Archive for the David Carradine Category

Review: Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003)

Posted in David Carradine, Gordon Liu, Sonny Chiba with tags , , , on October 14, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, Chiaki Kuriyama, Sonny Chiba, Gordon Liu, Kenji Ohba

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo Ping

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

 

“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

 

-Old Klingon Proverb

 

For years Quentin Tarantino has made films that hearken back to the films that he loved from the 70’s: crime films, black exploitation films, and guys-on-a-mission movies. He’s paid homage (or ripped off, depending on what side of that fence you sit on) to all of these films, but, to this point, his crowning achievement may very well be Kill Bill.

Kill Bill’s story revolves around The Bride (Thurman), an assassin who was part of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad led by the enigmatic Bill (Carradine). The operative word is “was” as she is seen after being beaten by the other members of her Squad, and finally shot by Bill as the film opens. We then fast forward to the home of fellow assassin Vernita Green (Fox) an expert knife fighter whom The Bride comes to take her revenge, but finds the venue not what she expected. We then are treated to flashbacks to show how she survived being shot, to how she gets a truck named “Pussy Wagon”, and her journey to Okinawa to have a special sword made by Hattori Hanzo (Chiba, who also played the character in his Shadow Warriors TV series in 1980).

The Bride then makes her way to Japan, to settle the score with O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), who controls the Yakuza, with her crazy sidekick Gogo Yubari (Kuriyama) and her right hand man Johnny Mo and his Crazy 88’s. The Bride intended to murder and kill her way to a confrontation with Bill, who has secrets of his own that could change everything…

Kill Bill is first and foremost a revenge film, and one of the best of its kind at that. Uma Thurman, in what is probably her best role, is fantastic as The Bride, and is able to convey the vengeful emotions that can make you sympathize with her, even though she is really no better than any of the people she dispatches in the film. You don’t get to see David Carradine much, but his voice and presence is felt throughout the entire film. You barely see Michael Madsen at all in this film, but sets himself up nicely for the next. Vivica A. Fox makes the most of her small role, and provides a good mix of menace and vulnerability. Lucy Liu is the main antagonist for this film, and she pulls it off nicely. Gordon Liu, who probably should have the name “Master” in front of his name, like the Brits get knighted and called “Sir”. Gordon doesn’t have much to do acting wise, but he’s cool doing it. Sonny Chiba, on the other hand, shows he hasn’t lost any of his on screen charisma, and while he doesn’t get to fight, does a great acting job, especially his hilarious back and forth with long time friend and protege Kenji Ohba in the sushi house scene. The only disappointment is there wasn’t more of them. Chiaki Kuriyama is great as the insane Gogo, and pulls off the craziness really well. Daryl Hannah, like Carradine and Madsen, makes an appearance and sets her character up very well, but we don’t get into her character until the next film.  The anime that tells the story of Oren Ishii is fantastic, and takes what could have been something ho-hum in live action and makes into a great scene in animation. My one gripe, if I have one, is that for a film that features so many Japanese characters Tarantino couldn’t get Yasuaki Kurata into the mix? I think there is scientific evidence that exists proving Kurata makes everything 100% better.

Yuen Woo Ping does his normal masterful self in choreographing the fights, and it was pleasant to see him doing so for an American film without tons of wire harness stunts. The opening fight between Thurman and Fox is simply a fantastic way to set up the film, as it is so well done, and both women look way more convincing as martial artists than anyone in the later Matrix films. That fight, a brutal mix of knife play and hand to hand combat is masterfully shot, and sets up everything else in the film nicely, even though the style of choreography changes as the mood of the film does.

The Bride’s fight with Gogo is also great, and features the most wire work in the film, and I think that was done to pay homage to the films that DO use wire harness stunts, as the sound effects puts everyone on notice that yes, they are doing something unreal. The crowning achievement here is the fight between Uma Thurman and the Crazy 88’s, which is a bloody masterpiece of severed limbs and gigantic blood sprays. The fight with Lucy Liu is also well done, but there are a lot of far away shots, so it’s hard to tell how much of it is them or their stunt doubles.

Kudos to Tarantino for mentioning Charles Bronson and Chang Cheh in the film credits.

 Kiai-Kick’s grade: 10 

A fantastic achievement of a film by Tarantino that respects and pays homage to the kung fu and samurai sword films of the 70’s and early 80’s. A well-told story that never lets up, and finishes in an exciting and bloody climax!

NEXT: Shu Qui, Karen Mok and Zhao Wei take on Yasuaki Kurata in So Close!

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Review: True Legend (2010)

Posted in Andy On, David Carradine, Gordon Liu, Jay Chou, Michelle Yeoh, Vincent Zhao, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , , on May 17, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Vincent Zhao, Andy On, Jay Chou, Michelle Yeoh, Gordon Liu, Zhou Xun

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo Ping

Directed By Yuen Woo Ping

After serving up some of his best fight choreography for other directors and their films, Woo Ping jumps back into the directing saddle for his first 3D film. As a disclaimer, I didn’t watch the 3D version, so I can’t really speak to how “good” the 3D is, not that it really matters. After all, this is Woo Ping, right?

True Legend tells the story of the famous Beggar Su, who was said to have created the form of drunken boxing. The film starts off with a bang as General Su, as he was known at one time, leads a daring raid against another tribe to save his commander and the fighting that ensues is vintage Woo-Ping: good use of wires, acrobatic and lyrical fight choreography that never forgets the life and death at play. In other words, they all look great whaling on each other. Su vs the general of the opposing army is some of Woo Ping’s best choreography in years. Su saves his commander, and is commended and offered a governorship, but Su refuses, instead giving it to his foster brother Yuan (Andy On). Little does Su know that his act of friendship would also be the source of his impending tragedy.

Years later Yuan shows up at the home of Su and his family, and we find that Yuan’s real father was killed by Su’s father long ago, after Yuan’s father starting going around killing other kung-fu people with his Five Venom Fist kung-fu style. Yuan has learned this style also, and it evidently turns your skin bone white! Yuan kills Su’s father, and another fantastic fight ensues when Su goes after Yuan, and meets the kung-fu version of the wonder twins, called the Iron Twins. Both brother and sister give Su one hell of a fight, and Su is able to get past them and tries to save his wife Ying and their son from Yuan and duels him, and we come to our first Holy Shit! moment, when we find that Yuan, being the crazy bastard he is, has actually attached his armor to his skin.Yuan then zaps Su with his Five Venom Fist, and the next Holy Shit! moment occurs as we see the poison turn Su into a human blueberry. Su and Ying escape, but they leave their son Little Feng behind. Su and his wife are saved by Dr. Yu (Yeoh) a woman who lives atop a mountain, who treats Su’s wounds, and they stay with her, but over time Su starts to go off into the forest and is challenged by the God of Wushu (Chou) and is watched by the Old Sage (Liu) who try to get his kung-fu in tip top shape. A disturbing moment causes Ying to attempt to save Little Feng herself, and Su goes after them both. Can he save his family and stop Yuan without killing him?

Yuen Woo Ping is back in Iron Monkey form, folks, having lost none of his imaginative choreography. Almost every fight in this film would have been the climatic fight of many others. Woo Ping has scenes with Su and the God of Wushu that uses just about every damn weapon chinese martial arts has. There is a fight in a well that has to be seen to be believed. As for Beggar Su’s drunken style, this is some of the best drunken style fighting you’ll see. It stands right next to Jackie Chan and Jet Li’s best versions of the style. Particularly when you see Jay Chou go at it, also playing the Drunken God. The camerawork is beautifully done, and some of the set designs are nothing short of terrific.

Vincent Zhao gives a great, heartfelt performance as a man whose successes create his own downfall. He’s a good man, and it will pain you to see what horrible things happen to him. Andy On is a perfect bastard as Yuan. He’s at once needy like a child and brutally evil at the same time. He even gets to be all creepy Uncle to Little Feng. Gordon Liu was disappointing as he doesn’t do much more than drink, point at Su and laugh. The same goes for Michelle Yeoh, who basically has a walk-on role. What wasn’t disappointing was when David Carradine, that’s right, Qui Chang F***ing Kang shows up as the ringleader for a bunch of overgrown wrestlers who take on Beggar Su. Thankfully Carradine doesn’t try to attempt any martial arts. There isn’t enough choreography in Woo Ping’s Magic Bag of Tricks that could make him look good. Jay Chou is fantastic in his dual roles, and I had no idea his kung-fu was so good.

If there is one drawback it’s the story, primarily toward the end of the film, where the movie goes from being the fun of Iron Monkey to being serious like Jet Li’s Fearless. The main story ends after 90 minutes, but we get 30 minutes of Su being, well, Beggar Su, but it seems as if we’re getting the start–or end–of a different film altogether. Also, his son cries too damn much. I was almost hoping a stray punch, or Venom fist, would knock this kid out just to shut him up.

Despite the nit picky flaws, True Legend is a fun martial arts film that shows that the master himself still has it. He simply needs to do his own stuff from now on. It’s well worth your money to go and see the Master at work.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) Woo Ping does some of his best work here, perhaps his best since Fearless. Everyone does a fantastic job, and Jay Chou and Vincent Zhao’s fights are memorable. Smooth and flowing, each fight sings its own song, and it never forgets what’s at stake for the characters.

STUNTWORK: (8) The stunts here are terrific, and the wirework is just astounding, but never gets in the way of the fights themselves.

STAR POWER: (9) Vincent Zhao’s primary work lately has been on TV, and he was the star of Once Upon A Time in China 4 and 5 before Jet returned to the series, but this film shows that Zhao deserves to be a star in his own right. Jay Chou is a revelation here, and Gordon Liu and Michelle Yeoh are always a joy to see. Oh yeah, that Carradine guy is in it too.

FINAL GRADE: (9) This film can stand tall next to any of Woo-Ping’s films. Fun and exciting, you’ll never get bored, and the action never gets stale. Only the last 30 minutes keeps this one from being perfect. We need to get both Jay Chou and Vincent Zhao into more martial arts films…

NEXT: Who is the Dragon Warrior? Why, Kung Fu Panda, that’s who!

Review: Circle of Iron aka The Silent Flute (1978)

Posted in Bruce Lee, David Carradine, Reviews with tags , , , , on November 3, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Circle of Iron is based on a story created by Bruce Lee and James Coburn that gives a physical manifestation of Bruce’s Zen philosophy. Unfortunately Bruce died before it could be made, and David Carradine, and I still don’t know who the hell named him the keeper of All Things Bruce, acquired the rights to the story and made it into this film. Did he do Bruce proud?

Not exactly, but it is a train wreck with immense potential given the right creative forces (i.e. not Carradine). The story takes place in a fantasy world where everyone practices martial arts wearing the crappiest clothing ever, and our hero inexplicably wears a loincloth the entire film. I hate to say it, but only Tarzan could rock the loincloth. Of course women out there may think differently. I’ll leave that to you. Now I say inexplicably because at least one character actually questions this, when he could wear a perfectly good pair of pants. He doesn’t really answer, which is kind of his attempt to be badass, but his White Snake hairdo proves to cancel out any badassness he may have.

I refer to our hero Cord (Cooper), who enters a martial arts tournament in an attempt to win the right to find the warrior Zetan, and to defeat him in battle and take his Book of All Knowledge, which may show Cord how to sew his own f*ing pants. The first fight here is straight out of the David Carradine Can’t Fight For Shit book, which would permeate through the entire film. The fighting is slow and the shoddy camera work doesn’t do anyone any favors.

Cord loses the fight because he got a little overzealous and kicked his opponent when he was down, but he says screw you guys, I’ll go anyway, which begs the question why the hell a tournament was needed at all. Cord follows the winner of the tournament, and the soon finds himself alone after the Monkey Tribe tears the winner up, and all Cord can do is to assist the poor guy into committing seppuku. Cord then takes it upon himself to meet the challenges necessary to get to Zetan, and along with way meets a Blind Flute player (Carradine) who may have the keys to getting past he challenges if only Cord would stop long enough to listen, the Monkey King (Carradine again) who shows Cord a different style of fighting (don’t worry, it’s still the same old patented Carradine inside crescent kick), Death itself (Carradine yet again) and Chang-Sha, a travelling warlord (Yes, Carradine again)

Can Cord learn the various lessons they have to teach in time to face Zetan? What will he do with the book if he should win it?

This movie really isn’t good because it has an uphill fight with the shitty production values and lack of a real martial artist playing the main part, which is yet another infuriating practice that Hollywood hasn’t yet put to rest, though Jeff Cooper gives a good effort. He plays Cord with the right amount of arrogance, and he does a good job, loincloth and all, of bringing Cord down when he finds that he doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does. The film really follows the Zen/Buddhist philosophy the whole way, but the bad fight choreography and bad camera work really undermines this effort. Carradine is a pretty good actor, and plays all of the parts very well, but his fighting is lacking, as always. Once again he still makes his living off of Bruce Lee’s ideas, which really sticks in my craw, and always will. The story is a bit slow in places, but picks up when it needs to. This could have been something special if there was better production values and fight choreography.

As it stands, it’s a cheesy look into the philosophy that Bruce practiced in his everyday life, and the journey to try to maintain it…

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (2) The main character, a martial arts fighter, is played by someone who doesn’t know any. The fights are all badly shot and the choreography is, well, shit.

STUNTS: (3) The stuntmen never really had much to do, since the film concentrates so much on Cooper and Carradine.

STAR POWER: (8) Eli Wallach? Christopher Lee? Roddy McDowell? What magic mojo did Carradine cast to to get this kind of talent to be in this? Impressive, nonetheless.

FINAL GRADE: (4) I am a bit torn here. On one hand, it is crappy, with poor martial arts and productions values so shitty I could have made this film, but the ideas and story beats are really good. Despite the low grade, I actually do recommend this to martial arts film fans as it is an interesting look into Bruce’s life philosophy and ideas, and if any film deserves to be remade, it’s this one, but let’s leave the loincloths at home…