The Adventurers (2017)

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Andy Lau attempts at the biggest heist of his life in this loose adaptation of a John Woo classic from actor/musician turned director Stephen Fung.

Five years ago, master thief Zhang Dan attempted to steal one third of a prominent necklace known as Gaia. However, he found himself set up and put in prison. Having now been released, Zhang intends to find out who set him up while attempting to get the remaining pieces of Gaia so he can retire. Joining forces with his protege Chen Po and new team member Red Ye, Zhang finds himself trailed by French police officer Pierre, who was the very officer who put Zhang in jail five years ago.

When Zhang and his team successfully infiltrate a popular actress’ event and steals her necklace, which was up for auction for a charity, Zhang has one piece left to get. To accomplish this, Zhang must use Red as a pawn to infiltrate rich man Charlie Luo to get that final piece of Gaia. Meanwhile, Pierre finds himself an ally in Amber Li, an expert in curation who was once Zhang’s fiancee. While Pierre and Amber are hot on Zhang’s trail, complications will soon arise, threatening to end this final heist for the master thief.

You have got to hand it to Stephen Fung. The actor and musician turned director has churned out quite a filmography when it comes to his directing. From his directorial debut in 2004’s Enter the Phoenix to 2012’s kung fu-steampunk hybrid Tai Chi Zero and Tai Chi Hero, Fung’s brand of action has gained quite a following. His latest film, a loose adaptation of the John Woo classic Once a Thief, is a fun and wild action ride that keeps you wanting to root for our central character, master thief Zhang Dan.

And who better to play this thief than the Heavenly King Andy Lau? Lau is wonderful as the central character who thrives in doing his job but still feels conflicted. Having been released from prison in the film’s opening, Zhang feels he must get the job done as well as find out who was responsible for putting him in prison in the first place. The legendary Jean Reno serves as the “cat” to Lau’s “mouse” in the game as his Pierre is convinced that Zhang is not finished with business yet. However, despite his misgivings, there seems to be a line of respect between the two that goes back to the very day Zhang is arrested, resulting in that prison time.

Yo Yang serves up comic relief as Zhang’s protege Po, who when doing his scenes with Shu Qi (who married director Fung during the making of the film), attempts at wooing her with well, the expected results of rejection. Zhang Jingchu is perhaps the most conflicted character in Amber, the ex-fiancee of Zhang who wants to help Pierre perhaps for revenge, but yet still has a bit of a flame for her ex-lover. Eric Tsang makes the most of his role as Kong, Zhang’s mentor and handler, while Sha Yi gets the most of his role as Charlie, the owner of one of the Gaia pieces, with whom Shu Qi must use some flirtation with in order for the team to nab it.

The action sequences are quite fun. While they don’t really comprise of fistacuffs, they are still fun nonetheless. There are vehicle chase scenes that are up to par with the likes of The Transporter and Ronin amongst others. Shane Hurlbut’s cinematography is quite impressive when it comes to both action and the amazing aerial shots of the cities the film was set in, as Fung decided to use drone technology to capture these amazing views of the cities.

In conclusion, The Adventurers is a pretty fun heist flick. It is clear why Stephen Fung has truly made his mark on directing action films. Some great performances by Andy Lau and Jean Reno, blended some some stunning cinematography of the cities and some nice twists and turns in the film make this worth checking out.


Infinitus Motion Pictures present a Mannix Filming Co. Ltd. Production in association with Media Asia Films. Director: Stephen Fung. Producers: Stephen Fung, Andy Lau, Jiang Ping, Chen Jiande, Tomas Krejci, and Radomir Docekai. Writers: Stephen Fung, Lo Yiu-Fai, Steve Ha, Cheung Chi-Kwong, and Wong Hiu-Chong. Cinematography: Shane Hurlbut. Editing: Angie Lam and Joel Cox.

Cast: Andy Lau, Jean Reno, Shu Qi, Zhang Jingchu, Yo Yang, Eric Tsang, Sha Yi, You Tian-Yi, Karel Dobry.


Dragon Fist (1979)

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In one of his final films with director Lo Wei, Jackie Chan unleashes some of his best serious-style fight choreography in this pretty decent classic kung fu film.

During a celebration for Master Chang San-Tai, arch nemesis Master Chong crashes and challenges Chang to a duel. When Chong beats Chang to a pulp, he celebrates his own victory while Master Chang dies. However, Chong gets the shock of a lifetime when he finds his wife hanged in her room. Long ago, Chang had been in a relationship with Chong’s wife before they married and Chong always had wanted revenge. Chong, feeling sorrow and remorse for his actions, decides to chop off his own leg to respect his departed wife.

In the meantime, Tang Hao-Yuan, Chang’s top student, arrives with Chang’s widow and daughter in an effort to seek revenge for the death of his master. However, upon learning what Chong has done, Chang’s widow forgives Chong and soon a new bond is formed. However, that bond will soon begin to be threatened.

Master Wei, an evil warlord, intends to prove he is the best in the land. However, he resorts to dirty tactics. When Chang’s widow is poisoned, Tang is shocked to learn that Wei is the only one with the antidote. Wei blackmails Tang to perform various “jobs” in exchange for the antidote. Will Wei be able to keep his promise or will he use Tang as just a pawn in his mission to prove he is more powerful than everyone?

When director Lo Wei signed on Jackie Chan in 1975, he had Chan star in a series of films that were complete bombs. The reason seemed to be is that Lo Wei was so bitter about his relationship with Bruce Lee after The Big Boss and Fist of Fury that he attempted to mold Chan as a new “Bruce Lee”-like hero. While films such as New Fist of Fury and Shaolin Wooden Men seemed to be more in comparison with Lee and the Shaw Brothers, this one had potential.

Of course with his collaborations with Lo Wei, Jackie Chan plays the big heroic fighter. He has no comic scenes here, but is able to show he can play a serious role when needed. He is seen wanting revenge only to learn that the man he was after knew of his wrongdoing and repented. He goes from being friends with his one-time nemesis to ultimately seeking revenge against a tyrant who is the only one capable of curing his master’s widow. It is this brand of twist in the story that delves from becoming a typical revenge film to one that is actually well done.

While many would see Lo Wei as quite the evil director, this is definitely one of his better films. It helps that Wang Chung-Pin’s screenplay brings out the twists and turns that have the themes of not just revenge, but romantic affairs, penance, and redemption. While the film ultimately becomes one of revenge, it is Chan’s amazing choreography that drives the film. Chan makes good use of his fellow cast, including Hsu Hsia (who would shine in Chan’s Seasonal hit films of the 70’s), the late Eagle Han, the ever popular James Tien, and that of legendary bad guy actor Yen Shi-Kwan.

Dragon Fist is definitely the better of the Lo-Chan collaborations, all due to the screenplay’s twist and turns not to mention Chan’s nice and crisp choreography.


A Lo Wei Motion Picture (HK) Co. Ltd. Production. Director: Lo Wei. Producer: Hsu Li-Hwa. Writer: Wang Chung-Pin. Cinematography: Yim Jin-Hwan and Chen Jung-Shu. Editing: Vincent Leung.

Cast: Jackie Chan, Nora Miao, Yen Shi-Kwan, Pearl Lin, James Tien, Ou Yang Sha-Fei, Ko Keung, Wang Kuang-Yu, Hsu Hsia, Eagle Han, Peng Kong, Tsui Fat, Wong Yiu.

2000 A.D. (2000)

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2000, Media Asia Films/Raintree Pictures/People’s Production

Gordon Chan
John Chong
Solon So
Thomas Chung
Gordon Chan
Stu Zicherman
Arthur Wong
Chan Yuen-Kai
Cheung Man-Po
Chan Kei-Hop

Aaron Kwok (Peter Li)
Daniel Wu (Benny)
Phyllis Quek (Salina)
Gigi Choi (Janet)
Ray Lui (Greg Li)
Andrew Lin (Kelvin Woo)
Francis Ng (Ronald Ng)
James Lye (Eric Ong)
Cynthia Koh (Sharon)
Ken Low (Bobby)

A computer programmer gets himself into a deadly political conspiracy in this action thriller from director Gordon Chan.

The TDX Company has learned that a computer projection system from their company has been stolen. En route to Singapore to investigate, the plane carrying the president has been shot down. Rogue CIA agent Kelvin Woo is responsible as he is looking to rob banks using both a sleeper and calling cell program to get the job done. However, when he learns it will take some time to get everything complete, he vows to cover for as long as he can. The Singapore Army sends in Major Eric Ong to investigate.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, game programmers Peter and Benny are excited when Peter’s older brother Greg returns to town. However, Greg is under investigation by the Hong Kong police and when he and his girlfriend Salina have their places raided, Greg resorts to disabling the electronics via ion bomb. During investigation, Greg reveals he is with the CIA and has some incriminating evidence that can prove vital. However, en route to return to the U.S., Greg is killed in an ambush. Peter, looking for revenge, meets Salina, and together with Eric, Benny, and Peter’s girlfriend Janet, attempt to uncover the very deadly conspiracy. Peter soon learns that there may be some people he might not be able to trust.

“Heavenly King” Aaron Kwok gets to showcase his action chops with this political cyber thriller set in both Hong Kong and Singapore. The team of director Gordon Chan and co-writer Stu Zicherman come up with a story involving rogue agents and computer programmers in an all-out war over very dangerous sleeper and caller programs that can annihilate security systems, allowing villains to rob banks. What makes the film interesting is that it is not exactly a straight-out action film. It involves some very vital twists and turns that make the film more watchable.

Kwok gets some great support from Daniel Wu, who plays his best friend Benny, who seems more grounded and gets to showcase more of his acting as a nerdy type rather than the action star of Into the Badlands that he is known for these days. Phyllis Quek brings an aura of mystery in her role of Salina, Greg’s girlfriend who is caught up in the conspiracy but as Kwok’s Peter is meeting her for the first time, her motives seem to be not completely clear. Singaporean actor James Lye gives action support in his role of Eric, who is advised not to engage in battle, but finds himself forced to do so to save the lives of our heroes.

Andrew Lin once again gets to play top villain in the form of rogue CIA agent Kelvin, who plots to rob banks by using sleeper and caller programs. Ken Low plays Bobby, a mysterious sniper who clearly works for Kelvin’s team but don’t expect much of Low strutting his leg work. In terms of action, Richard “Yuen Tak” Hung gives Kwok and Lin more of the film’s hand-to-hand action, on top of the convention center. The level is reminiscent of 90’s style kickboxing, with Kwok’s dance background allowing him to show some decent kicking, especially a spinning roundhouse kick and a nice slow-motion flying side kick. Wu does get to throw one kick when he’s busted by the villains, only to have his leg caught by Low in a bit of comic relief before the climatic action of the film.

2000 AD is a pretty decent cyberthriller from director Gordon Chan. Aaron Kwok gets to showcase his action skills meshed in with some intricate twists, double and even triple crosses that all come out smoothly but not to be missed.




Underworld: Blood Wars (2017)

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2017, Sony Pictures/Screen Gems/Lakeshore Entertainment/Sketch Films/Lstar Capital

Anna Foerster
Tom Rosenberg
Gary Lucchesi
Len Wiseman
Richard Wright
David Kern
Len Wiseman (original characters)
Kevin Grevioux (original characters)
Danny McBride (original characters)
Kyle Ward (story)
Cory Goodman (story and screenplay)
Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Peter Amundson

Kate Beckinsale (Selene)
Theo James (David)
Lucy Pulver (Serina)
Charles Dance (Thomas)
Tobias Menzies (Marius)
James Faulkner (Cassius)
Peter Andersson (Vidar)
Clementine Nicholson (Lena)
Bradley James (Varga)
Daisy Head (Alexia)
Oliver Stark (Gregor)

The vampiric Death Dealer Selene is back and this time she has both factions of vampires and Lycans going after her when a new threat has arisen and she is the key to end the war.

Since the disappearance of her hybrid daughter Eve, the former Death Dealer Selene no longer has an alliance with anyone. She wishes to disappear and try to find her daughter despite the warnings not to find her. However, the Eastern Coven, led by Thomas, needs Selene to help train their soldiers against the Lycans, who are also after Selene. The Lycans are now led by Marius, who intends to also get to Selene to find Eve.

Thomas and his half-human son David, soon learn that despite Selene not wanting to be involved in the war anymore, one of their own, Serina, is plotting a takeover. When Serina’s intentions are known, a battle results in the death of Thomas. Selene and David head to the only place they can find sanctuary, Var Dohr, the home of the peaceful Nordic Coven. When Alexia, one of Serina’s coven is actually a spy for the Lycans reveals their location, a series of revelations that will change the course of the long war between the Vampires and Lycans will occur, thus sealing the possible fate of this elongated war.

Since its inception in 2003, the Underworld film series was a different take on a war between two classic horror creatures: the vampires and the werewolves, known as the Lycans. While the series, with the exception of the prequel installment, Rise of the Lycans, focused on the character of Selene, the role immortalized by Kate Beckinsale, the war is a pivotal piece of the series, along with Selene’s relationship with a vampiric-lycan hybrid (first and second) and daughter (the fourth), this film is set after the events of Underworld: Awakening, where we know learn Selene has no affiliation anymore.

The script, by Cody Goodman, focuses more on the vampire side of things rather than Lycans, who are only there simply because they have to be in their war against the Vampires. The focus of the story is not only on Selene but the co-lead character of David, played by The Divergent Series’ Theo James. James makes the most of his role as the vampire David, who soon learns of something even more in store for him while Lucy Pulver is viciously evil in the role of Serina, who has a thirst for something more than blood, and that is clearly power. She intends to overthrow the coven she lives in to become their supreme leader.

What makes this film series quite interesting is that the battles between vampires and Lycans is not just tearing each other’s heads off, the factions will resort to using guns and swords while having impeccable fighting skills. It is these action scenes that make up the reason why fans tend to like this series. While the original film offered something fresh and there are some pretty decent fight scenes here, courtesy of the likes of Brad Martin, Todd Schneider, and Pavel Cajzl as stunt coordinators and Matt Mullins as fight coordinator, it seems like this entry should try to somewhat put a stamp in the series.

Underworld: Blood Wars should mark the end of the film series, but “never say never”. If you like the series, then chances are you will enjoy this fifth installment. Yet don’t expect as much Lycan action this time around, but some good twists in the Vampire side.


The Blu-Ray of the film will be released on April 25 and includes the making of the film, a downloadable Digital copy, and a graphic novel based on the film. To order your copy of the Blu-Ray, click the image before:


Extreme Force (2001)

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2001, Creative Light Entertainment/Buena Vida Productions

Michel Qissi
Hector Echavarria
Pablo Garcia
Michel Qissi
Michel Qissi
Jonathan Davenport
Kenny Beaumont
Tim Gregoire

Hector Echavarria (Marcos DeSantos)
Michel Qissi (Kong Li)
Youseelf Qissi (Cole)
Nikki Lemke (Bianca)
Myriam Mesdagh (Sharka)
Louis Iacoviello (President Khun)
Adam Leadbeater (General Vat Kallac)
Chad A. Martin (Governor Hank Hawkins)

World martial arts champion Hector Echavarria and Michel Qissi team-up for this action throwback that brings reminiscence to the late 80s-early 90’s martial arts B-flicks.

Marcos DeSantos is a daring thief whose crew include Cole and Bianca. However, he has grown tired of the life and just wants to be with his girlfriend. When he informs Cole that he is planning to leave the business, Cole promises if Marcos will pull off one last heist, he will accept his resignation. Half-American half-Mongolian President Khun has arrived to Orlando with his ring representing the Seal of Mongolia. Marcos, Cole, and Bianca team up to accomplish the mission. However, a bitter Cole shoots down Marcos and leaves with Bianca and the Seal.

Marcos is saved by President Khun’s assistant Sharka and bodyguard Kong Li and spends the next month being nursed back to health. Upon recovery, Marcos decides to help the Mongolian government retrieve the Seal. However, not having completely recovered, Marcos undergoes superior training from the very quiet but powerful Kong Li. When Cole and Bianca learn that Marcos is still alive, they hatch a plan to ensure that Marcos will not exact revenge on them. However, Marcos now has a trustworthy ally in Kong Li, who must make sure that the reputation of Mongolia is still intact and the only way it can be done is to bring back the Seal.

At a time where the B-movie martial arts film genre was slowly waning in favor of more big budgeted affairs, even if temporary, Hector Echavarria was just coming off his success as an actor in Argentina. The martial arts champion, fresh off being inducted into the U.S. Martial Arts Hall of Fame, made this film along with Los Bravos, or The Falkland Man, as his first feature length American martial arts movies. While he stars and produced this film, the real genius behind the film is none other Michel Qissi, who co-stars, co-wrote, and directed the film.

As with most of these martial arts films, the acting is going to be pretty horrendous and that it is. Everyone knows the real reason to see these types of films. However, in his case, Qissi himself has very limited speech power in the film and it is because he now plays a good guy version of perhaps the most iconic role in his career.

Qissi’s Kong Li is that of Tong Po from the first two installments of the original Kickboxer saga. It looks as if he is even sporting the mask he wore in the second film to play Kong Li. However, unlike the unstoppable brutal killer Tong Po, Kong Li starts out the tough guy and for the most part, still brings that to the table. However, in a very interesting scene, he shows a likable side when he bonds with our hero Marcos.

Qissi’s real-life brother Youssef plays the traitorous Cole, who after the pivotal scene where he betrays Marcos, is mad at both Marcos and himself. However, he lets the temptation of money get to him as it is clear he and Nikki Lemke’s Bianca, only there to be the eye candy member of the team, only care about the money where for Marcos, it is more than money at stake.

In charge of the fight scenes is stuntman Phi-Long Nguyen, who also appears as “Sniper”. Nguyen utilizes Hector Echavarria’s skills quite well in the fight scenes. As mentioned, Echavarria may not be the greatest actor, but can he kick some major butt with the right style. Echavarria in the film practically emulates Jean-Claude Van Damme and yet still makes it his own while Qissi brings that Tong Po-style of action to his fights. It is as if Nguyen answers this burning question: What if Kurt Sloane and Tong Po were not to fight each other but in fact, become allies? This film’s fights answer that question. Also give Youssef Qissi credit too. While he is primarily a boxer, the younger Qissi can throw quite a punch and does some low kicks, but he’s more of a Western boxing stylist and it shows when he fights.

Extreme Force is a bad-acting yet decent fight flick that brings back the American B-movie martial arts flick of yore. A story about betrayal and redemption whose only assets are the fight scenes. The big fans may want to take a look at this one.




First Strike (1996)

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1996, Golden Harvest Productions

Stanley Tong
Barbie Tung
Elliot Tong
Greg Mellor
Nick Tramontane
Stanley Tong
Jingle Ma
Stanley Tong
Yau Chi-Wai
Peter Cheung

Jackie Chan (Jackie Chan Ka-Kui)
Bill Tung (Uncle Bill)
Jackson Lou (Tsui Kit)
Annie Wu (Annie Tsui)
Ailen Sit (Allen)
Yuriy Petrov (Col. Gregor Yegorov)
Nonna Grishaeva (Natasha)
Terry Woo (Uncle Seven)
Kristopher Kazmarek (Cmdr. Korda)
Nathan Jones (Hit Man)

This official fourth installment of the Police Story series brings Chan to the Ukraine, Russia and Australia where he discovers he has become the set-up man in a dangerous game.

On loan to Interpol, Hong Kong’s “supercop” Jackie Chan Ka-Kui is sent to Russia to cooperate in the investigation of a spy ring operation involving some dangerous nuclear warheads. He is asked to follow a mysterious woman named Natasha to the Ukraine, where she is to meet her partner, Chinese-born scientist Tsui. When Jackie and the team are set up for an ambush, Chan finds himself hunted down as he finds a briefcase with evidence. However, en route to escape, he loses the briefcase and falls into frozen waters.

As he is in Russia recovering, he meets KGB agent Gregor Yegorov, who asks for Chan’s help to track down Tsui, who since nearly being caught, returns to Australia and puts his younger sister Annie and dying father, Triad boss Uncle Seven, at risk for his business. However, as Chan goes to Australia to investigate, he soon learns that everything may not be what it seems and finds himself targeted by much more than he ever expected.

Four years after their prolific collaboration on Police Story III: Supercop, the duo of Stanley Tong and Jackie Chan join forces again on this fourth installment of the series. While the title is properly titled just First Strike, the film’s Chinese title reads “Police Story 4: First Strike”, hence this is the official sequel. The film brings Chan back to his signature role of Hong Kong police officer Chan Ka-Kui, who in previous installments was known as “Kevin Chan” but for some reason, the duo felt “Jackie” was a more suitable name.

Where the previous film had Chan’s Hong Kong cop team up with Michelle Yeoh’s Mainland police officer, Chan finds himself going even more international here. He finds himself going to the Ukraine, Russia, and Australia. Chan finds himself working with Interpol and then the KGB to track down a rogue Chinese scientist who has his hands on a nuclear warhead. While the execution is a bit weak when compared to the previous films, the character of Tsui, played by Jackson Lou, brings a bit of mystery as it is not until the third act that his true intentions are revealed.

Newcomer Annie Wu does pretty much not so much as a damsel in distress but one who finds herself in something she never expected. She does have a loyalty to her brother and family, but does prove herself to be ample support for Chan in his time of need despite first having to force him to take on some of the Triad members led by the late Ailen Sit in the film’s best fight sequence. Look out for Troy and Fearless actor Nathan Jones in one of his first on-screen roles as a hitman. Chan also has a Game of Death homage fight against the late towering Australian martial artist Brett Arthur as another hitman in another pretty decent fight which brings some of Chan’s trademark humor in the mix.

First Strike is not a completely bad film, but it does lack more action than expected in a Jackie Chan movie. However, the action, when it happens, is not bad especially the Triad ladder fight and Chan’s hilarious short fight against the late Brett Arthur.




South Korean Action Film “Master” Comes to the U.S. in January


A deadly cat-and-mouse game in the world of finance is the set up for the upcoming South Korean action thriller Master, coming to the U.S. on January 6 from CJ Entertainment. The film stars three of the country’s top talents today.

A major crimes investigation team led by the charismatic and aggressive detective Kim Jae-Myung (Kang Dong-Won) works to take down One Network Inc. a company involved in a multibillion-dollar heist. The corporation is led by Chairman Jin (Lee Byung-Hun), a notorious swindler . Park Jang-Goon (Kim Woo-Bin) is Jin’s right-hand man and an expert computer programmer whose intentions are not as predictable as we may think. The clock is ticking for Detective Kim to finally stop the corrupt corporation once and for all.

The film was directed by Cho Ui-Seok. Check out the still image slideshow below and check out Master when it is released on January 6, 2017 from CJ Entertainment.

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The Handmaiden (2016)

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Park Chan-Wook’s latest tale, based on a Victorian-set novel by Sarah Waters, has elements of perhaps Brokeback Mountain with a dash of Rashomon or even Zhang Yimou’s Hero in terms of its storytelling.

During the Japanese occupation of Korea, Nam Sookhee has been hired by Count Fujiwara, a conman pretending to be a nobleman, to pose as the new handmaiden for the nobel Lady Hideko. The plan is for Sookhee to convince Lady Hideko to fall for the fraudulent nobleman so he can get his hands on her inheritance from her uncle Kouzuki, an avid collector of classic erotica novels, in which he forces Hideko to read and act out in front of an elite group of noblemen.

However, as Sookhee, who becomes Tamako, begins to plan out her mission, she soon finds herself attracted to Lady Hideko. When Fujiwara constantly advances on her, Hideko turns to Sookhee for advice and one fateful night, Hideko and Sookhee engage in a torrid love affair. Sookhee soon learns that she was actually a pawn in Fujiwara’s ultimate plan involving Hideko, who actually may be in cahoots with the fraudulent count as a measure of revenge against Kouzuki, who plans to actually marry his own niece to gain the family inheritance. Through the points of view from both Sookhee and Hideko, dark pasts and secret all reveal a shocking climax.

The name Park Chan-Wook is not one without controversy as it pertains to his films. Some may even call him Korea’s answer to Takashi Miike, who has had his own share of controversial material but as of late, has tamed down his style to direct live action adaptations of manga and anime series. Park’s most well known international film Oldboy, made in 2003, had an incestuous twist to the plot that made audiences cringe alongside the brutal violence of the film. Thirst, made in 2009, had a priest turned sex-starved vampire that also gain notoriety as well as the Vengeance films.

With his latest film, he adapted the Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith and changed the setting from Victorian-era England to Japanese-occupied Korea around the 1930’s. Along with co-writer Chung Seo-Kyung, Park has crafted a brilliant tale involving the world of classic Asian erotica and churns out a story of revenge and redemption between the two female lead characters. To distinguish the two, Park and Chung split the film in three parts, bringing to mind shades of Rashomon and Hero.

The first part focuses on the point of the view from the titular Handmaiden, played by Kim Tae-Ri. As a con artist who can tell real from fakes, she seems to be fully cooperative with the plan to exploit Lady Hideko, played by Kim Min-Hee. The chemistry between these two is well done with the two central male characters, Ha Jung-Woo’s conman Fujiwara and Cho Jin-Woong’s Uncle Koizuki as two of the biggest and arrogant scumbags ever. The latter definitely will never earn a Father of the Year award, especially as depicted in the opening of the second act, where his method of discipline towards a young Hideko for talking back is pretty disturbing, but knowing Park is the director, it’s not a big surprise. The secondary female characters are complete opposites with Hideko’s aunt being the more sympathetic while Lady Sasaki, the main housemaid of the Kouzuki house, shows her loyalty to the more demented Uncle.

At first, the love affair between Hideko and Sookhee doesn’t seem to make an impact until we truly see the nature of the story in the second act of the film. From what is seen, the love scene between the two is done in the vein of Brokeback Mountain, in a tasteful yet barely graphic manner. However, once Hideko’s point of view is seen, the scene is reenacted in a tone akin to perhaps the controversial scene in the French film Blue is the Warmest Color. Hideko’s story gets the more erotically toned even with her readings of the classic erotica for Kouzuki and his fellows. One can think of these scenes as Hostel but replace erotica instead of torture yet there is a depiction of torture-like style in the vein of Marquis de Sade read by Hideko in another disturbing scene.

The Handmaiden is another notch for the controversial world of Park Chan-Wook. It is beautifully shot, very erotic in the second act, and at times disturbing. Yet the way the story is depicted with its three-act tale in such a way that it all works out at the end.


CJ Entertainment presents a Mono Film/Yong Film Production. Director: Park Chan-Wook. Producers: Syd Lim and Park Chan-Wook. Writers: Chung Seo-Kyung and Park Chan-Wook; based on the novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters. Cinematography: Jung Chung-Hoon. Editing: Kim Jae-Beom and Kim Sang-Beom.

Cast: Kim Min-Hee, Kim Tae-Ri, Ha Jung-Woo, Cho Jin-Woong, Moon So-Ri, Kim Hae-Sook.



REVIEW: Call Me King (2015)

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2015, Shadow Motion Pictures/Dark Energy Pictures

R.L. Scott
David A. Fisher
R.L. Scott
R.L. Scott
R.L. Scott
R.L. Scott

Amin Joseph (Rhyis)
Bai Ling (Li Soo)
Chris Mulkey (Angelo Costa)
Bill Cobbs (Malachi)
Gabrielle Dennis (Leena)
Jonathan McDaniel (Zho)
Sean Riggs (Grimm)
Maurice Whitfield (Khalil)
Shaun Mixon (Knight)
Monyque Thompson Scott (Simone)
T.J. Hoban (Nick Costa)
Lester Speight (Vincent)
Robert Miano (Elio)
Del Zamora (Feris)

The latest film from indie action filmmaker R.L. Scott is a tale of power and the consequences it can have in the world of organized crime.

Angelo Costa is the most respected gangster in the city. In fact, when he even senses anyone trying to get him out of a deal, he sends in a band of four enforcers. The Strap Set is led by Rhyis, a tough as nail man who twenty years ago, fled Haiti along with his younger brother Khalil. Joined by the eye-patch wearing Grimm and playboy Zho, the Strap Set handles business using both guns and their impeccable fighting skills. Rhyis has earned the respect of Angelo, who trusts the Haitian man more than his spoiled brat of a son, Nick.

However, a struggle in power is about to go down when Angelo reveals that he has cancer and will eventually be forced to step down. In this world, normally the boss would pass his power onto his next of kin. However, when Angelo informs Nick that Rhyis will be the new boss, Nick sets up a plan with other gang leaders to exterminate Rhyis. However, that will become the least of Rhyis’ problems when his father Knight, the former Minister of Defense in Haiti, has returned with some intentions of his own.

R.L. Scott had burst onto the screens with his awesome fight film series Champion Road. His latest film delves into the world of organized crime and the price to pay when attempting to gain power. Scott’s script is well written with a few added twists, from double-crossing to scorned women, that just enhances the dramatic portion of the film. Scott also delivers with the action portion, serving as the film’s fight choreographer. Instead of using flashy kicking and tricking, Scott deals with a more close quarter, fast and furious style of boxing and hand movements. However, one fight that stands out with its use of kicking comes in stuntman/martial arts ace Gray Michael Sallies taking on Rhyis’ brother in a short and sweet fight scene. The only flaw is that some of the visual effects looked like they could use improvement when it came to shootings, but it’s ultimately forgivable.

Lead actor Amin Joseph oozes with coldness as Rhyis, whose intentions are first to gain enough money to go back to his homeland of Haiti only to learn a major opportunity arises. He decides to roll with the new plan, but soon learns that his new found opportunity does in fact, have a serious price. Joseph plays Rhyis as someone who has a mission in life and will do what it takes to complete that mission. What helps is that Joseph works well with Hollywood veteran Chris Mulkey as mob boss Angelo, who respects the Haitian enforcer more than he respects his own son, who from his introductory scene, is just a brat who thinks life comes on a silver platter only to learn that it doesn’t go down like that.

A definitive twist in the film involves the story of Leena, played by Gabrielle Dennis. Her boyfriend, Strap Set member Zho, is known for his playboy ways and when he admits he no longer has interest in her, she leaves him. This becomes the advantage of femme fatale Simone, played by Scott’s wife Monyque Thompson Scott, who oozes with almost as sheer coldness as Rhyis. Simone, with the help of her bodyguard, trains Leena to become a sniper assassin. However, it isn’t until the end that the revelation as to why is revealed.

Normally, hearing the name Bai Ling would leave a bad taste in my mouth due to some roles she had taken in recent action films. However, she truly has redeemed herself with her role in Li Soo, a Korean-born gunrunner who respects Strap Set member Grimm so much she entrusts him to help her with her drug addict sister. She really shows some true emotion in this film and she should do more roles similar to this one. Bill Cobbs is also a delight to watch as Malachi, another former Haitian immigrant who serves as the mentor of Rhyis and his brother. Robert Miano and Del Zamora make the most of their screen time as fellow mob bosses who learn they cross Angelo, they are dealing with the wrong person. As for Shaun Mixon’s Knight, the father of Rhyis and Khalil, all he seems to want is for his sons to join him in their ranks to make up for lost time.

Call Me King is definitely a very good indie action film from director R.L. Scott. The story has some nice twists moved in and the action is pumped up here. If you like action films and independent films, this is a must see for your list.


Call Me King had a limited theater release last week is now streaming on Netflix.


La Deuxiéme Souffle (1966)



An escaped prisoner learns that a second chance isn’t always as it seems in this classic film from world renowned auteur Jean-Pierre Melville.

A trio of prisoners have escaped and the only survivor is Gustave “Gu” Minda, a mobster who works for longtime crime boss Paul Rizzi. Deciding to reunite with his love Manouche, he heads to Paris. While he is happy to reunite with his love, he is forced back into the gang and kills a police officer as a result. Blot, a highly respected inspector, is aware of Minda’s return and intends to find him.

Meanwhile, knowing his life could be put to an end, Gu decides to leave the country with Manouche. However, he doesn’t have enough money. Orloff, a highly respected gangster who is friends with Paul, offers Gu the chance to pull off a major heist, to which he agrees. However, while the heist has been pulled off, Gu finds himself the unwitting pawn of a double cross that comes from a corrupt inspector, Fardiano. Gu must clear his name and at the same time, attempt to avoid Blot, who is convinced that Gu was behind the entire heist to begin with.

Jean-Pierre Melville is one of the greatest auteurs of the modern gangster genre. While I am not particularly fond of French New Wave, especially those with unclear endings, Melville tends to use a more realistic approach to his films in terms of executing the story with how a story should be told: a beginning, a middle, and an end. While some will see that the film drags in the middle, it is however, essential that we get a full understanding of the characters. In some cases, editing to keep pacing can tend to leave plot holes and continuity could have its errors. However, Melville does the opposite with this film, a cat-and-mouse game between an escaped prisoner looking for a second chance at life and the inspector whose convictions that said prisoner is responsible for everything gone wrong in the film.

The characters seem to have a complexity yet the message is clear: there are no real good guys in this film. The lead character of Gu is an unsympathetic anti-hero who gets back into the game after his escape and despite showing somewhat of a soft side when it comes to Manouche, finds himself unwittingly forced to double cross his boss all because of a double cross. The first two acts serve as the set up for what Gu experiences upon his attempt to get his second chance, only to see it fall and how he must try to redeem himself. This role is well played by Lino Ventura, who keeps a smug face throughout practically the entire film.

Paul Meurisse brilliantly plays Blot, the inspector whose convictions and ego gets the best of him as he has only purpose in the film: take out Gu, even when he doesn’t get all the facts. Paul Frankeur plays Fardiano, the dirty cop who is only partly responsible for setting up for Gu’s eventual fall while the mastermind is someone involved within Rizzi’s gang, all because they’d rather see the elder Rizzi fall from grace and have him replaced. Christine Fabréga is great as Manouche, Gu’s love interest who because of her ties to him, has some sort of power when it comes to her business. However, she too longs for a second chance with Gu. However, one can only guess with this genre of cinema, how this will fare out in the end.

La Deuxiéme Souffle is one of Melville’s finest works that brings a necessarily complex cat-and-mouse story between an escaped prisoner and the investigator whose ego gets the best of him, with many connecting storylines mixed in, hence the two-and-a-half hour running time. But it’s a damn good two-and-a-half hours.


A Les Productions Montaigne production. Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. Producers: André Labay and Charles Lumbroso. Writers: Jean-Pierre Melville and José Giovanni; based on the novel “Un reglement de comptes” by Giovanni. Cinematography: Marcel Combes. Editing: Monique Bonnet and Michèle Boëhm.

Cast: Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Raymond Pellegrin, Christine Fabréga, Marcel Bouzuffi, Paul Frankeur, Denis Manuel, Michel Constantin, Pierre Zimmer, Pierre Grasset.