Deal on Fire! Brotherhood of Blades | Blu-ray | Only $6.48 – Expires soon!

Brotherhood of Blades | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Brotherhood of Blades | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Lu Yang’s Brotherhood of Blades (read our review), which stars Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Cecilia Liu (Badges of Fury).

Brotherhood of Blades tells of three friends (Chen, Wang Qianyuan, and Li Dongxue) who serve as Jinyiwei guards. They are dispatched by a palace eunuch (Nie Yuan) to hunt down a eunuch politician (Jin Shijie) who had been forced to resign from his influential post and exiled from Beijing. The Jinyiwei brothers return successfully from their quest, only to find that their task was but the beginning of a strange conspiracy.

Order Brotherhood of Blades from today!

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‘The Raid’ director in-talks for DC Comics’ ‘Deathstroke’

"The Raid 2: Berandal" Theatrical Poster

“The Raid 2: Berandal” Theatrical Poster

We usually don’t report on comic book movies (there’s better websites for ’em), but here’s a story we couldn’t resist: Gareth Evans (Merantau), the mastermind behind The Raid franchise, is in-talks to write and direct a live-action adaptation of DC Comics’ Deathstroke, a character created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez.

According to TW, Deathstroke was ranked as IGN’s 32nd greatest comic book villain of all time. Deathstroke possesses enhanced strength, speed, agility, and durability granted by an experimental serum. These include having the strength of ten men, and possessing heightened speed, stamina, endurance and reflexes (via WP).

We’ll keep you posted as more news becomes available. For now, Evans is currently putting finishing touches on his period thriller Apostle, which will premiere on Netflix in 2018.

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Dreaming the Reality (1991) Review

"Dreaming the Reality" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“Dreaming the Reality” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Tony Liu Chun-Ku
Producer: Chui Fat
Cast: Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima, Sibelle Hu, Ben Lam Kwok Bun, Eddie Ko, Hsu Hsia, Lee Ho Kwan
Running Time: 102 min.

By Paul Bramhall

The years spanning 1991 – 1993 burned the brightest for the Girls with Guns genre, a 3-year period in which an almost countless number of butt kicking femme fatales graced the screen. Names like Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima, Cynthia Khan, Sibelle Hu, and Michiko Nishiwaki became almost inseparable from the genre, one which could be argued wouldn’t exist without them. While the wave of hard hitting ladies had gained popularity with entries like Yes, Madam! and In the Line of Duty III from the previous decade, there was something in the air during the early 90’s that saw the genre explode.

One of the best things to come out of this era was the pairing of Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima. A Chinese ballerina and a Japanese action actress, the pair first appeared onscreen together as heroine and villain in the 1986 classic Iron Angels. The deadly duo would go on to co-star in a further 8 movies together, although interestingly their sophomore pairing wouldn’t come until a whole 5 years later, with all 8 of the subsequent features they’d appear in being made between 1991 – 1993. Their second time to grace the screen as a duo saw them on the same side, in the form of 1991’s Dreaming the Reality, helmed by director Tony Liu Chun-Ku.

One of the most consistent directors working in the genre, Chun-ku helmed everything from early classics such as Hell’s Windstaff and Tiger Over Wall, to zany 80’s Shaw Brothers efforts like the Bastard Swordsman flicks and Secret Service of the Imperial Court. By the time it was the 90’s, he’d become somewhat of a Girls with Guns aficionado, and sat in the director’s chair for half of the 8 Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima pairings from the period. In addition to Lee and Oshima, Dreaming the Reality also throws Sibelle Hu into the mix, an actress who came to embody the Girls with Guns genre, ever since she appeared as the commanding sergeant in 1988’s The Inspector Wears Skirts.

All three of the actresses, and director, would constantly be within each other’s orbits in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Both Sibelle Hu and Moon Lee starred in Chun-Ku’s Devil Hunters in 1989, in which Hu suffered serious burn injuries, when an explosion went off early before she could jump out of a window. In Dreaming the Reality you can see the scars she suffered on her hand, a reminder of just how dangerous stuntwork can be. The trio of ladies also featured in Chen-Ku’s The Big Deal and Angel Terminators 2.

Dreaming the Reality plays out as two separate storylines for almost half the runtime, each of which has a tone that varies wildly from the other, somewhat to the detriment of the production. The main storyline concerns Lee and Oshima as a pair of orphans, who have been raised as assassins by Eddie Ko, along with another orphan played by Anthony Cho. When a cop who’s been using Ko’s services reveals that his dealings have been exposed, and an Interpol agent is enroute to Hong Kong with a floppy disk containing all their transactions, Ko sends Lee and Oshima to intercept the disk and kill the agent, who’s transferring in Thailand.

Meanwhile, in Thailand, Hu plays a beer guzzling cigarette smoking bar owner (who naturally happens to be an ex-cop). Kind of a female prototype for Chow Yun Fat’s Tequila character in Hard Boiled if you will, which would come a year later. Hu has a brother played by Ben Lam, a talented martial artist who never quite hit it big the way he should of, who wants to be a Thai boxer. When Lam’s ambitions lead him to fall under the management of a Triad, played by Hsu Hsia (director of the likes of Kid from Kwangtung and Crystal Hunt), his change of heart to no longer fight doesn’t go down too well, and the usual chaos ensues.

For those familiar with the genre, it should come as no surprise that proceedings relocate to Thailand. Despite its popularity, the Girls with Guns flicks that populated the early 90’s landscape all came with cheap and cheerful budgets, and Thailand became a popular location that allowed the crew to get more bang for their buck, usually in a literal sense. Unfortunately the Thai setting also tended to result in one of two scenarios used to pad out the time – either extended travelogue sequences, or overly long Muay Thai matches.

Admittedly, the Lee/Oshima vehicle Kickboxers Tears also falls into the latter category, despite not having a Thai setting, however in Dreaming the Reality it’s particularly prevalent. Lam’s main match goes on for a whopping 4 rounds, which is about 2 too many. In many ways Thai kickboxing matches were to HK cinema in the early 90’s, what MMA is to modern day action flicks. Yes when it’s the real deal they’re pretty exciting to see, but as choreographed bouts, regardless of how authentic the techniques may be, they don’t lend themselves well to screen fighting, and are usually pretty dull to watch.

Thankfully the main plot of Lee and Oshima as the pair of assassins compensates for the slightly grating pairing of Sibelle Hu and Ben Lam as the quarrelling siblings. The movie kicks off with the characters still as children, learning to shoot despite their young age. Hilariously, the child version of Cho’s character then turns up and shoots the girls rabbit, which sends it flying into the air like a spring-loaded rocket bunny. It’s refreshing to see the deadly duo in such atypical roles, and there’s something undeniably cool about their Mark Gor inspired wardrobe and slow motion strutting, as they riddle their surroundings (and targets) with bullets. Naturally, a series of brief but hard hitting scuffles are scattered through the runtime, including a botched restaurant hit that has Lee and Oshima showing off their physical prowess, and a training sequence in which they face off against each other.

There’s an interesting subtext going on in the relationship between the pair, with Lee cast as the distinctly feminine, more sensitive femme fatale, and Oshima as the shorthaired straight talking tomboy. It’s never directly stated they’re in a relationship (it’s an early 90’s Girls with Guns flick after all, not The Handmaiden), however they sleep in the same bed, and when Lee states she wants to leave the world of bloodshed behind later on, Oshima’s reaction is one of a scorned lover. The influence of Dreaming the Reality’s blurred relationship dynamics can be seen in similar movies, such as Ching Siu-Tung’s Naked Weapon, however unlike Siu-Tung’s 2002 feature, don’t expect any shower scenes here.

It’s during the attempt to intercept the agent with the floppy disk in Bangkok that Dreaming the Reality picks up its pace. It’s a suitably cool scene, that features such brutality as Lee shooting off the arm of the agent who the briefcase is handcuffed too (and subsequently has Oshima running around with said briefcase, complete with the dangling limb). It’s during the escape on motorbikes that Lee is knocked down, and finds herself washed up on a riverbank with memory loss. She stumbles across Hu and Lam, mercifully bringing the plot threads together at just short of an hour, and they take her in as a worker at the bar Hu runs. Despite Lee suffering from dream sequences that see her on the run from the Thai police (hence the movie’s title), she still finds herself falling for Lam’s aspiring boxer.

As is par for the course for these movies, her memory does eventually come back, just in time for everything to go to hell. Action choreographers Lung Sang and Fan Chin-Hung, who also worked together on the likes of Fire Phoenix and Holy Virgin Versus the Evil Dead, construct a fitting finale for the genre, providing plenty of Girls with Guns. Lee and Eddie Ko get a satisfyingly impact heavy throwdown against each other, that eventually spills over into an area filled with explosive trip wires, adding a significant sense of tension to their exchange. Despite the strength of the action though, it’s impossible to shake the feeling that the extended sequences with Hu and Lam’s bickering siblings, knock Dreaming the Reality down a few notches from its full potential. Proof that a dream cast doesn’t necessarily mean a dream movie, for those that have already exhausted the best that the Girls with Guns genre has to offer, Dreaming the Reality is definitely worth a look.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 6/10

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Schwarzenegger’s ‘Killing Gunther’ hits Blu-ray in December

Killing Gunther | Blu-ray (Lionsgate)

Killing Gunther | Blu-ray (Lionsgate)

After decades of muscle-bound mayhem, Arnold Schwarzenegger still continues to pump out the goods in a consistent manner. Although he may not be the box office sensation he once was in the 80s and 90s, he’s still giving the fans what they desire most: Action.

After a couple of serious outings (AftermathMaggie)  – and fresh off his recent announcement to reunite with James Cameron for a future Terminator movie – Schwarzenegger gets back to blowin’ stuff up in Killing Gunther, an action/comedy that Lionsgate is releasing to Blu-ray & DVD on December 26, 2017.

Killing Gunther tells the story of Gunther (Schwarzenegger), the world’s greatest hitman. There are plenty of reasons to want to kill him: he’s arrogant, he’s a show-off, and he steals jobs. The assassin community is tired of it. Determined to retire Gunther for good, a group of eccentric killers from across the globe come together to set the perfect trap. But their master plan quickly turns into a series of embarrassing fails as Gunther always appears one step ahead.

Killing Gunther marks the directorial debut of Taran Killam (writer/producer of Brother Nature). The film also stars Cobie Smulders, Hannah Simone, Allison Tolman, Steve Bacic, Aaron Yoo, Bobby Moynihan, Peter Kelamis and the director himself.

Killing Gunther definitely isn’t the typical, straight action film you’d expect from Schwarzenegger, but it’s proof that he shows no signs of slowing down.

Pre-order Killing Gunther from today!

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Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back (2017) Review

"Journey to the West 2" Theatrical Poster

“Journey to the West 2” Theatrical Poster

Director: Tsui Hark
Writer: Tsui Hark, Stephen Chow
Cast: Kris Wu, Kenny Lin, Yao Chen, Lin Yun, Mengke Bateer, Wang Likun, Yang Yiwei, Wang Duo, Bao Bei-Er, Cheng Si-Han, Da Peng, Yeung Lun, Shu Qi, Zhang Mei-E, Xu Cai-Xiang, Lai Kai-Keung, Anthony Wong, Zuo Jing-Bo
Running Time: 108 min.

By Paul Bramhall

It’s only been 4 years since Stephen Chow helmed 2013’s Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons, the first movie in which he stayed completely behind the camera. Despite it being a relatively short period, it’s been more than enough time for the Chinese film industry to completely saturate the market with stories of the iconic Monkey King. Soi Cheang brought us The Monkey King and its sequel in 2014 and 2016 respectively, Jeff Lau delivered a third instalment of A Chinese Odyssey, and Derek Kwok (who co-directed Conquering the Demons) gave us Wu Kong. That’s not even touching on the animated versions. While audiences have likely become fatigued with the seemingly endless supply of adaptations, that thankfully hasn’t stopped Chow from going ahead with the intended sequel to his 2013 hit, and in 2017 it arrived in the form of Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back.

For those who thought a lot of changes were made in Soi Cheang’s The Monkey King 2 (which notably replaced Donnie Yen with Aaron Kwok as the title character, even though Kwok himself played a major role in the original), then JTTW: TDSB (as I’ll refer to it from here on in) will make them look minor in comparison. Chow remains on-board as both the writer and producer, but has taken the decision to hand over the directorial reigns to Hong Kong auteur Tsui Hark. On top of this, the cast has had a complete overhaul. Out is Wen Zhang as the monk, and in is Kris Wu, fresh from his stint in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. Also out is Huang Bo as the Monkey King, replaced by Kenny Lin, who comes directly from playing the lead in Sword Master. Various other returning characters are re-cast, however to list every one of them would be superfluous.

The mention of The Monkey King 2 is intentional, as while Conquering the Demons adapted a rarely used chapter of the Journey to the West tale, the sequel puts us in distinctly familiar territory. Essentially it’s another spin on the same ground that’s covered in Soi Cheang’s 2016 sequel, which has the monk and his trio of demon disciples, one of which is the Monkey King, heading west to find the sutra’s they’ve been tasked with seeking out. Along the way they have to deal with a steady stream of demons that cross their path, as well as dealing with their own inter-personal relationships, which frequently border on murderous. In the hands of anyone else it would likely be a needless re-tread, however lest we forget JTTW: TDSB marks the first time for Hong Kong legends Stephen Chow and Tsui Hark to work together, automatically making it a milestone of Chinese cinema.

The simplest way to describe JTTW: TDSB would be to say that it’s The Monkey King 2 on steroids, a lot of them. Hark treats the screen like a canvas to go wild on, bombarding literally every frame with colour and motion, latching onto the fantastical elements of the story and cranking them up to 11. As an audio visual experience it’s a sight to behold, even more so in 3D, a medium Hark has embraced since first utilising it in 2011’s Flying Swords of Dragon Gate. I’m willing to say that Hark is the world’s best director at utilising 3D technology, and he’s stated himself in interviews that if a movie is shot in 3D, then it should be considered a 3D movie, not a 2D one. It makes sense when you look at his filmography, as he’s always been an early adopter of new technologies, and parts of JTTW: TDSB recall the CGI excess of his 2001 sequel The Legend of Zu.

With such an influential force of creativity behind the camera though, you can’t help but feel that Chow’s writing is often drowned out by the sheer volume of activity on screen. Chow might have stepped behind the camera for Conquering the Demons, but there was never any doubt that it was a Stephen Chow movie. The distinctive humour, the visual gags, and the perfect comedic pacing were all present and accounted for, and these elements are missing from Hark’s handling of the material. In a way it’s to be expected, JTTW: TDSB marks the first time for Chow to allow someone else to direct his own script with complete control, and the organic way he’s able to orchestrate laughs out of the most unlikely of situations is very much his own unique talent. However the end result is that it feels like more of a Tsui Hark movie than it does a Stephen Chow one, when most will have been hoping for the latter.

The changes in cast also aren’t favourable. Comedian Wen Zhang was the perfect fit for the nursery rhyme muttering monk from Conquering the Demons, and while Kris Wu delivers a performance that’s perfectly serviceable, he fails to bring the same offbeat goofy demeanour that Zhang did so effortlessly. The same goes for the Monkey King himself, and while in Conquering the Demons Huang Bo’s screen time is limited to the finale, he certainly left a memorable impression. Here Kenny Lin drops any primate like characteristics, and instead plays the human form of the Monkey King as a kind of brooding, twig chewing Man with No Name styled take on the character. Say what you want about how faithful his depiction is, but it can’t be argued that he’s probably the coolest Monkey King to grace the screen.

The presence which is missed the most in JTTW: TDSB though is Shu Qi’s short tempered demon hunter. In Conquering the Demons the relationship between Zhang and Qi provided the emotional core of the story, along with several of its most laugh out loud moments, and arguably Qi stole the show whenever she was onscreen. While she does appear in a handful of brief cameos (as a memory from the first instalment), the female characters in the sequel, played by Yao Chen and Chow’s latest muse, Jelly Lin, fail to bring the same level of spunk and charm. Instead it’s the relationship between Wu and Lin, as the monk and Monkey King respectively, which the focus is turned to, as both wrestle with an underlying need to inflict pain on the other. The dynamic is handled well, however there’s the inescapable feeling that the same relationship was explored in The Monkey King 2.

The fact remains though that if you’re able to put aside the fact that Chow’s influence has been significantly dampened, then there’s a lot to enjoy JTTW: TDSB. The sheer scope and scale of the various battles that take place are often jaw dropping, orchestrated by the pairing of Yuen Tak as action choreographer, and frequent Hark collaborator Yuen Bun as action director. Together the Yuen clan luminaries have taken the chaos of Hark’s imagination, and crafted it into a visual assault of action creativity. Much like League of the Gods, applying old school action talent to orchestrate new school digital action proves to be a winning combination, and the combat on display in JTTW: TDSB set a new bar for just how breathtaking these scenes can be if handled correctly.

If Hark is to continue to be involved in the series, it would be great to see him co-direct with Chow. There are brief flashes of Chow’s trademark humour on display, which draw the desired laughs, however there are also moments that are easy to feel would be hilarious in Chow’s hands, but Hark seems unsure how to deliver the punchline. The perfect melding of the two would have Chow’s comedic timing, accompanied by Hark’s flair for visuals, which here peak in a finale that sees the Monkey King transform into a full blown King Kong style kaiju made of rock. While it might be missing the emotional connection of Conquering the Demons, what can’t be denied is that as a feat of pure spectacle, JTTW: TDSB more than delivers. For some that’ll be enough, for others, there’s always the sight of a pig demon and spider demon getting it on.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

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Kara Hui returns in ‘The Bold, the Corrupt, and the Beautiful’

"The Bold, the Corrupt, and the Beautiful" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“The Bold, the Corrupt, and the Beautiful” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Kara Hui (Mrs K), the martial arts icon famous for appearing in Shaw Brothers films like My Young Auntie and Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, is back with a film that may be the answer to Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden.

In The Bold, the Corrupt, and the Beautiful, Madame Tang (Hui) colludes and mediates between the government and the private businesses for the benefits of her all-female family. One case does not go according to plan, and an entire family close to Madame Tang fall victim to a gruesome murder. Ambition, desire and lust eventually change Tang’s relationships with her own family forever.

The Bold, the Corrupt, and the Beautiful is directed by Yang Ya-che (Orz Boyz) and also stars Ke-Xi Wu (The Road to Mandalay) and Vicky Chen (Liquidator).

The film opens on November 24, 2017. Don’t miss its Trailer below (via AFS):

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Deal on Fire! Skiptrace | Blu-ray | Only $9.69 – Expires soon!

Skiptrace | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Skiptrace | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Jackie Chan’s Skiptrace, an action comedy directed by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2).

For years, by-the-book Hong Kong detective Benny Chan (Chan) has tried to avenge his partner’s murder at the hands of a drug lord. When Benny learns that freewheeling American gambler Connor Watts (Johnny Knoxville) has the evidence he needs, he teams with Connor to get justice. Now all Benny and Connor have to do is survive the fight of their lives—and each other!

Skiptrace also stars Fan Bingbing (The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom), WWE’s Eve Torres (The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power), Michael Wong (Zombie Fight Club) and Eric Tsang (The Last Blood).

Order Skiptrace from today!

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Extraordinary Mission (2017) Review

"Extraordinary Mission" Theatrical Poster

“Extraordinary Mission” Theatrical Poster

Director: Fletcher Poon, Alan Mak
Writer: Felix Chong Man-Keung
Cast: Huang Xuan, Duan Yi-Hong, Zu Feng, Lang Yue-Ting, David Wang Yao-Qing, Xing Jia-Dong, Wang Yan-Hui, Ding Yongdai, Xiao Cong, Li Xiaochuan
Running Time: 122 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Extraordinary Mission suffered extraordinarily bad timing in terms of when it was released. Hitting screens within months of popular director Dante Lam’s big budget spectacular Operation Mekong, many (including myself) glanced over the awkwardly titled production, in part due to its marketing making it look like a poor man’s version of Lam’s latest. Both movies involve undercover agents working to take down a drug ring in the Golden Triangle, and for those that did check out the bombastic Operation Mekong, it left little appetite to return to the land of opium poppies quite so soon after the last visit.

It’s unfortunate, as the reality is that Extraordinary Mission delivers one of the most entertaining movies to come out of both China and Hong Kong in the last 10 years. Part thriller, part action movie, it becomes apparent when you take a look at the names behind the production as to where the quality comes from. Written by the Infernal Affairs trilogy scribes Felix Chong and Alan Mak, the latter of which also directs along with regular Benny Chan cinematographer Fletcher Poon, here making his directorial debut, the combination of the trio’s talents proves to be a winning one.

Huang Xuan, last seen in The Great Wall, plays a cop deep undercover as a drug trafficker in China. When a deal goes wrong, he ends up rescuing a member of the rival gang his crew were making a deal with, played by David Wang. Far from being grateful though, instead he’s thanked with a gun to the head, and taken to the gang’s headquarters deep in the jungles of Thailand. It’s there that he meets the facially scarred leader, played by Duan Yi-Hong (who’s character Eagle, ironically has more than a passing resemblance to Korean star Eagle Han Ying), and realizing it’s an opportunity to take down an even bigger fish, takes the risk of proposing a business partnership with Yi-Hong.

While the undercover plot has been done plenty of times before, and shades of Infernal Affairs sometimes resonate in the script, thanks to the gritty locales and solid performances here it still succeeds at feeling fresh. Xuan makes for an engaging lead, and has the same ability as Tony Leung Chiu-Wai to express a lot of emotion with just a facial expression. As he treads the fine line between bluffing his way into Yi-Hong’s trusted circle, and relaying the intel he’s gathering back to his superior (played by Zu Feng, last seen in League of the Gods), there’s hardly a scene that goes by in which the sense of danger from being exposed is absent. As a result there’s a constant feel of being on a knife edge throughout Extraordinary Mission, as it’s never made clear if Xuan’s identity is still safe, or if his cover has been blown and he’s simply being played with.

Despite the abundance of similar Chinese genre movies using Thailand as a setting in recent years, including SPL II: A Time for Consequences and The White Storm, the locales used in Extraordinary Mission set it apart in terms of the look and feel. This is most likely due to having an established cinematographer like Fletcher Poon in the director’s chair, as the lensing is top quality throughout. Whether it be capturing the grimy streets of the Chinese towns were the traffickers operate, the claustrophobic nature of the container yards the deals take place in, or the vastness of the drug den in Thailand, the camerawork does a fantastic job at conveying a sense of scale and depth.

At 2 hours, Extraordinary Mission covers a lot of ground, however it succeeds were Operation Mekong fails by making it about the characters rather than the circumstances. The trio of Xuang, Zu Feng, and Yi-Hong are all fleshed out with backstories, and the fact that the villain is given as much attention as the good guy provides a welcome depth, one which recent movies like Wolf Warrior 2 arguably missed the mark on. Yi-Hong, despite his status as the leader of a drug cartel, is given a relatable reason for having the motives that he does, while Xuang’s haunted by the memory of a mother that overdosed when he was a child.

For 90 minutes the plot keeps things sizzling along at a steady pace, and maintains a constant undercurrent of tension. The regular beatings, brief bursts of gunplay, and sudden outbreaks of violence ensure proceedings never get dull, with the style and tone at times almost feeling more like a Korean production than a Chinese one (I say that in the most complimentary was possible.) However Mak and Poon know when to turn up the heat, and events eventually culminate in an all-out finale that’s sustained for a lengthy 25 minutes.

While some may possibly find fault with the movies switch from a brooding undercover thriller to a Heat influenced urban warfare shoot ‘em up, the transition is handled well, and it feels like a natural payoff to what’s been building up. Just like in SPL II: A Time for Consequences, the way the lives of the main characters interconnect to each other is slightly contrived, however by the time such revelations are revealed, as a viewer you’re already too invested in them to dwell on it too much. When the execution is this good, such details are largely extraneous.

The action is handled by another regular Benny Chan collaborator in the form of Nicky Li. However unlike Chan, who tends to do little to reign in Li’s wire-work heavy action tendencies (or any other aspects of his movies), here Mak and Poon have kept the action directors wild side firmly in check. The finale sees a whole town under siege, and the principle behind the action seems to be one of minimum CGI and maximum realism. With CGI becoming so dominant in action movies of late, I’d almost convinced myself I can no longer tell the difference, that was until I saw the bombardment of practical effect muzzle flashes and vehicular destruction on display here.

If Wolf Warrior 2 was all about how bombastic the action scenes could be, then Extraordinary Mission is all about the realism. There’s plenty of neat little touches on display, such as when Xuang shoots the tyres of a stationery car, so that it becomes safer to take cover behind by being lower to the ground. Admittedly Li allows himself some extravagances once Xuang mounts a motorcycle, like jumping it from one building to another, and even dodging an RPG, but these elements entertain rather than detract. Poon’s cinematography compliments Li’s action well, here working in Thailand together for a 2nd time after The White Storm, with the camera capturing falls, head shots, and bullet trajectories in a way that perfectly understands the relationship between space and distance. In short, the finale is a joy to watch.

If any gripes could be picked with Extraordinary Mission, it’s that some of the relationships outside of the main characters could have been given a little more attention. The flashbacks to Xuang’s childhood with his mother are there in purely a perfunctory role, and a relationship is sometimes hinted at between Xuang and Yi-Hong’s daughter, played with a mostly silent intensity by Lang Yue-Ting, however ultimately amounts to nothing. These are minor gripes though in a movie that consistently entertains from start to finish. In an era when reviewing mainstream Chinese movies can often be a chore, Extraordinary Mission is the first time since Johnnie To’s Drug War when I’ve felt a sense of hope regarding things to come. The closing scene hints at a sequel, which I personally hope will be called Phenomenal Mission, but whatever title it ends up with, I’ll be first in line to check it out.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating 8.5/10

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Nick Cheung dies hard with Renny Harlin for ‘Witness’

"Keeper of Darkness" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“Keeper of Darkness” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Renny Harlin, noted Finnish Hollywood film director known for his 90’s blockbusters Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger, has started work on Witness, a thriller starring Nick Cheung (Keeper of the Darkness, The White Storm) and Yang Zi (Death and Glory in Changde).

Following 2016’s Skiptrace (with Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville) and the soon-to-be-released Legend of the Ancient Sword (with Leehom Wang), Witness marks the 3rd Chinese production for the filmmaker.

According to AFS, Witness has started filming. Unfortunately, little is known of the plot at this time, but we’ll fill you in as more news arrives.

For now, we leave you with this classic Trailer:

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Mayhem | Blu-ray & DVD (Image)

Mayhem | Blu-ray & DVD (Image)

Mayhem | Blu-ray & DVD (Image)

RELEASE DATE: December 26, 2017

On December 26, 2017, Image Entertainment will be releasing the Blu-ray & DVD for Mayhem, a thriller that may serve as the perfect companion piece to the recent The Belko Experiment, a Battle Royale-esque tale where blood-soaked survival makes its way into an office environment.

Joe Lynch, the director of the underrated action flick, Everly, returns with the story of a virus that infects a corporate law office on the day attorney Derek Cho (The Walking Dead’s and Okja’s Steven Yeun) is fired after being framed by a co-worker. The infection is capable of making people act out their wildest impulses. Trapped in the quarantined office building, Derek is forced to savagely fight for not only his job, but also his life.

Mayhem also stars Samara Weaving, Dallas Roberts, Claire Dellamar, Kerry Fox, Caroline Chikezie and Steven Brand.

Pre-order Mayhem from today!

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