Archive for May, 2014

Review: Safe (2012)

Posted in James Hong, Jason Statham, JJ Perry on May 29, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

 

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Starring Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, James Hong, Chris Sarandon, Anson Mount

Fight Choreography by J.J Perry and Chad Stahelski

Directed by Boaz Yakin

The great thing about Jason Statham, being the only A-list martial artist who makes Hollywood films (this needs to change ASAP. I’m looking at you, Hollywood) is that you know pretty much what you’ll get when you put the words Statham and Action together: a healthy mix of martial arts and gunplay, and badass quips. His best mix of these are his Transporter films, and the rest of his action filmography is a mixed bag. So is Safe closer to Transporter or closer to War?

Safe tells the story of Luke Wright (Statham) who starts off as a boxer who doesn’t throw a fight, and since the Russian mafia had bet a lot of money, take it out on Luke by murdering his wife. The Russians let Luke live, but with the knowledge that anyone he befriends will be killed (and they are killed). Meanwhile, in China, a young girl named Mei exibits a genius intellect for numbers, even though she doesn’t like them, and is kidnapped and held to work for the Traids and their leader Han Jiao (Hong). Fast forward to a year later, and Luke is on the streets living as a homeless man, and we find that he was once an undercover cop, who had turned over his partners to internal affairs. Meanwhile Mei is being transported to a location where she is to be give the second set of numbers she is to memorize which will open a safe somewhere in the city.  During her transport the Traids are attacked by the Russians, and Mei escapes and is found by Luke, who defends her from the Russians. Together, Mei and Luke save each other, and if they play their cards right, they can do so and get rich at the same time…

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Safe is a decent film, and Statham delivers as always. He plays Luke like the broken man he is, yet he still responds to his call to action. Catherine Chan is good as Mei, even though she doesn’t say much, she conveys it through her eyes. James Hong is Mr. Dependable as the Triad thug, as is Chris Sarandon as a corrupt mayor of New York. The story is at issue here, particularly in the way the film fills in the blanks of Luke’s life for the audience with no prior hints whatsoever. It’s like instant revelations constantly occur: He was once a Cop! He was part of a Task Force! He ratted out his partners! The Mayor’s Aide is some kind of mega-killer-badass! It all seemed to be items shoehorned in to explain the plot, which made parts of the film to appear as if written by someone taking a screenwriting class. I get slow reveals, but these were too many for the wrong reasons.

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The fights were good here, if not very many. The train fight was probably the best fight, as was the fight in the hotel restaurant area, a chaotic mix of martial arts and gunplay that was exciting and fun. The most disappointing fight is the one that didn’t happen: the fight between the Mayor’s Aide (Anson Mount, from Hell on Wheels) and Luke. It had the look of a classic badass fight but is ended before it can start thanks to some quick thinking on Mei’s part. It was such a surprising moment I can forgive the fact that it took away what appeared to be a great duel.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 7 

Safe is an entertaining film and Jason Statham delivers the goods as always. A nice way to spend a Friday night.

 

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Kiai-Kick announces pre-production has begun for the webseries “Cornered”!

Posted in Kiai-Kick Films, Michael Moore on May 25, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

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That’s right! Among changes happening on this website is a name change! Now Kiai-Kick will now be called Kiai-Kick Films! A new logo is on the way, and I am so excited to announce this new direction for the website and myself! This is something that has really been in the works for the last couple of years, and now it’s here! Instead of simply reviewing martial arts movies and short films, I’ll be making them! Don’t fear, I’ll still be reviewing movies here, but that will be in-between productions!

The first of which I am proud to announce is the 4-part webseries “Cornered“. This series will pay homage to the martial arts cop films of the late 80’s and 90’s (both American and Hong Kong films). The series picks up as Supercop Adam Matrix tries to protect Helen Bryant, daughter of a slain scientist, and retrieve her father’s last work, a formula for a deadly toxin, but trouble comes when Kellogg Deveroux, one of the biggest corporate thieves in Texas, sends his men, particularly the deadly Richter,  to get the case and the girl, and put Matrix and his friends away once and for all…

The scripts are done, the crew is set (I’ll announce them soon), and auditions are about to begin, and once casting is complete I’ll post the entire cast here!

I’m both scared and excited to embark on the first of many short–and feature–films! Who knows? Someday I hope to work with the many people I’ve spoken about on this website!

Thanks to all of you who have supported and read this site over the years! The best is truly yet to come!

 

-Michael S Moore

Review: Once Upon A Time In China 3 (1993)

Posted in Jet Li, Xin Xin Xiong with tags , on May 20, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

 

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Starring Jet Li, Xin Xin Xiong, Rosamund Kwan, Max Mok

Fight Choreography by Yuen Bun

Directed by Tsui Hark

Jet Li returns as Wong Fei Hung in part 3 of his great Once Upon a Time In China series that helped define Jet as one of the definitive Wong Fei Hungs. 

This film finds Wong Fei Hung engaged to Aunt 13 (Kwan) and returning home to visit his father, Wong Kei-Ying, to inform him of their impending nuptials, but of course there are other complications, such as the traditional Lion Dance, which causes major competitions among other kung-fu schools. Added to this the attendance of a group of British, Russian, and German representatives, one of whom knew Aunt 13 (and maybe had a romance with her back then), really complicates things to a level Wong Fei Hung hasn’t experienced in the series. 

The first problem is his father, who may or may not approve of Aunt 13, since she is a distant relative of the family. The more pressing matter is the local Cantonese kung-fu association, led by the ever-laughing Chiu Tin Bai and his enforcer Clubfoot (Xin Xin Xiong), who is raiding any martial arts school thinking about participating in the tournament and smashing their Lions, and during their initial attack they injure Wong Kei-Ying, which draws the ire of Wong Fei Hung. In the meantime a plot is discovered to assassinate the Prime Minister during the Lion Dance, but is Tin Bai behind it, or the strange foreigners? 

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The series, as always, keeps things light and fun, and the fights are a mixture of traditional Jet-Li ass-kicking and wirework, and never trades on the fun, and has less serious moments than the last two films in the series, but still manages to deliver a message about nationalism and the encroachment of foreign ideas and technology. Here, though, Wong has something to say about education for Chinese as well to compete with the Foreigners. Jet is as good a Wong Fei Hung as he ever has been, and wears the character like a nice shirt. Max Mok is still ridiculous as Foo, and Rosamund Kwan is as beautiful as always as Aunt 13. We get a new addition in Xin Xin Xiong as Clubfoot, first an enemy and then later an ally. His story arc is interesting, and his fighting style, relying on his feet, make for fantastic fights with Jet Li. The story here is light, but still confronts a host of issues, and does so competently. Tsui Hark has always had a good bead on the Wong Fei Hung character, and nothing has changed here.

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The fights, no longer done by Woo Ping, still manage to maintain the energy of the previous entries. The Lion dancing finale is great, but it’s the fights versus Xin Xin Xiong that are the showstoppers, as is the fight in the tea house. I could start to feel a sort of tiredness starting to set in, however. The ideas for fights featuring this character were starting to wear thin, and I think everyone knew it, which is why Jet and most everyone else left the series for films 4 and 5. 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

A kung-fu film that puts Jet Li back into the character he’s most comfortable with, and he delivers yet another fight filled chapter in the story of Wong Fei-Hung!

 

Review: Bloodsport 4: The Dark Kumite (1999)

Posted in Daniel Bernhardt with tags on May 16, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

 

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Starring Daniel Bernhardt, Stephanos Miltsakakis, Michael Krawic

Fight Choreography by Jeffrey Moldovan

Directed by Elvis Restaino

Daniel Bernhardt is a martial artist whose claim to fame has long been for the fact that he resembles Jean-Claude Van Damme a bit, and so gets to make inferior, low budget sequels to JCVD’s films, which is a shame, as Daniel himself is a good martial artist who could probably have forged his own place in martial arts cinema, much like Bruce Li. Here, however, we are given what must be his most low-budget, worst film in what is thankfully the last of the Bloodsport films (for now…).

In this film Bernhardt plays Keller, a cop who, with his new partner, find themselves perplexed when a thug he had sent to prison and was presumably put to death suddenly arrives on the street and kills again. They capture him, and then Keller goes undercover in the same prison the man he busts is sent to (not the smartest thing to do…) and there meets a crazed, cowering warden who engages the fighters in a series of fights, the winners of which get to go to the mansion of James Caesar, where they fight in a new Kumite where the reward is freedom ( which still makes no sense, as they would eventually be found out anyway, and thrown right back in prison). Keller must battle the very men he put away in order to survive long enough to stop Caesar…

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This film is profoundly silly, and the budget was the lowest of the low. In no way, shape, or form does the police station look like one. Or the prison. Or the club. I think the only scene where the set was what it was supposed to be was a street corner. The acting in this film is absolutely terrible across the board save for Bernhardt, but the script doesn’t help him much either, as it is as bad as everything else. 

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The fights are about as shittily (if that’s not a word, it should be) choreographed as they come, as at one point before the Kumite *chuckle* a character claims that different styles are used, but it all looks like the same style of fighting the entire film. No one is doing anything different.

I would normally say a lot more, but this film is so terrible that I don’t want to waste my time any longer on it than I have to. 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 1

Ugh. This is one of the worst martial arts films I’ve ever seen. Stay far, far away from this one. 

 

Review: Special ID (2013)

Posted in Andy On, Collin Chou, Donnie Yen, Kenneth Lo with tags , , on May 13, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

 

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Starring Donnie Yen, Tian Jing, Collin Chou, Andy On, Ken Lo

Fight Choreography by Donnie Yen

Directed by Clarence Fok

After living with the moniker “he has the potential, but…” Donnie Yen has finally taken his place alongside Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and Sammo Hung as a bona-fide action star, after rattling off a string of hits in Killzone (SPL), Flashpoint, Ip Man 1 and 2, and Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. Now he returns to the cop genre. But the results are a mixed bag, through no real fault of his own.

Yen plays Chi-Lung “Dragon” Chan, an undercover cop who has been working to infiltrate members of local crime gangs in Hong Kong, in particular one ran by Xiong Cheung Mo-Hung  (Chou) and finds that his old protoge Sunny (On) is trying to take over, and must go to mainland China to find and stop him. There Chan teams up with cop Jing Fang (Jing) to stop Sunny, but things get complicated when Chan’s real identity is revealed, and he’ll have to stop the entire gang if he’s to save the only person he truly cares about…

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The film itself is a mixed bag. The story doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, but I can guess. This film wants to be what Jackie Chan’s Police Story was: a mixture of comedy, drama, and action. Donnie Yen can do the last two. But the first comes off as silly and out of character for him, and out of place for the film in general. Jackie Chan could balance the comedy and serious stuff, but it just doesn’t work here with Yen. The story also has serious logic issues that exist only to make things more dramatic and tension filled. Yen’s character does some things that are head-scratching, as does Jing Fang, as if they don’t understand the concepts of what undercover means. Yen is good in the serious scenes, and Jing Fang is a welcome character, but the best performance here is Collin Chou and Andy On. Collin oozes menace whenever he’s on screen, and really, the finale should have been him. Andy On does a terrific job as the thug who’s set his sights far too high, and his energy brings a needed life to the film, but there’s far too little of either him or Chou.

Special ID

The fights here are of a similar type to the fights in SPL and Flashpoint, with Donnie Yen mixing Mixed Martial Arts with kung-fu, but the results leave much to be desired. The kitchen fight is the best fight of the film, in some ways very reminiscent of a fight in one of the Police Story films, but the finale, the one on one between On and Yen, which should have been the show stopper, is okay, but not great, and no where in the league of Collin Chou vs. Yen in Flashpoint or Sammo vs Yen in SPL. It felt like a “been there, done that” kind of thing, which is not good for a martial arts film. The car fight between On and Jing was good, and maybe it was excellent (it was well-shot) but after the car fight of The Raid 2, you’ll forgive me if I wasn’t as impressed as I should’ve been.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

Special ID isn’t as special as it should have been. Despite some cool moments, the film just doesn’t come together as well as it should have.

The film is out today on Blu-Ray from Wellgousa

 

Vlad Rimburg returns with “Osu”!

Posted in Vlad Rimburg on May 12, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

Vladislav Rimburg is one of the most exciting fight choreographers out there today, and while we await his work on Unlucky Stars, here is a karate fight that is on a level I haven’t seen since Black Belt. Check out the fight, and just wow at what you see here. Starring Nate Hitpas, Micah Karns, and Tony Vittorioso. Well done, gentlemen. Well done.