The Water Margin (1972)

Posted in Chen Kuan-Tai, David Chiang, Ti Lung, Wu Ma with tags , on December 12, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Ku Feng, Chin Feng, Yueh Hua, Fen Mei Sheng, Ti Lung, David Chiang, Lily Ho, Cheng Lei, Lui Tan, Wu Ma, Wang Chung, Peng Peng, Lo Wei, Chen Kuan Tai, and pretty much anyone who has ever been in a Shaw Brothers film.

Fight Choreography by

Directed by Chang Cheh

THE MOUNTAIN BROTHERS ARE ALL HERE!

Those words reverberated through me at the age of eight, as this was the first martial arts film I over watched with my Dad, the first of many during Kung-Fu Saturdays, and I had visions of characters with such awesome names as Young Dragon, Red-Haired Devil and moves with names like the 13 Throws of Young Dragon, The Triple Kick Of Death. I had never seen anything like it. I found it so much more interesting than any cartoon or comic book at the time. Little did I know who much this film would help forge who I am today. So is it as good as I remembered it?

The film starts with introductions for each character, and dang it, it’s an hour into the film before they are done with them! It’s actually kinda funny and would make a great drinking game. “Drink every time you see a Chen or Feng on screen!” You’d be drunk ten minutes into the film!

We are introduced to the 108 bandits who are more freedom fighters than anything else: the Liang Shan fighters. We pick up where their leader, Chao Gai, is hunted down and killed by Shi Wen Gong for the Zeng Family, a powerful and corrupt family aligned with the government. The other LiangShan fighters vow vengeance, but first they must find a fighter who is the equal of Shi Wen Gong. They find such a fighter in Lu Chun I and his protege , Yen Ching but Lu Chun I is in trouble himself as he is betrayed by his wife and her lover, his own steward. The rest of the film deals as the fighters of Liang Shan take their revenge and save Lu Junyi as well…

The film itself it as epic a Shaw Brothers film as you’ll ever find. You’ll probably find every location on the Shaw Brothers lot has been used, casts of hundreds (cannon fodder baddies, but whatever) and colorful characters with names like The Timely Rain, Red-Haired Demon, Black Whirlwind, The Rash, The Pallid, and so so many more. The film mostly concentrates on Lu Chun I and Yen Ching, but that’s okay because everyone is larger than life in this film, and it reminds me of the American Film All Quiet on The Western Front, which starred most of the actors of the day. The deaths are all operatic and funny to watch as characters are skewered multiple times but have enough gumption to say something or do something before expiring, even with things like spears, arrows, and axes in their bodies! Chang Cheh is the best of the Shaw Brothers directors, and his skills are on full display here, using every camera angle and style in the book to deliver an epic film, at a time when “epic” and kung-fu movies were not synonymous.

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The music deserves a mention here as well. It’s a different animal all together, and has some really funky themes, like the Chiga-Chiga-Cha! whenever Yen Ching shows up, and the soulful singing that occurs throughout the film. It all fits perfectly, but on paper you wouldn’t think so.

The fights are pretty good, but it’s the finale of the film where it all comes together and shines brightly. It’s all full of Shaw Brothers goodness. Ti Lung gets the most work here, and looks great doing it. It’s actually funny to see the Shi Wen Gong call out the moves for his students to watch out for…right before the move actually happens, which winds up killing his students! There are better fights in other Shaw Brothers films, but it’s the story, not the fights, that is the winner here.

I know this may be a biased review by me, but…

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 10

One of the absolute best of the Shaw Brothers library. Full of operatic acting and epic battle sequences and fights, Chang Cheh pulls out the stops to deliver an epic tale of honor, loyalty, and justice!

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Review: Die Fighting (2014)

Posted in Didier Buson, Fabien Garcia, Laurent Buson with tags , on November 11, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Fabien Garcia, Laurent Buson, Didier Buson, Jess Allen, Dave Vescio, Xin Sarith Wuku, Gray Michael Sallies, Davis Chong, Jose Rosete

Fight Choreography by Fabien Garcia, Laurent and Didier Buson

Directed by Fabien Garcia

I’ve long been a fan of Laurent “Lohan’ Buson ever since I saw him take on Iko Uwais in Merantau, and hoped he would get into more films. Now, after a few years, he and his group Zteam took it upon themselves to put out their own small budget feature film…

…and it is absolutely badass.

The film combines martial arts with the found footage genre to tell the story of ZTeam, made up of Fabien, Lohan, Didier, and Jess (everyone basically playing themselves to an extent) who have come to Hollywood to make it big as action stars, and find themselves at the whim of a mysterious psychopath named The Filmmaker, who sends them by cell phone on increasingly more dangerous jobs, using security cameras everywhere they go to record the fights they get into, all so The Filmmaker can direct his martial arts masterpiece. He holds the wives of two Zteam members hostage in exchange for cooperation. Can the four future stars survive long enough to find out who The Filmmaker is and stop him?

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The story here is actually really good, and is meant to appeal to…well, folks like me and if you are a fan of this website, you. As demented as The Filmmaker is, in many ways he’s actually us. He tags on so many staples of martial arts films and gets it right. Fight a room full of black belts? Sure. Take on a group of thugs…only using drunken boxing? Why not? Shootouts with gangsters like something out of a John Woo or Ringo Lam film? Yep. Each time I found myself going “Yes!” every time The Filmmaker would announce his next challenge to the crew, even though I knew he was a rat bastard of a bad guy who needed to get his just desserts. Much of the story of the film rests on whether or not you buy who The Filmmaker actually is, so tastes may vary on how much you like the plot twist. I thought it was well done. There is even some humor, and there is one moment that had me laughing hard involving the takedown of a gentleman named Neutron, Bloodsport style.

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The Zteam do a pretty good acting job, but there were moments where the accents were a bit tough to decipher, and so I’d have to rewind and see it again to catch what was being said. Nothing that took away any enjoyment of the film. Between this and John Wick its refreshing to see action scenes that are not a chaotic mess, and show that Fabien Garcia, who also plays Fabien, knows exactly how to properly shoot a fight scene. No quick-cut edits, lots of wide shots for the kicks, and you always know the space everyone is existing in. If you think that’s not important, watch any Michael Bay film and tell me where everyone is in relation to everything else in an action scene. I was curious how the found footage look would work, but it turned out looking fine, and didn’t hinder the action one bit.

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As for that action, this film hearkens back to the Hong Kong action films of the 80’s. Sammo Hung and Freddie Chan would shed a tear if they could see how well done it is. The action is fast and furious, and I wound up rewatching each fight several times, marveling at the execution of the movements. The fight Fabien vs the black belts is awesome, and the final fight featuring Laurent Buson is worth every penny, and he is badass awesome, as is a super kicker that could give Ken Lo and Ron Smoorenborg a run for their money, but my favorite fight has to be between Didier and Chan (Xin Sarith Wuku), Didier being the smallest of the group, but never the weakest, and their fight contains one of the best uses of slow motion during a fight scene that I’ve ever seen. Even though I mention these fights, don’t get me wrong, EVERY fight in this film is great, and there are so many…

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 10

Folks, this film contains more badassery than you can watch in one sitting, and I can’t recommend it highly enough! If you are able to watch this film, you’re watching a future cult classic! I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next film from ZTeam Films!

This movie can be found On Demand right now!

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The Trailer for Die Fighting with Merantau’s Laurent “Lohan” Buson!

Posted in Laurent Buson with tags , on November 10, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

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Ahoy! This film is already out On Demand now, but my review will be up on Tuesday! I’ve been waiting to see this film, and I had initially reported on this last year when it was formerly called The Price of Success, and is produced and starred by Merantau’s Luarent “Lohan” Buson, a guy I had heaped praise on as someone who damn well needed to be in more movies, and here he is! Below is the trailer, and it looks even better than some of the footage I had initally seen!  No one has really tried a “found footage” martial arts film, and the premise:

When a team of Shaolin-trained kung fu actors are on the verge of breaking into Hollywood, a shady Director forces them through a gauntlet in Los Angeles, filming their every move as they are pitted against a gallery of thugs.

Check out the trailer, and look out for my review Tuesday!

Panna Rittikrai’s last! The Trailer for Vengeance Of An Assassin is here!

Posted in Dan Chupong, Panna Rittikrai on November 7, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

Thanks to the good folks at Soreelflix for this heads up…Panna Rittikrai has left us with one final film, and goodness, it may outdo the insanity of Bangkok Knockout! The old shaolin man alone is reason enough to see this film, as well as anything with Dan Chupong, but that shot of Dan shooting that guy as they both fall from a building! Damn! I am pumped to see this! They may also be in the running for best martial arts scene on a train…

Here is the trailer:

Review: Hawk’s Vengeance (1996)

Posted in Cass Magda, Gary Daniels with tags , , on November 4, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Gary Daniels, Jayne Heitmeyer, Cass Magda, George Chiang, Charles Biddle Jr, Vlasta Vrana

Fight Choreography by Gary Daniels and Cass Magda

Directed by Mark Voizard

If you read this site, then I’ll assume you love martial arts films, probably in just about any form you find it. Gary Daniels is among the biggest and best of the “B-movie” action stars, and this film, with not so great acting and some hammy dialogue, is as fun a film as you’ll find, despite its warts, which are actually legion.

In the film Gary plays Hawk, an English soldier who finds out that his brother has been murdered in New York, and travels there to find out who and why, and as the title says, get his vengeance. Things get complicated when he crosses path with a cop (Heitmeyer) and finds himself dealing with both Chinese gangs, skinheads, and an enigmatic villain named Garr, who happens to love de-balling his own sparring partners. Together with a local gangbanger, Hawk eludes two nutty assassins, Duquesne (Vrana) and his younger partner Blade (Biddle) and uncovers Garr’s plans before finally facing Garr in a fight to the finish…

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This is a really silly film, and what’s more everyone knows it. That’s part of the fun of this film. Gary Daniels is okay as Hawk, and aside from a funny disguise as a fire inspector isn’t given much to do character-wise until its time to fight. The direction is bland, even for a low-budget film like this, and Jayne Heitmeyer is great eye candy even though I never bought for a second that she was a cop. Cass Magda was laughably bad as Garr, either overplaying or underplaying his character at every moment. The film does contain a masterstroke however: Duquesne and Blade. Of all the characters in the film, these two bumbling assassins get more character development than even the hero of the film! The way the older Duquesne and the younger Blade spar verbally is terrific, but it’s the verbal spats after Blade uses his penchant for knives and wounds Duquesne each time they fight Hawk made me laugh whenever they were on screen and sad when they weren’t, and sadder still after they finally leave the film, in a way that’s most fitting for them both. A prequel with those two would’ve been fun.

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The fights in the film range from okay to good…for an American film. The final fight is pretty good as Cass Magda is a former student of Dan Inosanto, but I wish, especially in some of the Cass Magda sparring scenes, that they approached it with more…intent. Their movements seemed intent on making sure no one was ever even close to getting hurt. And let’s not even talk about the group fight in the operating room, which looked hilarious outside of Gary Daniels, but the director seemed to know this, and made sure Gary gave his opponent a bloody death, and I laughed as Gary basically got away with murdering several people, blowing up a building, kidnapping, and as it is the way with all 90’s heroes, basically gets offered a job as a cop.

I really miss the 90’s.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

A fun Gary Daniel’s B-movie from the 90’s that has one of the best assassin duos to come along in quite a while!

Review: Forced To Fight (2011)

Posted in Gary Daniels with tags , on October 24, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Gary Daniels, Peter Weller, Arkie Reese, Alexandra Weaver

Fight Choreography by Gary Daniels and Claudiu-Cristian Prisecaru

Directed by Jonas Quastel

Leaving the underground fight game can be hard, and in the realm of cinema, downright fatal. Many films have gone with this premise, but Forced to Fight takes a slightly different approach.

Gary Daniels stars as Shane Slavin, a hard-working man, devoted husband and father, and all around good guy. He had once been a fighter in a series of underground matches put on by the slimy Danny G (Weller), an opportunist who looks for any way he can to make a buck. Shane had gotten out and retired, but his troublemaker brother gets in too deep with Danny, and tries to get out, and after a brutal beating Shane decides to help his brother by returning to the ring and fight for Danny G. Things get complicated, as they always do, when Shane finds that the mentality that makes him a good fighter makes him a poor family man, and a series of mistakes places his family in danger. Can Shane become the good man he once was before it’s too late?

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I have to give Jonas Quastel props for a well-made film despite a low budget. The camerawork is well done, and the pacing is spot on. The turn the story takes is something different from the norm and I was happy to see Gary Daniels able to “flip the switch” from being the family man to becoming a devil-may-care fighter who is drunk on winning, and taking a beating. I was invested with his character early enough to care what happened to both him and his family. Alexandra Weaver and Arkie Reese also do a good job with playing Shane’s wife and brother, respectively. This is the first time I’ve seen Peter Weller (outside of 24) play a villain, and he is just great and charismatic as Danny G. He plays the slime ball in just the right way without going too over the top.

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The fight scenes are well done, but I would’ve liked to see the camera step back a little so we can discern the action more. The fight scenes are, of course, choreographed for mixed martial arts, which, for those who read this site, I am not a fan of on film, but it looked good, even though I wasn’t as impressed as I wanted to be.

The ending seemed a little too clean in how things end in regards to what had happened in the rest of the film, and I’m still debating whether Shane truly deserved the clean ending he got, despite what happens at the climax.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 7

A martial arts tournament film that actually has a good family drama at its center that give weight to the MMA action, and Peter Weller totally rocks it, and makes an excellent foil for Gary Daniels!

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