Killer Constable | aka Lightning Kung Fu (1980) Review

"Killer Constable" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Killer Constable" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Karate Exterminators
Director: Kuei Chih-Hung
Writer: Sze To On
Producer: Run Run Shaw
Cast: Chen Kuan Tai, Gam Biu, Ha Ping, Keung Hon, Kong Do, Ku Feng, Kwan Yung Moon, David Lam Wai, Lee Chun Hwa, Jason Pai Piao, Walter Tso, Dick Wei, Yuen Wah
Running Time: 92 min.

By Matthew Le-feuvre

Released in the closing years of the Shaw Brothers reign, Kuen Chia Hung’s arresting socio-politically charged actioner confidently reintroduced the interesting, if not debatable, abstraction of misplaced loyalties for the crux of a generous travelogue adventure. Although previously, and obviously, examined by filmmaking giants: Chang Cheh, Liu Chia Liang and Sun Chung; therefore what else could be said, or more appropriately, visually expressed?!

For very few critics it was a tired formula that harkened back to a pioneering decade where local superstars – David Chiang and Ti Lung – were (screen) struggling against corrupt administrations; and/or Tartar influenced monarchies, forfeiting their many incarnations for the sake of national identity. However too hardened Hong Kong audiences, it was an alternative universe where the daily grind of employment could be put aside for a few hours, even though the apprehension of a spiralling economy loomed like an inevitable sunrise. Worse still were the afterthoughts of Thatcher’s impending tense negotiations with mainland China over the prospective future of the colony. This reality was always a favoured metaphor for aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers to exploit, yet shielded their personal concerns behind traditional values.

Indeed, no stranger to controversial themes dealing with either occult imagery (i.e. The Killer Snakes, The Boxer’s Omen), underdog aspirations or ideologies of the criminal classes as overtly depicted in Kuen Chia Hung’s earlier seminal masterpieces: The Teahouse and its highly anticipated follow-up Big Brother Cheng. It was these pictures that started a long association with its leading actor, Cheng Kwan Tai – an unglamourous, if not stoic personality in the Charles Bronson mould who (was) catapulted to international recognition playing the doomed streetfighter-turned-syndicate boss for Chang Cheh’s brutal morality tale: The Boxer from Shantung.

In due course, Tai furthered his career with reprised epitomizations of Shaolin/Hung Gar folkhero Hung Xi Kwan for the aforementioned Cheh and Liu Chia Liang. Yet prior to his extensive affiliation with the Shaw Brothers, Tai – also a former fireman, – had already established a legitimate tournament background where he invariably demonstrated his mental and physical prowess as a ‘Monkey’ stylist competitor. It is not fully known ‘how’ and ‘where’ Tai became involved within the HK film industry: an invitation, the lure of fame or rich rewards perhaps?! He did, like the majority, entered this exhausting profession as a stuntman – reliable and resolute – generally meeting an unbefitting end-at the hands of either Wang Yu or (soon-to-be contemporary) David Chiang.

Killer Constable afterall wasn’t so much a departure for Tai, but more of a welcomed reunion into that cycle of pictures which, in formative terms, manufactured and celebrated his star status. He projected a majestic, brooding and ofttimes, an intensity other leading actors’ simply lacked; few surprisingly did not retain proper martial arts qualifications, often relying on locally trained Peking opera debutants to perform intricate movements that on first viewing defy both the mechanics of grace and the physics of gravity.

Tai, on the other hand did not opt to sell himself as a showman of inordinate strength, nor did he confine his versatility to elaborate spectacles or generic fighting falsehoods: namely improvisation or overly rehersed circus routines. Instead, he was notably tenacious, exerting authentic techniques and in some cases ‘vulnerability.’ Hung Xi Kwan, for example, was a very human depiction(s); a passionate character whose emotions fueled members of his inner circle into total committment, eventhough their collectiveness for political liberation appeared conflicting, especially in Cheh’s classic Heroes Two (1974).

Here, for his third and final collaboration with Hung, Tai’s performance – bordering on the psychotic – as ruthless Ching loyalist Ling Tien Ying, is quite the antithesis: sinister, morose and absent of humanity. Nevertheless, while peers’ and village-folk subjects have deified him beyond the physical extension of Judge, Jury and Executioner, Ling’s intrinsic self-confidence and, equally, unparalleled skills as an official bounty hunter are so well respected, none question his resolve until the royal treasury is expertly looted by a select number of Han patriots.

It is up to this juncture of the first act where Hung’s epic scope diversifies into a fascinating pursuit-type picture with Ling energetically rampaging across countryside farm lands, imperial coastline vistas and treacherous Han-occupied landscapes where (much to the repulsion of his morally-divided assemble), one by one, Ling instinctively apprehends and methodically tortures each suspect involved in a travail of learning the ring leader’s identity (as played by stalwart character actor, Ku Feng). As the body count rises on both sides, the ethics of right and wrong becomes increasingly blurred, giving Ling the opportunity to curb the pressures of duty and compliance while awakening personal reflection and self analysis during a chance encounter with a lonely blind girl, who maybe potentially linked to the Han rebels?

Verdict: Although a loose reworking of The Invincible Fist (1969) – starring Lo Lieh and David Chiang in his lead debut – as it stands, Killer Constable, on occasion, is not an easy watch. Moments of grandiosity are overshadowed by melding alleged historical events with sullen melodramatics, however the real beauty is within the film’s iconography, Ling’s broadsword for instance – a weapon of true elephantine proportions – amputates limbs and other body parts with nimble ease. Tellingly, another profound and underrated classic from the Shaws’ vast film depository.

Matthew Le-feuvre: 9/10

Posted in Chinese, News, Reviews, Shaw Brothers | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Derek Kwok and Henri Wong unleash a ‘Full Strike’

"Full Strike" Chinese Teaser Poster

"Full Strike" Chinese Teaser Poster

Within just a few years, Derek Kwok Chi Kin has firmly established himself as one of Hong Kong’s best young directors. His latest feature is Full Strike, which is a co-directorial effort just like his previous films Gallants (co-directed with Clement Cheng) and Journey to the West (co-directed with Stephen Chow).

This time, he partners with Henri Wong, director of Hardcore Comedy and visual effects supervisor of films including Ip Man, Ip Man 2 and Kwok’s own As the Light Goes Out.

The film stars Ekin Chen (Young and Dangerous), Josie Ho (Dream Home) and Ronald Cheng (Vulgaria). It is a badminton tournament drama and tells the story of a hot-tempered, former badminton player whose encounter with four ex-gangsters inspires her to make a return to her favorite sport.

Full Strike’s full trailer looks like heaps of fun, and you can check it out here.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Walker Texas Ranger: Complete Collection | DVD (Paramount)

Walker Texas Ranger: Complete Collection | DVD (Paramount)

Walker Texas Ranger: Complete Collection | DVD (Paramount)

RELEASE DATE: May 12, 2015

Paramount presents the Walker Texas Ranger: Complete Collection 52-disc DVD set, starring Chuck Norris (Slaughter in San Francisco).

Texas Ranger Walker (Norris), one of the last old-fashioned heroes in the West, is a protective friend but a relentless foe who will stop at nothing to bring a criminal to justice. Think of it as the unofficial follow-up to Lone Wolf McQuade.

Pre-order the Walker Texas Ranger: Complete Collection from Amazon.com today!

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

Third trailer for ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’

"The Avengers: Age of Ultron" Theatrical Poster

"The Avengers: Age of Ultron" Theatrical Poster

In Joss Whedon’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Avengers reassemble to battle the sentient robot known as Ultron. Cast members include: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and James Spader. The film hits theaters on May 1, 2015.

Updates: Actor Morris Chestnut (Under Siege 2: Dark Territory) has fueled internet rumors that he may be auditioning for the role of the popular Marvel superhero Black Panther for Avengers 2. | According to dramafever.com, Korean actress Kim Soo Hyun (7th Grade Civil Servant) has joined the cast. | Teaser trailer. | First trailer. | Second trailer. | TV Spot.

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the third trailer!

Posted in News | 2 Comments

‘Raid’ star Iko Uwais and UFC’s Ronda Rousey are on ‘Mile 22′

"The Raid" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Raid" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Indonesian martial arts star Iko Uwais (The Raid 2) and UFC’s Ronda Rousey (The Expendables 3) are on board to appear in Mile 22, an action-thriller produced by Peter Berg (Lone Surviver).

According to Variety (via FCS), Mile 22 explores the relationship between a CIA officer (Rousey) and an Indonesian police officer (Uwais) forced to work together as they confront violent political corruption.

“I am a huge fan of what Gareth Evans and Iko did on both Raid films and I’m very excited at the possibility of working with Ronda and Iko to create a film in the spirit of this new wave of combat cinema emerging from Indonesia,” Berg told Variety.

In case you missed it, Uwais will also be appearing in Beyond Skyline, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (in some shape or form), and hopefully, an upcoming Gareth Evans (The Raid) flick titled Blister – not to mention The Raid 3, a few years from now.

As for Mile 22, we’ll keep you in the loop as we hear more. Stay tuned!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Deal on Fire! 13 Assassins | Blu-ray | Only $7.64 – Expires soon!

13 Assassins Blu-ray/DVD (Magnolia)

13 Assassins Blu-ray/DVD (Magnolia)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins. This ultra-violent tale is remake of Eiichi Kudo’s 1963 black-and-white Japanese film of the same name.

Like cityonfire.com’s HKFanatic says: “If you’re reading this and you haven’t seen 13 Assassins yet, you’ve got to get your priorities straight. This film is a legitimate modern classic and is guaranteed to go down as one of the best samurai movies of the past 20 years. True, Japan doesn’t make as many as they used but Takashi Miike has earned his place among the best. And here we never even suspected he had it in him.”

Order 13 Assassins from Amazon.com today!

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

‘Traffickers’ director returns to crime with ‘The Technicians’

"The Con Artists" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Con Artists" Korean Theatrical Poster

Crime definitely pays for Kim Hong-Sun, who was honored with “Best New Director” at the 33rd Blue Dragon Awards for 2012′s Traffickers (read our review). The South Korean filmmaker returns to familiar territory – albeit less dark – with The Con Artists (aka The Technicians or Criminal Designer), which opens domestically on December 24, 2014.

According to HC, The Con Artists is about the business of technicians who gather together to steal 150 billion won hidden in the Incheon Customs during a limited time frame of 40 minutes.

The film stars Kim Woo-Bin (Friend 2: The Legacy), Lee Hyun-Woo (Battle of Yeonpyeong), Ko Chang-Seok (Quick) and Jo Yoon-Hee (Doomsday Book). Don’t miss its trailer!

Update: On Saturday, March 7, DramaFever is bringing premium users, The Technicians, their newest exclusive title.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles (2013) Review

"Bushido Man" International DVD Cover

"Bushido Man" International DVD Cover

Director: Takanori Tsujimoto
Writer: Takanori Tsujimoto
Cast: Mitsuki Koga, Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi, Masanori Mimoto, Kentaro Shimazu, Kazuki Tsujimoto, Ema, Kensuke Sonomura, Masaki Suzumura, Naohiro Kawamoto, Marc Walkow, Yasutaka Yuuki, Takashi Tanimoto
Running Time: 88 min.

By Kyle Warner

Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles kind of surprised me. I wasn’t expecting much from the film — the average ratings are weak, the title is silly, and the plot description is somewhat generic. However, less than five minutes in we’re introduced to a martial arts master with the most cartoonish mustache imaginable – and the master’s key advice to his pupil is that to know his enemy, he must eat like his enemy. It’s pretty obvious from the get-go that the next 90 minutes are about to get weird and that the movie is something far stranger than its title, plot description, and cover art could ever hope to suggest.

Our hero Toramaru (Mitsuki Koga) is something of a modern-day samurai. He travels all over Japan to fight the greatest warriors of multiple fighting styles so that he may take their mysterious, priceless scrolls back to his master Gensai (Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi). As the movie begins, Toramaru has returned to Gensai and tells each fight story to his master. Before each bout, Toramaru followed his master’s advice and pigged out on whatever food best represented his opponent’s spirit. It’s silly, but that’s just what kind of movie this is. Toramaru is essentially a copycat fighter: he comes to know his opponents so completely that he adopts their strengths, styles, and favorite foods in order to vanquish them.

We see Toramaru’s fights, travels, and dining experiences through flashback. On his journey he must match up with many diverse opponents, including a blind swordsman, a yakuza knife fighter, a kung fu master, and a gunslinger that loves all things American. Some of the fights are played for laughs, but the others are rather impressive, showing off athletic skill and frenetic energy.

To some extent, the film is little more than a highlight reel of various fighting styles. Beyond Toramaru and Gensai, no other character receives more than a couple lines of character development. Certain actors make the best of their limited screen time – most notably Kazuki Tsujimoto as the blind swordsman – but when their fights are done, the characters are almost immediately forgotten. There’s very little substance to the film and those looking for plot or purpose should look elsewhere. However, if you come in with the right expectations, I think you can potentially find something to enjoy here.

What’s interesting is how director Takanori Tsujimoto (Hard Revenge Milly) plays things somewhat straight at the beginning, then lets his creation gradually go crazy as it passes the halfway point. Understand when I say that Gensai’s cartoon mustache and Toramaru’s all-you-can-eat training are comparatively ‘normal’ to the action we get in the final act. Leading up to the finale, Toramaru must travel to post-apocalyptic Yokohama. It’s not clear what happened to Yokohama, though endless earthquakes are mentioned and the air isn’t safe to breathe. Tanks patrol the highways, the skyscrapers are crumbling, and all gun laws have been revoked. While the locations at the beginning of the film were prettier, one almost wishes more of the movie had this strange, unexplained sci-fi feel to it. At the very least, the Yokohama segments prepare us for the finale, when the director allows his movie to truly go wild. The ending and the action that lead up to it are absolutely batshit and often hilarious. To say that the film went out on a high note would be an understatement. If the whole film shared the same kind of madness as the finale, Bushido Man might’ve been something of a new cult classic.

I wish that the director’s vision was more consistent and that his cast looked more into the production. The film has its share of goofy ideas and well done fights, but too often it feels strangely half-hearted. So while I liked it overall, I was still left wanting more from the film. The performances are one-note, plot is largely non-existent, and many scenes feel flat like they require a jolt of energy. It’s as though they bottled up that energy for the finale, when they would have been better off spreading it around a bit. If only.

There’s not a whole lot to Bushido Man, but it’s fast-paced and entertaining in a silly, cartoonish sort of way. There’s enough originality to the movie that I’m sure it’s going to win over some fans here and there. The film is definitely different and some days maybe that’s enough.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 6/10

Posted in Japanese, News, Reviews | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf | Blu-ray (Synapse Films)

Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf | Blu-ray (Synapse Films)

Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf | Blu-ray (Synapse Films)

RELEASE DATE: May 12, 2015

Synapse Films presents the Blu-ray for 2009′s Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf, directed by Kurando Mitsutake (Gun Woman).

After losing his eyesight, his wife, and his daughter at the hands of a psychopath, a man is transformed into a killing machine hellbent on revenge! Eight years after the massacre of his family, the “Blind Wolf” has returned as a highly trained swordsman ready for revenge.

The film stars Kurando Mitsutake, Jeffrey James Lippold and Domiziano Arcangeli. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order from Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf Amazon.com today!

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

New Bruce Lee biopic to focus on philosophies and artistry?

"Enter the Dragon" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Enter the Dragon" Japanese Theatrical Poster

A new Hollywood film about Bruce Lee titled Birth of the Dragon is in the works. The movie will take a look at the life of legendary martial artist and movie star Bruce Lee, using Lee’s disputed bout with Master Wong Jack-Man as the centerpiece of the story.

There’s some speculation that this could lead to a Rashomon-like structure to Birth of the Dragon since there are so many varying accounts of how the fight between Bruce Lee and Master Wong went down.

This isn’t the first time Hollywood has explored the legend of Bruce Lee. Perhaps the most well known example is 1993′s Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, a heavily dramatized biopic from The Fast and the Furious director Rob Cohen that featured Jason Scott Lee (Time Cop 2) in the lead role.

If you’re worried about Hollywood once again playing fast and loose with the facts of Bruce Lee’s life, you can at least be assured that Birth of the Dragon has some decent pedigree behind it: screenwriters Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen Rivele previously wrote Nixon and Ali.

Updates: Variety reports that filmmaker George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau) will be directing Birth of the Dragon. The next big question is: Who will be playing Bruce Lee?

BREAKING NEWS: According to Deadline.com, Shannon, daughter Bruce Lee, is teaming up with producer Janet Yang (Joy Luck Club), Lawrence Grey (Last Vegas) and Ben Everard (Walt Before Mickey) to make the definitive biopic on Lee. “There have been projects out there involving my father, but they’ve lacked a complete understanding of his philosophies and artistry,” Lee said. And according to Grey: “We will bring on a world class filmmaker and writer, who’ll work with Shannon and myself and then we will talk to American and foreign partners.” So does this mean director George Nolfi has dropped out? Stay tuned!

Posted in News | 5 Comments

Ace Attorney (2012) Review

"Ace Attorney" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Ace Attorney" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Yukiko Ohguchi, Takeharu Sakurai
Cast: Hiroki Narimiya, Takumi Saito, Mirei Kiritani, Akiyoshi Nakao, Shunsuke Daito, Akira Emoto, Rei Dan, Mitsuki Tanimura, Takehiro Hira, Eisuke Sasai, Makoto Ayukawa, Kimiko Yo, Ryo Ishibashi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Minami Hamabe
Running Time: 135 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Anyone with even a passing interest in Asian cinema will most likely be familiar with the name of director Takashi Miike. From the early-90’s, all the way up to the mid-2000’s, Miike was responsible for some of the most insanely creative, often grotesque, completely out there cinema to come out of Japan. Working almost exclusively within the DTV (direct-to-video) industry, titles like Audition, Visitor Q, and Ichi the Killer, combined with his ability to crank out several titles in one year, saw him quickly develop a devoted following in the west.

Then in 2007 the seemingly unthinkable happened, it was announced that Miike was going to be directing a big screen adaptation of the popular manga, Crows Zero – a tale of high school gangs fighting for supremacy – in what was a decidedly unexpected venture into mainstream filmmaking. Thankfully, it turned out that he was just as adept at working within the Japanese studio system as he was within the DTV arena, and the movie was a resounding success both with critics and fans, so much so that he’d return to direct the sequel 2 years later.

Miike has remained in the mainstream since then – be it turning his hand to anime adaptations such as Yatterman, remaking samurai movies from the golden age like 13 Assassins, taking a crack at children’s movies with Ninja Kids, or even straight laced blockbuster thrillers like Shield of Straw. One of my personal favorite Miike movies is his 2007 adaptation of the Sega video game of the same name – Yakuza: Like a Dragon. While it seems like an almost impossible task to make a successful movie from a video game, somehow Miike managed to do it, so when I heard he was going to be adapting another, the popular Capcom franchise Ace Attorney, I was curious to check it out.

For the purposes of full disclosure, I’m not a gamer, and never have been. I’ll be reviewing Ace Attorney purely as a movie, with no connection to how closely it depicts the gaming world, so if you’re a fan of the game, you may want to stop reading here. That being said, I’ve never played Yakuza: Like a Dragon either. The fact is if you’re a good director, even someone who has no familiarity with the source material shouldn’t have any trouble enjoying what’s onscreen.

One aspect of the adaptation I am aware of though, is that it’s based on the second and fourth cases from the video game series. This in itself is an interesting move, as with it being a courtroom drama, the whole element of mystery and not knowing who did it is perhaps the single biggest factor in enjoying a movies initial viewing. While fans of the game will no doubt be delighted to hear it’s a direct adaptation of the source material, rather than a re-imagining of it, it does mean that they’ll also know exactly how it’s going to end. For a 135 minute movie that hinges on guessing who did the deed, you’d think this might be a small oversight on behalf of everyone involved.

Sadly though, after sitting through the full 135 minutes, I can safely say that it’s not just the enjoyment of the fans which is in danger, but also the wider audience as well. Putting aside both the fact that it’s a Miike Takashi movie and that it’s a video game adaptation, judged purely on its merits as popcorn entertainment, Ace Attorney is painfully dull. There are plenty of quirky touches from Miike and elements which are no doubt pulled from the game, however they all seem to barely register under the weight of the lifeless story. It’s kind of like when you stay out too late after you’ve had one too many, and you watch the sun rise when a hangover has already set in. You know it’s pretty, but it doesn’t register because of the dull thumping in your head. The story of Ace Attorney is that dull thumping.

Hiroki Narimiya plays the title character, whose appearance seems to be defined by the way he has his hair gelled back, so it looks like he’s permanently wearing the helmet that cyclists use in Olympic track events. It’s the near future, and all trials are decided within 3 days, which ironically felt like how long the movie went on for. During the trials giant holographic screens pop up in the middle of the courtroom (obviously a feature from the game) to display evidence and explain vital points, and if things get particularly heated, sometimes the two opposing attorneys will throw the holographic screens at each other.

Elements like this sound cool, but unfortunately it gets tiring very quickly, as the screens just get lost in the background of reams and reams of exposition from the characters explaining stuff to each other. Sometimes they’ll explain something, then after they’ve explained it the movie will flashback and show what they were explaining. Other times it’ll show a scene, and in the next we’re back in the courtroom and the characters will explain to each other what we’ve just watched. It’s torturous. The seriousness and heavy handed nature of all this exposition ultimately makes the quirky elements that Miike likes to throw into his movies seem out of place and stupid rather than entertaining.

At one point a parrot is called to the witness stand, in what drags on as a painfully unfunny scene, in another a witness starts speaking with a megaphone, and the list goes on. If things had been kept fast paced and light, all of these elements would have probably resulted in a movie which successfully captures the charm and essence of the game, but instead they only serve to do the opposite. Miike does manage to wring a couple of laughs with some inspired sight gags, but stretched over such a long runtime, the few bright points are quickly forgotten.

It pains me to say it but the movies problems don’t stop there, with the constant repetition of certain elements only confounding what a misguided effort this adaptation is. I lost count of the number of times Narimiya is about to give up in the court room, only for him to discover a piece of paper / put his hand on a page in a book / suddenly be hit by an inspired thought, and realize that he has a crucial piece of information right in front of him to continue the case. If not for this review I honestly would have turned it off long before the end. Perhaps most clumsy of all though, is the fact that both of the major cases that make up the plot, hinge on if a gun has been fired twice or not. Why on earth would you repeat the same plot device for the two most important decisions in the movie!?

Miike had a busy year in 2012, also making the romantic musical For Love’s Sake, and the psychotic high school thriller Lesson of the Evil, so for fans of his work like myself, there’ll always be other options to watch. With that in mind, perhaps the audience who’ll be most disappointed with Ace Attorney, are fans of the game itself. But then again, what do I know? I’m not a gamer.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 3/10

Posted in Japanese, News, Reviews | Tagged | 2 Comments

Revenge of the Ninja | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

Revenge of the Ninja | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

Revenge of the Ninja | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

RELEASE DATE: May 26, 2015

Kino Lorber presents the Blu-ray for 1983′s Revenge the Ninja, the second in a series of unrelated Ninja films produced by Cannon Films (other titles in the trilogy are 1981′s Enter the Ninja and 1984′s Ninja III: The Domination). The Blu-ray will feature an audio commentary by director Sam Firstenberg (American Ninja).

Revenge of the Ninja stars Sho Kosugi (9 Deaths of the Ninja), Keith Vitali (Wheels on Meals) and Kane Kosugi (Coweb). Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Revenge of the Ninja from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | Tagged | 4 Comments

Cityonfire.com’s ‘The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom’ Blu-ray Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Jacob Cheung’s wuxia-fantasy film The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this sequence from Mad Max.

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 The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom will be officially released on March 10, 2015. We will announce the 3 winners on March 11, 2015 and ship out the prizes immediately.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by March 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.

WINNNERS: Congratulations to Ben, Frank G. and Vorn V. You have all been notified via email!

Posted in News | Tagged | 14 Comments

Enter the Ninja | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

Enter the Ninja | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

Enter the Ninja | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

RELEASE DATE: May 26, 2015

Kino Lorber presents the Blu-ray for 1981′s Enter the Ninja, directed by Menahem Golan (The Delta Force). Enter the Ninja is the first in a series of unrelated Ninja films produced by Cannon Films (read our review for Electric Boogaloo, a documentary about the Golan-Globus film empire). The film was followed by 1983′s Revenge of the Ninja and 1984′s Ninja III: The Domination).

Enter the Ninja stars Franco Nero (Street Law, Django), Susan George (Straw Dogs) and Sho Kosugi (Revenge of the Ninja). Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Enter the Ninja from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | Tagged | 7 Comments

Scott Adkins role in Ariel Vromen’s action flick is ‘Criminal’

"Legendary" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Legendary" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Martial arts star Scott Adkins (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning) is appearing alongside Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman in Criminal, an upcoming action-thriller directed by Ariel Vromen (The Iceman).

Criminal involves a dangerous convict who is implanted with a deceased CIA agent’s memories to finish a deadly mission. There’s no word on the amount of screen time Adkins will be receiving, but we’ll be damned if he’s not on board for his on-screen fighting skills.

Criminal is currently in post-production with a release date set for August 21, 2015. We expect trailer to be hitting soon, so stay tuned!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

River of Death | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

River of Death | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

River of Death | Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)

RELEASE DATE: May 26, 2015

Kino Lorber presents the Blu-ray for 1989′s River of Death, directed by Steve Carver (Lone Wolf McQuade) and starring Michael Dudikoff, Robert Vaughn, Donald Pleasence and L.Q. Jones.

It’s American Ninja meets Indiana Jones! In the nightmarish days of the Third Reich, a Nazi scientist escapes to the impenetrable jungles of the Amazon. Years later, a mysterious incurable disease breaks out among the natives and an adventurer (Dudikoff) is hired to search for the cause. The Blu-ray will feature audio commentary by Dudikoff and Steve Carver. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order River of Death from Amazon.com today!

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

Rise of the Legend (2014) Review

"Rise of the Legend" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Rise of the Legend" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Roy Chow
Writer: Christine To
Producer: Ivy Ho, Bill Kong
Cast: Eddie Peng, May Wang, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Sammo Hung, Jing Boran, Wong Cho Lam, Simon Yam, Max Zhang Jin, AngelaBaby, Feng Jia Yi, Byron Mann
Running Time: 131 min.

By oneleaf

19th Century China was a time of turmoil. The majority of the populace suffered from extreme poverty and Western imperialist pressure was slowly rearing its ugly head in major cities all over the country. Local feudal-like gangs engaging in turf wars have become a commonplace along with the proliferation of opium dens. An undercurrent of discontent from the masses was about to boil over…

This is the backdrop of Rise of the Legend in the port city of Guangzhou, China revolving around its main wharf controlled by two factions, the Black Tiger Clan and the Northern Sea Clan.

Rise of the Legend stars Eddie Peng (Unbeatable) as Wong Fei Hung and Sammo Hung (Once Upon a Time in Shanghai) as Lei Gong of the Black Tiger Clan. The film is a re-imagining of the life and times of Chinese folk hero Wong Fei Hung. Martial arts movie fans will no doubt remember the character made famous by Jet Li (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate) and Tsui Hark in the Once upon a Time in China film series. This new glossy interpretation chronicles Wong’s meteoric rise from street urchin to folk hero.

Rise of the Legend opens with a drenched Wong – obviously in distress – running amidst a heavy downpour, fighting for his life as axe and sword wielding goons rush at him from every direction. The Corey Yuen-choreographed clash is beautiful to look at. The slow motion pan and scan, the CGI and even some ‘wire-fu’ makes Peng (a non-martial artist in real life) look believable with his “shadowless kick” Wong is famous for. The almost-endless rhythmic ballet of punches and kicks – packed with a cacophony of sound – left me affixed to the screen. Heightening the life-and-death action in progress is the outstanding score by Shigeru Umebayashi (The Grandmaster).

Yuen finally redeems himself from the debacle that was Badges of FuryRise of the Legend is vintage Yuen. He’s truly in fine form here with his visual flair for summersaults, aerial wireworks and a variety of connecting kicks and punches. One particular inventive sequence made me want more: During a sword battle between Wong and his opponent, Wong’s sword flies out of his hand and impales onto a pillar on the opposite side of the room. After leaping atop his enemy – landing a near-fatal, closed fist knuckle blow to the head – Wong continues to strike him repeatedly. Stumbling backwards from the attack, his opponent basically decapitates himself, falling back onto the aforementioned sword. This clever scene has to be seen to be believed.

Peng’s casting as Wong was a good choice. His charismatic presence is well-balanced by his nonchalant, under-the-surface seething. Hung is excellent as s Boss Lei Gong, the cruel, tyrannical leader of the Black Tiger Clan. He’s ruthless, yet in his own way, benevolent to those he deemed loyal and worthy.

Peng reportedly buffed up and trained for almost an entire year in Nanquan (Southern fist) to prepare for the role. His dedication paid off: His moves are no mere mimicry; they appear powerful, effective and real (take this from someone who actually practices martial arts). He’s also quite adept at using the broadsword, which is no small feat for someone with a year’s training.

Rebooting the much beloved folk tale of Wong into Rise of the Legend was a gamble. Some detractors would label the film sacrilegious, compared to the Once Upon a Time in China series. However, even the Once Upon a Time in China series is a fictionalized rendition; not a biopic. The gamble, in my opinion, did pay off and this new tale of Wong stands on its own.

Rise of the Legend is not without drawbacks. Clocking in at over 2 hours long, the script borders on information overload: too many thematic elements are explored, but none are fully developed. As a result, Roy Chow’s (Nightfall) directing and pacing isn’t as smooth as it should be. It constantly transitions from one theme to the next with flashbacks. These transitions left very little room for character development for two main characters in the film.

Nevertheless, the film’s excellent choreography, overall storytelling and inevitable duel between Wong and Lei Gong make up for its shortcomings. What a finale.

Rise of the Legend is definitely recommended.

oneleaf’s rating: 7/10

Posted in Chinese, News, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

2nd trailer for the Sean Penn action flick ‘The Gunman’

"The Gunman" Teaser Poster

"The Gunman" Teaser Poster

Looks like “serious actor” Sean Penn is following the footsteps of Liam Neeson by taking on an action flick. Penn’s The Gunman, which is being directed by Pierre Morel (Taken, District B13), hits theaters on March 20, 2015.

The Gunman, which is based on Jean-Patrick Manchette’s novel The Prone Gunman, is about a spy (Penn) who must clear his name in order to save himself from the organization that he used to work for.

This Joel Silver-produced film also stars Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance and Jasmine Trinca. 1st trailer! | International trailer. | New character posters: 1 | 2 | 3

BREAKING NEWS: Watch the 2nd trailer!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Retaliation | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

Retaliation | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

Retaliation | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

RELEASE DATE: May 12, 2015

Arrow Video presents the Blu-ray for 1968′s Retaliation, a Nikkatsu gangster flick directed by Yasuharu Hasebe (Assault! Jack the Ripper).

A yakuza lieutenant (Akira Kobayashi) emerges from jail to find his gang dispersed and his aging boss in his sickbed. Meanwhile, a rival gangster (Joe Shishido from A Colt is My Passport) is waiting to kill him and a young woman (Meiko Kaji from Lady Snowblood) is caught in the crossfire. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Retaliation from Amazon.com today!

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

It’s a deadly game of ‘Poker Night’ for Beau Mirchoff, Ron Pearlman and Carlos Esposito

"Poker Night" Theatrical Poster

"Poker Night" Theatrical Poster

Wingman Productions brings the 2014 film Poker Night to Blu-ray and DVD this month. This riveting crime thriller revolves around a poker game between a bunch of cops who aim to help a rookie law enforcer named Jeter (Beau Mirchoff) out of a very sticky situation.

Don’t be fooled by the film’s title – although it centers around a poker game, it doesn’t get into the nitty gritty of poker, nor does it throw endless terminology at the audience. For the most part, the poker skits are used to educate Jeter about the morals of being a good police officer.

The educators come in the form of a slew of famous actors such as Sons of Anarchy duo Ron Pearlman and Titus Welliver, as well as Breaking Bad star Carlos Esposito – all playing veteran cops.

Things become interesting when Jeter is faced with his kidnapper and crazed psychopath, and as the plot thickens, writer and director Greg Francis throws endless twists into the proceedings to help keep the audience on their toes throughout. Ultimately, it’s a quite bold indie film that has been released in an effort to stimulate fans of a myriad of different genres.

Partly because in the last two years, Hollywood has seen a raft of casino-related films flop including the latest Paramount Pictures film starring Mark Wahlberg, The Gambler. But Francis knew this, and has created an interesting spin on the world’s favorite casino game, that saw its popularity reach unprecedented levels in the late 90s when online gaming saw its inception via the Malatese-based InterCasino. After that, many icons of the sport became household names like Johnny Chan and Phil Hellmuth resulting in filmmakers everywhere, tapping into the popularity of casino gaming. But as the genre has slowly died out, Francis has enthused the film with elements that will excite horror fanatics the world over.

Although it’s fair to say that we have seen the last of big budget poker films, Poker Night’s refreshing take on the game may encourage indie filmmakers to jump on the bandwagon and start exploring their options once more.

Be sure to catch the film’s trailer!

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Deal on Fire! Legendary Amazons | Blu-ray | Only $8.49 – Expires soon!

Legendary Amazons Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Legendary Amazons Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Legendary Amazons (read our review), directed by Frankie Chan (How To Meet Lucky Stars).

Legendary Amazons stars Cecilia Cheung (Shaolin Soccer), Richie Ren (Accident), Liu Xiaoqing (A Dream In Red Mansions), Cheng Pei-pei (Come Drink with Me) and Kathy Chow (Cheap Killers).

This update of the Shaw Brothers classic, 14 Amazons, takes place in the early 11th century China during the reign of Emperor Renzong of the Song Dynasty.

Order Legendary Amazons today from Amazon.com!

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

The New Barbarians | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

The New Barbarians | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

The New Barbarians | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

RELEASE DATE: June 30, 2015

Blue Underground presents the Blu-ray & DVD for 1983′s New Barbarians (aka Warriors of the Wasteland), directed by Enzo G. Castellari (1990: The Bronx Warriors).

In The New Barbarians, two mercenaries help wandering caravans fight off an evil and aimless band of white-clad bikers after the nuclear holocuast.

The film stars Fred Williamson (Vigilante), Anna Kanakis and Venantino Venantini. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order The New Barbarians from Amazon.com today!

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

Buddha’s Palm and Dragon Fist | aka Roving Heroes (1980) Review

"Buddha’s Palm and Dragon Fist" DVD Cover

"Buddha’s Palm and Dragon Fist" DVD Cover

AKA: Roving Heroes
Director: Got Si Ho
Cast: Chi Kuan Chun, Lee I Min, Suen Shu Pau, Wong Chi Sang, Eva Lin Yi Wa, Ma Cheung, Ma Chin Ku, Shih Ting Ken, Ching Kuo Chung, Chiu Chung Hing, Woo Hon Cheung
Running Time:85 min.

By Martin Sandison

By the mid to late 70’s Taiwanese made kung fu films were exploding, with movies such as The Hot, The Cool and the Vicious leading the way. Buddha’s Palm and Dragon Fist is a welcome addition to the genre. Despite the extreme low budgets of Taiwanese flicks, they created some of the absolute classics of of the era including the aforementioned The Hot, the Cool and the Vicious (which Buddha’s Palm references in its opening scene) and the genius Green Jade Statuette.

The stars of Buddha’s Palm are two of the brightest in the genre at the time. Chi Kuan Chun starred in numerous Shaw Brothers classics including Disciples of Shaolin and Shaolin Temple in the early to mid 70’s, and went on to star in numerous Taiwanese productions, including directing The Big Rascal. Li Yi Min was one of the most versatile martial artists of the time, and he of course starred in the all time classic Seven Grandmasters, a movie that needs no introduction. Buddha’s Palm has a pretty perfunctory plot, that in the grand tradition is an excuse for lots of action.

Basically Chi and Li are sent by their master to try and find a killer in a small town, and they encounter lots of martial artists and the main villain, Suen Shu Pau. Li’s character is a pretty strange one; he is goofy and mischievous, but beats up and tortures a monk in a bizarrely violent scene. It’s a welcome change from the usual predictable character behaviour of old school movies. Chi’s character is much more archetypal, the strong silent type who talks with his fists. Both leads have good chemistry and the silly comedy is pretty entertaining. One amusing scene has Li trying to put Chi off training by throwing various things at him, eventually throwing a recently used chamber pot at him! In another scene the two leads have a drinking competition, with Li drinking from an insanely large pot of wine.

The fights are choreographed by the film’s villain, Suen Shu Pau, a veteran old school actor who also appeared in numerous Shaw Brothers films of the 70’s. It’s definitely a case of the fights get better as the film goes along, with some of the early ones lacking in bite and too dance like. Li’s acrobatics and kicking are put to the fore, and he comes out with some dizzying stuff. A mid film fight has some brilliant acrobatic kicking in slow motion, despite the rest of the fight being pretty pedestrian. Chi’s handwork is as intricate and powerful as always, and he proves his real ability throughout.

The end fight is where the action really hots up as our two heroes take on Suen. This sends the shapes fan into pure heaven, with each element completely complimentary. Two uses of wire work really bring in some impact, and the sound effects enhance this greatly. I noticed a rip off from the masterpiece Drunken Master in one piece of choreography, wherein Suen rips off a shred of jacket and punches the same point immediately. It’s pulled off with almost the same gusto as Jackie.

Unfortunately the movie suffers from a lot of the same problems that dog the old school independent martial arts movie. Namely terrible sound editing, silly dubbing and bad editing. In one scene Chi throws a guy from a balcony on the street, and when he hits the ground Chi is miraculously beside him! As we all know the real fan looks past these to concentrate on the traits that make old school movies so great: the charm, atmosphere and great action.

Despite not being up there with the classics, Buddha’s Palm has its moments and is an entertaining watch.

Martin Sandison’s Rating: 6.5/10

Posted in Chinese, News, Reviews | Tagged | 2 Comments

Firewalker | Blu-ray & DVD (Olive Films)

Firewalker | Blu-ray & DVD (Olive Films)

Firewalker | Blu-ray & DVD (Olive Films)

RELEASE DATE: April 21, 2015

Olive Films presents the Blu-ray & DVD for 1986′s Firewalker, directed by J. Lee Thompson (Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown).

After a long career of failures, archaeological adventurers Max and Leo (Chuck Norris and Louis Gossett Jr.) are ready to call it quits until a blonde with an ancient treasure map hires them to guide her into Central America to find Aztec gold. But as they draw closer to the priceless bounty, they are unaware that a powerful spirit is tracking their every move! Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Firewalker from Amazon.com today!

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

1990: The Bronx Warriors | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

1990: The Bronx Warriors | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

1990: The Bronx Warriors | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

RELEASE DATE: June 30, 2015

Blue Underground presents the Blu-ray & DVD for 1982′s 1990: The Bronx Warriors (read our review), directed by Enzo G. Castellari (Street Law).

In a post-apocalyptic New York City, a policeman infiltrates the Bronx, which has become a battleground for several murderous street gangs.

1990: The Bronx Warriors stars Mark Gregory, Fred Williamson, Vic Morrow, Christopher Connelly, “Betty” Elisabetta Dessy and Stefania Girolami. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order 1990: The Bronx Warriors from Amazon.com today!

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

Escape From the Bronx | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

Escape From the Bronx | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

Escape From the Bronx | Blu-ray & DVD (Blue Underground)

RELEASE DATE: June 30, 2015

Blue Underground presents the Blu-ray & DVD for 1983′s Escape From the Bronx (aka The Bronx Warriors II), directed by Enzo G. Castellari (1990: Bronx Warriors).

In Escape From the Bronx, a rag-tag group of people must fight extermination squads amid their ruined city.

The film also stars Mark Gregory, Henry Silva, Valeria D’Obici, Giancarlo Prete, Paolo Malco, Ennio Girolami and Antonio Sabato.

Pre-order Escape From the Bronx from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Other Notable Titles | Tagged | 2 Comments

Charlene Choi bares all for Herman Yau’s Cat III flick ‘Sara’

"Sara" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Sara" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Herman Yau (Taxi Hunter, Untold Story, The Legend Is Born: Ip Man) is returning to his Category III roots with a new psychological thriller titled Sara. In the film, Charlene Choi (Kung Fu Dunk) plays a woman whose dark past comes back to haunt her when she encounters an underage prostitute in Thailand.

According to Jaynestars, the film’s poster – which shows Choi’s nude body resting in a bathtub full of bloody water – was shot while the movie was being filmed: “The photographer snapped photos candidly, so it appeared more natural. We did not purposely do a photo shoot just for the movie poster. The results were good, as the mood of the photos really matched the sentiment of the movie,” said Choi.

Sara also stars Simon Yam (As the Light Goes Out) and is produced by Chaptan To (Infernal Affairs 2). The film will get its Chinese domestic release in April of 2015.

Updates: Watch the film’s trailer now.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Killers | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Killers | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Killers | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: April 7, 2015

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Killers, a Japanese/Indonesian thriller directed by Timo Tjahjant and Kimo Stamboel (Macabre) – the duo also known as The Mo Brothers – and produced by Gareth Evans (The Raid 2).

Killers (read our review) follows a well-dressed serial killer who preys on women in Tokyo, as well as the ruthless Indonesian vigilante he begins engaging in a twisted ‘competition’ with – over the internet! The film stars Kazuki Kitamura, Oka Antara, Rin Takanashi, Luna Maya and Mei Kurokawa. Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Killers from Amazon.com today!

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

New trailer for indie martial arts film ‘Unlucky Stars’

"Unlucky Stars" Movie Poster

"Unlucky Stars" Movie Poster

Decades later, the iconic films of Hong Kong legends Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan continue to inspire a new generation of stuntmen and filmmakers. Case in point: Unlucky Stars, an independent martial arts comedy directed by and starring Dennis Ruel. As you can tell from the title, the film takes particular inspiration from the Lucky Stars series of films that Sammo popularized in the Eighties. Expect tongue-in-cheek humor and bone-crunching fight choreography.

You can scope out the teaser trailer for the film on YouTube. The cast includes Dennis Ruel, Ken Quitugua, Sari Sabella, Jose Montesinos, Giovannie Espiritu, and Vladislav Rimburg. | 2nd teaser trailer! | BTS feature. | New trailer.

Updates: New “Story” trailer.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Colt is My Passport, A (1967) Review

"A Colt is My Passport" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"A Colt is My Passport" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Takashi Nomura
Writer: Nubuo Yamada, Shuichi Nagahara, Nobuo Yamada
Cast: Jo Shishido, Chitose Kobayashi, Jerry Fujio, Akiyoshi Fukae, Zenji Yamada, Hideaki Esumi, Jun Hongo, Akio Miyabe, Toyoko Takechi, Kojiro Kusanagi, Ryotaro Sugi, Takamaru Sasaki, Asao Uchida, Zeko Nakamura
Running Time: 84 min.

By Kyle Warner

In the 1960s, the Japanese studio Nikkatsu was cranking out action films at a rapid pace. They were often made fast and cheap, but they were also wildly inventive, and gave rise to talents like Seijun Suzuki, Joe Shishido, Koreyoshi Kurahara, and Toshio Masuda. Today, I want to shine the spotlight on one of the lesser known action movies of the period: A Colt is My Passport, a film that’s just as cool as its title suggests.

Joe Shishido plays a hitman tasked with killing a rival yakuza boss. After completing the assassination, he and his partner (Jerry Fujio) attempt to escape the country, but the bad guys have all the airports covered. Joe and Jerry are told to hideout in a truck stop outside of town while things cool down. However, while waiting there, his boss makes nice with the son of the recently murdered rival, and an alliance is formed. In order to ensure friendly relations, Shishido must be killed, and his boss is all too willing to give him up.

Made the same year as Branded to Kill, some fans are quick to point out that the two movies share some interesting similarities. Both Nikkatsu films star Joe Shishido as a hitman that’s being hunted. Both feature an assassination attempt that is nearly foiled by a small creature in the crosshairs (butterflies for Branded, a small bird for Colt). And both have a quirky energy to their action sequences – the action is equally visceral and humorous. But beyond these similarities, they’re two very different movies. Suzuki’s film was a trippy nightmare way ahead of its time. Nomura’s film is more of a celebration of the genre, with stark black and white photography, hardboiled film noir dialogue, doomed romances, and a brilliant, bloody finale.

Joe Shishido is excellent as the hitman Kamimura. The actor has played more complex characters and given more showy performances, but he appears perfectly at ease here. At this point in his career, Shishido was adept at playing these sort of roguish antiheroes, and this should go down as one of his finest films thanks in no small part to his steely screen presence.

The director Takashi Nomura is something of an unknown name in film history. A glance at his IMDb filmography shows that he primarily worked in TV since the 70s. From what I can gather, his only other notable film was the 1961 western Fast-Draw Guy, which also starred Shishido. It doesn’t surprise me that Nomura made a western at some point, as we see many elements of the genre show up in A Colt is My Passport. The film’s score uses a harmonica to create the feel of a Spaghetti Western. Also, at about the half-way point, Jerry Fujio picks up a guitar and sings us a tune, and one could imagine the scene working just the same around a campfire. And the action-packed finale which finds our hero at the designated place as gunmen appear from out of a dust cloud in very similar to the imagery of various westerns. Beyond these nods to the western genre, Nomura’s style is less flashy than his Nikkatsu colleagues of the time. But I’m not complaining. A Colt is My Passport is the only Nomura film I’ve ever seen and it’s a great one.

But it’s not all perfect. For whatever reason, exciting car chases are a rarity in Japanese cinema. The car chase in Colt is strangely polite by Western standards. Thankfully it ends in a splendid way, but I can’t say that the sequence is one of the film’s finer moments. Also, Colt doesn’t spend much time with the villains, so sometimes the viewer may get confused as to who is who in the yakuza family dynamics. I’m not exactly wishing that we had more of the villains in the film, but I do think that they could’ve been more defined and memorable.

Some will find issues with the film’s crazy finale. I’m not one of those people. Shishido and his enemies are given a day to plan for how best to kill one another. The bad guys opt to use an armored car with bulletproof windows. Meanwhile, Shishido digs a grave in the middle of a patch of dirt and… I won’t spoil what happens next. Suffice to say that it may stretch believability just a tad, but it’s so energetic and cool that I personally count it as the film’s best scene.

A Colt is My Passport is available on DVD in the Nikkatsu Noir box set from the Criterion Collection’s Eclipse line. Unlike most Criterion releases, the Eclipse Series is completely devoid of special features. The only supplement is a short essay from Chuck Stephens printed within the case. Also included in the Nikkatsu Noir box is I Am Waiting, Rusty Knife, Cruel Gun Story, and Take Aim at the Police Van. It’s a great set of films – A Colt is My Passport being my favorite of the five.

When you look for lists of the best Japanese crime films, you’re going to see a lot of the same names repeated over and over. Titles like Battles without Honor and Humanity, Shinjuku Triad Society, Hana-Bi, Branded to Kill, and Pale Flower. Names like Kinji Fukasaku, Takashi Miike, Takeshi Kitano, and Seijun Suzuki. You’re not likely to hear A Colt is My Passport mentioned on such lists. And that’s too bad. Gritty, cool, lean, and mean — A Colt is My Passport is just about everything I ask for from an action film of the period. It’s one of the most underrated and underseen yakuza films currently available to Western audiences. I highly recommend it.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 8.5/10

Posted in Japanese, News, Reviews | Tagged , | Leave a comment