Review: Maximum Risk (1996)

Posted in Jean-Claude Van Damme with tags , on August 25, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Natasha Henstridge, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Zach Grenier, Paul Ben-Victor, Frank Senger

Fight Choreography by Charlie Picerni

Directed by Ringo Lam

I wonder what it felt like in 1996, in what we’ll officially call on this website from here on out “A.R.”: After Rumble in The Bronx, to be JCVD or any American martial arts star, to have seen what Jackie Chan did with Rumble in the Bronx, with Supercop on the way to a stateside release. Could they feel the shift of things under their collective feet? I know that as a martial arts fan, after Rumble I could feel that things had changed. Slow fight scenes, simplistic choreography just wouldn’t cut it after see that blaze of kung fu and exhilarating stunts not seen since…ever, for most Americans. But I sense that JCVD knew what was coming, and tried to align himself with other HK directors in the hopes of putting out a film in the vein of their hits. John Woo, Tsui Hark and now Ringo Lam took their shots at it, and there is a long-standing rumor that all three bet that they could make the most successful JCVD film between the three of them.

Ringo Lam didn’t win, but it wasn’t due to a lack of trying nor was it the end result. It’s just that it came A.R.

JCVD once again plays what he plays best (for some reason): twins. The film begins as Mikhail Suverov (JCVD) is being chased through the streets of Nice, France by two unknown assailants. Mikhail has been obviously tortured, and is desperate to get away from them. In doing so he makes the wrong move and is killed during a car chase. Fast forward a day or so and we meet Alain Moreau (JCVD) a French detective who finds out that he had a twin brother he never knew about, but is determined to retrace his wayward brother’s tracks to find out why Mikhail was being hunted, and the connections he had with the Russian Mafia in New York City. While there Alain meets Mikhail’s girlfriend Alex (Henstridge) and together they discover that Mikhail was is deep trouble with factions within the mafia, as well as the FBI, and Alain finds that he can’t trust anybody…

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This film is the closest we’ll get to a JCVD spy thriller, and for the most part, it works. Alain has plenty of reasons to find out what happened to his brother, and his conversation with his mother is surprisingly effective, and JCVD had the acting chops to pull it off. Natasha Henstridge is okay as Alex, but isn’t much more than eye candy here. Paul Ben-Victor has made a career of playing assholes who happen to be law enforcement officers, and he is great here as FBI Agent Pellman, who needs Alain and what he knows about Mikhail. The story is well told, and Ringo Lam does include some of his classic dolly shots and camera trickery, but none of the verve and energy seen in his HK product (that could be said for Woo and Hark too).

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There aren’t many fight scenes, but JCVD does have a couple of good scrapes with a large Russian, whom he faces in a burning building and then in a sauna, and finally in an elevator, all of which are well done, but not overly complicated. Just simple, but in a good way. JCVD looks great as he always does. No really standout fights, but solid work all around.

(as an aside, if I had control of the film, Alain would be dealing with the Italian mafia, and thus go to Italy. Monica Bellucci would have replaced Natasha Henstridge. But that’s just me, folks.)

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 7

A really solid if not spectacular JCVD film that tells a good story peppered with good action. It was just born at the wrong time!

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Review: Rumble In the Bronx (1995)

Posted in Jackie Chan, Stanley Tong on August 19, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Jackie Chan, Anita Mui, Francoise Yip, Garvin Cross, Marc Akerstream, Bill Tung

Fight Choreography by Jackie Chan

Directed by Stanley Tong

When word came that Jackie Chan was making a return to America, visions of films like The Protector and Battle Creek Brawl swept through many people’s minds. But Mortal Kombat, which had come earlier in the year, proved that martial arts, which had been non-existent except for JCVD and Steven Seagal, was still popular. Jackie Chan did make his return, but did it his way, and finally Jackie found the success in America that had eluded him for so long. So what was Rumble in The Bronx like?

Rumble finds Jackie Chan as Keung, a Hong Kong cop vacationing in New York, there to attend the wedding of his Uncle Bill (Tung), who owns his own store in the Bronx. Not long after Keung arrives than trouble finds him as he thwarts a local gang during one of their “amusements”. He must also content with Elaine (Mui), the new owner of Uncle Bill’s store, who finds she may be far over her head. Toss in stolen diamonds, a villainous gangster named White Tiger who will stop at nothing to get them, and Keung falling for the leader of the gang’s girlfriend Nancy (Yip) and the stage is set for fights, stunts, and derring-do!

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Rumble in the Bronx has a story that a 10-year-old could write, dubbed dialogue, subbing in Vancouver for The Bronx, and a host of other things that would sink other films, but the hell with that, this is Jackie Chan, and while this isn’t one of his best films, it IS one of his funnest (is that a word?). Jackie plays the character he plays best, which is himself. He’s affable to a fault, a hero who doesn’t look for trouble but it surely finds him, and the physical comedy Chan is known for. Anita Mui is game for all of the hijinks, and is able to successfully share the screen with Chan, and of course no Chan film (at least his late 90’s films) is worth its salt without the greatness that is Bill Tung. The bad guys are utterly forgettable, just a group of big guys who grunt a lot and look at Chan menacingly. Stanley Tong keeps things moving at a brisk pace and thankfully never wastes time moving the story along, not allowing the logic of the film catch up to them.

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The stunts are just as insane as one would want. Everything from the building jump during a chase to the boat jump that broke his ankle, Chan is in top form, and nowhere is this apparent than in the big fight vs the entire gang, where Chan uses everything around him as weapons, and mixing it with kung fu that shows off Chan’s speed and grace, expertly choreographed, which for Chan fans was expected, but to American audiences it was the signal that Seagal and JCVD’s time had come to an end. If I had one gripe it might have been the absence of a Superkicker to really challenge Jackie, but that is just a wishful nitpick on my part!

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9

Jackie Chan brought his insanity to the USA shores, and we are all better for it! A rollicking, insanely fun movie that shows Chan at his best!

Mike Moeller returns with One Million Klicks Trailer!

Posted in Mike Leeder, Mike Moeller on August 7, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

Friend of Kiai-Kick  and stuntman supreme Mike Moeller really impressed the hell out of a lot of people with his film Urban Fighter, my review of which you can read here, a film that tossed yet another gauntlet down causing me to yell for America to get its shit together, ’cause even Germany is starting to come on strong in the world of martial arts cinema. Now Mike returns with One Million Klicks, and if the trailer is anything to go by, it looks just as fun, if not more than Urban Fighter. This film is also produced by wunderkind Mike Leeder, so you know it will be good.

Thanks to Darren Shahlavi (!) for bringing the trailer (from Mike Leeder) to my attention! Check it out below:

 

“There is a God!” Jacky Wu Jing vs. Scott Adkins in Wolf Warrior!

Posted in Jacky Wu Jing, Scott Adkins on July 25, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

Yes, Yes, Yes! The title comment comes from Kiai-Kick reader and friend Fernando Fury! Thanks to mega-awesome stuntman/action hero Mike Moeller for pointing me to this trailer! Jacky Wu Jing and Scott Adkins will have one of those fights of the ages! This is going to be something special! Check out the trailer below! I will now officially begin salivating for this one!

Per the good folks at Twitch.net Jacky Wu Jing is also directing this film, and so far it looks like he’s made a winner. He certainly got the right guy in Scott Adkins. Jacky seems to be taking control of his career now, and I think he’s about to make a similar jump that Donnie Yen made with SPL. Time will tell!

Cornered Production Blog #4: Getting closer to the end!

Posted in Donald Brooks, Kiai-Kick Films, Michael Moore, Uncategorized on July 25, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

We’ve had a great time filming, and I can’t wait to show off the fights, the acting, the whole works! Over the last few days we’ve been filming out at the J. Lorraine Ghost Town in Manor, TX, and we’re about to start shooting some stuff in Austin proper, and on Lake Austin! Meanwhile, here are some BTS pics to keep ya goin’! Also be sure to follow the production on our Twitter and Instagram @Corneredseries to see more screenshots and goodness from our production!

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Farewell to the Legendary Panna Rittikrai.

Posted in Panna Rittikrai with tags , on July 20, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

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Today is a terrible day if your a fan of martial arts films. Panna Rittikrai passed away today at the young age of 53. I remember hearing about the Thai action films he had done starting with Born to Fight, but never watched it or considered it much. Then I heard his name at the same time I heard about Ong Bak, and a new young martial artist named Tony Jaa. Upon seeing Ong Bak I was struck by how much the fights had that same devil-may-care attitude not seen since the early days of Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung films, and I loved every second of it. Then came The Protector, and once again Panna stepped up his game, with a finale that was as terrific as it was wince-inducing.

Panna then introduced us to another young star in Jeeja Yanin and her film Chocolate, which brought back visions of the younger days of Michelle Yeoh. Panna has confessed that he was inspired by the films of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Woo Ping, and it’s very apparent in the way he choreographs his fight scenes, mixing fast paced choreography with bone-crunching stunt work. Then the insanity hit an all new level with the remade Born To Fight and Bangkok Knockout, which showed some of the most craziest stunts I’ve ever seen.

Panna came in just as martial arts films were growing a bit stale and brought an energy that rippled throughout the industry. I had hoped to see what Panna had up his sleeves next, but alas we will never get to see it.We will get two more films that Panna has worked on, A Man Will Rise, with Tony Jaa and Dolph Lundgren and Vengeance of an Assassin with Dan Chupong. I look forward to those films, but with a heavy heart.

We’re going to miss you, Panna, and we will never forget what you’ve brought to martial arts cinema. You’ve inspired many, including myself. Today let’s all watch a Panna Rittikrai film, and marvel again at what he’s achieved.

Thanks for the stunts, Master Panna!

 

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