Archive for Capoeira

Review: Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor (1994)

Posted in John Machado, Rigan Machado, Sasha Mitchell, Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 24, 2018 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Sasha Mitchell, Brad Thornton, Kamel Krifa, Michele Krasnoo, Jill Pierce, Rigan Machado, John Machado, David Efron

Fight Choreography by Burton Richardson and Shuki Ron

Directed by Albert Pyun

Sasha Mitchell returns as the last remaining Sloane after Kurt and his brother basically got killed off in Kickboxer 2. Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor finds David Sloane in prison after the events of Kickboxer 3, and Tong Po, who seems to survive damn near everything, is now living in Mexico as…I can’t believe I’m typing this–a Mexican drug lord. The explanation for this is barely understandable, but anyway, Tong Po, to make sure Sloane suffers, kidnaps his girlfriend Darcy, and keeps her in captivity. Fast forward two years later finds Sloane, still in prison, but apparently receiving photos of Darcy being violated by Tong Po. For TWO YEARS. David, now a brooding figure with a half-assed attempt at a Clint Eastwood growl. After he strikes a deal with the Feds, he gets released with the job of bringing in Tong Po dead or alive, but in order to get close enough to do so he must enter a tournament held at Han’s fortres–I mean Tong Po’s fortress and fight his way to a one-on-one fight with Tong Po, and save his girlfriend…

Okay, right off the bat this film combines Kickboxer, Enter the Dragon and Bloodsport into one film that isn’t remotely as good as any of them. Oh hell, they even copy from American Ninja in one insanely baffling sequence. Sasha Mitchell returns as David Sloane and is pretty much the same as every other film as things go on. He’s still the martial arts teacher, which in a weird way I found endearing. Kamal Krifa is nowhere near what Michel Qissi was, and the fake bald cap and makeup is truly embarrassing to watch. I mean, the acting in this film is pretty atrocious across the board, and Albert Pyun, he of many low budget films that I quite enjoy, can’t make this one interesting, and the story just doesn’t work. There were some nice things. I noted one of the fighters wore a Dacascos KungFu uniform, so that was a nice shout out to the Dacascos family. I wish Mark had been in the film (wish granted; he’s in the next one).

What else I don’t like? I don’t like how women in the film are treated as either sex objects, damsels in distress, and the few who display martial arts are treated as woefully bad fighters and are nearly all embarrassed by the men they fight.

And the one girl who does win her fight gets Kanye-ed by a black dude who just jumps in. Unlike Kanye he gets what he deserves but it’s still embarrassing. And yeah, pretty much every black dude except one just gets owned, except for the Capoeira fighter ( but as usual these dudes can’t win more than one damn fight in a tournament film) It was cool to see the Machado Brothers in the film, but I wish they had more to do.

Speaking of which, the fights in this film actually aren’t bad for an American low budget feature, with the bar fight a funny standout ( the guy who ties to avoid getting punched or kicked through a window was pretty humorous) and the final fight that was basically a lower-budget version of the final brawls in Enter the Dragon. Many different styles get displayed here, from BJJ, Kickboxing, Karate, Capoeira, and more. It’s easily the best stuff of the film, unless it involved any woman not named Michele Krasnoo, but there it is.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 4

The decent fights here are wrapped in a terrible story with equally terrible characters. Unfortunately this is the last film in the series featuring Sasha Mitchell (still looking for him in the new films, with the hope they give him a better final Kickboxer movie)

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Review: Only The Strong (1993)

Posted in Frank Dux, Mark Dacascos with tags , on January 21, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

 

Only The Strong

Starring: Mark Dacascos, Stacey Travis, Geoffrey Lewis, Paco Christian Prieto, Frank Dux

 

Fight Choreography by Frank Dux and Paco Christian Prieto

 

Directed by Sheldon Lettich

 

Some of the best martial arts films out there are the ones that center around a particular style like Drunken Master, Ip Man, Hapkido, and the Master of Ballroom Dancing (Just kidding ). The dynamic style of Brazilian Capoeira is so awesome to see on screen that surely someone would have made it into a film. Well, thanks to Sheldon Lettich (Double Impact, Lionheart) we have that, and a proper introduction to one Mark Dacascos. So how does the film hold up?

 

Pretty damn good, I’m actually sad to say, but more on that later.

 

Mark plays Louis Stevens, an ex-marine skilled in the art of Capoeira, returns to him home in Miami and to the school he graduated from to find that gangs are as bad as ever, and the kids are going downhill fast. He teams up with his friend and former mentor Kerrigan (Lewis) and creates a program to teach the worst kids in the school the martial art of Capoeira. Louis is even able to reconnect with an old girlfriend, Dianna, who now teaches at the school. Louis has trouble with the kids at first, but then begins to get through to them, but this brings Louis head to head with Silverio (Prieto), the marble-mouthed leader of a local Brazilian drug gang, whose nephew is one of Louis’ students. Silverio is an expert in Capoeira, and before long Louis must save his friends and the neighborhood from Silverio once and for all…

Only The Strong3

 

The basic story of the film isn’t much different from films like The Principal, The Substitute and Dangerous Minds, with a group of thugs turned into good kids by a traveling hero who must reconcile a past relationship, and of course one of the more sympathetic kids must get killed so the hero and the other kids and rally at the end for the finale. This in no way hampers the fun. Mark Dacascos is great as Louis, and has the right amount of naiveté and heart. Prieto, whom I found hard to understand, did a great job as Silverio, bringing a lot of menace to the screen. The kids were decent, and ranged from ok to pretty good. The music used, is just all kinds of awesome, and I find myself humming some of them, especially the “remix” of the tune Louis brings with him.

Only The Strong2

 

The fight choreography is actually pretty good, with the fights brought to us by Frank Dux, he of Bloodsport (he’s in the film as the helmeted fighter in the garage fight scene), and Prieto, and their combination gives some really great Capoeira fights (the beginning and end displays are awesome) and the fight between Silverio and Louis is done fairly well. The camerawork is plain and the editing is basic, in the style of all late 80’s-early 90’s American martial art films, but that can sometimes help as it’s far better than the MTV-style edited-to-hell-and-back fight scenes that come down the pike in the late 90‘s to this day.

 

The sadness I mentioned earlier is that no one has really made a better Capoeira film than Only The Strong. It’s still the best!

 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8.5

 

 Mark Dacascos in his first starring role does a great job, and successfully showcases the exciting art of Brazilian Capoeira! 

 

 

NEXT: They killed WHO? Scott Adkins returns in Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear!

 

Review: Tekken (2010)

Posted in Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Cung Le, Cyril Raffaelli, Gary Daniels, Jon Foo, Lateef Crowder, Reviews, Roger Huerta with tags , , , , , on February 17, 2011 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Jon Foo, Ian Anthony Dale, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa (CHT), Kelly Overton, Gary Daniels, Lateef Crowder, Roger Huerta, Cung Le, Tamalyn Tomita and Luke Goss

Fight Choreography by Cyril Raffaelli

Directed by Dwight Little

Tekken is yet another stab at adapting a fighting video game into a movie in the mold of Mortal Kombat, once again using a relative unknown in the main role and surrounding him with a mix of decent actors and martial artists. Directed by Dwight Little (Rapid Fire) Tekken does a much better job in many areas than MK did.

The film begins sometime in the future, where large multinational corporations pretty much take over the world and run things. This group is known as the Iron Fist, which really should have set off warning bells in a bunch of folks, but for whatever reason didn’t. The United States is ruled by the Corporation Tekken, whose CEO, Heihachi Mishima (CHT), holds a tournament once every few years, the King of the Iron Fist Tournament, or Tekken, ‘cause the name sounds badass. Outside of Tekken City itself is known as the Anvil, where the majority of people live day-to-day, and the gangs rule all (kinda like Detroit. Just kidding, Detroit-ians!) Here is where Jin Kazama (Foo) works as a courier for the resistance, delivering high-tech equipment he’s probably had to steal, but he’s good at martial arts and parkour, so he usually survive his excursions, in a job that doesn’t sit well with his mother Jun (Tomita) who wants her son to think of other things besides earning enough money to live in Tekken City. Her wishes will fall to dust when she is killed in a Jackhammer raid by Heihachi’s son Kazuya (Dale), an ambitious man who feels his time has come to take over the company, and holds a dark secret.  Jin, with the help of fight manager Steve Fox (Goss) enters the tournament in order to fight his way to Heihachi and Kazuya, so he can take his revenge, but standing in his way is the current champion Bryan Fury (Daniels) a half-cyborg who hides this fact so he cannot be disqualified from the ring, and uses his superior body to mow his way through all opponents. Soon Jin finds that there is much more at stake than his thirst for revenge, as an entire nation looks to him for salvation…

Tekken succeeds in many respects where MK failed by having all of the fights be traditional martial arts contests, with no special effects and few wires. They didn’t feel the need to make sure each character pulls off their signature moves from the game, and while the game story is simply there to give some background between fights, Tekken does a good job of adapting that story within the context of a film.

Jon Foo does a good job as Jin. If you’ve seen him in his fight versus Tony Jaa in The Protector (he was the swordsman in the temple fight) you know he’s good, and he doesn’t disappoint. His acting starts off clunky, but improves as the film goes on. His acrobatics is fantastic, and he brings his all to each fight scene, of which he has many. He’s still a young man, and I expect greater things from him down the road. He’s got the looks and the martial arts skills and acrobatics. He just needs the right starring vehicle.

CHT is his royal evilness as always, and it’s funny that he’s played the main villain in the two major fight video game adaptations, this and Mortal Kombat. The man likes his video games! Gary Daniels does a great job as the arrogant jackass Bryan Fury, and even at his age can still bring the goods. Between this and the Expendables it’s been a pretty good run lately for Daniels. Cung Le also stars in what I believe is his first film, and he does a good job in a limited appearance. He’s currently working on his first full-on martial arts film, and his appearance here bodes well for that film. Luke Goss brings a cynical edge to the film as Steve Fox, and Ian Anthony Dale is a menacing Kazuya.

My lone problem with the film is that there are still too many actors who play fighters who in reality don’t know any martial arts. While Dale plays a good Kazuya, he doesn’t know any martial arts, but he is the dramatic final fight of the film, and the most disappointing.  The women are all there merely as eye candy, and none of them seem to know anything, even though Cyril Raeffaelli (District B-13) does a good job making them look as if they do. Dammit, since Cyril did the choreography, would it have been too much to ask for him to be a fighter in this film?  Lateef Crowder is showing up everywhere nowadays, but can he not get his ass kicked in every film he appears in? Here, Undisputed 3 and The Protector, he just gets owned, even thought he does get to pull off some awesome capoeira moves.

Tekken does a much better job in many respects than Mortal Kombat, but still suffers from having too many characters that need to have their “scenes” and the film has moments where are some quick-cut edits of fights, which drives me insane! Other than that, a fun b-movie style fight film.

(on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (8) Cyril does a good job with everyone, especially during the Jin versus Rojas fight, and the fight between Jin and Bryan Fury. He does an even better job with the non-martial artists. He could have had even more elaborate fights if not for that.

STUNTWORK: (7) They did a good job, especially making a lot of folks look good.

STAR POWER: (7) Jon Foo, Cung Le, CHT, Gary Daniels, Luke Goss, Lateef Crowder and more really prop this film up. Jon may be poised for great things, and the same can be said for Cung Le and Roger Huerta. This grade could go up in the future.

FINAL GRADE: (7) A bit better than Mortal Kombat, this is a fun b-movie film that does a good job adapting a video game, which is an accomplishment all on its own. The sky’s the limit for Jon Foo.


Review: The Protector (aka Tom Yum Goong) (2005)

Posted in Johnny Nguyen, Jon Foo, Lateef Crowder, Panna Rittikrai, Reviews, Tony Jaa with tags , , , on August 24, 2010 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Tony Jaa, Jon Foo, Lateef Crowder, Johnny Nguyen

Fight Choreography by Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai

Directed by Prachya Pinkaew

Tony Jaa jumped into the international martial arts scene with Ong Bak, a brutally beautiful martial arts film that hit like a breath of fresh air. Tony followed it up with The Protector, and while it may not trump Ong Bak in the story department, it more than makes up for it with more ambitious fight scenes, one of which has to be seen to be believed.

The point of this film is simple. Boy has elephant stolen. Boy kicks the ass of everyone standing between him and his elephant. It really does boil down to being that simple. Jaa plays Cam, a boy raised to be a protector for the royal elephants, considered majestic war creatures in their culture.

He leads the innocent life of the country bumpkin (and if you’ve read my previous reviews, you know what that means) who, along with his father, takes the elephant to a festival where the elephant, Por Yai, can be tested and listed as a King’s elephant, but the guys who run the test have different ideas, which Cam is unaware since he is charged with watching the Por Yai’s baby elephant Kohrn. The men turn out to be poachers in disguise, and steal both Por Yai and Kohrn, shooting Cam’s father in the process. I thought he took his dad’s death really lightly, but Cam soon finds out where some of the boss’ of the poachers live, and crashes a little party they were having, and delivers a great opening scene beatdown that leads to a ludicrous boat chase ending in some old school 80’s overkill: crashing a wooden boat into a helicopter and blowing both of them up. Cool. Pointless, but cool.

He soon heads to Sydney, Australia, where he had found out that the elephants have been kidnapped by Rose, a woman who works for some company that doesn’t respect her, so she kills her way to the top, and needs the elephant which she thinks will give her the ultimate lucky rabbit’s foot. A really big one. She owns a front restaurant named Tom Yum Goong, and that may be where Cam’s answers lie. No sooner does he arrive than he bumps into a Jackie Chan impersonator (Jaa had asked Jackie to be in the film, but due to other commitments he wasn’t able to.) . Yeah, it’s cheesy, but he properly pays his respect to one of the Masters of Kung-Fu Cinema. He meets a fellow Thai named Mark who happens to be a police officer who arrests Jaa after capturing him during a mistaken cab theft. Jaa gets away from Mark, who inadvertently takes him right by the restaurant he was looking for.

The man who run the restaurant for Rose is a street thug named Johnny(Johnny Nguyen), Who kicks Cam around a bit after he is found, but Cam, never one to give up, follows Johnny and his gang to a warehouse where a drug deal was about to go down when Cam comes running in. Johnny calls the rest of his gang, all of whom look as if they were the leftovers from Rumble in the Bronx, and Tony pays his homage to Jackie by fighting them in a way very close to what Jackie would have done at that time. Afterward Cam is saved by Johnny’s girl for who the hell knows what reason, and along with the help of Mark, make their way through a lot of fighting to get to Rose, who has his elephants and won’t give them back without one last battle…

Tony Jaa gets more ambitious with each film, and while this story is scattershot (Dragon Dynasty has 2 versions of the film in the same disc set-watch the Thai version or you won’t know what the hell is going on.) it really shows Tony taking more chances with fight techniques on film.

Each fight in some ways try to outdo what he had done before, but the crown jewel here is in 3 scenes:

The fight up the building, an astonishing 10 minute fight sequence that is shot unedited of Tony Jaa taking all comers as he ascends a building. Not Bruce, Jet or Jackie or anyone else has ever attempted such a thing, and Tony pulls it off, even looking exhausted by the end of it. I don’t even want to know how many takes this took to do this. Lo to the stuntman who misses his queue, for doom shall surely chase him to Valhalla. After ward it features a good fight between himself and Johnny Nguyen, who is quickly rising in the martial arts film ranks.

The next great scene is a fight between himself and Lateef Crowder, one of the best capoeira maestra’s in the world (His father is the best. He did the motion capture for Eddie Gordo in Tekken 2 and 3)

Muay Thai versus capoeira makes for one hell of a fight. I love it when two totally different styles of martial arts are pitted against each other. There are strategies to battle that both sides have to consider. This extends to the fight with Jon Foo and his chinese sword, also well done, but Lateef takes the cake with this one.

The last fight is ludicrous but funny as wave after wave of nameless thugs attack Cam, and he proceeds to make sure that every one of them has a bone-or bones-broken somewhere, anywhere. After the first 20 guys, you’d think the others would go “screw this!” More celery sticks were sacrificed for this film more than any where else. He caught up to Steven Seagal after one film! There were so many ouch moments I can’t even say-not just in this scene-well, mostly this scene.

This film has one message: Kidnap Tony Jaa’s elephant and he will hunt you down and hurt you. Badly.

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

CHOREOGRAPHY: (9) Tony really out did himself here. The fights are all complicated and fantastic, especially versus Leteef Crowder, and how they pulled off the timing for that 10-minute continuous fight through the restaurant is nearly beyond comprehension.

STUNTS: (10) Tony and his stunt team went above and beyond for this one. The 10 minute fight up the restaurant is worth the price of admission alone!

STAR POWER: (8) Tony Jaa, Lateef Crowder, Jon Foo, and Johnny Nguyen. All up and comers who are slated in films coming soon.

FINAL GRADE: (9) Tony shot for the gold and came real close. An uneven story derails this film, but the fights are second to none.