Archive for the Keith Cooke Category

Review: Heatseeker (1995)

Posted in Gary Daniels, Keith Cooke on September 12, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Heatseeker 3

Starring Keith Cooke, Gary Daniels, Tina Cote, Tim Thomerson, Norbert Weisser

Fight Choreography by Burton Richardson

Directed by Albert Pyun

 

Simply the name of Albert Pyun brings back a flood of friday nights on Cinemax, where a schlocky b-movie that seemed to have Pyun’s name on it flood the television screens. Pyun is a king of barely  B-movie sci-fi films, his ambitions far exceeding his budgets, and the talents of his actors. He has fellow actors who have been in many of his films, like Tina Cote and the legendary Tim Thomerson. Pyun always seemed to have an obsession with cyborgs (JCVD’s Cyborg and the Nemesis series come to mind) and here he gets to scratch that itch, but does it make for an entertaining film?

Heatseeker takes place in a future Earth where corporations rule, biotechnology and human augmentation are now what drives the world. The biotech companies advertise themselves by having augmented cyborgs fight in martial arts tournaments. The Sianon Corporation headed by CEO Tung (Weisser) has just had their best fighter, Xao (Daniels) defeated in a tournament by 100 percent human Chance O’Brien (Cooke). Facing punishment from his shareholders, Tung upgrades Xao, and creates a tournament against which cyborgs representing their parent corporations can duel it out to see whose technology is the best. Tung wants Chance to enter into this as well, but Chance and his fiancee/manager Jo (Cote) refuse. Tung kidnaps Jo and holds her hostage with two goals: to get Chance to fight, and to also have her train Xao with Chance’s moves. Chance enters the tournament and fights his way to Jo, who may or may not have gone over to Xao’s side…

Heatseeker 2

Heatseeker is an ok film, but just barely. The sets are laughably low-budget, and the only way to tell if someone is a cyborg are by the few times where their technology pokes out, which only happens when they are kicked or punched, but mostly when they make laughably bad computer bleeps and bloops as they shut down. Characterization is keep to the level of an 80’s comic book, but Keith Cooke tries his best, and is passable as the hero. There isn’t much of Gary Daniels in this film, and Pyun inserts his gratuitous nude shots of a writhing Tina Cote (not that I’m complaining…) that doesn’t mean anything at to the story. The cinematography is bare bones with everything done with a soft focus and nothing memorable. Basically point and shoot with average lighting.

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The fight scenes are passable, but not great. The speed of the fighters is slow, and the main fight between Keith Cooke and Gary Daniels is disappointing. This should have been a battle royale on the level of a Hong Kong film, but alas, that was not to be. As someone who has seen both of them perform in better films, this wasted opportunity would have redeemed much of this movie. The film tries to be a cyborg recreation of Bloodsport with far worse martial arts scenes on a smaller budget.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

 

No truly great Keith Cooke/Gary Daniels matchup? This film is full of might-have-beens  moments that never were. No real filmmaking imagination went into this. Okay to watch, particularly if you’re drunk. I’m positive there’s a drinking game in it somewhere…

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Review: China O’Brien (1990)

Posted in Cynthia Rothrock, Keith Cooke, Richard Norton with tags , , on October 20, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Keith Cooke

Fight Choreography by Roberta Chow and Roy Horiuchi

Directed by Robert Clouse

1988 saw two new faces light up martial arts films in the USA—Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal. Both were fresh faces after years of basically just Chuck Norris, and dozens of ninja films in the 80’s. Robert Clouse, director of Enter the Dragon, thought it might be time to introduce some English-speaking new blood. Working with Raymond Chow and Golden Harvest, they decided to export Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton, both of whom had become stars internationally due to their HK films like Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Stars, Shanghai Express and Above the Law. Clouse has always tried to recapture the magic of Enter the Dragon, but has never been able to, and doesn’t come close to it here, but does make an entertaining low budget film. (I’ll never be able to quite forgive him for Game of Death, a joke of a film that should never have seen the bloody light of day.)

The film opens as title character China O’Brien (Rothrock), a cop and martial arts instructor is challenged by a student named Termite (A remnant of the 80’s where every black dude was named for everything except a human f***ing being. There wasn’t a black dude named, oh, Bob, for instance. But whatever. The 80’s is full of poor judgments like that. This film capsulized most of them) to a fight to prove that martial arts can work in the real world. He leaves the dojo only to get his ass kicked in the alley right outside. Maybe, just maybe knowing martial arts may have saved him from such an ass-whooping, proving once again how Karma is a bitch.

Anyway, China goes to the designated alley to meet him, only to find dudes there that are NOT his friends. She fights them off in a fun scene that shows how HK fashions of the 80’s doesn’t work so well in the USA, and in the end she shoots one of the gangbangers, who happens to be a kid. She resigns from the police force and returns home, which is a small town in which her father is sheriff, but she soon discovers that things have gone downhill since she left, and the country white dudes she left behind have been replaces by douchy country white dudes with pot bellies who think they can fight and work for organized crime. She does have a friend/boyfriend teacher Matt (Norton) who is also presumably from the same town but strangely has an Australian accent. She is also helped by Dakota, China kicks a little ass here and there until her father is killed, and she decides to run for his office and is challenged by one of Barlow’s men, and after they rig the polls and try to steal ballot boxes it leads to a final fight for control of the town. A really small town. Suffice to say:

China O’Brien and Friends: 1 Country Boys: -1

If you love seeing small town dudes getting their asses kicked, then this film will be your nirvana. The story is hokey, and the acting sucks, but that kinda adds to the charm of this. Cynthia has to actually portray…warmth and love here, which is not what she had been asked to provide in any of her HK films. She may not have been used to it, and the same goes for Richard Norton, but when it comes time to kick ass, the film does it fairly well. Now there isn’t any fights versus any other good martial artists, but nevertheless it’s fun. The line reading is tone-deaf, but as Robert Clouse was deaf as well (no joke, he actually was), it’s all good, I guess. The fights are well done, and for the most part keeps up with the Hong Kong style of choreography and speed. Keith Cooke has no screen presence whatsoever, but is good in his fights, with blazing fast speed on his kicks, but overall he isn’t given much to do.

Robert Clouse does a good job of making sure the action is front and center, and the film keeps it coming. The best fights are the bonfire fight, where Richard Norton and Keith Cooke really get to kick some serious ass, and then the fight in the high school weight room, where China beats the crap out of the same guy with a do-rag like ten times.

China O-Brien lets its B-movie flag fly high, and even though it was never the success all were hoping it would be, Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton would becomes fixtures of many B-movies for the 90’s until Jackie Chan and Jet Li showed up and booted Seagal and JCVD to B-Movieville.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) The fights are well done and more or less polished, not reaching the heights of her Hong Kong work, but is a hell of a lot better than her American output after this.

STUNTWORK: (2) Boy, did these guys ever suck. Their reactions were laughable, not acting realistically or even over the top with their reactions to being hit. That actually makes it kinda funny though.

STARPOWER: (7) Cynthia Rothrock would begin her reign as B-movie action queen, and Richard Norton would be in most films with her, but they will never ascend any higher. Keith Cooke’s career never takes off.

FINAL GRADE: (7) The cheese flows like a river here, and the acting is terrible, but the action is fun to watch, but be warned. 80’s fashion is in full effect here!

Review: Mortal Kombat (1995)

Posted in Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Christopher Lambert, JJ Perry, Keith Cooke, Reviews, Robin Shou with tags , , , on February 9, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Robin Shou, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa (CHT), Christopher Lambert, Keith Cooke (cameo), Bridgette Wilson, Linden Ashby

Fight Choreography by Pat E. Johnson

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

For martial arts fans in the US, the early and mid 90’s were rough. Unless you knew a buddy who got the bootleg stuff from Hong Kong and Japan, you were left with Steven Seagal with the ever-expanding waistline, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, master of the ass shots and splits. In other words you were shit out of luck. There was cool martial arts to be found in video games, with Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat leading the way. Hollywood thought they would both make a good film, and they were half-right. Little did we know that Jackie Chan was about to change US cinema forever with Rumble in the Bronx a year later, but at that time we were given Mortal Kombat…

The film opens following three characters: Liu Kang (Shou), who wants to avenge the death of his brother Chen by the murderous Shang Tsung (CHT), Sonya Blade (Wilson) who is hunting a smuggler who killed her brother and has lured her into the tournament, and Johnny Cage (Ashby) a Van Damme-like movie star who enters the tournament to prove he’s the real deal. They make their way to an island owned by Shang Tsung (doesn’t the plot remind you of another martial arts classic?), and meet his fearsome fighters: Sub-Zero, a ninja who has perfected a freezing technique, and Scorpion, a ninja returned from the dead with a grapple claw and fire breath, which I hear is standard fare for all resurrected ninjitsu warriors. They also have to face Goro, a six-armed 7 foot tall muppet, and Reptile, a lizard who can transform into a ninja fighter. They are all from another dimension called Outworld, ruled by their master Shao Khan.

Our heroes are aided by Princess Kitana (Soto), the former ruler of Outworld, and Rayden (Lambert), the god of Thunder and Lightening, worshipped by the chinese monks for being a god of Thunder and Lightening. And a kung-fu master. And French. Liu Kang and his new friends soon find out they aren’t just fighting in a tournament, but are fighting for the fate of Earth, and each of them learn a valuable lesson about themselves in the process.

Yes, this is truly a silly film, but it’s still fun, probably one of the better video game adaptations done. They rip off the plot for Enter the Dragon wholesale, but hey, someone was going to eventually. Robin Shou does okay for Lui Kang, but his acting leaves a lot to be desired. His fighting isn’t so great either. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not bad. His kung-fu is technically good, but he doesn’t have the grace and speed of Donnie, Jackie or Jet. Everyone else is cut from that same Hollywood cloth of actors who don’t really know any martial arts but has a lot of stunt people doing it for them. In the case of Johnny Cage some of the stunts are done by JJ Perry, the fight choreographer fromUndisputed 2, and Blood and Bone, and Keith Cooke, he of China O’Brien.

The fights themselves are either pretty good or really weak. Sonya Blade’s fight is really weak, but Lui Kang versus Sub-zero and Reptile is pretty damn good. The best, in my opinion, is the fight between Johnny Cage and Scorpion. That has a great fight in Scorpion’s lair, with really good choreography, the best in the film. CHT brings the villany as he always does, and gives a decent fight to Lui Kang at the end of the film, but his-and Lambert’s scene chewing are the best moments of the film, aside from one last thing:

The Music. George S Clinton brought techno music to the attention of pop culture after being in the underground scene for years. Suddenly we became aware of acts like Orbital, Utah Saints, Massive Attack, Juno Reactor, and more. The Mortal Kombat theme itself wants to make you get up and smack someone. Think not? Listen to this:

Makes you want to jump up and give someone a tornado kick to the face! If anything, this film was a good mix of old school martial arts and special effects that had good and weak moments for both, but overall is an enjoyable film, but the soundtrack makes the film better than it actually is.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) Good choreography for an American film, and could have been better if the actual stars of the film outside of Robin Shou and CHT (I don’t think he knows much) actually knew martial arts.

STUNTWORK: (8) These guys had to hold up the actors who didn’t know martial arts and did a good job at doing so. The guy wearing the Goro suits deserved a raise.

STAR POWER:(6) CHT is money in the bank as always, and Christopher Lambert is always a treat. Robin Shou doesn’t have the charisma to be a big star. Everyone else is fairly forgettable. Some of the stuntmen in the film went on to bigger and better things.

FINAL GRADE: (7) One of the best video game adaptations ever, which is faint praise, but is a good check-your-brain-at-the-door film for martial arts film buffs.