Archive for the Xin Xin Xiong Category

Review: Half Past Dead (2002)

Posted in Mike Moller, Steven Seagal, Xin Xin Xiong with tags , on October 16, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Steven Seagal, Ja Rule, Morris Chestnut, Nia Peeples

Fight Choreographer: Xin Xin Xiong

Directed by Don Michael Paul

Another film in the era I’ll name the Seagalissance: those films in the early 2000’s that use a particular formula to try and resurrect Seagal’s-about-to-go-to-DTV-purgatory-forever-career, namely teaming Seagal up with a rapper and kicking ass while DMX is “grrrrr-ing” with the background music.

So how does Half Past Dead fit into the Seagalissance (TM)?

Steven Seagal plays the awesomely action-hero-named Sascha (um…) an undercover CIA operative who is hunting the Russian crime boss who killed his wife years ago. He works as a gun for hire through his pal Nick (Ja Rule) when both men are captured and thrown into Alcatraz. While there the execution of a powerful crime lord is about to take place, and once he dies, the secrets to where he hid millions of dollars in gold dies with him. Of course a group of terrorists are going to make sure he doesn’t die before giving up the location of the gold, and stage an invasion of the prison led by 49er One (Chestnut). Sacha is able to escape and goes about the business of killing a whole lot of people Die-Hard style in order to stop 49er One from succeeding…

Um…yeah. I’m not going to lie, this film is pretty bad. The formula that worked for Exit Wounds is really tired and stale here, starting with the nonsensical story, which starts by offering up this revenge Sascha need to have with the Russian mafia, but then completely discards it, as if they thought “we’ll pick this up in the sequel”. Which of course will never happen, so the first few minutes of the film is a waste. It could’ve saved about 15 minutes by simply starting in the prison. The bad guys and their plan is not well though out, and they basically bungle their way into giving Sacha a chance to defeat them. The acting is bad, particularly on Seagal, who by this time is having issues even when he’s trying to play himself. Ja Rule is actually playing himself–or maybe no one told him this wasn’t a sequel to The Fast and The Furious--but either way he’s a really bad actor who needs to stick to rap music. Nia Peeples is wasted in this film and barely does anything, as her stunt performers do most of the work, and Chestnut isn’t convincing at all as a bad guy. This film screams “we owed someone a favor” all over it, especially with the extended cameo of the A-Team and Greatest American Hero ( along with most of the best TV shows of the 80’s) creator Steven J. Cannell as a government official.

The fight scenes are nothing much to write home about, the best martial arts scene is a duel between Seagal and their computer hacker, which would be be great if not for Seagal himself, and the quick cuts and tight edits of their hand to hand, which is a shame with the fight choreography of Xin Xin Xiong (Clubfoot from Once Upon A Time In China!) driving the film. Why they edited the film the way they did made me wonder why they brought such a talent into this project.

Outside of some great work from Mike Moller (a talent far better than this film deserved) this Die Hard rip off is one of the worse of Seagal’s filmography, and if you know most of those films, that is really saying something. The best thing this film did was finally kick Seagal to DTV hell forever, with the exception of Machete.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: (can I do negatives? No? Ok) 1

This film has no redeeming value whatsoever. Please feel free to watch water boil or paint dry. It’s a better usage of your time.

 

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Review: Once Upon A Time In China 3 (1993)

Posted in Jet Li, Xin Xin Xiong with tags , on May 20, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

 

OUATIC 3-1

Starring Jet Li, Xin Xin Xiong, Rosamund Kwan, Max Mok

Fight Choreography by Yuen Bun

Directed by Tsui Hark

Jet Li returns as Wong Fei Hung in part 3 of his great Once Upon a Time In China series that helped define Jet as one of the definitive Wong Fei Hungs. 

This film finds Wong Fei Hung engaged to Aunt 13 (Kwan) and returning home to visit his father, Wong Kei-Ying, to inform him of their impending nuptials, but of course there are other complications, such as the traditional Lion Dance, which causes major competitions among other kung-fu schools. Added to this the attendance of a group of British, Russian, and German representatives, one of whom knew Aunt 13 (and maybe had a romance with her back then), really complicates things to a level Wong Fei Hung hasn’t experienced in the series. 

The first problem is his father, who may or may not approve of Aunt 13, since she is a distant relative of the family. The more pressing matter is the local Cantonese kung-fu association, led by the ever-laughing Chiu Tin Bai and his enforcer Clubfoot (Xin Xin Xiong), who is raiding any martial arts school thinking about participating in the tournament and smashing their Lions, and during their initial attack they injure Wong Kei-Ying, which draws the ire of Wong Fei Hung. In the meantime a plot is discovered to assassinate the Prime Minister during the Lion Dance, but is Tin Bai behind it, or the strange foreigners? 

ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA

The series, as always, keeps things light and fun, and the fights are a mixture of traditional Jet-Li ass-kicking and wirework, and never trades on the fun, and has less serious moments than the last two films in the series, but still manages to deliver a message about nationalism and the encroachment of foreign ideas and technology. Here, though, Wong has something to say about education for Chinese as well to compete with the Foreigners. Jet is as good a Wong Fei Hung as he ever has been, and wears the character like a nice shirt. Max Mok is still ridiculous as Foo, and Rosamund Kwan is as beautiful as always as Aunt 13. We get a new addition in Xin Xin Xiong as Clubfoot, first an enemy and then later an ally. His story arc is interesting, and his fighting style, relying on his feet, make for fantastic fights with Jet Li. The story here is light, but still confronts a host of issues, and does so competently. Tsui Hark has always had a good bead on the Wong Fei Hung character, and nothing has changed here.

OUATIC 3-4

The fights, no longer done by Woo Ping, still manage to maintain the energy of the previous entries. The Lion dancing finale is great, but it’s the fights versus Xin Xin Xiong that are the showstoppers, as is the fight in the tea house. I could start to feel a sort of tiredness starting to set in, however. The ideas for fights featuring this character were starting to wear thin, and I think everyone knew it, which is why Jet and most everyone else left the series for films 4 and 5. 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

A kung-fu film that puts Jet Li back into the character he’s most comfortable with, and he delivers yet another fight filled chapter in the story of Wong Fei-Hung!

 

Review: Ip Man: The Final Fight (2013)

Posted in Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Kenneth Lo, Xin Xin Xiong with tags , on November 17, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

Ip ManFF1

Starring Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Xin Xin Xiong, Marvel Chow, Ip Chun, Fung Hak On, Ken Lo

Fight Choreography by Chi Li Chung and Lam Sin Kwok

Directed by Herman Yau

Ip Man first became famous with the original Ip Man film starring Donnie Yen, which started a herd of Ip Man wannabe’s, or so I thought. Even though the series is known for Donnie Yen, curiously enough two unaffiliated films serve to bookend Donnie’s films quite nicely. The first could serve as the prequel, Ip Man: The Legend is Born, with an excellent performance by Dennis To, and this film, as Anthony Wong plays an aging Ip Man.

The film is narrated largely by Ip Chun, who chronicles his father’s stay in Hong Kong while Mrs. Man stays in Foushan, there to look out for their other child in college. While staying with his son, Ip Man starts his kung-fu school, and this story takes place long after Bruce Lee had left him to become a star. Ip Man’s students are a good group, but there is one, a policeman, Wang Dong (Chow) who is taking mob money in order to move up the ranks of the police, but he always respects Master Ip Man, but you know it has to come to a head sooner or later. One evening Ip Man’s students get into a scrap with a rival school led by Master Ng (Eric Tsang) who later befriends Ip Man after a war of politely written words turns into a great martial arts fight. Meanwhile, a young singer becomes infatuated with Ip Man even as he pines to see his wife again, separated by laws the restrict border crossing. Life moves on for Ip Man and his students as the decades pass, but a threat in the form of Dragon, a martial arts master turned mobster, causes Ip Man to fight once more, for the final time, in order to save one of his students…

Ip MAN FF3

Wow. For a film that isn’t affiliated with the Donnie Yen series you wouldn’t know it. The quality is high, and Herman Yau does a fantastic job directing this feature. Anthony Wong is nothing short of a firecracker of a revelation as Ip Man, tortured by the loss of his wife, but motivated to teach others Wing Chun. I honestly must say that Donnie Yen couldn’t have played this version of Ip Man. Anthony Wong brings a world weary yet regal bearing to the role, and owns it the moment you see him onscreen. His performance is nuanced, full of little tics that reveal what he’s really thinking rather than what he says.  Xin Xin Xiong is great as always, able to play heroes and villains with equal measure, and he makes a good foil for Ip Man here.The real treat here is Eric Tsang, veteran of many, many comedies and to see him play a kung-fu master here, and to do so believably, just blew my mind. I didn’t know Eric had it in him, but man did he ever bring the goods here. He has really great chemistry with Anthony Wong in both their fight and their friendship. All of the other actors do a great job as well.

Ip ManFF

The fights here are about as good as any you’ll see in a Donnie Yen Ip Man, and considering that Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang know either very little to no martial arts, both men were incredibly convincing. Anthony Wong fought just like Donnie Yen, with many similar movements (yes, it’s the same fighting style, but I mean something in the body language of both men are similar) and his fights with Eric Tsang (!) and Xin Xin Xiong were standout in this film, as were all of the other small skirmishes. The Lion Dance scenes were great, as was the fight afterward. It was also good to see Fung Hak On and Ken Lo get their fights in as well. The fight choreography was spot on and great.

Quality is rampant across this film, and I can’t recommend it enough!

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9.5

A great film that features Anthony Wong in one of his best roles ever, bringing the story of Ip Man to a satisfying close, with terrific action, humor and drama that culminates in a  final fight worthy of the legend of Ip Man.

 

Ip Man: The Final Fight is out NOW on Blu-Ray and DVD  from the good folks at WellGo USA!

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: Tai Chi 0 (2012)

Posted in Fung Hak-On, Sammo Hung, Xin Xin Xiong, Yuan Xiaochao (also Jayden Yuan) with tags , , on October 17, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Yuan Xiaochao, Angelababy, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Eddie Peng, Shu Qi, Xin Xin Xiong, Fung Hak-On, Leung Sui-lung

Fight Choreography by Sammo Hung

Directed by Stephen Fung

Steampunk is a sub genre of science fiction that has, pardon the pun, been gathering steam for the last decade or so. Steampunk is known for alternate histories usually set around either the Victorian British period or in the American Wild West in which steam power is the dominant power source that is used to create futuristic weapons, and vehicles like air ships. Lately books have sprung up, as have conventions, an entire subculture, and even a few movies like the Japanese anime Steamboy and The Wild, Wild West. Despite this, no film has really just gone all-in with steampunk, but now fans can rejoice, as director Stephen Fung has made a kung-fu film that without a doubt is as steampunk as it gets!

 

Tai Chi 0 tells the story of Lu Chan (Xiaochao) who is a kung fu prodigy, as evidenced by a small horn that protrudes from his head, the sign of a once-in-a-lifetime master. Strike Lu Chan’s horn and he becomes a glowing-eyed-kung fu badass, but there’s a catch. The more he fights the darker his horn becomes, and once it turns black he’s done for. As a child his mother (Shi Qui) steals money from his father (Andrew Lau, Director of Infernal Affairs) to give Lu Chan a future. It is at this point that two events occur that changes Lu Chan’s young life: he shows that he has the ability to copy a practicing kung fu master (Hak-on) and his mother’s theft is discovered, and she commits suicide, but not before making Lu Chan promise to be a great kung fu master. Fast forward to the present, and Lu Chan, after a great battle as a soldier, decides to go to Chen village and learn Chen style kung fu from Master Chen (Ka Fai), to reverse the internal energies that is slowly killing him. After arriving at the village, he is greeted by a town folk that will fight him, in order to keep him from learning Chen style, especially Chen Yu Niang (Angelababy), daughter of Master Chen, who is having problems of her own with Fang Zijing (Peng), her betrothed who has returned from the west, but a series of events, both heroic and tragic, befall them all, and Lu Chan finds himself fighting for a village that doesn’t want him, but he has no idea the steam-powered weapons that are aligned to bring him and the entire village down…

I’ve been extremely critical of Hong Kong films of late, finding many of them unimaginative and bland, while overseas other Asian countries are pushing the genre forward, but Tai Chi 0 is a great and thankful exception. The film has a rock n’ roll soundtrack, and the film has moments that come right out of Scott Pilgrim vs The World, like the use of text in places, giving the film a comic book feel. There is slapstick comedy, and there is even a Street Fighter 4-style K.O. moment that had me smiling, as ridiculous as it is. I’m trying to think of a film technique that Stephen Fung didn’t use, and I’m hard pressed to think of one. The story, with all the flash behind it, manages to tell a coherent and exciting story. Xiaochao is good as Lu Chan, balancing flashy kung fu fighting with youthful exuberance and handles the dramatic moments just as well. Angelababy also does a fine job as Lu Chan’s rival and potential friend Chen Yu Niang, and plays her as both sympathetic leader of her village and kung fu badass. Tony Leung Ka Fai (Bodyguards and Assassins, The Lover) plays Master Chen with a mischievous slant even in his most dramatic scenes. The best actor, in my opinion, is Eddie Peng as Fang Zijing, and he gets the biggest character arc, going from the village outsider who returns home a westernized educated man, to a man who finds a moment of happiness that is ultimately destroyed, to the greatest threat facing the village, and Peng plays every moment of his arc well, and I could sympathize with him even though his decisions turn him into the villain.

The fight choreography is also well done by the legendary Sammo Hung. It is well shot, and even though there are some quick edits, they don’t take anything away from the fights, and you can follow the battles without any problems. In my opinion the best fight are the scenes where Lu Chan tries to enter the village, and different villagers step up to beat him down, with even the neighborhood kids getting in on the fun. The other scene that really jumped out to me was the fight between Master Chen and the soldiers toward the end of the film. The choreography is really well done here, with wire work that actually becomes part of the story and not a distraction.

One caveat, and the one thing that drove me batty, was at the very end, where, and I admit I wasn’t aware of this, it ends with a cliffhanger followed by a trailer for Part 2 !

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 9  

Tai Chi 0 is a steam-fueled roller coaster Kung Fu/Steampunk mashup that combines story, action and special effects to create a rocket-propelled piece of cinema. Bring on Part 2! 

Tai Chi 0 opens in North America Friday, October 19th! 

Review: Once Upon A Time In China 2 (1991)

Posted in David Chiang, Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Tsui Hark, Xin Xin Xiong, Yuen Woo Ping with tags , , on June 25, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jet Li, Rosamund Kwan, Donnie Yen, David Chiang, Xin Xin Xiong, Mok Siu Chung, Zhang Tie Lin

Fight Choreography By: Yuen Woo Ping, Donnie Yen

Directed By Tsui Hark

In the first film Wong Fei Hung (Li) was resistant to the westernization of China, while Aunt Yee and Bucktooth So embraced it. The sequel picks up some time later, and Fei-Hung’s views have evolved, and while he is still hesitant, he tries to get used to western customs and doesn’t quite view it as such a detriment to destroying Chinese culture as he once did, but upon arriving with Aunt Yee (Kwan) and Foon (now played by Mok Siu Chung, taking over for Yuen Biao) in Canton they discover a cult called the White Lotus, who have extreme views about westernization, and want to crush and destroy it, and anyone, Chinese or other, who represent it. The film opens with the White Lotus showing exactly how extreme they are in a scene where they burn western paintings, clocks, and even an American dog, which is just wrong.

Once again Aunt Yee, who dresses in western clothing, finds herself abused and embarassed by the locals, who consider her a traitor, many supporters of the White Lotus, and she finds herself quickly in their crosshairs. things get complicated, and continue to do so as Wong Fei Hung and goon attend a medical conference that gets attacked by the White Lotus, and they receive help from Dr. Sun (Zhang) who turns out to be more than just a simple doctor, and secretly plots against the White Lotus with his cohort Luk Ho Dung (Chiang). Wong Fei-Hung’s plate gets even fuller as he tries to protect them on their mission and protect Foon and Yee (not to mention his feelings for Yee) and comes into contention with the local constable Commander Lan (Yen), whose true allegiances may very well be to the White Lotus…

Once again Jet Li is fantastic as the reserved Master Wong Fei-Hung, and brings the same grace and intelligence to the character as he did in the original. Rosamund Kwan also does a great job again as Aunt Yee, but I found Mok Siu Ching not nearly as good a Foon as Yuen Biao was. Some of that may be that the story “dumbed down” the character of Foon, and didn’t seem to reflect the character growth he had in the first film. Donnie Yen was pretty good as the commander, but is more of a typical bad guy rather than anything special. It was great to see David Chiang (The Water Margin, Five Shaolin Masters) on film side by side with Jet Li, even if David didn’t fight. One thing I found missing from the original was a truly great scene like the one Bucktooth So had in the first film regarding a dying patient. In fact I missed So immensely in this film, since he represented a Chinese man who was so westernized he couldn’t read or speak Chinese very well.

The fights are also great, and more of them than in the first film, but I’m not so sure the fights are better. There is a little more wirework, particularly at the end fight in the White Lotus temple. The fights versus Donnie Yen was a great showcase of staff fighting, some of the best ever done in film, but I was really hoping for a hand-to-hand confrontation between the two, but the White Lotus fight made up for some of that. Woo Ping pulls off some imaginative fights, the most imagination saved for the White Lotus temple fight and the siege on the Consulate building. The best thing is these fights are still in service to the story, and not the other way around.

Once again fellow blogger Dangerous Meredith really breaks down these fights, and you can read those here.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) Jet Li had one of the best staff fights versus Donnie Yen, but I wish Donnie had more to do. The White Lotus and Consulate fights were well done and brought the right amount of tension and excitement to the film.  Jet Li and Woo Ping still make magic together.

STUNTWORK: (9) The stunts were pretty elaborate in regards to the fight choreography, which they pulled off brilliantly. Their best work came with the Temple Fight and Consulate attacks.

STAR POWER: (10) Jet Li was working on all cylinders here, and Donnie Yen is now at the top of his game, but his talents were evident even here. Rosamund Kwan was good, but it was a real treat to see David Chiang in kung-fu film again!

FINAL GRADE: (9) Not quite as good as the original by a hair, Once Upon A Time in China 2 is a great film that successfully continues (and evolves) the story of Wong Fei-Hung and his friends.

NEXT: Jean-Claude Van Damme takes on half of Thailand in Kickboxer!