Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist (2014)

Posted in Reviews

The terms “fan-fiction”, “web series” and “based on a video game” would understandably make most people run a mile. But this epic, introspective origin story on the Ken and Ryu characters from Capcom’s Street Fighter is an excellent exception to the rule. This was originally commissioned as a 12-part YouTube series consisting of 10-15 minute episodes, but watched as a whole, it’s an engrossing, enveloping, novel-like experience. British fight choreographer turned writer-director, Joey Ansah, creates both a heartfelt homage to the original source material and an accomplished character study which stands up as a dramatic entity in its own right. …

Read More

The Sensei (2008)

Posted in Reviews

This occasionally veers off into the type of histrionic melodrama you would find on The Hallmark Channel, but Diana Lee Inosanto’s directorial debut deserves credit for its subversion of traditional gender roles prevalent in martial arts movies. She places a female in the master role and a gay teenager at the heart of the story. Inosanto (herself a stunt performer and the daughter of Bruce Lee‘s buddy, Dan Inosanto) acts as writer, producer, director and star, and the film ultimately ends up feeling very personal. She places her central character, McClaine (Michael O’Laskey II) – a bullied gay high-school student …

Read More

Acts of Vengeance (2017)

Posted in Reviews

Isaac Florentine’s DTV work is always reliably crunchy, authentic, and touched by a sense of nuance, the like of which is absent from most B-movie punch-ups. This is one of his best – a simple slice of face-hitting vigilantism, but one with conceptual ideas on the nature of revenge and stoic philosophy. Florentine chapters the film with Marcus Aurelius quotations, as fast-talking defence attorney Frank (Banderas) decides to undergo a vow of silence until he finds the culprits behind the deaths of his wife and daughter. Florentine’s long-time fight collaborator Tim Man brings out the muscle in Banderas’ mostly silent …

Read More

The Final Master (2015)

Posted in Reviews
The Final Master (2015)

An exemplary film from auteur director and writer Xu Haofeng (based on his own novel), who seems to be redefining the Mainland Chinese martial arts film. This may be his most extravagant production in terms of ravishing colonial set design and costume, but it is still a strikingly singular and taut vision. Xu’s knack for zingy dialogue and rounded characters extends to his signature fight scenes; realistic, organic, with stark sound effects, and grounded in humanity and authenticity. It’s a unique approach which weaves seamlessly into the film’s sharp narrative. The premise may seem familiar in terms of chopsocky tropes, …

Read More

Ultimate Justice (2017)

Posted in Reviews

Following 2015′s One Million K(l)icks, this is the second feature from Germany-based production company Silent Partners. It’s an Expendables-style mercenary film, elevated by a good cast, some great fight scenes (led by pocket rocket, Mike Möller, who also works as choreographer), and a committed central performance from Mark Dacascos. He brings his A-game to this low-budget German indie, and retains his enigmatic charm despite a distracting ADR job in which most of the cast – not just the German speakers – have been quite crudely dubbed. Dacascos plays Gus, an ex-GI and part of a military-trained crack team of hired …

Read More

Kickboxer: Retaliation (2018)

Posted in Reviews

The first Kickboxer remake (2016′s Kickboxer: Vengeance) was a painfully earnest slugfest suffering from a charm vacuum. Producer Dimitri Logothetis (who also writes and directs) takes a more ambitious approach with this quick follow-up and, although it lapses into fairly predictable territory, the changes mostly pay off. First of all, the action feels more organic, with two stand-out one-take fight scenes showing the breadth of star Alain Moussi’s remarkable athleticism. Logothetis also gets a more commanding central performance from Moussi, who appears more confident in his second feature as a leading man, as well as absolutely bossing the physical stuff as martial …

Read More

She Shoots Straight (1990)

Posted in Reviews

Demure former Miss Hong Kong, Joyce Godenzi, transforms into a guns-blazing action hero for this melodramatic cop movie for Sammo Hung‘s Bo Ho Films. Sammo and Joyce would later marry in 1995, but not before she gets the Corey Yuen treatment, who paved the way for female-led action movies following the success of films like Police Assassins and Righting Wrongs. Godenzi plays Mina, a top cop on the road to promotion who marries the only son of a respected police family. She struggles to win over the affections of his four sisters, but mainly Carina Lau, who really has a problem …

Read More

Extreme Force (2001)

Posted in Reviews

Michel Qissi is most famous for playing Muay Thai baddie Tong Po in Kickboxer. As director, he makes the most out of a particularly low budget, and the macho punch-ups are mostly good enough to pass scrutiny. Not that the film doesn’t have setbacks. Some of the actors feel over-stretched, particularly debuting leading man Hector Echavarria, a world martial arts champ. He doesn’t quite possess the coolness of top thumpers like Steven Seagal, or the cheeky aplomb of Jean-Claude Van Damme, but he is by no means terrible. The chemistry between Echavarria and Qissi feels stilted, while the story – …

Read More

Enter the Game of Death (1978)

Posted in Reviews

Halfway through this Bruceploitation flick, a Bruce Lee look-a-like (Bruce Le), wearing that legendary yellow jumpsuit, smashes his way into a pagoda and battles with an array of baddies on every level. There is a pretty good duel with Lee Hoi-san (playing a Shaolin monk with deadly balls), and a strange fight with a Snake Fist exponent who bites the heads off live snakes and wields them around his head. A decent nunchaku battle later and Bruce Le is running after a clichéd Japanese villain in possession of a “secret document” (no one really knows what it is) that somehow …

Read More

Encounters of the Spooky Kind II (1990)

Posted in Reviews

This non-related sequel doesn’t pack half as much punch as the original, but it is entertaining nonetheless. Sammo Hung is targeted once again by a black magic wizard and his sidekick, who lusts after Hung’s fiancé, Little Chu (Mimi Kung). “You two are vicious, you shouldn’t live any longer,” says Sammo’s sifu, the great Lam Ching-ying (Mr. Vampire), accurately explaining the story in a single sentence. Prepare for insane supernatural set-pieces, kicking off with a nightmare attack from a duo of flirtatious opium-smoking hopping vampires. Things get even more bizarre when a creepy female ghost assists our heroes against a …

Read More