Antony Szeto’s ‘Fist of the Dragon’ finally makes its U.S. debut

"Fist of the Dragon" Thai DVD Cover

"Fist of the Dragon" Thai DVD Cover

2000’s Moving Target, which starred 11-time World Kickboxing Champion Don “The Dragon” Wilson, has been loosely redone in the form of Fist of the Dragon, a U.S./Chinese co-production that puts Strikeforce World Lightweight Champion, Josh “The Punk” Thomson, in Wilson’s shoes. As with the original, Roger Corman’s New Horizons Pictures is producing.

Fist of the Dragon is directed by Antony Szeto (Wushu) and also stars Juju Chan (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny), Maria Tran (Truy Sat), Rambo Kong (Dragon the Bruce Lee Story) and Daniel Whyte (Ultraviolet). The film features martial arts choreography by Trung Ly (Truy Sat).

Here’s the official synopsis: Damon, an MMA fighter (Thomson) retires and goes to China to meet his new love, Meili. But things take an immediate turn when he inadvertently takes a package sought by an underground arms dealer. Now he must fight to save himself and his loved one.

Don’t miss the the trailer for Fist of the Dragon.

Updates: According to Impact’s Mike Leeder, 2014’s Fist of the Dragon will be finally getting its U.S. premier at this year’s Action on Film Festival on September 9th 2016. Members of the cast and crew will be accompanying the the screening. Up until now, the film has only been officially released in Thailand on DVD, so if you live around the Los Angeles area, visit for details on how you can attend.

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Phantom of the Theatre | DVD (Well Go USA)

Phantom of the Theatre | DVD (Well Go USA)

Phantom of the Theatre | DVD (Well Go USA)

RELEASE DATE: October 11, 2016

Well Go USA presents the DVD for Phantom of the Theatre, a thriller starring Ruby Lin (Blood Stained Shoes), Tony Yang (The Crossing), Simon Yam (Cross) and Huang Lei (CJ7).

A haunted theatre, filled with the vengeful spirits of a tragically-trapped performance troupe murdered in a fire 13 years ago, waits for the once-grand palatial playhouse to re-open with a new show… and bring in new victims…

Be very afraid to watch the film’s trailer (or not?).

Pre-order Phantom of the Theatre from

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Kung fu, retro games and metal collide in ‘Metal City Mayhem’

"Metal City Mayhem" Promotional Poster

“Metal City Mayhem” Promotional Poster

Get ready to bang some heads with Metal City Mayhem, a proposed action/comedy series by Dan Jackson and Savage Storm Studios.

Metal City Mayhem draws inspiration from cult classic films like Warriors and arcade favorites such as Double Dragon and River City Mayhem. It also fuses Hong Kong-influenced choreography with old-school, heavy metal pop culture.

In the tradition of Hobo With a Shotgun, Machete, and Black Dynamite – all of which started out as “fake” genre movie trailers for titles that didn’t exist yet – a 4-minute “concept trailer” for Metal City Mayhem is now available.

“The trailer was shot on a shoestring, over the course of many weekends and pizzas, all over the South Florida area. We employed guerilla film-making tactics, using ‘found locations,’ alleyways, parks, abandoned locations and other public areas as our backdrops,” says Jackson.

As stated on the project’s Kickstarter (now cancelled): consider the trailer a “rough draft.” With the help of some backers, Jackson promises the final product to be bigger, better, bolder and LOUDER.

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Lone Wolf and Cub Collection | Blu-ray & DVD (Criterion)

Lone Wolf and Cub Collection | Blu-ray & DVD (Criterion)

Lone Wolf and Cub Collection | Blu-ray & DVD (Criterion)

RELEASE DATE: November 8, 2016

Criterion Collection presents the Lone Wolf and Cub Collection on Blu-ray & DVD.

Based on the best-selling manga series, the six intensely kinetic Lone Wolf and Cub films elevated chanbara to bloody, new heights. The shogun’s executioner, Itto Ogami (Tomisaburo Wakayama), takes to wandering the countryside as an assassin—along with his infant son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) and an infinitely weaponized perambulator—helping those he encounters while seeking vengeance for his murdered wife.

Delivering stylish thrills and a body count that defies belief, Lone Wolf and Cub is beloved for its brilliantly choreographed and unbelievably violent action sequences as well as for its tender depiction of the bonds between parent and child.

Disc features include:

  • New 2K digital restorations of all six films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays
  • High-definition presentation of Shogun Assassin, the 1980 English-dubbed reedit of the first two Lone Wolf and Cub films
  • New interview with Kazuo Koike, writer of the Lone Wolf and Cub manga series and screenwriter on five of the films
  • Lame d’un père, l’âme d’un sabre, a 2005 documentary about the making of the series
  • New interview in which Sensei Yoshimitsu Katsuse discusses and demonstrates the real Suio-ryu sword techniques that inspired those in the manga and films
  • New interview with biographer Kazuma Nozawa about filmmaker Kenji Misumi, director of four of the six Lone Wolf and Cub films
  • Silent documentary from 1937 about the making of samurai swords, with an optional new ambient score by Ryan Francis
  • Trailers
  • New English subtitle translations
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay and film synopses by Japanese pop culture writer Patrick Macias

Pre-order Lone Wolf and Cub Collection from today!

Posted in Asian Titles, DVD/Blu-ray New Releases, Martial Arts Titles, News | Tagged | 4 Comments

Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972) Review

"Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Shunya Ito
Story: Toru Shinohara
Writer: Fumio Konami, Hiro Matsuda
Cast: Meiko Kaji, Rie Yokoyama, Yayoi Watanabe, Yōko Mihara, Akemi Negishi, Keiko Kuni, Yumiko Katayama, Emi Jo, Isao Natsuyagi, Fumio Watanabe
Running Time: 87 min.

By Kyle Warner

Almost every ambitious leading man or lady is on the lookout for that iconic role that will shoot them to superstardom, netting them a legion of fans and hopefully a mountain of cash. Roles that earn awards can prove your worth as a great actor but it’s often the iconic, larger-than-life characters that make one a star. One concern, however, is that the signature role will come too early in an actor’s career, thus casting a shadow over everything else that follows. David Duchovny still hasn’t managed to escape Fox Mulder’s shadow, for example. And the same can probably be said for Meiko Kaji, who in her mid-twenties was cast in the role of Scorpion, a vengeful antihero that best utilized Kaji’s natural acting talents and sex appeal. The role of ‘Matsu the Scorpion’ became something of a pop culture icon, with the long black hair, the dark trench coat, and the floppy, lopsided hat that could obscure much of the woman’s face when worn a certain way. Not only would Kaji revisit the signature look in other roles and tap into the same fury in other performances, the character also spawned sequels and remakes that were made without Kaji’s involvement. (‘Miss Scorpion’ was also the crossdressing disguise of the hero in Sion Sono’s weird masterpiece Love Exposure.) The shadow of Scorpion loomed large, and with the exception of the fantastic Lady Snowblood films which were made at roughly the same time as the Scorpion series, Kaji never really found another role quite as popular as the one she first brought to life in 1972.

Based on a comic book, Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion was a project long in development before first-time director Shunya Ito (Gray Sunset) put it to film. With its prison setting, the studio supposedly imagined it to be the female-led version of their popular Abashiri Prison series, but director Ito brought a fever dream vision to the film, making it equal parts crime movie, exploitation skin flick, and rage-filled horror story. Meiko Kaji herself sings over the opening credits as a parade of nude women walk through the prison while the guards watch for hidden weapons or contraband. Kaji’s song is one of betrayal, telling the tale of an ordinary young woman who was used by a man and thrown away. Kaji’s character Nami Matsushima loved a narcotics cop, but he allowed her to be raped by a group of men just so that he could catch them unawares and make his drug bust. Matsushima soon confronts the cop, not even taking the time to change out of her torn clothes, and attempts to stab him to death on the steps of the police station. Her attack fails, the cop survives, and Matsushima is sent to prison for attempted murder.

The prison is a hell hole. The film is sure to make it clear at the beginning that the prison is in no way based on truth, and that’s all well and good but the vision presented here is ugly, demeaning, and despicable. Women are raped, beaten, and starved. Matsushima slowly changes from the normal, brokenhearted girl to a monster hell-bent on revenge. Guards and cruel gangs try to put Matsushima in her place but she takes it all and dishes out some of her own in return, earning the reputation of a dangerous loner behind bars with the nickname of Scorpion. When the dirty cop learns that Matsushima still represents a problem for him, he decides to hire one of the inmates to off his former girlfriend, and that’s when things really get messy.

I’d seen Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion once before. My opinion of it then was that it was an ugly, misogynistic film which happened to feature a startling performance by Meiko Kaji at the center of it. Watching it again, I still think it’s a nasty piece of work, and some of the violence against women is reprehensible, but it’s also not quite as shocking as I remember it. Maybe the shock is in the first punch, not the second. Or maybe it’s just that Scorpion was one of my first introductions to the dark-edged exploitation films of Japan. A different time and a different culture resulted in some very dark movies that still shock and disturb all these decades later. As a fan of Japanese cinema, I must say that their exploitation genre is not a favorite of mine. But I recognize Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion as a classic of the genre anyway and that’s in large part thanks to the dramatic work of Meiko Kaji.

As Matsu the Scorpion, Meiko Kaji barely says a word for much of the film. She is the embodiment of rage and works with one hell of an intense glare. Seriously, I’d rather face Sonny Chiba’s fists than Meiko Kaji’s angry glare any day. And it’s because of her performance and her character that the movie is more than just a nasty story full of inhumane treatment and misogyny. Occasionally I have issues with tales of revenge because, well, it’s difficult for me to root for a murderer for 2 hours straight even if I sympathize with their motivations to an extent. In the case of Matsushima, though, holllllly shit everyone deserves exactly what they have coming to them. Matsu the Scorpion bides her time, waits for the opportune moment, and then begins crossing off her opponents. Everything can be grueling to endure up until that point, but when a villain gets hanged from the roof of a skyscraper, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take some enjoyment in seeing justice served in a most brutal fashion.

The original four Female Prisoner Scorpion series arrives on Blu-ray and DVD in an 8-disc box set from Arrow Video. Each film is on its own disc and comes with new and archival special features. For the first film, we get a 2006 interview with director Shunya Ito, plus two new interviews, one with assistant director Yutaka Kohira and one with filmmaker and Scorpion fan Gareth Evans (The Raid, The Raid 2). All interviews are enjoyable and informative, though each contain spoilers (and not just for the first film), so choose when to watch them with care. The Shunya Ito interview has the director looking back on how he’d fought to rise up from being an assistant director to making his feature directorial debut with Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion and his artistic intentions with the film. Yutaka Kohira would later direct New Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701 starring Yumi Takigawa as Matsu the Scorpion, but his interview is mostly about his time working on the original four films as assistant director. It’s a funny, honest interview where he shares his memories of Meiko Kaji getting angry about her nudity and how the assistant director had originally shown disrespect to Yasuharu Hasebe (Sex Hunter) when Hasebe took Ito’s place as the director of the fourth Scorpion film. Gareth Evans’ appreciation of the film shares some of my personal reservations; basically that it’s a cool and stylish movie but the treatment of women is indefensible at times. Evans also speaks on how he was inspired by some of the film’s visual style and is a big fan of the antihero’s dark origin story. All interviews are definitely worth a look.

Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion is the tale of evil men in positions of power who meet their match at the hands of a scorned woman with a glare that could stop a raging bull in its tracks. Though Scorpion is trashier than I typically like my movies, I must acknowledge a well-made film when I see one. A dark story of revenge told with wild visuals, the Scorpion series continues to influence films today and should appeal to fans of directors like Takashi Miike, Quentin Tarantino, Seijun Suzuki, and Sion Sono.

Kyle Warner’s Rating: 7/10

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Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams | Blu-ray & DVD (Criterion)

Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams | Blu-ray & DVD (Criterion)

Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams | Blu-ray & DVD (Criterion)

RELEASE DATE: November 15, 2016

Criterion Collection presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams.

Unfolding in a series of mythic vignettes, this late work by Akira Kurosawa brings eight of the beloved director’s own nighttime visions, informed by tales from Japanese folklore, to cinematic life. In a visually sumptuous journey through the master’s unconscious, tales of childlike wonder give way to apocalyptic visions: a young boy stumbles on a fox wedding in a forest; a soldier confronts the ghosts of the war dead; a power-plant meltdown smothers a seaside landscape in radioactive fumes.

Interspersed with reflections on the redemptive power of art, including a richly textured tribute to Vincent van Gogh (played by Martin Scorsese), Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams is both a showcase for its maker’s imagination at its most unbridled and a deeply personal lament for a world at the mercy of human ignorance.

Disc features:

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by cinematographer Masaharu Ueda, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New audio commentary featuring film scholar Stephen Prince
  • Making of “Dreams” (1990), a 150-minute documentary shot on-set and directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi
  • New interview with assistant director Takashi Koizumi
  • New interview with production manager Teruyo Nogami
  • Kurosawa’s Way (2011), a fifty-minute documentary by director Akira Kurosawa’s longtime translator Catherine Cadou, featuring interviews with filmmakers Theodoros Angelopoulos, Bernardo Bertolucci, Clint Eastwood, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Bong Joon-ho, Abbas Kiarostami, Hayao Miyazaki, Martin Scorsese, Julie Taymor, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, and John Woo
  • Trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Bilge Ebiri and Kurosawa’s script for a never-filmed ninth dream, introduced by Nogami

Pre-order Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams from today!

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Deal on Fire! Kiss of the Dragon | Blu-ray | Only $9.02 – Expires soon!

"Kiss of the Dragon" Blu-ray Cover

"Kiss of the Dragon" Blu-ray Cover

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for 2001’s Kiss of the Dragon (read our reviews), starring Jet Li (Flying Swords of the Dragon Gate) and directed by Chris Nahon (Blood: The Last Vampire).

Along with Unleashed, Kiss of the Dragon is one of the most hardest-hitting of Jet’s English-language films. Gotta love that Fist of Fury-esque dojo fight, courtesy of Hong Kong’s legendary action choreographers, Corey Yuen (Raging Thunder). The film also stars Tchéky Karyo (La Femme Nikita) and Cyril Raffaelli (District 13: Ultimatum).

Order Kiss of the Dragon from today!

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Dragon Chen is all action in the new ‘Ultimate Hero’ Trailer

"Ultimate Hero" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“Ultimate Hero” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Dragon Chen (aka Chen Star), the martial artist who paid homage to Bruce Lee in movies like Jeet Kune Do and Nunchucku, is back in Lei Cui’s Ultimate Hero, an upcoming actioner he’s once again helming (with the aid of co-director Lei Cui).

In Ultimate Hero, Chen takes on a gang of arms smugglers in Africa. Martial arts sequences, explosions, car chases and shoot ’em up scenes – it’s all there, so we’re all there. The film is getting a Chinese release on August 19th, but if it pops up in North America, you’ll be the first to know.

Media: Teaser | 1st trailer.

Updates: Watch the film’s latest action packed trailer.

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Donald Glover to play Lando ‘Han Solo’ spin-off film?

"The Empire Strikes Back" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"The Empire Strikes Back" Japanese Theatrical Poster

After months of trying to find the perfect actor to portray a young Han Solo – the sarcastic, reckless smuggler of the Star Wars saga made famous by Harrison Ford – Disney has finally found their man in Alden Ehrenreich (photo), an American actor, mostly known for his breakout performance in Ethan Joel Coen’s Hail, Caesar!

According to Deadline, the untitled Han Solo spin-off – to be directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie) and written by Lawrence Kasdan (Star Wars: Episode V-VII)  and Jon Kasdan (In the Land of Women) – will focus on Solo’s days before he linked up with the rebel alliance.

The untitled Han Solo movie, which shoots in January, has a scheduled release in May 25th, 2018. Stay tuned!

Updates: Donald Glover (The Martian) is being eyed for the role of Lando Calrissian, previously played by Billy Dee Williams in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

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Footage of Jackie Chan fighting sky high in ‘Bleeding Steel’

"Bleeding Steel" Chinese Teaser Poster

"Bleeding Steel" Chinese Teaser Poster

Remember when we told you to ignore those early reports of Jackie Chan retiring? We were 100% right. In addition to Jackie’s recently announced team up flick (VIY 2) with Jason Statham – as well as the forthcoming Skiptrace, Railroad Tigers, Kung Fu Yoga and The Foreigner – the martial arts superstar has yet another project in the works, a big budget sci-fi film, titled Bleeding Steel.

Mike Leeder and Impact reports: “Chan is returning to his former adopted homeland of Australia (which served as the backdrop for Mr.Nice Guy and First Strike) for the sci-fi movie Bleeding Steel, which will shoot in China and Australia over the next six months or so. The action sequences for the film are being coordinated by Jackie protege Max Huang (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Dragon Blade).”

Leo Zhang (Chrysanthemum to the Beast) will be writing and directing Bleeding Steel, which is a story set in the future that has Chan as a hardened special forces agent who fights to protect a young woman with whom he feels a special connection from a sinister criminal gang.

Bleeding Steel also stars Show Luo (The Mermaid), Nana Ouyang, Erica Xia-Hou, Tess Haubrich (Alien: Covenant), Callan Mulvey (Beyond Skyline) and Maria Tran (Truy Sat).

Production is currently underway in Sydney, with additional filming to resume in Taiwan.

Updates: Check out some behind-the-scenes footage of Jackie on top of the Sydney Opera House filming a fight scene for the movie.

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‘Scarface’ reboot gets a ‘Replacement Killer’ director

"Scarface" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Scarface" Japanese Theatrical Poster

It’s been off and on for the last 5 years, but Universal is still on a mission bring back the iconic titular gangster, originally conceived by Rio Bravo’s Howard Hawks and reimagined by Carrie’s Brian DePalma. This time around, Scarface will revolve around Mexican drug cartels.

David Ayer (End of Watch) has been attached as screenwriter, with Paul Attanasio (Donnie Brasco) and Jonathan Herman (Straight Outta Compton) revising the script.

There hasn’t been any stars officially connected, but there was speculation that popstar Rihanna (Battleship) was rumored to be pursuing a role.

Updates: According to Deadline, Antoine Fuqua (The Replacement Killers) is in negotiations to direct Scarface.

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Violent Cop | Blu-ray & DVD (Film Movement)

Violent Cop | Blu-ray & DVD (Film Movement)

Violent Cop | Blu-ray & DVD (Film Movement)

RELEASE DATE: October 11, 2016

Film Movement Classics presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Violent Cop, a 1989 crime/thriller directed by and starring Takeshi Kitano (Beyond Outrage).

Azuma is a cop who plays by his own rules: He batters suspects, beats confessions from criminals, and plants evidence. He’s a vigilante force the department quietly supports as long as he gets results, but when a volatile drug case results in the death of a colleague, the hair-trigger cop goes rogue as he matches wits with an equally impulsive assassin. | Trailer.

Pre-order Violent Cop from today.

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Wilson Yip is a ‘Greedy Wolf’ for Louis Koo and Max Zhang

"Wild City" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Wild City" Chinese Theatrical Poster

According to AFS, Louis Koo (Wild City), Max Zhang (SPL II: A Time for Consequences) and Yue Wu (From Vegas to Macau II) will star in Tan Lang (meaning “Greedy Wolf”), an action thriller directed by Wilson Yip (Ip Man 3, Flashpoint, SPL).

Unfortunately, not much is known about the project, but considering Yip (who is currently working on Storm Riders 3) is at the helm of a film with such a stellar cast – most notably Zhang, the breakout star of Ip Man 3 – we’ll definitely be looking out for it.

For now, be sure to read about Yip’s Storm Riders 3, as well as Zhang’s other projects, which include The BrinkSPL 3 and a possible Ip Man 3 spin-off. As for Koo, well, he’s in every Chinese movie by default.

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Boiling Point | Blu-ray & DVD (Film Movement)

Boiling Point | Blu-ray & DVD (Film Movement)

Boiling Point | Blu-ray & DVD (Film Movement)

RELEASE DATE: October 11, 2016

Film Movement Classics presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Boiling Point, a 1990 crime/thriller directed by and starring Takeshi Kitano (Outrage).

Boiling Point is the story of a passive gas station attendant and benchwarming minor-league baseball player Masaki (Masahiko Ono), who finally rebels against the yakuza. When the local crime boss embarks on a campaign of beatings aimed at Masaki’s coworkers and baseball teammates, Masaki buys a gun, and falls in with a gangster (Takeshi) who has his own score to settle with the yakuza. | Trailer.

Pre-order Boiling Point from today.

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Scott Adkins joins Andrzej Bartkowiak’s ‘Altar Rock’

"Maximum Crash" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Maximum Crash" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Martial arts star Scott Adkins (Close Range, Zero Tolerance) has joined the cast of Altar Rock, an upcoming movie directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak (Exit Wounds, Romeo Must Die), which is being described as a “millennial romantic thriller” inspired by the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

According to Deadline, Altar Rock stars India Eisley (Kite) and K.J. Apa (The Cul De Sac) as star-crossed lovers on the island of Nantucket whose romance is threatened by family loyalty. The film also stars Sydney Park (The Standoff) and James Remar (48 Hrs).

On related news, Bartkowiak’s pair of martial arts flicks, Maximum Impact and the Mark Dacascos-directed/Bartkowiak-produced Showdown in Manila, should soon see an official release date.

As for Adkins: Look for him in a handful of upcoming movies, including Savage Dog (filming), Eliminators (post-production), Doctor Strange (post-production), Boyka: Undisputed and the soon-to-be released Hard Target 2.

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Deal on Fire! New World | Blu-ray | Only $7.95 – Expires soon!

New World | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

New World | Blu-ray & DVD (Well Go USA)

Today’s Deal on Fire is the Blu-ray for Park Hoon-jeong-I’s New World, starring Lee Jung-Jae (Big Match), Hwang Jung-min (The Unjust) and Choi Min-sik (The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale).

New World follows an undercover cop who’s caught between the gangsters’ power struggle and a police crackdown. This acclaimed gangster flick from Park Hoon-jung, the writer of I Saw the Devil, is often compared to such classics as The Godfather and The Departed. At only $7.95, find out if it lives up to the hype.

Order New World from today!

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Godfather’s Daughter Mafia Blues, The (1991) Review

"The Godfather’s Daughter Mafia Blues" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"The Godfather’s Daughter Mafia Blues" Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Fung Hak On
Writer: Siao Lung
Cast: Mark Cheng Ho Nam, Yukari Oshima, Alex Man Chi Leung, Dick Wei, Ken Lo, Wong Yu, Leung Kar Yan, Tai Bo, Anthony Carpio, Chan Daat Gong, Benny Lai Keung Kuen, Chow Kong, Chu Tau, Mark King, Foo Wang Tat
Running Time: 91 min.

By Paul Bramhall

The Godfather’s Daughter Mafia Blues, besides having a title that resembles a Bob Dylan song gone wrong, rarely seems to get mentioned when fans discuss early 90’s Hong Kong action cinema, yet at the same time also manages to be a title that everyone has heard of. In many ways it could well be down to the fact that it’s a difficult production to categorize. The few reviews that are floating around on the net reference it as a ‘Girls with Guns’ flick, seemingly based on nothing more than it featuring Yukari Oshima and it being from 1991, however once watched it becomes apparent it has little in common with said genre. A better description would be to call it a Triad thriller, which just so happens to have some stellar martial arts talent in front of the camera, who duly oblige in showing that talent off at various points throughout the runtime.

The man in the director’s chair is the late great Fung Hak-On, recognizable from several kung fu classics, most notably as the villain from Sammo Hung’s Warriors Two. Hak-On may have been more well known for his roles in many of the most popular kung fu movies of the golden era, however The Godfather’s Daughter Mafia Blues was actually the fourth (and last) time for him to direct a movie, so he was certainly no stranger to being behind the camera.

Proceedings open with an introduction to a pair of fish farmers, played by Mark Cheng and Benny Lai. Cheng was marketed as the next big leading man by Cinema City throughout the mid-80’s, but for some reason he never really clicked with audiences, and by the early 90’s was mostly starring in lower budgeted productions such as this one. His presence in The Godfather’s Daughter Mafia Blues could also be explained by the fact he married Yukari Oshima shortly before it started filming, so the pair came as a package deal (they’d also appear together in Win Them All, Kickboxer’s Tears, and Hard to Kill). Lai on the other hand is best known as the mute adversary that Jackie Chan faces off against in the finale of Police Story 2. He spent part of his career as a member of Chan’s Stuntman Group, and has a filmography that mostly consists of parts as a thug or gang member, so this production was a rare opportunity for him to play a significant role.

A chance encounter with some gangsters results in them crossing paths with a Triad leader, played by Alex Man, who takes them under his wing and puts them to work in one of his hostess bars. Man has plenty of issues of his own though. His Triad leader is an honourable and old-school guy, who’ll do anything to keep the peace (it’s quite possible Gareth Evans had his performance in mind for Tio Pakusadewo’s role in The Raid 2), however when his Japanese counterpart dies, the latter’s aggressively ambitious son wants to buy out the business from under him. The son is played by super kicker Ken Lo, perhaps most famous for being Jackie Chan’s bodyguard from 1980 – 2010 (not to mention their legendary fight to close out Drunken Master II), who’s ably assisted by his head henchman, played by the director himself, Fung Hak-On, who also takes on action choreography duties.

For those reading that want to check out The Godfather’s Daughter Mafia Blues as Yukari Oshima fans, you’re probably concerned that she hasn’t even been mentioned yet. Actually, Oshima does have a large part, which as the title suggests is that of Man’s daughter. However she doesn’t appear until just over 20 minutes in (she’s been in Japan studying karate), and to see her in action you’ll have to wait until the 50 minute mark. However this isn’t detrimental to the movie at all, and her character fits in perfectly with the events that are taking place. As the daughter of a Triad leader, her role as a young and playful martial arts fanatic is very different from the no-nonsense characters she often embodies, but when she finds out that Lo is trying to undermine her father, she also knows how to get down to business.

Indeed rather than really having a main character so to speak, The Godfather’s Daughter Mafia Blues comes across very much like an ensemble piece. All of the main players get plenty of screen time for us to get to know their characters, as does Dick Wei, who plays the long serving enforcer to Man’s Triad leader. Much like Benny Lai, Wei also spent much of his career in one dimensional villain roles, and was happy for his feet to do the talking for him, which always did so very efficiently. However his role here is one that has a welcome depth to it, and without going into spoiler territory, it’s his decision that ultimately sends the Triads and Yakuza on the path to an inevitable confrontation. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but considering the role gave him a rare chance to show off some acting chops, it’s especially ironic that his character gets a line where he asks, “I act well don’t I?”

When it comes to the business of Triad and Yakuza rivalries, the plot certainly doesn’t shy away from getting nasty. In one particular scene, Lo attempts to lure the Madame’s away from Man’s hostess bar to work in his instead, with the promise of a higher wage. However when one of them insists on being loyal to Man, Lo pays a young teenager who wants to be a gangster to throw a cup of acid in her face. Scenes like this ensure that the story is taken seriously, and it never digresses into comedy or other such hijinks, that HK cinema of the era is frequently guilty of doing.

The action itself is one of those rare occasions in which it serves to further the story, rather than just being stand-alone set pieces. Cheng had the moves when it came to screen fighting, even though his career ultimately didn’t follow a path where he’d get to use them that much, but here he gets ample opportunity to break them out. The choreography is a unique mix of the hard hitting kickboxing style, which would become synonymous with 80’s – early 90’s modern day HK action flicks, blended with some occasional old-school flourishes, such as a shape thrown here and there. A highlight sees Oshima taking on both Ken Lo, Fung Hak-On, and a group of their lackeys single handedly in a gym, which incorporates plenty of prop usage reminiscent of Jackie Chan.

Eventually proceedings build to a satisfying finale that sees most of the last 15 minutes being taken up with action. There’s some satisfying vehicle work on display, of which there are a couple of impact shots that’ll make you question how the stuntman on the receiving end of them survived. Events culminate with Dick Wei having to face off against two opponents, and a closing bout that sees Cheng and Oshima teaming up to take on Lo and Hak-On respectively. It’s a great fight, even if it’s a tier below the best work of all involved, however considering the context it takes place in and the budget that was being worked with, it undeniably delivers. Throw in plenty of smashed glass tables and collateral damage, with a suitably gruesome finishing move, and for fans of both old school and new wave action, The Godfather’s Daughter Mafia Blues arguably exceeds the sum of its parts.

All things considered, Hak-On’s last movie in the directors chair captures a moment in Hong Kong cinema that we’ll likely never get back. Sure, movies can still be made about Triads and Yakuza facing off against each other, but had the movie been made today, it would likely be at least 10 minutes longer, as we’d no doubt have to watch the police arrive on scene and arrest the surviving members. Because China needs to remind us that crime doesn’t pay. As it is, The Godfather’s Daughter Mafia Blues doesn’t have a single police character in it, everyone is either a Triad or a Yakuza, and what goes down takes place between them and no one else. While it’s not perfect, Hak-On has directed a coherent and engaging tale of gang rivalries, which doesn’t feel the need to pad its runtime with such distractions as comedy and romance, and that’s to be applauded. The fact that we get a healthy dose of HK style action on top, is merely the icing on the cake.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

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One reason why Bollywood shouldn’t do martial arts movies…

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Attack on Titan: Part 1 | Blu-ray & DVD (Funimation)

Attack on Titan: Part 1 | Blu-ray & DVD (Funimation)

Attack on Titan: Part 1 | Blu-ray & DVD (Funimation)

RELEASE DATE: October 4, 2016

Funimation presents the Blu-ray & DVD for Shinji Higuchi’s live-action adaptation of Attack on Titan.

Attack on Titan (read our reviews for Part I and Part II) takes place in a strange, quasi-medieval world in which giant humanoid creatures named Titans appear and threaten the lives of everyday people. Civilization’s only line of defense against the Titans are teenage soldiers who traverse the Titans’ massive bodies using powerful grappling hooks. | Part 2 is also available.

Pre-order Attack on Titan: Part 1 from today!

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Undaunted Wudang, The | aka Wu Tang (1983) Review

"The Undaunted Wudang" DVD Cover

"The Undaunted Wudang" DVD Cover

AKA: The Wu Tang
Director: Sun Sha
Writer: Xie Wen-Li
Cast: Lin Quan, Zhao Chang-Jun , Li Yu-Wen, Ma Zhen-Bang , Tang Ya-Li, Yang Yong, Zang Zhi-Guo, Mao Ying-Hai, Zhao Qiu-Rong, Sun Jian-Ming, Xu Chang-Wen
Running time: 94 min

By Matija Makotoichi Tomic

The importance and the historical significance of Shaolin Temple and its monks is well known so it’s no wonder a lot of kung fu movies are Shaolin themed. However, if you’re interested in watching more movies about Wudang, that’s something else. While watching kung fu films you’ve probably seen guys with long hair tied up, with swords on their backs and possibly with huge yin-yang symbol embroidered on their clothes; chances are you were looking at a Wudang priest or swordsman. But when it comes to Wudang as a martial arts school and their philosophy, there aren’t that many movies on the subject. Strange perhaps since Wudang is often refered to as the largest center of martial arts in the country next to Shaolin Temple.

Wudang was named after the Wudang mountains located in Hubei province in central China. Wu means martial, and Dang resistance which describes the defensive role the mountain had at one moment in the great history of China. On the top of the mountain, amongst it’s beautiful scenery lies a huge taoist complex with numerous temples, palaces, pavilions and shrines. It is considered the historical and spiritual home of internal martial arts. While Shaolin monks are buddhists and their kung fu is “external”, Wudang practicioners are taoists, and their art is “internal” which means the emphasis is on the spiritual and mental aspects as well as the use of chi. Such skills are defensive by it’s nature and help build one’s inner strenght. Among better known styles originating from the Wudang school are Tai Chi, Bagua and of course, the famous Wudang sword style.

Words of the narrator introduce us to the plot: in the late 19th century China was considered sick and feeble so many countries sent their best fighters there in order to prove their superiority. Among them was Japan sending their judo champions to challenge chinese kung fu experts to a tournament. During a fight Chinese master Chen gets killed leaving his daughter Xue Jiao to seek revenge.

The Undaunted Wudang is technically not a kung fu, but a wushu film. Even though wushu is faster, softer and more fluid, I personally prefer kung fu. Wushu seems like a performing art, a skill that lacks real fighting quality which is a thing many accuse wushu of, stating it is a competitive sport rather than a method of self-defence that can be applied in combat. There is a division between traditional kung fu and modern wushu but there are masters accomplished in both methods proving a wushu player can be traditional. One such is Zhao Changjun, one of the most decorated wushu champions ever, an all-around National Champion of China for ten consecutive years, a record nobody has broken so far. His only true rival was Jet Li who took the title from him in 1978. but eventually made Zhao Changjun dominate throughout the 80’s. As they say in wushu circles, 70’s belonged to Jet Li, but the 80’s belonged to Zhao.

In 1983, while still dominating the national and international wushu events, Zhao Changjun turned to acting and the first movie he stared in was The Undaunted Wudang. Alongside him was the brilliant Lin Quan showing great potential in what turned out to be the first of only three films she stared in. She is said to be a former wushu champion but the only info I got on her is that she is (or was) working as an instructor at the Wushu and Arts Center in Kowloon. These two are reason enough to watch this movie because their skill is really outstanding. The two weren’t however participating in directing action, the duo responsible for that is Ma Zhen-Bang and the one-time actor/action director Han Ming-Nan, both having their roles in the movie, as the Head Priest of Nanshan and the Chief of the guards. The action they delivered is fantastic, fights are fast and intense with truly impressive set of skills which include acrobatics and weapons fight. Choreography is almost entirely without fantastic elements and has up to several fighters performing at the same time, often in long shots which really deserves ones admiration due to the speed and complexity displayed.

In the second half of the movie when Xue Jiao leaves for the mountains in order to train with the High Priest, we are led to the very heart of Wudang. It’s a real treat seeing the inside of the taoist complex and witness the authentic Wudang through beautiful training sequences and the principles on which their martial arts is based on. We’re getting some priceless shots of group training by Wudang practitioners in front of the real Purple Cloud monastery. Their performance is slow and soft, sort of like practising tai chi with a sword, unlike Xue Jiao’s sword demonstration which is fast and explosive. Her training includes practising punches on wooden blocks while her teacher is demonstrating the basic of all Wudang styles on a yin-yang ball (a big round rock actually), explaining the transformation and redirection of energy during opponent’s attack and using the same in defeating him.

Some of the Wudang spirit can be experienced in the 1983. kung fu classic Shaolin and Wu Tang, and partly even in its sequel Shaolin and Wu Tang 2 – Wu Tang Invasion (1986). Recently, Wu Dang (2012) captured some of the beauty the taoist complex and the nature surrounding it emanate with, though the movie itself is bad and the action by Corey Yuen ruined with the excessive use of wires and effects. Although The Undaunted Wudang may be only an average Mainland China martial arts product, worth watching and interesting to fans mainly for the action and the skill displayed, if you’re interested in the beauty, the martial arts and the philosophy of Wudang, this is as far as I know, the best you’ll find.

Matija Makotoichi Tomic’s Rating: 6.5/10

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