Director: Albert Pyun Producer: Menahem Golan, Yoram Globus Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Deborah Richter, Vincent Klyn, Dayle Haddon, Alex Daniels, Blaise Loong, Ralf Möller, Haley Peterson, Terrie Batson, Jackson ‘Rock’ Pinckney Running Time: 82 min.
By Kyle Warner
I had never seen 1989’s Cyborg before last night. The film has something of a reputation both here and elsewhere on the net as the one early Jean-Claude Van Damme movie you would be better off skipping. So of course I had to seek it out.
Cyborg has an unlikely story of how it came into being. The Cannon Films production company was dealing with financial troubles after a series of box office bombs, perhaps chief among them being Tobe Hooper’s troubled Lifeforce in 1986. Cannon had plans to make a sequel to Masters of the Universe and a live-action Spider-Man film with director Albert Pyun (The Sword and the Sorcerer), but financial difficulties forced them to cancel their deals with Mattel and Marvel before the cameras started rolling. In order to best make use of all the costumes and sets they’d already created for both abandoned films, Pyun wrote a screenplay, credited the script to his cat, cast the up-and-coming star Jean-Claude Van Damme, and set to work on Cyborg in an attempt to recoup the studio’s losses. (Some TV guides and film databases confusingly still refer to Cyborg as a He-Man sequel. Even RottenTomatoes, where the film sits at 14%, currently lists the film as Masters of the Universe 2: Cyborg)
Considering the unlikely origins, Cyborg is actually better than you’d expect. Which is not to say that Cyborg is a good film – it isn’t – but it’s an interesting and peculiar one. Unlike many of Van Damme’s other lesser efforts, there’s nothing by-the-numbers here. Pyun may never have been a celebrated director (Ed Wood comparisons are apparently not uncommon), but he does show a particular sense of style.
The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic America, where a plague has wrecked the world and only a female cyborg (Dayle Haddon) has the key to finding a cure. But there’s a problem: the most powerful gang in the wastelands will do anything they can from seeing the scientists succeed in saving the world. As Vincent Klyn’s grunting villain Fender explains it in the opening lines of the movie, “Restore it? Why? I like the death! I like the misery! I like this world!” Fender abducts the cyborg and it’s up to a hero with a sad story (Van Damme) to save the day.
What’s odd is that the cyborg of the title is really the least important part of the movie. She’s the film’s MacGuffin, I suppose, the thing that makes the story go and the object that heroes and villains alike are fighting over. Even the fact that she’s a cyborg is barely important to the story. At one point we get to see her reveal her mechanical brain. It’s a scene where the actress steps out and is replaced by an animatronic, rubber face. It’s an odd effect, straddling the line between realistic and fake, resulting in something uniquely unsettling (think: The Polar Express). Other than this scene and one other that reveals a metal eye, we basically forget she’s a robot. Indeed, we basically forget all about her or the cure because… umm… where’s the plague, exactly? I remember one kid covered in boils but other than that I’m pretty sure the plague is already a distant memory. (Cyborg would get two sequels, one starring Angelina Jolie (!), Jack Palance, and Elias Koteas, the other featuring Malcolm McDowell. I’ve not seen either film but by almost all accounts they’re weaker than Pyun’s original. They do appear to make better use of the sci-fi cyborg aspects of the story, though.)
Cyborg ain’t much of a cyberpunk action movie, nor is it an apocalyptic contagion thriller. Instead, Cyborg owes much to George Miller’s idea of the apocalypse, with many of the villains looking like they’d just failed auditions to join Lord Humungus on the set of The Road Warrior. Extreme costumes, hairstyles, and madness reign supreme in Cyborg. Even Van Damme gets in on the fun, with flashbacks revealing him to have a Revolutionary War haircut that’s not at all silly looking, honest…
Filled with decapitated heads, crucifixions, and all manner of ultra-violence, Cyborg has an unexpected mean streak that you don’t see in many Van Damme features. While I wouldn’t say that the violence makes the film more entertaining, it does result in some shocks that add to the film’s peculiar “charm.” Unfortunately, the action seems to have been edited by throwing the movie into a blender and hitting the highest speed, resulting in breakneck cuts that confuse and draw attention to themselves.
Pyun’s budget constraints are readily apparent from the start. In an odd way that’s difficult to explain, it’s like you can actually see the edges of the set at times. Overactive smoke machines and cheap backdrops are difficult to ignore. And some sets are strange and difficult to figure out. When the heroes are chased through a sewer system, sunlight beams in from the walls. But aren’t they underground? So is it sunlight or artificial light? If it’s artificial light, where’s the sewer getting its electricity, and why? Am I not supposed to ask these things? Too bad!
To sum things up: Cyborg is cheap, silly, and weird, but it’s the fun kind of cheap, silly, and weird. I would never call this a good movie but at least it’s never a boring movie. At times, it’s impossible to look away from. And considering the film’s strange pre-production story, it’s really a wonder it makes as much sense as it does. So, it’s my opinion that Cyborg doesn’t really deserve the reputation of being one of Van Damme’s absolute worst.While it may be totally skippable for the casual fan, I’d watch Cyborg over Death Warrant, The Order, The Quest, Derailed, and Second in Command any day of the week. (But please don’t make me.)
A new trailer for an insightful documentary about the life of legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, titled Mifune: The Last Samurai, has just been released.
Directed by Oscar nominee Steven Okazaki (Heroin: Cape Cod, USA), Mifune: The Last Samurai is narrated by Keanu Reeves (John Wick), and features interviews with Steven Spielberg (Duel), Martin Scorsese (The Departed), and a wealth of Japanese actors and directors.
According to Indiewire, the trailer touches on Akira Kurosawa (Ran) and Mifune’s joint influence on American cinema as well as the actor’s two main vices: alcohol and cars.
Independent distributor Mondo Macabro will soon release the Blu-ray for 1981’s Suddenly in the Dark (aka Suddenly in Dark Night), an obscure, critically-acclaimed Korean thriller directed by Go Yeong-nam (Korean Connection). The upcoming release will feature all-new interviews with Korean film critics and producers.
A Limited Halloween release for Suddenly in the Dark will be available to order on October 31st. It will be limited to 500 copies in a red case edition with an exclusive booklet!*
Koreanfilm.org’s Darcy Paquet cited Suddenly in the Dark as a rare example of 1970s-80s Korean horror that was genuinely frightening, describing it as “a mysterious psychological study… that beguiles the viewer right up to its bizarre closing image.” Cityonfire.com’s Paul Bramhall says “I’m excited at least!”.
Suddenly in the Dark stars Kim Young-ae (Confession of Murder), Yoon Il-bong (Love on a Rainy Day), Lee Gi-seon (Lost Youth), Hyeon Hye-ri (Unconditional Love) and Kim Geun-hui (Encounter).
Interview with producer Suh Byung-gi
Interview with critic Kim Bong-seok on the history of Korean horror films
Classic K-Horror VHS Cover Art Gallery
Mondo Macabro Promo Reel
Brand New Cover Illustration by Naomi Butterfield
Limited edition booklet with brand new essays on the film by Grady Hendrix and Christopher Koenig
*A retail release in a standard case without the booklet will be available sometime Spring 2017. If the LE sells out quickly, it’s possible that we will do another limited red case run, but no more than another 500, and probably un-numbered.
Attack on Titan: Part 2 (read our reviews for Part I and Part II) takes place in a strange, quasi-medieval world in which giant humanoid creatures named Titans appear and threaten the lives of everyday people. Civilization’s only line of defense against the Titans are teenage soldiers who traverse the Titans’ massive bodies using powerful grappling hooks. | Part 1 is also available.
Rurouni Kenshin Part II: Kyoto Inferno | Blu-ray & DVD (Funimation)
RELEASE DATE: December 6, 2016
Funimation presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Keishi Ohtomo’s Rurouni Kenshin Part II: Kyoto Inferno, starring Takeru Satoh (Goemon), Emi Takei (Ai to Makoto), Yusuke Iseya (13 Assassins), Munetaka Aoki (Time Traveller) and Yu Aoi (Space Pirate Captain Harlock).
Former assassin Kenshin Himura and his friends are called back into action when a ghost from the past era rises to wreak havoc across Japan. Makoto Shishio, another ex-assassin, was betrayed, burned, and left for dead at the end of the war. Badly scarred-but very much alive-Shishio has put together an army and aims to overthrow the new government-burning anything and killing anyone who stands in his way. | Part I is also available.
Rupert Sanders (White and the Huntsman) is currently prepping DreamWorks’ live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, based on Masamune Shirow’s manga/and anime by Mamoru Oshii of the same name.
Ghost in the Shell follows the exploits a female cyborg cop who hunts a mysterious and powerful hacker called the Puppet Master.
Ghost in the Shell stars Scarlett Johansson (Lucy), Michael Pitt (Funny Games), Pilou Asbæk (A Hijacking), Sam Riley (On the Road), Takeshi Kitano (Beyond Outrage), Juliette Binoche (Chocolat), Kaori Momoi (Sukiyaki Western Django) and Rila Fukushima (The Wolverine).
The film releases on March 31, 2017.
Updates: Watch the first teaser trailer for Ghost in the Shell below:
Director Matthias Hoene (Cockneys vs Zombies) is putting final touches on Warrior’s Gate, an upcoming French-Chinese co-production that’s being described as a “big production” fantasy film. The movie is being backed by Luc Besson’s (Lucy) EuropaCorp.
Before we can even think about Xu Haofeng’s Moonlight Blade (his soon-to-be-shot remake of Chor Yuen’s Shaw Brothers classic, The Magic Blade), our attention should be focused on Hidden Blade (not to be confused with the Yoji Yamada film of the same name), Xu’s fourthcoming period actioner that’s currently in production (via AFS).
Very little is known about Hidden Blade, other than it’s a “martial arts epic” that stars Xu Qing (Flash Point), Jessie Li (Port of Call) and Shaw Brothers legend, Chen Kuan Tai (Shanghai 13, Executioners from Shaolin). But given the fact that Xu is at the helm, Hidden Blade has our full attention.
We expect to see marketing materials (theatrical posters, teasers, trailers, etc.) for Hidden Blade to pop up in the next few months, so stay tuned.
For now, if you want to catch up on some of Xu’s earlier films, the DVD for Sword Identity is currently available; the DVD for Judge Archer will go on sale in November; and the Blu-ray/DVD release for his latest film, The Master (aka The Final Master), is expected to be announced soon.
In Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, John (Adkins) wakes up from a coma to discover his wife and daughter were slaughtered in a brutal home invasion. Haunted by images of the attack, he vows to kill the man responsible Luc Deveraux (Van Damme).
AKA: Kung Fu of Taekwondo Director: Ulysses Au-Yeung Jun Producer: Lu Ching-Hang Cast: Kim Jin-pal, Sylvester Williams, Lin Chen Chi, Suen Yuet, Fang Mien, Liu Ping, Ma Cheung Running Time: 88 min.
By Paul Bramhall
When it comes to the old-school kung fu genre, it’s fairly standard for titles to sometimes go under different aliases. However Valley of the Double Dragon must surely hold the award for the number of different names it goes by, as in addition to its original title, it’s also been released as – Golden Leopard’s Brutal Revenge, Fist Fighter, King of Kung Fu, Taekwondo, and Kung Fu of Taekwondo. My viewing of the movie came courtesy of the Australian released DVD, which goes under the Fist Fighter moniker, and as far as I’m aware remains the only legitimate physical release on a digital format.
Released a year after Brue Lee’s untimely death, Valley of the Double Dragon came at a time when the kung fu genre was scrambling to find its feet in the midst of losing its biggest star. One of the lasting impacts that both Bruce Lee had on the genre, and also Raymond Chow’s recently set up Golden Harvest studio, was their love of Korean martial arts. Fighting techniques such as Hapkido and Taekwondo quickly found favor for their aesthetically pleasing visuals onscreen, with Bruce Lee casting the likes of Grandmasters Hwang In-shik and Ji Han-jae, in Way of the Dragon and Game of Death respectively. Chow continued to cast In-shik and Han-jae in a number of other Hong Kong productions, while also continuing to scout other Korean talent, such as Jhoon Rhee (When Taekwondo Strikes) and Byong Yu (The Association).
While Rhee and Yu only dabbled in the film industry long enough to make one movie each, before returning to their lives as martial arts instructors, one Korean Hapkido master that did stick around a little longer was Kim Jin-pal. A Hapkido instructor under the tutelage of Han-jae, Jin-pal was the real deal, spending the 60’s acting as a bodyguard for both Korean and U.S. presidents, and teaching the U.S. military in Vietnam as part of the army. At the beginning of the 70’s he moved to Hong Kong and opened the Flying Tiger Hapkido Studio, a nickname he’d earned based on his high flying kicks. As fate would have it, after appearing on Hong Kong television in ’73, he was quickly scouted and cast as the lead in 1973’s Tiger. The movie made him an established star, and he’d go onto make a total of 8 movies in Hong Kong over 2 short years, while becoming the Hapkido instructor for the likes of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Angela Mao.
In Valley of the Double Dragon, Jin-pal plays the leader of a small group of Chinese guerrillas fighting against the Japanese during World War II. Helmed by Ulysses Au-Yeung Jun, the Taiwanese director had a long and varied career, which saw him directing everything from classic kung fu such as Prodigal Boxer, to gritty gangster flicks like Gangland Odyssey. In Valley of the Double Dragon, the wartime setting certainly makes for a unique look and feel, however what makes it even more unique is the inclusion of an African American lead, in the form of Sylvester Williams, here in his one and only movie appearance. Considering Hong Kong cinema is not normally what you’d call ‘racially sensitive’, even over 40 years later Williams role remains the only time a Hong Kong movie has had a black lead.
Proceedings open with a group of U.S. fighter planes being gunned down from the sky by the Japanese. Despite the grainy and worn picture that the movie comes with watching it today, it’s clear that the production appears to have had a decent sized budget behind it. Both Williams and his co-pilot are able to eject and deploy their parachutes, however the co-pilot suffers the misfortune of landing in a brutal tangle of barbed wire, receiving a face full of it, and is captured as a POW. The Japanese also sight Williams coming down, but he manages to land safely and escape immediate capture, instead resulting in the Japanese launching an expansive search to track him down.
It’s while changing clothes that Williams stumbles across the Chinese guerrillas, or rather, they stumble across him. A misunderstanding sees him assume that the guerrillas are the enemy, and, having literally been caught with his pants down, proceeds to get into a fight wearing only a pair of white underpants. Definitely something you don’t see every day. Williams may not be the most graceful fighter, however he knows how to sell his punches, and conveys a considerable amount of power when called upon to throwdown. Thankfully the remainder of his fight scenes involve more clothes. After it’s established that both Williams and Jin-pal’s group of guerrillas are on the same side, they become fast friends, and team up to take down a ruthless Nazi commander, played by none other than Bob Baker.
Baker immortalized himself as the Russian boxer Petrov, who squares off against Bruce Lee in the finale of Fist of Fury, arguably one of the Little Dragon’s most iconic showdowns. His blonde fuzzy afro and handlebar moustache make him instantly recognizable, and off-screen he was in fact a student of Lee’s, which saw the pair develop a close friendship, one that even saw Baker accompany Lee when he went to work in Hong Kong. Unlike the portrayal of his characters in front of the camera though, in reality Baker was much more reserved, and didn’t enjoy the limelight that working in the film industry brought with it. As such, his appearance in Valley of the Double Dragon as a sadistic member of the Gestapo complete with a black leather trench coat, was to be his second and last. He’d go on to be interviewed for a handful of Bruce Lee documentaries, and taught Jeet Kune Do to a small number of private students, however for the remainder of his career up to his passing from cancer in 1993, he stayed out of the spotlight.
While Valley of the Double Dragon marks his final screen appearance, it’s certainly a memorable one. As an imposing member of the Gestapo, he angrily smashes up the contents of a room when he doesn’t get his way, and when spending time with a prostitute, takes it on himself to carve a message into her back with a knife. It’s rare that the villain in an old school movie comes across as intimidating before they’ve even thrown a punch, but Baker’s performance here is one of pure menace, and as an audience you’re rooting to have him get his comeuppance from the moment he’s onscreen.
In many ways Valley of the Double Dragon feels as much of a war time adventure tale as it does an old school kung fu movie, at times perhaps even more so. The action here is far from frequent, with Jin-pal holding off to unleash his kicks until 30 minutes in, and what’s there is far from graceful. However the scarcity of the action only serves to make it more meaningful when it arrives, with each fight scene feeling distinctly rough and intense. The group of Chinese guerrillas eventually disguise themselves as a travelling opera troupe, which also allows for Williams to have his face painted like one of the army generals in Chinese opera, covering his ethnicity (as well as allowing for such clanger lines as, “I never knew a black man could look so authentically Chinese!”). This structuring of the plot is reminiscent of many a western, with character traits like one of the guerrillas having a tiger tattooed onto his body every time he kills a Japanese soldier, also adding to the tone.
Events eventually culminate which see the group of 5 guerrillas holed up in an abandoned house, while surrounded by Baker and a small army of Japanese troops. It’s a satisfyingly brutal finale, which at times resembles a kung fu version of The Wild Bunch, as a bare chested Jin-pal and Williams go for broke empty handed against the multitude of pistol and sword wielding attackers. It’s during these scenes when it’s possible to witness just how powerful Jin-pal’s kicks are, while Williams uses his muscular frame to literally throw his opponents around, and throws in some nice kicks himself. Slow motion is used to great effect, both at highlighting bullet riddled deaths, reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah, but also to emphasise the form of Jin-pal’s kicking. When he’s left to face off against both Baker and a katana wielding Japanese general, there’s a real sense of desperation and urgency, which is rare to see from a 1974 production.
With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear to see that Valley of the Double Dragon successfully brought together numerous stars from the old-school kung fu era who shined briefly but brightly. The combined filmographies of Kim Jin-pal, Bob Baker, and Sylvester Williams may barely scrape into double figures, but the movies that they’ve left us with are all worthy of a watch, and for that, we should be thankful.
Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10
Beware of spoilers in the following clip from Valley of the Double Dragon:
Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume One | DVD (Well Go USA)
RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2016
Well Go USA presents the DVD for Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume One, a 2008 martial arts series that centers around the legendary Bruce Lee.
Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume One contains the first ten episodes. The remaining 20 episodes will soon follow. Note: Previously, this series was partially released in the U.S. by Lionsgate in a condensed 183 minute “movie” version (trailer below reflects the Lionsgate version). In its original CCTV run, the series’ consisted of 50 episodes.
Young Bruce Lee (Danny Chan of Shaolin Soccer and Ip Man 3) has no interest in studying and is obsessed with martial arts. After losing a street fight, he resolves to master kung fu under the tutelage of Master Ye Wen. Targeted by street gangs after standing up for the weak, Bruce has no other option but to leave Hong Kong for a strange and far off land: America…
Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume One also stars Michelle Lang, Gary Daniels, Ted Duran, Natalia Dzyublo, Wang Luoyong, Hazen McIntyre, Ray Park, Tim Storms, Micheal Jai White, Traci Ann Wolfe, Mark Dacascos and Ash Gordey.
According to Variety, Well Go USA has acquired rights in North America, and other English-speaking territories to the film. The same source adds: “The film is the story of how a Chinese general defeated Japanese pirates by using unique stratagems and maverick tactics.”
Celestial is partnering with the newly-established Tencent Pictures to produce yet another Shaw Brothers remake titled Moonlight Blade, a re-working of Chor Yuen’s The Magic Blade, a 1976 swordfight-filled martial arts film starring Ti Lung (The Pirate) and Lo Lieh (Bruce’s Deadly Fingers).
Tencent has hired Xu Haofeng (The Master) to direct the project, which he will shoot when he wraps up his current project, Hidden Blade.
Xu made a name for himself by penning the screenplay for Wong Kar-Wai’s The Grandmaster. But it was 2011’s The Sword Identity, his directorial debut, which showed Xu’s true talent. Xu is known for presenting martial arts in a less stylized and more realistic manner.
If you’re curious to see what Xu is capable of, be sure to catch The Master (aka The Final Master, read our review), which was recently released by U.S. release by United Entertainment Partners last May. Additionally, Lionsgate will be releasing the DVD for Xu’s Judge Archer in November.
City on Fire is proud to present the action-packed short for Robert Yahnke’s Blowback, which is currently available to watch right now at no charge – and they say nothing is free anymore, not true!
In Blowback, a spy breaks up with his girlfriend after another false accusation of infidelity, and in her rage, she discovers his true occupation as a spy and blows his cover to the arms dealer who is looking for him. Espionage is a bitch…
Based on the positive reception of George Miller’s Mad Max Fury Road, a 5th follow-up to the action packed, post-apocalyptic franchise is a no brainer.
Back in 2015, Miller himself (via The Playlist) said he already had a screenplay, a novella and a title: Mad Max: The Wasteland (formerly Mad Max: Furiosa) – all developed while Fury Road was delayed from its original 2013 release date.
Now, a new report has emerged that pre-production for a prequel is in motion with both Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron reprising their roles as Mad Max and Furiosa, respectively:
“Pre-production is gearing up on the multi-million-dollar action-packed Warner Bros franchise, with NSW’s Broken Hill Studios Miller’s first choice for shooting, which could start as soon as later this year… The script is said to focus on the backstory of Furiosa,” Australia’s Herald Sun reports.
Story-wise, we’re not sure how Mad Max and Furiosa will cross paths in a prequel. There’s a possibility they’re taking the The Godfather II route, which was both a prequel and sequel at the same time.
In related news, new Blu-rays titled Mad Max High Octane Collection and another standalone version of Mad Max Fury Road will be released on December 8. Both releases will feature the Mad Max: Fury Road Black & Chrome Edition, which is described as “The surreal black and white version of mastermind George Miller’s Fury Road.”
We’ll keep you updated on the sequel as we learn more. Stay tuned.
Director: Kim Ki-Duk Producer: Kim Soon-Mo Writer: Kim Ki-Duk Cast: Ryoo Seung-bum, Young-Min Kim, Lee Won-Geun, Choi Gwi-Hwa, Jo Jae-Ryong, Ahn Ji-Hye, Lee Sol-Gu Running Time: 114 min
By Matija Makotoichi Tomic
Filmography of Kim Ki-Duk could be the subject of many theories and endless discussions. Personally, I see it divided into two major phases: pre and post-Arirang one.
Arirang had that something I’ve been missing the whole time, and it had me admiring the man behind the camera, not just his films. Some may not agree, but Arirang is undoubtedly the greatest filmmakers confession ever witnessed on film and a proof Kim Ki-Duk is not only a great auteur who’s always been honest to his audience, but also a great man who’s (what’s even more important) always been true to himself.
The incident that happened on the set of his 2008 movie Dream really did leave a mark on guilt-ridden Ki-Duk both personally and profesionally, forcing him to suclude himself for a three-year period of solitude and repentance. The result was Arirang and a different Kim Ki-Duk. The meditative mood of Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring and the poetic violence of The Isle were gone. New Ki-Duk was angry and never so much in war with the world and himself. Moebius, his dialogue-free, blood-soaked family drama was the proof of that. One year after, he left us with a scene of a soldier beating up a guy sitting on a rock in lotus position. That image with its dual symbolism was almost like a self-portrait, an ending that gave no sense of the direction Kim Ki-Duk was going to take next.
His latest movie, The Net, was screened at this year’s 73rd edition of Venice Film Festival. For years now, Venice has a special place for Ki-Duk. After he won the Silver Lion award for best direction in 2004. for 3-Iron and Golden Lion award in 2012. for Pieta, in 2013. Moebius was invited to the festival in the Out of competition section and in 2014. One on One was the opening film of Venice Days. This year, The Net had its world premiere as part of the new programme held in the newly opened Sala Giardino. Kim Ki-Duk came to Venice and was present at the press screening, but unfortunately stayed for two days only and was long gone by the time his film was scheduled for public screening.
Geumul tells a story of Nam Chool-Woo, poor North Korean fisherman who accidentally drifts into South Korean territorial waters after his fishing net gets wrapped around his boat’s propeller. In South Korea he is immediatelly interrogated under the suspicion of being a spy, and no better destiny expects him upon his long-awaited return home to his family.
Little could anyone expect, but much like Park Chan-Wook’s Joint Security Area, new film by Kim Ki-Duk deals with the problematic relationship between the two neighboring Koreas, only this time the border in question is that on water. The title of the movie appears over the fence which surrounds the road leading to Seoul. The net from the title however, is not the one with which the fish is caught, this time, it is the fisherman who gets trapped. Kim Ki-Duk’s message is clear and straightforward: the capitalism of South Korea is every bit as absurd as the dictatorship of North Korea and the ones that get stuck in the political ideology are the people. His characters would love to have a beer together but that won’t be possible until the two countries reunite. In the beautiful scene where the fisherman is talking to the young South Korean agent, he asks why aren’t people from South Korea happy when they have their freedom? The answer he got is even better than his question: “The more light there is, the greater the shadow.“
Films made by Kim Ki-Duk were never a fun watch. They are dark, brutal and hard-hitting, far from the stylish genre pieces or the big-budget blockbusters that made South Korea the Hollywood of Asia. This one is no different. Kim Ki-Duk digs up the dirt underneath the shiny facade of Korean society once again and the way he does it is masterful and beautiful to watch. With directing so precise and full of confidence, it takes no more than a few shots for Ki-Duk to set the mood and lay out the plot basis. Before you know it, he’s right there where his place of interest is delivering a forceful drama, wonderful and touching yet not deprived of humor. Style was never his tool of trade, but a by-product of his sincere storytelling which often results in technical rawness. This one continues to walk the same path: the shaky cam in the outdoor scenes, the shadow of the camerman in one shot, the difference in the video quality between shots, it’s all there.
Ryoo Seung-Bum marked his first collaboration with Kim Ki-Duk in The Net. Well known Korean movie star made famous by his brother, great director Ryoo-Seung Wan, is perhaps not the obvious choice, but though the role of Nam Chool-Woo differs from the ones he is accustomed to, his performance is amazing. The character of the fisherman he created is quite lovable and will make you feel sorry for him when he’s being beaten up and ill-treated, but also put a smile on our face once he finaly delivers justice as promised.
If you’re not a fan of political themes, let me be the first to say, neither am I. Still, it would be a mistake not to watch The Net on that account. Kim Ki-Duk is back with a great movie that reminds of his old days, dark and bitter but with a surprising aftertaste that resembles hope. I’m sure that true fans won’t be dissapointed.
“In the vein of LoneWolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance meets John Wick, I finally got a script that is ballsy, intense and hard hitting enough to satisfy not only the fight fans, but also the working stunt-folk who are constantly calling me out to make a full-blooded fight film!” Salvitti told Impact.
Considering Salvitti’s impressive resume (and his close association with Donnie Yen and Yuen Woo-ping), Ambush is definitely on our radar. As soon as more details arrive, we’ll fill you in!
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