Archive for the Bruce Li Category

Review: The Image of Bruce Lee (1982)

Posted in Bolo Yeung, Bruce Li, Ying-Chieh Han with tags , on June 8, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

 

Starring Bruce Li, Bolo Yeung, Lik Cheung, Ying-Chieh Han, John Chueng

Fight Choreography by Bruce Li

Directed by Chuang Yang

Let’s get one thing out of the way first…the only image of Bruce Lee you get close to seeing is at the beginning of the film, where you see Dragon (Li) dressed up in the Bruce Lee Game of Death track suit. Dragon is part of Special Squad, which must mean he gets to wear yellow track suits, just to let everyone know who he’s with.

The film opens as Dragon tries to thwart a suicide jumper by sneaking up on him, and fails miserably as the man jumps to his death anyway. So, Dragon gets all pissy about it so of course while training in the gym some of his coworkers challenge him to a little bit of sparring. What the hell ever. Dragon spars lightly at first and then decides to go all Bruce Lee on them and jacks them up, which is a dick move, and also means he won’t be getting an invite to the Police Appreciation Night.

Meanwhile Moustache (Lik Chueng, and yes, that’s the character’s name), an undercover cop interrogates a bar owner for running around with counterfeit money. He points out that he got it from local strip club, and from there Moustache goes to the home of…someone who has something to do with it. It turns out that Dragon was sneaking around and is found by Moustache and so they have to fight until they both realize they are cops. Now if Dragon were nicer he would get invited to more events where he may have actually met Moustache. Yeah, Dragon’s a douche. The fight here is horrible because…it takes place in the dark and you can hardly see anything!

The police chief teams the two up to take down the ringleader of the counterfeiters Han Tin Ling (Han), who is in the middle of making a deal with Japanese mob boss Kimura played by Bolo Yueng who looks like a Chinese Captain Kangaroo. On steroids. And really mean. Dragon follows Han’s son and Han’s niece Donna, who has just returned with new counterfeit plates. Dragon and Moustache discover that things are not what they seem, nor are all the people who are in on the plot…

This is a silly film, but a fun one. They know who their audience is, for certain. If there isn’t a fight scene then there’s a naked woman somewhere. Everywhere. It’s like there wasn’t a clothing budget for any females in the film, particularly for Donna, and by the end of the film there is absolutely nothing left to the imagination regarding her body. Bruce Li is playing the same kind of character he usually does, and doesn’t bring much more to it.

If stealth had a name…Dragon and Moustache wouldn’t be anywhere near it. Every attempt that includes the words sneak, follow discreetly, stealth, and hide end in grand failure, each and every time. There are mountains that can hide better than these two. I think the writers kinda did that on purpose. Dragon, after all, is kind of a dick. No where do they say he or Moustache are good cops.

The fights in the film start out fairly lightweight, but get much better toward the end of this film. It’s great to see Bolo get into a fight (he has two versus Bruce Li) that’s pretty good and really allows him to show off his skills in a way he never could in any JCVD film. He still can’t rock a white turtleneck sweater, though. The final fights are decent enough, and it’s great to see Ying Chieh Han as a baddie again (The Big Boss). The funniest thing about this film is that for once, the police characters don’t kill anyone! They just beat them up, and actually take them to jail, which for a martial arts film not starring Jackie Chan is something of a novelty.

This a kung fu film in the lightest of definitions. The fights aren’t particularly complex nor exciting to watch, but isn’t a terrible time waster. It may actually make a good party film. No one has to pay too much attention to it except for where there is fighting. Or nudity.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (6) Just barely above average. It was great to see Bolo get a decent fight scene, however. The rest is unimaginative choreography we’ve seen in dozens of films. This is just a few years before Jackie Chan’s Police Story, so this is nearing the end of this style of fight choreography.

STUNTWORK: (5) Fairly weak stuff. Once again, this era is ending, and a new, more impressive and brutal style of stunt work was on its way.

STAR POWER: (6) Except for Bolo, this film is nearing the ends of a few careers, rather than the beginning. Many of these stars were fading.

FINAL GRADE: (6) A fun, but ultimately forgettable film that is better known for the two b’s: boobs and Bolo. That pretty much sums up the entire film.

NEXT: Iko Uwais must take a journey of self-realization. And kick a few heads along the way in Merantau!

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Review: The Fists of Bruce Lee (1978)

Posted in Bruce Li, Chaing Tao with tags , on April 11, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Bruce Li, Lo Lieh, Chiang Tao, Chuan Yuan

Fight Choreography by Fei Lung Huang

Directed by Bruce Li

There are some actors who can become directors, and show an entirely new side of themselves, and show that they too have a vision and something to say within their films. They aim for greatness and reach it. Many martial arts stars have gone behind the camera to produce some interesting films, and even interesting failures. This…IS NOT ONE OF THOSE FILMS.

The movie opens with a “what the hell is this?!” moment, as we see a bunch of dudes I can only assume are the bad guys, primarily because Chaing Tao is there, and he’s usually a bad guy in most films he’s in, like this one . One old dude gets pissy when some young women tells him to take his pills, and so far we don’t know what the hell that means or who they are, and we see that just outside the mansion some poor bastard trying to sneak around, not knowing the woods he’s walking through are full of traps using yard equipment they MacGuyver up to jack any dude who sneaks around. Sure enough one of the traps get him, and then we cut to the opening credits during which Bruce Li shows off some Wing Chun moves with a blue background behind him and his training partner. Afterward, a women walks in to give him a telegram. I was flabbergasted to note that the women never questioned why the hell they chose to practice in a room the color of a smurf. I wondered more about what the rest of his house looked like rather than the nondescript telegram he receives.

The telegram gives Mr. Lee a mysterious message that leads him to take a plane flight to Hong Kong, where he is met by Mr. Outpuss, whatever the hell that name is, who takes him to the Hotel Kowloon, but Lee soon discovers the he and the men with him are not the men he was meant to see, therefore they earn a beat down in the hotel hallway.  What kills me is that after he beats them up, he leaves to find out what’s going on, rather than question the two unconscious a-holes lying on the ground in front of him! Lee goes to a nightclub, where he meets his real contact, but that’s short lived as his contact is killed while Lee was checking out a suspicious character in the club.

After this we learn that Lee was summoned to Hong Kong by his agency to spy on Master Pol, whose life is in danger from two drug cartels who want a list Po has of each member of each cartel, and Lee infiltrates Master Po’s home to find this list and somehow protect Po and his daughter by posing as a security specialist.

That night Lee gets attacked for reasons I still can’t fathom as he goes to meet one of the drug cartels. He defeats his attackers easily, and hears the offer the cartel makes to him so he will get Po’s list from him…by force. Lee wants to think it over, and the cartel leaders aren’t really keen on that, and sends a group of guys to teach him a lesson, and he beats the tar out of them until one guy gets the bright idea to toss some chalk dust in Lee’s face to blind him. They star giving Lee the business, but he’s then saved by…I shit you not, Napoleon Dynamite. No joke, a dude who looks like Napoleon Dynamite flies in and beats the tar out of Lee’s attackers. He and his mates are part of the rival cartel, and Lee agrees to help them kidnap Po’s daughter so he’ll give the list to them. He agrees with them, and uses both cartels to destroy one another until Lee is left to finish off the leaders of both cartels in a fight to the finish.

First off, after this film was over, I still didn’t know what the hell I watched. Not that I’m a fan of exposition, but if any film needed it, this one did. Both cartels make decisions that would lave you scratching your head, double-crosses and fake deaths, and all for this list that makes me go “so what the hell was the point with the list?” By the end of the film both cartels have had nearly ever member killed, which makes that list a little irrelevant now.  And one other note, as one cartel lord proves, guys with pot bellies really should not try to rock the tight turtleneck shirt. That is a lesson well learned in this film. Unfortunately it’s the only one.

I wish I had something nice to say about Bruce Li’s direction, but I can’t do it. This is a terribly directed film, starting with the acting, which is about at the level of a junior high school stage production. I don’t know what producer though it would be a good idea to let Bruce direct this film, but that jackass was probably living under a bridge after this disaster of a film came out. The editing is terrible, cutting entire bits of dialogue out, and the soundtrack uses the tracks from other films like Enter the Dragon and the James Bond theme. I know the film had a small budget, but damn, can a brother get some synthesizer or piano in here? Yes, the Average White Band was good, but c’mon! The story is even worse, as characters aren’t fleshed out, and we have no idea why the cartels make the decisions they do, and why Lee even cares. There is also this insane-ass twist involving one of the villains towards the end that will make you go WTF?! Nothing in the film would lead you to believe this was coming, and it just feels like it was shoehorned in at the last minute.

The one saving grace should have been the fight choreography, but my goodness, it was terrible. The movements are slow and plodding, and underwhelming and I know Bruce is better than that, ‘cause I’ve seen it in other films.  The best martial artist in the whole film…is Napoleon Dynamite. He actually brings some energy to the proceedings, and the best fight in the film is between him and Bruce Li. Their movements really “spoke” to each other.

Bruce Li deserves recognition as something more than a Bruce Lee clone, but this film is incredibly forgettable and won’t help him shed that label.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (2) Except for Napoleon Dynamite, it was terrible. No excitement, no innovation, and mostly no heart from the performers. There was no imagination to any of the fights. Just dreadful.

STUNTWORK: (4) Bad stuff except for some good acrobatics.

STAR POWER: (3) Bruce Li and Chiang Tao. Not nearly good enough to save this mess of a film.

FINAL GRADE: (2) This is one terrible Bruce Li film that sorely needed a budget and a good writer. Hopefully Li will not direct again. Save your eyes and money and avoid at all costs. Yikes!

Review: Blind Fist of Bruce (1979)

Posted in Bruce Li, Chaing Tao, Simon Yuen, Tiger Yueng with tags , on March 14, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Bruce Li, Simon Yuen, Chiang Tao, Tiger Yuen, Lau Chan

Fight Choreography by Lui Han Ming

Directed by Kam Bo

After Bruce Lee died, Hong Kong cinema scrambled to replace him, and by that I do mean literally replacing Bruce, with a succession of actors who looked a little–or a lot–like Bruce, and could portray his attitude. They were never chosen to play a character, they were chosen because they could imitate Bruce. Bruce Li was one of the best of these, and perhaps his career would have been better if he had been able to forge his own identity, instead of being known forevermore as a Bruce Lee clone. Movies like the Blind Fist of Bruce shows that he could have been so much more.

The film opens as a group of baddies show up at the police headquarters of a small town and insist on speaking to the Captain, and of course his officers refuse, and proceed to take an butt-kicking from a group of guys who must have the phrase “fresh off a cop’s ass” tattooed on their forearms. The Captain reveals himself, and starts jacking up the gang before their leader Wei (Tao), who beats the Captain to death. This first fight is fairly slow and plodding, and I can only imagine it was done to make Bruce Li’s fights look better, but that’s hardly needed.

Meanwhile, two thugs show up to the local bank owned by Yeh Chen(Li), a good and fair banker who shows up with his two teachers to teach the thugs a lesson. When his teachers appear, if you watch enough kung-fu films then you know Yeh’s in deep shit. Whenever you see Lau Chan in a film you know what’s gonna happen, and if you can’t place the face here it is:

You now know two things: a) this asshole will betray the hero at some point, and b) he’ll get killed (usually by a kick or punch to the chest) and explode a blood capsule in his mouth, a really big one, and bleed profusely from the mouth as he dies, which he does to perfection in pretty much every film you ever see him in.

Okay, back to the film. Yeh does beat the two thugs, and we find out later that his two teachers are fake kung fu masters who pay to have random guys get their asses kicked by Yeh so they look like they are teaching him the good stuff, when he isn’t learning shit.  (You may recognize this as being a similar plot to Yuen Biao’s Prodigal Son) So of course the baddies show up, and when Yeh tries to fight them they beat the tar out of him, and then the gang proceeds to take over the entire town. While training in more fake kung-fu, because Yeh is both smart and dense at the same time, sees one of his teachers getting schooled by a blind old beggar (Simon Yuen) but doesn’t yet see this as proof that his teachers aren’t for shit. We then see the beggar defending his niece from Wei’s  two douchy sidekicks, and the blind beggar beats them up in a fun fight, even though we know that the person fighting is a stuntman and not Simon Yuen, who is the father of legendary fight choreographer Yuen Woo Ping. Simon sells everything in the scenes right before and after a fight, and that’s good enough. There’s a reason why he’s the quintessential Kung-Fu teacher in so many martial arts films.

Yeh goes back to get a rematch with Wei, and this time gets beaten so badly he is forced to sign his bank over to the gang, and fires his two teachers, who then go to Wei to join his gang (Lau Chan=betrayal. Check.) Yeh goes to the beggar and is able to convince him to teach him kung-fu, and he does so, but little does Yeh know that the real boss of the gang, Tiger, has a history with the blind beggar, and so the stage is set for revenge left, revenge right, everywhere revenge!

This is what I call a blood capsule kung-fu film, meaning that the fights can go on for days and you know when someone is actually dead for good when they bite down on that blood capsule and the blood free flows from their mouth. That’s like an indicator that yes, that dude is finally dead. The film starts out slowly and doesn’t really get going until the beggar shows up, but that’s to be expected since Bruce Li’s first few fights are fought as a guy who is learning fake kung-fu. Once he does learn from the beggar the fights get pretty good. Not as brutal as a Bruce Lee film but not that graceful, the fights do march to the beat of its own drummer thanks to Lui Han Ming’s fight choreography, which seems to have different tempos for each fight, and gives each of them a satisfying finish, which is something considering that there are a ton of fights in this film!

Bruce Li shows off great skills, and while he looks like Bruce and acts like him, Li doesn’t really try to fight like him, except in moments here and there. Chaing Tao, a veteran of many kung-fu films, does a great job as the Tiger’ second in command Wei, as does Tiger Yueng, who shows off some great forms as the main baddie.

Blind Fist of Bruce is a satisfying revenge film where everyone get’s what’s coming to them, and when the bad guy is killed they roll credits. No aftermath stuff, he dies, and it’s done. Fast food Kung-Fu at it’s best.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Due to the story constraints the fights are stilted in the beginning, but hits everything right the rest of the way.

STUNTWORK:(8) Simon Yuen’s stuntman deserves a raise, and everyone does a great job. Lau Chan is money in the bank. Viva fake blood capsules!

STAR POWER: (8) Bruce Li’s appreciation is starting to grow as his old films are revisited. In many ways Li carried the torch until the next wave of martial arts stars.

FINAL GRADE: (8) Bruce Li was never able to escape being seen as nothing more than the best of the Bruce Lee clones, but he has made few decent martial arts films that show that he could have been so much more.