Archive for the Kenneth Lo Category

Review: Special ID (2013)

Posted in Andy On, Collin Chou, Donnie Yen, Kenneth Lo with tags , , on May 13, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

 

Special ID 2

Starring Donnie Yen, Tian Jing, Collin Chou, Andy On, Ken Lo

Fight Choreography by Donnie Yen

Directed by Clarence Fok

After living with the moniker “he has the potential, but…” Donnie Yen has finally taken his place alongside Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and Sammo Hung as a bona-fide action star, after rattling off a string of hits in Killzone (SPL), Flashpoint, Ip Man 1 and 2, and Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. Now he returns to the cop genre. But the results are a mixed bag, through no real fault of his own.

Yen plays Chi-Lung “Dragon” Chan, an undercover cop who has been working to infiltrate members of local crime gangs in Hong Kong, in particular one ran by Xiong Cheung Mo-Hung  (Chou) and finds that his old protoge Sunny (On) is trying to take over, and must go to mainland China to find and stop him. There Chan teams up with cop Jing Fang (Jing) to stop Sunny, but things get complicated when Chan’s real identity is revealed, and he’ll have to stop the entire gang if he’s to save the only person he truly cares about…

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The film itself is a mixed bag. The story doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, but I can guess. This film wants to be what Jackie Chan’s Police Story was: a mixture of comedy, drama, and action. Donnie Yen can do the last two. But the first comes off as silly and out of character for him, and out of place for the film in general. Jackie Chan could balance the comedy and serious stuff, but it just doesn’t work here with Yen. The story also has serious logic issues that exist only to make things more dramatic and tension filled. Yen’s character does some things that are head-scratching, as does Jing Fang, as if they don’t understand the concepts of what undercover means. Yen is good in the serious scenes, and Jing Fang is a welcome character, but the best performance here is Collin Chou and Andy On. Collin oozes menace whenever he’s on screen, and really, the finale should have been him. Andy On does a terrific job as the thug who’s set his sights far too high, and his energy brings a needed life to the film, but there’s far too little of either him or Chou.

Special ID

The fights here are of a similar type to the fights in SPL and Flashpoint, with Donnie Yen mixing Mixed Martial Arts with kung-fu, but the results leave much to be desired. The kitchen fight is the best fight of the film, in some ways very reminiscent of a fight in one of the Police Story films, but the finale, the one on one between On and Yen, which should have been the show stopper, is okay, but not great, and no where in the league of Collin Chou vs. Yen in Flashpoint or Sammo vs Yen in SPL. It felt like a “been there, done that” kind of thing, which is not good for a martial arts film. The car fight between On and Jing was good, and maybe it was excellent (it was well-shot) but after the car fight of The Raid 2, you’ll forgive me if I wasn’t as impressed as I should’ve been.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

Special ID isn’t as special as it should have been. Despite some cool moments, the film just doesn’t come together as well as it should have.

The film is out today on Blu-Ray from Wellgousa

 

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Review: Ip Man: The Final Fight (2013)

Posted in Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Kenneth Lo, Xin Xin Xiong with tags , on November 17, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Ip ManFF1

Starring Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Xin Xin Xiong, Marvel Chow, Ip Chun, Fung Hak On, Ken Lo

Fight Choreography by Chi Li Chung and Lam Sin Kwok

Directed by Herman Yau

Ip Man first became famous with the original Ip Man film starring Donnie Yen, which started a herd of Ip Man wannabe’s, or so I thought. Even though the series is known for Donnie Yen, curiously enough two unaffiliated films serve to bookend Donnie’s films quite nicely. The first could serve as the prequel, Ip Man: The Legend is Born, with an excellent performance by Dennis To, and this film, as Anthony Wong plays an aging Ip Man.

The film is narrated largely by Ip Chun, who chronicles his father’s stay in Hong Kong while Mrs. Man stays in Foushan, there to look out for their other child in college. While staying with his son, Ip Man starts his kung-fu school, and this story takes place long after Bruce Lee had left him to become a star. Ip Man’s students are a good group, but there is one, a policeman, Wang Dong (Chow) who is taking mob money in order to move up the ranks of the police, but he always respects Master Ip Man, but you know it has to come to a head sooner or later. One evening Ip Man’s students get into a scrap with a rival school led by Master Ng (Eric Tsang) who later befriends Ip Man after a war of politely written words turns into a great martial arts fight. Meanwhile, a young singer becomes infatuated with Ip Man even as he pines to see his wife again, separated by laws the restrict border crossing. Life moves on for Ip Man and his students as the decades pass, but a threat in the form of Dragon, a martial arts master turned mobster, causes Ip Man to fight once more, for the final time, in order to save one of his students…

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Wow. For a film that isn’t affiliated with the Donnie Yen series you wouldn’t know it. The quality is high, and Herman Yau does a fantastic job directing this feature. Anthony Wong is nothing short of a firecracker of a revelation as Ip Man, tortured by the loss of his wife, but motivated to teach others Wing Chun. I honestly must say that Donnie Yen couldn’t have played this version of Ip Man. Anthony Wong brings a world weary yet regal bearing to the role, and owns it the moment you see him onscreen. His performance is nuanced, full of little tics that reveal what he’s really thinking rather than what he says.  Xin Xin Xiong is great as always, able to play heroes and villains with equal measure, and he makes a good foil for Ip Man here.The real treat here is Eric Tsang, veteran of many, many comedies and to see him play a kung-fu master here, and to do so believably, just blew my mind. I didn’t know Eric had it in him, but man did he ever bring the goods here. He has really great chemistry with Anthony Wong in both their fight and their friendship. All of the other actors do a great job as well.

Ip ManFF

The fights here are about as good as any you’ll see in a Donnie Yen Ip Man, and considering that Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang know either very little to no martial arts, both men were incredibly convincing. Anthony Wong fought just like Donnie Yen, with many similar movements (yes, it’s the same fighting style, but I mean something in the body language of both men are similar) and his fights with Eric Tsang (!) and Xin Xin Xiong were standout in this film, as were all of the other small skirmishes. The Lion Dance scenes were great, as was the fight afterward. It was also good to see Fung Hak On and Ken Lo get their fights in as well. The fight choreography was spot on and great.

Quality is rampant across this film, and I can’t recommend it enough!

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9.5

A great film that features Anthony Wong in one of his best roles ever, bringing the story of Ip Man to a satisfying close, with terrific action, humor and drama that culminates in a  final fight worthy of the legend of Ip Man.

 

Ip Man: The Final Fight is out NOW on Blu-Ray and DVD  from the good folks at WellGo USA!

Review: Armour of God 2: Operation Condor (1991)

Posted in Jackie Chan, Kenneth Lo with tags , on June 14, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jackie Chan, Ken Lo, Shoko Ikeda, Carol Cheng, Eva Cobo de Garcia

Fight Choreography by Jackie Chan

Directed by Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan’s first foray into the well mined by Indiana Jones was a great success, so of course he would go back to try again, but this time he would up the stunts, the comedy, everything got turned up to 11, but as with most of his ’90’s fare, there was just  a little something missing…

The film opens with a great pre-credits action scene where Asian Hawk (Chan) tries to take a group of green crystals from a group of natives, but as it always seems to happen, things go well until Hawk find out too late what the natives truly valued, and has to run for his life, and escapes in what must be the greatest plastic ball ride of all time. Afterward we find that Hawk is now working for the very man he tried to steal a piece of the Armor of God from in the first film. Hawk must’ve had some later success working for the dude since he totally lost the Armor, since both men are friends now. Hawk, along with Ada (Cheng) are tasked with tracking down a cache of Nazi gold hidden in an abandoned military base somewhere in the African desert. Hawk follows the lead to a relative of one of the German officers, Elsa (Garcia), but she herself is being stalked by a group of mysterious middle eastern men who want the gold for themselves. Soon Hawk teams up with Ada and Elsa and head for the desert where they find that Adolf (no irony there) and his group of mercenary thugs are also looking for the gold, and after a lot of mishaps Asian Hawk finds himself in a fight to survive Adolf’s men and the traps within the base, and do all this and protecting his friends as well…

The story is flimsy, but still entertaining. Jackie is fun as the playfully confident Asian Hawk, still finding interesting ways to deposit gum into his mouth. Carol Cheng also holds herself up well as Ada, the stuck-up mission leader who isn’t as smart as she thinks she is, and Eva Cobo de Garcia, in her first role, is able to keep up with the comedy around her. The only weak link is this desert girl they also team up with midway through the film. She serves no real purpose, and I found her distracting. Adolf wasn’t quite as menacing as he should’ve been, but the way his story is ended was well done.

But who watches a Jackie Chan film for the story? The stunts and fights are the name of the game here, and it’s here the film shines, as Jackie commits some hellacious stunts, and I just have to say, there is a special stuntman out there I have to give mad props to: the guy who was sweeping the floor when Jackie rode by being chased by several goons in cars. The way that poor bastard hit the concrete was nothing short of epic. I swore up and down that guy got killed, and was the biggest Holy Sh**t moment in the film, at least for me. Fast forward and watch this poor bastard at mark 2:47:

Give that guy a Golden Horse! Actually, get him some Vicotin. And a chiropractor. Jackie’s stunts include the crazy bouncy ball ride and his jump from the motorcycle to just about the entire ending of the film, but nothing beats the wind tunnel fight scenes, which were just sublime.

The fights are also just a work of Jackie Chan art, and the best fight was Jackie versus the thugs on a series of tilting platforms as they jump from one to another, and then the final fight in the wind tunnel, which has to be a first for kung fu films. I was hoping for a bigger fight from Ken Lo, but his partner was good enough, and was giving Jackie a run for his money before the fan kicks up and the fun begins. As always, Jackie moves like water, and is so fluid he makes every fighting move look so effortless. While the fights are fantastic, they are choreographed for fun rather than having him place his opponents in traction, which his 80’s choreography excelled at (Sammo Hung was involved directly and indirectly in many of those early films, and his style of choreography–or rather the finishing move choreography–probably influenced his “little brother” Jackie at the time).

Operation Condor is a worthy sequel to Armor of God, and it’ll be great to see the Hawk return in Chinese Zodiac!

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) No one knows how to great inventive fight scenes like Jackie, and his stunt team did a great job following the choreography.

STUNT WORK: (10) Damn right, and that guy I referenced gave it this rating, though it would’ve been high because all of the stunt work, especially the wind tunnel fight, and the car stunts, were just awesome. But nothing beats “that guy”.

STAR POWER: (10) Jackie Chan was a superstar, and this during the height of his stardom. The other female actors were nothing to write home about, mostly being supermodels of one sort or other, but were adequate.

FINAL GRADE: (9) One of Jackie’s most fun films, and that’s saying something. Terrific entertainment featuring high adventure, comedy and exceptional fight choreography. Oh yeah, and “That Guy”.

NEXT: Do you hear “The Power” by Snap? Jeff Speakman is The Perfect Weapon!

Review: China Strike Force (2000)

Posted in Aaron Kwok, Kenneth Lo, Mark Dacascos, Stanley Tong on May 21, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Aaron Kwok,‭ ‬Marc Dacascos,‭ ‬Norika Fujiwara,‭ ‬Coolio,‭ ‬Leehom Wang,‭ ‬Ken Lo

Fight Choreography by Stanley Tong

Directed by Stanley Tong

 
China Strike Force follows  the adventures of two Hong Kong cops,‭ ‬Darren‭ (‬Kwok‭) ‬and his partner and best friend Alex‭ (‬Wang‭)‬,‭ ‬who play the typical not-following-the-rules detectives who run into a ton of trouble‭ ‬after witnessing an assassination at a fashion show they were attending to see Alex‭’‬s‭ ‬fiancée.‭ ‬The man committed the murders was an assassin sent by‭ ‬villains Tony Lau‭ (‬Dacascos‭) ‬and his‭ ‬South-central LA drug contact,‭ ‬the‭ ‬villainous‭…‬Coolio.‭ ‬They plan to ship drugs into China via tankers‭ (‬It‭’‬s never explained how Coolio got the money to do this.‭) ‬but standing in their way is Mau,‭ ‬the head of Tony Lau‭’‬s cartel.‭ ‬Darren and Alex also meet Norika‭ (‬played by the insanely beautiful Norika Fugiwara‭) ‬who may or may not‭ ‬be an undercover Japanese agent sent to bring down Coolio in an act of revenge.‭ ‬Darren and Alex find betrayal and danger as they deal with Lau and Coolio,‭ ‬leading to an‭ ‬all-out finale at a recreation of the Emperor‭’‬s palace‭…

Let‭’‬s get this out of the way:‭ ‬This isn‭’‬t a good film.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a Jackie Chan film that forgot to put Jackie Chan in it.‭ ‬Stanley Tong‭ ‬(Rumble in The Bronx,‭ ‬First Strike,‭ ‬Supercop‭)‬ directed this feature,‭ ‬and his‭ ‬fingerprints are all over this.‭ ‬Flimsy script‭? ‬Check.‭ ‬Silly,‭ ‬over the top characters‭? ‬Hell,‭ ‬you have Coolio in this.‭ ‬Check.‭ ‬His Jackie Chan-directed films have this problem too,‭ ‬but Jackie Chan‭’‬s presence is all over his films,‭ ‬and can make up for any of the above deficiencies.‭ ‬Aaron Kwok and Marc Dacascos,‭ ‬as good as they are,‭ ‬cannot.‭ ‬My biggest problem with this film are twofold:‭ ‬The film was shot for an English-speaking audience,‭ ‬so we have everyone save Marc Dacascos and Coolio‭ ‬speaking in broken English the entire film.‭ ‬At least those who can.‭ ‬Others are dubbed over,‭ ‬and the entire effect is‭ ‬off-putting and just stupid.

My other problem‭? ‬Coolio.‭ ‬Not just that he portrays the stereotypical‭ ‬Hollywood gangsta,‭ ‬but his acting is terrible,‭ ‬and too many scenes are devoted to him and Marc,‭ ‬who looks as if he‭’‬s thinking‭ (‬at least nowadays‭)‬:

“‬Jackie Chan gets Chris Tucker.‭ ‬Steven Seagal gets DMX and hell even that hobbit-looking rapper,‭ ‬so‭ ‬how‭ ‬in the hell did I‭ ‬wind up with Coolio‭?‬ They could‭’‬ve at least‭ ‬tried calling Kadeem Hardison.‭”‬

What‭’‬s even worse is that,‭ ‬with no buildup or forewarning,‭ ‬Coolio busts out martial arts at the end of the film that left me with a WTF‭?! ‬Moment.‭ ‬Suffice to say he was horrid,‭ ‬except for when his stuntman stepped in to do the more complex acrobatic movements.‭

Aaron Kwok‭ (‬The Storm Riders‭) ‬did a passable job as the hero,‭ ‬but even here he was too wooden.‭ ‬In fact,‭ ‬it‭’‬s as if Kwok and Wang were two halves of what should‭’‬ve been Jackie Chan without the charisma.‭ ‬Norika‭’‬s acting was marred by her terrible English delivery,‭ ‬but she acquitted herself well in the fights.‭ ‬Dacascos had a better part here,‭ ‬and played‭ ‬the villain well,‭ ‬but a shoddy script kept him from being a more memorable baddie.‭

The fight choreography follows what Stanley Tong likes to do:‭ ‬Fast,‭ ‬acrobatic but short fights that are full of stunts but the kicks and punches don‭’‬t appear to have any real power generation to them,‭ ‬so it looks cool,‭ ‬but it lacks that‭ ‬“oomph‭”‬.‭ ‬Jackie Chan can make that work‭ (‬of course JC has the final say on how long a fight scene is‭) ‬but Stanley forgot he wasn‭’‬t‭ ‬making a Jackie‭ ‬Chan film.‭ ‬You can see this at the end,‭ ‬where he has incorporated the gag and stunts-that-went-wrong reel that JC is famous for into the closing credits.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY:‭ (‬5‭) ‬It was‭ ‬“meh‭”‬.‭ ‬Not bad,‭ ‬but nothing innovative or that fun to watch,‭ ‬but it moved with speed and everyone save Coolio looked great doing it.‭ ‬Dacascos needed better choreography that what he was given.‭ ‬Also,‭ ‬there was wirework‭ ‬in some scenes‭ ‬that was entirely unnecessary.‭ ‬Ken Lo‭ ‬(Drunken Master‭ ‬2‭) ‬wasn‭’‬t used nearly enough.

STUNT WORK:‭ (‬8‭) ‬The‭ ‬stuntmen did a‭ ‬good job here,‭ ‬taking some decent falls and reacting well to the choreography in regards to their timing.‭ ‬I wouldn‭’‬t be surprised if some of them were part of JC‭’‬s Stunt team.

STAR POWER:‭ (‬6‭) ‬There is some of that at work here.‭ ‬Aaron Kwok,‭ ‬Marc Dacascos,‭ ‬Ken Lo.‭ ‬We‭’‬ll try our best to forget Coolio.‭ ‬He actually downgrades the score here.

FINAL GRADE:‭ (‬5‭) ‬This film is probably the worst film Jackie Chan never made,‭ ‬and that‭’‬s a good thing.‭ ‬Stanley Tong needed to go back for more lessons from the Master.

NEXT:‭ Jet Li jumps into the Indiana Jones arena with Dr. Wai in The Scripture With No Words!

Review: Rush Hour (1998)

Posted in Jackie Chan, Kenneth Lo, Reviews, Tzi Ma with tags , on January 19, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Tzi Ma, Elizabeth Pena, Tom Wilkinson

Fight Choreography by Jackie Chan

Directed by Brett Ratner

After having success with Rumble in the Bronx in the United States, Jackie started releasing dubbed versions of his Hong Kong films with some success, but not reaching any sort of blockbuster status. After speaking with a small-time filmmaker more known for his music videos than by anything else, and teaming up with an African-American seen by many as a new Eddie Murphy, Jackie Chan scored his first major blockbuster in the USA…

The film opens with Inspector Lee (Chan) on the trail of Juntao, and mysterious underworld criminal in Hong Kong who specializes in stealing priceless chinese artifacts. Lee boards his boat but only finds various henchmen and Juntao’s right hand man, Sang, who escapes. Out of this entire film, this part feels the most like a Jackie Chan film. There are the stunts we love, and some inventive fight scenes, but even here they are far too short. Lee is able to recover the stolen artifacts, and notifies his friend Consular Han, who is leaving with his daughter to the United States now that Hong Kong is transitioning back to China. Lee also bears farewell to Soo Yung, Han’s little daughter and Lee’s protegé and god-daughter.

We fast forward a few months to Los Angeles, where we meet Detective Carter, a loudmouth cop who gets a suspect’s car blown up in the middle of Los Angeles in the open street after firing round after round into the trunk of the car he knows has C4 explosives, and afterward does a Michael Jackson-style dance and runs off, which tells you that a) he’s unstable and b) kinda stupid. Meanwhile, Soo Yung is being driven to school when her bodyguards are killed during a traffic stop, and Soo Yung is kidnapped, and this turn of events brings Lee to Los Angeles, and teamed up with Carter, together must find Soo Yung and stop the nefarious plans of Juntao…

This is a fun film, if you are willing to check your brain–and common sense– at the door. Jackie does a great job of portraying Lee, but is really the straight man to Chris Tucker in many respects. Jackie has a few good scenes, like the pool hall fight, and the setup is a great fish out of water joke, and during the last fight, where Lee has to protect a large vase from being tipped over by two thugs. The fights are far too small, but does allow Jackie to be inventive in his fights. Chris Tucker can be funny and grating at the same time, with his high-pitched voice. In truth the film seems to want to really push Chris Tucker out there rather than make a Jackie Chan film. I know it’s a buddy film, and they do have good chemistry in this, but c’mon! This should be a Jackie Chan film. It’s easy to see the agenda at work here.

One other problem I have it that there is no real martial arts threat for Lee to face. All of the thugs don’t seem to know any martial arts except for Ken Lo, yes, the great Ken Lo from Drunken Master 2, who gets jack shit to do here except throw a punch or kick. I take it Ratner never saw Drunken Master 2, which might explain his comments regarding fight scenes. Let’s get into that a second…

There is something that Ratner has said many times that I take personal offense to, and that his assertion is that western audiences don’t want to see a 5 or 10 minute fight scene, that no fight should be longer than a minute or two. I would say that if it were a shitty fight scene, yes. But a Jackie Chan fight scene? Is he kidding? We could watch an hour of it–which is primarily why we go to see his films. The quality of the fight scenes are what makes them great, but we need time to take them all in, since the fights in a martial arts film helps drive the story, not stop it like in so many American action films (not all, but most). For such a martial arts film fan, Ratner should know this. Unfortunately he’s not the only director who believes this, not to mention he lifted whole scenes from Jackie Chan’s Police Story (he actually admits the kidnapping scene is a direct homage (let’s be honest, a ripoff) of the scene where the bad guys try to kidnap Bridgette Lin.

The movie is a fun rollercoaster ride, but if you are looking for a good martial arts film, you may want to look elsewhere.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (6) It almost feels like blasphemy to give a Jackie Chan film this low a score, but in retrospect this isn’t really a Jackie Chan film, is it? The fights are okay, but far too short to allow Jackie to do what he does best.

STUNTWORK: (5) Average stuff, even for Jackie. Lots of Blue screen. Thanks, USA insurance companies for neutering Chan and his crew.

STAR POWER (7) Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Tucker would go on to make…Rush Hour 2 and…wait for it…Rush Hour 3. That’s as far as his star goes, and may ever go.

FINAL GRADE: (6) Jackie finally scores a western blockbuster with Rush Hour, but isn’t allowed to be himself, and so I dont’ think you can look at this as a “Jackie Chan film”. It’s a good action comedy, but if you are expecting good martial arts fight scenes, you may want to look elsewhere.

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