Archive for martial arts

Review: Hard To Kill (1990)

Posted in Steven Seagal with tags , on April 28, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

Starring Steven Seagal, Kelly Le Brock, William Sadler, Frederick Coffin

Fight Choreography by Steven Seagal

Directed by Bruce Malmuth

Hard to Kill is the second film by at that time the newest action star on the scene (he really came around the same time as JCVD) Steven Seagal, in a film that would without a doubt set the precedent for his “urban” action film output, both for better and for worse.

Seagal plays Mason Storm ( you gotta love his action guy names), a do-it-yourself cop who works alone, who has just gotten a recording that implicates a young senator Vernon Trent (Sadler) making a deal with a local mob. Mason is able to get away, but not before he is seen. Later that night Mason and his family is attacked by a hit team sent by the Senator, and in the ensuing fight his wife is killed, and Mason is shot himself. Mason isn’t dead, though, and seven years later he wakes up from a coma to discover that his son is still alive, being cared for by his commanding officer. Together with a young nurse (LeBrock) Mason goes after everyone involved in his wife’s murder, all the way up to the senator himself…

As an action film Hard to Kill is serviceable but hardly memorable, and not nearly as good as his first film Above the Law. There is more gunplay scenes here but its filmed in an uninspiring way. The acting ranges from great to god-awful, with the always dependable William Sadler bringing the great acting to Kelly LeBrock being the awful one, serving as nothing more than a damsel in distress who needs Mason Storm to save her at every turn. Seagal, is, well, Seagal. He has about one expression on his face, which is a perpetual scowl. He tries to “emote” but really, it’s still a scowl. A very sad scowl.

The actual martial arts scenes here are a disappointment, with many moves taken from his first film, but with much more bone snapping, like this:

Bone-breaking would also become a hallmark of Seagal’s films, and he’s in bone snapping form here. They used a bunch of celery for this one! One of the worst things about Seagal’s films are their stereotypes. If you’re Black you listen to only rap music, and if you aren’t a cop then you’re a pimp. Or drug dealer/gangbanger. Or just some layabout. If you’re Italian you gotta have mob ties, right? And if you’re Hispanic your pretty much a gangster. And if you are his love interest you can’t take care of yourself, aren’t smart enough to handle one or two killers, and of course will fall for Seagal’s winning personality. And his Budda Belly (we’ll save that conversation for another time, but he does wear all black for a reason):

The camera’s not going any lower. This isn’t a Van Damme film, ya’ll!

Hard to Kill was modestly budgeted and is considered a hit, but is hardly a good film, and is much more indicative of the films that would comprise the second half of his career. Shoddy acting, a lackluster script and boring fight scenes doom this film to a one-watch-only experience.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 3

Regression is a hell of a thing. Worse still if it’s only your second film. Do yourself a favor and dust off that blu ray or DVD of Above the Law and watch it again.

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Review: Swordmaster (2016)

Posted in Norman Chu, Tsui Hark with tags , on April 10, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

Starring  Kenny Lin, Peter Ho, Norman Chu, Mengji Jiang

Fight Choreography by Dion Lam and Bun Yuen

Directed by Derek Yee

 

Director Derek Yee ( The ORIGINAL Third Master) returns to one of his classic Shaw Brothers films, this time not as an actor, but as the director of the remake. Toss in the great Norman Chu, as well as Tsui Hark producing, and you’d think this is a classic in the making.

Except it isn’t. Not even close.

The film (as did the original) tells the story of Hsieh Shao-Feng (Lin), also known as Third Master, one of the greatest swordsmen of all time, who seeks a life of anonymity and peace, which is immediately threatened by a former lover who wants revenge, the leaders of a local cult of thugs who harass the village he’s hiding in, and first and foremost the assassin Yen Shisan (Ho), another swordman who wishes to challenge Shao-Feng as the greatest swordsman of all time, but before they can fight, they may have to form an alliance to keep the village safe as well as Shao-Feng’s true love…

This plot sounds the same as the original, right? Not a chance. The story in this version is a gutless movie compared to the original, particularly the ending, which is maddening in its insistence of keeping thing bright so the hero can have a straightforward hollywood “happy” ending. That’s right: If you expect the ending of the original Death Duel, you are sorely mistaken. The film just doesn’t have the “bite” of the original, yet sticks too much to the original story to be its own thing. Derek Yee can’t seem to make up his mind what he wanted the remake to be: a straightforward remake, or just using the bones to tell a different kind of story. The actors do a fine job, but there is no standout–except for Norman Chu, who brings a regalness and sense of character to Shao-Feng’s father.

The story itself doesn’t take the time to garner real sympathy for any of the characters, nor does it develop the villain in any substantial way. When the enemy finally reveals themselves, it elicits more of a shrug than anything else, not to mention the film commits a cardinal sin: it has the villains dispatch each other rather than the hero having much to do with it. A film hero should be the lever that moves the action and plot, not standing by while the story resolves itself in front of them. The special effects are good in most places, but the problem is there is too many of them replacing practical sets and real locations, with the exception of two fight scenes: the one where Yen Shihan enters the brothel, which is fairly well done and shot, and toward the end, where Shao-Feng’s father and his guards ward off an initial attack from the main villains. Outside of that, the fights are typical Wuxia “meh”. It wants to be House of Flying Daggers or Hero but winds up being…a lot less.

Swordsman just disappoints on so many levels. The talent involved should have knocked this out of the park. Skip this film and watch the original Death Duel.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 5.0

The Swordmaster needs to head back to school for more lessons in what the term “Heroic Bloodshed” means. The film commits the high-wire crime of being simply average and forgettable.

In fact, here is the trailer to the original. Your welcome.

 

The second trailer for Lady Bloodfight is here!

Posted in Amy Johnston, Bey Logan with tags , on April 6, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

We now have the second trailer for Lady Bloodfight, starring Amy Johnston, an immensely talented woman who could very well join the badass ranks with Michael Jai White and Scott Adkins, and this trailer looks much better than the previous trailer, and the idea of a female kumite interests me greatly. If you’ve seen some of Amy’s previous works then you know she’s got the goods. Add to that Chris Nahon, who directed Jet Li’s best American film Kiss of the Dragon and I’m all in.  Check out the trailer below, and get ready for the DVD release in June! Hit the comments section below and let me know what you think!

Bryan Sloyer has a trick up his sleeve with The Magician! (2017)

Posted in Amy Sturdivant, Bryan Sloyer, Jay Kwon, Jerry Quill with tags , on March 23, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

Directed by Bryan Sloyer

Fight Choreography by Bryan Sloyer.

Starring Jay Kwon, Jerry Quill, Amy Sturdivant, Bryan Sloyer, Kiera O’Connor, Katie O’Donovan, Kyle Potter,  Trevor Logan, Andrew Franklin, Narayana Cabral, Allen Quindiagan, Yoshi Sudarso, Mark Miscione, Graham Hooper, Lee Chesley, Yavuz Topuz, Armand Rabanal, Nick Krawiec, Jonathan Wong Just Vancho

 

Bryan Sloyer does it again. He’s really growing as a filmmaker/stuntman right before our eyes. I think it’s only a matter of time for this guy to get a feature film, and I would be the first in line for it! This film, takes place in a single room, but I guarantee you can’t take your eyes off of it. The camera work is tremendous, particularly with the “magic” tricks the fighters pull off. Major props to all involved! The action is fluid despite the camera cuts, and has a great flow. Such an original way to approach a fight scene. I need to watch this again. So you do. Click, watch, pick up jaw, repeat.

 

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 10

It’s that good, everyone. Sloyer keeps on raising his own bar. And it’s a glorious thing to see.

Review: Above The Law (1988)

Posted in Steven Seagal with tags , on January 13, 2017 by Michael S. Moore

above-the-law1

Starring: Steven Seagal, Pam Grier, Henry Silva, Sharon Stone

Fight Choreography by Steven Seagal

Directed by Andrew Davis

In 1988  martial arts films were going strong, with Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh ruling the roost. And in the USA we had…an aging Chuck Norris. And that was it. When would another martial artist step forward for America? Enter two films: Bloodsport and Above the Law, the latter of which introduced the world to the martial arts style Aikido and its practitioner, Steven Seagal.

Steven Seagal plays Nico Toscani, a Chicago cop who used to be special forces CIA who got sick of it after witnessing a man being tortured by maniac CIA operative Zagon (Silva) and quits in the middle of the op, because in the 80s you could do that. Now a detective along with his partner Jax (Grier) he gets involved in a drug ring run by Zagon and a group of CIA operatives who are plotting to kill a US Senator who is investigating their clandestine operations (whew!). But when they go after Nico’s family and church, Nico dispenses his own brand of street justice, because as he says “you think you’re above the law. but you ain’t above mine.” Hell yeah 80’s action!

above-the-law-machete

This film not only made Seagal an action star, but also cemented the style of films he would make: small scale urban justice films, not unlike the Death Wish movies. Seagal is pretty one-note here but does have that elusive on screen charisma. Henry Silvia is, well, Henry Silvia, an always dependable actor when you need a baddie you can hiss at. Pam Grier is okay but she needed to be more than the “put-upon” partner as well as the woman that needs to be protected despite the fact she’s a cop too. This is Pam god****mn Grier. She’ll deliver your dick in a jar to your girlfriend. Surely she could have been presented as more that what she was. Sharon Stone is also in the film in a small role as Nico’s wife, but she doesn’t do much except spending the film trying to get Nico to give up, which means she’s and incredibly annoying character whenever she’s on screen. Andrew Davis does a great job directing here, and his future films Under Siege and The Fugitive would further cement him as a solid film director.

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The opening scene, where Seagal shows off how Aikido works in a dojo is one of the best fight scenes in the film. It really does a great job showing audiences not familiar with the style a little of how it works. The next best fight scene is later in the film, where Seagal takes on a group of thugs in a grocery mart. You can tell the floors are rubber, and many of the moves shown in the beginning are repeated here, but now in a practical setting, but it’s still good. The one thing I didn’t like that will become a staple of many of his movies is that Seagal never fights anyone of a similar skillset, so there is no real challenge. Henry Silva basically gets what I call Getting Seagaled (TM): where the bad guy gets beaten and tossed around like a rag doll, not providing any challenge to the hero whatsoever and dies easily.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

A good film that shows off the style of Aikido well and gives a strong introduction to a new action hero, and would become a template for the majority of the films in his career. Pam Grier is wasted here, however.

Kiai-Kick’s Holiday Gift Guide 2016: Arrow Video!

Posted in Sho Kosugi with tags , on December 15, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

arrow

Okay, so Arrow is a company with a LOT of old school films, some box sets and many more items of interest for B and C movie lovers of all kind, but there are two Blu Ray films I just gotta point out revolving around one person: Sho Kosugi.

Pray For Death

pray for death

Pray for Death is one of my favorite films of his, and when you add in a ninja bicycle, you’ve struck gold! You can read my review of the film here, but to see it in a pristine blu-ray format is an added bonus, with some pretty decent extras, and Arrow has it!

Bonus Materials

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a transfer of original elements by MGM
  • R-rated and Unrated Versions
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new interview with star Sho Kosugi
  • Archive interview and Ninjutsu demonstration with Kosugi from the film’s New York premiere
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

Rage Of Honor

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Yeah. More Sho Kosugi here, but not nearly as good as Enter the Ninja or Pray for Death. It has its moments, but it’s still a very, very silly movie. I’ll be reviewing it soon, but if you need that extra Sho Kosugi fix, or are just a completist, then I can recommend this blu ray, but as a movie? A double feature with Miami Connection along with Bourbon, Vodka and pizza will make one hell of a movie night!

Bonus Materials:
– High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a transfer of original elements by MGM
– Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
– Sho and Tell Part 2: The Domination – brand new interview with star Sho Kosugi on Rage of Honor and the later stages of his film career
– Sho Kosugi Trailer Gallery: Enter the Ninja (1981), Revenge of the Ninja (1983), Pray for Death (1985) and Rage of Honor (1987)
– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

 

Next up: Of course I’ve saved the Best for Last!