Archive for the Lateef Crowder Category

Review: The Girl From The Naked Eye (2012)

Posted in James Lew, Jason Yee, Lateef Crowder, Ron Yuan on June 8, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jason Yee, Ron Yuan, Lateef Crowder, Dominique Swain, Sasha Grey, James Lew, Samantha Streets

Fight choreography by Ron Yuan

Directed by David Ren

Every once in a while someone tries to do something different within the martial arts genre, and as someone who watches so many, I appreciate them when they come around, and it’s even better when we get more than one in a twelve month time span. Bunraku experimented with combining a samurai film with a western and tossing them into a blender with a box of crayons, and now we get a hard-boiled film noir story that introduces a new face to the world of martial arts stars. Jason Yee has been around in Hollywood, doing small films and getting small roles, but Jason, a U.S. San-Shou champion, now takes center stage to show off his stuff.

Yee stars as Jake, a bodyguard who works for glorified pimp Simon (Yuan) at a strip club called The Naked Eye. Jake’s job is to drive around Simon’s girls when they go out as escorts to make sure they stay safe and more importantly to make sure his clients pay up when their fun is over. The film opens as we find the dead body of one of them, a girl named Sandy (Streets) whom Jake finds murdered. As the film progresses we find out why he cares for this particular girl over all of the others while Jakes rampages across the city in an attempt to find her killer and take his revenge. As all things do in a film noir things go south quickly after Jake beats up Simon and takes his black book, which has the names of all of Simon’s clients. All kinds of hell begins to rain down on Simon, and he has to dodge Simon and his men, a kill crazy corrupt cop, and the men Jake owes a lot of money to, and try to survive the night long enough to solve the mystery of Sandy’s death….

The story has a good flow to it, and the cinematography and camera angles create a convincing film noir which actually falls in line with the look of many Korean thrillers coming out nowadays. I actually think this film could have worked well in black and white. The voice overs by Jake also lend to the “noir-ness” of the film, and David Ren gets a lot of things right. The script is fairly well written, and really show a seedy underworld that left me wanting to wash myself afterward, and more nudity than I’ve seen in a Hollywood film since the heyday of the 80’s. Jason Yee is convincing as the loser/fighter Jake, and brings the appropriate hard-boiled edge to him. Ron Yuan is fantastic as Simon, and has some of the funniest lines in the film, and he’s able to create a character you kinda like and despise all at once. Sasha Grey (The Girlfriend Experience)  is in the film in what amounts to a glorified cameo, and the same goes for Dominque Swain (Face/Off).

The fight choreography is well done, keeping everything within the film noir spectrum and style, and all of the fights keep a realistic tone, but there are two standout moments: the first is the first fight between Jason Yee and Lateef Crowder in hotel hallway. The fighting is tight since the hallway is small, and it was interesting to see how Lateef uses his capoeira in such a tight space. The absolute best fight comes at the end of the film and begins with the rematch between Yee and Crowder, and then, in an ode to the film Oldboy .Jake takes on four or five police officers in a side-scrolling scene that is terrifically choreographed by Ron Yuan. I was giggling in entertainment glee the entire time as I watched this fight unfold, and the orchestral score that accompanied it is one of my favorites, “Bolero” as performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) Ron Yuan does a great job of melding the martial arts fights into the film noir and darkness of the rest of the film, and once again, the final fight is absolutely great. All of the other fights were good, but the Lateef Crowder stuff is exceptionally well done.

STUNTWORK: (8) The stuntmen did a really good job, especially the one poor guy who fell on his head and he rolled down the balcony, and the stuntmen who fought during the  side scrolling fight did a fantastic job.

STAR POWER: (7) Jason Yee is a relative unknown, but I think he’ll be much better known after this film comes out. Ron Yuan is great as always, but Dominique Swain and Sasha Grey weren’t really in the film enough to really matter. Lateef’s record of being the best martial artist in films to have never won an onscreen fight continues untarnished!

FINAL GRADE: (8) A terrific martial arts film noir that brings a fresh voice to the world of martial arts films, and Jason Yee has the makings of a star, with bone crunching fights and a terrific finale that will leave martial arts film fans smiling.

The film’s release date is June 15th, 2012

 

NEXT: Jackie Chan returns as the Asian Hawk in Armor of God 2: Operation Condor!

 

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Review: Undisputed 3: Redemption (2010)

Posted in Isaac Florentine, Larnell Stovall, Lateef Crowder, Marko Zaror, Scott Adkins with tags , , , , on August 15, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Scott Adkins, Marko Zaror, Lateef Crowder, Mykel Shannon Jenkins, Mark Ivanir

 Fight Choreography by Larnell Stovall

 Directed by Isaac Florentine

Undisputed 2 was one of those rare films that, even though it was a DTV film, was actually much better than the film it came from, and before you know it, the names Michael Jai White and Scott Adkins bounced to the forefront of DTV cinema. Both men have bided their time in smaller rolls, and this film announced that they were ready for bigger things. In the character of Yuri Boyka Scott Adkins created one of the best martial arts character in years. The question was whether or not Adkins could carry a film on his own.

The film picks up a few months after George Mason jacked up Boyka’s leg in Undisputed 2. Boyka has been disgraced ever since, and seems to be shadow of himself so much that even his former promoter Gaga (Ivanir) barely recognizes him. When it rains it pours for Boyka as he is turned down for parole and is told he can try again in 15 years. Boyka basically says to hell with this, and wants to enter a tournament where the winner is freed from prison. Boyka tears through Gaga’s new guy Psycho, and is sent to another prison where the fights will be held, and meets an assortment of people, including Turbo (Jenkins), an American boxer not unlike George Mason, with more attitude and cockiness. The big dog in the yard is a druggie nutjob named Raul Quinones, who is the reigning champion. Boyka must fight his way through various opponents, corrupt guards, and even the rules of the tournament itself in order to face Raul and win his freedom, or he will face his death. For Boyka it’s no problem because as he says:

“I am the most complete fighter in the world.”

Undisputed 3 once again is better than the film that came before it. Adkins does a great job as Boyka, a man who was a mysterious character in Undisputed 2, and remains so at the end of 3. They leave the speculations as to his character and why he was sent to prison in the first place in just the right places. Boyka isn’t an animal, nor is he a bad guy, which he really wasn’t in the previous film. He’s the same person here, and even shows that he does have a heart, and respects good fighters. Mykel Shannon Jenkins does a good job as Turbo. He has only one major fight, but he does well there. He exists in the plot to bring out the humanity that Boyka has, which isn’t much, but it’s there. Marko Zaror must have an affinity for playing kooks, as he plays another character who is a few french fries short of a happy meal just like his character in Kiltro, albeit much more deranged here, but to see Marko really cut loose in a way he hasn’t been able to so far…wow. No dude that big should be able to move like that. My favorite character in this series never fails to disappoint: Gaga. Yes, he’s a killer. Yes, he’s a bad guy, but damn it if he isn’t charming and funny at the same time. He always seems a step ahead of everyone else, and seems to know Boyka better than most. Mark Ivanir does a great job balancing Gaga’s funny side and his serious one, and yes, Gaga still loves his fast food, even though he has to live on carrots and celery now.

Isaac Florentine once again shows why he’s the top dog in DTV land when it comes to martial arts films. The camera placement and editing for the fight scenes are note-perfect, and he gets the most out of every fight, and even the slower scenes are directed well as he knows when to get out of the way and let the actors do their thing. Of course, none of this matters if the fights are good, and here is where the film truly shines. Larnell Stoval has become a very sought after fight choreographer, and after this film you’ll see why. The fights are really full of fast, complex movements that are really reminicent of late 80’s- early 90’s Sammo Hung films. The best fights are Adkins versus Lateef Crowder (can this guy ever win a fight against anyone of note in movies? Between this film, Tekken and Tony Jaa’s The Protector this dude seems to be the best fighter in the world to barely ever win a fight.) and the final fight between Adkins and Zaror, which is full of acrobatic WTF, and fantastic moves for each man. Stoval has the fight “conversation”of mid-80’s Honk Kong films down and it all looks both fast and pretty, and damn brutal.

Undisputed 3 is without a doubt a fantastic martial arts film, and Florentine and Adkins keep trucking along. Sooner or later Hollywood is going to figure out what these gentlemen truly have to offer. Whether they do or not, martial arts fans know exactly what we have in them. When it comes to English language martial arts films, they’re the top dogs. Just like Yuri Boyka.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) What a great way for Larnell Stoval to introduce himself to the world with. The fights have some MMA movements (not unlike what Donnie Yen has been working with in his modern-day films) but have some spectacular acrobatics and long sections of continuous fighting. The edits are perfect.

STUNTWORK: (8) Everyone does a great job, spinning and tossing themselves left and right. Nothing crazy, but some of these hits you KNOW these guys took were great. Reactions to hits are an art form unto themselves, and they it well here.

STAR POWER: (9) Scott Adkins’ star is climbing, and I think Marko Zaror’s not far behind him. Lateef does his normal awesome stuff.

FINAL GRADE: (9) Someone finally supplanted Bloodsport as the best tournament martial arts film ever made. Adkins’ Boyka is a fantastic character, but the real star here is Larnell Stoval and his fight choreography.

NEXT: Johnny Nguyen and Veronica Ngo are out to kick ass in Clash!

Review: Tekken (2010)

Posted in Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Cung Le, Cyril Raffaelli, Gary Daniels, Jon Foo, Lateef Crowder, Reviews, Roger Huerta with tags , , , , , on February 17, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jon Foo, Ian Anthony Dale, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa (CHT), Kelly Overton, Gary Daniels, Lateef Crowder, Roger Huerta, Cung Le, Tamalyn Tomita and Luke Goss

Fight Choreography by Cyril Raffaelli

Directed by Dwight Little

Tekken is yet another stab at adapting a fighting video game into a movie in the mold of Mortal Kombat, once again using a relative unknown in the main role and surrounding him with a mix of decent actors and martial artists. Directed by Dwight Little (Rapid Fire) Tekken does a much better job in many areas than MK did.

The film begins sometime in the future, where large multinational corporations pretty much take over the world and run things. This group is known as the Iron Fist, which really should have set off warning bells in a bunch of folks, but for whatever reason didn’t. The United States is ruled by the Corporation Tekken, whose CEO, Heihachi Mishima (CHT), holds a tournament once every few years, the King of the Iron Fist Tournament, or Tekken, ‘cause the name sounds badass. Outside of Tekken City itself is known as the Anvil, where the majority of people live day-to-day, and the gangs rule all (kinda like Detroit. Just kidding, Detroit-ians!) Here is where Jin Kazama (Foo) works as a courier for the resistance, delivering high-tech equipment he’s probably had to steal, but he’s good at martial arts and parkour, so he usually survive his excursions, in a job that doesn’t sit well with his mother Jun (Tomita) who wants her son to think of other things besides earning enough money to live in Tekken City. Her wishes will fall to dust when she is killed in a Jackhammer raid by Heihachi’s son Kazuya (Dale), an ambitious man who feels his time has come to take over the company, and holds a dark secret.  Jin, with the help of fight manager Steve Fox (Goss) enters the tournament in order to fight his way to Heihachi and Kazuya, so he can take his revenge, but standing in his way is the current champion Bryan Fury (Daniels) a half-cyborg who hides this fact so he cannot be disqualified from the ring, and uses his superior body to mow his way through all opponents. Soon Jin finds that there is much more at stake than his thirst for revenge, as an entire nation looks to him for salvation…

Tekken succeeds in many respects where MK failed by having all of the fights be traditional martial arts contests, with no special effects and few wires. They didn’t feel the need to make sure each character pulls off their signature moves from the game, and while the game story is simply there to give some background between fights, Tekken does a good job of adapting that story within the context of a film.

Jon Foo does a good job as Jin. If you’ve seen him in his fight versus Tony Jaa in The Protector (he was the swordsman in the temple fight) you know he’s good, and he doesn’t disappoint. His acting starts off clunky, but improves as the film goes on. His acrobatics is fantastic, and he brings his all to each fight scene, of which he has many. He’s still a young man, and I expect greater things from him down the road. He’s got the looks and the martial arts skills and acrobatics. He just needs the right starring vehicle.

CHT is his royal evilness as always, and it’s funny that he’s played the main villain in the two major fight video game adaptations, this and Mortal Kombat. The man likes his video games! Gary Daniels does a great job as the arrogant jackass Bryan Fury, and even at his age can still bring the goods. Between this and the Expendables it’s been a pretty good run lately for Daniels. Cung Le also stars in what I believe is his first film, and he does a good job in a limited appearance. He’s currently working on his first full-on martial arts film, and his appearance here bodes well for that film. Luke Goss brings a cynical edge to the film as Steve Fox, and Ian Anthony Dale is a menacing Kazuya.

My lone problem with the film is that there are still too many actors who play fighters who in reality don’t know any martial arts. While Dale plays a good Kazuya, he doesn’t know any martial arts, but he is the dramatic final fight of the film, and the most disappointing.  The women are all there merely as eye candy, and none of them seem to know anything, even though Cyril Raeffaelli (District B-13) does a good job making them look as if they do. Dammit, since Cyril did the choreography, would it have been too much to ask for him to be a fighter in this film?  Lateef Crowder is showing up everywhere nowadays, but can he not get his ass kicked in every film he appears in? Here, Undisputed 3 and The Protector, he just gets owned, even thought he does get to pull off some awesome capoeira moves.

Tekken does a much better job in many respects than Mortal Kombat, but still suffers from having too many characters that need to have their “scenes” and the film has moments where are some quick-cut edits of fights, which drives me insane! Other than that, a fun b-movie style fight film.

(on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Cyril does a good job with everyone, especially during the Jin versus Rojas fight, and the fight between Jin and Bryan Fury. He does an even better job with the non-martial artists. He could have had even more elaborate fights if not for that.

STUNTWORK: (7) They did a good job, especially making a lot of folks look good.

STAR POWER: (7) Jon Foo, Cung Le, CHT, Gary Daniels, Luke Goss, Lateef Crowder and more really prop this film up. Jon may be poised for great things, and the same can be said for Cung Le and Roger Huerta. This grade could go up in the future.

FINAL GRADE: (7) A bit better than Mortal Kombat, this is a fun b-movie film that does a good job adapting a video game, which is an accomplishment all on its own. The sky’s the limit for Jon Foo.


Review: The Protector (aka Tom Yum Goong) (2005)

Posted in Johnny Nguyen, Jon Foo, Lateef Crowder, Panna Rittikrai, Reviews, Tony Jaa with tags , , , on August 24, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Tony Jaa, Jon Foo, Lateef Crowder, Johnny Nguyen

Fight Choreography by Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai

Directed by Prachya Pinkaew

Tony Jaa jumped into the international martial arts scene with Ong Bak, a brutally beautiful martial arts film that hit like a breath of fresh air. Tony followed it up with The Protector, and while it may not trump Ong Bak in the story department, it more than makes up for it with more ambitious fight scenes, one of which has to be seen to be believed.

The point of this film is simple. Boy has elephant stolen. Boy kicks the ass of everyone standing between him and his elephant. It really does boil down to being that simple. Jaa plays Cam, a boy raised to be a protector for the royal elephants, considered majestic war creatures in their culture.

He leads the innocent life of the country bumpkin (and if you’ve read my previous reviews, you know what that means) who, along with his father, takes the elephant to a festival where the elephant, Por Yai, can be tested and listed as a King’s elephant, but the guys who run the test have different ideas, which Cam is unaware since he is charged with watching the Por Yai’s baby elephant Kohrn. The men turn out to be poachers in disguise, and steal both Por Yai and Kohrn, shooting Cam’s father in the process. I thought he took his dad’s death really lightly, but Cam soon finds out where some of the boss’ of the poachers live, and crashes a little party they were having, and delivers a great opening scene beatdown that leads to a ludicrous boat chase ending in some old school 80’s overkill: crashing a wooden boat into a helicopter and blowing both of them up. Cool. Pointless, but cool.

He soon heads to Sydney, Australia, where he had found out that the elephants have been kidnapped by Rose, a woman who works for some company that doesn’t respect her, so she kills her way to the top, and needs the elephant which she thinks will give her the ultimate lucky rabbit’s foot. A really big one. She owns a front restaurant named Tom Yum Goong, and that may be where Cam’s answers lie. No sooner does he arrive than he bumps into a Jackie Chan impersonator (Jaa had asked Jackie to be in the film, but due to other commitments he wasn’t able to.) . Yeah, it’s cheesy, but he properly pays his respect to one of the Masters of Kung-Fu Cinema. He meets a fellow Thai named Mark who happens to be a police officer who arrests Jaa after capturing him during a mistaken cab theft. Jaa gets away from Mark, who inadvertently takes him right by the restaurant he was looking for.

The man who run the restaurant for Rose is a street thug named Johnny(Johnny Nguyen), Who kicks Cam around a bit after he is found, but Cam, never one to give up, follows Johnny and his gang to a warehouse where a drug deal was about to go down when Cam comes running in. Johnny calls the rest of his gang, all of whom look as if they were the leftovers from Rumble in the Bronx, and Tony pays his homage to Jackie by fighting them in a way very close to what Jackie would have done at that time. Afterward Cam is saved by Johnny’s girl for who the hell knows what reason, and along with the help of Mark, make their way through a lot of fighting to get to Rose, who has his elephants and won’t give them back without one last battle…

Tony Jaa gets more ambitious with each film, and while this story is scattershot (Dragon Dynasty has 2 versions of the film in the same disc set-watch the Thai version or you won’t know what the hell is going on.) it really shows Tony taking more chances with fight techniques on film.

Each fight in some ways try to outdo what he had done before, but the crown jewel here is in 3 scenes:

The fight up the building, an astonishing 10 minute fight sequence that is shot unedited of Tony Jaa taking all comers as he ascends a building. Not Bruce, Jet or Jackie or anyone else has ever attempted such a thing, and Tony pulls it off, even looking exhausted by the end of it. I don’t even want to know how many takes this took to do this. Lo to the stuntman who misses his queue, for doom shall surely chase him to Valhalla. After ward it features a good fight between himself and Johnny Nguyen, who is quickly rising in the martial arts film ranks.

The next great scene is a fight between himself and Lateef Crowder, one of the best capoeira maestra’s in the world (His father is the best. He did the motion capture for Eddie Gordo in Tekken 2 and 3)

Muay Thai versus capoeira makes for one hell of a fight. I love it when two totally different styles of martial arts are pitted against each other. There are strategies to battle that both sides have to consider. This extends to the fight with Jon Foo and his chinese sword, also well done, but Lateef takes the cake with this one.

The last fight is ludicrous but funny as wave after wave of nameless thugs attack Cam, and he proceeds to make sure that every one of them has a bone-or bones-broken somewhere, anywhere. After the first 20 guys, you’d think the others would go “screw this!” More celery sticks were sacrificed for this film more than any where else. He caught up to Steven Seagal after one film! There were so many ouch moments I can’t even say-not just in this scene-well, mostly this scene.

This film has one message: Kidnap Tony Jaa’s elephant and he will hunt you down and hurt you. Badly.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) Tony really out did himself here. The fights are all complicated and fantastic, especially versus Leteef Crowder, and how they pulled off the timing for that 10-minute continuous fight through the restaurant is nearly beyond comprehension.

STUNTS: (10) Tony and his stunt team went above and beyond for this one. The 10 minute fight up the restaurant is worth the price of admission alone!

STAR POWER: (8) Tony Jaa, Lateef Crowder, Jon Foo, and Johnny Nguyen. All up and comers who are slated in films coming soon.

FINAL GRADE: (9) Tony shot for the gold and came real close. An uneven story derails this film, but the fights are second to none.