Archive for the Corey Yuen Category

Review: Badges of Fury (2013)

Posted in Collin Chou, Corey Yuen, Fung Hak-On, Grace Huang, Jacky Wu Jing, Jet Li, Sui-Lung Leung with tags , , on January 7, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

Badges of Fury

Starring Jet Li, Wen Zhang, Michelle Chen, Lui Yan, Stephen Fung, Grace Huang, Fung Hak On, Wu Jing, Collin Chou, Leung Sui-Lung,

Fight Choreography by Corey Yuen

Directed by Wong Tsz Ming

Badges of Fury is perhaps the funniest comedy in Jet Li’s filmography, and for someone who doesn’t do it often, Jet really works here, but don’t be surprised that while his name is at the head of the credits, he is a supporting actor in this film, and Wen Zhang is the star. Of course, the first thing you have to do to best enjoy this film is to understand that the film is a comedy from the outset, a spoof of the kung-fu cop genre.

Around Hong Kong, a slew of actors, dancers, and the wealthy, all of them men, die of unknown circumstances, except that they were smiling at the time of death. Enter Huang Fei Hung (Li) an about to be retired cop, and Wang (Zhang) his overeager young partner are assigned to the case, even after botching up a major crime bust that could have net them a major gangster (great cameo appearance here by Collin Chou, acting like he stepped off the set of Flashpoint). What follows is wrong leads, bike chases, spoofs or mentions of films like Police Story 1, 2 and 3, and in one funny scene, a group of Interpol agents accuse Jet Li of BitTorrenting Fearless and the Flying Swords of Dragon Gate. Their leads take them to one woman who is connected to all of the murdered men, and of course things go sideways, including a fight between Jet Li and Wu Jing, and wait until you see exactly who Wu Jing is playing. I can’t reveal any more of the story without giving away any other jokes!

Badges of Fury 1

The film is just out and out fun. Jet is really game here, playing the grizzled vet who is always mysteriously asking to go home early. Jet is energized, and looks great. Wen Zhang is able to carry the film, doing most of the funny stuff and is able to bounce jokes off of Jet well. Collin Chou and Wu Jing have “fighting” cameos, but perform well in their screen time. Leung Sui-Lung is great as well, but doesn’t really get his performance going until late, playing a character not unlike the one he played in Kung Fu Hustle. The film has scenes that reminded me of the whacked out stuff Stephen Fung did in his Tai Chi Zero series (Of course, he has a small part in this film), like the hilarious entrance of the femme fatale played to perfection by Lui Yan.

Badges of Fury Liu Yan

Corey Yuen choreographed the fights here, and did a great job. The fights were able to match the silliness of the rest of the film, but delivered some good kung fu fights. Jet versus Wu Jing was good, as was Jet vs. Collin Chou. Wen Zhang does a good job and gets the more “out there” fights, but does it well. The final fight between Jet Li and Leung Sui-Lung leaves all believability at the door for a fight that uses a lot of wire work and special effects, but they fit the escalating fantasy of the film.  I said Jet was more of a supporting character, and he is, but the lion’s share of the fights go to him, just as it should.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

 Jet Li and Wen Zhang take us on a hilarious romp through the “kung fu” cop genre, and fight choreographer Corey Yuen pulls out the stops to make this one of the best kung fu comedies to come around in a long while!

Badges of Fury is out today from the good folks at Wellgo USA!

 

NEXT: Mark Dacascos will teach you how to fight the Brazilian way in Only The Strong!

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Review: No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)

Posted in Corey Yuen, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Peter Cunningham with tags , , on January 5, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

No Retreat JCVD 2

Starring Kurt McKinney, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Peter Cunningham, R.J. Madison, Kim Tai Chung

Fight Choreography by Hoi Mang and Corey Yuen

Directed by Corey Yuen

Corey Yuen, as I’ve described in other reviews, is hit and miss with his American output. “Slumming it” has been a description I’ve given to some of his films. Here we are with Corey’s first American film as a director and his fourth film overall as director. Here he managed to do something that hasn’t been done since: he actually made JCVD, in his first role, look as if he could hang with the Hong Kong greats. For a little while.

No Retreat, No Surrender tells the story of Jason Stillwell (McKinney) , a typical young, brash teenager who years to be just like his hero, Bruce Lee. Stillwell’s Dad is a karate sensei himself, who disapproves of Jason’s aggression. One day a group of Russian gangsters try to force Papa Stillwell to fight in their tournament, but he refuses, and winds up fighting some of the gangsters and is injured while dueling their star fighter Ivan (JCVD). This forces them to close their dojo and move to Seattle, home of Bruce Lee. Here he makes a friend in J.W. (Madison), and many enemies, especially at the dojo Jason wants to train at, where a misunderstanding puts him in the cross hairs of the local dojo student instructor. However, Jason still manages to get a girlfriend (really, it’s like damn magic. The film seemed to just jam her in there for the hell of it) and, after getting his ass kicked numerous times by various people, Jason retreats to an abandoned house where the spirit of Bruce Lee (Chung) appears and begins to teach Jeet Kun Do to Jason. Meanwhile, the very Russian gang that drove him and his Dad away from California arrive in Seattle, and challenges the local school to a duel. Before long Jason must use his skills to save the local dojo from the fury (and blatant cheating) of Ivan and his crew of baddies once and for all…

No Retreat 1

Let’s get this out of the way now: this film is terribly acted. I mean, community theater actors could do a way better job. This is Mystery Science Theater 3000 terrible. Having said that, the film still has a low -budget charm of its own. This film is known for the first appearance of JCVD, and there’s a reason why. He’s the only actor in the film who actually has a screen presence, even though he barely speaks. He takes over the film every time he appears, even though what little acting he does isn’t very good. The film’s story is okay, but nothing special. Kurt McKinney does a passable job as Jason, and Madison grates as J.W. , and the Russians, well, the more unsaid the better. Chung does a decent job impersonating Bruce Lee, even though he looks nothing at all like Bruce.

No Retreat JCVD

The fights, particularly at the end, are the real attraction here. The only regret I have is that Peter Cunningham (Above the Law) doesn’t have a better fight with JCVD. Peter could have gone toe to toe with JCVD in a much longer and complex fight. The next to last fight is between JCVD and Riley, the local dojo master. Now THAT was a great end fight, better than the fight between Jason and Ivan. Corey brought his “A” game to that fight, and made JCVD look like an all-world martial artist (As most of you know I’ve had my issues in regards to how good JCVD is as a pure martial-artist, but I’ve always admired him nevertheless, for his “want-to” as much as anything else.). The final fight between Jason and Ivan has some good moments, but is far too short, shorter than the previous fight, which is puzzling.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

Corey Yuen isn’t “slumming” it here! However, the film is so poorly acted and edited you may find yourself fast forwarding to the end fights to see JCVD let loose for the first time.

 

NEXT: I’m not done with Corey Yuen just yet! He returns as fight choreographer for Jet Li’s newest: Badges of Fury!

Review: Dragon Lord (1982)

Posted in Corey Yuen, Fung Hak-On, Hwang In-Sik, Jackie Chan, Mars, Wai-Man Chan with tags , on July 9, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Dragon Lord

Starring Jackie Chan, Mars, Wai-Man Chan, Fung Hak-On, Hwang In-Sik, Corey Yuen

Fight Choreography by Jackie Chan

Directed by Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan Dragon Lord was supposed to be a sequel to the hit film The Young Master, but was changed later. This film was something of a transition film, which saw JC leaving the traditional kung fu films and lacing them with the stunts he would be come known for. This film also gives his buddy Mars, a veteran of many Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung movies a chance to shine.

Dragon Lord follows the adventures of Dragon (Chan) and his buddy Cowboy (Mars). Both are two immature teens whose fathers fret over them constantly. Cowboy’s father is wealthy, so he always feels a sense of entitlement. Dragon, on the other hand, is lazy and spends his days pulling pranks with his posse. What both boys have in common are the town’s past-time: sports games. The film opens with one of the craziest scenes of King of the Hill you’ll ever see, with a ton of guys trying to climb their way up a hill to grab a golden football. After this what ensues is rugby-Jackie Chan style, so know what kind of oh-my-god-did-you-see-that shenanigans that will ensue. Things get dicey for the two boys when they both fall for the same girl, which leads to a rift in their friendship as they try to one-up the other. But there’s nothing to brings two friends back together in a Jackie Chan film like a bad guy, and we have the return of Hwang In-Sik (The Young Master) as a badass who leads a group of soldiers, one of whom, Lu Chen (Wai-Man Chan) isn’t keen on their latest criminal enterprise, the stealing and selling of ancient Chinese artifacts in order to fund their overthrow of the government. He leaves the gang, but of course you don’t just leave, and Dragon and Cowboy find themselves trying to save Lu Chen and stop a coup if they can survive both the traitorous soldiers and their fathers…

Dragon Lord Jackie Chan

Dragon Lord is a very entertaining movie, and for once Mars gets to step beside JC instead of behind him, and does a good job as JC’s friend and foil. Jackie Chan is good as the clueless Dragon, but it’s virtually the same character he’s perfected in Fearless Hyena, The Young Master and Drunken Master, so nothing bad, but nothing original either. Look out for my personal favorite Fung Hak-on as a competitor in the shuttlecock / soccer game that becomes increasingly insane as the game goes on. Hwang In-Sik is good at playing a badass in this, as always, and Wai-Man Chan also shines as a good guy (for a change). The story itself is paper thin, and exists simply for the action scenes, but, in the case of Jackie Chan, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Dragon Lord Jackie Chan

There aren’t as many fights as you would expect in this film, the sports games taking a part of what would normally have been devoted to a fight. The final battle between Jackie Chan, Mars, and Hwang In-Sik is like The Passion of Jackie Chan 2: Mars Gets His Ass Kicked Too. They don’t so much beat the bad guy as much as wearing him down as he beats the holy hell out of them. That kind of ass-kicking can tire anyone out, and JC and Mars both take vicious falls and kicks, and I cringed at a particularly painful fall Mars pulls off.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

The Jackie Chan and Mars scenes are great, but in the case of Jackie Chan we’ve seen this character many, many times before. Still, it’s a movie full of crazy stunts and wild action. The crazy sports scenes are the highlights of this one!

Review: Wu Dang (2012)

Posted in Corey Yuen, Fan Siu Wong (Louis Fan), To Yu-Hang (Dennis To), Vincent Zhao with tags , , on December 19, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

wudang4

Starring Vincent Zhao, Yang Mi, Fan Sui-Wong (Louis Fan), Josie Xu, Dennis To

Fight Choreography by Corey Yuen

Directed by Patrick Leung

Wu Dang is another attempt at trying to merge mystical kung fu with Indiana Jones-style adventures. The last really lame attempt was Jet Li’s Dr Wai in the Scripture with No Words, and that would be enough trepidation with this film. Add to that Vincent Zhao, who’s been embroiled in a scandal involving diva behavior on the set of a recent Donnie Yen film, and of course fight choreographer Corey “slummin’ it in the USA” Yuen, and no one could be blamed for taking a cautious approach to watching this film.

So I’ll tell you right now: Have no fear, it’s terrific.

wudang5

Wu Dang centers around Professor Tang (Zhao) and his teenage daughter Tangning (Xu), who are on a quest to get to Wu Dang mountain, by entering a tournament that Tang is sponsoring, in and effort to search the mountain for the Seven Treasures of Wu Dang. Things get complicated as a thief named Tianxin (Mi) searched for one of the treasures, a sword that belongs to her family. On the way there Tangning meets a man named Shui Heyi (Fan), who is trying to become a Taoist monk to try to care for his mother, and a strange friendship forms between them. Tang and Tianxin form an uneasy alliance in order to get the treasures, but beyond the dangers of that is the threat from a man whom Tang steals a map from, and the head monk Bailong (To) who is more than what he seems…

wudang

Wu Dang, or “How Corey Yuen Got His Groove Back” is a thrilling adventure film that does a great job telling this story and weaving enough emotional content to the fights to get us to care about the characters and what happens to them. The film paces everything well, and the effects work is nothing short of fantastic. My only issue in regards to the story is that one character’s story arc remained unresolved by the end. which makes it maddening, but not so much as to ruin the film.

Zhao plays Tang with great intelligence and bravery, and vulnerability when the true nature of his search for the treasures are revealed. Tangning has good chemistry with Fan Sui-Wong , as both of them spend most of their screen time together, and Yang Mi has the same with Zhao, without which the movie would fail. Dennis To shows a lot of range as he plays the main villain, something very different from his part in The Legend is Born: Ip Man. Patrick Leung really captures some gorgeous shots of the mountain itself, and of all of the fights. The cinematography is truly something great here.

wudang2

Corey Yuen does his best work in many a year here. The wirework is flawless, and integrates itself into this world without being obtrusive, and the fight escalate at a good pace, and the cinematography really captures Corey’s work, particularly in the fight between Zhao and the swords women on the bridge, and Josie Xu’s fight with Sui Wong Fan during the tournament, which is a great display of how storytelling can work within a fight itself, as both characters come to a realization during the fight that drives the most emotional parts of the story home. It’s also the most beautiful sequence  in the entire film, and both Fan and Xu pull it off (If they ever make another Tekken film Xu has got to play Lin Xiaoyu).

Wu Dang represents a great return to form for Corey Yuen and a great performance by Vincent Zhao, and it all comes in service of a good story.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9

Vincent Zhao and company deliver a fun, involving kung-fu film that features some of  the best fight choreography Corey Yuen has done in quite some time.

NEXT:  Gordon Liu is an evil bastard in Kill ’Em All!

Review: The Man With The Iron Fists (2012)

Posted in Andrew Lin, Chen Kuan-Tai, Corey Yuen, Cung Le, Daniel Wu, Gordon Liu, Grace Huang, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Lucy Liu, Rick Yune, RZA with tags , on November 3, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring RZA, Rick Yune, Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, David Bautista, Jamie Chung,Byron Mann, Cung Le, Daniel Wu, Gordon Liu, Chen Tai Kuan, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Grace Huang, Andrew Lin, Dennis Chan, Pam Grier

Fight Choreography by Corey Yuen

Directed by RZA

The Wu Tang Clan is without a doubt one of the best hip hop groups of all time, basing their music on their love of kung fu films, and even their names professed their love for the genre, all taken from kung-fu films: RZA, GZA, Ghostface Killah, Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB), Method Man, Raekwon, Masta Killah, and U-God. The 36 Chambers, of course taken from Gordon Liu’s 36 Chambers of Shaolin, is considered one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time, and even some of their music videos show off Shaw Brothers inspired kung fu fight scenes. So of course when word came that RZA was making his own kung-fu film excitement spread among his fans due to his love and pedigree. With an assortment of current and old school stars, we now have The Man With The Iron Fists.

The film follows the exploits of three heroes: Blacksmith (RZA), an escaped slave that came to the small town of Jungle Village in China after his ship crashed, and becomes a renowned weaponsmith, who hopes to make enough money to buy prostitute Lady Silk (Chung) whom he is in love with from Madame Blossom, who runs one of the best whore houses in China.

The second hero is Jack Knife (Crowe), a vulgar British man who arrives to Jungle Village, waiting on a shipment of gold to arrive sent from the Emperor.

The third hero is Zen Yi (Yune), son of Gold Lion (Chen), who is the head of the Lion Clan, who comes to Jungle Village to avenge the murder of his father at the hands of his lieutenants Bronze Lion (Le) and Silver Lion (Mann) and Poison Dagger (Wu).

Jungle Village is soon overrun with men who arrive to attempt to steal the gold shipment when it arrives, and the Lion Clan succeed in doing so, killing the Gemini Clan who had been sent to protect the convoy. The Lion Clan is also joined by Brass Body (Bautista), a man who can actually turn his skin into actual brass, so weapons have little effect on him. The Emperor, enraged at the theft, sends his soldiers with a new weapon from America: The gatling gun, with order to raze the village to the ground if the villagers don’t turn the gold over to the soldiers. Now Blacksmith, Jack Knife and Zen Yi must enter the Blossom and face the Lion Clan, the prostitutes who are far more deadly than they seem, and a metal man in an attempt to get their revenge and save the town at the same time…

A football analogy may best describe this film: That of a wide receiver jumping up in the endzone covered by two cornerbacks and makes a spectacular catch only to have the ball slip through his fingers just as he’s touching down. This film has a lot of problems, but also has quite a few things that the RZA did do really well. The cast was well chosen with the exception of one cast member. Russell Crowe was actually really good as the crude, rude Jack Knife (the character was modeled after the late ODB), Lucy Lui also does a fine job as Madame Blossom, bringing a lot of personality and deadly beauty to the role. Cung Le is also very good as baddie Bronze Lion, and the list of supporting characters is just awesome: you have the great Gordon Lui, Beardy, and Chen Tai Kuan all looking great to see on screen again. Special recognition to Grace Huang and Andrew Lin as the Gemini Twins. They had a short amount of screen time but were two of the most interesting characters in the film, that I really wanted to see more of, and seeing Dennis Chan (Kick boxer) and Pam Grier rounds things off nicely. Daniel Wu was miscast as the main villain as Daniel doesn’t know much in the way of martial arts and it shows, but he can look menacing. I wish they had gotten someone like a Yuen Biao or Lo Meng or hell, why not Wang Lung Wei to play his part. Rick Yune does fine job with the action but his acting is very one-note, but of all the cast members, one sticks out as the worst, and it brings the film down a lot.

That would be the RZA himself.

He’s really not very good as an actor, and he’s not a martial artist, and that is a bad combination (he did use Marrese Crump as his martial arts stuntman, which causes problems of its own) . For his character to work he had to be good at one or the other. As the film goes on that becomes a problem as he simple can’t pull off the dramatic scenes. This is a role that should’ve gone to a Michael Jai White or Wesley Snipes, men who are good at both acting and martial arts. The RZA gets so many things right, but this one piece of hubris brings everything down as he can’t carry the film in his scenes.

The directing by the RZA is decent, and the production values are top notch, and the music is absolutely fantastic, featuring the Wu Tang Clan at its best, and really fits with the look of the film (showing once and for all that yes, hip hop music in a martial arts film can work if done correctly). The first 30 minutes of the film is absolute top notch, from the old school opening credits to the first fights, but after that the story settles down and becomes a been-there-seen-that affair as nothing new is brought to the table, except gore on the level of Story of Ricky, so this film is not for the squeamish. The climactic fights at the end of the film for the three protagonists is resolved so simply it brings down the level of threat the villains ever had to begin with. The camera work is well done, but another culprit rears its ugly head, one common to American action films: editing, but I’ll get to that as part of my next problem with the film.

That would be the fight choreography by Corey Yuen. Tons of unnecessary wirework, and dammit Corey goes slumming again. I thought Romeo Must Die would be his low point, but he manages to nearly hit that point again. The fight scenes are not very well done. There is no complexity to the choreography, no grace, even for those who know martial arts. This is the biggest sin this film commits. The editing does nothing to help, as it is editing in typical American MTV style quick cuts and extreme close-ups to the point where you can’t see where the hell anyone is at in relation to each other. It is also here that the RZA’s camera work (or that of the 2nd unit director if there was one) really let the film down, as they don’t know how to shoot or follow action very well. This may be due to the fact that things had to be edited to appear as if RZA knew martial arts and to hide his stunt man. If Corey Yuen directed these scenes, then shame on him. Either way this wouldn’t have passed mustard in a Hong Kong production.

I did love the Shaw Brothers-inspired closing credits, though.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

The Man With The Iron Fists falls short of greatness, but isn’t a terrible movie, and fun may be had if you see it at matinee prices. The RZA’s heart is in the right place, but in the end it’s just an American film pretending to be a Shaw Brothers film.

Review: So Close (2002)

Posted in Corey Yuen, Karen Mok, Yasuaki Kurata, Zhao Wei with tags , on October 26, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Shu Qui, Karen Mok, Zhao Wei, Yasuaki Kurata, Derek Wan

Fight Choreography by Corey Yuen

Directed by Corey Yuen

Corey Yuen, fight choreographer legend, who has directed films like No Retreat, No Surrender, and Above the Law (the Yuen Biao film) jumps again behind the camera to team up Hong Kong beauties Shu Qui, Karen Mok and Zhao Wei in a Chinese action film in the vein of Charlie’s Angels.

The film revolves around sisters Lin (Qui) and Quan (Wei) who are having issues within their given professions…as hired killers. Their jobs are already complicated as they don’t just kill anyone; they are looking for the men who killed their parents, and their father who had created a computer program that would have aided the police greatly. Lin does the killing while younger sister Quan is the computer wiz who holds down the fort at home and runs their complex satellite mainframe computer, but yearns to get out of her sisters’ shadow and take assassination jobs of her own. The only thing wrong with this? Quan’s never killed anyone. Things get complicated when Lin meets with an old flame and decides to get out of the business, while at the same time a super-smart police woman Kong Yay Hung (Mok) starts to put everything together and attempts to bring both women to justice, and the brother of Lin’s most recent assassination victims Chow Nunn, a drug and gun runner who fronted a corporation for his crimes, plans to take his revenge on Lin and her sister. All parties slam into each other, and tragedy strikes, and a final confrontation within the corporation itself between the women and Chow Nunn and his army of thugs…and one Japanese sword master…

This is a really entertaining film, very much in the vein of Charlie’s Angels, and while not so “out there” Yuen makes sure you know just how beautiful all three main leads are. The story is entertaining as both Lin and Quan have a good backstory for why they do what they do, and Zhao Wei is pitch perfect as the immature, yet capable Quan. Shu Qi, not known for action films, does a capable job as a tough-as-nails character, and Karen Mok is great in her fight scenes. Yasuaki Kurata doesn’t really make his presence truly felt until the end of the film, as he proves to be the real villain of the film, and as always is great. There is a turning point in the film that changes the fantastical tone of the film, but it isn’t as jarring as it could be as things build to this moment, but it was a surprise and doesn’t take anything away from the fun to be had.

Corey Yuen choreographs the fights as he always has, and does a good job, especially for those who didn’t know martial arts. He made them look as if they did (unlike in his American output) and he stages the fights well. Hell, he even hearkens back to his best ‘lethal ladies’ film Yes, Madam, as Karen Mok pulls off a move that came directly from that film, and if you know the scene you’ll smile when it happens. The finale is great display of gun action versus the guards. The final fight with Yasuaki Kurata is excellent, and Zhao Wei really shines here, and holds her own versus the legendary Kurata. She looks fantastic, and Karen Mok does well in this fight too, the most impressive of a film full of great set pieces.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

A film far more fun than Charlie’s Angels, an explosive gun and kung-fu fight fest wrapped around a Mission Impossible-like story with a great villain in Yasuaki Kurata. 

NEXT: All samurais fear the Geisha Assassin!