New Trailer for the 80s-inspired martial arts flick ‘Plan B’

"Plan B" Theatrical Poster

“Plan B” Theatrical Poster

Grab your red “Thriller” jacket and get ready for Plan B, an upcoming martial arts flick fused with comedy and nostalgic pop culture. The film’s cast and crew consists of stuntmen and martial artists from the German film crew, Reel Deal Action.

In Plan B, three martial arts experts (Can Aydin, Cha-Lee Yoon and Phong Giang) embark upon a search for a treasure that will allow them to save a friend from the clutches of a scrupulous gangster. They will soon find themselves immersed in a complex conspiracy that’s aimed at putting an end to the boss of Berlin’s underworld. A bash ‘em up comedy that pays tribute to the eighties and nineties American action flicks.

Plan B is directed by Ufuk Genc and Michael Popescu, and written by Rafael Alberto Garciolo. The film also stars U-Gin Boateng, Henry Meyer, Julia Dietze, Florian Kleine, Laurent Daniels, Gedeon Burkhardt, K1 fighter Aristote Luis and Heidi Moneymaker.

20th Century Fox is releasing the film in Germany on June 8th. A North American release date is still pending. Until then, check out the film’s Trailer below (via FCS):

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Deal on Fire! Ip Man: The Final Fight | Blu-ray | Only $6.98 – Expires soon!

Ip Man: The Final Fight | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Ip Man: The Final Fight | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Herman Yau’s Ip Man: The Final Fight starring Anthony Wong (White Vengeance).

In postwar Hong Kong, legendary Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man (Wong) is reluctantly called into action once more. What began as simple challenges from rival kung fu schools soon finds him drawn into the dark and dangerous underworld of the Triads. Now, to defend life and honor, Ip Man has no choice but to fight – one last time.

The film also stars Eric Tsang (Jian Bing Man), Gillian Chung (Twins Effect), Jordan Chan (Trivisa), Anita Yuen (Thunderbolt), Dennis To (Zombie 108) and Hung Yan Yan (Double Team).

Order Ip Man: The Final Fight from Amazon.com today!

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Games for Judge Dredd and more could be on the horizon

"2000 AD" Judge Dredd Cover

“2000 AD” Judge Dredd Cover

Judge Dredd emains one of the most perennially underrated action heroes in comic books, particularly when it comes to the United States. The “street judge” is one of the most hard-boiled characters in the world of British comics but has never quite found the recognition he deserves. But thanks to some potential new developments from the character’s parent company, we might be seeing a lot more of him in the near future.

It seemed like things might be changing for the better with the 2012 film, Dredd. The action-packed bullet-fest felt like a comic-book version of Gareth Evans’ 2011 masterpiece, The Raid: Redemption but failed to make an impact at the box office. It was a shame because Dredd has gone on to become something of a cult favorite. Fans have long been clamoring for a potential sequel, but until recently it seemed as though any hopes were dead in the water. That all changed when Rebellion Developments (the owners of the character) hinted strongly toward an announcement later this year for what could be a streaming TV series.

Rebellion, which typically specializes in video games, bought 2000 AD comics back in 2000 and have since worked to develop its cast of characters into a number of games. The company is perhaps best known for the Sniper Elite series and has been receiving a fair amount of praise for the latest game, Sniper Elite 4. Of course, all the time spent on Sniper Elite hasn’t left much for anything else. This is a large reason for the dearth of Judge Dredd games lately.

One of the few games based on the character that you’ve been able to find in the past several years has been a browser-based title that brought the dystopia of Mega-City One to life as the backdrop for an online slot reel. The Judge Dredd game is one of many casino titles licensing popular characters and franchises that are available at a variety of platforms on the web. What these games often lack in gameplay they tend to make up for by bringing the sights and sounds of some of the most popular properties to the slots. Still, it’s a far cry from the kind of hard-hitting action title that fans have been looking for.

Thankfully, that all might be changing soon also. Rebellion is opening up Dredd and the rest of the 2000AD stable to other developers for licensing purposes and that could mean a whole lot more Dredd games. In addition to Judge Dredd this could also potentially lead to games based on other properties like Strontium Dog, The Helltrekkers, and more.

With hints of a big announcement for a new Judge Dredd project on the horizon and the news that more people will be able to work with 2000 AD, it could be a great time for some post-apocalyptic sci-fi. Now we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that developers will make the most of the opportunity.

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Handmaiden, The (2016) Review

The Handmaiden | DVD (Sony)

The Handmaiden | DVD (Sony)

Director: Park Chan-wook
Novel By: Sarah Waters
Writer: Park Chan-wook, Chung Seo-kyung
Cast: Kim Min-hee, Ha Jung-woo, Cho Jin-woong, Kim Tae-ri, Lee Yong-Nyeo, Yoo Min-Chae, Rina Takagi
Running Time: 144 min.

By Kyle Warner

After making his English language debut in 2013 with Stoker, Park Chan-wook returned to South Korea for his next feature film, The Handmaiden. And while obviously a Park Chan-wook film, I feel that The Handmaiden has more of a western-style than Stoker did. Stoker was Park bringing his Korean dark revenge thriller sensibilities to the west. The Handmaiden is based on a Sarah Waters’ British novel, Fingersmith, and though Park transplants the story to 1930’s Korea and gives it his own particular style, the western storytelling is always there, making this an interesting addition to Park’s filmography.

Set in Japan-occupied Korea, The Handmaiden follows the con artist Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) as she seeks to slip into the life and home of the reclusive Japanese heiress Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) with aims to claim her vast fortune. Sook-hee will be Lady Hideko’s new handmaiden and closest confidant. Lady Hideko is a hopelessly naïve young woman who’s set to marry her intimidating Uncle Kouzuki (Jo Jin-woong), who she shares her estate with. Sook-hee’s intention is to entice Lady Hideko to marry her conman comrade (Ha Jung-woo) who is posing as the well-to-do Count Fujiwara. However, though Sook-hee pushes Lady Hideko towards the count, it’s the two women who begin an attraction to one another, further complicating the plan to steal Hideko’s millions.

The Handmaiden is closer to a ‘book club’ sort of drama than any Park film that came before it, but that’s not to say that it’s lacking in chills, thrills, or a healthy dose of weirdness. The film works on a three act structure. Part 1 tells us Sook-hee’s story and we see the film from her point of view. After a shocking twist, Part 2 presents us with Lady Hideko’s story told from her point of view. Part 3 takes what we learned so far and throws it together with an extra dash of wickedness. It’s a sly film, one that keeps its secrets close, and I will divulge as little as possible in my review.

The source novel was made into a BBC miniseries in 2005 starring Sally Hawkins as the handmaiden character. And though I’ve never seen the miniseries (nor have I read the book), I’m willing to bet Park’s film is the more, ahem, mature adaptation. The Handmaiden is a sexy film. The film’s cinematography is gorgeous, the actresses are beautiful, and Park does not shy away from the lesbian sex. I feel tempted to call the film tasteful in its depiction of such scenes because, while obviously explicit, it does not feel exploitational. But the film does have a bit of a pervy streak to it.

At her uncle’s behest, Lady Hideko reads rare, literary pornography for a small gathering of upper-class gentlemen. Lady Hideko’s readings are more like performances. She acts out certain sections of the books with exaggerated performances and even saddles a wooden puppet at one point. It serves a point in the story, showing both the uncle’s perversions and Hideko’s comfort with sex and her power over men. But it’s more than just a subplot for the film. As the gentlemen watch, enthralled by tales of lust and domination, they inch to the edges of their seats in excitement. One man puts a hat over his crotch. Another keeps dabbing the sweat off his brow. The camera does not judge them harshly; it leaves the judgment to the audience. What’s interesting is that the men in the film’s audience (myself included) find themselves in a similar situation while watching the lurid love story. There is no camera to judge us, but one can sense what Park was trying to do. Among many other things, The Handmaiden is a film about voyeur thrills, and we filmgoers are counted among those who vicariously get their kicks through observing feminine sexuality.

The cast is excellent. Kim Min-hee (No Tears for the Dead) has the most complex character and her performance is nothing short of amazing. Newcomer Kim Tae-ri is also excellent, here playing the role which the audience must relate to in order to navigate the world of the film. As Count Fujiwara, Ha Jung-woo (The Yellow Sea) is really good because, like the egotistical Count himself, you believe he’s the smartest character in the room right up until the film throws a twist our way. And as Uncle Kouzuki, Jo Jin-Woong (The Admiral) is that disquieting blend of elitism and sleaze.

The Handmaiden may be a different, more mannered film for bad boy Park Chan-wook, but I take that as a good thing. The film shows the director trying new things, taking risks, and yet managing to maintain his own particular style in the process. By the end, it is impossible to imagine the film being made by anybody else. The Handmaiden is a triple layer labyrinth of sex, secrets, and lies that I consider to be one of the best films of 2016.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 8.5/10

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Steven Seagal is back with a 3-word titled film ‘Paid on Death’

"Contract to Kill" Japanese DVD Cover

“Contract to Kill” Japanese DVD Cover

A fresh Steven Seagal (Above the Law, Contract to Kill) project, titled Paid on Death, has popped up on the radar. This upcoming actioner will team Seagal with director Shawn Sourgose (Blood of Redemption) and producer Kevin Carraway (Chain of Command).

Here’s what you can expect from the plot (via TE): A man known by his alias, ‘Assassin,’ (we’re guessing Seagal) works as a hired killer for the U.S. government, terminating individuals deemed too dangerous for society. When he becomes a target, he must discover who placed a hit on him before it’s too late…

Paid on Death is most likely in early stages of pre-production, so we expect to hear more about it later this year – but honestly – judging from the track record of Seagal films listed as “in development,” we wouldn’t be surprised if this one becomes vaporware (i.e. Cypher).

With that said, Seagal films “in the works/in talks” include China Salesman, Gunfighter, Deadly Arsenal, Four Towers, Under Siege 3, Above the Law 2, and of course, Seagal’s return to directing, Attrition.

In the meantime, enjoy this classic Trailer from 1991’s Out for Justice:

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Warner Bros. wants Mel Gibson to direct ‘Suicide Squad 2’

"Suicide Squad" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Suicide Squad” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Here’s one nobody saw coming. Mel Gibson is in talks with Warner Bros. to direct a sequel to David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. According to THR, Gibson is familiarizing himself with the material. But the studio is not being passive and is also looking at other directors, Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) among them.

Ironically, Gibson has been vocally against doing these types of films. While promoting Hacksaw Ridge, Gibson spoke to The Washington Post about the type of action in current blockbuster films, especially in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, saying they were “violence without conscience.”

Gibson added the following about Batman V Superman: “I look at them and scratch my head. I’m really baffled by it. I think there’s a lot of waste but maybe if I did one of those things with the green screens I’d find out different. I don’t know. Maybe they do cost that much. I don’t know. It seems to me that you could do it for less. If you’re spending outrageous amounts of money, $180 million or more, I don’t know how you make it back after the taxman gets you, and after you give half to the exhibitors… What did they spend on ‘Batman V Superman’ that they’re admitting to? And it’s a piece of sh*t.” (via CB)

But hey, everyone has the right to change their mind, right? Whatever Gibson decides, Warner courting him for a blockbuster film like Suicide Squad 2 is proof that he is no longer blacklisted in mainstream Hollywood, probably thanks to Hacksaw Ridge receiving numerous awards and nominations, including six Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards. Welcome back Mr. Gibson.

We’ll keep you updated on this story as we learn more.

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Returning cast members announced for ‘Detective Dee 3’

"Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon” Chinese Theatrical Poster

A 3rd film in the Detective Dee series, tentatively titled Detective Dee and the Four Kings, has been announced by the Huayi Brothers film company (Chinese Zodiac, Mojin: The Lost Legend).

Tsui Hark (The Raid) will once again direct. There’s currently no information on whether Detective Dee and the Four Kings will be a sequel to the 2010 Andy Lau film (Detective Dee & the Mystery of the Phantom Flame); or if it will be a follow up to 2013’s Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon, which starred Mark Chao.

Since Kenny Lin (Rise of the Sea Dragon) is the only confirmed returning actor so far, a “sequel” to the latter is our best bet. Of course, there is still the possibility of a time paradox-infused script, featuring both incarnations, according to a 2014 interview with Hark.

Detective Dee and the Four Kings is schedules to shoot in 2017.

Updates: In addition to Lin, AFS reports that Mark Chao, William Feng and Carina Lau will return for Detective Dee and the Four Kings.

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Violent Prosecutor, A (2016) Review

"A Violent Prosecutor" Korean Theatrical Poster

“A Violent Prosecutor” Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Lee Il-hyeong
Writer: Lee Il-hyeong
Cast: Hwang Jung-Min, Gang Dong-Won, Lee Sung-Min, Park Sung-Woong, Kim Eung-Soo, Joo Jin-Mo, Kim Won-Hae, Jeon Bae-Su, Shin So-Yul, Park Jong-Hwan, Kim Hong-Fa, Lee Suk-Joon, Kim Byung-Ok, Park Ji-Hwan
Running Time: 126 min.

By Paul Bramhall

More than any other film industry in the world, it’s the Korean one that arguably reflects its countries current tumultuous state. 2016 delivered a president that’s pending impeachment, shady religious figures exerting their influence from behind closed doors, and the upper ranks of companies such as Samsung being investigated for corruption. Understandably, public trust for those in authority is at an all-time low. The current social climate has seen a slew recent titles take aim at those in power, productions that have used such subject matter as an outlet for cinema going audiences to see their frustrations vented onscreen. From political thrillers like Inside Men and Master, to disaster flicks such as Tunnel, to social commentary disguised as a zombie movie with Train to Busan. All of them paint an ugly picture of those in positions of authority.

The theme continues with A Violent Prosecutor, the directorial debut of Lee Il-hyeong, who’s also working from his own script. While it may be his first time going solo in the director’s chair, Il-hyeong is no stranger to working in the field, having served as an assistant director on the likes of 2007’s The Moonlight of Seoul, and 2014’s Kundo: Age of the Rampant. The shoes of the violent prosecutor in question are filled by Hwang Jeong-min, who has steadily worked his way up to be one of Korea’s A-list stars. To some degree I feel that Jeong-min has almost been over-exposed, as in 2014 – 2016 alone he’s headlined 6 movies. From the ridiculously sappy Ode to My Father, through to the energetic action flick Veteran, he’s an actor who rarely puts in a bad performance, although he could perhaps pace himself a little better.

For those not paying attention, many could likely mistake A Violent Prosecutor as a thematic sequel to Veteran, à la the Public Enemy series. Jeong-min plays a veteran prosecutor who always gets the bad guys, even if it involves occasionally having to beat seven bells out of them, but his intentions are good. Basically, the same character as Veteran, but a prosecutor in court instead of a detective on the streets. Thankfully the similarities stop there, with his violent streak being brought to an abrupt end, when a suspect being kept in his custody is found dead the next morning. With his reputation for dishing out beatings, and the suspect being unsupervised at the time, Jeong-min finds himself being made an example of, and is handed a 15-year sentence for murder.

Of course, something fishy is afoot. The suspect had a serious case of asthma, although an inhaler was never retrieved as evidence, and although Jeong-min’s boss (who has aspirations of moving into politics) asks him to plead guilty with the promise of an early release, once the verdict is announced he’s left high and dry. From here on in, the title could be more suitably switched to The Heavily Beaten Ex-Prosecutor, as he gets regularly brutalized by those inmates he was responsible for sending to prison in the first place. However Il-hyeong has clearly watched The Shawshank Redemption, and after an overheard discussion that has one of the prison officers mentioning their legal trouble, soon Jeong-min has himself positioned as the go-to guy for legal advice.

It’s an interesting switch, as the script does an about turn on the titles implication of A Violent Prosecutor, and instead sees Jeong-min resort to his brains in order to make his seemingly inescapable predicament tolerable. Skip forward 5 years, and we’re introduced to a new inmate played by Gang Dong-won (who’s worked together with Il-hyeong before, as the villain in Kundo: Age of the Rampant, and started off 2016 with a role in The Priests). It’s when Jeong-min overhears Dong-won regurgitate word for word the same ecological spiel that the dead suspect had told him 5 years before, that his infamous temper is reignited once more, and he embarks on a mission to prove his innocence from behind bars.

Dong-won’s appearance is a welcome one, having been briefly glimpsed taking selfies as a disguised activist in one of the initial scenes, his supposedly Pennsylvania educated conman steers the movie into prison buddy comedy flick territory (that notably the productions marketing material sold it as). It may seem like a jarring shift after the poker faced opening 30 minutes, but the transition is handled well, with Dong-won’s frequently outlandish outbursts in accented English delivering the desired laughs, regardless of how cheap they may be. Il-hyeong’s script also makes the wise decision of switching the focus to Dong-won, whose character feels like a breath of fresh air compared to Jeong-min’s archetypal Korean tough guy. With an almost effeminate air of confidence, even from behind bars he continues to swindle the clueless rich girls who come to visit him, targeted due to none of them being the brightest tools in the box.

The unlikely pairing of a framed prosecutor and an unrepentant swindler is a winning one, and Jeong-min and Dong-won have a likeable chemistry together, one which carries the movie along at a brisk pace. When Jeong-min figures out he can easily get Dong-won released thanks to a legal loophole, the agreement is made that Dong-won will essentially act as Jeong-min’s avatar on the outside, gathering enough evidence to prove that he was setup. In case it isn’t clear already, A Violent Prosecutor covers a lot of ground, both with its plot but also with its genres. From crime thriller, to buddy comedy, to by the time Dong-won is wining and dining with Seoul’s elite as a lawyer in disguise, it almost feels like we could be watching a caper flick by The Thieves director Choi Dong-hoon.

Thankfully, it all works, with the structural setup deriving a sense of underlying tension thanks to the interaction between the pair. Jeong-min may have everything planned out in his head, but in the hands of someone that’s a compulsive liar, the margin for things to go wrong is a wide one. Of course, said margin is what results in the tension being cranked up to suitably high levels of danger in the 2nd half of A Violent Prosecutor, as the bigger the lie Dong-won has to tell the higher the stakes become. Like any Korean movie that covers this genre ground, the comedic proceedings are sometime offset by sudden outbursts of violence, and Il-hyeong shows that he’s not one to break the trend. In one particular scene a character gets hit across the face with a steel kettle which has just boiled, and in another a character is beaten within an inch of his life. If there’s one thing that Korean’s know how to do well, its violence.

However the constant swaying from extreme violence to comedic hijinks is certainly not something that’s new to Asian cinema, as anyone who’s seen a Sammo Hung movie from the 70’s or 80’s can attest to, but somehow A Violent Prosecutor finds the right balance. Korea has certainly come a long way since the likes of similar productions which attempted to balance violence and comedy, such as 2001’s My Wife is a Gangster, which saw such scenes as a cat being given mouth to mouth resuscitation next to a female being repeatedly kicked in the chest. While such setups left a bad taste in the mouth, the violence here is integrated into the story, serving to move it along, and as a result in never feels as jarring as it perhaps does when being described on paper.

While A Violent Prosecutor certainly doesn’t break any new ground, it succeeds largely in part to both Jeong-min and Dong-won’s pairing, and the genre hopping nature that the plot steers us through. By the time proceedings round off in the form of a courtroom drama, it’s easy to forget that Jeong-min and Dong-won have in fact spent most of the movie apart. With a brisk pace and a welcome sense of humour, Il-hyeong certainly doesn’t feel like a first time director. Whether that’s largely down to the winning chemistry between its leads, or indicative of a new talent that’ll be worth keeping an eye on, time will tell. But for now, I’d like to say it’s both, and for fans of Korean cinema A Violent Prosecutor delivers the expected high production values backed up by an engaging plot and characters. My only hope is that we get slightly more breathing space before the next Hwang Jeong-min flick comes along.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

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Lau Ching Wan is a gangster gone good in ‘The Fixer’

"The Fixer" Teaser Poster

“The Fixer” Teaser Poster

Famed Hong Kong star Lau Ching Wan (Call of Heroes) looks to be getting back to the gritty, grimy world of gangsterism in The Fixer (aka Dealer/Healer), an upcoming film from director Lawrence Lau (My Name is Fame).

AFS describes the The Fixer as a true-crime drama about a Hong Kong gangster gone good. We cannot help but think of Lau’s Too Many Ways to Be Number One, or any of his other Milkyway titles made in the era were Lau was at his best.

The Fixer also stars Louis Koo (League of Gods), Max Zhang (Ip Man 3), Jiang Yiyan (Sword Master), Gordon Lam (Trivisa) and Patrick Tam (As the Light Goes Out).

Updates: Watch the film’s Trailer (via Alejandro Torres) below:

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Mark Dacascos brings ‘Ultimate Justice’ for all…

"Ultimate Justice" Theatrical Poster

“Ultimate Justice” Theatrical Poster

Martial arts star Mark Dacascos (Drive, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Only the Brave) is back in action with a new thriller titled Ultimate Justice. The upcoming film will be backed by Mike Leeder’s Silent Partners, the production company also responsible for the recent One Million K(L)icks.

Ultimate Justice, tells the story of a team of former Special Ops elite soldiers, whose friendship was forged in battle and years after they thought they had lain down their weapons for good, they are drawn back into action when the family of one of their own is threatened, friendships and loyalties are tested, battlelines are drawn, and Ultimate Justice will be served.

Joining Dacascos will be Matthias Hues (No Retreat, No Surrender II), Matthis Landweher (Kampfansage) and Mike Moeller (One Million K(L)icks), who will also be handling the fight choreography. The film also stars Sandra Bertalanffz, Wolfgang Riehm, Wing Tsung Sifu Henry Mueller, Yasmeen Baker, Martin Baden, Brandon Rhea and of course, Mike Leeder (Pound of Flesh) himself.

Updates: According to SD (via Mike Leeder), Vision Films has picked up Ultimate Justice for worldwide sales. The same source adds that a sequel is being planned with Mark Dacascos returning to the lead role. Stay tuned for a solid release date.

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Enter our ‘Cold War 2’ Blu-ray Contest!

Cold War 2 | Blu-ray (Well Go USA)

Cold War 2 | Blu-ray (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Cold War 2 to three lucky City on Fire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, the video below.

We will be selecting a winner at random. Be sure to include your email address in the appropriate field so we can contact you for your home address. Also, please ‘Like Us‘ on Cityonfire.com’s Facebook by clicking here.

Cold War 2 will officially be released on March 7, 2017. We will announce the 3 winners on that date

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by March 6, 2017 to qualify. U.S. residents only please. We sincerely apologize to our non-U.S. visitors. Winners must respond with their mailing address within 48 hours, otherwise you will automatically be disqualified. No exceptions. Contest is subject to change without notice.

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Ley Lines (1999) Review

Black Society Trilogy | Blu-ray & DVD (Arrow Video)

Black Society Trilogy | Blu-ray & DVD (Arrow Video)

Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Ichiro Ryu
Cast: Show Aikawa, Samuel Pop Aning, Takeshi Caesar, Yukie ItouMichisuke Kashiwaya,Kazuki Kitamura, Dan Li, Ryuushi Mizukami, Ren Osugi, Tomorowo Taguchi, Naoto Takenaka, Koji Tsukamoto, Hua Rong Weng
Running Time: 105 min.

By Kyle Warner

Takashi Miike’s Black Society Trilogy kicked off with a lurid and offensive bang in 1995 with Shinjuku Triad Society. He followed that up with Rainy Dog in 1997, a quieter, more reserved crime drama. (That’s not to say that Rainy Dog is a tame film—it is violent and shows no pity for childhood innocence—but compared to the sexual violence and seedy darkness of the first film, Rainy Dog feels almost elegant by comparison.) 1999’s Ley Lines, the final film of the trilogy, is something of a blend of the two previous films. Miike pushes the extremes like he did in Shinjuku Triad Society, but the interest he showed in cinema as an art in Rainy Dog continues to grow.

We enter the film with a hyper stylized glimpse of our main character’s childhood in the country, when he was bullied by Japanese kids for his Chinese heritage. The stylization of this scene—the upper half of the frame is crimson and the lower half is green—returns to the film at a few key points, and serves to signify the almost supernatural bond between our main character Ryuichi (Kazuki Kitamura) and his younger brother Shunrei (Michisuke Kashiwaya) when the one of the two is in distress. Fast forward to the present and Ryuichi is a punk with priors who’s desperately hoping to escape his country town and move to Brazil. That dream is put on hold when he’s denied a passport. So, Ryuichi decides to flee to Tokyo instead, taking with him his dimwitted friend Chang (Tomorowo Taguchi), with little bro Shunrei unexpectedly following close behind.

Once in Tokyo, the rough but naïve Ryuichi ends up getting pickpocketed, so they must work at selling toluene on the streets for a drug dealer (Sho Aikawa). With hope for an official passport dashed, the Chinese trio plans to buy forged passports, which in turn puts them in the sights of another Chinese immigrant, the loan shark with a short fuse Mr. Wong (Naoto Takenaka). All of these competing interests—money, drugs, revenge, and childhood dreams—build slowly before ending up on a collision course in a tense and unpredictable final act.

Until that action-driven finale, Ley Lines is a peculiar character drama with an ensemble cast. There are some things I personally would’ve cut (the Chinese prostitute Anita meeting up with a pervert comes to mind), but nothing necessarily feels out of place in Miike’s film. His vision of Tokyo in Ley Lines is one where outsiders are stepped on, women are used, and the powerful do as they please. Ley Lines goes off the rails at times, ignoring the central plot in order to explore perversions, bizarre character quirks, and minor revelations, but even these strange, side alley deviations serve to enhance the character development.

Ley Lines is a sad film. In the director’s career, and especially in this trilogy, Miike tries to tell the stories of the immigrants and outsiders. Shinjuku Triad Society was about Taiwanese Triads in Japan. Rainy Dog was about a Japanese hitman in Taiwan. And Ley Lines is about Taiwanese youth trying to escape Japan. Miike regular Kazuki Kitamura (Killers) plays the bigger brother Ryuichi as a young man lashing out at all that would hope to confine him. And as younger brother Shunrei, Michisuke Kashiwaya (Kids Return) plays the more innocent of the two, one who doesn’t like how things are but is hesitant to go to the extremes in order to change his plight. Even the villain Wong played by Naoto Takeneka (Tokyo Fist) is a sad character. Though he claims to think that Japan is the land of opportunity, Wong forces women from his hometown of Shanghai to tell him old Chinese folk stories in order to find some kind of peace.

Ley Lines also has a fun (and dark) sense of humor, though. Tomorowo Taguchi, who played the coldblooded villain in Shinjuku Triad Society and a different, wild dog sort of bad guy in Rainy Dog, is nearly unrecognizable as Ryuichi’s goofy buddy Chang. Watch the trilogy and admire the actor’s range. And Rainy Dog’s Sho Aikawa has a fun role as the drug dealer who thinks that he could make the world a better place if everyone had a sample of his toluene.

It’s not important to watch the Black Society Trilogy in order of release, as the films are only connected in theme, but if you do so you can clearly see Miike improve as a filmmaker. Shinjuku Triad Society has rough, poorly lit visuals, and no off switch. Rainy Dog shows Miike exploring more artistic qualities and a more leisured pace. And Ley Lines has Miike coming into his own as a visualist, setting scenes with creative shots or extreme colors.

In addition to Miike’s larger cinematic interest in the outsider and the immigrant, Ley Lines has much in common with one of the director’s other most common reoccurring themes, that of the dangerous youth. Miike has repeatedly told coming of age tales, often doing so with a flair for violence. Ley Lines feels like a not-so distant relative to the director’s other violent youth pics like The Way to Fight, Osaka Tough Guys, Crows Zero, and his two Young Thugs films. Fans of those films may be interested in Ley Lines, and vice versa.

The Black Society Trilogy hits Blu-ray in the US and the UK from the good folks at Arrow Video. The first two films share Disc 1 and the majority of the special features join Ley Lines on Disc 2. New features include commentaries on all three films from Tom Mes, an interview with Sho Aikawa, and a 45 minute interview with Takashi Miike. All the new features are excellent and are recommended for fans looking to learn more about the movies and their stars. Also included is a booklet with essays on the films from Samm Deighan, Tony Rayns, and Stephen Sarrazin. The Black Society Trilogy movies were never the sort of movies that film collectors dreamed of seeing in high definition. But even so, the Blu-rays are a noticeable upgrade over the old DVDs. It’s a really good release, full of nice extra features for fans of the films and Takashi Miike in general.

When I first saw Ley Lines years back, I remember thinking that it was the weakest film of the trilogy. No longer. Now I think it’s second best, ranking below Rainy Dog and a step above Shinjuku Triad Society. It’s an interesting blend of the themes and the attitudes of the first two films. And though occasionally I found it tested my patience, the final 20-30 minutes of Ley Lines are fantastic at playing with your emotions and defying your expectations, so I’m giving it an extra .5 in my rating. Plus: that final shot. I’m still thinking about it. The final shot of Ley Lines remains one of the most memorable images of Takashi Miike’s prolific career.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7.5/10

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A sequel to Jackie Chan’s ‘Kung Fu Yoga’ in the works?

"Kung Fu Yoga" Theatrical Poster

“Kung Fu Yoga” Theatrical Poster

Whether you loved or hated it (read our review), there’s a strong possibility that a sequel to Kung Fu Yoga is on its way. Not only is the film dominating box office charts in China, but Indian film star Sonu Sood (Arundhati), who plays the movie’s lead villain, had this to say (via TTOI):

“I would love to take the venture forward. I remember that I was talking to my director Stanley Tong in China and he was very happy”. “He said, ‘We are planning to have ‘Kung Fu Yoga 2‘. I agreed with him.”

Kung Fu Yoga, which was was recently released by Well Go USA this past January, is noted for reuniting Jackie Chan with Tong (the two created magic in films like Rumble in the Bronx, Police Story 3 and Police Story 4).

In Kung Fu Yoga, Chan plays a world-renowned archaeology professor on a mission to locate the lost ancient Indian treasure of Magadha when they are ambushed by a team of mercenaries and left for dead. The film also stars Lay Zhang (of the K-pop group EXO), Miya Muqi (Tomb Robber), Aarif Rahman (Bruce Lee, My Brother) and and Ileana D’Cruz (Happy Ending).

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Sword Master | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Sword Master | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Sword Master | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: April 11, 2017

Well Go USA’s release for Derek Yee’s (Shinjuku Incident) Sword Master (read our review) is arriving on Digital on March 7th; then on Blu-ray & DVD on April 11th.

The film is a remake of Chor Yuen’s Death Duel, a 1977 Shaw Brothers film that Yee starred in during the height of his acting career.

In this wuxia epic, a swordsman is haunted by the destructive impact his deadly talents have on others. Weary of the bloodshed from the martial arts world, he banishes himself to the humble life a vagrant, wandering the fringes of society. But his violent past refuses to let him go quietly. The swordsman must regain the ability to wield his sword and fight those disrupting the peace he so desperately craves.

As with the original, the remake is an adaptation of Ku Lung’s Third Master’s Sword (literal title). The film is produced by Tsui Hark (Taking of Tiger Mountain) and stars Kenny Lin Geng-Xin (Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon Sea Dragon), Peter Ho Yun-Tung (The Monkey King), Jiang Yi-Yan (The Bullet Vanishes) and Jiang Meng-Jie (Kung Fu Man).

Blu-ray & DVD Bonus Materials:

  • “Mastering the Sword” featurette

Pre-order Sword Master from Amazon.com today!

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

Is ‘VIRTUS’ Louis Koo’s answer to ‘Edge of Tomorrow’?

"VIRTUS" Teaser Poster

“VIRTUS” Teaser Poster

Tom Cruise, eat your heart out! Louis Koo (Accident) is doing the powered exoskeleton thing with VIRTUS (aka Mao Dun Zhan Zheng), an upcoming sci-fi action flick that may possibly be Hong Kong’s answer to all that Halo, Robocop and Edge of Tomorrow stuff.

At one point, Benny Chan (Call of Heroes) was attached to direct, but according to the latest word from AFS, Ng Yuen-Fai – a talent known for his special effects work on films such as Bodyguards and Assassins and The White Storm – is helming VIRTUS. The same source adds that Lau Ching Wan (The Bullet Vanishes) is co-starring.

VIRTUS is set to go into production soon. Until then, check out this 1995 preliminary “teaser” below:

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Deal on Fire! Hero | Blu-ray | Only $5.88 – Expires soon!

"Hero" Blu-ray Cover

“Hero” Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Zhang Yimou’s 2002 wuxia film Hero, which stars Jet Li (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate), Tony Leung (Bullet in the Head), Maggie Cheung (Police Story), Chen Daoming (Infernal Affairs 3), Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Donnie Yen (Special ID).

Hero revolves around a nameless soldier (Li), who embarks on a mission of revenge against the fearsome army that massacred his people. The film features fight choreography by the legendary Tony Ching Siu Tung (Duel to the Death). Be sure to read our reviews for Hero.

Order Hero from Amazon.com today!

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Herman Yau and Andy Lau team up for ‘Shock Wave’

"Shock Wave" Teaser Poster

“Shock Wave” Teaser Poster

Herman Yau (The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake) has yet another project on the horizon: Shock Wave, a $23 million dollar action movie that will pair the director up with Andy Lau (Shanghai 13, Switch).

Lau will play an undercover explosive ordnance disposal bureau officer who becomes the protégé of a criminal specializing in bombs and then tries to capture him.

In addition to starring, Lau will also produce. Here’s what Lau told THR: “The project is very much a Hong Kong-style action thriller, so I decided to produce and star in an important role in the film… previous films like Firestorm are the staple of Hong Kong cinema, belonging to one of the most important genres in our output. I hope to reach new heights with the Hong Kong action genre and the cops-and-robbers genre with this film.”

Updates: In case you missed it, below is the trailer, as well as a New Poster (via AFS):

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‘Scarface’ gets a re-write from The Coen brothers

"Scarface" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Scarface” Japanese Theatrical Poster

It’s been off and on for over 5 years, but Universal is still on a mission to bring back another remake of Scarface, originally conceived by Howard Hawks (Rio Bravo) and reimagined by Brian DePalma (Carrie). This time around, Scarface will revolve around Mexican drug cartels.

Previously, director Antoine Fuqua (The Replacement Killers) was considered for Scarface, but according to Variety, the filmmaker is dropping out and putting his focus on an Equalizer sequel instead. David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water) and Peter Berg (Lone Survivor) are two other names being considered.

Other updates include the involvement of Diego Luna (Star Wars: Rogue One) to star. David Ayer (End of Watch) has been attached as screenwriter, with Paul Attanasio (Donnie Brasco), Jonathan Herman (Straight Outta Compton) and Terence Winter (Vinyl) have added their input to the script, followed by a re-write by The Coen brothers (Fargo).

At one point, Pablo Larraín (Jackie) was rumored as a possible director – and Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street), Sofía Vergara (Machete Kills) and popstar Rihanna (Battleship) were rumored for roles. At this phase of development, anything is possible.

Scarface has a scheduled release date set for August 10, 2018.

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John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) Review

"John Wick: Chapter 2" Korean Theatrical Poster

“John Wick: Chapter 2” Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Chad Stahelski
Writer: Derek Kolstad
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Bridget Moynahan, Lance Reddick, Thomas Sadoski, David Patrick Kelly, Peter Stormare, Franco Nero
Running Time: 122 min.

By Paul Bramhall

As a stuntman, it’s not every day the opportunity comes along to direct the actor who you’ve been doubling for the last 20 years, but that’s exactly what happened to Chad Stahelski, when he took the directorial reigns for the 2014 Keanu Reeves action vehicle John Wick. Stahelski first doubled for Reeves on 1991’s Point Break, and has continued to be his stunt double ever since, featuring in the likes of The Matrix trilogy, The Replacements, and Constantine. The pair have maintained a close working relationship, so when Stahelski founded the 87Eleven Action Design group (along with David Leitch, who co-directed John Wick) after his experience of working under Yuen Woo Ping on The Matrix, Reeves was the obvious choice for the leading man of their directorial debut.

In a market saturated by action movies intent on resorting to how many pixels can be destroyed onscreen, John Wick was a revelation, a lean and mean production that relied on bullets to the head and bones being broken rather than CGI spectacle, with Reeves delivering admirably. It wasn’t without its faults though, the brain numbing repetition of the Marilyn Manson track ‘Killing Strangers’ over an original score, and a rather limp finale, both made it fall short of being a certifiable classic in my opinion. But what it certainly did do, is give audiences an appetite to see more of John Wick, and in 2017, their wish has been granted.

Sequels are always a tricky proposition, and considering the originals wafer thin plot, which revolved around Wick seeking revenge for his murdered (is that the correct phrase?) dog, stretching the story of a retired hitman for a second instalment has plenty of room for error. Should the filmmakers go for (a) the Taken approach – have another one of his pets killed and have him seek revenge, or (b) go the Tom Yum Goong approach, and simply have the gangsters kill the dog he adopted at the end of the original, and recycle exactly the same story. Thankfully both Stahelski (this time minus Leitch) and original writer Derek Kolstad are back on board for Chapter 2, and while the plot is still flimsy, it does its duty perfectly well.

Essentially it can be boiled down to this – it’s revealed that when Wick left the hitman world behind, he did so with the help of mafia boss (played by Italian actor Riccardo Scamarcio), and as per the hitman code of honour, he owes Scamarcio a marker – basically an IOU. What this event was and when it took place is never revealed, however when Scamarcio visits Wick out of the blue to claim his favour, Wick’s stubborn refusal to adhere to the rules quickly sees him in a world of pain. After a visit to the Continental, the hotel from the original which acts as a luxurious refuge for the hitmen of the world, the hotel manager (played by a returning Ian McShane) talks him around. It’s the code of honour after all. So Reeves sees himself on a plane to Rome, on a mission to fulfil his obligation – to assassinate Scamarcio’s sister.

Before we get to any of that though, John Wick: Chapter 2 gets straight down to business in a blistering initial scene, taking place even before the opening credits have rolled. In a sequence that fits in more action than Steven Seagal’s whole post-2000 filmography, Reeves lays waste to an endless stream of attackers in an old warehouse, breaking bones and cracking skulls like they’re going out of fashion. Reeves is beaten, knocked around, hit by a car, thrown out of his own car (which is the purpose of the scene by the way, to retrieve his stolen 1969 Mustang) and generally ends up on the receiving end of impacts that would put the average human in hospital for the rest of the year. But Stahelski uses the scene to put his cards on the table early on, much like the route that The Transporter 2 (successfully) took, Chapter 2 is going to give us super-John Wick. The action is going to be more exaggerated, more bloody, more brutal, and more lengthy. Take it or leave it.

For fans of action of course, this is a dream come true, but there is also an audience out there who won’t appreciate the ramped up action quota. Those same voices that didn’t appreciate Jason Statham having a fight in a free falling plane, probably will be the same ones that don’t appreciate Reeves ability to keep getting back after being beaten half to death. However, my voice is not one of those, and while John Wick: Chapter 2 is definitely more pulpy than its predecessor, it’s arguably the only direction to go in. Writer Kolstad wisely decides to expand on the idea of having a hotel that caters to hitmen, here revealing it to be an international organization with branches across the globe. The hotel even has its tailored-to-the-hitman’s-every-need set of facilities, from a gun showroom (where Reeve’s goes for a “tasting”) to a Kevlar lined suit bespoke tailor service.

When I first watched John Wick I’d noted how it was essentially an early Steven Seagal movie for the post-2010 generation. Just like Out for Justice, it even ended with Reeves taking care of a dog, a sign from above if ever there was one. I maintain that statement for Chapter 2. Here Reeves roams around the globe, but no matter where he goes everyone seems to know his name, such is his reputation for being the baddest ass on the planet. The difference of course is that Reeves has the moves to back up the huge respect the characters he bumps into silently bestow upon him. For the second round Reeves also shows the character to be adept in a variety of languages, happily conversing in both Russian and Italian without batting an eyelid. Maybe Seagal doesn’t bat an eyelid either, but it’s hard to tell behind those orange tinted glasses.

The action itself is a joy to behold, and is choreographed by J.J. Perry, another member of Stahelski’s 87Eleven Action Design group, heavily incorporating the use of Judo and Brazilian Jujitsu. Several action sequences show both influences and nods to other action classics, with one particular scene in the catacombs having Reeves plant guns along the way to use later, clearly referencing Chow Yun Fat’s similar scene in A Better Tomorrow. When the weaponry is called upon to be used, there’s an influence of the Scott Adkins one-man rampage in Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, as Reeves weaves in and out of the cave like structure, rarely taking his finger off the trigger. Perhaps the most recognizable nod of all though is the finale, which takes place in an art installation that includes a hall of mirrors. As Scamarcio taunts Reeves out of sight, the reference to Bruce Lee stalking Shek Kin in Enter the Dragon is a worthy one.

The supporting cast also provide plenty of action talent, with Reeves having two wonderfully protracted fights with rapper turned actor Common (they also notably played enemies in Street Kings), delivering some wince worthy impacts and falls. Current actress-of-the-moment Ruby Rose also gets a one-on-one against Reeves in a hallway, playing a deaf mute bodyguard to Scamarcio. Yes, Ruby Rose is to John Wick: Chapter 2 what Julie Estelle is to The Raid 2, only fails at coming across as either intimidating or dangerous. Away from the action front, Reeves and Laurence Fishburne reunite for the first time since 2003’s The Matrix Revolutions, meeting on a rooftop to share such lines as “So I guess you have a choice”. The nods to The Matrix may be obvious, but they come across as playful rather than cheap like in The Expendables series.  Plus, as the expression goes – when in Rome, cast Franco Nero in an extended cameo.

If there’s any detractor for John Wick: Chapter 2, it’s that Reeves’s acting performance pales in comparison to his action talents. With a remarkable number of his lines relegated to the likes of “yeah” and “sure”, rather than coming across as brooding, he instead feels a little flat. Indeed while we learn a lot about the world John Wick lives in, we don’t actually learn anything new about the character himself. He still watches videos of his wife via his phone and looks sad, and still treats his dog better than anyone else he meets. It would have been nice to add some additional characterisation, but as it is Reeves delivers a performance which mainly feels like filler to bring us to the next action scene. In this case, the action is so good that the wait is always well rewarded, however I do wonder how much it will stand up to re-watches. Minor gripes aside, there’s no doubt Reeves will get to announce “I’m back” for a third instalment, and when it hits, I’ll be there.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7.5/10

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Well Go USA catches Donnie Yen’s ‘Chasing the Dragon’

"Chasing the Dragon" Promotional Poster

“Chasing the Dragon” Promotional Poster

The public will soon see Donnie Yen (Ip Man 3) play real-life gangster Ng Sek-ho (aka Crippled Ho) in Chasing the Dragon (aka King of Drug Dealers), a remake of the 1991 Hong Kong gangster movie To Be Number One. The film will be released in North America by Well Go USA.

Deadline reports that Yen will play an immigrant in Hong Kong who is caught in the underground world of corrupt cops and ruthless drug dealers, and he becomes determined to become the sole dictator in the drug empire.

Chasing the Dragon also stars Andy Lau (Switch, Shanghai 13), Philip Ng (Zombie Fight Club), Michelle Hu (Once Upon a Time in Shanghai), Kent Cheng (Run and Kill) and Philip Keung (Full Strike).

Wong Jing (Mercenaries from Hong Kong) co-directs Chasing the Dragon, along with renowned cinematographer Jason Kwan (As the Light Goes Out, Helios).

According to a reliable source (via Toby Wong from Hong Kong), “Chasing the Dragon is a purely dramatic role for the cast, so don’t expect Donnie Yen to do the martial arts he’s known for. Instead, expect hack and slash action. Donnie is rough housing it. Remember, it’s a triad drama, not Ip Man 3. Don’t worry, action fans will still be happy!”

One of the first set photos (another set) to show Andy Lau and Donnie Yen in 70s fashion has emerged. Also, we have learned from Mike Leeder that the Kowloon Walled City, which was completely demolished in 1994, is being rebuilt for the film.

We’ll keep you updated on this film as we learn more. Stay tuned!

Posted in News | 4 Comments
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