Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for the Payback Time Triple Feature, which will include the following titles:
Blind Fury, a 1989 cult classic directed by Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm, Salt) and starring Rutger Hauer (The Hitcher), Terry O’Quinn (The Stepfather), Nick Cassavetes (Face/Off), Meg Foster (Future Kick) and a special appearance by ninja superstar Sho Kosugi (9 Deaths of the Ninja).
Silent Rage, a 1982 action thriller directed by Michael Miller (Street Girls) and starring Chuck Norris (Yellow Face Tiger, Code of Silence), Ron Silver (Timecop), Brian Libby (The Shawshank Redemption) and Stephen Furst (Animal House).
And last but not least, White Line Fever, a 1975 flick directed by Jonathan Kaplan (Unlawful Entry) and starring Jan-Michael Vincent (Airwolf), Kay Lenz (Death Wish 4), Slim Pickens (The Getaway) and L.Q. Jones (Lone Wolf McQuade).
This Christmas, the public will see Donnie Yen (Ip Man 3) play real-life gangster Ng Sek-ho (aka Crippled Ho) in Chasing the Dragon (aka King of Drug Dealers), a remake of the 1991 Hong Kong gangster movie To Be Number One. The film will be released in North America by Well Go USA on a pending date.
Deadline reports that Yen will play an immigrant in Hong Kong who is caught in the underground world of corrupt cops and ruthless drug dealers, and he becomes determined to become the sole dictator in the drug empire.
According to a reliable source (via Toby Wong from Hong Kong), “Chasing the Dragon is a purely dramatic role for the cast, so don’t expect Donnie Yen to do the martial arts he’s known for. Instead, expect hack and slash action. Donnie is rough housing it. Remember, it’s a triad drama, not Ip Man 3. Don’t worry, action fans will still be happy!”
Two months ago, we reported that Warner Bros. was courting Jordan Peele (director of the sleeper hit, Get Out) to direct the live-action, big screen adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, which has been in development hell for over 5 years. Turns out, Peele, who is a fan of Akira, wants to concentrate on original content.
Here’s what he told BH.com: “I think [I could do it] if the story justifies it,” Peele said. “Akira is one of my favorite movies, and I think obviously the story justifies as big a budget as you can possibly dream of. But the real question for me is: Do I want to do pre-existing material, or do I want to do original content? At the end of the day, I want to do original stuff.”
Instead, Peele is currently developing Lovecraft Country, a new Horror TV project with producer J.J. Abrams for HBO. Based on a novel written by Matt Ruff, the series, which will take places in the 1950s, “reclaims genre storytelling from the African-American perspective.”
In addition to Peele, a handful of directors, including Albert Hughes (The Book of Eli), Jaume Collet-Serra (Run All Night) and Justin Lin (Star Trek Beyond) have been tied to Akira, but exited due to creative differences (or other unexplainable reasons).
One of the last filmmakers connected to Akira was Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), who was supposedly involved (along with Nolan’s brother, Jonathan, who at one point was hired to re-write the script). Marco J. Ramirez, the scribe who co-showran the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil, was/is also attached as one of the writers. At one point, Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Jennifer Davisson Killoran (Orphan) and Andrew Lazar (Jonah Hex) were on board as producers.
As far as actors and actresses, many names such as Keanu Reeves, James Franco, Garrett Hedlund, Robert Pattinson, James McAvoy, Andrew Garfield, Chris Pine, Michael Fassbender, Justin Timerlake, Joaquin Phoenix, Keira Knightley, Kristen Stewart, Ezra Miller, Alden Eherenreich, D.J. Cotrona, Logan Marshal Green, Toby Kebbell, Richard Madden, Rami Malek, Michael Pitt, Paul Dano, Alden Ehrenreich and Ken Watanabe (we’ll stop here) have all been considered for roles. Some have dropped out, others are still loosely attached.
The story of Akira involves a secret military project that endangers Neo-Tokyo when it turns a biker gang member into a rampaging psionic psychopath that only two kids and a group of psionics can stop.
We’ll keep you updated on this story as we hear more.
AKA: Dancing King Director: Cheng Cheh Writer: James Wong Cast: Ricky Cheng Tien Chi, Yang Li-Su, Sun Jung Chi, Yang Guang-Yo, Chen Kuan-Tai, Got Heung Ting, Lui Fong, Dennis Brown, Anita Mui Yim Fong Running Time: 90 min.
By Paul Bramhall
It’s fair to say that legendary director Chang Cheh more than earned his moniker of the Godfather of Hong Kong Cinema, however while his crowning achievements are many, there can also be no doubt that the post-Shaw Brothers era of his filmography can make for some odd viewing. After re-locating to Taiwan and forming his own production company there, Cheh went on to make a number of movies with Taiwanese native and Baby Venoms stalwart Ricky Cheng. After starring in Cheh’s latter day Shaw Brothers efforts, such as Five Element Ninjas and The Weird Man, Cheng would continue to feature in Cheh’s post-Shaw Brothers ventures into the realm of fantasy, such as Attack of the Joyful Goddess and The Nine Demons.
When the stars of Cheh’s movies from both past and present got together for the movie which was to secure his retirement, 1984’s The Shanghai Thirteen, that technically should have put a cap on both Cheh’s career as a director, and at least opened up news paths for Cheng to pursue. But old habits die hard, and Cheh soon found himself with the money he made from The Shanghai Thirteen, which was supposed to be for his retirement, being used to make another production. Notably he’d go on to make a further six movies, one of which was another retirement flick in the form of 1990’s Hidden Hero, before finally wrapping up with Last Ninja in China from 1993. But perhaps the movie he made directly after The Shanghai Thirteen can be considered a candidate for the oddest of his career, with the appropriately titled Dancing Warrior.
Once again Cheh would put Cheng in the lead role, and Dancing Warrior would mark the last time the pair would work together, before Dung Chi-Wa became Cheh’s actor of choice for his final movies. Their last collaboration together has been a title I’ve been curious about watching for the longest time, purely because the plot descriptions floating around on the net sound about as far away from a Chang Cheh movie as humanly possible. A dancer who dreams of making it big moves to New York to pursue his dream of appearing on Broadway. Really? This is a Chang Cheh movie? The guy who specialises in heroes majestically embracing their heroic deaths in a deluge of balletic slow motion and blood-letting, usually impaled by more weapons than any normal human could realistically withstand, has a movie under his name about a dancer pursuing the American Dream!?
Having now watched it, I can safely state that yes, indeed he does. What’s perhaps more surprising is that, far from being Cheh’s version of Mismatched Couples, Yuen Woo-Ping’s breakdancing movie from the same year with a fresh faced Donnie Yen, Dancing Warrior is more closely described as Cheh’s version of Flashdance. Like the first half of the title suggests, if The Fantastic Magic Baby can be considered Cheh’s go at a full blown fantasy adventure, then Dancing Warrior is his crack at directing a dance inspired musical. Of course, Cheng’s alcohol loving dancer also happens to be a kung fu expert, but the fact almost seems to be thrown in out of obligation, and perhaps more significantly, let’s Cheh provide a finale that delivers what’s expected. But more on that later.
As with almost anything Cheh did, particularly from the Venoms era onwards, subtlety is not the order of the day here. Proceedings open with Cheng made up as a clown in a Hong Kong TV studio, where he’s a backing dancer for a talk show. However when the shows arrogant host (a cameo by James Wong, who also wrote the script) shows up late, he ends up storming out, and basically spends the first 10 minutes of the movie dancing around the streets of Hong Kong in clown makeup. There’s something mildly infuriating about watching it. I mean, he even goes to a bar and gets drunk as a clown, and no one bats an eye lid, and then bumps into a car being driven by Chen Kuan-Tai, turning in a bizarre cameo. When finally a policeman shows the first sign of reality, and asks him to show some ID, he prances about acting as a mime for what feels like an eternity, in what’s clearly supposed to be a comical sequence, but serves to be anything but. Cheh has never been good at comedy, and nothing changed towards the end of his career.
Dancing Warrior also plays its part in the topic that rears its head during many a Chang Cheh discussion – the recurring theme of homoerotic bonding between the male characters of his tales. While Dancing Warrior is still a few years before the slow motion rolling around on the floor embraces found in Slaughter in Xian, it perhaps presents a solid argument that Cheh was indeed a straight guy, just with a rather overzealous approach to bromance. Cheng has a female love interest throughout the movie (a latter day Cheh movie that features no female betrayal!), played by Yang Li-Su, which leads to an amusing scene of Cheng being introduced to her male dance instructor. The two guys mutual love of dance leads to a scene in which they take to the floor in a nightclub together, which, at its most bizarre, has Cheng leaping into the arms of the awaiting instructor, a kind of all male version of a Dirty Dancing number. Misguided yes, but also weirdly innocent.
Indeed the word misguided could also be applied to Cheng’s dance loving bumpkin character. Shakespeare once said the world’s a stage, and that’s how Cheng views it. He just wants to dance, and at a moment’s notice he frequently does – in the street, in a restaurant, during a kung fu class, in the club, the list goes on. Whenever he does break into dance, it’s not just for a couple of seconds, but for the duration of a whole song. While Cheng’s physical dexterity is impossible to debate (many fans are of the opinion Cheh chose him as a lead due to his physical talents rather than his looks – difficult to argue), watching him constantly jump over tables, over-energetically tear up a dance floor, or have a dance off in a club that looks like an aerobics video gone wrong, does get a little tiresome.
Cheng’s dancing prowess eventually captures the eye of a businessman who invites him to New York to continue his training there. However, in the first sign of Dancing Warrior being a Chang Cheh movie, it turns out to be a trick, and the businessman actually wants Cheng to be part of an underground illegal fighting tournament. Of course, Cheng just wants to dance, so refuses and ends up performing a Monkey King routine in Central Park to get by from the donations he’s given. It’s here where he’s spotted by an African American kung fu teacher played by Dennis Brown, in his one and only movie appearance, and the pair strike up a friendship. Brown correctly guesses that Cheng also knows kung fu, and the pair strike a deal – Cheng will teach his students, on the basis that he’s allowed to use the kung-fu studio for dance practice. Plenty of cringe worthy kung fu and Broadway style dance routine infusion ensues, until Brown himself becomes embroiled in the illegal fighting.
It’s this plot development that provides us with what every Chang Cheh fan has been waiting for, a 7 minute 3-on-1 fight finale that sees Cheng taking on a villainous boxer played by Yang Guang-You (complete with hidden blades in his knee and elbow pads) and his two lackeys. It’s one of the most unique finales in Cheh’s filmography, in that it essentially takes the same technique he used 15 years earlier for Vengeance!, which has Ti Lung’s frantic teahouse fight juxtaposed with his Peking Opera performance, and applies it to a stage musical instead. So while Cheng fights off his opponents in reality, the scene frequently cuts to him, bare chested and in a long haired wig, dancing on a garishly coloured stage while fending off costumed attackers who look like rejects from Cats. Part of the fight is even set to a song, but dare I say, it works, giving way to one of the most bizarre closing shots you’re likely to see.
Like his fellow Shaw Brothers director Lau Kar Leung, Cheh never really seemed at home with movies based in a contemporary setting, a theory which is further backed up by the fact that, out of the 94 times he sat in the director’s chair, only a handful of them were modern day based. The last time Cheh directed a contemporary actioner was 1977’s Chinatown Kid, which interestingly also set itself Stateside, although instead of New York it was San Francisco. At least this time though, despite Cheh’s dwindling budgets, Dancing Warrior does in fact feature location shooting in the Big Apple. More so than any of his other contemporary outings, it’s Dancing Warrior which feels the most out of time, almost as if the New York being portrayed onscreen is a version of the city which only exists in Cheh’s head. It may not contain the supernatural elements from the likes of Heaven and Hell and Attack of the Joyful Goddess, and is supposedly grounded in reality, but make no mistake, once watched you’ll realise Dancing Warrior is just as much of a fantasy. Only with more, well, dancing.
“Blade of the Immortal” Japanese Theatrical Poster
Takashi Miike’s (13 Assassins, Terra Formars) live-action movie adaptation of Hiroaki Samura’s manga, Blade of the Immortal, has been acquired by Magnet Releasing for North American distribution. The film will be released on a pending date in November 2017.
This upcoming period samurai film stars Takuya Kimura (2046), Hana Sugisaki (Mozu: The Movie), Sota Fukushi (Library Wars), Hayato Ichihara (Yakuza Apocalypse), Erika Toda (Goemon), Ebizo Ichikawa (Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai), Tsutomu Yamazaki (As the Gods Will) and Min Tanaka (The Eternal Zero).
Here’s a rough idea of what to expect, according to Amazon’s manga description: “A cursed, seemingly immortal warrior aids a young girl in her quest for revenge, as the students of a brutal new sword school tear a bloody path across Japan. Samura’s storytelling tour-de-force also won Japan’s Media Arts Award, several British Eagle Awards, and an Eisner Award, among other international accolades. Intense and audacious, Blade takes period samurai action and deftly combines it with a modernist street idiom to create a style and mood like no other work of graphic fiction.
Producer Roy Lee is back with more Asian remake antics with Drug War, an English language remake of the acclaimed 2012 Johnnie To film of the same name.
According to Variety, Lee is producing Drug War alongside Andrew Rona, Alex Heineman, Juan Sola and Jaume Collet-Serra. There is currently no director attached.
Lee is responsible for producing English language remakes of countless, high-profile Asian titles, including The Ring, The Departed, My Sassy Girl, Old Boy, the upcoming Death Note and a possible Battle Royale.
The original Drug War – which starred Louis Koo, Sun Honglei, Crystal Huang and Wallace Chung – revolves around a drug cartel boss who is arrested in a raid and is coerced into betraying his former accomplices as part of an undercover operation.
Keep it here for more updates. In the meantime, here’s the Trailer for the original film:
On August 1st, Funimation will be finally releasing the Blu-ray & DVD for Shin Godzilla (aka Godzilla: Resurgence), the recent Japanese reboot of the Godzilla franchise by Japan’s Toho Company.
It’s a peaceful day in Japan when a strange fountain of water erupts in the bay, causing panic to spread among government officials. At first, they suspect only volcanic activity, but one young executive dares to wonder if it may be something different… something alive. His worst nightmare comes to life when a massive, gilled monster emerges from the deep and begins tearing through the city, leaving nothing but destruction in its wake…
Director: Herman Yau Writer: Erica Li, Lee Sing Cast: Anthony Wong, Jojo Goh, Gordon Lam Ka-Tung, Michelle Wai, Mak Kwai-Yuen, Chye Yang, Pearlly Chua, Yip Ching-Fong, Bryant Mak Ji-Lok Running Time: 102 min.
By Martin Sandison
After this year’s Udine Far East Film Festival screening of The Sleep Curse – and before my scheduled interview with its prodigiously talented director, Herman Yau – I bumped into the great man outside the theatre. I told him that I’d never seen a film like the masterful Untold Story before; he thanked me and said that Tai Seng’s U.S. DVD release was the only uncut version ever released; I told him I would seek it out. Fellow COF reviewer (and kung fu brother), Matija, and I, suitably had a few drinks before the midnight showing of The Sleep Curse. The movie reunites Untold Story star Anthony Wong with Yau, and I felt privileged and excited that this was the uncut showing (10 seconds has been cut for the Asian release) – on top of this – we were watching it in the company of Mr. Yau.
Wong stars as Lam, a neurologist who specialises in sleep problems. He is taken on by an old flame, Monique (Jojo Goh), to help cure her elder brother’s extreme insomnia. Seeing that her brother is under a type of black magic, Lam decides to visit a medium and work out his own past to further his work. Thus, the narrative flashes back to WW2, wherein Lam plays his father Lam Sing, who is a translator working with the Japanese during the occupation of Hong Kong.
The beginning and end of the film are very strong, with a great aesthetic that exudes creepiness and brings back the style of the Untold Story. The opening showing the insomniac is depicted in grainy home video footage (this part of the film is set in 1990) and is suitably creepy and powerfully edited. Wong’s character, while not as brilliantly drawn as his psychotic intensity in Untold Story, or as disgustingly manic as in Ebola Syndrome, is a combination of fierce anger and barely concealed psychosis. It’s the kind of performance that Wong can portray in a heartbeat, yet it contains huge amounts of pathos. He shows his range yet again with the depiction of Lam, although the narrative falters a bit in the middle. It’s unfortunate. Those expecting the unrelenting nature of the previous two films will be a little disappointed, as the middle section is without extremity or real horror; it’s more a of a creepy ghost story.
Gordon Lam Ka Tung, who is having something of a career renaissance, gives a performance that elevates the WW2 section of the film, playing it with a veteran’s knowing grace. His character Chow Fook is the real villain over Lam Sing here, and it’s an interesting change of pace in the film. Last year, Lam also starred in Yau’s drama Nessun Dorma, and recently won the best actor award for Trivisa. Doh puts in decent shift. Her only previous credit was Struggle, notable for featuring the late, great Fung Hark On.
Erica Li’s script threatens at the beginning to be something truly great, but falters a little once the narrative switches, but is redeemed towards the end. Li has worked with Yau a lot, most recently on the closing film of Udine FEFF Shockwave, and also scripted one of my favourite Stephen Chow films The King of Comedy.
Yau comes with such a great pedigree as a director and cinematographer (he has worked in the latter capacity on some notable Hong Kong films of the last 20 years, including Tsui Hark’s all star, Seven Swords), that you would expect his return to extreme horror to be atmospherically filmed with some moments to make the audience squirm. On both counts, the film succeeds, but there’s something missing. Maybe it’s the fact that no Hong Kong director can really recreate their masterful films of the 80’s and 90’s in style and joyous abandon. The Sleep Curse actually doesn’t aim for a recreation, rather a reinvention, and Yau himself said that it’s about the evil that men do – the WW2 part of the film reflects this, with its ideas of latent forced prostitution.
The Sleep Curse builds up to a seriously disgusting and over-the-top ending that will have those viewers who loved Yau’s earlier films in raptures; rest assured, these scenes are just as horrendous as the worst in Untold Story. Despite not capturing the otherworldly greatness of that film, if you are a fan of extreme cinema, check The Sleep Curse out.
Action legends Jackie Chan (Police Story 2013) and Sylvester Stallone (Bullet to the Head) are joining forces for Ex-Baghdad, an $80M budget, Iraq-based thriller to be directed by Scott Waugh (Need for Speed) and written by Arash Amel (Erased).
According to Deadline, here what’s you can expect from the film’s plot: When a China-run oil refinery is attacked in Mosul, Iraq, a Chinese private security contractor (Chan) is called in to extract the oil workers. He learns, however, that the attackers’ real plan is to steal a fortune in oil, and teams up with an American former Marine (Stallone) to stop them.
Ex-Baghdad will mark the 1st time Chan and Stallone will be working together in a full feature. The two previously shared limited screen time in 1997’s An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn. There have been numerous attempts by Stallone to feature Chan in The Expendables series, but now that Stallone has left the franchise indefinitely, Chan’s involvement is unlikely.
Three years ago, it was announced that Django Lives!, a sequel to 1966’s Django, was in the works. Originally, Joe D’Augustine (One Night with You) was attached as director, but now duties have shifted to filmmaker Christian Alvart (Pandorum), off a screenplay by John Sayles (Battle Beyond the Stars).
Fortunately, Franco Nero (The 5th Cord, Enter the Ninja, Die Hard 2), the star of the original, is still returning as the titular character.
According to SA, Alvart’s Django Lives! will catch up with Django (Nero) in California in 1914, where he will encounter white supremacists.
The original Django made Nero an international star and spawned over 30 unofficial – or by name only – sequels; the only official sequel was 1987’s Django Strikes Again, which finally saw the return of Nero’s take on the character.
In 2007 and 2012, Takashi Miike (Ley Lines) and Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill Vol. 1) made Sukiyaki Western Django and Django Unchained, respectively. Both films were unconventional tributes to the original. The latter even featured a cameo by Nero (but not as Django).
Django Lives! is expected to shoot soon in in Spain and Berlin, Germany. Keep it here for updates.
“The Deadly Breaking Sword” Chinese Theatrical Poster
Director: Sun Chung Writer: Ni Kuang Cast: Ti Lung, Alexander Fu Sheng, Shih Szu, Ku Feng, Chan Wai Man, Lily Li Li Li, Ngaai Fei, Chan Shen, Kara Hui, Ha Ping, Alan Chan, Cheung Gwok, Chow Kin Ping, Gam Tin Chue, Hung Ling Ling, Keung Hon, Eddie Ko Hung Running Time: 101 min.
By JJ Hatfield
An arrogant assassin and an unlucky gambler are brought together by pride, greed and a captivating courtesan in The Deadly Breaking Sword. This wuxia with comedy was the second film Sun Chung directed for the Shaw Brothers with Ti Lung and Alexander Fu Sheng, the first being Avenging Eagle.
Ti Lung (The Savage Five) is Tuan Changging, the titular “Deadly Breaking Sword.” His character is established at the beginning of the movie with the help of an opponent played by Michael Chan. Changging is a master swordsman who finishes his matches with a particular stroke of his blade. He is wealthy, refined, and a pompous ass. Changging is a self-appointed dispatcher of evil-doers, and he never kills indiscriminately. He has rituals for a fight and rules for using his unique sword style.
The comedy is in the form of Fu Sheng (The Chinatown Kid) as Xiao Dao or Little Dagger. He is known as Xiao Dao because he uses small knives when fighting. Xiao Dao’s introduction occurs during a skirmish in a gambling parlor. He is poor, unsophisticated, and a thief when he has no luck at gambling which is often. It is his larceny habit that results in meeting Changging.
Xiao Dao and Changging seemingly share nothing in common. Changging has no use for those who don’t recognize his self-proclaimed superiority in all things. Nor is he much interested in women. Xiao Dao is interested in women, but he has far more passion for pursuing wealth. However, they are both drawn to the courtesan Lin. Shih Szu (Black Tavern) is Lin Yinxu, the newly arrived prostitute at the brothel. She uses her beauty to achieve her objectives, and she knows how to approach a man to get what she wants. Yinxu attempts to manipulate Changging and Xiao Dao to do her bidding. Changging becomes involved because of his egotistical eccentricities, while Xiao Dao’s motivation is money. When Yinxu makes odd statements about the local doctor, Changging must decide whom he should believe before confronting his next opponent.
Xiao Dao brings out the personal side of Changging. When they are together, Changging will let down his emotional guard. Xiao Dao is the only one that dares to make fun of Changging, but he does so without any malice. In a bonding scene, they play the drinking game also seen in Shanghai Noon, but The Deadly Breaking Sword (TDBS) predates that film by over twenty years. The real life friendship comes through in more than one scene. Several times Ti looks as though he is going to break character and burst into laughter, especially when he is supposed to be offended by Xiao Dao.
Most of the screen time is held by Changging or Xiao Dao, or both in the same scene. Shih Szu aside the women don’t fare well in TDBS. Kara Hui is wasted in her role at the brothel, and Lily Li Li has the unfortunate part of Luo Jinhua, owner of a gambling parlor.
Changging is familiar if exaggerated fare for Ti Lung. He seems to enjoy his role of the smug, self – righteous swordsman. Ti has been a sword wielding character in a number of movies but never has he played a narcissist. As usual with Fu Sheng, viewers will either thoroughly enjoy his style of humor or want to see Changging use that sword of his.
Plenty of action is on hand, but half of the fights are disappointingly brief. Tong Gai and Wong Pau-Gei as action directors show standard moves and sword work that appears unusual because of the camera angle. The fighting includes the use of props as weapons at a gambling parlor and in Yinxu’s chambers.
Sun Chung only helmed a few films with the Shaws compared to some. I think directors like Chang Cheh made so many memorable movies that others like Sun became lost in the sheer numbers. However, he was a creative and talented director who has often been overlooked and under-rated. He was interested in finding new ways to use technology to elevate his films. Several new techniques made it into TDBS including the freeze frame.
The screenplay is by the extraordinarily prolific writer Ni Kuang who creates an extreme version of the distinguished swordsman. Unlike many films of the era, the plot does not come from an ancient Chinese epic, story or poem. Ni wrote a simple tale, just enough to give the characters motivation. The audience knows only what the characters know. The addition of a little mystery helps along the thin plot.
The Shaw sets are lavishly decorated. The brothels furnishings are elegant. Costumes are beautiful with rich, vibrant colors, and attention to detail. Yinxu’s wardrobe is dazzling. Changging’s garments are nearly as impressive.
At 101 minutes TDBS would have benefitted from tighter editing. The characters aren’t explored in-depth but then it isn’t necessary. TDBS is not a classic or an epic film. It isn’t cerebral nor does it have the greatest fight scenes ever filmed. It is an entertaining way to spend a little over an hour and a half, and that is good enough.
Natee (Chupong) and Than (Nantawooti Boornrapsap) are orphans raised by their parent’s friend (Ping Lumprapleng). Never knowing their parents or how they died, the two boys had always wondered who was responsible for their murder. The pursuit of vengeance is the centerpiece of Vengeance of an Assassin, the last film by Panna Rittikrai.
Enter the Warrior’s Gate | Blu-ray & DVD (Lionsgate)
RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017
Matthias Hoene’s (Cockneys vs Zombies) Enter the Warrior’s Gate (aka Warrior’s Gate), a French-Chinese co-production written by Luc Besson (Lucy), will be released on Blu-ray & DVD 0n June 6th, 2017.
After a mysterious chest opens a gateway through time, teen gamer Jack is transported to an ancient empire terrorized by a cruel barbarian king. Jack will need all of his gaming skills as he battles to defeat the barbarian, protect a beautiful princess, and somehow find his way back home.
Director: Jimmy Henderson Writer: Jimmy Henderson, Michael Hodgson Cast: Jean-Paul Ly, Dara Our, Tharoth Sam, Céline Tran, Savin Phillip, Dara Phang, Sisowath Siriwudd, Laurent Plancel, Rous Mony, Sok Visal, Georgina Tan Running Time: 92 min.
By Matija Makotoichi Tomic
Following in the footsteps of Vietnam, Indonesia, and of course, Thailand before that, it was time for Cambodia to mark its place on the international martial arts movie map. Delivering the country’s first piece of full-fledged martial arts action is Jimmy Henderson, Italian-born director who moved to Cambodia six years ago and has since found himself in the director’s chair twice; for the action thriller Hanuman and then a year later when filming the horror Forest Whispers. His latest directorial effort came as a breath of fresh air to the country’s cinema dominated mostly by romantic comedies and ghost horror stories. Seeing the talent in local martial artists, Henderson once again teamed up with his co-writer Michael Hodgson and producer Loy Te of Kongchak Pictures, and delivered action comedy that was to set a new standard for Cambodian action filmmaking.
Made with a lot of heart and a budget that couldn’t be called big even if multiplied by ten, Jailbreak was all about hard work right from the start. And while there’s no doubt about the team’s committment, low budget filmmaking usually tends to results in production shortcomings. Looking at it from that angle, Jailbreak is not without its weak points. Prei Klaa prison as the one location where most of the film’s action is taking place, is not a real one; jail bars and inmates’ uniforms, as well as the prison security system being the most obvious example, are cheap looking and can be seen as failings that might bother some. Looking from a different perspective, this only adds to the exploitation charm of the movie, along with its non-stop action structure and Butterfly gang females dressed in tight black leather.
Taking center stage of the story is Playboy, notorious criminal accused under the suspicion of running the Butterfly girl gang. When faced with the charges against him, Playboy decides to reveal the true boss’ identity, the not-so-mysterious Madame Butterfly who in exchange puts a hit out on him. After two failed attempts at Playboy’s life, first while he is still being held at the police station, and then when being escorted to the Prei Klaa prison, the hunt for his head continues within the prison walls with the prison badass Bolo taking over (yes, the name refers to the one and only Beast from the East). Special task force made of French officer supported by a local police trio has been assigned to keep Playboy safe, but once a simple hit turnes into a bloody prison riot, the team ends up fighting to save their own lives.
Starring as the leader of all female Butterfly gang is French actress Céline Tran in her first action role. Part Vietnamese on her father’s side, Tran is perhaps better known to a wider audience as Katsuni, stage name from her days in the porn industry. Katsuni received numerous awards for her work that includes more than 300 adult films, with Anal Showdown and Great Wall of Vagina being some of my picks as definitive must-sees. Being in her late thirties, Tran, a veteran in the business that still got the looks, obviously decided it’s time for a career change, and the role of whiskey-loving, katana-wielding girl boss fits her just right. Lovely Tharoth “Little Frog” Sam on the other hand has miles to go before becoming a veteran in this line of work. This charismatic Cambodian actress is a rising action star that earned her place in the industry as the first female professional MMA competitor and an expert Bokator fighter. With Jailbreak being the showcase for Bokator, Cambodian very own martial arts style, it is Sam (and her colleague Dara Our) you need to keep an eye on for busting Bokator moves.
Equally charismatic with made-to-be-a-star look is Jean-Paul Ly. Trained in Hapkido, Karate, Capoeira and specialized in acrobatic kicking, it was up to Ly to contribute to the project by bringing new ways to combine different martial arts techniques. After his notable stunt work on films such as Lucy or Now You See Me 2 for which he was nominated for 2017 Taurus Awards for best fight, Ly joined the cast of Jailbreak in his first ever lead role. Despite being born in France and located in London, Ly was somewhat an obvious choice thanks to his Chinese and Cambodian descent. As an experienced stuntman and a passionate martial artist, Jean-Paul also took charge of the film’s fight choreography, teaming up with the local martial artist and actor Dara Our.
Knowing the action being what Jailbreak is all about, Ly and Dara delivered some great, hard-hitting martial arts fighting that will have fans nod in approval. Ridden of wirework and with CGI interventions reduced to a minimum, this is martial arts action that’s always a joy to watch, even more so being that the fights were shot as wide as possible with narrow prison hallways allowing only so much space to work with. Notable is Henderson’s dynamic, creative camerawork in fight scenes. Rather than making a mess using fast cuts, camera just flows with the action, often in long takes and with focus switching from one character to another, a style maybe owed to the fact that this one camera was all the team had at their disposal.
On the bad side, some of the hits at times clearly fail to meet their target. With long takes and limited shooting time this is easily forgivable and can be attributed to the lack of experience. Extras were trained for the movie by Jean-Paul, lacking even the basic skills required, but with good will to spare. Entering the final third fights become somewhat repetitive, but keeping it at the same level of interest are fresh, new moves introduced every now and again to liven things up. One of the best fights in the movie belongs to Jean-Paul and Laurent Plancel starring in the role of Suicide and assisting in the film’s fight choreography. As professionals and friends that have already worked together, be it on short film Dead End, or a major Hollywood blockbuster that is Doctor Strange (earning nominations at the Screen Actors Guild Awards for their stunt performance), Ly and Law make it short but sweet, with a real knockout ending.
Of course, one of the selling points for any action comedy is in the way how it handles its humor, and in that department, Jailbreak works almost flawlessly. Every bit intended and of kind that is easily understandable to an international audience it takes some time to ignite, but by the time we see the escort team freezing in the back of a freezer truck on their way to prison, it’s clear there’s more to be enjoyed here than just the action. Despite the comic note that changes the overall tone, influence of The Raid is still apparent. It’s not just the idea of keeping most of the film’s action in one location, but also in the way it is delivered. Jean-Paul doesn’t hide the fact that the style of action was influenced by Gareth Evans’ masterpiece, insert of which can be seen on the prison TV.
More laughs are on the way as the closing credits roll with bloopers showing that the team had a great fun while filming, despite all the hard work they were facing while working in almost impossible conditions, shooting without air conditioners on a temperature that was well over 30 °C. Fueled on passion and with talent to spare, Jailbreak is hopefully the first of many to come. Local box-office numbers and fan support prove the job was done right and indeed, all things considering, this is a big step for Cambodian cinema and a noteworthy achievement that I’m sure fans will appreciate.
Over ten years ago, Hong Kong megastar Leon Lai (A Hero Never Dies, Fallen Angels) made his directorial debut in the 2006 musical, A Melody Looking. Now, Lai is back in the director’s chair for something a little bit different: Action!
When a world renowned Chinese sommelier residing in France is contacted by his childhood buddy in China to help him auction for a bottle of 1855 vintage wine on behalf of the Chinese government, he agrees without question. Little does he realize he is about to be sucked into an age-old feud between rivaling vineyards and a historical mystery that might shatter the whole oenological industry.
“Head to Head: The Seagal vs JCVD Collection” DVD Cover
RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2017
Mill Creek Entertainment presents Head to Head: The Seagal vs JCVD Collection, featuring 8 movies on 2 DVDs.
In the Muscles from Brussels’ corner, we have 1996’s Maximum Risk (read our review), 1999’s Universal Soldier: The Return (read our review), 2006’s Second in Command (read our review), 2006’s The Hard Corps (read our review), 1997’s Double Team (read our review) and 1998’s Knock Off (read our review); And in Seagal’s corner is 2005’s Into the Sun and 2006’s Attack Force. (Van Damme wins by Knock Off).
Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, who helmed Elizabeth (1998) and New York, I Love You (2008), will be directing/co-writing Little Dragon, an official, authorized biopic of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, which will be produced/co-written by Bruce Lee Entertainment, a company operated by Lee’s daughter Shannon Lee (Enter the Eagles). The film will be a U.S., Hong Kong and China co-production.
According to Variety, Little Dragon is a contemporary dramatization of the 1950s Hong Kong social and political forces that shaped Bruce Lee into both the most famous martial arts star of all time and a significant modern day philosopher. Themes include family disappointment, young love, true friendship, betrayal, racism, deep poverty and an inner fire that threatened to unravel his destiny.
“I always thought that a film about how my father’s life was shaped in his early years in Hong Kong would be a worthwhile story to share so we could better understand him as a human being and a warrior,” said Lee. “I’m really excited that Shekhar will breathe life into the first film from Bruce Lee Entertainment.”
Little Dragon will be just one of the many films centering on the life of Bruce Lee. During the 70s, a string of biopics were made that included 1974’s Dragon Story and 1976’s Bruce Lee: The Man, The Myth (both starring Ho Chung Tao); in 1993 came Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (starring Jason Scott Lee); in 2010, Bruce Lee My Brother (starring Aarif Lee) was produced with the full support of Bruce’s brother, Robert Lee (Lady Killer); and most recently, Birth of the Dragon (starring Philip Ng), a soon-to-be-released, fable-based movie that focused on Lee’s disputed bout with Master Wong Jack-Man was completed.
Little Dragon is currently in pre-production phase with a scheduled shoot date aimed for July. The big question remains: Who will play Bruce Lee? We’ll keep you updated.
Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) is currently working on the development of Live Die Repeat and Repeat, the sequel to his 2014 sci-fi action film, Edge of Tomorrow. Both Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt will be reprising their roles from the first film.
On board as the film’s screenwriters are Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse, the writing duo known for their recent work on the Jesse Owens’ bio-pic Race.
The original was based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s Japanese novel All You Need is Kill, which was also the movie’s title until it was changed to Edge of Tomorrow for its theatrical release; only to be re-titled/remarked again as Live. Die. Repeat. for its Blu-ray & DVD release – hence, the title of the sequel, Live Die Repeat and Repeat.
“We have an amazing story! It’s incredible! Way better than the first film, and I obviously loved the first film. Tom is excited about it, and Emily Blunt is excited about it. The big question is just when we’ll do it. But it’s not an if, it’s a when”, Liman told Collider. Previously, the filmmaker told the same source the sequel would “revolutionize how people make sequels”.
Despite its box office fumble, 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow was praised by both critics and viewers alike. The film involved a military officer (Cruise) who is brought into an alien war against an extraterrestrial enemy who can reset the day and know the future. When this officer is enabled with the same power, he teams up with a Special Forces warrior (Blunt) to try and end the war.
We’ll keep you updated on Live Die Repeat and Repeat as we learn more.
Perhaps more than any other genre, making a good first impression in an action movie is paramount. Sure there can be some characterisation, plot setup etc. beforehand, but when that first action scene hits, it has to count. Because let’s face it, audiences are tuning into an action movie for action. If that first scene when things start to get physical is a damp squib of an excuse to get the adrenalin pumping, then all is lost. Don’t expect the audience to stick around.
Thankfully, when it comes to Asian action, the ratio is definitely more hit than miss. Perhaps what makes it so unique, is that Asian action relies on the physical talents of its stars, rather than large CGI explosions or caped superheroes performing equally superhuman feats of heroism. This is no more apparent than in the kung fu movie, after all, if you’re going to keep someone watching for the next 90 minutes based purely on what you can do with your body, than it better be something exceptional.
Throughout the years there’s been countless martial artists who have lit up the screens with their fists and kicks, and below we’ve picked out what we believe to be 5 of the greatest action entrances in Asian cinema. The criteria is simple – while the scene doesn’t necessarily have to be the first time they appear in the movie mentioned, it does have to be the first time they spring into action. Likewise, the scene in question also doesn’t have to be the first action scene in the movie, but it does need to be the first time we see the martial artist in question do their thing. That’s it. Listed in the order that they were made, we hope you enjoy, and feel free to weigh in with your own choices! –
“Enter the Dragon” Japanese Theatrical Poster
Enter the Dragon (1973) – Bruce Lee makes his UFC debut, 20 years before UFC existed.
Look at any other production from either Hong Kong, USA, or anywhere else for that matter from 1973, and you’ll be unable to find anything that comes as close to being as far ahead of its time as when Bruce Lee takes on Sammo Hung in Enter the Dragon.
Wearing matching black kempo gloves and trunks, the quick efficient striking mixed with acrobatic flourishes was a world away from the basher style of choreography that dominated the era. While Lee taking the win from an arm bar tapout may have become a familiar sight in the 21st Century, it should take nothing away from a scene that provided a glimpse of the MMA style that would become so popular years later.
“The Young Master” Japanese Theatrical Poster
The Young Master (1980) – Whang In-sik demonstrates how to use humans as punching bags.
This entry is unique for 2 reasons – 1. being that it doesn’t feature the star of the movie, Jackie Chan, and 2. that it doesn’t take place until 35 minutes in. However in terms of making an impression, there can be no doubt that nobody leaves quite as lasting an impact, as when Whang In-sik’s villain breaks free en route to being transferred to a new prison.
After refreshing himself with a bucket of water, his intense stare from between his straggly locks is only matched by the kicking showcase he goes on to display. With some fantastic wire enhanced impacts which are painful to watch, In-sik kicks the hapless guard’s mid-air, in the back, in the face, mid-fall from another kick they’ve received, and any other scenario you can think of. Even countless kung fu movie viewings later, In-sik’s entrance in TheYoung Master continues to impress.
“Police Story” Chinese Theatrical Poster
Police Story (1985) – Jackie Chan brings down the house… I mean village… to catch the bus.
Another unique entry involving a Jackie Chan movie, but this one thankfully does involve the man himself. What it doesn’t involve, is any kung fu. Instead, for Chan’s debut directing and starring in a modern day HK police movie, he kicks off proceedings with a surveillance operation taking place in a shanty town set on a hillside.
When Chan and his colleagues find themselves compromised, it results in one of the greatest action openings to be found in the action genre to this day, with Chan front and centre. After a car chase through the shanty town, and when I say through, I mean it literally, Chan takes off on foot to intercept the criminals who have taken the passengers on a double decker bus hostage. What follows is classic Chan, as he clings onto the 2nd floor of the bus with an umbrella, all the time while the criminals attempt to knock him to the road, and some of the most painful stunt work you’ll see on film.
“Operation Scorpio” French DVD Cover
Operation Scorpio (1992) – Won Jin proves never to mess with a man in a purple suit.
The mischievous son character is a familiar one in the kung fu genre, from Jackie Chan’s take on Wong Fei Hung in the Drunken Master movies, to Billy Chong in Kung Fu Zombie, but there’s perhaps no son more memorable in kung fu movie history as Sunny from Operation Scorpio.
Played by super kicker Won Jin (read our interview with him), when called upon to defend his villainous father at just over 10 minutes in, there’s no other sight quite like it. Seemingly able to defy both gravity, and the limits of what a normal human body can do, Won Jin’s ability to mix high impact kicking with acrobatics remains unmatched in terms of its uniqueness. By the time he drops down onto one knee while propping himself up with both hands, arching his other leg over his back to perfectly imitate a scorpion, the fact that the movies very title is a reference to his character is more than justified.
“Tom Yum Goong” Thai Theatrical Poster
Tom Yum Goong (2005) – Tony Jaa flies into a restaurant.
While Tony Jaa captured the attention of just about everyone a couple of years before with Ong Bak, it’s his 2005 follow-up which takes the cake for the most impressive entrance.
Having had his prized elephant stolen, a scene opens in a river-side abode which has a Thai band playing a rather raucous melody, that is, until a body literally comes flying into the room, dislodging a wall mounted buffalo head in the process. While the obvious suspects behind the theft scramble to harness bottles and anything else they can get their hands on as weapons, Jaa flies into frame from the top left corner, planting a damaging knee into a group of 7 suited thugs on the other side of the screen. What follows is a masterclass in bodily damage, as Jaa wades through his opponents like they’re ragdolls, culminating in a flying knee through a glass door.
Director: Ho Yuhang Writer: Ho Yuhang, Chan Wai Keung Cast: Kara Hui, Simon Yam, Wu Bai, Faizal Hussein, Kirk Wong, Fruit Chan, Li Xuan Siow Running Time: 90 min.
By Martin Sandison
For me, one of the big draws of this year’s Udine Far East Film Festival was the screening of Mrs K, and the appearance by its director Ho Yuhang. Ho is known for genre hopping and has a lot of successful films under his belt – all made in Malaysia. Martial arts movie fans will be both happy and sad that this movie contains the last action performance by one of the greatest female stars: Kara Hui Yin Hung.
Famously, Kara was discovered by Lau Kar Leung (Martial Club), who taught her screen fighting in the late 70’s. She learnt fast, and starred in one of the greatest kung fu films of all time, My Young Auntie. Her action film comeback came with Peter Chan’s Wuxia in 2011, wherein she faced off against Donnie Yen in a memorable fight. Unfortunately, she didn’t appear in many action films subsequently. She worked with director Ho Yuhang in 2009’s At the End of Daybreak, a low key drama in which she got to flex her acting muscles. Mrs K is a natural progression for director and star, as the film features drama elements alongside the action-style which made her a star.
Come the beginning of the film, Kara is a housewife with a happy family, living in domestic bliss. Soon this is shattered as a former accomplice in a robbery gone wrong reveals Kara’s shadowy past, and she will have to fight for everything she holds dear…
The film is relatively low budget, but thanks to the draw that is Kara’s last action role, director Ho managed to secure the talents of the ubiquitous Simon Yam (Cross). This man needs no introduction, and his part here can be added to his growing number of superb supporting roles. In fact Yam’s performance brought to mind his depictions of psychotic villains in movies such as Exiled and Run and Kill– the latter is one of my favourite category 3 films, made in ’93 when this type of extreme Hong Kong cinema was at its peak.
Also appearing in cameo roles are Kirk Wong (Taking Manhattan) and Fruit Chan (The Midnight After), two of the best directors Hong Kong has ever produced. They are in a flashback scene, which is a welcome humorous diversion.
Of all the films I’ve seen starring Kara, I would have to say this is her best performance. She captures the drama and emotional turmoil her character goes through while also proving, physically, she can still handle herself in tough fight scenes at the age of 56. She also demanded that she do all of her own stunts and fights. What a lady.
Style-wise this film is very strong, with a distinct Spaghetti Western feel that never outstays its welcome. Movies such as The Great Silence spring to mind. In fact, I asked director Ho about this: he said that the latter movie is one of his favourites. He mentioned in his introduction to the film that the Spaghetti Western genre is also reflected in his choice to shoot the film in Malaysia, but with a lot of Hong Kong actors. This creates a parallel with the genre because they were making films set in the American west, but shot in Europe with Italian crews and actors.
Ho’s direction is nuanced, subtle, yet forceful, and there are some great editing transitions. Of course, the movie can also be seen as a homage to classic Hong Kong cinema, with shifts in tone, course humour and standout action sequences.
Unfortunately, fans thinking there will be a feast of action will be disappointed. There are only two hand-to-hand combat scenes. However, they are gritty, exciting and seamlessly edited despite being fast cut. Both opponents are a match for Kara, with Faizal Hussein’s (GK3: The Movie) villain especially giving her a run for her money. Don’t expect anything near the intricacy of Kara’s work with Lau Kar Leung: the style is completely different. This doesn’t detract from the impact of the film as a whole.
Despite not containing lots of action, Mrs K succeeds on many levels, and absolutely gives Kara Hui a beautiful martial arts film swan song. Seek it out.
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