Archive for the Takeshi Kaneshiro Category

Review: Dr. Wai in The Scripture With No Words (1996)

Posted in Billy Chow, Collin Chou, Jet Li, Takeshi Kaneshiro with tags , on May 29, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Billy Chow, Takeshi Kenishiro, Collin Chou, Charlie Yeung

Fight Choreography by Ma Yuk-Sing  and Ching Siu-Tung

Directed by Ching Siu-Tung

Everybody loves pulp heroes like Indiana Jones, Doc Samson and Allan Quartermain, and little boys who read or watched their exploits wanted to be them on screen, and many have tried but few were successful. The Indiana Jones films became the template on how to do them right, and Jackie Chan had success using some of the formula for his Armor of God films, and Jet Li decided to get into the act with the character of Dr. Wai…

Dr. Wai (Lee) and his good-natured, brave but dim-witted sidekick Pao (Kenishiro) globe trot all over the world searching for ancient Chinese artifacts. The film opens as a fellow archaeologist tries to commandeer a giant mechanical bull built Trojan horse style centuries ago, and Dr. Wai rides in to save workers as the bull goes out of control, running quite a few people over. Dr. Wai is able to save them, and afterward meets with General Leung, who wants to hire Dr. Wai to find a box containing the legendary Scripture With No Words, an ancient document said to contain incredible power. Dr. Wai and Pao take the job, which first finds them going undercover into a party throw by the  Japanese ambassador in Shanghai, in an attempt to retrieve a letter that holds a clue to the whereabouts of the scroll. Things bring them into conflict with General (Chow) and his commanding officer/cohort Yu (Kwan), who poses as a worker within the embassy to in order to gain Dr. Wai’s trust, and Dr. Wai finds himself falling in love with her. Dr. Wai and Pao then head to meet with a small pro-Chinese press office, where the scroll is being kept two oddballs:  the editor and his protege Pansy (Yueng) whom Pao finds himself falling in love with. Soon Dr. Wai and Pao must both protect the scroll and their new loves, but little do they know what trouble the scroll truly brings…

Dr. Wai is a fun but very dated film. The special effects are laughable terrible, and gets worse as the film goes on.. The story itself is also pretty flimsy, but it does have some good-natured humor, and allows Jet to have fun with the role, which he does. He has a good rapport with his co-stars, especially Kenishiro, who has silly fun as Pao. The Dr. Wai character is fun in and of itself, a martial arts master and archaeologist whose weapon of choice is an assortment of pens that can do things to put James Bond gadgets to shame. I’m fairly sure one of them could dial long distance. Kenishiro (Wu Xia, The House of Flying Daggers) is a lot of fun as the hapless Pao, who has moments of comedy that shows he’s comfortable in his dim-witted nature.

The fights are very wushu-centric, making them interesting to watch, but isn’t very innovative except for the fight between Jet Li and the leader of a group of bandits played Collin Chou

(Flashpoint, The Forbidden Kingdom). The next best fight is Jet Li using a metal rope chain against Billy Chow and a group of ninjas. Outside of that the fights were many but not nearly as interesting to watch. Some wirework was used, particularly in the fight where Dr. Wai had to take on two sumo wrestlers, but overall it’s minimal.

Dr. Wai is a fun but forgettable film that lets Jet Li indulge in an Indiana Jones with Kung-Fu style fantasy romp.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) The fight choreography is fast and fluid, but lacks imagination and any real hard hitting. Jet Li, Billy Chow and Collin Chou did a good job with what was there, but that kind of talent they could’ve done so much better.

STUNTWORK: (8) The stunts were pretty good here, nothing amazing, and even the few wire assisted scenes were good.

STAR POWER: (9) Jet Li, the great Billy Chow (Petticab Driver, Fist of Legend) and Collin Chou, with Rosamund Kwan really was a showcase of Hong Kong stars, all of whom have made their mark.

FINAL GRADE: (8) Dr. Wai is a fun film that could use a good updating, but Jet Li is great in the role and Kenishiro is perfect as his hapless assistant. A fun time if you can get past the poor special effects.

NEXT: Another Op/Ed from Santanu! This time he tackles Tai Chi Master!

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Review: Wu Xia (2011)

Posted in Donnie Yen, Jimmy Wang Yu, Takeshi Kaneshiro with tags , on May 13, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Jimmy Wang Yu

Fight Choreography by Donnie Yen

Directed by Peter Chan

Peter Chan is a celebrated director in Hong Kong, and many were looking forward to this different take on the traditional martial arts film where Peter claimed it would really show the damage the body takes from a martial arts blow. I quaked at this, remembering the horrid special effects used in the Jet Li embarassment Romeo Must Die, but since this was Peter Chan I wanted to give this a fair shot.

The injury effects were well done, but the film had a much bigger problem than that.

Wu Xia (meaning martial arts chivalry) begins in the year 1917 as we see the early day to day life of Liu Jin-xi (Yen) and his wife and two kids. He works for a paper mill, and while doing work happens to be in the store when two bandits come by to rob the place. At first Liu hides away, but eventually jumps in frantically to save the storekeeper. In the ensuing scuffle it appears he defeats both men accidently and is proclaimed a hero of the town, but Detective Baiju (Kaneshiro) doesn’t believe that a man with no training would defeat, even on accident, two dangerous martial artists. He begins to hound Liu, trying to get evidence of who Liu really is, but he has no idea that his inquisitive nature would put the entire town in danger, and place the lives of Liu’s family–and his own–in true jeopardy…

Wu Xia starts off being an interesting detective story, even going CSI with the autopsy and recreation scenes. The perspective of the fight between Liu and the two bandits is shown in two different ways, and it’s actually fascinating to watch, until the writer or Peter Chan got bored and wanted to kick some ass, and at this point the film becomes a standard action film, even though the audience may be forgiven for wondering when and how did the initial tone of the film change. This film couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, and traded an original premise for a safe one, and the transition is jarring to the point that it’s difficult to understand the story. Also, the end of the final fight totally jumps the damn shark for a finish that almost tosses reality out of the window. In another film this scene might be cool, but this film’s story required something more realistic.

Donnie Yen does a good job playing Liu, going from being a simple farmer to being a stone cold killer, but the real star is Takeshi Kaneshiro as Bai-ju, the relentless detective who doesn’t know when to walk away, literally. He suffers from a terrible memory of something that happened long ago, and also suffers from a poison that is slowly killing him unless he performs acupuncture on himself regularly. That memory causes him to go investigate even further into Liu even though all signs point to the fact that he should stop. Jimmy Wang Yu (Master of the Flying Guillotine) is great as the Master who wants Liu to return to criminal organization he runs, in the hopes of making Liu his heir. He plays a vicious monster here, capable of violence at any moment.

The fights are well done here, and Donnie Yen does his requisite awesome job, but some post production decision-making was odd, such as dropping frames to speeding up the fights, which wasn’t necessary. It took away the smoothness of Yen’s choreography, and maybe it was an artistic choice, but it was still distracting. The fight between Yen and Wang Yu was good, and Peter Chan really ratchets up the tension for this final fight.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Donnie Yen does a great job as always, but the choices made in post takes away from them. Jimmy Wang Yu does a great job to show he’s still The Man. The other stunt performers did a good job keeping up with Donnie Yen’s fight choreography.

STUNTWORK: (7) The rooftop chase scene was fantastic, and the falling stunts were also well done.

STAR POWER: (8) Donnie Yen is still at the top of his game, and Takeshi Kaneshiro is as good as always, and Jimmy Wang Yu–classic.

FINAL GRADE: (8) Wu Xia is a film that had classic written all over it until Peter Chan decided to write something else. A good film that could’ve been great, but will go down as an interesting experiment.

NEXT: Time to tell you the story of Billy Jack!