Sunday, September 28, 2014

Movie Review: To Kill With Intrigue

To Kill With Intrigue (Jian hua yan yu Jiang Nan) 
Starring: Jackie Chan, Hsu Feng, Sin Il-Ryong, Yu Ling-Lung, George Wang Jue, Tung Lam, Ma Kei, Kong Ching-Ha 
Director: Wei Lo 
Lo Wei Motion Pictures, Hong Kong, South Korea, 1977.

This is an early Jackie Chan movie, the review is based on English dubbed version from Jackie Chan Early Collection 6-movie box set published by Pan Vision Finland. (The films are of VHS quality, but it is not easy get better versions with original Cantonese soundtracks).

Lots of spoilers here!

Lord of the Lei-palace (Ma Kei) celebrates his 60th birthday. Chamber-maid Chin Chin (Yu Ling-Lung) goes to meet her lover Hsiao Lei (Jackie Chan) but Hsiao Lei is rude and drives her away. Then Hsiao Lei goes to the party and drives the guests away. Hsiao Lei does this because he knows that Killer Bee bandits are about to attack (a message was sent with a severed hand). Lord Lei killed most of the Killer Bee clan members years ago. The family decides to fight to the death. They get also some help from their friends. 
Ma Kei
Lord Lei celebrating his birthday
Then some guests stumble inside stabbed with Killer Bee daggers. Then some hopping maniac comes to claim his hand. Then some coffins appear and guys with flower masks jump out! Flying Chinese lanterns and guys with burning sticks appear. Female fighter Ting Chan Yen (Hsu Feng) is their leader. The Lei family are killed and Hsiao Lei is knocked unconscious. Hsiao wakes and fights with Ting. Ting says that lord Lei was a murderer and knocks out Hsien again.
Stabbed with a cute dagger
Lei clan prepares to fight
Birthday flowers appear
Chin Chin is harassed by bandits. Hsien's friend Chen Chun (Sin Il-Ryong) saves her. Meanwhile Ting is nursing Hsien who mistakes her for Chin Chin. Ting cries and leaves, she is obviously falling in love with Hsien. Meanwhile Chin Chin remembers the good old times.
Hsu Feng
Ting Chan Yen (Hsu Feng)
Yu Ling-Lung
Chin Chin playing zither
Remembering old happy times

Then three assassins get in and fight Hsien. One of the killers is wielding feather-dusters (I'm not making this up). Hsien gets another head-ache, this time from sleeping gas. Then the assassins are told that they knocked out the wrong guy. Their contractor does not allow them to kill Hsien and fights the assassins. The contractor is the master of the Dragon Escort who is after Chen Chun who stole gold. Hsien joins the Dragon Escort team. 
Bloody Rain assassins
Feather-duster guy
The gold shipment is attacked by an old man and the gang wielding silly weapons. Including the feather-duster guy and a dude with a huge mace. Oh, and there is a painted face on the mace. Hsien defends the Dragon Escort while the rest of the Dragon Escort guys just relax and enjoy the show. The old guy has a lethal umbrella. Hsien gets as lethal stab-wound but Ting comes to fight the bandits. The Dragons try to figure a way to heal Hsien. Then Ting comes disguised (she has a different colour veil now) and takes Hsien with her. 
Another weird-looking guy
Mace with a face
The Dragon Escort master believes the Governor will kill him for failing to catch Chen Chun. And he is right. But wait! The governor is Chen Chun. And He is also the leader of Bloody Rain gang! He must be a super-busy guy! He then goes to marry Chin Chin. Meanwhile Ting's herbs have healed Hsiao but he has lost his will to live. Ting will not let Hsien leave until he can beat her in a fight. Every time he loses he gets a painful punishment. To gain her skills, Hsien must drink a potion containing Ting's blood. Scarred Hsien goes to stop the wedding of Chin Chin and Chen Chun.
Sin Il-Ryong
Chen Chun
This is a weird Wuxia movie. The story is messy. It mixes ghost story with operatic drama, Wuxia action and sadomasochistic romance. While meant to be serious, the movie has a lot of unintentional humour. The weapons are some of the weirdest in martial arts movies. Fight choreographies are okay with plenty of wire jumping. Jackie is an impersonal hero here. Still the pure weirdness makes it entertaining to watch. 

Rating: So bad it is good

Movie Review: Shaolin Wooden Men

Shaolin Wooden Men (Shao Lin mu ren xiang)
Starring: Jackie Chan, Miu Tak San, Cheung Bing Yuk, Chiang Kam, Hwang Jang Lee, Kam Kong, Yuen Biao
Director: Chen Chi-Hwa 
Lo Wei Motion Pictures, Hong Kong, 1976.
This is an early Jackie Chan movie, the review is based on English dubbed version from Jackie Chan Early Collection 6-movie box set published by Pan Vision Finland. (The films are of VHS quality, but it is not easy get better versions with original Cantonese soundtracks). 

The movie starts with Dummy (Jackie Chan) dreaming of challenging a bunch of Shaolin masters. After the tests he is however beaten by wooden robots. Dummy is a young and mute student of Shaolin kung fu. When he was a child his father Su Ling was killed by a fighter with a sack on his head. Hard training day starts with wearing lead shoes to strengthen feet muscles and carrying water buckets. A Buddhist nun (Cheung Bing Yuk) encourages Dummy to practice. Gradually he gets stronger and manages to carry water without spilling. Next he must chop wood. He gets advice from a drunken monk (Miu Tak San) who shows some Drunken style kung fu moves. 
jackie chan
Dummy (Jackie Chan)
Carrying water buckets is a heavy job
Drunken monk is skilled but has some difficulties to stay on his feet
Next he sees some monks bringing food to an angry man (Kam Kong) chained in a cave. Jackie gives him a fallen bread. Next the students witness a student fighting the wooden men. The student loses and is scolded. Secretly Dummy takes food and wine to the man in the cave. The man in the cave knows Lion's Roar technique that can be used against the wooden men. The man teaches Dummy the vicious moves that aim to cripple and maim the opponent. The nun gets worried and teaches Dummy that kung fu is meant to maintain health and strengthen the body. She shows the Gliding Snake technique. It isn't easy so that means more practice for Dummy. 
Dummy feeding the chained man
The nun and her Gliding Snake technique
Shaolin monks
Having learned the skills Dummy goes to fight the funny looking wooden men. He figures out the limitations of the chain controlled robots and uses his skills to defeat them. He gets a permission to start the final test in the city. He helps a girl Mei Mei (Chung-Erh Lung) who is being harassed by ruffians. 
Epic waterfall training scene
shaolin wooden men
Maybe Chopping Wood technique is the best approach
wooden men
Ancient Chinese robot technology
However the chained man is Fat Lu, the leader of the Green Dragon Gang and he uses Dummy to escape. Dummy notices his mistake and also meets a man whom he suspects of killing his father. He seeks the help of blind monk Lin Kun (Hoh Gong) who with the abbot Fa Tsu (Chang I-Fei) teaches Dummy the best skills. So it's still more training before the final fight. Jackie shows the flexibility of his shoulder blades. 
Shaolin style push-ups
jackie chan
Jackie gets angry
Also some swordsmen try to attack Dummy
The movie is a good old school kung fu training story. Masters of different styles show Dummy their techniques. There is also some humour in the first part of the movie with the scenes of Jackie and the drunken monk. Fight scenes are well choreographed and Jackie shows his acrobatic skills. The movie is one that has inspired the Kill Bill movies. This is shown with Jackie carrying water buckets up the stairs and the main villain also tries to use the five point finger exploding hand technique. Fun fact: after this movie Jackie went to a cosmetic surgery to shape his eye-lids for a more Western look. 

Rating: Good

Friday, September 26, 2014

Movie Review: Eagle Shadow Fist

Eagle Shadow Fist (Ding tian li di) 
Starring: Jackie Chan, Chen Yeun Long, Hao Li, Yu Chin Wang, Wang Qing, Mu Chu 
Director: Hdeng Tsu (aka Mu Chu) 
New Ship Film Enterprise, Ziv international, Hong Kong, 1973. 
This is an early Jackie Chan movie, the review is based on English dubbed version from Jackie Chan Early Collection 6-movie box set published by Pan Vision Finland. (The films are of VHS quality, but it is not easy get better versions with original Cantonese soundtracks).
Wong Ching
Brother Tang (Wong Ching)
jackie chan
Si To (Jackie Chan)
In 1937 Japan attacks China. Japanese stop the performance of Chinese theatre. Brother Tang (Wong Ching) and Si To (Jackie Chan) resist and fight the Japanese. The Japanese torture Chinese and steal their money, but are beaten up by the heroes. Tang and Si To help an ill laundry delivery man (Hao Li) and his grand-daughter (Qiu Yuen, known from Shaw Brothers films and Kung Fu Hustle).
qiu yuen
The girl (Qiu Yuen)
hao li
Old rickshaw driver
Si and Tang promise to help the rickshaw driver
Japanese general (Mu Chu) plans to tax Tong-Jo town to support the Japanese army. He sends two Karate fighters Su Tsien (Alex Lung Ji-Fei) and Tsen Bang and a sleazy Chinese collaborator Jon to suppress the resistance. 
Mu Chu as Japanese general
Yup, these guys know Karate
Tang fights some soldiers
Tang starts to work as rickshaw driver. Tang humiliates a prostitute working for Japanese. That gives the Japanese an opportunity to show who's the boss. Tang and Si beat off the first wave of collaborators but then the Japanese Karate-fighters come and kill grand-dad and some other townsfolk. Si is captured and water boarded. Tang comes to rescue. The heroes try to help people to escape but they are betrayed and Si is killed. It's a time for vengeance and the epic ten minute final fight!
Tang beating up collaborators
Si's last stand
The action scenes are brutal for a kung fu film with the heroes beating the enemies into bloody pulp and the Japanese killing civilians and kids. Jackie is mostly a side-kick in this movie. Still he already shows some of his acrobatic skills and also a little bit of his comedic abilities. The plot of the movie serves mostly to tie the fight scenes together. Quick zooms and close-ups are used plenty. Basically the movie has a strong propaganda intent (27 years after WWII). The fight scenes are okay but can't be compared to Jackie's later movies. Fans of Jackie will be disappointed because the leading actor here is Wong Ching.
Wong Ching
Tang after losing all his friends
Japanese officer sporting a Chaplin moustache
Epic final fight
(updated 28 September 2014 for some incorrect actor names)
Rating: Bad

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Movie Review: Le guetteur (a.k.a. The Lookout)

Le guetteur (a.k.a. The Lookout or Sniper) 
Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Mathieu Kassovitz, Olivier Gourmet,  Francis Renaud, Nicolas Briançon, Jérôme Pouly, Violante Placido, Luca Argentero, Arly Jover, Christian Hecq 
Director: Michele Placido 
Babe Film, Ran Entertainment, Climax Films, France, Belgium, Italy, 2012. 
Commissioner Mattei (Daniel Auteuil) gets a hint about upcoming bank robbery. The police ambush the robbers but a masked sniper Vincent Kaminski (Mathieu Kassovitz) shoots at the police and helps the robbers escape. The police start a hunt. One of the robbers Nico (Luca Argentero) was wounded and the robbers take him to surgeon Franck (Olivier Gourmet). 
Mathieu Kassovitz
Vincent Kaminski being interrogated
Heist does not go as planned
Mysterious sniper appears
Awaiting until Nico recovers, Vincent hides the loot. Then Vincent is betrayed and arrested. Vincent's lawyer and his old girlfriend Kathy (Arly Jover) tells him about a plan to bust him out the prison. Then someone starts brutally killing Vincent's friends. After escaping Vincent sets out for revenge. To make things complicated Mattei's son served in Vincent's Secret Defense unit in Afghanistan and was killed in unclear circumstances.
Daniel Auteuil
Commissioner Mattei
Olivier Gourmet
Dr Franck
After an shoot-out in the beginning the movie takes a turn from heist thriller to hunt for serial killer. Vincent is an anti-hero who acts according his own moral-code. When hunting the serial killer and Vincent, also Mattei has to step into gray moral area. 
Oh, Paris
Daniel Auteuil
Mattei is trying  some sniping also
The idea of putting two French superstars Auteuil and Kassovitz against each other is similar to Heat with De Niro and Pacino. However the movie mixes almost too many coincidences and subplots. However even with the flaws and unevenness the movie is a decent thriller. The photography is good and clinical with cold colour filters. The cool, emotionless style reminds of old French crime films (for example Melville's Le cercle rouge that also had a commissioner named Mattei!). 

Rating: Average

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