Johnnie To’s critically acclaimed action thriller Three (aka Three on the Road) is heading onto digital March 7th and on Blu-ray & DVD April 4th from Well Go USA Entertainment.
When a police sting goes bad, a criminal (Chung) forces cops to shoot him. Now hospitalized, the criminal refuses treatment while waiting for his cohorts to break him out. Caught between a cop (Koo) and a surgeon assigned to save his life (Wei), the hospital is about to turn into a bloody battleground at any moment…
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 Vincent Zhou (not to be confused with the martial arts star) seems to have an obsession for “flight disaster” movies. Last year, he brought us the similarly-themed Last Flight. Now, he’s back with yet another catastrophic flick titled Lost in the Pacific (its working title was Last Flight II: Lost in the Pacific, which makes perfect sense).
The story takes place in 2020 when a group of international elite passengers embark on an inaugural luxury and transoceanic flight (regarded as “the Titanic in the sky”) that later gets into some serious trouble. Routh plays a high profile yet mysterious chef with military background who soon realizes that some people on the island might be “hijacking the plane”.
Described as “the first Chinese 3D sci-fi adventure film,” Lost in the Pacific has made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Judging from the trailer, it can easily be taken as another “Die Hard on a plane,” considering Routh seems to be kicking some mid-air butt. To better portray his character, Routh revealed that he “did lots of research on culinary arts so hopefully the performance is solid and convincing on screen.”
Lost in the Pacific hits DVD on February 7, 2017. Watch the Trailer below:
David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, the duo behind 2014’s action-packed sleeper hit, John Wick, are currently filming John Wick: Chapter Two(read our review), which will be hitting theaters on February 10th, 2017.
This time around, Stahelski will be directing the film solo, while Leitch will stay on board as producer, so he can concentrate on his solo directorial project, The Coldest City.
Keanu Reeves returns in the sequel to the 2014 hit as legendary hitman John Wick who is forced to back out of retirement by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome where he squares off against some of the world’s deadliest killers.
Here’s what Stahelski had to say in a recent interview with Movies.com: “We have ideas for days and without blinking twice we know we can outdo the action from the original.”
Joining Reeves for John Wick: Chapter Two is actor/rapper Common (Smokin’ Aces, American Gangster), Ruby Rose (Resident Evil: The Final Chapter), Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt) and Peter Stormare (Fargo). Returning cast members from the original John Wick include: John Leguizamo (Carlito’s Way), Bridget Moynahan (I, Robot), Tom Sadowski (Wild), and Lance Reddick (The Wire).
John Wick (read our review) opened to both commercial and critical success and was noted for its amazingly staged action sequences, which makes perfect sense, since the two were known for staging stunt work and fight choreography in films like 300 (2006), Tron: Legacy (2010) and Safe (2012) long before their directorial debut feature.
Director: Lee Tso Nam Producer: Ching Kuo Chung Cast: Alexander Lo Rei, William Yen, Sun Jung Chi, Chen Shan, Lee Wai Wan, Chang Chi Ping, Ching Kuo Chung, Wong Chi Sang, William Yen, Li Min Lang Running Time: 90 min.
By Chris Hatcher
In the world of old school kung fu films of the 1970s and 80s, there is a vast mix of good-to-great films and terribly bad ones; films with superbly fast-paced fight choreography and ones with moves slower than my grandma on her morning mile walk before breakfast; films that make you laugh at the poorly-dubbed English tracks, which are endearing to those of us who view this as part of the “old school” charm; and the rarity film that puts all the best qualities of the genre together to create a masterpiece of chop-socky Asian cinema that stands the test of time.
Look no further for one of these rarities than Lee Tso Nam’s Shaolin vs. Lama, my all-time favorite old school kung fu film, for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the speed of the fight choreography can only be described as “breakneck” (and not undercranked), which is my highest compliment. Of the 200+ fu flicks in my collection, it’s my go-to for introducing friends to the genre. Not Enter the Dragon, not The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, not Drunken Master… but Shaolin Vs. Lama. Period… hands down… end of story.
Now that I’ve gotten my personal SVL love out of the way, here’s what you can expect from Nam’s tour de force: Alexander Lo Rei is Sun Yu Ting, a wanderer who challenges kung fu experts in search of a master with an “if you can beat me, I’m yours to teach” motto. When he meets Shaolin trouble-maker Hsu Chi (William Yen) and learns of his Grandmaster’s (Sun Jung Chi) excellent kung fu, Yu Ting is up for the challenge… an encounter that lasts all of 30 seconds as the GM bests Yu Ting and has him begging to become his student. The old “stink foot” technique was never so potent (truly one of the grossest, but intentionally funny, scenes in old school fu flick history)!
The old monk refuses the job, but Hsu Shi devises a plan for Yu Ting to “steal” the Grandmaster’s kung fu by attacking him and learning his moves in the process (an absurd concept that proves highly entertaining when Yu Ting plays “keep away” with some smoked chickens… this GM loves his meat and wine!). When this painful approach prompts Yu Ting to ask why the monk won’t teach him, Hsu Chi tells him of Chi Kung (Chang Shan), a former pupil of the Grandmaster’s who posed as a Shaolin student 10+ years ago while sitting as chief of the rival Golden Wheel Lamas. We learn his plan was to avenge the death of a former Lama chief at the hands of the Shaolin (of course!) by infiltrating their temple and stealing a secret kung fu manual (of course, of course!!). Couple this betrayal with knowing the old GM was the one who allowed Chi Kung to escape with the manual (which we see in flashback), and we have a good idea why he now has an affection for the drink.
Because SVL isn’t Shakespeare, I’ll wrap up the storyline by revealing some good ol’ tried and true particulars of the genre: Chi Kung resurfaces as Yao Feng Lin, up to his old tricks of infiltrating clans with his loyal lamas; when a survivor (Lee Wai Wan) of his latest attack is saved by Yu Ting and harbored by the Shaolin, it brings the lamas right to the temple doorsteps; as the head abbot (Chang Chi Ping) is about to put Yu Ting out of the temple for good, the Grandmaster takes pity and accepts him as his pupil (of course, of course, of course!!!); Yu Ting begins some brief, but rigorous Shaolin training in preparation for battle with Yao Feng (accompanied by a catchy Chinese opera/pipe organ jingle that shows up whenever the main players face off); the Shaolin traitor catches Yu Ting and his GM off guard, which leads to some spectacular kung fu with disastrous results; and we see Yao Feng use multiple styles from the secret manual, which will make the task of defeating him all the more difficult.
To sum it up, Shaolin Vs. Lama has it all… great fights, (intentionally) great comedy, cheesy costumes, crazy eyebrows, projectile “spittle” (wait… what?), a highly entertaining story, and (unintentionally) hilarious dubbing. Aside from the amazing fight scenes between Yu Ting, Yao Feng, and the Grandmaster, there are several battles between monks and lamas that are highly acrobatic and entertaining. While some fighters don’t display the most technical grace (note the fat, balding lama who looks out of place), the fights are so well-staged and the monks so on-point, you barely notice. (Shaolin Chief Yan Zu is excellent in his multiple encounters!) Major props go to William Yen, who provides well-placed comic relief as Lo Rei’s sidekick. As does Sun Jung Chi; his interactions with Yen and Lo Rei are very funny (you’ll remember “stink foot” for as long as you live!). It’s nice to see the comedic elements actually enhance an old school film rather than drag it down.
However, the fights between Lo Rei, Chang Shan, and Jung Chi are the reason to watch… some of my all-time favorite throw-downs. (In 1978, both Lo Rei and Chang Shan won the Taiwan Taekwondo Championship and the Second World Kung Fu Tournament, respectively, so their pedigrees are proven.) Their fights are so ferocious, and feature such exciting snippets of styles from tiger fist to shadow boxing to Sanshou (as noted in a 2016 interview Chang Shan gave to kungfukingdom.com), they make the hair stand up on my neck every time I watch them! And, I almost forgot to mention the Buddha Finger… the ultimate technique for finding your opponent’s weak spot! You’ll laugh at how it comes off during the training sequences and you’ll love how it’s applied in the final showdown!
Ultimate kudos to Nam and action director Peng Kong because none of the three main actors ever looked as good in any other film they made compared to Shaolin Vs. Lama. If you need proof, check out Lo Rei in the highly undercranked Ninja: The Final Duel… an awful film with near unwatchable fight choreography. Even Nam, who directed other good films like The Leg Fighters and Shaolin Invincible Sticks, never topped the quality level achieved in SVL. The fact everyone’s very best work comes out in the same fu flick tells you all you need to know about why Shaolin Vs. Lama is special, and deserves its place on the top shelf as one of the greatest of all time.
Game of Death: Collector’s Edition | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)
RELEASE DATE: May 16, 2017
Shout! Factory presents the Collector’s Edition Blu-ray for Game of Death, featuring an all-new 4K scan and restoration from the film’s original negative. According to insiders, this will be a 2-disc set, which also contain the Hong Kong version.
In Game of Death, Billy Lo (Bruce Lee) is a kung fu star with a promising career. When a syndicate leader (Dean Jagger) jumps at the chance to capitalize on his status, Billy’s kung fu mastery is put to the test. Tragically, Bruce Lee passed away during the production of Game of Death, but the film was completed with Kim Tai-chung (Tower of Death) in his place.
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.
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.
Another film Chen will be involved with is Triple Threat, an Expendables-type actioner also starring Tony Jaa (Skin Trade) and Iko Uwais (The Raid 2).
Updates: Watch the new Trailer for Kung Fu Traveler below:
Return of the Dragon: Collector’s Edition | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)
RELEASE DATE: May 16, 2017
Shout! Factory presents the Collector’s Edition Blu-ray for Return of the Dragon (aka Way of the Dragon), featuring an all-new 4K scan and restoration from the film’s original negative.
In Return of the Dragon, Tang Lung (Bruce Lee) flies to Rome to help a friend of the family, Chen Ching-hua (Nora Miao). She is being threatened by local gangsters to sell her restaurant and they will stop at nothing to get the property. In one of the film’s most famous sequences, Bruce takes on American martial arts expert Colt (Chuck Norris) in the ancient city’s majestic Coliseum. This classic is written and directed by Bruce Lee.
Shinya Tsukamoto, throughout his career, has brought his particular vision to a variety of genres. Due to the legendary status of the Tetsuo trilogy, Tsukamoto is often thought of as a director of cyberpunk. This is wrong. Shinya Tsukamoto is, at his core, a horror filmmaker. When a director adds their special seasoning to a drama, especially one that’s been seen before like boxing pictures or war films, it’s important to understand that director’s instincts. And, instinctually, Tsukamoto will return to horror concepts and vibes more than any other. Tokyo Fist is not a horror film, but it’s clear it was made by a horror director.
A salaryman named Tsuda (Shinya Tsukamoto) makes the rounds trying to sell insurance door-to-door. The city of Tokyo is presented as a hostile environment. The heat is unbearable. The noise is a ceaseless drone. The surroundings are claustrophobic—Tsukamoto’s Tokyo is an oppressive, almost predatory place. When he comes home to his girlfriend Hizuru (Kaori Fujii), Tsuda is too exhausted to do anything. It’s not until he runs into an old high school friend named Kojima (Koji Tsukamoto) that Tsuda begins to wake up. Kojima, a happier, younger man, is in excellent shape and trains as a pro boxer. One day Kojima comes to Tsuda’s place to find that only Hizuru is home. After a period of pleasant chitchat, Kojima takes off his shirt to show off his muscles, then gets overly-confident and goes in for a kiss. Though Hizuru rejects him right away, Kojima brags about the incident to Tsuda, and Tsuda assumes that more happened than his girlfriend is telling him. Tsuda storms his way over to Kojima’s apartment, confronts him, and receives two swift, practiced punches to the face for his troubles.
Like much of Shinya Tsukamoto’s filmography, Tokyo Fist is a story of becoming something else. When Kojima taunts Tsuda, he awakens a primal fury in the weaker man that he may soon regret. Likewise, when Tsuda accuses Hizuru of indiscretions, he ends up driving her directly into the arms of Kojima. Their transformations are small at first, driven by emotion, but it soon goes deeper. Tsuda, an insecure conservative, cannot stand being looked down upon. He begins training at the same gym as Kojima, turning himself into something lethal. Hizuru, who’d long been too eager to please others, decides to make herself happy. And what makes Hizuru happy is pain; she begins with ear piercings, and soon moves onto more extreme body work. And Kojima, the man who did not fully comprehend the danger of kicking the hornet’s nest, is forced to contend with both a violent rival and a strange affair.
In addition to being a boxing picture and a drama about a very unhealthy love triangle, Tokyo Fist is largely about wounded male pride. Kojima is turned down by Hizuru, so he screws things up for everybody. And Tsuda, though initially right to be angry, loses the high ground when he becomes suspicious and controlling of his girlfriend. While the men, driven by machismo and the need to be #1, train to better destroy one another, Hizuru undergoes an awakening and becomes a more complete woman. Her interest in body piercings should not distract from the fact that her story is the most inspiring and psychologically stable of the three. This was a woman who bowed to the flawed men in her life, and now she is setting the terms. It is a similar evolution to the one seen in Tsukamoto’s 2002 film A Snake of June, which saw the female lead’s sexual awakening when her path crosses with a villain from the outside world.
As Hizuru, actress Kaori Fujii (Linda Linda Linda) is something of a revelation. The little known actress deserves more work, if her performance in Tokyo Fist is any indication. As Tsuda, writer/director Shinya Tsukamoto delivers a strong dramatic performance. One of the things I’m struck by with Tsukamoto-the-actor is that he’s always more than willing to play unlikable characters in the films he directs. Though I think it’s fair to say that Tsukamoto is a more interesting director than he is an actor, his abilities on screen are nothing to sneeze at, and the role of Tsuda ranks as one of his best performances.
Stepping into the role of Kojima is Shinya Tsukamoto’s brother Koji, in his screen debut. Although Koji Tsukamoto originally dreamt of being a boxer, one bad bout left him badly beaten up. He turned to training other boxers after that, but the dream of getting in the ring again never abated. When, in his late 20’s, Koji Tsukamoto decided to put the gloves back on, the Tsukamoto family worried for his safety. Shinya decided that, if he made a boxing movie, everybody would be happy—he would get to direct a new movie, his brother would get to strap the gloves on again in a safer environment, and his mother wouldn’t have to worry about Koji getting hurt. Koji had never acted before, but you can’t really tell that in Tokyo Fist, where he gives a primal, half-crazed performance. Though he’s not become a prolific actor, Koji Tsukamoto did go on to do more films, including a few more with his director brother, as well as Takashi Miike’s Ley Lines and Yojiro Takita’s When the Last Sword is Drawn.
The fights, filmed in the same visually weird style as the rest of the film, are horrifying and intense. You won’t see tightly choreographed moves or emotional underdog moments that get the audiences on their feet. Tokyo Fist’s fights are about brutality. A well delivered punch can elicit a spray of blood that’d feel right at home in a later Tarantino work. And while I enjoyed these aspects of the film, I do feel Tsukamoto went overboard with the makeup to display the injuries. After a severe pounding, the bruises and welts are exaggerated and almost cartoonish. It’s violent and gross, so I’m not sure we’re meant to laugh, but we also cannot take it 100% seriously, either. Still, this is Tsukamoto trusting his instincts, and instinctually he remains in touch with his horror roots. Added to the strange visual choices is the film’s intense and at times otherworldly score by longtime Tsukamoto composer Chu Ishikawa. Composer Ishikawa rarely works on films made by other directors, so his music is perhaps the secret ingredient to what makes a Tsukamoto film feel so different. The director and composer complement each other well.
Boxing movies are everywhere, leading one to think that perhaps they’ve seen it all before. Well, you’ve never seen a boxing movie like Tokyo Fist before. Savage, strange, deep, and surprisingly progressive, Tokyo Fist remains one of Shinya Tsukamoto’s finest films.
We first heard about this Yuen Woo-ping (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny) project back in 2012, but apparently, there’s no sign of its lingering coming to a full stop any time soon. Thanks to AFS, a new preliminary banner poster has made its way online (see above).
Here’s what we know about Vigilantes so far: Yuen will direct and choreograph this English language, Chinese/Canadian produced trilogy. The first film in the series is titled Vigilantes: The Lost Order, which is billed as ‘The Matrix meets Wall Street.’ Now give your brain a moment to recover from imagining that crossover.
Vigilantes: The Lost Order follows a young female assassin who sets out to hunt down the villains that destroyed her family and along the way uncovers a global financial conspiracy ruling the world.
The crucial role of Vigilantes’ leading lady, or any other cast members, has yet to be announced. Considering Yuen seemingly has his hands full with Miracle Fighters, Hand Over Fist and Eight & a Half, we’re guessing the wheels will be in motion in 2018.
Until then, here’s the classic Trailer for Yuen’s 1980 classic, The Buddhist Fist:
Cult favorites Mel Novak (Black Belt Jones, Game of Death) and Kristine DeBell (The Big Brawl, Meatballs), who both starred in some of Robert Clouse’s (Enter the Dragon) most memorable martial arts flicks, are getting together in the new indie horror film, Holy Terror.
Believing the strange disturbances in their home are their deceased son reaching out from the other side, Molly and Tom ask a medium to make contact. But instead of their child, the three accidentally invite a vengeful demon to cross over….
Written and directed by Rich Mallery (Sociopathia) and executive-produced by Gregory Hatanaka (Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance), Holy Terror also stars Lisa London (Private Resort), Kelly Reiter (The Z Virus), Jesse Hlubik (All Cheerleaders Die), Nicole Olson, Scott Butler (Winer Dog Internationals) and Vida Ghaffari (Jimmy Kimmel Live!).
Director: Richard Yeung Writer: Lam Yee Hung Producer: Mona Fong Cast: Norman Chu Siu Keung, Philip Ko Fei, Tin Mat, Maria Yuen Chi Wai, Wong Yung, Wai Ga Man, Hung San Nam, Pak Man Biu, Jaime Chik Mei Jan, Erik Chan Ga Kei Running Time: 86 min.
By Martin Sandison
Beginning with 1975’s Black Magic, the legendary Shaw Brothers studio began to make horror movies which became increasingly grotesque, darkly funny and gory. Most of these centred around the practices of Chinese black magic, and Seeding of a Ghost was one of the last examples of this genre before the studio closed its doors. While a little formulaic, the film is a great example of extreme cinema that had been birthed around the world, with movies as notorious as Cannibal Holocaust pushing the boundaries of what can be seen onscreen.
The movie stars two of the greatest martial arts actors of the time, Phillip Ko Fei (Techno Warriors) and Norman Tsui Siu Keung (Sword Master). They had appeared together in two of the classics of independent kung fu cinema just previous to Seeding of a Ghost, The Loot and the Challenger. A complete change of pace for both, the film does feature a couple of fights but they are presciently in the style of the Heroic Bloodshed films that revolutionised Hong Kong cinema.
In Seeding of a Ghost, Ko is a taxi driver who runs over a master of the dark arts who tells him never to become involved in his practices or he will perish. Tsui plays a successful businessman who seduces Ko’s wife Irene (Maria Yuen Chi Wai). One night, Tsui and Irene have an argument and she runs off only to be raped by a couple of delinquents. Ko goes after the two and Tsui, but to no avail. He decides to visit the Master, who puts into action the titular seeding of a ghost ceremony…
The Blu-ray release of the movie, by 88 films in the UK, is brilliant. The film looks like it could have been made yesterday, and it’s great to see a movie as schlocky as this one be given the HD treatment. There’s some really disgusting stuff on show here: A man puking up worms, a person having sex with a corpse that has come back to life and a pregnant women’s stomach exploding. The effects are on the whole animatronic, organic and great; even a little computer effect doesn’t look dated.
The influences are plain to see; mostly body horror movies that came out around the time such as David Cronenberg’s genre defining Videodrome. The biggest influence is from my favourite horror film of all time, John Carpenter’s The Thing. While of course not on the scale of the shape-shifting aliens of that masterpiece, the ending has some great shots and is on a par in terms of gore. The roots of the genre come in the form of the ideas of Chinese black magic, which could not be shown in Mainland Chinese movies post-Mao. This gives it a distinct Hong Kong style and flavour, one that could only have come out of the former Colony. An extra on the Blu-ray is a piece by film critic Calum Waddell, which goes into this historical context in detail, is very enlightening.
Director Richard Yueng Kuen, who also directed Phillip Ko Fei in the Independent kung fu classic Duel of the 7 Tigers, had a career that began in the 1960’s and stretched in to the early 1990’s. He didn’t direct much for Shaw Brothers, but shows an aptitude for the extremes of the genre. The lighting and camerawork are of a high standard, even the animatronic corpse doesn’t look too bad. Being an exploitation movie there is also a lot of nudity and sex scenes – they’re quite racy, but not too explicit. The rape scene is drawn out and hard to watch, but the act is over in a matter of a few seconds. Ko and Tsui put in two of their best performances here, especially the former who depicts the desperation of his character superbly.
Seeding of a Ghost works so well on the level of pure shlock and gore that you would be forgiven for thinking it’s without depth; at the tailend of the Shaw Brothers filmography, the studio began to embrace these types of movies – and with others of its ilk ushered in the Category 3 film, which would eventually become more explicit a few years later in Hong Kong cinema. Highly recommended.
Martin Sandison’s Rating: 8/10
Beware of spoilers in the following clip from Seeding of a Ghost:
Even 43 years after his passing, not only does Bruce Lee continue stay relevant, he also gains more and more global popularity with each passing year – and 2016/2017 is definitely no exception. Between now and the next few months, brace yourself for a load of newly released Bruce Lee-releated features. If you’re a die hard fan, Bruce is about to attack and he’s aiming right for your wallet…
The Chinese Connection: 4K Collector’s Edition | Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)
U.S. versions of these 4K remasters, from Shout! Factory, are also available: Fists of Fury (featuring an all-new commentary by The Big Boss-obsessed Brandon Bentley) and Chinese Connection were released last month. Shout! has released these as their original U.S. titles, but they will feature reversible sleeves with optional international artwork (Enter the Dragon will most likely not be released by Shout!, since Warner holds the film’s North American rights).
Update: Shout! has just announced 4K remasters of Way of the Dragon and Game of Death, which will be available later this year!
Tracking the Dragon | DVD (MVD Visual)
Note: If you’re not familiar with 4K digital technology restoration, here’s the breakdown: 4K 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. However, the aforementioned titles are standard Blu-rays made from a 4K master, so you will not need a 4K Blu-ray player.
In addition to all the 4K news, MVD Visual has recently released a new, 100-minute Bruce Lee documentary on DVD titled Tracking the Dragon(read our review). Building on his earlier documentary, Pursuit of the Dragon, Bruce Lee expert John Little (A Warrior’s Journey) tracks down the actual locations of some of Bruce’s most iconic action scenes. Many of these sites remain largely unchanged nearly half a century later. At monasteries, ice factories, and on urban streets, Little explores the real life settings of Lee’s legendary career.
The Legend of Bruce Lee: Vol. 1
Last October saw the release of Well Go USA’s Ip Man Trilogy (non-steel book version) on Blu-ray. Although it’s not a direct Bruce Lee product, this award winning adaptation is based on the life of Ip Man (Donnie Yen), the grandmaster of Wing Chun and later teacher and mentor to Bruce, who makes an appearance (obviously by actors) in Ip Man 2-3. The set will contain all three Ip Man films.
Also, an upcoming Hollywood film about Bruce Lee titled Birth of the Dragon will be making its way to theaters later this year. This fable-based movie – directed by George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau) – will take a look at the life of legendary martial artist (portrayed by Philip Ng of Wild City), using Lee’s disputed bout with Master Wong Jack-Man (Yu Xia) as the centerpiece of the story.
Last but not least, 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. Warrior will tell 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.
We’ll keep you updated on any Bruce Lee-related news as we hear more. As always, stay tuned!
For the sequel (not to be confused with the other West films that are currently in development), Hark takes over directing duties, while Chow produces. Shu Qi, Wen Zhang, and Huang Bo will return for the sequel. Joining them this time around is Vicky Zhao (14 Blades), Kris Wu (The Mermaid)and Kenny Lin (The Taking of Tiger Mountain).
The original, which was directed by Chow (read our review), centered on Tang Sanzang, a Buddhist trying to protect a village from three demons, his emerging feelings for Miss Duan, the demon hunter who helps him repeatedly, and Sanzang’s transformative encounter with the Monkey King.
The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake(read our review) based on the real-life of Qiu Jin (Huang Yi), a Chinese revolutionary, feminist, writer and kung fu badass. Her steadfast resolve to improve the plight of women and her bravery in the face of tyranny led her to the executioner – but her determination to topple the status-quo changed a nation forever.
Director: Bruce Fontaine Producer: Bruce Fontaine, Theo Kim Cast: Brian Ho, Don Lew, Paul Wu, Paul Wu, Anthony Towe, Nickolas Baric, Eddy Ko Hung, Raymond Chan, Peter Chao, Osric Chau, Josette Jorge, Valerie Tian Running Time: 89 min.
By Kyle Warner
Even as a kid, when I watched Jackie Chan movies I was always well aware that, as awesome as Jackie was, the performers he shared his fight scenes with had to be on a high level, too. Jackie might’ve gotten the larger share of the hero moves, near-death escapes, and giant stunt pieces, but it was his opponents that added that dramatic tension to the fights. I’ll never learn the names of half these guys and gals who helped make these movies what they are. But one name I did pick up on was Bruce Fontaine, perhaps best known as one of the bad guys in Operation Condor. The fight on the moving platforms in Operation Condor as Jackie fights off multiple villains (including Fontaine) is one of the best sequences in the entire Jackie Chan filmography, and part of that credit belongs to the stuntmen who helped make it happen.
Though Fontaine remains an active stunt coordinator and performer today, he has not been featured in on-screen roles as much lately. Fontaine’s last acting credit for a Hong Kong film was Benny Chan’s 1996 action movie Big Bullet. Now Fontaine is onto a new stage in his film career: director.
Beyond Redemption is a Canada based action movie about a cop undercover in an Asian gang. Fontaine fills his cast with stunt performers, most of whom have only acted sparingly in speaking roles. The film’s writer’s room also shows little experience. This is about as indie, do-it-yourself as filmmaking can get. And, just so we’re clear, I applaud such an effort. I really do. For while I don’t think Beyond Redemption is a great movie, that can-do spirit is always evident.
The plot is somehow overly simple and also confusing at the same time. Billy (Brian Ho) is an undercover cop, but this is only confirmed to us about 1/3 into the picture. Billy’s posing as a new member of a gang led by Yuan (Don Lew). And though it seems that Billy’s seen enough violence and drugs to easily get the gang convicted, he wants to hold off until a mysterious home invasion plot unfurls.
Elsewhere in the story, Xi Long (Anthony Towe), a tech businessman with links to the Triads, is involved with selling a new program to an interested Middle Eastern buyer. Before the end of the film, these two parallel stories will collide. However, until that time, it’s a little unclear just why Xi Long and his business partners are important to the film.
It’s a poor screenplay. The story is rife with concepts we’ve seen done better in other, similar undercover crime pics. The way the plot unfolds is a little confusing, as it keeps some things secret or vague for too long. And the dialogue is all testosterone and profanity.
The actors aren’t bad. It’s clear that they’re rather inexperienced but I thought they were a likable bunch. Brian Ho (Outcast) could use more work in dramatic line readings, but he’s convincing and cool in the action scenes. Don Lew (Star Trek Beyond) is solid as the bad guy, Yuan. I particularly liked Paul Wu (The Package) as Bosco, the lead henchman, who’s a big, intimidating figure. Hong Kong legend Eddy Ko (Duel to the Death) has a cameo appearance as an ally of Xi Long, and it was cool to see him again even if his role is minor. Popular internet personalities Paul Chao, The Chengman, and Leenda Dong also have supporting roles in the film.
Director Bruce Fontaine appears to be a big fan of the late Tony Scott, here adopting the visual style found in many of Scott’s later films. He gives the film a blurry, drunk-at-a-concert vibe, and I actually think it’s pretty cool. He even borrows the use of exaggerated, stylized subtitles that were seen in Scott’s Man on Fire. (A further note on the subtitles in Beyond Redemption: though the film is mostly in English, there is some subtitled Chinese dialogue. And considering there’s so little of it, one would’ve hoped it’d be better proofread so as to be rid of typos.) In the action scenes, Fontaine films things well, and we get to see the film’s stars show off their stuff. But one wishes his editing was tighter, so as to keep the movie flowing better.
In this reviewer’s opinion, Beyond Redemption isn’t a very good film. As a low-budget action movie, the film’s plot and characters are not interesting enough to rise above certain amateurish aspects of the production. Still, it’s not all bad, and one can see potential here for both director Fontaine and his cast.
I hope to see actors Brian Ho, Don Lew, and Paul Wu, go onto bigger and better things, and I’ll explain why: there are not nearly enough roles for Asian men and women in North America’s film productions. Unless we’re talking about familiar action stars like Jackie, Jet, and Donnie, most Asian actors are relegated to background roles in Hollywood. Debates continue about why, why, WHY are there not more Asian men and women in a film like 2017’s Ghost in the Shell. And—though I do not defend that film’s reasoning and I think Max Landis is a punk—I will say that our film industry has not done enough to foster Asian acting talent at home. Hollywood prefers instead to import an international actor once their star has grown bright enough. And if such a star doesn’t exist, then things like Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson happen. There need to be more films like Beyond Redemption, movies where actors like Brian Ho can grow, refine their craft, and hopefully gain some new fans. This film was not all that it could’ve been but I appreciate the effort to showcase Asian talent in a North American film and hope to see more (hopefully superior) films like it in the future.
Writer/director Eran Creevy (Welcome to the Punch) is back with dual dose of style ‘n action with his 3rd film, Collide (aka Autobahn). The upcoming flick stars Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road), Felicity Jones (Star Wars: Rogue One), Anthony Hopkins (Mission: Impossible II) and Ben Kingsley (Hugo).
In Collide, a young American couple Casey (Hoult) and Juliette (Jones) are plunged into an adrenaline-pumping game of cat and mouse across Germany when they find themselves caught between two ruthless feuding criminals (Hopkins and Kingsley).
Collider will be finally hitting U.S. theaters on February 24th, 2017. Don’t miss its newest Trailer below:
AKA: Strike 4 Revenge Director: Chang Cheh Cast: David Chiang, Ti Lung, Chen Kuan Tai, Wang Chung, Cheng Li, Lily Li, Yasuaki Kurata, Tina Chin Fei, Tina Chin Fei, Chan Chuen, Chan Dik Hak, Chui Fat, Dang Tak Cheung, Fung Hak On, Ho Hon Chau, Ho Pak Kwong Running Time: 104 min.
By Paul Bramhall
The period from 1971 – 1972 could well be referred to as ‘The Iron Triangle on Tour’ era. The term ‘Iron Triangle’ came about as a reference to the collaborations between director Chang Cheh, and his two favourite leading men of the era, Ti Lung and David Chiang. Many of their collaborations proved to be a recipe for box office success, and the trio churned out 9 movies alone during the 2 years mentioned, all for the Shaw Brothers studio. During 1971 they went to Bangkok together, and made Duel of Fists, then hit the streets of Tokyo a year later to make a sequel, titled The Angry Guest. However Thailand and Japan weren’t their only destinations during this period, as they also travelled to Korea, during which time they made Four Riders.
By 1972 the Shaw Brothers studio already had a number of Korean talents working for them. During the same year director Cheng Chang-ho made the seminal classic King Boxer, while fellow director Chang Il-ho made The Deadly Knives and The Thunderbolt Fist (which also had a Korean star in the form of James Nam). Surprisingly then, outside of the location shooting and some of the extras, Four Riders features no local Korean talent. In a way it’s understandable, Golden Harvest founder Raymond Chow also travelled to Korea the same year and made Hapkido, which was the first time for the likes of Whang In-shik and Ji Han-jae to really show off their talents. By the end of the decade, the thought of filming a production in Korea and featuring zero Taekwondo or Hapkido practitioners would be an unthinkable one.
While this could be considered a missed opportunity (especially when you consider how much Muay Thai was showcased in Duels of Fists and The Angry Guest), the fact that Four Riders is from the era when everyone involved was in their prime, makes it easy to forgive. Lung and Chiang weren’t the only pair with whom Cheh had forged a successful working relationship, with action choreographers Lau Kar Leung and Tong Gaai equally contributing to the popularity of his output. By the time of Four Riders, Kar Leung and Gaai had choreographed over 20 of the directors movies together, dating back to The Magnificent Trio from 1966. Here the duo had plenty of martial arts talent to work with, as joining Lung and Chiang to complete the Four Riders of the title, are fellow Shaw regulars Chen Kuan Tai and Wong Chun.
The title is a reference to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, as read by a bible brandishing Chen Kuan Tai to his nurse girlfriend, and alluding to the characters themselves. The best thing about this scene is that, as Kuan Tai reads the passage, scenes of the horsemen in battle play concurrently via a split screen, indicating that if Chang Cheh had ever decided to make a biblical adaptation, it would have been suitably epic and bloody. I question whether these scenes were filmed specifically for this sequence, or if perhaps they’re unused footage from The Heroic Ones made 2 years prior, however in either case, they work within the context of the scene.
The setting for the movie itself is July 1953, immediately after the end of the Korean War. Ti Lung plays a Chinese G.I. stationed in one of the Korean army bases, and having declared to his superior that he no longer works for him now that the war’s over, tears off his stripes and instigates a mass brawl. While the other G.I.’s are busy fighting each other, Lung takes the opportunity to steal a jeep. Armed with his army pay-out and no plans for the future, his only goal is to drive to Seoul and live it up for as long as he can. On the way he picks up another wandering G.I., played by Wong Chun (who amusingly jumps off a wall into the jeep as it’s driving past, reminding us that amongst all of Cheh’s trademark macho heroics, he always had an eye for the goofy), and the pair make their way to Seoul together.
Much like Cheh’s Thailand and Japan set productions, the pairs drive into the Seoul cityscape plays out like a travelogue, as the camera lingers and takes in the surrounding sights and monuments, all the while played to a funky 70’s lounge track. Indeed despite the setting supposedly being 1953, it’s a hard sell to say the least. The music, fashion, and even surroundings are all distinctly 1972. Most glaringly, in a latter nightclub scene, Cheh can’t seem to resist the opportunity to do a similar travelogue like montage of Seoul’s neon sign lit streets, further indicating that the reference to 1953 is almost supposed to be taken as thematic rather than literal. Chun has plans to visit his friend in hospital that was wounded in action, played by Chen Kuan Tai, and the pair go their separate ways upon arriving in the Korean capital.
It’s worth noting that Chiang also plays a G.I., one who is already in Seoul, and spends all of his time witling away his money in a hostess bar (amusingly named ‘Hello John!’) with Shaw Brothers starlet Lily Li. Chiang doesn’t actually meet the others until over an hour in, but he’s present throughout, as the story establishes his friendship with Lung. It’s when Lung is framed for murder that he’s reunited with Chun, as the hospital also doubles as a temporary prison, and his insistence that he’s innocent prompts his new friend to get to the bottom of what’s gone down. In fact Lung has been framed by the gangster than runs ‘Hello John!’, which acts as a front to recruit money hungry and jobless G.I.’s to act as drug mules to shift product, imported from Japan, to the U.S.
The Japan connection is significant, as it explains the casting of a fresh faced Yasuaki Kurata as the gangster in question. It was director Cheh that gave Kurata his break in Hong Kong, with The Angry Guest being his debut from the same year. Interestingly the Japanese star spent the remainder of the 70’s in independent bashers, only once returning to the Shaw Brothers studio to feature in Lau Kar Leung’s 1978 masterpiece, Heroes of the East. Decked out in a sharp black suit, he certainly looks the part, and exudes a menacing cool. Until we get to the scenes in which he interacts with his American boss, and he’s suddenly dubbed into English by what sounds like a softly spoken teenage boy. In fact all of the cast are dubbed at various points in the movie, either to speak English, or more frequently to speak Korean.
Four Riders deals with some interesting themes, even if they’re not explored in a particularly competent way. Chang Cheh was, after all, called the Godfather of the Kung Fu Film, not the Godfather of Existentialism. However the theme of the G.I.’s becoming aimless wanderers after the war creates some moments that resonate. In one particular scene, a guards asks Lung why everyone is fighting as he drives out of the base in his newly acquired jeep, to which he responds, “I wouldn’t know. But still, it’s been a long war. They’ve got to fight somebody.” The movie also opens and closes with wide shots of Korea’s snow covered countryside, which play out in silence, allowing us to occasionally glimpse the outline of 4 figures wading through the harsh landscape, before focusing on a single flower that’s bloomed from the bitter conditions. Indeed the war may be over, but beauty takes time to return.
However more than anything, Four Riders is, like any Chang Cheh flick, about the action. While there are several brawls throughout, including an intense throwdown between Chiang and Kurata at the 40 minute mark, the extended finale is really the highlight. Lung, Chun, and Kuan Tai face off against a horde of about 50 attackers in a gymnasium (which of course, comes with a trampoline), in a skirmish that literally has bodies flying all over the screen, while Chiang throws down against an equally ferocious group of attackers in the bar. Watching this particular scene again now, I can’t help but feel that Gareth Evans was giving it a nod with the scene in The Raid 2, in which Yayan Ruhian is ambushed in a remarkably similar setting. Chiang has never looked more furious than he does here, even more so than in the finale of Vengeance!, as he stomps on heads, delivers kicks to the face, and even scalps someone amidst a joyous amount of collateral damage.
The brawl in the gym is equally energetic, which has Lung at one point brandishing a barbell as a weapon, providing the Shaw Brothers fake blood department with plenty of work. The scene even throws in an early example of heroic bloodshed, giving an indicator of how Cheh’s apprentice John Woo developed his style. The sheer number of opponents the trio have to fend off, and the flow of choreography to coordinate such a mass showdown, is a joy to watch. Even Kurata enjoys it, who spends the initial stages calmly brandishing a Winchester rifle as he watches on, cigarette hanging from his lips. Watching any Chang Cheh movie of this nature, you know how it’s going to end, and Four Riders delivers the characters of its title a worthy finale, providing a liberal helping of fists, feet, bullets, and bloody mayhem.
As a self-confessed fan of this era from Chang Cheh’s filmography, for me Four Riders is on par with the likes of The Duel and Blood Brothers as the cream of the crop. Sure it gets goofy, such as the surveillance camera in the gangsters office being able to follow a fight around the room when being watched on TV. But for every goofy scene, you have one that exudes macho cool, like when Chiang confidently swigs directly from a bottle of Johnnie Walker, and Kurata calmly puts a bullet through it courtesy of a gun fitted with a silencer. For whatever reason, Four Riders often seems to be overlooked when discussing Cheh’s best movies, so if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and check it out.
After his smash hit Veteran, Ryoo Seung-wan is now preparing to release Battleship Island, a big budget action thriller. The upcoming film, set on Hashima Island in Japan, will revolve around the story of Korean laborers force to work by the Japanese military during World War II, who plan to escape to the island.
Veteran star Hwang Jeong-min leads a cast that includes So Ji-Sub (Company Man), Song Joong-Ki (Five Senses of Eros), Lee Jung-Hyun (Night Fishing), Yoon Dae-Yul (Kundo: Age of Rampant) and Kim Soo-Ahn (Train to Busan).
It sounds like Battleship Island could be more similar to Tsui Hark’s The Taking of Tiger Mountain, than The Berlin File and his other efforts – either way, any new Ryoo Seung-wan movie is a reason to celebrate! (via Paul Bramhall).
Battleship Island hits theaters this Summer. Watch the Trailer below:
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