Relativity Media’s remake of Alex Proyas’ 1994 cult classic The Crow has been in ‘development hell’ for over 3 years now. The project has burned through numerous directors, including Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) and F. Javier Gutierrez (Before the Fall).
The latest director attached to the project is Corin Hardy (The Hallow). Hardy, who was supposed to be well into production on The Crow months ago, was once axed by producer/entrepreneur, Dana Brunetti. Reasons were unknown, but apparently, Hardy is still on board.
James O’Barr, the creator of the The Crow graphic novel – and consultant for the reboot – has been vocal about the project throughout its pre-production process: “We’re not remaking the movie, we’re readapting the book. My metaphor is that there is a Bela Lugosi Dracula and there’s a Francis Ford Coppola Dracula; they use the same material, but you still got two entirely different films. This one’s going to be closer to Taxi Driver or a John Woo film, and I think there’s room for both of them – part of the appeal of the Crow comics after all is that they can tell very different stories after all,” O’Barr added. Mind you, this was a couple of directors ago.
Over the years, many actors – including Bradley Cooper, Mark Wahlberg, James McAvoy, Tom Hiddleston, Normal Reedus, Luke Evans and Jack Huston – were once attached to the project, but for one reason or another, dropped out or moved forward with other projects. Currently, the reboot has zero actors attached to the project.
Many fans of the original film who still mourn the tragic loss of star Brandon Lee feel that this is a franchise best left in our memories. Sounds like they’re getting their wish.
Updates: Collider reports that Jason Momoa (Conan, Aquaman in the DC cinematic Universe) has officially signed on to play Eric Draven in the The Crow reboot. Filming is set to begin in January with Corin Hardy helming the movie.
Director: Roel Reiné Producer: Chris Lowenstein Cast: Scott Adkins, Robert Knepper, Rhona Mitra, Tempera Morrison, Ann Truong, Adam Saunders, Jamie Timony, Pter Hardy, Sean Keenan, Troy Honeysett, JeeJa Yanin, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Patrick Kazu Tang, Thira Chutikul Running Time: 104 min.
By Paul Bramhall
As a child of the early 80’s I, and most likely many others, had my first exposure to John Woo from his 1993 Hollywood debut Hard Target. A tale which see’s Jean Claude Van Damme on the run from a group of wealthy hunters, led by a menacing Lance Henriksen, despite Woo’s own complaints about what he felt was a rushed production schedule, the final version still arguably delivers an action classic. I still remember being on holiday with my parents as a teenager, and picking up a double VHS pack which contained Hard Target (the ‘Full Uncensored Version’ no less) on one tape, and Timecop on the other. While Van Damme’s time travelling action flick certainly entered the VHS player more than once, it was usually Hard Target which needed to be ejected first – simply put it lived in the player.
Timecop may have gotten a Van Damme-less sequel in 2003, with the Jason Scott Lee vehicle Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision, but Hard Target has had to wait a significantly longer time, with an equally Van Damme-less sequel being delivered in 2016. In place of the Muscles from Brussels, we have who many people consider to be his spiritual successor, British martial arts star Scott Adkins. Adkins has stated many times how much Van Damme was an influence on his career, and to date the pair have featured in four movies together, proving that in some cases, dreams do indeed come true. For the sequel, Adkins finds himself back in Myanmar, the country which also provided the stomping ground for his 2013 movie Ninja: Shadow of a Tear.
The story see Adkins playing an MMA fighter, who during a fight which pits him against one of his closest friends, sees him accidentally kill his opponent. To drown his sorrows, he ups and leaves the States to move to a ramshackle hut in Bangkok, in which he lives with a pet white dove (it’s never clearly stated if it is his pet, but it’s always hopping about in the hut somewhere), the digital watch his friend gifted him with before their fight, and plenty of alcohol. Adkins spends his time in Bangkok switching between American and British accents, drinking, and getting involved in a series of bare knuckle off the books fight tournaments. When a rich business man, played by Prison Break’s Robert Knepper, offers him a million dollar pay cheque to take part in a final match in Myanmar, Adkins takes the bait, and the rest as they say, is history.
Replacing Woo in the director’s chair for the sequel is Dutchman Roel Reiné, who’s made almost an entire career out of making direct-to-video sequels to popular action movies. It’s a long list – The Marine 2, Death Race 2, The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption, Death Race 3: Inferno, 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded, Behind Enemy Lines: Seal Team 8, The Man with the Iron Fists 2, The Condemned 2, and of course, the move in question. For me though, he’ll always be the guy that directed one of the better latter-era Steven Seagal movies, with 2008’s Pistol Whipped. Reiné may be used to working in the lower budgeted direct-to-video arena, but one thing he’s definitely not used to is directing a sequel to a John Woo movie. Who would be?
It’s evident from the start that he wants to pay homage to Woo’s original – from an opening that see’s the human prey on the run from crossbow wielding hunters, to the inclusion of randomly placed doves, even to Knepper and his right hand man, played by Temuera Morrison, clearly being styled after Lance Henriksen and Arnold Vosloo. However there’s never any doubt that we’re watching a production which is never going to be in the same league as the original. Hard Target 2 is laden with a particularly awful script, full of painfully clichéd lines and equally embarrassing delivery of them, not helped by some poor ADR work that crops up here and there.
Reiné also takes a huge gamble by having Adkins first scene be an MMA fight in the ring. There’s little doubt that the stars most iconic and popular role is that of Yuri Boyka, from the Undisputed series, and fans have been clamouring to see him back in action since 2010’s Undisputed 3: Redemption. Any movie which puts Adkins in the ring is inevitably going to draw comparisons to his performances in the series, and here they’re not going to be favourable ones. Instead of going for something original with the choreography, the match, and also his bare knuckle fights in Bangkok, feel like more of an Adkins show-reel from the past 10 years. There’s no originality on display, and instead the action leans back on his trademark spinning jump kicks, all of which are shown in slow motion, while the person on the receiving end of them waits to be hit. It’s a letdown.
Things do get a little more interesting once the action moves to the jungles of Myanmar (although the scenes are actually shot in Thailand). Knepper and Morrison lead 6 other hunters – a redneck father and his reluctant son, a big game hunter, a matador (who comes complete with sword), a first person shooter software developer (don’t ask), and a spoilt rich girl with a sadistic streak, notably played by British actress Rhona Mitra, who refined her action chops in 2008’s Doomsday. After narrowly escaping his first encounter with the hunters, Adkins happens upon one of the locals, played by Ann Truong, who becomes his guide through the dense jungle. Truong’s wardrobe makes her appear as if she’s just come from auditioning for the role of Pocahontas, but her character is a pleasant enough addition, and she soon has Adkins paying his respects to the “spirits of the forest” and ensuring her safety.
When it comes to the action, the vast majority of it consists of Adkins dodging arrows, being thrown into the air from explosions, and indulging in some fisticuffs. It’s a somewhat surprising decision that two of the one-on-one fights during the hunt don’t go to Adkins at all, instead giving us an all female showdown with Ann Truong vs. Rhona Mitra, and then later the actor who plays Truong’s brother fights the matador. Both fights are completely unremarkable, and plagued by quick cutting to disguise the lack of screen fighting talent. However it’s perhaps indicative that beyond the Adkins Greatest Hits book of moves, the choreographers really didn’t have much up their sleeve for him to do. There is a face off which pits Adkins against Mitra mid-way through, however it’s so stilted and one-sided that it leaves the memory almost as soon as it’s over.
Proceedings build up to a finale which attempts to rectify this, as events culminate in a New One Armed Swordsman style stand off on a bridge, which pits Adkins against 5 of Knepper’s fighters at once (two of which are played by Jija Yanin and Patrick Kazu Tang, clocking in about 30 seconds of screen-time between them), followed by Morrison, and then Knepper himself. It allows Adkins the chance to briefly let loose, in a face off which provides the most complex choreography of the movie, but there’s an inescapable feeling that it was rushed. Some camera angles are taken from rather odd positions, and there are kicks on display which clearly don’t connect, immediately taking you out of the action. It’s enough to make you wish that Hard Target 2 had a bigger budget behind it, combined with more time to film, as there’s a good action B-movie in there somewhere.
As it is though, the poor script and illogical plotting frequently see Reiné’s sequel tripping up and landing on its face. A scene which perfectly summarises these problems sees Adkins sneak up on the software developer, who’s secretly filming the other hunters. Adkins whispers to him that if he makes a sound, he’ll shoot him, as it would alert the other hunters that they’re there. However he then proceeds to playback the recording to check what it is, with the audio glaring out at normal volume, but somehow none of the hunters are able to hear it. It’s a scene which blatantly doesn’t make any sense, and with a little more care should have obviously been re-thought. But then again, they’re making a sequel to a John Woo movie, perhaps the whole idea should have been re-thought.
A remake of John Sturges 1960 classic, The Magnificent Seven, is shooting to theaters on September 23, 2016. Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer) is directing the film, which is based off a script by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) and Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective).
The original The Magnificent Seven (read our review) – a remake itself of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai – starred Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, and Horst Buchholz. The plot involved seven American gunmen who are hired to protect a small village in Mexico from a group of Mexican bandits.
Fuqua brings his modern vision to a classic story. With the town of Rose Creek under the deadly control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), the desperate townspeople employ protection from seven outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns consisting of Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Billy Rocks (Byung-Hun Lee of I Saw the Devil), Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).
Jackie Chan teams up with director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2) for Skiptrace, which arrives arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital HD), DVD (plus Digital) and Digital HD October 25 from Lionsgate. The film is currently available On Demand.
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!
It’s been over ten years since the release of 2003’s Shanghai Knights – and, indeed, it’s strange to reflect back on a time when Donnie Yen’s most high-profile gigs included a cameo in a Jackie Chan Hollywood movie – and rumors of a sequel have been long dormant.
The franchise, which saw Jackie Chan’s Imperial guard teaming up with Owen Wilson’s laconic outlaw, was always viewed as something of an Old West take on the popular Rush Hour formula (i.e. pair Jackie Chan’s fists of fury with a fast-talking funnyman).
Now, THR reports that MGM has recruited Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) to direct Shanghai Dawn. Back in ’03 Owen Wilson had told Empire Magazine he thought a third film in the series might see him and Jack head to Egypt. Who knows if that particular plotline will survive, but the question remains: would you be interested in seeing Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson team up one last time to close out the Shanghai Noon trilogy?
Looks like Tiger Hu Chen (Monk Comes Down the Mountain) will be giving Jean Claude Van Damme’s Timecop a run for its money in an upcoming movie that sounds like it’s another concept that meshes martial arts and time traveling into one complete package.
According to AFS, the Yuen Woo-ping protege who made his starring debut in Keanu Reeves’ Man of Tai Chiis joining forces with Wang Zhi (Drug War) in Zhang Xianfeng’s upcoming sci-fi action film, Kung Fu Traveler.
There are currently no other details regarding Kung Fu Travelers – and remember, we’re only guessing it has that time travel element – but a trailer should soon be making its way online. Until then, stay tuned!
Director David Lam (Street Angels) and superstar Louis Koo (The White Storm) are back with S-Storm, the sequel to 2014’s Z-Storm. S-Storm follows the further predicaments of William Luk Che Lim (Koo) – a lead investigator in the ICAC unit (Independent Commission Against Corruption) – and his war with naughty organizations.
S-Storm features a mix of new and returning stars that include Julian Cheung (Flying Daggers), Vic Chou (Detective Gui), Ada Choi (Fist of Legend), Dada Chan (Z-Storm), Janelle Sing (Kung Fu Angels) and Bowie Lam (The Most Wanted).
Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable is a very different movie from the two that came before it. Meiko Kaji’s Matsu the Scorpion is on the lam after having narrowly survived her prison escape in Jailhouse 41. Wanted posters with her face are all over the city streets, warning that she is a dangerous fugitive. We join Matsu on the subway, sitting silently by herself while those around her read newspapers with her face on them. Detective Kondo (Mikio Narita) and his partner notice Matsu and slowly approach. Just before they’re ready to grab her, out comes the Scorpion’s blade. She fights them off and runs for it, but not before Kondo handcuffs himself to her. Matsu rushes out of the subway car and the doors close on Kondo’s arm. The Scorpion doesn’t hesitate before she starts chopping away on the detective’s right arm, soon hacking it off and leaving him screaming inside the subway car as it pulls away from the station. Matsu runs off, covered in blood and still attached to the severed limb, passing by frightened bystanders who look confused enough to possibly be unwitting extras to one of the most violent opening sequences in cinema.
Unlike the first two films, where 99% of the characters wanted Matsu dead in some way, Beast Stable grants her a friend in the hooker Yuki (Yayoi Watanabe, who was also in #701: Scorpion). It’s not a perfect friendship, though. Things get off to a weird start when Yuki first meets Matsu chewing on Detective Kondo’s severed arm in the shadows of a graveyard that’s lit exclusively by neon lights of nearby bars. Yuki takes Matsu to her place, where Matsu meets Yuki’s sex-starved, brain-damaged older brother, a man whom Yuki defends and alternatively plots to kill totally depending on the day. There’s no shortage of sleaze and uncomfortable character interactions as Matsu settles into a routine of life in the shadows, working as a seamstress to pay her rent, and defending her friend Yuki.
All is going relatively well until a moment of violence against a yakuza lands Matsu at the feet of her new employers, who in addition to running a legitimate business also force women into prostitution on the side. They’re ready to beat her and let her go, but then the boss’s wife recognizes Matsu the Scorpion from the time she spent in prison. Reisen Ri (aka Reisen Lee) plays the cruel boss lady Katsu over the top, complete with crazy dresses and ugly makeup that make her look like a drag queen, plus violent animal pets and a very stagey villain’s laugh. Seeing her chance at putting the Scorpion in her place, Katsu drugs her and throws her into a cage of ravens. (This sequence isn’t nearly as frightening or as weird as I imagine they planned it. The birds mostly ignore Meiko Kaji.) Of course, Matsu soon escapes her cage and vows revenge. The increasing body count attracts the attention of the one-armed Detective Kondo, who starts closing in on Scorpion looking to exact personal revenge more than to serve the law.
Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion and its immediate sequel Jailhouse 41 were fast-paced thrillers filled with violence, madness, sleaze, and political commentary. Beast Stable is more of a slow-burn, more character-driven. This may not be the ‘crowd pleaser’ that the first two films were, but it does give Meiko Kaji some of her most interesting acting moments in the series. Beast Stable explores some of Scorpion’s softer edges, and though it’d be going too far to call her ‘vulnerable’, she does let her guard down at times. Hell, she even cries at one point. It is an excellent dramatic performance, again performed mostly silent. And I enjoyed the quieter moments which allowed Matsu to stand beside a friend and have a beer. It’s a nice evolution for the character, and serves as a reminder that she wasn’t always a violent antihero.
Yayoi Watanabe is good as Yuki. Though she’s a hooker caught in an incestuous relationship with her brother, she’s also the most ‘normal’ character in the film. Mikio Narita (Zatoichi and the Chess Expert) is surprisingly reserved as the villainous Detective Kondo. And Reisen Ri nearly steals the show as the campy villain Katsu.
This would be director Shunya Ito’s last entry in the series. He made his directorial debut with #701: Scorpion and wanted to branch out. Ito’s three Scorpion films came back-to-back-to-back. All other future films in his career would be more spread out, with only eleven more films over the next 40 years. Though still best remembered for his Scorpion films, Ito remembers in an interview that a Toei executive considered never releasing the original film, likely because of its questionable content. Ito was the head of the studio’s union at the time and he ultimately prevailed, which is something the studio really should thank him for because the films became big successes both financially and critically. Future Ito films would invite a different kind of controversy. 1985’s Gray Sunset was a popular film in Japan and was selected to represent the country in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars, despite the rest of the world heaping praise upon Akira Kurosawa’s Ran. (Ran was nominated for four Oscars and won for Best Costume Design, which is a rare level of recognition for a foreign film in an American awards show. Gray Sunset didn’t make the cut for Best Foreign Language Film and has been largely forgotten about outside of its native Japan.) Ito’s 1998 film Pride was a biopic about Prime Minister Tojo, which presented the man in a positive light. Though a box office success in Japan, critics (especially those of other Asian countries) accused the film of historical revisionism, saying Ito whitewashed Tojo’s role in the war and ignored the country’s human rights crimes. Ito defended his film and tried to explain his intentions but, with the exception of a documentary about filmmaking, he would not make another feature film for over a decade.
Ito’s first two Scorpion films had some strong, angry political commentary. Beast Stable has considerably less on its mind. One new theme that Beast Stable explores is motherhood. Motherhood is something that horror likes to return to often but Beast Stable finds some strange new territory in the theme. One disturbing sequence finds two abortions happening at the same time in two different locations. One is sad, the other is terrifying. It’s horrific stuff, and reminds me of the chestburster scene in Ridley Scott’s Alien – and on that note, seeing a similar sequence to the chestburster playout in a real-world situation helps me better understand how/why women reacted so strongly to Alien in 1979.
This is not my favorite Scorpion film but it does feature one of my favorite moments, as we later return to the abortionist’s sterile, white operating room and witness blood spraying onto the walls. There’s no characters at first, no sign of who is bleeding to death, just the sight of blood spray on white. It’s a trippy revenge fever dream.
Beast Stable hits Blu-ray for the first time in the West from Arrow video as part of their new box set. Again, the picture quality is rather disappointing. I don’t think it’s as blue looking as the first two films. But it’s pretty rough looking. Deep blacks appear to flicker at times. To put it simply, it doesn’t look like a Blu-ray. Again, this is all based on the print that Toei provided, so one is forced to assume that this was a case of poor source materials and not a Blu-ray transfer gone wrong. Still, it’s too bad. Features on the disc include an appreciation from critic Kat Ellinger who praises Japanese exploitation cinema, a visual essay from Tom Mes about the career of Meiko Kaji, and an archival interview with Shunya Ito on working with Kaji, in which Ito admits he didn’t want Kaji in his movie because he so disliked her in Wandering Ginza Butterfly. I enjoyed the Meiko Kaji career spotlight the most, because it allowed me to learn more about the career of one of my favorite actresses, who has made many films that remain unavailable to me and others (after the 70’s Kaji did a LOT of TV work).
This would be director Shunya Ito’s last Scorpion film and he ends the story with a stylish, satisfying finale. But this wouldn’t be the last Scorpion film for Meiko Kaji, who would return to the role in director Yasuharu Hasebe’s 701’s Grudge Song. Beast Stable is the quietest of Ito’s Scorpion films; less savage, more brooding. Though not my favorite entry in the series, it does give us one of Kaji’s best performances and a villain you love to hate in Reisen Ri, making it an essential chapter for fans.
Outlaw Gangster VIP Collection | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)
Today’s Deal on Fire is for Arrow Video’s Blu-ray for the Outlaw Gangster VIP Collection.
In 1968, acclaimed director Toshio Masuda (Rusty Knife, Tora! Tora! Tora!) and rising star Tetsuya Watari (Tokyo Drifter) teamed up for Outlaw: Gangster VIP, a gritty yakuza yarn based on the writings of real life ex-gangster Goro Fujita
The series offers up a depiction of the Japanese underworld that was unprecedented in its realism and its sympathetic portrayal of its protagonist as a man haunted by his past, unable to escape a life of crime. The success of the initial instalment spawned five sequels, continuing the story of the lone wolf “Slasher” Goro and his quest for redemption
The films presented a new kind of realism and violence that would prefigure Kinji Fukasaku’s Battles Without Honor and Humanity series, with their winning combination of brutal violence, gang warfare and sweeping romance, these films make for a unique and unforgettable viewing experience
The set includes six films in the Outlaw series released for the first time in the west: Gangster VIP (our review), Gangster VIP 2 (our review), Heartless (our review), Goro the Assassin (our review), Black Dagger (our review), and Kill! (our review).
Limited Edition Box Set (3000 copies) containing all six films in the Outlaw series, available with English subtitles for the first time on any home video format
High Definition digital transfers of all six films, from original film elements by Nikkatsu Corporation
Original uncompressed mono audio
Newly translated English subtitles
Audio commentary on Outlaw: Gangster VIP by Jasper Sharp
Visual essay covering the entire series by Kevin Gilvear
Original trailers for all six films
Extensive promotional image galleries for all six films
Exclusive gatefold packaging featuring brand new artwork by Tonci Zonjic
Booklet featuring an interview with director Toshio Masuda by Mark Schilling, plus new writing by Schilling, Chris D and Kevin Gilvear
Rurouni Kenshin Part I: Origins | Blu-ray & DVD (Funimation)
RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2016
Funimation presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Keishi Ohtomo’s Rurouni Kenshin Part I: Origins (aka Rurouni Kenshin, read our review), starring Takeru Satoh (Goemon), Emi Takei (Ai to Makoto), Kofi Kikkawa (Sword of Desperation) and Yu Aoi (Space Pirate Captain Harlock).
When the sadistic drug lord Kanryu threatens the beautiful kendo instructor Kaoru, Kenshin can no longer stand idly by. Together with his street fighter comrade Sanosuke, Kenshin sets his sights on a showdown with Kanryu and his deadly henchmen. | Part II is also available.
Kickboxer: Vengeance (read our review), a remake/reboot of the 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme cult classic, is currently kicking hard on the big screen. Its sequel, Kickboxer: Retaliation, has already been shot. Today, news arrives that the third film in the series, titled Kickboxer: Syndicate, is in the works.
According to Variety, producer Rob Hickman (Kickboxer: Vengeance) says that Kickboxer: Syndicate is lined up to shoot in February. There are no other details, but we’re certain that Alain Moussi will return as Kurt Sloane.
On November 8, 2016, Wild Eye is releasing the DVD for The Search for Weng Weng, a documentary that investigates the life of Weng Weng (aka Ernesto de la Cruz), a forgotten icon of Pinoy exploitation cinema who starred in the films For Y’ur Height Only, The Impossible Kid and D’Wild Wild Weng.
Join Andrew Leavold’s personal quest to find the truth behind its dwarf James Bond superstar Weng Weng, who took the movie world by storm in the 1970s, and who has since become a viral internet sensation. He is listed in the Guinness World Records as the shortest adult actor in a leading role.
There was some early discussion that Jackie Chan (Dragon Blade) and Steven Seagal (Above the Law) would be teaming up with Jason Statham (Blitz) for a period project titled Viy 2: A Journey to China, a sequel to 2014’s Viy, the highest grossing Russian film of all-time. It would have marked the first time the three action icons would share the screen together.
We now have word from SCB that Chan may not be appearing in Viy 2: “Sadly it seems that the production had to be happy with working with JC Stunt Team and never managed to finalize an agreement for Jackie to be in the movie as well.” According to the same source, Chan visited the set on the last day of shooting. But hold on…
According to some recent information from the industry-connected Mike Leeder (Pound of Flesh), Viy 2 hasn’t finished shooting in China: “There’s a big sequence set to be shot for the next month or so, that’s set in a prison and Chan is still attached to the project; supposedly Chan will be back and fourth between this and Bleeding Steel. Statham was attached, but schedule delays lead to clash with Meg, the giant shark movie. Seagal was briefly attached and then Stallone’s name was discussed, but supposedly now it will be the former governator himself, Arnie, playing the prison warden,” says Leeder.
To give you a little background information about Viy 2, here’s some news that was originally reported by AAG (during a time when Seagal was still attached): The original Viy, directed by Oleg Stepchenko, is a dark fantasy/adventure film set in the early 18th century starring Jason Flemyng. Despite mixed reviews and a troubled production, the film was a major commercial success. The film caught the eye of Chinese producers who wanted a wuxia inspired sequel. Steven Seagal will also star in the film which is big news for action fans as this will mark the first time Jackie Chan and Steven Seagal are involved in the same movie. Actress Yao Xingtong who previously co-starred with Chan in the 2012 reboot of CZ12 is said to have a major leading role in the movie.
Information on this movie is still very dodgy, but we’ll see what happens…
AKA: A Man with Seven Faces Director: Kim Seon-gyeong Writer: Yoon Sam-yook Producer: Kim In-dong Cast: Chang Il-do, Choi Min-kyu, Kwon Il-soo Running Time: 94 min.
By Paul Bramhall
I confess to having a soft-spot for kung fu movies that have grammatically challenged titles, and Blood of Dragon Peril is definitely up there with the best of them. “Blood of what?” you may ask, well, Dragon Peril of course. It’s almost like the distributors had a hat full of words vaguely related to Asian action cinema, and pulled out three at random on the instruction that they’d have to make a title out of the choices they end up with. In many ways it’s a practice that’s most likely still going on today, with many an Asian movie getting ridiculous re-titles for the US market, however at least they pay more attention to the grammar now than they did back then.
Thankfully, Blood of Dragon Peril isn’t the movies original incarnation. It was one of the countless Korean martial arts movies picked up by Godfrey Ho and his IFD Films crew, and given the re-title and dubbing procedure that all of their acquired movies were subjected to, in order to make them sellable to overseas markets. The original title is A Man with Seven Faces, which not only makes more sense grammatically, but also has a much closer connection to the story. So, for those hoping to see some perilously bloody dragon slayings, this is not the movie for you.
The man in the director’s chair is Kim Seon-gyeong, who was also responsible for the Casanova Wong kick-fest Magnificent Wonderman from Shaolin, made a year later, as well as many other early Korean kung fu movies which featured the likes of Wong and Hwang Jang Lee. Unfortunately in the credits he’s listed under the moniker of Rocky Man, re-named along with just about everything else in the movie. Unlike many of Seon-gyeong’s other efforts though, which have a tendency to be a little out there even in their original versions (this was the guy who directed a handful of Elton Chong movies after all), Blood of Dragon Peril comes with a fairly serious storyline, which looks to have been adhered to with the English dub. While this was standard practice with much of Hong Kong’s output, Korean cinema wasn’t so lucky, with many of the movies being cut and dubbed into completely different storylines than what’s presented in their original versions.
Chang Il-do stars in a tale set in Japan occupied Manchuria. Having had his family subjected to much suffering at the hands of the Japanese, which led to the suicide of his martial arts instructor father, and his brother been driven to insanity, Il-do decides that the best thing he can do is become a member of the Japanese Imperial Army. His role as a Korean working for the Japanese sees much scorn put on his family by the rest of the village where they live, and he’s equally not fully trusted by the Japanese authorities, thanks to his family background and ethnicity. However with the appearance of a mysterious vigilante, who becomes known as the Doll Bride Mask, due to hiding their face behind said mask, Il-do sees a chance to gain recognition both in the eyes of the Japanese army, as well as from his family, if he’s able to catch the masked man.
Chang Il-do became most well-known during the short period were he found himself being sold as a Bruce Lee clone, although admittedly it didn’t help that he actually was a Bruce Lee clone in The Clones of Bruce Lee, which had him cast under the name Bruce Lai. The majority of Il-do’s movies have very little to do with Bruceploitation though (save the likes of Enter Three Dragons), and he’s more well remembered for starring alongside fellow Koreans like Kwan Yung-moon in Return to the 36th Chamber, and Dragon Lee in Dragon Lee’s Ways of Kung Fu. Just like his Korean co-stars, Il-do’s martial arts of choice was Taekwondo, and he was able to match kicks with the best of them. Sadly much like Kim Tai-jung, Il-do passed away far too early, having died in 2015 at the age of 64.
Blood of Dragon Peril is one of the few chances to see him in a role that has him front and center of proceedings, and he plays the part well, spending almost the whole runtime decked out in a sharp white suite (although I’m pretty sure this wasn’t standard uniform for Japanese agents at the time!). It also wouldn’t surprise me if it’s actually Il-do behind the mask of the Doll Bride Mask character, who performs in all of their fight scenes while wearing the mask, although there is some high level acrobatic flips that take place when it definitely would have been a stuntman. With that being said, Il-do isn’t the only established martial artist in the cast, and for those who are familiar with the Korean kung fu movie scene, there are plenty of recognisable faces to be found – from Choi Min-kyu (it would be easier to list the Korean kung fu movies that this guy isn’t in), to Kwon Il-soo.
The most entertaining thing in Blood of Dragon Peril is of course the character of the Doll Bride Mask. It’s certainly one of the more unique entries in the world of kung-fu characters, and contrary to what the name suggests, it’s clear from the start that it’s not a woman. The mask also marks the movie as distinctly Korean, its white appearance with red dots marked on the cheeks and forehead making it resemble a cross between the Five Venoms meets Michael Myers from Halloween. The fact that it makes the character remain eerily expressionless during the fight scenes adds to the mysterious nature of his intentions. We never really know if he just wants to cause as much trouble for the Japanese as possible, like any good freedom fighter should, or is there something more to his agenda?
It’s not really a spoiler to reveal that it turns out to be the latter, and the twist behind who’s behind the mask is surprisingly effective, however it’s frustrating on two accounts. One is that, even though this movie came first, having watched Magnificent Wonderman from Shaolin before viewing Blood of Dragon Peril, exactly the same plot twist is used in both productions, which is somewhat of a disappointment for those expecting something more original. Secondly, the reveal takes place very late in the game, so late in fact that the movie is almost over when it happens, which results in an action filled, but ultimately rather anti-climactic finale. Despite these gripes though, the Doll Bride Mask makes plenty of appearances before the finale, and every one of them delivers plenty of the expected boot work that became synonymous with Korea’s kung-fu movie output.
In fact the whole movie could essentially be boiled down to – Japanese commander sends a bunch of agents to capture the Doll Bride Mask, agents and Doll Bride Mask get into a fight which sees the agents defeated, dedicate a few mins to developing the plot a little further, then cut back to a scene of the Japanese commander sending more agents out to capture the Doll Bride Mask. I swear someone mentions the “Doll Bride Mask” at least once every couple of minutes, so much so that by the time the credits roll, the character’s name will be ingrained on your brain. Despite such a basic plot structure, it works well enough within its short run time, while also delivering a consistent stream of above average fight action.
Amongst the many group scuffles the Doll Bride Mask (now I feel like I’ve written it too many times) gets into, there’s also a couple of nice one-on-one exchanges, including an intense face-off between Chang Il-do and Choi Min-kyu. Il-do even gets to mix things up a little, showing off some weapons work in the finale which sees him brandishing two steel hoops. However what may be considered most surprising for fans of Korean kung fu movies, is the almost complete absence of any goofy wire-work, a factor which I watch these movies for as much as to see some high quality boot work. Seon-gyeong’s choice to go down the straight and narrow with Blood of Dragon Peril is an admirable one, and is backed up by a decent story which stays surprisingly serious throughout. However just like the lack of any goofy wire-work, at the end of the day it just feels like something is missing to give it a full-fledged recommendation.
Shout! Factory has recently announced that they’ll be releasing restored, 4K versions of Bruce Lee’s films, starting with The Big Boss (1971) andFist of Fury(1972). Oddly enough, they’ll be released as their North American titles, Fists of Fury (ak The Big Boss) and The Chinese Connection (aka Fist of Fury). The films will be packaged using original U.S. theatrical artwork, which can also be reversed for those who prefer international artwork.
The titles are being marketed as “Collector’s Editions,” but according to Shout’s website, extras are in progress and will be announced at a later date.
If you’re not familiar with 4K digital technology restoration, here’s the breakdown: it has around four times more resolution than the common 1080p and produces a clearer picture. Technically, you’ll need a 4K TV and a 4K Blu-ray player to get the most out of 4K disc. For these releases, they will be a standard Blu-ray made from a 4K master, so you will not need a 4K Blu-ray player.
Both Fists of Fury (pre-order) and Chinese Connection (pre-order) will be available on December 6th, 2016. We’ll keep you updated on this series as we hear more. Also: Be sure to read about import versions of Bruce Lee’s 4K masters here.
Tak Sakaguchi rose to fame with the 2001 cult favorite Versus, a movie that managed to combine the low-budget charms of Evil Dead-like horror with blistering martial arts and gunplay. The actor later scored another cult hit with Battlefield Baseball, but has most recently hitched his wagon to the Sushi Typhoon production company.
In April of 2013, new broke out that Tak was retiring from acting, which left an unknown fate for his recently announced role in Death Trance II, not to mention a long-rumored sequel to Versus.
In late 2014, Cityonfire.com was contacted by director Yuji Shimomura (Death Trance) with breaking news that Tak was out of retirement to make Re:Born, which the actor calls his “very last” and “most superb” action movie:
“After I retired, I found myself having a passion for action that was still smoldering inside of me. After a conversation with action director Yuji Shimomura, I wanted to thrive one more time and create the very last and most superb action movie with my utmost power and passion for the sake of a closure to my entire career. I am convinced that I have to give my very best one last time. That is how I feel about this project. I didn’t realize how many people chose to support a person like myself until after I retired. I hope this movie will be satisfying enough for them to feel absolutely alright for me to go. This is for them.”
Media: “Audition” video (Part 1) for Re:Born featuring Tak in some intense sparring action. | Footage (Part 2) of Sakaguchi getting in shape. | 3rd chapter of promo footage (Part 3). | New “training” footage (Part 3.5) featuring supervision from Tak’s one and only master, Yoshitaka Inagawa, who has established the “Zero Range Combat” technique. “Tak mastered it in months when one does in years,” says Inagawa, who will be handling the film’s action choreography. | 1st teaser trailer.
Deadline reports that Cinemax has given a pilot order for Warrior, a project based on unpublished writings by the late Bruce Lee, which were recently discovered by his daughter, Shannon Lee.
Justin Lin (Star Trek Beyond, Finishing the Game) is attached to produce and possibly direct. Jonathan Tropper, co-creator of Banshee, is penning pilot.
Warrior tells the story of a young martial arts prodigy, newly arrived from China, who finds himself caught up in the bloody Chinatown Tong wars. The story will be set against the backdrop of San Francisco’s Chinatown in the aftermath of the Civil War.
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