First trailer for ‘Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance’

"Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance" Poster

"Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance" Poster

25 years ago, they joined forces to take on the Yakuza in Samurai Cop (1991), now Detective Frank Washington (Mark Frazer) and Joe Marshall (Matt Hannon) are teaming up once again in Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance, which will be directed by Gregory Hatanaka (Violent Blue). This time their mission is to solve a series of assassinations being committed by a secret group of female vigilante killers.

The original Samurai Cop (1991), directed by the late Amir Shervan (Killing American Style), is a cult classic that found a whole new audience during its midnight theatrical circuit and film festival re-release. Its resurgence prompted producers Rich Mallery and Gregory Hatanaka to start production on a sequel!

In addition to its returning stars (including Gerald Okamura and Robert Z’Dar), Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance will also include Mel Novak (Game of Death), Bai Ling (The Crow), Tommy Wiseau (The Room), Mindy Robinson (American Slaughter), Shawn C. Phillips (Aliens vs Titanic), Joe Estevez (Lockdown), Laurene Landon (Maniac Cop), Kristine DeBell (The Big Brawl) and adult film stars, Kayden Kross and Lexi Belle.

Updates: Watch the film’s first trailer, thanks to Paul Bramhall.

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Dog Soldiers | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout Factory)

Dog Soldiers | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout Factory)

Dog Soldiers | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout Factory)

RELEASE DATE: June 23, 2015

Shout! Factory presents the Blu-ray & DVD for 2002′s Dog Soldiers, directed by Neil Marshall (Centurion, The Descent).

A routine military exercise turns into a nightmare in the Scotland wilderness. Starring Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd and Emma Cleasby. You can expect a load of supplemental features that will be included in this cult action/thriller! Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Dog Soldiers from Amazon.com today!

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Brotherhood of Blades (2014) Review

"Brotherhood of Blades" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Brotherhood of Blades" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Lu Yang
Writer: Chen Shu, Lu Yang
Producer: Terence Chang, Wang Donghui, Ling Hong
Cast: Chang Chen, Cecilia Liu Shi Shi, Wang Qianyuan, Ethan Li Dong Xue, Ye Qing Nie Yuan, Zhou Yi Wei, Chin Shih Chieh
Running Time: 106 min.

By Kyle Warner

There’s a line in Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game that goes a little something like, “The awful thing about life is this: everyone has their reasons.” It’s a simple concept, but so true, and I wish more people writing villains would keep it in mind. I believe director Lu Yang understands Renoir’s sentiments as he paints all the characters of Brotherhood of Blades in various shades of gray. No hero is without sin and no villain does evil without cause. Everybody’s doing what they feel they must in order to survive, even if that means a few people get hurt along the way. So often in these sorts of films we are treated to a sneering villain, one who is clearly evil because his performance and dialogue would allow him to be nothing else in the world. And while Brotherhood of Blades is full of villainous characters, they all have their reasons.

In the 1620s, the Eunuch Wei (Chin Shih Chieh) was seen as too powerful to continue his reign, and the Emperor asked him to step down. Even with Wei now removed from power, his influence was still felt far and wide, and so begun a manhunt for his closest followers who were known as the Eunuch Clique. Tasked with detaining or killing the Eunuch Clique are three Imperial Assassins (played by Chang Chen, Wang Qianyuan, and Ethan Li Dong Xue,). When finally they are sent to eliminate Wei himself, one of the assassins makes the mistake of letting Wei talk. Instead of assassinating Wei, he takes Wei’s bribe of gold and delivers a burnt corpse to the officials, one whose identity cannot be readily identified. Suspicion grows and soon it seems like everyone the three assassins knows is out to kill them.

With Brotherhood of Blades, I expect you’ll come for the action but you’ll stay for the story. This is a complex historical drama full of backstabbing, secrets told behind paper walls, and the bloody consequences of telling one lie too many. It’s the sort of action film where more is accomplished (or brought to ruin) with a sideways glance and a lie than most films manage with a series of explosions ripping through a city street. It’s a subtle, stylish script, brought to life by great direction and some nuanced performances.

The three Imperial Assassins at the center of the story are like brothers, so when one of them takes Wei’s bribe and betrays their masters it’s interesting to see how the three respond. You can sense how much they mean to each other, even while this transgression threatens to collapse the brotherhood they have built.

Chen plays the man who took the bribe, but he did so with the best of intentions. Chen does a good job playing the conflicted character, detailing his hero’s fall from grace both physically and emotionally. Wang and Li, who play the other members of this Brotherhood, are also quite good. Qianyuan Wang is the senior member and takes the betrayal as a personal slight. I liked the way Wang conveyed so much with only the use of his eyes. I’m not familiar with the actor, but I’m taking notice now. Dong-xue Li plays a man with a dark secret, but he’s also the most innocent of the three. Li’s character endangers the film the most as he goes through young love, but the actor never lets these scenes hinder the story in any way.

Perhaps most impressive is Cecilia Liu Shi Shi, who plays Chang Chen’s love interest. Liu’s character is a courtesan in a high-priced brothel and Chen’s trying to buy her freedom. In many movies, this would have been a weak character — the hooker with a heart of gold, if you like — but Liu and the writers manage to make her into something more. Despite Chen’s devotion for her, Liu is in love with someone else, and no big dreams or promises of freedom are going to change her mind. The moments between Chen and Liu are my favorite parts of the film. There’s a quiet but determined stillness to them that I like, as two characters who want very different things are forced to do a dance of manners for fear of disappointing the other person. Strong female characters are rare in these sorts of films. And I don’t necessarily mean women who can kick ass (Liu does not play such a character here). I mean layered, complete female characters with wants and needs of their own that don’t exist solely to enrich the male hero’s character development. Shishi Liu is superb in the role.

While the film’s script and performances are the strongpoints, the action is pretty good, too. Brotherhood of Blades opts for a more handheld approach to its camerawork, which makes the fight sequences more in-your-face and visceral. As a tradeoff, we don’t get shots that truly wow the viewer, but I don’t think action fans should have much to complain about. Still, keep in mind that Brotherhood of Blades is a drama first and an action film second: remember that and you should find a lot to enjoy here.

I feel I must also comment on the costume design, which is top-notch and very cool (and has apparently won an award or two). Costume design, like set design, makeup, hair, and lighting, usually goes unnoticed unless it’s truly awful or very impressive. With Brotherhood of Blades, I’m happy to say that everyone brought their A game.

Brotherhood of Blades has the looks of a wuxia action film, but it works best as a complex character drama. The story is tightly written, the direction is stylish, and the acting is excellent. It’s a great movie.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 8/10

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Deal on Fire! Masquerade | Blu-ray | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

"Masquerade" Blu-ray Cover

"Masquerade" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Masquerade starring Lee Byung-hun (I Saw the Devil) and Ryu Seung-Ryong (War of the Arrows).

Amid national chaos and fear for his life, King Gwanghae (Lee) orders his councilor Heo Kyun (Ryu) to find a body double. He hires Ha-seon (also Lee), a peasant who bears a perfect resemblance to the King. When the King collapses from a mysterious poison, Ha-seon reluctantly becomes a King. Now, he must save his country from collapse, avoid assassination, and pull off the biggest masquerade in history.

Order Masquerade from Amazon.com today!

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‘John Wick’ duo to helm Chris Pratt’s ‘Cowboy Ninja Viking’?

"Cowboy Ninja Viking" Graphic Novel Cover

"Cowboy Ninja Viking" Graphic Novel Cover

Funny action man, Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy), is set to play the lead in Universal’s adaptation of A.J. Lieberman’s graphic novel, Cowboy Ninja Viking. To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s Amazon’s description to the graphic novel:

“It started with Dr. Sebastian Ghislain: rogue psychotherapist/covert op/DJ. Tasked with creating a counter-intelligence unit, he turned to those long thought useless to society… patients with Multiple Personality Disorder. These agents became known simply as Triplets. Misguided? Yeah. Impractical? Sure. But did it work? Absolutely not. Now someone has located each Triplet and created a band of ridiculously disturbed, but highly effective assassins. Our only hope? A Triplet known as Cowboy Ninja Viking!”

Updates: Variety reports (via FCS) that David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, the duo behind John Wick, are in early talks to direct Cowboy Ninja Viking (World War Z’s Marc Forster was previously attached). We’ll be sure to keep you in the loop as we hear more.

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Hit-Girl spin-off film by ‘The Raid’ director Gareth Evans?

"The Raid" Theatrical Poster

"The Raid" Theatrical Poster

Mark Millar, creator of the comic books, Kick-Ass and The Secret Service – the basis for the upcoming Kingsman: The Secret Service – recently mentioned that a planned Hit-Girl spin-off movie was in the works. Here’s the interesting part: Gareth Evans (The Raid, The Raid 2) was in talks for the project.

Here’s what Millar told IGN during a recent interview: “Before Kick-Ass 2 came out, we’d been talking about a Hit-Girl spin-off movie… we’d even talked to a director – we had a couple of calls with Gareth Evans, who I absolutely love. He’s an amazing director. But Gareth’s now busy.”

Well, one can only imagine what a Evans-directed Hit-Girl movie would have been like, but hey, at least we have The Raid 3 to look forward to in 2018.

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No Tears for the Dead | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

No Tears for the Dead | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

No Tears for the Dead | Blu-ray & DVD (CJ Entertainment)

RELEASE DATE: February 17, 2015

CJ Entertainment presents the Blu-ray & DVD for No Tears for the Dead (read our review) directed by Lee Jeong-beom (Man from Nowhere).

A hit man (Jang Dong-Gun from The Warrior’s Way) traumatized from accidentally killing a young girl during a job is given the mission to eliminate her mother, and begins the ultimate fight to save her life. The film also stars Kim Min-hee (Helpless), Brian Tee (The Wolverine), Kim Hee-won (Man from Nowhere) and Kim Joon-seong (Innocent Blood). Watch the trailer.

Pre-order No Tears for the Dead from Amazon.com today!

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

Angel Terminators (1990) Review

"Angel Terminators" International DVD Cover

"Angel Terminators" International DVD Cover

Director: Wai Lit
Writer: Yeung Gei
Producer: Georges Lai
Cast: Sharon Yeung Pan Pan, Kenneth Tsang, Carrie Ng, Michiko Nishiwaki, Alan Chui Chung San, Kara Hui Ying Hung, Cheng Yuen Man, Dick Wei
Running Time: 91 min.

By HKFanatic

Here’s a full admission: I love “girls with guns” movies. Back in the late 80′s and 90′s, this sub-genre of Hong Kong action cinema saw women like Moon Lee and Cynthia Khan kicking and shooting their way to stardom. These ladies always gave just as good as their male counterparts such as Chow Yun-fat and Jackie Chan, and probably had to try even harder to prove themselves in the male-driven field of action cinema.

Ever since watching She Shoots Straight, perhaps the pinnacle of the genre, I’ve been dying to see more “girls with guns” flicks. Unfortunately, these films are still criminally rare in the United States. If you’re lucky, Netflix might still have a few of them in circulation near you, although they’ll undoubtedly arrive on an out-of-print Full Screen DVD from Tai Seng (remember them?). Given such slim pickings, I was more or less forced to rent Angel Terminators, a film that is by no means considered a standout of the genre.

Considering the high production values showcased in Hong Kong movies like Hard Boiled or just about any Jackie Chan film, it’s easy to forget that there were still plenty of shoestring productions made on the island during its 90′s heyday. Angel Terminators is the kind of under-funded action film that relies on stuntman putting themselves in harm’s way in order to make up for its obviously low budget. The script is a bit slapdash and hard to follow, with our villain (Kenneth Tsang of The Killer and Police Story 3: Supercop, among countless other films) getting more screentime than the protagonists and a disconcerting number of scenes in which women are urinated on. Yes, it happens more than once. But if you can get past the bad lighting, jumbled storyline, and misogynistic streak, then Angel Terminators has some amazing action scenes, which once again prove that nobody does it better than Hong Kong.

The opening scenes tease us with the presence of the amazingly talented and lovely Kara Hui, a veteran of Shaw Brothers films like My Young Auntie. Don’t get too attached, though, as Kara promptly disappears from the film until the climax. That’s strike one against the movie, as far as I’m concerned. In her stead is actress Pan Pan Yeung, who certainly knows how to throw a kick but is slightly lacking in screen presence. Either that, or her performance was hampered by the terrible 80′s-style haircut she was saddled with.

Yeung was trained in martial arts since the age of six, so she is definitely a woman of action, but there’s a depressing subplot which involves the bad guys getting her hooked on heroin. It’s another example of the film’s sadistic heart that has its female characters tortured and humiliated, when we the audience just want to see them stand up and kick ass. Fortunately, the ending makes up for it when Kara Hui and Yeung team up against the legendary Dick Wei. The two women manage to make him look like a wimp, even though we’ve seen the talented fighter give Yuen Baio and Sammo Hung a run for their money.

Remember that scene in The Dark Knight when Batman lands on top of a van and all the windows shatter upon impact? There’s a scene like that in The Angel Terminators, except it’s just Pan Pan Yueng landing on a car, which is hilarious since you know she’s probably light as a feather. There’s another scene where Yueng is literally dangling from the window of a moving car while firing away at the bad guys. Crazy moments like this make Angel Terminators worth watching for fans of “girls with guns” flicks. The film flirts with Category III-style exploitation, but thankfully never follows that road to its end (except for all the golden showers). If you just want to see some amazing fight scenes and stunts from 90′s-era Hong Kong, and you don’t mind a cruddy DVD picture, then you could have a worse time of it than renting this film.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 6.5/10

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Taking Manhattan (1992) Review

"Taking Manhattan" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Taking Manhattan" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Kirk Wong
Producer: Eric Tsang
Cast: Carrie Ng, Lui Chi Yin, Andrew Chan Gwan, Jeff Lee Tak Wing, David Lea, Connie Cabret, Alana Jerins, Michael Lewis, Angelo Lopez, Jaclyn Ngai, Benny Nieves, Theresa Quinn, Anthony J. Ribustello, Janice Sanders
Running Time: 85 min.

By Paul Bramhall

It’s common knowledge that many Hong Kong directors have, in the past, tried their hand at making a movie in an English speaking country. Philip Ko brought Simon Yam to London for his 1990 Crying Freeman adaptation Killer’s Romance, Corey Yuen explored the grimier side of Canada for his 1993 flick Women on the Run, and of course most famously, Stanley Tong brought Jackie Chan to Vancouver, I mean the Bronx, for his 1995 hit Rumble in the Bronx.

Not to be outdone, director Kirk Wong also took a crack at making a film in the States with his 1992 production Taking Manhattan. Wong has an eclectic but solid resume as a director, which kicked off with his 1981 debut The Club, a movie of which star Chan Wai Man humbly declared “Without doubt the best gangster film to come out of Hong Kong.” Wong went on to direct bold mis-fires such as the Flash Future Kung Fu, which attempted to mix the science fiction and kung fu genres together, to gangster epics like Gunmen, which saw disagreements with producer Tsui Hark result in a brave but inconsistent piece of filmmaking. By the 1990’s Wong seemed to have found his feet directing gritty crime thrillers, scoring hits with both the Jackie Chan starring Crime Story, and Organized Crime and Triad Bureau, with everyone’s favorite cop Danny Lee.

Taking Manhattan could be argued as being made in his transitional period, his previous movie was Gunmen and his next would be Crime Story, which makes the circumstances around its production all the more interesting. It’s worth noting that Wong made the movie essentially as an English language picture. All of the cast appear to be either native English speakers, or at the very least are fluent, with the exception of Carrie Ng. She plays the wife of the lead, and is the only character whose scenes are spoken in Cantonese, which amount to roughly 10% of the movie. With that being said, Taking Manhattan is exceptionally difficult to find in its original form, with almost every available release only featuring the dubbed Cantonese track. This was mainly due to distributor Paragon getting cold feet, at the prospect of marketing an English language movie onto a Hong Kong audience, at the time of its release. For the purpose of this review, the version being reviewed is the original with English language dialogue.

The story of Taking Manhattan puts it firmly into the gangster genre. After a bomb blows up the team mates of a New York city cop played by Lui Chi-Yin, he’s suspended by his superior, played by Alena Adena. Setting up a hot-dog stall with his wife, who’s recently arrived in the US from Hong Kong, Chi-Yin is happy to lead the simple life, even if it involves being harassed by feisty New York hookers who call him “Bruce”. However it’s soon revealed by Adena that the only purpose of his suspension was to take him off the map, allowing him to go undercover and penetrate the gang behind the killings, led by a gangster played by Andrew Chan. Chi-Yin reluctantly agrees, and after being taken under Chan’s wing, a game of cat and mouse ensues, with the audience never being sure exactly who is the cat and who is the mouse.

There are those who believe that Wong only really came into his own as a director with Crime Story, which was made in 1993, however Taking Manhattan arguably proves he had found his style several years before. While Taking Manhattan wasn’t released until 1992, it was actually filmed in 1990, and while we can only speculate, it’s probably safe to assume it sat on the shelf for 2 years because none of the distributors knew what to do with a Hong Kong produced English language gangster movie. Indeed it’s interesting to consider who Wong was aiming for as an audience, the story and themes all seem to indicate he was in fact looking for a US audience, with Carrie Ng being there simply so it could be marketed in Hong Kong with a known actress. Even today, over 20 years after its original release, it’s Ng who is all over the cover of the DVD releases, with main characters Chi-Yin and Chang nowhere to be seen.

The movie itself is in fact a superior example of the gangster genre, and still holds up today. Chang in particular steals the show with a truly psychotic performance as the homosexual gangster Chi-Yin falls in with. Imagine a Chinese guy with the voice of an angry Michael Caine, the demeanor of a Goodfellas era Joe Pesci, and the hair of a Hard Boiled Tony Leung. Chang chews the scenery with gusto in whatever scene he’s in, littering the screen with one of the dirtiest tongues I’ve heard in a long time. When this guy insults you, he goes the distance, even if it’s to Puerto Rican gangsters twice his size. He really does an outstanding job of coming across as an unpredictable ball of rage and nastiness.

Chi-Yin does an equally good job as the undercover cop eager to keep his family out of harms way, and through both of their performances a credible amount of tension and suspense builds up to a satisfying finale. While Taking Manhattan clearly didn’t have the same budget as the US productions filming in New York at the same time, cinematographer Walter Gregg captures the feel of the city well, and the often frantic camera work serves its purpose in creating a sense of excitement and desperation. Throw in the score which is a mix of electric guitar and synthesizers, like many Hong Kong movies made in the early 1990’s (Full Contact comes to mind in particular), and all of the elements combine to give the movie a unique look and sound of its own.

What’s interesting about Taking Manhattan is that it’s essentially an English language gangster movie with Asian leads, which for this reason alone makes it a rarity. The fact that it also happens to be a well put together piece of gritty filmmaking just makes it all the better. In an era when movies like Revenge of the Green Dragons, released as recently as 2014, take the same concept and still can’t get it right, Wong’s picture stands up as a tightly constructed and nicely executed example of the gangster genre. It’s a shame that the original version is so difficult to track down, and it’s a real injustice to Wong’s vision as a director. Just like similar cases were people have discussed if it really matters that a few seconds were cut from the US release of The Raid 2, or if we should be bothered that Celestial’s version of The Chinatown Kid completely changes the ending – when it comes to asking if it makes much of a difference that Taking Manhattan can’t be seen in its original language, the answer should be exactly the same – yes, it certainly does.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7.5/10

Posted in Chinese, News, Reviews | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Cityonfire.com’s ‘Brotherhood of Blades’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

Brotherhood of Blades | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Brotherhood of Blades | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Lu Yang’s wuxia action film Brotherhood of Blades to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this opening sequence from 9 Deaths of the Ninja.

We will be selecting a winner at random. Be sure to include your email address in the appropriate field so we can contact you for your home address. Additionally, you must ‘Like Us‘ on cityonfire.com’s Facebook by clicking here.

The Blu-ray & DVD for Brotherhood of Blades will be officially released on February 10, 2015. We will announce the 3 winners on February 11, 2015 and ship out the prizes immediately.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by February 10, 2015 to qualify. U.S. residents only please. We sincerely apologize to our non-U.S. visitors. Winners must respond with their mailing address within 48 hours, otherwise you will automatically be disqualified. No exceptions. Contest is subject to change without notice.

WINNERS: Congratulations to Chad H, Jeff V and Jarrod B. You have all been notified via email!

Posted in News | Tagged | 27 Comments

Josh Trank’s ‘Fantastic Four’ gets a fantastic teaser!

"Fantastic Four" Teaser Poster

"Fantastic Four" Teaser Poster

Josh Trank, the co-writer/director of 2012′s Chronicle, scored a major hit with that film’s ‘found footage’ take on the superhero genre. He’s been rewarded with the task of rebooting the Fantastic Four. The movie will star Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey and Tim Blake Nelson. It has a release date set for August 7, 2015.

This will be 20th Centry Fox’s second attempt at launching Marvel Comics’ cosmic family into a successful movie franchise. Trank will be assisted by producer Matthew Vaughn, a filmmaker who has some experience with comic book material: he directed both X-Men: First Class and Kick Ass.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the first teaser trailer.

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Is ‘Hanuman’ Cambodia’s answer to Gareth Evans’ ‘The Raid’?

"Hanuman" Cambodian Theatrical Poster

"Hanuman" Cambodian Theatrical Poster

Looks like Italian filmmaker Jimmy Henderson – a resident of Cambodia for years  – is following the footsteps of acclaimed action director, Gareth Evans (The Raid, The Raid 2, Merantau). To put it simply: What Evans did for Indonesia’s art of Silat, Henderson is doing for Cambodia’s art of Bokator, in an upcoming flick titled Hanuman.

Here’s the partial official plot: Twelve years after witnessing the murder of his father by the ruthless crime Lord Kim Veng and his gang, Vicheat comes back to Phnom Penh in search of avenge.

Judging from the trailer, the film packs a fistful of violence, but Cambodia’s answer to The Raid? Well, you be the judge. Thanks to Paul Bramhall, Twitch and FCB for the scoop.

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The Man with the Iron Fists 2: The Sting of the Scorpion | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

The Man with the Iron Fists 2 | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

The Man with the Iron Fists 2 | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

RELEASE DATE: April 14, 2015

Universal Presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Man with the Iron Fists 2: The Sting of the Scorpion, directed by Roel Reine (Death Race 2).

When Thaddeus (RZA) is found wounded near the village, miner Kung (Dustin Nguyen) and his wife Ni (Eugenia Kang) offer him refuge. As he heals, he becomes entrenched in a conflict that pits the townsfolk against the evil Ho (Carl Ng), his nefarious Clan and the terrifying Lord Pi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). With Thaddeus at his side, the mild-mannered Kung transforms into a deadly warrior! Watch the trailer.

Pre-order The Man with the Iron Fists 2 from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | Tagged | 8 Comments

Switch (2013) Review

"Switch" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Switch" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Jay Sun
Writer: Jay Sun
Producer: Han San Ping, Jay Sun
Cast: Andy Lau, Tong Dawei, Zhang Jing Chu, Lin Chi-ling, Siqin Gaowa, Liu Yu Qi, Wu Xiu Bo, Ariel Aisin-Gioro
Running Time: 122 min.

By Paul Bramhall

With China quickly becoming one of the biggest movie markets in the world, the temptation to appeal to the sizable Chinese box office has seen a lot of the studios adjusting their output for the audience there. Hollywood co-productions are becoming increasingly common, such as Iron Man 3 and Transformers 4, and even countries like South Korea are getting in on the act with blockbusters like The Thieves. While these movies have proven to be successful crowd pleasers on both sides of the world, China’s own movie industry is still very much one that’s finding its feet.

Unlike its troublesome cousin Hong Kong, which had an industry which gave us stars like Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat, and countless others in movies now considered to be classics, the mainland hasn’t quite been so successful. While China has always been making movies in some form or another, never has it aimed to produce the Hollywood style blockbusters like it does today. The problem is however, unlike Hong Kong, which quickly developed a tight knit movie industry, China has yet to really develop its local talent.

So we end up with wannabe action blockbusters like Urban Games, co-directed by a Hollywood stunt co-coordinator about extreme sports, and Ameera, some science fiction nonsense with Collin Chou. If you haven’t heard of these movies, then it shouldn’t be a surprise, they’re awful. Most of these Chinese productions don’t even get a showing in Hong Kong, almost as if the former British colony is embarrassed to now be part of a bigger land mass which creates such cinematic atrocities. Bad scripts, terrible CGI, ropey acting, and lackluster direction – these are the defining qualities of today’s Chinese action cinema.

Thankfully though, China seems to be aware of its own cinematic shortcomings, so in 2013, it announced Switch! Armed with a whopping budget of 160+ million RMB, the movie would be a globe trotting action adventure following a secret agent, styled after 007, and the production had even secured Hong Kong megastar Andy Lau in the title roll. To be filmed in China, Japan, Taiwan, and Dubai, Switch was going to be the movie that put China blockbuster filmmaking on the map. Somewhere along the way though, something went very wrong, and while not everyone will have seen Switch, almost everyone came to know it as “the movie that Andy Lau apologized for.” A comment he passed during a press junket for his movie Blind Detective.

An actor apologizing for a movie they starred in is never a good sign, and Switch became somewhat of a hot topic in the Chinese press. It was slammed even by local reviews, however it still found a suitably massive audience in the Chinese public. It seemed to be proof perfect that the general cinema going audience in China didn’t care if the movie they were going to see was good or not, just the fact that it was a movie seemed enough to warrant a trip to the local multiplex. I have to confess that I’m also part of that audience, as I gradually found curiosity getting the better of me, and so it was – I ended up watching Switch.

Let’s just get it out there from the word go – Switch is astoundingly bad, it’s the type of bad that not even a legion of bad reviews can prepare you for. However at the same time, it also manages to achieve that rare level of when a movie becomes so unbelievably awful, it actually passes into the realm of so bad it’s good. From the moment a shoddy CGI plane bursts onto the screen in the opening shot, to the laughably lame title sequence – which looks like a poorly rendered CGI practice run for an action scene, rather than the Bond-esque feel its trying to invoke – there’s a distinct feeling that the next 2 hours is going to be a journey into entertainingly crap cinema.

The plot revolves around an exhibition which is going to take place in a couple of weeks, at which the ancient painting, ‘Dwelling in the Fuchan Mountains’, will be displayed. The painting comes in two halves, with a British arms dealer stealing one of them, and a Japanese kingpin after the other. Will our hero Andy Lau be able to get both pieces of the painting together so that they can be shown to the general public in time!? Honestly, who cares!? ‘Switch’ has the most strangely uninteresting plot I’ve come across in a long time, especially considering the bombastic nature of almost every scene. It’s a movie in which you have to constantly remind yourself – the highest thing at stake here is that the painting won’t be on public display at the exhibition.

The events which transpire around the retrieval of the painting though are interesting, and that’s what counts. Most of Lau’s trouble comes in the form of the Japanese kingpin, who is played by Tong Dawei, sporting a truly bizarre white wig. We’re introduced to Dawei as he lies on a table in his lair wearing only underwear, as scantily clad women sit around him fanning his body with feathers. Oh, other women are swinging from the roof performing gymnastic routines because, well, I have no idea. Nor do I have any idea why he’s in love with his main assassin because she reminds him of his mother, whose image is painted on one of the walls along with a giant fetus, several of them actually, plus there are giant hand sculptures everywhere, and a table that resembles a giant clock. Trust me, this is just scratching the surface.

It’s not long before Andy Lau starts looking as confused as the viewer. The main assassin falls in love with him, except he’s married, but at the same time seems to constantly return the assassins advances, at one point spraying his wife in the face with an unknown substance to knock her out. In another scene the assassin turns up while they’re having dinner together and pretends to be pregnant, because apparently all she’s ever wanted is to have Lau’s daughter, and after his wife storms off he simply laughs and has dinner with her instead. Coherent film making was not the order of the day here.

Other highlights include, but aren’t limited to – cringe worthy English line delivery from Caucasian ‘actors’ (that make the guys who turned up in early 90’s Hong Kong action movies seem Oscar worthy in comparison), a dwarf, a villainess who wears a cape, another character who carries her husbands ashes around in an hour glass, random faked deaths, and an orphan child who lives in a swamp (and also falls in love with Lau!). Oh, and it would be a crime not to mention the rollerblading waitress assassins. The scene they’re in deserves a special mention, as there’s a part in which they’re retreating from a building which is about to explode. When the explosion goes off they’re rollerblading towards the camera, before the blast propels them into the air, at which point they do a mid-air synchronized pose. Yes, a synchronized mid-air pose from a bomb blast.

Switch will hopefully be director Jay Sun’s first and last movie. As entertainingly horrendous as it is, at 2 hours long fatigue could well be a side effect for some viewers. Even when all is said and done, nothing really makes any sense, characters leave a scene in one location and enter the next in a completely different one, the constant globe trotting is bewildering rather than exciting, and nobody seems to make a single logical decision throughout the whole thing. For the morbidly curious out there, Switch awaits your viewing.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 2/10

Posted in Chinese, News, Reviews | Tagged | 4 Comments

Has ‘John Wick’ met his match in Eli Roth’s ‘Knock Knock’?

"John Wick" International Theatrical Poster

"John Wick" International Theatrical Poster

Looks like John Wick has finally met his match. Just recently, Eli Roth (Hostel), a writer/director known for his horror productions, released a teaser trailer for an upcoming Keanu Reeves film simply titled Knock Knock, an updated version of Peter Traynor’s Death Game (1977). In a nutshell, the flick is about a pair of femme fatales who wreak havoc on the life of a happily married man. Given Roth’s demented reputation, it’ll be interesting to see what he does with a thriller starring Reeves.

Here’s the film’s partial official plot: Evan Webber (Reeves) is living the dream: a beautiful wife, two wonderful kids, and a stunning house. Things are going so well, Evan doesn’t even mind spending Father’s Day alone while the rest of his family heads out for a beach weekend. And then there’s a knock on the door by two young women (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas)…

Enjoy Knock Knock’s clever teaser trailer, which comes to an abrupt end before you can figure out what’s going on. Stay tuned for its official theatrical release date.

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Deal on Fire! Shaolin | Blu-ray | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

"Shaolin" Blu-ray Cover

"Shaolin" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Benny Chan’s Shaolin, starring Andy Lau.

After unscrupulously killing a wounded enemy, Hou Jie (Lau) pays a terrible price for his actions and is forced to seek refuge in the same Shaolin Monastery he blatantly disrespected.

The film also stars Nicholas Tse (The Bullet Vanishes), Fan Bing Bing (Flash Point), Jacky Wu (Kill Zone) and a special cameo by the legendary Jackie Chan. Some call Shaolin the best martial arts film since Ip Man.

Order Shaolin from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Deals on Fire!, News | 1 Comment

Pirates, The (2014) Review

"The Pirates" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Pirates" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Lee Seok-Hun
Writer: Cheon Seong-Il, Choi Yi-Young
Cast: Kim Nam-Gil, Son Ye-Jin, Yu Hae-Jin, Lee Kyung-Young, Oh Dal-Su, Kim Tae-Woo, Park Cheol-Min, Shin Jeong-Geun, Kim Won-Hae, Jo Dal-Hwan, Jo Hee-Bong, Jeong Seong-Hwa, Sully, Lee Yi-Kyung
Running Time: 130 min.

By Kyle Warner

Sometimes a movie surprises you. As I sat down to watch the South Korean adventure The Pirates, I expected a silly headache of a movie that existed just to cash-in on the popular Disney franchise Pirates of the Caribbean (the trailers definitely seemed to suggest as much). And while Pirates of the Caribbean was clearly an influence both creatively and financially in the making of this film, The Pirates manages to bring enough energy and style to make itself stand on its own. It’s a silly movie, but it possesses an addictive lunacy that slowly grew on me.

The story goes like this: a gray whale swallows the Royal Seal during an important time in Korea’s history. It’s absolutely imperative that the Royal Seal be recovered in order to maintain relations with China’s Ming Dynasty. So begins a rat race that pits pirates, bandits, and the military against one another in order to get to the whale first and reap the rewards. Basically it’s Pirates of the Caribbean meets Moby Dick.

Leading the pirates is Yeo-wol (Ye-jin Son), a female warrior that receives the respect of her crew because she clearly cares for them all. Opposing Yeo-wol is her former captain Soma (Kyeong-yeong Lee), who at one point tried to slaughter half his crew in order to appease an official. Elsewhere in the story is a bandit chief named Crazy Tiger (Nam-gil Kim) who has caught wind of the whale chase and wants the treasure for him and his men. The bandit chief also has his own nemesis in the form of a former ally named Mo (Tae-woo Kim). As one would expect, the baddies eventually team up, while Crazy Tiger and Yeo-wol also reach common ground in the fight.

Ultimately the plot is just a setup for crazy stuff to happen. The Pirates works as a series of gags, over-the-top performances, and a few well-made action sequences. It’s a bright and colorful adventure, and director Seok-hoon Lee (Dancing Queen) infuses the film with a rapid pace, which is good because it never lets the audience stop and think of more practical ways for our characters to achieve their goals. There’s a lot of stupidity on display in The Pirates, but for the most part I think you’ll be laughing along.

One of my favorite sequences includes the bandits harpooning a great white shark, which turns their little boat into a speedboat that cruises across the surface, causing all other sea captains to look on with jealousy. Also fun is a chase through a market that soon results in a coastal town’s near destruction as a giant wooden wheel breaks off its hinges (the sequence reminds me of the car busting through the shantytown in Jackie Chan’s Police Story – however, this sequence is less impressive as it’s done largely with CGI). The film is at its best in these big sequences, as the writing and directing sets up the series of events in an amusing way. Like some jokes, you may see the punchline coming, but at least it delivers what it promises.

Hae-jin Yoo (Public Enemy) starts off as the film’s most annoying character but quickly becomes its funniest and most relatable. He plays a member of the pirates who abandoned ship, joined the bandits, but can’t seem to fit in anywhere. When the bandits join the whale chase, he is looked to as the authority on the ocean, and Yoo shines during these moments. He plays the idiot playing the expert, and because his audience is even more ignorant than him the humor really connects. Cheol-min Park (Sector 7) and Dal-su Oh (Old Boy) are reliable in bringing the laughs in their supporting roles, and Kyeong-yeong Lee (Kundo) does a good job lending some drama to the proceedings in the role of the primary villain.

It’s too bad the two heroic leads largely disappoint by comparison. Ye-jin Son was very good in the 2004 romance A Moment to Remember, but her work in The Pirates is weak. There is no depth to her performance and she shows only a limited range of emotions, often staring blankly back at her co-stars. She looks bored with everything and everyone. Her counterpart Nam-gil Kim fairs better, if only slightly. At times Kim is very likable as the bandit chief, but too often his performance falters as he tries to channel Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow. On that note, I’d also like to point out that this is not all Kim’s failing; the director should’ve known better. When you openly mimic a well-known and well-liked character, you open yourself up to comparisons. You can say whatever you like about Sparrow in the Caribbean sequels, but in his first appearance the Sparrow character was one of the most original heroes for a blockbuster in a long time. Sparrow’s a goofy oddball, but there’s a moral ambiguity to the character, and you never quite know where you stand with him. He’s a scallywag—a pirate through and through. By comparison, Crazy Tiger’s goofy and true to his men and… not much else. Giving Crazy Tiger some of the same mannerisms in certain scenes makes the comparison inevitable, which only serves to make The Pirates’ weaknesses more evident.

Also frustrating is the film’s inconsistent tone. For much of the film, The Pirates operates pretty well as either a comedy or a breezy action/adventure. However, at times it slips into darker territory where it doesn’t really belong, and these scenes really take the viewer out of the film. One such sequence shows a villain massacre a fishing village just so that he has some corpses to take the blame for a pirate’s crime. More striking (in this reviewer’s opinion, at least), is the violence dished out on the whale. Here you are laughing along and then a whale gets a harpoon in the back and there’s blood everywhere. It’s not the sort of thing you want to see when you’ve just cut away from a bit of comedy.

All in all, I think there’s enough to recommend The Pirates to curious filmgoers. Definitely consider it as a rental. It’s not as good as Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, but it is better than at least a couple of that film’s sequels. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the most recent and arguably the weakest of that series, earned over $1 billion dollars worldwide. Clearly a great many people enjoy the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and I’d be willing to bet that a good handful of them would enjoy The Pirates as well.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7/10

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From Asia With Lust Volume 1: Camp & Hitchhike | DVD (Troma)

From Asia With Lust: Volume 1 | DVD (Troma)

From Asia With Lust: Volume 1 | DVD (Troma)

RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015

Troma presents the DVD for From Asia With Lust Volume 1: Camp & Hitchhike, a double feature directed by Ainosuke Shibata and starring Miyuki Yokoyama.

In Camp (trailer), a camping trip turns into a nightmare for two sisters when they become trapped by five dangerous men. One sister is brutally murdered, the other escapes. Now, it’s time for revenge! In Hitchhike (trailer), a couple are on a road trip, but when they pick up a hitch hiker along the way, all hell breaks loose!

Pre-order From Asia With Lust: Volume 1 from Amazon.com today!

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Zoe Bell joins Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’

"The Hateful Eight" Teaser Poster

"The Hateful Eight" Teaser Poster

THE MOVIE: Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight revolves around Bounty hunters who seek shelter from a raging blizzard and get caught up in a plot of betrayal and deception. The film will star Bruce Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell, James Remar, Amber Tamblyn, Walton Goggins and Zoe Bell.

Updates: Deadline reports that Tarantino has shelved The Hateful Eight, due to script leakage. Allegedly, the script was hosted and distributed by a website called Gawker. Deadline reports that Tarantino has filed a legal complaint against Gawker, charging the website copyright infringement and contributory copyright infringement. Apparently, Gawker is was blaming Tarantino for making his script a ‘frenzy.’

During a recent live-reading of the “leaked” The Hateful Eight script (featuring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth and Bruce Dern), Tarantino announced that he may be filming The Hateful Eight next winter, and it will be based off a newly revised script with a totally new final chapter.

The Hateful Eight starts filming in January of 2015. The announced cast includes Bruce Dern, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen, Kurt Russell, James Remar, Amber Tamblyn and Walton Goggins. Although Christoph Waltz and Tim Roth performed at the film’s live-reading, they’re not officially tied to the “movie” version.

There’s also some talk (Indiewire, via FCS) about a theatrical release of Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair – a combined, extended cut of Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 – which may also hit in 2015. | Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) is in talks to join the cast. | Jennifer Jason Leigh has landed the female lead.

According to Collider, Channing Tatum has officially joined The Hateful Eight. In addition, Demian Bichir (Machete Kills) has also stepping in. For the official plot synopsis, click here (beware of minor spoilers). In case you haven’t watched it yet, here’s the “leaked” teaser trailer. | Behind-the-scenes photos for Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, courtesy of Samuel L. Jackson.

BREAKING NEWS: Collider (via TW) reports that stunt woman/actress Zoe Bell (Kill Bill, Death Proof, Raze) is officially part of the Hateful Eight cast. Other cast additions include James Parks, Gene Jones, Dana Gourrier, Keith Jefferson, Lee Horsley, Craig Stark and Belinda Owino.

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R.I.P. Darren Shahlavi, actor and martial artist *updated*

"Zambo Dende" Promotional Poster

"Zambo Dende" Promotional Poster

Media outlets are reporting the death of English actor and martial artist Darren Shahlavi, who died at the age of 42 on January 14th.

According to Shahlavi’s brother, Bobby: “Darren died peacefully in his sleep. More details are still coming out. Thanks for all of your support. Please feel free to post your thoughts and memories of Darren Shahlavi as this is of great support and comfort to all of Darren’s family, friends and fans.”

Shahlavi has left behind a two decade-long body of work, including Tai Chi II (1996), Bloodmoon (1997), Beyond the Limits (2003), Tactical Force (2022), Mortal Kombat Legacy (2011), but he is perhaps best known to most audiences for co-starring in Donnie Yen’s Ip Man 2 (2011).

At the time of his death, Shahlavi was working on Kickboxer: Vengeance (2015) and a short film titled Zambo Dende (2015). His last completed films are the upcoming Pound of Flesh (2015), as well as a brief appearance in Tomorrowland (2015).

Our condolences go out to Shahlavi’s family and friends. If you would like to contribute to the Darren Shahlavi memorial fund, click here.

Update 1: Regarding the mysterious passing of Darren Shahlavi, Mike Leeder – film producer, co-star and friend of Shahlavi – wrote the following on his Facebook: “Even on Pound of Flesh, a few times Darren spoke of issues with a hip injury that had never fully healed but he continued to deliver the action required of him. Unfortunately he was recently prescribed a painkiller for his hip that he wasn’t used to, and a toxic reaction to it, has sadly taken him from us. His passing leaves an huge gap many of our hearts and in the industry, as his full potential had only just began to be explored. He leaves us a legacy with his film work, to enjoy, to learn from and to be inspired by, and lets remember the man and the way he lived…”

Update 2: After Donnie Yen learned about Shahlavi’s passing, he had this to say (via Weibo): “When we worked on that final scene, my co-star suddenly told me that actually we have already met at a martial art forum in England! At the time he was only 15. He said that from that day on he swore to become an actor. Gone too soon!” Here’s a photo of their first meeting in 1988, then again in 2011, on the set of Ip Man 2.

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A Stranger in Paradise | DVD (Freestyle)

A Stranger in Paradise | DVD (Freestyle)

A Stranger in Paradise | DVD (Freestyle)

RELEASE DATE: March 24, 2015

Freestyle presents the DVD for A Stranger in Paradise, starring Colin Egglesfield, Byron Mann (The Corruptor), Gary Daniels (Tekken 2: Kazuya’s Revenge), Catalina Sandino Moreno and Stuart Townsend.

On the verge of making partner at a multi-billion dollar hedge fund, Josh’s (Egglesfield) life is turned upside down when the SEC investigates the head of the company for insider trading. Forced into a well-timed vacation he never asked for, Josh soon finds himself in Bangkok with a price put on his head, courtesy of the Thai Mafia. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order A Stranger in Paradise from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Other Notable Titles | Leave a comment

Revenge of the Green Dragons (2014) Review

"Revenge of the Green Dragons" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Revenge of the Green Dragons" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Andrew Lau, Andrew Loo
Writer: Andrew Loo, Michael Di Jiacomo
Cast: Ray Liotta, Justin Chon, Shuya Chang, Harry Shum, Jr., Kevin Wu, Billy Magnussen, Eugenia Yuan, Jin Auyeung, Joanna P. Adler, Alysia Reiner, Linda Wang, Jim Ford, Ron Yuan, Jon Kit Lee
Running Time: 95 min.

By oneleaf

Revenge of the Green Dragons is a Hong Kong/US co-production based on “true events” sourced from Fredric Dannen’s 1992 The New Yorker article of the same name. The piece explores the Green Dragons, a Chinese triad operating out of Queens, New York that terrorized the neighborhood in the ’80s. They specialized in human smuggling, extortion and drugs.

The film focuses on the rise and fall of two sworn brothers thrown together by fate. Young Sonny Tan (Alex Fox) and Steven Wan (Michael Gregory Fung) are both illegal immigrants who land on Ellis Island, New York. Because Sonny’s mother did not make the perilous journey to America, the smugglers force Mrs. Wan to take him in as her own and care for him.

Not long after their arrival, the Green Dragons forcefully enlist Steven using their usual tactic of “beating” potential recruits into submission. Sonny soon follows and they both leave the care of Mrs. Wan and join the family of Paul Wong (Harry Shum Jr. of Glee), their charismatic leader. In Wong, Sonny and Steven find a surrogate dailo (or “big brother”), thus begins their fateful lives into the dark side.

Justin Chon (The Twilight Saga), the adult Sonny, provides the narration. Chon’s monotonous voice needs work. There is almost no intonation in his delivery to liven up what is reflected on the screen. At times, he sounds bored. A more authoritative semi-baritone cadence would have served the film better. As far as screen acting, Chon does a passable job.

Frequent YouTube users will be familiar with Kevin Wu, better known by his stage name, KevJumba. He’s built quite a following for some of his unusual, comedic clips throughout the years. Wu’s portrayal of the adult Steven is unconvincing and wooden. He’s given the chance to dramatically personify his character after a near death experience. Unfortunately, he’s only able to exhibit little or no change in his demeanor in his subsequent scenes.

Fox, as the young Sonny, is a breath of fresh air. He doesn’t appear intimidated by the other adult co-stars in his presence. He’s able to emote with his eyes and facial expressions on point. The same can’t be said of Fung, portraying the young Wan, who basically spends the entire time looking bewildered and disengaged.

Other than Fox and Shum, none of the actors are “realistic.” Most, if not all, of the triad members over-act with over the top glares, screams, and posturing that don’t add any substance to the film. Shum’s character wasn’t given much to do except for popping in and out, barking orders and pseudo-philosophizing in front of his men. Shum definitely deserved more screen time. Chon and Wu were not household names, so casting them as leads for the film were most likely due to budgetary constraints (the movie has an estimated budget of only $5M).

Two directors on board – Andrew Lau and Andrew Loo – for such a simplistic movie is somewhat puzzling. I can only surmise that due to Loo’s inexperience as a director, Lau was brought in to “help” out with the project. Lau, who has made a name for himself in Hong Kong – having worked with A-listers such as Andy Lau, Leon Lai and Tony Leung – has misfired. Or was it Loo, his co-director, to blame?

Having Martin Scorsese (Casino) as executive producer didn’t help either. Other than lending his name – emblazoned in big bold letters – on the movie’s poster, his participation was obviously minimal. There isn’t a single hint of grit, taut or an engrossing story we would expect from Scorsese being involved. Even Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) couldn’t salvage this mess. Rumor has it that Scorsese’s involvement was merely a favor to Lau for his support in his film, The Departed, the American remake of Lau’s blockbuster, Infernal Affairs.

Revenge of the Green Dragons’ inane, generic script could have been lifted from any triad flick from the 90s. I found myself unable to identify with any of its underdeveloped characters. I also found it difficult to get through the movie in general.  It’s such a pity that its a weak adaptation of Dannen’s fascinating New Yorker article.

Not recommended.

oneleaf’s Rating: 3/10

Posted in Asian Related, Chinese, News, Reviews | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Gareth Evans will return for ‘The Raid 3′ in 2018 or 2019

"The Raid 2" International Theatrical Poster

"The Raid 2" International Theatrical Poster

If 2009′s Merauntau hinted that director Gareth Evans was on to something special, then 2011′s The Raid proved our point. With 2014′s The Raid 2: Berandal, expectations were not only met, they were drastically surpassed.

Fact is, in such a short amount of time, Evans is an ingenious filmmaker who is on one hell of a creative peak; funny thing is, something tells us the guy hasn’t even reached his peak yet. Using The Beatles as analogy: If Merauntau is “Meet the Beatles,” then The Raid is “Rubber Soul;” If The Raid 2 is “Revolver,” then perhaps The Raid 3 will be “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”?

With Hollywood remaking The Raid, and Stallone trying to top its excessive, yet inventive string of violence, Evans has made his mark as one of the hottest action directors working in film today. And he does it with a limited budget, a foreign language and no big names or stars (which has obviously changed for Iko Uwais).

In celebration of Evans’ cinematic victory, we decided to jump the gun on The Raid 3. You can count on us to keep this article updated with the latest news and developments.

So far, here’s what we know about The Raid 3:

“If The Raid 2 starts two hours after the first film, The Raid 3 will start three hours before The Raid 2 finishes. We’ll go back in time a little, and then we’ll branch off. So for me – without giving too much away – I want to try a different landscape. I want to try to shoot something that’s very, very different from the first and the second one. So visually it’ll look completely different, tone-wise it’ll be very different. So there’s a lot going on there, a lot of ideas going around in my head, it’s just a case of putting them down on paper. We’re in the process of developing it for maybe two years down the line,” says Evans. Source: Denofgeek.com

“I don’t have any plans to do The Raid 3 within the next two or three years so I’m going to take a break from that franchise for a bit… I want to do some some things outside of Indonesia for like two films, then come back to Indonesia and shoot The Raid 3. I have another one I want to shoot with him first. Still in the action genre and it’s something that [Uwais] needs to train for for a fair amount of time. You have to make good with some weaponry, my friend,” says Evans. Source: Craveonline.com

Evans is currently developing other projects, including gangster action film Blister. He is also planning on another martial arts film with Uwais, potentially shooting that and The Raid 3 back-to-back in Indonesia. Source: Screendaily.com

Evans has brought up Scott Adkins on numerous occasions, so you can’t deny that Adkins has a chance of appearing in The Raid 3. Even Adkins himself has tweeted: “I’m officially stating it NOW!! @ghuwevans better me put in The Raid 3!! Here’s what Evans had to say about him: ”Scott Adkins I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on a few occasions. He’s ridiculously talented with an all round skillset that combines fight techniques with athleticism and acrobatics. I’m looking for the right project, once I do I would love to work with him on something.” Source: cityonfire.com

According to imdb.com, martial arts super star Tony Jaa (Ong Bak) may be joining the cast of The Raid 3. Although imdb’s information may or may not be accurate, it’s definitely a 50/50 scenario. Here’s what Evans had to say about Jaa: Tony Jaa is a phenomenal talent. Ong Bak was a major announcement to the industry and to audiences that the martial arts genre was back. Of course there’s been a fair amount of mud thrown around regarding the situation between artist and production company but that’s not for us to know nor is it in any way something that takes anything away from his all round talents. With the right script, the right role and please God no elephants.” Source: cityonfire.com

We received a reply from Evans himself regarding Tony Jaa’s appearance in The Raid 3. Here’s what he had to say: “That’s just someone posting it up on imdb.com. I have a huge amount of respect for Tony, but I haven’t even put pen to paper on The Raid 3 yet, and it won’t happen for a couple of years.”

Updates: Evans took to Twitter to give us an update (or lack thereof) for the 3rd chapter of The Raid series: “The Raid 3 isn’t going to be happening anytime soon. Ideas in my head. Nothing written. No set date. 2018/19 possibly.”

Posted in News | 5 Comments

Metal Hurlant Chronicles | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout! Factory)

Metal Hurlant Chronicles | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout! Factory)

Metal Hurlant Chronicles | Blu-ray & DVD (Shout! Factory)

RELEASE DATE: April 14, 2015

Shout Factory presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Metal Hurlant Chronicles: The Complete Series.

Metal Hurlant Chronicles features fan favorite and martial artist Scott Adkins (Assassination Games), Michael Jai White (Falcon Rising, Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown), Darren Shahlavi (Ip Man 2) and Matt Mullins (Blood and Bone). The show is based off a popular comic book anthology of science fiction and fantasy by legendary artist Moebius, which was published in the US as Heavy Metal.

Pre-order Metal Hurlant Chronicles from Amazon.com today!

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

Deal on Fire! Bruce Lee Premiere Collection | Blu-ray | Only $14.99 – Expires soon!

Bruce Lee Premiere Collection | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

Bruce Lee Premiere Collection | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray set for Shout! Factory’s Bruce Lee Premiere Collection, which includes the following four films: The Big Boss (1971), Fist of Fury (1972), Way Of the Dragon (1972) and Game of Death (1978). Also included are extra features for each individual title.

Please note: This new set includes only the films mentioned above. If you’re interested in the collector’s book, the documentaries and the Bonus Feature DVD, the Bruce Lee: The Legacy Collection is still available.

Order the Bruce Lee Premier Collection from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Deals on Fire!, News | Leave a comment

Falcon Rising (2014) Review

"Falcon Rising" Theatrical Poster

"Falcon Rising" Theatrical Poster

AKA: Favela
Director: Ernie Barbarash
Writer: Y.T. Parazi
Producer: Shahar Stroh, Etchie Stroh
Cast: Michael Jai White, Neal McDonough, Laila Ali, Lateef Crowder, Hazuki Kato, Millie Ruperto, Masashi Odate, Jimmy Navarro, Jazmín Caratini, Daniel Cardona, Arzoris Perez
Running Time: 100 min.

By HKFanatic

Back in May of 2013, the producers of Falcon Rising boldly announced that the film – which hadn’t released a single image yet – would be the beginning of a series of action movies, with 1-2 entries planned for release every year. The lead character of John Falcon, to be played by Michael Jai White, was billed as America’s next action hero: a new hero for a new age.

To say that the producers behind Falcon Rising were ambitious would be an understatement. It was impossible to predict whether the film would strike a chord with audiences – all they really had to bank on was the marketability of leading man Michael Jai White, who was admittedly beloved by action fans for movies like Undisputed II and Black Dynamite. But was White’s star power enough to base an entire movie franchise around?

Apparently, yes. Here we are, over a year since the film was first announced, and Falcon Rising has finally arrived on DVD as well as Netflix’s streaming service. And after watching it, I have to admit…hell, I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel.

Of course, as Falcon Rising opens, the character of John ‘Falcon’ Chapman is in no shape to be a hero. He’s a suicidal ex-marine suffering from a severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. A few minutes into the movie, Michael Jai White encounters a convenience store robbery – and actually begs the armed robbers to shoot him in the head before he takes them down. Now how’s that for a twist on the kind of scene you see in every Steven Seagal movie?

But as alone as he is, Chapman still has someone he cares about: his younger sister. A kind soul, she’s off doing volunteer work in the crime-ridden favelas of Rio de Janeiro. When his sister is viciously attacked and left for dead, Chapman boards the soonest flight to Brazil in order to track down her mysterious assailants. Along the way, Chapman is bound to draw police attention and crack a few skulls, but he might also find the very thing he so desperately needs in life: a new mission.

I was a bit worried when the movie started and I saw the credit ‘directed by Ernie Barbarash.’ Barbarash can be a hit-and-miss kind of filmmaker. While his most recent effort with Jean-Claude Van Damme, the respectable 6 Bullets, somewhat redeemed him in my eyes, I hold a bit of a grudge that he united two action stars as great as Van Damme and Scott Adkins and still delivered a movie as dull and action-less as Assassination Games.

A part of me wondered which Barbarash was behind the camera for Falcon Rising, and the first 30 minutes or so did little to ease my fears. There’s very little in the way of action during the opening act, which seems something of a crime when you have a leading man as buff and formidable as Michael Jai White (seriously, the guy is as big as the Hulk in this movie). While it’s admittedly interesting to see White play against type – we rarely see him portray a character as troubled and despair-ridden as John Chapman is at the beginning of the movie – viewers are likely more interested in watching White display his karate chops than his acting chops. At least when Falcon Rising is promising to launch America’s next great action hero.

But I’m pleased to say that once the story does get rolling, Falcon Rising gains momentum in a big way and the final thirty minutes deliver plenty of well-shot fight scenes. Michael Jai White is once again reunited with action choreographer Larnell Stovall (Mortal Kombat: Legacy, Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown), and the dynamic duo do not disappoint. During his fight scenes, White moves with the confidence and stopping force of a bulldozer; like any great action star, White displays a fighting style that’s all his own. At this point in his career, Michael Jai White deserves to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Donnie Yen as one of the greatest martial artists working today.

Being a low-budget production, Falcon Rising is not without its flaws. The nonstop action in the third act is something of a double-edged sword: as soon as the violence picks up, White’s character loses a lot of what made him interesting – the inner turmoil, the suicidal behavior – as Falcon Rising begins to resemble your standard revenge movie. And I’m convinced Ernie Barbarash could have lobbed off a good 10 minutes of scene padding, easily, and resulted in much faster-paced and more exciting movie overall. There are also a few weak performances, and Barbarash continues his trend of using garish color coding. The visual palette in this movie is super-saturated, likely to emphasize the hot temperatures of its Brazilian setting, but it has the unfortunate result of making poor Neal McDonough look like an Albino.

Still, Falcon Rising offers enough to recommend for those in the mood for the simple pleasures of a solid direct-to-DVD action movie. Much like eating fast food, you may slightly regret watching it after the fact, but you’ll definitely enjoy yourself while it’s in front of you. Even if Falcon Rising doesn’t offer as much blistering action as Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear or boast the artistic aspirations of Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, the movie does feature Michael Jai White doing what he does best – which is its own reward.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 6/10

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Bruce’s Deadly Fingers (1976) Review

"Bruce's Deadly Fingers" Chinese Poster

"Bruce's Deadly Fingers" Chinese Poster

AKA: Bruce’s Fingers
Director: Joseph Kong
Writer: Joseph Kong
Cast: Bruce Le, Michael Chan Wai Man, Lo Lieh, Nora Miao Ke Hsiu, Cheung Lik, Chu Chi Ling, Bolo Yeung Tze, Kong Do, Tong Tin Hei, Li Chao, Kok Lee Yan
Running Time: 90 min.

By Matthew Le-feuvre

The “MacGuffin” or “suspension of disbelief” (a reference term coined by Sharon Stone’s femme fatale character from Basic Instinct) has neither been a celluloid problem for the Bruce-exploitation cinema: in fact, while the component of “suspense” will always be obviously absent, “disbelief” otherwise is hardly an amiable or befitting word to describe this trashy genre once purposely formulated to capitalize on Bruce Lee’s star attraction. Although financiers undoubtedly earned substantial amounts from box office receipts, it was the performers who had too contend with harsh criticism, typecasting and generally bad working conditions churning out utter rubbish, and catering to the demands of over-zealous directors knowing full well that their film contributions would not only symbolize an unflattering legacy; but, they – themselves would also become objects of derision.

The passage of time, however, has been somewhat a little magnanimous in respect to all, but, a handful of these performers – formerly monickered as “pseudo androids,” whose signature onscreen idiosyncrasies transpired to be negligible to say the least; yet astonishingly withstood conventional disparity by being socially relabeled as “tribute entertainers” replete with facsimile hairstyles, oversized tinted sunglasses and the obligatory Game of Death jumpsuit: all trademark accountrements enough to assault or insult viewers’ senses.

Incredulous as this may appear, the masses indeed continually laugh on, howling at the absurd perversity of such schlock material as Bruce Lee Fights Back from the Grave (1976) or The Clones of Bruce Lee (1977) for alternative visual recreation. Why? And what was the need?! How can anyone justify the psychology behind the deeper aspects of such a grotesque premise(s): cloning Bruce Lee to combat a multitude of nefarious, badly dressed drug peddlers; or resurrecting Bruce Lee in a martial arts struggle against Satan himself as epitomized by a lanky black dude in a red cape. C’mon!

In any event, misappropriation of scientific genetics or esoteric occultism do not interbreed with the extant philosophies of Bruce Lee or the martial arts in general! However, production aesthetics nonwithstanding, it was almost as if there was an internalized shame (collectively) projected towards Lee’s passing, and these films were a metaphor for (an) emotional purging, designed simultaneously to lift audiences out of despondency while striking below the belt, virtually endorsing the paranoid whims of conspiracy theorists – at least that’s how it was in the beginning with the likes of Ho Chung Tao (aka Bruce Li ), a former P.E. instructor/ stuntman who reluctantly excepted ‘The Bruce Lee’ mantle and fought very hard to reclaim his identity.

One can understand, even sympathize with the administrative conventions of Tao’s decade long career having too persistently vie for superior scripts to match his own distinctive qualities, unlike other emulators’ who usurped opportunity through perfunctory means, eagerly surfing head-on towards the heart of a tsunami instead of riding the break to cult stardom.

Heung Kim Lung (aka Bruce Le ) was in the calibre of the former. With a vague resemblance to the late maestro, Heung was an excellent martial arts tactician, but rarely took advantage of his full range. Although lithe and physically chisled, his onscreen fighting style tended to be very rigid and paced to a timed response with each opponent throwing out a repeititive stream of basic techniques: an old school approach which in comparative terms evinced a type of singular artificiality not conspicuous in Tao’s work.

Indeed Tao’s choreography was probably more structurally realistic, whereas Heung’s arrangements – though powerful in application – bordered on theatricalism in lieu of grace or fluidity.

Many feel Heung had no personal qualms about being tagged as “an imitator,” unlike Tao – who has publically denounced his former profession. Heung, on the other hand has neither spoken – at least in the west – in any forum about his questionable film choices; whether in self criticism, promotion or even his own thoughts on Bruce Lee! What is surprising, even shocking in some instances was the sheer volume of actual ‘Bruce Lee’ co-stars, friends or colleagues willing too appear in these obtuse, artless forms of oriental expressionism: Bolo Yeung, Nora Miao, Jon T. Benn, Shek Kien, Lo Lieh, Carter Wong and Chan Wei Man by example – all manifest with embarassing regularity, especially Bolo who has inordinately wrestled against Heung for the duration of a moderate career spent in the shadows of others before his own untimely confinement (in)to obscurity.

Armed with one of the most irritating swaggers in cinema history, as well as an effectation for extremely tight vests/oversized sunglasses and incongruous facial mannerisms far exceeding the need to advertise constipation. From the outset, Heung was a walking travesty, and in a manner of speaking deserved to be ridiculed for abusing his inherent talent to the level where even he eventually outstayed his welcome; yet in that brief period achieved something (?) quite marginal before excepting an unwise career relocation to the Philippines, destroying what, if any, credibility he had remaining by attaching his name to dire oddities such as: Bruce: The Super Hero (1979), Bruce: The King of Kung Fu (1981 ), Bruce and the Shaolin Bronzmen (1981) and so forth. How it came to this is an enigma in itself?!

Born (and educated) in Ragoon to a Burmese mother and Chinese father, Heung – at the tender age of eleven – had familiarized himself with the harsh disciplines of white crane kung fu, Hong Quan and numerous styles of Karate prior to inaugurating his own martial arts kwoon in Macao. It was here under (the) Portuguese administration he was first introduced to studio director, Wang Feng – a Shaw brothers alumni who was scouting for new talent from authentic martial arts backgrounds.

After an impromptu demostration, Feng immediately requested him to attend a screentest for the Shaws in Hong Kong. Hestitant at first, he obliged and was soon awarded minor support roles, varying from contemporary productions (Hong Kong 73, The Teahouse, Big Brother Cheng, Super lnframan) to one traditional feature (Rivals of Kung Fu) before being offered his debut lead as Cheng Chao Ah in The Big Boss Part 2 – a direct sequel which continues the exploits of our protagonist following his prison release.

In stark contrast, Bruce’s Deadly Fingers was altogether a different animal, that; although produced the same year as Ho Chung Tao’s superior Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger, marked the beginning of Heung’s decline into anarchic repugnance. Firstly, the script was so utterly forgettable; it actually made the cinematography look stylishly gritty, showcasing familiar Hong Kong locales – infamously blighted by destitution, economic squalor and congestion. Unsurprisingly, photographing poverty stricken ghettos or shooting in less than desirable exteriors: trashy nightclub dives or recreational parks, etc. became something of a recurring blueprint for Heung’s (then) prospective film additions. However, instead of Hong Kong, Bangkok/Manila again became regular haunts for Heung to grimace and over exaggerate his snake fist style under the prosaic direction of Joseph Kong (aka Joe Velasco).

Despite flagrant imagery of degradation, torture and brutality – Bruce’s Deadly Fingers was an audacious move, creeping into darker avenues of exploitation where even Ho Chung Tao refused to venture, with exception of his first lead in Bruce Lee: A Dragon Story (1974). The world on offer here, stringent and morose, opens to some very impressive psychedelic visuals – backed by the twangs of a Spaggetti Western-type soundtrack. It probably was (I), as Hong Kong cinema was once famous for appropriating other musical scores for added dramatic tension: i.e. John Williams’ Star Wars theme was unconvincingly overdubbed on a print of Jackie Chan’s Magnificent Bodyguards (1977).

In this case, recognizing hybridized cultural references is the least of critics’ anxieties, particularly as film buffs are woefully subjected to the eponymous Bruce Wong’s (Heung Kim Lung) return to Hong Kong on a single minded quest to discover the truth of his late mentor (Bruce Lee), who passed away under super-extraordinary conditions… sounds familiar! An insipid subplot involving Wong’s missing sister throws a proverbial spanner in the works as the remainder of the storyline initially preocuppies itself with the search for an alleged manual written by Bruce Lee before his untimely exit.

In spite of sparse production values/budgetary limitations and capriciously, it’s a race against time with customary nemesis Lo Lieh and interpol agent Chan Wei Man – both fading in and out of each scene with distinct flamboyance. Naturally, their goals coincide. Meantime, Wong hopelessly stumbles from one situation to another contending with inept kidnappings, murder, incarceration, liberation – though conceptually vacant – and finally prolonged training sequences where suspended mannequins are unflatteringly jabbed and prodded in typical robotic Heung Kim Lung mode. What ensues – after demostrating his inner techniques on a Wing Chun wooden dummy – is nearly twenty minutes of incremental punching, varied kicks, grappling and some dynamic nunchaku encounters against a battallion of ineffectual bodyguards, climaxing with Heung’s furious implementation of iron finger kung fu to the synthesized bass rifts of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

Verdict: Between frenetic pacing, as well as a dismal catalogue of sour dialogue pertaining to ridiculous discussions about rice bowls, which is neither inspirational or philosophical enough to warrant appreciation; especially as this verbal exchange features Bruce Lee’s former real-life wing chun sifu, Wong Shum Leung: veritably, one could ponder as too his intentions for appearing in such total nonsense. The same should apply to Nora Miao, who exhibits an aura of discomfort throughout. However, Chan Wei Man otherwise looks sedate under a great maine of hair until decisively venting a flurry of idiosyncratic strikes on the obligatory man mountain that is Bolo, while the King Boxer himself, Lo Lieh, embellishes his role with a kind of demonic gusto that only he was privvy and qualified to express.

Matthew Le-feuvre’s Rating: 5/10

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New trailer for live action adaptation of Japan’s ‘Patlabor’

The Next Generation: Patlabor" Promotional Poster

The Next Generation: Patlabor" Promotional Poster

In Hollywood, live-action films based on comic books and cartoons are definitely the in-thing, but Hollywood isn’t the only place that’s bringing giant robots and super heroes to the big screen.

A live-action series adaptation of Mamoru Oshii’s Patlabor – titled The Next Generation: Patlabor – will be making its April premier in Japan. The 7-part series, which revolves around a police robot pilot squad in a futuristic Tokyo, will be followed by a feature-length film that will open in 2015.

Updates: Teaser trailer. | Full length trailer.

BREAKING NEWS: New trailer for the feature film, which will be releasing in Japan on May 1, 2015. Thanks to SFJ (via FCS).

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Deal on Fire! Missing in Action: Double Feature | Blu-ray | Only $7.99 – Expires soon!

Missing in Action: Double Feature | Blu-ray (MGM)

Missing in Action: Double Feature | Blu-ray (MGM)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for the Missing in Action: Double Feature, which includes Joseph Zito’s Missing in Action (1984) and Lance Hool’s Missing in Action 2: The Beginning (1984/1985).

Fun Trivia: Missing in Action was originally intended to be a sequel to Missing in Action 2 (which was actually filmed before Missing in Action), but when producers realized Missing in Action was the stronger of the two, they swapped the release dates, as well as the titles.

Order the Missing in Action: Double Feature from Amazon.com today!

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Divine Move, The (2014) Review

"The Divine Move" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Divine Move" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Jo Beom-Goo
Writer: Yu Seong-Hyeop
Producer: Seo Gang-Ho
Cast: Jeong Woo-Sung, Lee Bum-Soo, Ahn Seong-Gi, Kim In-Kwon, Lee Si-Young, Ahn Gil-Gang, Lee Do-Kyung, Choi Jin-Hyuk, Jeong Hae-Gyun, Ahn Seo-Hyun, Kim Myung-Su, Hwang Chun-Ha
Running Time: 118 min.

By Paul Bramhall

The gambling genre seems to come in and out of fashion in Asian cinema. The early 80’s gave us Shaw Brothers gambling flicks such as Challenge of the Gamesters, by the early 90’s we had Chow Yun Fat doing his thing in the God of Gamblers movies, and in recent years it seems the genre is back on the scene. Hong Kong gave us From Vegas to Macau and its sequel, and in 2014 Korea gave us The Divine Move.

Helmed by Jo Beom-goo, the director who gave us the Korean version of Speed on a motorbike with the 2011 action comedy Quick, The Divine Move revolves around the game of Go. Go involves placing black and white stones on a chequered playing board, the idea being for the players to outwit each other by surrounding the opposing players stones with their own. By the time the board is full, whoever has surrounded the most of the opposing players stones is the winner. Of course, there are countless nuances and intricacies outside of the above explanation, but that’s the basic concept.

The movies kicks off by introducing us to a pair of brothers, the younger of whom is played by Jeong Woo-seong, barely recognizable under a thick mop of hair and glasses, that are on their way to attend a game of Go. It quickly become clear that things are not quite right when the older brother explains he wants his younger sibling to stay back, guiding the game from their vehicle, thanks to a hidden camera and ear piece he’ll be wearing. Woo-seong reluctantly agrees, however when a storm knocks out the connection between them, the older brother is left to figure things out for himself against a superior opponent. Things go wrong, the price of losing is a slashed throat, and after Woo-seong attempts to save his brother, he’s ultimately caught by the police and jailed.

These events are what kick off The Divine Move, which declare what kind of movie it’s going to be from those very first minutes – Jailed younger brother is going to avenge his older brother’s death at the hands of Go playing gangsters. Just like director Beom-goo’s previous effort Quick, it’s an unashamedly straight forward plot device, only instead of being used for motorbike chases and explosions, here it’s used for tension filled games of Go and fist fights. Also like in Quick, the simplicity of the plot works as much in the movies favor as it does against it, but we’ll get into that more later.

The always reliable Woo-seong does a great job in his role. Most well known amongst action fans for his roles in movies like The Good, The Bad, The Weird, Cold Eyes, and Reign of Assassins, soon his character is playing Go with the chief of the prison, as well as being trained how to fight by a fellow inmate. This is the type of movie were you can have a one vs. many brawl in a prison yard in the middle of the night, and not a single guard will be around to see it. Scenes like this make The Divine Move play out more like an exaggerated comic rather than something that’s grounded in reality, and perhaps in recognition of this, the opening titles are also designed in a comic book style.

By the time Woo-seong is released from prison and ready to start bringing on the pain and, well, playing Go (not necessarily in that order), the movies biggest problem becomes apparent – we still don’t really know a single thing about him. Beom-goo seems to have been so pre-occupied with creating cool scenes of characters playing Go and beating each other up, that character development seems to have been left by the wayside. We know his brother was murdered, but why were they there in the first place, what’s their background? It’s something which is never explored, which makes everything feel very one dimensional, and dare I say flat.

The character development issue spills over into every other character in the movie – Woo-seong enlists the help of a down and out homeless Go master (who is also blind just for good measure) played by Ahn Seong-gi, but again we find out nothing about him and how he ended up the way he is, other than he had some past association with the same gangsters that murdered Woo-seong’s brother. The gangsters have a female master amongst them played by Lee Si-yeong, who looks like she doesn’t really enjoy working for them, and it’s mentioned in passing that she won a national Go competition when she was 20 then disappeared. Again, this is all we find out about her, even though she becomes a crucial character to the plot. Most glaringly of all though, is a Chinese child who the gangsters seem to be keeping captive due to her incredible Go playing ability, but who is given no back-story or explanation as to how she got there.

What this ultimately means for the viewer is that we’re left with a bunch of characters who we don’t really know anything about, so therefore have no connection with. What we do get though, is an abundance of scenes with characters playing Go, and then beating the living daylights out of each other, sometimes they play Go and beat each other up at the same time. One scene, which also seems to have come straight out of a comic book, has Woo-seong lock himself and one of gangsters in a freezer room, in which he’s set up a Go board in the middle of the floor and proceeds to turn the temperature down to -35. It’s all rather absurd that each of the gangsters he comes across seems happy to have a sit-down game of Go with him before getting down to the violence, but somehow The Divine Move exists in a world were playing Go seems to be the equivalent of boxers tapping their gloves together before a fight.

By the end of the movie the games of Go have also become one of its flaws, as there are simply too many of them. While Beom-goo does manage to infuse most of them with a sense of tension, there are a couple too many, which just end up feeling like a chore to watch. Thankfully the plot attempts to go out with a bang thanks to a bloody finish, in a year which seems to have brought back the brutal knife fight with a vengeance (see also No Tears for the Dead and Man on High Heels), Woo-seong and his blade also deliver an effectively wince worthy final showdown against those he’s seeking vengeance against.

All in all The Divine Move would perhaps be better titled Go and Violence, as that’s essentially what it amounts to. The 2006 Korean movie Tazza: The High Rollers took a similar concept, except instead of Go it was Flower Cards, and pulled it off with much more feeling, thanks to giving us characters that we cared about and a decent back-story. While Tazza had the likes of Kim Yoon-seok and Kim Hye-soo amongst its cast, actors like Woo-seong and Seong-gi are more than capable of giving equally charismatic performances, which leaves the finger pointed squarely at director Beom-goo. For his next movie, here’s hoping he keeps the fist fights, and exchanges the games of Go for some scenes were we can get to know the characters that we’re about to spend 2 hours with.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 6.5/10

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