strike of Thunderkick Tiger, is that it appears to be a Korean production filmed at least partly in Hong Kong. During the 70’s Hong Kong productions often filmed in Korea due to the wider variety of choices when it came to filming locations, something that the small island of Hong Kong and its New Territories couldn’t compete with, however it’s unusual to see the scenario reversed. At first I thought the scenes of Hong Kong must have been another cut and paste job, but scenes when a vehicle with HK number plates arrives to pick up a character, along with another on the famous HK Star Ferry, confirm that it was definitely filmed there.

While it’s safe to say the dubbing of the movie gives it a plot which strays from the original version, one thing that can’t be denied is that – when approached with the right mindset – a lot of entertainment can be had from the reworked scripting. So here we have three main characters, Snake, Monkey, and of course, Thunderkick Tiger. Snake is played by the legendary Casanova Wong, best known for his roles in the Sammo Hung classics The Iron Fisted Monk and Warriors Two. Monkey is played by Wong Bak-min, and the Thunderkick Tiger is played by Han Yong-cheol, who became better known as Charles Han.

Han worked almost exclusively in Korea, and never attempted to break into Hong Kong, and as such not as many fans are aware of him as his contemporaries like Casanova and Hwang Jang-lee. However at 6 feet tall, a Tae Kwon Do expert, and usually found adorned in some dapper 70’s threads, even in the heavily dubbed and altered versions of his movies that we’re left with, it’s easy to see the guy had plenty of charisma and screen presence. Combine that with his impressive height, and when he unleashes his kicks, it’s a pleasure to watch. Amusingly, in the dub it’s explained that he once had both of his legs broken, and as a result when they healed they became much stronger than an average persons legs. If you’re going to watch this movie, you have to accept that this makes sense.

The plot, for what it’s worth, involves a bag of stolen money that all three characters are after. Yes, it’s like a kung fu version of The Good, The Bad, The Weird. The guy who originally stole the money died, but not before depositing the money in the bank, and putting the account details in a Rubik’s Cube, which he left with his niece who keeps the cube in her bra. I can’t imagine it’s particularly comfortable, but no one seems phased when she takes it out. Eventually of course things come to a head, but not before plenty of fist and kicks are thrown.

Special mention must go to Casanova Wong’s performance, as it alone is almost enough reason to warrant giving Strike of Thunderkick Tiger a viewing. Wong’s vicious gangster is gay, and spends part of the movie running around in a blue leotard and black tights. Yes you read that right. If the immediate assumption is that it must have been written in as part of the new dub, the fact that he has a ‘partner’ who wears a layer of white makeup with red lipstick, and likes to mimic everything that Wong does, confirm that his character was always intended to be played that way. At one point Wong even kisses him on the cheek, before yelling at him to put more lipstick on! It certainly stands out in Wong’s filmography as his most unique role, but thankfully it plays no part in affecting his fighting performance.

For a 1978 Korean movie, the fight action is particularly impressive for those looking purely for their kung fu fix. The benefit of these Korean flicks is that almost all the performers are usually Tae Kwon Do experts, rather than trained screen fighters that the Beijing Opera Schools produced in HK, so as a result we’re always treated to plenty of high power kicking. In Strike of Thunderkick Tiger many of the fights are ridiculously under cranked, however ultimately it doesn’t take away from them. This applies particularly to the finale, which momentarily presents us with the unique scenario of 3 characters all going at each with equal ferocity, before segueing into a more traditional 2-on-1.

There’s also plenty of one versus many throw downs throughout, usually involving Han dishing out his thunderkicks to a bunch of hapless goons, but it all makes for an entertaining watch, his single legged multiple kick being of particular note. Throw in musical cues which range from A Clockwork Orange to Korea’s own Miss, Please Be Patient, and Strike of Thunderkick Tiger is a worthy entry into the old school kung fu genre. What gives the movie its Korean identity more than anything else though is its closing moments, which feature a twist that, despite all the goofy dubbing and nonsensical events which have just taken place, manage to provide a dramatic punch to the chest that only Korean cinema is, and it appears always has been, capable of.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 6.5/10

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Introducing the new Eric Draven for the ‘Crow’ remake…

"The Crow" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Crow" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Relativity Media has been trying to get a remake of Alex Proyas’ 1994 cult classic The Crow off the ground for what feels like years now. The project has burned through numerous directors (including Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and F. Javier Gutiérrez) and actors (Bradley Cooper, Mark Wahlberg, James McAvoy, Tom Hiddleston and Normal Reedus).

Of course, many fans of the original film who still mourn the tragic loss of star Brandon Lee feel that this is a franchise best left in our memories.

Updates: Variety reports that James O’Barr, creator of the original The Crow graphic novel, is on board as a consultant for the reboot. “I believe that this movie will stand alongside Brandon and his film as a valid work of art, and I look forward to collaborating on the project,” said O’Barr.

James O’Barr chats with Total Film in their latest issue: Here’s an excerpt: “It was his [Javier Gutierrez] idea to go right back to the source material and essentially shoot it shot-for-shot, as in the book, but with a little more backstory for some of the characters,” says O’Barr. O’barr also states that Gutierrez wants to be “as faithful as possible, even down to all the visual metaphors of trains and horses.”

In a recent interview with creator James O’Barr, The Crow remake will be closer to a John Woo film. Here are more details: “We’re not remaking the movie, we’re readapting the book. My metaphor is that there is a Bela Lugosi Dracula and there’s a Francis Ford Coppola Dracula, they use the same material, but you still got two entirely different films. This one’s going to be closer to Taxi Driver or a John Woo film, and I think there’s room for both of them – part of the appeal of the Crow comics after all is that they can tell very different stories after all.”

Deadline reports that Relativity Studios has hired short-filmmaker Corin Hardy to direct the Crow remake. Javier Gutiérrez bailed out, in favor of a new Ring sequel. Want to see one of Hardy’s short films? click here. Also, according to Den of Geek (via Collider), Luke Evans is having second thoughts: ““It’s not, no. No at the minute The Crow is not, not for me, I think it’s a little… I mean, I’m sure it’s going to go ahead at some point, but I have other projects that are greenlit and ready to go and projects that I’m very interested in and you know, I can’t wait much longer! [laughs]“ | The script will be written by Cliff Dorfman (Warrior).

According to The Wrap, Luke Evans has officially left the project to pursue other roles. Rest assured, The Crow remake is still happening, because Corin Hardy will continue searching for a new Eric Draven after his film, The Hallow, debuts at Sundance.

BREAKING NEWS: FCS (via Dread Central) reports that Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) is confirmed as the lead for The Crow, which starts production in the spring.

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Chow Yun Fat takes on Stephen Chow, Jet Li and Aaron Kwok in the fight for Lunar New Year box office supremacy in 2016

"From Vegas To Macau II" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"From Vegas To Macau II" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Since its release during the Lunar New Year holiday in China, Chow Yun Fat’s From Vegas to Macau 2 (aka The Man From Macau 2) has earned over RMB900 million at the box office, well exceeding its predecessor’s RMB600 million. So it should come as no surprise that there will be a third film in the franchise.

It has just been officially announced that From Vegas to Macau 3 will be filmed this year with a budget of RMB200 million, and some parts may be filmed in Vegas. The film will join a crowded line-up at the cinemas during the Lunar New Year period in 2016, which already includes:

- Stephen Chow’s Mermaid, his latest film since Journey to the West 3D

- Jet Li and Huang Xiao Ming’s 3D Investiture of the Gods, an adaptation of the classic Chinese fantasy novel that features gods, demons, spirits and humans

- Aaron Kwok and Gong Li’s Monkey King: White Bone Fiend, the sequel to Donnie Yen’s Monkey King, only without Yen who is busy with other projects.

Which one of these Chinese blockbusters are you most looking forward to seeing?

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Ran (1985) Review

"Ran" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Ran" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Chaos
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Writer: Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Masato Ide
Producer: Serge Silverman, Masato Hara
Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu, Masayuki Yui, Kazuo Kato, Peter, Hitoshi Ueki, Jun Tazaki, Mieko Harada, Yoshiko Miyazaki, Norio Matsui
Running Time: 160 min.

By Kyle Warner

Throughout Akira Kurosawa’s illustrious career the director often adapted classic literature from overseas and transformed the stories into tales about Japan. Some of his favorite writers that he took the most inspiration from were Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, and Maxim Gorky, but it’s the Shakespeare adaptations that made for the most interesting films. Kurosawa did away with Shakespeare’s words but kept the tragic plots largely intact. Shakespeare’s Macbeth became Throne of Blood, a film about a samurai that commits murder in order to chase destiny. Hamlet was an inspiration for The Bad Sleep Well, a drama about a businessman carefully plotting his revenge against the executives responsible for his father’s death. King Lear would become Ran, Kurosawa’s final Shakespeare adaptation, which transformed the tragedy into a samurai epic.

In the King Lear role is Lord Hidetora (Tatsuya Nakadai). The story of Lear has an aging king that decides to live out his final years in peace and divide his kingdom among his three daughters. In Ran, Hidetora is a samurai lord with three sons, but the basic idea is the same. Hidetora believes that one son acting alone can be defeated but three united together are unbeatable, a point he attempts to illustrate when he passes along a bundle of three arrows from son to son. His eldest son Taro (Akira Terao), the man who is set to inherit the most from his father, is unable to break the three arrows. The middle son Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu) is also unable to break the arrows. The youngest son Saburo (Daisuke Ryu) struggles with the arrows at first, then breaks them over his knee. Saburo argues that his father is a senile old fool that cannot possibly understand what he’s setting in motion. Saburo’s older brothers scold him for questioning their father, but Saburo persists. In the end, Lord Hidetora disowns the disrespectful Saburo and banishes him into exile. Of course, we soon learn that Saburo, though blunt, was speaking the truth. Taro’s wife Lady Kaeda (Mieko Harada) is the daughter of one of Hidetora’s vanquished foes. Now that Lady Kaeda and her husband are in a position of power previously occupied by Hidetora, she manipulates Taro into a feud with Hidetora, which leads the old lord to leave the castle. Hidetora angrily stomps off to Jiro’s castle, but Jiro is ambitious and believes he can supplant his older brother – his father will find no shelter here either. It’s worse than Saburo warned him it would be, as ambition and vengeance drives the two brothers to war, which in turn drives Hidetora towards madness.

In Kurosawa’s earlier years he had directed many pictures about heroes. With Ran he deconstructs the hero, makes it into something misleading and cruel – even Hidetora, who we feel sympathetic for, is a warlord that killed mercilessly in his time. Ran is a very cynical film about the violence that men do to one another in order to get what they want. Thousands of people are asked to die for the vanity and greed of powerful men and women. In the big battle sequences where Kurosawa had previously showcased courage and resourcefulness, he now showcases blood, death, and pitiless tactics. The film’s finest moment involves Taro and Jiro attacking the castle in which Hidetora is residing. It’s a striking sequence where the sound effects and dialogue are muted and we only hear Toru Takemitsu’s amazing score. The sequence finds Hidetora losing his mind within his castle as it burns around him. Kurosawa’s production actually built the castle from the ground up only to burn it down. The sequence could only be shot once, making it all the more impressive as hundreds of extras charge past the camera, flames burn, arrows fly, blood is shed, and Tatsuya Nakadai goes crazy at the center of it all.

I’m not always the biggest fan of Tatsuya Nakadai (though let’s be clear, he’s done some incredible work over the years). Occasionally I find his performances too calculated, like he’s showing off his acting muscles instead of giving us a character of flesh-and-blood. His performance in Ran is sometimes criticized for being over-the-top, but I don’t really see it that way. He begins the film as a proud samurai lord and is eventually reduced to a madman, a shadow of his former self. At the time Nakadai was only in his fifties but under makeup he successfully plays the part of a man about thirty years older. The makeup grows more exaggerated as the film progresses, making him appear ghost-like in the final act. His performance is certainly high-strung, but personally I consider it to be among his very best.

The other most notable performance comes from Mieko Harada. Her Lady Kaeda is perhaps the best of Kurosawa’s villains and must rank as one of the best female villains in all of Japanese cinema. Though the men she beds with like to think they are in control, it’s actually Lady Kaeda that’s pulling the strings and making them go where she wants. It’s a great character and a great performance.

Behind the scenes Kurosawa is joined by talents both old and new to him. Kurosawa’s one of those directors who always had a big hand in writing his screenplays, but knew it was best to bring in other co-writers to keep him honest (his 1990 film Dreams was written by Kurosawa alone and it suffers for it). His co-writers for Ran, Hideo Oguni and Masato Ide, had both worked with the director before on previous films, but here he works with famed composer Toru Takemitsu for the first time. It’s a strange score which features both Japanese flutes and a dreamlike new age quality. Music has always played an important part in Kurosawa’s films and Takemitsu’s score for Ran is one of the finest for any of his films. Joining Kurosawa as assistant director is Ishiro Honda, the director of such kaiju classics as Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan. Honda retired from directing after 1975’s Terror of Mechagodzilla, but he had always been a good friend of Kurosawa’s. In his later years Honda became Kurosawa’s chief assistant director and valued confidant onset, something Kurosawa apparently needed in the rapidly changing landscape of filmmaking.

The previous 20 years had been rough for Kurosawa. His 1965 film Red Beard was the ending of an era both creatively and thematically. He suffered a falling out with both longtime leading man Toshiro Mifune and longtime composer Masaru Sato. Red Beard also went way over schedule and over budget, which upset the studio. Kurosawa then went to make movies in America. His first US film was to be the thriller Runaway Train. However, snowstorms pushed the production back, and Kurosawa was constantly at odds with the American financial backers, and was supposedly unwilling to give up the control he was used to in Japan. Kurosawa left the project. Runaway Train was eventually filmed in 1985 by director Andrei Konchalovsky (Tango & Cash), using unknown portions of Kurosawa’s original screenplay. Kurosawa then went to film the Japanese segments for 20th Century Fox’s Tora! Tora! Tora!, but this too ended in failure. Despite working two years on pre-production for the war film, Kurosawa was fired just two weeks after shooting began and was replaced by Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale) and Toshio Masuda (Rusty Knife), while Richard Fleischer (Soylent Green) would stay on to direct the American segments. Fans are always hopeful that one day Kurosawa’s filmed scenes from Tora! Tora! Tora! will be discovered in a vault somewhere, but it’s reasonable to believe that they are either lost or destroyed.

Rumors began to spread from Fox that Kurosawa was mentally unstable and his work methods had a perfectionism to them that bordered on madness. The rumors followed Kurosawa back to Japan where he now found it nearly impossible to raise the money for future projects. Japan had always been strangely ambivalent towards Kurosawa. His films were viewed as too “Western” by some in the Japanese viewing public. And though his movies were often successful financially, he was not thought of as a national treasure while he was still alive the same way that Ozu and Mizoguchi were. Instead of turning to the producers and to young talents in the Japanese film industry after his failure in America, Kurosawa turned to old-school masters like himself and formed the production company Yonki-no-Kai Productions (Club of the Four Knights) with directors Masaki Kobayashi (Harakiri), Kon Ichikawa (The Burmese Harp), and Keisuke Kinoshita (Twenty-four Eyes).

The first Yonki-no-Kai film would be Kurosawa’s 1970 drama Dodes’ka-den, which turned out to be such a financial failure that Yonki-no-Kai Productions only produced one other film before disbanding. Akira Kurosawa would attempt suicide the following year by slitting his wrists and throat. He survived, but now he was further ostracized from the Japanese public. His next film Dersu Uzala would be made in Soviet Russia in 1975 (and would end up as the only film he made outside of Japan). After that Kurosawa returned to Japan again. The 80s would prove to be a more successful decade for him than the 70s had been, but it was not thanks to the Japanese studios willing to give him another shot. In 1980 he made the historical epic Kagemusha only after longtime admirers George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola stepped on as producers and were able to convince 20th Century Fox to help finance the film. And despite writing Ran around 1975, Kurosawa was unable to acquire funding for the project until 1984 when French producer Serge Silberman offered to help get the picture made (as such Ran is considered a Japanese/French co-production). With a budget of $12 million, Ran would become the most expensive Japanese film made at that point. Considering all of this, the fact that Ran was made at all is something of a miracle… but the fact that Ran is a brilliant film should come as no surprise. No director before or since made so many consistently entertaining films about the samurai world as did Kurosawa. But it’s more than just a piece of entertainment. Kurosawa has said that “Hidetora is me” which is understandable when you stop to consider that this is a film about an old man who has lost his place in the world and is besieged by ambitious youth who want to remove him in some disrespectful manner. It’s a samurai historical epic, it’s a Shakespeare adaptation, and it’s the work of an artist that’s putting his life on screen behind the veil of storytelling.

Kurosawa would go on to make three more films, but Ran is his last true masterpiece. Despite this, the Japanese were mostly unimpressed when it was first released. It was generally well received by critics but only barely earned enough to make back the money spent on the production. When award season rolled around, Ran was not even nominated for Best Picture in Japan’s Academy Awards. For the Oscars, each country is allowed to submit one film to represent them for the Best Foreign Language Film category. Japan did not submit Ran, but rather Shunya Ito’s Gray Sunset. Disturbed by this, American filmmakers (led by longtime fan Sidney Lumet) campaigned on Kurosawa’s behalf to get Ran nominated for as many Oscars as possible. Ran was nominated for four Oscars, including costume design (which it won), cinematography, art direction, and Best Director: Akira Kurosawa. Gray Sunset did not make the shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film and has since faded into almost complete obscurity; meanwhile in the thirty years since its release Ran’s reputation has only grown and the movie is now commonly thought of as one of the greatest epics ever made, as well as one of the best Shakespeare adaptations ever put to film.

Ran is available on Blu-Ray from Lionsgate as part of their StudioCanal Collection line. If I’m to be perfectly honest, the picture quality is far short of what the colorful film deserves. The bright scenes look good and there’s plenty of detail on screen, but the dark scenes are way too grainy – distractingly so. Ran had previously been available on DVD from the Criterion Collection, but that DVD is now out of print. The StudioCanal Blu-Ray does look better than the Criterion DVD, but it’s not a huge improvement. Sadly unless new source materials are discovered this may end up being the best the film will ever look.

It’s my opinion that Akira Kurosawa is the best director of all time. He made so many brilliant films that even some of his less successful attempts might’ve been considered masterworks in most other director’s filmographies. Kurosawa worked as a director from 1943 to 1993. It’s difficult to pick a favorite among his more active first three decades, but if you look at the films he made from 1970-1993 the pick should be an obvious one: Ran, a historical epic of the highest order.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 10/10


By Numskull

How best to refer to this Kurosawa classic’s relationship to the Shakespearean play “King Lear”? Well, Shakespeare is little more than a glorified, romanticized hack whose plays were based on well-known (in his day) stories that he himself did not create, so…”adaptation”? No. “Translation”? Nay. “Recreation”? I think not. I suppose “interpretation” will suffice, though I’m sure some caricature of an English professor with a stick up his ass could come up with something more accurate while chewing me out for daring to speak ill of the biggest sacred cow in all of literature.

Anyway… this is one of Kurosawa’s last films, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that he chose the theme of the elderly passing the reins or the banner or the (fill in the metaphor) down to the next generation. Lear’s equivalent character in Ran is 70-year old warlord Hidetora Ichimonji, hauntingly portrayed by venerable actor Tetsuya Nakadai, a veteran of several earlier Kurosawa films. No daughters has he… just a trio of sons named (eldest to youngest) Taro (Akira Terao), Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu), and Saburo (Daisuke Ryu). As is the case in the play, the two older offspring give their dad a verbal blow job when it’s time to divvy up the territory, and only the youngest speaks the truth. Hidetora, too prideful to see through Taro’s and Jiro’s flattery, banishes Saburo. He then finds himself unable to adapt to life on a lower rung of the ladder of power, and Taro and Jiro, ungrateful swine that they are, refuse to treat him with the dignity and respect he believes he is due. His world turned upside-down, Hidetora succumbs to madness while his violent rise to power in a half-forgotten past comes back to bite him on the ass.

As Shakespearean tragedies go, King Lear has one of the highest body counts… possibly THE highest. It therefore comes as no surprise that Ran has no shortage of bloodshed, both referred to in the past tense and displayed to us through an unflinching lens. A gruesome siege an hour or so into the film is turned into a thing of perverse beauty by the expert cinematography by Takao Saito and the absence of dialogue and sound effects; Toru Takemitsu’s musical score is the only aural component. As is to be expected for a film bearing the “epic” label, the visuals aim to impress; there are some choice shots that do a fine job in showing the majesty of both Japan’s man-made structures and its untamed countryside.

Outstanding amongst the supporting characters are Taro’s vicious, conniving wife, Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada), and Hidetora’s irreverent but fiercely loyal jester/nurse, Kyoami (played by an actor credited only as “Peter”). He provides the only comic relief in this grim tale but also displays wisdom unusual for one of his standing, dispensing gems such as “In a mad world only the mad are sane”, “If the rock you sit on starts to roll, jump clear…or you’ll go with it and be squashed”, and my personal favorite, “Man is born crying. When he’s cried enough, he dies.” There was a six year gap between the two times I watched this movie, but that particular quote stayed with me for the whole period.

Age (and a failed suicide attempt) did nothing to dull Kurosawa’s talent. This is a film that keeps your attention securely wrapped around its finger from its tranquil opening shots to its heart-wrenching final image.

Numskull’s Rating: 8/10

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No news on ‘Rush Hour 4,’ but guess who’s taking over for Chris Tucker in the TV series…

"Rush Hour 3" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Rush Hour 3" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Producer Arthur Sarkissian (Rush Hour 1-3) has confirmed that Rush Hour 4 is currently in early stages of development with Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. So far, there’s no word if Brett Ratner will return to the director’s chair, but the producer is aiming for a new direction.

According to Crave Online, Sarkissian mentions: “I’m trying to do it closer to how I did Rush Hour 1, more down to earth, more gritty, introduce two new characters and make it real the way the first one was. I personally was not happy with the third one. I thought 1 and 2 were very good. I think 3 got out of hand a little bit. It’s not a matter of just bringing them back to do another segment of that or a sequel to it by putting them in another city and having them bicker. I don’t want that. I want something new.”

Updates: THR has an interview with Jackie Chan where the action star reveals why he turned down The Expendables 2 and why he dislikes the Rush Hour movies.

In an interview with Singapore’s Cinema Online, Jackie Chan discusses his recent meeting with co-star Chris Tucker and two writers. Here’s what he sad to say: “We just finished meeting last month in L.A. with Chris Tucker and two writers. The first draft, I don’t really like it. It’s just boring. Nothing is exciting anymore. I know Warner Bros. really wanted to do Rush Hour 4. Both Chris Tucker and I agreed to do another one, but we need to see the script first. So far, it’s Jackie goes to Hong Kong, no, Jackie goes to America… Chris Tucker goes to Hong Kong. Then we go to Paris. What’s next? It’s difficult.”

According to Deadline, Warner has closed the deal to make Rush Hour into a TV series. Brett Ratner (director of the original franchise) and Arthur Sarkissian will serve as executive producers, while Cougar Town’s Bill Lawrence will co-write along with Blake McCormick.

According to Deadline.com (via FCS), Jon Foo (Tekken) will play Detective Lee (originally played by Jackie Chan) in CBS’s Rush Hour Pilot.

BREAKING NEWS: Variety has reported that actor and comedian Justin Hires has been cast for the Chris Tucker role in the Rush Hour TV series. He had a small part in 21 Jump Street and more recently appeared in Key and Peele. In addition, via FCS, James Lew (Big Trouble In Little China), will be serving as the series’ stunt coordinator. - Thanks to Sam the Man

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Listen to the ‘Dragon Blade’ theme song by Jackie himself!

"Dragon Blade" Korean Poster

"Dragon Blade" Korean Poster

Daniel Lee’s Dragon Blade, a period piece starring Jackie Chan, sees a Roman Legion getting caught up in an adventure in China where they cross paths with a Chinese hero played by Chan. They are forced to join forces to battle an even greater foe that threatens the whole world. The film also stars Adrien Brody, John Cusack, Choi Siwon, Lin Peng and Wang Tai Li.

Film Business Asia: “Cusack plays a Roman General who teams up with a former military commander (played by Chan) to protect the western border; Brody plays the villain who is in pursuit of Cusack’s character.”

Dragon Blade is helmed by Daniel Lee, a veteran Hong Kong filmmaker, mostly known for 1994’s What Price Survival, 1996’s Black Mask, 2010’s 14 Blades, and most recently, 2011’s White Vengeance.

Updates: Pack of new posters ( 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 ) | Latest poster from AFM, featuring all three male leads. | First trailer. | 2nd trailer. | Chinese theatrical poster.  | Korean theatrical poster.

BREAKING NEWS: Listen to the film’s theme song. It is sung by none other than Jackie himself, and the title translates roughly to ‘Heroes of the Desert’. – Thanks to Sam the Man

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Jacky Cheung and Nick Cheung are about to raise ‘Helios’

"Helios" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Helios" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Coming to Hong Kong theaters on April 30th is Helios, an action-thriller directed by Longman Leung and Sunny Luk, the duo behind Cold War.

Helios sports a Chinese/Korean ensemble cast that includes: Jacky Cheung (As Tears Go By), Nick Cheung (Unbeatable), Shawn Yue (Motorway), Wang Xueqi (Bodyguards and Assassins), Janice Man (Nightfall), Ji Jin-hee (H), Choi Siwon (A Battle of Wits), Yoon Jin-yi (We Are Brothers), Josephine Koo (Shanghai Story), Feng Wenjuan (The Last Tycoon) and Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

Here’s a brief plot: South Korea’s most wanted criminal Red Bandit uses the uranium stolen from North Korea to make a mobile nuclear bomb, which is scheduled to change hands in Hong Kong in the next 6 hours.

Updates: Click here to watch the newest trailer, courtesy of FCS.

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Sammo Hung does some serious damage in ‘The Bodyguard’

"Mr. Nice Guy" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Mr. Nice Guy" Chinese Theatrical Poster

It has been 17 long years since Sammo Hung has directed a movie (1997′s Once Upon A Time in China and America), but now, the Hong Kong legend is back in the director’s chair with Old Soldier, an action film about a thief (Firestorm’s Andy Lau) who finds himself wanted by U.S. and Russian law enforcements. Starring alongside Lau is Sammo Hung himself, Yuen Qiu, Karl Maka, Dean Shek, Yuen Wah and Tsui Hark.

Old Soldier’s lead role was recently linked to Jackie Chan, but due to scheduling conflicts (and his son’s recent drug arrest), he declined and Lau stepped in. Old Soldier would have been the first time Hung would be directing Chan since 1997′s Mr. Nice Guy.

Updates: Due to cast changes, looks like Old Soldier now has a new title, a different plot and a starring role by Sammo Hung himself. Here’s the scoop according to Film Combat Syndicate: The film is now titled The Bodyguard and its story follows a retired bodyguard (Hung) who has settled in the dark and unknown corner of the world where China, Russia and North Korea meet. Suffering from the beginnings of dementia, the bodyguard is befriended by a young girl whose life is threatened when her father (Andy Lau) falls in with the local crime world. When the girl and her father disappear, the bodyguard must call upon his long forgotten skills to save the life of his young friend.

Filming for Sammo Hung’s The Bodyguard has wrapped up, thanks to the Sammo Hung: Action Movie Legend blog (via Film Combat Syndicate) for the scoop. The film has a possible release date for summer 2015.

BREAKING NEWS: In the first still from the film, it looks like Sammo’s done some serious damage to a bunch of guys, and that’s just awesome. – Thanks to Sam the Man

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Cyprus Tigers (1990) Review

"Cyprus Tigers" Chinese DVD Cover

"Cyprus Tigers" Chinese DVD Cover

Director: Philip Ko Fei
Producer: Philip Ko Fei
Cast: Simon Yam, Conan Lee, Philip Ko Fei, Collin Cheung Chi Tak, Robin Shou, Joey Wong, Shikamura Yasuyoshi, Winston Ellis, Sophia Crawford, John Ladalski
Running Time: 87 min.

By Martin Sandison

Ask a Kung Fu movie fan about the greatest actors to come out of the golden age and the name Phillip Ko will surely arise. One of the most prolific and recognizable faces of Kung Fu cinema, Ko appeared in hundreds of films of varying quality. And yes, he was an extra in Enter the Dragon and tells the tale of Bruce Lee fighting that guy on set. Ko has said that two films are his best: The Loot and The Challenger. Two of the greatest Independent Kung Fu movies, these films are a must watch.

Through the 80’s and 90’s Ko became a director and producer, while still appearing in his own films. One of these is Cyprus Tigers. Filmed around the same time as Killer’s Romance, both star Simon Yam and both were filmed partly in Europe (London and Cyprus, of course). Killer’s Romance is a heroic bloodshed film loosely based on the Manga Crying Freeman, featuring some extreme violence. Cyprus Tigers meanwhile is a mash up of comedy, gunfights and martial arts which is in the tradition of HK film-making, crazy and uneven in tone.

Cyprus Tigers features so many of the stars of lower budget HK action films of the time it’s ridiculous. Simon Yam was not a huge star at this point, and had appeared in some action films such as the classic Bloodfight, one of my personal favorites, and dodgy category 3 films such as Hong Kong Gigolo. In Cyprus Tigers Yam plays a good natured cop called Dick, the leader of the ‘Cyprus Tigers’ a bunch of HK cops who have relocated there. Love him or hate him, Conan Lee is a good Martial Artist and did appear in one of the all time greatest Kung Fu movies Ninja In the Dragons Den. He plays ‘Climax’ (?!) a sex-mad cop with good Martial Arts chops. Ko himself plays King Wu, a criminal who appears to be a good guy at first. Winston Ellis an African American plays Black Spot, one of Ko’s minions.

This was his first Hong Kong film, and he followed it up with a small part in Operation Condor, one of Jackie’s best 90’s efforts. Robin Shou plays Yau Gin, a Japanese criminal. Shou is famous for playing Liu Kang in the Mortal Kombat movie, and had faced off against Donnie Yen in Tiger Cage 2, one of my favorite fights ever. Luk Chuen, also the action choreographer, plays another Japanese villain. He had been around the block, also choreographing the Shaws masterpiece Killer Constable. Sophia Crawford has a small part as Wu’s minion, looking great as ever, the time when she was it seemed in every lower budget HK production! Even the great John Ladalski gets a tiny part, he’s only on screen for a matter of seconds. He also appeared in Bloodfight, training Yasuaki Kurata, and numerous other Ninja and HK movies. Finally the lovely Joey Wong appears as Yam’s girlfriend, radiating beauty and grace despite the low brow tone of the plot.

The first half of the movie is based around the cops bumbling around on the beach and getting in to scrapes in a comedic manner, while the second half features them going against Ko who is trying to get hold of plates for laundering money and is much more serious. The movie starts as it means to go on, with equal parts intentional and unintentional humor and solid action. The version I watched has burnt in subtitles that go over the edges of the screen, meaning the dialogue is hard to follow. Not that it matters, the subtitling is so bad. Some choice ones from the opening scene are: ‘Men look at your bottoms’ and ‘look he has climax every day’.

The first half is that cheesy comedy so prevalent in HK movies at the time, with the funniest sub plot featuring Yam being forced at gunpoint to take off Lee’s clothes. Of course the villains are filming it and it becomes a porno VHS, and Lee goes all over town buying up copies. Some of the bad taste humor leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, especially when involving Ellis as Black Spot; it’s bordering on racism.

The action hots up around the middle of the film, and some of it is of a high standard. Lee battles Ellis in a fight which features some nifty handwork, and the centerpiece of Yam vs Ko lives up to its billing. It’s good to see Yam performing a lot of the Martial Arts himself, despite being doubled for a couple of crazy stunts. One involves him being kicked into the air and with the aid of wire-work spins twice and lands on a table, with inventive editing meaning everything is clear despite there being a lot of cuts.

Unfortunately while the movie has some great action and is entertaining, it suffers from too much cheesy comedy and bad plotting. I mean seriously the contrasting tones are so extreme it’s like you’re watching three different movies at once. As it features so many actors they jostle for attention, with little room for good or developing characterizations. Ko directs in a pretty bland manner until the action kicks in, basically the main reason to watch the movie.

Overall it’s a lackluster effort, but worth checking out for some vintage fun if you like that kind of thing.

Martin Sandison’s rating: 5/10

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