Archive for the Shih Kien Category

Review: The Young Master (1980)

Posted in Fung Hak-On, Hoi Sang Lee, Hwang In-Sik, Jackie Chan, Shih Kien, Yuen Biao on May 1, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Jackie Chan Young Master

Starring Jackie Chan, Hwang In-Sik, Yuen Biao, Shih Kien, Hoi Sang Lee, Fung Hak On, Fan Mei Sheng, Wei Pai

Fight Choreography by Jackie Chan and Fung Hak On

Directed By Jackie Chan

After the death of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan was tabbed as his successor, and producer Lo Wei envisioned another Bruce Lee, and for a time Jackie Chan tried to act like Bruce Lee in a succession of failures that started with New Fists of Fury. It didn’t work for audiences, and it didn’t work for Jackie Chan, who didn’t want to be another Bruce Lee clone. JC was more interested in comedy with his kung fu, and had a few modest hits before Lo Wei offered him on loan to Golden Harvest. JC went to Golden Harvest and had some success with Snake in The Eagle’s Shadow, but it was the massive success of The Drunken Master that would pave the way for this film.

The story begins at a lion dance, as the school of Master (Tien) takes on a rival school. Lung (Chan) and his brother Jing (Wei Pai) were street orphans taken in by the Master and trained in Kung fu, but during the Lion dance Lung finds that Jing has betrayed them and is being paid by the other school to secretly perform the dance for them. The Master eventually finds out and sends Lung off to find Jing and bring him back to the school. Unfortunately Jing has gone back to the other school, and their headmaster has a job for him and his two bodyguards, played by Hoi Sang Lee and Fung Hak-On: free their Master Kim who is being transported by a group of guards to a new prison. They are successful in freeing Master Kim, but the guards in town mistake Lung for being Jing, and Lung must avoid the police, and in particular the police chief (Kien) and his son (Biao) and somehow clear his name and that of his brother’s by facing Master Kim and defeating him…

Jackie Chan Shih Kien Young Master

This film is a template of what Jackie would be doing the rest of his career: imaginative fight scenes, funny situations, and crazy stunts, which in this film is getting his ass massively kicked by Hwang In-Sik. Yuen Biao is good but there wasn’t enough of him, and Hoi Sang Lee and Fung Hak On perform just as good as you’d hope, and then once Fung breaks the chains of Master Kim…Hwang In-Sik aka “Nimble” emerges with some next level Hapkido s**t! He proceeds to give the guards a one-time clinic in asswhoopery. He kicks their asses so badly they have to montage this scene! The beatings he delivers is so damn absolute you immediately doubt that Lung could win this fight..without a machine gun at least. The Jackie Chan/Yuen Biao fight is also really good, if the speed of choreography isn’t as fast as the rest of the film.

The fight between Lung and Chief Sang Kung is a lot of fun, especially once Lung gets ahold of the policeman’s pipe. Watching this fight between Jackie Chan and Shih Kien, and then comparing it to Shih Kien’s fight with Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon paints the differences between the two in broad strokes, and I wonder if that was intentional. Their mix up later at Chief Sang Kung’s house is a funny comedy of errors that would also become a staple of Jackie Chan’s films.

Yuen Biao Jackie Chan Shih Kien

The final fight between Master Kim (Nimble) and Lung may as well been called The Passion of Jackie Chan, as JC proceeds to take an epic beating from the hapkido master, and is only able to beat him not because his kung-fu was better, but because he simply outlasted his opponent. Nimble proves that badassery does have limits, ‘cause you can only beat someone down for so long before you just…get tired. Hwang In-Sik would prove to be the first in a long line of super-kickers JC would have to face off with over the course of his career.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9

The movie that showed Jackie Chan was more than a passing fad, and may truly be the one to carry Bruce Lee’s torch. A fun kung fu comedy that would become the template for Jackie Chan films over the next twenty years.

 

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Review: Shanghai Express aka Millionaire’s Express (1986)

Posted in Cynthia Rothrock, Dick Wei, Hwang Jang Lee, Lam Ching Ying, Richard Norton, Sammo Hung, Shih Kien, Wai-Man Chan, Wang Lung Wei, Yasuaki Kurata, Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah with tags , , , on July 5, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah, Lam Ching Ying, Hwang Jang Lee, Yukari Oshima, Richard Norton, Cynthia Rothrock, Dick Wei, Shih Kien, Richard Ng, Yu Wang, Wang Lung Wei

Fight Choreography by Sammo Hung

Directed by Sammo Hung

Sammo, a fan of many westerns, had always wanted to do one himself, and decided to call on damn near every star at the time to be in his kung-fu/western mashup. The film was designed to be another Sammo Hung/Jackie Chan/Yuen Biao team up, but alas Jackie wasn’t able to be in it due to scheduling conflicts, but never mind that. Everyone and their brother is in this film, and Jackie being in the film would have robbed someone else of screen time, especially two newcomers, but more on them later.

Sammo plays Cheng, a thief, opportunist and sometimes pimp with big plans for his small hometown of Hanshui, plans the town is unaware of. He had to leave Hanshui after a series of good deeds gone bad, or bad deeds that had a somewhat noble purpose, depending on your POV. Well, Hanshui ran him out of town, but he has a plan to return and open up a casino/ secret brothel, but since Hanshui is a no where town with nothing more than a train track not far away, he had to do something to get the customers in, and has plans to blow up the train tracks just when the Shanghai Express, a train full of wealthy passengers, will pass, making them stay in the town to spend their money there. Captain Tsao (Biao), the former fireman now the law offical thanks to some of his not-too-smart comrades who decided to use a fire to rob a bank (Lam Ching Ying, Yuen Wah and others), knows Cheng and vows to break up whatever scheme he’s running…

Meanwhile a group of bandits that include Dick Wei, Cynthia Rothrock and Richard Norton plan to rob the train near Hanshui in an effort to help a mob family secure documents being smuggled out of China by Japanese operatives….

Also, Master Wong (Yu Wong) and his son, the great Wong Fei Hung, travel in the same car with rival Master Sek (Kien) and his son.

And…the group that robbed the bank in Hanshui plan to use the train to get away with the town’s money.

AND…quite a few more stories that will all come together in Hanshui, leading to a slam bang finale that features some fantastic fight choreography and some genuinely funny moments. Admittedly, the comedy can be hit or miss depending on whether you like the slapstick comedy that was pervasive in Hong Kong in the 80’s. Personally, most of it worked for me, especially the Richard Ng stuff. That guy is crazy funny:

He plays a lecherous douche who bounces between his wife and his mistress, both of whom are on the train. He has some fantastic stunts where he “trots” on the train cars, jumping from one to another with ease, and does the same later on the roof of a three story casino. His facial expressions are hilarious to watch.

The stunts are thrilling to watch, such as a series of impressive fire fighting stunts by Yuen Biao culminating in a jump from the top of a 3 story building to the ground…and lands on his feet. Wow. He really does get to cut loose, and Sammo lets everyone have their moment in the sun, from the comedians to the fighters. I have to give Yuen Wah and Lam Ching Ying credit-they were really game to become the two idiots they play. No fighting for them, but it’s still great to see them playing different roles than what I would normally see from them. Now, in a changeup from most of my reviews, because there are so damn many, let’s look into individual fights, eh?

Sammo Hung Vs Yuen Biao: Wow. This fight would be the showstopper of other, even very good martial arts films, but here it is in the middle of the film, which helps break up the comedy. Sammo and Yuen really bring it, and if you watch the first kick Sammo gives Yuen, that kick almost really took Yuen Biao out. Like really out. These two go at it, and the choreography is excellent here, and you can tell that they are actually striking each other, which is something Sammo demands of all of his action co-stars, but hey, they’re kung-fu brothers, so they know what to expect from each other.

Yasuaki Kurata vs Richard Norton: Yeah, it was really short, and Richard’s end is painful (note to self, never try to kick high on a short girl with sword.) but what was there was gold. Of course Richard says his classic line “Painful?”after he gives Kurata a nasty kick. Great blocking moves in this scene.

Yuen Biao vs Dick Wei: Oh. My. Gosh. This fight was incredible. Yuen Biao and Dick Wei blaze along their fight with pure speed and Yuen’s acrobatic stunts in this fight is stunning to watch. His spin off the balcony is legendary as writ in the scrolls. Wei’s punches were lightning fast and Biao even faster at dodging them.

Sammo Hung vs Cynthia Rothrock:  Yeah, this fight was cool, and it’s no wonder Cynthia became famous in HK cinema after this fight. She hung tight with the big man himself through his fight choreography that had him going from being Sammo to impersonating Bruce Lee. I was disappointed that one of her big kicks was actually done by Yuen Biao as her stunt double, but the rest is fantastic. Sammo really tossed himself around.

Hwang Jang Lee vs Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung: This the most hair-pulling of all of the fights in this film. It barely lasts a minute, when the reality is it was supposed to be the absolute show stopper fight in the film, but had to be cut for the running time.  What’s there was the beginning of something epic that gets chopped to about 30 seconds. Argh! Luckily Hwang does get to jack up a bunch of other guys, but this is still a great opportunity missed.

Yukari Oshima vs a bunch of sad bastards: Yukari showed off her stuff in this fight, and though she isn’t a kendo practictioner she made it look as if she were, and really had a good, if short fight scene.

Also I have to say I loved the fight between young Wong Fei-Hung and Master Sek’s son. Those two kids were great, evoking the classic Shaw Brothers style of fight choreography, and the parents’ response is a funny way to end the scene, as is the train ride where both masters get their shots at each other each time they enter a tunnel. I want to go back and say a thing or two about Richard Norton and Cynthia Rothrock. These films would pave the way for their American B-movies, but they really understood the Hong Kong style of fight choreography and were the few Americans and Australians to do so at the time (There were a few others, but not many. Karen Shepard and Peter Cunningham are some of the others.) They work really well with the Sammo Hung/Yuen Biao/Jackie Chan style of choreography that dominated 80’s HK films from the Golden Harvest camp.

This film is really a sampler kind of film. You get a full plate that has bits and pieces of everyone, and the whole will fill you up, but you wished you had more of this or that. I needed more Hwang Jang Lee and Yasuaki Kurata, and Dick Wei, but that is a small gripe in a film chockablock full of fights, at least in the last half of the film. The first half does contain enough goodwill and comedy to tide you over until then.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) Sammo does a fantastic job all around allowing everyone to show off their stuff and have their own “moments”. The fighting mixes being fast and fun with being brutal all at once.

STUNTWORK: (9) Fantastic stunts all around. The scene where the train stops is great, and Richard Ng really does a great job, and Yuen Biao takes it up a level with his acrobatics, especially in his fight with Dick Wei. Some of the falls are just down right painful to watch.

STAR POWER: (10) Did you see the cast list I put up there?!

FINAL GRADE: (9) One of the best martial arts westerns of all time, bar none. There aren’t many fights until the end, but the end fights are plentiful and well worth the wait.

Review: Enter The Dragon (1973)

Posted in Angela Mao, Bolo Yeung, Bruce Lee, Jim Kelly, Reviews, Robert Wall, Sammo Hung, Shih Kien with tags , , , on October 19, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Robert Wall, Bolo Yeung,

Shih Kien, Angela Mao, Sammo Hung

Fight Choreography by Bruce Lee

Directed by Robert Clouse

Amazing.

Astounding.

The greatest of all time.

Those hyperboles and more have been used to describe this film ever since it came out and to this very day. Unfortunately Bruce never lived long enough to see the film’s release and what would come afterward, but he did see the final cut of the film, and even he had to have known it would be badass, but he couldn’t dream of what happened next.

The film opens as Lee, a disciple of the Shaolin monks, fights an opponent played by Sammo Hung. It’s a terrific duel, and what a way to open the film! Afterward, the abbot tells Lee about a Shaolin traitor named Han who must be stopped, and so he has Lee speak with Mr. Braithwaite, an intelligence officer who is gathering information on Mr. Han so that interested foreign powers can act once it is proven that he’s keeping illegal arms and drugs on his island fortress. He’s holding a martial arts tournament, which is the only time outsiders can gain access to the island, and Lee was already invited. Bruce interrupts the conversation to have a training moment with a pupil, which seems to hold a level of danger for the pupil, who gets popped on the head every time he answers wrong. This film is full of so many quotables but it starts here.

“Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all the heavenly glory!”

“Fuck You, Mr. Hand Man!”

“Wanna Bet?”

“Your skills are extra-ordinary!”

“Boards don’t hit back.”

“You come straight out of a comic book!”

See? The script here was fantastic, but for whatever reason Bruce Lee and the screenplay writer didn’t get along, so during production he changed the name of one character to Braithwaite, because he knew Bruce had trouble pronouncing his W’s and R’s, and he was right. Bruce never did pronounce the name well.

Back to the review…after his run in with Braithwaite, we get flashbacks to all three of the main leads, to give us an idea as to why they are all attending Han’s tournament. It’s here that we learn that Lee’s sister Su Lin (Angela Mao) was killed while one of Han’s men O’hara (Wall) and some of his flunkies attempted to rape her. Great fighting here, although Su Lin must not have had much power in her punches and kicks, since right after she jacks a dude up he’s right back up again and chasing her. The end scene is great as she chooses death over being raped. Powerful stuff.

We then jump to Roper (Saxon) a gambling man who has gambled way too much and finds himself attacked while playing golf by some goons he owes money to. I don’t think John Saxon knows any martial arts, but he looks pretty decent here. He’ll look better as the film goes on. After that we meet Williams (Kelly) who is forced to beat up some racist cops on his way out. He kicks their asses and takes their car. That was cool. We soon find out that both Williams and Roper served together in Vietnam.

After a great scene on the boat between Lee and a bully, they arrive at the island and first meet Bolo (Yeung) and Han’s greeter, played by Anha Capri, and they are treated to a grand feast, and complementary women. Han comes off as a great James Bond Villain (like Dr. No), and he’s larger than life, and Shih Kein plays him with a lot of menace that virtually drips while making the smallest gesture. The next day the tournament begins, and Bruce shows up, refusing to wear the yellow gi’s that are provided and practically dares the fashion police to tell him otherwise.

The first day of fights are quite funny as Roper and Williams make side bets with one of Han’s men on each other’s fights, but the meat of everything is what happens that night, when Lee leaves his room, which is forbidden, so he can search the island for a way into Han’s inner headquarters, but is found by some guards, whom be beats quickly and painfully. The next day Han makes those same guards fight Bolo to keep their jobs, and you can’t help but feel sorry for them. First Bruce and now Bolo?! That’s some cold shit, and made even colder by the way that Bolo dispatches each of them, one at a time and in a very painful manner. I think I would have rather quit that job, but it looks like death is the only way out, and I’m sure it didn’t say that on the application. I would say the Legend of Bolo Yeung, and the kinds of characters he would play from now on truly started here.

Lee then faces O’hara in a fantastic fight scene that really shows off Bruce’s speed and grace, and ends in the greatest body stomp of all time. During that fight Bruce Lee and Robert Wall agreed that there was no way to give that last big kick and look good unless it was for real, and so that scene was real. Bruce really did kick Robert Wall that hard, breaking his chestbone, and two of the arms of the guys Robert slammed into on his way to the ground. Now that is dedication to your craft!

After ward Williams, Lee and Roper find themselves facing off against nearly the entire island, and an epic fight to the end ensues, and it only gets bigger and bigger until the final battle, where Lee faces Han in the classic Mirror Room…

What is it that this film has that other martial arts films don’t? They have a classic, if sort of James Bondish, story, and have filled it with larger than life characters embodied by men who were larger than life. The scale is epic, going from China to America and to Han’s island fortress, and has a cast of hundreds you rarely see in a martial arts film.

Add to all of this a cracking good screenplay, and classic music by Lalo Schifrin, and mix it up in a bowl with a huge helping of Bruce Lee, and there you have it! The scene where Lee entered Han’s fortress is a classic that hasn’t been surpassed to this day. Look out for Jackie Chan as one of Han’s guards that Bruce is forced to break his neck. The fighting is electric here and everywhere else in the film, which many martial arts films rarely achieve.

Props to Shih Kien for the end fight with Bruce. He performed fantastically, even though we knew he couldn’t beat Bruce, he still gave you a small sliver of doubt.

I love that scene when he sends his men to go kill Lee and Roper, and knows the names of each henchman! That make the guards that Bolo killed seem a bit colder…

Enter The Dragon changed martial arts films in China and introduced Americans to a style of fighting and choreography we hadn’t seen before, and sparked a boom that would introduce us to new stars, and the world of martial arts opened to the United States, and suddenly everyone wanted to know it. There are peaks and valleys, and the new pead wouldn’t come again until Jackie Chan made one last attempt at breaking through in the USA but all martial arts films and their stars past and current owe a lot to Bruce Lee, and to Enter the Dragon. I’ll go ahead and say it. The greatest mainstream martial arts film of them all.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) Every fight scene is fantastic and builds from the story and character, and the fight between Bruce and Han’s men is an instant classic. Bruce did a great job of playing to everyone’s strengths, so even John Saxon can come off looking good.

STUNTS: (9) The stuntmen didn’t do anything death-defying except to take Bruce’s punches and kicks. I take that back. It was death-defying. Yeah, great job all around.

STAR POWER: (10) Bruce Lee at his best, and Jim Kelly’s career takes off from here, as does Bolo Yeung’s. Great cameo by Sammo Hung to start it all off.

FINAL GRADE: (10) A martial arts classic that has stood the test of time and still hasn’t been surpassed. Bruce Lee’s final real film, and created a legend that the world would fall in love with, and a doorway into the martial arts world was opened to Americans, who stepped through, and both worlds would never be the same again…