Archive for the Billy Chow Category

Review: Dr. Wai in The Scripture With No Words (1996)

Posted in Billy Chow, Collin Chou, Jet Li, Takeshi Kaneshiro with tags , on May 29, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Billy Chow, Takeshi Kenishiro, Collin Chou, Charlie Yeung

Fight Choreography by Ma Yuk-Sing  and Ching Siu-Tung

Directed by Ching Siu-Tung

Everybody loves pulp heroes like Indiana Jones, Doc Samson and Allan Quartermain, and little boys who read or watched their exploits wanted to be them on screen, and many have tried but few were successful. The Indiana Jones films became the template on how to do them right, and Jackie Chan had success using some of the formula for his Armor of God films, and Jet Li decided to get into the act with the character of Dr. Wai…

Dr. Wai (Lee) and his good-natured, brave but dim-witted sidekick Pao (Kenishiro) globe trot all over the world searching for ancient Chinese artifacts. The film opens as a fellow archaeologist tries to commandeer a giant mechanical bull built Trojan horse style centuries ago, and Dr. Wai rides in to save workers as the bull goes out of control, running quite a few people over. Dr. Wai is able to save them, and afterward meets with General Leung, who wants to hire Dr. Wai to find a box containing the legendary Scripture With No Words, an ancient document said to contain incredible power. Dr. Wai and Pao take the job, which first finds them going undercover into a party throw by the  Japanese ambassador in Shanghai, in an attempt to retrieve a letter that holds a clue to the whereabouts of the scroll. Things bring them into conflict with General (Chow) and his commanding officer/cohort Yu (Kwan), who poses as a worker within the embassy to in order to gain Dr. Wai’s trust, and Dr. Wai finds himself falling in love with her. Dr. Wai and Pao then head to meet with a small pro-Chinese press office, where the scroll is being kept two oddballs:  the editor and his protege Pansy (Yueng) whom Pao finds himself falling in love with. Soon Dr. Wai and Pao must both protect the scroll and their new loves, but little do they know what trouble the scroll truly brings…

Dr. Wai is a fun but very dated film. The special effects are laughable terrible, and gets worse as the film goes on.. The story itself is also pretty flimsy, but it does have some good-natured humor, and allows Jet to have fun with the role, which he does. He has a good rapport with his co-stars, especially Kenishiro, who has silly fun as Pao. The Dr. Wai character is fun in and of itself, a martial arts master and archaeologist whose weapon of choice is an assortment of pens that can do things to put James Bond gadgets to shame. I’m fairly sure one of them could dial long distance. Kenishiro (Wu Xia, The House of Flying Daggers) is a lot of fun as the hapless Pao, who has moments of comedy that shows he’s comfortable in his dim-witted nature.

The fights are very wushu-centric, making them interesting to watch, but isn’t very innovative except for the fight between Jet Li and the leader of a group of bandits played Collin Chou

(Flashpoint, The Forbidden Kingdom). The next best fight is Jet Li using a metal rope chain against Billy Chow and a group of ninjas. Outside of that the fights were many but not nearly as interesting to watch. Some wirework was used, particularly in the fight where Dr. Wai had to take on two sumo wrestlers, but overall it’s minimal.

Dr. Wai is a fun but forgettable film that lets Jet Li indulge in an Indiana Jones with Kung-Fu style fantasy romp.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):

CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) The fight choreography is fast and fluid, but lacks imagination and any real hard hitting. Jet Li, Billy Chow and Collin Chou did a good job with what was there, but that kind of talent they could’ve done so much better.

STUNTWORK: (8) The stunts were pretty good here, nothing amazing, and even the few wire assisted scenes were good.

STAR POWER: (9) Jet Li, the great Billy Chow (Petticab Driver, Fist of Legend) and Collin Chou, with Rosamund Kwan really was a showcase of Hong Kong stars, all of whom have made their mark.

FINAL GRADE: (8) Dr. Wai is a fun film that could use a good updating, but Jet Li is great in the role and Kenishiro is perfect as his hapless assistant. A fun time if you can get past the poor special effects.

NEXT: Another Op/Ed from Santanu! This time he tackles Tai Chi Master!

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Review: Dragons Forever (1988)

Posted in Benny Urquidez, Billy Chow, Corey Yuen, Dick Wei, Jackie Chan, James Tien, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah with tags , on March 2, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, Dick Wei, Billy Chow, James Tien

Fight Choreography by Sammo Hung and Corey Yuen

Directed By Sammo Hung

For years Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao have dazzled us with onscreen stunt work and fantastic fight choreography, and after starring early on in quite a few wildly successful films together, they decided to go their separate ways, but before doing that they wanted to tackle one last film together, and bring out every actor, stuntman, and Peking Opera School buddy they’ve ever worked with to go out on a high note.

What a note they hit!

Jackie Chan plays, well, Jackie Lung, a successful lawyer who also seems to have gotten a degree in douchbaggery, as he’s a womanizing asshat who works for Hua Hsein-Wu, who owns a local factory that is being sued by Miss Yip, a strong woman who owns a fishery nearby, whose accusation is that the waste runoff from the factory is hurting her business. Jackie tries to warm up to her best friend and confidant Nancy, who isn’t smitten by Jackie’s charms at first. To ensure his client wins the case, Jackie hires his buddy Luke (Hung) to spy on Miss Yip, but doesn’t tell Luke that he’s also hired his two-fries-short-of-a-happy-meal pal Timothy (Biao) to plant a bug in Miss Yip’s house.  Jackie’s plans fall astray as Luke falls in love with Miss Yip and mistakes Timothy for a burglar, and they both get into a scuffle, and before long Jackie must referree both of his friends as well as try to win the heart of Nancy, all the while trying figure out what the men he’s working for are really up to.

Good lord, where to start. Rarely in the Halls of AssKickery has there been a film like this. Jackie Chan is as great as always, and here he really cuts loose with fantastic moves especially during the boat attack and the final fight in the factory, first with the thugs and then a fantastic rematch with Benny “ The Jet” Urquidez (Wheels on Meals). Sammo Hung is his funny yet serious self as Luke, and gets some fights but not that many, but with so much butt-kicking goodness I didn’t mind. Yuen Biao has some absolutely jaw-dropping scenes, first with his acrobatics throughout the entire film, and then the factory finale where he takes on the always great Billy Chow. Yuen Wah is hilarious as the cigar-chomping baddie, and it’s impressive he can still puff away–even when cartwheeling or somersaulting around.

The three-way fights that occur twice in the film involving Jackie, Sammo and Yuen Biao are comedy gold, and really show that they have done this with each other their whole lives, and they actually have. Their movements and timing with each other is classic, and can never be duplicated. That chemistry onscreen is rare, and has to be celebrated whenever we see it. Jackie’s fight with Benny The Jet is the crowning achievement of the film, and these two really know how to move with each other. Benny has the speed and power to give Jackie a hard time, and on-screen it shows. Benny makes a great villain, and really gives Jackie a run for his money. Their fights are brutal, more so than most of Jackie’s onscreen duels.

The story is fluffy and sweet, and exists to make room for the fighting and comedy, but somehow it all works. The three leads are the glue that holds everything together. They all play to their traits at the time: Yuen Biao is usually the crazy one, Sammo the amoral one except when it comes to his friends, and Jackie the good-hearted but womanizing jerk who always does the right thing. The camera work is dynamic for the fights, and it’s pure perfection. The pacing is well done, and each fight gets bigger and more complex. The Factory fight as a whole is an amazing finale of martial arts, filmed by the best the industry had to offer at the time. It rarely gets better than this!

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) Every fight catered to the strengths of its actors and what they can do, and Sammo used it to the fullest to get every drop of cool that could be had. The Jackie/Urquidez fight isn’t as good as Wheels on Meals, but it’s close. The boat fight is one of Jackie’s best.

STUNTWORK: (10)  Sweet Beejeezus did the stunt men get their asses kicked. Some of the falls and bounces off furniture they took were downright criminal, and the splits Billy Chow had to do? They had better had paid him well for that one. I think that might’ve cost him the ability to have children. Yikes. The stuntmen really brought it for this one, and they really sell every fight scene.

STAR POWER: (10) Everyone was at the top of their game. Damn near every badass on-screen at the time was in this! As a last hurrah for some of the members of the 7 Little Fortunes (Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Corey Yuen, and Yuen Wah) they chose a damn good way to close out their collaborations!

FINAL GRADE: (10) Dragons Forever is one of the classics of kung-fu films, with stunning fights and slapstick comedy that marked the end of the Jackie Chan/Sammo Hung/Yuen Biao films, but they went out with a bang!

Review: Fist of Legend (1994)

Posted in Billy Chow, Chin Siu Ho, Jet Li, Yasuaki Kurata, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , on June 22, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jet Li, Yasuaki Kurata, Billy Chow, Chin Siu Ho

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo Ping

Directed by Gordon Chan

During the early 90’s Jet Li wasn’t having a lot of box office success. He had a series of films that bombed during this time period, and he sorely needed a hit film. Enter Yuen Woo Ping and Gordon Chan, with a plan to remake one of Bruce Lee’s signature films. Could they help Jet regain his mojo?

The film starts at Kyoto University, Japan, as Chen Zhen (Li) studies engineering. A group of Black Lotus clan students arrive to throw Chen Zhen out because he’s Chinese.  Things are cool until they threaten to hurt Mariko, his girlfriend, and a scene of asswhooping ensues, as Chen calmly takes them all out. Woo Ping gives his signature first fight here, making it a small taste of what’s to come. There is a lot of great grappling here. Mariko’s uncle Fumio Fukushima (Kurata) arrives to stop the fighting and inform Chen Zhen that his master, Hou Yuan-Jia was killed in a match with a Japanese master. (This is the same Hou Yuan-Jia character Jet would play years later in Fearless, I believe.)  Chen Zhen returns home and immediately goes to challenge the Japanese master Riuichi to a battle, but not before he fights his students in a scene that recreates the famous Bruce Lee fight between the Japanese students. The fights here are fantastic, and shows the audience that this is Jet Li’s version of Chen Zhen, not Bruce Lee’s.

After he defeats Riuichi Chen returns to deal with the impending drama at home as he finds himself in a power play he doesn’t want with his best friend and kung fu brother Ting’en, son of Hou Yuen-Jia. Meanwhile Riuichi blames General Fujita (Chow) for poisoning Hou thus robbing the match of any honor, and the General kills him and lays the blame on Chen Zhen, prompting his arrest. In court Chen Zhen is released due to the testimony of Mariko, which saves Chen Zhen but complicates matters greatly as Chen Zhen is now ostracized by both the Japanese and his own people for loving a Japanese woman. Chen will also face Fumio Fukushima himself in a duel before joining his friend Ting’en for the final fight against Fujita.

Fist of Legend is a great film all on its own, remake or not. Yuen Woo Ping once again brings his “A” game to all of the fights. The fight between Chen Zhen and Ting’en is great, showing the difference of styles between them, and the final fight with Fujita is also well done as Billy Chow gives Jet Li all he can handle, but without a doubt the best fight in the entire film is between Jet Li and Yasuaki Kurata. Woo Ping saves his best for them, and they don’t disappoint. The fight goes from traditional to way cool as both men don blindfolds for the second half of their fight, taking Woo Ping’s choreography to new heights but keeps the wire work to a minimum, and director Gordon Chan makes sure the camera work and editing is spot on. Yeah, this fight is easily one of the best onscreen fights in either Jet’s or Kurata’s careers, and that’s saying a lot.

Jet Li takes the Chen Zhen character and makes it his own, bringing a calm intensity to the character, and Billy Chow plays a great evil General, but he is a much more dynamic fighter than what this film shows, but that’s the character he plays. The acting is pretty good in this film, and Gordon Chan moves the film at a brisk pace, so there are few slow spots.

While Fist of Legend is a remake, it is an excellent remake that tells a better, more layered story  than the previous film, with, dare I say it, better fights than in Bruce Lee’s version, which is no small feat, but good things seem to happen when Yuen Woo Ping is teamed up with great talent, and that’s on full display here. It was this film that gave the Wachowski Brothers the ideas for the fighting styles and wire scenes they wanted for The Matrix.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) Some of Yuen Woo Ping’s best work that will be copied in lesser films for years to come. Everyone does a fantastic job, but Kurata and Li’s fight is the highlight.

STUNTWORK: (8) Not a lot of crazy stunts, but the stuntmen perform admirably in every fight scene.

STAR POWER: (10) Li, Kurata, Chow, and Woo Ping, some of the biggest and best performers in the martial arts film world in the same film. Jet Li’s career soared to new heights here, and began to cement Jet beside Bruce and Jackie as one of the best martial arts stars ever.

FINAL GRADE: (10) This is a great film that is better than the original in many ways. Jet has some of his best fights here, and Yasuaki Kurata is gold in whatever he’s in.