Archive for October, 2017

Review: Master Of The Drunken Fist: Beggar So (2016)

Posted in Cao Jun with tags , , on October 26, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

Starring  Cao Jun, Wang Meiying, Chen Zhihui, Zhao Olusheng

Fight Choreography by

Directed by Jian Yong Guo

Last year HBO teamed up with China to create HBO Asia, an arm of HBO to create original content coming from China. This may well be in response to pretty much everything that Netflix is currently doing. First up, they decide to do a DTV film retelling of the original drunken master Beggar So.

I’m not really sure what I think if this film.

The story starts as we meet a vain and prideful So Chan, a scholar summoned to the Emperor to take over as a military advisor (not really sure why they’d want a scholar instead of someone like, say, a general) but after sneaking into the emperor’s private kitchen and doing battle with an intruder skilled in drunken boxing, eunuch Song Fok-Hoi frames So Chan for, I think, doing exactly what he DID do. So Chan is beaten, his family killed, and himself banished from the court. So Chan is taken in by the Beggar Sect, led by Lau Pak-Gwai, the very man he fought in the Emperor’s kitchen. Knowing that his life is still in danger from Song, So Chan starts to train in the art of Drunken Fist, and eventually becomes good enough to get his revenge for his family…

The story is simple, and the characters are drawn in broad strokes, but you don’t really get invested in any of them. It also hurts that this film is tremendously inferior to other films about drunken boxing like the Jackie Chan Drunken Master series, where Beggar So is played wonderfully by Simon Yuen, or True Legend, with Vincent Zhao. This film does have a TV budget, but it could have done a lot more with it than it did. I never got the feeling of the passage of time with this film, as it seemed as if his family is killed, and he trains for a few days and becomes a Drunken Fist master. That’s not the film’s intention, but that’s the feeling. Also, I couldn’t help laughing at the fact that close to the climax of the film, So Chan learns the final missing pieces of the style after GETTING STRUCK BY LIGHTNING. That’s right. He gains drunken mastery the same damn way Barry Allen becomes The Flash. Not one bit of it is earned. The acting is okay but there are no standouts here. Competent is the best thing I can say for it.

 

The fight scenes are okay, and may even be good, but the camera work zooms in and out, shoots too closely, and the edits are too fast to truly appreciate the movements, and what’s maddening about that is I can feel the choreography is good if the camera would just STOP MOVING. And of course any film called Drunken-anything really can’t mess up one important scene: the training one. Drunken Master set a high bar and is in the running for best training scene ever, and this film doesn’t come anywhere near that. It starts well enough, but is far too short with no real story element added like comedy or even urgency. At the end if the film I’m not sure Beggar So is any different than he was at the beginning of the film. He’s no longer even a beggar.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

This is not a great or even good film, but there were some bones that HBO could set a better film on. Hopefully they have better films in the future. If not, this experiment won’t last long.

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Review: Half Past Dead (2002)

Posted in Mike Moller, Steven Seagal, Xin Xin Xiong with tags , on October 16, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Steven Seagal, Ja Rule, Morris Chestnut, Nia Peeples

Fight Choreographer: Xin Xin Xiong

Directed by Don Michael Paul

Another film in the era I’ll name the Seagalissance: those films in the early 2000’s that use a particular formula to try and resurrect Seagal’s-about-to-go-to-DTV-purgatory-forever-career, namely teaming Seagal up with a rapper and kicking ass while DMX is “grrrrr-ing” with the background music.

So how does Half Past Dead fit into the Seagalissance (TM)?

Steven Seagal plays the awesomely action-hero-named Sascha (um…) an undercover CIA operative who is hunting the Russian crime boss who killed his wife years ago. He works as a gun for hire through his pal Nick (Ja Rule) when both men are captured and thrown into Alcatraz. While there the execution of a powerful crime lord is about to take place, and once he dies, the secrets to where he hid millions of dollars in gold dies with him. Of course a group of terrorists are going to make sure he doesn’t die before giving up the location of the gold, and stage an invasion of the prison led by 49er One (Chestnut). Sacha is able to escape and goes about the business of killing a whole lot of people Die-Hard style in order to stop 49er One from succeeding…

Um…yeah. I’m not going to lie, this film is pretty bad. The formula that worked for Exit Wounds is really tired and stale here, starting with the nonsensical story, which starts by offering up this revenge Sascha need to have with the Russian mafia, but then completely discards it, as if they thought “we’ll pick this up in the sequel”. Which of course will never happen, so the first few minutes of the film is a waste. It could’ve saved about 15 minutes by simply starting in the prison. The bad guys and their plan is not well though out, and they basically bungle their way into giving Sacha a chance to defeat them. The acting is bad, particularly on Seagal, who by this time is having issues even when he’s trying to play himself. Ja Rule is actually playing himself–or maybe no one told him this wasn’t a sequel to The Fast and The Furious--but either way he’s a really bad actor who needs to stick to rap music. Nia Peeples is wasted in this film and barely does anything, as her stunt performers do most of the work, and Chestnut isn’t convincing at all as a bad guy. This film screams “we owed someone a favor” all over it, especially with the extended cameo of the A-Team and Greatest American Hero ( along with most of the best TV shows of the 80’s) creator Steven J. Cannell as a government official.

The fight scenes are nothing much to write home about, the best martial arts scene is a duel between Seagal and their computer hacker, which would be be great if not for Seagal himself, and the quick cuts and tight edits of their hand to hand, which is a shame with the fight choreography of Xin Xin Xiong (Clubfoot from Once Upon A Time In China!) driving the film. Why they edited the film the way they did made me wonder why they brought such a talent into this project.

Outside of some great work from Mike Moller (a talent far better than this film deserved) this Die Hard rip off is one of the worse of Seagal’s filmography, and if you know most of those films, that is really saying something. The best thing this film did was finally kick Seagal to DTV hell forever, with the exception of Machete.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: (can I do negatives? No? Ok) 1

This film has no redeeming value whatsoever. Please feel free to watch water boil or paint dry. It’s a better usage of your time.