Tunnel (2016) Review

Tunnel | DVD (Well Go USA)

Tunnel | DVD (Well Go USA)

Director: Kim Seong-Hun
Writer: So Jae-Won, Kim Seong-Hun
Cast: Ha Jung-Woo, Bae Doo-Na, Oh Dal-Su, Shin Jung-Keun, Nam Ji-Hyun, Cho Hyun-Chul, Kim Hae-Sook, Yoo Seung-Mok, Park Hyuk-Kwon, Park Jin-Woo
Running Time: 126 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Not to be confused with the 2014 South Korean horror movie, Tunnel 3D, director Kim Seong-hoon’s latest effort is a decidedly 2D disaster movie, which, in the grand tradition of many a disaster movie, puts its ill-fated location as the title. For many, the concept of Tunnel will most likely bring back memories of Sylvester Stallone bringing his macho heroics to the tunnel that provided the setting in the 1996 disaster movie Daylight. While that movie used the testosterone primed plot of a tunnel filled with flames and enough air to last a few hours, Seong-hoon dials things back to a more realistic setting. 20 years on since Daylight, Kia car salesman Ha Jeong-woo finds himself trapped behind the wheel of his car (a Kia of course), when a tunnel literally caves in on top of him.

It’s unusual for me to cover the plot for a movie I’m reviewing in the very first paragraph, but the plot for Tunnel can essentially be summarised with the above sentence. Just lose the Daylight reference. There’s no doubt that the sales pitch to make Tunnel must have been a tough one, not only is Jeong-woo’s predicament limited to the caved in tunnel, for a large part he’s not even able to budge from the interior of his car, as it’s completely surrounded by rocks and dirt. The fact that Seong-hoon is the man in the director’s chair likely put the producers mind at ease, as his 2013 sophomore feature, A Hard Day, proved to be one of the best thrillers to come out of Korea in a long time. Displaying a deft hand at incorporating a number of laugh out loud moments of black humour into the narrative, he’s an obvious choice to adapt So Jae-won’s novel of the same name.

The same goes for Ha Jeong-woo as the leading man. In 2015 Jeong-woo could do no wrong, starring in Choi Dong-hoon’s Assassination and Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden. Ironically Tunnel is not the first time he’s had to put on the equivalent of a one-man show, with 2013’s The Terror Live seeing his performance restricted to that of a TV studio. Jeong-woo brings a likeable presence to the role, and the same applies to the actress playing his wife, Bae Doo-na. After her powerhouse performance in 2014’s A Girl at my Door, the role of the wife in distress seems remarkably slight as a follow-up (not withstanding her 2015 collaborations with The Wachowskis in Jupiter Ascending and the Netflix series Sense8), and she doesn’t have much to do except act upset and hopeful in equal measures, but it’s still a welcome sight to see her back on the movie screen.

Seong-hoon has to be given credit for cutting straight to the chase (which considering the protagonists predicament, may not be the most appropriate word to use). Within the first 5 minutes it’s quickly established that Jeong-woo is (a) a car salesman, (b) it’s his daughter’s birthday and he’s bringing a cake home with him, and (c) the elderly gas station attendant fills his car with more fuel than he asks for, so gives him 2 free bottles of water to apologize. From the moment he drives out of the gas station in the opening scene, it’s only a matter of minutes later when the tunnel he’s driving through begins to collapse around him, in an impressively rendered CG sequence which again goes for realism more than spectacle.

It’s once Jeong-woo finds himself alone, buried under half a mountainside, that we start to see the elements of Seong-hoon’s style that made A Hard Day so successful. The same streak of black humour runs throughout the perilous scenario Jeong-woo finds himself in. From the first time he manages to make contact with emergency services, and the person taking the call fails to grasp exactly how much of the tunnel has ‘caved in’, to his encounters with a mischievous Pug that’s also trapped. Contact is eventually made with the head of the rescue operation that arrives onsite, played by Oh Dal-soo, continuing his mission to appear in every other Korean movie that gets made (in 2015 alone he had roles in 6 productions). While Dal-soo constantly gets cast as the bumbling everyman, somehow he still injects enough of whatever character he’s playing to ensure his performances never blend into one, and here he’s as effective as always.

It quickly becomes apparent that Tunnel has broader intentions than just providing a straight forward tale of a man stuck in a tunnel. Ever since the Sewol ferry capsized in 2014, which resulted in 304 deaths (many of them secondary school students), followed by the government and medias subsequent poor handling of the facts in the aftermath, there’s been an increasing undercurrent of mistrust towards those in authority. This has spread to the countries cinematic output, with productions like Inside Men and Train to Busan taking the opportunity to make scathing attacks on a government which has largely lost favour with the Korean public. This trend continues in Tunnel, however it’s handled in a less angry manner than in the examples mentioned, instead using comedy to take just as effective swipes at the media and government officials.

In one particular scene, Bae Doo-na arrives on the site of the collapse for the first time, and at one point is called to meet a government official. Frantic to hear some good news, the official tells her to look in a certain direction, revealing it to be a photo opportunity for the press to grab a snap of him and the wife of the man who’s trapped together. The other officials then awkwardly step into the shot so that they can each get a photo taken with her for the press. The awkwardness is only matched by how funny it is. In another the rescue team send a drone in to gain visibility on the extent of the cave in. After the drone is airborne, Dal-soo gives the order to the press that they can activate their drones, at which point about 20 others zoom up into the air, some crashing into each other and the entrance to the tunnel in their eagerness to get in first.

It’s a completely cynical look at the way both the media and the government use tragedies to further their own personal interests, but it’s done with a razor sharp wit, easily making such scenes some of the highlights of the movie. Of course Jeong-woo is never off-screen for long, and even without any other characters to immediately interact with, his performance is completely engaging as he comes to terms with his predicament, and exactly how long he’s going to be in it. Suddenly the 2 bottles of water and birthday cake take on a significant level of importance, and the juggling act of trying to keep a cell phone battery alive for an uncertain amount of time, all bring a fitting level of tension to proceedings. Seong-hoon also wrings plenty of subtle comedy from the confined space Jeong-woo is in, such as when he decides to open a bottle of washer fluid and starts cleaning the interior of his car, simply because there’s nothing better to do.

Of course, being the most commercial movie Seong-hoon has helmed to date, it raises the tricky question of exactly how Jeong-woo is going to get out of his seemingly impenetrable burial. Like many Korean movies, regardless of all that’s come before, the tone ultimately leads to a switch towards the melodramatic. This aspect is actually handled relatively well, the main issue is that Seong-hoon aims to cram in a number of scenes regarding the bureaucracy of the rescue attempt, all of which see Jeong-woo disappear off-screen for just enough time to notice. The fact that the scenes are thrown in towards the end also hinder the pacing. From an accidental death, to the public losing interest, to the corporations decision to restart construction on a 2nd tunnel being built. None of these abruptly introduced sub-plots really add to the story, with the new characters the scenes introduce us to barely registering.

Thankfully the plot reins itself back in for the final scenes, providing an expected happy ending that, while predictable, is still very much welcome. Tunnel is clearly Seong-hoon’s most commercial feature to date, and he handles it well, faring much better than higher budgeted Korean disaster movies like 2009’s Haeundae and 2012’s The Tower. While it doesn’t feature any spectacular scenes of mass destruction or feats of heroism, instead it gets by on its sharp wit and a trio of stellar performances from Ha Jeong-woo, Bae Doo-na, and Oh Dal-soo. Its premise may be basic, but thanks to some smart storytelling and an assured sense of direction, the light at the end of the Tunnel is definitely a bright one.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

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Van Damme and Daniel Bernhardt will ‘Kill ‘em All’ in June

Kill ‘em All | Blu-ray (Sony)

Kill ‘em All | Blu-ray (Sony)

The two leading stars of Bloodsport and its sequels will soon be sharing the screen together in a scenario we haven’t seen since Jimmy Wang Yu and David Chiang joined their ‘one arms’ together in The One Armed Swordsmen.

Jean-Claude Van Damme (Double Impact) is starring along side Peter Stormare (Fargo), Kris Van Damme (Assassination Games) – and get this – Daniel Bernhardt (LoganBloodsport 2-3, Matrix Reloaded) in Kill ‘Em All, which will soon be released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (via Mike Leeder).

Kill ’em All (no relation with 2013 Johnny Messner of the same name) will helmed by first time director/veteran stunt coordinator, Peter Malota. Despite Kill ’em All being Malota’s directorial debut, his connection with the martial arts genre spans back to the early 80s, where he appeared in the Rhee’s Furious and L.A. Streetfighters (aka Ninja Turf); and also with Van Damme in numerous films that include Double Impact and Nowhere to Run.

Here’s the official plot: After a massive shootout, a mysterious stranger (Van Damme) arrives at a local hospital on the brink of death. Then, a foreign gang brazenly comes to the hospital to hunt him down. His nurse, the sole surviving witness to the follow-up shootout, must face an FBI interrogation that unlocks a plot of international intrigue and revenge. With enough twists and turns, Kill ’em All will keep you guessing until the final bullet is fired!

Kill ’em All also stars Autumn Reeser (Entourage), Maria Conchita Alonso (The Running Man), James P. Bennett (Swelter), Paul Sampson (Rage) and Peter Organ (Pitbull).

We’ll keep you updated as we hear more. In the meantime, be sure to read about the continuation of Jean-Claude Van Johnson, as well as Van Damme’s other current film project with Dolph Lundgren, Black Water.

Updates: Kill ’em All will be making its way to Blu-ray and DVD (click here to pre-order) on June 6, 2017, courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. We expect a Trailer and official Poster to be arriving soon. Stay tuned!

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Scott Adkins has an ‘Incoming’ Die Hard-in-space actioner

"Close Range" is also available for purchase.With a handful of projects currently under his belt, martial arts sensation Scott Adkins (Hard Targer 2, Eliminators, Zero Tolerance) is without doubt, one of the most active action stars in the business. And now, a new project, titled Incoming, has just been revealed.

This one puts the Close Range star in somewhat of a Die Hard-in-space scenario. According to DeadlineIncoming revolves around an International Space Station that now serves as a prison. When the imprisoned terrorists take over the Station and turn it into a missile aimed at Moscow, only a shuttle pilot and a rookie doctor can stop them. Adkins plays a rogue CIA agent who has his own plans for the station and the terrorists within.

Incoming is being helmed by first-time director Eric Zaragoza. The film is written by Jorge Saralegui (Showtime) and based on a story by producer Rick Benattar (producer of Shoot ‘Em Up).

“We’re thrilled to be working with Scott on this exciting new project. It’s a science fiction film but rooted in the realities of our world today. It explores familiar themes and looks at what could be our world in the not-too-distant future,” said producer Benattar (via KWPR).

Be sure to read about Adkins’ other looming projects, such as Altar RockAccident ManSavage Dog, American Assassin, and of course, the highly-anticpated Boyka: Undisputed IV. Adkins is currently gearing up for Triple Threat, where he’ll be sharing the screen with Tony Jaa (Skin Trade), Tiger Chen (Man of Tai Chi), Iko Uwais (The Raid 2), Michael Jai White (Falcon Rising) and UFC Champ Michael Bisping (xXx: Return of Xander Cage).

Incoming is currently in production and a release date by XLrator Media will soon be announced. Stay tuned!

Adkins

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Return of the Dragon: Collector’s Edition | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

Return of the Dragon: Collector's Edition | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

Return of the Dragon: Collector’s Edition | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)

RELEASE DATE: May 16, 2017

Shout! Factory presents the Collector’s Edition Blu-ray for Return of the Dragon (aka Way of the Dragon), featuring an all-new 4K scan and restoration from the film’s original negative.

In Return of the DragonTang Lung (Bruce Lee) flies to Rome to help a friend of the family, Chen Ching-hua (Nora Miao). She is being threatened by local gangsters to sell her restaurant and they will stop at nothing to get the property. In one of the film’s most famous sequences, Bruce takes on American martial arts expert Colt (Chuck Norris) in the ancient city’s majestic Coliseum.

Return of the Dragon is noted for being the only film written, directed by and starring Bruce Lee. It was also the first project under Lee’s new film company, Concord Productions.

Special Features:

  • NEW! 4K RESTORATION
  • NEW! Japanese Opening and Closing Credits
  • NEW! Alternate Final Fight Music Cue
  • NEW! Trailer Gallery
  • Audio Commentary with Asian Film expert Mike Leeder
  • Alternate Title Sequence
  • Interviews with Sammo Hung, Simon Yam and Wong Jing
  • Kung Fu? Jon Benn Remembers Return of the Dragon
  • TV Spot
  • Still Gallery

Pre-order Return of the Dragon from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles, News | Tagged | Leave a comment

‘Kiss of the Dragon’ filmmaker is back with ‘Lady Bloodfight’

Lady Bloodfight | DVD (Lionsgate)

Lady Bloodfight | DVD (Lionsgate)

On June 6th, 2017, Lionsgate Home Entertainment will be releasing DVD for Lady Bloodfight (aka Lady Bloodsport), an upcoming “female” martial arts flick, starring Amy Johnston (Raze).

Directed by Chris Nahon (Kiss of the Dragon), Lady Bloodfight tells the story of a young American who arrives in Asia and begins training for a vicious martial arts tournament, The Kumite, where women must fight to the death in order to win.

Lady Bloodfight also stars Jenny Wu, Muriel Hofman, Kathy Wu, Sharon Zhang, Jet Tranter and Mayling Ng.

Stay tuned for pre-order information.

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The Great Wall | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

The Great Wall | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

The Great Wall | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

On May 23rd, Universal Studios Home Entertainment will be releasing The Great Wall (read our review) on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD.

Acclaimed filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of the Flying Daggers) directs this 15th century period flick revolving around an elite force making a valiant stand for humanity on the world’s most iconic structure.

The Great Wall stars Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones), Willem Dafoe (John Wick), Andy Lau (Infernal Affairs), Jing Tian (Special ID), Zhang Hanyu (The Assembly), Eddie Peng (Rise of the Legend), Lu Han (Miss Granny), Lin Gengxin (Young Detective Dee), Zheng Kai (The Running Man), Chen Xuedong (Tiny Times 3), Huang Xuan (Blind Massage), Wang Junkai, Yu Xintian and Liu Qiong.

Special Features:

  • Digital Copy of The Great Wall (Subject to expiration. Go to NBCUCodes.com for details.)
  • Includes UltraViolet (Subject to expiration. Go to NBCUCodes.com for details.)
  • Deleted and extended scenes
  • Matt Damon in China
  • Working with Director Zhang Yimou
  • The Great Wall Visual Effects
  • Man vs. Monster
  • Weapons of War
  • Designing a Spectacular World

Pre-order The Great Wall from Amazon.com today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles, News | Tagged | 3 Comments

Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back | Blu-ray & DVD (Sony)

Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back | Blu-ray & DVD (Sony)

Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back | Blu-ray & DVD (Sony)

RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017

On June 6, 2017, Sony Home Entertainment will be releasing Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer) and Tsui Hark’s (Young Detective Dee) Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back on Blu-ray and DVD.

In this sequel to Journey to the West, Hark takes over directing duties, while Chow produces. Shu Qi, Wen Zhang, and Huang Bo will return for the sequel. Joining them this time around is Vicky Zhao (14 Blades), Kris Wu (The Mermaid) and Kenny Lin (The Taking of Tiger Mountain).

The original (read our review) centered on Tang Sanzang, a Buddhist trying to protect a village from three demons, his emerging feelings for Miss Duan, the demon hunter who helps him repeatedly, and Sanzang’s transformative encounter with the Monkey King.

Pre-order from Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back Amazon.com today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles, News | Tagged | 2 Comments

Classic Hong Kong action to return in Maria Tran’s ‘Tiger Cop’

"Tiger Cop II" Promotional Poster

“Tiger Cop II” Promotional Poster

Vietnamese actress, martial artist, producer and director, Maria Tran (Truy Sát aka Tracer) has announced pre-production for Tiger Cop, which will be backed by Fresh Blood, a joint initiative between ABC and Screen Australia.

Tiger Cop, which will consist of three 5-minute segments, will be based on a throwback concept inspired by Hong Kong’s Girls with Guns sub-genre made popular by titles like Royal Warriors and In the Line of Duty 3.

Adrian Castro will direct/write, Tran will star/produce, while comedian Steven Oliver (Black Comedy) is co-starring as Tran’s partner. Here’s the official synopsis: Two mismatched cops Inspector Tiger (Tran) and Detective Wombat (Oliver) are on a mission to take down a Hong Kong crime lord, The White Ghost.

“We got the funding (Yippie!!) and are on our way to pre-production for Hong Kong actionesque Tiger Cop series! This is gonna be kick-ass/bad dubbing awesomeness! Shall be doing some casting soon for all ya’ll actioneer type actors as well as additional crew in Sydney, Australia,” Tran posted on FB (via Mike Leeder).

In 2015, a short film (made as “trailers”) for Tiger Cop I and Tiger Cop II were released. The short, also directed by Castro, featured choreography by Trung Ly (Truy Sát) and cinematography by Justin Gong. All involved with the short captured the essence of a 1980s-produced Hong Kong action film.

We’ll keep you in the loop about Tiger Cop as we hear more. Until then, we leave you with the Tiger Cop “trailers” below, which should give you an idea of what to expect from the full presentation:

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John Wick: Chapter 2 | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

John Wick: Chapter Two | Blu-ray (Lionsgate)

John Wick: Chapter Two | Blu-ray (Lionsgate)

RELEASE DATE: June 13, 2017

On June 13th, Lionsgate Home Entertainment will be releasing Chad Stahelski’s John Wick: Chapter 2 (read our review) on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD.

Keanu Reeves returns in the sequel to the 2014 hit as legendary hitman John Wick who is forced to back out of retirement by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome where he squares off against some of the world’s deadliest killers.

John Wick: Chapter 2 also stars Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Bridget Moynahan, Lance Reddick, Thomas Sadoski, David Patrick Kelly, Peter Stormare and Franco Nero.

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary with Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski
  • Deleted Scenes
  • “RetroWick: Exploring the Unexpected Success of John Wick” Featurette
  • ‘Training John Wick” Featurette
  • “WICK-vizzed” Featurette
  • “Friends, Confidantes: The Keanu/Chad Partnership” Featurette
  • “As Above, So Below: The Underworld of John Wick” Featurette
  • “Car Fu Ridealong” Featurette
  • “Beat Down: The Evolution of a Fight Scene” Featurette
  • “Wick’s Toolbox” Featurette
  •  “Kill Count” Featurette
  • “Dog Wick” Short

Stay tuned for pre-order information.

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles, News | Tagged | 1 Comment

Quick Man (2002) Review

"Quick Man" Korean Theatrical Poster

“Quick Man” Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Lee Hyeok-su
Writer: Yun Jin-a
Producer: Seo Gil-seong
Cast: Jeon Hye-yun, Yun Se-ung, Song Geum-sig, Ricky Jun, Park Jeong-gwon, Lee Moo-jung, Kim Youn-soo, Lee Jae-yeong, Min Seong-joo, Kang You-il, Lee Suk-koo
Running Time: 89 min.

By Paul Bramhall

The start of the millennium saw many new directorial talents emerge in Korean cinema, with 2002 in particular seeing the likes of Park Chan-wook unleash Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, and Ryoo Seung-wan deliver his hard hitting crime thriller No Blood No Tears. However amongst the new blood that was beginning to shape Korean cinema into what it is today, surprisingly there were still some distinctly old-school names around on the scene, making distinctly old-school movies.

One such name was Lee Hyeok-su, a director who had been around since making his first feature in 1967. Hyeok-su was one of a stable of Korean directors who cranked out countless kung fu movies during the 70’s and early 80’s, from Hwang Jang-lee flicks like Hard Bastard, to Casanova Wong vehicles like Pachun Martial Arts, to the Dragon Lee and Eagle Han starring Twelve Gates of Hell. It’s safe to say that if you were a Korean martial arts star in the 70’s, then at some point you would have worked with Hyeok-su.

For the 20 year period from 1967 – 1987, Hyeok-su made, almost without fail, anything from one to four movies per year, racking up an impressively long filmography, before finally deciding to take a breather from the industry. During the 90’s he returned to the director’s chair just 4 times, most notably directing a very early role for Lee Jeong-jae, with 1996’s Albatross. The director went quiet again after Albatross, until 6 years later he’d return to the film industry one final time, putting a cap on a directing career that spanned 35 years, with the 2002 feature Quick Man.

The plot concerns a dastardly assistant director of a company, who hires a hitman to assassinate the CEO in charge, working under the assumption that as the CEO has no family, his fortune will be left to the company that he’ll now be in charge of running. However in a CD-ROM that the CEO has left to his accountant, containing a video message outlining his will, he reveals that he has a long lost granddaughter, and entrusts the accountant to track her down and pass on his inheritance. When the assistant director also watches the video, he re-hires the same hitman, and sends him on a mission to find and kill the granddaughter before the accountant can locate her.

Just like Chang Cheh made an awkward transition into directing movies in the 1990’s, so the same statement could be applied to Hyeok-su directing a movie in the 00’s. Quick Man feels like a movie made at least 10 years earlier, and apart from the presence of flip style mobile phones and a laptop, there’s nothing in the production to indicate that it was actually made post-2000. This isn’t a criticism as such, and the straight forward, no nonsense plot, reminiscent of so many 90’s Korean gangster movies, is if anything a welcome presence. In particular, one of the walls in the interior of an office set is little more than MDF panels nailed together, no paint or decoration added. Perhaps they were going for a minimalist feel.

Indeed in many ways, Quick Man feels like a 70’s Korean kung fu movie, supplanted to 19… I mean 2002 Seoul. The hit-man is played by Ricky Jun, looking remarkably similar to a Versus era Tak Sakaguchi, who was a familiar face in 90’s Korean action cinema. Quick Man could be considered his most substantial role, after playing nameless thugs in the likes of My Wife is a Gangster, Public Enemy, and even featuring alongside Steven Seagal, in the Aikido master’s only Korean movie appearance, Clementine. Jun had the moves, and gets a couple of fight scenes to show off his boot work, both of which involve him taking on multiple attackers using Taekwondo.

In the unmistakably goofy style of many a 70’s Korean kung fu movie, once Jun receives a photo of the granddaughter, he immediately recognizes her as an advertising model. He and his cronies even have a poster of her on their office wall, purely by chance, so finding their target should hardly be difficult. Except of course, it turns out that she’s become tired of the modelling life, and on the same day the thugs come looking for her, is beginning a new life as an art teacher. The granddaughter is played by Jeon Hye-yun, and Quick Man is the only movie credit to her name. I guess she got tired of the actress life as well.

Through a series of completely implausible events, Hye-yun ends up being taken under the wing of a good hearted motorcycle courier, who inadvertently becomes her protector (and suitor) from Jun and his gang of muscle for hire. The courier, playing the Quick Man that the title refers to, is played by Yun Se-ung. This was one of his first roles, and while he clearly had some worthy action chops, he’d mostly settle into doing voice work on animated features, most recently appearing in Office as a supporting player. The action content of the movie basically rests on the shoulders of Jun and Se-ung, and the plot moves forward in such a way that it essentially involves Jun constantly sending thugs to kidnap Hye-yun, Se-ung thwarting them, and then repeating in a different location. Its innocently simplistic approach is so out-of-time with other Korean movies released in 2002, that it’s difficult not to enjoy watching Jun get increasingly infuriated each time his thugs come back empty handed, just like an old-school movie villain, but in a sharp suit.

The influence that Hong Kong movies had on the Korean action genre of the decade prior is also blatantly evident in Quick Man. It’s hardly a spoiler to say that Se-ung and Hye-yun fall in love, an aspect of the plot which is driven home with a musical montage. The montage ticks all of the relevant boxes – riding along a beach on a motorbike in slow motion, staring into each other’s eyes as the sun sets, and even recreating a scene from From Here to Eternity, but with less clothes. Speaking of a lack of clothing, all three of the female characters end up with their clothes off at some point. In the 1980’s erotic cinema boomed in Korea once censorship laws were removed, and perhaps being able to film nudity never lost its appeal for Hyeok-su, even a couple of decades on.

Like Hyeok-su, the actor playing the assistant director of the company, Song Geum-sig, had also made a career for himself within the Korean action and gangster genre. Quick Man would be one of his final roles, however his filmography includes appearances in everything from Golden Dragon, Silver Snake to Guns and Talks. Here he’s cast as a stereotypical conniving middled aged business man in a suit, who stays behind the scenes and uses his money for others to do the dirty work for him. It’s a template used over and over again in Asian action cinema, from Chor Yuen in Police Story, to John Shum in Pedicab Driver. What perhaps makes Quick Man a unique entry in the action genre though, is that in the final reel Geum-sig decides to get in on the action himself, suit included, representing the old school villain of the piece.

Throwing down against Se-ung in an abandoned factory, the two go at each other with an enjoyable amount of vigour. After watching Geum-sig spend the entire run time as a corporate villain, unwilling to get his hands dirty, to see him suddenly throwing Taekwondo kicks and grappling on the floor was definitely an unexpected surprise. Hyeok-su even employs some classic old-school kung-fu movie tropes, when at one point the pair take a fall from an elevated part of the factory, in a scene that takes place at night, and then the shot cuts to have them land in broad daylight on a granite pile outside. It’s a lengthy brawl (at least it feels that way considering it starts at night, and ends in a river basked in bright sunshine), and delivers a satisfying finish to a production thats only ambition is to deliver some straight forward action. Judged on this alone, Quick Man succeeds at achieving what it sets out to, and is a worthy swansong to Hyeok-su’s career as a director.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

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Huang Kin Long (aka Bruce Le) is back with ‘Bloody Hero’

"Bruce's Deadly Fingers" Chinese Poster

“Bruce’s Deadly Fingers” Chinese Poster

A few years ago, Bruce Le (aka Huang Kin Long), cult martial arts star of Mission Terminate and Bruce Stikes Back, made his 7th directorial feature, Eyes of Dawn (a redux of his 1992 film, Comfort Women), a drama about women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied territories during World War II. The movie was Le’s first film project after a 20+ year absence from show business. Fortunately, his comeback isn’t about to stop there…

According to Impact’s Mike Leeder, Le is currently in post-production mode for Bloody Hero, a wartime adventure that’s best described as a Chinese Braveheart meets First Blood. The film tells the true story of a Chinese commando who rages a one-man war against Japanese forces on the border with Russia during WW2. In addition to directing and producing, Le also has a small part in the film.

But to kung fu fans, the most exciting news involves Le’s “dream” project: “In the last ten years, I have been thinking about making a very big kung fu movie, full blooded martial arts action… I would really like to make a big sized co-production between America and China, my dream project is to make something that would be worthy to be called Enter the Dragon 2. That’s something I have been working on for some time, making preparation for the last few years. I know to make a movie that delivers on those elements will be a lot of work but its what I think I have to do,” Le told Leeder. Additionally, Le is also developing an Africa-set action thriller that’ll essentially be the Chinese version of Taken.

Here’s hoping Bloody Hero will see a North American release. Until then, we’ll keep you updated as we hear more about all of Le’s projects. For now, here’s the Trailer for Bruce’s Deadly Fingers:

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‘Universal Soldier’ director to resurrect cult film ‘Maniac Cop’

"Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning" Japanese DVD Cover

“Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning” Japanese DVD Cover

While it may not have set the box office on fire, 2012’s Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning was generally met with acclaim from fans and critics alike, who applauded director John Hyams’ infusion of arthouse horror into the venerable action series. The sequel was also notable for introducing martial arts superstar Scott Adkins to the Universal Soldier cast list, alongside returning icons Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren. Unfortunately, all has been quiet on the Universal Soldier sequel front. In the meantime, Hyams recently directed eight episodes of the SyFy Network series Z Nation.

Now, fresh out of Fantastic Fest comes word that John Hyams will direct a reboot of the Eighties cult classic series Maniac Cop. The movies featured recognizable B-movie icon Robert Z’Dar as a homicidal police officer who returns from the dead to wreck havoc on the living.

Since Z’Dar sadly passed away earlier this year, the role is ripe for recasting – and one can easily see Universal Soldier’s Dolph Lundgren filling the lumbering shoes of the zombie cop. The remake is to be produced by Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn, another filmmaker well known for his hyper-violent style. Popular comics writer Ed Brubaker (Criminal, Daredevil) penned the screenplay, which John Hyams called “the follow up movie I’ve been waiting for.” Considering Hyams’ previous output, one can easily imagine that this Maniac Cop reboot will be less of a B-Movie guilty pleasure and more of a jaw-dropping, mind-altering splice of action and horror.

Updates: At last, after nearly two years of gestation, John Hyams’ remake of Maniac Cop has been greenlit, and will shoot this summer in Los Angeles. The remake is described as a contemporary and realistic action thriller rather than a pure horror film. Stay tuned for casting news!

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Deal on Fire! Assassination | Blu-ray | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

Assassination | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Assassination | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Assassination (read our review), directed by Choi Dong-hun (The Thieves).

A group of rebels are planning a hit on an Army Leader in Japanese-occupied Korea, but the only killer for the job is in prison. Now, the Resistance must devise a jailbreak, escape a hitman… and discover which of them is a traitor.

The film stars Jun Ji-Hyun (My Sassy Girl), Lee Jung-Jae (Il Mare), Oh Dal-su (Old Boy), Ha Jung-Woo (Yellow Sea), Cho Jin-woong (Spirit of JKD) and Lee Kyoung-young (A Better Tomorrow).

Order Assassination from Amazon.com today!

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Crazy, all-star actioner ‘Diamond Cartel’ finally gets released

"Diamond Cartel" Theatrical Poster

“Diamond Cartel” Theatrical Poster

Salamat Mukhammed-Ali’s The Whole World at Our Feet, a Kazakhstan-produced action film, will finally be released later this year by Cleopatra Entertainment under the new title, Diamond Cartel (via Deadline).

The film stars Armand Assante (Judge Dredd), Bolo Yeung (Clones of Bruce Lee), Don “The Dragon” Wilson (The Martial Arts Kid), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Tekken 2), Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister (Jackie Brown), Micheal Madsen (Kill Bill Vol. 2) and Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia), in his last on-screen performance.

Not much is known of the plot, but judging from what we’ve seen, it looks like a whole lotta fun with its off-the-wall, ultra-violent Mad Max/Machete-style approach.

For whatever reason, Diamond Cartel had one heck of a time getting its feet off the ground, considering production started back in 2011, only to be completed in 2013, followed by some marketing that teased a 2015 release date.

Updates: The film will finally be in theaters starting March 24th from Cleopatra Entertainment. It will be released exclusively with Arena Cinelounge, who will be running the film at all its Hollywood and Santa Monica locations during the engagement. The VOD rollout will commence on April 4th, followed by the June 13th Blu-ray/DVD release.

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Sea Fog | aka Haemoo (2014) Review

"Sea Fog" Theatrical Poster

“Sea Fog” Theatrical Poster

Director: Shim Sung-Bo
Writer: Shim Sung-Bo, Bong Joon-Ho
Cast: Kim Yun-Seok, Park Yoo-Chun, Han Ye-Ri, Lee Hee-Joon, Moon Sung-Geun, Kim Sang-Ho, Yoo Seung-Mok
Running Time: 111 min.

By Kyle Warner

I think Memories of Murder deserves to be in the conversation of the finest films ever made. Dark, thrilling, funny, and almost poetic, it’s the movie that made me a fan of director/co-writer Bong Joon-ho, who did not disappoint when he followed up that masterwork with other great titles like The Host, Snowpiercer, and Mother. But one of the voices behind the making of Memories of Murder that never got the same level of acclaim that Bong did was co-writer Shim Sung-bo. Since Memories of Murder, Shim has directed a couple of short films, but has largely remained an unknown to most viewers. Now, with his feature directorial debut Sea Fog (aka Haemoo), Shim steps up and presents himself as one of the most promising new directors in Korean cinema. And, like that modern classic Memories of Murder, Shim shared the writer’s room with the great Bong Joon-ho to help bring the dark story to life.

Sea Fog is a story of desperation. The characters are desperate to make a living, desperate to escape hardship, desperate to evade the law, desperate to survive. It’s downbeat, has the heart of pitch black film noir, and takes you in directions you wouldn’t expect.

The fishermen of the boat Jeonji aren’t catching much these days. Captain Kang (Kim Yun-seok) has a wife who is cheating on him, his rusty boat is now owned by the bank, and he has to beg the boss for money to pay his crew. Without so much as consulting his crew, Kang agrees to use the boat to pick up illegal immigrants coming out of China and smuggle them back into South Korea. What begins simple enough takes a turn when the illegals challenge the sailors, who are obviously out of their depth.

When a horrible accident occurs, the fishermen try their best to cover things up for fear of facing jail time. It’s then that things shift from a dark (sometimes politically charged) drama to a thriller, as already desperate men lose their humanity and inch closer to madness. Captain Kang, who had once seemed like a sympathetic figure, becomes merciless and cold. Some of his crew, now reduced to their base nature, obsess over money or the women among the illegal immigrants. Only one crewman, Dong-sik (Park Yoo-chun) remains largely himself throughout the ordeal. Even so, the young Dong-sik must decide how far is to go in order to survive the increasingly desperate scenario.

Sea Fog is based on a stage play, which itself was inspired by a sad true story. Like many stage play adaptations, Sea Fog has one primary set. But unlike many stage play adaptations, we never really take notice of the limited sets and locations. The boat is big and it’s surrounded by that cold, black ocean. Filmed beautifully by cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo (The Wailing), Sea Fog plays bigger than its surroundings might suggest. When the fog rolls in, strange colors shine through the mist, giving the film the surreal appearance of a film noir nightmare.

The cast is largely excellent. Kim Yun-seok (The Chaser) has made a career of playing anti-heroes and likeable villains, and Captain Kang fits somehow into both categories. It’s an intimidating performance, made all the better by the fact that Kim saves the major outbursts for the finale. Perhaps most impressive is Park Yoo-chun (Sungkyunkwan Scandal) as the innocent and inexperienced Dong-sik. Han Ye-ri (Commitment) is very good as the film’s central Korean-Chinese immigrant, giving her character enough individuality so that she is not just a damsel. And character actor Mun Seong-kun (Green Fish) is memorable in one of the film’s most showy roles, that of the boat’s old-timer engineer who starts losing his mind when the worst happens.

If the script lacks subtlety in the final act, then at least you can say that it might endear itself more to thriller/horror fans that’ve come to expect a certain level of the extreme from Korean genre movies.  I did not mind this shift in tone to a bloodier, high-pitched thriller. I do have to question the ending, however. Sea Fog ends with an extended epilogue, which felt unneeded especially after what would’ve been an excellent final shot.

A film with dark moral dilemmas and increasingly raised stakes, Sea Fog is the sort of movie that’s almost impossible to look away from. It also unfolds in an unexpected way, taking you on strange detours from the storyline that you were probably expecting. It’s an excellent thriller for fans of co-writer Bong Joon-ho, who explores more of the theme of class warfare seen earlier in Snowpiercer. For writer/director Shim, Sea Fog is one hell of a feature debut, and is hopefully a hint of more good things to come.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 8/10

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Lionsgate is bringing a ‘Black Samurai’ to the big screen

"Black Samurai" Theatrical Poster

“Black Samurai” Theatrical Poster

Richard Chamberlain (Shogun) and Tom Cruise (The Last Samurai), move over… Lionsgate has just enlisted Gregory Widen (creator/writer of 1986’s Highlander, director of 1995’s The Prophecy) to pen Black Samurai, a historical action film that will revolve around a real-life samurai of African origin.

According to Deadline: Yasuke lived in the mid-1500s, and history on his origins and exactly how he came to become a sword for a warlord named Oda Nobunaga is a bit fuzzy. Widen said what is known is that he was the only known African to reach that rank in feudal Japan, and it is a strong point of entry for a period action film that can build a compelling action narrative around history.

Obviously, Black Samurai is not connected to the Marc Olden book series or Jim Kelly film of the same name (in fact, a series related to Olden’s book, starring Common, is also currently in development) but misleading as it is, we couldn’t help but use its poster/trailer for this article. Besides, we’re all about promoting the classics.

Considering Black Samurai is in script-stage, there are currently no directors or stars attached, but we’ll keep you in the loop as we hear more.

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Catch Scott Adkins in ‘American Assassin’ if you can…

"Green Street Hooligans: Underground" Japanese DVD Cover

“Green Street Hooligans: Underground” Japanese DVD Cover

On September 15th, Lionsgate will be releasing American Assassin into the theaters. This upcoming action thriller is directed by Michael Cuesta (Kill the Messenger) and based on a series of novels by the late Vince Flynn.

The film stars Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner) as a special agent who carries out covert counter-terrorist operations. Co-starring is Michael Keaton (Jackie Brown), who plays Stan Hurley, Rapp’s instructor/mentor.

According to Deadline, the pair are enlisted by CIA Deputy Director (Sanaa Lathan) to investigate a wave of random attacks on military and civilian targets. Together the three discover a pattern in the violence leading them to a joint mission with a Turkish agent (Shiva Negar) to stop an operative (Taylor Kitsch) intent on starting a world war in the Middle East.

The most notable star, at least to City on Fire visitors, is the inclusion of martial arts sensation Scott Adkins (Eliminators, Hard Target 2) who is once again working with his Criminal co-star, Keaton. But as with his role in Criminal, don’t expect to see him get an ample amount of screen time, because we’re thinking his role is more of an “appearance” (hope we’re wrong).

Be sure to read about Adkins’ other looming projects, such as Altar RockAccident Man, Savage Dog, and of course, the highly-anticpated Boyka: Undisputed IV. Adkins is currently gearing up for Triple Threat, where he’ll be sharing the screen with Tony Jaa (Skin Trade), Tiger Chen (Man of Tai Chi), Iko Uwais (The Raid 2), Michael Jai White (Falcon Rising) and UFC Champ Michael Bisping (xXx: Return of Xander Cage).

As for American Assassin, we expect a Trailer soon. Until then, check out a still from the film below:

assassinAdkins

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First photos from Ding Sheng’s ‘A Better Tomorrow 4’

"A Better Tomorrow" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“A Better Tomorrow” Japanese Theatrical Poster

If Song Hae-Seong’s 2010 Korean remake of A Better Tomorrow didn’t quite do it for you, then get ready for a couple more variations of John Woo’s 1986 seminal gangster classic. That’s right, a couple of ’em.

Two A Better Tomorrow remakes are in the works: One with Stephen Fung (who is also working on a Once a Thief remake) directing; the other with Ding Sheng (Little Big Soldier) directing. Sheng’s version – curiously titled A Better Tomorrow 4 – already has a teaser poster.

Sheng’s movie, which is currently filming, stars Darren Wang (Railroad Tigers), Ma Tianyu (Surprise) and Wang Kai (Railroad Tigers), who will be playing Mark “Gor” Lee (the character made famous by Chow Yun-fat in the original).

Updates: Check out some new photos of Darren Wang, Ma Tianyu and Wang Kai from  A Better Tomorrow 4 below (via AFS):

ABT4

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The best one-sheet yet for Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien: Covenant’

"Alien: Covenant" Teaser Poster

“Alien: Covenant” Teaser Poster

Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created in Alien with Alien: Covenant, the second chapter in a prequel trilogy that began with Prometheus — and connects directly to Scott’s 1979 seminal work of science fiction.

Before it was known as Alien: Covenant, the movie went through a few titles, including Paradise, Alien: Paradise Lost and the obvious, Prometheus II.

Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, the crew of the colony ship Covenant discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world — whose sole inhabitant is the “synthetic” David (Michael Fassbender), survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition.

Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace are the only cast members returning from Prometheus. They’ll be joined by some new characters, including Katherine Waterston (Steve Jobs), James Franco (127 Hours), Danny McBride (Eastbound and Down), Demian Bichir (The Hateful 8), Billy Crudup (Spotlight), Guy Pearce (Memento), Amy Seimetz (Upstream Color), Jussie Smollet (Empire), Carmen Ejogo (Selma) and Callie Hernandez (La La Land).

It should also be noted that director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) ultimately decided put his Alien sequel on hold in an effort to avoid confusion with Alien: Covenant. Blomkamp’s sequel would serve as a direct continuation to 1986’s Aliens, but would ignore all other subsequent Alien films. | Watch the Trailer. | 5-Minute Prologue. | 2nd Trailer.

Alien: Covenant hits theaters on May 19th, 2017.

Updates: Check out the film’s newest Teaser Poster.

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‘Die Hard 2’ helmer goes wuxia with an ‘Ancient Sword’

"Legend of the Ancient Sword" Teaser Poster

“Legend of the Ancient Sword” Teaser Poster

Renny Harlin, the Hollywood filmmaker known for Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight and most recently, Jackie Chan’s Skiptrace, is currently in post-production phase on Legend of the Ancient Sword, an adaptation of Gu Jian Qi Tan, a hit Chinese role-playing game.

According to THR: The Chinese film stars Wang Lee Hom (Little Big Soldier) as Yue, a young student of “Yanjia,” a lost martial arts form. Yue sets out to find Yanjia’s greatest master, and along the way he meets Wen (Victoria Song), Xia (Godfrey Gao) and Ah (Karena Ng). Together they team up to prevent a disaster from befalling the world.

Legend of the Ancient Sword is due in theaters later in 2017/early 2018. Until then, check out some images from the film below (via AFS):

renny

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