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What was the last modern martial-arts film you watched?

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Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon (2008)  I'd seen this film prior to joining this forum, and thus not knowing the talent. My fascination with Guan Yu led me to this movie and that fascination continues  to bring me back.  Confession: I have not read the four classics of Chinese literature so I am unfamiliar with the massive character count, the various political subplots or the era in which the source material takes place.

 I thought everyone did a fine job with their roles, but  focusing a much shorter time frame on Andy Lau's fifth general Zilong would make  for more solid storytelling and a better film.

It is a beautiful looking movie, costumes, sets are really nice.  A part of me thinks this could be even better, if a broader color palette was used in the cinematography. Perhaps the almost monotone look was used to allow the viewer to think they were in a period film rather than a fantasy wu xia?

I appreciated  Sammo's choreography is far more grounded here than I've seen in his more recent work. It made me think he thought more than a bit about ancient horse-centic combat and it worked for the most part. I wasn't crazy about the cross cutting of how the fights were filmed, I lost track of some of the action which is too bad. 

I'm not going to say much about Andy Lau's fighting ability as I know nothing of his background. He handled the action and drama very well. Sammo's character was a nice balance to Andy Lau too. Maggie Q looked like she was having a great time as a rethink of Cao Cao's granddaughter. 

For me, this film starts and ends with Guan Yu. How wonderful to see Ti Lung dishing out some amazing pole weapons work amongst his younger castmates. Despite the strange editing, I could clearly see he was up to the choreography, and damn, the man is splendid.  I'll repeat my lament here. After seeing his cameo in this, it's such a shame Ti Lung never portrayed Guan Yu during his Shaw Brothers tenure.  He represented what little I know of Guan Yu instantly and I always am left wanting a lot more of his personification.   I love this film's rethink of Guan Yu's Guan Dao: the Green Dragon Crescent Blade design is fantastic and the blade itself looks like something I'd never want to be on the receiving end of. 

It's an interesting film, boasting a fine representation of the legendary warrior I watch it for, and one of the better recent Chinese period war films I've seen. 

You get the point sm.jpg

Edited by Lady Jin Szu-Yi

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More Jet Li revisits:

Last Hero in China - It's still a fun movie after all these years. I find it funny that this movie, a sort of spin-off/parody of the Once Upon a Time in China series is the only Jet Li movie of the period to feature anything resembling hung gar (courtesy of Gordon Liu and Leung Kar-Yan), even though Jet played no fewer than three hung gar stylists during the 90s. I'm also also glad to see Jue Tit-Woh (one of the corrupt constables in Tiger Over Wall and Kuo Chi's older brother in Sword Stained with Royal Blood) getting work. Cheung Man may not have been a martial artist, but I love watching her bootwork in this.

Kung Fu Cult Master aka Culto do Mal aka Zhang, o Bárbaro - This is really a love it or hate it movie. I love it (although I didn't at first). The action scenes are insane (even before Ashes of Time, Sammo Hung was experimenting with blurry slow motion and strobe effects in his choreography) and the girls (Chingmy Yau, Cheung Man, and Gigi Lai) are hawt. The movie is based off the first half of Jin Yong's Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber novel, although the film flopped at the box office, so a second movie completing the narrative was never made. One would have to acquire the Shaw Bros. Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber movies (or one of the TVB series made about the subject) to know how the story ends. Speaking of which, can anyone tell me if the Shaw Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber movies were any good?

Observations:

- Sammo Hung is playing the (quite possibly) fictional creator of tai chi chuan, Zhang Sanfeng. Jet Li played the same character, albeit much younger, the same year in Tai Chi Master. One legend suggest that Zhang lived to be about 150, being present for the Song, Yuen and Ming Dynasties. Tai Chi Master was set in the waning days of the Song Dynasty, while Kung Fu Cult Master is set in the Yuen Dynasty.

- The Wah Shan School--the same school that Jet Li and Sam Hui's Ling from the Swordsman movies--are portrayed here as a band of cowardly would-be rapists. First, because Wong Jing can't resist a rape joke in his movies. Second, because I think he wanted to poke fun at the popularity of those Swordsman movies at the time.

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The Warrior's Way (2010) Still not my cup, even though I now realize this is the first film I saw Ti Lung in (Unless I saw They Call Mr. Shatter during my Hammer binges almost 20 years ago and don't remember it. I do hope WB get around to releasing that and 7 Golden Vampires in their MOD...blah, blah...)  Not sure if this is Ti's English dub either (I know he speaks English quite well and has filmed in it.)  

So back to the story here: the young assassin (played by Jang Dong Gun) Ti trains flees China for the American Old West with an enemy clan's baby who will ruin his people.   Steampunk ninjas, too much CGI and not enough real fighting or care put into the characters make this a miss for me.  Well, okay Steampunk ninjas are actually kind of cool, but the Calamity Jane-like woman following our young assassin around is the kind of sidekick who makes me want to enact a no-sidekick rule. Everything is so fake and stylized I'm taken clean out of the movie. I notice a lot of modern wu xias rely too much on the fake environs than they do characters (just like a good deal of United States genre films. All spectacle no substance.) 

This computer-tinkered world worked for beautifully for 300 because Zack Synder purposely wanted the film to look like the pages from Frank Miller's graphic novel (and boy did they), you had a style which worked in that world beautifully. Seamlessly fitting with the legendary and epic characters, battles and beats.

Here, the time and season shifts are ridiculously frequent and sloppy, to say nothing of the empty performances. I just don't care and that's fatal to my enjoyment of any film. 

 I am trying to move away from being entirely down on films, but there are certain movies where I have to call it like it is. It's movies like this which make me all the more eager to see something like Monkey King 2 which makes me feel like I'm already in that world with those characters,  I want to follow them on their journey.  When you create FX which bring your characters and environs to life and then allow the characters to tell the story, you've got my hind in your theatre seat. 

A big ol' miss for me. 

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Police Story 2013 - I actually enjoyed this new entry in the "Jackie Chan goes for the drama" series. I think that "Crime Story 2013" would've been a better title than "Police Story 2013", although the Cantonese title of Crime Story denotes a division of the HK Police Department that may not exist on the Mainland. Oh well. I went in with low expectations for the action and was pleasantly surprised with the nice, brutal cage fight with Jackie Chan pulling a Donnie Yen and busting out the ground fighting (nevermind his badmouthing MMA several years before). The final twists were nice, especially once everybody is rounded up at the same place, although the last shot was unnecessary (IMO).

Man with the Iron Fists (2012) - Wow, that was underwhelming. And I won't even talk about the rushed plot, the foggy character motivations, the acting, the gore (which is too gruesome in the first half, and then gives way to more goofy CGI blood in the second), the bizarre costumes, or the soundtrack. I'll just talk about the action. It's so weak and forgettable that I can't imagine how this could be the same guy who worked on classics like My Father is a Hero and Yes, Madam!. Crap, even Cradle 2 the Grave was a long time ago. Nothing about the action Works, and we're talking about a movie that probably has the largest proliferation of exotic weapons since the Venom Mob days. You would never know that the RZA has trained in kung fu for years watching this, because his only major fight is more about the pro-wrestling moves than exchanges of complex handwork or anything like that. The fights frequently end before they even begin and with the exception of the opening brawl, they feel like more of an excuse to throw CGI blood and shoddy FX on the screen. And don't get me started on the finale, which is a travesty, and this coming from a set-piece that features a contingente of Chinese hookers in skimpy black outfits fighting with chainsaw silk ribbons! The big, important one-on-one's never really come to pass and everything else is just hurried through. I swear it's pathetic. I respect the RZA for wanting to make a Hollywood wuxia movie, but he failed big time here.

Man with the Iron Fists 2 - I watched this back to back with the first one last night. I hated the first one with a passion. This one was a lot better. It was interesting that the first movie was a Chinese wuxia movie made by Hollywood with a multi-ethnic main cast, a Chinese supporting cast, and a lot of Chinese people behind the câmera. This one was a traditional kung fu movie set in China but filmed in Thailand with a pan-Asian cast, a Thai supporting cast, and a lot of Thai people behind the câmera. The choreography was decent and there was a lot more actual fighting than the FX-driven drivel of the first movie. The final showdown with Lord Pi was a bit of a letdown, but the fact that we got an OK battle sequence made up for it. The RZA looks better in his fight scenes than he did in the first one. My main complaint is the pacing, as it takes nearly 50 minutes to really get going. And thankfully, Cary Tagawa actually has a role here, instead of just a cameo like he has in other movies.

 

Lost Empire (2001) aka The Monkey King - Like Man with the Iron Fists this is an American attempt to make the sort of movie usually reserved for Asian filmmakers. And like The Forbidden Kingdom, it's basically an insertion of a White person (this time, Thomas Gibson) into the world of the Monkey King and other characters from Journey to the West. The premise here is that Thomas, a former Chinese lit fanatic (who now Works as a translator of sorts), is transported by the Goddess of Mercy (Bai Ling) to one of the mythical tombs of Qin Emperor Shi Huangdi. This particular tomb is small-scale version of all of China. Why? Because a bunch of Ming Dynasty Era censors-turned demons (led by a delightful Randall Duk Kim) are trying to destroy the original copy of Journey to West, which will erase the book and all of its cultural influence from existence, which will supposedly return the world to a state of affairs similar to that of the Ming Dynasty. So Thomas has to team up with the Monkey King (Russell Wong, who gets to show more range here than in Romeo Must Die), Sandy, and Piggy to defeat the bad guys. There is a lot of bad CGI, some fight action (choreographed by Ridley Tsui, but really, the simplistic weapons fights could've been done by Pat Johnson), a Chinese imortal court scene, an evil Confucius, and some romance. I actually had a Cambodian friend who watched this and complained about the Goddess of Mercy being thrown into your typical romantic subplot, since no Chinese TV series would ever do something like that. Being a TV movie, one can't expect too much. I was impressed at how many old, authoritative Asian actors (Randall Duk Kim, Henry O, Burt Kwouk, Richard Ng!) were cast and got to do more than in their typical Hollywood roles. The movie is ultimately a curio to be watched and compared to other films dealing with the same subject matter.


A Chinese Tall Story (2005) - Despite Corey Yuen's name being on the film, there's no martial arts to speak of. People wield the Monkey King's staff, but then it all switches to Playstation CGI cut scene crap. At one point, the staff transforms into a Matrix: Revolutions mech for Charlene Choi's angelic Ultraman character to use against a horde of CGI tree demons. I haven't seen any of the Chinese Odyssey movies, nor have I read Journey to the West, so I'm not sure how this fits in with the whole Monkey King mythology (although the presence of Fan Bing Bing as a hawt alien ensures that it probably does more of its own thing than any USA adaptation of the tale ever did). Whatever. Skip it.

 

Legend of the Drunken Tiger (1991) - This was not on my list of movies to watch, but I felt I *had* to watch it after the disappointment of watching Drunken Master 3. This Taiwanese cheapie features action direction from Robert Tai (Five Deadly Venoms, Crippled Avengers, Invincible Shaolin) and Alexander Lo Rei and features ex-Shaw Bros starlet Kara Hui Ying-Hung in a lead role. The movie feels like a prototype for Yuen Woo-Ping's True Legend, in which it's practically two different movies stitched together, the second being a tale of Chinese nationalism. The first half tells about the attempts to save the daughter of a condemned general from being forced to marry a Qing oficial (played by Ku Feng). The second half is about our heroes trying to rescue Chinese women from sexual slavery a la ISIS at the hands of foreign militaries following the quashing of the Boxer Rebellion (look fast for Alexander Lo Rei as na American military officer!) There isn't enough action here to really satisfy, especially from the lead (Chuí Kei-Wai, playing a historical figure named Chiang San, whom I don't know anything about), whom the director almost didn't feel confident enough to let loose. Robert Tai and Alexander Lo Rei bring kung fu back to its old school roots here, with little of the over-the-top wire stunts that defined Once Upon a Time in China that same year. Chiang San does some OK drunken boxing (his form work is better than his applied techniques), but who really shines in the action is Kara Hui, who kicks, stabs, slashes and spears her way past the hero in one of her best post-Shaw roles. Watch the movie mainly for her.

 

The Banquet (2006) aka Legend of the Black Scorpion aka Inimigos do Império - I felt every second of that movie's 130-minute run time. Lord, that was LONG. Yes, the technical aspects are impeccable (putting this ahead of The Promise)--the set design, the costumes, the make-up, the photography and Yuen Woo-Ping's action direction (there's probably about 10 minutes or so of action spread between four set pieces, the last two being quite brief)--but man, that was a long slog. It's not really until the last 15 minutes or so the movie showed any real emotion. I can't see myself watching this again, unless I want to remind myself what the fight scenes were like.

Spider Force (1993) - Back in the late 90s, the major (legal) distributor of Hong Kong cinema in the USA was Tai Seng. They released movies of all sorts, not to mention HK TV series dubbed in numerous Asian languages (Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, etc). With the coming of Jackie Chan to the USA and the crescente interest in HK movies, they started hawking any generic action movie they could find to fans at the affordable price of 14.95. They often took movies that had nothing to do with each other and marketed them as part of a "series". The movies I'll be watching for the next several weeks will be culled from these different series.

Spider Force was marketed as part of the "China Heat" series, next to China Heat and something called Hard to Die (probably Fight to Survive). It's a nonsensical cops n' robbers movie about Mainland cops teaming up with Hong Kong cops (led by Carter Wong, best known as the elemental who inflates himself in Big Trouble in Little China) to bring down a crime boss (he sells heroin, guns and deals in White slavery, too). The crime boss happens to be uncle of both one of the Hong Kong cops (Sharon Kwok, credited as Michelle Ko) and the wife of one of the Mainland cops. That's mainly excuse for a bunch of shoot-outs and kung fu fights, which Carter Wong himself choreographed. The action is entertaining, even if not up to the standard of Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung. Carter Wong is powerful, if a bit slow. He does get to tangle with Paul Rapovski of Hitman fame. The girls' fighting, including adult film actress Pauline Chan, is entertaining, too. Despite some good action, this isn't a good movie. The characters are as thin as rice paper and, even worse, there's rarely any sort of logical progression from one scene to the next. Stuff happens just because the director/writer says so. It makes following the "plot" a chore. So it's Worth watching mainly to see an older Carter Wong in action

Shaolin Avengers (1994) - Part of Tai Seng's "Shaolin Classic Series" back in the late 90s, this is obviously an attempt to cash in on the major success of Jet Li's Fong Sai Yuk movies from the year before. Poor Chin Kar-Lok. He was ready for the big time in the 90s after years of smaller roles and stuntwork. But here, like Martial Arts Master Wong Fei Hung, it's clear that the filmmakers were more intent on trying to make the guy the next Jet Li by having him ape Jet's approach to the characters in question, than by exploiting his own strengths. In this movie, Chinese folk hero Hung Shi-Kwan (the late Lam Ching-Ying) is on the run from the Manchus. His path crosses with that of Fong Sai-Yuk (Chin Kar-Lok) when he saves Fong from a powerful fighter trying to avenge the death of his son-in-law, Tiger Lee (apparently someone that Fong actually fought and killed). Tiger Lee's widow complains to the governor, whose right-hand man was a Shaolin traitor. That puts the Manchus on Hung's tail and, eventually, Fong's as well. Will anyone survive? There's too much unfunny comedy here, and Chin Kar-Lok and Siqin Gaowa, who plays Fong's mother, don't have the same comedic chemistry that Jet Li and Josephine Siao did (although kudos to the filmmakers for portraying Fong's parents as having a sex life in their middle age). The action was choreographed by Hsiao Ho (Mad Monkey Kung Fu) and Benny Lai (the mute kickboxer from Police Story 2), which mixes some old school shapes action (courtesy of Lam Ching-Ying) with the then-vogue wire-assisted stunts. Chin Kar-Lok is very acrobatic, but his fast and agile kicks don't really come into play until the final tem minutes. The final fight has an unfortunate "Me Too" quality to it, cribbing bits from Wing Chun (slipping around on soy beans) and OUATIC 2 (the villain fighting with a piece of wet cloth). The movie needed more action and its own personality.

Power Connection (1995) - This HK-Filipino co-production was made at the tail-end of the Girls n' Guns genre, when practically all of these movies were meaning made in the Phillipines. And it only makes sense that this one would feature Yukari Oshima, since she had a Strong following there, billed in her movies as "Cynthia Luster". The plot is some nonsense (written by cut n' splice maestro Godfrey Ho, no less) about a Filipino cop with a mullet and a mustache named Ray going after a drug dealer named Dick. After killing his right-hand man (Philip Ko Fei, who directed and choreographed this movie, and had actually dated/married Yukari Oshima at some point), Ray chases Dick to Hong Kong. At the same time, Yukari Oshima is a HK cop disguised as an enforcer for Henry, a local crime boss who's losing his clientes to Dick. Ray finds out that Dick had promised his girlfriend Lina a singing career in Hong Kong, but locked her in a mansion and got her hooked on heroin instead. Dick eventually kills Lina and flees to the Phillipines, with Ray and Yukari in hot pursuit. There is a fair amount of gunplay here, which is exaggerated, but sort of fun. Yukari shines in her three fight scenes, and her opponents include hung gar stylist Mark Houghton and a flashy kicker. Too bad her fights only add up to four minutes of screen time. Not great, but it's at least a little bitter than Ko Fei's own Yes Madam 5 made at the same time.

Cyborg - This was the last remaining Jean-Claude Van Damme movie from his pre-DTV phase that I hadn't seen. And a perfect movie to watch on Good Friday, as our man Van Damme gets crucified in it! Beyond that bizarre visual, it's basically one big action sequence, broken up by the occasional flashback. Van Damme fights the flesh pirates in a warehouse...and then the fight continues in the sewers...and then fight continues in the swamps...and then the fight continues in post-apocalyptic Atlanta. JCVD is in good shape and his boot work is great, but the choreography is really static and sometimes badly photographed.

Killer Angels (1989) - Moon Lee and Yuen King-Tan (Abacus Fong from Wing Chun) play a pair of elite policewomen called the Angel Squad. They are called in bring in a former gangster named Jackie Chan (Lau Siu-Kwan), who claims to have a list of all of his former associates. While Rosa (Yuen) watches Jackie so that he doesn't get into trouble, Yueli (Moon) goes undercover as a singer at a nightclub owned by the Big Kahuna (Leung Kar-Yan). His top enforcer, Michael (Gordon Liu), has some sort of past with Yueli, but we never exactly find out what it is. The Big Kahuna's daughter and Michael's lover (Fujimi Nadeki, of Crystal Hunt and Cheetah on Fire) notices and takes a Strong disliking to Yueli. Stuff happens and our characters get in numerous scuffles and firefights until the finale, when our two heroines, joined by a high-kicking female DA's assistant, lead an assault on a skin trafficking deal between the Big Kahuna and some "Middle Easterners" (including a blonde-haired Michael Houghton, student of the late Lau Kar-Leung).

There is quite a bit of action here, although most of it is of the gunplay variety. The fight scenes are generally short, with the final fight between Moon Lee and Leung Kar-Yan, plus a fight between Moon Lee and the female DA, being the two stand-outs. Her fight with Mike Houghton, who uses hung gar as if he had walked out of an old school movie, is sadly really short. The choreography itself, provided by Tsui Fat (of Crystal Hunt and Cheetah on Fire), is pretty Strong. He makes Fujimi Nadeki look better than she did in those other movies. Gordon Liu doesn't show much of his skills, but he does get to wield a huge honkin' revolver that would make Dirty Harry jealous. The plot is no great shakes, but there's enough 80s style action to keep any HK cinephile happy.

Beauty Investigator (1992) - I divide the Girls 'n Genre into three eras: the Golden Age (1985-1990); the Middle Period (1990-1994) and the decline (1995 and onward). This one was made during the middle period (by our favorite independent kung fu director Lee Tso Nam), when the films weren't even the moderate successes that the earlier films had been, but apparently made enough in the Pan-Asian Market to warrant decent budgets before things got *really* bad and cheap. Moon Lee is once again a cop who finds herself going undercover at a nightclub, this time as a hostess in order to bring down a sex maniac killer preying on hostesses. That eventually becomes a pointless subplot once Moon Lee and her partner set their sights on the club owner (superkicker Chuí Ying Jat), who has hired a Japanese hitwoman (Yukari Oshima) to off the other members (including Chung Fat) of his gun-running gang in order to be the Big Banana.

The movie was more of a comedy than Killer Angels was, which is best demonstrated by a chase sequence where Moon Lee and her partner are chasing down a motorcycle-riding Yukari Oshima. Moon Lee is firing her never-needs-to-be-reloaded shotgun at Oshima, only that she misses every shot. However, each blast from the gun is able to make cars explode and other metal objects catch fire! The fighting was choreographed by Jackson Ng (who worked on the One-Armed Swordsman remake What Price Survival and did co-choreographing duties on Magic Crystal) and it's pretty good. Moon Lee and Yukari Oshima aren't as flashy in their moves as they had been in the 80s, but they're fun to watch. Billy Chow shows up as a Japanese gangster in the end and throws some of his reliable kicks. Chuí Ying-Jat really steals the show with his flexible kicking in the fight. Sophia Crawford, stunt double for the Pink Ranger and Buffy, also appears as the villain's wife (in the English dub, she even gets a gratuitous shower scene!). It's a fun movie to be sure, but not quite the classic I was hoping for considering the cast.
 
Warriors of Heaven and Earth (2003) – Big-budget period piece adventure produced by the People’s Republic of China in the wake of the international success of Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. A Japanese national studying military science and martial arts at the Capital is tasked with bringing a fugitive soldier to justice. Said soldier is a former officer who rebelled against his commanding officer after failing to execute an order to needlessly slaughter Turk women and children. The soldier is now escorting a caravan carrying some religious artifacts to the Capital. The two team up to complete the latter’s mission, while being ruthlessly pursued Turk soldiers. The landscapes on display are breathtaking and the photography is quite beautiful to behold. The soldiers guarding the caravan are generally likable and there’s a nice chemistry between the two protagonists, even though they are ultimately on opposite sides of the law. The action is not the balletic swordplay that defined the aforementioned inspirations for this, but is more grounded (lots of sword-swinging on horseback here), with the jarring exception of a brief fight meant to show us how bad-a** the main antagonist is. The fights have the feel of an old school Hollywood swashbuckler more than a Chinese martial arts film. Unfortunately, much of the action is marred by quick cuts, shaky cam, and close-ups, which obscure much of what’s going on. Also, the Raiders of the Lost Ark-conclusion renders the climax a little underwhelming and is hampered by crappy, out-of-place CGI. Nonetheless, it’s still a fun little adventure for anyone who might be interested.
 
The Legend is Born: Ip Man - I rewatched this over the past weekend. It's spooky just how much Dennis To looks like a younger Donnie Yen. Beyond that, the action is extremely good (Tony Leung Siu-Hung had worked Sammo on the first Ip Man, but went on to do this while Sammo worked on the more successful, if less-praised sequel). The wing chun demonstrations are a lot of fun and the final duel between Dennis To and Louis Terry Fan Siu-Wong (preceded by Yuen Biao beating up ninjas) trumps the fights from Ip Man 2. The main external conflict is interesting, since it feels like it was invented to capitalize on the "terror babies" conspiracy theory that had poked its head in the States a couple of years earlier.


Tokyo Raiders - Another revisit for me. This was the highest grossing HK film of 2000 and a lot of HK fans seem to be divided over its merits. Some people dismiss on the grounds of its watered-down action and terrible leading lady (Kelly Chen, whose performance was not only bad, but whose dubber was just as blah as she was). Action choreographer Ailen Sit--a former member of Stanley Tong's Stunt Team--creates a series of set pieces that feel like something Jackie Chan would do, but since the leads are played by Ekin Cheng and a (probably) pre-wing chun Tony Leung Siu-Wai, he has to use copious amounts of slow motion, stunt doubles, and some wires to hide their lack of skills. But if you can accept that this isn't your vintage HK 80s action movie, the fast pace and almost non-stop action should be more than enough to satiate your needs. Just be sure to keep your expectations in check and then lower them a few notches lower once the movie gets to its clímax.
 
American Ninja (1985) – This was the movie that put Michael Dudikoff on the map, and I’m actually rather surprised at its 1985 release date, which means that the other Canon ninja classics, Enter the Ninja and Revenge of the Ninja had preceded it. You all (should) know the story: Joe Armstrong (Dudikoff) is a quiet army guy with a Troubled Past stationed in the Phillipines. While escorting some weapons and the commanding officer’s cute daughter, some rebels and surprisingly enough, ninja, attack the convoy. Armstrong saves the daughter, but his colleagues are murdered. He finds himself at the mercy of his commanding officers, at least one of whom is in cahoots with the main bad guy, an arms dealer with an army of ninja. The only people on Joe’s side are the girl and fellow soldier Curtis Jackson (Steve James). 

The action isn’t quite as frequent as one might expect, but it’s pretty good. Dudikoff wasn’t much of a martial artist, so his moves are simple (judo throws, take downs, swordplay), but he sells the strong-silent-type character. Steve James isn’t give too much to work with, but even when he’s not fighting, the man has a special epic-ness about him. Tadashi Yamashita, aka Bronson Lee, shows up as the head ninja bad guy, and we get the first of many obligatory “bad ninja kills the lower ranking ninja to show off how powerful he is” scenes throughout the series. The fight choreography was by Mike Stone, who was Franco Nero’s stunt double in Enter the Ninja and apparently Elvis Presley’s karate teacher. It’s not bad, and the final fight is pretty good. 


American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987) – Did you ever notice that these American ninja movies almost never actually take place in America? Joe Armstrong and Curtis Jackson are now back as Army rangers who are sent to a Caribbean island to investigate the disappearance of several marines stationed at the local embassy. They turn up a drug dealer who has kidnapped a cancer researcher and is forcing him to genetically engineer an army of super ninjas (incidentally, they are just as easy to kill as normal ninjas) to…er…I guess fight back against the Third World government entities who had been increasing their bribe values. That’s really an excuse for Joe and Curtis to kick some serious ninja butt for 90 minutes. 

There’s a big fight sequence about once every 10 minutes and we get more ninja tricks and weapons on display, plus more fight action from Steve James. Look for choreographer Mike Stone as the head ninja, who squares off against Armstrong in the finale. In one of the most inexplicable moments of the series (which is saying something), Armstrong is kicking the spit out of the big bad ninja, who then whips out a sawed-off shotgun (out of nowhere) and starts firing it at Joe. He misses every shot, because Joe Armstrong occupies the same plane as Steven Seagal and Jet Li’s Wong Fei Hung in this. Highly recommended 80s action shlock. 


American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt (1989) – So now Dudikoff has been replaced by David Bradley, who actually has some legitimate karate moves and MA training. Bradley plays Sean Davidson, who was taught ninjitsu by his father’s karate trainer after his ol’ man was gunned down by terrorists who felt that karate tournaments were the best places to rob in order to get the big bucks. Your guess is as good as mine. Davidson goes to another Caribbean island for a karate tournament, where he meets Curtis Jackson, who is there to show off his shuangdao skills, even though that weapon is clearly a kung fu weapon and not a karate one. The host of the tournament is an insane scientist (Marjoe Gortner of Starcrash fame) who has developed a deadly virus and wants to find the best physical specimen to inject with it…because…er…reasons. Crazy Televangelist scientist has also employed an army of ninja led by Chan Lee (Michelle Chan, who’s married to a billionaire in real life), although we never know why he chose ninja instead of the usual mercenaries. Davidson is eventually captured and injected with the virus, and he, Curtis and another guy must fight through legions of ninja to find the antidote because…er…reasons. 

On one hand, the action is probably a step up from the last two movies, mainly because Bradley is more skilled than Dudikoff was. He does more interesting kicks and is just better to watch. However, his character barely registers on the charisma scale, and even worse, he doesn’t do much ninja-ing here. He beats up a lot of ninja, but Dudikoff made you believe that he was The American Ninja. Bradley is late 80s/early 90s karate hero #4029. Steve James does get a few fights in, but I felt gypped that the big karate tournament was limited to one onscreen fight (Bradley vs. some British guy). Michelle Chan gets to beat up her subordinates, but she’s not all that impressive. You could also see the budget dropping this time around and the story frequently doesn’t make much sense. 


American Ninja 4: Annihilation (1990) – Apparently this was going to be a big team-up between the two American Ninja, but Michael Dudikoff had an ego attack and the movie becomes a bait n’switcher about Sean Davidson, now a CIA agent, and his black partner flying to Lesotho to rescue some Delta Force commandos from a maniacal British army officer and Muslim fundamentalism jihadist Sheik…and their army of ninja. Davidson is eventually captured, so his friend(!) Joe Armstrong is sent in to rescue Davidson and stop the bad guys from sending a small nuclear device to New York. 

I actually liked this one a lot more than the third one, even though there was less action and the finale was weaker than I was expecting (I wanted to see Dudikoff and Bradley kill 200 ninja in tandem). Michael Dudikoff reminds us as to why he was cast as the American Ninja, while Bradley is still the generic Karate hero #4029. The villains here, especially the British guy, were probably the most intimidating bad guys of the entire series and there are some pretty brutal moments here, moreso than any of the other three movies. The ninjas also come across as being more dangerous than they were in parts 2 and 3, as seen in the opening action scene where they hunt down the fleeing Delta Force commandos. Mike Stone handles the action again and it’s pretty solid. In a bizarre twist played with a completely straight face, Joe Armstrong is assisted at the end by a gang of ex-cons who look like refugees from a Mad Max film…and it’s glorious. And you know what? The black guy…who’s engaged to be married…actually survives the entire film! Heck yeah! 


American Ninja 5: Little Ninja Man (1993) – David Bradley returns, but this time as an American ninja named Joe (not Armstrong) who trains at a dojo run by Pat Morita and Bronson Lee himself, Tadashi Yamashita (who also choreographed the action this time around). Morita asks Bradley to take care of his grandson, a troubled youth named Hiro (Lee Reyes, Ernie Reyes Junior’s brother), who has bounced from one foster home to another after his father was murdered by an evil ninja named Viper (James Lew). Viper currently works for an insecticide magnate named Simon Glock (played by a man with the last name of Franckenstein—I swear I’m not making this up). Glock has employed another scientist to make a powerful insecticide that leaves no traces after it kills, with the intent of making a powerful biological warfare/bomb/thingamajig with it. To motivate the scientist to finish the project on time, he has Viper and his army of ninja kidnap his daughter, who happens to be having a date with Joe (and a tag-along Hiro) at the moment. She’d kidnapped, so Joe and Hiro fly to Venezuela to rescue her and maybe overcome their own personal demons while they’re at it. 

The movie was PG-13, and we know how watered down the action in a 90s PG-13 movie could be. It’s not quite as goofy or played for laughs as the action in Surf Ninjas (which I assume this movie was piggy-backing on, considering the fact that Lee Reyes spends most of the movie carrying around a Game Gear) or 3 Ninjas, but it’s a far cry from the brutality of the other movies, especially part 4. The big showdown between David Bradley and James Lew, who dons a red superhero costume with a black cape, is pretty weak and I’ve seen both of them do better work elsewhere. Reyes throws some decent kicks at the end and Bradley isn’t bad, but the action (and the film on the whole) is ultimately forgettable. I didn’t hate it, but it’s definitely the weakest in the series.
 
Missing in Action (1984) - A Chuck Norris foray into the sort of 80s action film that The Expendables was homaging, we have a POW who was freed after 10 years in captivity going back to Vietnam to prove that the powers-that-be (including James Hong) are lying about the presence of MIAs in Vietnam. He finds out the truth, goes to Thailand and hooks up with the stereotypical "soldier who stayed in Asia and got involved in the arms trade", gets hooked up, and heads back to free his countrymen. There isn't much martial arts from Chuck, and it's strange that the two important Vietnamese military officers (including the one who had tortured Chuck while he was a POW) are dispatched before the big action climax.

Missing in Action 2: The Beginning (1985) - Filmed back-to-back with the first film, we learn how Chuck's chopper was shot down by the North Vietnamese, and how he and his compatriots were tortured and humiliated by their captors before Chuck escaped and brought his own brand of justice to the prison camp. The movie takes a while to get going, and the action feels pretty generic, but the last martial arts fight between Chuck Norris and Soon Teck-Oh is actually really good by 80s American standards. The movie is famous for the scene where Norris is hung upside down and has his head placed in a burlap sack with a large rat. 

Braddock: Missing in Action 3 (1988) - This sort of Reagan-era right wing action fantasy was on its way out by 1988, which is unfortunately, because this movie had the best overall action of the trilogy. The story doesn't belong on the same timeline as the other two movies, and thus wasn't so much a sequel as it was a...er...reboot or something? When the American army is leaving Saigon, a series of unfortunate events result in James Braddock leaving his Vietnamese wife behind (mainly because he thinks she's dead). Years later, he finds out from a priest that she's still alive and, against CIA orders, goes back to Vietnam to find her. Standing in the way of the family reunion is an EEEEE-vil Vietnamese military officer played by Aki Aleong. Cue the usual shootings, explosions and karate kicks. Directed by Chuck's brother, Aaron, the action is mounted a lot better (and is significantly bloodier) and there's more martial arts here, even though nothing quite reaches the heights of the final fight from the second movie. The best moment: Chuck takes his Super Gun, stabs a would-be rapist in the stomach with a bayonet, and then fires a grenade into the man's stomach at point-blank range. The man flies backward through a wall and lands on the ground. After several seconds, the grenade finally detonates and the man just explodes.
 
The Perfect Weapon (2016) – In the future, the USA is now an Orwellian dystopia known as “The State,” which is led by The Director (Steven Seagal, who spends most of his limited screen time fondling or being fondled by a hot young Japanese girl who could be old enough to be his granddaughter). The Director regularly employs elite assassins to kill anybody whom he feels is a danger to the balance of society. One of them is a bald, Agent 47-esque guy named Axon. During a routine hit, Axon spares his target’s lover on the grounds that she reminds him of a former lover who was assassinated years before. Axon is taken in for reprogramming, but ends up going AWOL and joining the resistance. But things aren’t always what they seem, are they? There is some martial arts here and there, and Seagal is his usual invincible self in his one (short) fight against Axon. There’s a pretty good fight against a guy in a bathroom. Most of the action is gunplay and the violence is particularly strong here. I mean, one guy gets a cattle prod jammed into his mouth which eventually causes his head to explode. There are a few other gory deaths that I’ll leave as a surprise for anyone who might be interested. In the end, the film is just OK, but whatever.

The Foreigner (2003) – What do I say about this one. Steven Seagal plays a former CIA operative known as “The Foreigner,” who was able to move from country to country without ever leaving a trace…or something. It doesn’t matter. Now he works as a courier of sorts for some shady types. On his latest job, he’s supposed to pick up a package and take it to an address in Germany. While picking up the package, he and his partner are attacked by Danish assassins, although Seagal remembers seeing one of them at a strip club with his partner some time before. That begins a particularly convoluted cat-and-mouse game involving Seagal, his partner, his former CIA chief, those Danish assassins, a leading German industrialist, said industrialist’s wife, and probably a few other people I’m forgetting. While I was digging the increasingly complex story for a while, it became clear in the last 15 minutes or so that many of the plot threads weren’t going to be explained in a satisfactory way, rendering the story as a whole to be incomprehensible. The action is mostly gunplay, and the aikido is kept to a minimum. Sadly, what little fighting we see is badly photographed and presented in a weird strobe/slow motion effect, which cheapens what is otherwise a good-looking movie.
 
Asian Connection (2016) – Another day, another crappy DTV Steven Seagal movie that draws me in like a moth to a flame. In this one, Seagal plays a Cambodian drug lord whose money is stolen by a pair of Caucasian expatriates based in Bangkok. He sends one of his lieutenants to handle the situation, but the guy instead forces the duo to steal more of Seagal’s money for his personal gain, under the guise of paying back what had been stolen during the first robbery. The main protagonist is one of the bank robbers, Jack, who’s trying to make some fast money so he can give his gorgeous Thai girlfriend, Avalon, a better life. Obviously, each bank robbery gets progressively more dangerous, especially once Seagal finds out that there’s a mole in his organization. There are all of two fights in the movie. In the beginning, Seagal has a knife fight with a rival drug lord. Midway through, a parkour expert chases down the two protagonists during a botched robbery. The rest of the action is gunplay, and like Ballistic Kiss, the guys only run out of bullets when the script says that it’s necessary. Similar to The Perfect Weapon, Seagal is the nominal villain, and spends most of his scenes ogling his Barbie-bodied, well-endowed Cambodian girlfriend who’s 40 years his junior. Michael Jai White and Ron Smoorenburg have non-fighting cameos. *Sigh* Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.
 
Born to Fight - This was actually my first Thai film, which may be surprising to some. To be honest, I think I saw this and Chocolate before I watched Ong Bak. I was impressed Dan Chupong's aerial kicks, but not with the choreography, which I thought was too focused on money shots. Being more experienced in Thai movies now, I think I like it a lot more now, although the second act, with its wanton slaughter of innocent men, women and children, is hard to watch. It also has the probably the single most wince-inducing gunshot wound I've ever seen in a movie. The last act is basically a 25-minute long action sequence that can be characterized as "What would it be like if John Woo had been hired to direct Gymkata and then brought Jackie Chan onboard as action director?" It's great, if very unrealistic. But if you're good at suspending disbelief, then it's a hoot. My real complaint about the finale is that the fight between evil guerilla girl and Chupong's tae kwon do expert sister isn't longer and more suspenseful. Also, I have to ask why they don't relocate the survivors to another village, considering that practically all of the men in the village get shot to death.

 

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I watched Skiptrace on Thursday, it was diabolical. It is clearly another film Chan made to cater to millenials. Seeing Chan singing Adele music made me feel nostalgic for the time when Jackie Chan movies were exciting and funny, and Chan sang the theme songs. On another note,  I also watched Ip Man 3,  which was very good. 

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The Fight Within - Watched this last night. It's a faith-based mixed martial arts drama about a young fighter who gave up the chance to go pro after the death of his father. Constantly attempted to be coerced to fight, the kid wants no part of it. Even when the antagonist, who practically acts like a complete douchebag, constantly mocks him in an attempt to make him fight, the kid wants no part of it. When he meets a fellow student, he starts learning about turning to God very slowly. As his faith becomes greater, the douchebag somehow forces the kid to go back to the cage in an upcoming match. The film focuses more on the story, but the miminal MMA in the film is not too bad and we get to see MMA legend Dan "The Beast" Severn in flashbacks at the kid's ill-fated father. Not a bad film at all, just don't expect too much action but more focused on the kid's road to redemption both in and out of the cage.

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the master. Weak jet li movie with very little amount of action before end fight(which is pretty ok). Some dire moments of stanger in foreign land concept.

 

Was my 2nd view and had feeling did not like it much at 1st time but no way remembered it`s this bad..

 

Definitely to recycle pile.

Edited by Tex Killer

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Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li (2009) - I finally made my way to this movie, which wasn't all that great. Some of the wire-fu fights (courtesy of Dion Lam of Doom and The Storm Riders fame) are fun to watch, but the fight between Chun Li and Vega is a massive letdown and the scene where Chun Li uses the spinning bird kick in the pole dancing room is just goofy. So Robin Shou as Gen (an SF 1 character), reminds me of some old school movie character (a specific one), but I can't put my finger on it. The script and dialog are wretched and make the stilted lines from the Street Fighter: The Animated Movie look dignified in comparison. Meh.

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No Retreat, No Surrender (1985) - Revisited this one last night. I used to think it was simply a Karate Kid knock-off with JCVD in the villain role, but last night, it became clear that despite the obvious similarities, this is actually the Seasonal Formula (see plots for Drunken Master and countless other late 70s/early 80s kung fu comedies) transplanted to the 80s-est of 80s settings. Just replace Jackie's Wong Fei Hung with Kurt McKinney, Sam Seed with Bruce Lee's Ghost, Legendary Superkicker Hwang Jang Lee with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Wong Fei's Hung's dad with the brother of McKinney's girlfriend, etc. The story structure of both films is almost identical. And even Kurt McKinney's dad reminds me of Jackie Chan's dad in Snake Fist Fighter, which director Corey Yuen directed extra scenes for. The fights are good, but the rest is laughable and slipshod in the way that only a HK action movies from the 80s could be.

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Kill Switch - This is basically Seagal trying to do the Se7en/Bone Collector thing, but with surprisingly long fight scenes and shoot-outs. He plays, Jacob King, a homicide detective on the trail of a serial killer cum Heavy Metal songwriter nicknamed "The Grifter". Complicating his job is an inexperienced female FBI agent who gets convinced at one point that Seagal is the killer. Moreover, one of the serial killers he busted is let free and goes back to his killing ways as well. I wanted to give this movie a passing recommendation, but it's far too unpleasant and gruesome for my taste. There's a lot of action for a film like this, and the fights last longer than your typical Seagal flick. Sadly, the action is marred with continuous jump cuts, quick cuts, and camerawork that betrays the fact that Seagal is using a stuntman for the film's duration. In the end, it's an ugly Seagal film that should've been more.

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once upon a time in chine 3. Having seen it first time years ago and not impressed, same with revisit...Some movies get better on 2nd view...This did not...

Biggest flaw Jet has no badass opponent to fight with, Iron Foot who switches side have only brief duel with Jet. Too much comedy around and not very good stuff.

Lion dance scenes are pretty good but flick is still pale shadow of parts1&2 which are quality movies..

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I watched Gymkata on Saturday night on the Turner Classic Movies channel. Seen it hundreds of times since I was a kid. Still have it on VHS taped off HBO from back then. We all know this movie has the reputation for being, "So bad it's good" and I agree but I still find it fun and entertaining to this day and it has become a guilty pleasure for me, like with Godfrey Ho/ IFD cut & splice ninja movies. Another thing I love about this movie is the brilliant score by Croatian composer Alfi Kabiljo. It's too bad the soundtrack was never released on any music format. I'd love to get it on CD...

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Fong Sai Yuk. It does not start so bad, governor(vincent zhao, I have sadly not seen OUATIC 4&5 but heard good things about his performance) is looking for list of people plotting against emperor. After opening that plot is completely rejected for ~50 minutes and viewer sees jet li+his mother in (some sort of) love affairs. Quite high on comedy and low on action. There is one good scene, jet+mom fight wife of local big shot on poles and eventually on heads and shoulders of audience...

After that governor returns to picture and obviously there is more action then. Lots of wires and slow motions are used, frankly most of the time it`s not that exciting stuff. Not bad, just so usual..At least there proper even if not very good end fight, still superior to stuff given at the end of OUATIC 3. Adam Cheng sadly does not get much to d....

one of not so good jet li hk movies but I like it more than"meltdown", "the master" or "new legend of shaolin", with OUATIC3 it´s draw. Bit weaker on story+non action scenes but on fights there was more to offer...Propably I got excited enough to look part2 from ebay.

That leaves Dr Wai only old jet li besides FSY2 to be seen and I have dvd in possession already...

 

 

Edited by Tex Killer

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Beyond Redemption - the directorial debut for Canadian-born former Hong Kong stuntman Bruce Fontaine (Operation CondorKing of the Kickboxers), this film stars stuntman Brian Ho as an undercover cop in the Triads who questions his choices after he is forced to kidnap the daughter of a top mob boss and his estranged wife is pregnant with their child. The cast is comprised of stunt performers such as Don Lew, Paul Wu, and Johnson Phan amongst others. The fight scenes, choreographed by Andrew Chin, were edited by Fontaine and look quite solid, meshing the old school Hong Kong kickboxing style with the ground game when needed. Despite a few flaws, this is still a directorial debut worth checking out. Well Go USA has the film on Digital HD and will have a Blu-Ray/DVD release on February 7

https://worldfilmgeek.com/2017/01/21/review-beyond-redemption-2015/

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New Police Story - A massively underrated Jackie film. His performance here is super solid. Lots of good, dramatic acting mixed with traditional Jackie styled action. Granted, the whole "partner" doesn't really sell itself but as far as "cops and robbers" films go, this isn't a bad one at all. Nicholas Tse is menacing enough to make for a god villain and his gang of ne'er do wells make for a nice nod towards "Point Break".
The fights might not come as thick and fast as we'd like but the "Lego fight" with Andy On is great as are the small scuffles early on in the film. There's even a nice nod to his original big bus stunt in the first "Police Story". It's definitely more dramatic than your average Jackie flick, but I think it stands out as one of his better modern films.

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6 minutes ago, Drunken Monk said:

Nicholas Tse is menacing enough to make for a god villain and his gang of ne'er do wells make for a nice nod towards "Point Break".

Nicholas Tse actually played his partner. The main villain was Daniel Wu.

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7 hours ago, Drunken Monk said:

New Police Story - A massively underrated Jackie film.

I will 2nd to that. Love it more than other police stories(haven`t seen 2013 film yet tho..)

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5 minutes ago, DrNgor said:

Nicholas Tse actually played his partner. The main villain was Daniel Wu.

Daniel even won a Best Supporting Actor award at the Golden Horse Awards for his performance as the villain Joe. Nicholas Tse was funny as the partner at times. His classic one-liner: "That's my man!" I would have loved to have seen a sequel/spin-off where because of his helping Chan, is able to become a police officer himself.

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I saw in the Lunar New Year with a couple of Stephen Chow New Year comedies, 'Legend of the Dragon' (1991) & 'All's Well End's Well' (1992).

I'll just discuss 'Legend of the Dragon' here, since 'All's Well End's Well' definitely doesn't have any kung-fu (although it's the superior movie of the two, cramming in a ridiculous amount of laugh out loud moments).  Chow stars as the son of a kung-fu master, played by Yuen Wah, in a small HK village in the New Territories.  Pre-dating 'Kung Fu Hustle' by 13 years, Chow already shows his love of the kung-fu genre here, by filling up the village with kung-fu movie luminaries.  In addition to Wah, Lee Hoi-Sang plays a blind temple keeper, Corey Yeun plays a policeman, and most significantly, Leung Kar Yan shows up as Wah's wayward brother, who's become a debt collector for the mob in HK city.

'Legend of the Dragon' is essentially a precursor to 'Shaolin Soccer', only instead of it being soccer, it's snooker.  As ridiculous as it sounds on paper, director Danny Lee (yes that Danny Lee) makes the concept translate well onscreen, even if kung-fu isn't incorporated into the games as blatantly as 'Shaolin Soccer'.  If you're a fan of snooker, you'll no doubt get a kick out of the fact that Chow's main adversary comes in the form of British snooker legend Jimmy White (playing himself).  While there's no standout fights as such, the theme of martial arts is present throughout, with one particularly hilarious scene having Wah rip his shirt off while being questioned in a police station, and delivering an entertaining spiel of how he was Bruce Lee's double.

While 'Legend of the Dragon' was made at a time when Chow was still getting a feel for his niche, his flair for both comedy and referencing kung-fu is very much present and accounted for here, so if you're a fan of either (or snooker!), then 'Legend of the Dragon' is well worth a watch.

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revisit fist of legend. Unfortunately I had dubbed dimension dvd only at hand, traded off DD disc away some years ago. I am not too interested of story here, it`s by no means a bad one but as all know just remake even as not quite 1:1 to fist of fury. Worked better in FoF because of Lee brought fury to screen, Jet is far more calm.

Action however is  excellent with several enjoyable scenes. Finale against Billy Chow is finest but director delivers other remarkable pieces of action around too, like jet vs kurata and group fight when japanese raid Jing Wu school.

It´s propably best jet li flick after OUATIC1&2, shaolin temples and last hero in China...

Sadly no kicking of "no dogs or chinese allowed" sign...

 

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