Archive for the Gordon Liu Category

Review: Blood Money (2012)

Posted in Gordon Liu, Zheng Liu with tags , on August 28, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Zheng Liu, Alexander Castro, Gordon Liu, Jimmly Wong, Pitbull

Fight Choreography by Jack Wong

Directed by Gregory McQualters

Recently there have been a increased production of martial arts films popping out from the USA. Bunraku, The Girl From The Naked Eye, and now we have Blood Money, and like those films introduces a potential new star to the world of martial arts cinema, Zheng Liu, a young Shaolin Master. Add to this the legendary Gordon Liu, and maybe we have a new martial arts classic?

Zheng Liu plays Zhou, an assassin who works for Steven Ho (Wong) , a notorious drug lord, who is engaged in a war with biker gangs, Chinese cartels, and a crazy Columbian drug lord named Cabrera (Castro). The war escalates as several tons of cocaine is coming to Shanghai by boat, and all of them want to control it. Ho sends Zheng to “level the playing field” and he does so, meanwhile Cabrera’s men try to deal in distribution with the brother and sister of Steven Ho. When a young woman staying in their care is kidnapped by Cabrera, and his men kill the brother of Steven Ho. Ho sends Zhou to rescue the girl and kill Cabrera and his men. While on the mission Zhou doesn’t complete his mission, and Ho decides to take him out. With both Ho and Cabrera looking to kill Zhou and the girl he steals away from them, Zhou goes to seek help from a monk from his past (Gordon Liu) and together they defend the girl from Cabrera and Ho. But who is this mysterious woman, and why does Zhou care?

The story takes us into the seedy world of drug trafficking, and the shaolin assassin who walks through this world, just as dirty as the people he has to kill, but we don’t get enough time to spend with Zhou. He does a lot of self-destructive things, like taking drugs, and of course the assassinations, with flashbacks that show that he may have undergone a traumatic moment in his life to cause his behavior, but we don’t get to spend enough time with those flashbacks to really care about the character and his plight, and that is the biggest fault of the script, or it may have been left on the cutting room floor. Zheng Liu is a first time actor, and it shows. He does okay with what he has to work with, but it’s apparent he’s a novice, but he does have something in onscreen presence that with some more acting experience he could be quite something. First time (?) Director Gregory McQualter is sure-handed in his direction, even in scenes that don’t work.

Gordon Liu brings warmth to the film as the monk, but his scenes are far too short. He really needed to be in the film more, as his relationship with Zhou was the best thing in the film, and really captured my interest and disappointment that there wasn’t more of that Master/Student relationship. Castro does an okay job, but really plays Cabrera as any old Columbian drug lord except he knows how to fight. While Pitbull is in the film, he only briefly appears at the beginning but frankly Pitbull needs acting lessons…even to play himself. I didn’t feel that any of the female leads brought anything to their roles to make me care about them.

On that note, one thing that did bother me, and maybe it’s just me, but it seems like all of the women in the movie are damsels in distress in one way or the other, waiting for Zhou to save them (usually from an attempted rape), unable to protect themselves. Would it have been too much to ask to have at least one woman kick someone’s ass? ( One of them does, but it’s at the end, in a moment that didn’t seem too empowering.)

The fight scenes are actually pretty good, and as the film progresses gets better, especially the camerawork. Without a doubt Zheng can fight, and gets to really show his stuff, and camera work does a great job of showing him off. It’s in these moments that Zheng Liu shows the brightest, and does a great job with the choreography. I was surprised that Gordon Liu got a two-on-one fight scene, and while it was short, was shot really well and the choreography was a great moment of old-school kung fu fighting from Gordon. Jack Wong does a good job of mixing it all up. There are a few shaky-cam moments here and there, but the editing of the fights are at least not of the MTV variety that so many Hollywood films ascribe to.

Blood Money does introduce a new star in Zheng Liu and has good fight scenes, but the story just doesn’t instill enough character development to invest in what’s going on, which is a shame as the idea of the modern day Shaolin Assassin is a good idea.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) The fights are good here, and Wong placing Zheng in a position to look really good. There were a few moments that looked like maybe some flips were wire assisted, but what you see is what you get with Zheng as he does his own stunts. Gordon Liu’s fight was far too short, but great to still see he had “it” at the time. Sadly that may be the last time.

STUNTWORK: (7) Zheng Liu did his own stunts, and many of the punches and kicks look like a few of them connected, and that is a testament to the bravery of the stunt men and the acting job they did.

STAR POWER: (6) Gordon Liu gives the film this score, and to a small extent, Pit Bull. It’s too early to see what direction Zheng takes his career in, but hopefully we will see more of him.

FINAL GRADE: (6) Blood Money is a well-made film, and I would like to see what Zheng Liu and Gregory McQualter can do with a more straightforward and linear plot, but the story here just has too many problems to truly recommend.

Click the link below to purchase!

NEXT: Indie Kick returns and Tyler Williams is All-In!

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Kiai-Kick’s Q & A with the director of Blood Money Gregory McQualter!

Posted in Gordon Liu, Zheng Liu with tags , , on August 27, 2012 by Michael S. Moore


MM: The idea of a modern Shaolin story that takes place largely in the criminal underworld isnʼt something I can ever recall seeing, not even in Hong Kong films. Where did you get the idea for the story?

GM: Basically just from my own thoughts on the Martial Arts genre. I think that is the very point. Even though Blood Money is predominately an Action Film, I believe the time is right to change things around. To a degree, we have been seeing the same martial arts themes for 30 years.

I didnʼt want to write the usual story where, “The Kung Fu hero runs into the bad guys and we all know heʼll get them in 90 minutes time”. I feel there is a total void for a real life action hero in films. A martial artist who is a complete street fighter in any environment against any opposition in any country. I guess to a degree a “video game style character on film”. The world is becoming one and cultures are intertwining like never before. East meets West! I want Zheng to be seen for the Action star that he really is. Capable of fighting in many styles, able to use a variety of weapons and use them in real life situations. I guess to a degree, the film is Miami Vice meets Enter the Dragon!

MM: What was it about Zheng Liu that made him perfect for this part? How did you discover him?

GM: A number of years ago I was invited by my Chinese friends in Thailand to travel to the Shaolin Temple in China and the adjoining Shaolin Academy. This was by special invitation only. On arriving, I discovered over 2,000 Students and Instructors. After filming and casting for a number of days, we eventually met Zheng. He was already a Shaolin Master.

To say that he stood out would be an understatement. Standing 6 feet tall with a powerful physique, his display of fighting and weapons was breathtaking. Although a very intelligent and soft person in general, his reputation within Shaolin was that of a fighting machine. A real life Shaolin Master who had it all.

After offering him the opportunity to appear in a film. Zheng though long and hard about the change it would make to his life. He finally decided that although he could share the spirit of Shaolin with many chinese, through film he could share and teach with potentially millions throughout the world.

We re-located him firstly to Thailand to learn Muay Thai and then Australia to learn Street Fighting techniques, other weapons and English. What we didnʼt do was teach him any acting. I believe his natural creativity and charisma should notbe changed. What you see in Blood Money is the real person. A real Shaolin Master!

Traditionally in Kung Fu, the fighter has to be fairly short and of a thin build to have the required leg speed, say 5ft 6ins like Jet Li or Jackie Chan. Zheng is very unique. At 6ft tall, he has not only incredible speed but amazing power. I have seen him fly 12 feet into the air off a couple of paces and launch into an amazing flying kick. His real somersault over an oncoming motorbike in Blood Money says it all!

MM: What was it like working with the great Gordon Liu? You also have Pit Bill in this film. How were you able to get him to take the role?

GM: Working with Gordon was an absolute pleasure. Through a mutual friend, we met over coffee in Hong Kong. I showed him the concept and explained the dream and he signed up immediately. He was a great support to Zheng during filming and his charisma certainly comes out on screen. His understanding of Shaolin and Martial Arts in general is amazing and to see him suck the air out of a flame in Blood Money shows how skilful Gordon really is. We hope to work together again in the sequel.

We also met Pitbull through a mutual friend. He was rehearsing in a warehouse on the outskirts of Miami when we showed him some of the first scenes that we had already shot. He was so impressed by the filmʼs quality, story and Zhengʼs amazing skills, he immediately agreed to join the cast playing himself. What we didnʼt expect is his natural acting talents which are wonderful.

MM: There are a growing number of successful international martial arts films like Ong Bak and The Raid that have raised the bar for these kinds of films with complex choreography and a brutality not seen in current Hong Kong films. What can we expect from the fight scenes in Blood Money? When thinking of fight choreography how did you approach it in regards to both style and story?

GM: The main point of all the action and fighting in Blood Money was that it had to be real. I am very strong on this. With all due respect to other films, I donʼt think there has ever been a main stream action film or martial arts film, that has had the main Star breaking a “real steel bar” over his head, or “real fighting” with “real contact”. In most cases it is fake props and fake fighting, hidden either by over the shoulder camera angles or super fast editing, which hides the fact that they are not making real contact.

In Blood Money we have kept the edits down to a minimum, let the fight flow and shot most of the scenes side on which shows actual contact. When casting for the fight scenes, I was not looking for Actors who could fake fight, but real life street fighters who could take the big hits and kicks. This was extremely risky as Zheng can take anyone out with just one kick, but with precision and control we pulled it off. The fact that 95% of everything Zheng does in the film is first or second take, explains his expertise and professionalism. If you are kicking another actor in the face, you donʼt do it more than once.

MM: Whatʼs your favorite martial arts film and martial artist?

GM: Yes itʼs the same as everyone else. Bruce Lee of course and Enter the Dragon. I also like Jet Li in Kiss of the Dragon. Zheng has been described by a number of people as the next Bruce Lee. They are not saying this with any disrespect. There will only ever be one Bruce Lee who is a legend. Just meaning that Bruce Lee was a huge worldwide star and that Zheng has similar charisma on screen and could follow in his footsteps. I believe Zheng should be judged on his own skills, power and acting. At only 28 years old, he really is a new and exciting “all round” Action Star. Fighting, Weapons and of course doing his own Stunts.

MM: Thanks so much for taking a few moments of your time to answer these questions!

GM: Thanks again Michael for helping us get the film promoted. It was only a $2M budget but filmed around the world in Miami, Hong Kong and Sydney ……… and a lot of hard work by all. We will not forget your support.

Blood Money releases on DVD/Blu Ray tomorrow, and my review will  follow tomorrow’s release! 
 

Review: Five Shaolin Masters (1974)

Posted in Alexander Fu Sheng, Chaing Tao, Chang Cheh, Chi Kuan-Chun, David Chiang, Fung Hak-On, Gordon Liu, Lar Kar Wing, Lau Kar Leung, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Meng Fei, Ti Lung, Tsai Hung, Wang Lung Wei with tags , , on December 5, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring David Chaing, Ti Lung, Alexander Fu Sheng, Wang Lung, Gordon Liu, Liang Chia-Jen (Beardy), Meng Fei, Chi Kuan-Chun, Fung Hark On, Chiang Tao, Tsai Hung

Fight Choreography by Lau Kar Leung and Lar Kar Wing

Directed by Chang Cheh

The name Shaw Brothers has long been synonymous with kung-fu films and for good reason. Run Run Shaw and his brother Runme forged martial arts films into what they are today, and really created the studio system for them in Hong Kong. For that alone we should all bow down and worship them…forever. Not all of their films were great, and many were not good in relation to the fact that they churned out what seemed like hundreds, but when they struck gold boy did they ever, and directors like King Hu and  Chang Cheh are many of the reasons why, and in 1974 Chang Cheh got together an all star cast in a film about Shaolin revenge that thrills with wall to wall action…

The story opens during the Qing Dynasty, where the Manchus attacked the Shaolin Temple and kills everyone there–except five of them, of course. The opening escape of the Shaolin is a thrilling way to showcase the cast while rolling the opening credits at the same time. We are introduced to: Hu Dedi (Chaing), the leader of the group, the young idiot Mao Chao-Hsing, Tsai Te-Chung (Lung), Fang Ta-Hung (Fei), and Li Shih-Kai (Kuan -Chun) as they are the last to escape the temple, and are pursued by a cast just as good as the heroes, led by Chiang Tao, the always dependable Fung Hark-On, Tsai Hung, Beardy, and Wang Lung. Now if that’s not an all-star group of villains I don’t know what is.

The Five Shaolin are good, but not good enough to defeat the Emperor’s men, and they go into hiding, meeting up with other Shaolin who have taken to hiding in an attempt to regroup and attack the Emperors’ men. This is tougher than it seems as some of the Shaolin and the local rebels have ideas of their own, and there is even a shaolin traitor who ratted them out to the Manchus, Ma Fu-Yi (Wang Lung). Hu Dedi tries to garner the support of Chief Gao, leader of a group of rebels, but Gao has a little bit of bitch in him, and decides he wants Hu to kill the local magistrate, who just happens to be the very badasses that the Shaolin ran away from in the first place. Compounding matters is Mao “I’m the young idiot of this film” Chao-Hsing, who in his bravado and yes, idiocy, gets captured but not before finding the Shaolin traitor. Hu Dedi and Chief Gao rescue him, but it costs Gao his life. Reunited with the other Five Shaolin Masters, they go to train, and plan to take on the Manchus in a fight to the finish…

Five Shaolin Masters has that familiar theme that runs through many Shaw Brothers film of brothers-at-arms and the bonds of fellowship even as Chang Cheh throws so many martial arts fight scenes into this film that it would satiate even the most ravenous kung-fu film buff. The acting runs the gamut, but each actor more or less plays their best character-type: David Chaing as the stoic hero, Ti Lung as another stoic hero, Chaing Tao as a villainous douchebag, and Fung Hark-On as the bad guy badass. The only problem I had was with Alexander Fu Sheng, who always looked as if he was too hot, and never really bothers to wear a shirt, which he seems to opt out of for any film he makes. C’mon Alex, those abs aren’t that great! His character irked me the entire film, which may have been the intent, as he acted like a knucklehead, and an overconfident knucklehead at that. I’m convinced Cheh knew this as whenever Fu Sheng fights he gets some children-sounding music that seems to say “ yes, he’s the comedy relief of this film”. Gordon Liu has a cameo, and looked like he stumbled on set from a different film, and they just decided to use him in this one.

The camera work is great, and captures the fights in all of their ShawScope glory, of which there is many. The slow parts aren’t very long, and the fights, from the opening to the end, escalate the complexity and astounding choreography perfectly. Lau Kar Leung was always one of better choreographers from the Shaw Brothers stable, and he shows why. The villains are damn tough, and the fights show this appropriately, and the choreography flows brilliantly so that at all times you know what each fighter is doing and more importantly why, rather than being a bunch of pretty movements. My favorite fight? The fight that begins to save Mao. Beardy really shows his stuff here, as does Wang Lung. The Final fight is–I have trouble choosing one over the other, so I won’t! The final fight does have one of the most painful kills ever committed to films. Gentlemen, you may want to look away at that part. You’ll know what I mean.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) Lau Kar Leung does some of his very best work here, and is nothing short of tremendous, and with so many fights, they all move the story at the same time giving something different each time.

STUNTWORK: (9) The stuntmen bring some great stuntwork and falls, and yes, even their overacting for their death scenes has a brilliance all their own. Kudos to the poor bastard at the beginning of the film who rolls himself down a fight of concrete stairs. I hope they bought him a beer.

STAR POWER: (10) Are you kidding me? Check that cast list again!

FINAL GRADE: (10) This is one of the best of the Shaw Brothers output. An average story surrounded by tremendous martial arts fight scenes and stars. A must see for any martial arts film enthusiast.

Review: Executioners From Shaolin (1977)

Posted in Chen Kuan-Tai, Gordon Liu, Lau Kar Leung, Lo Lieh, Yu Wong with tags , on June 28, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

starring Lo Lieh, Kuan Tai Chen, Lily Li, Yu Wong, and Gordon Liu.

Fight Choreography by Lau Kar-Leung

Directed by Lau Kar-Leung

The film begins as we center on two fighters: Shaolin Master Zhishan (played by Hoi Sang Lee, the Justice Abbot from The 36th Chamber of Shaolin ) and Pei Mei (Lo Lieh, and yes, it is the same Pei Mei Quentin Tarantino used for Kill Bill) Pei Mei has been ordered to kill all of the Shaolin, and Master Zhishan stands in his way, but not for long as Pei Mei dispatches him after Master Zhishan tries to crush Pei Mei’s testicles and get this:

Pei Mei is able to pull his testicles into his groin. I am not kidding you.

He will pull this trick over and over the entire film. You’ll hear a little popping sound to know his nuts are somewhere within his body. Now THAT is kinda F***ed up. I mean, what happens if they get stuck up there? Do his guys suction them back out with a plunger or something?

I digress. We then follow Hung Hsi Kuan (Chen) as he leads a group of shaolin fighters escaping Pei Mei’s army, when they run into fellow brothers led by Brother Tung (Liu) who, with a small group of men run a diversion so the others can escape. This is Gordon Liu’s one and only scene, and he has a great fight with the soldiers, moving fast and gracefully before he dies in a hail of arrows.

Hung Hsi Kuan, along with his brother Hsiao and the remaining men acquire red boats they use to disguise themselves as an acting troupe, and sail all over China performing while at the same time aiding any rebels they happen across. They come across one town where a kung fu perfomer, the beautiful Wan Yun-Chun (Li) and her uncle, are tired of the red boats, not realizing who is on it. She challenges Kuan to a fight, and her uncle stops it once he realizes who they are, and he and his daughter join them. Months pass and Hung Hsi Kuan and Wan Yun-Chun fall in love, and are soon married. Months later Pai Mei discovered that the Red Boats are what the rebels are using, and has his men attack them wherever they are found. Hung Hsi Kuan takes the now pregnant  Yun-Chun and with his brother abandon the boat, hiding in a small village. Time passes and Yun-Chun has a child, Hung Wen-Ding. As Hung Hsi Kuan grows up, he sees his father training day after to day to finally avenge the Shaolin by killing Pai Mei…

Executioners From Shaolin is a film that spans more than a decade, which is pretty ambitious. Lo Lieh is fairly one note as Pai Mei, but his fights are great, making Pei Mei look like a formidable opponent. Gordon Liu has only one real scene, but he is fantastic in it. Hung Hsi Kuan does a great job playing a man obsessed with killing Pei Mei, even as time passes and he has a family. Lau Kar-Leung has a good cast, but not a very large budget as the camera quality and sets are not very well done, ShawScope or not. A few areas of the film actually blur up a bit.

The fights are well done but I was a bit underwhelmed. The opening fight with Gordon Liu was great, and the Pei Mei fights were fairly good, but the final fight between Pei Mei and Hung Wen-Ding was terrible. There was no flow to it, and it seemed they saw the running time of the film and were like” we gotta wrap this up quickly!” and Wen-Ding easily defeats Pei Mei, which doesn’t jive with the 80 minutes prior of seeing Pei Mei kick all kinds of ass, not to mention the fact that it isn’t Hung Hsi Kuan who defeats him.

The ending mars what is otherwise a fairly decent kung-fu film. Pei Mei is a great bad guy character, but his defeat at the hands of an immature boy just makes me feel as if I was cheated out of a better film somehow.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) Some of the best stuff belonged to Gordon Liu, but the Pei fights were great. This falls short of anything better because the final fight was simply not up to par. Lau Kar-Leung has done better than this.

STUNTWORK: (7) The fight on the stairs leading to Pei Mei had many stunt men falling down them, and they made it look fairly good. They performed their duties as cannon fodder well.

STAR POWER: (8) Lo Lieh is the bigger star here, and a cameo by future star Gordon Liu and Kuan Tai Chen, veteran of many Shaw Brothers films gives the proceeding the gravitas it needs.

FINAL GRADE: (7) This film is famous for the villain Pei Mei, whom Quentin Tarantino had Gordon Liu play in Kill Bill. The film itself has its moments, which makes it worth a watch, but the final fight is too disappointing to overlook.


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: Heroes of the East (1978)

Posted in Gordon Liu, Reviews, Shaw Brothers, Yasuaki Kurata with tags , , on August 10, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Gordon Liu, Yasuaki Kurata

Fight Choreography by Liu Chia-Liang

Directed by Lar Kar-Leung

Gordon Liu, a legend of the martial arts world, decided it was time to try his hand at serious marital drama, the likes of which could challenge the greatest actors of the day, a film of heart, pathos, melodrama, and emotions run rampant. After he recovered from whatever head injury led to this thought, he decided to take marital arguing to a whole new level, by throwing kung-fu fighting into it, and thus we have Heroes of the East.

Liu plays Ah To, whom we first meet on his wedding day, and to say the least the poor guy has a major case of the jitters. He is to marry Kung Zi, a japanese woman, in an arranged marriage to unite their family’s two companies, making their fathers powerful businessmen in the process. He reluctantly goes through with it, partly because his Dad would probably kick his ass, and also because Kung Zi turns out to be an extremely beautiful woman. Early on we can see there’s going to be cultural problems, as some of the chinese women at the wedding(we’ll nickname them “Triflin’ Bitches”, which every culture in the history of the world seems to have) start talking shit about the Japanese wedding dress Kung Zi is wearing.

A few days later the trouble starts when the servants mistake hearing Kung Zi practicing Karate in the courtyard for Ah To beating her, and inform his father, who is about to go to Japan to visit her father, now convinced that Ah To is kicking her ass every day. Ah To learns of her Karate practice, and at first seems okay with it, until he goes to his own school, where of course some single asshole has to make a joke about him being whipped, but Ah To doesn’t stand for that, and nearly kicks the dude’s ass, which serves him right.

Soon Kung Zi’s weapons arrive from Japan, and Ah To is unimpressed, preferring Chinese weapons to Japanese ones, but once again seems okay with it-until a servant tells him that she’s made room for her stuff in his person training hall by tossing his weapons out. Of course he gets pissed, and goes back home to end that shit, not realizing that this is the destiny of all husbands since time immortal. Now, in what also always happens, he argues with her about this, but they take that newlywed bickering to a whole new level as they whip out equivalent weapons and start fighting in a game of one-upmanship that would kill most of us. After he insults ninjitsu, she’s had enough of his shit, ’cause you can call her a bitch and whatever, but insult the Ninja arts and it’s adios, asshole! Still pissed she goes back to Japan.

Ah To could have lived a peaceful next few days if he had left well enough alone, but she was pretty hot, so he felt he needed to get her back, and on the advice of someone he really shouldn’t listen to, writes her a letter, challenging her to a fight. Once again unaware of what this means to the Japanese culture, and her fighting school, particularly Takeno (Kurata) a dude who wanted to marry Kung Zi, and happens to be a ninja, take this to mean he wants to challenge all Japanese arts, so he gets his posse of Karate masters and mosey their way to Ah To’s house to challenge him to a series of duels.

Ah To finds himself having to learn even more elaborate Kung-Fu as the opponents get harder and harder, and even Kung Zi comes back to him, not really wanting to see him get pwned by these guys (but I bet she would admit that she kinda does) and advises him in the fights, leading him to the last fight versus Takeno, taking place over a day and night! Can Ah To defeat them and show them that Kung-fu is King? It’s either that or have his wife harp on his ass over it for the rest of his life…

Heroes of the East is a classic Shaw Brothers film, filled with elaborate fights and great cinematography, of course shot in ShawScope(TM). Gordon brings the goods as always, even bringing a bit of comedy to the proceedings. Yasuaki Kurata is dependable as always as Takeno, and for once there was really no real “villian” of the film, just two cultures who misinterpret each others’ intentions, Although it is funny that the Japanese masters go over there to prove that Kung-Fu isn’t better than Karate, but gets their butts kicked by it, and Ah To even tells them that he respects their style even as he beats them down the whole film. The fights are second to none, the hallmark of director Lar Kar-Leung. Also, and I have to point this guy out-look for the Japanese Sai Master, a dude who can only be described as the Shaw Brothers version of Prince. He wears purple, with makeup, and all you need to convince you is to see how he shows up to fight Ah To. It was either fight or sing Purple Rain, and you couldn’t be sure as to which one he was going to do.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) Liu Chia-Liang came to work, and it shows, as every fight was different and exciting, showing off great forms and made understanding the strategies of each fighter completely make sense. Each fight gets better and better, with the fight versus Kurata the best of them all, as it should be!

STUNTS: (8) The fighters really made the most of it, and everyone did a great job. Nothing spectacular, but what falls, hits, and kicks were there were done exceptionally well.

STAR POWER: (10) Gordon Liu and Yasauki Kurata. What more do you need? Answer: nothing.

FINAL GRADE: (10) Without a doubt one of Gordon’ s best, and a crown jewel in the crown of the Shaw Brothers. If you love old school kung-fu then you’d do yourself a favor by picking this one up!