Blood Child | aka Five Fingers of Steel (1982) Review

"Blood Child" DVD Cover

"Blood Child" DVD Cover

AKA: 5 Fingers of Steel
Director: Vincent Leung
Producer: Law Ga-Foo
Cast: Hwang Jang Lee, Yen Shi Kwan, Kwan Yung Moon, Lee Yi Yi, Yuen Mao, Chu Tiet Wo, Chan Lau, Lau Hok Nin, Liu Hok Ming, Pak Sha Lik, Chan Fei Lung, Ching Chu
Running Time: 87 min.

By Paul Bramhall

While Blood Child without doubt belongs in the category of being an old-school kung fu movie, there’s also a few elements to it that undeniably set it apart from being just another cookie cutter fight fest. A pre-credit sequence opens with the scene of a mother, played by Lee Yi-Yi, sat on the doorstep of a dwelling as she cradles her new born baby. It’s immediately apparent that somethings wrong, and when a passer-by enquires as to if she’s ok, her lack of response and glazed expression prompt him to check on the wellbeing of the child, only to discover that it’s been stabbed to death.

After the credits finish, proceedings open a year earlier, as we learn how events transpire to lead to such a traumatic opening. The dark tone set by such a gruesome early reveal makes Blood Child engaging from the beginning, a rare feat in the old-school kung fu genre, as we’re invested in how Lee Yi-Yi came to be incoherently sat there, cradling a murdered baby in her arms. The movie was directed by Vincent Leung, his first and last time in the director’s chair. Leung worked mainly as an editor, with over 160 productions to his name from the mid-60’s, all the way through to the millennium. However while he’d also direct the 1994 Jet Li documentary, Shaolin Kung Fu, he never returned to directing feature length productions outside of Blood Child.

It’s a shame, as he gathered an enviable group of kung fu talent to appear onscreen together. Yuen Miu and Yen Shi Kwan play brothers, with Miu set to marry Yi-Yi. Yuen Miu is probably the least known of the ‘Seven Little Fortunes’, the same Peking Opera School troupe that the likes of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao were a part of. He worked mainly as a choreographer and stuntman, so Blood Child provides a rare opportunity of witnessing him performing his own choreography in a lead role. Shi Kwan is one of the most familiar faces of kung fu cinema, featuring in everything from The Master Strikes to Iron Monkey, and his name is usually a guarantee of kung fu goodness. Interestingly this wouldn’t be the last time that Miu and Shi Kwan would work together, as they’d also collaborate over 10 years later on Yuen Biao’s Kick Boxer.

Their father, played by Chu Tiet Wo, has recently opened a courier business, and takes on a job to escort a shipment of gold. If there was ever a sign of foreboding disaster in the old-school kung fu genre, it’s usually when the good guys agree to escorting a priceless item, on a route which is guaranteed to involve an ambush in a forest. This is of course, exactly what happens, it would be a crime if it didn’t. After Golden Harvest producer Ng See Yuen’s frequent visits to Korea in the 70’s, by the time the 80’s came around it was pretty much a guarantee that, if a kung fu movie needed some high calibre kicking action, it was likely to be delivered from the boot of a Korean. Blood Child provides us with one of Korea’s finest, with the bad guy role going to Kwan Yung-moon.

Yung-moon was particularly busy in 1982, with his role in Blood Child being one of six productions that he’d feature in, including the likes of such classics as Ninja in the Dragons Den and Dragon Lord. Yung-moon isn’t the only Korean import in ‘Blood Child’ though. After laying waste to the couriers, a fight against Miu ends up in Yung-moon kicking him off the top of a cliff. This being a kung fu movie of course, being kicked off the top of a cliff doesn’t guarantee certain death. Events transpire that see Miu being discovered and nursed back to health by a kung fu master, living a solitary existence in the forest. The master is played by Hwang Jang Lee, perhaps the most famous of all the boot masters who populated the golden age of kung fu cinema. Like Yung-moon, Hwang was exceptionally busy in the early 80’s. Between 1980 – 1982 alone he featured in 21 productions, ranging from Bruceploitation flicks, Shaw Brothers productions, local Korean movies, and even making his directorial debut.

While Yung-moon and Hwang don’t actually make their appearances until the 30 minute mark, the calibre of kung fu talent involved ensures that even those clocking in purely for their presence won’t be left wanting. While Hwang is also credited as an action choreographer, he actually only has a single fight scene (more on that later), so it’s a safe assumption to say that most of the fight action was handled by Miu. There’s an instantly recognizable feel to the choreography, which tends to be the case with any action that’s provided courtesy of a Yuen clan member, in that the moment the first fight breaks out, the speed and intricacy of the movements are a joy to watch. In a pre-wedding celebration, Miu, Shi Kwan, and Tiet Wo end up facing off against a group of lackeys led by Lau Hok Nin and Lin Ke Ming. The fight constantly segues between one-on-one exchanges to one-on-multiple opponent showdowns, and the fluidity combined with the amount of chorography taking place onscreen at the same time is a reminder of just how special this era was.

When Yung-moon does appear, his presence isn’t wasted, with plenty of his ferocious kicks being dished out to whoever is unfortunate enough to be in the way of them. What I particularly liked about the fight scenes that Yung-moon features in, is that the moment his adversary manages to get one kick or punch in against him, he manages to look genuinely enraged. Sure nobody is here for these guys acting talent, but small touches like a change in facial expression during a fight scene, only go to prove just how much of a high level performers like Yung-moon were operating at. He also makes a suitably hateful villain of the piece, and mid-way through viciously rapes Lee Yi-Yi in a prison cell, resulting in her becoming pregnant with his child.

During these scenes Blood Child takes on a suitably darker tone, as learning that Yi-Yi is carrying his child, she’s kept prisoner in Yung-moon’s property, during which she’s constantly beaten by the housekeeper and attempts suicide. When she finally gives birth, events take a turn that almost send the movie into horror territory, as Yung-moon forcibly takes the baby from her, and realises she’s given birth to a deformed monstrosity. Sent into a murderous rage, we learn how Yi-Yi came to be sat outside the house at the beginning of the movie. However her misery is far from over, as Yung-moon and his weasel like assistant, effectively played by Chan Lau, arrange for her to be framed for the murder of her own child.

These scenes play out in stark contrast to those with Hwang Jang Lee, who we learn also has a vendetta against Yung-moon for some misdemeanour he did in the past. Hwang is amusingly introduced into the plot via a scene which suddenly cuts away to him running full speed towards the camera, before he launches into a flying kick against a fully grown tree, one which sends it toppling to the ground. In fact all of Hwang’s scenes have him either kicking trees, or thrusting his fingers through hanging coconuts (this scene is likely what provided the movie with its English title, Five Fingers of Steel, although technically it should be ten). It’s worth noting that the coconut setup is constructed exactly the same as John Liu’s bottle kicking training in Secret Rivals, so I couldn’t help but feel what a waste of Hwang’s kicking talents it is to have all these hanging coconuts, but for him to only poke them with his fingers. Thankfully though he does eventually unleash his kicks, so for those that wants to see some Hwang vs coconut action, you’re in the right place.

Eventually events culminate that see Miu and Shi Kwan team up to take on Yung-moon, who’s constructed an elevated wooden platform in the middle of a field, seemingly for no other reason than to have Lee Yi-Yi tied to a pole in the middle of it. As expected, the pair take a complete licking on the receiving end of Yung-moon’s kicks, until that is, Hwang Jang Lee makes a late in the day entrance into the fray. Blood Child can be considered unique in the way that, especially during this era, Hwang had a habit of suddenly showing up in final scenes as the bad guy, so to see a movie in which he suddenly shows up as the good guy is a rarity. This briefly results in a three way team up with Miu, Shi Kwan, and Hwang taking on Yung-moon, but it quickly becomes a Yung-moon vs Hwang showdown.

What’s surprising, is that the face-off between a pair of revered Korean boot-masters somehow doesn’t feel as epic as it should. For a start, once they’re left to face off against each other, the scene repeatedly cuts away to Miu and Shi Kwan attempting to untie Yi-Yi from the platform, while being hindered by Chan Lau attempting to stop them. The sound effects of the fight frustratingly play on in the background, but you can’t see it! However even during the fight itself, Hwang mostly utilises the Eagle Claw technique, choosing to scratch Yung-moon to death rather than kick him. Don’t get me wrong, the fight has plenty of kicks, but they’re often framed as stand-alone cut-away scenes, rather than part of the flowing choreography in one of their exchanges. Considering what both Hwang and Yung-moon are capable of, it would have been great to see them really go to town on each other with their boot work, but for some reason it just doesn’t happen that way.

That said, Blood Child really belongs to Miu, Shi Kwan, and Yung-moon, and despite the minor let down of the final fight, there’s enough action crammed into the rest of the runtime to satisfy those looking for some shapes based goodness. To see the least well known member of the ‘Seven Little Fortunes’ onscreen in a lead role is more than enough to recommend a viewing, and for everyone else, you have Hwang Jang Lee kicking coconuts.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

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Jason Statham’s ‘Mechanic’ sequel gets an explosive trailer

"Mechanic: Resurrection" Theatrical Poster

"Mechanic: Resurrection" Theatrical Poster

The Mechanic (Jason Statham) thought he’d escaped his former deadly life and disappeared. But now somebody’s found him, and kidnapped the woman he loves. Neither one of them will get out alive unless he completes a diabolical list of assassinations of the most dangerous men in the world…

Statham is reprising his role as Arthur Bishop in the upcoming Mechanic sequel, Mechanic: Resurrection, which is being helmed by Dennis Gansel (The Fourth State).

Mechanic: Resurrection boasts and all-star cast that includes Jessica Alba (Sin City), Tommy Lee Jones (Rolling Thunder), Michelle Yeoh (Police Assassins), Yayaying Rhatha Phongam (Lupin III) and Natalie Burn (The Expendables 3).

Mechanic: Resurrection’s current target release date is set for August 26, 2016. Don’t miss the film’s first trailer!

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Corey Yuen’s ‘No Retreat, No Surrender’ to hit Blu-ray

"No Retreat, No Surrender" American Theatrical Poster

"No Retreat, No Surrender" American Theatrical Poster

Old school martial arts fans, rejoice! We’ve just gotten word that Kino Lorber will be releasing No Retreat, No Surrender on Blu-ray later this year. The upcoming Blu-ray will include the International cut (with extra scenes and alternate music) and the rarely seen “New World” U.S. cut (alternate opening sequence and soundtrack), as well an interview with the film’s lead, Kurt McKenney.

This 1986 cult martial arts classic is noted for being one of the first U.S. productions by Hong Kong action director, Corey Yuen (Yes, Madam), who would later find bigger fame in America choreographing Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) and Kiss of the Dragon (2001).

No Retreat, No Surrender is perhaps best known for giving Jean-Claude Van Damme (The Hard Corps) his first starring role. The film also features an all-star martial arts cast, including Peter Cunningham (Righting Wrongs), Timothy D. Baker (Bloodfist II) and the late Kim Tai-chung (Tower of Death), once again, as “Bruce Lee”.

We’ll post more details about No Retreat, No Surrender as we hear more. Until then, here’s the film’s classic trailer.

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Sun Honglei has a particular set of skills for a ‘Taken’ remake

"Taken" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Taken" Korean Theatrical Poster

According to AFS, a Chinese remake of 2008′s Taken is on the way, with Sun Honglei (Drug War) replacing Liam Neeson as the father with a very particular set of skills.

Oddly enough, news of the Taken remake comes only a week after it was announced that Honglei would star in a remake of Ryoo Seung-wan’s Veteran, playing the lead role originally performed by Hwang Jeong-min (The Wailing).

The original Taken, which was helmed by Pierre Morel (From Paris with Love), followed a retired CIA agent (Neeson) who travels across Europe to save his kidnapped daughter.

As always, we’ll keep you updated as we hear more!

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Dwayne Johnson to do kung fu action in ‘Son of Shaolin’?

"The Rundown" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Rundown" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (The Rundown) may be showing off some new kung fu skills in Sony’s Son of Shaolin, an upcoming film based on a soon-to-be-published graphic novel created and written by scribe Jay Longino (who also penned Jackie Chan’s upcoming film, Skiptrace).

According to Deadline, Son of Shaolin is a contemporary kung fu story that intertwines Shaolin mythology with many of the current issues faced by teens growing up in a gentrifying neighborhood.

With over 10 high profile movies in the works – including a remake of Big Trouble in Little China – Johnson is officially the busiest action star in Hollywood.

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Thrilling new trailer for zombie-filled ‘Train to Busan’

"Train to Busan" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Train to Busan" Korean Theatrical Poster

Well Go USA Entertainment has announced its acquisition of North American rights to Train to Busan, a South Korean film that revolves around a zombie outbreak.

The upcoming thriller, directed by Yeon Sang-ho (The King of Pigs), follows a group of survivors – led by The Suspect’s Gong Yoo – who attempt to escape their town city by catching a train to Busan, hence the film’s title, Train to Busan.

However, there seems to be a shade of controversy surrounding the film’s creative origin. Filmmaker Arne Venema claims Train to Busan has been ripped off from a treatment he submitted to a film fund in Busan, 2 years ago.

Venema had this to say on Facebook:

“A year or two ago I submitted a treatment package to a film fund in Busan, Korea. The treatment was a horror film which focused around people going to a football game and then getting attacked on the train back by zombie like hooligans. We (Derrick Fong, who was the DP to be, and I) went as far as shooting promotional material. While Tony Salvaggio and myself wrote a very detailed outline/treatment, character descriptions, etc. The feedback we received from that very treatment was initially very positive telling us that the idea was very original, as well as exciting and at the time was very close to being funded; HOWEVER, the committee (which had some known producers and directors on it) later decided it wasn’t looking for exploitation films that year, and wanted to go for a more art house type film instead. Today, Mike Leeder shows me this trailer and it pretty much is the film I wrote. They even went as far as calling the film Escape from Busan. Never submitting anything again to a fund.”

Even Leeder, a well known actor, casting director and producer – particularly in the Asian/martial arts film scene – wrote this comment: “This [trailer] looks suspiciously like a project young Arne Venema submitted to the Asian Cinema Funding programme at Busan a few years back.

If the above is true, here’s hoping Venema gets the proper credit he deserves.

Well Go USA’s North American release date for Train to Busan is still pending. For now, don’t miss the film’s trailer.

Updates: Watch the film’s newest trailer (via FCS).

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Stranger from Shaolin | aka Fist of Flying Tiger (1977) Review

"Stranger from Shaolin" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Stranger from Shaolin" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Wing Chun Warriors
Director: Tony Liu Jun Guk
Writer: Ni Kuang
Cast: Cecilia Wong Hang Sau, Sun Jung Chi, Thompson Kao Kang, Bruce Lai (Chang Il-do), Tony Liu Jun Guk, Chan Lau, Lee Ye Min, Wong Kwok Leung, Bruce Cheung Mong, Baak Wong Gei, Kwon Il-Soo, Baek Hwang-Ki
Running Time: 94 min.

By Matija Makotoichi Tomic

The name Tony Liu Jun Guk should be well known and celebrated among the fans of kung fu movies. His 1974 directorial debut The Black Dragon introduced Ron Van Clief as the new afro-american martial arts movie star, spawning two sequels in the same blacksploitation/martial arts movie manner. Hell’s Windstaff (1979), also known under the far less cool title The Dragon and the Tiger Kids, is without any doubt one of the best independently produced kung fu films ever made, and Tiger Over Wall (1980) should easily find its place in any serious collection. Tony Liu Jun Guk’s work was recognized and that same year he became a member of the Shaw Brothers family. I believe I don’t have to name all the classics he directed while working for the Bros., starting with the fantastic fu piece The Master (1980). Somewhere between his Black Dragon films and his best known independent hits, Tony Liu Jun Gukdirected this little kung fu classic.

During the Qing dynasty, Manchus are trying to clean the south of China, especially Kwangtung and Fujian where most of the rebels are located. They bring in kung fu experts and order them to eliminate kung fu schools. Rebels are hiding in temples and learning kung fu in hope they’d be able to restore the Ming dynasty one day. While the evil lord Kang is gathering troops for his attack, Yim Wing Chun trains hard so she could revenge the death of her family, but also help defending the Shaolin.

Shaw Brothers script master Ni Kuang wrote the screenplay and Tony Liu Jun Guk (credited as Tommy Loo Chung) turned it into a movie with the help of Chun Jo-Myuong who worked on the movie as cinematographer. Sources say this was the only time he was taking up the role of a director, though his name can’t be seen in the opening credits. As we all know, kung fu movies were often inspired by actual historical events and characters, but the authors never cared much about the facts. Those so-called “facts” are actually legends and oral history so there’s usually more than one version to every story. It seems that Ni Kuang followed that same recipe of enriching real stories with fiction since there’s no mention of Yim Wing Chun training in Shaolin Temple for any reason, least of all revenge.

Also, Shaolin don’t take female students, but Ni Kuang made that possible by making her character dress up as a man. He even went so far as to credit Yim Wing Chun as the founder of the style, though it was only named after her. The oral history of the Ip Man branch which is the closest to the film’s story says it was buddhist nun Ng Mui who founded the style by combining what she learned by observing the snake and crane fight with shaolin kung fu. She later passed on the knowledge to Yim Wing Chun, who learned kung fu to fight the local warlord who forced her into marriage. There is a buddhist nun in the movie and she takes Wing Chun as her student. Altough her name is not revealed, it is only possible that it’s Ng Mui. In the movie, Yim Wing Chun trains with the legendary Fong Sai-Yuk and Hung Hsi-Kuan, another shaolin hero seen in many kung fu films. The famous monk San Tak (San Te) is their teacher.

Yim Wing Chun: Teacher San, if you don’t let me enroll in the temple, then as soon as I leave here, I intend to jump off a cliff!

San Tak: Go on! You’ll find a cliff two miles away. It’s very high so use it then and solve all your problems.

Of course, Wong Kwok-Leung cannot match the masterful performance of Master Killer, but he fits the role well. After demonstrating forms on pole with twigs, San Tak says how that pole will become famous in years to come and how all students will want to learn it. He’s talking about the wooden dummy of course. Again, it was Ng Mui who’s said to have created the wooden dummy as we know it by combining the 108 dummies (one for every move) into one. Ni Kuang added a samurai sent by the Japs to serve under the Qing court, and a taoist priest who’s gathering kung fu experts to help fight the Shaolin. This indicates Wudang was included in the attack on Shaolin. There is a story saying Wudang disciples sided with the Qings in attempt to locate and eliminate San Te, but other than that, this is the first time I’ve heard the rivalry between the two schools went this deep.

Tony Liu Jun Guk plays a minor role here as Mr. Ho, keeper of the abandoned Buddhist Temple whose family has been killed by the Qings. Taking on a role in his own films, even if just a cameo, will in a way become almost a trademark for this director, peaking with his role in The Lady Assassin (1983) as the cold blooded japanese fighter wearing red lipstick. Unfortunately, Mr. Ho’s snake fist was not good enough to challenge the evil Kang, white haired villain with the lethal Manchu queue. He is of course, eagle claw master who attained higher level of skill by drinking children’s blood thus revitalizing his whole physique. Kang also mastered the golden bell shield which makes him immune to any weapon attack. In the role of lord Kang is Thompson Kao Kong, and his performance is on the level. Chan Lau is the taoist priest, and Cecilia Wong is brilliant as Yim Wing Chun.

By combining the Ming – Qing conflict with the inevitable revenge plot, Ni Kuang opens much space for action. That’s where Yen Shi-Kwan and Leung Ting come in. Action is not great, faster and better performed choreography can be seen in some of the 1976. kung fu films, but it’s pretty solid. Most of the fights were shot wide and often in long takes. Leung Tin was a real life wing chun master, so what we’re getting here are authentic wing chun forms showcased by Cecilia Wong through three elaborate training sequences. She learns the basics by training in the well at Shaolin Temple and then later on trains on a wooden dummy, practices with butterfly swords and works hard on her one inch punches. Finally, there’s another display of wing chun forms and training with rattan rings. Yim Wing Chun uses what she learned  in the final fight which, for some unknown reason, changes locations and seasons. The sandy coast of the river gets suddenly covered with snow, and then later on replaced by a valley surrounded with rocks.

Stranger from Shaolin can’t compete in the same league as the genre’s finest. It looks and is cheap, but far from being without it’s qualities. What makes it interesting and even important in a way is the fact that it is, as far as I know, the very first kung fu movie that portrayed wing chun! It will take another year for Sammo to direct the first of his two classics regarded today as some of the finest examples of wing chun style on film. Though Stranger from Shaolin isn’t that great, it deserves to be kept alive.

Matija Makotoichi Tomic’s Rating: 7/10

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Will this new gangster flick be a ‘Game Changer’?

"The Game Changer" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Game Changer" Chinese Theatrical Poster

There can never be enough Asian gangster flicks, and Gao Xixi’s The Game Changer, an upcoming period actioner, is no exception. The Game Changer is about gang wars in Shanghai in the 1930′s (supposedly based on The Bund, a TVB series that has been compared to The Godfather).

The Game Changer stars Huang Zitao (The Railroad Tigers), Wang Xueqi (Monk Comes Down the Mountain), Peter Ho (The Monkey King) and South Korean actress Choo Ja-hyeon (Bloody Tie).

The Game Changer will be hitting Chinese theaters this year. If you’re a fan of gangster flicks, you don’t want to miss the film’s first trailer (via AFS), which promises a good balance of drama and shoot ‘em up action.

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Saving Mr. Wu | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Saving Mr. Wu | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Saving Mr. Wu | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2016

From Ding Sheng, the director of Jackie Chan’s Little Big Solider and Police Story 2013, comes the Blu-ray & DVD for Saving Mr. Wu (aka The Strongest Competitor).

In this suspenseful crime thriller, Mr. Wu (Andy Lau), a Hong Kong movie star, is kidnapped by six criminals disguised as police officers. The story is based on the 2004 real-life celebrity kidnapping case in China.

Saving Mr. Wu also stars Liu Ye (Police Story 2013), Wang Qingyuan (Brotherhood of the Blades), Vivien Li (A Touch of Sin) and the actual “Mr. Wu” himself, Wu Ruofu. | Trailer.

Pre-order Saving Mr. Wu from Amazon.com today!

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

Tokyo Mighty Guy (1960) Review

"Tokyo Mighty Guy" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Tokyo Mighty Guy" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Buichi Saito
Cast: Akira Kobayashi, Ruriko Asaoka, Sanae Nakahara, Arihiro Fujimura, Hiroshi Kondo, Shoichi Ozawa, Toranosuke Ogawa, Shin Morikawa, Hisao Toake, Masao Mishima, Kyosuke Aihara, Yoko Kosono, Fudeko Tanaka
Running Time: 79 min.

By Kyle Warner

I don’t know about you, but when I think about Nikkatsu, I immediately think of their action movies (if your first thought is of Nikkatsu’s Roman Pornos, then you and I have very different tastes in movies, my pervy friend). Nikkatsu had a lineup of their top stars which they referred to as their ‘Diamond Guys,’ and if I were to try to name some of the films the Diamond Guys starred in, chances are they’d be some of the studio’s best action movies. Naturally, the action films only tell part of the story about what Nikkatsu and their Diamond Guys were up to during the “Golden Age” of Japanese cinema, and this is immediately evident when you put Arrow Video’s Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 2 Blu-ray into your player. Whereas Vol. 1 was a collection of three crime stories (highlighted by Seijun Suzuki’s Voice Without a Shadow), Vol. 2 instantly sets a much lighter tone. In this collection of three films (Tokyo Mighty Guy, Danger Pays, Murder Unincorporated), we get to see Nikkatsu’s tough guys in some of their earlier, more comedic roles.

Tokyo Mighty Guy announces its offbeat personality right off the bat with a colorful credit sequence. During the sequence, star Akira Kobayashi (Retaliation) sings while walking a hand-made Parisian set that’s been built out of cardboard. It’s purposefully cartoonish, looking like the set of a kid’s show, and sets the tone for what’s soon to come. The lyrics of Kobayashi’s song also act as an intro to the character: he just got back from Paris, he’s lacking in manners, but he’s basically good natured.

Akira Kobayashi plays Jiro Shimizu, a role that he would return to in future sequels. The “Mighty Guy” persona fit Kobayashi well, and the nickname followed the star for a while. As Jiro, Kobayashi got into comic mischief, beat up bad guys, romanced pretty ladies, and sang songs whenever the urge hit him (which is to say, pretty often). It’s a very similar role to the one he played in The Rambling Guitarist, made the previous year. I compared The Rambling Guitarist to an Elvis Presley picture and the same probably fits Tokyo Mighty Guy as well. In addition to making a mainstream movie, the studio also gave their star a chance to show off his singing abilities, which of course resulted in record sales and crossover appeal to music fans.

Fresh off the boat from Paris, Jiro is present when Japan’s former Prime Minister (Toranosuke Ogawa) drives his car through the shop that Jiro’s family owns. The Prime Minister is a bully who refuses to apologize for anything, but Jiro’s not impressed by the old man’s high-class status and demands reparations. Impressed by Jiro’s spirit, the two become unlikely friends, and the ex-Prime Minister helps rebuild the family shop as a fancy French restaurant after learning of Jiro’s expertise in all things French. (Jiro doesn’t seem like much of an expert to me and he can barely speak French, but whatever.)

Jiro also deals with yakuza grudges, scheming businessmen, and the romantic entanglements of his friends. There is a lot crammed into Tokyo Mighty Guy’s 79 minute running time. Just the same, it’s not a film that’s driven by story. Tokyo Mighty Guy is a series of amusing scenes, some of them playing like skits in a variety show, tackling various plot points before everything comes crashing together in a finale featuring one of the most awkward wedding ceremonies ever.

I can’t say I laughed much while watching Tokyo Mighty Guy but it is rather amusing in its old-fashioned way. Akira Kobayashi and romantic lead Ruriko Asaoka (Incident at Blood Pass) are incredibly charming actors. Supporting actress Sanae Nakahara (The Rambling Guitarist) provides the movie with some of its quirkiest moments and character actor Toranosuke Ogawa (The Hidden Fortress) plays one of his career best roles as the grumpy former Prime Minister.

Tokyo Mighty Guy is innocent escapism. I enjoyed it without ever feeling any love for it. That being said, as a fan of classic Japanese cinema, I liked getting the chance to see something that had been unavailable in the West until now. The key talent involved with the film would go onto make better movies later in their careers. But as far as mainstream popcorn flicks go, this ain’t bad.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 6/10

About this release: Tokyo Mighty Guy is the first film on the Arrow Video Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 2 DVD/Blu-ray release. The other films are Danger Pays and Murder Unincorporated, both starring Jo Shishido (Branded to Kill). Special features include trailers for the three films, photo galleries, and Jasper Sharp shares some background on both Kobayashi and Shishido. I enjoyed Sharp’s brief talk about Akira Kobayashi, one of the Diamond Guys I know less about. He refers to Kobayashi as the Diamond Guy’s Dean Martin, which fits. Also included in the release is a booklet featuring new writing by Stuart Galbraith IV, Tom Mes, and Mark Schilling. Tokyo Mighty Guy looks pretty good on Blu-ray. It shares the same Blu-ray disc with the two other films. Though the picture occasionally looks a bit soft, overall it’s a nice looking release for a classic foreign film. And just so you know, this release is supposed to be region-free and is limited to 3,000 copies.

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Deal on Fire! Ip Man: The Final Fight | Blu-ray | Only $7.07 – Expires soon!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Deals on Fire!, News | 1 Comment

The spirit of Bruce Lee is alive and well in ‘Double Dragon’

"Double Dragon" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Double Dragon" Chinese Theatrical Poster

It’s been 43 years since the passing of Bruce Lee, yet the spirit of the martial arts icon is more powerful than ever. In addition to George Nolfi’s upcoming Bruce Lee biopic, Birth of the Dragon, a film titled Double Dragon – no relation to the popular arcade game of the same name – is finding its way to Chinese theaters this year.

Not much is known of the film, but judging from its trailer, the movie has Bruce Lee’s persona all over it. One of the guys even wears the famous yellow tracksuit made famous by Bruce in Game of Death.

Double Dragon is reminiscent of the popular Bruceploitation subgenre made famous by Dragon Lee, Bruce Li and Bruce Le in the 70s and 80s. If this is your kind of thing, don’t miss its trailer!

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Benny Chan’s all-star martial arts epic gets a new trailer!

"Call of Heroes" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Call of Heroes" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Benny Chan’s (ShaolinWho Am I?) highly-anticipated martial arts epic, Call of Heroes (formerly known as The Deadly Reclaim), will finally see its release later this year in Chinese theaters.

This period action film – featuring fight choreography by the legendary Sammo Hung (14 Blades, Ip Man) – tells the story of a pack of villagers standing up to a young warlord in the year 1914.

Call of Heroes sports an all-star cast that includes Lau Ching Wan (The Bullet Vanishes), Louis Koo (Flash Point), Eddie Peng (Rise of the Legend), Wu Jing (Wolf Warrior), Liu Kai Chi (The Viral Factor), Philip Keung (Unbeatable), Yuan Quan (Once Upon A Time In Shanghai), Jiang Shuying (So Young), Sammy Hung (Choy Lee Fut) and Berg Ng (The Grandmaster). | Trailer. | Trailer 2. | Trailer 3.

Updates: Watch the new trailer for Call of Heroes (via FCS). Well Go USA has recently picked up North American rights, so stay tuned for a release date!

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Jackie Chan goes sci-fi in ‘Bleeding Steel’

"Bleeding Steel" Chinese Teaser Poster

"Bleeding Steel" Chinese Teaser Poster

Remember when we told you to ignore those early reports of Jackie Chan retiring? We were 100% right. In addition to Jackie’s recently announced team up flick (VIY 2) with Jason Statham – as well as the forthcoming Skiptrace, Railroad Tigers, Kung Fu Yoga and The Foreigner – the martial arts superstar has yet another project in the works, a big budget sci-fi film, titled Bleeding Steel.

Mike Leeder and Impact reports: “Chan is returning to his former adopted homeland of Australia (which served as the backdrop for Mr.Nice Guy and First Strike) for the sci-fi movie Bleeding Steel, which will shoot in China and Australia over the next six months or so. The action sequences for the film are being coordinated by Jackie protege Max Huang (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Dragon Blade).”

Leo Zhang (Chrysanthemum to the Beast) will be writing and directing Bleeding Steel, which is a story set in the future that has Chan as a hardened special forces agent who fights to protect a young woman with whom he feels a special connection from a sinister criminal gang.

Bleeding Steel also stars Show Luo (The Mermaid), Nana Ouyang, Erica Xia-Hou, Tess Haubrich (Alien: Covenant), Callan Mulvey (Beyond Skyline) and Maria Tran (Truy Sat).

Principal photography is scheduled to begin in July out of Sydney, with additional filming to resume in Taiwan.

Stay tuned for more information regarding Bleeding Steel.

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El Gringo (2012) Review

"El Gringo" Japanese DVD Cover

"El Gringo" Japanese DVD Cover

AKA: Bad Yankee
Director: Eduardo Rodriguez
Writer: Jonathan W. Stokes
Cast: Scott Adkins, Yvette Yates, Christian Slater, Israel Islas, Erando Gonzalez, Sofia Sisniega, Valentin Ganev
Running Time: 102 min.

By Zack Nix

British martial arts action star Scott Adkins is the saving grace of modern direct to video and low budget action. After breaking out onto the scene with Isaac Florentine’s Special Forces, which finally gave him the screen time necessary to showcase his skills, Adkins has gone on to star in numerous action films, either in a leading role (Ninja, Close Range) or in a show stealing supporting role (The Expendables 2, Undisputed II). Although all of his films range in quality, his martial arts abilities and die hard dedication to his craft makes all of them worth checking out if only to see Adkins kick an enemy to the ground or to see him shoot his way through cannon fodder. In an effort to work my way through every single one of his films, I finally checked out El Gringo, one of four films released in 2012 featuring Adkins, arguably his highest profile year. Produced by After Dark Action, known for low to modest budgeted genre pictures ranging from John Hyams’ Dragon Eyes to the Ethan Hawke fronted Getaway, the film is nothing more than a blip on Adkin’s busy resume. There’s some very solid action on display, but nary a compliment beyond that.

El Gringo, like other unfortunate DTV films, has a fairly simplistic plot on its surface, and yet, its director and screenwriter make every effort to overcomplicate it beyond belief. Adkins plays a nameless man who is clearly an homage to Clint Eastwood’s character from Sergo Leone’s The Man With No Name Trilogy. When “The Man” survives an ambush and makes off with a bag of money to El Fronteras, Mexico, he quickly finds himself at odds with the townspeople. No one will sell him a glass of water or tell him when the next bus out of town will depart. If that wasn’t bad enough, his bag of money attracts the eyes of the town’s corrupt sheriff and local gang. His former DEA boss, Lieutenant West (Christian Slater), is also hot on his tail. Unfortunately, none of these plot threads ever come together to form something worthwhile, thereby resulting in an extremely frustrating film that is far from satisfying to watch.

It’s clear from simply looking at the film’s DVD case, trailer, or title that El Gringo is very similar to Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi Trilogy, specifically Desperado. From the electric guitar music, to its Mexican setting, to the plentiful cowboy hats, and even its Neo-Western visuals, El Gringo is a wannabe Rodriguez film, which is ironic given that the director’s name is Eduardo Rodriguez. Even the film’s style is similar to Robert Rodriguez’s work, with its high octane action sequences, fast paced editing, extreme close ups, and gun fu-centric choreography. The similarities are so apparent that it almost hurts. There’s a fine line between homage and rip-off, and El Gringo dangerously dances on that line to the point where originality is almost nowhere in sight. It also doesn’t help the film’s originality quota in that it was released on VOD a few months apart from Mel Gibson’s under seen Get the Gringo, another Mexican border town action film about a down on his luck protagonist. I rest my case.

El Gringo is also guilty of one of the most heinous action movie pet peeves: on screen text that states characters’ names. This is the most obvious flaw of the picture, as it proves that the filmmakers don’t know how to organically introduce their characters beyond a lazy title card. It also doesn’t help that they take the time to give throwaway characters their own title cards and even include instances where one character will state another characters’ name directly after the on screen text. The only instance in which any on screen text is remotely clever is when Adkins walks away from an exploding car as the film’s title, El Gringo, appears next to him, thereby stating his name and relaying the title in one swift move. Otherwise, on screen text conveying character names is one of the worst offenses of DTV cinema, a kiss of death as I always like to refer too it.

I also cannot tell if Rodriguez and screenwriter Jonathan Stokes were actively trying to create a film where their protagonist is constantly annoyed whilst also annoying the viewer at the exact same time, because I cannot confirm if the obstacles that “The Man” confronts throughout the picture are supposed to undermine him as a character. I also have no clue if many of said obstacles are supposed to be dramatic, tense, or comedic, because Rodriguez seems to aim for every tone at all times. All “The Man” wants is to catch the town bus by 2 P.M. in order to leave El Fronteras. However, this simple goal becomes so impossible, that it makes one wonder why “The Man” doesn’t bother to steal a car or ride a bike out of town if the bus is apparently so hard to catch. The poor guy’s money is also constantly being stolen from him throughout the picture too, which is yet another annoyance on top of everything else, including the painfully unfunny scenes where towns folk deny him water.

The best way to describe this movie is if it were an annoying kid sitting behind you at a baseball game as they keep flicking food at the back of your head or kicking your seat. The annoyance may be mild, but the overwhelming consistency is what will ultimately drive you insane whilst watching the film. Never have I ever felt an equal level of annoyance with a character’s plight while watching a movie. But not in a good way to where I want to root for them, but in a bad way that makes their character look uneven and watching the film a chore.

If bad storytelling and unlikable characters wasn’t bad enough, than how about some horrendous editing as well? The technical merits of this film are quite frustrating, as they range from the work of an amateur who has no clue what they are doing to the work of an expert with a graceful eye for continuity and action filmmaking. For example, all of the camera work and fight choreography is top notch, from beginning to end. However, all of the fights in the first half of the film, which mostly come from a repeating flashback, are plagued by some terrible editing choices comprising of unnecessary filters, quick cuts to black, and distorting noises. I don’t know what was going on in the editing room with this film, as these editing choices ruin the natural flow of what could have been solid fights. Superior DTV filmmaker and Adkins regular, Isaac Florentine, who happens to be an executive producer on this project, would never allow for such debauchery in his own films.

With that being said, El Gringo comes to life and transports the viewer to masterful action territory around its middle point in which “The Man” engages in a lengthy shootout with numerous members of the town’s gang. He rolls around, kicks a guy’s shotgun Matrix style, and switches from gun to gun whilst racking up an insane kill count. What’s odd is that this action sequence is completely devoid of the terrible edits and filters that plagued all previous action scenes. Every shot is clear as daylight, with all kills landing hard thanks to graceful cinematography and smooth editing. It’s almost as if Florentine himself swooped into the set that day and took over to deliver the kind of action that he and Adkins are typically known for. But alas, we may never know the truth. Besides this sequence being the highlight of the picture, it’s unfortunate that the driving force behind this sequence is so weak. Once again, “The Man” simply wants to get to the bus by 2 P.M. However, his epic gunfight with the local gang prevents him from reaching the bus on time. It’s a shame that the motivation behind this action sequence couldn’t have been more dramatically compelling or gripping, as it once again results in a simple annoyance. However, the action is so well shot and cut in this sequence, it ultimately doesn’t matter, as a slice of excellent action is all you need sometimes.

On a final note, I figured that I would discuss the attraction and problem with After Dark Action films and propose a solution as well. The kind of action films that After Dark produces are more or less the kind that used to be released by bigger studios and with bigger budgets back in the 80s and 90s. Unfortunately, as old fashioned action films haven fallen to the wayside in the mainstream, it seems that hard hitting action now only survives in either world cinema or on DTV/VOD. And while these contemporary low budget action films have the action and the name value to attract action fanatics like myself, they don’t have the plots or character development necessary to make me or many others care about the story at hand. It’s a shame that After Dark Action cannot push them selves harder as far as storytelling comes. Their kind of films typically have semi-interesting characters who are only watchable because they are played by notable action stars and feature half baked plots that could be told by superior filmmakers. Still, the action scenes in their films are quite good, and that’s ultimately the draw for action junkies at the end of the day. Therefore, until they can merge great action on a shoe-string budget with engaging story and solid character work, they are going to be producing nothing more than mildly recommendable but average B-movie fluff. I guess that’s all some viewers want at the end of the day, but with the likes of great DTV films like Universal Soldier: Regeneration proving it is possible to be great on a low budget, companies like After Dark can do better.

I may be going a little harsh on El Gringo, as many other DTV films feature the same stylistic and storytelling flaws as it. But alas, it’s simply dull to watch, and to me, nothing is worse than a boring movie. Even mid-level Adkins ventures like the goofy comic book-esque Ninja and the drab but impressively character driven Assassination Games are more watchable and even filled with mildly interesting plots, memorable characters, and great action sequences. At the end of the day, El Gringo may have some excellent action sequences and Adkins doing what he does best, but it offers up little more beyond that. All budgetary restraints aside, El Gringo almost actively works against itself and the viewer with terrible on screen graphics, lousy plotting, and horrid pacing that damns the film to the bottom of Adkin’s oveure of bad ass action. Die-hard Adkins fanatics have probably already seen it, but I for one never plan on watching it ever again.

Zack Nix’s Rating: 3/10

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Cityonfire.com’s ‘Vigilante Diaries’ Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

Vigilante Diaries | Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

Vigilante Diaries | Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

To celebrate the release of the action-comedy Vigilante Diaries, Cityonfire.com and Anchor Bay are giving away the following prizes to three lucky Cityonfire visitors:

  • Grand Prize: 1 Blu-ray + 1 signed poster by Michael Jai White
  • 1st Runner Up Prize: 1 Blu-ray
  • 2nd Runner Up Prize: 1 DVD

To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, the film’s trailer.

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

Anchor Bay Entertainment will release Vigilante Diaries in select theaters and on iTunes on June 24, and On Demand, DVD and Blu-ray on July 5.

The film features an all-star ensemble cast led by Paul Sloan (I Am Wrath), UFC’s Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (A-Team), action icon Michael Jai White (Falcon Rising), Paul Sloan (I Am Wrath), Jason Mewes (Clerks), Michael Madsen (Kill Bill), Jaqueline Lord (Mercenary for Justice), WWE star Sal ‘Chavo’ Guerrero, Jr. and James Russo (Once Upon A Time in America).

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by July 10, 2016 to qualify. U.S. residents only please. We sincerely apologize to our non-U.S. visitors. Winners must respond with their mailing address within 48 hours, otherwise you will automatically be disqualified. No exceptions. Contest is subject to change without notice.

WINNERS: Grand Prize/David; 1st Runner Up/Michael S; 2nd Runner Up/Danny H.

Posted in News | Tagged | 23 Comments

New trailer for David Lam and Louis Koo’s ‘S-Storm’

Director David Lam (Street Angels) and superstar Louis Koo (The White Storm) are back with S-Storm, the sequel to 2014′s Z-Storm. S-Storm follows the further predicaments of William Luk Che Lim (Koo) – a lead investigator in the ICAC unit (Independent Commission Against Corruption) – and his war with naughty organizations.

S-Storm features a mix of new and returning stars that include Julian Cheung (Flying Daggers), Vic Chou (Detective Gui), Ada Choi (Fist of Legend), Dada Chan (Z-Storm), Janelle Sing (Kung Fu Angels) and Bowie Lam (The Most Wanted). | 1st trailer.

S-Storm releases later this year. Until then, check out the film’s new trailer.

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Sun Honglei to star in Chinese remake of ‘Veteran’

"Veteran" Theatrical Poster

"Veteran" Theatrical Poster

Ryoo Seung-wan’s box office hit Veteran will be getting a Chinese language remake. In the upcoming film, Sun Honglei (Drug War) will play the lead role originally performed by Hwang Jeong-min (The Wailing).

The original Veteran followed a seasoned police detective (Hwang) who immediately has a face-off with a young tyrannical heir (Yoo Ah-in) to an untouchable mega-corporation. CJ Entertainment released the film on Blu-ray & DVD last April.

The Veteran remake is currently in pre-production, with a target theatrical release due in 2017. Stay tuned!

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Cecilia Cheung and T.O.P. are seriously ‘Out of Control’

"Commitment" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Commitment" Korean Theatrical Poster

Hong Kong star Cecilia Cheung (Legendary Amazons, 12 Nights) and Seung-Hyun Choi (Tazza: The Hidden CardCommitment), better known as T.O.P. – his pop idol stage name – are currently putting finishing touches on Out of Control, a big-budget German-Chinese co-production, directed by Axel Sand (Alarm for Cobra 11) and Richard Lin.

According to Variety, the story involves a Chinese film and martial arts star (Cheung) who is ensnared by a dangerous plot while visiting the Berlin Film Festival. Her survival and the success of a major rescue mission depend on a Korean secret agent (T.O.P.), who is also her ex-fiance.

A release date is still pending, but until then, don’t miss the film’s exciting trailer (via AFS).

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Andy Lau and Gong Li for Johnnie To’s ‘Vampire Killers’?

"The Fearless Vampire Killers" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Fearless Vampire Killers" Japanese Theatrical Poster

With the recently announced production of War, the 2+ decade collaboration between Johnnie To (Office) and Wai Ka Fai (Too Many Ways to Be Number One) is showing no signs of weakness. In fact, it’s stronger than ever.

According to a scoop from AFS, the duo are planning project titled The Fearless Vampire Killers, which will star Andy Lau (My Bodyguard) and Gong Li (Shanghai).

If you’re wondering if it’s a remake of the 1967 Roman Polanski cult classic of the same, welcome to the club. Given To and Wai’s eclectic film influences from around the world, we definitely wouldn’t rule it out.

We’ll keep you updated on this blood-sucking story as we hear more.

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Cityonfire.com’s ‘The Midnight After’ DVD Giveaway! – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

The Midnight After | DVD (Well Go USA)

The Midnight After | DVD (Well Go USA)

Cityonfire.com and Well Go USA are giving away 3 DVD copies of Fruit Chan’s The Midnight After to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this video.

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

The DVD for The Midnight After will be officially released on June 21, 2016. We will announce the 3 winners on June 20, 2016.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by June 20, 2016 to qualify. U.S. residents only please. We sincerely apologize to our non-U.S. visitors. Winners must respond with their mailing address within 48 hours, otherwise you will automatically be disqualified. No exceptions. Contest is subject to change without notice.

WINNERS: Andrew O, Ernie E and Dilford.

Posted in News | Tagged | 17 Comments

Ghost Warrior | aka Swordkill (1984) Review

"Ghost Warrior" Theatrical Poster

"Ghost Warrior" Theatrical Poster

AKA: Swordkill
Director: J. Larry Carroll
Writer: Tim Curnen
Cast: Hiroshi Fujioka, John Calvin, Janet Julian, Charles Lampkin, Frank Schuller, Bill Morey, Andy Wood, Robert Kino, Joan Foley, Peter Liapis, Mieko Kobayashi, Toshishiro Obata
Running Time: 81 min.

By Kyle Warner

One of Ghost Warrior’s poster taglines was, ‘100 Years Ago, He Was a Living Legend… Today, He’s a Living Hell.’ You can almost hear the trailer voice guy reading that, can’t you? Well, I think that Ghost Warrior’s tagline should’ve read, ‘Unthawed samurai popsicles and the women who love them,’ as it more accurately describes the film. But even then, my tagline would’ve hinted at a more entertaining picture than the one we actually got. How do you take a concept like unthawing a frozen samurai in modern day LA and turn it into a boring movie? Seriously, how? It seems impossible and yet the people behind Ghost Warrior somehow managed it.

Before I get ahead of myself I want to say a little something… about myself. If there’s one type of martial arts movie that I still remain largely unfamiliar with it’s the ninja boom that hit Hollywood in the 1980’s. TV’s Shogun and Kung Fu were wildly popular and helped spawn a wave of American productions about Asian martial arts. We Americans were especially intrigued by the ninja, apparently. Well, I grew up sometime after the American ninja craze, and the films didn’t engrain themselves into pop culture the way that other 80’s genre cinema did, so I’ve been slow on the uptake. I mean, I can name over a dozen Toshiro Mifune films at the drop of a hat, but I can’t name more than one Sho Kosugi movie (City on Fire has other people for that job!). So, Ghost Warrior, a 1984 film about a samurai at large in Los Angeles… it’s not something I can put into any sort of historical perspective beyond the fact that it was riding a wave of ninja and samurai popularity. I’m just going to review Ghost Warrior as a peculiar action movie about an unthawed samurai and hope that that’s enough.

In the film, the samurai Yoshimitsu (Hiroshi Fujioka) is defeated in battle and falls into a frozen lake. He’s later discovered frozen in modern day Japan and shipped to Los Angeles where scientists will attempt to revive him. Apparently the original order was to do an autopsy, but weirdo scientist Dr. Richard (John Calvin) decides it’d be cool to secretly revive the samurai instead… I guess he’d been sitting on the technique for how to revive a century old dead guy and was just dying to try it out. After a complicated, unexplained surgery involving rotating blue lights, the doctors are able to successfully revive Yoshimitsu. They leave him in a room and he’s seen to by the young Ms. Chris Welles (Janet Julian), an expert in “Oriental studies” who barely knows a word of Japanese and is their go-to pick for communicating with Yoshimitsu. It’s maddening. Why wouldn’t they at least hire somebody who spoke Japanese to speak to the samurai? Ms. Welles teaches Yoshimitsu like he’s a smart chimp, showing him shapes and seeing if he can duplicate the patterns. She even teaches him how to drink sake—she is the expert, after all. Anyway. The samurai and the lovely Ms. Welles form a bond, despite never understanding each other. One night, the special scientific program’s only security guard sneaks into Yoshimitsu’s room to steal his swords so he can pawn them. BIG MISTAKE. Yoshimitsu nearly cuts the guard in half, then escapes the facility to wander aimlessly around LA.

There is some entertainment to be had watching a samurai encounter his first automobile, or watch a hard rock band on TV, or visit a bar and get mistaken for Toshiro Mifune. It’s the usual comedy that you see in other such “fish out of water” time travel tales. And though the film’s attempt at humor is nothing special, Ghost Warrior really could’ve used more of it. The action is remarkably dull, the characters barely make sense, and I think I put more thought into the plot while writing this review than they did when they wrote the damn script.

The “unthawed traveler from another time” thing had been done before and revisited again since. Ghost Warrior has a lot in common with Donnie Yen’s Iceman, which was itself a remake of 1989’s Iceman Cometh. There was also an early Brendan Fraser comedy called Encino Man (that film co-starred Pauly Shore, which automatically makes Ghost Warrior the better movie). If you were to make up a list of unthawed hero movies (an odd list, to be sure), I’d put 1984’s Iceman starring John Lone and Timothy Hutton at the top of the list. This Iceman asked some interesting questions about the complicated nature and responsibility of bringing a man back to life from so long ago. It’s actually a pretty good, underrated piece of science fiction.

To be fair, Ghost Warrior makes it clear very early on that it has no intention of asking big questions or even in playing with the clever sci-fi ideas. The movie unthaws a samurai, unleashes him on street gangs in LA until he causes enough violence for the police to hunt him down, and meanwhile that lady who claims to be an expert follows him around everywhere. I can’t fault it for not trying to be a bigger, more thoughtful film, but its failure to be an entertaining one is an egregious offense. There’s no reason why something so silly (and kind of cool) as a samurai in LA should be so remarkably dull and dimwitted. Credited to screenwriter Tim Curnen (who wrote only one other film) and director Larry Carroll (this is his sole directing credit), Ghost Warrior is a huge swing and a miss. Maybe if I had more to drink or the right crowd to laugh along with, I might’ve had more fun. As it is, my first impression is that Ghost Warrior is best left in the ice.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 3/10

Posted in All, Asian Related, News, Ninja, Reviews | Tagged | 2 Comments

Deal on Fire! Kung Fu Killer | Blu-ray | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

Kung Fu Killer | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Kung Fu Killer | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Donnie Yen’s Kung Fu Killer (aka Kung Fu Jungle).

Kung Fu Killer (read our review) follows a top-notch kung fu instructor (Yen) who is imprisoned for accidentally killing a man. But when a deranged killer (Baoqiang) begins targeting the best martial artists in Hong Kong, it’s up to Yen to stop him! This high-octane, martial arts thriller reunites Yen with director Teddy Chen (Bodyguards & Assassins), as well as Wang Baoqiang (Iceman Cometh 3D). Watch the trailer.

Order Kung Fu Killer from Amazon.com today!

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New, stylishly edited teaser for Ringo Lam’s ‘Sky on Fire’

"Sky on Fire" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Sky on Fire" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Ringo Lam is definitely back in the game! The legendary Hong Kong action director is currently putting finishing touches on Battle of Life, his follow up to his 2015 “comeback” film, Wild City. Plot details are under wraps, but Daniel Wu (That Demon Within), the film’s leading star, is describing Sky on Fire (aka Battle of Life) as City on Fire 2.

“I said yes without even reading the script because John Woo, Ringo Lam and Tsui Hark are the guys who have initiated this new wave of classic Hong Kong and I always wanted to work with them. The movie is called Sky on Fire, but it could just as well be described as City on Fire 2,” said Wu, in reference to Lam’s seminal 1987 classic, City on Fire.

The film also stars Amber Kuo (Jian Bing Man), Joseph Chang (Wild City), Leon Lai (White Vengeance), Zhang Jingchu Zhang (Switch), Simon Yam (SPL II) and Gordon Lam (Trivisa).

Updates: Watch the new trailer for Sky on Fire (via FCS).

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Good, the Tough & the Deadly, The (2016) Review

"The Good, the Tough, & the Deadly" Book Cover

"The Good, the Tough, & the Deadly" Book Cover

Author: David J. Moore
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing
Description: 1 Edition May 25, 2016, Hardcover
Length: 560 pages

By Zach Nix

The Good, the Tough & the Deadly, the latest book from film journalist, David J. Moore, is possibly the most expansive exploration of action and genre cinema to date. Moore’s previous book, World Gone Wild: A Survivor’s Guide to Post-Apocalyptic Movies, was already an impressive feat, as it covered practically every single post-apocalyptic genre film ever made. It even tackled live action and animated television series! However, while World Gone Wild tackled a very niche sub-genre, his latest, The Good, the Tough & the Deadly, covers a much wider array of genre cinema, specifically action films released from 1960 until now. Packed with over one thousand movie reviews, and loads of informative and revealing interviews with the stars and filmmakers responsible for said action films, Moore’s latest is immediately the most encompassing and comprehensive examination, exploration, and celebration of all things action.

Although one may be eager to dive into the book to read about their favorite action movies, it is extremely important to read the introduction, as it breaks down exactly which action movies and stars Moore and his fellow co-writers set out to examine within the book. First off, all of the movies reviewed within the book were chosen based upon which action stars headlined or inhabited said films. Second, the action stars chosen to write about had to come from a background in sports, wrestling, martial arts, bodybuilding, and/or stunt work. Actors who happen to make action films, such as Clint Eastwood, Kurt Russell, or Mel Gibson, were not considered. Moore and his co-writers are only interested in the real deal: actors who are labeled as action stars, who more or less play themselves from film to film, and have dedicated a majority of their career and persona to action cinema. They also chose to exclude the multitude of sword and sorcery and martial arts films that exist, as those sub-genres could suffice their own book and are truly never ending. Speaking of martial artists, only those who made a huge impact on the genre or crossed cultures to have an effect on international audiences were included. After all, Moore and friends had to narrow their criteria down to something. Otherwise, their book could never end.

The plentiful movie reviews make up the bulk of the text. Each review includes which format the film was watched upon (they keep it simple, DVD or VHS only), a paragraph or two on the summary of the film, and than a piece on the writer’s opinion of the film and how it reflects its action star. Some films have very little written about them, as much as two paragraphs, while others have fairly lengthy pieces spanning a couple paragraphs. While it would have been nice to have more in depth reviews for every single one of the films, it makes sense that most of them just get small blurbs, as an in depth review for every film would turn the book into its own encyclopedia series. Therefore, understand that in order for the book to amass over one thousand reviews, it couldn’t provide an in depth essay for every single film. Than again, I don’t think anyone is chomping at the bit to write an essay about Death Wish V: The Face of Death or Cyborg Cop 2. There are simply too many films and too many sequels to cover in an equal fashion.

As far as the specifics of the reviews come, each one is written in a matter that gives you a sense of the film’s plot and overall experience. After tackling the introduction, which I cannot stress enough, I still found myself repeatedly surprised to see which films made the cut, but understood the author’s criteria and reason for their inclusion. For example, Scooby Doo! WrestleMania Mystery, a DTV children’s cartoon, is included because it features John Cena, an action star whose background comes from sports and wrestling. While I fully expected to see English language Jackie Chan ventures like the Rush Hour and Shanghai films pop up, I completely forgot that Chan had co-starred in Disney’s remake of Around the World in 80 Days, and that it even included extensive martial arts sequences. I even forgot that Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, starring world famous animal expert, Steve Irwin, even existed, let alone classified as an action film. But alas, Moore breaks down how Irwin is essentially a stunt man, regarding his crazy antics with animals, and therefore, qualifies for the book. In regards to films that I know and expected, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the writer shared my sentiments towards Safe, arguably Jason Statham’s greatest all around action movie, an opinion that I had always felt alone on. However, I was a little taken aback by some of the over whelming positive words written about some of Steven Seagal and Jean Claude Van Damme’s lesser DTV films. I never expected to read praise about Seagal’s performance in A Dangerous Man or that Derailed is superior to Seagal’s own Under Siege 2. But alas, that’s where some of the fun comes from in reading this book.

The real treasures of this book, as with World Gone Wild, are the interviews, which offer up a great insider’s look at these stars and their work. The stars interviewed range all over the place, from Carl Weathers, to Michael Dudikoff, to Al Leong, to Cynthia Rothrock, to Zoe Bell, and even Wesley Snipes. Honestly, if you can think of them, they are probably interviewed within the book. Several directors and writers are interviewed as well, including DTV veterans Isaac Florentine and John Hyams. It’s really nice to hear some of these stars and filmmakers discuss both their successes and failures in detail. After all, failures and bombs deserve to be given the time of day as much as the successes.

For example, Martyn Burke, the director of Avenging Angelo, reveals a lot about Stallone’s one and only DTV film, the movie that more or less marked the lowest point of his career. Burke describes how shady the production was, and how $15 million of the film’s budget vanished. He even discusses how he would have to go toe to toe with Stallone every morning of the shoot regarding creative differences. Even though it’s clear that Avenging Angelo was nothing more than a disaster, you can tell that Burke has a great attitude about the whole experience from his interview. Another interview, one with writer Steve Latshaw, reveals that Van Damme’s In Hell was originally to be a forty million dollar theatrical comeback vehicle at Warner Bros, but instead became a Millennium picture for a mere $5 million. An interview with Daniel Bernhardt, the star of Bloodsport II, reveals how truly genuine and humble a person he is, even going so far as to not consider himself an action star. And as a big fan of Scott Adkins, I was over joyed to find not one, but two interviews with him that cover nearly all of his films. All in all, the interviews are the true treasure of the text, and a big incentive to buy this book instead of simply flipping through it at the bookstore.

At the very end of the book, one will find both an index on the book’s stars, as well as an all around index of every single film covered. I especially enjoyed the index of action stars, as it makes it simple to figure out who is and who is not covered within the book, along with which pages one can find their interviews.

In conclusion, The Good, the Tough & the Deadly is mostly a book for people who already love action movies, and are looking for opinions or a historical overview of the films they already love, whilst also discovering new action movies and stars that they have never heard of along the way. If you are new to action films, than you should probably start with a more historical text and watch many of the action classics yourself, because Moore’s epic hardcover isn’t going to give you the “Action 101” you may need. That being said, The Good, the Tough & the Deadly is a celebration amongst action fanatics like myself, as it is more or less the ultimate love letter to all things action and bad ass cinema. As I write this review, I still have not been able to take in every single piece of text within the book, as it is that overwhelming and comprehensive. I cannot recommend a purchase enough, as the book will last any action fanatic weeks from cover to cover. From now on, when action movie lovers go on to Amazon and type in “action movies book,” Moore’s bible to all things action and the action star will always be the one that pops up, and rightfully so.

I would like to thank David J. Moore and Schiffer Publishing for providing me with a copy of the book to review. It will forever stand as one of my prized possessions within my book collection.

Zach Nix’s Rating: 9/10

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1st footage of Jackie Chan’s ‘Foreigner’ in new mega trailer

"Polce Story 2013" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Polce Story 2013" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Perhaps Jackie Chan is taking a page from Liam Neeson’s playbook and realizing that, even at the ripe age of 61 years-old, there’s no reason he has to retire from a life of action. That would explain why the concept for the actor’s next, project The Foreigner, sounds so much like a movie Charles Bronson might have starred in his heyday.

In the film, Jackie Chan plays a humble restaurant owner who is pushed to violence after a band of terrorists take his daughter’s life in an attack. The movie is based on Stephen Leather’s 2008 novel The Chinaman.

Directing The Foreigner is everyone’s favorite 007 filmmaker, Martin Campbell (Casino Royale). Co-starring with Chan is former James Bond himself, Pierce Brosnan (Tomorrow Never Dies, No Escape). According to TW, Brosnan will play a former IRA member-turned-government official. The project will unite Campbell and Brosnan for the first time since 1995′s Goldeneye.

The Foreigner is currently shooting in London, with an expected release date set for late 2016/early 2017.

In addition to The Foreigner, Chan currently has many movies on his agenda, including Skip TraceThe Civilian, Kung Fu Yoga, Railroad Tigers, Chinese Zodiac 2 – and possible sequels to the popular Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon franchises.

Updates: Watch the new “mega” trailer (all-in-one) for Jackie Chan’s upcoming films. This new trailer includes scenes from Skip Trace, Kung Fu Yoga, Railroad Tigers and The Foreigner (via AFS).

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Kill Zone 2 | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Kill Zone 2 | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Kill Zone 2 | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: July 19, 2016

Well Go USA presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Kill Zone 2 (read our review). Kill Zone 2 is also widely known as  SPL II: A Time for Consequences.

When an undercover cop gets too close to revealing the mastermind of a drug syndicate, his cover is blown. Double-crossed and under a false identity, he’s thrown into a Thai prison, where a guard discovers the inmate – claiming he’s a cop – is a bone marrow match for his dying daughter… and his warden may have an even deadlier operation hidden within the prison walls.

This Cheang Pou-soi (The Monkey King) directed film stars Tony Jaa (Skin Trade), Wu Jing (Wolf Warrior), Louis Koo (White Storm), Simon Yam (Wild City) and Zhang Jin (Ip Man 3). | Trailer.

Special Features:

  • 3-Part Making-of Featurette
  • The Story
  • The Fights
  • The Vision
  • Deleted Scenes

Pre-order Kill Zone 2 from Amazon.com today!

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

Outlaw: Kill! (1969) Review

"Outlaw: Kill!" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Outlaw: Kill!" Japanese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Gangster VIP 6
Director: Keiichi Ozawa
Cast: Tetsuya Watari, Chieko Matsubara, Eiji Go, Kenji Imai, Goro Mutsumi, Koji Wada, Hiroshi Kondo, Fujio Suga
Running Time: 85 min.

By Kyle Warner

“I don’t get involved in yakuza feuds,” says Goro Fujikawa, the Outlaw antihero who seriously gets involved in a new yakuza feud practically every time he hops off the train. Goro’s not fooling anybody, least of all the audience. We’ve heard these kinds of things from him before. The Outlaw series is a yakuza crime saga caught on a carousel, taking us whizzing past similar sights and sounds every time we take a ride. Goro doesn’t want to get involved… but then he gets involved. Goro meets up with the Chieko Matsubara of the Week… and they fall in love. Goro dishes out justice with a blade… and shambles off to an uncertain fate by each film’s end. The sixth Outlaw film, titled Kill! (the exclamation point is part of the title), is a bit different because we know it’ll be the last time we ever see Goro. Despite that, the film plays just like all the others, and doesn’t offer any closure for the series at the finale. It’s almost like the series just ran out of gas.

In the opening moments of Outlaw: Kill! the Toyu Clan attacks yakuza boss Matsunaga (Michitaro Mizushima) of the rival Iriezaki Clan. Not only does Matsunaga manage to defend himself, the old man goes a bit overboard, hacking his would-be assassins to death in the streets for everyone to see. That’s just fine by Toyu boss, though. As the man in control of the Toyu Clan, Kenwachi (Fujio Suga) willingly sacrifices his men as he attempts to achieve dominance over the city of Keihin. His rival Matsunaga going to jail for seven years is almost as good as seeing him dead. With Matsunaga out of the way, Toyu declares open season on all rival yakuza in Keihin, putting a target on the backs of the Iriezaki boys and any other yakuza in the city.

Tough guy drifter Goro Fujiwara (Tetsuya Fujiwara) just happens to be passing through Keihin at this point. And though Goro at first claims to have zero interest in siding with either Toyu or Iriezaki, his link to an old cellmate in the Iriezaki family lets us know pretty early on whose side he’s ultimately going to fall in with. Goro can lie to himself all he wants that he’s not ready to get involved with more warring gangsters, but he’s too much of a standup guy to idly watch as bullies pick on the weak.

Much of Outlaw: Kill! has Goro acting the mentor to young yakuza. It’s an interesting but natural turn for Goro, who started out the series as stupid as the youth he’s now taking under his wing. But it also tells something rather unflattering about Goro: that, though he knows the game is rigged and the bosses are monsters, he still can’t break away from the yakuza lifestyle completely. It’s not like Michael Corleone raging about, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in,” because Goro never really leaves the life. He walks the tightrope between a past he wants no part in and a future he’s unable to stick with, unable to fully commit to either.

In addition to Goro’s failings at going straight, he continues to have a weird love life with women that all look the same, as Chieko Matsubara returns yet again as a new character who’s destined to fall for Goro. The formula is familiar: she’s a complete stranger, then she hates him, then she realizes he’s not so bad, and then she can’t live without him. Chieko Matsubara is perhaps the most wasted part of the Outlaw series. She’s put through the paces of playing with the same drama time after time while Tetsuya Watari gets to experience actual character growth and other returning actors get to play something wildly different in their respective sequels. Her character seems a complete afterthought in the Kill! (I’m undecided if this hurts or helps the film). It’s like they realized they’d gone five films with Chieko Matsubara as a romantic lead and figured they might as well make it the complete six.

Though much of the film’s drama feels overly familiar, Kill! does provide us with Outlaw’s best villain. Character actor Fujio Suga is positively loathsome as Kenwachi. A character actor best known for supporting parts in Yasujiro Ozu dramas and the Zatoichi series, I’ve seen Suga in many films but his presence is usually regulated to the background. In Kill!, Suga demands your attention. The character is written as the lowest of the low who sees his men as petty pawns in a game of chess and Suga seems to have a fun time in the role. In the film’s climactic finale (which calls to mind the first film as well as the punk rock flair of Stray Cat Rock), Goro takes on the Toyu Clan in a nightclub. Kenwachi and his goons are seated below the dance floor, looking up the skirts of young girls, when Goro comes in with a knife. The brawl plays out below while the oblivious dancers enjoy their lives above, even as blood sprays on the glass that separates the two worlds. Maybe there’s some social commentary here about the separation of the young upper class and the criminals who kill themselves for scraps just beneath their feet? Or, more likely, it’s just a cool action sequence to finish off the film.

With the exception of praising actor Fujio Suga’s performance and director Keiichi Ozawa’s action sequences, I realize that I’m not exactly heaping praise on the final Outlaw film. But that’s not really the film’s fault. It’s just that, by this point, I’m feeling acute Outlaw burnout. The Outlaw series is fun but it repeats its themes and characters with more regularity than I would’ve liked. By the end of Outlaw: Kill!, it’s as though the seventh film was just over the next horizon. Maybe it’s for the best that they stopped here, though. I enjoyed the Outlaw series, for the most part. I didn’t really dislike any of its six films and I loved one of them. However, by this point, it was becoming clear that the series had run its course and had nothing new left to offer.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 6.5/10

About this release: The six-film Outlaw: Gangster VIP series hits DVD and Blu-ray with a 6-disc box set for the first time in the West thanks to the good folks at Arrow Video. It comes with 3 DVDs and 3 Blu-rays, with each disc sporting two films plus special features. (I only viewed the Blu-rays, so some DVD layout may differ.)

Special features include trailers and photo galleries for each film, a visual essay by Kevin Gilvear, and an audio commentary on the first film by Jasper Sharp. The visual essay is basically a rundown of the entire series, with Gilvear talking plot points and characters. (The visual essay begins with a warning that you should wait to watch it until you’ve seen all six films. It’s wise to follow this piece of advice.) Gilvear mixes a fan’s praise with a critic’s cynicism and has some fun with the “cloning” operation involving Chieko Matsubara.

Jasper Sharp’s commentary is a little less focused than I would’ve liked. Sharp spends much of the commentary talking about Nikkatsu’s history and the film careers of those who worked on the film, but I would’ve liked to have known more about the production of Gangster VIP and the series that followed.

The real highlight of the extras is the 40 page booklet with writing by Chris D., Mark Schilling, and Kevin Gilvear. Chris D. puts the Outlaw series in a historical perspective, Mark Schilling lends some information about the real-life gangster who wrote the books on which Outlaw is based, and Schilling and Kevin Gilvear write biographies for the three directors who worked on the series. The best part of the booklet is a reprinted interview with director Toshio Masuda conducted by Schilling which originally appeared in Schilling’s book No Borders, No Limits: Nikkatsu Action Cinema. It’s an entertaining talk with one of Japan’s best directors who still remains largely unknown in the West.

In regards to the picture and sound quality of the films… sadly, the best film looks the roughest. Gangster VIP shows signs of age and wear that the other films don’t. The remaining five Outlaw films look great on Blu-ray. I obviously have no idea how they looked when they originally debuted in cinemas in the 1960s, but I think the films look as good as or better than you would expect. The sound is also handled nicely, with clashing daggers ringing loudly over the speakers.

If you’re interested in this set, you should know it is a limited edition release of 3,000 copies in the US. After that, who knows? I give the first film, Outlaw: Gangster VIP, the strongest possible recommendation for fans of gangster movies and fans of Japanese cinema in general.

The rest of the films – Outlaw: Gangster VIP 2, Outlaw: Heartless, Outlaw: Goro the Assassin, Outlaw: Black Dagger and Outlaw: Kill! – aren’t quite up to the quality of the original, but there’s some entertainment to be had with the stylish action and a strong lead performance from Tetsuya Watari. If you do decide to dive into the Outlaw set, my advice would be to space the sequels out a bit, as it’ll make for a more entertaining and less repetitive film viewing experience.

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Well Go USA to release Johnnie To’s ‘Three’ on June 24th

"Three" Theatrical Poster

"Three" Theatrical Poster

Johnnie To’s crime thriller Three (aka Three on the Road) is getting a theatrical release on June 24, 2016, courtesy of Well Go USA.

The upcoming film stars Louis Koo (Accident), Wallace Chung (Drug War) and Gao Yuanyuan (Robin-B-Hood) and Vicky Zhao Wei (14 Blades).

When a police sting goes bad, a master criminal (Chung) makes a desperate choice: he forces the cops to shoot him. Once there, he refuses treatment, instead waiting for his cohorts to break him out.

Caught between an obsessed cop (Koo) and the troubled surgeon assigned to save his life (Wei), the hospital is now a taught-and-tense situation that could turn into a bloody battleground at any moment. | First trailer. | Second trailer.

To see if Three is playing in your area, click here!

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Final Score | aka Elegy of a Massacre (1986) Review

"Final Score" Theatrical Poster

"Final Score" Theatrical Poster

Director: Arizal
Writer: Deddy Armand
Cast: Chris Mitchum, Mike Abbott, Ida Iasha, Dicky Zulkarnaen, Zainal Abidin, Siska Widowati, Nizar Zulmi, Ivonne Elisabeth, Andre Mathias, Gino Makasutji, Syarief Friant
Running Time: 88 min.

By Paul Bramhall

It’s an age old dilemma – how does one carve out a successful career for one’s self in Hollywood, when one of your family members is an A-list star? It’s a question no doubt such names as Eric Roberts and Frank Stallone would have plenty of input on, however one name who did for a time appear to have cracked the formula, was Chris Mitchum. The second son of legendary actor Robert Mitchum, well known for his roles in the likes of Cape Fear and The Yakuza, Chris looked to be following in his father’s footsteps, with starring roles in the likes of Howard Hawks’ Rio Lobo, and featuring alongside John Wayne in Big Jake.

However it was his association with John Wayne which inadvertently set his career off-course. Known for sharing the same conservative outlook politically, along with similar controversial views on the Vietnam War, Mitchum quickly fell out of favor with the Hollywood studios, and by the mid-70’s the offers of work had all but dried up. As a result, he turned his attention to appearing in productions in Europe and South East Asia, and although arguably it was never his intention, Mitchum found himself re-born as a B-movie action star. Most frequently working in Indonesia and the Philippines, his filmography quickly filled up with titles such as One Armed Executioner, American Commandos, and American Hunter.

One such movie was Final Score, an Indonesian action flick which paired him with the same director as American Hunter – the man simply known as Arizal. Having begun his career in the film industry working as an artistic assistant for the Walt Disney studio, upon returning to his native Jakarta, Arizal quickly found his niche creating explosive action movies. Cranking out such titles as The Stabilizer, Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters (both of which got released on DVD by Troma Entertainment), and Double Crosser, Arizal quickly gained a reputation for his no holds barred style of filmmaking, and his name came to become synonymous with Indonesian action cinema.

For many, the concept of Indonesia even having an action movie scene in the 80’s could well be one that induces blank expressions, and rightfully so considering their lack of exposure, but it was a scene that was very much alive and kicking. Such titles as Lady Terminator (which far from being a play on words, is exactly what you hope it’ll be), Virgins from Hell, and the countless Barry Prima starring swordplay flicks, contributed to a local film industry which embraced its own wackiness, aiming for a go-for-broke style of action mayhem. Lest we forget a certain Billy Chong as well, who by the end of the 80’s had also returned to his motherland, working on several local martial arts flicks under his birth name of Willy Dozan. All this of course, more than thirty years before The Raid would put Indonesia back on the action cinema map.

Final Score in many ways could be considered Arizal’s finest moment, and is a superlative slice of Indonesian action. Mitchum plays a decorated Vietnam War veteran, as was the case with almost every role Caucasian actors would play in these Indonesian and Filipino action flicks. He lives with his Indonesian wife and son in Jakarta, and for those wondering why he’s living in Indonesia and not America, thankfully this question happens to be addressed by his son, who asks the exact same thing. Mitchum calmly replies, “Well, because we love it here, it’s a beautiful country and a peaceful place to live.” Promote tourism in Indonesia checkbox – ticked! They may indeed love it, but it doesn’t stop both his wife and son being brutally murdered while he’s out shopping for his son’s birthday present (which ironically enough, sees him pick a toy machine gun).

The man behind the hit is a ruthless business rival played by British actor Mike Abbott. While he may have started in the Indonesian film industry (like Mitchum, he’d team up with Arizal again for American Hunter), Abbott soon after moved to Hong Kong, where he must hold the record for featuring in the highest number of Godfrey Ho movies with the word ‘ninja’ in the title, often alongside Richard Harrison. Bionic Ninja, Ninja Operation 7, Death Code: Ninja, Rage of Ninja, Ninja Knight Brothers of Blood, and Ninja Empire all feature healthy doses of Abbott in action. He did manage to feature in more respectable HK productions, namely the likes of A Better Tomorrow 2, City Hunter, and A Purple Storm, but once you’ve seen Final Score, it’ll most likely be the role you remember him for.

In a runtime which clocks in at less than 90 minutes, Mitchum’s family is slain in the first 15, and it’s no exaggeration to say that he spends the remaining hour plus simply going around massacring anyone who has the slightest connection to it. He even has a list of people he’s going to kill on a piece of paper, not so much a ‘to-do’ list, as a ‘to-kill’ list if you will, and whenever he offs one of the names on it, he happily flicks out his biro pen and crosses it off. Such a simplistic plot should get old pretty quickly, but Arizal has Mitchum rampaging around Jakarta with such a degree of violent reckless abandon, that it’s never anything less than pure entertainment.

Early on he intercepts a car stacked to the brim with weapons that was on its way to a deal, and Mitchum has no hesitation in arming himself to the teeth with everything available in his newly acquired wheels. From then on, the thumping synthesiser soundtrack is frequently accompanied by the sounds of glorious machine gun fire and explosions. Bad guys get shot in the crotch, have red hot pokers thrust up places where the sun don’t shine, and are blown to pieces at regular intervals. Just as Death Wish could well be considered the template for Final Score, all be it Arizal’s piece ramps things up to 100, so the likes of Final Score could be considered the template for the likes of Taken. Mitchum maintains his take-no-prisoners attitude throughout, and there’s something cathartic about watching him relentlessly mow down all those involved in his families death.

Perhaps the aspect that most stands out most about Final Score, is how likely all of the stuntmen involved made it to the end of the production alive. There are some insane stunts on display, mostly involving vehicle chases, which make you wonder how they could have survived it. At one point during a car chase, a bad guy has half his body outstretched from the passenger window, firing a machine gun at Mitchum’s car in front. In the same shot that we see him shooting in, the car careens off the road, and flips over into a ditch out of sight. How on earth did he survive? In another, Mitchum is surrounded in a house, and two bad guys are standing side by side in the driveway shooting the place up. A secretary who Mitchum becomes friendly with comes to his rescue, suddenly appearing in her car, and she drives full speed into the back of the two bad guys. One of them literally flies head over heels from the impact!

Indeed the vehicle chases in Final Score are so entertaining, they were copied and pasted into Italian director Umberto Lenzi’s 1990 Euro-action movie Cop Target 4 years later. There’s plenty more in Final Score to recommend, from the hilarious dubbing (at one point a group of bad guys find their car trapped on a railway track as an oncoming train approaches, and just before the impact they yell in unison, “You son of a biiiiiiitch!”), to the bewilderment inducing plot points, such as when Mitchum decides half way through his rampage that he’s over his families death, and decides to get it on with the secretary who’s been helping him out. Throw in a motorbike kitted out with rocket launchers, more explosions than you can shake a stick at, an assault on a warehouse that’ll most definitely bring to mind a scene in The Raid 2, and Final Score is a glorious hark back to how action movies used to be, and more importantly, should be.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8.5/10

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