Real Fiction (2000) Review

"Real Fiction" American DVD Cover

"Real Fiction" American DVD Cover

Director: Kim Ki-Duk
Writer: Kim Ki-Duk
Producer: Harry Lee, Seung-Soo Shin
Cast: Jin-mo Ju, Jin-ah Kim, Min-seok Son, Je-rak Lee, Ki-yeon Kim, Sun-mi Myeong
Running Time: 83 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

I’m currently on a “Ki-du Kim” natural high. I love his unorthodox style of filmmaking, his morbid approach to storytelling and his fascination with toying with viewers’ minds using uncanny visuals. Ki-duk Kim is definitely on the verge – if not already – of becoming one of the craftiest filmmakers of our time. He’s Korea’s answer to a subtle Takashi Miike, he’s a hint of Hong Kong’s Wong Kar-Wai, and shares a common mental image with Hollywood names like Paul Schrader and Abel Ferrara (at Abel’s best, that is.). No one really knows what to expect when watching his films, yet, they all have one thing in common – they’re not easy to watch. Mind you, I’ve only seen a few of his films: “Bad Guy”, “The Isle” and now “Real Fiction”, the subject of this review.

Jin-mo Ju (outstanding actor from “Musa”) plays a quiet, estranged sketch artist who makes a living by drawing people for money, mostly in busy parks where loads of people are having a good time with friends and family. For some unexplained reason, he wears a headset that is somehow capturing the reception of a pay phone near by. This allows him to hear conversations – good and bad – between two people. Perhaps, this is his way of experiencing something that’s missing from his loner-lifestyle? The artist barely speaks, never smiles, and shows no emotion other than his stone-faced image of someone that’s in low-spirits. And, the fact that a mysterious lady with a camcorder is filming him, non-stop, doesn’t make the guy any happier.

However, the artist has more to worry about than the lady with camcorder. He’s constantly bullied. Not only by local gangs taking his earnings, but by customers who aren’t satisfied with their finished portraits. “That doesn’t really look like me, so I’ll just give you half of what I owe you”, says one man. Another person decides to pay him, but throws the money on the ground. Meanwhile, that lady with the camcorder is still filming…

The artist is about to explode.

“Real Fiction” is a movie about revenge and self-respect. More importantly, it’s about what it would take for one to accomplish such acts; or how someone can spark off one’s inner-psychotic behavior. It’s violent, vividly obscene and abstract. As straight-forward as the plot may sound, don’t be expecting a linear ride. Without giving anything away, “Real Fiction’s” ending could easily make or break how you really feel about the film – or better yet, it might give you something to discuss.

“Real Fiction” was supposedly shot in a single afternoon, using the most conventional tactics of guerrilla filmmaking. Know this, only adds to the film’s productive quality.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 7/10


By Numskull

“Brood for decades – pure hate distilled, Then bottled up much longer; Revenge: a draught I’ll serve you chilled When time has made it stronger.”

– Skyclad, “Vintage Whine”

After watching this movie for just a few minutes, it becomes quite clear that it was shot on very little money over a very short period of time. And you know what? It kicks ass. Real Fiction is a shining example of the greatness that low budget film making can achieve.

File the plot under “so simple it’s brilliant”: a taciturn young sketch artist (whose only form of respite is listening in on other peoples’ phone conversations), at the beginning of what looks like it’s going to be the latest in a long run of shitty, miserable days, encounters a girl who nonchalantly hangs around him with a camcorder and a man in an otherwise abandoned theater who seems to know everything about his life and stirs up some painful memories. Enraged and strangely empowered by his meeting with this odd couple, he sets off on a quest to liberate himself from the huge amounts of anger and frustration built up inside him. Camera girl follows him, not saying a word, recording his every move for reasons about which he neither knows nor cares.

And that’s pretty much it.

Beautiful.

Real Fiction is a “love it or hate it” movie if ever there was one. Some will find it unbearably silly/petty (not to be confused with Silly Putty) while others, like myself, will grin like Pee Wee Herman in a porno theater as the nameless artist slakes his burning-like-the-deepest-pits-of-Hell thirst for revenge; revenge to which, in most cases, he is definitely entitled. Most of the characters in Real Fiction are assholes of the first water, and its protagonist, besides getting some long overdue payback on those who have wronged him, is also lashing out at the human race’s casual attitude about petty, everyday acts of cruelty, rudeness, and degradation…an attitude that has plagued our wretched species since Day One.

Cinematographer Cheol-hyeon Hwang had the easiest job in the world. There are only a handful of cuts and angles and most of the shots are as long as your arm. This, plus the noticeable lack of music in many scenes and the fact that most of the film takes place in real time, adds to the oddball, documentary-style sense of reality. While the main camera tends to remain motionless, camera girl’s somewhat unsteady hand (relax, it ain’t The Blair Witch Project) sometimes moves with imperfect timing, further increasing the film’s overall realism.

Jin-mo Ju is excellent as the unnamed sketch artist, simultaneously meek but stoic at first, then haunted and singularly possessed. His vacuous stare is essential in establishing his character’s broken spirit and aura of low self-esteem and emotional numbness. There are noteworthy performances amongst the supporting cast as well, especially the actress who plays the woman in the comic book shop (actually more like a pay ‘n’ read library than a shop…that sucks).

Three minor flaws mar this excellent movie. (Partial spoilers ahead, especially flaw #2.)

The first is an easily overlooked continuity error: when the guy who’s fucking the artist’s girlfriend walks out of the flower shop she works in, he leaves his cell phone behind and then calls it, indicating that she should hang on to it for the time being. Problem: he’s only been gone for a minute or so. Wouldn’t it have been easier for him to just go back and retrieve it? Yes, but oh well.

The second is the scene where the artist kills the guy who works at Super Viagra by putting a bag of snakes over his head. The guy holds onto the bag as though his life depended on it, when, in fact, his life depends on getting it the fuck OFF. Lame.

The third flaw may not be a flaw at all depending on how you interpret the movie’s perplexing conclusion; the film takes a rather bizarre new path in its last few moments and finishes with a very big, albeit weird, surprise ending. All that I’ll say about it is that it has to do with the angles from which Camera Girl shoots. You may very well notice it yourself while watching the movie, but wait until all is said and done before you pass judgment.

I also have gripes with the DVD itself, but it’s important to separate a work of art from the means through which we may experience it. The package says that Real Fiction is 95 minutes long. It lies. IT LIIIIIIIES!!! The film clocks in at just 82 minutes and change, and feels even shorter than that. Also, the picture is full frame only, and whoever was in charge of the transfer from the theatrical aspect ratio made some poor decisions about what should be trimmed from the screen. Last but not least, the cast and crew information is only in Korean, even though the menu is in English.

An utterly superb “little” movie that you can show to your less worldly friends to show them how superior your tastes are (and if any of them says “Well, shit, this is just people talking, the camera doesn’t even move, what a waste of time” then sever all ties with them immediately). The film is very easy to follow and the subtitles contain far fewer errors than most Hong Kong DVDs. Hats off to (almost) everyone involved; Real Fiction delivers more entertainment than just about any obscenely-budgeted, self-proclaimed “blockbuster” you can name.

Numskull’s Rating: 9/10

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Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003) Review

"Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Kim Ki-duk
Writer: Kim Ki-duk
Producer: Lee Seung-Jae
Cast: Oh Yeong-Su, Kim Jong-Ho, Seo Jae-Gyeong, Kim Yeong-Min, Ha Yeo-Jin, Kim Ki-duk
Running Time: 106 min.

By Slaxor

“Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…And Spring” tells the story of a monk from childhood to his adult years.

Well this may be the most visually beautiful movie I have ever seen. If you told me tomorrow I could be living on the floating temple on the lake from this movie if I just shaved my head, converted to Buddhism and gave up the outside world I’d be bald, kneeling and praying before you could finish the offer.

The tone of the movie is very calm as is the acting. The only time it felt out of place was when the focker who plays the lead in Fall hams it up a bit upon his arrival but later redeems himself. Another great thing is that almost everything in the movie ties in and has some sort of meaning. I say almost which leads me to my first gripe.

About 3/4’s in we could probably wrap the movie up in about 15-20 minutes and send me home happy but for no reason whatsoever our lead decides, “hey, lets learn some kung-fu” and begins self-teaching himself with a manual. Ok, so the movie deals with Buddhism which can be associated with martial arts. However, it never ties in to anything and doesn’t have enough time to be used. One could say our lead was getting rid of past anger but I’m not buying it.

The casting is pretty good with the standout being the actor that plays the elder monk. Throughout the movie as we go through the stages of the younger monks life he is replaced by a different actor in each season for obvious age differences. The old monk on the other hand is only made to look older each time and every time a new season starts and were left to wonder if the next actor to play the lead might not be as good as the previous. Well for that we have the elder monk to fall back on for great acting. This of course leads to my only other beef with the movie and that is when this character is no longer in the film were subjected to a new actor for the lead with no one familiar.

I guess writing this now I’ve come to realize that this movie probably would have been perfect had they eliminated the gratuitous kung-fu training. The movie is probably 2/3’s Spring, Summer and Fall. The other 3rd is a long winter that overstays its welcome with this viewer.

Overall if your a fan of Korean dramas but prefer them to be the more enlightening kind instead of the ones that make you wanna slit your wrists like SFMV then check this out.

Slaxor’s Rating: 7.5/10


By Equinox21

When I found out a few weeks back that Kim Ki-duk’s new movie, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter· and Spring, was going to be playing at a local theater in Milwaukee, I was pretty excited. Then I’d started to read a bit more about it and my expectations started dropping slightly. Until my viewing of this movie last night, I’d only seen one other Kim Ki-duk movie, The Isle, which I absolutely loved but which was really quite twisted. But, from what I was reading, SSFWaS started sounding like it would turn out to be a boring melodrama about the stages of a man’s life. Boy, am I glad I was wrong. It was a terrific film that deserves all the accolades it has thus far received.

The plot is very straight forward, because there isn’t a lot to it. It just follows the stages of a young monk’s life as he is mentored by an old monk on their floating monastery (inhabited by only the two of them and their ever changing pets). It’s the way that the story is told that makes it so interesting. Not only does the title of the film represent the stages of life of the young monk, but it also represents the actual seasons that those stages are shown in. During the Spring segment, the young monk is just a little boy and the film takes place during Spring. During Summer, the young monk is in his teens. And so on. This was a very effective and enjoyable method of conveying the story.

The film employed a more Buddhist theme than simply centering around 2 monks. The film could be seen as coming full circle by the end (when you see the film and understand what I mean), which is a very eastern/Buddhist philosophy (even if it is simple and even a bit clich*d). It also doesn’t hurt that Kim Ki-duk found the most picturesque valley in South Korea to film this in. The cinematography was absolutely spectacular.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter· and Spring was an amazing film by an extremely talented director (who, by the way, also played the young monk in the Winter segment). I wasn’t quite sure I’d like this film when I’d read a few things about it, but it certainly didn’t let me down in any way whatsoever. Do yourselves a favor and check it out.

Equinox21’s Rating: 9/10

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Samaria | aka Samaritan Girl (2003) Review

"Samaria" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Samaria" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Kim Ki-duk
Writer: Kim Ki-duk
Producer: Kim Ki-duk, Jeong-min Bae, Jeong-min Baek
Cast: Gwak Ji-Min, Seo Min-Jeong, Lee Eol
Running Time: 95 min.

By Equinox21

Kim Ki-duk’s newest movie, Samaria, takes on the problem of child prostitution in a way only Kim Ki-duk can present it. In what could have been a tremendously risqué and dangerous film to make, he takes on the subject in such a way that the focus is taken off the actual act and onto the mentality of the two children who are taken advantage of by their pedophile clients.

The movie is told in 2 (or possibly even 2 and a half, depending on how you look at it) different parts. The first focuses on Yeo-jin, who manages her friend Jae Yeong’s prostitution endeavors in attempt to earn enough for the two of them to travel to Europe, and who eventually takes over the “business” when Jae Yeong dies. The second part focuses on Yeo-jin’s father, a detective who discovers his daughter’s horrible secret and does everything in his power to undermine it (without letting her know that he’s aware of it). This second part of the movie is what really makes an impact. The father follows Yeo-jin around and makes sure the guys who want to sleep with her don’t get that chance. His despair at what his daughter has gone through makes all his actions understandable, and even forgivable.

Even though Samaria dealt with a subject that should not be a matter of “entertainment”, what Kim Ki-duk does with it makes it a real joy to watch. The story really makes it stand out as one of the year’s great movies (so far). Everyone who likes Kim Ki-duk’s artistic (and sometimes difficult to watch) films should definitely check out Samaria.

Equinox21’s Rating: 8.5/10

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Isle, The (2000) Review

"The Isle" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Isle" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Kim Ki-Duk
Writer: Kim Ki-Duk
Producer: Lee Eun
Cast: Seo Jeong, Kim Yu-seok, Park Seong-hee, Cho Jae-hyeon, Chang Hang-seon
Running Time: 100 min.

By Alexander

The only thing that saved this exploitive and pretentious piece of trash from a 0/10 is the gorgeous cinematography. The people responsible for The Isle may not know how to engender audience sympathy, write dialogue, use lighting or tell a story, but they sure know how to film scenery.

Never has a leading actress had to do so little in a film to “earn” a paycheck than Seo Jeong. She’s ocassionally mute, and other than being able to clench her teeth whilst skinning frogs and electrocuting fish, baring her breasts, manning a small motorboat and enduring repeated kicks to the crotch, Seo Jeong does little else but absorb abuse. Had I been able to muster an ounce of sympathy for her character I might have enjoyed The Isle. Movies are always better when we care about the people in them, after all. Even the character of crazed Eihi in Miike’s Audition has a relatively well-developed backstory, and although we might ultimately despise her, we at least understand her motivations, however twisted they may be. Hee-jin’s story, unfortunately, is told in a seconds-long scene of her looking pained at the sight of what is apparently her ex-lover’s motorcycle. That’s it. No rationale behind her want of the weirdo on the yellow float despite his violent attempt to rape her; no explanation behind the ease at which she kills or the intensity of her jealousy. For the most horrific scene in the film to resonate beyond being simply shocking, we NEED to know what drives her to that moment. (And despite her irrational and sometimes violent behavior before she does this, NOTHING in the film suggests she is capable of doing something as vile and horrific as THAT. Incredibly, Miike’s Eihi looks sane in comparison.) Otherwise, it’s just sensationalistic, exploitative and pointless.

Much ado about nothing, you say? The entire film revolves around the unconventional “relationship” of Hee-jin and Hyun-sik. (He’s just as fucked up as she is, by the way.) But because they’re both psychotic assholes, there’s no one or nothing to root for or care about. I wanted them both to just fucking die, by suicide, a blow to the head or from giant sharks devouring their floats. Anything, really, to spare ME any more pain. But what did I get for enduring two hours worth of animal maiming, sexual abuse and embarrassingly overt symbolism? An abrupt and clumsy existentialist ending that provided, at least, one laugh-out-loud moment in an otherwise grim and utterly pointless film.

Alexander’s Rating: 2.5/10 (The lake is pretty!)


By Equinox21

Unsure of what to expect, I went into viewing The Isle with an open mind. I’m glad I did, because this is a movie you simply can’t prepare yourself for. It was a slow moving film that emitted feelings of isolation, loneliness, jealousy, revenge and, most of all, strangeness.

Though the movie never specifically tells us the names of the characters, the central characters are Hee-jin (Seo Jeong, in my opinion, a Korean dead ringer for Faye Wong) and Hyun-shik (Kim Yu-seok). Hee-jin is silent the entire movie. She just goes about her business of boating customers out to little floating platforms with small huts on them for fishing outings. Along with carrying customers out to these platforms, Hee-jin’s job includes ferrying guests of the customers (most often local prostitutes) out to them, cleaning and repairing the platforms, and even occasionally selling her body to the lonely fishermen. However, because it’s such a secluded place, it is the perfect place for wanted men to hide out, which is what Hyun-shik is doing there. Slowly, Hee-jin and Hyun-shik fall for each other, and their mutual affection is solidified in a cringe-inducing scene the first of a few.

I absolutely loved the feel of this movie. As I mentioned, it moves very slowly, however, each scene is important in describing the characters’ attitudes and establishing their backgrounds. The atmosphere builds from the secluded surroundings and the nigh constant grey sky. Also, this is an extremely quiet movie. It probably has the least amount of dialogue in any movie I’ve ever seen, however, the characters’ actions speak volumes. A picture is, after all, worth a thousand words.

There were some truly strange scenes in this one. I can’t explain it; I don’t want to give it away as the impact of these scenes are part of the establishment of the feel for this movie. They’re shocking, and in a way disturbing, but not to the point of being unwatchable. The last scene is one that you could talk about and analyze for hours.

This is a good movie, although very strange. The closest movie I can compare it to, as far as oddness, is Miike’s Audition. You shouldn’t miss this one, if only for having a truly interesting Asian cinema conversation piece.

Equinox21’s Rating: 9/10 (minus a point for this movie inflaming my animal rights sensibilities)


By Mighty Peking Man

This movie freaked me out. Not in a jump-out-of-your seat way, but in a subtle “what the fuck?” sort of way. What attracted me to “The Isle” was it’s trailer which I saw almost a year ago on one of my Universe discs. Now, anyone who has seen the trailer can only imagine what kind of film this is – it hints mysterious, dark, quiet, wicked, brutal, sexual…and it all takes place on a secluded fishing island. And now, a year later, I finally watched it — talk about a trailer that lives up to the film in every single way! Written and directed by Kim Ki-Duk (“Bad Guy”, “Real Fiction”), “The Isle” is a horrifying look into one of the strangest relationships I’ve ever seen.

Meet a erratically mute woman named Hee-jin, the operator of a “fishing island” somewhere on the waters in a cul de sac-like lake/mountain atmosphere. The area she runs consists of a few floating rooms (a boat with a small house-like room that fits about two or three people), where the guests pay to stay and fish overnight, and sometimes by the hour. Yes, these floating fishing rooms are the perfect place for prostitution. Not only are there call-girls dropping into the fishermen leisure, but Hee-jin, in addition to running the isle and selling fishing tackle and food, also makes a buck or two selling herself at night.

One day a mysterious man named Hyon-shik rents one of the floating rooms from Hee-jin. Hyon-shik is introduced as a fella with a sadistic past, and now, he has secluded himself from the world and has chosen the “fishing island” as the choice of place for suicide. At night time, while others are fishing or getting it on with whores, Hyon-shik is contemplating whether or not he should blow his head off. Each time he’s about to, Hee-jin barges in and just glares at him. Hee-jin, who obviously has an eerie unexplained past as well, notices an instant connection with him and his grief; not to mention his tears and pain.

When Hyon-shik notices affection from Hee-jin, he puts his current problems (and gun) aside. The two start to share friendly gestures, such as giving each other gifts, and gently smiling at each other from a distance. At one point, Hee-jin even sends a prostitute over to Hyon-shik to secure his sexual desires. As Hyon-shik and Hee-jin become closer, things start to get violently strange.

This is where I stop writing about the plot for spoilers sake.

This is also where I say that Kim Ki-Duk is officially on my list of cool directors. Not only (like numskull says in his “Real Fiction” review) can this guy create magic with a extreme low-budget, but his peculiar vision makes him one of the most talented film directors of our time. Just to have a little fun with words, think of Kim Ki-Duk as a combination of Wong Kar-Wai and Takashi Miike (in his more “Audition”-phase).

“The Isle” is a morbid, yet beautiful art-house film. It’s filled with painful visuals (such as a real fish swimming in water with it’s sides torn off) and symbolic formalities that tickle our thought provoking minds. To top it off, it’s one hell of a disturbing film that needs to be seen. And talk about an ending worth a thousand words.

Highly recommended.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 9/10

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Bow, The | aka Arrow (2005) Review

"The Bow" International Theatrical Poster

"The Bow" International Theatrical Poster

Director: Kim Ki-Duk
Writer: Kim Ki-Duk
Producer: Kim Ki-Duk
Cast: Jeon Seong-Hwan, Han Yeo-Reum, Seo Ji-Seok

By Equinox21

I thought it would be really difficult for me to be disappointed with a Kim Ki-Duk movie, but after seeing The Bow, I realize it’s not that tough at all. The Bow’s not a terrible movie, and it does have a lot going for it, it’s just that after seeing many KKD movies, this one started feeling like a parody of his other films; What with the characters never speaking, the movie taking place entirely on the water and the strange and somewhat supernatural ending.

An old man runs a fishing business off his houseboat. He has a smaller boat that he uses to ferry people on and from the larger boat for their fishing excursions. On his houseboat is a 16 year-old girl that lives with him, who he had gotten when she was 7. He’s overly protective of her because he’s planning on marrying her the day she turns 17 (which he counts down on a calendar), and guards her with his bow, by firing “warning shots” at fishermen on his boat that get too touchy with the girl. In the nearly 10 years that the girl has lived with him, she’s never left the boat, and she’s always obedient and very respectful of the old man. Things start to change when a high school aged boy comes on the boat for a fishing trip with his father. The girl starts acting out, because of the old man’s actions.

While the movie started out ok, it quickly became obvious that this film could not live up to the standards of its predecessors. The old man was an obvious greedy pervert, who had apparently kidnapped the girl for his own ends. Though he never assaulted her as a child, and was waiting for her to turn 17, it’s still disturbing the way he looks at her and treats her as a child, all the while waiting for her to mature so he can nail her. It even gets to the point that he starts marking off extra days on his calendar so he can marry her earlier than he had originally intended. The film also plays far too much into the teen angst, immature relationship department. When the girl decides to leave, the old man tries to kill himself, dragging the girl back to him. It’s just like high school kids might do.

The aspect of the two main characters not speaking quickly became annoying to me, because it was so out of place in this film. In other Kim Ki-duk films, like The Isle or 3-Iron, it fits the characters or situations well. In this film, the characters do speak occasionally, only they whisper into each other’s ears. What’s the point? In The Bow, the main characters are the only ones that don’t speak, while all the minor characters talk almost incessantly. If Kim Ki-Duk’s desire was for the movie to not be mistranslated for foreign markets, his goal would have failed due to the minor characters all speaking.

Again, the film isn’t all bad. I absolutely loved the music. It was almost eerie in parts, and joyful in others. The music was supposed to have all come from the old man or the girl playing the bow as an instrument, instead of using it as a weapon.

Overall, I can’t suggest this film over any of the other Kim Ki-Duk films I’ve seen. It just seemed too much like a new Kim Ki-Duk cliché, instead of a new Kim Ki-Duk film. See it only after you’ve seen all of Kim Ki-Duk’s other films, which were much better.

Equinox21’s Rating: 6/10

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Birdcage Inn (1998) Review

"Birdcage Inn" International Theatrical Poster

"Birdcage Inn" International Theatrical Poster

Director: Kim Ki-Duk
Producer: Lee Kwang-Min, Yoo Hee-Suk
Cast: Lee Ji-Eun, Lee Hye-Eun, Ahn Jae-Mo, Jeong Hyeong-Gi, Son Min-Seok, Jang Dong-Jik, Lee In-Ok, Jang Hang-Seon, Bang Eun-Jin, Seo Won
Running Time: 103 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

From the lurid-mind of director Kim Ki-Duk comes yet another film exploring the gritty world of sex-for-sale. I haven’t seen all of his films, but I have seen enough to make the simple observation that the guy has some kind of obsession telling stories that revolve around the business of prostitution. For a director like Kim Ki-Duk, it’s never bad thing. Though films like “The Isle”, “Bad Guy”, and “Birdcage Inn” share a similar element in their plots, each one stands on it’s own originality.

“Birdcage Inn” is a story about Jina, the new call girl at the Birdcage Inn. The Birdcage Inn is a hotel that is operated by a poor family – a father, mother and their two kids. The family relies on Jina’s income as a whore to pay the expenses that keep the hotel alive for business; as well as putting food on the table. Still, the family is barely getting by and practically living very low-class. There’s not much known about Jina, but one thing is clear, she’s not happy with her job status (is there a whore who is?). When Jina’s not working, she takes the time to enjoy the beauty of looking at the ocean. Jina is also a terrific artist, but God only knows why she doesn’t use her artistic talents instead of selling her body. It’s apparent that Jina is obviously torn from something that happened in her unexplainable past.

Hyemi, the daughter of the family, resents Jina from the beginning. Not only does Hyemi hate the fact that her family runs such a scummy business, but she blames Jina for being the primary tool. Jina notices Hyemi’s rude attitude towards her, but still tries to win her affection by doing nice things for her and buying her items she can’t afford. Still, Hyemi doesn’t budge. The plot thickens when unexpected things *cough* start to happen: Jina’s old pimp shows up out of the blue demanding that he still gets a cut of her earnings, Hyemi’s young brother develops a small crush on her which leads to trouble, Jina gets involved with an Andy Lau-wannabe (I had to mention this), and worst of all, Hyemi’s boyfriend gets in between Hyemi and Jina.

So far, “Birdcage Inn” is the most straight-forward, softest, and viewer-friendly of all of Kim Ki-Duk’s work. Sure, you still get the brief sex scenes, beatings (it’s not a Korean film without a few slaps and punches), and downbeat situations. For the most part, the film is definitely on a linear-dramatic level which may have been the main problem with the film. How can I not expect a few shocks here and there after seeing his previous films that set the standard for Kim Ki-Duk’s work? Those damn expectations ruin it for ya each time, I tell ya.

“Birdcage Inn” isn’t a bad film, I was just expecting something big to happen, but it never did – at least in my eyes. The cast was great, the direction was fine, but the story needed something. Overall, “Birdcage Inn” was a disappointment. If you want to see what Kim Ki-Duk can really do, try “The Isle”.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 5/10

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Bad Guy (2000) Review

"Bad Guy" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Bad Guy" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Kim Ki-Duk
Writer: Kim Ki-Duk
Producer: Lee Seung-Jai
Cast: Cho Je-Hyun, Seo Won, Kim Yoon-Tae, Choi Duk-Moon, Choi Yoon-Young, Shin Yoo-Jin, Kim Jung-Young
Running Time: 100 min.

By Mighty Peking Man

A vigorous-looking man (Cho Je-Hyun) notices a beautiful college girl (Seo Won) waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up. The man walks up and sits besides the girl, turns his head and just stairs at her – no facial expression of any sort, just an ice-cold stare that may hint an instant obsession. The woman glances back to him, quickly gives him a look of annoyance, gets up, and walks away. The boyfriend arrives shortly after the woman departs the bench where the peculiar man still sits and continues to look at her.

As the couple walks away, the estranged man barges in between them, unlawfully grabs the girl and kisses her. As his tongue is deep down her throat, the girl’s boyfriend does everything he can to stop the maniac, which includes smacking him on the back with a sidewalk ashtray – it doesn’t phase him. All of the sudden, the man lets her go. The boyfriend continues to pound him on the face. The man takes the punches and calmly walks away without defending himself. The girl yells at the man as he leaves, demanding an apology. Ignoring the girl, the man walks off into a group of curious spectators who had just witnessed the bizarre scene…

The scene just described is the opening to “Bad Guy,” the first film that I’ve seen by Kim Ki-Duk, an award-winning director known for his bizarre, controversial and violent work; such as “Real Fiction”, “The Isle” and “Alligator.” I’ve done a little research on Kim Ki-Duk, and from what I’ve gathered, he can easily be recognized as one who parks his car in the same garage as Takeshi Kitano, Abel Ferrara and a little bit of Takashi Miike – all, a group of talented filmmakers who are no strangers to disturbing themes.

The better way to describe Kim Ki-Duk’s filmmaking style is rawness and grit, but with a larger eye for surrealism and dream-like melancholy. In the case of “Bad Guy,” the fine line between fantasy and truth can be absurd to the viewers. Basically, as straight-forward as the film is, it throws you off with unexplained visuals that were intentionally meant to short the hell out of our thinking caps.

The opening sequence is one of the most intriguing I’ve seen in recent times. However, the rest of the film doesn’t hold up as well, which shouldn’t be a surprise to most. As the film goes on, it quickly switches into a tale of a woman forced into prostitution to pay off her debts. What we see is sad and almost unbearable considering the reasons she’s in this position to being with. It’s definitely an interesting look into the world of prostitution and gives us a crash course idea on how the underground hooker-ring works in some foreign places.

Also in the mix is the story of a man whose intentions are never quite clear. It doesn’t help that his written character doesn’t speak (a scar on his neck hints that his throat was slashed in the past) nor does he show any kind of facial expressions, unless he’s angry. Is he obsessed? Does he have feelings? Does he get off on watching women lose their virginity to strangers? Towards the film’s ending, it appears that we’re finally able to figure out what the man’s deal was, but just as we think we do, we’re put back to square one. All this leaves us with a “huh?” as the credits begin to roll. Maybe it was the director’s intention to keep us thinking. If it was, it was almost to the point of ridicule.

All the performances are satisfactory. Cho Je-Hyun comes across as a silent James Russo-type. The beautiful, and I mean beautiful, Seo Won gets the job done. However, something tells me that the two leads were limited to giving their all, due to the script and direction.

I look forward to seeing more of Kim Ki-Du’s work. As for “Bad Guy,” I certainly would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. If it weren’t for the many unexplained tidbits, it could have easily been a favorite of mine. All I can say is let your imagination flow.

Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 7/10

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Art Museum by the Zoo (1999) Review

"Art Museum by the Zoo" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Art Museum by the Zoo" Korean Theatrical Poster

Art Museum By The Zoo (1999)
Director: Lee Jeong-Hyang
Producer: Lee Chun-Yeon
Cast: Ahn Seong-Ki, Shim Eun-Ha, Lee Seong-Jae, Song Seon-Mi
Running Time: 109 min.

By Mlindber

I think the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had while watching any Korean films are the times when I’m confronted with a genre that I don’t particularly like and manage to come out really enjoying the film. I never liked the romantic comedy in Hollywood films as of late. At least the older romantic comedies from the 30s and 40s actually had good acting and a unique approach to a genre heavily reliant on scripted events. I’ve seen all of this and more in films like Art Museum By the Zoo.

At its core, Art Museum By the Zoo is a very simplistic film, following a very telegraphed script in a manner that is hard not to guess where it ends up. The plot is nothing special, with a man, Chul-su (played by Lee Sung-jae) coming back from the army only to find his girlfriend, Da-hye (Song Seon-mi) moved away and a slightly annoying girl, Chun-hi (Shim Eun-ha) moved into her apartment. Because he is only back from the army for a few days, Chul-su tries desperately to reconnect with his old girlfriend, but soon finds himself appreciating the company of Chun-hi more and more. Chun-hi, a wedding photographer/script writer, is at first annoyed with Chul-su, but soon “learns to love him”, finally allowing him access to her personal life through his assistance with her latest script.

As the film progresses, we see the main characters struggle over writing a script for the movie within a movie sequences, blatant misunderstandings of intentions and language, and a subtle warming up to each other. Events happen that seemingly come out of nowhere in order to keep the plot moving. The film does not make a big deal out of said events, as it knows the limits of its audience’s attention. What we are left with is a very upbeat film that offers moments of insight into a romance constructed in front of us. The film doesn’t hide its blatant chick-flickness, but it doesn’t relish in it either. Somehow, be it through the talented main actress (Shim Eun-ha, from Tell Me Something and Christmas in August), or the somewhat irrational humor, the movie works on a different level. It remains fun without being overly sappy.

Overall, I enjoyed the film, and find myself liking romantic comedies more and more, albeit only if it brings something unique to the genre. The overly stylized Hollywood movies that destroy reality and then relish in the destruction (films like, oh How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days) are not my taste.

Mlindber’s Rating: 7/10

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Fearless Hyena II, The | aka Crazy Monkey 2 (1983) Review

"The Fearless Hyena II" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Fearless Hyena II" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Chan Chuen
Producer: Lo Wei
Cast: Jackie Chan, Dean Shek, Yen Shi Kwan, Kwan Yung Moon, James Tien, Chan Wai Lau, Austin Wai, Hon Gwok Choi, Pearl Lin, Chan Chuen, Gam Man Hei, Ma Cheung, Mai Kei, Peng Kang, Wong Chi Sang, Wong Chi Wai
Running Time: 87 min.

By Numskull

Here we have one of several finalists in the Worst Jackie Chan Movie Of All Time competition. Reasons being: there’s more recycled footage here than in the entire first season of Ren & Stimpy, and very little of the new stuff has the real Jackie Chan in it. Lo Wei must have pissed off a lot of people with this one. There’s an actual story, but it’s so screwed up by the butcher knife editing process that you could easily miss it.

The two villains named Heaven and Earth are the most interesting part of it, because it’s never made clear which is which. Let’s see…The one with black hair wears a white cape, and the one with white hair wears a red cape. The cape colors would suggest to me that the latter is Earth. However, the guy in the white cape tends to stay on the ground during combat, while the other one likes to jump around a lot. That leads me to believe that the guy in red is Heaven instead. And the really interesting thing about the red-cloaked guy is the way his hairstyle keeps changing in the final scene, where the film alternates between new footage with Jackie’s double and the footage from the first Fearless Hyena with the real Jackie.

Another good question is: how the hell does a sword become dull by turning a dial?!? And, was the petty thief’s homoerotic line intentionally put in by the people doing the English dubbing to amuse themselves (after watching “Jackie” kung fu somebody he asks him: “Could you show me a few strokes?”)? The only thing worthwhile about this movie is the last fight scene, where the inventor guy’s parts are actually better than Jackie’s and “Jackie’s”. If you get the Fearless Hyena 2-pack you might as well watch this once, but it’s definitely not what I’d call a great movie (or a good movie, or a decent movie, or a somewhat substandard movie…).

Numskull’s Rating: 3/10


By Clint

Got it free with my “Fearless Hyena” two pack. I own it, so now I must review it. This film should’ve never been made. Once JC left Lo Wei, he should’ve stopped production. Instead, they use old footage, an obvious double, and cut scenes from “Hyena Part 1”. There were actually a couple scenes that Jackie actually filmed that were meant for this film. The scene where him and a buddy gamble on whether they can do what the other person does. So JC does this great trick with his shirt, then wins the money and gets into a great fight using he shoes. I love that scene. Only reason I don’t give it 1/10 is because of that scene. There’s not much else to talk about. So I’m done.

Clint’s Rating: 2/10


By Andrew

Well it started off kind of slow, then it dragged a bit in the middle, and the less said about the ending the better… But seriously, this film was lacking something, let’s call it “fun”. Now we all like to have our “fun” but this film wasn’t very much “fun”, there was one funny scene in a restaurant (which was one of the only scenes with the REAL Jackie Chan in it) but other than that there wasn’t a whole lot to enjoy here. The ending was sort of “fun” but by that time most of the characters we cared about had expired in not-so-funny ways. I hope they re-make this film, and when they do they could westernize it and get Jackie Chan to play the lead. That would make it better.

Andrew’s Rating: 3/10

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Fearless Hyena, The | aka Crazy Monkey (1979) Review

"The Fearless Hyena" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“The Fearless Hyena” Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Jackie Chan
Writer: Jackie Chan
Producer: Hsu Li Hwa
Cast: Jackie Chan, Peng Kang, James Tien Chun, Dean Shek Tien, Yen Shi Kwan, Lee Kwan, Chan Wai Lau, Cheng Fu Hung, Ma Cheung, Wang Yao, Ricky Cheng Tien Chi, Chu Siu Wa, Gam Sai Yuk, Eagle Han Ying, Ho Hing Nam
Running Time: 92 min.

By Numskull

Career milestone or not, I don’t like this movie at all. Frankly, I don’t think it’s any more amusing than the “sequel” (in spite of Lo Wei’s *AHEM* questionable film-making techniques). The problems here are that (1) the storyline is nothing more than a cliche and (2) that there’s no good fighting. Jackie either gets his ass kicked or employs his Buster Keaton routines, which are funny once in a while, but in general, I find them quite dull. There IS a scene where he takes on three guys with spears, but it looks quite fake and is almost a chore to sit through. Two things I like about this movie, and two things only: the way the main villain (he of the shifting hairstyles in the “sequel”) says “How dare you bite me!” in his ultra-gruff voice, and the little musical blurb at the end (don’t ask why). Fans of Jackie’s physical comedy will find merit in this, but give me a mindless chop-socky flick like Spiritual Kung Fu or Hong Kong Face-Off any day.

Numskull’s Rating: 3/10


By Ro

I almost didn’t watch this one because of the title, but I’m glad I did. Actually, it’s a lot like Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow. Jackie plays the sort of lazy grandson of a master who’s teaching him kung-fu. He gets a job with a couple of con artists who are supposed to be starting a school, but it’s basically Jackie getting paid to fight people. He does it in disguise to put them off their guard, and that part’s hilarious! One of his disguises is a woman, so he spends the whole fight fending off the amorous advances of his (obviously sight challenged) opponent. You can’t tell me he wasn’t influenced by The Three Stooges as much as Buster Keaton! Then, his disobedience gets his grandfather killed and his training is completed by an old cripple. Yet again, the training scenes are incredible! Watch for him doing sit ups while hanging upside down from a tree! The negatives include the ‘slap,block,kick,block’ slower style of fighting prevalent in the 70s and Jackie not dubbing his own voice. However, the ’emotional’ style of fighting he uses adds humor to the final fight scene and the positive of Jackie doing the training scenes shirtless WAY outweighs the negatives.

Ro’s Rating: 7/10 (add a star if you like the shirtless scenes)


By Master of the Stick

This movie has everything that I like about old school kung fu movies: zany comedy, a wacky supporting cast, a fiendish villain, and a cheesey plot that strings together fight after fight after fight! What more could you ask for? Obviously, Jackie borrowed a lot from Drunken Master when he made this one, but it’s still a damn good film. Even his best movies have average plots compared to the rest of the cinematic world, and anyone who watches them for the stories is missing out. So, for me, the lousy plot just added to the coolness factor. In short, you wouldn’t want to show this to someone who’s never seen a Jackie Chan movie before, but for the established Chan-fans out there, it’s a great flick. I loved it.

Master of the Stick’s Rating: 9/10


By Marcia

Looking at this title, I was afraid. Very afraid. But once I learned that this was the film where we get to see a crossdressing Jackie (having unfortunately seen clips of that in one of those ripoff montage films), I decided to give it a chance. I was pleasantly surprised; it wasn’t terrible. Although I have a hard time overlooking the annoying “grandfather” (knowing the actor is actually of comparable age to Jackie, having seen him in several of the other Lo Wei films), the rest of it is OK enough. The “emotional kung fu” (which Jackie totally made up just for this film) is weird and rather lame, but I’d certainly rather watch this film than many of the earlier Lo Wei works.

Marcia’s Rating: 7/10


By Superman

This was the first old school blackbelt JC movie I saw. I must say that I enjoyed it every bit as much as his newer films. His use of obscure weapons in this one is amazing. He kicks butt using benches, Swords, Staffs, Oranges (which also doubled as his fake Chi-Chi’s in a cross dressing scene) and the Hyena kung-fu style. If you shy away from his older stuff you just might enjoy this one. I haven’t seen Young Master yet , but this ranks right up there below Drunken Master. This one is also easily available, so sit back relax about the lack of story and just enjoy the show.

Superman’s Rating: 8/10 (yes 8! Its cool corny fun!)


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Burning Paradise | aka Rape of the Red Temple (1994) Review

"Burning Paradise" DVD Cover

"Burning Paradise" DVD Cover

AKA: Burning Paradise in Hell
Director: Ringo Lam
Writer: Nam Yin
Producer: Tsui Hark
Cast: Willie Chi, John Ching, Carman Lee, Wong Kam-Kong, Yeung Sing, Maggie Lin, Yuen Kam-Fai, Gordon Liu
Running Time: 104 min.

By Numskull

Holy crap, did Ringo Lam REALLY direct this?!? It’s a VERY far cry from what one would expect of the man who brought us Full Contact and the various “On Fire” movies (let’s not mention Van Damme, okay?). Very solid, enjoyable film, but a box office flop upon its release (star Willie Chi handles his fight scenes well enough, but is somewhat lacking in charisma)…and, as of this writing, the only DVD is a Region 0/PAL Dutch release with three lines where the subtitles switch from English to German.

Fong Sai Yuk (an angrier one than in the two Jet Li/Corey Yuen films) and his uncle Chi Nun are on the run from a huge group of Imperial soldiers because they’re members of the Shaolin temple, a big no-no in the current regime. They meet a runaway whore named Tou Tou before the soldiers catch them. Chi Nun is killed and Fong and Tou Tou are imprisoned in the Red Lotus Temple, where the lion’s share of the film takes place. There’s slave labor, skulls and dead bodies everywhere, and deathtraps aplenty for hapless prisoners to get killed by in various nasty ways. Not a nice place to live OR visit, though it would certainly be fun to send Harvey Weinstein there. It reminds me of the Mortal Kombat video games, except that Ed Boon and John Tobias didn’t stick their names everywhere in the background.

Fong has four principal adversaries to contend with while trapped in the Red Lotus Temple: Crimson, the commander of the troops who pursued him in the beginning; Hong, a former Shaolin pupil who has aligned himself with the enemy; Boroke, a fierce, masked woman with the hots for Hong; and Lord Kung, the demented, hedonistic overlord of the place, who is as much a prisoner as anyone else (“I want to enjoy life,” he says, “although life is unbearable.”). Fong has showdowns with all of them at some point, but, as has been mentioned already, the last battle is a letdown; it relies too much on super powers and shit (Kung’s favored weapon is not a sword or a spear, but a paintbrush), unlike the furious fights that precede it. Wires are used in those, too, but not in a way that is silly or excessive. The one in which a large, ornate bed becomes the focal point of the action is probably my favorite, mostly due to its very painful-looking conclusion.

There’s very little not to like about Burning Paradise. Great action, morbid imagery, multifaceted characters, and spiffy set design collide to make it one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen in ages, Asian or otherwise.

Numskull’s Rating: 9/10


By Joe909

Ringo Lam’s first (and so far, only) kung-fu movie seems to go unnoticed by fans. I don’t even think it’s available on DVD. That’s too bad, as this film stands beside other, better-known kung-fu movies of the same era, such as Iron Monkey and the Once Upon a Time in China series. Basically, what Lam did was update the classic Shaw Brothers film, keeping intact a strong sense of gore and doom, while at the same time injecting some all around great martial arts into the mix. Burning Paradise looks and feels like something Chang Cheh would’ve helmed in the mid ’70s, had he been provided with the budget.

One thing that ruined the film for many was that Willie Ho was hyped as the “next Jet Li.” He isn’t by a long shot, though he isn’t that bad. Yu Rong-Guang is a much better martial artist, and should’ve been the star of the movie, other than portraying the turncoat monk Hong. Carman Lee, as Tou-Tou, gives a good performance in what is your basic role as the screaming girl who must always be rescued. Yet another tie to kung-fu movies of the past. And the actor portraying the villain of the piece, Elder Kung, goes way overboard as the demonistic ruler of the Temple. He uses blood to paint, and has the ability to not only fly, but fire specks of paint like projectiles from his brush.

Fong, his uncle, and Tou-Tou are accosted by a band of masked Chings and their leader, Crimson. This is the best part of the movie, as Fong takes on these guys in the middle of the desert. But Fong gets captured anyway, his uncle murdered by Crimson. From there, Fong and Tou-Tou are taken to the gothic Red Lotus Temple, where Elder Kung adds Tou-Tou to his stable of concubines, and puts Fong to work in the mines. Fong has a few run-ins with Hong, who serves as Kung’s second-in-command, before it’s revealed that Hong is only pretending to help Kung; he’s really trying to figure out a map of the Temple, to lead his Shaolin brothers to freedom. Fong and Hong, of course, team up to take out Elder Kung and his henchmen in the end.

Did I mention the gore? This movie freaked out my wife, it was so gory. Elder Kung rips off heads, people get sliced and diced by bladed traps, and the corpses of monks lie scattered about the Temple in unusual positions. All of this stands to make Burning Paradise more of a horror film than a genuine kung-fu movie.

Of course, it goes without saying that despite this, there’s still some comedy thrown into the mix, as is usual with modern-day HK movies; no matter the dark tone of a film, HK filmmakers of today will still find some way to add in goofy, Cantonese humor. The humor in Burning Paradise isn’t as obtrusive as in some other HK flicks, but at times it does come off as too forced. A few moments are genuinely funny, though, like when Fong and an old monk pretend they’re dead to fool the Chings, or when Yu Rong-Guang screams out “Who squeezed my dick?” during the final battle.

The martial arts on display is mostly wire-free. Fong and Hong flip around like acrobats while engaging in furious hand and weapons-based combat. Willie Ho’s portrayal of Fong is more hip than Jet Li’s, what with his huge broadsword and kick-ass attitude. The costumes are excellent across the board, though they go for a more realistic look than the Shaw Brothers-style metal armbands. Set-wise, the Red Lotus Temple looks genuinely creepy, and you start to feel sorry for these damn monks as they stumble into one deadly trap after another.

Overall, a good, recent kung-fu movie. Not the best ever, but I’d still like to see more movies like this coming out of Hong Kong than the usual junk.

Joe909’s Rating: 8/10


By Vic Nguyen

Director Ringo Lam ventures away from modern realism to direct this cynical, claustrophobic martial arts epic. Newcomer Willie Chi stars as Chinese folk hero Fong Sai Yuk, an imprisoned martial artist who must team up with fellow hero Hung Hei-kwan in order to defeat a powerful dictator and escape from a booby trap laden temple. Superb cinematography sets the dark tone of this production. That element, along with fast paced editing and slick wire-fu helps rank this one among Lam’s most accomplished films.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 7.5/10

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Big Brawl, The | aka Battle Creek Brawl (1980) Review

"The Big Brawl" Japanese DVD Cover

"The Big Brawl" Japanese DVD Cover

Director: Robert Clouse
Writer: Robert Clouse
Producer: Raymond Chow, Fred Weintraub
Cast: Jackie Chan, Jose Ferrer, Kristine DeBell, Mako, Rosalind Chao, Pat Johnson
Running Time: 95 min.

By James H.

Music is a very key element in films. I think everyone can agree with that statement. If you don’t believe me, just think about it. What would “Superman” be like without John Williams’ sweeping score? A James Bond movie without music is like a washer without a dryer. That is one of the reasons “The Big Brawl” was not a success. Lalo Schifrin, who did a great job scoring “Bullitt” and “Dirty Harry” (among others, like “Mission: Impossible”), did a horride job here. It was like a mix of Spaghetti Western music and Generic-50’s-Cop-Show music.

As I said the music was one of the reasons this movie was a failure. The plot was lame, the supporting cast was lame, the directing was lame and the editing was, yup you guessed it, shoddy. The fights were okay, Clouse didn’t try to re-create “Enter the Dragon,” and Jackie added some cool moves that kept them interesting. Jackie did a decent job, this being his first shot at the North American market. The saving grace of the film is the humour. There were some funny bits here & there which gave it a certain charm.

If there is nothing left at the video store, go ahead and pick it up. Lord knows there are movies shittier than this one (AHEM! “The Protector”!).

James H’s Rating: 3.5/10


By S!DM

In an attempt to break into the American market, Jackie is duped into making “The Big Brawl,” a real stinker. Jackie says that he is glad he did this film, because he learned how to roller skate. Jackie, I am happy for you. I also learned to roller skate by making a 90 minute feature film. And Robert Clouse directed mine, too! The basic premise is that Jackie has to fight in a “Big” brawl to release his brother’s fiancee. And what a brawl it was. There are no stunts in this movie. There are no real fights either. Unless you count that hilariously bad skirmish between Jackie and Pat Johnson from Enter the Dragon (“It’s the dough, Roper, or we gotta break something!”). Pat, this goes out to you and all your friends: Please retire soon!

S!DM’s Rating: 5/10


By The Great Hendu

The number one reason this movie sucked was because Jackie never fought anyone who could even come close to touching him. I mean even the BIG (and I use that word lightly) Brawl was pathetic. The brute who fought Jackie inspired about as much fear in me as my fat uncle Pete who reminds me a lot of Dilbert. Jackie inserted a hint of humor in the very first fight when he tries not to actually fight. That was probably the best part and it wasn’t even that good. Much of the time I felt like I was watching Bruce Lee. Jackie does a number of those quick jabs or kicks then strikes a pose with a very serious look on his face, like he’s mad all the time. We all know Jackie is a fun loving guy and this movie tried to turn Jackie into what he is not. Finally, as much as everyone else hated the whistling musical soundtrack, I thought it was one of the few things which gave the movie a light-hearted feel, and you have to admit, it was undeniably catchy. Overall, Jackie was misused in this film and I would only reccommend it to true Jackie fans.

The Great Hendu’s Rating: 4.5/10


By Shazbot!

The biggest challenge with this film is that it has a modern day setting in an environment where we everyone doesn’t break out into fights. It tries to balance that with a roller skate sequence (weak) and training with his uncle (decent). The alley sequence where he “fights” without fighting is classic Jackie. The rest is crap. It is not exciting to see kung fu when its only one person. His opponent should have been more of an nimble boxer, able to dish out some jabs. A couple of subplots were left unanswered. Jackie has complained they did not let him make his kind of movie. In all fairness, he was still searching for his niche, which he started to find in Young Master but didn’t hit his stride until Project A. Only a few scenes didn’t have the Jackie touch. When he is his father’s kitchen and kicks his father’s hat off, I expected it to land on Jackie’s head. That would’ve been a Jackie touch. Not even that could have saved this movie.

Shazbot!’s Rating: 4/10


By Numskull

This movie is so bad, I refuse to review it!

Numskull’s Rating: 2/10


By DRGII

Jackie Chan’s first American film was a disappointment yet somehow better than I thought it would be. The story is a complete bore, and it didn’t seem to make it clear when the film was set. It looked like the 1920’s most of the time, but then there was something straight out of the 70’s just to throw you off. Jackie Chan does get to exhibit some of his trademark humor thankfully, and a few of the scenes are pretty good. There’s a cool roller derby scene and a too short yet good scene at an outdoor theater (at least that’s what it looks like) that show off Jackie doing his trademark stuff. Jackie’s master in the film is hilarious. I thought the end fights were sort of disappointing. The worst thing though was the musical score, this annoying whistle-type thing that made me scramble for the mute button on my remote. The shocking thing is that the score was by Lalo Schifrin, who composed the classic Mission: Impossible theme. Okay, but keep your fast forward and mute buttons handy.

DRGII’s Rating: 4/10


By Vic Nguyen

This is a mediocre Jackie Chan film that is forgetable. I know it is forgetable because I forgot most of the plot. All I remember is it has to do with Jackie entering a competition with rejects from the WWF to save a family member. I think his uncle trained him. I think this movie marks Jackies first attempt to break into the US market, but failed. I guess I could understand why.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 4/10

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Rumble in the Bronx | aka Red Bronx (1995) Review

"Rumble in the Bronx" Japanese DVD Cover

"Rumble in the Bronx" Japanese DVD Cover

AKA: Death Benefit
Director: Stanley Tong
Writer: Edward Tang, Fibe Ma Mei Ping
Producer: Raymond Chow, Leonard Ho
Cast: Jackie Chan, Anita Mui, Bill Tung, Françoise Yip Fong Wah, Marc Akerstream, Ailen Sit, Chan Man Ching, Jamie Luk, Yueh Hua, Emil Chau Wa Kin, Alex To
Running Time: 85/110 min.

By Stockton22

If you saw this flick once and wrote it off as an inferior Jackie vehicle, I strongly urge that you check it out again (Thomas Weisser, I’m looking in your direction). While it’s certainly lacking in the fighting category, there is a lot to enjoy once its modus operandi becomes apparent. Having realized this, I know that I like this film more and more each time I see it.

Like Jackie’s first collaboration with director Stanley Tong (Supercop), Rumble sacrifices fighting sequences in favor of more conventional action film dynamics. You know what Jackie film Rumble reminds me of? Project A II. Both films rely less on fighting and more on stuntwork. And Rumble’s got some pretty nifty zingers. That jump from the roof to the building across the street is pretty rad. The scene in the garage where Jackie is moving up, over and around scores of moving obstacles like he’s Spiderman (while throwing a couple of punches in as well) is jammin’ too.

You know what’s also like Project A II? You can’t figure out who the hell the bad guys are supposed to be. In that one, the pirates who weren’t killed in the first movie take a blood oath to kill Dragon Ma (Jackie), but then one gets sick, Jackie buys some medicine and he’s made some friends for life. Now he’s free to fight off a bunch of gangsters. In Rumble, Jackie spends most of the film fending off a biker gang. He ultimately steals the leader’s girl and kicks all their asses. Then he says, “I hope the next time we meet, we won’t be fighting each other. Instead, we’ll be drinking tea together.” And boom, Jackie and the gang are tighter than Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. Now he’s free to fight off a bunch of gangsters. Well dang. That’s all it takes to end conflict? I wish we’d known that years ago, hell, we could have avoided Vietnam, Korea and WWII. All we needed was a couple of strategically places CVS pharmacies, some tea bags and a whole lot of hot water and we could have abolished war entirely. Then, without the inspiration, Fantasy Mission Force might never have happened. What a golden age it would have been.

And speaking of Jackie kicking the gangs collective ass, while Rumble certainly contains less fighting than we’d all like to see, the fighting it does have is totally slammin’. The fisticuffs in the gang’s hideout is the true show stopper, and truly deserves it’s place among Jackie’s best, as Jackie punches, kicks, and maneuvers around every piece of scenery that Tong could get in frame. And the film builds to a thrilling conclusion that includes everything from car chases, hover crafts and that water skiing thing. That’s why if you were bored the first time, you should give it another chance. If you know there’s no fight coming, you can just sit back and let that thing with the jagged sword and the Lamborghini rock your world.

And giving credit where credit is due, let’s hand it to Rumble for featuring a “throwing a guy into a wood chipper” scene, nearly four years before Fargo. Pretty harsh for a Jackie movie, but hey, at least New Line didn’t name his character Jackie Chan (What the hell is up with that anyway? They think we won’t remember it’s him?). The presence of Anita Mui and the babe-alicious Franciose Yip doesn’t hurt either. I just wish Bill Tung had hung around longer. That guy’s a hoot. At least we have the wheelchair boy’s attempts at melodramatic dialogue to chuckle at. And by the way, there’s no game cartridge in that Game Gear kid. Yeah, Rumble in the Bronx will kill ya in more ways than one.

Stockton22’s Rating: 8/10


By Ro

Jackie comes to America for his uncle’s wedding and volunteers to stick around to help out the girl his uncle sold his grocery store to. While assisting in the store, he runs afoul of the local biker gang, who then harass him for most of the movie. While the bikers are chasing Jackie, they run afoul of mobsters who stole diamonds. Confused? Don’t be, the plot works slowly enough to follow and who really cares anyway? Again, lots of humor, stunts and street type fighting. There’s a great scene in the biker’s hangout with refrigerators and other appliances. If you like to watch him fight with props, this is the one to see!

The dubbing’s a little weird, though – some people are obviously speaking English, but everybody’s dubbed. The young boy sounds especially bizarre. However, Jackie dubs his own voice in, so it works for me. P.S. I counted more people getting taken away in ambulances in this movie’s outtakes than any other one I saw!

Ro’s Rating: 7.5/10


By Marcia

On a whim, a mere three months ago, my hubby and I picked up Rumble (and, if I remember right, Young Master) at the video store. Had heard about Rumble, had heard about Jackie, but had never seen him. If you’ve paid any attention to the other film reviews, you know that I’ve contributed to quite a few of them, so now you know how my obsession began (me and everybody else out there…). This one’s a romp. Short on plot, but hey, watched any “American” movies lately? The action is great fun to watch, and I think it’s a really good example of the beautiful way Jackie can move. Ignore the whiny kid, the unlikely gang, and the questionable plot, and enjoy it for what it is — a fun time watching The Man!

Marcia’s Rating: 8/10


By James H.

I know that this is the film that got a lot of people hooked on Jackie. It did that for me. When I saw it in the theatre, it was one of the most amazing movies I had ever seen on the big screen. However, like every movie, it loses some of its shimmer on the TV screen.

When it’s on the smaller screen, the mistakes and bad elements’ show through a lot more. For instance, that little punk ass kid became ten times as annoying. The bad dubbing was much more noticeable, Jackie being the only one who seemed to put effort into his job. The fact that there is a big ass mountain in the middle of the Bronx also comes to mind (actually, I picked that out in the theatre).

Now, on the plus side, Jackie displays some incredible fighting skills in this film. I would have to say that this is one of his best for hand-to-hand fighting. He also displays some remarkable prop fighting; using refrigerators, skiis, shopping carts, jackets and much more. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching Jackie beat the hell out of the baddies at their little hideout.

The finale of the film has always bothered me quite a bit. Due to Jackie’s injury, the film makers had to wrap the film up quickly. I didn’t like the quick solution; running White Tiger over with the hovercraft and then everyone is happy. Although, having Ash’s “Kung Fu” during the outtakes almost made up for the poorly conceived climax/resolution. “Rumble” is good fun, with all of its flaws.

Note: It should be known that Jackie’s character, Keung, is actually a Hong Kong cop, not just some guy who can fight. But we would never have known that because those in charge at the studios cut it out of the film, because they think that a kung fu movie has to be 90 minutes or less.

James H’s Rating: 7/10


By Numskull

Like many other Chan fans I saw this during its theatrical run and thought it was God’s gift to cinema, but now I don’t think it’s quite so hot. On the plus side, all of the action scenes in the first hour are good (but too short in the first two cases-the supermarket and the alleyways) and the stunts are definitely up to par. On the…uh, minus side, the street gang looks rather incompetent compared to the baddies in, say, Police Story. The ending is disappointing (no more good fights after the warehouse scene), the kid in the wheelchair is a poster child for legitimate infanticide (thank God for the MUTE button), and then there’s the guy who seems totally ignorant of the fact that there are different flavors of ice cream. This would have kicked major ass if Jackie hadn’t broken his ankle and, as a result, foregone the fighting scheduled for the ending, but it turned out above average in the long run.

Numskull’s Rating: 7/10


By James Wong

Logic aside, this is a pretty good movie. If you can forget the stuff that makes no sense, like being friendly to someone who tried to throw you off a five-story building a day earilier, you’ll enjoy this film. Jackie Chan is an awesome stuntman, I hope he doesn’t get seriously hurt. He is a little insane to do the stunts he does, but he sure is good at it. In this movie, he jumps from one building to the next, across the street. He has time to do all these terrific stunts and still kick people’s asses. A must see for fans of Jackie Chan.

James Wong’s Rating: 7.5/10


By Vic Nguyen

This is the film that got me hooked on Jackie. Jackie stars as Keung, a foriegn visitor from Hong Kong that came to visit his Uncle Bill for his wedding. After the weddding, he plans to sell the supermarket and move away with his wife. A buyer appears, and buys the market at a discount price. What the buyer doesnt know is that the supermarket is constantly terrorised by a local biker gang. Keung does all he can to help stop the biker gang for the rest of the movie, running into the local mob in the process. I would never forget the expierience going to a Jackie Chan film. That crowd cheering and laughing along as the excitement builds. It was great! I was happy with this film and recommend it to anybody.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 8/10


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Run and Kill (1993) Review

"Run and Kill" Chinese DVD Cover

"Run and Kill" Chinese DVD Cover

Director: Billy Tang Hin Sing
Writer: Bryan Chang Wai Hung
Producer: Suen Ging On
Cast: Kent Cheng, Simon Yam, Esther Kwan, Danny Lee, Melvin Wong, Johnny Wang, Lily Lee Lee Lee, Terrence Fok Shu Wah, Yee Tin Hung, Wan Seung Lam
Running Time: 91 min.

By Gwailo

Here it is. Although Run and Kill is not the first, it is, in my opinion, the patriarch of all Category III films. King of Category III director Billy Tang (Red to Kill, Street Angels) pushes stars Simon Yam (Full Contact, Dr. Lamb) and Kent “Fatty” Cheng (Powerful Four, Sex and Zen) over the edge in a sharp, dangerous, nasty, killer of a flick.

Fatty (Cheng) arrives home one bird-chirping, sunny day and finds his wife boning some dude. Distraught, he sets out into the now dank, rainy HK nightlife and proceeds in getting tanked. After inebriated miscommunication with a hitman he unknowingly hired and a nice little overnight stay in an alley, Fatty returns home and again finds his wife with this dude. The nerve of this tramp! Not more than two minutes through the door, death comes knocking. Wife and new boy toy are dismissed from their existence and Fatty is left a blubbering mess, bewildered.

Fearing for his mortal being, Fatty packs up his daughter and sends her to live with granny and then hightails it to his summer home on the mainland. There he finds a neighbor and his big brother’s (Yam) gang squatting in his home. Yam is a rude, unflinching man of nasty spirits. He and his band of outsiders are involved in dirty deeds of their own and need Fatty’s house to “hide up”. Fatty in turn gets some protection from the ‘bounty’ hunters who are on his trail for the rest of Fatty’s owed green. During a troubled encounter in a movie theater with the ‘bounty’ hunters, Yam’s little bro’ is mortally wounded, Fatty escapes unscathed. Yam blames Fatty for his younger siblings demise and, to say the very least, is pissed. When the chips are down, the chips are really down and Fatty now has to contend with two killers on the rampage. Poor ol’ Fatty, and the audience, goes through and endurance test of sanity from here on in.

As if it weren’t enough his hoochie of a wife is dead and he’s to blame, he’s on the run from this wicked, out of touch, ex-mercenary who’s swearing revenge on him and his family. Yam proceeds in torturing and dispatching granny and Fatty’s daughter in ways so horrific, I’m surprised they passed the ratings board. Oh, how I love Category III. Jeeeezzz….Fatty’s poor little girl. This scene needs to be seen to be believed. In front of a tied up, tormented Fatty, Yam broils the little one to a crisp, picks up the chared carcass and plants it in front of the now out of his gord Fatty.

He then begins to mimic the little girl in a childlike voice,”Daddy, I’m so dark. Can you recognize me?” If that doesn’t make you shake your head in disgust, after Fatty frees himself from capture he grabs his charcoal kid and double times it to safety. With his little girl in tow he accidentally smacks her head against the wall, shattering it into dust. Probably the most evil image I have seen yet in a category III film.

An always reliable, and underrated, Kent Cheng gives his best performance and earn’s our sympathy in a grimmy, mean spirited film that also boasts Simon Yam at his demented best.

With the end of the category III hey day in the mid 90’s, Tang has yet to return to this angry form. He is truly one of the most ambitious, angry, and wild filmmakers in HK. I can’t recommend a film much higher. Insanely perfect.

Gwailo’s Rating: 10/10

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Secret Rivals 2, The | aka Silver Fox Rivals 2 (1977) Review

"The Secret Rivals 2" DVD Cover

"The Secret Rivals 2" DVD Cover

AKA: Revenge of the Gold Fox
Director: Ng See Yuen
Producer: Ng See Yuen
Cast: Tino Wong Cheung, John Liu (Chung Liang), Hwang Jang Lee, Blacky Ko Sau-Leung, Charlie Chan (Yiu Lam), Corey Yuen Kwai, Hsu Hsia, Chui Chung Hei
Running Time: 88 min.

By Milkcan

Ng See Yuen has somewhat redeemed himself for his sloppy 1976 film The Secret Rivals with this sequel that almost achieves a “recommended” status but unfortunately falls short – except this time the reason is not the fight scenes. Gold Fox, the brother of Silver Fox, is out to avenge Silver’s death and to collect a hidden stash of- yes, you guessed it- silver. John Liu reprises his role as our hero Shao Yi-Fei, and this time around he is partnered with Shen Yin-Wu (Tino Wong Cheung), the brother of Sheng Ying Wei (the Bruce Lee look-alike, Wang Tao, in the first film). Together they must fight to protect not only themselves, but the treasure as well, from the vengeful hands of Gold Fox.

A simple story is once again made abstruse in the hands of director Yuen as he continues to mold cliched ideas and tries to make something deep out of it. Even though he doesn’t drag the story on forever like he did in the anger-inducing Part I, or structure the story in small meaning-less segments as badly, Yuen still isn’t on the level of where he can handle such material. There are several minor instances where improvement seems to be occurring, but the audience is never allowed a moment of relief throughout a good portion of the first half. We’re forced to sit through the usual bad English dubbing, bad dialogue, and bad acting with those goofy, drawn-out evil laughs. It is even possible to say some of the characters here in The Secret Rivals Part II are not as intelligent as those in Part I. Gray Fox is a villain no one is intimidated by- he often forgets his goals, acts and speaks in silly methods, and seems to not want to participate in something he cares so much about.

I complained that the fight scenes in Part I were not long enough, and that the actors’ skills weren’t properly utilized. Part II corrects these flaws. Whether it be in training sessions (which the characters seem to participate in on more than plenty occasions), or in fight scenes (some involving multiple numbers of people), Yuen and his choreographers have given the audience more of what they were robbed of in the first film. Fights are not broken into short vignettes as much, but instead are allowed longer time periods for business to be taken care of. (Do not fooled though, several short lengthen encounters are still present). Weaponry has been added, and the choreographers make good use of this new concept. And on the subject of martial-arts skills, our heroes must first battle through a cast of grimy characters and groups of deadly fighters until reaching the fast-paced and uplifting finale, which, like the first movie, is the high note of the picture. The action sequences’ only flaw is that they re-use exact ideas from Part I, and this repetition may irritate some viewers.

It must be realized, however, that the best parts of the film only take place within the last 30 minutes of footage. Having said this, The Secret Rivals Part II is only worth a rental when there is nothing else in the video store to rent. It is a step above Part I, and perhaps Part III will be better, but it’s flaws do hinder the film to the level where it cannot be a recommendation (Although, you would be missing out on the return of that bold and grand theme song!).

Milkcan’s Rating: 7/10

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Secret Rivals, The | aka Silver Fox Rivals (1976) Review

"The Secret Rivals" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Secret Rivals" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Enter the Silver Fox
Director: Ng See Yuen
Producer: Cheung Kune
Cast: Don Wong Tao, John Liu (Chung Liang), Hwang Jang Lee, James Nam, Lui Sau Ching, Yuen Biao, Tong Kam Tong, Gam Ming, To Wai Wo
Running Time: 87 min.

By Milkcan

Here is a film that has the right ingredients for a good action flick, but is partnered with a chef that doesn’t know how to prepare them. The Secret Rivals has an obviously talented cast of martial artists, a standard but workable idea, and an excellent theme song, but the director Ng See Yuen snips, cuts, and meshes these elements together to form an utterly dizzying mess of a movie. However, I am informed that this is the film which revolutionized kung-fu flicks, therefore it is considered a classic and is recommended viewing. Perhaps so, but only for the curious, the hardcore fans, and the viewers who want to know everything about Hong Kong cinema. If you’re looking for an entertaining fight piece, steer clear.

Two Chinese fighters arrive in Korea to settle separate matters with a notorious martial-arts master known as the Silver Fox, and while on their stay, develop somewhat of a rivalry over the daughter of an inn-keeper. With Ng See Yuen’s amateurish direction, this basic plot is taken way out of proportion. Too much time is spent on trying to develop the story, while the fight scenes and the cast members’ energy and skills are left in the dust. Not emphasizing on the action, but rather on the “substance” is perfectly fine, but only if one can provide good acting, style, and dialogue. Here in this movie, the story telling and characters do not compensate for this unfortunate loss. The dialogue is not funny or cheesy or riddled with memorable lines, but is painfully stupid and only made worse thanks to the atrocious English dubbing, which is often difficult to understand.

The story cuts from scene to scene at a fast rate like it knows what it’s doing; it feels as if Yuen is a child let loose in a warehouse of movie ideas and who wants to try out more of them than he can handle. This task he undertakes doesn’t make The Secret Rivals a great film, but instead creates scenes that don’t make any sense, that are useless, and that only confuse the viewer. But back to the action sequences. The biggest complaint about them is that they do not last long enough. When a fight breaks out, it is suddenly stopped by the nagging plotline- literally. They barely serve to wet appetites, leaving the audience possibly too disappointed to beg for more. This is a shame; the actors seem amazingly skilled, what with all the training they do in the film. Having said this, the choreography is pointed in the right direction and when there is a fight scene, we can sense the talent. However, after several encounters, fights become irritatingly formulaic.

All complaints can be put aside though for the ending, which comes as a moment of clarity. The final confrontation is a nice showcase of skills and techniques. This ending, and the sweeping, epic-like theme song must be the only positive elements of the movie. I am not that familiar with the history of kung-fu films, but I do know a thing or two about them that allowed me not to walk into this movie expecting much in the acting, drama, and story departments. But it is most disappointing to see talent wasted on silly ideas. And as for the revolution, I suppose this film brought a new approach to fight choreography and style. It introduced new ideas and said “look what you can do.” Apparently, future projects learned from this and were able to focus on what makes kung-fu movies enjoyable- something that The Secret Rivals failed miserably to do.

Milkcan’s Rating: 6/10

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Breaking News (2004) Review

"Breaking News" French Theatrical Poster

"Breaking News" French Theatrical Poster

Director: Johnnie To
Cast: Richie Ren, Kelly Chen, Nick Cheung, Eddie Cheung, Hui Siu Hung, Lam Suet, Yau Yung, Ding Hai Feng, Li Hai Tao, Alan Chui, Ho Hon Chau, Wong Chi Wai, Victy Wong Yin Keung, Wong Wa Wo, Maggie Siu, Simon Yam
Running Time: 91 min.

By Equinox21

Breaking News, one of Johnny To’s best this ain’t, but it’s certainly FAR from his worst. Coming on the heels of his critically acclaimed PTU, and his mostly overlooked (though thoroughly enjoyable) Turn Left, Turn Right, Breaking News depicts the most intense, large scale shoot-outs put to film in years.

The plot is pretty simple and straight forward. It revolves around a group of Mainlanders who plan on committing a heist. The police are casing them, getting ready to break up the party once they start their crime spree, when two beat cops try to bust them for a minor traffic offense. Things go wrong. Very wrong. There’s a large shootout in the streets of Hong Kong, leaving a few cops and one mainland thug dead. After a small car chase, the shootout makes its way into the view of local news reporters filming an unrelated event. The debacle, making the police look incompetant and useless, convinces the police force to bring in their own PR people to turn the tides of public opinion in their favor as they hunt down the remaining mainland criminals.

Like any good Milkyway movie, you pretty much know what to expect and will unlikely be disappointed. To, again, cast Milkyway regulars Lam Suet (as a hostage), Hui Shiu-Hung (as, surprise, surprise, a cop!) and Simon Yam (just a cameo in one scene as the police chief). Kelly Chen and Nick Cheung do well as the cops trying to find the mainlanders, who are led by Yuan (played by Richie Ren).

As action packed as this flick is, and with the thousands of bullets seemingly flying through the streets of HK, there are surprisingly few people actually getting killed. This seems to make it, in my opinion, more realistic. In real shootouts, you don’t see people taking bullets between the eyes. Even in huge gun fights, people aren’t usually hit because the adrenalin keeps people from aiming properly. This movie seems to depict this quite well, with large one-shot gun fights and few people getting outright killed.

I am happy to recommend this Johnny To movie to all fans of HK films. It’s quite a good commentary on modern media and how it helps determine events that affect our lives. And in a related storey, exclusively on COF Live at 10, “fuck Fox News.”

Equinox21’s Rating: 8/10

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Bomb Disposal Officer: Baby Bomb (1994) Review

"Bomb Disposal Officer: Baby Bomb" Chinese VCD Cover

"Bomb Disposal Officer: Baby Bomb" Chinese VCD Cover

Director: Jamie Luk
Writer: Gumby Law, Tony Leung
Producer: Tony Leung
Cast: Anthony Wong, Lau Ching Wan, Esther Kwan, Alexander Chan, Joe Cheung, Stephen Chang, Parkman Wong Pak Man, Lung Tin Sang, Lam King Kong, Kirk Wong, Lee Diy Yue, Jamie Luk Kim Ming, Wong Wa Wo
Running Time: 94 min.

By Equinox21

I was quite shocked to be perusing the list of available films on my regular online Asian films shopping site and stumbled upon a film from 1994 starring Anthony Wong and Lau Ching-Wan. I’d never even heard of the film Bomb Disposal Officer, despite the lengthy research I’d done on their various other, better known, films. So, I picked up the VCD (yes, it’s not even available on DVD) and gave it a watch. While this is nowhere near either of their best movies, it was an amusing comedy with two guys I’m far more familiar with seeing as hardened killers or tough as nails cops.

John and Peter are room mates and police officers on the bomb disposal team. They take every opportunity to take their time while disposing of bombs to do various things like eating lots of food when they should be deactivating explosives in a restaurant and ogling a woman’s body as they’re trying to disarm a booby-trap around her neck. When they get another room mate, Mary, they try to out do each other in winning her attention. This leads to many an amusing situation, and eventually leads to the three of them waking up after a night of heavy drinking only to find that both John and Peter had sex with Mary and that she’s pregnant. They then try to out do each other, going back and forth between insisting that they’re the father and insisting that the other one is the father. During all this time, of course, is a crazy evil bomber who is setting bombs off around the city. It all comes to a head when the bomber targets the bomb disposal officers themselves.

There weren’t too many laugh out loud type moments in BDO, but a few left me chuckling. I haven’t seen Anthony Wong in very many comedies, but I do really enjoy it when he does them. The camaraderie/rivalry between Lau Ching-Wan and Anthony Wong worked really well, and was only made better by two great actors being as aloof and goofy as was required for their roles. Even though the plot was pointless, to the point of even being considered a complete joke, with an antagonist that is so far from scary that even the officers made fun of him at times, the movie works because of the two leads.

If you at all are a fan of Anthony Wong and Lau Ching-Wan, then check out Bomb Disposal Officer: Baby Bomb. It’s amusing enough to entertain, if you can find it cheap enough. And since it appears to only be available on VCD, you should be able to find it extremely cheap.

Equinox21’s Rating: 7/10

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Bodyguard from Beijing, The | aka The Defender (1994) Review

"The Bodyguard from Beijing" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Bodyguard from Beijing" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Corey Yuen
Writer: Gordon Chan, John Chan
Producer: Jet Li
Cast: Jet Li, Christy Chung Lai Tai, Collin Chou Siu Long, Kent Cheng Jak Si, Joey Leung Wing Chung, Ng Wai Gwok, William Chu Wai Lim, Wong Kam Kong, Chun Kwai Bo, Mike Miller, Corey Yuen Kwai
Running Time: 92 min.

By Numskull

Bitches. Who needs ’em? Certainly not Jet Li, who plays a stoic, disciplined bodyguard (betcha didn’t see that comin’) in this plodding action movie from director Corey Yuen (Yuen Kwai). The bitch in question is some silver spoon-fed tightass played by Christy Chung. She’s on somebody’s hit list for some reason or other and her rich boyfriend arranges for her to have round-the-clock protection from two less-than stellar police officers and Jet Li…a REAL man. A MAN’S man. A MAN’S man’s man, even (man!).

The bitch shamelessly embodies negative stereotype characteristics and raises a big stink over Jet Li telling her not to stand in front of windows and other such things. Only after he saves her from getting perforated in a shopping mall (she just HAD to go shopping, you see) does she decide that she is madly in love with him.

Later on, more assassins invade her house and Jet Li takes them out with the lights turned off. The way this scene is shot and edited, it looks like either A) the assassins possess some innate, superhuman regenerative ability (Jet shoots ’em, they drop, then they get up again off-camera), or B) there are actually several waves of assassins who quickly drag away the corpses of their buddies and then take their shots at Jet Li (before getting dropped like panties on prom night themselves). Then, Jet Li must take on the “big” bad guy in a (finally!) hand-to-hand duel in which the kitchen sink becomes a sort of nexus point for the action (Jet filled the room with gas to discourage further gunfire).

Much like Yuen’s Yes, Madam, this movie waits too long to spring the good stuff on you. For the most part, it’s boring and kind of annoying. I was, however, fairly pleased to see the kid who wanted to play with guns in the mall and who ended up nearly costing one of the cops his life get shot in the foot. Take that you stupid little shit.

Anyway, this is a substandard action movie with little to hold your interest aside from the obligatory showdown at the end. Thus concludes another one-paragraph review.

Numskull’s Rating: 4/10

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New Police Story | aka Police Story 5 (2004) Review

"New Police Story" International Theatrical Poster

"New Police Story" International Theatrical Poster

Director: Benny Chan
Writer: Alan Yuen
Cast: Jackie Chan, Nicholas Tse, Charlie Young Choi Nei, Daniel Wu Yin Cho, Dave Wong Kit, Andy On Chi Kit, Yu Rong Guang, Charlene Choi Cheuk Yin, Terence Yin, Philip Ng
Running Time: 124 min.

By Mairosu

Right movie. Wrong people.

That’s a two-sentence short summary of Jackie Chan’s comeback effort, first movie he decided to do after ditching Hollywood and playing the mandatory goofy kung-fu sidekick to the proverbial white (or, well, black) cool dude. Playing it safe, Chan decided to extend one of his most famous products – namely, the Police Story saga (saga being used very loosely here) – and so, what we here is a new sequel in an old franchise, with very much past-his-prime Chan trying to get another run at the Asian box office.

New Police Story is sort of a confusing title. New it is, but Police Story (unless you think in terms “story about policemen”) it ain’t. Totally unrelated to the first three (or four, if you account for the semi-abortive First Strike) Police Story movies, this one tells a story of a former hotshot cop Wing (take this name with a grain of salt, I saw the mandarin dub), played by Chan. Wing used to be a big time hero of sorts, but when a gang of loons robs a bank and slaughters his fellow cops just for the piss of it, he decides to take his heroism one step further and wipe ’em out himself. Alas, alas, his special taskforce gets butchered by the gang of evil nerds (I’ll explain this later), and he himself has to watch them die slowly as the criminals are toying with his men. Wing survives just barely, but is severely traumatized by the incident and takes a one-year hiatus, drowning his sorrow in drink…until a young cop (played by Nicholas Tse) revives the case and inspires Wing to finish the unfinished.

Unlike the previous PS movies – and the majority of Jackie Chan HK movies, that is – New Police Story is not the usual mix of crackerjack action and slapstick. Director Benny Chan, who already directed Jackie’s “Who Am I ?” few years back, tries to emulate the look and feel of newer Hollywood actioners via Johnny To with varying success. There is not much if any comic relief here, so the film can be called a straightforward actioner. The biggest odd one out here is definitely Chan himself, who is badly miscast as a tough, but washed up law enforcer. Probably sick of playing second fiddles in Hollywood, this is a sort of a rebound performance for Chan, who woefully overacts in film’s many emotional moments and has a torrid time looking like a believable drunkard. The absence of comedy is abridged with a lot of nods to the heroic bloodshed genre – fallen comrades, male bonding, lotsa gunfire, family endangered, usage of slo-mos – which is really odd for a Chan film. All those things summed up (add an atypical operatic, thumping soundtrack to it), this is a Chan movie in name and credits only, and one gets the feeling that this would have been an IDEAL but IDEAL comeback project for, ahem, John Woo and Chow Yun Fat. Not to take anything away from the director who certainly did a credible job, but one feels that the above given combination might have had a real score on their hands with this. Not to mention that CYF would look much, much better at the things Chan is trusted in here – including the alcohol habit and frequenting jazz bars (Hard Boiled, anyone ?).

Another gripe is the techny-ness of the script and story. Probably trying to cater to the youthful hi-tech Asian teenage crowd, scriptwriter Alan Yuen pits Chan against a gang of “dudes” who like to play video games and screw around with the police just because they can. Being children of well-to-do Hong Kongites (make your own noun for “Hong Kong resident” yourself if you don’t like the one above), they don’t have to work so they program PC games, post their exploits on the net and practice extreme sports. The scene in which they torture Chan’s comrades and Chan himself was supposed to reveal how diabolical they are – however, they just come off as snotty (Chan’s attempt of looking heartbroken and devastated is probably the only diabolical thing in that part of the film) and the whole thing feels grotesque. Daniel Wu does a credible job of breathing life into his character Joe, the ringleader of this nerd outfit, but even his performance can’t save the fact that the main villain is just a trigger happy dork. Again, I wonder if the new wave HK scriptwriters play too much GTA 3 and Max Payne – I asked myself literally the same question while watching Johnny To’s Breaking News.

Thankfully, not all went haywire here. The action scenes and stuntwork are exciting as ever, with a few really well done bits – the race down that huge building is a treat, along with the big bus scene which is a nod of sorts to Police Story 2. I would also single out the director of photography for the job on this film – after seeing Breaking News, I felt Hong Kong lost its glamour and glitz and surrendered the title of “most photogenic Asian city to be a backdrop of an action movie” to Seoul, but New Police Story represents Hong Kong at its best – shiny skyscrapers, beautiful cityscapes, great shots of modern architecture. Supporting cast doesn’t disappoint (although Charlene Choi gets progressively ingratiating, but you have to forgive her ’cause she’s kinda cute) and oh, Chan showcases his fighting skills again, and I must say those scenes look pretty good as well…ol’ Jackie was never a thespian to write home about, but at least he could stage a good fight and that ability still didn’t abandon him.

Overall, New Police Story is a return to form of sorts for Jackie Chan, albeit a limp and half-baked one. This could have been a real gem, but I guess it could have been a real stinker as well…at any rate, New Police Story is light-years ahead of, say, Tuxedo and Medallion.

Mairosu’s Rating: 6.5/10

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