Archive for the Shaw Brothers Category

Review: Kung Fu Killer (Kung Fu Jungle) (2014)

Posted in Baoqiang Wang, Bey Logan, Bruce Lee, David Chiang, Donnie Yen, Fan Siu Wong (Louis Fan), Shaw Brothers, Simon Yuen, Xing Yu with tags , on April 23, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Donnie Yen, Charlie Yeung, Baoqiang Wang, Louis Fan, Xing Yu, Michelle Bai, David Chiang, Raymond Chow, Yuen Cheung-yan, also with Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Simon Yuen, Andrew Lau, Bruce Law, Bey Logan, Kirk Wong,Teddy Chan, Dante Lam, Billy Chan, and Enoch Chan

Fight Choreography by Donnie Yen

Directed by Teddy Chan

Let me start by saying this: Kung Fu Jungle is the best film Donnie Yen has made since any film not named Ip Man and Flashpoint.  Donnie Yen’s output since Ip Man 2 has been a bit underwhelming, but he fires back on all cylinders with this film. A second/third wind to his career? I think this film may be part of the reason he’s on the verge of retirement, and I’ll elaborate my theory on this later in the review.

The film starts as we meet Hahao Mo (Yen) a kung fu master and sometimes police martial arts trainer. He is bloody, and has just been in a fight to prove how good he is, but wound up killing his opponent (Logan) and turns himself into the police. Three years later, Detective Luk Yuen-Sum (Yeung) finds herself on a case involving serial killer Fung Yu-Sau (Wang) who is targeting kung fu masters across the city. Hahao Mo is released early from prison in order to help the police track down this killer, but Hahao knows more than he lets on, and the police increasingly wonder if they can actually trust him, but the bodies left in Fung’s wake start to pile up…

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Kung Fu Jungle is a fantastic action film, and more than that its Donnie Yen and Teddy Chan’s love letter to all the kung fu films that inspired them. Just look at the starring credits above. Jackie Chan is onscreen as Hahao is watching Drunken Master in one scene. In fact, he’s specifically watching the scene where JC goes through the form, one of the best scenes of its kind ever filmed. Then you get to Shaw Brothers favorite David Chiang in a cameo appearance, and then, Raymond Chow appears! The list goes on and on, and I’m sure I missed someone. In fact, the only criticism I have is that some folks were left out. Where was the Greatness (Gordon Liu), and where was Sammo Hung? Jet Li? I suppose in Jet’s case he’s more a contemporary for Yen, so there could be that.

As for the story itself, and this is the genius of the film, is that it’s an homage to dozens of  old school kung fu films where a great kung fu master travels around fighting different schools and killing their masters for the sole purpose of being the best. Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow, Knockabout, Prodigal Son, and so many dozens more have used this same story conceit, and director Teddy Chan brings that same story to the modern day successfully. Donnie Yen is excellent as Hahao, a man who had paid the price and damaged his own soul trying to be the best. Baoqiang is equally good as the killer, whose reasons go beyond just wanting to be the greatest of all. Charlie Yeung also does a great job here, but I kinda think this film missed out in respect to her casting, and I thought Michelle Yeoh may have been the better play here, given the spirit of the movie, but Michelle Bai does the spirit of female action heroes well as Haoho’s love interest, Sinn Ying, and she proves to give Baoqiang a greater challenge than he suspects.

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Louis Fan and Xing Yu are in the film more as extended cameos, and while I enjoyed their presence, I had wished they would have appeared in the film longer.

The fights here are some of the best choreographed fights Yen has put out in some time. The first fight in the prison is terrific, as are all of the fights Baoqiang gets into with his various opponents, but the climactic battle on a busy street between Yen and Baoqiang is truly great and hard hitting, with fantastic movement and speed. THIS is the Donnie Yen of SPL and Flashpoint that had been missing for a little while.

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I said that this film may be contributing to Donnie Yen retiring. I say that because Donnie recently stated that he really has nothing more to say on camera regarding kung fu films. This film expresses his love for the genre and the career its given him as he pays his respects to those that came before him. After Ip Man 3 and this, I’m of the mind that he may be right. His filmography spans just about every type of martial arts film, and I’m not sure there anything else he can make that would be cool without simply spinning his wheels.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9

Kung Fu Jungle (called Kung Fu Killer by WellGOUSA) is a great piece of entertainment that shows Donnie Yen at his absolute best and writes a thrilling love letter to all martial arts films! You do NOT want to miss this!

Kung Fu Killer will be out in North America tomorrow in select theaters!

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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!