Archive for mixed martial arts

“God has given me this gift, and I will not waste it!” The Trailer for Boyka: Undisputed!

Posted in Isaac Florentine, Scott Adkins with tags , , on January 31, 2016 by Michael S. Moore

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Not even internet pirates can keep Boyka down, and finally, FINALLY we have the trailer for the long-awaited Undisputed 4 ( No more numerals! Now it’s just Boyka!) It looks as if Scott Adkins and Isaac Florentine are going to bring us the best Boyka yet! This looks fantastic, seeing Boyka fight in both the real world and in the ring. Check out the trailer below. Then watch it again. And again. The most complete fighter in the world is back. As the song says, ‘There Can Only Be One King!’

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Review: Pound of Flesh (2015)

Posted in Darren Shahlavi, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mike Leeder, Mike Moeller with tags , , on May 14, 2015 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Darren Shahlavi, John Ralston, Mike Leeder, Mike Moeller

Fight Choreography by John Salvitti

Directed by Ernie Barbarash

JCVD returns as a black-ops agent Deacon Fry who arrives in France in order to give one of his kidneys to a niece he’s never met. Thing immediately go wrong when, after having a one-night stand, wakes up in an ice bath only to find that one of hiss kidneys has been taken. Deacon must then team up with his estranged brother George (Ralston) in order to track the kidney down, and rain vengeance on those who did so. George, a pious man, must reconcile the violence committed in his daughters’ name, even as the danger grows larger the closer they get to the kidney, but even they are not prepared for what they find at the end of their journey…

Pound of Flesh hits all of the normal JCVD tropes: the splits, butt shot (yes, even at age 51! Bravo!) and the tortured action heroes he’s been playing ever since he hit DTV land. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily; but I do miss the lighter characters he played in his hit films of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Deacon is a hardened man, but regretful of actions he took…actions that caused the rift between himself and George, who seems to be his opposite. JCVD does a good job portraying Deacon, and his performance, particularly at the end, is great, and gave me something that 1) I had never seen in a JCVD film, and 2) showed me a performance I wasn’t sure he was capable of, and it struck a cord, at least with me. John Ralston is a good foil for JCVD as George, who goes through a transformation throughout the film to discover that he may be more like Deacon than he’s ready to admit.

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And of course we have to talk about the late Darren Shahlavi as the lead villain Drake. His charisma onscreen is great, and my only regret is that there wasn’t more of him. He’s a great match for JCVD as he plays his character not-quite-over-the-top, something that actually brings a lot of energy to the film when things seem like they are about a lag a bit. The film pays a dedication to Darren, and I’m so glad they did. His performance is bittersweet, as it’s a reminder of how much he had grown as a performer, both in stunts and in acting. Ernie Barbarash, even though he’s working with a low budget, always seems to get the absolute most out of every dollar spent, and here is no exception, as this may be the best looking JCVD film to date not named Universal Soldier (or Hard Target).

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The fights choreographed by John Salvitti, who has been part of Donnie Yen’s stunt teams, gives something new. I was expecting the normal JCVD kicks, ending in his patented helicopter kick, but Salvitti goes in a different direction, adding more mixed martial arts to his repertoire, especially the final fight between JCVD and Darren Shahlavi. I’m normally not a fan of the style, but it works well here.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

A damn good action film from JCVD as he rollercoasters his way to vengeance as he battles Darren Shahlavi. Jean-Claude Van Damme proves once again he can deliver the goods!

Review: Forced To Fight (2011)

Posted in Gary Daniels with tags , on October 24, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

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Starring Gary Daniels, Peter Weller, Arkie Reese, Alexandra Weaver

Fight Choreography by Gary Daniels and Claudiu-Cristian Prisecaru

Directed by Jonas Quastel

Leaving the underground fight game can be hard, and in the realm of cinema, downright fatal. Many films have gone with this premise, but Forced to Fight takes a slightly different approach.

Gary Daniels stars as Shane Slavin, a hard-working man, devoted husband and father, and all around good guy. He had once been a fighter in a series of underground matches put on by the slimy Danny G (Weller), an opportunist who looks for any way he can to make a buck. Shane had gotten out and retired, but his troublemaker brother gets in too deep with Danny, and tries to get out, and after a brutal beating Shane decides to help his brother by returning to the ring and fight for Danny G. Things get complicated, as they always do, when Shane finds that the mentality that makes him a good fighter makes him a poor family man, and a series of mistakes places his family in danger. Can Shane become the good man he once was before it’s too late?

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I have to give Jonas Quastel props for a well-made film despite a low budget. The camerawork is well done, and the pacing is spot on. The turn the story takes is something different from the norm and I was happy to see Gary Daniels able to “flip the switch” from being the family man to becoming a devil-may-care fighter who is drunk on winning, and taking a beating. I was invested with his character early enough to care what happened to both him and his family. Alexandra Weaver and Arkie Reese also do a good job with playing Shane’s wife and brother, respectively. This is the first time I’ve seen Peter Weller (outside of 24) play a villain, and he is just great and charismatic as Danny G. He plays the slime ball in just the right way without going too over the top.

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The fight scenes are well done, but I would’ve liked to see the camera step back a little so we can discern the action more. The fight scenes are, of course, choreographed for mixed martial arts, which, for those who read this site, I am not a fan of on film, but it looked good, even though I wasn’t as impressed as I wanted to be.

The ending seemed a little too clean in how things end in regards to what had happened in the rest of the film, and I’m still debating whether Shane truly deserved the clean ending he got, despite what happens at the climax.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 7

A martial arts tournament film that actually has a good family drama at its center that give weight to the MMA action, and Peter Weller totally rocks it, and makes an excellent foil for Gary Daniels!

Blu-Ray Review: In The Blood (2014)

Posted in Gina Carano with tags , , on June 2, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

 

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Starring Gina Carano, Luis Guzman, Stephen Lang, Danny Trejo, Amaury Nolasco, Cam Gigandet, Treat Williams, Ismael Cruz Cordova

Fight Choreography by Ben Bray

Directed by John Stockwell

American films have been looking for “the next big thing” for a while, particularly in the world of martial arts films. As MMA is the popular martial art in the US, it only makes sense that a star might come from those ranks. Gina Carano appears to have it all: she’s a successful fighter with a built-in fan base, she has model looks, and a good personality. The intangibles are whether she can act ( that can be developed. Just look at JCVD) and whether she has that “something”. I first saw her in Blood and Bone, and she looked great onscreen. Then she did Haywire, and now comes back with this film, and she’s looking like she getting the hang of things.

In The Blood stars Carano as Ava, a young woman who is getting married to Derek Grant (Gigandet), a man who comes from a wealthy family. Ava was raised by her father Casey (Lang, in a VERY short role) and taught how to fight. Casey was an outlaw, and raised Ava with his warped principles. One night he is killed by some former “associates” and in turn young Ava kills them. Somehow Ava isn’t caught, but it caused her to spiral into drugs. It’s at a narcotics anonymous meeting that she meets Derek, and once they are married, against the wishes of his father Robert (Williams) they take off on their honeymoon in the Carribean islands. While there they meet Manny (), a young man who lives on the island and knows where to go for a good time. Ava and Derek form a rapport with Manny immediately, and they take off to a club on the island owned by Big Biz (Trejo) and afterward they go zip-lining. During a particular zip line, Derek falls, and is injured, but after he is loaded in an ambulance, the ambulance, with Derek disappears. Ava desperately searches for Derek, but must deal with an uncaring police chief (Guzman) and finds herself descending deeper into the dark heart of the island, where corruption, drugs, money and guns are the weapons of choice, and Ava must turn into the daughter Casey raised her to be if she expects to find her husband or avenge his death…

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The story here gets off to a slow start, and seems stilted, particularly in the early scenes with Carano and Gigandet as they are shown doing all the lovey-dovey stuff, but after Derek disappears, the film kicks into high gear as an action thriller. Carano is sure handed in her action scenes and her general bad-assness, but she comes off really flat during the vacation scenes. She just doesn’t quite look comfortable yet with quiet, “nice” scenes. However, when ass-kicking or intimidation is called for, she’s great. Luis Guzman (Traffic, The Land Stand) is great as the chief who may not be what he seems, and Danny Trejo (Machete) is great to see as Big Biz, but I wish he had been in the film more. The same could easily be said for Stephen Lang (Avatar, Tombstone) who is absolutely terrifying as Casey (in a good way). Ismael Cruz Cordova does a great job as Manny, a young man who is more than what he appears to be, and Amaury Nolasco (Transformers, Justified) is great as the drug dealer Silvio who runs the island. I won’t say anything more as the story has a pretty good twist toward the end that changes things for Ava. Once again, just like Haywire, Carano is surrounded by excellent talent. Director John Stockwell (Into the Blue, Blue Crush, Turistas) does a good job shooting the film, for the most part. I thought the somewhat digital look gave the film more immediacy as things get more hellish. 

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The fights are okay, but I’m still not entirely convinced that traditional MMA can work in film. I think a hybrid version, like what Donnie Yen has done with Special ID, Flashpoint, and Killzone works best, but what is on display here is pretty decent. I had some issues with the fights are they came close to becoming the Bourne “shaky cam” fights, but avoided it for the most part. The gunplay was actually good here, and Gina looked convincing as she blasts quite a few bad men into oblivion. 

BLU-RAY/ EXTRAS: The blu-ray transfer of the film looks great. There isn’t much in the way of extras here except for a making of video. It’s okay, but I wish they could have added more.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8

In The Blood is a tense action thriller that proves that Gina Carano is here to stay as she tears her way across the Caribbean in a film full of action, suspense, and danger. I had a lot of fun with this.

 

Review: Special ID (2013)

Posted in Andy On, Collin Chou, Donnie Yen, Kenneth Lo with tags , , on May 13, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

 

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Starring Donnie Yen, Tian Jing, Collin Chou, Andy On, Ken Lo

Fight Choreography by Donnie Yen

Directed by Clarence Fok

After living with the moniker “he has the potential, but…” Donnie Yen has finally taken his place alongside Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and Sammo Hung as a bona-fide action star, after rattling off a string of hits in Killzone (SPL), Flashpoint, Ip Man 1 and 2, and Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. Now he returns to the cop genre. But the results are a mixed bag, through no real fault of his own.

Yen plays Chi-Lung “Dragon” Chan, an undercover cop who has been working to infiltrate members of local crime gangs in Hong Kong, in particular one ran by Xiong Cheung Mo-Hung  (Chou) and finds that his old protoge Sunny (On) is trying to take over, and must go to mainland China to find and stop him. There Chan teams up with cop Jing Fang (Jing) to stop Sunny, but things get complicated when Chan’s real identity is revealed, and he’ll have to stop the entire gang if he’s to save the only person he truly cares about…

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The film itself is a mixed bag. The story doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, but I can guess. This film wants to be what Jackie Chan’s Police Story was: a mixture of comedy, drama, and action. Donnie Yen can do the last two. But the first comes off as silly and out of character for him, and out of place for the film in general. Jackie Chan could balance the comedy and serious stuff, but it just doesn’t work here with Yen. The story also has serious logic issues that exist only to make things more dramatic and tension filled. Yen’s character does some things that are head-scratching, as does Jing Fang, as if they don’t understand the concepts of what undercover means. Yen is good in the serious scenes, and Jing Fang is a welcome character, but the best performance here is Collin Chou and Andy On. Collin oozes menace whenever he’s on screen, and really, the finale should have been him. Andy On does a terrific job as the thug who’s set his sights far too high, and his energy brings a needed life to the film, but there’s far too little of either him or Chou.

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The fights here are of a similar type to the fights in SPL and Flashpoint, with Donnie Yen mixing Mixed Martial Arts with kung-fu, but the results leave much to be desired. The kitchen fight is the best fight of the film, in some ways very reminiscent of a fight in one of the Police Story films, but the finale, the one on one between On and Yen, which should have been the show stopper, is okay, but not great, and no where in the league of Collin Chou vs. Yen in Flashpoint or Sammo vs Yen in SPL. It felt like a “been there, done that” kind of thing, which is not good for a martial arts film. The car fight between On and Jing was good, and maybe it was excellent (it was well-shot) but after the car fight of The Raid 2, you’ll forgive me if I wasn’t as impressed as I should’ve been.

Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 6

Special ID isn’t as special as it should have been. Despite some cool moments, the film just doesn’t come together as well as it should have.

The film is out today on Blu-Ray from Wellgousa

 

Gina Carano returns to kick ass with In The Blood! *Updated with Trailer!*

Posted in Gina Carano with tags on February 19, 2014 by Michael S. Moore

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*Now we have the trailer! Looking really, really, good, Ms. Carano! See for yourself:

The original story is below!

Gina Carano performed admirably for a first film debut in Haywire and the last Fast and Furious film, and while I really wanted her to be the next Wonder Woman (I’m sure Gal Gadot will do fine) alas, it wasn’t meant to be, but today we get word that her newest film, In the Blood, will be released in theaters on April 4th, 2014! Here’s the press release with the announcement:

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Anchor Bay Films, in a joint distribution with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, will unleash IN THE BLOOD simultaneously in theaters, On Demand and on iTunes on April 4th, 2014. IN THE BLOOD stars former MMA Fighter/Action Star Gina Carano (Fast and the Furious 6, Haywire) along with an ensemble cast, Cam Gigandet (Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2), Luis Guzman (We’re the Millers, The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3), Amaury Nolasco (Rum Diaries, TV’s “Prison Break”), Ismael Cruz Cordoba (TV’s “The Good Wife”), Treat Williams (TV’s “Chicago Fire”), Stephen Lang (Avatar) and Danny Trejo (Machete).  The film was directed by John Stockwell (Blue Crush, Into the Blue) and was written by Bennett Yellin and James Robert Johnston.

Gina Carano stars as Ava, a trained fighter with a dark past. When her new husband (Cam Gigandet) vanishes during their Caribbean honeymoon, Ava uncovers a violent underworld of conspiracy in the middle of an island paradise. Armed with a deadly set of skills, Ava sets out to discover the truth – and to take down the men she thinks are responsible for his abduction, one by one.

IN THE BLOOD was produced by Raymond Mansfield and Shaun Redick, of Movie Package Co., and Cash Warren, and executive produced by Lee Portnoi, David R. Arnold, Nicola Horlick, Andrew Mann, Glenn M Stewart, Stefan Sonnenfeld, Luillo Ruiz, James Gibb and Belly Torres.  The film was financed by The Way We Roll Productions and MICA Entertainment.

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Looking forward to seeing a trailer! Having Luis Guzman and Danny Trejo is already a win in my book, and Stephen Lang is nothing short of awesome! In the meantime here’s some stills from the production for your viewing pleasure. I’m really rooting for Gina on this one! Click on the pics below to embiggen!

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