Friday, 27 January 2012

Yamada: Way of the Samurai



YAMADA: WAY OF THE SAMURAI (aka THE SAMURAI OF AYOTHAYA)

Directed by: Nopporn Watin
Starring: Seigi Ozeki, Kanokkorn Jaicheun, Sorapong Chatree, Winai Kraibutr, Thanawut Ketsaro, Buakhao Paw Pramuk, Somjit Jongjohor, Bin Bunlureit

Brutal Thai action is front and centre for this entertaining low budget action film that entertainingly combines both an Ong Bak style action movie with a ninja flick. Based on a true event, the film sees Japanese adventurer and all round fighting badass, Yamada Nagamasa (Ozeki) learning the vicious form of fighting known as Muay Thai. Stationed out in Thailand, during the Ayothaya Era, Yamada is set up and left for dead by his fellow countrymen (those pesky evil ninjas!) but is rescued and taken in by a village of fierce Muay Thai fighting warriors. Sticking to a predictable action movie template, Yamada must first overcome hostility from the fighting tribe, only to then be accepted by them, train with them (and learn some wicked new fighting moves) and ultimately get revenge on those who left him for dead.



Despite featuring one of most predictable storylines to grace action cinema, Yamada: Way of the Samurai makes up for this thanks to some impressive production values (despite the meagre budget) an uncomplicated and unfussy approach to delivering a simple story and frequent bouts of fierce fight action. The story is very predictable but the film means well and the makers have at least put some care and heart into telling the story of Yamada. While it may not be as epic as many other Eastern historical action flicks the Ayothaya Era is authentically recreated and with combining both Japanese and Thai themes, the flick provides a refreshing take on the historical action picture. Plus, the director includes some very cool scenes of ninjas, which is a bonus for any film. The ninjas in this film are seen as deadly and mysterious warriors and despite some overacting from their (over-the-top) leader, are very cool indeed



Which brings us to the actions scenes. Bloody and brutal is the best way describe them. With a good portion of the fighting cast made up of actual Muay Thai and Olympic boxing stars, the fights scenes are, non-surprisingly, well put together and deliver maximum bone crunching impact. Thai fighters’ going up against ninjas is a new and novel approach meaning there is some nice variation to the fighting that also incorporates some ferocious swordplay. The fights are easy to follow and well choreographed and as already mentioned, very bloody and violent. Not least an epic brawl which sees our hero and his new found fighter friends taking on a horde of tattooed warriors in an epically sustained fight scene that spares no broken bones or opportunity to slash an opponent to death. If there is a downside to the fights scenes it is the over reliance on a silly speeded up/slow motion technique that interrupts the flow of the fights somewhat. It’s unnecessary (or perhaps necessary to hide the fact the fighters aren’t always making contact with their hits!?) and somewhat jarring but thankfully doesn’t overshadowed the action as a whole.

Yamada: Way of the Samurai isn’t quite up there with the best of Thai action cinema (Ong Bak, Chocolate) but it is a fine slice of Muay Thai action and a lot better than other recent low budget efforts from Thailand (Edge of the Empire, Blood Fighter).

Monday, 23 January 2012

Top Ten 2011 at Far East Films



My Top Ten Eastern film of last year at Far East Films

Click Here to read the list.

Norwegian Ninja



My new review of Norwegian Ninja at Far East Films

Click Here to read the review.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

BKO: Bangkok Knockout



BKO: BANGKOK KNOCKOUT (aka KNOCKOUT) (2010)

Directed by: Panna Rittikrai
Screenplay: Panna Rittikrai, Dojit Hongthong, Jonathon Siminoe
Starring: Gitabal Agohjit, Speedy Arnold, Supakson Chaimongkol, Sorapong Chatree, Virat Kemgrad and loads and loads of stuntmen

Boasting one of the simplest concepts in action cinema, Bangkok Knockout is crazy combat and stunt filled madness Thai style. Orchestrated by Ong Bak and Born to Fight action guru, Panna Rittikrai, Bangkok Knockout ain’t much of a film but more a collection of wickedly choreographed fight and stunt sequences that sees a stunt team (a collection of real life stunt and fight wizards) who think they’ve won a trip to Hollywood to appear in some big movie but who in fact awaken in a deserted industrial estate and must fight for their lives while rich douche bags watch them on CCTV cameras and bet who is gonna make it to the end. Pretty straightforward and a good enough reason to hang a series on impressively staged action scenes on.



The main problem with this is the acting in the non-action scenes is, well, just horrendous. Not to put to finer a point on it but the set up (a good half hour into the run time before all the action kicks off), the attempts at “drama” and some of the acting (I’m looking at you weird Eastern European accented guy) are just terrible. I have no problem with an action film having a basic plot to hang lots and lots of action on (in fact, I damn well encourage it) but at least let what little acting and plot there is be somewhat bearable. Anyways, there are plenty of others who will have endless fun tearing into the lack of plot and awful acting, so lets just focus on the action: and a great heap ton of it there is as well.



As is synonymous with Rittikrai and Thai action cinema everything is pretty much done for real. These stunt guys and girls are put through their paces in series of action scenes that escalate and escalate in their intensity and dangerousness. From some awesomely staged and sustained fights scenes (the wicked cage fight, the one-on-one fight with metal poles) to some very dangerous looking sequences involving cars, motorbikes and a fight that takes place under a truck (as daft as it sounds but it certainly looks dangerous and credit to the stunt guys for performing it) the action is pretty incredible stuff.

Bangkok Knockout doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t and if you can forgive the bad acting then the film delivers on the action front. It isn’t quite Ong Bak, Chocolate or Raging Phoenix but it is some entertaining Thai action madness.

Invasion USA



INVASION USA (1985)

Directed by: Joseph Zito
Screenplay: James Bruner & Chuck Norris
Starring: Chuck Norris, Richard Lynch, Melissa Prophet, Billy Drago

Invasion USA is insane!!!

It’s absolutely bonkers! Even by Chuck Norris standards.

And, of course, it’s absolutely awesome.

Made at the height of Chuck Norris’ fame and during Cannon pictures heyday, Invasion USA sees the round housing one (complete with trademark beard, all denim outfit, leather gloves and twin Uzi’s) battling evil Russian terrorists hell-bent on blowing up the good ole USA. And that’s, well, pretty much it. Norris, playing the awesome action movie named Matt Hunter, goes after the bat-shit crazy Richard Lynch (the two have some kind of personal history, which Lynch experiences in some hilarious flashbacks), who decides to unleash hell on America by blowing everything up with rocket launchers that never need reloading! Seriously, bazookas that never need reloading: only in a Chuck Norris movie. Made during the Reagan reign, Invasion USA is basically Red Dawn on steroids with Chuck literally bleeding red, white and blue while Lynch and his evil Russian cohorts are nothing but cannon fodder. Subtle this ain’t. It’s also insanely violent with a body count to rival Commando, Total Recall and all 4 Rambo’s put together.



Despite the insane concept, the fact Norris utters all of five lines in the whole film (“If you come back in here, I am gonna hit you with so many rights you are going to beg for a left”), the additional fact that he somehow always happens to be in the same place the terrorists are attacking without any explanation so he can thwart them and that the flick is pretty devoid of all morals: Invasion USA rocks as an action film. This was the 80s when everything was big and loud and absolutely everything had to be blown up: and everything is absolutely blown up (though only after it has been constantly riddled with bullets) in Invasion USA. Director Joseph Zito (Missing in Action, Red Scorpion) aims high and pretty much achieves the bad buys objective by blowing up America. The action is fiercely staged and stunt heavy with an incredible finale which sees a horde of armoured vehicles and a hundreds of extras descending on a city centre to cause mayhem, expend thousands of rounds of ammo and, once again, blow everything up. In amongst all the craziness and mass destruction, Zito does manage one eerie scene where the camera pans around a peaceful American neighbourhood (showing how quaintly Americana it is) only for Lynch to roll in blow it all with bazookas, roll out and then the camera pans back around to show all the devastation.

This flick is all kinds of cheesy, wrong and insanely violent but as an action movie, it rocks. Norris may not say much or do much round housing but he does shoot a lot of people, wrestle alligators (!!) and cause a lot of stunt filled destruction. 80s cheese at its most ridiculous but stuffed to the gills with impressive stunt heavy action scenes that make it a 90 minute hoot.




Monday, 9 January 2012

Tekken



TEKKEN (2010)

Directed by: Dwight H. Little
Screenplay: Alan B. McElroy
Starring: John Foo, Gary Daniels, Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, Kelly Overton, Ian Anthony Dale, & Luke Goss

Video games, and especially those of the fighting tournament variety, have often had a bumpy ride to live action cinema. For every Mortal Kombat there is a Mortal Kombat Annihilation, a Streetfighter, a House of the Dead, a Wing Commander and so on and on. Really other than the original Mortal Kombat and the underrated Silent Hill (though I’ll admit, I do quite like Resident Evil: Extinction, Doom and, yes, Super Mario Brothers: hey, I liked it!) good video game movies are few and far between. Tekken doesn’t really break the bad run of video game film adaptations but it isn’t that bad either. Yeah it’s a missed opportunity as it feels like only half the film it could have been (ending just as it seems to be getting going) but the production values are slick, the fight action (relatively) decent and there is a whole host of genre favourites starring to make the 80 minute run time bearable.



It’s the future, corporations are evil and one of the biggest, Tekken, holds a fight tournament where top fighters fight for honour, cash and in some cases revenge. So it comes as no surprise that young underdog and all round top fighter Jin (Foo) enters the tournament to get revenge on the evil Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa (he’s the evil dude that runs the tournament) who killed his mother. Let the fights, cheesy action, neon-blazed visuals and, ugh, rapid-fire editing bludgeon your senses until you admit what you just saw was in fact awesome. Yep, blitzkrieg editing is in full swing, as the film seems to be determined to show us how jet propelled it is: presumably so lovers of the game and teenage boys think what they are watching is cool. Mercifully it eases up (a little) in the fight scenes so we can see the impressive fighters kick ass. There are some great screen fighters featured including John Foo, Lateef Crowder, Cung Le and the always-dependable Gary Daniels. The fights aren’t bad and feature some impressive moves and choreography (from District 13 main man, Cyril Raffaelli) but due to the aforementioned editing and the somewhat bizarre need for the fights to last no longer than 60 seconds, the action is all over too quickly.



Having never played the actual video, I can’t say how faithful to the game series the film is (and judging by some venomous internet comments and reviews, it isn’t) but if you take it as just a fun, albeit very silly, fight movie, Tekken isn’t too bad. Despite not getting a lot of screen time, Daniels is great as the main bad guy, there’s quality support from the likes of Tagawa, Luke Goss and a hot chick who show’s her “ass cleavage” throughout the whole film. See, there is stuff to enjoy in Tekken.

The film feels so rushed it is possible a lot was jettisoned in the editing room but what is left ain’t too bad if you take it for what it is. Director Dwight H. Little (he of awesome action movies Marked for Death, Rapid Fire, the underrated Murder at 1600 and the quality Halloween 4) directs with efficiency and adds an edge to the action scenes that was missing in the likes of the Streetfighter and the equally ridiculed Double Dragon video game adaptations.

Ok.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Sinners and Saints



I reviewed this excellent flick earlier in the year and just wanted to re-post as the film is getting a Region 1 DVD and Blu-Ray release, courtesy of Anchor Bay (who kindly used a portion of my review in their press release), on Januray 10th 2012.

You can read my original review here and go out and grab a copy of Sinners and Saints when it's released as it is one of the best action films of recent years.

Anchor Bay Entertainment: Sinners and Saints

I Saw The Devil



My new review of I Saw The Devil at Far East Films

Click Here to read the review.