Archive for the Norman Chu Category

Review: Swordmaster (2016)

Posted in Norman Chu, Tsui Hark with tags , on April 10, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

Starring  Kenny Lin, Peter Ho, Norman Chu, Mengji Jiang

Fight Choreography by Dion Lam and Bun Yuen

Directed by Derek Yee

 

Director Derek Yee ( The ORIGINAL Third Master) returns to one of his classic Shaw Brothers films, this time not as an actor, but as the director of the remake. Toss in the great Norman Chu, as well as Tsui Hark producing, and you’d think this is a classic in the making.

Except it isn’t. Not even close.

The film (as did the original) tells the story of Hsieh Shao-Feng (Lin), also known as Third Master, one of the greatest swordsmen of all time, who seeks a life of anonymity and peace, which is immediately threatened by a former lover who wants revenge, the leaders of a local cult of thugs who harass the village he’s hiding in, and first and foremost the assassin Yen Shisan (Ho), another swordman who wishes to challenge Shao-Feng as the greatest swordsman of all time, but before they can fight, they may have to form an alliance to keep the village safe as well as Shao-Feng’s true love…

This plot sounds the same as the original, right? Not a chance. The story in this version is a gutless movie compared to the original, particularly the ending, which is maddening in its insistence of keeping thing bright so the hero can have a straightforward hollywood “happy” ending. That’s right: If you expect the ending of the original Death Duel, you are sorely mistaken. The film just doesn’t have the “bite” of the original, yet sticks too much to the original story to be its own thing. Derek Yee can’t seem to make up his mind what he wanted the remake to be: a straightforward remake, or just using the bones to tell a different kind of story. The actors do a fine job, but there is no standout–except for Norman Chu, who brings a regalness and sense of character to Shao-Feng’s father.

The story itself doesn’t take the time to garner real sympathy for any of the characters, nor does it develop the villain in any substantial way. When the enemy finally reveals themselves, it elicits more of a shrug than anything else, not to mention the film commits a cardinal sin: it has the villains dispatch each other rather than the hero having much to do with it. A film hero should be the lever that moves the action and plot, not standing by while the story resolves itself in front of them. The special effects are good in most places, but the problem is there is too many of them replacing practical sets and real locations, with the exception of two fight scenes: the one where Yen Shihan enters the brothel, which is fairly well done and shot, and toward the end, where Shao-Feng’s father and his guards ward off an initial attack from the main villains. Outside of that, the fights are typical Wuxia “meh”. It wants to be House of Flying Daggers or Hero but winds up being…a lot less.

Swordsman just disappoints on so many levels. The talent involved should have knocked this out of the park. Skip this film and watch the original Death Duel.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 5.0

The Swordmaster needs to head back to school for more lessons in what the term “Heroic Bloodshed” means. The film commits the high-wire crime of being simply average and forgettable.

In fact, here is the trailer to the original. Your welcome.

 

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Review: The Flying Guillotine (1975)

Posted in Chen Kuan-Tai, Norman Chu on August 12, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

the flying guillotine 1

Starring Chen Kuan-Tai, Ku Feng, Frankie Wei, Norman Chu

Fight Choreography by Hsu Erh-Niu

Directed by Ho Meng-Hua

The Shaw Brothers was my gateway drug into martial arts films, as I’m sure it was for many fans like myself. I’m not sure which was the first Shaw Brothers film I ever saw, but this one was the most memorable. A crazy weapon, kung-fu, and a great performance by the legendary Chen Kuan-Tai.

The film begins during the Ching Dynasty, and Yung Cheng is the Emperor, a cruel man who would do anything to make sure even the slightest thought of rebellion against him is squashed. This includes two unfortunate government officials who try to defend a scholar who broke the law trying to teach the uneducated. The emperor decides to have both popular officials killed, but needs a way to have it done that doesn’t come back on him and cause the people to rebel. Xin Kang (Ku Feng) is ordered to come up with a way to kill them. After some colorful thinking, he comes up with, and you guessed it: The  Flying Guillotine, an spinning disk attached to a chain that once thrown, can wrap around the head of a target and with a simple pull chop the head clean off. The emperor, impressed by his new beheading device, (once he sees it in action, taking off the head of a dog!) orders Xin Kang to teach his twelve best personal guards, as they would never betray him. Enter Ma Teng (CKT), a loyal guard who quickly figures out that yes, he does work for a douchebag. Man quickly becomes the best of the guards at using the Guillotine, and after a few kills questions the fact that all the men killed were good men. After the death of a friend, Ma Teng escapes the compound, but is harassed by his former friends. Time passes, and Ma Teng takes a wife and has a child, but the Guillotines finally catch up to him. Ma Teng must now kill them all to ensure his family’s safety…

the flying guillotine

This movie is really a campy film. The effects are laughable, the beheading scenes downright hilarious, and without a doubt this is a terrific film. Chen Kuan Tai gives a great performance as the guard with change of heart, and his fight scenes are great. Ku Feng quickly becomes sympathetic as the leader, a man who wishes to serve his emperor but not understanding the douchebag his boss actually is, until it’s far too late. The story moves at a good pace, and the moments before the Guillotine strikes are well done and lend an air of suspense to many scenes. My favorite kill doesn’t actually involve the Guillotine itself, but CKT throwing a sword. It’s one of those “ Oh no he won’t! Oh shit, he did!” .  

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 10.34.34 PM

The fights are well put together, and mixes up the combat with the guillotine strikes well. One of the better fights was actually the scene were Ma escapes the Guillotine compound. Another good tussle involves Ma versus two guillotines as his future wife plays music to cover up the sounds of Ma’s fight so the local officials don’t intervene. The end of that fight and the use of the guillotine was really well done. The entire end sequence was just a series of well put together fights. There isn’t really one absolute standout fight, but many small (but good) ones, but it’s all wrapped around the concept of the guillotine, and so the whole is greater than the parts.

I will say this: Norman Chu has one of the best death scenes ever. No one has a better look of ‘awe mixed with pain as he dies’ than Norman Chu.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9.5

The Flying Guillotine is an absolute classic Shaw Brothers film that allows Chen Kuan-Tai to cut loose and kick ass with one of the best kung-fu weapons ever!

NEXT: Is the remake of The Flying Guillotine better than the original? Here comes the Guillotines!

Review: King Of Beggars (1992)

Posted in Norman Chu, Stephen Chow with tags , , on July 18, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Stephen Chow, Ng Man Tat, Sharla Cheung, Norman Chu

Fight Choreography by Yuen Cheung-Yan

Directed by Gordon Chan

There have been many stories told about Beggar So, the creator of Drunken Boxing, and one of the Ten Tigers of Canton, the most recent being the terrific film True Legend, but before that funnyman Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle) had his own fictional take on the legend, and continues to grow in the realm of kung fu comedy…

Chow stars as So Chan, the spoiled rich child of General So (Man Tat) who spends his days messing around, even though his kung-fu skills are second-to-none, and on his birth day evening he goes to a brothel and falls in love with Yu-Shang (Cheung), a secret member of the Beggars Association who is trying to get close enough to kill Chiu Mok-Kei, a magician and martial arts master who killed her brother. So Chan covets Yu-Shang, which draws the ire of Mok-Kei (Chiu). Just to get rid of So Chan, she promises to marry him if–and only if–he can be crowned the Master of Martial Arts in a tournament held a few days hence. So Chan goes to the tournament, and has his father help him to cheat through the written portion of the test as So Chan can’t read or write, as he never considered it important before. Chan wins the tournament after his opponent cheats, but  it is revealed to the Emperor that So Chan cheated the written portion of the exam since he cannot read, and after the Emperor gives So Chan a test that he immediately fails, and an enraged Emperor has all of the So family’s belongings confiscated, and the So’s are ordered to spend the rest of their lives as beggars.

So Chan goes into a depression, but tries to come out of it with help from Yu-Shang, who feels responsible for Chan’s current predicament. After an altercation and causes Chan’s arms and legs to be broken by Mok-Kei, he and his father join the Beggars Association, and find that they have to aid them in exposing a plot  by Mok Kei to kill the Emperor, but before that So Chan has to heal and discover a new way of fighting…

King Of Beggars is a fun movie, that is full of Hong Kong style humor, and true to Stephen Chow’s style some standard scenes are raised up as he humorously plays with audience expectations. Chow does a good job of going from comedy to drama to action and back again, and a few scenes have both, but Chow keeps everything moving along smoothly. Ng Man Tat also does a great job providing further comedy as So Chan’s father, and is able to play off of Chow really well, especially as he has to provide the comedy relief when Chow has to play things seriously. Norman Chiu is a right bastard as he normally is in action films, playing Mok-Kei with the right amount of arrogance mixed with confidence. Sharla Cheung is mostly the damsel in distress, but plays it well.

The fight scenes are well done but are really short, and full of wire-harness and special effects, going for a more fantasy tone than a realistic one. My favorite fight is the fight versus the three masters who test Chan after he becomes Beggar So, and uses his drunken boxing for the first time. Chow doesn’t attempt to try to out-choreograph Jackie Chan or Jet Li’s version of Drunken Boxing and it was smart for him to do so, choosing a more effects-laden version that causes more chuckle than awe by design. You can see how some of the style of the fights would come back again in Kung Fu Hustle with much better special effects than shown here.

King Of Beggars showcases Stephen Chow’s brand of kung-fu comedy and positions him for the kung fu comedy classics to come.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (6) What was there was good, but a bit too effect-sy for me. None of it is meant to be remotely believable, and isn’t.

STUNTWORK: (6) The stunts are okay, but nothing to write home about. Everyone did what they should, but there weren’t any really memorable stunt scenes.

STAR POWER: (8) Stephen Chow’s star was on the rise, and Norman Chu is a good villain as always. Sharla Cheung was in the middle of her stardom in this film. The other stars were good, but no one upcoming of note.

FINAL GRADE: (7) Not nearly Stephen Chow’s best, but still a funny movie that retells the story of Beggar So in a new way.

NEXT: Germany and new star Mike Moller step into the ring with Urban Fighter!