Starring Xing Yu, Steve Yoo, Ya Mei, Matt Mullins, Yasuaki Kurata
Fight Choreography by Sammo Hung and Zhang Peng
Directed by Law Wing Cheong
Xing Yu is an actual 32nd Generation Shaolin monk who has co-starred in many great films like Kung Fu Hustle, Flashpoint and Ip Man, and has played second fiddle to other action stars. I thought he had enough screen charisma and martial arts talent to actually star in a film, and wondered if he would ever get his shot at the big time.
Well, he has now received his shot. And I was right! He’s got what it takes to be a star.
The Wrath of Vajra begins as we learn about the Hades sect under the leadership of Amano Kawao (Kurata), a Japanese martial arts organization that aided the Japanese armies during their attempted conquest of China, but were disbanded once their goals clashed with that of the military. The Chinese people are now revolting in the provinces that Japan controls, and needs the Hades sect to return to help quell the revolutions. To do this, Kawao, from jail, reinstates his lead student Kurashige to restart the Hades sect, by stealing children and forcing them to learn martial arts and become killing machines. Soon this comes to the attention of K-29 (Xing Yu), now practicing as a Shaolin monk after escaping the Hades sect. He was one of their greatest students, and they want him back, for either the purposes of joining them or being killed by them. At the same time a group of Chinese fighters consisting of a few Americans, particularly Bill (Mullins) are take prisoner and forced to fight until they die or join the Hades group. As the story unfolds you’ll find that Bill and a few others are well familiar with what Hades has to offer. K-29 finds that one of the Shaolin children has been taken by the sect, and he returns to Hades base/arena to fight his way to destroying them once and for all. Can he use his lessons as a Monk to save the child, the rebels, and himself once he enters the darkness of Hades?
I really enjoyed this film immensely. Xing Yu very much has the determined hero look down pat, but he also does a good job as showing his conflicted emotions at certain moments. Matt Mullins does a great job as Bill, but I wish there had been more scenes with him and Xing Yu, to examine their relationship since they both escaped from Hades. Yasuaki Kurata doesn’t get to fight in this one, but exudes menace as Kawao.
Steve Yoo is great as Kurashige, and plays him perfectly as a man who doesn’t believe that what he’s doing is evil as its all he’s ever known, and feels betrayed by K-29 for choosing to stand against him. Especially at the end, when he gazes out and sees Hades falling apart, and the disbelief on his face, is just well done by Yoo. The story itself is well told, and each character has a fitting, even somewhat operatic ending. I thought for sure this would be a Heroic Bloodshed film, and was actually surprised that it wasn’t, but in no way disappointed in that. That would have been an easy way to end the story. I’m glad they didn’t take it.
The fights in this film were a joy to watch. Since Sammo choreographed it, I would expect nothing less! It was all well-shot, with a mixture of traditional kung-fu and a little bit of wirework, but nothing that distracted or took away from the performers. My favorite fight is when K-29 fights Crazy Monkey, a crazy kung-fu fighter who uses an array of styles and parkour to evade and attack. The fight starts on the ground, then on a bridge, and then to the top of the concrete bridge arches, and down, and back up, and then into the water. The music here is also good, and I hope more films follow it musically. There is a Xing Yu versus Matt Mullins fight that I wish had been a lot longer, but Mullins gets his moments during the final scrum at the climax of the film (in fact, some of it reminds me of Enter The Dragon in a strange way). The final fight itself in the rain between Xing Yu and Steve Yoo is gorgeous to look at and is well done. Their fight really displays the powerful strikes within the karate and kung-fu disciplines. The scenes switch between their fight and the soldiers fighting the Hades disciples, and it all comes together beautifully.
Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9
I really had a great time with this movie, and I’d like to introduce everyone to Xing Yu: Kung Fu Star. His time has finally come in a film that properly introduces audiences to a man who may very well be the next big thing!
The Wrath of Vajra was released today on DVD and Blu-Ray from WellGO USA (Good Job, Ya’ll!) . I HIGHLY recommend you pick this one up!