Exclusive: Interview with Loren Avedon

If you were in contact with martial arts films in the early 90’s, you probably know Loren Avedon. While Van Damme and Seagal were breaking box office records on the big screens, Loren was nearly breaking every bone in his body delivering “Hong Kong-style” action films to our local video stores. Starring in classics such as Corey Yuen’s “No Retreat No Surrender II” and Lucas Lo’s “King of the Kickboxers,”it obvious that Loren was ahead of his time and very underrated. – MPM, January 2002

With Keith Cooke in "King of the Kickboxers" (1991)

With Keith Cooke in "King of the Kickboxers" (1991)

Tell me about your martial arts background and how you got into it?

I was about 11 and was living in England. I saw Bruce Lee in “Chinese Connection” as it was called in Britain. I was hooked. It wasn’t ’til 6 years later that I started training, after I graduated High School in the Summer of ’80 I walked into a Dojang and signed up and started going everyday. I was fortunate to have great instructors like Simon and Phillip Rhee as well as Bill Wallace teaching occasionally as well as the Master of that Tae Kwon Do School. I am currently a 4th dan in Tae Kwon Do and 2nd Dan in Hap Ki Do. I am awaiting a 5th dan certification after I test in January ’02.

Who are some of your idols in the martial arts community and film?

Hwang Jang Lee, Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and many others.

What got you into acting?

I was a commercial actor when I was a kid because my mom was a commercial producer and director, so I was always doing the commercials she directed if there was a kid needed. I blew my big chance to really capitalize on that when I was 5; the ad agency told me I would have to do the commercial live in front of millions of people – that’s not what you say to a 5 year old – so I turned it down. The early films and acting came from people calling the Dojang looking for fighters to do scenes in a movie they were shooting. Back then, the stunt men didn’t have a lot of kicking skills so they’d call Karate schools for talent. “Ninja Turf” (1985) was produced by my master and starred Phillip Rhee. I got into acting on a lark when I was 21. I was invited to an acting class and asked to perform a scene. I didn’t like it that I was so nervous in front of only 12 people, so I started taking the class. I loved it and the challenge. I figured I could use it in whatever direction life took me.

Corey Yuen's "No Retreat, No Surrender 2" (1987) - aka "Karate Tiger 2"

Corey Yuen's "No Retreat, No Surrender 2" (1987) - aka "Karate Tiger 2"

Describe to me how you got discovered for your first starring role in Corey Yuen’s No Retreat, No Surrender 2.

Actually, Van Damme had turned down the film so they chose Matthius Hues for his part. I replaced Kurt McKinney. I was at the Karate school at about 9:30 PM on a Friday night. I had just come back from Africa where I had been on safari with my dad for 8 weeks. I was broke and had a job selling used cars at a Dodge dealership in town. I hadn’t sold a car all week and was at the school beating the ^%$& out of the heavy bag to take out my frustrations when the phone rang. The Latin guy who answered the phone did not understand what the caller was saying, the caller turned out to be Roy Horan from Seasonal films. A week later and after he had seen about 75 other candidates, I signed a 3 picture deal and was on a plane to Thailand.

What was is like working with the legendary Corey Yuen? Is he demanding? Tell me some of the experiences you’ve had with him on the set. Did you expect you’d be doing some serious HK-style action or did you have to pick up on this while on the set?

I had not seen the original No Retreat, No Surrender so I had no idea what to expect. All I knew is that I could do it; whatever they wanted, I could do it. The first thing they did when we got off the plane was set up a meeting. Roy Horan seemed very serious; then an audition there with Corey Yuen took place to test our reactions and the next day I [had] a screen test – with me and Matthius, Roy Horan was pushing for us – we passed the test,  then they took our passports. We had no choice. The American crew and everyone there other than the Thai’s and Chinese had turned over their passport to Ng See Yuen, the Exec producer. He was a tough task master and I could go on and on about the experiences; just the journey every day to the jungle set was an adventure. The Chinese stunt men are great people, they are so tough, so dedicated; they really motivated me, so did Corey Yuen. He is a great director. He yelled at me several times, I couldn’t understand him, but in the end, he would crack a charming smile, scratch his head and say “Jesus,” but he would say it really fast and it was really funny. His way to break the tension… he would always gamble with the crew when it was per diem day… he always won!!! Then he would give them their money back by taking them to dinner that night or somehow he would lose it all in one hand on purpose. I was so lucky to work with him. He would always tell you exactly what he wanted, even without speaking the same language… great director.

You’ve worked with many well-known martial artists on and off film, tell me about some of your experiences with stars such as: Simon Rhee, Phillip Rhee, James Lew, Roy Horan, Hwang Jang Lee , Billy Blanks, Cynthia Rothrock, Keith Vitali, Jalal Merhi, Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson, Keith Cooke and Carter Wong.

Wow… all of them great people. Don’t forget about Karen Shepard. I can’t say enough about those people. I have been lucky enough to meet and work with them. I have been really blessed. Can’t say enough good things about all of them!

With Billy Blanks in "King of the Kickboxers" (1991)

With Billy Blanks in "King of the Kickboxers" (1991)

Since you’ve worked with Billy Blanks, how many copies of Tai Bo videotapes were you forced to buy?

Actually none… lol. I still go by Billy’s school in the San Fernando valley once in a while. He always stops what he is doing to say hi to me. He is the salt of the earth, a great man, a great martial artist, a great motivator. I can tell you this… when we were shooting in Thailand, the book by his bed was the Bible and all he wanted to do was a good job and get back to his wife, family and his school…he kicks like a mule!!! But has a heart of gold. His brother Michael is really something special, too; he can jump higher than anyone I’ve ever seen – just like his brother.

Out of all your films you’ve done, which is your personal favorite and why?

My personal favorite has got to be No Retreat, No Surrender 2. That’s the one that I spent 4 months on and was only 23 at the time. It changed my life, that’s why it’s my favorite. Not because [of] the fact that it was released in 1400 theaters around the U.S., or because of the action or the great fights. I’ve had many great fights in my movies, such as the one with Matthius, which is the second favorite fight I ever did. My first favorite is the Billy Blanks fight in King of the Kickboxers. That took two weeks to shoot and just about every part of my body was bruised or battered, cut or scraped. Imagine fighting 4 different karate tournaments in one day, round robin all the way to Gold medal; then doing it again, and again, and again… for 14 hours a day, 6 days a week in 100 degree heat with costume, smoke and plenty of impact. Talk about a character building experience!

With Cynthia Rothrock in "No Retreat, No Surrender 2" (1987)

With Cynthia Rothrock in "No Retreat, No Surrender 2" (1987)

Speaking of No Retreat, No Surrender 2, that has to be your most involved movie, as far as overall action goes. I’ve tried to catch body doubles here and there but couldn’t. Either the production did a really good job or you are the ‘gwailo’ version of Jackie Chan. So, how much was you?

Most of it, except for the hard falls and flips; but the snake market, all me. The stunt double “Rocky” that did the jump from the top of the doorway to Matthius’ chest – he was paralyzed in a film shortly thereafter – the other stunt men were so cool, they are the best!

What was it like traveling to all those exotic places like Thailand?

Wonderful… to be an emissary of my country … I always tried to behave like a gentleman. Even in Lebanon while at gun point at a Syrian checkpoints in Beirut – with Russian tanks and itchy trigger fingers – I loved every minute of every place I ever went, not knowing what was around the corner, going into a cave opening no higher than my waist on the River Kwai, and finding a 30 foot Buddha, covered in a long monks cloth with flowers and candles everywhere. One thing I can say is that people are the same everywhere. Everyone in whatever culture can share a smile – a gesture of kindness or friendship. Everyone from every land wants the same thing… to be accepted, to be understood, to give love and to receive it, to share, whatever is there. I have been to many poor places. Even though I am not a millionaire nor wealthy by any means monetarily, I am rich beyond my dreams in experience with people and places; not just from movies, but from my childhood and even now in my fatherhood; we all go [to] many places, sometimes exotic, but always interesting. Life… any life is what you make of it. I am very fortunate for my experiences and hope to have many, many more before I’m through….

"King of the kickboxers" (1990)

"King of the kickboxers" (1990)

In the beginning of King of the Kickboxers, when you change your mind about your mission, you do a “Sly Sallone” type yell. My question is, how many takes did it take you to get it down right?

You mean how many did it take to make me not laugh?  just kidding… I was told by the director what to do and I did it… I think 4 or 5 times… I hated that … I thought it was not the right choice… I wanted to take the tape and throw it into the fire, then call the captain and have my moment after the phone call to be pensive, a stroke of the cheek and then I fall apart knocking over some furniture. It was a rented house – no props for that – so they didn’t go for it. They wanted the scream… so I did the best I could. The scene with Richard Jackel was shot completely independently, on another day, neither of us knew how the other played it. You can kinda tell can’t you?

Now that you mention it, yeah, I can tell…In No Retreat, No Surrender 2, did you get to try any of those insects or snake’s blood?

I passed on the snake blood but Max Thayer drank 4 shots of that snake blood. God Bless ’em… they tried to put rotten tofu into the bowl during the scene with the girl in NRNS II at the floating restaurant – that was Roy Horan trying to be cute. I caught it before they rolled camera. Funny thing: Corey Yuen asked me how I thought the scene should be shot. I told him to run 3 cameras one master two shot and two over the shoulder so we could get everything in one take if it went well; problem is that usually in Hong Kong movies you don’t get a master; you do everything in pieces, kinda hard to pick things up in the middle when you haven’t shot the beginning… but that’s part of the craft….

Give us your opinions on some of the big names working in mainstream martial-arts films today such as: Van Damme, Seagal, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh.

Haven’t met any of them. They wouldn’t want me near them most likely… competition… I can give you an opinion from some personal friends and their experiences. Van Damme… wife beater, jerk… thinks he’s all that and a bag of Fritos; his career has been over for a while now. Same with Seagal… I can’t believe the Dalai Lama made him some high priest… what was the Lama thinking? Must have had too much incense that day. Jackie Chan I have nothing but respect for, although he is notorious for not liking Guai Lo’s… Donnie Yen, Jet Li, I have never met nor Michelle Yeoh, although I’d like to meet her. She is so awesome. I think I might have met her in Hong Kong at a club… great night life in Asia.

What do you think of the recent boom in Asian actors making their crossover into Hollywood films?

Thought it would happen sooner. You know a lot of those films that were released with Jackie and Jet are just repackaged films they made 5 or 10 years before. Just wait… John Woo is just getting started.

What do you think of the legendary Bruce Lee being digitally reincarnated for the new film Dragon Warrior?

Don’t know… but I won’t see it… sacrilege!!!!

You’ve mentioned that many things have changed in the movie industry. Explain some of these changes and do you have any regrets?

No regrets… but one… the actress Sheri Rose. Bad mouthed me after the King of the Kickboxers… I told her to ‘shut up’ one day when she was pitching a fit out in the jungle, acting like a prima donna. No time or place for that and I told her. She came back and got a deal with PM Entertainment who wanted to sign me for 3 pictures. I should have done it, it would have been me instead of Don “The Dragon” Wilson, but I was trying to hold out and she ended up getting the deal with Lorenzo Lamas, who had broken my nose and cheek on the set of a video he was shooting. I had to sue him to get my medical fees, can you believe that jerk? Anyway, between the two of them and those two experiences, my name was mud to producers after 1991. If I had not done that video and if I had just let Sheri have her fit and kept my mouth shut, I think I could have had a much more successful career; but now it’s all water under the bridge. If I come back, it will be under different circumstances. I always fought for quality – if that is wrong – then I don’t want to be right, know what I mean? But the way I see it, everything happens for a reason… maybe on one of these other movies I didn’t get, I might have been hurt or I might not have my daughter now… I don’t regret … but hindsight is always 20/20 isn’t it?

"Manhattan Chase" (2000)

"Manhattan Chase" (2000)

Tell me more about the Lorenzo Lamas incident.

He is Fernando’s son… he had a career the minute he was born. He was a student of mine and I helped him on a Self Defense Video he was doing. For about 5 minutes ’til during the blocking of the first choreographed demo, he promptly broke my nose and cheek with an elbow across the face that was supposed to miss me by a mile. Lorenzo called me crying the next day. I said “just send me some flowers and come and visit me and we’ll call it cool”… he never called, never visited. And when his manager called me to say that he would take care of everything… that’s when I got a lawyer. I was born at night, but I wasn’t born last night, know what I mean? So, I took care of myself. I was paid well for that accident. My girlfriend Christine Chu was on the set, thank God. She took me to the emergency room and to a great doctor that same day to have my face put back. Nice guy Lorenzo,  but no honor in my eyes…

Are there any movies or roles you have turned down in the past?

Many. I just turned one down that I convinced the director to put my best friend JJ Perry into. It’s being shot in Brazil. It’s called Sunland Heat… boy did they made a mess of things. Even though we had talked about the film for years and they raised the money with my name, the director/producer put his girlfriend in it as the female lead (the producer is married) and also made many more really ridiculous mistakes, so I turned it down, cause I know it will be chaos down there. I’d have loved to go to Brazil for a month, no matter what, but I thought, do I want my last film to be a piece of $#@* even though some of my films are pretty close? I can afford to be a bit picky now, especially when I know they are going to make money and have already from my name! And I won’t see any of it. Not fair. We’ll see what the future brings. I’m not out of the business by any means.

In the late 80’s/early 90’s, your films dominated the martial arts video market. You have fans all over the world. Did you ever have higherexpectations of becoming a household name, like Norris or Van Damme? Or appearing in bigger-budget martial-arts films like Mortal Kombat or Universal Soldier?

Of course… but because of the reason above and lousy representation, I never made it. Not to say that I still can’t, who knows, maybe some big producer/director will read this article and decide that it’s time to bring back the Clark Kent character and have a star that can really kick ass that is just a regular… guy… I’m a Keanu Reaves without the “dude” quality. Now more mature and seasoned. I’m ready.

Loren Avedon with "Manhattan Chase" crew

From right to left: Gini Lui (line prod), Nicole Zanzarella (costar), Steve Tartalia (lead baddie/stunt coordinator), Loren Avedon, Cynthia Rothrock (costar), Godfrey Ho (Veteran HK director) and Johny Koo (Veteran HK cinematographer - one of Sammo's favorites!)

You are definitely “more mature and seasoned” and it shows in 1999’s Manhattan Chase. That film has Hong Kong action written all over it. What was it like working with Godfery Ho? How did you get hooked up with him?

Thank you Jeff. You are definitely paying attention. Despite the low, low budget, we made a cool movie. It’s because of my friend Steve Tartalia, who was a producer on this film. I met him in Hong Kong in ’90 when making King of the Kickboxers… he, Vincent Lyn and Mark King were all in the first scene of King of the Kickboxers with Jerry Trimble. Vincent was in Armor of God II, so was Steve. Mark King has been in countless Hong Kong movies. We still stay in touch through Steve. Steve is a good friend and called me when he was getting together the cast of what was then titled Dying to Live. Cynthia Rothrock was slated to star in the movie. She told me about the film and I found out later that Steve was the producer. I sent my head shot/resume and demo tape to NYC and about 2 weeks later we had made a deal. Godfrey was cool. He is a very creative man and has the patience of a Saint. We had no money, but a lot of talent. I had a lot of fun working on that movie during the summer of ’98 in Manhattan. We did it down and dirty. I was my own stunt man, know what I mean? Working in NY was great. The people are great. My half-sister lives there, so I stayed with her after the shoot. I got to see some friends in NY. Let me explain: when I was a kid I’d go back to visit my dad in Manhattan over the summers or for Christmas, so I have friends in NY. I had a great time working there. I love that city, but I’m a Cali boy. I go crazy if I’m in NYC for too long. I can’t see the Sun, nothing but concrete. Great city for movie-making though, plenty of production value everywhere you go. My heart is there everyday. After the horrible events of 9-11-01, I pray for the city. I know 4 people that were on flight 175. God Bless ’em and rest their precious souls.

Do you have any intention to make another Hong Kong-style martial arts movie if the opportunity came?

Not much opportunity. The HK guys are all trying to do it big here since ’97 or just keep doing it there… the producers and market have changed… I have stepped away a bit so I can’t say really … but I can tell you I think the timing is good for an old fashioned reluctant hero movie… with action that is not so far fetched that it is believable… know what I mean? HK’s magic was doing it before computers… people want to see that again… I know I do… use the wires and the gags… just loose the CGI and morphing and cheat camera angles and tight shots to make up for lack of perfection … and go back to the technical ability of a great martial artist and stunt team… the choreography of a creative masterminds action with flesh and blood as the canvas.

"Silent Force" (2001) with Karen Kim

"Silent Force" (2001) with Karen Kim

Tell us about some of your future projects coming out?

I’ve got re-release on amazon.com right now of Silent Force. Other than that, I have no upcoming projects. I have written some of my own scripts and have ideas and a lot of potential. In all honesty what I need is about $850,000.00 and I can make a film like King of the Kickboxers and make the investor rich. The problem is where I live. Anybody with that kind of cash in Hollywood has heard it all. I would just be another person knocking on their door. I have tried, the numbers are there, the possibility is there… I tried with two films to start my own production company, but on both occasions the greed of one of the producers ended up railroading the project into legal situations or worse. Next time I want to do it clean. I will not have that power entrusted to any third party again. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me again, I don’t think so… not in this lifetime.

Since you’ve worked with Corey Yuen and Lucas Lo, you might know the answer to this: How much do those wires hurt your twigs and berries? And what’s the main difference between working for these Hong Kong guys and a typical American/Hollywood production/director?

I’m still fertile if that’s what you want to know. And yes, the berries and “log” – It ain’t a twig … hurt… ! lol…. The difference is in creativity and artistry. The Americans have the money to do it. The Chinese take nothing and make something out of it. Americans take something and make nothing – not true in all cases – but look at the action in Lethal Weapon 4. Dick Donner is brilliant to have turned over the set to Yuen Kwai for the action… literally… whatever he wanted to do. An American director will do it his way and get the tight shot to sell it, etc. and will focus too much on one aspect, but will not get the coverage and cool angles that a Chinese director would use to thrill an audience with, even the simplest activity.

If you ever fought someone like Van Damme, how many seconds would it take for you to truly kick his ass?

First, as a Martial Artist, I would never fight with someone for ego; only to protect myself and my family and/or the ones I love. I would rather do nothing and take a punch than lower myself to battle with someone, when I know in the end it will serve no purpose. I have nothing to prove. However, if I ever fought with anybody, it would be over before they knew it. When you fight for real there are no rules. Only a fool has principles in a fight. In a fight, or in battle, you do what you have to do to survive; overcome or to disable your opponent so he cannot pursue you or continue to fight you that day or another. Fighting itself is stupid. There is no art in it. It is pure survival.

Do you have any interest in entering a ‘No Holds Barred’ competition? Do you study ground grappling?

I have studied enough grappling to know that Bruce Lee was right… “the toughest opponent to face is a good athlete in great shape who knows nothing, he will come at you with angles you have never seen before… born out of the moment, with no counter but your own instinct in that situation” I don’t see much art in those fights. I do see some great technicians that are out to prove they are the best. It all boils down to the man. Look at Tank what’s his name… who won and became a pro fighter with his right hand and good timing… a warrior always knows his weakness… the key is to make the opponent worry about his… so you can take him out while he’s thinking… I mean really, on any given day … one man can beat the other. One day it might be you, the next day him. The key is to pick the day, the time, the moment… and always on your terms….

Loren, I’m waiting for another hardcore martial arts flick from you, when are you gonna deliver that to your fans?

Me too. don’t know. I’m open to any ideas. As long as the money is there to make the idea happen, let’s go!!!!

1978's "Drunken Master," Loren's favorite martial arts movie of all time.

1978's "Drunken Master," Loren's favorite martial arts movie of all time.

What’s the greatest martial arts flick in your opinion?

The original Drunken Master. I like it cause I first saw it on Kung Fu theater, way back in the day when they would show Hong Kong movies once a week on a local station. I was amazed at the action. I always admired the creativity, the story and comic book characters. They are so charming. I totally get into it. Also because of my friend Hwang Jang Lee. He is a great man. I’ll tell you a little story about him: When I first arrived from America to Bangkok, Hwang trained me in the art of film fighting – Matthius as well. We would meet in the Gym at the Ambassador Hotel on Sukamvit Road in Bangkok and he taught us over the period of three days about selling punches and kicks. Amazing the power of that man. Truly amazing. I heard stories of his experiences Vietnam. He was paid to train the Special Forces. Wow. Anyway… about two weeks into it, we were in Saraburi Thailand, a small town at the junction of three major roads in Thailand. That is where we stayed when shooting the jungle scenes. I was so sick that Hwang was genuinely concerned about me. He is such a sincere man. He helped me get well. He made me drink hot water and used acupressure to help me, but what really touched my heart was when he asked me: “Loren, what did you eat that made you sick?” I said: “American Fried Rice.” He called over the waiter and he said “Give me an American Fried Rice.” I looked at him. He said, “I’ll get sick too.” As if to say and show me that he would go through hell with me. That is a true account. And he ate all the rice and he made me feel better, and he never got sick! Great man….

For more about No Retreat, No Surrender 2, No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers and King of the Kickboxers, please read our interview with Keith W. Strandberg, the writer and producer of these movies.

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Returner | aka The Returner (2002) Review

"Returner" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Returner" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Takashi Yamazaki
Producer: Toru Horibe
Cast: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Ann Suzuki, Kirin Kiki, Goro Kishitani, Yukiko Okamoto, Mitsuru Murata
Running Time: 117 min.

By Equinox21

Say you are a Japanese film-maker, how do you make an extremely cool sci-fi action movie? Here’s the recipe; start with an alien invasion (ala ID4), sprinkle in a healthy dose of Terminator (humanity’s last hope is to send someone back in time to stop the war before it starts). Stir into this characters dressed to kill so they’d fit right in in The Matrix. For added flavor add dashes of Back to the Future, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Transformers and excellent computer graphics. Top it all off with terrific actors and you’re sure to please!

I love this movie. Sure, it borrows heavily from a few of the movies mentioned above, but it puts enough interesting spins on it to make it unique and fun as hell. In the year 2084, humanity is all but wiped out after an alien invasion. They manage to send one human, Milly (Anne Suzuki), who took over for a soldier who was killed before he could jump into the time warp, through time to 2002 as their base is being overrun by the alien onslaught. The year 2002 is when the first alien showed up and the plan is for Milly to kill the first alien on Earth to stop the invasion before it can start. Upon her entry into the year 2002 she runs into Miyamoto (Takeshi Kaneshiro), and forces him to help her with her mission. Eventually, however, she discovers the truth and the problem with her plan, and is left with only a few days to complete her new mission with the help of Miyamoto. Meanwhile, Miyamoto is gunning for Mizoguchi (Goro Kishitani), who has been kidnapping street kids (including Miyamoto’s best friend, 15 years ago), killing them and harvesting their organs to make heaps of money for his Triad boss back in China. The movie takes place almost entirely in the year 2002 with “flashbacks” to Milly’s past in 2084 and to Miyamoto’s past in 1987.

The action and special effects are absolutely the most astounding I’ve seen in any Asian film thus far. There are action sequences that worked very much like the Jet Li movie The One, in that everyone is moving in slow-motion except for one character that is moving at regular speed. But the effect in The Returner works far better than it did in The One, and it looks far more realistic and cool than Bullet-time does in The Matrix, all thanks to some extremely well done CGI.

The three main actors in Returner were all perfectly cast. Takeshi Kaneshiro is easily one of the best Asian actors there is, in action, drama, or comedy. Unfortunately, this is the only movie he’s done in 2 years, but at least he knows how to pick them! Anne Suzuki is a tough girl and super cute albeit underage. Milly is only a teenager, about 15 or 16 (though we’re never specifically told her exact age), but she is definitely wise beyond her years, due to being brought up in the war zone that is Earth of the future, and Ms. Suzuki plays this to maximum effect. Goro Kishitani plays a stereotypical evil Triad lieutenant, but he succeeds in making Mizoguchi pretty despicable. The characters couldn’t have been played by better actors.

If you’re at all a fan of sci-fi movies, specifically Terminator or Matrix style movies, be sure to check out The Returner. It has a story that is unique enough to give it legs of its own, even though elements are heavily borrowed from other classics. But fear not, this movie is one hell of a ride!

Equinox21’s Rating: 9/10

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Casshern (2004) Review

"Casshern" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Casshern" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Kazuaki Kiriya
Cast: Yusuke Iseya, Kumiko Aso, Akira Terao, Kanako Higuchi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Jun Kaname, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Mitsuhiro Oikawa, Susumu Terajima, Hideji Otaki, Tatsuya Mihashi, Toshiaki Karasawa
Running Time: 140 min.

By Ningen

A scientist can’t get funding for artificial organs which he hopes to use to save his ailing wife. He gives in to an offer from a general to fund his project, but the general’s only exploiting his work to create a new enemy to fight.

Unfortunately, the mutants kidnap the scientist’s wife, and he’s forced to resurrect his dead son to rescue her. The cyborg which he becomes-Casshern-is conflicted, because the Neo-Sapiens-as they’re called-are just trying to live their lives, and are only attacking an imperialistic nation which doesn’t even respect the lives of its fellow humans.

Having never seen the anime, I’d have to say that Casshern is gorgeous and thought-provoking, but also a mess. It introduces too many supporting characters who barely have any importance, and it drags out interactions between them beyond any value to the central plot.

I will give credit to the director for choosing not to make a traditional sci-fi action flick to the point that the hero questions his choices, and isn’t much of a fighter, either. The backdrops have beautiful use of color, and the cg ships and robots don’t feel cg. But the problem is that the themes are too complex and demanding of the audience’s attention for a film which can’t seem to decide on which characters are central to the story.

The actual hand-to-hand combat is realistically bloody, but the bot-to-bot combat is cartoonish, further diluting the film’s impact on the viewer.

Casshern is clearly ambitious, but doesn’t quite deliver on its ideas or approaches to the genre.

Ningen’s Rating: 8/10 for style, 5/10 for substance, 6/10 if you don’t watch it in one sitting.

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Zatoichi | aka The Blind Swordsman Zatoichi (2003) Review

"Zatoichi" American Theatrical Poster

"Zatoichi" American Theatrical Poster

Director: Takeshi Kitano
Writer: Takeshi Kitano, Kan Shimozawa
Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Tadanobu Asano, Yui Natsukawa, Michiyo Ookusu, Gadarukanaru Taka, Yuuko Daike, Daigor Tachibana, Ittoku Kishibe, Saburo Ishikura, Akira Emoto
Running Time: 116 min.

By Equinox21

I’m very pleased to say that Zatoichi did not let me down. I was afraid that not having any previous knowledge about the franchise and seeing a Kitano movie that didn’t involve yakuza vs. cops would make it a less enjoyable experience for me. But fear not, loyal readers, Zatoichi delivers on the goods.

Even though this movie takes place in or around the 18th century, Kitano manages to work in the organized criminal element to the story. There are 3 criminal bosses vying for power in a town, and their underlings’ loyalties are constantly tested and often change. They make their money through running gambling houses, extortion of local merchants, and all the other usual ways that criminals have been making their money for hundreds of years. When one of the bosses starts taking over, a woman (who Zatoichi had previously helped out) gets in their way. He takes it upon himself to help her and some other friends they meet along the way.

Well, if that’s not the worst plot description of all time, I don’t know what is. But, like many Kitano films, it’s virtually impossible to actually EXPLAIN the plot without going into pages of detail. Suffice it to say, it was enjoyable. There was enough sword fighting action to keep everyone happy. The most confusing things were the random bursts of violence (in which Zatoichi would be surrounded by a dozen swordsmen and be forced to kill them all) and the random flashbacks. But by the end, it ends up all making sense and you are able to enjoy it for what it is.

The worst element of the movie was the distracting CGI blood effects. It just didn’t look real (not that I’d know what a real sword wound looks like, but I can pretty much guarantee that it wouldn’t look like it did in this movie), but it got the point across and wasn’t completely distracting.

I did enjoy Zatoichi and it really did feel like a regular Kitano movie (albeit, set about 300 years before his other ones). But I have to say that I hope he doesn’t try to start the franchise back up with himself in the title role, because I want to see him do other kinds of movies and not just one type over and over. Not a bad flick to check out, but not Kitano’s best. And that dance at the end? Awesome.

Equinox21’s Rating: 8/10

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Getting Any? (1995) Review

"Getting Any?" International DVD Cover

"Getting Any?" International DVD Cover

Director: Takeshi Kitano
Writer: Takeshi Kitano
Producer: Masayuki Mori, Hisao Nabeshima, Takio Yoshida
Cast: Moeko Ezawa, Hakuryu, Tokie Hidari, Yojin Hino, Minoru Iizuka, Takeshi Kitano, Akiji Kobayashi, Yuuji Minakata, Masumi Okada, Ren Osugi, Shintaro Takado, Susumu Terajima, Kanji Tsuda, Yuurei Yanagi, Tetsuya Yuuki
Running Time: 105 Min.

By Mairosu

It’s often said that the western world doesn’t know real Beat Takeshi. To us, the mention of his name is usually associated with a tough, silent yakuza prototype, or a cop with unorthodox methods. Almost exclusively, his roles are rough and stoic, his characters resorting to violence as a solution. Truth under all that is, Takeshi is none of what you might assume. He’s first and foremost an impish comedian and a prankster, always wearing a happy face and ready to pounce on the unsuspecting viewer. He padded his resume in the 70s as a stand-up manzai comic, part of an act called “Two beats” (hence his nickname “Beat” Takeshi, the other “Beat” was Kyoshi), then expanded his work into television, radio and whatnot. In a recent interview he gave, he explains that he didn’t like the fact that audience laughed at him at a screening of his first film “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” (directed by Nagisa Oshima), so he resolved to play hard boiled mofos until they recognize him as an actor with range and capability.

Getting Any ?, thus, is a rare sighting in Takeshi’s cinematic oeuvre, an exercise in true gross-out comedy which delighted the Japanese TV viewer over the years. The film was long time shelved for the western audiences, and the moment you pop it in you’ll understand why – it’s crude, near-childish and has enough clever references about Japan to put Joe Average off, but for those that care, it still can hit the spot.

The story revolves around Asao (Dankan, also to be seen in Takeshi’s Boiling Point as one of the goofy ballplayers), who just can’t get laid (an instant explanation of the film title, right there). In order to score, he starts drifting through various schemes which will, in his opinion, enhance his chances. His first fixation is car sex – so he gets a car. But with his money, all he could buy is some little cramped junk, so he sells his grandfather’s organs and buys a cabrio. Which proceeds to break down. Disillusioned, Asao resolves to rob a bank, which doesn’t happen after a string of comical scenes. Then, he tries his hand in movie business (a riotous segment which involves pointed jabs at Kurosawa and Zatoichi), and finally, he decides it’s airplanes which chicks dig, this fascination fueled by a couple of hilarious vignettes which appear out of the blue.

Since Asao can’t afford a big jumbo jet cruise, he reserves a spot in a little Cessna for a brief sightseeing flight, where he exchanges identities with Jo Shishido (for the uninformed, a regular “tough guy” in the 60s-70s ninkyo eiga films, most memorably in Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill). And just about somewhere there, the film shifts another gear – the plot is discarded, and the whole second half of the film is a seemingly endless barrage of bizarre and often tasteless jokes, including spoofs on Ghostbusters, Michael Jackson, samurai films, yakuza films, giant monster films, H.G. Wells, one particular David Cronenberg film (you’ll see which one) and Lord knows what not. Not surprisingly, Takeshi himself appears in the final quarter of the film as a zany scientist who is determined to make his invisibility experiment work, but not even his presence keeps this one on course – it simply floats wildly like a rudderless ship in a tropical storm. By the time the shitty (pun very much intended) finale comes knocking, your attention span should be well off and desire for absurd humour long time satiated, so it falls pretty much flat.

Overall, Getting Any is a harmless way to spend 100 and something minutes, but it might have been a better film if Takeshi just stuck with the original idea which kept the first half of the film going. The final 40 or so minutes are just an exercise in audience tolerance, so consider yourself warned.

Mairosu’s Rating: 5/10

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Fireworks | aka Hana-Bi (1997) Review

"Fireworks" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Fireworks" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Literally: Fire Flowers
Writer: Kitano Takeshi
Director: Kitano Takeshi
Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Kayoko Kishimoto, Ren Osugi, Susumu Terajima, Tetsu Watanabe, Hakuryu, Yasuei Yakushiji, Taro Istumi, Kenichi Yajima, Makoto Ashikawa, Yûko Daike
Running Time: 103 min.

By Equinox21

Hana-bi was the first Takeshi Kitano film (directed) I’d seen. I really wish I’d waited until I’d seen some of his others first, because none of the others even compare. As much as I love all his films, Hana-bi was heads and shoulders above the rest.

I won’t spoil the story, because that’s not really the important thing about the film, anyway. The important thing about the film is Nishi’s (Kitano) relationship with his wife, his former partner, Detective Horibe, and the yakuza thugs that are constantly hounding him. It’s amazing to see how sensitive (yet distant, at the same time) he can be with his wife, then how close he can be with his former police detective partner (who was wounded in the line of duty and is now wheelchair bound), and how he can turn all that right around and be an unflinching killer of the yakuza thugs.

The music, the paintings, the cinematography, the direction and the acting in Hana-bi all add up to one of the most heartfelt, moving and personal movies Kitano could have come up with, while still including his signature flashes of extreme violence. Hisaishi’s brilliant and distinct score just adds to the dramatic, isolated and tragic feel of the movie. It would simply not have been the same with a score by anyone else.

Anyone who is a fan of film at all needs to do themselves a favor and see Hana-bi as soon as possible. Kitano’s masterpiece is guaranteed not to disappoint.

Equinox21’s Rating: 10/10

By Jesse

Dark. Deep. Poetic. Beautiful. Violent. Harsh. Depressing. Optimistic. Stark. Amazing. These are just a few words that can be used to describe Takeshi Kitano’s brilliant 1997 film Hana-Bi, or Fireworks as it is known in English-speaking countries. Kitano stars as Nishi, a cop with a haunted past and a grim future. Nishi is in debt to a group of high-ranking Yakuza after borrowing money to help pay for the treatment of his wife’s (Kayoko Kishimoto) cancer. Early on in the film, Nishi’s partner Horibe (Ren Osugi) is shot and is forced to live the rest of his days confined to a wheelchair. Horibe’s family disowns him, and Nishi does the best that he can do to help his good friend get through the hard times. While at the same time Nishi plans to rob a bank in order to pay off his debts and take his wife on one last trip before she is gone forever. As Horibe discovers hope in the form of art, Nishi begins his downfall, taking orders from no one and stopping at nothing to get what he wants. One man is reborn while the other continues on an increasing path of self-destruction and pain.

What makes Hana-Bi such a great movie? Let’s start off with all the standard features typically found in a Kitano film: a story that is simple yet very complex in its thematic value, a magnificent score by Joe Hisaishi that is both subtle and rousing at the same time, the long pauses that create a tense atmosphere and Kitano’s ability to film scenes without any flashy camera trickery, and finally the extraordinary performance by the always dependable Takeshi Kitano as the lead. Hana-Bi is very slow paced and not much happens during the first 50 minutes or so, but those slow moments help develop and enrich the characters in the film and create a steady build-up to the heartbreaking and explosive finale. Kitano’s Nishi is a man who does not avoid violence, but at the same time acts as an extremely gentle and loving husband to his dying wife. He is quick to deal out the necessary carnage when facing the low-life thugs who want his money, but shows great amounts of compassion for his suicidal ex-partner and cancer-stricken wife. As Nishi plans the bank robbery to get the money that he needs to go on the vacation with his wife and get the Yakuza off his back, he calmly prepares for what might be the end for him and any of those persons that are close to him. In a collection of playful and humorous scenes, we watch as Nishi purchases a stolen car and spray paints it as he gets ready for the big heist. During those same moments, the wheelchair-bound Horibe is touched by a group of paintings that he comes across and nearly breaks down as he discovers what will keep him from losing all control and ending his life. Nishi robs the bank without any trouble and he and his wife journey to the beach where they spend their final moments together. The brutally dark tone of the film is momentarily lifted as we see Nishi and his wife joking around and doing the things that any happy couple would do on an outing together. A hint of nihilism hangs over the whole time, but for those brief moments of joy, Nishi and his wife (and the viewer) experience bliss as they forget all their problems and indulge in life’s pleasures.

The climax of the film is certainly something that will either fill your eyes with water or leave you feeling somewhat cold on the inside (or both), but the downbeat conclusion does not erase the good times that Nishi and his wife spent together as both their worlds came crashing down. Hana-Bi is reminiscent of the French New Wave films of the 60’s with its eccentric characters and outbursts of violence in a poignant setting. The actors’ outstanding performances combined with Kitano’s spot-on direction make Hana-Bi a modern classic that is also a huge roller coaster ride filled with emotion. Hana-Bi is a film that is not to be missed.

Jesse’s Rating: 9/10

By Len

Sometimes I’ve thought which one is the better film, Sonatine or Hana-Bi. However, it makes little sense to try and compare these two. Both of them are excellent films, and definately the two best films that Kitano has made.

Kitano plays Nishi, a cop who’s forced to take extreme measures to ensure that his dying wife enjoys her last days, while his partner is searching for reasons to live after he gets incapacitated in a shooting.


If I was any better at analyzing films, I’d write some stuff about how this film deals with typical Kitano themes of alienation and emotional detachment. However, I am dreadful at trying to analyze films, so I’ll keep it very short. Anyways, what I first noticed about the film was that unlike other Kitano films which are mostly about one character, this is essentially a tale of two similiar people, one of them manages to survive while the other’s decisions put him in a dead end. Horibe manages to find meaning to his life and resists the urge to end his misery. Nishi’s actions on the otherhand make his demise unavoidable, and it’s easy to see from the beginning that his story can’t have a happy ending, as the consequences of his actions will inevitably reach him. Depending on one’s viewpoint obviously. It might be argued that instead of being forced to use extreme measures, Nishi considered them to be perfectly acceptable, as he had intended to end his life at the same time as his wife no matter what (actually, this is the way I assume Kitano meant it).

One of my favorite things about this film was the relationship between Nishi and his wife. When I first saw the film, I felt like their marriage had died to the point where they couldn’t find really anything to say to eachother, and could only communicate by actions. However, it seems more like they have both been so deeply affected by a tragedy (it’s revealed that their daughter had died), that they’re both inhabiting a shared little world where few words are needed.

Ok, enough with the crappy film analysis now, here are my opinions on the actual film: Definately one of Kitano’s best films. Maybe even his finest film, as Hana-Bi is alot more refined than Sonatine, but on the other hand, it lacks some of pitchblack humour and brutality of his earlier works. Nevermind about that though, and just see this.

Len’s Rating: 10/10

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Sonatine (1993) Review

"Sonatine" American Theatrical Poster

"Sonatine" American Theatrical Poster

Director: Takeshi Kitano
Writer: Takeshi Kitano
Producer: Masayuki Mori, Hisao Nabeshima, Taiko Yoshida
Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Aya Kikumai, Tetsu Watanabe, Masanobu Katsumura, Susumu Terajima, Ren Ohsugi, Eiji Minakata
Running Time: 90 min.

By Len

One word: Genius. I could write 400 words on how much I love this film and it still wouldn’t be enough. To me, this represents all that is good in Kitano’s cinema.

Kitano plays Murakawa, a respected leader of a group of Yakuza who are sent to the tropical island of Okinawa to intervene in a gang war. However, instead of bringing peace, after their arrival, things go terribly wrong and Murakawa’s group is soon forced to go hiding on a small seaside hideaway. They start killing time by playing various beach games but can’t escape the eventual showdown.

I first saw this film when I was fifteen. I remember my reaction being something like “WTF? This is fucking queer” and went back to watch the last 30 minutes of Hard-Boiled again. How idiotic I was. This film is pure excellence. In every way. From the touching score by Joe Hisaishi to the amazing acting talent (especially Susumu Terajima and that old yakuza guy were brilliant), this film’s got it all.

One thing that struck me first was that this film is absolutely hilarious. Here it’s easy to see Kitano’s comedian background, from the small comedic dialogues between characters to the absurd pranks and games played by the yakuza gangsters on the beach, this film never ceases to amuse the viewer. That is, when it’s not shocking the audience with some pretty gruesome violence (not quite as bad as Hana-Bi or Violent Cop though).

However, even though Sonatine is certainly very violent and has plenty of hilarious scenes, it’s still a typical Kitano film and does have depth. Especially the main characters are all interesting, and feel like real people. Pretty weird people, but real anyways. I especially liked the philosophic ideas of Kitanos character. He wants to die because his fear of dying makes his life not worth living, and death would merely put an end to his fear and misery. This kind of absurd logic is what makes Kitano’s films generally very interesting to watch, and while some might say that Sonatine lacks the tranquil meditation about human nature that Hana-Bi for example has, I think that in it’s own way, Sonatine is a film of many layers, and should not be treated merely as a violent black comedy.

Len’s Rating: 10/10

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Violent Cop (1989) Review

"Violent Cop" International Theatrical Poster

"Violent Cop" International Theatrical Poster

Director: Takeshi Kitano
Writer: Takeshi Kitano
Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Maiko Kawakami, Makoto Ashikawa, Shiro Sano, Shigeru Hiraizumi, Mikiko Otonashi, Hakuryu, Ittoku Kishibe, Ken Yoshizawa, Hiroyuki Katsube, Noboru Hamada, Yuuki Kawai, Ritsuko Amano, Taro Ishida, Katsuki Muramatsu
Running Time: 103 min.

By Len

Flawed but promising would be the two adjectives I’d use to describe Takeshi Kitano’s directing debut. While watching this film, some characteristics that we have gotten used to with Kitano’s later movies are clearly visible, like the slow tempo matched with shocking violence or the beautiful cinematography. On the other hand, the storyline isn’t all that interesting and it’s a bit obvious that Kitano was still trying to find his style when it comes to storytelling. All the visual trademarks of a Kitano film are already here, but the storyline lacks the simple punch that his later films tend to have.

Woody already did a good job explaining the story, so I won’t go there.

However, one thing that should be noted is that this is the only one of Kitano’s films that isn’t actually written by him. Violent Cop was originally being developed by Kinji Fukasaku and when he couldn’t finish the project, the studio asked Kitano if he was interested in directing it. Having done comedy all his life, he agreed but demanded rights to rewrite parts of the story. That might be the reason why this film does seem somewhat uneven at times.

Still, even though I do consider this film to be somewhat flawed, it’s still a pretty decent film. Not one of Kitano’s best works (I’d say that this is one of his worst, but that’d be ignoring the crapness of his godawful Getting Any. Nothing else Kitano has ever done comes even near that piece of shit when it comes to bad films.), but still a film worth checking out. But if you’re new to Kitano, I’d suggest seeing Sonatine or Hana-Bi first.

Len’s Rating: 6/10

By Woody

Grim, tough, and realistic directorial debut from Takeshi Kitano, one of Japan’s hugest stars. I’ll forewarn you right now, if you don’t like grim, depressing movies, don’t even bother with this one. Another thing I should mention before I get into this review is that this is not in any way a brainless action movie. There are no Woosian slow-mo double gun shootouts. There is no kung fu. There is nothing intricate or choreographed about the violence in this film. It looks real. I should also note that some of the violence, particularly towards the end, is quite graphic. So if you are squeamish, easily depressed, or a mindless action nut, you will most likely not care for this movie.

To get it out of the way, the plot of this film concerns Azuma (Takeshi Kitano), the violent cop of the title. The opening scene is a pretty good indicator of what’s to come. As the film opens, a group of schoolboys beat and humiliate an old man. After they are finished and the old man is lying on the ground motionless, Azuma, who has been watching at a distance, follows one of the boys home. After the boy goes up to his room, Azuma knocks on the door of the house. The mother tells Azuma that the boy is in his room, so he jogs up to the room, forces the boy to let him in, and proceeds to smack the shit out of the kid. He then tells the kid to turn himself in in the morning. This scene illustrates Azuma’s character pretty well. He’s not the kind of cop to try to thwart a crime. He likes to let the criminals do their job so that he can do his. He’s also very brutal. Shouting “Rodney King” isn’t going to get you out of a beatdown with this guy. He probably wouldn’t even know who you’re talking about anyways (the film was made in 1989).

Getting on with it, the plot, well…it’s hard to describe without giving a lot away, so I’ll do the best I can while keeping it relatively short. Things just aren’t going good for Azuma. His younger sister, who is released from a mental institution at the beginning of the film, is a whacked out (I believe) nymphomaniac. He’s assigned a young, inexperienced partner. His superiors disagree with his brutal tactics. But things go from bad to worse when Azuma starts investigating a murder case involving the death of a drug dealer. That’s about all I can say without spoiling a really great story and riddling this review with spoilers.

Now for the point in this review where I mercilessly kiss ass. Takeshi Kitano’s directing is great; it’s hard to believe this is his debut film. His directorial style is the polar opposite of someone like John Woo, Wong Kar-wai, or Takashi Miike. Kitano is much more reminiscent of older Kurosawa. There is no fast cutting or roaming cameras here. I think Kitano was going for more of a documentary feel here. Slow motion is used in only one scene, in which a cop is brutally beaten with a metal baseball bat. The musical score is also very well done, and not overused at all. Kitano has said in interviews that a good film needs only to rely on images to get the story across. Music, dialogue, etc. is unimportant. That is apparent here. Kitano gives a nice, understated performance, but rarely speaks. There are never any long explanation scenes, monologues,etc. Whether he is beating suspects, ordering sake, being yelled at by his superiors, or trying to talk to his looney toons sister, Kitano keeps the same deadpan look on his face. The only time he really lets loose is at the end of the film, but I won’t spoil it for you.

The end of this film can be described in one word: brutal. This is one of those films that slowly rises in intensity until it explodes in an orgy of violence. Yes, I know, that sounds like something you would read on a box cover a B-grade action pic, but hey, I lost my thesaurus. This is a hard film for me to describe. The best comparison I can make with this movie is to the Radiohead song “Exit Music (For A Film)”, off of their 1997 album OK Computer. Both the film and the song start slow and quietly, build up slowly in intensity, and then culminate in an outburst of all of the repressed and muted emotion that came before it. If you’ve never heard the song, then that will mean nothing to you. Don’t let that stop you from seeing the movie, though.

In conclusion, this review is long and rambling and does not do the film justice. See it. This is one of those movies that really gets to you and has you feeling shitty after watching it. While I don’t like feeling shitty, I never forget when I feel shitty, and as a result, I’ll never forget this film. This film stays with you long after you have seen it, and that is as good a reason as any to see it. Very few films affect me in any way these days, but this one sure as hell did, and by doing so it gets my full recommendation. So there.

Woody’s Rating: 9.5/10

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Shaolin Temple 2: The Kids from Shaolin (1984) Review

"Shaolin Temple 2" International Theatrical Poster

"Shaolin Temple 2" International Theatrical Poster

Director: Cheung Sing Yim
Cast: Jet Li, Wong Chiu Yin, Hu Chien Chiang, Yu Hai, Yu Cheng Wai, Din Nan, Ji Chuan Wah, Sun Jien Hwu, Liu Huai Liang
Running Time: 99 min.

By Numskull

This is a sequel to Shaolin Temple in name only; there is no continuation of the first film. In fact, it barely has anything to do with the Shaolin temple. It would probably be better off, were this not the case. The film is about two families, one of which consists of a bunch of boys (Jet Li being the eldest) cared for by their uncle, the other of which just can’t seem to produce a male heir; each newborn daughter is valued at 10 cows. Wonder what the legions of soccer moms would say to that?

The story may not be garden variety chop socky fare, but it still doesn’t warrant a whole lot of elaboration. The characters are subject to some of the wildest mood swings you’ve ever seen, and the villains are a gang of bandits that are so laughably “opposite of badass” that it’s impossible to imagine them winning (it takes them a whole decade to come up with the awe-inspiring plan of getting revenge on the Dragon family by turning the Phoenix family against them. What, exactly, were they doing in the meantime…working for Miramax?). Sloppy writing rears its ugly head in other ways, like Jet and San Feng apparently gaining the temporary power of either invisibility or teleportation to escape an execution. Also, when the Phoenix patriarch finally gets a son, he’s so overjoyed that he kisses and plays with the newborn kid’s penis. Next stop for him: the Catholic priesthood (oh, man, that was low, even for me. See you in Hell).

Despite these shortcomings, you just gotta appreciate a movie where a whole shitload of characters fight like hell for 20 minutes or so at the end, partially making up for the lack of serious action in the rest of the film. You can skip ahead to that part without missing anything really entertaining; most of the brats will just annoy you.

Numskull’s Rating: 5/10

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Shaolin Temple (1982) Review

"The Shaolin Temple" International Poster

"The Shaolin Temple" International Poster

Director: Cheung Sing Yim
Cast: Jet Li, Yu Cheng Wai, Yu Hai, Din Nan, Chang Jien Wun, Ji Chuan Wah, Hu Chien Keung, Wong Kwang Chuan, Sun Jien Hwu, Yin Tee Wah
Running Time: 95 min.

By Numskull

Watch enough modern-day cop stories and Americanized Hong Kong films, and a straight-out chop socky flick like this almost seems new and innovative. Shaolin Temple is an above average kung fu movie, in most ways much like a million others from the 1970s, remarkable mostly for being Jet Li’s first film (and for possibly setting some sort of record for animal cruelty; a toad, a dog, and some sheep all bite the dust before the half-way point). He certainly got off to a better start than Jackie Chan did; this movie is clearly superior to most of Jackie’s drek with Lo Wei, The Man With No Clue. A few of them, admittedly, provided a modicum of amusement (especially Dragon Fist), but this film is more endearing somehow, and does not pretend to be anything more than what it is (Spiritual Kung Fu was supposed to be funny).

The plot is about as hackneyed as they come, with Jet Li training in Shaolin kung fu to avenge his father’s death (how many times have those last five words been used to describe martial arts movies?). As silly as that is, it’s kind of hard not to like a film that concludes with about 20 minutes of almost non-stop fighting involving dozens of warriors. Jet and the supporting players duke it out on other occasions as well, with no high-flying or little exploding thingies…just old-as-the-hills hand-to-hand combat the way it was meant to be, from back in the days when it took more than special effects and a pretty face to appear in a martial arts movie and not make a fool of yourself. The result is a fun little flick that kind of makes you want to go out and beat up some bad guys, and maybe expand your culinary horizons as well (dead dog and ram’s penis, yum yum).

Numskull’s Rating: 7/10

By Yi-Long

Jet Li’s first movie and one of the best martial arts movies ever made! Although it is a very basic story, it is extremely well done, lighthearted and fast, and it immediately showcases Jet Li’s undeniable screen-presence, charisma and (of course) his perfect Wushu skills. All wushu performers in this movie are real-life martial arts masters, and apparently no tricks whatsoever were used in the action scenes (no wires, no trampolines etc), not even for that 900-degrees spin Jet performs!

This movie showcases many different kung fu styles, like drunken-boxing, sword-fights, mantis-style etc etc etc (a lot okay!?). All of the fight scenes are really outstanding, except for the final one in which Jet kills the bad guy (ah duuuhhh….) rather easily, which is fairly short.

This is also a Mainland China production (which was 3 years in total production time), so the viewer gets to see the REAL shaolin temple, as well as some other beautiful scenery. This is a pretty old movie however, so most viewers are probably already spoiled with the experiences of more recent HK-Kung fu movies, in which is the action is faster and the camerawork and the choreography is more daring and faster.

Just enjoy the action and be amazed by the unbelievable talents of Jet Li and Co.

Yi-Long’s Rating: 9/10

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Iceman Cometh, The | aka Time Warrors (1989) Review

"The Iceman Cometh" International Poster

"The Iceman Cometh" International Poster

Director: Clarence Ford
Writer: Johnny Mak, Stephen Shiu
Producer: Stephen Shiu
Cast: Yuen Biao, Maggie Cheung, Yuen Wah, Sarah Lee, Tai Bo, Lam Chung, Alvina Kong, Ann Mui, Tan Lap Man, Frankie Ng, Chen Jing, Stanley Fung, Lai Yin Saan, Lam Siu Lau, Helena Law, Liu Wai Hung, Jackson Ng, Walter Tso, Elvis Tsui, Anthony Wong, Wong Jing, Corey Yuen
Running Time: 114 min.

By Reefer

Two opposing Ming Dynasty warriors fall into an ice crevice and are unthawed in the early 1990’s to a drastically changed world. The good warrior (Yuen Biao) finds a home with a quirky prostitute played by Maggie Cheung. The bad warrior (Yuen Wah), a rapist-murderer, simply picks up where he left off centuries ago. At first they are unaware that the other still exists until Wah’s handiwork shows up again. At the heart of this film is a simple fish-out-of-water story with the naive Biao, thinking that women are the rulers of this new world, plays slave to Cheung’s ditsy hooker. This provides many amusing moments situations for Biao to react and ultimately softens the movie’s tone.

My only real gripe with this movie is the nastiness of the truly evil Wah character. His brutal murder-rape scene that just doesn’t belong in this kinda movie mars all the light moments. He plays his character way over-the-top in most of his scenes. Agreed, many of us enjoy HK cinema because of its audacity and ability to mix genres and tones, but the brutality of the scene, much of it shown onscreen, is simply much too shocking.

Finally, the opponents discover each other and the fight begins (there are a couple of doozies this one). There is one featuring both Yuens fighting on top of a car hanging from a crane, a sword duel at the beginning, and the end fight that makes use of guns, swords, and then hand-to-hand combat. The combatants during the end fight take some nasty falls (none using stunt doubles!). It is a truly spectacular sequence that I would compare to Drunken Master 2.

Reefer’s Rating: 8/10

By Numskull

A rare thing: a Hong Kong action movie that exceeds 100 minutes. Sadly, the increased running time doesn’t mean a more intricate plot or any additional daredevilry. It just means that the movie plods. I’m not some sound-bit-spoiled simpleton with an attention span as wide as a pubic hair, but watching the chronologically misplaced Yuen Biao do menial chores for the ungrateful whore played by Maggie Cheung wears thin in a hurry. Drinking from the toilet only generates enough laughs to carry you so far, y’know? And then there’s the big bad villain Yuen Wah, who wantonly rapes and kills simply because it gives him that “special feeling”. Talk about a cardboard antagonist. The Iceman Cometh certainly isn’t the only offender in THAT department, but it really sticks out here because of the distinct lack of action for most of the film.

A sword fight in the beginning, a dull mass beating a little later on, one-half of a shootout in the embryo stage, and the baddie catching bullets and flicking them back at their originators like freshly-picked boogers. That’s what there is to sustain the viewer until the end, where we’re treated to a fairly cool “how-far-do-you-dare-to-plummet” stunt and the two Yuens go at it tooth and nail in a fight scene which is remakrable not only because the rest of the movie is a snore, but also because it perfectly illustrates the fact that Yuen Biao’s physical abilities are right up there with those of Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung, the two older “brothers” whose careers have unjustly overshadowed his for far too long.

Sorry folks, but a good ending fight does nothing to remedy such a lame story, nor does it single-handedly boost the movie from the status of the 98-pound weakling who gets sand kicked in his face at the beach to that of the guy who does the kicking. The Iceman Cometh is a weak link in Yuen Biao’s cinematic chain.

Numskull’s Rating: 4/10

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Not Scared to Die | aka Fist of Anger (1973) Review

"Fist of Anger" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“Fist of Anger” Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: In Eagle Shadow Fist
Director: Zhu Mu
Writer: Su Lan
Producer: Hoi Ling
Cast: Wong Ching, Alex Lung Ji Fei, Lee Man Tai, Yam Ho, Kok Lee Yan, Yuen Qiu, Yuen Cheung Yan, Lau Kar Wing, Jackie Chan, Chiang Nan, Fung Hak On
Running Time: 85 min.

By Numskull

Let’s see here. Multiple alternate titles: check. Evil Japanese invaders incessantly harassing the women and old folks: check. Jackie Chan, before anyone knew who he was: check. Absurdly abundant and even more absurdly fake-looking blood: check. Pitifully small selection of sound effects for fight scenes: check.

Yup, sounds like a recipe for crap to me. This is probably the movie that Jackie Chan wishes he could forget more than any other…and perhaps he has, since he’s taken so many blows to the head and made so many other shitfests since its completion. Avoid like the cliche…er, the plauge.

Numskull’s Rating: 2/10

By Alvin George

A stupid ’70s movie about actors in China who go up against the Japanese during WWII This film has it all: bad dubbing, grainy filmstock, mediocre fight scenes, and an incredibly lame plot. A young Jackie Chan, wearing a buzz cut, dies about halfway through the movie and I just about died too. In fact, after he died, I didn’t watch this movie any further. I wish Mike and the ‘bots from “Mystery Science Theater 3000” were around to make fun of this awful film.

Alvin George’s Rating: 0/10

By Cody

This is one of the films that I have listed as one of Jackie’s worst movies. The reasons that I don’t like this movie are quite obvious. JACKIE DIES! You will not believe how angry I was when Jackie died in the middle of the film. I felt like whooping the manager of the Blockbuster by my house’s ass. Another thing I hate about this film is the plot, which is the usual “Fist of Fury/ I hate Japs” deal.

After watching it a second time, I tried to ingnore Jackie dying and consentrated on the film itself, but it still didn’t help. The fights are terrible, especially the finale. The chinese renegade and the japanese fighter fight through a mountain, a plain, a jungle, a pond, and finally back to the mountain where the chinese guy sticks his fingers in the japanese’s eyes and then throws him down the mountain.

Don’t go through the horror that I have been through, please don’t rent this movie.

Cody’s Rating: 0/10 “Jackie, what are you doing?” “Killing Japs!”

By Vic Nguyen

You know, I always thought that the word “shit” meant excrements coming out of your ass. After watching this film, I finally found out the true meaning of this word. Jackie only makes a 15 minute supporting character role, which really sucks hairy dick!!

This movie is so crappy that it is beyond comprehension. It is so crappy that it makes “The Protector” look Oscar worthy. It is so crappy that I would rather spend my time getting together with all the guest reviewers on this page and take turns sandwiching Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp. Heck, I wouldn’t mind having the president join in, just as long as I’m not watching this film! It is so crappy that I would rather spend time drinking lighter fluid and stick a match up my ass to see what the effect was! It is so crappy that I would rather go to a Hanson concert, hop on stage, and beat the living crap out of those fags (I might just do that anyway), then spend the next couple of years imprisoned in an LA county jail with a cellmate named Bertha than watch this film.

Stay away from this film! A good use for the tape besides being a paperweight is that it makes a good flaming douche bag filler upper. In case that you haven’t got the message, stay away from the film, believe me, you’d rather stick your nose up a horse’s ass than watch a film like this. You could trust me on this one. (I know, I’m doing a cheap and very lame Numskull imitation, but it’s alot of fun though)

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: Just take 0/10, subtract it by the first 10 digit number that comes to your head, and divide it by 2 (This is only because that eye part at the end was cool, but good luck sitting through it til the end)

By Jim Carrey

I don’t know about ya’ll, but this is how Dimension would release this film in the theaters in a land filled with horrible movies: There’s never a descent actor around when you need him but when this actor’s around, one is all you need – Jackie Chan in his worst movie ever EAGLE SHADOW FIST….Well I’ll be fair, we learned 2 things from this picture: We now know the color of blood is a bright neon red and women, children, and the blind can be killed on screen with no remorse – And talk about the actor playing the hero, I’m not crackin’ on the guy or anything, but facially, every time I saw him, I felt like saying “It’s Howdy Doody Time, It’s Howdy Doody Time…”.

It hurts me to say what I’m about to – The action director for the film was Yuen Cheung-Yan, that’s right, the brother of Yuen Wo-Ping, he’s even in the movie at the beginning. He plays the head of the Japanese soldiers who march backstage to capture Jackie and Howdy Doody. Even worse, another Yuen Clan member, Yuen Yat-Chor also has a cameo as one of the guys hiding in the bushes who kill Jackie. I can’t believe the action director for this piece of crap was the same guy who did the action for “Once Upon A Time In China”, “Fire Dragon”, “Sword of Many Loves”, “King of Beggars”, “Operation Pink Force 2” and “Miracle Fighters”.

Now that I’ve disclosed this horrible secret I feel my life may be in danger from the Yuen Clan. I’m not scared though, I’ll just hire Wang Yu for protection — after all, I am one who loved Fantasy Mission Force.

Jim Carrey’s Rating: 1/10

By Andrew

Once a friend and I were watching an old James Bond film with lousy acting, stupid gags, and a really stupid plot. Every five minutes he would shout out “THIS JAMES BOND SUCKS!” Six months later I got my hands on this film, and watched it with my friend. His reaction was exactly the same- “THIS JACKIE CHAN SUCKS!” Other comments included “They were learning how to use fake blood in this one” and “stupid”.

I really can’t explain it, all I know is that this film fails to entertain on any level. There’s no comedy, the acting was a tragedy, and the fighting scenes were all pathetic, usually consisting of one guy pounding on another guy’s chest once and watching him die. There was one cool camera trick where a solid object looked liquid when it was out of focus. That was the only entertaining clip in the entire film.

Andrew’s Rating: 0/10

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Exclusive: Interview with Bob Wall

Bob Wall and Bruce Lee on the Enter the Dragon Set

Oharra! That’s right. The one, the only: Bob Wall, who has appeared in 2 1/2 films with Bruce Lee. His treachery has disgraced us and always will 🙂 – MPM, April 1999

MPM: I’ve been a Bruce Lee fan since as long as I can remember. Seeing you in ‘Way of the Dragon’, ‘Enter the Dragon’, and ‘Game of Death’…

Bob Wall: He’s (Bruce) a hell of a guy.

MPM: So, when did you first hear of Bruce Lee?

Bob Wall: I actually first met him in 1963 at a restaurant in Chinatown. I’d gone down there with a couple of karate friends to this martial arts demonstration and this guy was doing the usual, you know, routine at that time about kung fu, and how deadly it was and karate was blah, blah, blah, ignoring the fact that at the time there had never been a kung fu person able to go past first round in Thailand, they had all been knocked out. Anyway, this guy saw some Caucasians in the audience and said “I see some karate people. I invite them up and I’ll show you karate doesn’t work” so three guys went up there and he held out his arm and they all hit his arm, and then he said “Now I’ll show you kung fu is much deadlier than karate”, and none of the guys let him (kung fu man) hit their arms and the guy “There that shows that kung fu is deadlier than karate” I then said “You didn’t hit my arm” he freaked out I suppose, and so I walked up to this little stage, stuck my arm out and unlike when he had the guys hit him on the arm, he whacked me on the wrist three times… and you know, it’s like, uh, I’ve had everybody in the world who hits hard hit me, you know, I was yelled at him “Punch me, kick me, as hard as you can, I have my black belt”.

I looked at him and it was irritating me that he was hitting me on the wrist and not the arm so he hit 3 times and I said “that doesn’t hurt. Where’s the big diffence? Where’s my broken arm?” and so I reach up and slapped him, hard, naturally, and I said “you know what I do, I fight, lets you and I do that” and he didn’t expect that and he spun around, and you know all I did was slap him, and he ran off the stage… and I’m standing there all on the stage and then I realize I still have my drink in my hand.

But you know it freaked him that number one, I would allow him to hit me and number 2, I slapped him, and number 3, NOT GET MY DRINK KNOCKED OUT!

A couple of my buddies said, “Hey that was cool but you notice that there’s a lot of Chinese here and very few Caucasians here. I think it’s a good idea to get out of Dodge”. At that point reality hit that I’d blown this guy’s demo, so I started walking toward the door and I saw this tough-looking guy walking towards me so I said “This guy, I’m gonna clock” and he walks up close to me and says “Hey that was funny, I’m Bruce Lee!’

So we stepped outside and talked and talked and we were outside about 3 or 4 hours after the restaurant closed.

He was a very charasmatic guy and one of the million things he talked about was that he would do the same things I did. He said “Its amazing, you’re as cocky as I am! I like that!” So I didn’t want to put the guy down but that formed the basis for a long-term friendship…

For ten years until he died in 1973 and I found Bruce to be the real deal. Bruce wasn’t afraid of challenges. He was a very bright exciting guy you know, and it’s funny, because he got in a little group of Joe Lewis, Chuck Norris, Mike Stone, a lot of us that were world champions. There were four of us and we lived in L.A. and we got together all the time, and there were a lot of other guys that were at our level and a lot of them had black belts. We had a lot of guys that worked out with us; boxers, wrestlers, street fighters, Thai fighters, juijitsu guys, you know… and we were sharing out knowledge. Two time judo national champion, Gene LeBell, a real tough old man, later on, Gene was one of the few guy that Bruce would take lessons from.

Gene LeBell is former world heavyweight wresting champion, a two-time champion, I mean he’ a phenomenal man. Never lost a fight in his life… You know a REAL fight. And I introduced him to Bruce. But at any rate, we formed a friendship and we found we were in the world of top-flight martial artists, and Bruce would never admit it, but he learned as much from us as we learned from him and that’s how the deal was. Everybody traded knowledge and stuff, but Bruce was a lot more outspoken. But I just admired the hell out of him. He was a little man that created a big man’s body and he trained fanatically, he was into reality, he always believed in full contact, he had a lot of what was in already, among our group, right on.

So it’s kind of like if you meet a bigot, you know, once you’re a bigot, you repulse people, and so when you’re around people who think you do, and they’re refreshing, and they’re young and dynamic, Bruce was very very bright, a lot of people don’t know but he was 1/8th German, so we really had an affinity for the east and the west, and he was a very well read guy, a very bright guy, and he was fun to be with. And we shared a lot of interests; equipment for example, I made a big bag for him, which really came out of joke. At the time Joe Lewis was heavyweight champ was always splitting bags and I got tired of buying bags for him so I made him a special bag and I stuffed it. A normal bag weighs about 55 pounds and his weighed about 110, so Joe was real proud of it because nobody else could kick it except he and I and it never broke, it had a special thick canvas around it, leather rather, and so he loved to kick that bag, but Bruce would come in and tease him about it “Awww why don’t you get a MAN-sized bag” — he would tell him it was ‘girl-size’ bag and Bruce turned to me and said “Why don’t you make me man-sized bag” and Joe and I said “We’re going to get Bruce.”

MPM: (laughs)

"Way of the Dragon" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Way of the Dragon" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Bob Wall: And so I went as a joke, made him a 300 pound bag. I don’t think there’s a bag bigger than that. And so I stuffed it and called Bruce up in Bel Air and he had a Porshe, and I said “Hey Bruce, why don’t you come on down, I made you a man-sized bag” and he came and Joe and a bunch of our students all hid, I got on the phone, pretending to be on the phone, and I said “Yeah Bruce, go ahead and throw it in the back, its in there hanging up” and so he walked in and the expression on his face would have been great to have on film, and we all fell over when he saw the size of bag…

MPM: (laughs)

Bob Wall: …but he wouldn’t allow us to let him think it was a joke

(at this point Bob gets another call but quickly returns)

It was a friend of mine but I told him I’m in the middle of an interview so anyway we all popped out laughing and Bruce kick it once and fell over and then we helped him take it over to his place and hung it up in the garage and then he went over and kicked it and it broke the whole structure of the garage!

MPM: Wow!

Bob Wall: And so he had Herb (Jackson) come over and redo the whole garage and I’ll tell you, two months later, I saw him and he could kick the heck out of the bag!

He was just a determined guy and so I loved him and he loved himself and so we just had a lot of common interests, things like that and we built a heck of a friendship.

People would ask “How did you wound up being in 3 out of his 5 films?” and I say well I didn’t have any say so in the first two, but in the third, fourth, and fifth film which I did, he said ‘you know I really like to make contact, I want to make the fights scense real, he wanted to hit me, really hard, and I said ‘Go for it, I’m a professional’ and so he did, like that side kick in ETD, we did several times, about the sixth or seventh time, he hit me so hard the thrust broke one of the guy’s arms behind me ….

MPM: Yeah, I read about that…

Bob Wall: So the bottom line was he hit real hard, he liked to hit and I liked to get hit…

MPM: You like to get hit?

Bob Wall: I was there to do a job and anyway it was a lot of fun. He was a lot of fun but anyway its a long answer to your question.

Bob Wall with Bruce Lee.

Bob Wall with Bruce Lee.

MPM: That’s cool man, take your time! Very interesting. I know its bullcrap, but why did Robert Clouse make up such a story about that real fight between you and Bruce?

Bob Wall: Real simple… because Robert Clouse is one of the worst directors and the reality is that Bruce didn’t like him. And he would run him anytime there were fight scenes. And so they had a constant battle going back and forth that’s why he(Clouse) left ‘Dr. Braitwaite’ in there. Bruce Lee had a very dynamic personality and you have to understand that he was a good-looking guy, a talented guy, a brilliant guy and all these things and he finally got his shot to star in a major movie by Warner Bros., the first big martial arts movie, a huge budget by the standards of his other films, and the reality was that he wasn’t going to blow it. And so there was a lot of problems between the two of them and Clouse had no respect for action people, only respect for actors…

MPM: Jesus.

Bob Wall: ….he didn’t consider Bruce or I ‘actors’, but its kind’ve strange that I’m in the only martial films that have grossed $200 million – ETD and GOD – but I’m not an actor, but everyone in the world believes that I was a killer… you know everyone hated me because of my character….

MPM: I sure did!

Bob Wall: That’s called acting!

MPM: Exactly, you did a pretty good job!

Bob Wall: But in any event, nobody ever heard of Bob Clouse before ETD, they heard of him later because of ETD, because he got his name up there as director, but the reality is there was bad stuff going on and Clouse was only nice to STARS of movies but he wasn’t nice to the star of that movie, Bruce, so he (Clouse) was very nice to John Saxon because he was an ‘actor’ but not to Bruce and I so therefore when you’re not nice to me, I slap you on the head! So I didn’t take any of his bull**** and he couldn’t fire me and so his way to get to me was to try to make up bull****. And also, he was smart, he saw after Bruce died, he saw what a phenomenon he was, the film became a classic and gave him a career but he’s had no career since then so, he could sell a book but with no sex or sin, what better to sell than bull****…

Bull**** sells but the reality is that even Clouse with all of his bull**** had to admit that Bruce and I, Bruce got cut during one of the fight scenes so Clouse spread the rumor that Bruce was going to kill me. Freddy Weintraub came to me ‘Bob you better get out of town’ and I said first of all Bruce and I are good friends. Second, I am afraid of nobody. Anybody that wants to start killing me better pack their lunch. So I went over to Bruce’s house, and of course I felt terrible, he was a friend. How would you feel if you were involved in an accident where a friend gets hurt. You don’t feel good. So I went over to Bruce’s house and I said straight up there’s a rumor that we couldn’t prove was coming Clouse but we eventually did, so I said straight up ‘Bruce, do you think the accident was my fault?’ and he said ‘Absolutely not. It was timing’ My instruction was …. first of all you got a genius, Clouse, and I mean that superlistictly, he’s an idiot, telling me to break the bottles, now remember we had to do that eight times, well he didn’t have fake glass, everytime I’m breaking real bottles, well when i break real bottles, guess what?: I’m not allowed to look down to see where the chunks go! And guess what? I gotta fall on them! The camera doesn’t show that but guess what, that’s real glass I got to fall on…

MPM: Man!

Bob Wall: It cut holes in my back, my knees… I had to fall like I’m dead, right?

But forget that, that doesn’t show up in the movie and so it should have been fake glass. Bruce’s instructions to me were… the reason he had me in 3 out of his 5 films… is because I went to there to make him look good. I took the hits. I’m told Bruce is the fastest guy on earth, well guess what? What good is that if the slowest guy on earth is taking the hits. You still got to sell them. He may not be hitting me hard on the body but you got to make em look like he did. And so Bruce says when you break the bottles, come at me as fast as you can and aim at my right pec. All right. He doesn’t say throw the bottle away. And so 6 times we do it perfectly, the seventh time he missed. If you hit yourself anywhere between the hand and elbow, your arms going to fly. Anything above, it isn’t. So what happend was timing.

MPM: Timing.

Bob Wall: So the bottom line is I told Bruce “I’m heartbroken that your hand got hurt. But what about these rumors” and he said they were hogwash. But the Chinese put a high priority on loss of face so when Bruce heard the rumor had gotten around big time he said ‘Hey I can’t kill Bob Wall. He’s important, he’s got to finish the movie, otherwise, I’d kill him!’ And then everybody made a big joke out of it right but we were cleaning up what Clouse started. He ultimately put pressure on Clouse and found out he started the rumor. But it was just his way of trying to create extra tension. The reality is we shot the scene three more times and you know what? I’m supposed to be half dazed and I’m just sitting there, I not defending myself, not blocking, Bruce comes up and sidekicks wherever he could have wanted to, it could’ve been at my head, my throat, it could ‘ve been anywhere he would have wanted, but you know what? He hit the same spot everytime.

Bob Wall with Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris on the set of "Way of the Dragon"

Bob Wall with Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris on the set of "Way of the Dragon"

MPM: Hey how did it feel?

Bob Wall: Anyone that explodes enough to send you back to break somebody’s arm behind you, but I know how to take a punch, I know how to take a kick, but the guy behind me didn’t. The bottom line is it’s one thing to get hit that hard once or twice, but try it eight times in a row. Let me tell you, about the fourth time, you know what’s coming, you’re going to get popped real hard, and you just have to say ‘Hey, I’m here to do a job. Make it real.’

MPM: Yeah, you can see it on film.

Bob Wall: But the bottom line is the film is 25 years old and Warner Bross is 75 years old and they’ve made thousands of films, and they brought out their top 10 grossing films of all time, and ETD is on that list, and its the lowest budget film! Bear in mind the statistics of 1973 a little film called Godfather came out which cost about $17 million and grossed 88 million . ETD cost $850,000 and grossed over $200 million. Now if you’re putting up $850,000 or $17 million, which return do you want?

MPM: Exactly!

Bob Wall: So the bottom line is its a phenomenal film, made by Freddy and Paul Heller, and it stars Bruce Lee in his greatest film.

MPM: By the way, they were supposed to re-release in theaters. But I think it just got limited release.

Bob Wall: Yeah, they did a limited re-release. That was a mistake. Warner Bros. thought it was too old and they just did a little releasing here and there, but the bottom line is that that was their decision. They have made so much money out of that film.

MPM: Did Bruce want you to be in the original Game of Death?

Bob Wall: I was in the original film.

MPM: In ’73?

Bob Wall: In ’73.

MPM: Really?

Bob Wall: Sure, the bottom line is that when we were doing the original story, it was like Hercules and the 7 doors but here, there was a 7 floor building, each floor had a bigger, meaner, monster and I was on level 5, Kareem Abdul Jabbar was on level 7…

Part of the fight scene in the locker room is Bruce lee and I from that fifth floor and part of it is real Kareem Abdul Jabbar and part of it is a stand in because they changed the script. Thats why when you see the great KAA fight scene, Bruce is so heavily out of wind, there is no explanation for it because in the original he had come up 7 flights and fought 6 monsters. And in this one (GOD ’78) they didn’t have it that way.

And so they used Danny Inosanto was in the real one, and they came back in ’77 and shot more scenes with me, all the scenes with the doctor are all new scenes, but that’s without Bruce. In the locker scene, part of it is with the real bruce and part of it is not.

As matter of fact they had 3 guys to play Bruce, one Chinese guy gave the English dialogue and he didn’t do any martial arts so he did the dialogue scenes, another guy did all the stunts except the martial arts he did all the motorcycles and all those crashes but he didn’t speak English and then they had a Korean guy who did the fight scenes and he could not hold his leg up and remember that scene where I get kicked five times? It was me kicking me!

MPM: Really?!

Bob Wall: Yeah, because he couldn’t hold his leg up. What we did was shot across my hip to my leg and I went whap whap whap whap whap! And then I turned around and went “Uh uh uh uh uh uh!” So it’s me kicking me in the locker. And we just cut it together.

"Enter the Dragon" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Enter the Dragon" Chinese Theatrical Poster

MPM: That’s crazy!

Bob Wall: Sammo Hung, who’s now starring in ‘Martial Law’, he’s the guy I beat up in GOD. So he’s the guy that set up the fight scene together when I got back. What i told him in the beginning when they called me about GOD was ‘Oh no, not Bob Clouse!’ he’s the worst director in the world. I told Sammo ‘He’ll ruin all your fight scenes’ and sure enough they were all lousy so they called me back, I left there in October of ’77, and they called me back in December saying you have to reshoot the fight scenes and I said the only way I’m coming back is if in the contract, which I have it, says ‘Bob Clouse is not allowed in the country! And then I’ll do the fight scenes, get me Sammo and all these guys and I’ll direct them. So I went back and shot all the locker room stuff and all the stuff of me beating up Sammo in the ring. I directed all that. Sammo and I. The reality is that Bob Clouse is an idiot and fortunately for the world he can’t make anymore movies.

MPM: Did you realize they were going to do a lot of awful things to do this movie like the cardboard cut-out and all that lousy stuff?

Bob Wall: Well again, the problem is Bob Clouse. Isnt’ it amazing that everbody knows all this stupid stuff that was done, but this is the ‘brilliant’ director of ETD. So how come he was ‘brilliant’ with ETD and then do this ****.

MPM: Because Bruce directed ETD.

Bob Wall: The bottom line is Bruce at that point was dead and I was no longer doing it for Bruce and they were stuck with me because I was already in the original. Why do you think they had me back? They couldn’t replace me. They replaced Bruce but if we would have had a good director, there was plenty of footage to make a good film. The bottom line is it’s a good film, its not a horrible film, there’s a lot of stupid things in it, but how do you argue with critics who come out saying its horrible and it goes on to make $200 million. The fact is Bruce was in it.

MPM: I heard they are going to release all the footage Bruce filmed.

Bob Wall: Well Raymond Chow has sold everything now, so I don’t know what will happen.

MPM: What about Way of the Dragon? What was it like on the set?

Bob Wall: Well that was the film we did, you know Chuck Norris and I with Bruce and it was great fun, we had a ball. It was the first HK film filmed in a foreign location. We spent 3 weeks in Rome and when we got there, the Colesium was closed. My wife Lilian knew a few connections and got him in there. Nobody had filmed in there for years and nobody has filmed in there since.

But we got in there and it was special we got a to spend a week in there and I got some amazing photos from in there, sections that were closed off to the public. It was a great experience, I really enjoyed it and we learned a lot from Bruce. We went back to Hong Kong to finish the film. I was gone 3 months for WOTD and 3 months for ETD.

MPM: Nora Miao, did you meet her?

Bob Wall: Oh, sure.

MPM: Nice girl?

Bob Wall: Nice girl. She didn’t speak much English. Nora was a very nice talented girl.

MPM: Okay, how about all these rumors about people on the Bruce Lee sets challenging him… you know like on ETD, did you ever witness any of this, is there anything on film?

Bob Wall: Well, yeah, I saw Bruce beat up a couple of people. There weren’t a lot of challenges. There’s a lot of people who ‘talk’ like Steven Seagal…

The main incident was a guy on the wall speaking in cantonese who was basically saying ‘you’re not a martial artist, you’re just an actor” and Bruce said “oh really. Come on down and show me what you got” and the guy goes down there and Bruce was just playing around with him and the guy was trying to take his head off and Bruce realized, I know bruce real well, I saw his whole face change cause this guy was really trying to hurt him and Bruce just then kicks the **** out of him, rammed him to the wall, arm-locked him, smacked him 3 or 4 times on the face, and the guy just started going ‘I quit, I quit, I quit’ Bruce smacked him a few more times. The guy couldn’t move at all. And then Bruce told him ‘Not bad for an actor’. And the guy then bowed to him.

MPM: (laughs hard)

"Game of Death" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Game of Death" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Bob Wall: That’s the difference between Seagal and Bruce. Seagal would’ve fired him, but Bruce just let him fly back on the wall. But he let him know on no uncertain terms that they were totally mismatched. You see Bruce was a world class martial artist and there are a lot of Black Belts walking around thinking there’s no difference between a world class and a black belt. But there is a big difference. Bruce was the real deal. I remember one time when Chuck and I came to HK from Rome, there were headlines when we got there in all the papers basically saying the whan bang what’s his name was challenging Chuck Norris. Bruce said awww forget it, I get these all the time, you knock down 2, 4 more come up, you knock 4 down, 8 more come up, just ignore it, but Chuck was very upset about it and Chuck doesn’t back down from anybody, talk about an authentic world champion and he doesn’t take that kind of stuff. But they didn’t mention anything about me so I told Chuck don’t worry about it and so I said “I’m Chuck’s student i , I accept the challenge but a couple of little things were going to be on Enjoy Yourself Tonight (a show in HK that was kind of like Johnny Carson)… Lets have a death match with no rules. I’m going to kill all the challengers on live TV. Come on over to Enjoy Yourself Tonight, I’m going to let you hit me first and then I’m going to kill you. And anybody that doesn’t show up is a chicken! So all challenges, anywhere, come on over, no tricks, no hogwash, it’ll be just you and me, we’re going to get out there and we’re gonna go for it!” So we got there and there’s thousands and thousands of people around and we go on and all of the sudden there is just silence. All these ‘mouths’ didn’t want to step up.

MPM: (Laughs)

Bob Wall: So then it was embarrassing because we thought we would have at least 3 or 4 dead bodies with us and all of the sudden all the ‘talkers’ didn’t want to walk! So they just asked Chuck and I to do a demonstration but Chuck was still steamed up and he just whacked the **** out of me all over the stage. In fact, we didn’t realize we were on a platform, with black curtains all around it, when in the end of the demo, he did a jump spinning back kick to me, and all of the sudden, I realize I’m flying off the stage! I’m looking down and there’s nothing for thirteen feet but steel frames. I’m starting to fall and all of the sudden Chuck snatches me! How he did it, I still don’t know. I was able to hang on and he pulled me back up. As he did, the cameras zoomed up and showed the welts all over my chest and everybody went ‘oooooohhhhh!’. So after that my name in Chinese after that was “Oooohh Robertt”, Chuck’s was Lo Li Sing, and of course Bruce’s was Lee Siu Loong. So everywhere we went, everbody went ‘Lo Li Sing, Lo Li Sing’ and ‘Ooooh Robert. Tough man, tough man’ (said with a fake Chinese accent).

MPM: Gosh, is this all on film?

Bob Wall: Oh, sure. Somebody’s got it.

MPM: You don’t have a copy yourself?

Bob Wall: Noooo.

MPM: Why not?!

Bob Wall: You know at the time, to us, we didn’t understand these young fighters, you don’t think when you’re a young world champion that, everything is years out there, so sure, now we’re smart, and now I’d love to have a copy of it. Somebody’s got it out there. The only film I know of that was shot of Bruce Lee was shot by Ahna Capri, on the set of ETD. In it we sparred for about 10 minutes.

MPM: Oh really? This hasn’t been released to the public, I take it?

Bob Wall: Well she’s got a problem. I had offered her a pretty good chunk of money so that Freddy Weintraub could put it in “Curse of the Dragon” and she turned him down. But she can’t sell because she has to have releases. She can sell it to a private collector but she want 65 grand for it. Its not worth 65 grand. Its about 12 minutes of film and about 5 minutes of Bruce , us sparring…

The 1993 Bruce Lee documentary "Curse of the Dragon," which Bob Wall produced.

The 1993 Bruce Lee documentary "Curse of the Dragon," which Bob Wall produced.

MPM: So you have to put it into some kind of documentary…

Bob Wall: Well, I’m in the film, I have to sign a release. Am I going to sign one for free? Is Warner Bros. going to sign one for free? It was shot on a Warner Bros. set. Is Bruce Lee’s widow going to sign one for free? Is Freddy Weintraub going to sign one for free? And all the people in it? You can’t just go out and sell stuff. So she’s got a private film that she can only view privately.

MPM: That sucks!

Bob Wall: I tried to get it and I had her appeal. They would have given her a nice chunk of change and she wouldn’t go for it. She filmed it in ’73 and still hasn’t been able to sell it. If she ever does sell it and whoever buys it will be sued. So it’s unfortunate. The same thing applies to all the other stuff we did. Nobody can sell the films of Chuck and I doing the demo and my doing the challenge, without my release. I’m not going to let someone earn money off me for free! So the odds are it will never get sold. A collector might wind up with it and they can show it privately. But if he’s ever charges a dime …

MPM: While on ETD did Bruce ever talk about his next projects, you know, with you?

Bob Wall: As matter of fact, the last time I saw him, you know he died on July 20, 1973, and in May of ’73, he passed out, almost died, so he was concerned about it. Hong Kong doctors couldn’t tell him what was wrong and so he came to Beverly Hills from June 1st til June 8th for a physical. I used to fly him all his protein so I saw him on June 1st, I had lunch with him, and then I saw him the day before he left, and Bruce was excited saying “They say I got a body of an 18-year old” But at that time, they didn’t know about MRIs for brain tissue, because when Bruce died, he had the brain tissue of a 90-year old! Obviously he died, at least it’s clear to me, of an anuerysm, caused by taking, he had hurt his back in 1970, these tablets of equagesic, which is a painkiller common to aspirin, so [folks at points, things were extremely difficult to hear] he was taking this every six months, without any reaction, but as…(????) Bruce kept taking more and more, it caused the swelling in his brain, but he didn’t realize that and his doctors didn’t know that.

But in any event, I saw him three times that week, and its a shame he didn’t see how the film did, but one of the things he talked about, to answer your question, his fifth film was going to be with Carlo Ponti, who’s still alive and married to Sophia Loren, and Bruce said “Hey Bob, you get to be a good guy in the next one!” The script was to have Bruce play a CIA type of guy and international drug terrorist and dealers and I was going to be a CIA agent coming to help him out.

MPM: His sidekick?

Bob Wall: Yep. I would’ve been a good guy in that one. We were just about a month away from signing a contract. It was going to be shot in Rome.

MPM: Was there a title for this?

Bob Wall: No. There was a working title and it was, uh, ‘Drug Terror’.

MPM: Really? Did any HK producers try to get you to appear in a Bruce Li or Bruce Le film?

Bob Wall: Yep, lots of ’em.

MPM: (Laughs) So you turned them all down, huh?

Bob Wall: I turned them all down because, number one, I did all those films for Bruce, I loved Bruce. I’m always enthused when people say ‘Whatever happened to Bob Wall?’ Well, let’s see after GOD, I did Sidekicks, I was in Code of Silence, I did Invasion USA…

MPM: No way! You weren’t in that!?

Bob Wall: Yep, I did Firewalker in ’86, I did Lone Wolf McQuade in ’85, uh… I did ‘Hero and the Terror’ in ’88, Sidekicks in ’91, and I’ve done 14 ‘Walkers’. Gee , I wonder what happened to him?

The 2003 documentary "The Life & Legend of Bob Wall"

The 2003 documentary "The Life & Legend of Bob Wall"

MPM: (Laughs)

Bob Wall: The bottom line is Warner Bros. offered me, actually several companies offered me but Warner Bros. was the one I was interested in, they offered me a 3 picture film deal. My wife felt very strong against it. Everybody she’s ever seen, I’ve taught Elvis, I’ve taught Paul Newman, Elke Sommers, Debbie Reynolds, and on and on and on… and Freddie Prinze, and I had a lot of celebrity clients and the reality is all of them have gone through divorce! Even Chuck Norris got divorced. The reality is that business is not good for the homelife, I mean you’re gone all the time but what do mates do when they’re gone 3 or 4 months at a time? Basically it leads to things that get them in trouble. And so we turned it down because we thought I’m making a lot of money in real estate I got a lot of money from my film career, I’m famous enough that people who know martial arts or know Bruce Lee films know me, but I’m not so famous that I can’t walk down a street, I can go in and out of a restaurant, I don’t lose my privacy, and let me tell you it’s tough enough to go away 3 months 3 times without my family and the third time, I took my wife with me but we had to leave the kids so the bottom line is we just decided against a film career for that reason. You know, Chuck Norris is the wealthiest guy in the martial arts ever, but that’s what he wanted to do and I’ve did what I’ve wanted to do.

MPM: I didn’t realize you were in all those films.

Bob Wall: The reason is I didn’t want to be gone from my family. I wouldn’t take a starring or costarring role. But I was there. In Code of Silence when Chuck’s character walks in that Puerto Rican bar, I’m standing by a pool table, saying ‘hey you can’t go in there!’ and I’m dressed up looking like a Puerto Rican and Chuck says ‘If I want an opinion out of you, I’ll beat it out of you’ and he knocks the crap out of me. Then he goes back and he smashes the bad guy’s face down in a whole stack of cocaine and I’m the guy who steps up and beats him up but I’m playing another character. And then when the two black guys walk into the cops bar and they pull their guns out, I’m the guy standing right behind them with a gun to his head, and I was also in several scenes with stunts. In ‘Invasion USA’ I got killed 12 times in that, I was a red soldier, a blue soldier, I was several people. I was killed by a mortar, I was thrown out of a window once, I was in a helicopter and got shot out of it but the bottom line is they’re not starring roles. In ‘Firewalker’ I was predominantly a character that was picked up by Norris’ character. 3 of them. One of them was a character that was killed by the ‘Firewalker’ and the other was portrayed by a national karate champion. We were featured predominantly as people who got the hell beat out of them. They were just stunts. I would down to Mexico for two weeks, I went to Atlanta for two weeks, so I make the money, I play with Chuck and I don’t lose my family. I got what I wanted.

MPM: So you and Chuck keep in contact pretty much?

Bob Wall: Yep as matter of fact, we had dinner last night at a restaurant.

MPM: Wow. How come you didn’t invite me? What’s the deal?

Bob Wall: Just step on over!

MPM: How about Mike Stone, do you still keep in touch with him?

Bob Wall: No I haven’t seen Mike for years. He got married to a Filipina girl.

MPM: Okay I want to ask you some really, I mean you don’t have to answer them, these are for the fans, they really want to know. I don’t know if you’re familiar with a book called ‘Unsettled Matters’.

Bob Wall: No.

MPM: It was written by Tom Bleecker who is Linda Lee’s ex-husband , they are now divorced.

Bob Wall: Oh yeah, can you send me a copy of it?

MPM: I have a copy right here. I can get you a copy sure.

Bob Wall: I’d love to see because it’s stuff like that that I don’t hear, never see it…

MPM: It’s a really independent book, like “underground”.

Bob Wall: Yeah if you can get me a copy of it I’d really appreciate it.

MPM: Yeah sure. Anyway, its a book about the flaws of Bruce Lee.

Bob Wall: He talks about Bruce Lee’s flaws?

MPM: Yeah.

Bob Wall: Ho ho. That’s got to be interesting.

MPM: I just want to run down some of the stuff with you.

Bob Wall: Okay.

Bob Wall with Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris.

Bob Wall with Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris.

MPM: Um…. Steroids and Bruce. Do they go together?

Bob Wall: No. Bruce was very anti-drug as matter of fact, let me tell you a story. When we wrapped on ‘Return of the Dragon’ when we were going back to Hong Kong, we had a running debate because I love wine and still do. I got Bruce to try some Italian stuff and he didn’t like it. But the running thing was he liked marijuana and I didn’t. He said ‘How can you not like it if you’ve never tried it?’ and I said I don’t like the contents. Its not for me and I didn’t want to smoke it, I’ve never smoked. He said ‘Well I don’t like to smoke either but its a great way to relax’. Bruce was a very nervous guy. But in ’72 he got the concept from… to bake hashish in cookies and that became Bruce’s new way to relax. He was a very intense guy. That’s the only drug he ever used. He hurt his back and they told him he’d never walk again, in 1970 lifting weights, and he started taking equagesic tablets. Other than those two, Bruce never took drugs. And certainly, he would have never taken steroids. His whole thing was these hashish cookies that he didn’t have to smoke it. There was also a big article in ’72 in Playboy magazine that he kept showing me at the time that there was a relationship established between wine and marijuana. I didn’t buy it but the bottom line is, he’s (Bleecker) entitled to that opinion, but there is no way that he (Bruce) ever used steroids.

MPM: No way?

Bob Wall: No way, bull****. The problem is people like Bleecker never worked hard in their life and don’t know what hard work is. But you know what? When I graduated from high school I was 5’7” and weighed 133 lbs. My normal weight now is 182 and I’m 6’1″. I went up to 202 lbs for ETD because the character was supposed to be 6’6″ so I went up to be the most menancing character I could. Even the way I cut the beard was designed, I have a narrow face, to widen my face…

MPM: Yeah I noticed.

Bob Wall: So that’s all part of the job to create a character, including the scar…

MPM: Yeah it worked! You looked totally different than in WOTD or GOD.

Bob Wall: Yeah exactly, you know I laugh when people say how great of an actor I was, but the reality is I created a role to become a classic killer.

MPM: Yeah, definitely.

Bob Wall: But you know Bruce was one of those rare people who worked extremely hard to the most of anyone’s imagination. I never in my life saw anyone work out harder than Bruce. Chuck Norris worked out as hard, Joe Lewis worked out as hard, there were a few people, but darn few. So that’s just plain hogwash about Bruce using steroids cause he was much too wise and he never touched steroids. And if he had, c’mon, at his peak he weighed 150 lbs at 5’7″, if he had been using steroids he would’ve be 190 lbs. So that’s hogwash. So what’s the next hogwash?

MPM: (laughs) Did Bruce ever cheat on his wife, you know, did he ever have any sexual affairs with any of his leading actresses? This is just stuff I’m reading from the book to you.

Billy Zabka ("The Karate Kid") and Bob Wall (reprising his O'Hara character) on the set of a commerical for TwinLab.

Billy Zabka ("The Karate Kid") and Bob Wall (reprising his O'Hara character) on the set of a commerical for TwinLab.

Bob Wall: Well there’s a lot of rumors about that stuff. I was never with Bruce when he was with any girl but I can tell you I was around Betty Ting Pei, Nora Miao, and there was none of that stuff going on around us, but all I can tell you is … he loooved his wife. Linda Lee, for my money, was one of the best wives I’ve ever seen in my life. She was a fabulous wife to Bruce. I had several conversations with him about how much he loved her and he would never do anything to risk losing her and the fact is that woman loved him, still I think she loves him, beyond the grave. She married another Bruce. Her current husband is Bruce (Cadwell). But the reality is she’s a classy bright woman, who took great care of him, was very sexual with him was very womanly with him and she was probably more fluent in Cantonese than Bruce was. She really took it seriously about being his wife. I can’t imagine… look, you know what, when you’re an actor like Bruce and you have a million women attracted to him and you’re taking pictures with actresses all the time, so it’s very easy… I don’t know if you remember in high school you know like it was once thought that anyone wearing a yellow sweater was a hooker so if you saw ‘Mary’ wearing a yellow sweater she’s a hooker… so the reality is that on the sets Bruce was very friendly to everyone, he was a charming guy and I can’t say for sure because I don’t know but I can tell you my opinion is no.

You know I’ve been married for 34 years to the greatest woman in the world and I know Bruce felt about Linda like I do about my wife. And you know what? If Bruce had cheated had her and Linda had known about it, she would’ve divorced him.

MPM: Yeah.

Bob Wall: And she didn’t. Hogwash number 2 as far as I’m concerned.

MPM: Ha ha. That’s all the ‘hogwash’ questions. But where were you the night Bruce Lee died, what was your reaction?

Bob Wall: Well, it was daytime when Linda called and I was doing a film called ‘Black Belt Jones’ by Freddy Weintraub and we were up in Mount Marriott College when I got the call from Linda and she asked for Freddy and I and said ‘Bruce died’ and right away my first thought was ‘How can this be? He was going to live to be a hundred. He was so vital’. He took such great care of himself, great diet, great exercise, he was in phenomenal shape, stretching all the time, and so when it sunk in, I asked Linda if he died in a car accident and she said no .

You see Bruce was the worst driver on the planet and if he would’ve died of anything, I thought it would’ve been in a car accident. He was a terrible, terrible driver. It was so amazing that he was the most brilliant athlete but was a terrible driver because he never paid attention to what he was doing. His mind was always going a million miles a minute. So that’s where I was, Mount Marriott College, on July 20, 1973, shooting a film called ‘Black Belt Jones’. I’ll never forget it.

"...he's (Bleecker) entitled to that opinion, but there is no way that he (Bruce) ever used steroids." - Bob Wall

"...he's (Bleecker) entitled to that opinion, but there is no way that he (Bruce) ever used steroids." - Bob Wall

MPM: So tell me, are you still interested in martial arts films? Who do enjoy watching on the screen today?

Bob Wall: You know the only interesting martial artist on film is Chuck Norris. I love his stuff because he incorporates his character into it. I love ‘Walker’. I own everyone of Chuck’s 24 films, I mean, I’m a fan. But outside of him, you know uh Steven Seagal, I hear he’s trying to reform now, but I’ve never seen one of his films, because he was a jerk, and we recently had a little talk about who’s real and who’s not, and uh, he apologized and I accepted that. Jean Claude Van Damme who unfortunately I helped created his career, he had gotten beat up in a workout with Bill Wallace. Chuck was there and hired him as a gofer and he worked with Chuck for a year and that’s how he got in ‘Bloodsport’, using Chuck’s producers, but he never acknowledged Chuck so he’s not a nice person so I’ve never bothered with his films . And uh, um I ‘m not a fan… I mean I like Jackie Chan as a person, and I admire him as an athlete, not as a martial artist which he is really not much of, but as an athlete, he’s a heck of a stuntman, but I’m just not into the slapstick comedy stuff. I tried to watch them, I watched ‘Big Brawl’, I’ve watched a few minutes of a few other things but it just doesn’t do it for me. And Jet Li, the only film I saw him in was ‘Lethal Weapon 4’ and it was such an awful film that I couldn’t finish it. I rented it and I was watching it at home and I couldn’t do it. I actually turned it off before it got to Jet Li’s part so I never saw him do anything. And of course who wants to see all this imitations of Bruce?

MPM: Yeah exactly. They even got a guy to imitate you also!

Bob Wall: You’re kidding.

MPM: Yeah there are so many out there.

Bob Wall: What film?

MPM: I mean there are so many. They had guys that looked like Bob Baker, Kareem, and you. They intentionally got a guy with a beard and a scar that looked like you. Even Linda Lee was imitated in one.

Bob Wall: Really.

MPM: Yeah. So is ‘Curse of the Dragon II’ ever going to come out? Are you going to produce it?

"...uh Steven Seagal, I hear he’s trying to reform now, but I’ve never seen one of his films, because he was a jerk, and we recently had a little talk about who’s real and who’s not, and uh, he apologized and I accepted that." - Bob Wall

"...uh Steven Seagal, I hear he’s trying to reform now, but I’ve never seen one of his films, because he was a jerk, and we recently had a little talk about who’s real and who’s not, and uh, he apologized and I accepted that." - Bob Wall

Bob Wall: Well we actually gathered 44 hours and went through it and took an hour and a half for ‘Curse of the Dragon’ and I very much want to do a sequel because there is so much great stuff left but Freddy feels we haven’t yet hit on the concept so it’s really… what I’m looking for is people like yourself… what would they like to see… what should the makeup of the film be… see my concept was we going into the making of WOTD, ETD, GOD, and ‘Curse of the Dragon’, we go into the back stuff, about how that happened, how this happened, why we did it this way, recreating how Bruce got cut, all of this…

MPM: Yeah that would be great!

Bob Wall: …but Freddy doesnt think that’s interesting but I do. I’ve gotten hundred and hundreds of fan letters. Today, I average 150 fan letters a month. Of course a lot of them start off “Hi, Mr.Wall, I’m a great fan of yours and I’m a fan of Bruce Lee ” and I know they really want to know more about Bruce than me so I understand so I answer everyone back and I work my butt off spending a fortune, I don’t have a studio paying for all this, nobody ever bothers to send me 10 bucks to pay for the photo. I pay for the photo , I take the time to write the letters, I answer, I autograph, seal it in the evelope, and send it out, but never have I had anyone ever say ‘Hey this probably costs money!’ But in any event several years ago I got smart. I was out on tour when a collector would come up to me for an autograph and I said ‘What do you got for me? ‘What do you mean?’ he said. I said ‘What’s in it for me?’ and it’s amazing, I now have the greatest collection on the planet , books, magazines, so on, things people never even heard of, but it’s by asking that I get. So what I would love is for a bunch of fans to write to tell me what they want so that way we can have the impetus. It’s going to happen. With ‘COTD’, we all had a concept, we all agreed on it and we all went for it. The only thing pissing me was I did all the interviews except for (Albert) Goldman and George Tan. They’re both weasels and George Tan is the biggest weasel of all time! So I wouldn’t interview those guys but everyone else I did the off-camera interview, Kareem, Chuck, James Coburn, and on and on and on. I interviewed everybody. But at any rate, it’s a matter of us agreeing on what the fans want to see and I think my concept is right on.

MPM: Yeah it is. Dead on.

Bob Wall: Maybe you can get a list from fans of the top 100 questions fans want to know the answer to. We’re going to do it. We got releases on it. It’s so simple to put it together. We spent over a year doing COTD. You’ve seen that right?

MPM: Yeah.

Bob Wall: What did you think of it?

MPM: It was great. It was good. I loved it.

Bob Wall: The whole film was pretty well done. My idea was, I thought ‘Dragon:The Bruce Lee Story’ was so awful…

MPM: Oh yeah, yeah…

"The whole idea of metal monsters chasing him and all his whining and crying with his back broken, all that never happened..." - Bob Wall

"The whole idea of metal monsters chasing him and all his whining and crying with his back broken, all that never happened..." - Bob Wall

Bob Wall: The whole idea of metal monsters chasing him and all his whining and crying with his back broken, all that never happened, I mean I’m going “Come on!” The real Bruce Lee was much more exciting than that film. So that was the impetus for us doing COTD, because its all truth and it’s what his friends thought of him.

MPM: Yeah, you guys have definitely got to do another one, it was really interesting.

Bob Wall: And it made quite a bit of a fortune. So anyway that’s what we are looking for. What do the fans want?

MPM: You guys should get a website going or something.

Bob Wall: It’ll get done. I’m winding down my real estate career and I’ve got an internet company so I’ll probably get something going like that.

MPM: Yeah. Man, you just do everything.

Bob Wall: Come on, let’s do lunch.

MPM: Are you still a tough guy?

Bob Wall: Well I don’t know if I’m a tough guy but lets just say nobody has ever beaten me up. I consider myself an ‘educator’. And I ‘educate’ someone about every 4 or 5 months whether it be a robber, a criminal, when I see a criminal I adjust them radically. I’m 59 years old and I train, quite a bit in arm locks, dead locks, and chokes. So I’m able to alter the attitudes of people. One of my goals is to live to be a hundred.

MPM: Just some quick easy questions just for my personal knowledge. Which Bruce Lee film is your favorite?

Bob Wall: My favorite is ETD. And my second favorite is GOD. The reason being because, having done it with the worst director on the planet, it could have been great the fact is that without Raymond Chow, putting up the money doing it, there was nuggets in there, it was like going through **** to get nuggets, and the reality is, I know what it could’ve been, knowing what we were able to do in spite of that idiot (Clouse), it was all the obstacles, imagine if Bruce was alive, what we could have done with that film but you have a dead hero and an idiot director. So I think its not given the credit it deserves but the fact is it’s one of the highest grossing martial arts films, it outgrossed all the ‘Karate Kid’ films .

MPM: Cool deal.

Bob Wall: And on the other side, I certainly liked WOTD because it was filmed as a comedy and while its not the greatest film in the world, but it can play side by side with GOD, because there’s nuggets in WOTD just like in GOD but I liked GOD better.

MPM: Any other Bruce Lee projects coming out that you know of?

Bob Wall: I wanted to do… I mean, I have probably about a million dollars worth of Bruce Lee memoribilia, letters he’s written me, tremendous amounts of books, some articles of clothing he wore on WOTD, a couple of pairs of his nunchuks, I have taped recordings, I have film of Bruce teaching Steve McQueen and James Coburn. I have like 2 hours of that stuff of Bruce instructing them. I have footage of Bruce kicking the 300 lb bag. But the best thing I have is the original uncut version of ETD from the original negatives. Warner Bros. had called and said ‘Hey come over and get what you want. We’re burning everything tomorrow.’ I went over and started taking stuff, a little more , a little more, and they told me to just take the whole thing. I have all original stills from the movie. I have great still sets from WOTD and GOD. People have asked why haven’t I shown this stuff…

"...And Jet Li, the only film I saw him in was ‘Lethal Weapon 4′ and it was such an awful film that I couldn’t finish it." - Bob Wall

"...And Jet Li, the only film I saw him in was ‘Lethal Weapon 4′ and it was such an awful film that I couldn’t finish it." - Bob Wall

MPM: You should!

Bob Wall: I went to Vegas, the Imperial Palace, to have a show we had about 6000 ft so we started off with 1500 ft with Brandon and Bruce, we would have Bruce ‘grow up’ because I have 5 of his kid films. I have a film of him and his father when he was 5 years old. I have film of Bruce and Brandon when Brandon was five years old on a demo on HK television. I have so much great stuff. I would interacted them. Imperial Palace had bought two of Bruce’s cars, his Mecedes Benz and the Green Hornet car so we were going to have a phenomenal thing, we went to several meetings, with Bruce’s attorney (Marshall?) and we were getting ready to sign the contract, and Linda killed it. She didn’t want to lose it to gambling.

But I set up the Elvis Presley estate museum(?) and last year and it made $21 million. Dead heroes don’t grow old. They continue to find a new generation that discovers them. And Bruce is one of those heroes. Tragically he died at 32 but he changed the film industry so I know it will be a success.

MPM: You’re holding back on us man.

Bob Wall: Well, I’m just waiting for the right time so the public can view it. So anything else I can answer for you?

MPM: No that will be it man. You did a great deal already.

Bob Wall: I’d love to read that book that you mentioned…

MPM: Yeah I’ll definitely send it. You gave me the photos, I’ll send you the book.

Bob Wall: You got the photos okay?

MPM: Yeah they’re great!

Bob Wall: I thought you might enjoy them. A lot of people don’t remember to acknowledge. Now I always ask. In the old days, I never did . Its nice to hear ‘Gee thanks, you took the time to send the photographs, autograph, pay for the postage.’ Because they’re so much stuff out there that I don’t hear about and I love memoribilia . At any rate, it’s a pleasure, I’m glad I was able to help out…

MPM: I really appreciate this. Thank you Bob Wall.

Bob Wall: It was my pleasure.

Posted in Features, Interviews | Tagged , | 34 Comments

Drive (1997) Review

"Drive" UK DVD Cover

"Drive" UK DVD Cover

Director: Steve Wang
Writer: Scott Phillips
Cast: Mark Dacascos, Kadeem Hardison, John Pyper-Ferguson, Brittany Murphy, Tracey Walter, James Shigeta, Masaya Kato, Dom Magwili, Ron Winston Yuan
Running Time: 100 min.

By Joe909

Like most, I first saw Drive in its edited, HBO version, which is 16 minutes shorter than the Director’s Cut. For everyone out there in the US (or other Region 1 countries) who likes this movie and wants to see it in its uncut form, I highly recommend you pick up a region-free DVD player. The HKL release of Drive: The Director’s Cut alone will justify the purchase of this piece of equipment.

The story is the same as in the edited version: Toby Wong is on the run from his former associates, and “recruits” Malik Brody to drive him to Los Angeles. The action is fast and furious, the comedy comes in spades, and from beginning to end it’s an enjoyable ride. The most important change in the Director’s Cut is the addition of background information to the characters of Toby and Malik.

We learn that Toby had a girlfriend, who was taken from him by his former teammates. This was a missing piece of the puzzle from the edited version. I always wondered why Toby was on the run; if Medicine, Hedgehog, et al were his former teammates, then what exactly had Toby done to make them come after him? And, if he was once one of them, didn’t that also mean that Toby was just as evil as Medicine and the rest? But with this addition to the story, that Toby fell in love with an intended victim and then turned against his evil companions, the plot hole is firmly clamped shut.

Just about every fight scene in this movie is excellent. The two highpoints would have to be the battle in the hotel and the final fight with Toby’s high-tech “replacement.” One great thing about Drive is that the comedy doesn’t outdo the violence. In most comedy/action movies, the jokes usually predominate. But Drive complements the jokes with a heavy dose of gore: a guy gets his gun-carrying hand chopped off, and as his hand spins in the air, he’s shot with his own gun; Toby turns the weapons of multiple villains upon their users; a goon gets pistol-whipped until his face is a bleeding mess. I also love the perfect mix of martial arts combat and blazing gun battles.

Drive is one of the best action movies out there, and the fact that there’s a version available with 16 extra minutes of footage should have fans running for the nearest import DVD dealer (namely, HKFlix.com). The print is crystal clear, and bonus material includes a “Making Of” documentary, as well as Deleted Scenes that didn’t make it into the Director’s Cut (the 16 minutes that were cut from the HBO version are actually placed back into the movie itself; this bonus, extra footage is mostly made up of rehearsal shots).

Interesting note: the screenwriter had Jackie Chan and Sylvester Stallone in mind for the starring roles. I prefer Dascosos and Hardison. Sure, they’re not as well-known, but they really take to their roles. I just don’t see Jackie Chan pulling off Toby’s anger and occasional cold-bloodedness (the Director’s Cut features a scene i

n which Toby cries over the memory of his girlfriend; Chan would have looked ridiculous), and I’m positive Stallone would never have agreed to play the (initially) cowardly Malik.

Joe909’s Rating: 10/10

By James H.

This isn’t right. B-grade American Action Movies (BAAMs) aren’t supposed to be this good. They’re supposed to be laughable movies with really bad action, special f/x, acting and so forth. This isn’t. Sure, the plot is a little outrageous, and a little cliched, but it is executed wonderfully.

The film stars Mark Dacascos as a guy who has this power module in him. The bad guys want it, and he wants to get rid of it. Oh, and this power module makes Mark have super-human strength, agility, what have you. The only thing is, he’s got a bunch of hitmen and assassins on his tail, and he needs to get from ‘Frisco to L. A. This is where Kadeem Hardison comes in. He’s an innocent bystander who gets kidnapped by Dacascos, and is forced to drive to L. A. Along the way they become friends, and get into all sorts of trouble. Sound a little familiar’ No’ I think it’s a bit like “Rush Hour”, with the whole buddy formula and all.

Dacascos is, in my opinion, a good actor. Sure, he isn’t a Chow Yun-Fat, but he has more charisma than Seagal or Van Damme. The script, naturally, doesn’t develop the characters very well, but Dacascos does a good job with the material given to him. He can hold his own, and pulls off a likeable character, but this is not a true representation of his talents. For that, rent “Crying Freeman”.

The rest of the cast is good too. Kadeem isn’t too annoying. The movie also has Brittany Murphy, who is simply gorgeous and a decent actress. But the acting highlight is John Pyper-Ferguson (“Hard Core Logo”), who plays the head assassin. He was really good, and had the best line in the film (“Well, if it isn’t my favourite cheese-eating dick monkey.”).

Again, in BAAMs, the action isn’t supposed to be very good. In “Drive”, it is. It may not be up to the standards of “Drunken Master II” or “Who Am I'”, but it is better than, say, “Black Mask”. There are plenty of fights and have great choreography and some nifty wire tricks that look better than some of Jet Li’s films.

The only hitch is that it still looks like it was made to go straight to video. It’s odd because a half-assed film like “Black Mask” gets a theatrical release, but “Drive” stays on the shelf for two years and then goes straight to video. With a bigger budget, this film could have done modestly at the box office. In any event, “Drive” is what “Rush Hour” should have been.

James H’s Rating: 7.5/10

By Numskull

Further proof, as if any was needed, that the USA has no taste in movies. This miracle of low-budget film making gets a direct-to-video release two years after its completion while theaters are overrun with G-rated animated excretions and non-stop rehashes…oops, I mean “sequels”.

There’s no justice. None.

The plot is straight out of a bad (read: Marvel) comic book. Toby Wong, a former Hong Kong secret agent, attempts to elude wave upon wave of would-be captors with the goal of selling the bio-energy module in his chest rather than allowing it to fall back into the hands of the government. He enlists the aid of (well, kidnaps, actually) an unemployed man named Malik. Hilarity and chaos ensue. With a movie of this nature, it’s easy for Joe or Jane Public to come up with some half-assed attempt to besmirch its good name and deny how fucking good it is. Of course, none of these arguments has any validity.

HALF-ASSED ARGUMENT: The concept of a bio-energy module giving this guy enhanced fighting skills is unrealistic.

FACT: Being unrealistic is by no means a prerequisite for a movie sucking. Plenty of far-fetched movies have raked in oodles of cash at the box office whether they deserved it or not. Look at The Matrix and Face/Off for movies that deserved it. Look at Independence Day and Home Alone for movies that didn’t. Of course, in this day and age, the amount of money a film makes is absolutely no indication of its quality, but it’s the simplest equation for the common idiot walking down the wrong side of the street to comprehend when he or she is trying to decide if a movie is “good”.

HALF-ASSED ARGUMENT: Mark Dacascos and Kadeem Hardison aren’t superstars; therefore, this movie can’t possibly be any good.

FACT: The basis upon which Hollywood determines who is “superstar” material and who isn’t consists almost entirely of sex appeal, which does not have and never has had any impact whatsoever on a person’s acting skills (or lack thereof). If you are the type of person who watches movies merely to ogle the sex objects, then you are just another reason why the world is such a moral black hole. Dacascos and Hardison aren’t likely to win any Academy Awards, but this is a light-hearted movie and they look like they’re having a blast even when they’ve got guns pointed at them. Jean-Claude Van Damme and his one facial expression would have ruined this movie.

HALF-ASSED ARGUMENT: There’s no story and there are too many action scenes.

FACT: When the action scenes are as good as they are in Drive, it’s impossible to have too many of them.

There are more half-assed arguments, but the viewpoints of Joe and Jane Public are unworthy of the energy it’s taking me to type them.

Drive also features some HK and related pop culture references. Toby Wong (Dacascos) is the name of “that little Chinese girl” to whom Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) refers in the beginning of the Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs. When a crooked cop asks for Toby’s name, he replies: “Sammo Hung.” And, in one action, sequence, Toby and Malik (Hardison) must elude a swarm of bad guys while “handcuffed” to each other, a la Project A Part II (actually the “handcuffs” in question are a pair of metal bracelet-like devices connected by a thick cord which mysteriously increases in length when it suits the need of our two heroes).

Drive also has a spiffy supporting cast, most notably John Pyper-Ferguson, the leader of a pack of hired assassins, and Brittany Murphy, the traditional (?) female who gets caught up in all the crazy shit along the way.

Pyper-Ferguson has many classic lines in this movie. Which of these lines is NOT one of his?

A. “That sunuvabitch could eat flour and shit cupcakes.”
B. “Who says violence is not the answer?”
C. “I don’t shake hands, so don’t wave one at me.”
D. “It’s my favorite cheese-eatin’ dick-monkey!”

Additionally, Brittany Murphy does a superb job portraying the ditzy (and more than a little promiscuous) daughter of a motel owner as well as the self-proclaimed “ultimate badass bitch!” Which prime-time animated TV series is she a regular cast member of? (Give yourself an extra pat on the back if you can name her character.)

A. Dilbert
B. King of the Hill
C. Futurama
D. The Family Guy

Drive is the result of so much tender, loving attention that it even has its own fictitious TV show. The name of this show is:

A. Walter the Einstein Frog
B. Cecil the Precocious Zebu
C. Jabber the Enlightened Barnacle
D. Gulpy the Fuckwit Hamster

Of course, few action movies are of much value without lots of senseless violence. Which of the following items is NOT used as an implement of pain and mayhem in the EMT nightmare that is Drive?

A. A motorcycle
B. A coin
C. A pair of boots
D. A necktie

Unfortunately, no movie is perfect and Drive is no exception. The soundtrack is rife with rap (“crap” without the “c”), amateur karaoke (as if there were some other kind), and even a swiped WWF entrance theme (“Marvelous” Marc Mero’s, in the scene where Toby runs out of the bus terminal). The reason for this is probably because:

A. The film makers were afraid that if they put good music on the soundtrack, the movie would have turned out too good for the human mind to comprehend, and so 90% of the audience would die from brain meltdown.
B. The film makers were unable to obtain the rights to more desirable music due to their limited resources.
C. The film makers were all deaf.
D. The film makers figured that, since the American public’s taste in music is even worse than its taste in movies, they could just use any old garbage and nobody would notice or care due to Drive’s depressingly small audience. Picking good music would simply not have been worth the effort.

Speaking of the bus terminal scene, the reason why Toby runs away is because he is followed by three hired thugs whose idea of shadowing somebody is to simultaneously follow him through the gate after a lapse of four and a half seconds, while staying so close together that the average passerby could easily mistake them for conjoined triplets. Why is this so?

A. Because each of them is clinically addicted to the body odor of the other two.
B. Because all of these action movie head honcho villains have decided that it’s better to hire a gaggle of certifiable idiots to do their dirty work than it is to hire a smaller number of individuals who actually know their assholes from the Grand Canyon.
C. Because they know they’re on a suicide mission and hope that by making themselves as conspicuous as possible, the whole mess will somehow pass them by.
D. Because they are secretly trying to start a sodomy chain, and the guy in the middle drew the short straw for double the pleasure.

Furthermore, Drive ends on sort of an incomplete note, with Mr. Lau plotting more hardship for poor Toby Wong. Could it be that a sequel was in the works? If so, I doubt we shall see it. Why not?

A. There’s not enough money in the film maker’s bank accounts.
B. There’s not enough interest in the studio executives.
C. There’s not enough intelligence in the heads of Joe and Jane Public to appreciate how fucking cool this movie is.
D. All of the above.

In conclusion, if you enjoy vulgar humor and crazed violence…and who in their right mind doesn’t?…you should watch Drive and then watch it again. What is the most suitable form of punishment for people who don’t like this movie?

A. Drawing and quartering
B. Public flogging
C. Forcing them to spend 90 days in an observation chamber with no access to any mainstream movies, music, or publications
D. N/A (It’s the people who DON’T go ape shit over flicks like Armageddon who need to be punished! They’re freaks, I tell ya! Freaks!)

I’ve included an answer key, but I want to make sure you don’t get a chance to look at it while reading the questions.

So I’ll just type a few lines now to put some space between the answers and the last question.

La la la la la la la la la la la …

“I might have to pull out my tiger fists on that cheeseburger.” Heh.

I like broccoli.

You heard me, dammit.

OK, that should be enough.

Answer Key:

1. C
2. B  (Luanne) s
3. A
4. D
5. D (any answer is acceptable but “D” is my theory)
6. B
7. D
8. C

Numskull’s Rating: 9/10

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Shanghai Affairs (1998) Review

"Shanghai Affairs" Chinese DVD Cover

"Shanghai Affairs" Chinese DVD Cover

Director: Donnie Yen Chi Tan
Producer: Rainy Chan Choi Yin, Lau Jun Fai
Cast: Donnie Yen Chi Tan, Athena Chu Yan, Yu Rong Guang, Woody Chan Chin Pang, Kenji Tanigaki, Yan Yi Shek
Running Time: 90 min.

By Bentley Siu-Lung

Well, I wanted to get this film as I noticed the chinese symbols on the box proclaimed this as the new version of “The Big Boss” (XIN Tang Shan Da Xiong). However, there are very few similarities between the two movies. It is hard to believe that this could only be Donnie Yen’s second directorial work as his techniques in the art of film-making are superb.

The movie itself was rather slow in getting into fights after the opening battle, however, it wasn’t “boring slow”, but “dramatic slow” which I can handle much better! Donnie Yen’s acting is outstanding and his emotions can rival Bruce Lee’s in “Fist of Fury”.

He uses up close “tight” shots in the vital fight scenes and sometimes uses diagonal angles in the tradition of Tsui Hark which I admire being an amateur film-maker. The final battle between Yen and Guang is outstanding, even if it is a tad short. However, Donnie Yen’s super chain-axe twirling trick he uses in the end (that’s all I can say…) was worth the 15 bucks I paid alone!!! This trick was probably an homage to Bruce’s knife kicking trick in the Big Boss, as it has the same type of outcome… (hint, hint)

Anyway, it’s definitely worth a look…

Bentley Siu-Lung’s Rating: 8/10 (As I said, the axe stunt alone was worth 15 bucks!)

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No Retreat, No Surrender (1985) Review

"No Retreat, No Surrender" American Theatrical Poster

"No Retreat, No Surrender" American Theatrical Poster

Director: Corey Yuen
Writer: Corey Yuen, Ng See Yuen, Keith W. Strangberg
Producer: Ng See-Yuen
Cast: Kurt McKinney, Jean-Claude Van Damme, J.W. Fails, Kathie Sileno, Kim Tai-chung, Kent Lipham, Ron Pohnel, Dale Jacoby, Peter “Sugarfoot” Cunningham, Timothy Baker, Gloria Marziano
Running TIme: 79/85/95 min.

By James H.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all been at the video store at 9:00 p.m. on a Saturday night, looking up and down the aisles for movies that have all been rented hours ago. We’ve all stopped and paused at the ‘N’ section and seen “No Retreat, No Surrender” staring at us from the shelf in its faded cover. We’ve all picked it up and wondered how good Van Damme’s fights are and how the ghost of Bruce Lee teaches a loser kid martial arts.

There really isn’t much else to the story. If you’ve seen the “Karate Kid” movies (and I know you have!), then you’ve seen this. “No Retreat, No Surrender” is the only movie I have seen that insults the great name of Bruce Lee even more than “Game of Death”. I could not believe the writers came up with the idea of Bruce Lee’s ghost teaching this kid. It’s a sad, sad display. As far as a Van Damme movie (he’s also barely in it), it ranks right down there with “Cyborg”.

James H’s Rating: 1.5/10


Corey Yuen Kwai and Ng See Yuen teamed up once upon a time, in an American production called No Retreat No Surrender. In short, the script is something that might have come out of the head of a 4 or 5 year old, but the writer did his best I’m sure and went on to work on parts 2 and 3, so I guess he did all right. He was upset about changes that Roy Horan (the producer of the sequel) made to the script of one of the sequels, so I guess he had some sense! Anyway, the script is horrible and I won’t go into that aspect of the movie, but I will go into the fight scenes…particularly the last fight.

In the “bad” corner have Jean Claude Van Damme in the role that launched his career. In the “good” corner, we have three well-meaning good guys, including Peter “Sugarfoot” Cunningham, who exist solely to get trashed by Van Damme (who plays a Russian). Corey Yuen does his best to make this scene look HK-styled, and for the most part he succeeds. The main problem is that the sound effects aren’t very effective, and in short they are horrible. The competitors are wearing light foam foot-padding, but the sound effects are more suited to heavy combat boots!

Another problem is that some of the kicks and punches aren’t in effect “selling-the-shot,” in other words, you can see that they are not landing. And the fact that nobody is wearing a shirt to hide this is another problem. But aside from that, Van Damme is great and beats all three people up in highly stylized battles. He knocks Peter out with a cool flying kick, trashes the other guy, and chokes out the final opponent with a chain, while the audience looks on nonchalantly and rather unplussed.

At that point, the Hero (it might as well be his name), who was sitting as a spectator, jumps to his feat and “heroically” jumps in the ring to exchange some hilariously BAD dialogue with Van Damme:

Van Damme (in a mock Russian accent): You are good!
Hero (in red jumpsuit): I get better. Russian.

Then, Van Damme, apparently offended by being called a Russian even though he is playing a Russian, starts to beat up the hero. The hero beats him back, then wins, and people jump in the ring (which looks to be situated in some old small gym) and carry our “Hero” into the air. Van Damme is on the floor outside the ring pouting.

S!DM’s Rating: 5/10

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Secret Ninja, Roaring Tiger (1982) Review

"Secret Ninja Roaring Tiger" US DVD Cover

"Secret Ninja Roaring Tiger" US DVD Cover

AKA: Secret Ninja, Justice Of The Ninja
Director: Godfrey Ho (Jeung Keung)
Producer: Thomas Tang, Joseph Lai
Cast: Dragon Lee (aka Mun Kyong-sok, Keo Ryong, Guh Ryong), Hwang Jang Lee, Jack Lam, Winnie Lui, Petty Suh, Kon Yit So, Henry Chan, Ku Wah, Liu On Fai, Johnny Kam
Running Time: 80 min.

By Joseph Kuby

One of the best ninja movies of all time!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s on par with Ninja In The Dragon’s Den and it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to Chinese Super Ninjas (official title: Five Element Ninjas) nor does it come to close to being as cool and classy as Ninja In The Deadly Trap (the Venoms’ answer to Chang Cheh’s ninja classic Five Element Ninjas in the same way Drunken Master 3 was Sifu Lau’s way of saying F you to Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master 2).

But Secret Ninja Roaring Tiger beats all that American Ninja crap and Sho Kosugi crudfest, as well as the Caucasian ninja rubbish Godfrey (the director of this movie) had endlessly churned out.

When I went into this film, I wasn’t expecting actual ninjas. I was expecting a standard if entertaining Kung Fu flick that just used the word ninja to entice more Western audiences and enhance the sales! (see Jeff’s review for Ninja Turf to understand more about the ninja craze)

Clips of this film can be seen in the British produced documentary Top Fighter (the fight with the ninjas near the waterfall and when Hwang kills the bearded guy armed with a sword by kicking the temples of his head using both feet).

Lo and behold, it actually turned out to be a spin-off of the same year’s Ninja In The Dragon’s Den* (Corey Yuen’s directorial debut produced by Ng See Yuen which earned 4/5 of the box office revenue Drunken Master had made).

Not just because it’s a ninja movie featuring Hwang Jang Lee, but because we have the same subplot of the villains using Taoist magic which is cunningly developed in a surprise plot twist. There’s even the boob connection (in other words, the same plot device of how a practitioner of the Chinese spiritual arts should abstain from women of an erotically enticing nature). Then there’s the Taoist cannon/bowling balls (which is used to greater effect in this film than Corey’s movie). Much like 5 Pattern Dragon Claws, there’s the usage of insert shots of lightning to highlight the defeat of someone from an irrevocably powerful blow!

No matter how derivative this film may be, if there’s one true distinction that separates this film from any other Hong Kong flick at the time, it’s that this is the only film where you’ll see Hwang Jang Lee** in a sex scene (which contradicts the nature of his character). It’s nothing too graphic but it’s probably Ron Jeremy (the uncut version of this scene probably gives more weight to this) in comparison to Jackie Chan’s similar scenes in the 1975 Golden Harvest “sex romp” All In The Family.

Which brings us to the version I saw of this film which lasted 79 minutes and 59 seconds. It was the UK version and the film had been cut by the BBFC by 1 minute and 37 seconds for its release. The longest version available is said to be 82 minutes long. In the midst of viewing there were several times in the film where cuts may have occured. The first instance is a fight between Dragon Lee and his adversary during a martial arts tournament (where the aim is to win a woman’s hand in marriage ala The Legend Of Fong Sai Yuk, which was made {in 1993} by, coincidentally, Corey Yuen) when there’s a small hint of disrupted visual/audio continuity. But as you may have guessed from what I said before about the sex scene, I suspect there’s been some cuts to the samples of nudity seen in this film.

When Dragon Lee sleeps at this run-down house alongside his fellow compatriots, he looks at the posterior of who he previously thought was a male fighter before coming to the conclusion that it’s a woman (though she’s dressed). The nudity in question comes from this dream sequence where Dragon imagines her naked figure and there’s a cut which stops us from him seeing her vagina as she turns round to face the camera before abruptly cutting to a shot where her features are ingeniously obscured by a bunch of flowers. More nudity comes later on during the aforementioned sex scene, there’s an abrupt change in music and continuity as we go from seeing Hwang look at “Susan”*** (a different woman than the one I mentioned previously) to him being on top of her but my main criticism comes from the fact that there’s a shot of her legs where we see Hwang’s left hand caressing her right leg (implying that they must be doing a 69er) then immediately we cut to a shot where they’re facing each other.

After she tries to kill him, he sends two guards (one of whom gives her subtle glimpses) to take her away to torture her. Music of the “next” scene (which focuses on the heroine and heroes fighting some of Hwang’s cronies) comes in a bit too early, suggesting an attempt to smooth over the inconsistency (I think it’s fair to say that Susan may have gotten raped in between the two scenes). Long after the fight has finished, we see a scene of her getting whipped (the guy who glimpsed at her is smiling somewhat in this scene).

Moving onto the good points (pardon the unintended pun) of this neat little flick, it has water ninjas and ground ninjas, alas it has no wood ninjas or gold ninjas! There are, however, fire ninjas, but they only use smoke to disappear rather than specifically using fire to engulf victims in flames! There’s nowhere near the amount of weaponary as seen in Chinese Super Ninjas or even the American financed Enter The Ninja, but the action still covers a fair bit of ground and we have tricks like a sword that splits into two.

One thing that I noticed about this flick is that it seems to be among the many inspirations**** for the Mortal Kombat computer games. There’s a scene where one of the three protagonists (two men & a woman – just like in the Mortal Kombat movie) enters this forest and out of nowhere comes these spear-like projectiles (or basically these long wires with pointy arrows attached to them), which is eerily reminiscent of the Scorpion character (and equally reminiscent of the encounter, in said film, between Johnny Cage and Scorpion). There’s another Godfrey Ho production starring Dragon Lee called Dragon, The Young Master which was shot in the snowy locations of Korea and which also contained ninjas so it’s a shame there was no Sub Zero-esque character in that film chucking rock-solid snow balls or icy spikes from the palms of his hands!

Another thing that I’ve noticed when watching Bruceploitation movies is that Jackie Chan seems to have been inspired by quite a few of them as seen in films like Police Story 1, 2 & 3 and Armour Of God 2: Operation Condor where certain ideas were lifted from even a Bruce Le flick! In this film, we see the same concept of a butt-naked martial artist up to his neck in trouble, which Jackie would later use for one of his fight scenes in The Accidental Spy (though it was more artistically done, if not less tasteful, than what we see in this movie).

Now you may ask, what is it about this movie which gives it the right to be put under the category of Bruceploitation? Well, we have Dragon Lee doing a few swipes of the nose and even copying off Bruce’s famous footwork in the latter’s final fight against Chuck Norris in Way Of The Dragon. To top things off we sometimes see Dragon doing a tiny bit of the facial expressions and war cries that made him come off as barking mad in The Real Bruce Lee. Dragon (whose alias is Bruce Lei) looks more like Jason Scott Lee than Bruce Lee and perhaps it would have been more fitting if we had Jason play Dragon in a biopic.

As what could be expected under the expectations and circumstances of watching such a low-brow yet highly entertaining film, there are plenty instances of humour – a lot of it is actually intentional (minus the dubbing).

The laughter that is generated from this film can be riotous when you’re blessed with such wonderful lines of dialogue…

Foster father of Susan: “You’re useless, you’re all damned useless!”

Dragon’s male associate: “They were ninja you know but we beat them, yes we did!”

Foster father of Susan: “You let my daughter go right away…otherwise, I swear, you bawstid you’ll get nothing from me!”

Hwang: “Very well, you’re forcing me….to use ninja techniques, they will work!”

Foster father of Susan: “Bastud, you dare talk to me of that society, would you?”

Biological father of Susan: “WHAT?!……YOU BAWSTUD….YOU FILTHY TRAITAR!, Damn you, you dirty BAWSTUD!”

Said father: “My ninjer technique!”

Hwang: “Ninja can’t help you now. It’s all over for you, you old borstud!”

Actually, this film ranks among some of the most humourous films Dragon ever done in his entire film career (which is saying a lot). Some of the sound effects (including war cries) used for the fights in this film are so cartoony it makes the effects in other films seem realistic (we’re talking cartoony as in Warner Bros./Kung Fu Hustle cartoony), particularly during one shot in the tournament scene when Dragon scratches the chin of his opponent whilst pulling silly faces (it’s after said shot where a cut seems to have taken place – you’ll know what I mean when or if you’ve seen it). At the end of the fight, Dragon pulls another face to indicate the opponent to beat it but this comes off like a twitch that’s the result of too much crack!

I’ve seen my fair share of Bruceploitation movies, but this movie is just plain bonkers and utterly bizarre. When we see Dragon for the first time in the film, he’s (over)dressed in some ridiculous clothing (making him look like a bohemian cloth merchant) which includes (by the looks of things from where I was sitting) a woman’s hat. When he wins the tournament, he temporarily replaces his hat with a golden cabbage-tree hat, which he receives for winning the tournament. Whilst Dragon wins the girl’s hand for marriage, top prize for bizarrerie goes to this scene where one of the gang members is dressed up as a woman and successfully seduces Dragon (I’d hate to be as dumbfoundedly confused with genders as Dragon is portrayed to be); this leads to a strange fight though even the most hapless viewer who happens upon this flick will still be considered lucky as the immense quality of the fights makes up for even the most off-the-wall gag this side of a Stephen Chow movie!

The fights are really energetic, the fight at the tournament between Dragon and the ill-fated opponent is equally on par with the challenge match between Jackie Chan and Huang Ha in Drunken Master (the fight which takes place in Master Hung’s school after Wong Fei Hung beats up the thugs terrorizing the poor). The choreography in this scene is truly inspired with lots of creativeness and Chan-esque athleticism.

But even the fights themselves feature frenetic tomfoolery. Midway through the Mortal Kombat-inspired fight, a ninja finds himself bouncing from one bamboo tree to the other like a pinball in a pinball machine (complete with identical sound effects)! Any film whose sheer zaniness makes that of The Real Bruce Lee pale in comparison is a sure sign that the filmmakers must have been on a trip no less drug-induced than the one narrated in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (or the novel of the same name that was written by Hunter S. Thompson)!

As an actor, Dragon (who sounds like he’s being dubbed by Malcolm McDowell donning an American accent) seems to lighten up a bit and he seems more expressionistic (rubbery faced) when compared to his stoic portrayals (stone faced) in other films. It made for a fresh change of pace and it was nice to see as a human being for once than a walking statue. I should warn you that his comedic nature makes him even more eccentric.

To this film’s credit, it seems to have inspired the filmmakers of the vastly superior ninja classic Wu Tang vs. Ninja***** (a.k.a. Ninja Hunter) as music was clearly borrowed from this flick (music which deserves to be heard in an epic film courtesy of David Lean), the very same music which can be heard in Top Fighter (the scene where Alexander Lo Rei is putting his index fingers through arduous training). The soundtrack for this film is very good considering it’s lowly origins.

For a martial arts film to be ranked highly among blood-thirsty aficionados, it has to contain either a very gory death or a very inventive one and Secret Ninja Roaring Tiger contains a highly unorthodox yet still satisfying conclusion to Hwang’s roaring rampage as heinous honcho.

Considering the amount of cruddy crap that swarms and swamps Ho’s filmography (he makes the unfairly heavily maligned Wong Jing look like Steven Spielberg), this film is probably Ninja In The Dragon’s Den versus his other stuff. It’s probably his best directorial feature too, despite not exactly facing competition from his other films (most of which were cut and paste jobs)! But even then, his film is still slightly sloppy as we can briefly see a trampoline in one scene and a wire in another (during Hwang’s demise). Chances are you’re not going to confuse this for even the highest budgeted Lo Wei/Jackie Chan picture (check out the cheap lion dancer costumes).

So yeah, you could say I liked this movie a lot though I wouldn’t go so far to say that it convinced me to think that Sho Kosugi could defeat Bruce Lee in deadly combat! (again, check out Jeff’s review for Ninja Turf)

As a piece of trivia, the Hong Kong title is Justice Of The Ninja. An alternative international title used for the film is an abridged version of the main international title (that is to say, Secret Ninja).

* The Seasonal classic also motivated Shaw Brothers to produce two similarly themed films starring Hwang Jang Lee – Kid From Kwantung (1982) and Ghosts Galore (1983), both of which were directed by Tyrone Hsu Hsia (who played the king of sticks in Drunken Master).

** He’s credited in this film (albeit in brackets) as Silver Fox despite not playing the character in look or name (when spoken to).

*** Who were the distributors/dubbers fooling by having a Chinese woman called Susan in an ancient China setting?!

**** Inspirations being Crippled Avengers, Five Deadly Venoms, Big Trouble In Little China, Bloodsport and Enter The Dragon (even moreso in the cinematic adaptation of the game). Go to Neil Koch’s excellent article on the Hong Kong Film Net site.

***** Which was also produced by Godfrey Ho (real name: Ho Chi-Keung) under the name George King. The other pseudonyms he used during the course of his career were Alton Cheung, Tommy Cheung, Daniel Clough, Leong Fui Fong, Antonin Gasner, Martin Greenfield, Godfrey Hall (a Western distributor claimed that Ho sounded too slutty), Zhi Jiang He, Benny Ho, Ho Chi-Mou, Ho Chun-Sing, Fong Ho, York Lam, Bruce Lambert, Charles Lee, Frank Lewis, Jerry Sawyer, Victor Sears, Robert Young and Albert Yu. I guess it would be heedless to say that he saved his career from being bogged down by using the Alan Smithee credential.

Josephy Kuby’s Rating: 7/10

Posted in Bruceploitation, Chinese, Ninja, Reviews | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Ballistic Kiss (1998) Review

"Ballistic Kiss" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“Ballistic Kiss” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Donnie Yen
Writer: Bey Logan
Cast: Donnie Yen, Annie Wu (Ng San-Kwan), James Wong Ka-Lok, Simon Lui Yu-Yeung, Yu Rong-Guang, Karen Tong Bo-Yu, Michael Woods, Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu
Running Time: 90 min.

By Numskull

I’m tempted to say “nice try”.

If John Woo had only half an ass, he might make a film like this. Cat is a lonesome, depressed assassin who wears goofy-looking sunglasses with rectangular frames. He shoots and beats up lots of people while looking very bored. Carrie is a police woman who, during a conference about Cat’s activities, comes to the awe-inspiring conclusion that such an efficient killer must live alone and not have any friends. Cat just happens to live near Carrie’s house and has delusions of romantic bliss with her. He solemnly dances around his living room, leading an imaginary partner. Then he engages in elaborate masturbation rituals involving gerbils, telephone cords, and cottage cheese.

OK, I made that last part up. But, considering how uninvolving this movie can be, the imagination has a tendency to wander elsewhere. The story of how Cat was betrayed by his buddy in New York City, went to prison, and now itches for payback is so bland I actually found myself looking forward to the ham-fisted dialogues between Cat and Carrie for a change of pace. The shootouts are choreographed adequately but lack any real emotional punch. Cat’s character plays a big role in this. He goes through most of the movie with the same tone of voice and the same facial expression. I guess he went to the Jean-Claude Van Damme School of Acting. And, even though he supposedly has two big motivating factors in his life – his love of Carrie and his desire for revenge – he doesn’t seem to give a damn whether he lives or dies.

Now, one thing that really pisses me off is when a movie starves for lack of substance and the film makers try to make up for it with style. A lot of the action here takes place with his pale blue light illuminating everything. Sorry Mr. Yen, but making the characters look like Smurfs does not make them any more or less sympathetic. There’s some really annoying use of heavy shadow, too.

This movie is not entirely without merit, though. The music fits quite nicely…I sat through the closing credits to hear it. The radio DJ whom Cat regularly calls was a nice touch. And it’s one of those rare HK action films that actually has an ending that leaves the scene of the final act of violence. But none of this is enough to save Ballistic Kiss from being filed under “cookie cutter”.

Numskull’s Rating: 4/10

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Mr. Nice Guy | aka Mister Cool (1997) Review

"Mr. Nice Guy" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Mr. Nice Guy" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Superchef
Director: Sammo Hung
Producer: Chua Lam
Cast: Jackie Chan, Miki Lee, Richard Norton, David No, Bradley James Allan, Andy Cheng, Paul Andreovski, Jonathan Isgar, Habby Heske, Joe Sayah, Glen Chin, Cameron Douglas, Emil Chau Wa Kin, Joyce Mina Godenzi, Sammo Hung
Running Time: 94 min.

By Numskull

First of all, not since Ronald Reagan left office has there been an action movie with a plot this feeble. Second of all, Sammo Hung: good actor, great director, outstanding fight choreographer, SHITTY editor. This movie uses so many of those choppy slow-motion “dreamlike” shots that I began to think the popcorn I was eating was laced with LSD. Perhaps it’ll be remedied in the American theatrical release. Also, in the otherwise excellent horse-and-buggy sequence, when they’re running along the strip mall, they pass two or three different signs TWICE! How in the name of hell-bent fuck did this go unnoticed?!? And while I’m on a roll with the negative points, why, oh WHY did they have everything come to a screeching halt once Jackie wrecks the mansion with the bulldozer? That blond-haired guy needed his ass kicked so badly!!! ARRRGGH!!!!!

Take heart though, this movie is actually above average…I guess there’s a shiny side to every penny (I just coined a phrase! HAH! Get it? COINED a phrase? Um…never mind). S & M fanatics everywhere will love seeing a woman get smacked around every 5 minutes. Sammo’s usual slow pacing goes out the window…nay, down the shitter. The action scenes are evenly spaced and well done except for the car chase near the beginning. It failed to excite me, but that may be a strictly New England thing…I live in Massachusetts, where you can be going 75 mph down a dead-end street and still have someone behind you who wants to go faster. Anyway, go see Mr. Nice Guy everybody…I guarantee you’ll have more fun than you’d have braiding your pubic hairs.

Numskull’s Rating: 8/10

By Dan-O

After regaling us with the tale about a lawyer who can kick ass, a food delivery person who can also kick ass, a race car driver that, coincidentally, can kick ass, and perhaps the least believable, the only cop on the planet that doesn’t get winded after running the length of his squad car, Jackie has once again pulls a ripe rutabaga from his ridiculous premise garden, stuffs it with whoop-ass, bakes it at 450 degrees (if you can point out to me a keyboard with a degree symbol, I go down on you), yanks it out of the oven just before it’s done, and finally, heaves the whole mess out the freakin’ window with the most painful ending to scar my brain tissue since I saw “The Big Lebowski”.

Keep in mind, I saw the Hong Kong version, so I can’t comment on the acting or dialogue. But other than the ending, the movie was fun, and would’ve been more fun in the theater. But how the bloody hell would I know, since the theater where I live ran the thing for less than 1 week. Meanwhile dreck like “Species 2” and “The Odd Couple part 2” get top billing. How many times do Lemmon and Mattau have to make shit movies before we as a collective whole stop watching them as they decompose on-screen before our very eyes. Anyway, when I amass my fortune, I’m building my own goddamn theater that will showcase nothing but Jackie Chan movies, in THX Sensurround, for a dollar a ticket. Where was I? Something about a movie review, if I recall… Oh yeah, I feel that I must back up Numskull on this one: that blond guy seriously needed an ass thrashing, but did it happen? Nope. Do I care? Not really. I essentially knew where this movie was headed when the red-headed reporter lady did the 100 yard dash through downtown Generic Australian City in her skivvies. Oops, I hope I didn’t ruin the movie for you, giving away that essential plot point and all. How can you possibly watch the movie now?

I felt there were way too many of moments in this film, as in Rumble, where I just wanted to fast forward through the tacked-on romantic subplot and get to the violence, or to the credits in regard to the final scene, which in case you haven’t deduced by now, involves Jackie going ape-shit with heavy machinery for what seems like 2 consecutive eternities of constipation. As you know from reading my reviews in the past, I rarely get too deep into the movie, instead going for more of a general impression style of review. If you want a synopsis, read the top of the damn page. I’m just here to tell ya whether or not I can recommend the flick or not, and in this case I can say without and fear of retaliation… see Mr. Nice Guy. It’s cute, the fight scenes are gorgeous, it’s funny, Jackie does his own stunts, yadda yadda ya. Maybe I shouldn’t’ve seen Who Am I? first. I was spoiled rotten by that flick, wasn’t I?

Dan-O’s Rating: 7/10

By Dembone

This was the first Chan film I ever saw in the theater, and it blew me away then as it does now. I was inspired to write this review as I just came back from showing this film to my mother, a 68 year-old ‘Murder She Wrote’ fan (also rapidly becoming a JC fan!) and I always find myself more sensitive to details when I’m watching a movie with her. One thing I noticed it that it really is more or less non-stop action. Very few breathers. Great stunts, great fights, poor plot, terrible acting… All in all, the formula for a great JC flick!

The only let down for me is the prop finale. Like many JC fans, I’d much rather see a well done fight scene as a climax rather than the corny hovercraft / earthmover destruction derbys. The finale in which the house is demolished is way, way too long. I even found myself reading the cheezit box label. Well, still didn’t stop this from being among my favorite JC flicks! Good Job, Jackie!

Dembone’s Rating: 9/10 (perfect 10 sans bulldozer)

By Ro

This was my first Jackie Chan movie (yeah, I came to the party late), so of course I loved it! If you’ve got ‘non Chan fan’ friends, this is a good movie to start them off with (or Rush Hour). They’re probably not ready for the 200 proof ‘good stuff’ yet.

Jackie stars as a TV chef who accidentally gets mixed up in a gang war. He’s dressed for the most part in really baggy clothes and looks like he couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag. Since I had never seen him before, I got a real kick out of the sight of this seemingly nondescript man doing the most incredible things! If you’ve watched his other movies, you’ve viewed him sans shirt, so you’ve already seen the muscles and I’m sure it’s not as much fun then, but the story’s OK and the action and fights are great! The scene in the warehouse includes a silent film comedy with blue doors and a fight with Jackie almost getting emasculated by a table saw! Incredible, worth the price of rental for this scene alone!

It’s also completely in English (no dubbing). Look for director (and current TV star) Samo Hung in a cameo as a cyclist!

Ro’s Rating: 8/10

By Marcia

Watched this one three times in four days the week it came out on video here in the US. Tells you right there it’s not a bad film. Of course, I was just waiting for the chance to see the Cantonese version, as those are often better. Whaddaya know, though, I like the English version much better (with the exception of the fact that a couple fight scenes are shortened). For one thing, I love the digeridoo music in the background every time somebody from the local gang shows up. Plus, it’s always nice to see a version which isn’t dubbed (in this case, the English one; they subtitle the Mandarin that Jackie’s sweetie speaks).

Several humorous bits are well worth your time, too: Samo’s cameo, the Buster Keaton-esque scene with the opening and closing doors at the construction site, and the “small breasts” comment are all worth a good chuckle. Much has been made of the lameness of the ending here (and I will admit I wondered what the hell Giancarlo was keeping in his basement that made the place explode), but what made it sweet for me was the foreshadowing (Your Sign of Quality Literature); the baddie is so totally anal retentive about his home’s cleanliness that wrecking shit seems almost like a better revenge than beating the snot out of him.

Marcia’s Rating: 8/10

By James H.

What’s up with these writers? Why, why would they be so unoriginal as to give Jackie the same name? He played ‘Jackie’ in “Crime Story,” “Police Story,” “First Strike” and now “Mr. Nice Guy.” Come on really, how about some other names! One can purchase numerous books with nothing but names!

OK, now that I’ve vented, I’ll continue. “Mr. Nice Guy” was a fun movie. It had all of the usual elements that one will find in a Jackie Chan film. Plenty of fights, comedy and bad supporting characters. His friend Lakeisha was annoying, not to the degree as say that punk in “Rumble in the Bronx.” Fortunately, she wasn’t in the movie all that long.

This movie had, like I said, plenty of fights. Highlights for me were: the carriage scene and the fight in the construction area. Again this movie had the same lame ending as “Rumble in the Bronx.” That’s were this movie breaks under its own weight. It takes Jackie 5 minutes to trashs the bad guy’s house. Why mass destruction? What ever happened to good old ass kicking? The other thing that bothered me was the ending was also like “Police Story” (the cop asking “Did you see anything?” “No, of course not.”).

Besides all of that it was a fun movie, Sammo is an amazing director and Jackie has never looked better. It’s fun, exciting and wholly implausible.

James H’s Rating: 7/10


This movie brought nothing but hype. Although I saw this movie a long time ago, March 20, opening day here in the US, the memories are still vivid. When I first saw the trailer, I was blown away! I saw the first showing of the trailer at a screening of Supercop, where Jackie happened to be there himself and had a Q&A session for the audience. Best 12 bucks I’ve ever spent. So I was obviously charged up for Mr. Nice Guy. By the way, why do those trailers seem to reveal so much? I wish there were some surprises. Oh well. Then I saw it, and sweated. I was looking at my watch, having to be somewhere real soon, and there was a guy who kept copying Jackie’s broken phrases, and a family of 6, with 2 kids crying.

So I wasn’t in the best mood to see this. Although, my situtation was like this, I still tried my best to be as objective as possible. It had it’s typical juvenille humor, along with easily forgettable plot. There seemed to be a very good flow of fighting, pretty balanced I would say. The movie reminded me of other Chan films. Police Story’s mall scene, Project A 2’s hot pepper scene, Rumble in the Bronx’ hovercraft bit along with cheesy gansters, Operation Condor’s annoying 3 women, and the list goes on. I wish it had better humor, but it failed for me. So I look to the prop fighting scenes. I must admit, the scene at the construction sight must have been in my top 10 favorites, where it was executed brilliantly.

It made for much of the movie’s lacking in character, plot, ending. So, it still had Chan’s element in it, which will always keep my interest. He seems to be coming up with such good ideas, I never cease to wonder why his movies get worse, in the other places. You take a mistake and improve on it. You want good endings like Drunken Master 2, or Wheels on Meals; the humor of Twin Dragons and Drunken Master; plots like First Strike and Police Story, and this is where Mr. Nice Guy seems to lack. I suppose you can’t make a perfect JC movie, but there are plenty of bad ones already. I know JC can make really wonderful movies, because all in all, some have really good humor, others, plot. By now, why not have it all together?

BS’s Rating: 6/10

By Dead Channel

“Mr. Keung? Sooo… how do you like my style?” Oops! Wrong movie! On with it. This movie was cool, but it seemed like mostly action more than fighting. I must say, the similarities to Rumble in the Bronx are fucking uncanny! Check this out: Have a gang dressed like a bunch of fuckers from the 1980’s who listen to Madonna, another “rival” gang of guys wearing suits who want their “stuff” (aka Coke vs. Diamonds) back from the rivals, a fight scene at a construction site (we’ll compare this one to the warehouse scene alright), a big vehicle which runs over/hits the main bad guy in the end (Rumble’s hovercraft vs. Nice Guy’s big’ol ass tractor-bulldozer thing) and numerous other accounts. In any case, pardon that bullshit I just typed above, because this movie really is quite dope. The scene with the fight on the horse carriage? Dope. The fight scene at the contruction site with the machinery? Doper. The scene where… something happened? Dopest.

Anyway, I have the subtitled Chinese version (winkwink) with the moreimpossibletoreadthanDrunkenMaster2subtitles, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this movie. I love the fact that Jackie is a television chef, it’s quite humerous I think. But perhaps the best fucking part of this movie was the Burger King sign (the neon sign, the horse carriage scene, right before Jackie and his girlfriend jump on the carriage) which reads: HUNGRY JACK’S. God damn that’s funny, and I actually think Hungry Jack’s is the joint over in Aussie-land which has that name instead of Burger Queens. Anyway, fork this… I’m done. Check this one out especially if you’re a fan of his newer movies. The black chick looks good too I might add!

Dead Channel’s Rating: 8/10 (seemed like an almost direct copy of Rumble)

By Eirias

Normally, it’s difficult to distinguish between one Jackie Chan movie and another. I run out of words, of inventive and varied ways to describe them, to convince people that they should run and see another one. This may be the best yet released here – if not, it’s certainly tied with First Strike. First Strike relied on one or two great bits to carry it through, but was a little uneven. Mr Nice Guy is much more consistent, and even has a comprehensible plot. It’s a return to a much simpler plot line, Jackie protecting his girlfriend, with no silly saving the world threads tossed in. I like it better this way, though, honestly, plot isn’t the reason I go see Jackie Chan movies. Neither is the acting. Mr Nice Guy was shot entirely in English, but it’s still a Hong Kong film. The actors they found who spoke English are the same caliber of actor as the actors who dubbed the first four films. Richard Norton, as the villain is particularly awful. The girls are — well, having seen how poorly some quite talented actresses, like Maggie Cheung, have fared in Jackie’s earlier films, I don’t really see any point in criticizing their lack of performance, but Miki Lee is at least cute. Chan gets to act though, for one scene in which he thinks he’s lost his girlfriend. He doesn’t act often, and hasn’t in any of the first four films released, so it’s nice to see him do a little.

The real reason this film kicks the shit out of the competition is Sammo Hung. (Odd note, his name is misspelled Samo in the newspaper ads, and in the opening credits, but in the end credits, they get it right.) He has a cameo role as a passing cyclist, which is easily the best part of the movie, and he directs. Unlike Stanley Tong and Jackie Chan, who directed the first four, Sammo is not only very very good at action and action choreography, but he also has a visual style. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything approaching good cinematography in a Jackie Chan movie before, and most of Mr Nice Guy is shot in his usual style. But a few sequences, especially a desperate race after a runaway horse and cart (don’t ask) slide into a Chungking Express style blurred background, slow-motion thing which is quite cool to watch. Hell, even the driving a big truck through a building climax is well shot. And explosive. And New Line has the courtesy not to put credits in the way of the out-takes. On the other hand, I don’t really have as much desire to see it again, but this probably stems from seeing Who Am I shortly after, and Mr Nice Guy begins to pale in comparision.

Eirias’ Rating: 8/10

By Jim Carrey

Well, I was quite surprised. The American version was really a lot better than the Hong Kong version. For starters, this one wasn’t dubbed. It was in it’s actual English language. Anyone else wondered why Baggio sounded like Vincent Price? Bravo, Bravo, Bravissimo Bravo for the better editing in the US release. They took out some of the Ronny vision fights and kept it mostly in 4th gear. I will say that the acting is a lot better when not dubbed in Chinese and just kept in English. The movie is shorter now so it isn’t so damn boring anymore. Unfortunately they didn’t edit out the most gratuitous scene ever committed to celluloid, that is the Underwear marathon scene. It still looks like a commercial for Victoria Secret’s and NASCAR. Jackie as usual does his same old Jackie routine. Yet again, he screws up the end by blowing things up like in Rumble, still better than Titanic. The plot is weak but at least not abysmal. The film is good and enough said. If you want to see a really great recent Jackie film, go check out Thunderbolt or his brand new one, Who Am I? Those are his best films since his early-mid ninties period.

Jim Carrey’s Rating: HK version 6/10; US version 7/10

By Andrew

I must say I enjoyed this film quite a bit. Mr. Nice Guy is slick and fast paced and contains a few eye-popping stunts. I had one real problem with this film however, and it’s something of a big problem. This film has way too many similarities to Rumble in the Bronx. There’s a gang that isn’t 100% bad, a bunch of guys in suits that are, mass destruction at the end of the film, and lots of fights. Let’s not forget that Jackie has to go on his own to get the bad guys, and that the cops play dumb at the end. (“we didn’t see anything” – a direct steal from Police Story.) All in all, Mr. Nice Guy is an excellent film, and it’s suitable for novice fans. Even non-action lovers will stand u and cheer for the horse carriage fight/chase scene (did I mention that it was stolen from Buster Keaton?).

Andrew’s Rating: 7/10

By Brian Mojica

This is a *good* Jackie Chan movie when it comes to action. It seems as if they loaded it with as much action as they could. What they got in exchange was a very flimsy plot, in the true Jackie Chan tradition. It involves drug-dealing gangs chasing a reporter who videotaped a transaction gone to hell (potential X-File: the one-camera recording resulted in what appears to be a multi-camera, professionally edited action sequence). Plot developments are revealed during the first hour, while the second half deals mostly with action sequences and chases. The action scenes, however, are very well-done. The highlight of the movie is the fight at a construction site, where Jackie does some dangerous stuntwork with electric saws. The fight also has Jackie doing one of his most impressive “climbs” since Project A Part II’s climb up a bamboo scaffolding.

Some of the action sequences could have been better had it not been for the use slow-motion/strobing effects, which I found distracting in some parts. A house and several expensive cars were demolished by a huge truck for the finale. I didn’t find this impressive at all. Jackie’s movies have been relying on big blasts instead of great fights for the finale, which is unfortunate. It’s been a while since we’ve been treated to a finale like those in Miracles and Dragons Forever. A little more humor and a more effective ending would have greatly improved this film, but it’s still enjoyable.

Brian Mojica’s Rating: 7/10

By Vic Nguyen

A good movie, but is not up to par with Project A and Wheels on Meals. Jackie plays a popular television chef, but after running into a mysterious woman, his life takes a sudden turn. It turns out that a mob tape has been switched with one of his cooking tapes, and the mob will stop at nothing to get it back. Great fights and chases, could easily be called Rumble in the Bronx 2, but it gets old and repetitive after a while. Watch for Samo Hung in a funny cameo on a bicycle during a fight filmed completely inside a van!

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 7/10

Posted in Chinese, Golden Harvest, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fist of Legend (1994) Review

"Fist of Legend" French DVD Cover

"Fist of Legend" French DVD Cover

Director: Gordon Chan
Writer: Gordon Chan, Kim Yip
Producer: Jet Li
Cast: Jet Li, Shinobu Nakayama, Chin Siu Ho, Yasuaki Kurata, Paul Chun, Billy Chow, Ada Choi Siu Fan, Yuen Cheung Yan, Jackson Lau Hok Yin, Wong Sun, Derek Cheung Chi Chuen, Chow Gam Kong, Dang Taai Woh
Running Time: 98 min.

By Dan-O

Hyperkinetic. That’s what they’ll call it.

Know what I call it? You don’t wanna know what I call it. And I call “IT” the same thing I call remakes.

“Who ya gonna call?”. Sorry, I… had to say that.

Fist of Legend is fine for what it is, but it is not a kung fu movie. It’s a “hyperkinetic” pant-load. To put this on the level with Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan films would be cause for me to punch your balls off.

“Hi, I’m Jet Li! I have wires attached to all areas of my body including my rear-area! Watch me ‘leap’ 40 feet into the air! Whee! People don’t seem to notice or even give 2 craparoones that my fight scenes have more cuts that 178 MTV videos stacked end-to-end, so I just keep cranking out these here movies. Helloooooo Hollywood!!”

Thanks to this movie, and others like it, we now have those wonderful fight scenes in the Matrix that everyone seems to circle-jerk over. Joy! Thanks Yuen Poo-Wing, or Woo-Ping. whatever. thank you for that. Marvelous job. Stupendous. Fantastic. You’re the bee’s-knees m’man! You go girl! (in the background, the reviewer loads his trusty shotgun and tucks his airline tickets into a new nylon duffle-bag for his upcoming “visit” to Hong Kong).

Dan-O’s Rating: 6/10 (Okay, so the movie wasn’t THAT bad. I just enjoy being a major, MAJOR asshole.)

By Perkele

Fuck off all you fastidious Bruce Lee fans who think that this is an insult towards the original “Fist of Fury”. Face it: the one and only good thing about “Fist of Fury” is Bruce Lee. I mean, if the film’s star would be someone like Jimmy Wang Yu [all respects to Jimmy], nobody would regard it as a classic nowadays! Its story is stupid, Lo Wei’s direction poor and it’s one of the most racist and anti-Japanese movies ever filmed. These elements however are not present in “Fist of Legend”. In a matter of fact, “Fist of Legend” has almost the best story, acting and editing ever to appear in a HK kung fu film.

Jet Li gives his most charismatic performances to date and the rest of the cast [especially Chin Siu Ho and Yasuki Kurata] are also superb [Note: I’m reviewing here the original, uncut, subtitled HK version of the movie]. You can’t find better fight choreography from another 90’s martial arts flick — Yuen Woo-Ping is at his best. The bouts look realistic and here comes the best part: nobody’s flying!

The final fight with Billy Chow is too far-fetched and long, I guess Woo-Ping ran out of ideas or something. Both Billy and Jet seem to be knocked down for about three times during the fight, but every fucking time they stand up again, ready to rumble. And after Jet has finally whipped Billy’s ass with his belt, I expected his trousers to tumble down. That should’ve happened!

If this was a Jackie Chan flick, Jackie most certainly would’ve included that [I almost laughed out loud only when I thought about it], but this is a serious action-drama [like “Fist of Fury”], not some wacky kung fu comedy. The most stupid thing nevertheless is the cop-out ending where is revealed that Zen Zen [or whoever, played by Jet Li anyway] wasn’t actually killed! This ending sucks big time and it almost leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But still. Highly recommended!

Perkele’s Rating: 9/10

By Yi-Long

This movie, together with Drunken Master 2, is my favourite martial arts movie ever! The movie is the classic story of Chen Cheh, A student from the Ching Wu kung fu school, who comes back after he finds out his master has been killed by a Japanese Karate master.He soon finds out his master was poisened. Well. although this is a classic story, there are some differences in this movie from the 1972 original Bruce Lee movie (Fist of Fury). First of all, Jet Li portray’s Chen Cheh as a smart, cool and thinking character, instead of Bruce’s young, wild and outraged portrayel of the character. Also, in the original movie, all Japanese in the movie were extremely evil, mean or obnoxious. In this modern version, only the Japanese general (Billy Chow) is evil. Almost all other Japanese are just normal people, caught in a war they never asked for.

Of course the fight scenes in this movie are ALOT better than those in the original. These are the best fight scenes u could ask for, with 3 of HK’s most talented martial artists (Jet Li, Chin Siu-Ho and Billy Chow) performing with and/or against each other. Another very good point about the fight-scenes are the fact that the wires are there only to enhance some action, not to MAKE the action. All action is extremely tight, fast and “realistic”; Jet Li has never looked better! Well, there u have it…A classic tale redone in a way Kung Fu fans could only dream of…. A perfect Kung Fu movie and a MUST WATCH for any Jet Li fan.

Yi-Long’s Rating: 9.5/10 (This score is for the original, subtitled HK-version, not the dubbed American version, which I haven’t seen)

By James H.

Jet Li is a good actor. I like him. He has a good sort of screen presence, maybe not as commanding as Sean Connery, but he’s still there. “Fist of Legend” is a good example. Jet plays Chen Zhen, a martial artsy kinda guy. He portrays him with a relaxed attitude, like he doesn’t feel the need to prove anything to the audience.

You may say, “James, I’ve heard of that Chen Zhen character before, but from where?” Well, I’ll tell you. Chen Zhen was the main character in a little known movie called “Fist of Fury” (or “Chinese Connection”, depending on which side of the world you live on), starring a little known actor named Bruce Lee. You see, what we have here with “Fist of Legend” is a case of Money Hungry Producer Syndrome. That’s when a producer takes a proven hit, and remakes it. Sometimes it works (“Payback”, “Thomas Crown Affair”) and sometimes it fails miserably (“Psycho”, “The Haunting”). This one succeeds.

Yeun Woo-Ping did the fight choreography for this film, and did one hell of a job. The fights are really well done, but are sped up, which rather ruins the effect. They flow very well, and do not jar the viewer like in “Black Mask”. The actors move and flow very well, very gracefully. Also, the wire effects are done well too. That meaning they don’t look overly ridiculous, and overly fake as, say, “Once Upon a Time in China & America”.

“Fist of Legend” was a fun movie to watch. Jet Li is good, but he shouldn’t be compared to Bruce Lee, because no one can compare to him. As I said, it’ s a fun movie, nothing spectacular, just good plain punching and kicking and “You killed my master!!” stuff. You know, fun.

James H’s Rating: 7.5/10

By Vic Nguyen

This remake of Bruce Lee’s classic Fist of Fury features the fast paced action direction of Yuen Woo-ping and the talents of Mainland martial artist, Jet Li. Li stars as Bruce’s character, Chen Zhen, the vengeful student out to gain revenge on his sifu’s death. Although Gordon Chan Kar-seung is credited as director, he was not on the set during a fraction of the picture. This is where Yuen Woo-ping takes over, delivering his blend of excellent choreography and methodical pacing, which is unfortunately overtaken by extreme, cartoonish undercraking. Despite this, the fights will likely satisfy even the most jaded kung fu fan, and the film overall will surely please most Bruce Lee fans.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 8.5/10

By Andrew

A re-make of a popular Bruce Lee flick, this is the best Jet Li film I have seen to date. Every line of dialogue is absolutely integral to the story and the choreography of the action sequences is first rate. Many of the fights are carefully planned and staged with convincing flying effects. There are only a few brawls – most fights are one-on-one situations, either contests or heated battles. The individual fights feature more amazing moves than the large scale encounters. I appreciated this movie for its exploration of racism and race issues which were exacerbated by war. This feels non-judgmental and everything occurs in a matter-of-fact way. Explicit racial insults and implicit assumptions are presented for what they are with no apologies.

Both the Japanese and the Chinese people in the film express racial reservations about each other, so it isn’t one sided either. It doesn’t help Jet Li’s character any that his girlfriend is Japanese, on top of the fact that he gets blamed for the death of Akutogawa, the sensei of a Japanese martial arts school. He has his hands full with trying to resolve the internal conflict of his own school. The only substantive plot twist (at least from what I can tell) comes at the end of the film. Because it is the end, I’m not going to share it with you- you’ll have to see it for yourself!

Andrew’s Rating: 9/10

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