Veteran (2015) Review

Veteran | Blu-ray (CJ Entertainment)

Veteran | Blu-ray (CJ Entertainment)

Director: Ryoo Seung-wan
Writer: Ryoo Seung-wan
Producer: Kang Hye-Jung
Cast: Hwang Jeong-Min, Yu A-In, Yu Hae-Jin, Oh Dal-Su, Jang Yun-Joo, Oh Dae-Hwan, Kim Si-Hu, Jeong Woong-In, Jeong Man-Sik, Cheon Ho-Jin, Song Young-Chang, Jin Kyung, Lee Dong-Hwi, Yu In-Young, Bae Sung-Woo
Running Time: 123 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Director Ryoo Seung-wan is a familiar name to fans of Korean action cinema, ever since his debut Die Bad in 2000, he’s consistently delivered a series of movies which combine action with a strong narrative. Since his riotous parody of old school Korean action movies with 2008’s Dachimawa Lee, the director has taken a decidedly darker approach, with both The Unjust and The Berlin File exploring the not so pleasant side of life. While both contained plenty of his trademarks, Seung-wan himself expressed a desire to move away from these darker tales, and get back to the type of action movies that he watched in his youth, those that existed in a brighter world where the good guy wins.

Veteran is that return, and is arguably his most successful production to date. At the time of writing, Seung-wan’s latest has surpassed US$1M at the US box office, which is no small feat for a Korean movie, and become the third most watched production of all time domestically. Pushing out Avatar, Korea’s top 3 most watched movies are now all domestic productions released between summer 2014 – summer 2015 (the first is The Admiral: Roaring Currents, and second Ode to My Father), perhaps indicating a new golden era for the Korean film industry.

On watching Veteran, it’s easy to see why. Seung-wan is once again paired with Korea’s best action choreographer and frequent collaborator, Jung Doo-hong, and together the end result is the director’s tightest movie to date. Hwang Jeong-min takes the lead role (also the star of Ode to My Father), and he gets plenty of chances to flex the action muscle which he showed a knack for in Fists of Legend and The New World. Playing an experienced detective, when one of his friends suspiciously attempts to commit suicide, all leads point to an arrogant corporate heir played by Yoo Ah-in. There are a whole bunch of supporting characters, on both sides of the law, however the story basically boils down to Jeong-min trying to get to the truth about what happened to his friend.

Jeong-min and Seung-wan have collaborated together before, when the actor played the lead in the 2010 thriller The Unjust. While in that movie he was also playing a detective, here his role couldn’t be any further away from the previous incarnation. Essentially playing the heart and soul of the movie, Jeong-min confidently swaggers his way though proceedings, never afraid to deliver a punch to the face of someone who deserves it, and thankfully the plot delivers a fair few that do. As the movie opens to the thumping soundtrack of ‘Heart of Glass’ by Blondie, he sets himself up to infiltrate a car smuggling ring, by hiding in the trunk of a vehicle set to be reconditioned. When events transpire that see him alone in a small garage against a group of angry gangsters, a fantastically choreographed scene plays out that displays more than a few nods to Jackie Chan, as various props are utilized in increasingly imaginative ways.

The Jackie Chan influence is also very visible in the way humor is incorporated into the action scenes, with several laugh out loud sight gags thrown in amongst the fists and feet. One aspect of the action which I felt really stuck out in Seung-wan’s previous effort, The Berlin File, was the understanding of how to convey a sense of impact onscreen. In that movie one scene has Ha Jeong-woo being knocked off his feet, landing awkwardly on a ventilation pipe jutting out from a building roof, and it’s filmed in such a way that you genuinely feel it. The sound design and camera angle is just perfect. Seung-wan and Doo-hong have successfully carried over that technique to Veteran, with some truly wince worthy blows and falls thrown into the mix.

Veteran also delivers a stellar cast, with plenty of familiar faces from Seung-wan’s previous movies turning up in various roles. Yoo Hae-jin, who starred alongside Jeong-min in The Unjust, here delivers a repulsive turn as Ah-in’s faithful assistant. Oh Dal-soo, a performer who could well be Korea’s busiest actor working today, turns up as Jeong-min’s closest team member, here hot off the heels from significant roles in both Assassination and opposite Jeong-min in Ode to my Father. Dal-soo also notably had a role in Seung-wan’s 2004 boxing drama Crying Fist.

Ah-in himself could be considered the newcomer of the bunch, and Veteran is by far the biggest production he’s worked on to date. At times his performance threatens to push his villainous upstart into territory which could be considered over the top, however he successfully manages to reel it in just as it’s teetering on the brink each time. His portrayal creates a character that’s easy to hate, which exactly fits the job description of his role, so no complaints.

Notably missing in action is the director’s brother, Ryoo Seung-beom, who usually turns up in some form or another in Seung-wan’s movies, marking the first time he hasn’t appeared since 2006’s City of Violence. Thankfully the movie doesn’t suffer from his absence, and despite a slight lag after a blistering opening third, things are brought back with a bang for the finale, that sees a car chase through the streets of Seoul which is refreshingly CGI free. Seung-wan has stated that a stuntman suffered an almost fatal injury on the set of Veteran, and while he didn’t go into the specifics of which stunt it happened on, watching a couple of impacts during said sequence, it’s probably a safe guess that it was during this scene.

After a container yard throwdown, a frenzied knife fight in a small apartment, a rooftop chase sequence, and a car park beatdown, Jeong-min breaks his fists out one more time to take on Ah-in, in a wonderfully messy knock down drag out street brawl that doesn’t disappoint. It even throws in a hilarious cameo from Ma Dong-seok just for good measure

Seung-wan has openly stated his love for the Lethal Weapon series, and approached Veteran with the series in mind. Stating in a recent interview how he particularly admired the way the cast, director, and production staff remained the same for each movie, the director has confirmed that there’ll be two sequels to Veteran. While we won’t be seeing the next installment for at least a couple of years, if it’s anything like the first one, you can count me in.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8/10

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Nikkatsu Diamond Guys: Vol 2 | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

Nikkatsu Diamond Guys: Vol 2 | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

Nikkatsu Diamond Guys: Vol 2 | Blu-ray (Arrow Video)

RELEASE DATE: June 21, 2016

On June 21, 2016, Arrow Video will be releasing the Blu-ray collection for Nikkatsu Diamond Guys: Vol 2, which includes 1960′s Tokyo Mighty Guy, directed by Buichi Saito (The Rambling Guitarist); 1962′s Danger Pays, directed by Ko Nakahira; and 1965′s Murder Unincorporated, directed by Haryasu Noguchi – all in this 3-disc Blu-ray collection!

Read on for the full details:

Nikkatsu, the oldest film studio in Japan, inaugurated a star system in the late 1950s, finding talent and contracting them to a series of wild genre pictures. This collection celebrates these “Diamond Guys” with three classic films from directors Buichi Saito (The Rambling Guitarist), Ko Nakahira (Crazed Fruit), and Haruyasu Noguchi, who is a new discovery for the West.

In Saito’s Tokyo Mighty Guy, mega star Akira Kobayashi stars as Jiro in the rambunctious tale of a chef who opens a restaurant in the busy Ginza district. His culinary skills and dashing good looks bring in the women as well as unwanted trouble, while an explosive political scandal builds around his girlfriend’s business…

Next, Jo Shishido (Massacre Gun, Retaliation), one of the most popular Diamond Guys in the West, stars in Danger Pays, a crime caper from Ko Nakahira about counterfeiting. When one billion yen goes AWOL, “Joe the Ace” (Shishido) spies an opportunity to get rich quick, but things soon go wrong as it turns out he isn’t the only one who’ll stop at nothing to get his hands on the missing cash…

Finally, Shishido stars once again in Noguchi’s screwball classic Murder Unincorporated. When the mysterious “Joe of Spades” executes one of the bosses of a powerful syndicate, his colleagues, fearing for their own lives, call on the services of assassin agency Murder Unincorporated to take care of the problem. This unique entry showcases some of the most peculiar killing tactics to ever hit Japanese cinema!

Presented on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time in the West, these thrilling genre films feature some of Nikkatsu’s leading talent at the top of their game.

Special Edition Contents

Limited Edition Blu-ray collection (3000 copies)
High Definition digital transfers of all three films in this collection, from original film elements by Nikkatsu Corporation
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
Original uncompressed mono audio
Newly translated English subtitles
Specially recorded video discussions with Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp on Diamond Guys Jo Shishido and Akira Kobayashi
Original trailers for all three films
Extensive promotional image galleries for all films
Reversible sleeve featuring brand new artwork by Graham Humphreys
Booklet featuring new writing on all the films and director profiles by Stuart Galbraith IV, Tom Mes and Mark Schilling

Pre-order Nikkatsu Diamond Guys: Vol 2 from Amazon.com today!

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Deal on Fire! Once Upon a Time in Shanghai | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

Once Upon A Time in Shanghai | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Once Upon A Time in Shanghai | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Once Upon a Time in Shanghai (read our review), a martial arts film directed by Wong Ching Po (Let’s Go!) with action choreography from the legendary Yuen Woo-ping (The Matrix).

The plot involves a laborer who moves to Shanghai in the hope of becoming rich, but ends up using his kung fu skills to survive. The cast includes Phillip Ng (Bodyguards & Assassins), Andy On (Special Identity), Luxia Jiang (True Legend) and Sammo Hung (Kill Zone). Watch the trailer.

Order Once Upon A Time in Shanghai from Amazon.com today!

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Scott Adkins to take on Al Capone in ‘The Returner’

"Zero Tolerance" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Zero Tolerance" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Scott Adkins (Wolf Warrior, Zero Tolerance) is reuniting with William Kaufman (Jarhead 3: The Siege) for The Returner, a fantasy action film that echoes both Death Wish and The Crow. The film will be written and produced by Chad Law (6 Bullets, Close Range).

According to Deadline, Adkins will star as Piper, the owner of a speakeasy who refuses to sell Al Capone’s booze during Prohibition and pays the ultimate price. After Piper and his family are murdered, he mysteriously returns from the grave; a revenant, he has nine lives to exact vengeance — and possibly rewrite history.

Be sure to read about Adkins’ other forthcoming projects, which include Hard Target 2, Eliminators and Undisputed IV – not to mention a role in Marvel’s Doctor Strange.

We’ll keep you updated on The Returner as more news is available.

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A 90s action star is back for more in ‘The Butterfly Guard’

"Fists of Iron" Theatrical Poster

"Fists of Iron" Theatrical Poster

If you recall straight-to-video titles like To Be the Best, Final Impact, Fists of Iron and Isaac Florentine’s U.S. Seals II, then there’s a chance you might remember a martial artist named Michael Worth.

Worth is mostly known for his action film resume in the 90s, but over the years, he has branched out to writing and directing a number of indie films in multiple genres that include romance, comedy, war, horror and even a musical.

But now, Worth is bringing his skill back to the ring with a new martial arts drama titled The Butterfly Guard, a project he wrote, directed and is starring in (he also knows a thing or two about Bruceploitation).

The Butterfly Guard is a drama about two fighters as they make the journey from opposite ends of the world to fight each other and the realizations they face along the way. The film co-stars Tim Thomerson (Trancers) and Ivan Sergei (Once a Thief TV series).

There’s currently no release date, but we’ll be sure to fill you in as we learn more. Until then, don’t miss the film’s trailer.

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Hard Corps, The (2006) Review

"The Hard Corps" Japanese DVD Cover

"The Hard Corps" Japanese DVD Cover

AKA: The Defender
Director: Sheldon Lettich
Writer: Sheldon Lettich, George Saunders
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Razaaq Adoti, Vivica A. Fox, Peter Bryant, Ron Bottitta, Viv Leacock, Adrian Holmes, Mark Griffin, Ron Selmour, Aaron Au, Dexter Bell
Running Time: 110 min.

By Kyle Warner

When a movie is a direct-to-DVD release, it comes with certain (usually lowered) expectations. We typically expect something low budget, often with subpar acting, and just enough of the right genre ingredients to appease that genre’s less discerning fans. The Hard Corps fits those expectations pretty well, but it does offer up a few things that set it apart. The film looks pretty good despite its low budget, it gives us some characterization with real depth, and the story (though far-fetched) does come to a satisfying conclusion… However, along the way The Hard Corps largely skimps on the action, likely letting down the primary audience who just showed up to watch JCVD kick some ass for a couple hours.

Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Sauvage, a soldier who’s recently come home from Iraq. Suffering from PTSD, he spends most of his time in a veteran’s hospital until an old war buddy comes to him with a job opportunity. Boxing champion Wayne Barclay (Razaaq Adoti) is in danger now that a rap music producer with a grudge has gotten out of jail. At the behest of Barclay’s sister (Vivica A. Fox), Barclay’s head of security hires Sauvage and his war buddy to protect the boxer while the angry rap producer comes gunning for his life. This is a film that attempts to mix the Iraq War with boxing and the dark side of the music industry. That’s a lot of competing worlds fighting for space in one movie.

It’s not long before Sauvage finds himself the leader of Barclay’s protection team. He then makes up his mind to fill the ranks with boxers, martial artists, and one of his other old war buddies. During all of this, Sauvage grows closer to Barclay’s sister, while Barclay develops suspicions about Sauvage’s wartime history and his time apparently spent in a psychiatric hospital following the war.

One thing that The Hard Corps succeeds at that other similar films do not is that it cares about character development. Van Damme’s Sauvage begins as a broken man who rediscovers his purpose as a man of action. The boxer Barclay learns to trust and put his life in other people’s hands. And Barclay’s sister Tamara gradually grows closer to Sauvage, beginning what looks like a romance despite Sauvage’s distant nature. Van Damme is good in the lead role, mixing drama with his usual action star moves. Though not as lively as some of Van Damme’s best work, his performance here is sure to satisfy fans. Razaaq Adoti (Second in Command) is okay as Barclay. The film has some dopey dialogue that would’ve been tough for the greatest of actors and Adoti is not in that class. Vivica A. Fox (Kill Bill) has never really been thought of as a top talent in the dramatic acting category, but she has a likable nature and she uses that here, providing the film with a bit of levity when the rest of the story is brooding and angry. Without her, I think the film would’ve drowned in testosterone.

The film’s major weakness is that it takes too long to get to the point, particularly in regards to just why this rap music convict has it in for Barclay. Played by Viv Leacock (I Spy), the bad guy Terrell Singletery is laughably over-the-top. He kills his own men, feeds people to dogs, and sends hitmen after Barclay almost daily and the cops never seem to care. Now, there are a few twists that I don’t wish to divulge, but suffice it to say that this whole thing is more than a bit far-fetched. I think the plot would’ve played better if it’d been more open with the audience. All the important things are withheld until the final act—Sauvage’s wartime history, the rapper villain’s history with Barclay, etc.—and I think we should’ve gotten some of the facts before then. At some point, especially in the case of the villain’s motivations, we need to know why there’s a beef between these guys if they expect us to remain invested in the story. They keep their secrets too long and I suspect some viewers may check out of the story before the end.

The film is directed by Sheldon Lettich, who has a history working with Van Damme, previously directing the star in The Order, Double Impact, and Lionheart. There’s a story to the reunion of Lettich and Van Damme that includes martial arts superstar Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson. In a 2012 interview with CraveOnline, Wilson claims he came up with the story for The Hard Corps with Sheldon Lettich. They agreed to make the movie and Wilson went off in search of a producer with the intention of shooting the film in LA. When he called Lettich sometime later, he found out that Lettich was already nearly finished filming the picture in Canada and had cast Jean-Claude Van Damme in the lead. I don’t know the other side of the story (there’s always another side to every story), but I figured it was an interesting production story worth mentioning here.

The Hard Corps does a lot of things right. The characters have depth, the action (though limited) is skillfully done, and the story reaches a satisfying conclusion. However, there are a few bumps on the road, including lame dialogue and a story that’s far-fetched and unnecessarily drawn-out. For fans of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Vivica A. Fox, I say give it a look. It’s an entertaining action drama that stands a notch above most DTV flicks. Still, keep expectations in check.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 5.5/10

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Michael Jai White’s ‘Never Back Down 3′ gets a trailer!

Never Back Down: No Surrender | DVD (Sony)

Never Back Down: No Surrender | DVD (Sony)

Never Back Down: No Surrender (aka Never Back Down 3), the sequel to Michael Jai White’s directorial debut, Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown, is kicking its way onto DVD this June,

In Never Back Down 3: No Surrender, White is returning to the director’s chair, as well as reprising his role as the film’s star. Picking up after the events of Never Back Down 2, former MMA champion Case Walker (White) finds himself in Thailand and aims to become champion once again.

Never Back Down 3: No Surrender also stars Jeeja Yanin (Chocolate), Nathan Jones (Muay Thai Giant), Ron Smoorenburg (Who Am I?), Brahim Achabbakhe (Pound of Flesh), UFC’s Josh Barnett (Mercenary: Absolution), Esai Morales (Rapa Nui), Stephen Quadros (Cradle 2 the Grave) and Gillian Waters (Jackie Brown).

Thai action superstar Tony Jaa (SPL 2) will be making a cameo appearance, which makes Never Back Down 3: No Surrender Jaa and White’s 2nd time appearing together since Skin Trade. Also back in action is the incredibly fluid choreography work of Larnell Stovall (Falcon Rising).

The DVD for Never Back Down 3: No Surrender is will be released on June 7, 2016. and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Update: Watch the film’s first trailer.

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Deal on Fire! 14 Blades | Only $7.99 – Expires soon!

14 Blades | Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

14 Blades | Blu-ray & DVD (Anchor Bay)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for 2010′s 14 Blades, starring Donnie Yen (Ip Man 3) and directed by Daniel Lee (White Vengeance).

14 Blades is a kung fu thriller (read our review) that centers on a secret service agent (Yen) in the emperor’s court who is betrayed and then hunted by his colleagues.

The film also stars Zhao Wei (Painted Skin 2: The Resurrection), Wu Chun (Assassin’s Blade), Kate Tsui (Eye in the Sky) and Qi Yuwu (The Founding of a Party). Watch the trailer.

Order 14 Blades from Amazon.com today!

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Cityonfire.com’s ‘Veteran’ Blu-ray Giveaway – WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

Veteran | Blu-ray (CJ Entertainment)

Veteran | Blu-ray (CJ Entertainment)

Cityonfire.com and CJ Entertainment are giving away 3 Blu-ray copies of Ryoo Seung-wan’s highly-acclaimed Veteran (read our review) to three lucky Cityonfire visitors. To enter, simply add a comment to this post and describe, in your own words, this video.

We will be selecting a winner at random. Be sure to include your email address in the appropriate field so we can contact you for your home address. Additionally, you must ‘Like Us‘ on cityonfire.com’s Facebook by clicking here.

The Blu-ray & DVD for Veteran will be officially released on April 5, 2016. We will announce the 3 winners the following day.

CONTEST DISCLAIMER: You must enter by April 5, 2016 to qualify. U.S. and Canada residents only please. We sincerely apologize to our non-U.S./Canada visitors. Winners must respond with their mailing address within 48 hours, otherwise you will automatically be disqualified. No exceptions. Contest is subject to change without notice.

WINNERS: Lee G., Ben and Edwin.

Posted in News | Tagged | 35 Comments

A ‘Master’ to direct Shaw Brothers classic ‘Magic Blade’

"The Magic Blade" Theatrical Poster

"The Magic Blade" Theatrical Poster

Celestial is partnering with the newly-established Tencent Pictures to produce yet another Shaw Brothers remake: Chor Yuen’s The Magic Blade, a 1976 swordfight-filled martial arts film starring Ti Lung (The Pirate) and Lo Lieh (Bruce’s Deadly Fingers).

Tencent has hired Xu Haofeng (The Final Master) to direct the project. Xu made a name for himself by penning the screenplay for Wong Kar-Wai’s The Grandmaster. But it was 2011′s The Sword Identity, his directorial debut, which showed Xu’s true talent. Xu is known for presenting martial arts in a less stylized and more realistic manner.

If you’re curious to see what Xu is capable of, be sure to catch The Final Master (aka The Master), which is getting a U.S. release by United Entertainment Partners in May.

You can also look forward to Derek Yee’s fourthcoming Shaw Brothers remake of Death Duel (1977), starring Kenny Lin Geng-Xin (Young Detective Dee), Peter Ho Yun-Tung (The Monkey King), Jiang Yi-Yan (The Bullet Vanishes) and Jiang Meng-Jie (Kung Fu Man).

We’ll keep you updated with Magic Blade as we hear more!

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Michelle Yeoh and Collin Chou join Jeff Lau’s ‘Nezha’

"Nezha" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Nezha" Chinese Theatrical Poster

The cast for Nezha is falling into place nicely. The upcoming fantasy epic, directed by Jeff Lau (Treasure Hunt), is based on the Chinese mythological figure, Nezha, an unruly child-god who loves causing trouble (via Godchecker).

According to AFS, the all-star cast lineup includes: Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny), Zhang Fengyi (Assassin), Collin Chou (Special ID), Wu Lei (The Legend of Qin) and Jike Junyi (Zhongkui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal).

As always, we’ll keep you in the loop as we hear more about Nezha. Stay tuned!

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Shameless, The (2014) Review

"The Shameless" Korean Theatrical Poster

"The Shameless" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Oh Seung-uk
Writer: Oh Seung-uk
Producer: Han Jae-duk
Cast: Jeon Do-Yeon, Kim Nam-Gil, Park Sung-Woong, Kwak Do-Won, Kim Min-Jae, Park Ji-Hwan, Ha Ji-Eun
Running Time: 118 min.

By Paul Bramhall

Director Oh Seung-wook may not be a name that’s immediately familiar to many fans of Korean cinema, and that’s forgivable. Seung-wook directed and wrote the criminally overlooked 2000 gangster flick Kilimanjaro. The movie featured Park Shin-yang as a police officer returning to his hometown to scatter the ashes of his twin, only to be mistaken for him by the local gangsters who it seemed his late brother had some dealings with. Deciding to play along under his brother’s alias, he’s soon hooked up with his siblings old gangster buddy, played by the legendary Ahn Seong-gi, and a dangerous game of false identity and questionable friendships is set in motion.

Despite being a solid entry into the gangster genre, Kilimanjaro wasn’t a box office success. It’s a shame, as had it been made just a few years later, once the Korean new wave movement was well and truly underway, I’m sure it would receive much more recognition and praise. However in a film industry as cutthroat as many of the gangsters it portrays, despite Seung-wook’s wishes to direct again, the various attempts to get his story ideas off the ground never ventured further than the pre-production stages. Instead, he returned to working in the capacity of script writing. Both Lee Chang-dong’s 1997 debut Green Fish, and Heo Jin-ho’s 1998 classic Christmas in August came from the pen of Seung-wook, and in the wake of sitting in the director’s chair, he’d go on to pen the likes of the 2002 psychological horror H, and 2004’s wrestling biopic Rikidozan.

Fourteen years on from Kilimanjaro, Seung-wook finally got the chance to make his sophomore feature, with The Shameless. Not only that, the script was attention grabbing enough for Park Chan-wook to come on-board in the capacity of ‘creative producer’. Described by the director himself as ‘a hardboiled romance noir’, the description of his creation hits the nail on the head pretty well. The plot follows a detective, played by Kim Nam-gil, who gets assigned to a murder case in which the culprit is obviously a gangster on the lam. To try and locate the suspect, Nam-gil decides to approach the gangster’s lover, played by Jeon Do-yeon. Leveraging some low-level thugs, he goes undercover as the new head of security at the hostess bar Do-yeon runs, however soon finds himself with conflicting feelings over Do-yeon’s debt laden lover.

Put simply, it’s the classic hardboiled tale of an undercover detective falling for a gangster’s moll, done Korean style. Seung-wook has said himself that in many ways he sees The Shameless as a kind of spiritual follow-up to Kilimanjaro, in terms of the way both movies see a character enter into the lives of another under a false identity. Here Ahn Seong-gi’s role is taken on by Jeon Do-yeon, and Park Shin-yang’s role is taken on by Kim Nam-gil. However the scenario in The Shameless is much more intimate than in Kilimanjaro, and as a result, despite what could be argued as a smaller scale, there actually feels like a lot more is at stake.

The Shameless works as the flip side of the coin to each of the 2 productions that Nam-gil and Do-yeon starred in during 2014. Nam-gil co-headlined the lacklustre high-seas adventure flick Pirates alongside Son Ye-jin, while Do-yeon was dreadfully miscast in the equally awful Memories of the Sword, despite a cast that featured both Lee Byung-hun and Kim Go-eun. Thankfully their roles in The Shameless more than make up for their respective misfires, as both do a worthy job of portraying how, while their characters outwardly portray a tough exterior to the world, there’s a deep vulnerability running just underneath.

Those looking for a tightly knit detective tale may come away disappointed, as Seung-wook paces his noir with a slow but steady hand. Juggling the elements of being a thriller, murder mystery, gangster flick, and romantic noir all at the same time takes a certain level of talent, and thankfully this is a talent that the director has an abundance of. Seung-wook has a strong understanding of the visual medium, and as a result some of the moments that have the most impact in The Shameless are those that involve no words, but rather a gesture between two characters, or a briefly glimpsed facial expression. My favorite scene of the whole movie involves Nam-gil just after he drops off Do-yeon in his car, it’s a brief scene with a seemingly meaningless gesture that takes place as he’s driving away, but in the context of what’s happening at this point in the plot, it speaks volumes.

That’s not to say that The Shameless is without violence though, indeed there are a handful of brief but explosive scenes that should keep any fan of the Korean gangster genre happy. The highlight being when Nam-gil first encounters the gangster he’s been looking for, played with an intimidating level of physical menace by Park Seong-woong (who also starred in another movie during 2014 – the excellent The Office), the pair go at it in an intensely physical and punch heavy few seconds in the parking lot of Do-yeon’s apartment. However unlike movies made around the same time, such as No Tears for the Dead and The Divine Move, the action is not the selling point here. Rather it’s the relationship between Nam-gil and Do-yeon, and it’s a credit to Seung-wook that it never devolves into the typical K-drama trope of the love triangle.

The camerawork and soundtrack play a significant part in setting the tone of The Shameless. Thanks to Do-yeon’s role as a hostess club manager, most of the proceedings take place at night, or at the time in the early hours of the morning when the first hints of light cast a murky ambience in the air. The winding networks of Seoul’s hilly streets almost take on a character of their own, highlighted none more so than in a fantastic opening tracking shot that takes place during those early hours. Opening on a construction site, the camera pans down into the tightly packed residential buildings of a local estate, before settling on Nam-gil and following him through the winding back alleys of the neighbourhood. The cinematographer, Kang Kuk-hyun, definitely knows his trade. Combined with Cho Young-wuk’s moody score, a regular Park Chan-wook collaborator, the rhythm and beats of his music compliment the tone of the movie perfectly.

As much as Nam-gil holds his own when he’s onscreen, Do-yeon’s screen presence is simply magnetic, and despite being almost the only female in the whole cast, when the credits role you’re left with the distinct impression that this was her movie. An actress with more awards to her name than perhaps any other in Korea, including Best Actress at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival for her role in Lee Chang-dong’s Secret Sunshine, her performance in The Shameless should hopefully see her earning another one. We’ve been told everything we need to know about her character before she even appears onscreen, but even knowing this, the way she encapsulates the traits of a woman with nothing left to lose provides a strong anchor for the movie. In a way Nam-gil’s character becomes a proxy for the audience, as we gradually witness that he too is taken in by her resilient demeanour, and his character becomes the embodiment of what we as the audience are feeling toward her dilemma.

In its native Korea it wouldn’t surprise me if The Shameless has a hard time finding an audience, much the same way Kilimanjaro did 14 years earlier. It’s not enough of a straight up gangster flick to appeal to the typical male demographic, but then it’s not enough of a romantic flick to appeal to a wider female audience. As mentioned earlier though, Seung-wook knows exactly what it is that he’s created, and if you’re looking for a hardboiled romance noir, then The Shameless shamelessly delivers exactly that.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8.5/10

Posted in All, Korean, News, Reviews | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Project Eden | DVD (Entertainment One)

"Atomic Eden" Theatrical Poster

"Atomic Eden" Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: June 7, 2016

What happens when you put Fred “The Hammer” Williamson (Fist of Fear, Touch of Death, Vigilante) and martial arts star Mike Moeller (One Million K(l)icks) in one action flick? Answer: A nuclear reaction!

Entertainment One presents the DVD for Project Eden (aka Atomic Eden), an action film about a group of mercenaries – trapped in Chernobyl – who must band together to fight an army of mad men.

The film also features Hazuki Kato (Falcon Rising), Lorenzo Lamas (Final Impact), Wolfgang Riehm (Ultimate Justice), Everett Aponte (Shilo), Nico Sentner (Urban Fighter), Dominik Starck (Iron Wolf), Josephine Hies (Small Fish) and Jens Nier (Allies). | Trailer.

Pre-order Project Eden from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | 3 Comments

Tsui Hark gearing up for ‘Detective Dee and the Four Kings’

"Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon" Chinese Theatrical Poster

A 3rd film in the Detective Dee series, tentatively titled Detective Dee and the Four Kings, has been announced by the Huayi Brothers film company (Chinese Zodiac, Mojin: The Lost Legend).

According to AFS, Tsui Hark (The Raid) will once again direct. There’s currently no information on whether Detective Dee and the Four Kings will be a sequel to the 2010 Andy Lau film (Detective Dee & the Mystery of the Phantom Flame); or if it will be a follow up to 2013′s Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon, which starred Mark Chao. There is a possibility of a time paradox-infused script, featuring both incarnations, according to a 2014 interview with Hark.

Detective Dee and the Four Kings is due to hit Chinese theaters in 2017. Stay tuned for more updates.

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New trailer for ‘Truy Sat’ promises stylish martial arts action

"Truy Sat" Vietnamese Theatrical Poster

"Truy Sat" Vietnamese Theatrical Poster

Down for some kinetic violence from Vietnam? If so, get ready for Cuong Ngo’s martial arts thriller, Truy Sat. This stylish action film stars Troung Ngoc Anh (Bride of Silence), Thien Nguyen, Lamou Vissay (Leipzig Homicide), Vin Thuy, Maria Tran (Fist of the Dragon) and Mike Leeder (Pound of Flesh), who plays “a sleazy white boy up to no good in Vietnam.”

According to FCS, Truy Sat (also known as Tracer) follows a detective hot on the vengeful trail of a criminal kingpin.

Truy Sat currently doesn’t have North American release date, but with all the leveled demand of MA films from Asia, news should pop up soon from CJ Entertainment.

Don’t miss the film’s newest trailer.

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Asian Connection | DVD (Entertainment One)

"Asian Connection" Theatrical Poster

"Asian Connection" Theatrical Poster

RELEASE DATE: June 7, 2016

Steven Seagal’s latest action film, Asian Connection, is heading to DVD on June 7, 2016, courtesy of Entertainment One. Although Asian Connection is marketed as a “Steven Seagal film,” promotional material suggests that Seagal has more of a co-starring role as the lead bad guy. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Asian Connection also stars Johnny Edward Lee (Terminator Genisys), Pim Bubear (Man with the Iron Fists 2), Byron Gibson (Only God Forgives), Ron Smoorenburg (Who Am I?), Sahajak Boonthanakit (Tekken 2) and Michael Jai White (Skin Trade).

Asian Connection is helmed by Daniel Zirilli, a director mostly known for 2010′s Locked Down and Circle of Pain, both of which are MMA-style TapouT Film productions.

Here’s what you can expect from the film’s plot: Two American expatriates, Jack and Sam, unwittingly steal a drug lord’s money when they rob a series of banks in Southeast Asia and become the target of the gang’s vengeance. When Sam is killed, Jack turns to the love of his life, Pom, and the couple becomes a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde that takes the fight to the gang. | Watch the trailer.

Pre-order Asian Connection from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | 10 Comments

U.S. audiences: Watch crime boil in ‘Chongqing Hot Pot’

"Chongqing Hot Pot" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Chongqing Hot Pot" Chinese Theatrical Poster

U.S. distributor, China Lion, is releasing Yang Qing’s (One Night In Supermarket) contemporary crime thriller Chongqing Hot Pot in U.S. theaters.

According to Twitch, Chongqing Hot Pot is about classmates who open a hot pot restaurant in a converted bunker, only to discover they can access the underground vault of the bank next door. The film stars Chen Kun (Flying Swords of Dragon Gate), Bai Baihe (Monster Hunt), Qin Hao (Blind Massage) and Yu Entai (My Own Swordsman).

Check your local listings to see if Chongqing Hot Pot is playing near you. Until then, the trailer is hot ‘n ready.

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Second in Command (2006) Review

"Second in Command" Japanese DVD Cover

"Second in Command" Japanese DVD Cover

Director: Simon Fellows
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Julie Cox, Alan McKenna, William Tapley, Razaaq Adoti, Velibor Topic, Warren Derosa, Ian Virgo, Raffaello Degruttola Raffaello Degruttola, Serban Celea, Vlad Ivanov, Vlad Ivanov, Razvan Oprea, Mihai Bisericanu, Elizabeth Barondes, Colin Stinton
Running Time: 92 min.

By Kyle Warner

After reading the post by Jeff Bona on the influential career in action movies that Jean-Claude Van Damme has had (“The Most ‘Remade’ Action Star”), I realized that I’d only seen a small number of the actor’s films. So, I decided to change that, and over the past six months I’ve caught up with a lot of the JCVD films I’ve missed over the years. In doing so, I became a fan of the guy, and was introduced to many good movies and more than a few bad ones.

Second in Command is one of the bad ones.

In my time exploring the filmography of Van Damme, the star has worked with many high-concept ideas but rarely seems to deal with important, real-world issues. Second in Command is one of the rare political action movies that I’ve seen starring The Muscles from Brussels. However, its attempt to convey a political message beyond ‘Americans good, communists bad’ never fully develops (in fact, I’m not sure there even is a message beyond that). For a movie that begins with the burning of the American flag, things soon play out very safe and predictable. That flag burning is an act of protest that’s amusingly largely ignored by traffic and civilians and only has one photographer present to document it all. A protest lacking an audience seems to defeat the point of having a protest, I would think… Oohhh, I know. Maybe the lack of an audience for the protesters reflects the lack of an audience for the movie. How’s that for film criticism?

Second in Command basically plays out like the season premiere of a particularly unimaginative season of 24. Jean-Claude Van Damme plays the French-accent version of Jack Bauer by the name of Commander Samuel Keenan and he comes with Jack’s reputation for going rogue, surviving ticking clock scenarios, and a tendency to piss off terrorists wherever he goes. Sam Keenan’s been called into the small Eastern European nation of Moldavia to join the US Embassy there. Not long after he arrives, a faction representing the country’s communist past rises up and attempts to overthrow the government. Because the Moldavian President’s military is conveniently off doing training exercises in the mountains, it’s up to the good ol’ US-of-A to step in and save the day. Sam Keenan swoops in, picks up the President, and returns him to the US Embassy where they will endure a last stand and wait for backup to arrive. Second in Command thinks its situation is a bit like The Alamo. “Good movie,” says one character. No one will be saying that about this film.

The film clearly lacks a decent budget but that doesn’t explain some of its poor decision making. Beyond Van Damme, the cast is made up of mostly no-name actors—and I have nothing against that—but many of them are no good. More puzzling is how many actors resemble each other. You’d think that if you don’t have the cash for bigger names that you’d go for diversity and variety in your cast. Nope. Two villains look enough alike that I thought they were the same guy until I saw them in two different places. The way the film is shot also shows some odd choices. It switches from the usual camerawork to a camera that’s meant to remind the viewer of live news broadcast. Instead, it just draws attention to its lack of money and looks more like something shot on video. On top of all that, the film’s editing is frantic, completely chopping up otherwise impressive explosions or stunt pieces (one part has an RPG blowing a hole in the embassy—it looks good but the editing ruins it, trying to show the sequence from a dozen unnecessary angles). Sometimes it even jumps between the different film styles during these moments of action, throwing me completely out of the movie. It’s annoying when a film manages to look even cheaper than it probably actually is.

Let’s talk about Van Damme for a moment, since he’s the main reason someone would think to pick this up. I can’t remember the actor ever looking so bored on screen before. There’s no fire there. His gaze remains vacant even during the scenes that are supposed to be dramatic shifting points, like he’s already dreaming of being far away. As far as the action goes, most the film is limited to dull gunfights. Only in the finale do we see the martial arts Van Damme’s known for. It’s not a bad scene but it’s definitely not worth the wait. However, that fight is performed inside the US Embassy with an active sprinkler system, which basically allows JCVD to have a fight in the rain INDOORS. So, check that one off the fight scene bucket list, I guess.

It’s basically a bad movie from top to bottom. As I work my way through the films of Jean-Claude Van Damme, it’s sometimes difficult to tell which ones should be skipped. Well, here’s one of the skippable films. Second in Command is dull as dishwater… Hmm. You know, now that I’m thinking about it, what has dishwater ever done to get the reputation of being dull? I really can’t say it deserves such a rep. It’s nasty and I gotta use gloves because damn, what if there’s a piece of a noodle floating around in there? Like the garbage compacter from Star Wars, my dishwater is never dull. Second in Command sure is, though! So, I say we grant dishwater a reprieve. It’s suffered a false reputation for far too long. From now on I shall say that something is ‘dull as Second in Command.’ No one will know what the hell I’m talking about, but I’ll know… Oh yes, I’ll know…

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 3/10

Posted in All, Asian Related, News, Reviews | Tagged , | 1 Comment

We ‘Overheard’ a fourth film is coming…

"Overheard 3" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Overheard 3" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Are you ready for another dose of surveillance action from the popular Overheard franchise? Derek Yee (Shinjuku Incident) is planning the 4th installment of the series; this time around, with a new trio of actors replacing Louis Koo (Flash Point), Daniel Wu (The Banquet) and Lau Ching-Wan (The Bullet Vanishes).

There’s currently no word if Alan Mak and Felix Chong (the duo responsible for the first three films) will be involved. But if history plays a factor, there’s a good chance they might return, with Yee, once again producing.

Keep it here for updates! (overheard from AFS)

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Deal on Fire! Protector 2 | Only $9.99 – Expires soon!

Protector 2 | aka Tom Yum Goong 2 | Blu-ray & DVD (Magnolia)

Protector 2 | aka Tom Yum Goong 2 | Blu-ray & DVD (Magnolia)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Prachya Pinkaew’s Protector 2 (aka Tom Yum Goong). Once again, Kham’s pet elephant (Tony Jaa) has been abducted and he must fight anyone in his way to find him.

Protector 2 (read our review) features amazing choreography by the late Panna Rittikrai (Ong Bak). The film also stars RZA (Man with the Iron Fists), Mum Jokmok (Ong Bak), Yanin Vismitananda (Chocolate), Petchtai Wongkamlao (The Protector), Marrese Crump (G.I. Joe: Battle for the Serpent Stone).

Order Protector 2 from Amazon.com today!

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Creepy (2016) Review

"Creepy" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Creepy" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Novel: Yutaka Maekawa
Writer: Chihiro Ikeda, Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Cast: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Yuko Takeuchi, Haruna Kawaguchi, Masahiro Higashide, Teruyuki Kagawa, Ryoko Fujino, Masahiro Toda, Toru Baba Misaki Saisho, Takashi Sasano
Running Time: 130 min.

By Martin Sandison

An established Japanese film company called Shochiku, which celebrated its 120th anniversary last year, has left an enduring legacy. From Yasujiro Ozu masterpieces such as Tokyo Story to more recent output such as Casshern, the diversity of movies the company produces is legendary. As the lights dimmed in the Cinemaxx theatre at the Berlin Film Festival, the appearance of the Shochiku logo ensured that I would be watching a quality movie…

Creepy is the new film from director Kyoshi Kurosawa, who has built up an impressive body of work. His films, Pulse and Tokyo Sonata, are recognizable titles to anyone familiar with world cinema. His chameleon-like ability to weave a quite traditional Japanese aesthetic into genres such as horror and drama is admirable. While not being overly stylish, Creepy contains many powerful moments.

Takakura is an ex cop turned professor who, with his wife Yasuko, has moved into a comfortable home in the suburbs. Takakura soon gets himself obsessed with an unearthed case – unsolved from 6 years before – thanks to his old partner. Meanwhile, the couple’s new neighbor seems a bit strange, but Takakura’s wife still strikes up an unlikely friendship with him. The two narratives run concurrently, and the progression of each is well-constructed: The investigation comes across as a thriller, while the dramatic potential of the other narrative is realized; the two ultimately collide.

Takakura is played by Hidetoshi Nishijima, who is best known for roles in the aforementioned Casshern and narrator for the wonderful Haruki Murakami adaptation, Tony Takinati (a movie that finds a place in my heart, since Murakami is my favorite author). Nishijima’s portrait of restraint, yet explosive emotion, is absorbing. Appearing as Yasuko is Yuko Takeuchi, who known the world over for only her second screen role in the J-horror classic Ring. Here, her character is multi-faceted; communicating strength and resolve. Teruyuki Kagawa certainly is creepy as the neighbor with a million secrets. His initial eccentricity is wonderfully drawn. A veteran character actor, Kagawa, was also in Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata, Takashi Miike’s misstep Sukiyaki Western Django and mainstream fare like Rurouni Kenshin.

The bridging of the two storylines is handled brilliantly by Kurosawa, each told with a different aesthetic and tone that is never jarring. The use of long takes, so prevalent in all cinema these days, serve dramatic purpose and is never obligatory. The influence of classical Japanese cinema is evident, with elegant camerawork that is reminiscent of Ozu at his best. Takeshi Kitano’s detached, but comical style, in films such as Sonatine, is also clear, especially with the early treatment of Kagawa’s eccentric character.

J-horror’s style and intimation of extreme violence is present, certainly as the narrative builds to an extraordinary climax with the novel use of a vacuum pack – a scene that will haunt my memory for a while. Overall, the film that I was most reminded of was Takashi Miike’s all-time classic Audition, with its surreal atmosphere and escalating horror.

Creepy is effective at developing character, while still leaving room for intrigue and suspense. While not as immediately satisfying as Audition or Sonatine, the film is one that haunts you, and definitely warrants a revisit.

Martin Sandison’s Rating: 8/10

Posted in All, Japanese, News, Reviews | 4 Comments

Bianca Bree Van Damme will ‘Kick Kick Bang Bang’!

"Paranormal Activity Security Squad" Teaser Poster

"Paranormal Activity Security Squad" Teaser Poster

It looks like Bianca Bree Van Damme is following the footsteps (or should we say “feet”) of her action star father, Jean-Claude Van Damme (Pound of Flesh).

A martial arts movie titled Kick Kick Bang Bang (formerly known as Kickbox) is currently in pre-production. Bree will star alongside “rising martial arts star” Alex Wraith (No Tears for the Dead, Killer Feet) who will also be directing the film.

According to producer Nathan McCoy (The Mojo Boys), Kick Kick Bang Bang will be predominantly shot in Bangkok, Thailand with the bulk of the crew and actors coming from that region.

Bree, who has been practicing karate and kickboxing since her childhood, has co-starred with her father in number of films, including Assassination Games, 6 Bullets, Welcome to the Jungle and the yet-to-be released, Full Love.

In addition to Kick Kick Bang Bang, Bree and Wraith have also collaborated on Enter the Fist and the Golden Fleecing, as well as P.A.S.S.

If you want a taste of what she’s capable of, check out Bree’s fight reel, which also features Kick Kick Bang Bang co-star/director, Wraith. We’ll keep you updated on this project as we hear more!

Posted in News | 3 Comments

Sleazy new trailer for Herman Yau’s ‘Nessun Dorma’

"Nessun Dorma" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Nessun Dorma" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Looks like Herman Yau (Taxi Hunter) is competing with Steven Seagal for having the most pending projects at one given time. In addition to the recently announced Shock WaveThe Sleep Curse – and the forthcoming Mobfathers – the Hong Kong filmmaker is currently in post-production phase for Nessun Dorma.

This Category III film stars Andy Hui (Future Cops), Janice Man (Helios), Gordon Lam (Z Storm) and Wilfred Lau (Full Strike).

Plot details are thin, but judging from the film’s trailer (via AFS), the story involves nudity, abduction and domestic violence. Good, clean family fun.

Look out for Nessun Dorma later this year.

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‘The Crow’ reboot has just lost another wing!

"The Crow" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Crow" Japanese Theatrical Poster

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). Today, we can add one more filmmaker to that list: Corin Hardy (The Hallow).

Hardy – who was supposed to be well into production on The Crow this month – was axed by producer/entrepreneur, Dana Brunetti. Reasons are unknown, but dismissing Hardy was one of the first moves Brunetti made after being hired to reorganize Relativity Media after its much publicized bankruptcy (via THR).

The film is also going through some legal issues. According to Collider: “Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation, the producer of the original film, filed papers in bankruptcy court, papers intended to deny Relativity rights to sequels, prequels and remakes. Now that the lawyers are involved, who knows how long it will be before we see The Crow again, if ever.”

Still, Relativity’s CEO Ryan Kavanaugh remains confident: “With Dana coming aboard, we are giving him full creative rein. We want him to be able to reboot The Crow under his vision and guidance. We are optimistic he will create the best package for such an iconic franchise.”

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.

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Lu Yang sharpens up for ‘Brotherhood of Blades 2′

"Brotherhood of Blades II" Chinese Teaser Poster

"Brotherhood of Blades II" Chinese Teaser Poster

Director Lu Yang is getting ready to shoot Brotherhood of Blades 2, the follow up to his 2014 wuxia action film (read our review). The “sequel” is actually rumored to be a prequel, according to reports that date back to 2014.

So far, Chang Chen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) is the only star returning from the original. He’ll be joined by Yang Mi (The Bullet Vanishes), Zhang Yi (Beijing Love Story) and Xin Zhi Lei (Impossible), via AFS.

The original Brotherhood of Blades told the story of three guards who are sent to hunt down a eunuch politician, only to find themselves in the middle of a deadly conspiracy.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Andre Morgan and Etan Cohen refuel ‘Cannonball Run’

"Cannonball Run 2" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Cannonball Run 2" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Just recently, it was announced that Keanu Reeves (John Wick) would be starring in an upcoming Cannonball Run-esque film called Rally Car, a Chinese/American co-production centered around a race across China. But now, it looks like Cannonball Run itself is in the process of being remade/rebooted.

According to Deadline, the new version of Cannonball Run – to be written and directed by Etan Cohen (Get Hard) – is being spearheaded by producer Andre Morgan (Man from Hong Kong), who has been making movies at Warner Bros and Golden Harvest since Enter the Dragon in 1973.

The original Cannonball Run franchise consisted of three movies – produced in 1981, 1984 and 1989 (the 3rd film was titled Speed Zone aka Cannonball Fever) – where known for their car-related stuntwork, as well as their all-star cast which included names like Burt Reynolds, Frank Sinatra, Roger Moore, Dean Martin, Richard Kiel, Michael Hui, Sammy Davis Jr, Dom DeLuise, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Brooke Shields and many more.

To Asian cinema fans, the first two Cannonball Run films are mostly remembered for the inclusion of Jackie Chan, who was fairly unknown to most Americans in the early 80s.

We’ll keep you posted on Cannonball Run as we hear more. Stay tuned!

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Johnnie To will unleash more triad violence in ‘Election 3′

"Election 3" Teaser Poster

"Election 3" Teaser Poster

Johnnie To (Fulltime Killer, Office), one of the most diverse directors in the world, is currently wrapping up the script for Election 3, the 3rd part of his popular triad series.

To has been brainstorming Election 3 since 2013 (it was originally planned for 2015), so we can only expect another solid story that dovetails into The Godfather-esque levels of criminal scheming and machinations.

According to THR, To is considering whether Louis Koo will return: “The script is rather long right now; I haven’t decided which section will be used… If I use the later section, Koo might not be in it.”

Election 3 is expected to shoot in 2018. Stay tuned!

Posted in News | 3 Comments

More kung fu awaits with Yuen Woo-ping’s ‘Hand Over Fist’

"Magnificent Butcher" Hong Kong Theatrical Poster

"Magnificent Butcher" Hong Kong Theatrical Poster

There’s just no stopping director/legendary choreographer Yuen Woo-ping (Magnificent Butcher). Hot on the heels of his recent high profile projects – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny and Ip Man 3 – Yuen is getting ready to start yet another martial arts project titled Hand Over Fist.

According to THR, Hand Over Fist is the tale of a 600-year-long feud between ancient rival kung fu masters that draws modern Hong Kong protagonists into the action. No further details are available at this time.

In addition to Hand Over Fist, Yuen also has his hands busy with Miracle Fighters, a remake of a supernatural kung fu film he directed in 1982. As for Yuen’s Vigilantes: The Lost Order (his The Matrix meets Wall Street flick)… let’s just say it’s put on hold indefinitely, which is probably a good thing.

We’ll keep you updated on Hand Over Fist as we hear more!

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Jarhead 3: The Siege | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

Jarhead 3: The Siege | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

Jarhead 3: The Siege | Blu-ray & DVD (Universal)

RELEASE DATE: June 7, 2016

Universal presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Jarhead 3: The Siege, an action film directed by William Kaufman (One in the Chamber).

Starring in sequels to earlier theatrical titles is becoming a habit for martial star Scott Adkins (Close Range). First was Undisputed 2 and Undisputed 3 (another sequel is currently pending), then came Green Street 3: Never Back Down, and just recently, it was announced that he’d be doing a Hard Target 2.

Now, Adkins is back at it with Jarhead 3: The Siege, a similarly themed, but unrelated sequel to the first two Jarhead movies. This one revolves around a group of Marines who must protect a US Embassy in the Middle East when it suddenly comes under attack from enemy forces.

Judging from the newly released trailer to Jarhead 3: The Siege, those looking for Adkins to show off his fighting ability may be left disappointed – because it looks like it’s more about gunfights and explosions than weaponless action – but then again, you’ll never know what the full movie has to offer.

Jarhead 3: The Siege also stars Charlie Weber (Vampires Suck), Tom Ainsley (Versailles), Erik Valdez (Paint It Black) and Dante Basco (Blood and Bone). | Trailer.

Pre-order Jarhead 3: The Siege from Amazon.com today!

Posted in DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles | Leave a comment

Rambling Guitarist, The (1959) Review

"The Rambling Guitarist" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Rambling Guitarist" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Buichi Saito
Writer: Gan Yamazaki
Cast: Akira Kobayashi, Ruriko Asaoka, Sanae Nakahara, Nobuo Kaneko, Jo Shishido, Misako Watanabe, Kyoji Aoyama, Mari Shiraki, Hiroshi Nihon’yanagi, Yuzo Kiura, San’emon Suzuki, Hyosuke Kanbe, Tsuneo Katagiri
Running Time: 78 min.

By Kyle Warner

The Rambling Guitarist is a film that has very clearly taken some notes on what was popular at the time in Hollywood. What begins as an Elvis-inspired drama about a musician on the road quickly spins into a gangster thriller. There’s also traces of a western in there somewhere. Thrown together, you get a lot of competing ideas for a 1 hour and 17 minute film, but somehow it keeps things together and manages to be a pretty entertaining (if overly familiar) bit of old-fashioned cinema.

Akira Kobayashi (Proxy War) plays a cool Elvis kind-of-guy named Taki. The ‘rambling guitarist’ of the title, he drifts into a small seaside town with nothing but a guitar to his name. After a silly barroom brawl affirms that Taki is also something of a badass, he pays his debt to the ruined bar owners by playing his guitar and entertaining customers. Though Taki claims he doesn’t want to stick around, he apparently quickly changes his mind when the local crime boss sees potential in him and hires him to do collections.

Here’s when the film shifts gears. At the start The Rambling Guitarist seems tailor-made for Akira Kobayashi, giving him a chance to play a mysterious musician who drifts into town, sorts out justice, and romances the pretty girl (Ruriko Asaoka). The dramatic shift in tone and direction happens gradually enough, but before long The Rambling Guitarist and its main character seem entirely different from what we saw in the opening moments. Crime boss Akitsu (Nobuo Kaneko) has great ambitions for his town. Akitsu wants to build an entertainment complex by the sea and the only thing standing in his way is a fishery that refuses to sell. Akitsu has no qualms that his own sister lives and operates out of the fishery and makes it his mission to destroy her business so that he may swoop in. By this time, Taki has become an enforcer for Akitsu, but he’s still basically a decent guy at heart. His relationship to Akitsu becomes strained the more he learns of his boss’ dirty dealings and things get even more complicated when Taki’s past comes back to haunt him.

It’s a simple film. It takes us exactly where we’d expect. The fun comes from the actors, basically all of whom turn in good work. Akira Kobayashi is more believable as the guitarist than as the sharpshooting gangster but overall I enjoyed his character. Ruriko Asaoka (Incident at Blood Pass) shows some range as the love-struck Yuki who grows up a lot by the end. Nobuo Kaneko plays a similar slime ball criminal to the one he played in Battles Without Honor and Humanity—it’s a role he excels at. And Jo Shishido (Massacre Gun) plays a man from Taki’s past that can’t quite place how he knew Taki before, but we can tell it has Taki worried. Shishido and Kobayashi have some good scenes together. The boyish Kobayshi contrasts well with the rough Shishido, who looks even rougher than usual here with an ugly scar cut across one of those puffy cheeks of his.

The film, like its central character, drifts in and then drifts off again right about the time we thought we were beginning to know them better (it appears that there would be sequels, though, including titles like The Rambler Rides Again and Rambler in the Sunset). The Rambling Guitarist is slight but it manages to tell a complete story with entertaining characters crammed into its 77 minutes. Though the film may not stick around long enough or have enough new ideas to leave much of an impression, I enjoyed the movie and would consider giving it another spin in the future.

A note on the release: The Rambling Guitarist is the third film of Arrow Video’s new Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 1 Blu-ray/DVD set. The three films (the others being Voice Without a Shadow and Red Pier) are all put onto a single Blu-ray disc (the three films are then split between the 2 DVDs also included on the set). Now, I cannot tell you for certain if there was any issue with compromised video due to the three films sharing one disc, but I’m going to guess not. Each film is around 90 minutes long and the special features are brief; I’ve seen big studio releases put more content onto one disc before. The films look pretty good. I thought Red Pier looked a little beat up at times but that’s more likely due to the source materials. Voice Without a Shadow looks fairly excellent and The Rambling Guitarist (the only color film in this set) looks good for its age, with colors that really pop.

For special features we get two brief visual essays from Jasper Sharp, who gives us some background info on the Diamond Guys, in particular Hideaki Nitani and Yujiro Ishihara. They’re short videos but Sharp knows the subject well and fans should enjoy getting the extra info on the stars. Also included with the set is a booklet with a set of essays from Stuart Galbraith IV, Tom Mes, and Mark Schilling. I really enjoyed this set. I thought that Red Pier was rather dull but the other two films were entertaining, especially Seijun Suzuki’s Voice Without a Shadow. Also included on the set are trailers for the films to be included in Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 2, and if the trailers are any indication, Vol. 2 looks to be going for a much lighter tone. In Vol. 2 we should expect to see Tokyo Mighty Guy, Murder Incorporated, and Danger Paws. I’m happy that they’re already planning a second volume. I enjoyed this one and welcome a chance to see these lesser-known films starring some of Japan’s greatest stars.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 6.5/10

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