Archive for the Yuen Biao Category

Review: Winners and Sinners (1983)

Posted in Dick Wei, Fat Chung, Fung Hak-On, Jackie Chan, James Tien, Lam Ching Ying, Mars, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao with tags , on March 2, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

Winners Sinners 3

Starring Sammo Hung, Richard Ng, Stanley Fung, John Sham, Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Dick Wei, Moon Lee, James Tien, Mars, Fung Hak-on, Wu Ma, Lam Ching Ying, Fat Chung.

Fight Choreography by Sammo Hung

Directed by Sammo Hung

The first official film in the Lucky Stars series finds our first iteration of the group (really missing Eric Tsang!) meeting for the first time in prison, after they are all put there due to their bad luck, and, well, they aren’t really very good and playing bad guys. They form a bond, and the team, consisting of Teapot (Hung), Curly (Sham), Exhaust Pipe (Ng), Vaseline (Charlie Chan), and Rookie (Fung) decide to join Curly’s sister in a cleaning business called the Five Stars Cleaning Company. Meanwhile, a rather bad cop named CID 07 (Chan) does a really inept job of trying to catch a group of drug dealers attached to Jack Tar (Tien), and a mishap causes a briefcase that contains counterfeit plates lands in the hands of the Lucky Stars. Of course they are oblivious at first as they are obsessed with trying to get into the pants of Curly’s sister but soon find themselves in danger as Tar thinks the Five Stars Cleaning company are another rival gang. Most of the Lucky Stars are taken hostage, and its up to Teapot to save his friends and get the girl…

Winners Sinners 1

Too much fun. That’s what all of these actors bring to the table. The story is flat and unoriginal, but never mind that. The Lucky Stars are the draw here, and in particular Sammo Hung and Richard Ng. Sammy brings his innocence as Teapot, a fighter who is good at being a good guy but bad at being a bad guy, but wants to get the girl in the end. Richard Ng, clothes or not, is hilarious as he tries to pull off his complex shenanigans all to see one woman naked, but of course he’s the nut job of the group as well. John Sham brings his normal manic energy to liven things up, and Jackie Chan is on hand to provide stunts, and at the same time play a real prick of a cop. Many HK stars come out to play, and Tien chews the scenes like a nice ham sandwich as Tar, but I was hoping to see more from Lam Ching-Ying as the Butler. As good as everyone is, there is one scene that still has me laughing out loud, involving Vaseline and two thugs, none of whom know kung-fu, but can all strike poses as if they did, and they engage in trying to out-pose each other in the middle of bodies and chairs flying around…and watching what happens when Exhaust Pipe enters this strange scene will have you rolling.

Winners Sinners 2

A warning to Jackie Chan fans: he isn’t the star of this film, and this is the Lucky Stars film where he shows up the least, even though adverts showcase him as if he were one of the major stars of the film.

The fight scenes are as great as one could hope for, the best being the finale in the warehouse as Teapot takes on Fung Hak-On, Dick Wei, and two bald fighters in a duel to the finish. Jackie Chan has a brief fight with Yuen Biao that was under cranked (actions filmed on a slower frame rate to make the speed of the actual fight faster) in a way I thought wasn’t necessary. The battle at Tar’s mansion was also a standout, especially the results of an ill-fated piano jump (you’ll have to see for yourself!). The roller-skating stunts by Jackie Chan were good also, but went a bit overlong, but was worth it for the massive car pileups that occurs at the end of the sequence. With the exception of the final warehouse fight, this is probably the Lucky Stars film with the least impressive fight scenes in the series.

However, any film where Fat Chung sports a Jheri Curl:

Fat Chung

is just gold to me.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

Not my favorite of the series, but it’s still a fun first entry into the world of the Lucky Stars! 

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Review: My Lucky Stars (1985)

Posted in Bolo Yeung, Dick Wei, Jackie Chan, James Tien, Lam Ching Ying, Lar Kar Wing, Michiko Nishiwaki, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah with tags , , on June 21, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

my lucky stars

Starring Sammo Hung, Richard Ng, Eric Tsang, Stanley Fung , Charlie Chin, Sibelle Hu, Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Dick Wei, Michiko Nishiwaki, Bolo Yeung, Lam Ching Ying, James Tien, Lau Kar Wing, Yuen Wah

Fight Chroegraphy by Sammo Hung

Directed by Sammo Hung

The Lucky Stars are some of the craziest martial arts films out there. It features many of the best funnymen in Hong Kong at the time, led by Sammo Hung. Technically this is their second film, the first being Winners and Sinners, but this is the first film under the “Lucky Stars” moniker, and all of these films feature some of Sammo, Jackie, and Yuen Biao’s best screen fights. As a warning, though, the comedy is extremely juvenile and slapstick, so if slapstick comedy isn’t your thing, you may want to fast forward to the fights. Me? I’m a fan of Richard Ng, so I’ll watch whatever he’s in.

The film begins following Hong Kong police men Muscles (Chan) and his partner Ricky (Biao) are undercover following Paul Chang, a former cop turned crook, to Tokyo, to find out what nefarious business he’s up to. What that business is hardly matters, as Muscles and Ricky chase one of his gang to an amusement park where they are attacked by ninjas dressed in light blue in the broad daylight in front of people. And now I know where the ninjas from Miami Connection got their training from. Muscles beats the tar out of them but in the fight Ricky gets kidnapped. Muscles, as it turns out, was at one time one of the “Lucky Stars”, a group of orphanage kids who turned to petty crimes. He was cast out once he became a cop and sent his best friend Kidstuff (Hung) to prison. Muscles arranges for Kidstuff to get out of prison early and along with the rest of the Lucky Stars, Sandy (Ng), Roundhead (Tsang), Rawhide (Fung), and Herb (Chin). Kidstuff can stay free of prison if he takes the Lucky Stars undercover to find out what Chang is up to and to find Ricky. Their liaison with the police is a beautiful detective Barbara (Hu). Can the Lucky Stars keep their composure around a beautiful woman long enough to save Ricky and bring Paul Chang to Justice?

my lucky stars Jackie Chan

The story is really simple, and features mostly the shenanigans of the Lucky Stars, all of whom have the maturity of twelve-year-olds, and bring no unending annoyance to Barbara. Richard Ng as Sandy, the nutso (that’s debatable) member of the crew, is as reliably funny as always. I like Eric Tsang as Roundhead, but thought his schtick grew old after a while. Chin is good as Herb, but doesn’t really do much. His shining moment will come in another Lucky Stars film. Stanley Fung’s best moment comes early, when he comes face to face with a very angry Bolo Yeung. And jeez, was there a Hong Kong star not in this film? It felt like they were all there. That’s part of the fun of the film, and it did look like everyone was having a blast, including Sammo Hung as Kidstuff, the most competent member of the crew. Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao are really only supporting characters with small parts, despite the DVD covers that feature Jackie as if he was a main character. Jackie’s not even in the film extensively until the last twenty minutes.

my lucky stars2

But what a good twenty minutes they are! Jackie takes on ninjas in a house of horrors, (there is one moment where Jackie Chan is in a mascot getup and gives expressions that are just laugh out loud funny as he stays in character) and then has a fantastically choreographed fight with Dick Wei. Sammo Hung takes on Lau Kar Wing in one of Sammo’s best onscreen matchups, but perhaps the most memorable fight is Sibelle Hu versus bodybuilding champion and martial artist Michiko Nishiwaki. Ms. Nishiwaki gives some leg kicks that looked just brutal. Yuen Biao has an all-too-short fight with Lam Ching Ying, but it does feature one of my favorite moments concerning Yuen Biao’s sweater. Also look out for Yuen Wah as one of the thugs.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8.5

 My Lucky Stars is a wildly fun film featuring some of 80‘s Hong Kong’s best performers led by legend Sammo Hung. I highly recommend this film, but the best, though, is yet to come!

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.

 

Review: Tai Chi Hero (2013)

Posted in Sammo Hung, Yuan Xiaochao (also Jayden Yuan), Yuen Biao on April 26, 2013 by Michael S. Moore

taichihero5

Starring Yuan Xiaochao, Angelababy, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Eddie Peng, Daniel Wu, Yuen Biao, Peter Stormare

Fight Choreography by Sammo Hung

Directed by Stephen Fung

 Tai Chi Zero was a fantastic mashup of kung-fu, comedy, special effects, and a great steampunk story, coming from the hit-and-miss Stephen Fung. This is the second (?) film in the trilogy, so can it live up to the original film’s success and deliver another steampunk epic?

Yes. Mostly.

The film picks up right where Tai Chi Zero ends, with Lu Chan about to marry Yu Niang, and once he does so he’ll be able to learn Chen style Tai Chi, but for those who saw the last film, someone was about to interrupt the festive proceedings. That someone was Yu Niang’s brother, Zhi Yang, who has returned home for more reasons than just to attend a wedding. His return tears open all wounds for the seemingly invincible Master Chen and Yu Niang, but amidst all this their old foe Zi Jing (Peng) returns, still smarting from the asskicking he received in the previous film, and vowing revenge for the death of Claire. He finds an ally with Duke Fleming (Stormare) of the East India Company, and both men plot to bring down Chen Village once and for all, and Lu Chan has to save the village and somehow win the love of his new master…and wife, Yu Niang. Can Lu Chan overcome his affliction using Tai Chi in time to save his people?

taichihero4

Now that the novelty of the first film has passed, this film has to live and die on its own merits, and lives quite well. Xiaochao does a great job as the hapless Lu Chan, and as his affliction heals, he is great at showing Lu Chan getting smarter, which wasn’t really expressed as an issue in the previous film, but explains his actions in that film and parts of this one. Angelababy does a great job as Yu Niang, a nicer person this time out, now that she is starting to find that she does indeed have feelings for Lu Chan, and becomes a partner with him. Tony Leung Ka Fai is once again fantastic as Master Chen, and even better he gets a true story arc for himself this time around, and we find out the real reason he wanted to train Lu Chan so badly, and why the village was forbidden from teaching Chen style kung fu. Eddie Peng was pretty good as Zi Jiang, but he doesn’t get as much screen time here, nor does Peter Stormare. Daniel Wu gets a small cameo as a Mad Monk, and the makeup people did a good job as it took a moment for me to recognize him. Seeing Yuen Biao face off with Xiaochao for the final fight of the film was great, and while their fight was effects-filled, it still had enough good kung fu to be exciting.

Stephen Fung brings back his inventive transitions and visual storytelling techniques here, and doesn’t really go for the same tricks he used in the previous film, using more forced perspective, slow and fast motion, but just as the first film, the cinematography is still gorgeous.

taichihero2

The fights are all special effects and wirework-heavy, but there is enough traditional kung fu and concepts for the more die hard traditionalists (of which I am one) to like. The best scenes are the series of fights Lu Chan must win, patterned after Tekken or Street Fighter battles, with costumed fighters of various types and even the VS graphic for each fighter, and the graphic of the fighters’ wheel of opponents as Lu Chan defeats them!

Is Tai Chi Hero better than Zero? In many ways it is more fun, now that we don’t have to be introduced to the characters and can just go for it, but the ending here, while hinting at the next film, isn’t as clean as the first film, and wraps things up too easily and quickly, and while I look forward to see how things resolve themselves, the ending of this film left something to be desired, but doesn’t detract from the fun!

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

 Tai Chi Hero is a worthy sequel that push-hands the fun with fantastic Steampunk action and kung fu asskickery! 

Review: The Legend is Born: Ip Man (2010)

Posted in Fan Siu Wong (Louis Fan), Sammo Hung, To Yu-Hang (Dennis To), Yuen Biao with tags , on September 6, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring To Yu-Hang (Dennis To), Fan Siu Wong (Louis Fan), Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Rose Chan, Ip Chun

Fight Choreography by Tang Tai Wo and Kam Loi Kwan

Directed by Herman Yau

After Donnie Yen had a ton of success with the Ip Man series, Ip man has become what Wong Fei-Hung was: the subject of a ton of films. Some good, some bad, but the character, based on the real man, has ingrained itself into Hong Kong cinema, and now, with quite a few films in various stages of production, Ip Man is going the same direction as well, but there is a danger as Donnie Yen’s series is damn good, with a third official sequel on the way, and is a hard act to follow, and here we have a film that traces Ip Man’s life before the events of the Donnie Yen and Wilson Yip classic. Does the early story of Ip Man hold up compared to Yen’s version? In many ways it does.

The film stars To Yu-Hang as Ip Man, who, as a young boy along with his adopted brother Ip Tin-Chi (Fan), are brought by their father, a wealthy businessman, to learn Wing Chun kung-fu from Sifu Chan Wah Shun (Hung) and his senior Ng Chung (Biao), and both boys befriend a fellow female student  Lee Mei Wai (Chan). Tragedy strikes early as Sifu Chan Wah Shun dies suddenly, leaving the school to Ng Chung, who is told by Wah Shun to pay special care to Ip Man’s training as he is a natural. They grow up together within the school, and Ip Tin-Chi falls in love with her, but she’s in love with Ip Man, who seems as if he might reciprocate until he meets Cheung Wing Shing, daughter of the town mayor of Foshan. Ip Man doesn’t have time for romance as he goes off to college in Hong Kong. Time passes, and Ip Man, after a confrontation with a douchebag whom he shows the finer points of Wing Chun, meet Leung Bik (Ip Chun) who came from the same Wing Chun school as Wah Shun but was left because of his unorthodox style of Wing Chun. While Ip Man learns from Bik, Ip Tin-Chi becomes a successful businessman himself with the Wing Chun Martial Arts Association, and Ip Man returns home and resumes his romance with Cheung Wing Shing, but little does he know that the Japanese who have come to Foshan for business mean to do a lot more, and threaten everything that Ip Man holds dear, but there are other secrets that could destroy him as well…

This film, while not connected to the Donnie Yen version, echoes quite a bit of it to the point that they may as well be connected. The camera work as well as the story pacing is very reminiscent of the other series. Herman Yau does a good job with telling his story, even if that story is a bit far fetched. I don’t know much of Ip Man’s real life, but I doubt he fought the Japanese THAT much. The other item that bothered me was what I’ll call the big twist in the story, that comes after the midpoint. I didn’t know what to make of it, even though there are hints that are laid earlier in the film, but once certain events started happened, I had guessed what the twist was, but the twist just felt too…operatic for a story like this. The performances are good , led by To Yu Hang, who does a good job as the young Ip Man, balancing badassness with inexperience. Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao were great onscreen together as they always are, and it’s a treat we should appreciate as we don’t know how many more times we’ll see those guys together on screen. Fan Sui-Wong was fantastic and had a good chemistry with both Yu Hang and Rose Chan, who was good, but her character just annoyed me with her crappy attitude (She turned into a hater, whom as we all know, is gonna hate) to no end, making it hard to be sympathetic with her as events unfold. The introduction of Leung Bik was a treat, played by Ip Man’s real son Ip Chun. He even has a fight scene with To Yu-Hang which was fun as well, and the training sequence was also well done and entertaining (are training sequences making a comeback? I hope so!) .

The fights are good, particularly the fight with Ip Chun and Yu-Hang, which shows off a lot of traditional Wing Chun, and the fight where Yuen Biao takes on a group of assassins (Biao’s still got it!), and any of the fights involving Fan Siu Wong. The fight between Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung brings back fond memories of their younger selves, which is a treat for fans of their 80’s work. The choreography (thankfully) wasn’t what’s been coming out of Hong Kong in recent years (anything by Donnie Yen excluded) and was well done with a little wire work here and there, but not much. The climax fight between Ip Man and Ip Tin-Chi was fantastic, and Wing Chun here, as with the entire film, is every bit as well done as the Donnie Yen series.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) The fights were well shot and choreographed in the Wing Chun styles, and are every bit as exciting as the Donnie Yen films. One could say they are too close to that series, but as the overall film may as well have been an official prequel, that’s ok.

STUNT WORK: (8) Some wire work was done, but what little there was didn’t distract from the fights. The stuntmen did a good job with the falls, particularly those falls through furniture.

STAR POWER: (9) Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, rising star Rose Chan, and Fan Sui Wong speak for themselves, and hopefully we will see more of To Yu-Hang. Don’t forget Ip Chun was a treat to see.

FINAL GRADE: (8) A well made film that tells the fictional beginning of Ip Man, with a good cast and great fights that show off the style of Wing Chun.

NEXT: Lo Lieh is out to kick all kinds of ass in King Boxer (Five Fingers of Death)!

 

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Review: My Kingdom (2011)

Posted in Sammo Hung, Yu Rong Guang, Yuen Biao with tags , , , on April 27, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Chun Wu, Han Geng, Barbie Hsu, Yuen Biao, Yu Rongguang

Fight Choreography by Sammo Hung

Directed by Gao Xiaosong
The Peking Opera dances have been a staple of many martial arts films over the years, but usually is part of a set piece or scene. Rarely is it woven as part of the main plot of a film. Prodigal Son is one of the few examples, and My Kingdom will join it as another. Both star Yuen Biao to varying degrees.

My Kingdom begins at the end of the Qing dynasty, and the new Prince Regent is having the Meng families beheaded. Watching all of this is Northern Peking Opera Master Yu (Biao) and his student Yi-Long (Wu), who take note of Er-Kui (Geng) a boy in the Meng family, slightly younger than Yi-Long, who is about to be put to death. Er-Kui sings a song as his sister is being beheaded, and this causes Master Yu to save him. Later, Master Yu is given the Golden Plaque, recognizing him as the greatest of all Opera Masters. During the celebration of the Plaque, Master Yue Jiang-Tian (Rongguang) comes to challenge Master Yu for the plaque. The rules among Opera performers is that if they lose the duel, they are to break their spears and never take the stage again. Master Yu reluctantly duels with Master Yue, and is defeated while trying to save one of the boys. Master Yue takes the Plaque, and the boys vow revenge for their Master, and take it years later, drawing the ire of Master Yue’s protege Madam Xi (Hsu), but little do any of them know that their lives are about to play out not unlike many of the tragic operas they perform…

My Kingdom has a story that is simple, and while not exactly predictable, you can get the idea of where things are headed. This story is ultimately about loyalty to one’s family. Every main character, in some way, is acting out of loyalty to their families. Everyone wants revenge, but at the same time they are part of each others’ “families”, which leads to much hand ringing and angst between them as each try to take revenge for their loved ones, which may mean destroying each other in the process. The leads do a good job, with Barbie Hsu being standout as the one enigma. Her character seems simple at first, but as the film goes on she becomes more complicated as she finds her own struggles with revenge. Han Geng does a great job as the most conflicted one of the group, as Er-Kui plans to exact his revenge for the murders of his family by killing all of the sons of the Prince Regent. He is the most sensitive one, and the most dutiful, and always walks around with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and Geng pulls it off nicely. Chun Wu also does a good job as well as Yi-Long, whose motives are probably the most straightforward of anyone in the film.

Once again Sammo Hung comes through with great fight choreography. I don’t know how adept any of the actors are in regards to martial arts, but they did a good job. There aren’t many fights, but the two best fights are Yuen Biao versus Yu Rongguang, who show they’ve still got the right stuff, and the fight between Yu Rongguang and the youngsters. The fights are fast-paced and have some really good movements, even if many of them are wire-assisted, but Sammo’s choreography masks some of the more obvious wire harness scenes, as does the excellent cinematography. The one piece of choreography that can’t mask the performer is the fight between Madam Xi and Er-Kui. It’s obvious that a stunt person was used for most of Barbie Hsu’s fights, and when the camera shows its her she is very rigid and, well, just looks uncomfortable in her movements.

Overall My Kingdom is a pretty good film that tells a unique story about the Peking Opera school and the dangers of revenge. It truly is a dish best served cold.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) There aren’t many fight scenes in this film, but what’s there is done well. Of course Yuen Biao and Yu Rongguang provide the best fights in the film. The film needed more like that.

STUNT WORK: (7) The stuntmen do a good job subbing in for the actors, which is apparent in some scenes due to the way it’s shot. The Opera performances and battles are well done.

STAR POWER: (8) Yuen Biao and Yu Rongguang are as good as always. Too bad they weren’t the main characters. Barbie Hsu is as good as always. Han Geng and Chun Wu look as if they may have what it takes to be future stars.

FINAL GRADE: (8) My Kingdom tells a solid story about the Opera warrior’s culture, and the tragedy that unfolds for those who desire the Golden Plaque.