Archive for the Tony Leung Category

Review: The Grandmaster (2013)

Posted in Cung Le, Tony Leung, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , on October 21, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Cung Le, Elvis Tsui, Lau Shun, Lo Mang, Yuen Woo-Ping, Zhang Jin

Fight Choreography by Yuen Woo-Ping

Directed by Wong Kar-Wai

When news came that another Ip Man film not starring Donnie Yen was being made, I had to roll my eyes. Much like Wong Fei-Hung everyone has to have their own take on Ip Man. Most have been okay to really good, but none have come close to the quality of the Wilson Yip/Donnie Yen series. Now toss in Wong Kar Wai, a prolific and one of the most talented filmmakers..well, anywhere, and I thought this was on the road to greatness.

But along the way Wong Kar-Wai decided to take a detour.

The film starts off by showing a rain-soaked fight between Ip Man (Leung) and a legion of gentlemen led by Iron Shoes (Le). After Ip Man tears ass through them we learn of his early years learning Wing Chun, and then his marriage and life with Cheung Wing-Sing. Ip Man’s life seems to be going peacefully until The Northern Boxing GrandMaster Gong Yutian arrives, challenged the southern schools to find their own Grandmaster, as he is retired and has made his son Ma San the Northern Grandmaster. The southern masters agree that Ip Man should represent them, and things get complicated when Gong Yutian’s daughter Gong Er (Ziyi) arrives, and Ip Man finds his heart may be going to her, but arrival of the Japanese and his flight to Hong Kong threatens to undo the perfect life he’s made for himself, and Gong Er must deal with a treacherous brother and ailing father in order to protect her family’s martial arts legacy. But how much is that worth to her?

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My issue with the film, and maybe it is a matter of expectation, is that it’s a little deceptive, and maybe not in a good way. I went into this thinking I was watching a Ip Man film. But from a  narrative perspective that’s not really the case; this film is really about Gong Er and her family. The Grandmaster title isn’t referring to Ip Man, but rather Gong Er. Ip Man is nothing more than a supporting character. This is not to say that Tony Leung doesn’t do a good job, because he does. He’s stoic as Ip Man, but at the same time conflicted. Zhang Ziyi is also excellent as Gong Er, a strong woman who was unfortunate enough to not be born a man, at least in her father’s eyes. The issue here is that the film takes a narrative turn away from Ip Man to follow Gong Er, and then jumps back to Ip Man toward the end, pretending as if the previous hour we had been watching an Ip Man film the entire time. Did Wong Kar-Wai simply decide that Gong Er was a more fascinating character to follow? I felt that there was a whole Ip Man film left on the cutting room floor, and with Wong Kar-Wai’s reputation, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was actually the case. I have to admit, however, the film is absolutely gorgeous to look at. It almost looks as if it could have been a black and white film, in the way that the camera plays with the shadows and golden skin tones, contrasted by the opening of the film in a rainstorm that never looked so good.

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The fights are solid, though it had more wirework than I was comfortable with, but one was a big notch above the rest: Gong Er versus her brother Ma San at the train station. It was a cinematically gorgeous fight, and with the train passing by it added a layer to the composition of the visuals. Zhang Ziyi and Zhang Jin do excellent work here. Yuen Woo Ping still has a great big bag of tricks in his tool belt, but aside from looking beautiful, it just felt like something was missing.

Wong Kar Wai’s film asks the question “What is Kung-Fu?” but I’m not sure he knows the answer. Maybe that’s the point.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

The Grandmaster is a gorgeous film to look at, and Zhang Ziyi does a great job as Gong Er, and Tony Leung lights up the screen as Ip Man. If only Wong Kar Wai knew which movie he wanted to make.

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Review: Butterfly & Sword (1993)

Posted in Donnie Yen, Michelle Yeoh, Tony Leung with tags , , on October 8, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Michelle Yeoh, Tony Leung, Donnie Yen, Jimmy Lin, Elvis Tsui, Joey Wong

Fight Choreography by Ching Siu-Tung

Directed By Michael Mak

When Butterfly Sword went into production, Michelle Yeoh was an international superstar, Tony Leung was hot off of John Woo’s Hard Boiled, and Donnie Yen was becoming a star after his performance in OUATIC 2, so any film that puts them all together has to be good, right?

Right?

Butterfly & Sword takes place in ancient China and centers around a war between a group of killers known as the Assassins of Happy Forest, led by Lady Ko (Yeoh) and her two friends, Meng Sing Wan (Leung) and Yip Cheung (Yen), and their war is with Lord Suen for control…of the martial arts world, which is a good way of saying the writers couldn’t come up with something better. The story mainly centers around Meng Sing, who is married to Butterfly (Wong), whose father was a great martial artist who wanted to make sure she never involved herself in martial arts, and she is unaware of Meng Sing’s double life as an assassin. Drama also exists among the three assassins as Yip Cheung is in love with Lady Ko, but she doesn’t love him, rather, she loves Meng Sing, and of course Meng Sing loves Butterfly. Things get complicated when Lady Ko accepts a mission from Eunuch Tsao to spy on Lord Suen and reveal his treachery. The mission forces the three to reveal their true feelings, but Lady Ko’s ambitions threaten to destroy them all, Butterfly included…

Where this film truly falls flat is with the characters and the storytelling. The primary problems with the Assassins is that none of them outside of Tony Leung are likable. Donnie Yen is kind of a puss, and Michelle Yeoh just comes off like… a trifflin’ bitch. Completely unlikable, and we also don’t get enough time to know the characters. We just get a cliff notes version, which doesn’t really inform us of why some of them take the actions that they do. The story here is what burns me to no end, and in particular it’s in regards to the final act of the film.  In fact what’s so infuriating about it is that a moment/reveal occurs that could have happened earlier in the film that would have SOLVED THE WHOLE DAMN PROBLEM. One of the characters in the film knew what was going on, and was so powerful he beats the bad guy in like five seconds, while the heroes were getting their asses kicked for five minutes and going through fight after fight. It was an overly convenient way to end the film, as if the writers ran out of ideas and needed a fast way to get the villain defeated. Not only that, but the main villain does something so impossible that it brought me right out of the film, and I couldn’t believe they had the gall to go there. Also, the film ends so abruptly it looked as if there was several minutes missing from the film.

The mostly wire assisted fights are decent, but not great, and border on the ridiculous, but the fights where everyone is fairly grounded is good, filled with fast movements an good choreography, and there are even some interesting deaths in the film, but none of the fights truly impressed me. Some of the edits of the fights were shoddy and occasionally didn’t make sense in regards to the movements we just saw. Too many edits ruin whatever good fights there were.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

Butterfly & Sword is not a very well done film, even if the fights are okay. Audiences will have to wait until Hero to see Tony Leung and Donnie Yen in a good film together.

NEXT: Uma Thurman is out for revenge in Kill Bill Volume 1!