This just popped up in my radar, and I’m already excited for this film. FINALLY a film that lets our Hispanic martial arts brothers and sisters get in on the kung-fu/karate action ( I know there are other films that feature a Hispanic martial artists, but still…) and it excites me to see that Dennis Ruel, the director of the upcoming Unlucky Stars movie, is one of the stars of this film. Director Jose Montesinos is new to me, but I know he’s been around, and I’ll soon bring more of his work to this website. As for this film, the martial arts fights look damn good and I-can’t-wait-to-see-this!
Starring (Jacky) Wu Jing, Celina Jade, Kara Hui, Lam Suet, Noriko Aoyama
Fight Choreography by Jack Wong and Chi Li Chung
Directed By Wu Jing and Chi Li Chung
Wu Jing has been in the business for quite some time, and many hope that he is the answer to the question “who’s next?” in regards to who might take over the Hong Kong action void being left by the 80’s crew as they get older (Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Jet Li). Even Donnie Yen is in his mid 40’s, vowing to retire being in front of the camera once he turns 50 (retire? I have to see it to believe it). What seems to be missing for Wu Jing is that character. The one he’ll always be known for. It took Donnie Yen his entire career to find that in Ip Man, and JC found it early on as Wong Fei-Hung, and Jet Li as the same character. Is that character here for Wu Jing?
No, but that’s okay. He’s played assassins before. He’s pretty good at it.
Legendary Assassin begins as we meet Bo, an assassin who is on the hunt for Chairman Ma, head of a drug mafia. He finds Ma on an island off the coast of Hong Kong and kills him, taking his head in a bag. Why would he do this? The answer comes later in the film. Bo’s troubles start as a typhoon hits the coast, and all boats are forbidden to leave port, and the ferry he needs to board won’t come in from Hong Kong until the bad weather passes. A chance encounter with a beautiful police officer Holly (Jade) provides Bo with a rare peace he’s never known, but in even more danger after he helps her apprehend a group of bank robbers and is rewarded with a meal and friendship among the police officers of the small precinct. Meanwhile Chairman Ma’s wife has sent a group of men to the island to find out what happened to her husband. This sets off a chain of events where Chairman Ma’s body is found by the police, and a hunt begins for the killer. Bo now finds himself trapped on the island hunted by police officers he doesn’t want to hurt or reveal that he is the killer, and the mafia who is looking to take revenge, and Holly’s own life is in real danger from everyone…
Legendary Assassin is a fun, if predictable film. Most film where the assassin becomes human always seems to end with them dying, so I’m not giving anything away here. Wu Jing is likable here, and is able to act as an innocent who’s never really known too much kindness toward him, and from the police no less. Celina Jade is new but does a good job as Holly, and she is able to play her as a capable police officer who smartly knows that things are not right with Bo. The story moves along at a good pace, but there were no real chances taken in regards to it. The cinematography is pretty good, but nothing special. I wonder how much Wu Jing directed himself. If it was most of the film, he shows a good eye for the camera and how to get good scenes from the actors. The only part of the story that loses me is the battle at the end. Yes, it’s just a film, and we’ve seen other “hero” characters find an unrealistic horde of henchmen, but for some reason this seems more unrealistic than even I could deal with and pulled me out of the film. The hero fighting on two fucked up knees doesn’t help the situation either.
The fight choreography here is really well done, particularly the fight in the restaurant and then the hundred man battle at the end of the film (as crazy as it was) . The fights are brutal and the movements are a mixture of real world and “film” with only a couple of moments that are wire-assisted, which is what we need to see more of from Wu Jing. The fight flow really well, but there was no really good end fight with any one single character, which would have been a good payoff for a film like this. Watching Wu Jing beat the tar out of nameless enemies isn’t boring, either.
Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8
Legendary Assassin is a good if not original assassin film that’s worth a watch. Wu Jing kicks a lot of ass, but during the final fight he kicks a little TOO MUCH ass. I can’t believe I just wrote that.
Starring Mike Moller, Volkram Zschiesche, Oliver Juhrs
Fight Choreography by Psycho Dog Bros
Directed by Mike Moller
For years the best and brightest martial arts films came from Hong Kong. Such names as Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, David Chiang and so many more shone brightly, as well as directors like Yuen Woo Ping, Chang Cheh, Lar Kar Leung, Sammo Hung and John Woo. Then, in the early 2000’s things started to change. The old Hong Kong guard either left for Hollywood to make inferior films, age, or both. With the exception of Donnie Yen, Hong Kong martial arts seemed to come strained through a filter, and the newer films didn’t seem to feature characters with real martial arts skills. Meanwhile, other countries started to showcase the martial arts of their own respective countries led by Thailand with Ong Bak and stars Tony Jaa and Jeeja Yanin, and Vietname with The Rebel, Clash, and stars Johnny Nguyen and Veronica Ngo, and South Korea with films like Fighter in the Wind and City of Violence, and of course we can’t forget Indonesia with The Raid and new superstar Iko Uwais. Now Germany gets into the game with new star Mike Moller. So how did they fare?
Let’s say this: Hong Kong films need to seriously step up their game. Germany’s crashing the party!
Urban Fighter follows Mikey (Moller) a man in prison who flashes back to how he wound up there, and we quickly go back in time to when he was a young gang banger who idolized his best friend Mathis, and after Mathis is killed by a group called the Bloods and their leader Slater, Mikey decides to take on the biggest gang in the city, but to do so he has to enter a fight tournament to get to Slater, but Mikey isn’t a match to even get into the tournament, and begins to train, get into other fights, in order to test his skills. Slater is aware of Mikey’s skills growing, just as the mysterious figure who operates the tournament is aware. Mikey doesn’t understand just how in over his head he really is, and Mikey soon finds he needs his friends to help him, but even they may not be enough, but even being sent to prison doesn’t stop the tournament from finding him, but why?
The story to the film takes a little while to ramp up, but when it does it gets good. The early scenes with the 80’s style biker gang is a little silly (especially since we know Mike Moller’s wearing a wig) but the film greatly improves after Act 1. If there is one thing that was odd, and it was an attempt by the film to cater to an English speaking audience. The problem here is that everyone is German with strong accents, and at least I found it difficult to understand at times. Mike Moller does a good job as Mikey, starting off being an immature hothead, but as his martial arts knowledge expand, so does his maturity, and Moller is able to pull this growth off. Volkram Zschiesche is also good as Slater, playing the bad guy with gusto and fun. The other actors varied from okay to not very good, and I think speaking English may have hurt some performances.
Now, I don’t know who Psycho Dog Bros are (Mike Moller is the head) but they certainly learned from Panna Rittikrai (The Protector, Ong Bak) when it comes to fight choreography. The fights start off weak at the beginning, which is appropriate since Mikey isn’t good with martial arts at the beginning, but as the film goes on it gets better and better until the actual tournament, where is just becomes a stellar showcase of martial arts of many different styles, and the camerawork is perfect in these scenes. In many respects the film pays homage to past martial arts films like Ong bak and Bloodsport, even going so far to recreate one of best scenes in Bloodsport shot for shot, and it was a blast to see. The next to last fight also features a free-for-all involving escrima sticks and short staffs which was also great, but nothing beats the tournament scenes. There are also some very well done parkour scenes, very much on the level of District B13, so they covered all of the bases!
The advertisements claim the film is shot in the style of Ong Bak, and while they don’t hit the greatness of that film, they come pretty close, which is no small feat. The biggest real problem I had is that the film has an open ending. Hopefully a sequel is on the way.
(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):
CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) A fantastic job by Mike Moller and crew. The tournament and stick fights are really well done, and would make Panna Rittikrai and Yayan Ruhian give them a thumbs up!
STUNTWORK: (9) The stuntmen certainly took it like the Ong Bak guys do, and really tossed themselves around with gusto and flair, and had good reactions to the strikes and kicks.
STAR POWER: (6) I had never heard of Mike Moller prior to this film, but he has done a lot of German TV and film as a stuntman. After this film, that’ll change.
FINAL GRADE: (8.5) The first act somewhat hurts this film, but the second and third acts more than make up for it with fantastic martial arts action and a new star in Mike Moller!
NEXT: Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle run their way to victory in District 13: Ultimatum!
The Urban Fighter (also kn0wn as Street Gangs) DVD/ Blu-Ray will be released on July 27th, 2012 in Germany. US release is scheduled for June 6th in selected theaters.
Starring Eric Jacobus, Nathan Hoskins, Edward Kahana Jr, Johnny Yong Bosch, Rebecca Ahn
Fight Choreography by The Stunt People
Directed by Eric Jacobus
Eric Jacobus (Mortal Kombat: Legacy Season 2) and his group The Stunt People are a talented mix of fight choreographers and martial artists, and have put out fantastic test fights online, and have done feature film work as well. Eric himself will get to shine in front of a mass audience as Stryker in Mortal Kombat Season 2. This review takes a look at one of his independent efforts.
Suffice to say, I hope he does some of the choreography work in MK Legacy. No offense, Larnell Stovall!
Death Grip follows Kenny (Jacobus), a mysterious man who has returned home to take care of his brother Mark (Hoskins) , who suffers from a mental illness after a fire that killed their mother years ago. Before long Kenny has to take a job as a caterer at the museum opening of a Judas coin, and things get dicey quickly when later that night, the coin is stolen by a group of thieves who turn out to be part of a cult. Mark, who happens to be quite adept at picking locks and electronic devices, takes the coin since he likes silver. This puts them, and Rindy (Ahn), one of coin presentation’s collectors, both in the crosshairs of Torch (Bosch), the leader of a cult who wants it back…
From a technical standpoint, Death Grip is great. The cinematography is spot on, and the fights, with the exception of one, is well shot. The one I have an issue with was the fight with the blind man in the dark. This is just my own personal gripe, but I hate martial arts films that have fights that take place in the darkness, ‘cause it renders the wonderful fight choreography useless. Other than that, all of the fight scenes were shot well.
The story itself follows a good progression, but the hero Kenny is incredibly hard to invest in. He’s dour, without a lot of personality (understandable given his history, but still), and I had a difficult time rooting for him to win, which is fine as he rarely ‘“wins” at all. He really doesn’t save anyone in the film, even though he’s supposed to be the hero. Mark, however, is a warm enough character to root for. Of anyone in the film, I most wanted Mark to get out of the situation intact. The same goes for Rindy as well. Rebecca Ahn brings a warmth and humanity to the screen, mostly shared with Jacobus, which is sorely needed due to Kenny’s detachment from, well, everything. Speaking of the star, Eric does a fine job playing Kenny, but as the character is so detached I just found Kenny too difficult to like, at least until near the end, where Kenny and Mark have a talk about the past, and the events that took their mothers’ life. Jacobus handles the action scenes with flair, and he handles the fights great. His direction shows he knows how to tell a story, and the actors did a fine job, so all’s well there. Johnny Yong Bosch (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Bleach) handles himself well as the bad guy Torch, a religious fanatic who needs the coin.
The fight scenes themselves are really, really good, much more old school 80’s Hong Kong than anything else (given the current state of Hong Kong martial arts films, that’s a high standard they’re having a hard time meeting themselves). My favorite fights in the film are at the very end between Jacobus and Bosch, and their fight in the bathroom toward the beginning, which is also the most humorous scene, involving Jacobus, Bosch, Hoskins, all moving slowly, and a busted toilet with an automatic flush, which quickly becomes everyone’s enemy!
Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8
Death Grip is a good film with excellent fight choreography and a good story that unfolds like the pages of a good thriller. Eric Jacobus and the Stunt People don’t disappoint!
Director/fight choreographer Emmanuel Manzanares, along with Shawn Bernal and Anthony Pho, create yet another great fight scene, as it always is the case for LBP Stunts Chicago. Every bit of their work here is gold, and what I love the most is that it always seems to be part of a bigger story. They understand how to combine the action with, as Bruce Lee once said, emotional content. Someone needs to get these guys choreographing and starring in a feature film. They are that damn good. Check it out below, and then take a look at some of their previous work Yo Soy Un Hombre Loco.