God of War (2017)

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Fans of military strategy should enjoy this sumptuous Gordon Chan blockbuster – a battle-scarred, patriotic, visceral attack of a war movie which feels a bit like John Woo’s 2008 Chinese film Red Cliff, even if it does deal with a different time period and a new enemy. This focuses on the events following the invasion of the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang by Japanese pirates in the 16th century. They are led by Samurai who follow the Bushido code but are reliant on ronin with loose morals to enact their invasion. Their honourable leader, Commander Kumasawa (a brilliantly mature and …

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Kill’em All (2017)

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Albanian-born fight choreographer Peter Malota steps up to direct this dead-faced Van Damme vehicle based around the ethnic wars following the break-up of Yugoslavia. Following a botched attempt on the life of a Serbian minister, the dying dignitary and his gun-toting bodyguards haul-up in an Los Angeles hospital to kill the culprit: a defected assassin known as Philip (JCVD), who methodically fends off the remaining heavies alongside the nurse, Suzanne (Autumn Reeser), who is helpfully revealed to be a martial arts expert. One of the baddies is Van Damme’s contemporary, Daniel Bernhardt, who gets to go toe-to-toe with JCVD, and …

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Bruce’s Fingers (1976)

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This histrionic Bruce Lee tribute centres on his deadly finger technique (did Bruce Lee have a deadly finger technique?). The root of this idea seems to stem from that brief moment in Fist of Fury during the Bob Baker fight when Lee waves his hands around in slow motion. Here, this notion has manifested itself into an entire plot device centred around a highly sought-after secret kung fu finger book, which drug-dealing criminal Lo Lieh wants to get his kung fu fingers on. Bruce Le plays Bruce Lee’s student, called Bruce Wong – a spunky Bruce Lee clone in sunglasses …

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The Black Dragon’s Revenge (1975)

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A pretty decent showcase for US karate ace Ron Van Clief, launched into the movie business by producer Serafim Karalexis who apparently made up the story to this movie on the plane ride over to Hong Kong. That might explain why its riddled with plot holes. It’s blaxploitation meets Bruceploitation as Ron Van Clief (aka ‘the Black Dragon’, here playing a version of himself) meets up with his taekwondo buddy Charles Bonet to investigate the death of his friend Bruce Lee. Ron did actually meet Bruce Lee in the 1960s, and much the film feels strangely prescient considering the mood …

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Security (2017)

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Solid action flick which sees Antonio Banderas transform into a grizzled, nihilistic, world-weary action hero. He’s great, even if he does still sound like Puss in Boots. He’s an ex-army captain with an estranged family and a vague allusion to some form of mental illness (that’s never properly explored), who takes a minimum wage job as a security guard in a shopping mall. “I’m not here to rock the boat,” he says to the night manager, before a girl fleeing from the scene of a violent crime pounds on the doors seeking refuge. Two minutes later and Ben Kingsley rocks …

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KFMG Podcast S02 Episode 22: Fighting Spirit Film Festival 2017

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“This is the second year of Fighting Spirit Film Festival, and already the bar has been raised. We have been so overwhelmed by the quality of films that have been submitted this year, and how the people who submitted last year have pushed themselves further in just a year. There’s some really talented filmmakers in the UK.” Yolanda Lynes, filmmaker.

Episode 22 of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast comes to you live from Fighting Spirit Film Festival 2017, an all-day celebration of martial arts movies. On this show, you will hear from up-and-coming UK filmmakers whose short films were shown at …

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The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)

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A big-screen outing for the Lego Ninjago characters, which can be found in the long-running TV series, Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu, and its associated merchandise. If you’re not aware of the Lego Ninjago franchise, then that’s probably because you’re not eight years old. The story concerns the evil Lord Garmadon who is thwarted by the Five Element Ninjas (a nice nod towards Chang Cheh) in his attempts to take over the land of Ninjago. This family-friendly animation follows the sleeper hit The Lego Movie and its follow-up, The Lego Batman Movie, which wrapped its positive message in an exhaustive succession …

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Chasing the Dragon (2017)

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Glamourised rags-to-riches story of infamous Hong Kong drug baron Ng Sek-ho, better known as Limpy Ho due to his pronounced limp and use of a walking stick. Hong Kong isn’t short on well-known gangsters, but Ho is probably the closest thing the territory has to a Pablo Escobar figure; a known criminal who profited from the burgeoning economy in British-ruled Hong Kong during the 1960s and 70s, who bribed an already corrupted police force, dined with dignitaries and met the Queen. His nefarious activities resulted in a 30-year jail term before dying an old man in 1991. Since then, his …

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The Tournament (1974)

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Barnstorming Angela Mao Ying vehicle made at the height of her powers at Golden Harvest. Following their success dabbling in the Korean arts for Hapkido and When Taekwondo Strikes, director Huang Feng and fight choreographer Sammo Hung turn their attention to a different foreign martial arts style for this one: Muay Thai kickboxing. This involves actually jetting off to Thailand to film some local colour as well as taking in a few competitive kickboxing bouts, while the rest of the film is completed on the same studio lot back in Hong Kong. Like their previous films, a rich stream of …

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The Invincible Kung Fu Trio (1978)

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Cheap but spirited Taiwanese kung fu film centred around the three Shaolin patriots Hung Hei-kwan (Li Chung-chien), Fong Sai-yuk (Meng Fei), and Luk Ah-chai (John Liu). The film follows in the wake of Chang Cheh and Lau Kar-leung‘s seminal Shaolin series at Shaw Brothers. Like those films, this does its own myth-making, pitting the trio of rebels against a Pai Mei figure played by Kam Kong. The evil abbott is shown to be a master of the internal wu tang systems. He sleeps in a cave, tears off the face of one of his lackeys (just for the hell of …

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