From the director of L.A. Street Fighters comes this action tale that takes elements from that very film and uses the influence of the real life Korean Killers (KK) gang in Los Angeles combined with a star-crossed romance that reminds one of some of the great U.S. made martial arts films.
The Korean Killers, or KK, gang are one of the top groups in Los Angeles. When Joon is released from prison, he resumes leadership of the gang. His younger brother Taewoon, who had taken over leadership while Joon was in prison, is given a chance to live his dream and go to school.
When Taewoon meets Linda, a fellow student, the two instantly are attracted to each other. However, there soon poses a major problem. Linda’s older brother Roy is the leader of the Dragons, a rival gang operating out of Chinatown. While Roy and Joon disapprove of the romance between Taewoon and Linda, the two are determined to be together, eventually causing a futile street war between the KK’s and the Dragons.
Director Richard Woo-Sang Park, best known for some of his work with taekwondo grandmaster Jun Chong, works on his second film with Hwarang-Do grandmaster Taejoon Lee after their collaboration in American Streetfighter. Sporting short hair this time around, Lee bears a resemblance to former Power Rangers actor Johnny Yong Bosch and with his brand of choreography, gets to display his style of Hwarang-Do in the few combat sequences in the film.
Korean actor Shin Hyun-Joon doesn’t get involved in the martial arts sequences but brings a more dramatic performance and does some gunplay as young brother Taewoon. Shin, making his only American film here, does pretty well with his command of English, but in some scenes, speaks Korean. The English comes in handy when it comes to his relationship with Linda, played by U.S. Seals II’s Karen Kim, in a non-action role. Eddie Mui, who was seen in the 2002 film Redemption as the film’s villain, seems to ham it up well as Roy, the Dragons leader. While he leads the gang, he also acts like the atypical overprotective brother when it comes to Linda. The racial tension between the KK’s and the Dragons come full speed when Linda wants to marry Taewoon and not only gets rejected, but forced to stay in her room.
As mentioned, Taejoon Lee himself choreographed the hand-to-hand combat scenes. Lee does well showcasing his Hwarang-Do style. The fight scenes look adequate with minimal close-ups thanks to Maximo Munzi’s cinematography, Rick Spalla’s editing, and Lee’s choreography. In a short brief and we mean “brief”, taekwondo grandmaster Bobby Kim, playing the mentor/father figure of the KK’s, uses two punches and a jump spinning back kick against a loud mouth thug. The finale bears resemblance to that of L.A. Street Fighters, but executed differently.
The only flaws of the film include some gratuitous nudity, including nearly five minutes spent on a scene involving the KK brothers at a brothel, and a disturbing rape scene involving two Korean girls and a Chicano gang, which opens the film.
Despite the flaws and budget, K.K. Family List, may have similarities with L.A. Street Fighters, but for a film that was filmed in 1995 and released only in South Korea a few years later, it is not too bad for an American martial arts film. Fans of Shin Hyun-Joon will want to see his only American film to date and those who love seeing Grandmaster Taejoon Lee in action will not be disappointed.
WFG RATING: B-
A Yuseong Film production. Director: Richard Park. Producer: Taejoon Lee. Writer: Simon Blake Hong. Cinematography: Moonji Mexico. Editing: Rick Spalla.
Cast: Shin Hyun-Joon, Taejoon Lee, Karen Kim, Eddie Mui, Bobby Kim.