game

The Divine Move (2014)

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The Asian chess-like game of Go, or in this case, Baduk, gets deadly in this action thriller from director Jo Bum-Gu.

Tae-Seok is a young man whose skills in the game of baduk has led him to help his elder brother Woo-Seok, who’s in a jam. Woo-Seok has been challenged to take on “Player”, a gangster working for one of the most vicious crime lords in the area, Sal-Soo, also known as the Killer. When the ruse is discovered, Tae-Seok is brutally beaten and Woo-Seok is mercilessly killed by the Killer, who frames Tae-Seok for the murder.

Imprisoned for seven years, Tae-Seok learns to fight with the help of an elder prisoner and his men. Perfecting his skills, he is offered to join the elder prisoner after he is released. Tae-Seok would love to take the offer, but at the moment, he has one thing on his mind: avenging his brother. To do so, he changes his look and goes after each of Killer’s men by challenging them to baduk and then getting his revenge, until he can get to the man himself in a game that will decide who lives and who dies.

A truly brutal film, director Jo Bum-Gu takes You Sung-Hyup’s script about a baduk player who uses his game and fight skills to seek revenge, is quite interesting. For those unfamiliar with baduk, or the game go, it is similar to chess that it involves strategy but involves the use of “territories”. The game plays a crucial factor in the film overall as the game ultimately leads to violence throughout the film.

Jung Woo-Sung truly makes an impact in the film as the revenge-seeking Tae-Seok, who goes from a bushy, bearded scared man to a clean cut revenge seeker in the film. It is apparent he only has one thing on his mind after getting brutalized, seeing his brother dead and then getting framed for that death. Seeing Tae-Seok train to fight is quite an interesting training montage seen that leads to the quest for revenge.

Some of the thugs in the film are incredibly vicious. Notably Choi Jin-Hyuk’s “Player” and the big boss himself, Lee Beom-Soo’s “Killer”. They are inexplicably mean-spirited and when things don’t go their way, they resort to violence and this leads to Tae-Seok using an “eye for an eye”. The character of “Tricks”, played by Kim In-Kwon provides some hysterical comic relief in the vein of Joe Pesci’s Leo Getz in the Lethal Weapon films as he is a talkative slapstick goofball. Ahn Sung-Ki does quite well as another sidekick, “The Lord”, an elder expert who joins Tae-Seok as well.

In charge of the action scenes is Seoul Action School’s Choi Bong-Rok. Choi has the cast use close quarter combat as well as some technical style fighting. However, the close quarter style brings a more brutal, realistic style of fighting that looks at times very heart-pounding and exciting. In an exciting scene, Tae-Seok actually competes in a game of baduk against an opponent inside of a room in near sub-zero temperatures that leads to an all out knife fight between the duo. The climactic finale is also quite exciting and shows Jung at the top of his game.

The Divine Move is a pretty good movie that shows Jung Woo-Sung in his one of his best performances. The concept of turning baduk into a potential “game of death” is quite interesting and the combat scenes are nicely done. A definite rental with strong optional purchase.

WFG RATING: B+

CJ Entertainment presents a Showbox/Mediaplex production. Director: Jo Bum-Gu. Producers: Park Man-Hee, Yu Jeong-Heon, and Hwang Geun-Ha. Writer: Yu Seong-Hyeop. Cinematography: Kim Dong-Young. Editing: Shin Min-Kyung.

Cast: Jung Woo-Sung, Lee Beom-Soo, Choi Jin-Hyuk, Kim Myung-Soo, Ahn Sung-Ki, Kim in-Kwon, Lee Si-Young, Ahn Gil-Kang, Lee Do-Kyung, Jung Hae-Kyun, Ahn Seo-Hyun.

 

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Big Match (2014)

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From the director of Bloody Tie comes a film that can be described as a Korean version of the WWE film 12 Rounds but switch a cop for a mixed martial arts champion and adding a twist that is vital to the story.

Choi Ik-Ho is a former professional soccer player whose antics have destroyed his career in that sport. However, he decides to use his skills in the world of mixed martial arts and under the tutelage of his older brother Young-Ho, Ik-Ho, known as the “Zombie”, becomes a well-known fighter in the UFC. He becomes the perfect person for Ace, an insane mastermind who has created a new game that would have Ik-Ho use his skills.

When Young-Ho disappears, Ik-Ho is suspected for the possibility of murder and is held in a jail cell. From that moment, Ik-Ho’s life is seriously about to change as he gets his first transmission from Ace, who has admitted he has kidnapped Young-Ho in order for the MMA champ to play his game, in which the entire city is now the gameboard and Young-Ho must go through a series of challenges, beginning with busting out of the police station, in order to rescue his brother. Will Ik-Ho be able to complete the challenges and rescue his brother? Or will Ace prove himself to be the ultimate “game master”?

Director Choi Ho is quite an interesting director. His style of filmmaking in terms of taking his time can be said to reminiscent of perhaps art house auteur Wong Kar-Wai. However, Choi brings a more brutal style of action and drama to his films when it is called for. For this, his fifth film, Choi brings a bit of comedy into the serious tone of the titular “big match” where our MMA champion goes through a series of challenges to save his brother. This may bring to mind the 2009 thriller 12 Rounds, in which John Cena’s cop had to complete a series of twelve challenges to rescue his wife.

Lee Jung-Jae really does a great job as our hero, showing himself as a very cocky fighter who thrives on the attention. It is that attention that makes him the perfect target for Ace, our lethal “game master”, played in such a comical fashion at times by Shin Ha-Kyun. As Ace, it is funny to see Shin thrive on the glory when he announces the challenges towards the rich bidders who must decide and bet if our hero will pass or fail the challenges.

Interestingly enough, K-Pop icon BoA makes her film debut as a woman who proves to be vital to this very important game that can determine the fate of Choi Young-Ho. A flaw comes in the form of the constantly nagging Mrs. Choi, Young-Ho’s wife, played by Ra Mi-Ran. She just comes off as annoying throughout the film with her constant nagging and screaming. While Shin Ha-Kyun plays a comical-style villain, Kim Eui-Sung’s detective brings comic relief in exactly a “bumbling detective” way.

The action scenes are nicely done by the team of Kim Gil-Dong, Kim Tae-Hwan-I, and Seo Wang-Seok. Lee Jung-Jae trained hard in mixed martial arts for his role and while his first two major action scenes are more of an evading type, one scene really stands out. As part of the game, he is forced into a maze of hallways and takes on a band of gangsters. This is where we see Jung-Jae at some of his best, using all sorts of MMA-style maneuvers from flying knee strikes to kicks to grappling. Jung-Jae even gets into a climactic bout with a supposed rival at the UFC organization as part of the game, played by Russian powerhouse actor and martial artist Vlad Demin.

The bottom line is that Big Match is definitely a fun action film with comic overtones. Lee Jung-Jae and Shin Ha-Kyun give wonderful performances as the rivals while the action scenes are nicely done. Definitely one to check out for fans of Korean action cinema.

WFG RATING: B

Opus Pictures presents a BK Films production. Director: Choi Ho. Producer: Shin Bo-Kyung. Writer: Roy Kim. Cinematography: Choi Min-Ho and Kim Sung-Chul. Editing: Shin Min-Kyung.

Cast: Lee Jung-Jae, Shin Ha-Kyun, Lee Sung-Min, BoA, Kim Eui-Sung, Park Doo-Sik, Ra Mi-Ran, Son Ho-Joon, Vlad Demin.

Dragon Hunt (1990)

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Canada’s “Twin Dragons” are back in this action packed sequel to their film debut as they go from being hunters to being the hunted.

Mercenary leader Jake is seeking revenge against the Twin Dragons, martial artist brothers who had stopped him from taking over a small island. Jake lost his hand as a result of their last encounter and has hired an arms dealer to give him the firepower to deal with the brothers. He comes up with a plan to get the brothers back on the island and hires his goons to lure the Dragons back to the island where they had their last battle.

Mic and Martin are knocked out, drugged, and captured by Jake. Jake comes up with the idea to make the twins the hunted in a sick and twisted game called “Kill the Twins”. As Mic and Martin find themselves hunted down by not only Jake and his men, but anyone on the island. Mic and Martin must use both their martial arts and survival skills to take on all comers. With nowhere left to turn, the twins must now become the hunters once again and stop Jake and his men once and for all.

Martial arts twins Michael and Martin McNamara return for what would be their current final film, self-produced and financed through their Twin Dragon Film Production. The film is a direct sequel to their 1986 debut film Twin Dragon Encounter and once again pits the twins against the army led by Jake, played by the marvelously named B.Bob, who now sports a metal hand due to his previous encounter. If Bob overdid it with his performance in the original film, he amps it up in the sequel, even having two female accomplices along with his usual goons.

While the original film had sporadic action pitting the brothers against various opponents, the sequel amps up the action allowing the brothers to once again unleash their kung fu skills as well as using survival skills to take on not only the army goons, but other types of opponents including ninjas and even poachers. Look out for former world kickboxing champion Curtis Bush in two roles, one as a poacher and one as a ninja. The finale truly is fun even though it is clear we have a B-movie level of the home video market glory days. It does end with a twist that one may never expect but still fun nevertheless.

Dragon Hunt brings more action from the McNamara Twins as they once again showcase their martial arts skills in a survival setting. The villains amps up him over the top performance but let’s face it. It’s a fun Canuxploitation action film that must be seen from cult film fans.

WFG RATING: B-

A Twin Dragon Film Production. Director: Charles Wiener. Producer: Michael McNamara. Writer: Michael McNamara. Cinematography: Paul Dunlop. Editing: Charles Wiener.

Cast: Michael McNamara, Martin McNamara, B. Bob, Sheryl Foster, Heidi Romano, Charles Ambrose, Karl Adhihetty, Curtis Bush, Goran Kazelic, Daniel McNamara, Frank Sasso, Tony Shar.

The film is available to purchase through the Twin Dragons website store but be aware it is Canadian Dollars.

The Temptation Game (2015)

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A test of wits and temptation charge up this short film from first time filmmaker Charline Odiot.

Craig and Laura are a happily married couple when Laura decides to play a little game with her husband. She decides to pretend to be an actress in an attempt to test her husband on whether he can resist temptation or prove himself to be a loyal faithful husband. Will Craig be able to resist and prove his love for his wife or give in to that all too familiar notion of temptation?

A powerful, psychologically and erotically charged short film, first time director Charline Odiot crafts a brilliant story of a couple who is tested when the wife decides to play a game that could potentially have some dire consequences. The setting is simple: inside a bedroom with our couple in bed and around the bed as we see this game being played.

The duo cast of Jessica Graham and Ross Crain really showcase some great talent as the couple. Graham’s Laura brings a sense of sensuality with a dash of wit as even the viewer can be seen to be confused by whether she is playing the doting wife or her alter ego, in this case, the seductive actress who is the character in the game while Crain’s Craig  does whatever he can to resist temptation and prove his love for Laura.

Beautifully shot, with the cast giving charged up performances, Charline Odiot’s The Tempation Game is a powerfully charged short film full of both psychological battles meshed with eroticism. Definitely an interesting film to check out.

WFG RATING: A

A Sibay Films Production. Director: Charline Odiot. Producer: Michael Sibay. Writers: Charline Odiot and Michael Sibay. Cinematography: Donald MacKinnon. Editing: Sherwood Jones.

Cast: Jessica Graham, Ross Crain

A special thank you goes out to Charline Odiot for allowing WFG to see the film. The film is available to view on Feelmakers.com and on TV by Shorts International.

REVIEW: The Condemned 2 (2015)

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2015, Lionsgate/WWE Studios

Director:
Roél Reine
Producer:
Michael J. Luisi
Writer:
Alan McElroy
Cinematography:
Roél Reine
Editing:
Radu Ion

Cast:
Randy Orton (Will Tanner)
Eric Roberts (Frank Tanner)
Wes Studi (Cyrus Merrick)
Steven Michael Quezada (Raul Bacarro)
Bill Stinchcomb (Harrigan)
Alex Knight (Cooper)
Dylan Kenin (Travis)
Michael Sheets (Lange)
Morse Bicknell (Michaels)
Mark Sivertsen (Sheriff Ross)
Monique Candelaria (Danielle)

From the writer of Tekken and the “go-to” guy for straight to DVD sequels, WWE superstar Randy Orton takes over as he’s forced to be part of a deadly game and no, this is not 12 Rounds.

Will Tanner is a former bounty hunter who no longer gets himself in the business after a botched mission results in the death of target Cyrus Merrick. After serving some time for manslaughter, Will is released and finds a job as a tow truck driver for longtime friend Danielle. As Will begins to feel more comfortable with his new job, he can’t help but think about the mission as well as the berating his father gave him after the incident.

Will’s life is about to change when he runs into old friend Michaels, who was on his team the night of the botched mission. After Will fixes his truck, Michaels offers him a drink at a local cantina, where he attempts to kill Will. Will, not knowing why all of a sudden his friend has to kill him, fights and ultimately kills Michaels in self-defense. Will soon learns that the members of his old team have been forced to kill him as they are all targets in a deadly game orchestrated by Raul Bacarro, Merrick’s old partner who gathers the high rollers to wager on whether or not Will can survive the game.

The 2007 film The Condemned was the lead role debut of WWE legend “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and had quite an interesting concept, which involved a Battle Royale-esque plot in which convicts faced each other to the death for an internet broadcast game for the high rollers. This sequel now features WWE superstar Randy Orton as a former bounty hunter who is apparently involved in a new version of the game. However, it seems more like the “game” here is akin to The Most Dangerous Game and Turkey Shoot rather than something like the original Condemned.

Don’t get me wrong, Randy Orton has the look of an action hero. The problem isn’t so much that he lacks charisma because here he plays more of a worrywart who wonders why all of a sudden his former team turns on him. The problem is that the supporting characters, with the exception of Will’s father Frank, played well by Eric Roberts, are pretty much forgettable. It’s not so much like the original film, where the characters had a little, even if it wasn’t much, depth.

For this film it’s more like this following riff. “Good to see you again, come with me, now I must kill you” and then old friend dies. It grows tiring after a while. However, there is a key moment that seemed somewhat unexpected that brought the film one redemption point. When one of the former team fights with Will and all of a sudden he disappears, the former member looks for him and in a nicely shot slow motion take, Orton rises up from the dirt and sand.

Wes Studi, despite getting third billing for the film, is only given a cameo appearance as the film’s catalyst, a target who is killed in a botched mission from Will and his team. Another shred of redemption comes in the form of Steven Michael Quezada’s Raul, the main villain of the film. He may seem there only for the money, but it is clear when he gets extremely frustrated at Will’s survival of the game, it is clear that he must take drastic measures in quite a predictable manner.

The action is pretty much a hit and miss type of deal. While the gun battles are not too bad, some of the fight scenes could have been better edited. While it deals with close-quarter style combat, it’s more of tussling on the ground and even when knives are used, they aren’t exactly convincing. It seems a bit rushed at times and that’s not a good thing. It’s quite a disappointment at times and even the climactic fight of the movie seems more or less not exciting because for one it is shot in the dark despite fireworks exploding behind the fight but again, the choreography is marred by some bad editing.

As much as one may want to see Randy Orton succeed as an action hero, he will need to not do sequels because The Condemned 2 is pretty disappointing when compared to the “stone cold” original and have a supporting cast who isn’t truly comprised of throwaway characters, yet there is little redemption in Eric Roberts as his father and Steven Michael Quezada’s villain.

WFG RATING: D

The Condemned 2 was released in a limited theatrical release and Video on Demand platforms on November 6, 2015.

12 Rounds (2009)

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After proving himself to be an action star with The Marine in 2006, WWE superstar John Cena returns in this action packed thriller that has one detective involved in one of the biggest “games” of his life, one that could possibly cause him just that…his life.

May 16, 2007. The FBI has attempted to nab suspected arms dealer Miles Jackson for a long time. However, a botched deal from a so-called mole ruined their chances of ever getting him. During a routine traffic stop, New Orleans police officer Danny Fisher goes after Jackson and his girlfriend after his partner is shot down. When Fisher finally catches Jackson and his girlfriend, an attempt to escape leaves Miles’ girlfriend dead and Miles captured.

Flash forward to the present. Danny has now become a detective and lives at home with his longtime girlfriend Molly. However, his past catches up to him as exactly one year to the day of that fateful incident, Miles has escaped from prison and to make matters worse, he kidnaps Molly. Danny discovers the only way to stop Miles is to play along with a “game” Miles calls “12 Rounds”. To Miles, it is all about getting revenge for his girlfriend’s death and putting Danny in an ultimate cat-and-mouse game could prove to be not only dangerous, but potentially fatal.

WWE Superstar John Cena, following in the footsteps of fellow wrestler turned actors Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, slowly is beginning to make a somewhat decent comparison as he fared well in his film debut, The Marine, in 2006. However, with his second film, what helps Cena in his action star status is a pretty decent storyline and the direction by Renny Harlin, the Finnish-born director of Die Hard 2 (1990).

Speaking of Die Hard, the film bears some resemblance to Die Hard with a Vengeance (1992), in which Bruce Willis’ John McClane plays a game of cat-and-mouse with revenge seeking Jeremy Irons. Instead of New York, the film is set in New Orleans where Cena’s Danny Fisher plays the ultimate cat-and-mouse game with a revenge seeking fellow.

While Cena displayed hand-to-hand combat and his skills with the gun in The Marine, in this film, he uses more of his street smarts to play the game. He may be seen by some as just another wrestler turned actor but here, it is the intelligence of Detective Fisher in addition to some of his action scenes that could potentially turn Cena into the next Dwayne Johnson down the road.

Aiden Gillen, perhaps known for his roles in The Wire and the Jackie Chan-Owen Wilson starrer Shanghai Knights (2003) makes for a very good villain in suspected arms dealer Miles Jackson. Very clever, he always tends to get the upper hand in the game and even goes as far as pulling some aces in the hole when necessary. Ashley Scott, who almost a decade ago, kicked some major butt as Huntress on the television series Birds of Prey, plays damsel-in-distress Molly. She has a somewhat rocky relationship with Fisher, but the game may ultimately bring them together. This is Scott’s second film with WWE Studios as she appeared as the love interest/damsel-in-distress in the remake of Walking Tall (2004) opposite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

In the end, 12 Rounds is a pretty good action thriller with a pretty good performance from John Cena, an intelligent villain in Aiden Gillen, and a cat-and-mouse game that altogether may help Cena rise to become one of the next big action stars.

WFG RATING: B

20th Century Fox presents a WWE Studios Film. Director: Renny Harlin. Producers: Mark Gordon, Michael Lake, and Josh McLaughlin. Writer: Daniel Kunka. Cinematography: David Boyd. Editing: Brian Berdan.

Cast: John Cena, Aidan Gillen, Ashley Scott, Steve Harris, Brian J. White, Gonzalo Menendez, Taylor Cole.