Archive for the Martial Arts Category

The Geisha of Gore’s TOP MOVIES OF 2012

Posted in 2012, 2013, Apocalyptic Films, Art Movies, Asian Horror, Best Of Lists, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, Gangsters!, Geisha of Gore Reviews, Martial Arts, Yakuza Films with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2013 by knifefighter

The Geisha of Gore’s Top Movies of 2012
By Colleen Wanglund

I don’t go to see new movies very often…in fact it’s rare.  Most of my theater-going experiences involve midnight screenings of older and classic films.  This past year, however, I did go to quite a few new movie screenings, mostly because of the New York Asian Film Festival this past summer.  Anyway, here are the movies I loved from 2012, in no particular order.

Vulgaria-Poster

VULGARIA (Hong Kong 2012) A truly laugh-out-loud comedy starring Chapman To about what one producer went through to get his porn film made, VULGARIA was an opening-night screening at Lincoln Center during the New York Asian Film Festival.  It included a Q&A with the film’s writer and director, Pang Ho-Cheung, who informed the sold-out crowd that the movie is based on true events.  I was very impressed with the fact that nothing was lost in the subtitled translation.

The_Raid_Redemption

THE RAID (Indonesia 2011) This film didn’t screen in the US until 2012 so it counts.  Written and directed by Welshman Gareth Evans, THE RAID stars Iko Uwais as Rama, an idealistic young cop who is along for a raid against a major drug lord’s stronghold—a whole apartment building full of (mostly) criminals.  The film is full of non-stop action, mostly of the martial arts variety.  It’s beautifully choreographed and there are a few nice surprises thrown into the story.

rabbithorror

TORMENTED (Japan 2011) Written and directed by Takashi Shimizu of JU-ON fame, TORMENTED (also known as RABBIT HORROR 3D) is a follow-up to his film THE SHOCK LABYRINTH (2009), but is not a true sequel.  The film tells the story of Kiriko (Hikari Mitsushima) whose younger brother has been mysteriously transported to another world by a giant bunny, and how she tries to save him.  I know it sounds weird, but I found it quite entertaining.  I also understand now how a giant stuffed rabbit can actually be scary.  To me it’s worth the viewing just for Christopher Doyle’s cinematography. TORMENTED is another film that did not make its debut in the US until 2012.

Nameless Gangster 4

NAMELESS GANGSTER (Korea 2012) This film stars the legendary (and one of my favorites) actor, Choi Min-sik, as a corrupt customs official who enters into the world of drug gangs almost by accident.  Written and directed by Yun Jong-bin, NAMELESS GANGSTER is an amazing gangster film that takes an unflinching look at corruption and nepotism in various levels of government and how they deal with the gangs that sell illegal drugs.  Choi is superb as a man who, regardless of the loyalty shown him, is only interested in personal gain and saving his own sorry ass.

444

4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH (USA 2011) I’ve included this movie because I saw its theatrical debut in 2012—which included a Q&A with famed cult film writer and director Abel Ferrara and star Shanyn Leigh.  4:44 follows artist couple Skye (Leigh) and Cisco (Willem Dafoe) during the last day of life on Earth.  It is a quiet yet powerful apocalyptic film that did, in fact, terrify me.  I really loved the subtly that Ferrara uses to tell this story and the fact that it elicited such an emotional response from me.

© Copyright 2013 by Colleen Wanglund

Quick Cuts Presents: BEST TARANTINO MOMENTS

Posted in 2013, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, LL Soares Reviews, Martial Arts, Michael Arruda Reviews, Quick Cuts, Tarantino Films with tags , , , , , on January 5, 2013 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTSQuentin Tarantino’s Finest Moments
With MICHAEL ARRUDA, L.L. SOARES, and COLLEEN WANGLUND

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  With the release of Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) on December 25, we’re asking our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters to name their favorite Quentin Tarantino moment.

Is it a specific scene?  A line of dialogue?  A scene he appeared in?  Or an entire movie?  In other words, when you think of Tarantino, what image/scene/linecomes to mind?

Okay Cinema Knife Fighters, what’s your favorite Quentin Tarantino moment(s)? 

 COLLEEN WANGLUND:  I love Quentin Tarantino’s films, even if they are outright remakes.

My favorite scenes both come from KILL BILL VOL 1 (2003). The first is the awesome fight scene between The Bride (Uma Thurman) and the Crazy Eighty-Eights in the nightclub in Japan. The extreme nature of the fighting and blood spray is glorious in its recreation of fights from Hong Kong martial arts and Japanese chanbara films of the 1960s and 70s.

Kill Bill Volume 1

Kill Bill Volume 1

The second is the final battle between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) on the roof in the snow. The music is incredible and the fight between the two ladies and their katanas is a beautiful homage (or an outright copy?) of the Japanese chanbara/rape revenge film LADY SNOWBLOOD (1973) directed by Toshiya Fujita.

ARRUDA:  It’s pretty straightforward for me.  Whenever I think of Tarantino, I always think of PULP FICTION (1994) which was the first film of his I saw.  I don’t know if it’s my favorite, but since it was the first one I saw, it’s the one I always think of when I think of Tarantino.

Pulp-Fiction

But whenever I picture him, I see him as the weirdo rapist bank robber Richard Gecko in the Robert Rodriquez vampire flick FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996).  Sure, this is a vampire movie, but it’s Tarantino’s performance as George Clooney’s insane brother that always stays with me after watching it.  He gets under my skin, far deeper than any of the vampires in this one.

L.L. SOARES: Tarantino wrote the screenplay to FROM DUST TILL DAWN as well.

For me, every Tarantino movie has a “punch to the gut” moment. Many movies have more than one. Usually, these include some killer dialogue, as well. Here are just some of my favorite Tarantino moments, but I could list a few from each of his movies:

RESERVOIR DOGS (1992):The discussion of Madonna’s song “Like a Virgin: at the beginning of the movie, and of course the “Stuck in the Middle with You” scene with Michael Madsen cutting off a cop’s ear.

PULP FICTION (1994): The scene towards the end where Sam Jackson gives a long speech that revolves around a quote from the Bible. Also, the scene where they have to plunge a needle of adrenaline into Uma Thurman’s heart to save her from an overdose, and of course the “Gimp” sequence.

It's the GIMP from PULP FICTION!

It’s the GIMP from PULP FICTION!

KILL BILL VOLUME 2 (2004): The scene where David Carradine gives his explanation why he believes Superman despised mankind. Brilliant dialogue!

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (2009): The beginning sequence where Christoph Waltz, as a Nazi officer, interrogates a family in a farmhouse.

DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) The scene where Leonardo DiCaprio, as Calvin Candie, gives a scary speech involving a skull and a hammer.

ARRUDA:  And that wraps things up for another edition of QUICK CUTS.  Thanks for joining us everybody!  Good night!

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, Colleen Wanglund and L.L. Soares

Nick Cato’s TOP 5 FILM EXPERIENCES OF 2012

Posted in 2012, 2013, Best Of Lists, Foreign Films, Grindhouse, Martial Arts, Nick Cato Reviews, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , on January 3, 2013 by knifefighter

Top 5 Film Experiences of 2012
By Nick Cato

I spend more time each year seeing retro-screenings of older films than new films, but this past year featured some solid, new grindhouse-quality releases. Here are my top 5 favorite film “experiences” of the year, featuring both new and old titles.

444

5) 4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH (2012): As a huge fan of Willem Dafoe, I’m always thrilled to see his latest project, especially when it’s an independent film. This downbeat apocalyptic drama by cult director Abel Ferrara features a different demise for mankind and has a tone all its own. I caught a Q&A session with Ferrara on opening night in Manhattan, which greatly enhanced the evening.

Vulgaria-Movie-Poster-Large

4) VULGARIA (2012): This comedy from Hong Kong had the crowd floored on opening night of the annual Asian Film Festival in New York City this past July. The director stated AMC theaters had acquired the rights to distribute this in limited release across the USA, so hopefully that’ll be happening soon. It centers around a film producer who lectures his class on the crazy things he has done over the years to finance some films. It’s sheer hysteria from beginning to end, all the more amazing as the print I saw was subtitled. Don’t miss it.

switchblade sisters

3) SWITCHBLADE SISTERS (1975): Jack Hill’s legendary, off-the-wall all-girl gang epic was featured in a rare 35mm screening at the Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn this past fall. Being able to see this on the big screen for the first time was a highlight of my filmgoing year (and life). If you’ve never seen it, you have yet to live.

The_Raid_Redemption

2) THE RAID: REDEMEPTION (2011): This action-packed Indonesian film had limited distribution in the USA in 2012, and even showed up at some major multiplexes around the country. A SWAT team raids an apartment complex a local drug gang has turned into their headquarters. The action and fight sequences are nearly non-stop, and a particularly brutal form of martial arts is used by the entire cast. A couple of knucklehead teenagers saw the subtitles and left during the first three minutes. They have no idea how GREAT a film they missed. The director even managed to sneak a couple of cool twists in-between the barrage of violence and suspense. Simply incredible.

salo

1) SALO: THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM (1975): Possibly the most controversial film of all time, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s dark epic came to NYC’s IFC Center in June, 2012 for a one-time showing and a sold out crowd. If you have seen it, but not on the big screen, words can’t describe how much more INSANE everything looks (and sounds), especially on this vintage 35mm print. While slow and repetitive at times, brutally mean spirited, and just downright depraved, Pasolini’s artistic look at a bunch of fascists who kidnap, torture and humiliate a bunch of teenagers into submission at an isolated Italian villa is as beautifully shot as it is painful to watch. SALO isn’t a pleasant or even enjoyable film to sit through, but it’s one any lover of obscure cinema should see at least once in their life…and if they can do it in a theater, all the better. Hearing a sold-out crowd giggle through one of the more disgusting sequences made it a bit easier to go down. Love it or hate it, SALO is a film that once seen can never be forgotten. (Editor’s Warning: SALO is not for the squeamish)

© Copyright 2013 by Nick Cato

JACK REACHER (2012)

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Conspiracy Theories, Crime Films, Fast Cars, Hit Men, Martial Arts, Revenge!, Rogue Cops, Tom Cruise Movies with tags , , , , , , , on December 24, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: JACK REACHER (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

jack-reacher(THE SCENE: A Shooting range. Strangely no one is there shooting.  All is silent.  MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES approach.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Today’s movie, JACK REACHER, has as its villain a sniper who shoots some innocent people in a rather jarring opening scene.

L.L. SOARES:  In light of the recent horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut, we’re just not in the mood to joke about this stuff.

MA:  That being said, our somber mood doesn’t in any way detract from our feelings towards this movie, one way or the other.

LS:  Nor do we believe such movies cause people to commit violent acts.

MA:  We both have seen our share of ridiculously violent movies, and we, like you, readers, take them for what they are: fiction, not reality.

LS:  Anyway, moving right along, hello everyone, and welcome to this week’s Cinema Knife Fight review. This time around we’re reviewing the new movie JACK REACHER, starring Tom Cruise.

MA: I’m not a Tom Cruise fan, so I wasn’t really looking forward to this one.

LS: You mean a new Tom Cruise movie isn’t a big event in the Arruda household?

MA:  Nope.

LS: So, does that mean you hated JACK REACHER?

MA:  You know me better than that.  You know I have an open mind.

LS:  You have a mind?

MA:  I have a mind to throw a cream pie in your face!

LS:  Yummy!

MA:  Anyway, why don’t you tell everyone what this movie is about first?

LS: Sure.

JACK REACHER is a character who has appeared in numerous novels by writer Lee Child (real name Jim Grant). This particular movie is based on Child’s novel ONE SHOT.

As the movie opens, we see a man in a multi-level parking garage aiming a sniper rifle. He looks around at various people in a park before he starts firing on them, killing five people. The police are able to track down a suspect and arrest James Barr (Joseph Sikora), who is back home after a stint in the Army in Afghanistan. When he is being interrogated by the police, he writes down “Get Jack Reacher,” but the police cannot find this man, since he lives off the grid and does not have a permanent address, or anything else that leads back to him. Reacher (Tom Cruise) sees Barr’s face on the news, however, and goes to the police station to investigate. The police, who have been unable to find Reacher, are surprised when he shows up on his own.

Reacher is a former military policeman, and at first, it’s not clear why Barr asked for him. Everyone assumes that Reacher is his friend, but Jack denies this. He discusses the case with the arresting officer, Emerson (David Oyelowo) and the District Attorney, Alex Rodin (Richard Jenkins, who we recently saw previously this year in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS and KILLING THEM SOFTLY), who is prosecuting Barr, but when they are not willing to involve Reacher in their investigation (they only give him a limited number of facts), he says he is leaving town. What stops him is Rodin’s daughter Helen (Rosamund Pike) who is also a lawyer like her father, but she is defending Barr.

Reacher reveals that, in the Army, he tracked some murders down to Barr, but Barr was able to avoid being imprisoned. However, Barr is afraid of Reacher and swore to the man at the time of his arrest back then that he would never do anything like that again. It turns out that Barr asked for Reacher’s involvement because things may not be as they seem in this particular case. And if anyone can uncover the truth, it’s an investigative pit bull like Reacher. Jack works with Helen Rodin to find the truth, both for Reacher’s peace of mind, and for Helen to be able to defend Barr in court.

The more Reacher snoops around, the more it becomes clear that someone doesn’t want him sticking his nose in the investigation. Things are done to get Reacher to drop the case, but he isn’t so easy to get rid of. The storyline eventually involves a long, high-speed car chase, and a bloody showdown at a construction site.

Just what is Barr’s involvement in this case? Who is trying to eliminate Reacher? And who can he trust? These are just some of the questions that pop up during the course of JACK REACHER.

 jack_reacher,4

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. Based on the trailers, I thought it was a movie where Cruise would be playing an unstoppable killing machine, like he did in the movie COLLATERAL (2004), where he played a merciless hit man. But JACK REACHER was different than the way the trailers made him look.

MA:  Yes, the movie did play out differently from what was hinted at in the trailers, which for me, was a good thing. I expected a DIRTY HARRY clone, a glossy and superficial storyline with Cruise smart-assing his way through the script, but that’s not what JACK REACHER is at all.  Fortunately, it’s better than that.

LS:  Instead of playing an over-the-top vigilante, Cruise is rather low-key as Reacher, keeping things intense throughout. You’re never exactly sure what Reacher’s limits are, and if he is willing to cross certain moral and legal lines to achieve his goals. While reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s iconic Dirty Harry character, Reacher is more complex, and it’s interesting to see Cruise bring the character to life.

In the books, Reacher is six foot five and about 250 pounds. He’s an intimidating character. Obviously, Tom Cruise does not share the same dimensions, and yet, he’s able to make it work. You believe he is a driven, formidable individual who is not to be messed with.

MA:  And that’s the best part of Cruise’s performance for me.  I believed him in this role, and I bought that he could do the things he does in this movie.  While watching the film, I believed I was watching a guy named Jack Reacher, not golden boy actor Tom Cruise doing his shtick.

So, I have to admit, I enjoyed Cruise a lot in this movie.  He did a good job bringing Jack Reacher to life, especially since he’s not a huge hulking figure like the character in the book.  The other thing that worked for me is that while Cruise still looks great for his age (he’s 50) he’s looking a little older here, a bit more weathered and rougher around the edges, and it added to the believability of his character.

Cruise seemed natural in the role, and he never came off as arrogant, which I liked.  All in all, he makes for a very compelling Jack Reacher.

LS: The rest of the cast is pretty good, too. Especially Rosamund Pike as Helen.

MA:  Really?  I wasn’t as crazy about Pike.  I thought she ran hot and cold.  While I believed Helen was a smart attorney, she too often took a back seat to Jack Reacher and his unconventional methods. She spends most of the movie reacting to things he’s done, rather than doing things on her own.  Now, I realize this is a movie about Jack Reacher, but this is what I’m talking about in terms of Pike’s performance:  she didn’t flesh out Helen as much as I wish she had. Ultimately she’s there just to be rescued, and for a dedicated attorney who really wanted to keep her client off death row, I never really felt this passion.

I enjoyed her more, going back a ways, in the Pierce Brosnan James Bond flick DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002), in which she had a small but memorable role.

LS: I thought Pike’s character in JACK REACHER was believable as a woman who is not totally confident in what she is doing; who wonders if taking on this case was a mistake at one point. She is willing to let Reacher take over, because he is much more determined and not easily swayed when people try to put him off the scent. She’s not a particularly self-assured character, and I liked that. The fact that she does become sort of a damsel in distress toward the movie’s end was a little distressing, but it fit the storyline and didn’t strain believability The fact is, not everyone’s brave all the time, or indestructible.

Richard Jenkins as D.A. Alex Rodin, and German director Werner Herzog, as a mysterious man called The Zec, are also very good. I am a big fan of Herzog, as a director. He has made some cinema classics, like AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD (1972) and FITZCARRALDO (1982), both of which starred the great Klaus Kinski, and he has recently been making some documentaries as well, some of which have been quite popular, like GRIZZLY MAN (2005).  He has done some acting before, mostly in independent films like Harmony Korine’s movies JULIEN DONKEY-BOY (1999) and MISTER LONELY (2007), and he’s quite good here.

MA:  Jenkins delivers another excellent performance in what is becoming a regular occurrence, and Werner Herzog is very creepy as the villain The Zec.  The only problem I had with the character is when all is said and done, his villainous plans don’t seem anywhere near as dastardly as you would expect from a guy as scary as he is.  While Herzog creates a disturbing heavy in The Zec, the guy’s not exactly the most ambitious villain you’ll see in a movie.

LS: I agree. Herzog goes to all this trouble to make The Zec creepy as hell, and you think this is going to lead to some truly intense confrontation between him and Reacher at the end, and what happens is a bit of a disappointment. Although, what happens is believable behavior for both of their characters.

Even Robert Duvall shows up late in the film, as a former Marine named Cash who runs a shooting range, and who becomes Reacher’s unlikely ally.

MA: I thought Duvall was great.

And I also really liked Alexia Fast as Sandy, a young woman who crosses paths with Reacher when her not-so-smart friends are hired to rough up Reacher, and she’s used as bait.  Things don’t turn out too well for them.  But Fast makes Sandy both sexy and vulnerable, and you really feel for her, as does Reacher, in an almost paternal way.  For a small role, I thought Fast stood out as Sandy

LS: I agree, I liked Fast a lot as Sandy. I thought she would have a bigger role in the movie as it developed, but she’s in it just as long as she needs to be. She’s a stand-out here, and I want to see more of her. She really shines.

I also really liked Jai Courtney in the role of Charlie, who turns out to be the main villain here. Courtney previously played Varro in the Showtime series SPARTACUS: VENGEANCE (2010), and I think he is just as intense as Reacher by the end of this movie. Early on, you think he’s going to be a pushover, but he’s not at all, and there’s a great fight scene toward the end between him and Reacher.

MA:  Yes, that is a great fight scene, and I liked Courtney a lot too.

LS:  Aside from the acting, I also found the storyline pretty riveting.

MA:  Ditto.

LS:  The screenplay is by Christopher McQuarrie, who also gave us the scripts for the excellent THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995), and another Tom Cruise movie, VALKYRIE (2008). McQuarrie also directed JACK REACHER, and this is his second time in the director’s chair (the first was THE WAY OF THE GUN (2000) starring Ryan Phillipe and Benicio Del Toro, which I also liked). The script and the direction here are quite good.

MA:  I agree.  JACK REACHER is a riveting movie, and one of the reasons why is the direction by Christopher McQuarrie.  There’s some pretty cool fight scenes in this one, and one helluva car chase sequence that was as good as anything we saw in DRIVE (2011) and reminded me of one of the all-time best car chases on film, the Steve McQueen movie BULLITT (1968) directed by Peter Yates.

LS: There are also some great scenes of dark humor, like whenever Reacher goes up against the local thugs. I actually laughed out loud a couple of times.

MA:   You’re right.  There were some genuine funny lines.

And while I enjoyed the script, in that Reacher has a lot of memorable lines, and the dialogue rings true throughout, I thought the plot grew more contrived as it went along.  The whole conspiracy aspect gets old, and then it plays the “someone you trust is really working for the bad guys” card.  While the character of Jack Reacher remains compelling throughout the movie, I can’t say the same for the plot.  I thought it grew predictable towards the end.

LS: The last 15 minutes or so are the weakest part of the movie in my opinion, and things tie up a little too easily after the complexity of the rest of the movie. But it’s not enough to ruin what came before it.

MA: While I liked the pacing for the most part, I thought at two hours and ten minutes that it ran a little long.  I could have used about 15 minutes shaved off this one.

LS: I’m always complaining about how movies seem to be longer than they need to be. It’s quantity over quality, with directors and studios thinking movies have to be long to seem worth the price of a movie ticket, often to the detriment of the movie itself. But, in this case, I thought JACK REACHER was fine at its length. There never was one part that I felt went on longer than it needed to. And I thought the pacing was good.

Except for some issues I had with the ending, JACK REACHER works, and it’s a good vehicle for Cruise, who clearly would like to turn this into a franchise (there are about 18 books so far in the series, so there’s a lot of possible material there).

MA:  And that would take him into his 70s, where he’d still be sporting dark brown hair and kicking bad guys’ butts.  Will Cruise ever show some gray hair?

LS:  One word of warning, however. Some audience members may have an issue with the overwhelming use of guns throughout the movie.

MA:  Guns in a movie?  Oh my!  It’s guns in real life they ought to be worried about.

LS: I agree, and I hesitate to bring this up. But in the beginning of the film, especially, where the sniper kills his victims, it may be too much for some viewers after the recent real-life tragedy in Connecticut. This will not be true of everyone, but I wanted to put it out there. As time goes on, and people see this movie later on DVD or Netflix, they’ll wonder what all the hubbub was about. It’s all about timing.

MA: Yeah, in that way, the timing for the release of this movie couldn’t have been worse.  In fact, it was supposed to open in some markets last week, but the producers delayed its premiere.

And yes, the opening scene is very jarring because of what just happened in Connecticut.  I found it painful to watch, as I’m sure a lot of other people will as well.

But moving away from real life for a moment, another reason this scene is so riveting is the way it’s shot by director McQuarrie.  It’s shot through the eye of the shooter, and as such it’s a very uncomfortable scene to watch, and yet, it’s not tasteless in terms of graphic violence.  I’m not even sure we actually see someone shot.  I think the shots occur off camera in quick clever cut-ways just at the dreaded moment.

LS: Yet it’s intense, and it works.

MA: This scene would have been tasteless if the movie were glorifying sniper shooting, but it’s not doing that at all.  Sure, there’s a lot of killing in this movie, but none of it is glorified.

For a PG-13 movie, I thought JACK REACHER did a good job cranking up the intensity.  In addition to this opening scene, there’s also a disturbing scene involving someone chewing his own fingers off.  Now, nothing is shown here, but it still works.  It’s compelling storytelling.

LS: That scene involves The Zec, and again, I was disappointed they built him up to be such a scary character and then pretty much don’t do anything with him.

I was surprised it was PG-13, because it didn’t seem to be sanitized or dumbed down, like a lot of movies are to reach a wider audience.  JACK REACHER has teeth. It’s a solid thriller, and a better movie than I expected.  I give it three knives.

MA:  I give it three knives as well.   I also liked it more than I thought I would. Jack Reacher is a character who I enjoyed watching, and I think I’d enjoy seeing him in other movies as well.  And Tom Cruise does a nice job bringing this guy to life.

Jack Reacher is a character who I enjoyed watching, and I think I’d enjoy seeing him in other movies as well.  And Tom Cruise does a nice job bringing this guy to life.

In addition to being a solid action movie, JACK REACHER is also a decent detective film, as it’s fun seeing how Reacher goes about piecing together clues and figuring out the answers to many of the movie’s questions.  The evidence against his friend is overwhelming, yet Reacher sees a something right away at the crime scene which raises a red flag for him, and what he sees, as he explains it, makes perfect sense to us the audience.

LS: As Reacher says several times in the movie, Barr is not his friend.

MA: Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher probably does more sleuthing than Robert Downey Jr. in the recent SHERLOCK HOLMES movies.

While I found the plot somewhat more contrived towards the end, the concluding segment to JACK REACHER, where Reacher has to come to the rescue of Helen, I found very satisfying.  It’s an exciting sequence.

That being said, things do get wrapped up neat and tidy by the end of the movie, probably too much for my tastes, although I didn’t have a major problem with this since it sort of  fits in with Jack Reacher’s style.  He’s a slick professional who never leaves traces of himself behind.  When he finishes a job, he makes a clean exit, disappearing into the night once more.

JACK REACHER is a very good movie, solid and compelling throughout, well worth a trip to the movies.

And on that note, we leave you.

LS:  Until next time.

(MA & LS exit in silence, as 26 candles illuminate the field behind them.)

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives JACK REACHER ~ three knives!

LL Soares gives JACK REACHER ~three knives.

THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (2012)

Posted in 2012, Based on Classic Films, Campy Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Exotic Locales, Fantasy, Gore!, Kung Fu!, Martial Arts with tags , , , , , , , on November 5, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (2012)
By Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

(The Scene: A Chinese village.  On one side of the street stand warriors dressed as lions, and on the opposite side are warriors dressed like wolves.  Between them is a bordello, with beautiful Chinese women dancing in the windows.  On the bright red roof of the building, stand MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  It looks like a good battle tonight, between the heavily favored lions and the underdog wolves.

L.L. SOARES:  This sounds suspiciously like a sporting event.  I think I’ll pass.  (Starts climbing down the side of the building.)

MA:  Hey!  Where are you going?

LS:  Where do you think I’m going? (Below him, an attractive woman waves at LS, and he winks back).

MA:  You can’t leave!  We have a movie to review.

LS:  Well, let’s get started then.  I was ready before, but you started watching that skirmish down there.

MA:  It looks like a good contest, as long as the wolves don’t go taking their shirts off, that is.

LS (climbing back onto the roof):  That’ll happen in two weeks.  When we review the final TWILIGHT movie.

MA:  Don’t remind me!  (He shudders).  All right, let’s start this week’s review.

Today, we’re reviewing THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (2012) a stylish action yarn directed by hip hopper RZA, who also co-wrote the script with Eli Roth, and stars in the lead role as well.

The story is narrated by the Blacksmith (RZA) who tells us he makes weapons for warriors so he can save enough money to run away from Jungle Village with the love of his life, Lady Silk (Jamie Chung).

When a warrior, Gold Lion (Kuan Tai Chen), leader of the Lion Clan, is betrayed and murdered by his right hand man Silver Lion (Byron Mann), Gold Lion’s son X-Blade (Rick Yune) vows to avenge his father’s death.  In killing Gold Lion, Silver Lion and his warriors also steal a treasure in gold, which Gold Lion had been protecting.  The Emperor wants his gold back, and dispatches an army to wipe out the Chinese village unless he gets it back.

LS: That’s actually a pretty good synopsis.

MA: Wait. I’m not done yet.  There’s more.

Meanwhile, the Wolf Clan wants the gold as well, and vows to defeat Silver Lion and his men.  All of this is good for business for Blacksmith, as he makes weapons for everyone and his grandmother.

LS: Kind of like how Toshiro Mifune worked for both sides of a gang war in old Japan in YOJIMBO (1961). But he had a much more devious plan in mind…

MA: A mysterious British soldier named Jack Knife (Russell Crowe), also descends on Jungle Village, and he may or not be working as an agent for the Emperor.  And when people come to this village, they all seem to stay at Madame Blossom’s (Lucy Liu) place, a brothel where the girls are more than just prostitutes.  You guessed it.  They’re warriors, too!

Silver Lion and his fellow felines seem to have the upper hand, as they have a secret weapon, a warrior known as Brass Body (Dave Bautista), a seemingly unstoppable killer who can cover his body with brass at will, and when he does so, he looks like a polished cousin of The Thing from the FANTASTIC FOUR.

LS (laughs): Yeah, he did kind of.

MA: Which warrior will win?  Who gets the gold?  And will Blacksmith survive all the fighting around him in order to escape with the girl of his dreams?  To find out, you’ll have to see the movie, but I can save you the trouble and tell you that the answers really aren’t all that compelling. You see, surprisingly, I found THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS to be a disappointment.

LS: You forgot to mention that at one point The Blacksmith gets half of his arms hacked off by the Lion Clan and he replaces them with iron hands. Don’t worry, it’s not a spoiler. It’s in the title! Man, those giant iron hands of his look kind of cool and goofy at the same time.

MA: I just couldn’t get into this movie.  While it did have a story to tell, unlike last week’s disaster SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D, I found it to be a mediocre one at best, and while it was chock full of colorful characters with wild sounding names, these guys really didn’t do a whole lot.  As a result, I didn’t really know the characters all that well, and I would have to say that was my biggest disappointment with this one.

For example, Jack Knife (Russell Crowe) enjoys a very memorable and very cool introductory scene, where he tangles with a guy named Crazy Hippo.  I love that name, Crazy Hippo.  But then, that’s about it.  Jack Knife doesn’t really stand out in any other scenes.  He becomes, like the rest of the cast, just a character in a fight scene.  He’s not really a person.

LS: Yeah, Crazy Hippo is pretty funny. And I agree about Jack Knife. He has a terrific entrance, but nothing else he does lives up to it. Russell Crowe actually disturbed me a little in this movie. He looks bloated and old, nothing like the guy we enjoyed in movies like GLADIATOR (2000) and CINDERELLA MAN (2005). He used to be a buff tough-guy! Man, did he age quickly!

MA: We don’t know what motivates him, where he’s come from, or where he’s going.  He’s just there to fight.  When I first saw him, I thought of Clint Eastwood’s A Man With No Name, but he becomes the Man With No Storyline.

LS: Good point.

(A group of warriors suddenly comes up on the roof with them. They are dressed like wolves. The leader looks an awful lot like TAYLOR LAUTNER)

LAUTNER: So you guys love to make fun of me in your reviews of the TWILIGHT movies, huh? Well, here’s where you get yours.

LS: Don’t forget to take your shirt off, first. Wouldn’t want to get that thing dirty.

LAUTNER (takes off his shirt): Thanks for reminding me.

(Warriors attack, and MA and LS continue with their review as they fight them off)

MA: Similarly, X-Blade vows to avenge his father’s death, but then he disappears for the bulk of the movie.

Blacksmith (RZA) should be the driving force of this story, but he really isn’t.  He shares no chemistry with the love of his life, Lady Silk, and he’s missing any kind of passion as things grow more difficult for him.  The more he becomes involved with this deadly group of warriors and assassins, the worse things get for him and his plan to whisk his woman away, but you wouldn’t know it by watching him. He expresses about as much urgency to escape his troubles as a nail.  We don’t really see any emotion in him until the end, and that emotion— no surprise here— is anger, as he seeks vengeance against those who maimed him.

LS: Well, I think I can solve that particular mystery. RZA is a really talented guy, but acting isn’t one of his talents. As for his chemistry with Lady Silk, it’s nothing to do with her. He doesn’t really have chemistry with anyone.

MA:  Good point.

LS:  Look, with THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, he shows us that he’s a director with potential. He just isn’t as promising as an actor. There are a few scenes, especially when he has his big showdown with Brass Body, when you just know he had a blast filming this stuff.  It’s like he finally gets the chance to be a superhero. But we don’t get to have as much fun, because his acting is pretty bad. He has one emotion throughout, which sometimes seems like solemn seriousness, but in the end just seems like he didn’t know what else to do with the character. His performance says “this is a serious guy,” but then, he’s got nothing else to say. I know it must have felt terrific to get to star in your first big movie as a director, but for the audience, we needed a lead actor with more dimension.

MA:  Maybe he should have hired Denzel Washington, although Denzel might be a little old for the role, I guess.

LS: Are you kidding? Denzel can do anything!

MA: THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS boasts three main characters—Blacksmith, Jack Knife, and X-Blade—who should be strong enough to carry an entire movie on their own, but they can’t even do it together.  These guys should be cool, but it turns out they’re too superficial for this to be the case.

Ultimately, then, the script by RZA and Eli Roth does this movie in.  It presents a somewhat interesting premise, a tale of warriors and assassins and a treasure of gold, but it isn’t fleshed out to the degree that it’s a solid, entertaining story.  I expected the gold to be fought over by a group of strong characters, but we hardly know these folks.  It makes their efforts that less interesting.

LS: Yep, the script isn’t very good. Of course, you can’t put all the blame on RZA for that. Eli Roth is a veteran at this stuff, and should have provided more pizazz to the proceedings. Roth knows how to write a good script, so the fact that he couldn’t beef this one up makes him look like the weak link here. He should have been able to enhance RZA’s ideas and concepts and turn this into a really kick-ass movie. As is, he kind of lets the guy down.

(LS and MA stop for a moment, to see that they have defeated all of the wolf warriors, who lay unmoving on the roof)

LS: That was easy.

MA: Yeah, I haven’t even worked up a sweat.

LS: As you were saying?

MA: There really aren’t any memorable lines either.  This one should have been better.

I did like the slick style of the action scenes here, and I thought RZA’s directorial effort was a good one.  If anything, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS is fun to look at.  But without compelling characters, this one feels like one long music video, with lots of colorful characters putting on their moves for some polished choreographed fight sequences, but no one really saying or doing anything of interest.

LS: And that, ultimately, is the problem with the movie. RZA shows visual flare as a director. His action scenes are great. There’s a lot of interesting use of color. The fighting and the gore scenes look good. The non-action scenes aren’t as strong, but that feels more like the weakness of the script than RZA’s directing. It’s like he took on all of the responsibilities he could, and in the end, it just shows us what his strengths are, and what they aren’t.  But since his name is all over this movie, in the end, he’s the one who’s going to get most of the criticsm.

As a director, he’s got some promise. But he needs someone with a surer hand to write the scripts (clearly not Eli Roth, who I normally like a lot!), and he needs to leave the acting to the professionals.

But in the end, what is the goal here? In some ways, I felt like THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS was just trying to be a stylish homage to the old chop-socky grindhouse films of yore. The kinds of movies RZA grew up on and that clearly have influenced him throughout his career (the group of rappers he belongs to is called the Wu-Tang Clan, after all, after an old martial arts film), and as a homage to old school kung-fu movies, it kind of works. The thing is, it doesn’t strive to be anything more. Sure there are some fun scenes here, some great action, and a goofy, if tired, plot. But the fact that RZA shows potential as a director means he should have been able to give us a lot more than what’s on the screen, and it feels like he held back.

Ultimately, the biggest disappointment about THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS is that its director didn’t cut loose and give us something really spectacular. Hopefully, if he gets a chance to direct another movie, he’ll be more confident and really blow our minds.

(Suddenly, TAYLOR LAUTNER stirs and wakes up)

LAUTNER (raising his fist to the sky): Damn you critics! This was to be my moment of victory. Of revenge. And you robbed me of even that. Once again you have humiliated me and my pack…

(LS pushes him off the edge of the roof, and he falls onto the Lion Clan below. Who then take turns beating the crap out of him)

MA (looking down): Well, at least he didn’t get his shirt dirty.

Anyway, as you mentioned, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS is not really an actor’s movie either.  The actors are here to fight, not to act, and as a result no one in this movie really stands out.  RZA certainly didn’t wow me as Blacksmith.  He seemed too reserved throughout this movie for a guy in his predicament.  Russell Crowe enjoyed a couple of good moments early on as Jack Knife, but later he too is reduced to a music video/video game persona.

Dave Bautista is somewhat memorable as Brass Body, but only because of the way he looks and the neat special effects which turn him into a shiny brass fighting machine, not because of his acting performance.

LS: I liked Brass Body a lot. But you’re right, he has just one emotion, like The Blacksmith. In a bad grindhouse movie, that’s fine. But this movie could have transcended that.

Brass Body (Dave Bautista) and the Blacksmith (RZA) battle it out in one of the movie’s highlights in THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS.

As for the women, their roles are pretty thankless, but I did like Lucy Liu as the bordello’s Madam Blossom. I almost always like her in these kinds of things. She’s pretty reliable. And she seems to be having fun. Jamie Chung is beautiful as Lady Silk, but she doesn’t have hardly anything to do. There are lots of other very pretty women in the bordello, but their just reduced to eye candy. The scene where the bunch of them fight back is a highlight, though.

MA: Yeah, but over all, this movie surprisingly lacked in the “cool” department.  I expected it to be cool with an edge, with either a bawdy sense of humor or in-your-face action sequences to drive it along, but the film has neither.  It’s nowhere near as hard-hitting as I expected.  Sure, there are a couple of gory scenes, but most of the violence is of the superficial variety, not all that realistic looking, and somewhat diminished by fake looking CGI blood.

LS: I am so tired of CGI blood! I want the texture and ooziness of old-fashioned Karo syrup! I’m sure the CGI stuff is so much easier to clean up, but man, does it look fake!

MA:  It really looks fake!  It either needs to be improved, or filmmakers should seriously consider not using it as an effect.

THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS is a stylish piece of eye candy that unfortunately has very little else to offer, other than its slick visuals.  Its story is mediocre, and its characters aren’t fleshed out, as they come off like music video characters, not movie characters, and as result, they aren’t there to back up the colorful shenanigans director RZA so smoothly splashes onto the screen.

I give it two knives.

LS: I pretty much agree on every level. This is a hopeful debut by director RZA, I just wish that the movie hadn’t played it safe and cranked up the volume.

I give it two knives as well. It’s not a horrible movie. But it’s not the balls-to-the-wall martial arts flick I was hoping for, either. It’s just kind of blah.

MA:  And blah is the right word, which for a movie like this, I find unbelievable.  How can a movie with characters named Jack Knife, X-Blade, and Crazy Hippo be blah?  Yet, it is.

LS:  In our Coming Attractions column, I said that the trailer made this movie look like a stylish martial arts flick like Tarantino’s KILL BILL movies. But that’s silly. The KILL BILL movies are so amazing, because Tarantino is one of the best directors alive, and he can make any genre of movie into something fantastic. RZA has got a real sense of style, but he’s no Tarantino.

Oh well, I had high hopes for this one, but the honest fact is, it’s a movie by a first-time director who needs more experience before he can give us something really worthwhile. But at least he’s on the right track. Hopefully, he can only get better.

(We can hear TAYLOR LAUTNER crying below as he gets the stuffing kicked out of him. His wails and sobbing get louder as we FADE TO BLACK)

-end-

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS ~ two knives!

LL Soares gives THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS ~two knives.

Cinema Knife Fight COMING ATTRACTIONS – NOVEMBER 2012

Posted in 2012, Coming Attractions, Hit Men, Martial Arts, Vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT – COMING ATTRACTIONS:
NOVEMBER 2012
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene:  A lavishly decorated bedroom.  Several beautiful Asian women lay on a huge bed.  L.L. SOARES karate chops his way through the bedroom door.)

ASIAN WOMAN:  Can we interest you in some pleasure?

L.L. SOARES:  You’re business.  (Lifts axe above his head.)  This is pleasure.  (Swings axe, and women run away, screaming in terror.)

(MICHAEL ARRUDA enters the room.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Scaring the women away again, I see.

LS:   At least I’m trying to scare them.  What’s your excuse?

MA:  Huh?

LS:  When was the last time you went on a date?

MA:  Shh!  I’m too busy watching all these movies.  Speaking of which, it’s time for our November Coming Attractions column.  There are some interesting movies this month.

We kick things off this weekend with a review of THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS.  I have to say, I’m really looking forward to this one, as the trailer is pretty cool.  It looks like it’s going to be a hoot.

Directed by RZA of hip hop fame, with a screenplay by Eli Roth and RZA, this actioner takes place in feudal China and features assassins, warriors, and soldiers all fighting over a treasure of gold.  It stars Russell Crowe, RZA, and Lucy Liu.

Based on its stylish and high-octane trailer, this one looks like fun.

LS:  What’s not to love? I’m a big fan of RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan, I’m a big fan of Eli Roth, and this one is produced by Quentin Tarantino. It looks a little one of those super-stylized martial arts flicks, like Tarantino’s KILL BILL movies, and it should be a great time.

I hope it lives up to our expectations.

MA:  On November 9, the action continues with our review of the new James Bond flick, SKYFALL.  I’m actually reviewing this one with Nick Cato.  (turns to LS)  Do you have something against James Bond or something?

LS:  Not really. I’ve just never been a big fan of the series. I know some people are nuts for James Bond movies, but I’ve found a lot of them to be kind of…well…boring. Truth is, I think Daniel Craig is great in the role, and I liked him a lot in CASINO ROYALE (2006), but I figured that the new one should be reviewed by hardcore fans, and I know you dig the series. And I know Nick is a huge fan, too. So I decided to sit this one out and let two Bondies review the new movie.

MA:  Bondies?

LS: Or whatever it is you Bond fans call yourselves. Bondians? Besides, it gives me a weekend off.

MA: I remember not knowing what to expect with the first Daniel Craig Bond movie, CASINO ROYALE, because I’d heard they had made lots of changes, but I ended up loving that film and enjoying the next one QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008) even more.

I enjoyed Craig’s interpretation of Bond: a much grittier, darker hero, than the previous Bonds, and he’s as rough and tough as Sean Connery’s original interpretation of 007.  The two Craig Bond movies really didn’t play like previous Bond films.  The filmmakers deviated from the traditional Bond formula, and the films were better for it.

The only thing I’m concerned about is I enjoyed the previous two films so much, I wonder if this film will be as good?  Of course, there have been so many James Bond movies, and they have a proven track record, so I’m reasonably confident this movie is going to be good.

In addition to Daniel Craig as James Bond, the cast also includes notable actors Javier Bardem, who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN in 2007, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, and Judi Dench, who returns for the seventh time as M.

LS:  On 11/16, we’ll be reviewing TWILIGHT BREAKING DAWN PART II.

(MA groans).

LS:  Don’t worry, it’s almost over. BREAKING DAWN PART II is the final film in the TWILIGHT series. At least I hope it is. You should be proud of yourself. We’ve sat through every single movie in the TWILIGHT franchise. That’s quite an accomplishment! We can’t just walk away and not watch the final one.

MA: Why not?

LS: Because the fans expect us to see it and review it. And, most likely, rip it to shreds.

MA:  I have nothing to say about this one, other than I can’t believe I’m still alive after having to sit through the previous movies in this series.  God-awful, and then some!

The weekend of 11/23, Thanksgiving weekend, has a couple of movies that might be of interest. First, LIFE OF PI opens on 11/21.  I don’t know much about this one, other than it’s directed by Ang Lee and looks to be some sort of fantasy. Then there’s the remake of RED DAWN also opening that weekend.

LS:  I think it’s a long-shot if we review either one. Most likely we’ll take that weekend off. Even we deserve a holiday. Besides, if no one else on the staff reviews them, we’ll no doubt have something else cooked up for our readers.

And we finish the month with a review of KILLING THEM SOFTLY, which opens on November 30.  This one has Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini as hit men who are called in to handle some yahoos who robbed a mob-run poker game. It actually looks pretty cool.

MA:  I agree that this one looks good. It looks like a hard-edged crime thriller, and it’s got a solid cast. Along with Pitt and Gandolfini, there’s Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, and Sam Shepard.

It should be a strong way to finish the month.

Okay, that wraps things up for November.  We’ll see you on Monday with our review of THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS.

LS:  Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you again soon.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou: FANTASY MISSION FORCE (1982)

Posted in "So Bad They're Good" Movies, 2012, 80s Movies, Action Movies, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Campy Movies, Just Plain Fun, Just Plain Weird, Martial Arts, Nazis, William Carl Articles, Wrestlers with tags , , , , , on August 30, 2012 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

William D. Carl

This Week’s Feature Presentation:

FANTASY MISSION FORCE (1982)

Fantasy Mission Force

Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made.  If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable—then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.   Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.  Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.

Every once in a great while, a film comes along that is so weird, so twisted, so indescribable that you can only sit back and marvel at it. . . hopefully while inebriated.  I caught this week’s offering, FANTASY MISSION FORCE (1982) or Mi Ni Te Gong Dui, at a double feature chop-sockey martial arts festival with a group of disbelieving friends.  Now, as I re-watch it, all I can think is “What.  The.  Hell?”  This is no typical martial arts film.  This is no typical film at all.  What it is could best be described as a whirlwind homage to every genre known to man.  If every past and future Quentin Tarantino film were placed in a blender along with several Tex Avery cartoons and a Three Stooges short, you might just get something like FANTASY MISSION FORCE.

In some unknown time period (in various parts the movie looks like it could take place in the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1940s, or the 1980s), the Chinese and the Japanese are at war.  A Jeep with the brave Lieutenant Don in it gets through several booby traps, machine gun wielding Japanese in blackface, some bombs, and arrives at the tent of two other Chinese generals, General Johnson and General Thompson (!).  A group of Western generals, including Abraham Lincoln (again, what?), have been captured by the Japanese and are being taken from Luxemburg back to Tokyo to use in propaganda films for WW2.  According to the generals, Snake Plissken’s been dead for years.  Rocky isn’t suitable for action, and James Bond has gone missing.  It’s up to Lieutenant Don to recruit a rag-tag ‘Dirty Dozen type’ of group of commandos to set the generals free before the Japanese convince the world they have won World War 2.

Then, the titles start over “la-la-la…wooo wooo…lalala….wooo wooo” Chinese pop music from the 1960s that I swear I heard in BEACH BLANKET BINGO (1963).  A group of singing and dancing waiters, led by a Chinese man dressed like a Mexican Bandito (I ain’t makin’ this up folks), all drink tons of beer during an insane musical number (“What a way to treat a wife…la-la-la ha-ha-ha!”)  A black man in a tuxedo and a red headband tells the bandito to call him Pappa then gives him a gun, which he uses to rob the restaurant.  The Frito Bandito is actually a friend of (now) Captain Don, and he joins the force.

The Frito Bandito as an action hero?

Next, we find a group of prisoners working on the chain gang, and after a brief martial arts fight, a gun battle, and a pick-axe fight, one prisoner named Greased Lightning escapes.  He discovers an elegant candle-lit banquet table full of food in the woods.  While he eats, he is recruited by Captain Don and the bandito.

Next, we have a wrestling match between “the killer from Japan” and, from New York City, “the China Doll Sammy,” played by none other than Jackie Chan (RUMBLE IN THE BRONX– 1995, RUSH HOUR – 1998).  Rumor has it Chan owed the director a favor for saving him from a Triad, so he played a small part for star power in the flick, but his boxing match is a great scene and a fun highlight.  His beautiful consort (and partner in crime) Emily wears all black with huge plastic boots up to her knees.  During the entire scene, I kept thinking of the Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes cartoon where Bugs fight The Crusher.  There’s even giant cigars that explode and sumo jokes, and it’s genuinely hilarious!  As they run off with the money, Sammy and Lily are stopped by corrupt military police, bribe them, and escape.

Jackie Chan wrestles under the name “China Doll Sammy.”

Next, in a RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) type of drinking contest, in which a beautiful woman and a man take turns drinking shots then shooting away a tied-up woman’s clothes, the woman wins with her terrific knife-throwing skills.  Turns out it was a sting operation, and her partner, the man, and the half naked girl, all have to fight their way out of the bar.  A Wayne Newton look-alike comes for her, and they slap the crap out of each other while confessing their love, despite the fact that he can’t remember her name…Lily.  She is played by the terrific Brigitte Lin (POLICE STORY1985, THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR1993, and CHUNKING EXPESSone of my all time favorite filmsfrom 1994).  After a tender love scene between Wayne and Lily, Captain Dan offers the guy a job, and Wayne Newton leaves Lily tied up and gagged as he takes up the Captain’s offer.  She, of course, doesn’t take kindly to this, so she does what any woman would do.  She grabs every weapon known to man, armors herself up, and uses a bazooka to take out their house and all his possessions!

The lovely Brigitte Lin.

Suddenly, we’re in a Benny Hill skit with Chinese men dressed as Scots doing maneuvers in fast motion in kilts to bagpipe music.  (Still not making any of this up.)

Back to Lilyour heroine takes out almost the whole Scottish army base while doing fabulous gymnastics all the while.  She captures Wayne Newton at gunpoint, but she is also recruited along with two inept Chinese “Scots” (the Laurel and Hardy of the East), the Mexican Bandito, Greased Lightning, and Wayne Newton.  This is the group that’s going to rescue Abe Lincoln?

Off they go in jeeps to Luxemburg (from China?).  Along the way, Jackie Chan and his girlfriend attack the group of misfits.  They are defeated and leave again.  High jinks and shenanigans ensue.  The two Scotsman seem to be developing a love affair.  The group spends a night in a haunted house, complete with floating ghost heads, the soundtrack of Walt Disney’s “Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House” on the soundtrack, hopping vampires, ghosts playing mah-jongg, a beautiful female seductress who turns into a living skeleton, a monstrous toilet,  a Midnight Mass, and demons!  Turns out, ghosts and monsters blow up real good when hit with a bazooka shell!   A group of sex-starved Amazon Ninja women who use brightly colored bolts of cloth to capture everyone, takes the group hostage.  They’re led by a tuxedo clad cad who is an artist who destroys everything imperfect around him.  Luckily, just as a new musical number starts with all the Amazons in leopard skin mini-dresses, Jackie Chan shows up and leads a bloody revolution with our heroes blowing up everything in sight.

Scotsmen from China??

They finally arrive at the Nazi headquarters in Luxemburg (which is in a desert?  The things you learn. . .), where huge swastikas fly, one on an orange banner and one on a lime green banner.  They find all the Japanese dead, and the generals are missing.  However, Jackie Chan and his girl Friday show up!  Out of the night drive the Nazis in weird Mad Max cars, rigged out with all kinds of crazy weapons and swastikas spray painted on the sides.  And the Nazis are all tricked out like they’re about to enter Thunderdome! And they’re all Chinese!   Once again, I just can’t make this stuff up, folks.  It’s all there on the screen to see.  If you dare.

The group discovers a hidden stash of money in the Nazi headquarters.  It’s going to be a fight to the finish.  Whoever lives through the battle gets a share of the money.  The following eight minute battle scene is an insane mélange of explosives, machine guns, sword fights, car chases, tanks, bulldozers, and more.  Even though the music is the silly song from the beginning, it looks an awful lot like THE WILD BUNCH (1969).  Most of our heroes don’t make it to the end, the death scenes accompanied by a slow, sad harmonica version of Camptown Races!  Doo-dah!   Doo-dah!  Then, there’s a surprise twist ending!

Evil Nazis are the bad guys in FANTASY MISSION FORCE.

FANTASY MISSION FORCE moves so fast, it’s quicker than the speed of thought, because if you think about any of it for more than a second, it makes no sense, but if you just let it flow over you, the gags are pretty funny, the girls are just pretty (even with weird 80s hair and Pocahontas headbands), the action is deftly handled, and the Nazi muscle cars are pretty bad-ass.  It’s all a lark, just as if someone gave the director a whole lot of drugs and money and said “You only get to make one movie; so you’d better put everything you like into 80 minutes!”  And so was born the world’s only martial arts, World War Two action, romance, adventure, prison escape drama, ghost story musical!

Speaking of the director, it happens to be Yen-ping Chu, who has directed more than forty films and is still at it.  I haven’t seen any of the others he has done, but their titles (such as ANGEL HEARTS1995, SEVEN FOXES1985, and ISLAND OF FIRE1990) make me suspect he moved on to more mainstream fare.

Our heroes, humiliated by Amazons.

Adding to the fun is the dreadful dubbing of the movie.  Whoever rewrote the script (originally by Hsin Wei), knew how silly the whole thing truly was, and they had great fun with reworking the dialogue.

Some favorite lines:

“Wow.  You’re pretty when you kill.”

“The nice people are always the first to die.  Do I look nice?”

“Is THIS what you call horniness?”

FANTASY MISSION FORCE is very poorly edited.  It’s as if an axe was taken to the film and it was all scotch-taped back together.  I’m not sure if it was this way to start, or if the foreign distributors have hacked away at it over the years, but the poor movie looks terrible.  This in no way diminishes the fun to be had with such a crazy flick.  This is the exact movie you want at hand when your buddies come over for a night of drinking and movies.  You are guaranteed to have a good time.

I give FANTASY MISSION FORCE three and a half Frito Bandito musical numbers out of four.  And that’s saying something!

© Copyright 2012 by William D. Carl