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Archive for the ‘Martial Arts’ Category

magic-cop-dvd

In a small rural village, a man (Uncle Fung) who banishes demons for a living and uses old Taoist methods lives there with his beautiful niece. A dead young girl in the village becomes a zombie and it is only through considerable effort she is stopped as even a bullet in the leg does not do anything to halt her. It is found she has been injected with a drug that makes her seem invincible. The man along with his niece heads to Hong Kong to find out who is supplying the drugs. He teams up with 2 police detectives who are only too keen to help him out as both have taken a shine to his niece. They discover that the zombie girl was in fact a drugs mule and soon the trail leads them to a powerful Japanese evil witch who is behind the drugs and using dead people as drugs couriers. Can they defeat the witch who has an endless supply of magical spells at her disposal?

Wrongly advertised in some quarters as the fifth installment of the Mr Vampire series, this movie is hugely exciting and entertaining to watch. The combination of police drama, superb action set-pieces and ghost hunting along with a fast frenetic pace employed by director Stephen Tung help make this movie one of the best HK fantasy actioners from the early 90’s. It is a highly imaginative movie which uses Chinese folklore tales to good effect. Unlike the Mr Vampire series which has traditional hopping vampires and is set in the past, this movie has a contemporary setting and uses zombies instead and one evil badass Japanese witch. Although some elements of the movie does have some humour (mostly involving a bumbling cop helping Uncle Fung), the plot is mostly serious in tone. An aspect of the story can also be taken as the old vs the new with Uncle Fung’s traditional methods coming up against the present in which Fung isn’t too impressed with modern day society especially with equipment such as fax machines etc.

The plot builds up very nicely and during the stunning climax the evil witch goes toe to toe in a long spell casting contest with Uncle Fung in a fabulous fun-filled finale on top of a building. It does get a little bit far-fetched as she is set on fire and thrown down a lift shaft but she comes back up as a flaming corpse to chase the heroes around a room by using sound to track them down as her eyes have been burnt so she can no longer see. It culminates in a satisfying ending to the movie.

magiccop screenshot

Lam Ching-ying takes the leading role as Uncle Fung. He is brilliant in this movie especially in his fight scenes when he takes on a couple of young and buff fighters in Frankie Chan and Billy Chow before taking on Michiko Nishiwaki. Lam also choreographed the slick fight scenes and instead of concentrating on long scraps he keeps them short and sweet. Seeing him kick ass on a bunch of bodybuilders in a gym is superb. It’s a shame that Western fans only recognise him for doing these kind of roles as he was unfortunately typecast as a monk in many movies. Wilson Lam plays Officer Lam who is highly skeptical of Fung’s Taoist skills and is a bit of a ladies man. Lam and Fung clash as Lam has his eye on Fung’s beautiful niece and he is very protective of her. Fung doesn’t take too kindly to the way that Lam treats his female colleagues (i.e slapping their arses) but gradually the pair set their differences aside to crack the case. Wong Mei-Wa is only in this movie to look beautiful and act in peril as Fung’s niece. Michiko Nishiwaki is superb as the leader of the drugs gang – a particularly nasty witch who seems to molest her pet white cat when she is doing some of her evil spells. Those that don’t want to see a visibly distressed cat should look away from these scenes.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this wild and unpredictable movie with a wonderful performance by Lam Ching-ying. It is well worth checking out if you can get a hold of it. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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sister-street-fighter-hanging-by-a-thread-poster

A man that’s been attacked hands his glass eye over to Koryu Lee before dying. The eye has a small microfilm inside that has information about a diamond smuggling ring. Koryu is given an assignment of finding the daughter of a wealthy family as she is friends with them so off she heads from Hong Kong to Japan. Koryu discovers that the same diamond smuggling ring that was on the microfilm has captured the daughter along with other girls. The girls are being used by the gang to smuggle diamonds by surgically implanting them into the girls’ ass cheeks! Will Koryu manage to smash the gang and save the girls?

Made very quickly after the success of the first Sister Street Fighter movie, this is basically a rehash of the first movie but instead of looking for her missing brother, Koryu this time round is looking for a missing family friend. The same production team all returned for the fast turnaround in completing this movie. Director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi sticks to the same tried and tested formula that worked before. The only difference is there more fast and furious action, more exploitation and more sadistic gore. I would say it’s better than the first movie which is rare usually for a sequel. There’s no cameo by Sue Shiomi’s mentor Sonny Chiba in this movie, instead she gets Yasuaki Kurata who plays a man named Tsubaki as her backup who brings his own intense and frenzied high kicking/brutal style of fighting to the table. Together the pair take on the smuggling ring and proceed to destroy their operations once and for all.

sister-street-fighter-hanging-by-a-thread-screenshot

There’s hardly any pause for breath in between the action that takes place. Koryu takes on an assortment of colourful villains with their own fighting techniques which includes a zulu spearman and a weird pairing of a mad doctor with his transvestite assistant who has razor sharp fingernails. The story is completely OTT so you expect to see characters like that in this type of movie! It culminates in Koryu and Tsubaki entering a place full of ninjas and some assassins sparring where the pair kick the merry shit out of all of them with a classical composition by Mussorgsky as the soundtrack!! I did mention that the gore content has been increased in this movie and the viewer will see a couple of eyeballs being pierced, an armpit stabbing and Koryu slicing off an opponent’s arm! I did wince at seeing a woman’s ass cheek being cut open by a surgical knife to retrieve some diamonds – all done without any anesthetic. Poor woman – that must have hurt! Other women are seen being tortured by flame. The only thing I felt let down was the need to copy an aspect from Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon by the chief villain Oh and a ludicrous aerial battle.

Sue Shiomi had a great debut in the first Sister Street Fighter movie and in this movie she looks settled and fights better than ever. It helps that she’s easy on the eye . She even handles a nunchuka which I imagine is a difficult weapon to master with ease. Shiomi may be small in stature but she more than makes up for that in her martial arts skills and holds her own against anybody – a mistake many of the baddies make in this movie is they assume she’s weak just because she’s a woman. You wouldn’t want to make her angry at all – she’s as tough as she comes! It becomes a personal mission to smash the smuggling ring for Koryu when she finds out her sister is involved and has been tortured. Her male co-star Yasuaki Kurota wasn’t a fresh faced newcomer to this genre as he had previously performed in a couple of Hong Kong productions before this movie. He is very impressive in this movie.

Overall, the 2nd Sister Street Fighter movie is a lot of fun and very entertaining to watch. If it’s non-stop action you desire you’ve certainly come to the right place. There are still 2 more sequels that I need to see sometime in the future and if they’re anything like this movie I know I’ll enjoy them. Give this movie a go if you’re into crazy martial arts/action movies.

No trailer but here’s a clip of Sue Shiomi beating up some trees!!

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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In the line of duty 6

Two cops Chen and Hua (one from Mainland China and the other from Taiwan) go to Hong Kong on the trail of smugglers who are using the city as a temporary base to hide 600 guns before it is shipped on to Taiwan to sell. Their confrontation with the smugglers on the streets raises the ire of the HK Police who are furious with the two for bringing their fight to the city. They assign a tough female detective Madam Yeung to assist them with the hope of bringing the criminals to justice. The only problem with trying to catch the smugglers is they have better firepower than the cops which brings danger to everybody concerned.

Viewers who have been following the ITLOD franchise from the beginning will have seen the standards have slightly dropped since no.4 and this one unfortunately whilst having a couple of nice set pieces never really hits the heights that were achieved in the first 4 movies. It starts out really well with Cynthia Khan’s character having a great one-on-one fight on top of a 16 wheeler truck which continues with a running gun battle on the streets before it ends on a high in the last 15 mins with a brilliant gunfight battle at the smugglers lair. Sadly it all falls apart during the middle section where things slow down and the dialogue between the two male cops and the HK police is more about the differences between the law in the colony and that of the pair’s respective countries. The Chinese cop falls for the sister of the chief smuggler which complicates matters. It also has some comedy that isn’t funny at all – an example of this is the Chinese cop not knowing how to work a microwave oven and he promptly blows it up in Cynthia’s apartment. Some of the lame brained comedy on offer may even upset some viewers (the talk about homosexuals in a bar is particularly cringe-worthy and rather offensive).

In the line of duty 6 screenshot

There’s a lot more focus on the two leading male characters in this movie which means that Cynthia’s screentime is less than the pair which I thought was a mistake. The fact that the pair squabble all the time is rather annoying as well. Naturally all of this is resolved as they realise that only by teaming up with each other can they take down the bad guys. The movie only comes alive when Cynthia gets to do what she does best – kicking ass and taking no prisoners. It’s particularly memorable in this movie as she fights in a rather tight short skirt which will please many male viewers!! I’m not sure how she was able to perform certain kicks with that skirt – one guy goes flying with tremendous speed from one kick (it’s like he’s attached to a large rubber band that snaps back). She even gets to smooch with the Taiwanese cop right at the end of the movie before she comes to her senses and gives him a good right hook in the mouth which ends the movie.

This is certainly not one of the best entries of the ITLOD franchise. The action scenes are too sporadic throughout the movie and isn’t that exciting apart from Cynthia’s initial fight. It just about managed to maintain my interest. Just one more movie (Sea Wolves) to go before I’m done with watching all 7 in the franchise. I only hope it’s a bit better than this one!

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Protector 2 poster

Set 5 years after the events of the first movie, Kham is teaching kids how to communicate to elephants with the help of his beloved Khon who he treats like a brother. He learns through a friend that somebody wants to buy his elephant but he refuses. Kham leaves Khon with his friend whilst he goes to town. When he comes back to his place, his friend has been attacked and his elephant kidnapped once more. Kham goes to the house of the person that wanted to buy Khon only to find he’s been murdered. He’s caught in the house by the dead man’s two nieces who assume that Kham has murdered him. Kham is forced to go on the run from the two women. The real culprit is an organisation headed by a foreign man named LC. They kidnap Kham and ask him to assassinate a politician to bring about a civil war between two countries or Khon will come to some harm. With the help of an Interpol police agent and one of the nieces, Kham sets out to destroy LC and his organisation.

This movie heralds the return of Tony Jaa who went on hiatus for a couple of years and allegedly became a monk (not sure if that’s true or not?). His last movie before he disappeared (Ong Bak 3) was a total disaster. The problem that led to his hiatus was because of a 10 year contract with Samhangkol Film International that Jaa was tied up to. He wanted to do other movies but they weren’t going to allow him to do that. It’s alleged that Jaa had a bit of a breakdown because of this problem so he walked away from everything and waited until the contract had finished. This has now happened which is why he’s back making this movie. The funny thing is Jaa has signed up to the same studio again and they’re the ones behind this movie. I just hope Jaa has asked for some concessions this time with his new contract or the same problems could arise again. Another person returning is female action star Jeeja Yanin. Back in 2012 she shocked her fans when she announced she was pregnant and was going to get married. A movie containing both these Thai action stars you’d hope would be a right cracker but as you’ll see in the review below this movie is a bit of a mixed bag and it doesn’t really deliver.

It’s best for me to tell those that expect this movie to mark a return to form for Tony Jaa to lower their expectations. Trust me, if you do this you won’t be disappointed by what you see. It is nothing like the enjoyable first Protector movie. The biggest problem with this movie is the overuse of CG effects which is really ropey and looks terrible. Gone are the real stunts and proper fights we saw in Jaa’s previous movies. The reliance on third-rate special effects and wirework is shown at its worst in an overlong motorbike/rooftop chase during the first half which at times looks fake and it isn’t even believable. You have to suspend your disbelief watching this sequence. I have no idea why the Thai filmmakers turned their backs on the raw stunts/fights – elements which had made the previous movie so successful.  It seems that Jaa isn’t even fighting at his usual speed during the movie, perhaps he was asked to slow down to accomodate the limited martial arts skills of RZA and Marrese Crump. I did find it strange why they also chose to rip Star Wars lightsaber sounds for one of Jaa’s fights on electrified train tracks. Wonder if George Lucas knows about it?

Protector 2 screenshot

Tony Jaa is just OK in this movie, he is definitely not at his best here. It’s gonna take a movie with a better script to repair his reputation. I was quite pissed off at the treatment of Jeeja Yanin. She is shamefully underused and only pops up now and then to help Jaa’s character out and coupled with the fact that she is made to look weak in certain scenes this really annoyed me. What an opportunity the director had in having two of the hottest Thai martial artists around in his movie and he totally screws it up. The worst actor of all in the whole production is RZA (he of The Man WithThe Iron Fists fame) who doesn’t come up to scratch as the lead villain. He is just terrible and his acting is pathetic in this movie. Couldn’t they have picked somebody better to go up against Tony Jaa? I’m sure there are plenty of actors who could have done a much better job. Marrese Crump as RZA’s no.2 in his organisation manages to outshine his American co-star by having a couple of great one-on-one scraps with Jaa.

At the end of the day, whilst it’s good to see Tony Jaa and Jeeja Yanin back on the big screen, I can’t rate this movie other than plain average. The plot is a bit of a mess and the awful CGI effects doesn’t help things one bit. Hopefully things will improve for both stars in the future and I eagerly await their next movies.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Deadful Melody dvd

A little girl and her brother are forced to flee with the family’s magic lyre when their parents are massacred although they are split up during the pursuit by their enemies. The magic lyre has the power to kill and certain people are desperate to get their hands on it. 16 years on and the little girl named Snow has grown into a woman. She is the current owner of the lyre and hasn’t forgotten about what happened to her parents. She sets out to seek vengeance on those that wronged her. Snow has a plan which will draw out her enemies by asking a courier Lui Lun to transport the lyre to a certain person. She knows that if her enemies find out about the lyre, they are certain to attack the courier in order to steal it. Lui Lun’s father is killed by the villains only for him to discover that he wasn’t his real father. He was adopted when he was a child and that he is really Snow’s sister. Although angry with Snow at first for getting him involved with her plans of revenge, he is eventually reconciled with his sister. They team up together to fight off their enemies once and for all.

This HK wuxia movie isn’t that well-known over in the West but it has all the ingredients of what makes the genre so much fun to watch (which includes people fighting through the air, a ludicrous plot, some OTT characters and plenty of swordfights). The story starts out very promisingly with an exciting action-packed sequence and this sets the pattern for the rest of the movie with the energetic and inventive action scenes coming thick and fast with hardly a pause in between them. At least nobody will be able to complain that the movie is boring!! Viewers could get confused with the complex plot as there is so many characters and trying to fathom which side each of them are on might make your head spin!!  Then again this isn’t a movie to be taken seriously so let the plot go over your head and just enjoy the spectacle that unfolds onscreen.

Deadful Melody screenshot

The plot as you’d expect from this genre is totally bonkers and the lyre in question when played properly can kill a person (in fact they explode in a cloud of multi-coloured dust!!). It seems to me like the filmmakers went in with an ‘anything-goes’  approach to the action scenes. I’m glad they did as that what makes this movie a joy to watch. You just never know what the hell they’re going to come up with next. The special effects and the wirework scenes are exhilarating. The humour in the plot is funny at times as well – some of the colourful dialogue in particular will make you smile! Unfortunately there isn’t a resolution to the story which suggested to me that there was a sequel being planned (which obviously didn’t take place after all).

Some might say that Brigitte Lin is typecast once again in a cross-dressing role but I thought she was great in it. You can always count on Brigitte to give a good performance which came a year before she quit the movie business. Her character isn’t quite so straight forward as you think – her mind has been so consumed by revenge she’s close to becoming just a cold hearted murderess and not somebody that’s out for justice for her parents. Yuen Biao holds his own with Brigitte Lin but he sure looks his age in this movie. He also doesn’t get to show a lot of his usual acrobatic martial arts skills because it’s more about sword-fighting so I felt a bit let-down because of that. Biao and Lin complement each other quite well in this movie. Although she’s not in a lot of scenes, Siu Wing-Sang is stunning as a witch who is deadly with a whip and the reliable Carina Lau is also funny as a feisty woman. The actors playing the clan leaders who are after Snow and her lyre also give good performances

If you’re a fan of OTT wuxia movies you should find this enjoyable enough. It’s far from being a classic but it will hold your interest due to the enthusiastic action scenes. I had fun watching it.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Iron Angels 3

AKA Iron Angels 3

Moon is a secret agent working undercover in Thailand who joins a suicide assassin organisation as a Japanese bodyguard called Yoko. Her evil boss is a foreign lady who has a small pet crocodile she carries around on her arm. When Moon has to ditch her secret transmitter on the way to her boss’ mansion, she loses contact with the rest of the team which includes a Thai agent named Kharina, a foreign computer geek and 2 male HK agents. They don’t seem to be overly concerned as they know that Moon can take care of herself.  As Moon tries to get some information from inside the organisation about the mission they are about to undertake in assassinating a group of top government officials at a garden party, the other agents from outside try and stop their plan.

Billed by many as the weakest in the Angel (or in some cases it’s called Iron Angel) trilogy, this is certainly the wildest movie of the lot. The high-octane action is incredible and the finale contains some crazy shit going on with a huge body count which sees well over 100 people being slaughtered but I’ll get into that later on in the review.  I thought this movie had Moon Lee as the central character but she disappears from the movie for a large portion and is not present in the climax at all. For a person like myself who is a huge Moon Lee fan I was really disappointed about this. The plot is paper thin but the action that unfolds onscreen is some of the best I’ve seen in a ‘Girls With Guns’ movie so it doesn’t really matter. The action gets going in the opening scene as Moon Lee is in disguise acting like a ditzy woman on a train who gets inside a carriage with a Japanese female passenger and a man. After getting the guard to remove the man thanks to a false accusation that he touched her up, the viewer finds out that the Japanese woman is really an assassin and a brilliant fight ensues inside the carriage. There’s a nod to 007’s From Russia With Love as the Japanese woman has a blade hidden inside her shoe which springs out ala Rosa Kleb. It ends with Moon Lee shoving the assassin’s head through a window which knocks her out and she assumes her identity! There’s even a first for myself in seeing Moon Lee strip off and change clothes. Moon has probably some of the best fights you’ll ever see her get involved in (barring her scraps with Yukari Oshima from other movies). She single-handedly takes on a mansion full of killers with only her martial arts skills, a sword and a nunchaku when her cover is blown.

Iron Angels 3 screenshot

It’s the pair of Alex Fong and Ralph Chen that takes the majority of screen time in this movie and they make for a good pairing. Ralph Chen plays an agent that gets in constant trouble. If he’s not attracting the attention of a suicide bomber who is selling drinks from a mobile stand and has placed bombs inside fake pineapples, he’s annoying the hell out of Thai agent Kharina who he likes very much but she’s not too impressed by him! The story even goes off tangent when the two male agents go to see a Thai boxing match. After Fong’s character interferes in a match when he saves a man from being killed in the ring, his irate opponent challenges him to a match. The viewer is then treated to an extended and very brutal match between the two.

The best action sequence is saved for last as the evil organisation carries out it’s nefarious masterplan and sends a group of assassins on motorbikes armed with machine guns to gatecrash the important garden party. The Thai army manages to repel this raid until a massive truck smashes through a wall and when the side of the truck opens there’s a whole army of assassins ready to attack. As the Thai army begins to get hammered by the onslaught of the assassins, from out of nowhere who should appear on jet-packs which have twin machine guns inserted in the handles but the 2 male HK agents. It’s one of the craziest things I’ve seen in a HK action movie as the pair destroys the assassins. It’s literally carnage within the grounds where the garden party is taking place which is completely littered with dead human bodies!! After taking care of business on the outside it’s time for Alex Fong to have a fight with the head of the evil organisation played wickedly by the blonde haired Saskia Van Rijswijk who enjoys torturing her underlings if they don’t perform to her high expectations. It’s hard to say whether there was a joke involved in having Saskia’s character having a pet baby crocodile, it seemed to me like a parody of a Bond villain. I kept waiting and hoping for Moon Lee to appear and perhaps have a one-on-one encounter with Saskia’s character but it doesn’t happen. I have no idea why she was left out of the finale?

For an action movie this delivered on everything I expected and more besides. Moon Lee is still as cute as a button even when she’s kicking ass. A great ending to the trilogy. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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licence_to_steal dvd

Hung is a female acrobatic thief who is double crossed on a burglary job by her partner Ngan (they have a bit of a rivalry). The result gets Hung jailed. When Hung is released several years later, she finds out that Ngan is now one of the biggest criminals around with a gang of her own. Hung sets out with a  new partner to get her revenge on Ngan and retrieve the valuables she stole before she was arrested all those years ago. What Hung doesn’t know is that her activities are being watched by 2 policemen as they think she will break the law once more. The senior policeman’s young nephew gets involved as he seems to think he’s a hero after reading too many heroic novels. After a number of confrontations, they eventually decide to team up in order to take Ngan and her gang down.

Hong Kong cinema has a long list of incredible female actresses who has taken part in action movies over the years such as Michelle Yeoh, Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima, Cynthia Khan and Sibelle Wu. This movie features the talents of Joyce Godenzi and Agnes Aurelio who also played rivals in She Shoots Straight – but rather than offer one fight between them this movie delivers four!  Both women are very good fighters. They tear up the screen in this brilliant actioner which was produced by Sammo Hung. What prompts Ngan to betray Hung during a robbery is explained right at the beginning of the movie as the viewer sees both women spar against each other but Ngan always comes up short and can never beat Hung as she isn’t good enough. This rankles with Ngan so it’s obvious she was going to get some payback and this she does by setting Hung up to be arrested by the police. After she’s released she sets about waging a psychological game against Ngan which makes her angry and frustrated. This isn’t just an action movie as there is some comedy involved as well which is mostly provided by a goofy character called No.1 played by Richard Ng (a regular of the Lucky Stars movies). The movie looks like it’s been put together very quickly with just a flimsy plot which just about holds together as an excuse for some awesome girl-on-girl fights. You won’t find any complaints from myself as the intense fight sequences are amazing to watch. The athletic Godenzi and the glamazon Aurelio even pick up a couple of chainsaws and fight with them during their last bruising encounter at a warehouse. It’s not just the two women battling each other in this movie as every now and then Yuen Biao pops up as an eccentric character who thinks he’s a mythical swordsman and interferes in his uncle’s police business.

licence-to-steal screenshot

Former model Joyce Godenzi is on top form in this movie and shows what a graceful fighter she was. Considering that she never trained as a martial artist, the way she manages to perform in the fight sequences is a testament to her abilities in following instructions from her martial arts teacher who was probably Sammo Hung himself. Sammo had cast her in several of his movies previous to this one (Eastern Condors is one example) and she obviously caught his eye as he eventually married her in 1995! Not long after the wedding she made the decision to stop her acting career which is a shame but the movies she made prior to the wedding are a testament to what a great action female she was. Her rival in this movie Agnes Aurelio only had a short career in HK movies but she left a legacy which has left an indelible mark in the minds of action fans due to her impressive physique and the tough characters she portrayed.  Although Yuen Biao is only a supporting character in this movie he does have a superb vicious fight with Billy Chow and Aurelio. I’ve always found Richard Ng to be good at portraying comedic characters and he generates some good laughs in this movie too.

This is an underrated martial arts actioner which deserves to be seen by more people. There’s a good balance of action and comedy and the martial arts sequences are choreographed very well.  Definitely go and seek this out if you want to see an entertaining old school HK action movie.

No trailer but here’s a short taster of a fight featuring Yuen Biao.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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