But now, Kwok is back to directing solo with WuKong (aka The Tales of Wukong), an action-fantasy that tells the story of Sun Wukong (played by Operation Mekong’s Eddie Peng) before he became the Monkey King. The film also stars Ni Ni (The Warriors Gate), Shawn Yue (Reign of Assassins) and Zheng Shuang (No Limit).
WuKong is getting a domestic release on July 13, 2017. Don’t miss the film’s New Trailer below (via AFS):
While we’re all anxiously waiting for a possible The Raid 3, Gareth Evans (Merantau), the creator of The Raidfranchise is currently hard at work on latest film, Apostle, which will premiere on Netflix in 2018.
Apostle follows a man who travels to a remote island and attempts to rescue his sister after she’s kidnapped by a religious cult. The group demands a ransom for the sister’s return, undermining the man’s resolve to rescue her (via Deadline).
In a recent interview with Impact’s Mike Leeder, here’s what Evans had to say about the project: “Apostle is a period mystery thriller set in 1905, Edwardian England… It was a conscious decision to do something outside of the action genre, sure. For me I’ve always been a fan of all cinema and so, regardless of the fact that action has given me the good grace and fortune to carve out a career for myself, I’ve always said I wanted to explore other genres,” Evans added.
Apostle will star Dan Stevens (The Guest), Michael Sheen (Underworld), Lucy Boynton (Sing Street), Bill Millner (Son or Rambow) and Kristine Froseth (Rebel in the Rye).
XYZ Films, Severn Screen and Evans’ One More One Productions is producing Apostle, while Netflix has acquired the film’s global distribution rights.
The other Evans project in the air is Blister, a “contemporary American gangster story with echoes of The Wild Bunch,” according to Evans. The film was intended to begin production this year, but has been pushed back and currently remains in limbo.
Updates: Check out the first still from Apostle below (via Instagram):
On July 4th, Arrow Academy will be releasing Seijun Suzuki’s The Taisho Trilogy, which will include the following three films: Zigeunerweisen, Kageroza and Yumeji. Read the full details below.
After over a decade in the wilderness following his firing from Nikkatsu for Branded to Kill (1967), maverick director Seijun Suzuki (Voice Without a Shadow) returned with a vengeance with his critically-praised tryptic of cryptic supernatural dramas set during the liberal enlightenment of Japan’s Taisho Era (1912-26).
In the multiple Japanese Academy Award-winning Zigeunerweisen (1980), two intellectuals and former colleagues from military academy involve their wives in a series of dangerous sexual games. In Kageroza (1981), a playwright is drawn like a moth to a flame to a mysterious beauty who might be a ghost, while Yumeji (1991) imagines the real-life painter-poet Takehisa Yumeji’s encounter with a beautiful widow with a dark past.
Presented together on Blu-ray for the first time outside of Japan, the films in the Taisho Trilogy are considered Suzuki’s masterpieces in his homeland. Presenting a dramatic turn from more his familiar tales of cops, gangsters and unruly youth, these surrealistic psychological puzzles drip with a lush exoticism, distinctively capturing the pandemonium of a bygone age of decadence and excess, when Western ideas, fashions, technologies and art fused into everyday aspect of Japanese life.
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original stereo audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles
New introductions to each film by critic Tony Rayns
Vintage interview with Seijun Suzuki
Limited edition packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by Corey Brickley
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring writing on the films by critic Jasper Sharp and more.
Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde better brace herself, because there’s another unstoppable killer on the way. Pierre Morel, the director of 2008’s Taken, is tackling Peppermint, an upcoming female-centric actioner.
According to THR, Peppermint is a revenge story centering on a young mother who finds herself with nothing to lose, and is now going to take from her rivals the very life they stole from her.
Peppermint is being described as a “female John Wick,” a reference to Keanu Reeves’ 2014’s John Wick and 2017’s John Wick 2.
Updates to follow. For now, say hi to this female assassin:
Director: Steven Okazaki Writer: Stuart Galbraith IV, Steven Okazaki Cast: Keanu Reeves, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Koji Yakusho, Sadao Nakajima, Kyoko Kagawa Running Time: 80 min.
By Kyle Warner
“The ordinary Japanese actor might need ten feet of film to get across an impression; Mifune needed only three.”
– Akira Kurosawa
Like many others, I have Godzilla to thank for first introducing me to Japanese movies. But when the day finally came for me to look beyond the kaiju and discover what else Japanese cinema had to offer, I started with the best: Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. And though I would eventually work my way through the entirety of Kurosawa’s filmography, the first thing I did after watching Seven Samurai was look up all other available Toshiro Mifune films on DVD in the States. In Seven Samurai, Mifune played the wannabe samurai Kikuchiyo, a roguish clown who starts out as the unloved stray dog of the group but ends up becoming the heart and soul of the film. It’s a marvelous performance, one so physical and funny that we don’t always notice the deep humanity until repeat viewings. What I learned over my years of searching out more Toshiro Mifune films is that fantastic performances were the norm for this actor. If I was asked to name the five greatest movie stars of all time, I can say that Mifune would definitely be on that list, and then I would spend a lot of time considering which other four would deserve to join him. So, considering all of that, the new documentary Mifune: The Last Samurai was pretty much a must see film for me.
Mifune: The Last Samurai doesn’t offer much new information to the actor’s biggest fans, but for newcomers it squeezes a good deal of information into its 80 minutes. Oscar winner Steven Okazaki’s documentary uses film clips, new on-screen interviews with Mifune collaborators and admirers, and rare behind-the-scene footage to tell Mifune’s life story. While it breaks no new ground for how such a film is put together, it’s still a handsomely produced documentary.
The film starts by showing us the history of the chanbara genre (samurai swordplay dramas) in Japanese cinema. This section includes some cool footage of silent samurai movies, many of which do not survive in their entirety today. From there the documentary shifts gears to WWII, in which a young Mifune trained pilots going off to war. Mifune was not a true believer in the goals of the Empire of Japan and told his soldiers to think more of their families than of the Emperor. When the war ended, Mifune hoped to use the skills his father taught him to become a cameraman’s assistant at Toho studios, but ended up becoming a movie star instead (quite by accident, according to some accounts). This section of the documentary shares a wealth of rarely seen images of Mifune’s youth, long before superstardom was ever part of the plan.
From there, we move into Mifune’s film career, which developed around the same time that director Akira Kurosawa was becoming a bigger name at Toho. Much time is spent detailing the working relationship between director and star, which is only right. It’s impossible to imagine many Kurosawa films without the inimitable Mifune, just as it is impossible to imagine Mifune becoming the same brilliant actor without Kurosawa. Their working relationship eventually soured, however, and they did not make another film together after 1965’s Red Beard. The documentary does not expressly state the reason for the falling out. Nor does the film go much into the attempts to patch things up, or the later roles that were seemingly written by Kurosawa with Mifune in mind.
Narrating the documentary is the voice of Keanu Reeves (John Wick Chapter 2). Some may take issue with Reeves’ narration, as he is very soft-spoken and monotone, but I had no problem with it. Reeves has a true love for the art of cinema, including martial arts cinema, and his inclusion in the documentary feels right to me.
Okazaki gathered an impressive list of interview participants for his film, including Mifune co-stars Kyoko Kagawa (High & Low) and Yoshio Tsuchiya (Seven Samurai), American admirers Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg (whose early film 1941 featured Mifune in a minor role), film critic Tadao Sato, modern Japanese movie star Koji Yakusho (13 Assassins), Mifune’s eldest son Shiro (After the Rain), and even Godzilla himself, Haruo Nakajima, who was a stunt player in earlier Mifune features. (Clint Eastwood, who played Mifune’s role in the Spaghetti Western remake of Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars, would’ve been a nice addition considering that movie solidified Eastwood as more than just a TV star. Also notably absent is Tatsuya Nakadai, who had second billing in many of Mifune’s finest films of the 60’s, and in the 80’s would play the roles in Kurosawa movies that seemed like they were written expressly for Mifune. But perhaps this is just the fan in me wishing for more, more, more.) All interviewees add their own take on Mifune, describing him as a consummate professional on the film set and something of a live wire when left to party. Though it does not spend a whole lot of time on the dark chapters of Mifune’s life, his tabloid scandals and his excessive drinking are among the topics of conversation.
In the film’s final moments, we hear a portion of Kurosawa’s farewell to Mifune that was read at the actor’s funeral (Mifune died in 1997 at age 77. Kurosawa died the next year at age 88). It’s an emotional moment… and then the film is suddenly over. It felt like there was much more that could’ve been said, not just on the topics already discussed but new topics as well. Much time is spent on chanbara at the start, but little is explored about how Mifune (and Kurosawa) reinvented the genre. Nor is there much said about Mifune’s lasting impact in cinema or the actors who took up the craft in his wake. That Koji Yakusho is the only modern Japanese actor in the documentary seems like an oversight.
When all is said and done, the documentary simply feels too short. Toshiro Mifune was a titan of cinema. More needed to be said about the man, his craft, and the movies he left behind (with the exception of the Samurai Trilogy, the movies not directed by Kurosawa only get brief mentions in the doc, if at all). What makes it puzzling is that the film is co-written by Stuart Galbraith IV, who wrote an epic 800-page book on Mifune and Kurosawa, titled The Emperor and the Wolf, so we know that there’s plenty more content that could’ve found its way into the film. Mifune: The Last Samurai is an entertaining documentary, one I’m sure to watch again sometime, but it doesn’t feel like much more than a well-polished special feature from a Criterion DVD. And, to be perfect honest, had it been released that way then I’m sure I would’ve been more forgiving to its shortcomings. Taken as is, it’s probably best viewed as an introduction to the actor’s legacy for newer fans. Mifune’s older fans won’t learn much that’s new to them, but it could make for a nice finale to your next Mifune movie marathon.
Director Yoon Hong-seung (The Target) is joining forces with Jackie Chan for an upcoming Korean/Chinese production titled Reset. This time around, Chan is behind the scenes as producer and will not be appearing in the film.
According to AV, Reset is a sci-fi movie that follows a scientist (Yang Mi of The Bullet Vanishes) as she tries to develop a method to time-travel through black holes. During the process, her son is kidnapped by a mysterious man (Wallace Huo) who wants to know the technology behind time-traveling.
Reset also stars Chin Shih-chieh (Brotherhood of Blades) and Liu Chang (A Journey Through Time With Anthony).
In a writing career that stretches over fifty novels, hundreds of short stories, and over forty years, Stephen King considers The Dark Tower to be his magnum opus. The dark fantasy series which involves western gunslingers and demonic villains takes place over eight central novels, but its influences and its secrets have spread to other King works, including The Stand and Hearts in Atlantis. The series follows the gunslinger Roland as he hunts The Man in Black across multiple dimensions while in search of the Dark Tower, which is believed to be the center of all possible universes.
The Dark Tower is one of those pieces of fiction that seems almost impossible to imagine adapted to film but also irresistible to filmmakers looking for a challenge. It’s said that Frank Darabont, who directed some of the finest (and most faithful) King adaptations in The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, once briefly considered adapting the Dark Tower books before either he or King apparently decided the fit wasn’t right. JJ Abrams stepped up next but he didn’t stay with the project for very long (Abrams would adapt future King works, however, including the 11.22.63 miniseries and the upcoming Castle Rock TV show, both for Hulu). Ron Howard was next and he had a very ambitious plan for how he would bring the world to life, which involved doing a film and then following up that film with a season on HBO and then another film and then I guess more HBO and so on. During this time, Russell Crowe and Javier Bardem were both rumored for the lead role of the gunslinger Roland (early art from the books based Roland’s look on Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name character).
I think it’s safe to say that The Dark Tower series ranks right up there near the top as far as King books that fans feel especially passionate about. So the back-and-forth nature of the film adaptation has been difficult to watch for some of us. But now it looks like it’s finally coming together. Sony will release The Dark Tower on August 4th 2017 (pushed back from its original January 13th date).
The film stars Idris Elba (Thor) as Roland Deschain and Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar) as The Man in Black. Supporting cast includes Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen), Katheryn Winnick (Vikings), Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road), Fran Kranz (Cabin in the Woods), Claudia Kim (Avengers: Age of Ultron), and Tom Taylor (Doctor Foster). The film is directed by Danish filmmaker Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) based on a script rewrite co-written by Arcel, Anders Thomas Jensen (Adam’s Apples), and Batman & Robin screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (groan). If all goes well, the apparent plan is to follow the Ron Howard idea of telling some of the Dark Tower story on TV as well as making future films.
The Dark Tower hits theaters on August 4th, 2017. Watch the film’s New Trailer below:
Kickboxing legend Don “The Dragon” Wilson (Bloodfist) has re-teamed with Martial Arts Kid director Michael Baumgarten in Paying Mr. McGetty, an upcoming action-comedy starring R. Marcos Taylor (“Suge Knight” in Straight Outta Compton, Luke Cage).
After a night of drinking and gambling, Tyrell (Taylor) is awakened by an angry call from his girlfriend, Meena (Anita Clay) and finds himself in bed with a strange woman, Cecelia (Alissa Schneider), a local mob boss’ daughter. Once the local mob boss finds out, he hires Shota (Wilson), a relentless hitman, to go after Tyrell. To make matters worse, the reward on Tyrell’s head has dozens of others looking for him.
Looks like Iko Uwais (The Raid) and Frank Grillo (The Raidremake) aren’t the only action stars who’ll be battling extraterrestrial lifeforms (i.e. Beyond Skyline). Wesley Snipes (Passenger 57) is teaming up with R.J. Mitte (Breaking Bad) in The Recall, an upcoming sci-fi thriller from director Mauro Borrelli (The Ghostmaker).
According to Deadline, The Recall centers on a group of friends vacationing at a remote lake house when aliens attack Earth. There, they meet a mysterious hunter (Snipes) with special knowledge of the attack.
The Recall hits select theaters on June 2nd in the Barco Escape panoramic format (multi screen video), followed by a limited standard release/VOD platforms on June 16th.
Although he’s currently hard-at-work with the much hyped martial arts action movie Buy Bust, director Erik Matti is now moving onto pre-production stage with the long-talked-about sequel (along with a mini-series) to his critically acclaimed crime thriller On the Job(via DiP).
The 2013 film – starring Piolo Pascual (Don’t Give Up on Us), Gerald Anderson (24/7 in Love), Joel Torre (Kabisera), Joey Marquez (Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles) and Michael de Mesa (10,000 Hours) – centered on prison inmates who work secretly as hired assassins for corrupt politicians.
Watch the video below to give you a better idea of what to expect from the upcoming On the Job sequel/series:
Director: Baran bo Odar Writer: Andrea Berloff Producer: Roy Lee, Adam Stone Cast: Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Dermot Mulroney, David Harbour, T.I., Gabrielle Union, Scoot McNairy Running Time: 95 min.
Jamie Foxx plays Vincent Downs, a cop with a slightly dysfunctional domestic life and-at least on the surface-a seemingly jaded and laissez-faire attitude towards law enforcement and by-the-book procedures. Other than an eagerness to upstage his colleagues on the job, he generally takes a casual and indifferent attitude towards major crimes committed on his beat.
However, when both his home and work situations overlap in the worst possible way, Downs is forced to be more aggressive in nipping a potentially explosive situation in the bud. The situation being that a casino owner with connections to a major drug family has kidnapped Downs’ son, and threatened to kill him, if Downs doesn’t return the cache of drugs he intercepted during a deal gone south. And Downs has to do all this while being pursued a tough-as-nails female cop named Jennifer Bryant-played by Michelle Monaghan. Bryant’s own judgment at the force is being questioned, due to a disastrously failed bust of a meth operation.
So I’ll be honest and say upfront that the main reason I checked out Sleepless is because I liked how T.I. stole the show as the head of a gang in the raunchy lowbrow comedy Get Hard. But, unfortunately, he’s kind of underused as a shifty partner to Foxx’s character in this film. Still, he does show some decent emotional range during the more dramatic moments with Foxx. As for Foxx, he does a pretty brutal John McClane-esque performance as a cop trying to restore and maintain the balance to a world disrupted by goons with various agendas of their own.
The action scenes for Sleepless are not what I’d call stimulating, or fun. And the storyline isn’t the most creative out there, either. In fact, if you’re expecting some wise-cracking buddy movie, with some cool choreography and gunplay, then you’ll be disappointed. But where the film shines is the realism. The director and writers for Sleepless really thought of all the possible scenarios for how this set-up could go, for better or worse.
And they don’t try to flinch and sugar-coat the violence to make it look cool and easy to overcome. For example, when Downs and his son are overpowered by one of the pursuing thugs from the drug dealers, the two don’t pull off some clever getaway stunt, while wrapping up the situation mostly unscathed. They get their asses kicked-hard. Also, getting their hands on better ‘weapons’ to fight back doesn’t necessarily make things more convenient, either. Because there’s always some unanticipated variable which screws up their plans.
So I’m not going to pretend this is a movie you should be hyped to see and check out right away. But, if you want something a little more honest and credible about what it takes for a cop to really solve a crime, then Sleepless might be for you.
Ningen’s Rating: Story: 6/10 Action Fan Service: 5/10 Overall Execution: 8/10 Final Score: 6.5/10
The two leading stars of Bloodsport and its sequels will soon be sharing the screen together in a scenario we haven’t seen since Jimmy Wang Yu and David Chiang joined their ‘one arms’ together in The One Armed Swordsmen.
Jean-Claude Van Damme (Double Impact) is starring along side Peter Stormare (Fargo), Kris Van Damme (Assassination Games) – and get this – Daniel Bernhardt (Logan, Bloodsport 2-3, Matrix Reloaded) in Kill ‘Em All, which will soon be released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (via Mike Leeder).
Kill ’em All (no relation with 2013 Johnny Messner of the same name) will helmed by first time director/veteran stunt coordinator, Peter Malota. Despite Kill ’em All being Malota’s directorial debut, his connection with the martial arts genre spans back to the early 80s, where he appeared in the Rhee’s Furious and L.A. Streetfighters (aka Ninja Turf); and also with Van Damme in numerous films that include Double Impact and Nowhere to Run.
Here’s the official plot: After a massive shootout, a mysterious stranger (Van Damme) arrives at a local hospital on the brink of death. Then, a foreign gang brazenly comes to the hospital to hunt him down. His nurse, the sole surviving witness to the follow-up shootout, must face an FBI interrogation that unlocks a plot of international intrigue and revenge. With enough twists and turns, Kill ’em All will keep you guessing until the final bullet is fired!
Kill ’em All also stars Autumn Reeser (Entourage), Maria Conchita Alonso (The Running Man), James P. Bennett (Swelter), Paul Sampson (Rage) and Peter Organ (Pitbull).
We’ll keep you updated as we hear more. In the meantime, be sure to read about the continuation of Jean-Claude Van Johnson, as well as Van Damme’s other current film project with Dolph Lundgren, Black Water.
Updates:Kill ’em All will be making its way to Blu-ray and DVD (click here to pre-order) on June 6, 2017, courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Watch the film’s Trailer below:
A government department known as the Six Panels appoints their best officer to infiltrate a special force called the Divine Constabulary, to ensure their way in stopping the circulation of counterfeit coin currency in the capital. The Four is based on the greatly-loved novel The Four Detective Guards by Wen Ruian.
North American distributers, Visual Entertainment, has announced the upcoming DVD release of Longstreet, a semi-obscure ABC TV series that aired in 1971-72.
Longstreet follows the adventures of Mike Longstreet (James Franciscus), a blind insurance investigator who’s on a mission to capture the people responsible for killing both his wife and his ability to see.
For kung fu cinema fans, Longstreet is perhaps best known for showcasing Bruce Lee (Enter the Dragon) in 4 episodes: “The Way of the Intercepting Fist”, “Spell Legacy Like Death”, “Wednesday’s Child” and “‘I See’, Said the Blind Man” – all of which will be included in the set.
Bruce Lee historians consider his appearance in the Longstreet series the truest representation of not only his personality, but also his philosophy and art. It’s also one of the very few times we get to hear his actual voice speaking an ample amount of English dialogue.
This will be the first time Longstreet will be officially available in any format in the United States. Until Visual Entertainment’s set goes on sale, the series has only been available through VHS-quality bootlegs.
Updates: We’ve gotten word from Visual Entertainment that the Longstreet series will be officially hitting DVD within the second quarter of 2017.
Veteran Hong Kong director/writer Jeff Lau (Treasure Hunt) is currently shooting Heavyweight Assassin, a martial arts film starring Max Zhang (SPL 2), Ada Choi (Fist of Legend), Andy On (Outcast) and Hung Yan Yan (Double Team), who is also handling the film’s action choreography (via AFS).
“Eye for an eye. Soul for a soul” – That’s the tagline for Death Fighter (aka White Tiger), an upcoming martial arts movie starring Matt Mullins (Mortal Kombat: Legacy), Cynthia Rothrock (Yes, Madam), Don “The Dragon” Wilson (Martial Arts Kid) and the late Joe Lewis (Force: Five).
Death Fighter is directed by Toby Russell (Death by Misadventure), a name closely associated with low budget martial arts and Hong Kong film – at least to die hard enthusiasts. With this said, fans should expect off the wall, Hong Kong-style action.
“Mystery of Chess Boxing” Chinese Theatrical Poster
AKA: Double Chained Horses
Director: Joseph Kuo
Writer: Joseph Kuo
Cast: Lee Yi Min, Mark Long, Jack Long, Jeanie Chang, Siu Foo Dau, Simon Yuen, Ricky Cheng, Wong Chi Sang, Wong Wing Sang, Mau Ging Shun
Running Time: 90 min.
By Chris Hatcher
Rumor has it that in 1979, the release of Joseph Kuo’s Mystery of Chess Boxing on New York City’s famed 42nd Street in Times Square caused near-riots due to its massive popularity. The film earned rave reviews and was so well-received by the public it played continuously in NYC theaters for nearly two years… an impressive feat for a 70s kung fu film not starring Bruce Lee. So, does MOCB really live up to the hype of its iconic fan-love beginnings in The City That Never Sleeps? In short… yes it does, on a number of fronts.
For starters, we’re talking about Joseph Kuo, one of the paramount directors of Taiwanese martial arts movies and most prolific filmmakers of the old school era. Kuo’s success spanned many genres (including romance!) with his most well-known being Wuxia and traditional kung fu films. His 7 Grandmasters was a definitive masterpiece with Born Invincible, World of Drunken Master, and Dragon’s Claws being other great works. Mystery of Chess Boxing is right there in the mix as one of his best (ranking just below 7 Grandmasters, in my opinion).
Secondly, Kuo’s usual suspects – Jack Long, Mark Long, and Lee Yi Min – turn in some great work for MOCB. This is especially true of Mark Long as Ghost Face Killer Wan Chun San, one of the most notorious villains in old school fu film history (made even more famous by early 90s rapper Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan). He looks, and sounds, fantastic in the role with flowing gray hair, wicked laugh, and some of the strongest kung fu of his career. In some respects, GFK is at the center of the story as a man on a mission to take out the martial arts masters who once conspired to kill him.
Thirdly, Kuo skillfully interweaves many short but great fight scenes of GFK dispatching masters with the story of Ah Pao (Lee Yi Min), a young man who wants to learn kung fu and avenge his father’s death. Each master displays different techniques to challenge Ghost Face Killer’s Five Elements style, an approach that keeps the fights fresh and exciting. And that’s a good thing, too; when Ah Pao joins a school only to become the whipping boy of its students, you’ll be thankful for the intermittent fights as the sillier parts of his initiation begin to drag out. It’s one of the few complaints I have of MOCB; it gets a bit too silly for the level of seriousness demonstrated by the fights and the back story. More gung fu and less goofy antics would have been preferred here.
Another minor complaint is Simon Yuen’s underdeveloped role as the school’s cook. One minute he’s giving wise sage advice and showing Ah Pao a trick or two and the next he’s dead on a slab (supposedly at the hands of GFK, though the signature amulet left on every GFK victim is never shown or mentioned in connection with the death of Yuen’s character). Revealing this doesn’t give away anything of significance because it happens off screen and in the blink of an eye. What it does show is a rare misstep by Kuo in reducing the role of an actor whose storied career should have garnered more respected screen time.
(Note: Yuen died of a sudden heart attack early in the same year MOCB was released. Though I could find no evidence in my research, this may have inadvertently played a part in the lack of screen time for Yuen’s character if the film was unfinished at the time of his death. Read my review on Dance of the Drunk Mantis to get the full Simon Yuen treatment).
Issues aside, Mystery of Chess Boxing’s bread-and-butter scenes take place over the final 35 minutes or so as Chess King Chi Siu Tien (Jack Long) takes in Ah Pao and teaches him the ways of chess boxing (i.e. applying the skills of mastering chess to how one masters kung fu). In this we’re treated to some good training sequences with Lee Yi Min looking sharper, faster, and more determined as the truth of his connection to Ghost Face Killer is revealed. By the time Jack Long gets into the training mix and subsequent showdown with GFK as one of the co-conspirators, all jokes are aside and MOCB really shines as a kung fu spectacle. He and Yi Min make a great tandem, and their combining of chess terms with a tag team approach to fighting in the finale is an outright adrenaline rush! (Speaking of spectacles, keep your eyes on Ghost Face Killer’s arms when Ah Pao applies one of his strength training exercises in the final fight… the incredibly obvious use of prosthetics will have you gasping and laughing at the same time!)
On a personal note, Jack Long’s fight-filled role in 7 Grandmasters is one of my all-time favorites and I wish his skills had been as frequently showcased in MOCB. He dons his fantastically long gray wig in both outings, but his participation in the action is reduced by more than half in this one. Knowing MOCB is more a vehicle for Lee Yi Min and Mark Long, the adage better late than never kicks in and Jack Long’s work in the third act offsets any disappointment. And though his form doesn’t appear quite as crisp in Mystery of Chess Boxing compared to 7 Grandmasters, any Jack Long is better than no Jack Long in my book.
In closing, one of my favorite old school quotes comes from Chi Siu Tien when he tells Ah Pao: “To master this game, you have to be… very calm. But also quick of wit, sharp of eye, fast of mind, slow of tongue, quick to see.” It’s a classic line that beautifully ties the connotations of learning chess and kung fu together, and well-represents Mystery of Chess Boxing as a classic of the old school genre.
This period actioner reunites the legend with director Ding Sheng (Little Big Soldier, Police Story 2013) for a 3rd time. The film also stars Xu Fan (A World Without Thieves), Edison Huang (Gentle Bullet) and Koji (Color War).
In Railroad Tigers, a railroad worker (Chan) and his ragtag group of freedom fighters find themselves on the wrong side of the tracks when they decide to ambush a heavily armed military train filled with desperately needed provisions. Unarmed and outnumbered, they must fight back against an entire army using only their wits, in a series of a dazzling set pieces and action scenes rivaling anything seen on the big screen.
Justin Chon (Revenge of the Green Dragons) writes, directs and stars in Gook, an upcoming thriller that examines the relationships between Korean and African American communities set around the 1992 L.A. Riots.
Eli (Chon) and Daniel (David So) are two Korean American brothers that run their late father’s shoe store in a predominantly African American community of Los Angeles. These two brothers strike up an unlikely friendship with an 11-year-old African American girl, Kamilla (Simone Baker). As Daniel dreams of becoming a recording artist and Eli struggles to keep the store afloat, racial tensions build to a breaking point as the “infamous” L.A. Riots break out.
In fact, tomorrow will mark the 25th Anniversary of the 1992 L.A. Riots, an event that instantly ignited after the acquittal of four officers responsible for the beating of Rodney King. Gook isn’t the first film to take place during L.A. Riots; in 1997, Riot, a made-for-TV movie that starred Dante Basco, Mako, Luke Perry, Mario Van Peebles and Lucy Liu explored a similar structure.
Gook hits theatres August 1st, 2017. Watch the Trailer below:
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