Archive for the Zheng Liu Category

Review: Blood Money (2012)

Posted in Gordon Liu, Zheng Liu with tags , on August 28, 2012 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Zheng Liu, Alexander Castro, Gordon Liu, Jimmly Wong, Pitbull

Fight Choreography by Jack Wong

Directed by Gregory McQualters

Recently there have been a increased production of martial arts films popping out from the USA. Bunraku, The Girl From The Naked Eye, and now we have Blood Money, and like those films introduces a potential new star to the world of martial arts cinema, Zheng Liu, a young Shaolin Master. Add to this the legendary Gordon Liu, and maybe we have a new martial arts classic?

Zheng Liu plays Zhou, an assassin who works for Steven Ho (Wong) , a notorious drug lord, who is engaged in a war with biker gangs, Chinese cartels, and a crazy Columbian drug lord named Cabrera (Castro). The war escalates as several tons of cocaine is coming to Shanghai by boat, and all of them want to control it. Ho sends Zheng to “level the playing field” and he does so, meanwhile Cabrera’s men try to deal in distribution with the brother and sister of Steven Ho. When a young woman staying in their care is kidnapped by Cabrera, and his men kill the brother of Steven Ho. Ho sends Zhou to rescue the girl and kill Cabrera and his men. While on the mission Zhou doesn’t complete his mission, and Ho decides to take him out. With both Ho and Cabrera looking to kill Zhou and the girl he steals away from them, Zhou goes to seek help from a monk from his past (Gordon Liu) and together they defend the girl from Cabrera and Ho. But who is this mysterious woman, and why does Zhou care?

The story takes us into the seedy world of drug trafficking, and the shaolin assassin who walks through this world, just as dirty as the people he has to kill, but we don’t get enough time to spend with Zhou. He does a lot of self-destructive things, like taking drugs, and of course the assassinations, with flashbacks that show that he may have undergone a traumatic moment in his life to cause his behavior, but we don’t get to spend enough time with those flashbacks to really care about the character and his plight, and that is the biggest fault of the script, or it may have been left on the cutting room floor. Zheng Liu is a first time actor, and it shows. He does okay with what he has to work with, but it’s apparent he’s a novice, but he does have something in onscreen presence that with some more acting experience he could be quite something. First time (?) Director Gregory McQualter is sure-handed in his direction, even in scenes that don’t work.

Gordon Liu brings warmth to the film as the monk, but his scenes are far too short. He really needed to be in the film more, as his relationship with Zhou was the best thing in the film, and really captured my interest and disappointment that there wasn’t more of that Master/Student relationship. Castro does an okay job, but really plays Cabrera as any old Columbian drug lord except he knows how to fight. While Pitbull is in the film, he only briefly appears at the beginning but frankly Pitbull needs acting lessons…even to play himself. I didn’t feel that any of the female leads brought anything to their roles to make me care about them.

On that note, one thing that did bother me, and maybe it’s just me, but it seems like all of the women in the movie are damsels in distress in one way or the other, waiting for Zhou to save them (usually from an attempted rape), unable to protect themselves. Would it have been too much to ask to have at least one woman kick someone’s ass? ( One of them does, but it’s at the end, in a moment that didn’t seem too empowering.)

The fight scenes are actually pretty good, and as the film progresses gets better, especially the camerawork. Without a doubt Zheng can fight, and gets to really show his stuff, and camera work does a great job of showing him off. It’s in these moments that Zheng Liu shows the brightest, and does a great job with the choreography. I was surprised that Gordon Liu got a two-on-one fight scene, and while it was short, was shot really well and the choreography was a great moment of old-school kung fu fighting from Gordon. Jack Wong does a good job of mixing it all up. There are a few shaky-cam moments here and there, but the editing of the fights are at least not of the MTV variety that so many Hollywood films ascribe to.

Blood Money does introduce a new star in Zheng Liu and has good fight scenes, but the story just doesn’t instill enough character development to invest in what’s going on, which is a shame as the idea of the modern day Shaolin Assassin is a good idea.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) The fights are good here, and Wong placing Zheng in a position to look really good. There were a few moments that looked like maybe some flips were wire assisted, but what you see is what you get with Zheng as he does his own stunts. Gordon Liu’s fight was far too short, but great to still see he had “it” at the time. Sadly that may be the last time.

STUNTWORK: (7) Zheng Liu did his own stunts, and many of the punches and kicks look like a few of them connected, and that is a testament to the bravery of the stunt men and the acting job they did.

STAR POWER: (6) Gordon Liu gives the film this score, and to a small extent, Pit Bull. It’s too early to see what direction Zheng takes his career in, but hopefully we will see more of him.

FINAL GRADE: (6) Blood Money is a well-made film, and I would like to see what Zheng Liu and Gregory McQualter can do with a more straightforward and linear plot, but the story here just has too many problems to truly recommend.

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Kiai-Kick’s Q & A with the director of Blood Money Gregory McQualter!

Posted in Gordon Liu, Zheng Liu with tags , , on August 27, 2012 by Michael S. Moore


MM: The idea of a modern Shaolin story that takes place largely in the criminal underworld isnʼt something I can ever recall seeing, not even in Hong Kong films. Where did you get the idea for the story?

GM: Basically just from my own thoughts on the Martial Arts genre. I think that is the very point. Even though Blood Money is predominately an Action Film, I believe the time is right to change things around. To a degree, we have been seeing the same martial arts themes for 30 years.

I didnʼt want to write the usual story where, “The Kung Fu hero runs into the bad guys and we all know heʼll get them in 90 minutes time”. I feel there is a total void for a real life action hero in films. A martial artist who is a complete street fighter in any environment against any opposition in any country. I guess to a degree a “video game style character on film”. The world is becoming one and cultures are intertwining like never before. East meets West! I want Zheng to be seen for the Action star that he really is. Capable of fighting in many styles, able to use a variety of weapons and use them in real life situations. I guess to a degree, the film is Miami Vice meets Enter the Dragon!

MM: What was it about Zheng Liu that made him perfect for this part? How did you discover him?

GM: A number of years ago I was invited by my Chinese friends in Thailand to travel to the Shaolin Temple in China and the adjoining Shaolin Academy. This was by special invitation only. On arriving, I discovered over 2,000 Students and Instructors. After filming and casting for a number of days, we eventually met Zheng. He was already a Shaolin Master.

To say that he stood out would be an understatement. Standing 6 feet tall with a powerful physique, his display of fighting and weapons was breathtaking. Although a very intelligent and soft person in general, his reputation within Shaolin was that of a fighting machine. A real life Shaolin Master who had it all.

After offering him the opportunity to appear in a film. Zheng though long and hard about the change it would make to his life. He finally decided that although he could share the spirit of Shaolin with many chinese, through film he could share and teach with potentially millions throughout the world.

We re-located him firstly to Thailand to learn Muay Thai and then Australia to learn Street Fighting techniques, other weapons and English. What we didnʼt do was teach him any acting. I believe his natural creativity and charisma should notbe changed. What you see in Blood Money is the real person. A real Shaolin Master!

Traditionally in Kung Fu, the fighter has to be fairly short and of a thin build to have the required leg speed, say 5ft 6ins like Jet Li or Jackie Chan. Zheng is very unique. At 6ft tall, he has not only incredible speed but amazing power. I have seen him fly 12 feet into the air off a couple of paces and launch into an amazing flying kick. His real somersault over an oncoming motorbike in Blood Money says it all!

MM: What was it like working with the great Gordon Liu? You also have Pit Bill in this film. How were you able to get him to take the role?

GM: Working with Gordon was an absolute pleasure. Through a mutual friend, we met over coffee in Hong Kong. I showed him the concept and explained the dream and he signed up immediately. He was a great support to Zheng during filming and his charisma certainly comes out on screen. His understanding of Shaolin and Martial Arts in general is amazing and to see him suck the air out of a flame in Blood Money shows how skilful Gordon really is. We hope to work together again in the sequel.

We also met Pitbull through a mutual friend. He was rehearsing in a warehouse on the outskirts of Miami when we showed him some of the first scenes that we had already shot. He was so impressed by the filmʼs quality, story and Zhengʼs amazing skills, he immediately agreed to join the cast playing himself. What we didnʼt expect is his natural acting talents which are wonderful.

MM: There are a growing number of successful international martial arts films like Ong Bak and The Raid that have raised the bar for these kinds of films with complex choreography and a brutality not seen in current Hong Kong films. What can we expect from the fight scenes in Blood Money? When thinking of fight choreography how did you approach it in regards to both style and story?

GM: The main point of all the action and fighting in Blood Money was that it had to be real. I am very strong on this. With all due respect to other films, I donʼt think there has ever been a main stream action film or martial arts film, that has had the main Star breaking a “real steel bar” over his head, or “real fighting” with “real contact”. In most cases it is fake props and fake fighting, hidden either by over the shoulder camera angles or super fast editing, which hides the fact that they are not making real contact.

In Blood Money we have kept the edits down to a minimum, let the fight flow and shot most of the scenes side on which shows actual contact. When casting for the fight scenes, I was not looking for Actors who could fake fight, but real life street fighters who could take the big hits and kicks. This was extremely risky as Zheng can take anyone out with just one kick, but with precision and control we pulled it off. The fact that 95% of everything Zheng does in the film is first or second take, explains his expertise and professionalism. If you are kicking another actor in the face, you donʼt do it more than once.

MM: Whatʼs your favorite martial arts film and martial artist?

GM: Yes itʼs the same as everyone else. Bruce Lee of course and Enter the Dragon. I also like Jet Li in Kiss of the Dragon. Zheng has been described by a number of people as the next Bruce Lee. They are not saying this with any disrespect. There will only ever be one Bruce Lee who is a legend. Just meaning that Bruce Lee was a huge worldwide star and that Zheng has similar charisma on screen and could follow in his footsteps. I believe Zheng should be judged on his own skills, power and acting. At only 28 years old, he really is a new and exciting “all round” Action Star. Fighting, Weapons and of course doing his own Stunts.

MM: Thanks so much for taking a few moments of your time to answer these questions!

GM: Thanks again Michael for helping us get the film promoted. It was only a $2M budget but filmed around the world in Miami, Hong Kong and Sydney ……… and a lot of hard work by all. We will not forget your support.

Blood Money releases on DVD/Blu Ray tomorrow, and my review will  follow tomorrow’s release!