Posts tagged "martial arts"

Magnificent Warriors (Review)

Magnificent Warriors

aka 中華戰士 aka Zhong hua zhan shi aka Dynamite Fighters aka Yes, Madam 3
Magnificent warriors
1987
Written by Tsang Kan-Cheung
Directed by David Chung Chi-Man

Magnificent warriors
Magnificent Warriors is a required Michelle Yeoh film to watch. There is so much energy and joy here as she gleefully beats the tar out of dozens of people while cracking whips, flying planes, and firing guns. She’s a pure pulp action hero who runs guns for rebels, flies her own plane, dogfights fighters despite being outmatched, goes on secret missions, does her job, helps inspire the people to fight, and stands tall against impossible odds.

Yeoh easily outshines costars Derek Yee and Richard Ng and the entire film is built around her mission against the invading Japanese. I don’t mean to cut Richard Ng short, he does hold his own as a live-action cartoon drifter con man who bumbles into all the action. Ng’s unnamed Drifter comes complete with his own cartoonish theme music that completely contrasts with the rest of the film’s adventury score, which totally works for hammering in the point that his character is a completely different archetype plopped into this mayhem. Together Ng and Yeoh overshadow Derek Yee so much that despite his character being a James Bond analogue he can barely keep up with them (and it stands out even more with Yeoh moving on to being an actual Bond girl!) Yee was from a prominent entertainment family and would eventually move into producing and directing and based on his output he seems to have found a good fit, several of his films being acclaimed as classics.
Magnificent warriors
Magnificent Warriors is one of the Hong Kong films I rented from the late, lamented Le Video in San Francisco, I was working through Yeoh’s filmography (shockingly, most of her movies weren’t available in video stores in the Midwest!) and this one was amazing enough I watched it twice and ended up with a DVD myself soon after. It also begot my love for Richard Ng, as he popped up in some of the films I rented in rapid succession but was first memorable here.
Magnificent warriors
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 14, 2019 at 12:21 pm

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Deadly Snail vs Kung Fu Killers (Review)

Deadly Snail vs Kung Fu Killers

aka 天螺大破五行陣 aka Tin Loh Daai Poh Ng Hang Chan
Deadly Snail vs Kung Fu Killers 天螺大破五行陣
1977
Written and directed by Heung Ling
Deadly Snail vs Kung Fu Killers 天螺大破五行陣
Deadly Snail vs. Kung Fu Killers is one of those films where you see the title and think “this movie will be AWESOME!” and then you watch it and it can never live up to your expectations from the title alone. Especially since it isn’t some sort of genre exploitation monster flick but is instead a reconfiguration of an old Chinese fairy tale/opera into a romantic comedy with increasingly weirder and weirder kung fu. So judging it as the exploitation flick you mistake it to be is sort of unfair. It isn’t the type of movie that you can readily explain to someone that doesn’t watch a lot of weird stuff, but for the affectionandos, Deadly Snail vs. Kung Fu Killers has some fun things you don’t often see, and the rest of the film could be a lot worse to sit through while waiting for those scenes than it is.
Deadly Snail vs Kung Fu Killers 天螺大破五行陣
We do have chicks who are fairies of the snail variety fighting some kung fu killers who are actually various elemental demons and a lizard guy. But I guess Fairy Chicks vs. Elemental Dudes doesn’t pack ’em in at the movie houses. The story at first follows the standard tale of a young man whose family is dead and his evil uncle and aunt are using him just to waste away his inheritance that he knows nothing about (at least they don’t make him live under the stairs!) But then thinks get more magical and the film gets more awesome!
Deadly Snail vs Kung Fu Killers 天螺大破五行陣
The opening credits have red and blue sparlking lights, then a montage of snakes and a snail shell. This was the time when kung fu movies would have someone doing a bunch of jumps and kicks in the opening credits, so instead having snakes slither around and snail shells is sort of fun. I am not sure if a snail was killed at some point, though, so boo to that if it happened! What we do see is a bloody snail shell, but by the amount and color of the blood it is just fake human blood. A guy grabs the snail shell which has rolled over to him away from the snake. I can’t tell you how many times I see snail shells rolling away from snakes. Probably 19 times a day. But I live on a farm that raises rolling snails and also snakes that practice bowling, so maybe I’m biased.
Deadly Snail vs Kung Fu Killers 天螺大破五行陣
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - March 12, 2019 at 10:07 am

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Jailbreak (Review)

Jailbreak

aka ការពារឧក្រិដ្ឋជន
Jailbreak
2017
Written by Jimmy Henderson and Michael Hodgson
Directed by Jimmy Henderson

Jailbreak
Jailbreak is here to sooth your itch of martial arts mayhem in a confined space while non-stop action goes off. It is justifiably compared to The Raid as it is a film that came out of nowhere and showcases a bunch of martial arts from a country that wasn’t known for producing martial films. In this case, it is from Cambodia, and some of the characters practice an art called bokator. A prisoner escort mission goes awry when outsiders want the prisoner dead and manipulate a mass escape, trapping the heroes inside the prison. What follows is characters fighting their way out and attempting to survive while also reluctantly trying to save the prisoner from also being killed. While Jailbreak does not equal The Raid in the sheer awesomeness of the fighting spectacle, it’s still pretty darn good and will make action fans plenty happy!
Jailbreak
Cop Jean-Paul (Jean-Paul Ly, Jailbreak keeps it simple with the cast names!) has just be assigned to the Cambodian police as part of an exchange program (He’s mixed Cambodian-French from France, and though he speaks French and English, his Khmer is pretty rusty) He attempts to bond with the the main trio of Dara (Dara Our), Tharoth (Tharoth Sam), and Sucheat (Dara Phang), but tough guy Dara rebuffs all his attempts to be friendly. Dara and lady officer Tharoth have a friendship but that doesn’t extend past that, while Sucheat is the comic relief whose non-police look is explained as him just getting out of undercover work. They are supposed to bring a criminal known as Playboy (Savin Phillip) to prison so he can testify later as to who the real leaders of the notorious Butterfly Gang are. Said leader is Madame Butterfly (Céline Tran), who decides Playboy should be Deadboy and makes multiple attempts to have him killed before he even gets to the prison. Due to bad luck and the officers’ paranoia, all the attempts fail, so she’s resorted to bribing the prisoners to riot so Playboy can be killed in the chaos. But when that many bad people are let out at the same time, there is conflict and chaos, and things don’t go according to plan.
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 29, 2019 at 6:28 am

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The Bravest Revenge (Review)

The Bravest Revenge

aka 武林龍虎鬥 aka Wu lin long hu dou
The Bravest Revenge
1970
Written by Tin Goh
Directed by Kim Lung

The Bravest Revenge
Can you believe there is a Polly Shang Kuan film where her parent is killed and she has to seek revenge? I know, right? That only happens in like 99% of the films she did, and it happens here! Revenge will be gotten, and of the bravest sort, at least that’s what the title claims! We all know who Polly Shang Kuan is, so no need to do a deep dive into her, but if you want to know more we covered her in an Infernal Brains podcast and she has an active tag on TarsTarkas.NET with plenty of wonderful films! Tien Peng is his usual heroic self as Sword King Tsai Ying-che, and Yee Yuen hams it up as the glorious villain like he usually does in films such as The Flying Swordgirl

Director Kim Lung (aka Chien Lung) helmed Taiwanese flicks in the 60s and 70s, many featuring revenge themes and many featured female protagonists. Among his films are these cool-sounding ones from 1966 – The Lady Spy, The Flying Killer, and Queen of Female Spies Jin Gang. He also directed 1967’s Dragon Inn, not to be confused with the classic King Hu 1967 Dragon Gate Inn. Most of his filmography is either unavailable or known only to those who collect Taiwanese kung fu movies, and Bravest Revenge might be his best known film now.
The Bravest Revenge
Bravest Revenge is actually pretty good for a standard murder revenge kung fu movie, because it has huge fight sequences. There are multiple scenes of characters carving their way through dozens of people like butter in giant choreographed fights, they are fantastic! The last 30 minutes is an almost non-stop battle through themed stages of a giant fortress as the heroes slice through goons and are only occasionally slowed by the various mini-bosses. If this came out today this would be accused of imitating a video game, but it is from 1970 and all we had for video games then was things like Spacewar!, so maybe it is more accurate to say all video games stole from Bravest Revenge!
The Bravest Revenge
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - January 8, 2019 at 6:09 am

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Headshot (2016 – Review)

Headshot

Headshot
2016
Written by Timo Tjahjanto
Directed by Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto

Headshot
A late night screening at the Roxie let me see martial arts film Headshot, it’s got Iko Uwais, Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman!!!) and Hammer Girl herself, Julie Estelle! There are some other martial stars and a whole slew of fight scenes that keeps things entertaining even when part of the plot threatens to snatch that away.

The world of Headshot is a world where it takes dozens of bullets to kill someone, leading to many many scenes where characters are basically emptying clips from their machine guns into people before they finally die. It gets a little ridiculous. Okay, it gets very ridiculous. Insanely ridiculous. I had to assume it takes place in a universe where bullets only hurt as much as a bee sting or something. The violence and gore helps paint Headshot as more of a martial horror movie, it even opens in a filthy prison where dozens of characters machine gun each other down, only seemingly collapsing from the weight of the shear volume of bullets they pump into each others bodies.

Even the plot is set in motion because Iko Uwais was shot in the head and didn’t die, washing up in a coma on the beach and awakening in the hospital weeks later with amnesia. He’s then dubbed Ishmael by the local incredibly young Dr. Ailin (Chelsea Islan), who is infatuated with him and reading Moby Dick at the time. Any further parallel to Moby Dick is accidental beyond Ishmael’s determination to stop the villain Lee sort of like how Ahab was obsessed, but not in a self-destructive way that gets everyone dead, only a bunch of random innocent people. We know from Steven Seagal movies that coma victims are irresistibly attractive to women, so she couldn’t help it.

Ishmael wakes up, remembers nothing, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t still looking for him (or the former him, who was named Abdi), and soon Ishmael is violently getting his memory back and has to save the now kidnapped Dr. Ailin by punching and kicking his way through the army of villains. The main thing we are here for is the fights, to see Iko Uwais beat the snot out of people, and there is plenty of beating! The fight sequences are fantastic, and while they don’t measure to the top tier stuff from The Raid or the sequel, they are still worth your time, even if the rest of the plot is about as bad as The Raid 2‘s boring gangster drama.

The fight with Very Tri Yulisman is the best in the film, and they save it towards the end. Earlier fights have mixes of martial arts and gunplay (a fight in a police station seems to reference a scene in Die Hard before going in a completely different direction) A fight on a bus full of murdered people while goons are trying to burn it and all the evidence on it (and hopefully Ishmael as well) is a good highlight, the increasing danger as the fight progresses does a good job of building suspense while still giving plenty of nice fight choreography and brutal hits.

The boss villain Lee (Sunny Pang) gets several scenes that all do the same job of showing how he’s just an evil force of nature. His prison escape (from which he purposefully got himself captured just so he could escape?), his taking over of local drug gangs by killing anyone who dares resist him, and his history of kidnapping children after he raids villages, raising the children to be killers that he later uses as enforcers. As most of these kids are now in their mid-20s, this is like 20 years of investment into a bunch of powerful soldiers, all of which he sends against Ishmael in slow trickles so they can be defeated. Lee is more of a collection of villain tropes than an actual villain or even an evil father figure. They try to touch on the bad father figure part, but only spend a limited amount of time with, most of which is divorced from affecting Ishmael directly and instead hits Julie Estelle’s character more than anything in explaining why she won’t leave with Ishmael.

For Headshot you need to come for the fighting and wait for the next fighting. Luckily things start going by at a fast pace after the plot gets started, but it would be nice to once again recommend one of these Indonesian action films for the plot in addition to the fighting. I just want more, and I’m not going to settle for less.
Headshot

SFIFF 2017

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - May 2, 2017 at 7:54 am

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The Fate of Lee Khan (Review)

The Fate of Lee Khan

aka 迎春閣之風波 aka Ying Chun Ge Zhi Fengbo
The Fate of Lee Khan
1973
Written by King Hu and Wong Chung
Directed by King Hu

The Fate of Lee Khan
King Hu’s works are amazing, and he is one of the most influential artists in martial arts film history. That being said, The Fate of Lee Khan was made after Dragon Gate Inn and A Touch of Zen, and the biggest flaw is it just doesn’t live up to those classics. It is a good story, full of intrigue and great choreography. But it just feels smaller scale and lacks some of the smaller character moments that a smaller story should have. Lee Khan just doesn’t seem as dangerous as he should be considering he is supposed to be this big ultimate villain. The best way to describe him would be as the mediocre villain of the second film in a super hero series who bridges the gap before the more memorable villain in the third film.

The word is The Fate of Lee Khan was one of two productions of King Hu’s under his company, Gam Chuen (the other was The Valiant Ones). The films were to be distributed by Golden Harvest, who would gain the rights to Lee Khan while Hu would own The Valiant Ones. As usual, Hu’s films fell behind in filming, Lee Khan was barely finished by 1973, while The Valiant Ones wasn’t completed until 1975, and Gam Chuen then petered out.
The Fate of Lee Khan
It is a time when the Mongols have overstayed their welcome and General Zhu leads an army to fight them, spies are rife and everyone is paranoid. Lee Khan is a local overseer of two provinces and prince of the royal family, with his sister Lee Wan-Er as his loyal assistant. He found a member of General Zhu’s army to sell out and leaves to personally receive a map of battle plans. But this leads to opportunity and intrigue at a local inn, as these matters often do…

Madam Wan Ren-Mi (Li Li-Hua) – Runs the Ying Chun Inn, where Lee Khan is rumored to be staying at when meeting with a traitor that works for rebels. Is friends with benefits of the local governor Magistrate Ha Ra-Ku (Wu Jia-Xiang). Hires the waitresses who are all members of the rebellion, as is she.
Lee Khan (Tien Feng) – Leaves the safety of his palace to personally receive a map of the battle plans of the rebel general (the spy would only deliver to him personally) The map is legit but it is also an opportunity to attack Lee Khan out of the safety of his palace and numerous guards Tien Feng excelled at authoritative villainous roles in the 50s-80s, appearing in films such as Black Falcon, One-Armed Swordsman, Vengeance of a Snowgirl, King Boxer, Fist of Fury, By the 90s he had reduced his screen appearances, though still managed to appear in Green Snake and Sex and Zen.
Lee Wan-Er (Hsu Feng) – The sister of Lee Khan. Deadly villainess in her own right, including much more of a violent streak of wanting others to die for their crimes than Lee Khan. She seems to be the only person he cares about besides himself.
Black Peony (Angela Mao Ying) – Waitress dressed in black clothes. A former infamous pickpocket, Black Peony has mended her ways (sort of) by helping the Chinese resistance to the Mongol rule, and becomes a waitress at the Ying Chun Inn. I think she’s the only waitress whose character gets a name spoken on screen. Had her character been born rich, she’d probably be robbing from her rich friends and distributing it to the poor while wearing a super hero mask. For more Angela Mao films TarsTarkas.NET has covered, click on her tag.
Blue Waitress (Helen Ma Hoi-Lun) – A former bandit whose past makes her a poor choice as a waitress, but a good choice for someone you need in a fight. For more Helen Ma films TarsTarkas.NET has covered, click on her tag.
Red Waitress (Woo Gam) – A former street performer who now works for the rebels, she is adept with dealing with customers who have naughty hands than the other girls. For more Woo Gam films TarsTarkas.NET has covered, click on her tag.
Green Waitress (Seung-Goon Yin-Ngai) – The fourth waitress, she’s given the least amount of characterization except her character is hinted to be a con artist.
Wang Chun (Pai Ying) – A rebel sent to help, pretends to be Madam Wan’s cousin helping look over the books. Pai Ying was also in Dragon Gate Inn, A Touch of Zen, and Lady Whirlwind
Sha Yuan-San (Han Ying-Chieh) – Wandering singer and annoying rebel sent to help pretends to be Wang Chun’s assistant. Another King Hu regular who was in Come Drink with Me, Dragon Gate Inn, A Touch of Zen, and the non-King Hu film Sword of Emei.
Tsao Yu-Kun (Roy Chiao Hung) – High-ranking bodyguard to Lee Khan but also plotting against him. Roy Chiao had a prolific career including The Dark Heroine Muk Lan-Fa, Enter the Dragon, and Bloodsport.

The Fate of Lee Khan
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - February 9, 2017 at 7:45 am

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