Director Yoon Hong-seung (The Target) joins forces with Jackie Chan for the Korean/Chinese production titled Reset(read our review), which will be released on June 30th from Well Go USA. 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.
A live-action Chinese film adaptation of Konami’s 1987 arcade hit, Contra (aka Kontora or Gryzor), is in the works. The film will be produced by Wei Nan (Soul Transfer Station) and backed by Beijing Starlit Movie and TV Culture.
The highly popular video game involved two Rambo-like characters who take on an alien army. The character design of the boss aliens were highly influenced by H.R. Giger’s Necronom IV, which were the source for the Xenomorphs in the Alien film franchise. The original game spawned several versions and sequels, branching out on various home computers and game consoles.
Here’s what you can expect from the adaptation’s plot (via CFI): “In 1988, a huge meteorite lands on an uninhabited island in the South China Sea. Chen Qiang and Li Zhiyong investigate but come up empty handed. 29 years later, Chen sends commandos Bill and Lance into a combat mission there to neutralize the villainous Red Falcon Organization, but end up facing a different enemy altogether.”
As COF writer Paul Bramhall observed in his recent Operation Mekong review, Contra is another addition to the highly popular Rambo-esque adventures currently making waves in China.
As of now, there are no names linked to the role of Bill and Lance – there is, however, some speculation that Jing Tian (The Great Wall, Special ID) may appear, as she has starred in many projects associated with the two companies backing Contra: Beijing Starlit Movie and TV Culture.
Updates: Check out 5 New Posters for Contra. If these posters are accurate, the movie should be hitting theaters on June 6th, 2018 (exactly 1 year from now…).
On the back of the great success of his wonderful and moving new film, Mad World, Eric Tsang appeared at the 19th Far East Film Festival in Udine. Prior to the screening he was presented with the Golden Mulberrry Lifetime Achievement Award, a fitting tribute to one of Hong Kong’s great filmmakers. Alongside such memorable roles as Hon Sam in Infernal Affairs, Tsang has worked as a director, producer, presenter and screenwriter throughout The Golden Age of Hong Kong cinema. Some of my favourite films he has worked on are: Enter the fat Dragon, Aces Go Places, The Loot and Armour of God. We were lucky enough to secure a short interview with him, wherein he was as affable, funny and charming as I thought he would be. Here it is…
Eric Tsang and Martin Sandison get cozy.
Martin Sandison: Hi, I’m Martin from City on Fire.
Matija Makotoichi Tomic: I’m Matija, also from City on Fire.
Eric Tsang: Hi! Nice to meet you!
MS: The first question is about Mad World. I saw the movie last night, I love it (read Martin’s review). It’s my favourite movie of the festival. I was wondering how you approached the subject matter, and how you got the role and prepared for it?
ET: I appreciate very much that you enjoyed the movie. So first of all, you know my personality: I’m a happy, go lucky person. I always want to amuse the audience and make something pleasant and entertaining, that is my style. So at first, I wouldn’t have considered this role. But I have known the director Wong Chung from before and I have worked with him collaborating on a short film. I really like his work, it is very solid and good. So we talked about having another collaboration for a while. So he told me “Yes, I have another project that I’ve been writing and working on this for more than two years, and I want to approach you you for it. I have written a character in the movie that is most suitable for you. Would you consider it?” At first I thought, my God this is such a heavy story, I really don’t want to take it! But I shouldn’t refuse it without even reading the script. So I took the script back and read it, and thought it was a very good script, so I ended up taking the role and making the movie.
“Mad World” Chinese Theatrical Poster
I always support and nurture new directors, and one thing I always do is help them find funding for their movies, and find better stronger costars. So I understood with this particular project they already had funding from a special award, which was HK $2 Million dollars. But this is not a lot of money, so it would be hard to find superstars to be in the movie. I didn’t want the filmmakers script to be spoiled by amateur or inexperienced actors. Because a good actor can enhance the outcome. So I found Shawn Yue, and convinced Shawn to make the movie. We did the movie pro bono, so this was a big support for the director. Even Elaine Jin who played the mum worked pro bono. So all three main actors made the movie for free.
MS: That’s great.
ET: Yeah because $2 million is nothing.
MS: And the movie has been so successful.
ET: Yes, everybody is very happy with this outcome. The movie has come out in Hong Kong, and is getting good box office. In almost every film festival we have had recognition and awards.
“The Challenger” Chinese Theatrical Poster
MT: I wanted to ask about your beginning as a director. So the first two movies you directed (The Challenger and The Loot) were kung fu movies. How did it come about that you directed the two movies? And can you tell us anything about the shoot of them, anything interesting?
ET: First of all if you know my career, I started off as a stuntman. So if you ask me why I chose the kung fu movie genre to make my first movie, that’s because it’s what I knew at that point in my life and career. It’s everything I’ve learned as a stuntman. Maybe not as a director, but I had a lot of knowledge and experience I wanted to share. That’s the same experience for any new director. When you first start with your first project, it is your most passionate project. Its something you have held close in your heart for a long, long time. So we all share that. Another thing is if you know me personality wise, I always like humour, comedy. So kung fu comedy became my first style, and set my tone of film making.
MT: In those movies one of the actors was Phillip Ko Fei.
ET: Ko Fei? Yes.
MT: He recently passed. Could you say something about him? Were you good friends, even after making those films?
“The Loot” Chinese Theatrical Poster
ET: First of all, the fact that you mentioned Ko Fei means you really follow Hong Kong cinema closely. We were good friends, a long time ago. One thing I always thought was that Ko Fei always had this high energy level, he was also tireless. His energy level was so strong that he actually drives everybody on the set and made everybody work very hard. Because even when we shot those movies and it was so hot in Hong Kong, so humid. So the minute the actors put on the costumes they were sweated through. So it was a very, very tough environment, and yet Ko Fei didn’t complain and worked very hard. Besides all that, he was the best action actor. So I was very happy to work with him, and Ko Fei was in both movies. Our friendship continued, because as you may know I was a professional soccer player, before I worked in the entertainment business! Ko Fei was also a soccer player, and we were both key members of the star soccer team with all the stars! (laughter) We continued playing soccer, outside of being colleagues.
MS: I wanted to ask you about Infernal Affairs. The movie is obviously one of the best Hong Kong films ever made, everyone agrees it’s a masterpiece. Could you share some memories of the shoot, and how you approached the character?
On the set of Jackie Chan’s Armour of God, which Eric co-produced.
ET: First of all, I myself love that movie. It’s one of the movie projects I have made that will be in my memory forever, I will never forget it. I was very honoured to be part of the project. Even though I’ve made a lot of movies to be in such a serious production and costarring with all of these very strong drama actors like Tony Leung, Andy Lau and Anthony Wong, going to the set every day was like the beginning of a new battle. I was combating with all of these strong actors. We pushed each other, especially when you work with costars who are so strong.
The director Andrew Lau when he came on set on the first day, he said very seriously this is how I want to do this and that. The minute he finished talking, Andy Lau has an idea, Tony Leung has an idea, Anthony Wong also had an idea! Everybody including me! (laughter) In the end, Andrew Lau said “ok you all demonstrate.” So we did a master shot of everybody demonstrating, and in the end it was the best outcome. So since then I have changed my style of directing, it’s become more collaborative. Everybody will come up with an idea and then we start shooting, then we will reach a consensus.
As “Hon Sam” in Andrew Lau’s Infernal Affairs.
I’ll share a memory from Infernal Affairs. When I was in the Police station, I had a lunch box. In that particular scene, it was my idea how to shoot it. I brought my own lunchbox to work that day, and on the set I showed Andrew Lau the lunchbox, and he said “Ok, let’s shoot it!” (laughter)
MS: Ok, thank you very much!
ET: Thank you!
MS: Could I get a quick picture, and could you sign this? (I take out my Infernal Affairs DVD cover)
ET: Wow! Of course.
Thanks again to Martin Sandison, Matija Tomic, Eric Tsang and Sophia Wong Boccio for translating.
Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray set for the Chuck Norris Total Attack Pack. This 3 disc collection includes three of Chuck Norris’ (Yellow Faced Tiger) most acclaimed films, including an early one by filmmaker Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, Under Siege):
1983’s Lone Wolf McQuade, starring David Carradine; 1985’s Code of Silence (read our review), starring Henry Silva; and 1986’s The Delta Force, starring Lee Marvin and Robert Forster.
Former heavyweight champ, Mike Tyson (Ip Man 3) and Aikido sensation Steven Seagal (Exit Wounds), have an appearance in China Salesman (aka Chinese Salesman), an action film written and directed by Tan Bing (aka Geng Weiguo).
Other cast members include Janicke Askevold (My Way), Eriq Ebouaney and Dong-xue Li (1911). Hong Kong legend Ching Siu Ting (Dragon Inn), who worked with Seagal on 2003’s Belly of the Beast, is rumored to be involved.
Currently, no other details are known about China Salesman, other than the film has a domestic release date set for June 16th, 2017.
On July 18, 2017, Dark Cuts is bringing Karate Kill to Blu-ray & DVD, a new martial arts film directed by Kurando Mitsutake (read our interview with him).
When a mysterious loner and Karate master Kenji’s (Hayate) little sister goes missing in Los Angeles, whoever stands in his way of finding her will face the wrath of a lethal Karate Kill!
Karate Kill also stars Asami (Prison Girl), Kamata Noriaki (Gun Woman), Jeffrey James Lippold (Samurai Avenger), Carlee Baker (L.A. Slasher), Katarina Leigh Baker and Akihiro Kitamura (Why Don’t You Play in Hell?).
Director: Shinsuke Sato Writer: Kengo Hanazawa, Akiko Nogi Cast: Yo Oizumi, Kasumi Arimura, Masami Nagasawa, Hisashi Yoshizawa, Yoshinori Okada, Nana Katase, Jin Katagiri, Makita Sports, Muga Tsukaji, Yu Tokui, Toru Kazama Running Time: 126 min.
By Paul Bramhall
It’s rare for Asian movies to break out into the mainstream, and when they do, they’re normally of the martial arts variety. So in 2016, when the Korean zombie movie Train to Busan started getting global attention, thanks largely to word of mouth, it was something of a phenomena. Sure enough, the concept of a zombie outbreak occurring within the confines of a moving train was a unique one, and even though personally I didn’t feel that the whole added up to the sum of its parts, there were plenty of people out there that did. However there was another zombie movie released just a year prior to Train to Busan, and that came in the form of Japan’s I Am a Hero, a title which, for all intents and purposes, gives no indication to its subject matter.
In all fairness, people can be forgiven for writing off the Japanese zombie genre, and paying little attention to any new additions. The short lived wave of Japanese splatter flicks, churned out in the 5 year period from 2008 – 2012, quickly found audiences fatigued of a genre that, while initially fun in their over the top nature, soon came to rely on cheap and unconvincing CGI. Productions such as 2008’s Zombie Hunter Rika and 2010’s Helldriver are both poor excuses for feature length movies, and most audiences agreed. Micro-budgets, excessive CGI blood splatter, and little to no story, proved that even the most hardened zombie fan likes at least a little reasoning and quality control to their undead fix.
With that background, it’s perhaps understandable that I Am a Hero hasn’t quite made the same waves as its Korean counterpart. The lack of recognition is unfortunate, as not only is I Am a Hero a far superior slice of zombie entertainment, I’d go so far as to say it’s the most entertaining zombie flick I’ve seen since 28 Days Later revived the genre back in 2002. The ‘hero’ in question is played by Yo Oizumi, a struggling manga artist who, after winning the Best Newcomer award 15 years ago, has failed to fulfil the bright future that once seemingly lay ahead. Within the first 10 minutes, we witness his latest idea for a comic get rejected, and his long term girlfriend reach breaking point in her wait for their lives to improve, leading to her kicking him out of their apartment with only his shotgun (and his licence for it, we’ll get to that later) for company.
Indeed during the opening of I Am a Hero you’d have no indication that it’s a zombie movie at all. The only hint comes from a news broadcast casually playing in the background of the confined Manga studio, covering a story in which a woman was bitten by a dog, during which, as the story comes to a close, the anchor apologies and confirms that it was actually the other way around. However, after receiving a phone call from his ex, sounding distinctly under the weather and apologetic, Oizumi rushes over to the apartment to check up on her, leading to the first scene in a zombie movie which I can say legitimately scared the living daylights out of me in a long time. Needless to say, ‘under the weather’ is an understatement, and soon more and more people are falling victim to the strange virus that turns them into blood thirsty members of the walking dead.
One of the most welcome elements of I Am a Hero are the zombies themselves. Their look is refreshingly gruesome, with no half-baked makeup, or reliance on extras pacing around with their mouths open. The transformation, which involves the eyes bulging out and flesh immediately rotting, is brilliantly done, and a significant reliance on practical effects aided by CGI, rather than the other way around, makes a huge difference. Unlike Train to Busan’s rather toothless approach to gore, I Am a Hero positively embraces it, and does so with top level special effects that put it in an entirely different league than the productions mentioned earlier. Heads explode, limbs are torn off, and faces are ripped apart in a manner that’s never less than convincing.
At its core though, is Oizumi himself, a haplessly timid character who insists on doing everything by the book. He’s the exact opposite of the typical hero found in a zombie movie, the constant rejection he’s faced draining any kind of ambition out of him. Precisely because of his completely average nature, as an audience you’re constantly torn between being frustrated, and at the same time, being able to understand his actions. Such a setup also allows for plenty of darkly comical moments, such as his stubborn refusal to use his shotgun in public, as it’s against the law, and his reluctance to let anyone else use it, as they don’t have a licence. However his character also allows for I Am a Hero’s most human moments, such as when he fails to save an acquaintance, even when he had the opportunity to do so, leading to him angrily questioning himself as to why he’s so useless.
The story itself is based on a Manga by Kengo Hanazawa, and was brought to the big screen by director Shinsuke Sato. Sato got his directorial debut by cutting his teeth on the Donnie Yen choreographed Princess Blade in 2001, and has since then been behind many of the 2-part manga adaptions that plague mainstream Japanese cinema, such as Gantz and Gantz: Perfect Answer, and more recently Library Wars and Library Wars: The Last Mission. Whatever discussion took place behind the scenes that resulted in the decision to not make I Am a Hero another 2-parter, is one that we should all be thankful for. The 20-volume Manga has been stripped down to a lean and mean 2 hour production that works perfectly, with zero time wasted on such unnecessary sub-plots as romantic interests, and most significantly for a Japanese mainstream movie, a welcome lack of lengthy exposition.
The 2nd half of I Am a Hero heads into familiar territory, as Oizumi and a schoolgirl he saved along the way, played by Kasumi Arimura, come across a group of survivors camped out on the rooftop of an outlet mall. Interestingly, as a piece of trivia the location of the mall is actually one that went out of business a few years ago in Korea, as the strict gun laws in Japan meant the producers couldn’t get permission to use firearms at any suitable locations in Japan itself. The nod to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is an obvious one, however it never becomes derogatory. The mall also expands on what we know about the zombies, as one survivor explains that once turned, they revert to behaving in a way which reflects whatever they were most used to doing. One zombie is observed standing motionless, his arm outstretched holding onto an invisible rail, as if on the train to the office, while another desperately attempts to enter the mall so they can shop.
Of course, the initially welcoming leader of the group, played by Hisashi Yoshizawa, soon reveals a darker side, and it’s eventually the combination of both the zombies, and the dark side of human nature, that finally forces Oizumi to stop running away and take action. His decision to step up is not only a punch the air moment, but it also leads into one of the most excessively bloody zombies versus humans confrontations that’s been witnessed onscreen for quite some time. While I’d stop short of saying it rivals the lawnmower madness of Peter Jackson’s Braindead, there’s no denying that there’s a cathartic joy of witnessing Oizumi’s decision to finally put his shooting hobby into practice, as they become more and more surrounded by hordes of the undead.
I Am a Hero ultimately proves to be a suitably ironic title, something that will only be understood after watching it, which I’d recommend everyone to do without hesitation. That rare combination of a character driven zombie flick that, on top of being a character piece, also wants to be an unapologetic gore fest. It’s not so much a case that such a combination has never been successfully pulled off, but rather, is hardly ever attempted. Horrifying, funny, and exhilarating in equal measures, I Am a Hero is everything a zombie movie should be, and maybe even a little more.
Stephen Fung (Gen-X Cops) is back in the director’s chair in The Adventurers, a reworking of John Woo’s Once a Thief,the 1991 classic about art thieves, previously played by Chow Yun Fat, Cherie Chung and Leslie Cheung. The film releases domestically on August 11, 2017.
Back in 2012, director Tony Scott (True Romance) and Tom Cruise (The Last Samurai) began location scouting for Top Gun 2, but do to Scott’s death that same year, the sequel was put on hold. That is, until now…
Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of the original, confirmed that Top Gun 2 is in the works. “For 30 years we’ve been trying to make a sequel and we’re not going to stop. We still want to do it with Tom [Cruise] and Paramount are still interested in making it,” the producer said. Cruise has supposedly agreed to return as hotshot fighter pilot, Maverick.
Sources tell Variety that Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) — who directed Cruise in Oblivion — is the front-runner to direct Top Gun 2 for Paramount and Skydance Pictures. While no official offer has been made, several insiders believe one is imminent.
According to Collider, Top Gun 2 will explore Drone Warfare and will mark the end of the fighter pilot Era. There are also reports that Val Kilmer, who played Ice Man in the original, confirmed that he has accepted a part in Top Gun 2.
Updates: Here are more details about the Top Gun sequel from Cruise himself (via AH): “We’re gonna have the same tone that we had with the first one. Stylistically it’s gonna be the same. We’re gonna have the same score from Harold Faltermeyer. Aviators are back. The need for speed, we’re gonna have big machines. It’s gonna be a competition film like the first one, and it’s gonna be in the same vein, the same tone as the first one but a progression for Maverick… .it’s not gonna be called Top Gun 2, it’s gonna be Top Gun: Maverick. I didn’t want a number. You don’t need a number.”
This year’s 19th edition of Far East Film Festival offered a special treat for the fans of martial arts cinema. The long-awaited hit title Jailbreak, titled as Cambodia’s very first martial arts movie was scheduled for screening on the opening day of the festival. Coming to Udine to promote the movie was the Jailbreak team: director Jimmy Henderson and producer Loy Te, as well as the film’s stars Jean-Paul Ly and Tharoth Sam. It is there that we got the chance to enjoy a private talk with these special guests. Here’s what they had to say…
The cast and crew of Jailbreak: Jean-Paul Ly, director Jimmy Henderson, Tharoth Sam and producer Loy Te.
MATIJA TOMIC: Jimmy, if I understood correctly, you were born in Italy?
JIMMY HENDERSON: Yes, I was born in Italy and I live in Cambodia for six and a half years now.
MATIJA TOMIC: What inspired you to direct a martial arts movie in Cambodia?
JIMMY HENDERSON: Well, I’ve always been a big fan of martial arts films. I grew up with Van Damme and Bud Spencer and all of those guys, and then when I moved to Cambodia I found the cinema needed something different. There was a lot of talent around martial artists, and I thought why not try to explore this option. Cambodian cinema is very saturated with horror comedy, only one type of genre. Making a martial arts film was something new that I wanted to expose to the local audience, for the local taste. That’s how the idea of making this film came about.
In 2012. I tested the water with another film called Hanuman, much smaller, more contained film. We had eight stuntmen at the time and we kept recycling all the fight scenes. Since then the team has grown and when we met JP things began to develop more and we ended up making Jailbreak together.
MATIJA TOMIC: Can we expect another collaboration, more martial arts films from Cambodia?
LOY TE: I hope so.
Is Jailbreak Cambodia’s answer to The Raid?
JIMMY HENDERSON: Yeah, now we’re running the festival circuit, and then by the end of the year, we will know more. What are the numbers that we get out of this movie, or if there’s a possibility to make a sequel, or a different film along the line. The team has grown now and I think if we keep filming, it will become even bigger.
MATIJA TOMIC: Do you hope that Jailbreak could do for Cambodia what Ong Bak did for Thailand?
JIMMY HENDERSON: Yeah, possibly. I’m sure you don’t see this kind of films coming from Cambodia right now. There was Ong Bak, then The Raid for Indonesia and now it’s our turn. I think Southeast Asia has a lot of potential. Jailbreak is the first stepping stone for Cambodian cinema and I’m sure the international exposure will help us to reach a certain level and to produce more along the line. There is a lot of hidden talent in Cambodia, this little gem that is in the middle of Southeast Asia. Nobody really knows what is going on and also, nobody dares to produce a film like this. We are the first, and surely this will continue. Yeah, hopefully we’ll do with Jailbreak what Ong Bak did for Thailand, or The Raid for Indonesia. If not with this one, with the next one definitely.
JEAN-PAUL LY: Maybe Loy, you want to mention about XYZ.
LOY TE: Yeah, two weeks ago we signed with XYZ films, they will be bringing the film to the rest of the world, outside of Cambodia. Hopefully that will give us the lead and help us continue to bring our exposure along with the festivals. We hope that also brings us to our next project and helps us gather more resources to make something even bigger.
Jean-Paul Ly’s Jailbreak character poster.
MATIJA TOMIC: Martial arts style promoted in the movie is Cambodian Bokator. How authentic is it and did you use other martial arts styles as well?
JEAN-PAUL LY: (speaking to Tharoth) Ok, you will answer about Bokator.
The thing is, for the film, we wanted to have two different styles. For the first time to be able to showcase Bokator on a film of that scale. And then, I’m going with my style, which is Hapkido, Taekwondo, there’s more kicks, we compete with each other. Also on the design, we filmed very differently, to give nice scene value but not to bother the authenticity of Bokator.
THAROTH SAM: Actually, Bokator is very traditional martial art of Cambodia that got lost some 2000 years ago. That’s what my Grandmaster said, and he just rebuilt it almost 10 years ago. Bokator films work very hard to keep promoting Bokator to the next generation, especially wanting to pass the spirit to the young generations and all the women. Cambodia lost a lot of smart people in the war, we lost almost everything, so we just built it up again and kept promoting it. It’s really a great opportunity that the producer and the director chose this traditional martial art for the movie. It’s a great chance to spread Bokator through the media to all the people around the world, to know not only about the ancient martial art, but also the culture of Cambodia as well. Most of the stunt team trained Bokator, and we pretty much wanted to promote it and share it to the world.
Tharoth Sam’s Jailbreak character poster.
JIMMY HENDERSON: I’d like to add something as well. In the film we had different people of different background. Like JP said, Hapkido, then Dara, male lead, we decided to go for more Bokator moves with him. He has a particular style that is ground fight, a lot of times you’ll see he fights very low and also jumps up on people. Those are authentic Bokator moves. With Tharoth I wanted to take more of a MMA approach, keeping only some Bokator moves. So, we kept some Bokator moves for Tharoth, but mostly it was Dara.
With Tara Vy who played the security guard, I wanted to go for more, sort of wrestling approach. If you see, there are a lot of take downs, police style. With Socheat, the guy with the long hair, he’s between freestyle of sort and Russian Systema. We wanted to create a variety of film fighting, if you’re a martial artist you will notice the difference between the fights. We didn’t want to keep one style all the way through, but to create a different dynamic to the characters, as well as to reflect their personality.
MARTIN SANDISON: Could I ask how much of it did you previz, and how much did you kind of deal on set?
JIMMY HENDERSON: Well, I started shooting previz myself about a month before in order for us to figure out what was the best angle and also to remember what we were doing because there was a lot of fighting. I flew once from France to Cambodia, then we would look at the previz. Then of course, on set, most of the time we’d never end up finishing the full sequence because of timing restrictions, so a lot of adjustments were made. Some stuntmen couldn’t perform 100%, like sell a hit, so we modified a lot on set. It was like a very quick fix, quick shooting you know, because we didn’t spend more than two days doing a fight scene and with one camera as well.
“Jailbreak” Theatrical Poster
MATIJA TOMIC: What were your influences regarding the action and filmmaking style?
JIMMY HENDERSON: Actually there were some references here and then, but not necessarily to martial arts films. For example, the long sequence at the beginning was very much inspired by the work of Gaspar Noe, you know. There is a very long sequence in Irreversible, so that’s what inspired me. There was another scene when JP and Tharoth fight and Tharoth is on the floor crawling and it was kinda inspired by Revenant with Leonardo DiCaprio. I was trying to put a lot of references to a lot of small things from the movies I like.
GORAN NJEZIC: At the beginning you mentioned Van Damme and Bud Spencer. After making this movie and having this experience, how do you look back at those movies and what do you think now about them as a martial artist?
JEAN-PAUL LY: We talked about that actually. Look at the fights in Jailbreak, when I fight Bolo, it looks like Bloodsport because the actor didn’t know how to fight. We had to train him because he had no martial arts background. So we needed to change the way of the film, to adapt to make it more believable, that’s what we tried to achieve. You talk about all the references, my references were The Raid, obviously, and John Wick. I’m always trying to adapt the skill and the action design, how to film it depending on the action and also the story we want to tell.
GORAN NJEZIC: So, East and West mix..
“Chinese Hercules” Japanese Theatrical Poster
JEAN-PAUL LY: Yeah. Of course these films are massive references. Like Bloodsport…
JIMMY HENDERSON: That’s why Bolo as well, the real name of the villain in Bloodsport, Bolo Yeung. (all laughing) This is one reference we kept in the film just for fun.
MARTIN SANDISON: How did you find shooting the fight scenes? Was it difficult, challenging?
JEAN-PAUL LY: It was challenging because it was a matter of time. All the previz before went well, but then again when you’re about to wrap, it’s the end of the shoot… sometimes we achieved only 50% of what we wanted to do. There’s no way I’m gonna shoot that fight again later, so we needed to wrap it up quick. Sometimes you want to finish a fight, you structure your fight scenes, you put some key moves, the nice moves right, to put the rhythm, but when you’re about to wrap, these moves are lost.
For me, to adapt very quickly, that was a challenge. Other than that, it was good because we had good preparations. We trained the Bokator guys, the team was very good, and we had to train the extras as well. So very good preparations for a month and a half, almost two months, to do it in two days. Obviously, it never happens as you want it, and you’re always late.
GORAN NJEZIC: You said those were inexperienced extras, you had to train them?
Dara Our’s Jailbreak character poster.
JEAN-PAUL LY: Mostly. We had the main Bokator team, these guys are professional fighters, they’re amazing. They were also doing stunts in Jimmy’s other project, Hanuman, but I needed to show them the proper way to do it. We had a core team of less then ten people, and then we brought more people to fight. It’s a prison, we fight prisoners. If we want to do a riot scene, we need a lot of people. These guys came and we trained them for a month and a half every weekend, six hours. It was intense.
GORAN NJEZIC: Was there a moment while shooting when you thought it won’t work?
JIMMY HENDERSON: There were a few instances when somebody got hit a little too hard. You cannot do a fall anymore, you cannot take a hit anymore, it’s psychological. When I saw it doesn’t work after we tried a couple of times, I realized we needed to adjust things. Or, if we are not really that deep into the fight, change the stunts. It’s always been like that when we found some kind of a problem. Especially since we had the team of 10 to 15 proper stuntmen to do backflips or very hard falls, because we didn’t use any body protection. The protection was very minimal and people were hitting the ground…
GORAN NJEZIC: It looks good. (all laughing)
JIMMY HENDERSON: It looks painful.
MATIJA TOMIC: Jean-Paul, you mentioned in an interview that you started you martial arts training because of martial arts films. Could you name a few that inspired you?
“Operation Condor: Armour of God 2” International Theatrical Poster
JEAN-PAUL LY: The film that really changed everything for me because I was a fan of Jackie Chan, the name in French is Opération Condor, I don’t know the English title. That film had everything: comedy, martial arts… and of course, Bruce Lee movies. This is very interesting because my father loved Bruce Lee, so I was raised with Disney and Bruce Lee. All these films, like Enter the Dragon, were my references. Bruce Lee is an icon, not only for the movies, but more because of how he represented Asian people. He was like a hero, so I needed to kind of follow his path. So yeah, Bruce Lee was my inspiration, and Jackie Chan.
MARTIN SANDISON: Tharoth, how did you get into martial arts? How did you start to do martial arts, were you quite young?
THAROTH SAM: I started to do martial arts when I was 18, now I’m 26, so not that quite young. (laughs) But I wish I could’ve started when I was younger. At that time I just found out that Cambodia has a wonderful tradition of martial arts so I just tried to taste it, and I just loved sport. I chose to do martial arts because I wasn’t brave enough, I wasn’t good at communicating with people, I was scared and got sick a lot. After doing martial arts, I felt confidence. I have more friends now, I feel like I can go wherever alone, I feel safe.
Once I almost gave up because my parents and my relatives didn’t support me. They said doing this makes them feel ashamed and stuff like that, especially when I’d get to fight in the ring. They didn’t want to see me and said I should stop doing that. They wanted their daughter to be like the other girls, be pretty, do an easy job, do housework and stuff like that. I said I wanna be different, so what if I love this? The idea in heart that my Grandmaster always taught me, he said that if you chose to do things, just keep doing it for the sole show or for your people. So, yeah, I kept doing this.
The name is Tharoth “Little Frog” Sam to MMA fans.
Like I said before, I always wanted to show the women and inspire them to be strong and to spread this to the world. To let those people know Cambodia, wonderful culture and also martial art. I kept fighting and I kept explaining to my family until they started supporting me because I didn’t do anything bad for my country, it’s fun representing Cambodia for the women. Thank you.
MARTIN SANDISON: I wanted to ask about some of the camerawork in the movie, because in the outtakes, you could see some very improvised sort of things happening. And because the camerawork is very impressive and well obviously you were working on a little budget, could you talk about the camerawork a bit?
JIMMY HENDERSON: Well, we talked for quite a while, it was a lot of pre-production talk with the dp. We talked about what kind of style we’re going for, and need to go for. We tried as much as possible to go for the long takes. Most of the time, if you see, we shot the fight scenes pretty wide, so you can actually see all of the action. No point in trying to hide it, if something didn’t work out on camera, we were trying to just change it a little bit. It was very intense camerawork because of the rig. We made the fake rig and the camera was very heavy, eight to nine hours of shooting. Sometimes we’d pause to shoot the dialogue or an easy piece you have seen in the bloopers, I was shooting myself so the cameraman could relax.
If you see, we approached every fight in a different way. The first couple of hits you see, like breaking a neck, a punch, just a little bit teasing the audience, and then it explodes into this big, unexpected fight scene. We wanted fight scenes to progress, to create more unexpected things, even with the camerawork.
“Dead or Alive” Japanese Theatrical Poster
MARTIN SANDISON: You said you’re influenced by Takashi Miike…
JIMMY HENDERSON: Yeah…
MARTIN SANDISON: After you said that, I was thinking about the humor in the film, it’s kinda similar. Is Miike your biggest influence on the humor?
JIMMY HENDERSON: Yeah, if referring to the dark humor, I think Takashi Miike is one of my favorite directors. I always liked the way he does satire, as well as dark comedy from Ichi the Killer and all of his films. But of course, we have limitations in Cambodia. I cannot extend to what he does in Japan you know, otherwise it wouldn’t pass the censorship. I intended to kill the slapstick with Cannibal, with blood, all that sort of things, but I had to be careful not to get an R rating so it wouldn’t kill the box office. But we still had bad rating because the film’s a bit violent.
MARTIN SANDISON: Even the part with the knife?
JIMMY HENDERSON: Yeah, it looks painful you know, it looks very painful. Also, there were 22 fights in the movie which had to be cut to 15. So, 7 fights were gone, and in the middle of the shooting we realized that we were massively behind the schedule so we had to cut out 30, 35 scenes. We tried to prioritize the flow of the story and cut all the character development the movie might be missing. It was a matter of time, prioritize the story, prioritize which fight scenes. Make the story progress further and take out the other fights which are just there to showcase. We literally had 15 days to shoot all those fights which is pretty crazy. (all laughing)
LOY TE: It was very intense shooting.
Jean-Paul Ly in the upcoming project, The Division.
JEAN-PAUL LY: As I said before, I was working on Dr. Strange for 7 months. I was part of the fight team so I was helping the choreographer to do the fight scenes for Cumberbatch, and we had so much time. It’s a Marvel movie so it’s big budget, we had everything in abundance and we had time. Now we’re doing Jailbreak and it’s like one fight per day, it’s crazy. With big films it’s like few moves per day. They even had seven units, we had one unit, one camera. So we had to make sure we follow, because if we do long takes and mess up, we need to do it again. And sometimes we had up to nine or ten moves, so you need to nail those moves.
GORAN NJEZIC: You had just one camera?!
JEAN-PAUL LY: One camera.
GORAN NJEZIC: RED?
JIMMY HENDERSON: Yeah, we had RED Dragon.
JEAN-PAUL LY: Sometimes you’re crazy, you have to do it, get hurt, get Red Bull, it’s good. Why? Because we needed to finish. It was like, this is the schedule, we’re not gonna get more days than that. Sometimes as an artist you have to adapt, and I learned so much.
JIMMY HENDERSON: On the set we had to block all the fresh air and all the light to have control of the artificial light. So, in Cambodia, it’s normally 30 to 40 °C. We had two big fans, it was more for them, I was ok. (laughter)
LOY TE: That and the fact that it was an abandoned building when we moved in for the film, and it’s been abandoned for over 10 years. It had no windows or anything, just full of dust and concrete falling apart. We just took out the big pieces so we can clear it and it looks decent in a way for a Cambodian prison, you would imagine it to be really like hard core. Every morning we would come in, have breakfast, warm up, then we’d start. We do one take, the moment we start to do that one take, all that dust got up in the air, and the rest of the day we’re just stuck in this box, there was no airflow…
“Doctor Strange” International Theatrical Poster
JEAN-PAUL LY: No airflow, no air conditioning, at 40 °C, and you don’t have time, you just have to do it.
LOY TE: Every time there’s a break, everyone would just run out to get some fresh air. (laughing)
JEAN-PAUL LY: Everyone’s on the ground lying, and then it’s: let’s go again! Amazing process.
LOY TE: There are a few takes we messed up because someone forgot the mask. Sometimes we were wearing masks because it would get really dusty. They would have masks while they rehearse, and then when we’d go for the take, they’d remove them. There were a few takes where some of them would forget to remove the masks. (all laughing) It’s like ok cut, that was good… did you left the mask on?
JEAN-PAUL LY: It went that far.
MATIJA TOMIC: JP, did you get to work with Scott Adkins on Dr. Strange?
JEAN-PAUL LY: Yeah, when he came for the rehearsal for his fights. They wanted him to showcase his Boyka moves, so that’s where he does the Guyver kick and the kick 720, because the choreographer Jonathan Eusebio (I was working with Jonathan) wanted Scott Adkins fans, Boyka fans to see these moves in a Marvel film. So that was great, he came maybe like two or three times to do his fights, it was very quick because Scott is so good. He does his stuff, we were laughing, drinking, ok bye bye, and he goes. That’s because he is a very good martial artist, very good.
Thanks again to Martin Sandison, Matija Tomic, Goran Njezic, Jean-Paul Ly, Tharoth Sam, Jimmy Henderson and Loy Te for putting together this interview.
Synopsis: Class is in session as your seductive sensei, Cynthia Rothrock, gives you the hardest hitting lessons of your life! Courses include a study on the greatest ‘Martial Arts Movie Masters’, ‘Deadliest Weapons”, and the many failed attempts at recreating the ‘Magic of Bruce Lee’. Will you earn your cinematic black-belt or get tossed on the pile of failed students? The only way to find out is to find and feel the Fists of Fury!
Fists of Fury features 109 minutes of hard-hitting footage and some of the greatest clips in martial arts entertainment.
Edgar Wright, the genius director known for his pleasantly paced, comedic brand of culture-induced films (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is back with an innovative project that’s being described as an “action crime musical film”.
The movie, titled Baby Driver, involves a young getaway driver named “Baby” (The Fault in Our Stars’ Ansel Elgort), who finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail. In the process, he meets the girl of his dreams (Lily James).
Baby Driver also stars Kevin Spacey (Superman Returns), Jon Bernthal (The Wolf of Wall Street), Eiza González (From Dusk till Dawn: The Series), Jon Hamm (The Town) and Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained).
Baby Driver hits theaters on June 28, 2017. Don’t miss the film’s latest Trailer below:
Jack (Chan), a world-renowned archaeology professor, and his team set out on a grand quest to locate the lost ancient Indian treasure of Magadha when they are ambushed by a team of mercenaries and left for dead. Using his vast knowledge of history and kung fu, Jack leads his team on a race around the world to beat the mercenaries to the treasure and prevent an ancient culture from being lost forever.
Co-starring with Chan are Lay Zhang (of the K-pop group EXO), Miya Muqi (Tomb Robber), Aarif Rahman (Bruce Lee, My Brother) and Indian film stars Sonu Sood (Arundhati) and Ileana D’Cruz (Happy Ending).
In The Raid, an elite swat team moves in to take down the notorious drug lord that runs a drug-gang’s safe house, which is the home to some of the most terrifying and ruthless fighters in the city; In The Raid 2, the cop from the first film goes undercover to take down a network of powerful organized crime syndicates.
Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi Writer: Kazumasa Hirai, Fumio Konami Cast: Sonny Chiba, Rikiya Yasuoka, Saburo Date, Koji Fujiyama, Tooru Hanada, Ryuji Hayami, Jiro Ibuki, Harukui Jo, Kenji Kawai, Hiroshi Kondo, Koji Miemachi, Etsuko Nami, Yoshio Neshima Running Time: 86 min.
By Kyle Warner
There are two types of film fans in the world; those who learn of Sonny Chiba’s 1975 werewolf action movie Wolf Guy with a “Huh?” and those who almost immediately plunk down $20 so that they can watch the newly unearthed gem. I belong to the latter group. As a fan of Japanese cinema with something of a soft spot for Sonny Chiba’s hissing karate master persona, the idea of him sorting out justice as a well-armed werewolf is basically irresistible. I went into the movie expecting something weird. And even so, I was unprepared for the level of weird that I got.
Wolf Guy is that rare sort of movie that can make a sober man feel drunk. The plot operates with a devil-may-care sense of abandon, the camera sees the world at tilted angles, visions of superimposed murder cats come spiraling out of the gloom, ninja cops leap out of the walls… the viewer is left dazed and confused.
In Wolf Guy, Sonny Chiba is a wolf man named Akira. He doesn’t look like a wolf man, never transforms or dons special makeup, and only occasionally shows animalistic traits (landing on all fours in a fight, for example), but trust me: he’s a wolf man. I know this only because the film’s characters keep reminding us of the fact. No one seems particularly surprised to be sharing the earth with a werewolf, though. Akira’s wolf man lineage is so easily accepted that I thought I’d missed something. Strengthened by a full moon but otherwise no different in appearance from any other Sonny Chiba hero, the titular Wolf Guy is more like a superhero vigilante than the typical werewolf from myth and lore. (The film’s full title is Wolf Guy: Enraged Lycanthrope. Simply knowing the term ‘lycanthrope’ is about as close as the film comes to embracing werewolf mythology.)
More interesting than the wolf guy is the phantom tiger. At the start of the film, a rock star played by Rikiya Yasuoka (Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter) stumbles into traffic screaming about a tiger that means to kill him. “Miki turned into a tiger!” Sonny Chiba’s sleuth reporter Akira intercepts the troubled man only moments before Rikiya’s shirt is torn open with deep, bloody cuts running down his chest and back. Akira is brought in as the only suspect but is quickly released when the autopsy reveals that the rocker was likely killed by a demon. The coroner’s straight-faced reading of cause of death: demon is the first sign that we’re operating in a different sort of reality here.
Akira follows the clues. The rock band known as the Mobs raped a girl named Miki. Now, somehow, Miki’s fury has manifested as a vengeful ghost tiger that tears her enemies to shreds. As Akira gets closer to Miki, a mysterious evil organization that’s part Yakuza part Blofeld starts closing in on them. Not only do the bad guys want to manipulate Miki’s rage for their own benefit, they hope to extract the wolf guy’s blood to create a wolf guy of their own (“I received a transfusion of your blood and became a wolf man, too,” is one of my favorite lines of the script).
Akira encounters many other women in his attempts to rescue Miki from her strange fate. And all of these women want to get naked with him almost immediately. At first, it just seems like the film’s attempt to meet a certain skin quota, but some of it soon becomes a bit, err, odd. Like when one lady wants to sleep with him because she wants to have sex with an animal. Um. And in a later part, a lady shoves her boobs into Sonny Chiba’s face and he falls in love with her because she reminds him of his Mom. Uhh. But to be clear, the film always felt a bit trashy and nasty right from the start. It’s just that it finds a way to become more so as it goes on.
Directing the film is B-movie favorite Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, who worked with Sonny Chiba previously on Sister Street Fighter and the underrated Wandering Ginza Butterfly 2. In an interview included on the new disc from Arrow, Yamaguchi admits to not being a big fan of the werewolf sub-genre. It shows. But that’s not to say that he fails to come up with some crazy visuals and ideas. The manner in which Miki’s tiger slashes her enemies to death calls to mind A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Kreuger, who would not make his screen debut for another nine years. Another image that’s impossible to forget is the wolf guy’s healing powers, which includes a shot that shows Sonny Chiba’s intestines getting sucked back into his stomach after being mortally wounded. Yamaguchi’s weird visuals, coupled with a wicked 70’s funk soundtrack, make Wolf Guy hard to forget.
Wolf Guy has been newly unearthed for fans in the US and UK and released on DVD and Blu-ray. The picture and sound are both impressive, I thought. Three new interviews recorded in 2016 are included as special features. The first, talking with director Yamaguchi, shares a bit about his film career and his fairly reluctant decision to adapt Wolf Guy to film. The second interview is with producer Toru Yoshida, who specialized in B-movies for Toei. He expresses some regret in not making Wolf Guy a better film with a bigger budget, but also shares a laugh remembering how much Wolf Guy’s manga creator hated the film. Finally, we get a new interview with Sonny Chiba, which does not speak on Wolf Guy in particular but rather has the actor sharing his views on acting, learning the craft, and how difficult it is to throw a fake punch. Sonny Chiba’s always a fun interview subject, because he’s so clearly passionate about his craft, and this interview is no different.
Part male wish fulfillment, part martial arts movie, and part gonzo anything-goes entertainment as only the Japanese film industry could dream up, Wolf Guy is a bizarre piece of work. It’s silly stuff, but I had a good time.
During the 16th century, pirates rule the Chinese coastline, pillaging the small villages and terrorizing the citizens. When maverick leader Commander Yu (Hung) enlists the help of a sharp young general (Zhao), they devise a plan to defeat the pirates. A violent clash of wit and weapons will decide who will rule the land in this sweeping historical epic from veteran action director Gordon Chan.
“King Kong vs Godzilla” Japanese Theatrical Poster
Now that Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island (reboot of the King Kong franchise) and Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla have done their damage at the box office, Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros. are in full swing with Godzilla vs. Kong, a mash-up of the two aforementioned titles.
According to THR, Adam Wingard (director of Netflix’ upcoming Death Note), who made a name for himself with low-budget horror thrillers such as You’re Next and The Guest, has closed a deal to helm Godzilla vs. Kong.
Godzilla vs. Kong is scheduled to be released May 22, 2020. We’ll keep you posted on its developments. Until then, we leave you with the trailer for 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla.
“Aces Go Places V: The Terracotta Hit” Chinese DVD Cover
AKA: Mad Mission 5 Director: Lau Kar-leung Writer: Chang Gwok Tsz Cast: Sam Hui, Karl Maka, Leslie Cheung, Nina Li Chi, Conan Lee, Billy Chong, Maria Cordero, Ha Chi Jan, Mark Houghton, Walter Tso, Melvin Wong, Wayne Archer, Bruce Fontaine, Brad Kerner, Roy Cheung, Danny Lee, Fennie Yuen Running Time: 102 min.
By Paul Bramhall
There’s a distinct feeling with the fifth instalment of the Aces Go Places series, that the producers we’re trying to aim for as broader audience as possible. Of course fans of the series would welcome another entry, especially after Eric Tsang, the director of the original and its sequel, unsuccessfully attempted a crossover with the Lucky Stars series in 1986’s Lucky Stars Go Places. While that movie did give us Sammo Hung, it came minus the main star of Aces Go Places, with the notable absence of Sam Hui. For the fifth entry (technically sixth), Hui is back, however this time you also have Lau Kar Leung in the director’s chair, guaranteed to bring in the kung fu movie fan base, and Hong Kong megastar Leslie Cheung thrown into the mix as well, here at the height of his popularity.
The decision to put Kar Leung in the director’s chair was an interesting one, as all of the previous entries in the series had been sold upon the promise of comedy and increasingly elaborate stunts. The third and fourth instalments were directed by Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam respectively, made at a time when both directors were coming into their own. Kar Leung on the other hand was quite the opposite, being an established Shaw Brothers director, now trying to find his way without the studio. What it certainly did mean though, is that we could expect less of the stunt work, and a shift in focus to an increase in fight scenes.
For anyone not familiar, the Aces Go Places series focuses on the comedic exploits of Sam Hui, who plays a kung fu expert master thief, and Karl Maka, who plays his bumbling detective sidekick. Billed as parodies of the James Bond series, the third instalment even featured Richard Kiel, who played Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, and Sean Connery lookalike Jean Mersant in the role of 007 himself. The first Aces Go Places was released in 1982, with sequels released in ’83, ’84, and ’86. The Terracotta Hit marked the longest period that fans had to wait for a new helping of Hui and Maka’s shenanigans. However despite Hui’s return, cast regular Sylvia Chang, who played Maka’s long suffering wife, is missing, explained in the movie as having immigrated to Canada with their son. It’s worth mentioning that The Terracotta Hit would be the last in the series, notwithstanding a poorly received reboot, with Chin Ka Lok’s 97 Aces Go Places, that attempted to replace Hui and Maka with Alan Tam and Tony Leung Chiu-wai.
After directing Jet Li in the Mainland wushu epic Martial Arts of Shaolin in 1986, Lau Kar Leung would try several attempts at directing modern day action, first of all with Tiger on the Beat in 1988, and The Terracotta Hit would follow a year later. Several cast members from Tiger on the Beat return here, notably Nina Li Chi and Conan Lee. After the treatment Li Chi suffers in Tiger on the Beat, senselessly beaten at the hands of Chow Yun Fat, it’s a surprise that she agreed to star in another Lau Kar Leung movie just a year later. However perhaps it has something to do with the fact that she met her husband to be, the previously mentioned Jet Li, on the set of Dragon Fight during the same year. I like to think that Li told her he’d beat seven bells out of Kar Leung if she had to suffer such a scene again. He probably didn’t though.
The inclusion of Conan Lee is also a curious one (his character is hilariously called ‘Chinese Rambo’), as despite his reputation of being extremely arrogant and difficult to work with, Kar Leung worked with him more than any other director. The two would team up again the following year, for a sequel to Tiger on the Beat, in which he famously falls from the top of a streetlight in a stunt gone wrong. For the kung fu fans out there, the cast also includes Billy Chong as a nameless thug in his last Hong Kong movie appearance (a whole 6 years after A Fistful of Talons, so his appearance is random to say the least), Melvin Wong as a villainous thief, wushu champion Lu Yan (she was one of the Beijing Wushu Team that performed on the White House lawns for Nixon, along with Jet Li), and a who’s who of gweilos, including Mark Houghton, Bruce Fontaine, and Wayne Archer.
The plot itself sees Hui and Maka down on their luck, disowned by the police and living separate lives. Leslie Cheung and Nina Li Chi, playing sibling burglars, partially intercept a villainous groups attempt to steal the terracotta warriors, and to ensure the cops are thrown off the trail, they disguise themselves to look like Hui and Maka, framing them for a crime they didn’t commit. Ending up in possession of the Chinese Excalibur (seriously), events culminate in both the ‘old Aces’ (Hui and Maka) and the ‘new Aces’ (Cheung and Li Chi) being hired by the Chinese government to retrieve the stolen warriors, and return them to China.
The tone of The Terracotta Hit tends to veer a little all over the place. At times it goes for out and out comedy, particularly with the introduction of the main villain – a foreign devil played by Brad Kerner who is constantly seen stroking a white cat, until it’s revealed to actually be a hand puppet (which he never takes off!) However when our four Aces see themselves thrown into a prison on the Mainland, which is basically a death camp, the comedy simply doesn’t work in such oppressive surroundings, which includes Danny Lee in a bizarre cameo as a prisoner about to fulfil his death sentence. When it does work though, it’s on point, such as Sam’s office/living area, which contains a wrestling ring as a bed and a phone made out of Lego, oh, and of course – Chinese Rambo.
As expected, the vehicular stunt mayhem that was so prevalent in the earlier instalments is missing from the Aces Go Places swansong, instead relying on the physical talents of its cast. For the most part, the action delivers, and comes frequently enough to remain entertained. When Conan Lee initially visits Hui in his office, believing him to be behind the theft of the warriors, the two engage in a Jackie Chan style sequence of Hui attempting to weave in and out the various nooks and crannies of the area, with Lee in hot pursuit. There’s some nice falls involved, with Hui being sent crashing through every table available, and the whole place ending up completely trashed. In another, Lu Yan challenges the four Aces in a restaurant that, if they can beat her using western fencing against her Chinese sword, they don’t have to help the Chinese authorities, which leads into a playful but well-choreographed four-on-one east vs west sword dual.
The action is choreographed by Kar Leung’s brother, Lau Kar Wing, well known for his roles and action choreography alongside Sammo Hung in such classics as Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog and The Odd Couple, and while none of the leads are real martial artists, he does a fantastic job. Of course in saying that, just about all of the villains who have been cast are martial artists, or are at least well known for their screen fighting prowess, so when events build up to a finale that sees everyone converge in a warehouse storing the stolen warriors, Kar Wing delivers. The scene unfolds as a large group melee, with the added comedy of numerous warriors actually being villains in disguise.
Amongst the chaos, it’s Hui that looks the most legit, going toe-to-toe with both Billy Chong and Mark Houghton, before ending up armed with a Wing Chun Butterfly Sword in one hand, and a pair of nunchucks in the other. His performance could almost be considered a warm up for his role in The Dragon from Russia made the following year. There’s also a certain influence of the finale from Dragons Forever, released a year earlier, with stuntmen delivering some painful falls from elevated platforms to the ground below. Maka, Cheung, and Li Chi also get their licks in, with Li Chi’s retrieval of the sword resulting in one of the laugh out loud moments of the movie.
Despite the strength of the fight action, by the end it’s understandable why it would become the last in the series. The chemistry from the earlier movies isn’t quite there, Cheung and Li Chi are welcome additions, but again don’t really feel like they belong in an Aces Go Places movie, and Lau Kar Leung proves once more that he wasn’t best suited to modern day action comedies. As a time capsule of 1989 Hong Kong though, it has undeniable nostalgia value, back in the days when the Mainland was treated as one large mass of country bumpkins. Ironically, scenes that are played for comedy here, such as Conan Lee accidentally revealing a full back tattoo declaring his love for China, would have comparatively similar scenes played completely poker faced 25 years later in the likes of Wolf Warrior. A sign of changing times, but if you’re after a slice of unpretentious 80’s HK action comedy hijinks, you can certainly do a lot worse than The Terracotta Hit.
Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray Double Feature for 1980′s Battle Creek Brawl (aka The Big Brawl) & 1993′s City Hunter.
Battle Creek Brawl is noteworthy for not only being directed by Robert Clouse (Enter the Dragon), but for also being Jackie Chan’s first English-language attempt at making a name for himself in America. Based on the famous Manga of the same name,
Wong Jing’s City Hunter is practically a campy “Die Hard on a Cruise Ship,” which also contains the famous Street Fighter parody.
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