Archive for the Ti Lung Category

The Water Margin (1972)

Posted in Chen Kuan-Tai, David Chiang, Ti Lung, Wu Ma with tags , on December 12, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

water margin

Starring Ku Feng, Chin Feng, Yueh Hua, Fen Mei Sheng, Ti Lung, David Chiang, Lily Ho, Cheng Lei, Lui Tan, Wu Ma, Wang Chung, Peng Peng, Lo Wei, Chen Kuan Tai, and pretty much anyone who has ever been in a Shaw Brothers film.

Fight Choreography by

Directed by Chang Cheh

THE MOUNTAIN BROTHERS ARE ALL HERE!

Those words reverberated through me at the age of eight, as this was the first martial arts film I over watched with my Dad, the first of many during Kung-Fu Saturdays, and I had visions of characters with such awesome names as Young Dragon, Red-Haired Devil and moves with names like the 13 Throws of Young Dragon, The Triple Kick Of Death. I had never seen anything like it. I found it so much more interesting than any cartoon or comic book at the time. Little did I know who much this film would help forge who I am today. So is it as good as I remembered it?

The film starts with introductions for each character, and dang it, it’s an hour into the film before they are done with them! It’s actually kinda funny and would make a great drinking game. “Drink every time you see a Chen or Feng on screen!” You’d be drunk ten minutes into the film!

We are introduced to the 108 bandits who are more freedom fighters than anything else: the Liang Shan fighters. We pick up where their leader, Chao Gai, is hunted down and killed by Shi Wen Gong for the Zeng Family, a powerful and corrupt family aligned with the government. The other LiangShan fighters vow vengeance, but first they must find a fighter who is the equal of Shi Wen Gong. They find such a fighter in Lu Chun I and his protege , Yen Ching but Lu Chun I is in trouble himself as he is betrayed by his wife and her lover, his own steward. The rest of the film deals as the fighters of Liang Shan take their revenge and save Lu Junyi as well…

The film itself it as epic a Shaw Brothers film as you’ll ever find. You’ll probably find every location on the Shaw Brothers lot has been used, casts of hundreds (cannon fodder baddies, but whatever) and colorful characters with names like The Timely Rain, Red-Haired Demon, Black Whirlwind, The Rash, The Pallid, and so so many more. The film mostly concentrates on Lu Chun I and Yen Ching, but that’s okay because everyone is larger than life in this film, and it reminds me of the American Film All Quiet on The Western Front, which starred most of the actors of the day. The deaths are all operatic and funny to watch as characters are skewered multiple times but have enough gumption to say something or do something before expiring, even with things like spears, arrows, and axes in their bodies! Chang Cheh is the best of the Shaw Brothers directors, and his skills are on full display here, using every camera angle and style in the book to deliver an epic film, at a time when “epic” and kung-fu movies were not synonymous.

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The music deserves a mention here as well. It’s a different animal all together, and has some really funky themes, like the Chiga-Chiga-Cha! whenever Yen Ching shows up, and the soulful singing that occurs throughout the film. It all fits perfectly, but on paper you wouldn’t think so.

The fights are pretty good, but it’s the finale of the film where it all comes together and shines brightly. It’s all full of Shaw Brothers goodness. Ti Lung gets the most work here, and looks great doing it. It’s actually funny to see the Shi Wen Gong call out the moves for his students to watch out for…right before the move actually happens, which winds up killing his students! There are better fights in other Shaw Brothers films, but it’s the story, not the fights, that is the winner here.

I know this may be a biased review by me, but…

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 10

One of the absolute best of the Shaw Brothers library. Full of operatic acting and epic battle sequences and fights, Chang Cheh pulls out the stops to deliver an epic tale of honor, loyalty, and justice!

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Review: Assassin’s Blade (2008)

Posted in Fan Siu Wong (Louis Fan), Ti Lung, Xin Xin Xiong with tags , , on July 30, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

assassins blade 2

Starring Charlene Choi, Chun Wu, Hu Ge, Louis Fan, Ti Lung, Xin Xin Xiong

Fight Choreography by: Haung Ming Jian

Directed By: Jingle Ma

Jingle Ma is a cinematographer who is know for films such as Rumble in The Bronx and Police Story 4: First Strike, and Full Throttle. Here he takes the director’s chair in a film that traditionally I should loathe, for the simple fact that it stars Charlene Choi, an actress I find to be so sugary cute she drives me insane. So does is this film able to rise above my somewhat dislike of Choi?

The film starts as Yangzhi (Choi) is preparing, at the behest of her family, to go to Soul Ease Clan, to learn their style of kung fu. The catch here is that they don’t accept women, and so her wealthy family disguise her as a man, and sends her to them. No sooner does she arrive in town before she finds trouble from rival clans within the town, but finds a savior in Liang (Wu), who is the Big Brother of the clan. What follows is a comedy of errors as Yangzhi tries to maintain her cover even as she falls in love with Liang, who is also confused in his feelings for the new student. Both of them fall into danger when the truth comes out regarding the true reason Yangzhi’s family sent her away, and Yangzhi finds that a childhood friend, Ma, loves her so much he’ll destroy everything she cares about in order to have her, and that includes killing Liang as well…

assassins blade 3

Assassin’s Blade is a mish-mash of other films and stories, and after the midway point you can see exactly where things are headed. Part Romeo and Juliet ( a large part, actually) part House of Flying Daggers and a smidgen of Mulan, this story isn’t anything original. Not to say it isn’t entertaining, because it is, but it’s swiped moments from better films and stories. Charlene Choi starts out as cute as you’d expect, but as the drama ramps up and the rom-com moments end, she shows that she can stop being cutesy and look radiant and raise her acting game up. Her character becomes a tragic one quickly, and her romance with Liang is well done, if a bit abrupt (how she fooled everyone into thinking she was a man is beyond my understanding, but I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief in this regard).

Chun Wu also does a good job as Liang, the young fighter who is at once strong, but cannot deny his feelings for Yangzhi, which takes him down a dark path. Xin Xin Xiong does a good job as the head teacher, but I was really let down by Louis Fan. He has one great fight in the film, but he only really amounts to a nice cameo. I think the film would have been better if Louis had a bigger role. Ti Lung, as Yangzhi’s father, also has too small a part in this. For someone of Ti Lung’s stature in HK cinema, couldn’t he have had more to do?
Assassins blade

The fights are choreographed well, and nicely shot, and there is some wirework, but not as much as I thought there would be, which was a pleasant surprise. The fight between Louis Fan and the Assassin was really, at least to me, the best fight in the film, but it was over too quickly. The main fight between the soldiers and Liang is the highlight of the film, and the sword and spear fight after that is actually done really, really well.  In many ways all of the fights evoke some similarities to the 80’s period films Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung made, and I just couldn’t stop thinking that if Jet Li, Donnie Yen, or Wu Jing could have played any of the other major characters in the fight scenes we would be looking at a new classic.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 7.5

Assassin’s Blade is a fun, if not aptly named film that features some good fights and a star turn by Charlene Choi that shows she can play things straight when she needs to. I hope to see more of that from her!

 

This film was released by Wellgousa and you can purchase the blu-ray here.

 

NEXT: Christopher Lambert and John Lone square off in the Ninja epic The Hunted!

Review: The Warrior’s Way (2010)

Posted in Ti Lung with tags , on August 8, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jang Dong-gun, Kate Bosworth, Geoffrey Rush, Tony Cox, Danny Huston, and Ti Lung

Fight Choreography by Yuji Shimimura and Kensuke Sonomura

Directed by Sngmoo Lee

The Warrior’s way tries to combine cutting edge special effects with a traditional story featuring a multitude of great actors and introducing western audiences to a new talent in Jang Dong-Gun. First time director Sngmoo Lee takes the helm to create an East meets West film.

It’s a crying shame every talent listed above wasted their time. Especially Ti Lung, but more on him later.

The film follows the exploits of Yang (Dong-Gun) the greatest swordsman in the world, who is a member of the Sad Flute assassins. They are at war with a rival clan, and do the job of wiping the clan out, the last member being a baby. Yang is given the mission by Saddest Flute (Ti Lung) to kill this baby, but in a moment of compassion Yang cannot, and by doing so becomes an enemy within his clan. Yang escapes to the United States with the child, and winds up in the small desert town of Lode, where a friend of his resides. Of course his friend is long dead, killed by a group of outlaw marauders led by The Colonel (Huston). The townspeople are a motley crew of people, starting with the town drunk Ronald, who may be far more deadly than anyone knows, 8 Ball (Cox) the leader of the local circus who also more or less leads the people, and Lynne (Bosworth), a fiery redhead who seeks to get her revenge on the Colonel for killer her family, but also takes an interest in Yang. The Colonel soon starts to hurt the people Yang cares about, and Yang knows what will happen if he draws his sword: The Sad Flutes will come ( I guess they figure this out using telepathy) and the entire town will be in far more danger than from that of a bunch of marauders…

The story here is dirt simple, and doesn’t really allow the actors to escape being merely  caricatures of western films. Geoffrey Rush does his best, but was he really needed? Kate Bosworth does a pretty good job even though she’s a bit shaky at the beginning, and Jang Dong-Gun does what he can, but isn’t given much to work with or even much to say. Danny Huston chews the screen as the baddie, but he’s not enough of one even though he inhabits the majority of the film as the main villain. Ti Lung as Saddest Flute basically just showed up. This is the great Ti Lung, veteran and star of dozens of Shaw Brothers films like Five Shaolin Masters, The Water Margin, All Men are Brothers, and so many more, and this is what they managed to give him? Basically a cameo appearance, even though he’s a far greater threat than The Colonel? That’s just yet another major misstep this film takes. The effects work on the backgrounds and movements remind me of Bunraku, but there’s a charm that film had that I don’t see here. That’s not to say that Sngmoo Lee doesn’t present some great visual moments. He does, but the weak story can’t make up for it, and the art of the visuals is ruined since it looks like a video game in some sequences.

 

The fights are well done and look good, and are over in seconds, just as in many Japanese samurai films, and the final fight between the town, outlaws and assassins is well done and fun, but at the same time so very fake with all of the effects work. I think simple wire work would have been more…real than the CGI they presented. This is more of a swords film done anime style than anything else, and screams CGI in far too many places. Maybe that’s someone else’s cup of tea, but not mine.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (3) The choreography is all in the CGI, which looks passable one moment to downright weak the next. There were a few cool moments, like the hallway fight between Yang and the outlaws toward the end, but even that came off pretty weak.

STUNTWORK: (2) It’s hard to say just what the stuntmen did since everything looked CGI, so there wasn’t much for them to do except to hang off of the occasion wire.

STAR POWER: (8) The film has its stars, I’ll give it that. I don’t know what they paid to get an actor of Geoffrey Rush’s caliber, but I’ll wager it was a kings’ ransom, and Kate Bosworth appears in film regularly. Jang  Dong-Gun is a gifted actor with several new films on the way.

FINAL GRADE: (3) The Warrior’s Way is a barely mediocre film that fails because the story is too weak, and the video game style visuals tries to make up for it, and that’s the main problem. That, and they had Ti Lung and wasted him, which is unforgivable.

NEXT: Cliff Lok will take on a group of Shaolin assassins with Choy Lay Fut!

Review: Blood Brothers (1973)

Posted in Chang Cheh, Chen Kuan-Tai, David Chiang, Ti Lung with tags , , on January 30, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Kuan Tai Chen, Ti Lung, David Chaing, Ching Li

Fight Choreography by Liu Chia-Liang, Tang Chia

Directed by Chang Cheh

Chang Cheh is widely considered the “Godfather of Hong Kong Cinema” and for a good reason. He’s had over 100 films within the Shaw Brothers stable, and helped to create the Shaw Brothers “brand”, making some of the most recognized old school kung fu films out there, but few costumed epics are as dark and unforgiving as Blood Brothers.

David Chiang and Kuan Tai Chen star as Chang Wen Hsiang and Huang Chang respectively, two thieves during the Ching dynasty who try to rob the wrong man in Ma Hsin I (Ti Lung). Ma’s kung fu turns out to be far better than they expected and so they decide to team up with Ma to defeat some of the other bandit gangs and bring them under their banner, or more to the point, Ma’s. The seeds of evil are planted as Ma begins to covet Huang’s wife Mi Lan (Ching Li) who also falls in love with Ma. Ma decides to take the officer’s exam to gain more power as an official, and has Chang and Huang watch over the gang until he calls for them. Some time later finds Chang and Huang being called to take the gang to Ma, who will now make the soldiers for his army. Ma still covets Huang’s wife, without Huang noticing, and Ma hatches a plan so that he and Mi Lan can be together forever with unforeseen and tragic consequences…

One note: This is one downer of a film, a greek tragedy in many respects. It’s dark and only gets darker, mainly due to the performances of the leads. Ti Lung, in one if his few villain roles, really does a fantastic job as Ma Hsin I, an ambitious man who wants to climb higher and higher, and isn’t afraid to step on his friends to do so. He never sees himself as a villain, but as a man who believes that he is deserving of anything he tries to attain. Kuan Tai Chen probably had the easiest role as happily ignorant Huang Chang, a fun loving man who doesn’t truly understand the depths of his wife’s and Ma’s betrayal of him until it is far, far too late. David Chaing also gives one of his best performances as his cousin and friend, and the one who figures out what is going on and is too late to stop it. He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders as the film progresses, and his burden is painted all over Chaing’s face in every scene.

The genius of the film rests with the fact that we know early on Ma’s ambitions in regards to Mi Lan, but the suspense is in waiting for the dominoes to fall as Chang and Huang realize what’s been happening, and what their response will be to their betrayals. Chang Cheh’s cinematography shines in freeze frames and quick zooms that never takes us away from the action. The fight choreography is good but not great. The fights are mostly weapon fights, but what sells them are the actors. Of all of them Kuan Tai Chen has the best fights, particularly toward the end. The final fight of the film is also good but better fight choreography can be found in other films, but the acting during the final fight is exceptional. both David Chiang and Ti Lung sell those scenes as two men who know that no matter what happens the endgame of the fight will remain the same, but it doesn’t matter.

Blood Brothers is a look into a bond between men that is destroyed by one brother’s envy. One of Chang Cheh’s best.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) The fights are good and carry the story along. The weapon scenes are done well, as are the giant battles between any of the main stars and the cannon fodder.

STUNTWORK: (8) Also good work by all involved. The giant battles really show the dedication of these guys to making it all look good. Especially scenes where they roll down hills, and they do this a few times.

STAR POWER: (10) David Chaing, Ti Lung and Kuan Tai Chen reached new heights of stardom after this film, and cemented their place as Shaw Brothers stars.

FINAL GRADE: (9) Blood Brothers is a film that features good fights, but the operatic story and acting are what make this movie a martial arts classic.

Review: The Avenging Eagle (1978)

Posted in Alexander Fu Sheng, Dick Wei, Ti Lung, Wang Lung Wei with tags , , on January 23, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Ti Lung, Alexander Fu Sheng, Wang Lung, Dick Wei, Ku Feng

Fight Choreography by Tang Chia and Huang Pei-Chi

Directed By Sun Chung

From the house of Shaw Brothers comes another revenge martial arts film, but with a twist midway through the film that is telegraphed, but no less engaging because of its portent. Two Shaw Brother stalwarts head up yet another great cast…

Ti Lung plays Chik Ming Sing, a member of the Iron Boat Gang and one of their best fighters, part of a group known as the 13 Eagles. He was raised to be an assassin since he was a young orphan taken in by Yoh Xi Hung (Ku Feng), a brutal man who craves more power and uses his assassins to get it. When we meet Chik he is running from the other assassins, and meets a fellow on the road named Homeless (Fu Sheng) who helps him fight off several of the assassins trying to kill him, and in between fights we are told in flashback why they are hunting Chik and why Chik ran away, wanting to change his life. Homeless is trying to kill Yoh Xi Hung for reasons that are revealed toward the end of the film. Chik and Homeless band together to end the Iron Boat Gang once and for all, but Homeless hides a secret that may pit both men against each other once Yoh is defeated…

Operatic. That is the best way to describe this film. This is something that almost could’ve been done as a stage play. The story does a good job of parsing out information regularly but not intrusively, as each time they go into a flashback I found myself more and more interested in what really happened to Chik, and how Homeless plays into the greater scheme of things. It all makes the final fight all the more engrossing as the “twist” is made known to Chik, and while the audience already knows it, we wait in anticipation of what Chik will do when he finds out.

Ti Lung does an excellent job portraying the dark and tortured Chik Ming Sing, who wants to atone for his sins, but at the same time isn’t really interested in dying. This may be Ti Lung’s best acting performance, and he puts his all into the character. Alexander Fu Sheng is…well, in many respects the same kind of smartass character he plays so well, but even here he has a dark aspect that is missing from most of the characters he plays, adding to the overall darkness of the film. Wang Lung is a badass as always, but doesn’t really get much to do here since he’s really main Flunkie number 1 in this flick.

The fights take on the operatic nature of the story, as there is mostly weapon fighting that are very dramatic in execution. The first fight involving Chik and Homeless versus a group of Eagles was well staged, but had interesting moments where the camera went into a freeze frame. I’m not sure what the purpose of it was, and I never understood what effect they were looking to achieve, but it happens only a few times in the film and doesn’t really deter any of the fights. The second fight as the 13 Eagles attack Yu Fai town is epic in nature and well staged as the fight carries across the entire town, and the camerawork is flawless and not once was I confused by where everyone was at. The highlight of this scene is a fantastic fight between Ti Lung and his 3 section staff versus a spear fighter. The choreography is some of the best I’ve seen using those weapons. I love Dick Wei, but I loved the way he got taken down by Fu Sheng even more. It was so simple and quick I laughed out loud when it happened.  All of the fights are good, but more because of what they mean to move the story along, which is the main difference between many Hollywood martial arts films and Shaw Brothers films. The fights are part of the story, and move the story along, not hindering it, or stopping the proceeding to “see a fight scene”. This film marries story and fighting as well as any SB film has.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) The fights are incredibly well done and feature a myriad of weapons that don’t get a lot of play in martial arts films. It all ties into the overall tone of the film perfectly. Ti Lung and Alexander Fu Sheng really shine in all of their fights.

STUNTWORK: (8) The stunt work rocked in this film. The stuntmen didn’t overact or react too badly, and really acted their death scenes with aplomb (much like a stage play). There wasn’t too many falls, but the ones that were there were executed well.

STAR POWER: (10) Ti Lung, Alexander Fu Sheng, Ku Feng, with smaller parts by Dick Wei and Wang Lung? All at the height of their popularity during the Shaw Brothers era.

FINAL GRADE: (9) A great revenge story featuring the best performance of Ti Lung’s career, and Alexander Fu Sheng gets to show he can act too. Wall to Wall fights that will have you on the edge of your seat. Required viewing.

 

Review: Five Shaolin Masters (1974)

Posted in Alexander Fu Sheng, Chaing Tao, Chang Cheh, Chi Kuan-Chun, David Chiang, Fung Hak-On, Gordon Liu, Lar Kar Wing, Lau Kar Leung, Leung Kar Yan (Beardy), Meng Fei, Ti Lung, Tsai Hung, Wang Lung Wei with tags , , on December 5, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring David Chaing, Ti Lung, Alexander Fu Sheng, Wang Lung, Gordon Liu, Liang Chia-Jen (Beardy), Meng Fei, Chi Kuan-Chun, Fung Hark On, Chiang Tao, Tsai Hung

Fight Choreography by Lau Kar Leung and Lar Kar Wing

Directed by Chang Cheh

The name Shaw Brothers has long been synonymous with kung-fu films and for good reason. Run Run Shaw and his brother Runme forged martial arts films into what they are today, and really created the studio system for them in Hong Kong. For that alone we should all bow down and worship them…forever. Not all of their films were great, and many were not good in relation to the fact that they churned out what seemed like hundreds, but when they struck gold boy did they ever, and directors like King Hu and  Chang Cheh are many of the reasons why, and in 1974 Chang Cheh got together an all star cast in a film about Shaolin revenge that thrills with wall to wall action…

The story opens during the Qing Dynasty, where the Manchus attacked the Shaolin Temple and kills everyone there–except five of them, of course. The opening escape of the Shaolin is a thrilling way to showcase the cast while rolling the opening credits at the same time. We are introduced to: Hu Dedi (Chaing), the leader of the group, the young idiot Mao Chao-Hsing, Tsai Te-Chung (Lung), Fang Ta-Hung (Fei), and Li Shih-Kai (Kuan -Chun) as they are the last to escape the temple, and are pursued by a cast just as good as the heroes, led by Chiang Tao, the always dependable Fung Hark-On, Tsai Hung, Beardy, and Wang Lung. Now if that’s not an all-star group of villains I don’t know what is.

The Five Shaolin are good, but not good enough to defeat the Emperor’s men, and they go into hiding, meeting up with other Shaolin who have taken to hiding in an attempt to regroup and attack the Emperors’ men. This is tougher than it seems as some of the Shaolin and the local rebels have ideas of their own, and there is even a shaolin traitor who ratted them out to the Manchus, Ma Fu-Yi (Wang Lung). Hu Dedi tries to garner the support of Chief Gao, leader of a group of rebels, but Gao has a little bit of bitch in him, and decides he wants Hu to kill the local magistrate, who just happens to be the very badasses that the Shaolin ran away from in the first place. Compounding matters is Mao “I’m the young idiot of this film” Chao-Hsing, who in his bravado and yes, idiocy, gets captured but not before finding the Shaolin traitor. Hu Dedi and Chief Gao rescue him, but it costs Gao his life. Reunited with the other Five Shaolin Masters, they go to train, and plan to take on the Manchus in a fight to the finish…

Five Shaolin Masters has that familiar theme that runs through many Shaw Brothers film of brothers-at-arms and the bonds of fellowship even as Chang Cheh throws so many martial arts fight scenes into this film that it would satiate even the most ravenous kung-fu film buff. The acting runs the gamut, but each actor more or less plays their best character-type: David Chaing as the stoic hero, Ti Lung as another stoic hero, Chaing Tao as a villainous douchebag, and Fung Hark-On as the bad guy badass. The only problem I had was with Alexander Fu Sheng, who always looked as if he was too hot, and never really bothers to wear a shirt, which he seems to opt out of for any film he makes. C’mon Alex, those abs aren’t that great! His character irked me the entire film, which may have been the intent, as he acted like a knucklehead, and an overconfident knucklehead at that. I’m convinced Cheh knew this as whenever Fu Sheng fights he gets some children-sounding music that seems to say “ yes, he’s the comedy relief of this film”. Gordon Liu has a cameo, and looked like he stumbled on set from a different film, and they just decided to use him in this one.

The camera work is great, and captures the fights in all of their ShawScope glory, of which there is many. The slow parts aren’t very long, and the fights, from the opening to the end, escalate the complexity and astounding choreography perfectly. Lau Kar Leung was always one of better choreographers from the Shaw Brothers stable, and he shows why. The villains are damn tough, and the fights show this appropriately, and the choreography flows brilliantly so that at all times you know what each fighter is doing and more importantly why, rather than being a bunch of pretty movements. My favorite fight? The fight that begins to save Mao. Beardy really shows his stuff here, as does Wang Lung. The Final fight is–I have trouble choosing one over the other, so I won’t! The final fight does have one of the most painful kills ever committed to films. Gentlemen, you may want to look away at that part. You’ll know what I mean.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) Lau Kar Leung does some of his very best work here, and is nothing short of tremendous, and with so many fights, they all move the story at the same time giving something different each time.

STUNTWORK: (9) The stuntmen bring some great stuntwork and falls, and yes, even their overacting for their death scenes has a brilliance all their own. Kudos to the poor bastard at the beginning of the film who rolls himself down a fight of concrete stairs. I hope they bought him a beer.

STAR POWER: (10) Are you kidding me? Check that cast list again!

FINAL GRADE: (10) This is one of the best of the Shaw Brothers output. An average story surrounded by tremendous martial arts fight scenes and stars. A must see for any martial arts film enthusiast.