Archive for December, 2012

Review: Kill ‘Em All (2012)

Posted in Erik Marcus Schuetz, Gordon Liu, Joe Lewis, Tim Man with tags on December 21, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Ammara Siripong, Tim Man, Gordon Liu, Johnny Messner, Joe Lewis, Erik Markus Schuetz, Rashid Phoenix, Brahim Achabbakhe

Fight Choreography by Tim Man

Directed by Raimund Huber

Kill ’Em All tosses a group of assassins in a Mortal Kombat-style tournament–in a warehouse. As the film begins we get to meet each of the assassins as they carry out their latest jobs, and then we get to see how each of them is captured, and in the case of the assassin known as The Kid (Man) he gets to see his girlfriend killed before he is knocked out. When he wakes up he finds he is in a dingy room with Som (Siripong), a female killer who has a more mysterious reason for being there, Gabriel (Messner) an explosives assassin who is also suicidal, Mickey (Phoenix) a young assassin who has no concept of right and wrong, Carpenter (Lewis) whom they never explain at all, Schmidt (Schuetz), a foul loudmouth, and Takab (Achabbakhe), an all around killer. They are being held by Snakehead (Liu) who works for a crime consortium, who has captured them for sport, and to wipe them out, since they are all seen as the competition. The assassins begin by killing each other, and then team up to take down Snakehead…

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…and that’s it. The story is as simple as it comes, and the premise of a group of assassins having to fight in a tournament is a good plot device, if you have the budget to pull it off, which they did not. The majority of the film takes place in a factory/warehouse setting, and it even seems as if some of the sets repeat themselves. The main problem here is with the characters and actor themselves. The characters don’t have enough character to root for them. Gabriel is suicidal, but why? It’s never explained, and his actions later in the film don’t match the character presented at the start of the film. Som has ulterior motives, but you don’t find out until toward the end of the film, so there is no dramatic impact when things reveal themselves. The Kid has the most sympathetic story, but it’s all surface no substance. I mentioned the other characters, but I really needn’t have. The late Joe Lewis is wasted here, as is Erik Markus Schuetz (Blood Ties). Most of the assassins are killed off within the first fifteen minutes. Gordon Liu (or as we like to call him around here, The Greatness) chews up the screen as the evil villain, and even gives that cool Shaw Brothers villain laugh. The talent assembled for the film has the martial arts skills (except for Messner) but the acting (save for Gordon Lui) just isn’t very good, and not enough to carry this film. I imagine it must have cost a pretty penny to hire Gordon Liu, but I wonder if it would have been better spent on better, varied locations and more time given to punch up the script. Director Raimund Huber (Bangkok Adrenaline) does a competent job, but it’s hard to tell with the budget and acting skills given. He shoots the fights well enough, but they are still edited to hell.

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The fight choreography by Tim Man matches the film, in that it’s a lot a fancy moves, but with the exception of a few moments here and there has no rhythm to it. Except for one part, and that was at the end, which was impressive as he and Siripong (the Mom from Chocolate) took on Gordon Lui. Gordon showed that he can still rock a good fight scene, and does so here. I’m not sure if this was Gordon’s last film prior to his stroke, but he accounted for himself well here despite his age. The late Joe Lewis also showed, for the last time, that he too could go toe to toe with the young’uns.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 5

Kill ‘Em All has problems that begin with the script and extends to the budget, and thus cannot escape being a simply mediocre film that wastes the talents used in it.

 

NEXT: Kiai-Kick in 2013…and beyond.

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Review: Wu Dang (2012)

Posted in Corey Yuen, Fan Siu Wong (Louis Fan), To Yu-Hang (Dennis To), Vincent Zhao with tags , , on December 19, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Vincent Zhao, Yang Mi, Fan Sui-Wong (Louis Fan), Josie Xu, Dennis To

Fight Choreography by Corey Yuen

Directed by Patrick Leung

Wu Dang is another attempt at trying to merge mystical kung fu with Indiana Jones-style adventures. The last really lame attempt was Jet Li’s Dr Wai in the Scripture with No Words, and that would be enough trepidation with this film. Add to that Vincent Zhao, who’s been embroiled in a scandal involving diva behavior on the set of a recent Donnie Yen film, and of course fight choreographer Corey “slummin’ it in the USA” Yuen, and no one could be blamed for taking a cautious approach to watching this film.

So I’ll tell you right now: Have no fear, it’s terrific.

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Wu Dang centers around Professor Tang (Zhao) and his teenage daughter Tangning (Xu), who are on a quest to get to Wu Dang mountain, by entering a tournament that Tang is sponsoring, in and effort to search the mountain for the Seven Treasures of Wu Dang. Things get complicated as a thief named Tianxin (Mi) searched for one of the treasures, a sword that belongs to her family. On the way there Tangning meets a man named Shui Heyi (Fan), who is trying to become a Taoist monk to try to care for his mother, and a strange friendship forms between them. Tang and Tianxin form an uneasy alliance in order to get the treasures, but beyond the dangers of that is the threat from a man whom Tang steals a map from, and the head monk Bailong (To) who is more than what he seems…

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Wu Dang, or “How Corey Yuen Got His Groove Back” is a thrilling adventure film that does a great job telling this story and weaving enough emotional content to the fights to get us to care about the characters and what happens to them. The film paces everything well, and the effects work is nothing short of fantastic. My only issue in regards to the story is that one character’s story arc remained unresolved by the end. which makes it maddening, but not so much as to ruin the film.

Zhao plays Tang with great intelligence and bravery, and vulnerability when the true nature of his search for the treasures are revealed. Tangning has good chemistry with Fan Sui-Wong , as both of them spend most of their screen time together, and Yang Mi has the same with Zhao, without which the movie would fail. Dennis To shows a lot of range as he plays the main villain, something very different from his part in The Legend is Born: Ip Man. Patrick Leung really captures some gorgeous shots of the mountain itself, and of all of the fights. The cinematography is truly something great here.

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Corey Yuen does his best work in many a year here. The wirework is flawless, and integrates itself into this world without being obtrusive, and the fight escalate at a good pace, and the cinematography really captures Corey’s work, particularly in the fight between Zhao and the swords women on the bridge, and Josie Xu’s fight with Sui Wong Fan during the tournament, which is a great display of how storytelling can work within a fight itself, as both characters come to a realization during the fight that drives the most emotional parts of the story home. It’s also the most beautiful sequence  in the entire film, and both Fan and Xu pull it off (If they ever make another Tekken film Xu has got to play Lin Xiaoyu).

Wu Dang represents a great return to form for Corey Yuen and a great performance by Vincent Zhao, and it all comes in service of a good story.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9

Vincent Zhao and company deliver a fun, involving kung-fu film that features some of  the best fight choreography Corey Yuen has done in quite some time.

NEXT:  Gordon Liu is an evil bastard in Kill ’Em All!

Review: Miami Connection (1987)

Posted in Y.K. Kim with tags , on December 16, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Y.K. Kim, Vincent Hirsch, Joseph Diamond, Kathy Collier, Maurice Smith, Angelo Jannotti, Woo-Sang Park

Fight Choreography by Y. K. Kim

Directed by  Y. K. Kim and Woo-Sang Park

Drafthouse Films, the film distribution arm of the legendary Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX (and in other locations, but whatever. They aren’t the original.) found this little 80‘s nugget, cleaned it up and re-released this little gem for our collective pleasure. A creation of Y. K. Kim, a Tae Kwon Do Grandmaster, this is the only film he ever did, and without a doubt it’s not necessary he makes another, as he’s made an epic B-movie classic …

Miami Connection opens with a drug deal gone bad, which typically happens when ninjas crash the party. This scene is full of badly acted death scenes, the best of which is the poor sucker who gets his arm cut off and overacts so badly…you just have to see it for yourself. After ward we meet Yashito (Si Y Jo) a ninja who wears white(!) and leads the…ninja biker gang. Dammit, I did just say that. Along with his brother Jeff they aspire to rule the Miami and Orlando drug scene, but one thing, and god knows why this is, stands in their way.

Dragon Sound.

A Tae Kwon Do band (I can’t believe I just typed that) made up of a collection of guys, starting with Mark (Kim) a master of martial arts, John (Hirsch) a black belt himself and in love with fellow band mate (not to mention Jeff’s sister) Jane (Collier), Tom (Janotti, who you’ll never convince me isn’t really John Oates of Hall and Oates.), Jack (Diamond) and finally Jim (Smith), who is searching for his father. Jeff and Yashito plot to have the band killed in a series of escalating confrontations, until finally Dragon Sound meets them head-on for a final confrontation…

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Miami Connection is without a doubt a bats***t crazy film, and God bless Y.K. Kim for making it! The acting, for lack of a better word, is terrible, especially from Kim himself, but hell, no one else is much better, but that’s part of the charm of the movie. In fact, my favorite character is Jim, who holds what I suppose is the B-story of the film, as he searches for his father (the entire band are all orphans), and Maurice Smith gives a line reading of the ages after he checks his mailbox:

“I found my Father! OH MY GOD!!”

Think I’m exaggerating? Watch this scene  below:

This film is full of WTF?!! moments like this, and I say that in a good way, such as the bad guy, who says in one moment:

“He will not escape…The Miami Ninja!”  I commend the actor for keeping a straight face reading that line.

Another WTF moment occurs when a group of..thugs, let’s call them, attacks Uncle Song, a friend of the band, at a restaurant Dragon Sound goes to, and he hauls up and uses martial arts to beat them down.

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Another WTF? The beach scene. I’ll not say more than that.  The songs of Dragon Sound, “Friends” and “ Against the Ninja” are classics that will burn themselves into your memories, whether you want them or not!

The fight scenes are not great, but better than most American films. Y.K has the best fight scenes, which is just as well as he the best fighter in the film, but the stuntmen are simply terrible, but like everything else in the film it just adds to the charm.  In fact, you could say that about every moment of this film. By all accounts it should be terrible, but it’s also some of the best fun I’ve had with a film in a long, long while.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8 

This film is a Gift from the Gods that needs to be shown at every movie night everywhere.  Y. K. Kim ‘s masterpiece is schlocky fun that’s not to be missed!

The film is currently in limited release. To see if/when the film plays in your area, check here:  Drafthouse (You can purchase this film too, but you really want to see this with a theater audience!)

 

NEXT: Vincent Zhao and Fan Siu-Wong will take you to Wu Dang!

 

Review: Outlaw Brothers (1990)

Posted in Frankie Chan, Fung Hak-On, Jeffrey Falcon, Mark Houghton, Yukari Oshima with tags , on December 6, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Frankie Chan, Max Mok Siu-Chung,Yukari Oshima, Jeffrey Falcon, Fung Hak-on, Mark Houghton

Fight Choreography by Fung Hak-on and Jackie Chan

Directed by Frankie Chan

Oh, how I love late 80’s, early 90’s Hong Kong cinema. The outfits. The style. The synthesized music, and the wonderful fight choreography of the time. Yes, there is much to love, and Outlaw Brothers has all of this and a lot of Yukari Oshima.

The Outlaw Brothers, James (Chan) and Bond (Max Mok) are car thieves and very good ones, particularly because the Hong Kong police really suck, save for policewoman, Tequila (Oshima). The film first follow James and Bond as they pull off a few heists, and the B-story is introduced as Bond is engaged to be married to a woman who, unknown to Bond, was an old flame of James.  Bond needs money for his woman, and James is infatuated with Tequila, who is pursuing him. Things seem to go well for them until they boost a car owned by a gang of drug dealers led by Meigo, a woman who had escaped Tequila once before. The car has thousands of dollars in cocaine, and Meigo will do whatever it takes to get it back. Of course this leads to a showdown between Tequila, James, Bond against Meigo and her thugs in a fight to the finish, featuring what has to be a record number of chickens being killed by gunfire and yes, you read that right.

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Outlaw Brothers is the Jackie Chan/ Yuen Biao Film they never made. The story, characters, nearly everything is evocative of the films JC/Yuen Biao/Sammo Hung put out in the late 80’s to early 90’s. While yes, this is a good thing, it does shine a light on the simple fact that Frankie Chan doesn’t have the onscreen charisma that either Jackie Chan or Yuen Biao do. It doesn’t get in the way of the fun, but may be something noticeable to those who worship that period of HK action cinema. Yukari Oshima is fantastic as tough-nose Tequila, and as always does a great job with her fight scenes. Also great was the cameo by Fung Hak-on as a parking garage security chief, and has to be the most badass one ever. Jeffrey Falcon is passable as Meigo’s main thug, but he does a good job with the fight scenes. Mark Houghton, god bless him, is my go-to Overacting White Guy in Hong Kong Cinema, and he does overact just a little bit, but that’s his charm, and I love him to death for it, and he does a great job as main Thug #2.

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The fights are awesome here, and they should be. One difference between this film and many of Jackie Chan’s films is that this film still has the fighters using traditional kung-fu forms despite the fact it takes place in 1990, and the kicks and punches look a lot harder here than in most HK films not choreographed by Sammo, but it does adopt the cadence and speed of a Sammo Hung fight. The opening fight between Frankie Chan and Fung Hak-on showcase this, and it continues throughout the film. Yukari Oshima is the standout here, and she has all of the best fights in the film. Her first fight against a group of auto thieves led by is a badass scene, and the stunt work here looks like leftovers from the cutting room floor of Police Story 2, and in no way is that a bad thing. The second major fight, near a pool, is also great save for a few moments where they make an odd choice to go into slow motion, when there was no point, no special move to warrant it. The final fights versus Yukari Oshima and Frankie Chan versus Jeff Falcon and Mark Houghton is the highlight of the film, and is worth the wait. The fan fighting sequence with Jeffrey Falcon is some of the best modern fan fighting I’ve seen.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9 

The Outlaw Brothers represents some of the best of early 90’s Hong Kong cinema, and a healthy dose of Yukari Oshima is icing on an already tasty cake. 

NEXT:  Y.K Kim and his posse take on a group of Ninja Bikers in Miami Connection!

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