District B13 (2004)

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Luc Besson, the man behind the films La Femme Nikita and The Fifth Element amongst others, wrote the screenplay for this amazing action packed film that highlights the free running art of parkour, and its creator, David Belle.

The title of the film refers to a lowly district outside of Paris, which has been plagued with gang violence. It goes so bad that there is no government, no police, and no schools. However, it is the home of Leito, a loner who only cares about one thing: his sister Lola. When Leito learns that Lola has been kidnapped by local crime lord Taha because Leito refuses to let drug dealers near his place, he intends to take Taha down.

Six months later, a bomb has been placed in District B13 and it is up to Damian Tomaso, a tough as nails Parisian cop, to enter the area and find the bomb. It is no sooner that Damian and Leito find themselves on the same page as the bomb was stolen by none other than Taha. Both Leito and Damian have special skills that enable them to take on the bad guys. This becomes a highlight reel for the amazing art of parkour, a style that involves scaling buildings with no use of wires and jumping from rooftop to rooftop as well as martial arts courtesy of Raffaelli, who gained a following after his impressive performance in Besson’s 2001 thriller Kiss of the Dragon opposite Jet Li.

While Besson is credited with co-writing the screenplay with co-star Larci “Bibi” Naceri and producing the film, the film was directed by Pierre Morel, who got his start as a cinematographer who worked on the first installment of The Transporter trilogy. For his directorial debut, Morel used his expert sense of cinematography with director of photography Manuel Teran to showcase the action sequences, choreographed by Raffaelli. The film made great use of its locales and buildings that were used for Belle’s and Raffaelli’s parkour skills.

As much as many movie viewers may see this as a routine action thriller, Besson has always been known for giving quality entertainment. With the success of The Transporter and Kiss of the Dragon, Besson wrote this film just for Belle and Raffaelli. Belle and Raffaelli both got their starts as stuntmen and bit players, but this film helped put them on the map as worthy lead actors. Both men have the acting skills and the action skills to carry the film and it succeeded. It did so well that a sequel, District B13: Ultimatum was released in 2009 and a U.S. remake, Brick Mansions, which would be the final completed film of late actor Paul Walker, was released in 2014.

The only flaw of the film is that there wasn’t enough villains who had the tendency to match the skills of Belle and Raffaelli. Taha is the sly crime lord who just sits around and lets his men do the work. His number one man, K2, is a big man who relies on two things, his gun and big mouth, to act like the big shot. The other villains are played by parkour artists, but they are there basically to look foolish and get beaten around by Belle and Raffaelli. Another villain comes in the form of a wrestler like guy who absorbs Raffaelli’s kicks and only gets defeated when Belle uses his parkour skills to tie a rope around the big oaf. They needed to have a worthy opponent or two to make some of the action scenes a little more interesting.

Despite the lack of “worthy opponents”, District B13 is still a fun film to watch, especially to see the art of parkour in full effect.


A EuropaCorp/TF1 Production in association with Canal+. Director: Pierre Morel. Producer: Luc Besson. Writers: Luc Besson and Bibi Naceri. Cinematography: Manuel Teran. Editing: Stéphanie Gaurier and Frédéric Thoraval.

Cast: Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Tony D’Amario, Bibi Naceri, Dany Verissimo, François Chattot, Nicolas Woirion, Patrick Olivier, Samir Guesmi, Jérôme Gadner.


Golden Slumber (2018)

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A courier’s dream becomes a nightmare in this Korean thriller from director Noh Dong-Seok.

Kim Gun-Woo is a happy go lucky courier who takes pride in his work. A one-time former band member during his university days, he spends his time listening to the traffic reports from old friend Jeon Sun-young. However, many know Gun-Woo because he was named a Model Citizen for rescuing a local pop star. While Gun-Woo may seem like someone who would relish fame, he just loves being happy. However, when an old friend, Shin Moo-Yeol arrives to once again see him, Gun-Woo will find himself in serious danger.

When Gun-Woo witnesses a bombing, which leads to the death of a presidential candidate, Moo-Yeol informs his old friend that he is going to be blamed for what has just transpired. Moo-Yeol gives him the card to a friend, Min, just before he is killed. As Gun-Woo learns that a conspiracy has arisen, in which a secret agent known as “Silicone” has posed as Gun-Woo to make him take the fall, Gun-Woo is shocked to learn that his old friend is actually a former agent along with Mr. Min. Together, Gun-Woo and Kim must clear his Gun-Woo’s name and uncover the conspiracy before more people turn up dead.

This Korean thriller, based on a Japanese novel, is quite an intricate look at conspiracies within the government and how one man goes through a radical change because of those consequences that plague him within the conspiracy. Director Noh Dong-Seok, who co-wrote the film with Lee Hae-Jun and Cho Ui-Seok, wisely adds intricate plot twists as well as important flashbacks in order to flesh out the central character of Kim Gun-Woo.

Kang Dong-Won is great to watch as Gun-Woo. We first see him as a happy man who loves doing his job and still gets recognized for his heroics, which is never depicted but more brought out when he is doing one of his deliveries and is asked to do a selfie of himself with a mother and son. However, it is when he sees his old friend Moo-Yeol, played by Yoon Kye-Sang, that things change for Gun-Woo.

We see Gun-Woo slowly transform from happy to scared to someone who just will not take it anymore. Kim Eui-Sung is great to watch as Min, a truck driver who seems to act like a double agent, first helping Gun-Woo, then kidnapping him, then ultimately being the most reliable ally due to his connection with Moo-Yeol. Han Hyo-Joo gives some support as Gun-Woo’s ex-girlfriend turned radio reporter Sun-Young, who does whatever she can to help Gun-Woo while Kim Dae-Myung provides some brief comic relief as another old friend, who has since become a lawyer and finds himself in one bind after another.

The action helps drive the many plot twists along the way as we see Kim doing what he feels is necessary and the flashbacks of him with his old friends, help drive the film even further as we see Kim embrace both his past and present, all in hopes to see what is in store for his future. The ones responsible for Gun-Woo’s frame-up are truly ruthless in their means to make sure they control the government and in turn, control the people, even if it means framing anyone and they do mean anyone. They don’t care who gets hurt as long as they get what they want and that is control. This sort of action just makes you want to keep rooting for our hero.

Golden Slumber is a thrilling film with great twists and turns that mold and flesh out a man who undergoes a radical transformation in order to stop a conspiracy. Driven by the performance of Kang Dong-Won, this is a pretty good conspiracy thriller.


CJ Entertainment presents a Zip Media film. Director: Noh Dong-Seok. Producer: Song Dae-Chan. Writers: Lee Hae-Jun, Noh Dong-Seok, and Cho Ui-Seok; based on the novel by Kotaro Isaka. Cinematography: Kim Jung-Wook and Kim Tae-Sung. Editing: Shin Min-Kyung.

Cast: Kang Dong-Won, Kim Eui-Sung, Kim Sung-Kyun, Kim Dae-Myung, Han Hyo-Joo, Yoon Kye-Sung, Lee Hang-Na, Park Ghoon, Kim Jae-Young, Jo Young-Jin, Jung Jae-Sung.

Black Mask (1996)

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Jet Li becomes a superpowered one-man army in this 90’s sci-fi/martial arts hybrid that holds quite well even today.

Tsui Chik was once part of an experiment that made him lose all the pain nerves in his body. He became an elite member of a government assassination group known as the 701 Squad. However, grown tired of killing, Tsui makes his escape and has hidden for over a year. Now living a quiet life as a library worker, Tsui’s life changes forever when he learns that his former comrades have gone rogue, killing various gang leaders in an effort to steal information from the police themselves.

When Tsui discovers what is going on, he soon puts on a black mask and begins using his skills once again to take on his old rivals. This causes conflict with local detective Shek Wai-Ho, Tsui’s entrusted friend, who soon learns the identity of the “black mask”. Things go from bad to worse when Yeuk Laan, a current member of the 701 Squad recognizes the “black mask” as well and informs the leader of the team, Commander Hung. With the help of co-worker Tracy, Tsui Chik plans to take down his old team before it’s too late.

Since his debut as a 19-year old in The Shaolin Temple, it was clear that Jet Li was destined for superstardom and that was solidified with his breakout performance as the real life folk hero Wong Fei-Hung in Once Upon a Time in China. Li reunites with that film’s director, Tsui Hark, who serves as co-writer and producer of this modern day sci-fi/action film that takes a somewhat clichéd idea and adds the sci-fi twist of our hero being superpowered due to an experiment.

Jet Li truly has that charisma that works with an action role. Clearly having the skills, Li also possesses some pretty good action skills as someone who has a range of emotions. When we first see him as the library worker Tsui, he has that happy go lucky vibe that should being smiles to viewers. Of course, when it comes to action, viewers want Li to deliver and deliver he does. Despite the action filled prologue that fills the opening credits, a fun quick brawl has Li taking on some potential robbers in a restroom shortly after Sean Lau’s detective beats them up and walks out.

As for Lau, his character of Detective Shek is both a hard-boiled type and somewhat understanding for the most part when it comes to why Tsui doesn’t want to fight. However, when Shek learns Tsui’s secret, he realizes he may be dealing with a vigilante and while Tsui wants to help, some decisions our hero make doesn’t bode well with Shek and thus, leads to an all-out brawl in a cemetery. Many today don’t see Lau as an action type, but he handles himself pretty well, relegating to using a Western boxing style of fighting as opposed to Li’s frenetic martial arts style.

Pop star turned actress Karen Mok may seem to play a damsel in distress type in library worker Tracy but soon finds herself to be a vital asset and partner to our hero. Canadian-born model and actress Françoise Yip, fresh off her role in Rumble in the Bronx, gets a more action-orientated role in Yeuk Laan, a member of the 701 Squad who finds herself conflicted. She remains loyal to our lead villain Commander Hung (played with a crazy long-haired Patrick Lung Kong) and yet she feels somewhat indebted to our hero from an incident that is flashed back a few times throughout the film.

As for Yuen Woo-Ping’s action, they are a pretty good mix of wirework and grounded martial arts. Of course, the mere fact that the hero and villains are superpowered thanks to a government experiment, it is clear that wirework is necessary to show the enhancements of those characters. Li’s frenetic martial arts skills are well worth seeing, especially when he dons the Black Mask to face the likes of Winston Ellis and a short but stellar fight against British kicker Mike Lambert in a warm-up before the long-awaited showdown between Li and Lung.

Black Mask is a fun adventure that meshes sci-fi and martial arts with a dash of the superhero genre. Ultimately a fun film in Jet Li’s filmography. The film would get a U.S. release via Distant Horizon in 1999 after Li’s successful Hollywood debut in Lethal Weapon 4.


A Win’s Entertainment Ltd./Film Workshop Production. Director: Daniel Lee. Producer: Tsui Hark. Writers: Koan Hui, Teddy Chen, Joe Ma, and Tsui Hark. Cinematography: Tony Cheung and Venus Keung. Editing: Cheung Ka-Fai and Ettie Feldman.

Cast: Jet Li, Sean Lau, Karen Mok, Françoise Yip, Patrick Lung Kong, Anthony Wong, Xiong Xin-Xin, Henry Fong, Sze Mei-Yee, Roy Szeto, Chan Suk-Yee, Ken Lok, Dion Lam, Russ Price, Moses Chan, Mike Lambert, Winston Ellis.

1987: When the Day Comes (2017)

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South Korea’s government turned upside down thirty years ago and this film depicts the events of what had transpired during that period.

Director Park, a defector from North Korea, has been hired by the South Korean government to apprehend and interrogate any suspicious persons who may be accused of coming from the North. However, when 22-year old college student Park Jong-Chul is found dead during his interrogation, Park finds himself in a possible world of trouble. He decides on behalf of the government to cover up the student’s death and make it look like it was a heart attack.

Prosecutor Choi finds himself under constant pressure from Park’s men to authorize cremation without an autopsy, which is clearly against the law. Having already suffered a major setback within the company, Choi decides he will do things right and investigate what really had happened. Meanwhile, Kim Jung-Nam, a potential whistleblower on the excessive force of Park and his men, is hiding out and looks for clues as to what has happened to Park. When the media gets wind of the events surrounding Park’s death, university students begin to protest for many days and as a result, history is destined to change in South Korea.

Based on actual events that occurred in 1987 that culminated in a major change in the government of South Korea, this film uses both historical facts and fictionalized drama to bring together a story about what is now known as the June Democratic Movement, which resulted in the end of then-President Chun Doo-Hwan’s military regime and use of excessive force for interrogations. The script, written by Kim Kyung-Chan, brings together a series of interweaving stories from the point of views from both sides of the spectrum.

The primary focus of the film is that of defected Director Park, played in a very powerful performance by Kim Yoon-Seok. Park is truly seen as someone who is determined to keep his loyalty to President Chun and will do whatever it takes and that is meant in a literal sense, to make sure that the death of Park Jong-Chul is covered up as well as ensuring that as the mastermind behind it all due to the nature of the regime, that there are no loose ends. The level of power that Park intends to keep is shown in a very emotional scene where he threatens one of his own men, who serves as a scapegoat, by threatening to make the scapegoat’s family North Korean spies and executing them.

Ha Jung-Woo gives a pretty good performance as the embittered Choi, who resorts to always drinking as a sign of regret for a past mistake which nearly cost him his job. When the opportunity arises in Park Jong-Chul’s death, he finds redemption by doing things the right way despite constant pressure from Park’s men, who are depicted in the film as thugs whose actions are no better than common criminals or gangsters. Yoo Hae-Jin and Kim Tae-Ri make up the third subplot as a benevolent prison guard and his college bound niece, who are also affected by the events as the guard knows and helps whistleblower Kim Jung-Nam with the niece reluctantly finding herself involved, especially after meeting Lee Han-Yeol, who would go on to be the “face” of the movement, played by Kang Dong-Won.

A very powerful film with great performances and a mix of interweaving stories, 1987: When the Day Comes brings to life the shocking events that would lead into the changing of the guard forever in South Korea.


CJ Entertainment presents a Woojeung Film production. Director: Jang Joon-Hwan. Producer: Jung Won-Chan. Writer: Kim Kyung-Chun. Cinematography: Kim Woo-Hyung. Editing: Yang Jin-Mo.

Cast: Kim Yoon-Seok, Ha Jung-Woo, Yoo Hae-Jin, Kim Tae-Ri, Yeo Jin-Goo, Kang Dong-Won, Choi Kwong-Il, Park Hee-Soon, Lee Hee-Joon.

The film will make its U.S. debut at the CGV Cinemas in Buena Park, CA and Los Angeles, CA on January 12, 2018.

Korean Political Thriller “1987: When the Day Comes” Hits the U.S. and Canada in January

A political conspiracy transpired thirty years ago in Korea and a film about the events is gearing for a U.S. and Canada release in January.

1987: When the Day Comes revolves around a college student who is killed during a police interrogation. Government officials quickly jump to cover up the death and order the body cremated, but the prosecutor who needs to sign off raises questions on the cause of death – a heart attack – and begins to dig for the truth. Despite a systematic attempt to silence everyone involved in the case, the truth gets out, sending a government fighting to keep power into political turmoil.

Jang Joon-Hwan directed the film, which stars Kim Yoo-Seok, Ha Jung-Woo, Yoo Hai-Jin, Kim Tae-Ri, and Lee Hee-Jeon.

The film gets a limited theatrical release on December 29 at the CGV Cinemas in Los Angeles and Buena Park before its national release date of January 12, 2018.

The Secret Rivals (1976)

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The Northern Leg and the Southern Fist unite to take on a common foe in one of the best well-known kung fu flicks that does not star Bruce Lee. The literal “kicker” or should we say “kickers” come in the forms of Taiwanese bootmaster John Liu and the King of Leg Fighters himself, Hwang Jung-Lee.

Three years ago, a fortune in gold has been stolen and brought from China to a small town in Korea. The prince was one of the robbers of the gold and is awaiting the gang boss known as the Silver Fox. He hears news that government official Sheng Yi-Wei will be arriving shortly. Disguised as a fighter in the prince’s upcoming tournament for the head bodyguard position, Sheng is an expert in the Southern Fist style.

Sheng also finds an admirer in local girl Miss Chen. However, Sheng also finds a mysterious wanderer following him. When Sheng wins the tournament and becomes the head bodyguard, he soon learns the identity of his mysterious stalker. He is Shao Yi-Fei, the master of the Northern Kick style. Shao is also seeking out the Silver Fox to avenge the brutal death of his parents. Individually, Sheng and Shao have tried to take on Silver Fox but to no avail. Now, these “secret rivals” must unite to take down Silver Fox once and for all.

After Bruce Lee’s untimely death in 1973, loads of martial arts films were the usual kung fu fare. In 1976, filmmaker Ng See-Yuen delivered this instant classic, which combines the agile kicking skills of John Liu and the fast frenetic handwork and kicks of Don Wong. Wong, who got his chops taking on Chuck Norris in Yellow Faced Tiger (1974), Wong truly breaks out here with his impressive work with his hands, jumping hook kicks, and even the nunchakus. As for the young John Liu, he has the impressive flexibility and kicking that would make fans of leg work proud.

The Silver Fox, the lead villain of the piece, is well played by Korean taekwondo master and film star Hwang Jung-Lee. While Hwang began his film career in his native Korea, he shines here in his Hong Kong film debut. He uses some nice crisp handwork and his lethal kicking agility. While Liu may be more of a flashy kicker, Hwang is a more powerful kicker here and when he’s not some fast handwork, he lets his legs do the talking for him.

Under the supervision of fight choreographers Richard Cheung and Tommy Lee (who later played the villain in another North/South vs. foe flick, The Hot, The Cool, and the Vicious (1976)), the fights look very nice here, highlighting the talents of the three lead actors. However, the creme de la creme comes in the finale, which is split into three acts. The first act involves Wong vs. Liu. The second act involves Hwang vs. Liu. Finally, the final act involves Wong and Liu joining forces against Hwang. The finale involves lots of kicking and nicely done acrobatics.

The film proved to be a big hit that a sequel was unleashed the following year, reuniting Liu and Hwang with another Wong, Tino Wong (no relation) replacing Don Wong as the Southern Fist expert.

A true classic, any kung fu film fan has to put The Secret Rivals in their must-see list!!!


A Seasonal Film Corporation film. Director: Ng See-Yuen. Producer: Ng See-Yuen. Writers: Ng See-Yuen and Tung Lo. Cinematography: Chang Chi. Editing: Sung Ming and Poon Hung.

Cast: Don Wong, John Liu, Hwang Jung-Lee, Yeo Su-Jin, James Nam, Lee Ye-Ming, Nam Chung-Il, Kim Kwang-Il, To Wai-Wo, Yuen Biao.

Satoh Lives and Dies in “Ajin” Trailer

Takeru Satoh returns to live-action manga adaptations after the successful Rurouni Kenshin trilogy as the trailer to the upcoming Ajin has been unveiled.

in Ajin, Satoh plays Kei Nagai, who after being hit by a truck, learns he has the ability to regeneration and live again. He soon finds himself a target for the government, who deem fellow “ajin” a threat to society and thus, performing dangerous experiments on them.

Co-starring in the film are Kenichi Suzumura and Mamoru Niyano, two well-known voice actors with Niyano actually voicing the character of Kei in the anime adaptation of the Gamon Sakurai manga. Bayside Shakedown and Psycho Pass helmer Katsuyuki Motohiro directed the film.

Ajin is set for release on September 30 in Japan by Toho.

Battle Royale (2000)

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2000, Toei Company/Fukusaku-Gumi/GAGA Communications/Nippon Shuppan Hanbei/Kobi Co./WOWOW/AM Associates/MF Pictures

Kinji Fukusaku
Kinji Fukusaku
Kenta Fukusaku
Chie Kobayashi
Toshio Nabeshima
Masumi Okada
Kimio Kataoka
Takami Koushun (novel)
Kenta Fukusaku (screenplay)
Katsumi Yanagijima
Hirohide Abe

Tatsuya Fujiwara (Shuya Nanahara)
Aki Maeda (Noriko Nakagawa)
Taro Yamamoto (Shogo Kawada)
Takeshi Kitano (Kitano-Sensei)
Chiaki Kuriyama (Takako Chigusa)
Sosuke Takaoka (Hiroki Sugimura)
Takashi Tsukamoto (Shinji Mimura)
Eri Ishikawa (Yukie Utsumi)
Yukihiro Kotani (Yoshitoki Kuninobu)
Ko Shibasaki (Mitsuko Soma)
Masanobu Ando (Kazuo Kiriyama)

Takami Koushun’s controversial novel is brought to life courtesy of the legendary Kinji Fukusaku, which also caused controversy with its core plot.

Local schools have been in chaos with students randomly attacking teachers. As a result, the government imposes a new law called the New Millennium Education Reform Act, also known as the Battle Royale act. The act has a class chosen by lottery and that class are to head to an uninhabited island where the students have only three days to kill each other until there is only one survivor left. If there are more than one survivor after the three days, everyone dies.

This year, it’s Class 3-B, a class of high school freshmen, who are chosen to engage in the battle royale. They are shocked to learn that their former professor, Kitano, is in charge to ensure the plan goes without a hitch. To add fuel to this fire, two new students, Kawada and Kiriyama, have transferred to Class 3-B. As the game begins, the class must go to great lengths to ensure survival and for some, they will go against their own friends to make sure they are the only survivors. However, some attempt to find hope and intend to find a way that there will be more than the one required survivor. What will happen after these three horrific days?

When Takami Koushun released his dystopian novel in 1999, which revolves around a government law that caused students to become their own victims by killing each other on an abandoned island, the Japanese Parliament were upset and had attempted to ban the book but when Koushun argued that the government in the book doesn’t necessarily mean Japan, the author won. One of the great Japanese auteurs, Kinji Fukusaku, took the chance and directed this film adaptation, which delves a bit away from its source material, but still holds as one of the great Japanese action-horror films today.

The film has an ensemble cast with another legend, Takeshi Kitano, as the teacher who becomes the commander of this year’s BR act and ensures that these kids follow through with what the government wants. Tatsuya Fujiwara and Aki Maeda do quite well as the two concerned students who want to just survive and will do what they can to make sure they do so together. Taro Yamamoto’s Kawada is a very mysterious figure who may not be as heartless as he seems while Masanobu Ando’s Kiriyama is a raging lunatic who goes to great lengths and extremes to ensure his survival.

One Missed Call’s Ko Shibasaki gives an impressive performance as the popular girl of the class, who just when you think she becomes the hunted becomes a vicious hunter herself as she unleashes a repressed fire within herself in her first action scene of the film. The future “Go Go Yubari” of Kill Bill Vol. 1 herself, Chiaki Kuriyama, makes the guys cringe when she confronts a classmate who had a pining crush on her but rejects him and when he attacks her, she resorts to territory reminiscent of some great classic cult revenge films.

The level of violence in the film is what you would expect from a gritty action thriller in the vein of grindhouse to a level of horror film. There are loads of blood and gore in the film, especially when it comes to certain characters going to the extreme to a massive shootout that results from a miscommunication and assumption between classmates in an abandoned house on the island. Even when you think one specific character has died, he comes back to wreak more havoc looking worse than they do when you first see them and the finale brings a bit of a shock value.

Battle Royale is a film that truly tackles a controversial topic or two, but look at recent youth adult novels and film adaptations such as The Hunger Games and The Divergent Series and see its influence from perhaps this very film and its source novel, which caused governmental uproar in its native Japan, but the controversy only made this more popular than expected.



No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers (1989)

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1989, Seasonal Film Corporation

Lucas Lowe
Keith W. Strandberg
Keith W. Strandberg
John Huneck
Allan Poon

Loren Avedon (Will Alexander)
Keith Vitali (Casey Alexander)
Joseph Campanella (John Alexander)
Wanda Acuna (Maria)
Luke Askew (Jack Atteron)
Rion Hunter (Antonio “Franco” Franconi)
Mark Russo (Russo)
David Michael Sterling (Angel)

To complete his U.S.-Hong Kong crossover trilogy, launching Jean-Claude Van Damme in 1985 and Loren Avedon in 1987, producer Ng See-Yuen reunites with screenwriter Keith W. Strandberg and tae kwon do expert Loren Avedon in this tale that takes a page from Ng’s first film with Seasonal Film Corporation, The Secret Rivals. Only instead of North and South styles as the “rivals”, we have two brothers whose political views gets the best of them until the death of their father brings them together.

C.I.A. agent Casey Alexander has a reputation as being one of the most respected agents in the company. Martial arts instructor Will Alexander, Casey’s brother, doesn’t believe in the entire federal agent shtick and as a result, the two brothers have a serious falling out that starts out at a hunting trip and culminates at the 65th birthday party of their retired agent father John.

When John becomes the target of Colombian terrorist Antonio “Franco” Franconi, the result of a job in which Franco’s son was killed, John is brutally beaten and then ultimately killed by Franco. When the brothers discover their father, both Will and Casey plan to find Franco. However, they go about it in separate ways.

The brothers learn that Franco has set up base in Florida. On the one hand, Casey relies on the help of former flame Maria, who has ties to Franco’s organization. On the other, Will decides to infiltrate Franco’s gang by gathering his old karate buddies and setting up a fight at a local bar. A test of skills gets Will to join the gang. When Will’s first mission is to kill Casey, the brothers finally get over their differences and hatch a plan to stop Franco once and for all, especially when Franco hatches a new devious plan: to assassinate the President of the United States.

The first film in the series was a test of honor and the second involved the rigors of war. The third time is somewhat of a modern day take on the classic 1976 kung fu film The Secret Rivals. Instead of John Liu and Wang Tao playing the Northern Kick and Southern Fist, we have Loren Avedon as a martial arts instructor and Keith Vitali as a C.I.A. agent whose views stand very strong. The sibling rivalry of the brothers in the film play an intricate role throughout the course of the film. They may have their issues, but it takes the death of a loved one to ultimately bring them together and kick some major butt in the process.

Rion Hunter appears very menacing as Franco. Complete with white hair and accent, he seems to play the perfect bad guy for the film. He even has some martial arts skills himself as well as use darts as a weapon. Despite some doubling for the big fight sequence in the end, he plays it off very nicely. Franco’s number one henchman, played by Florida-based ninjitsu expert Mark Russo, Russo stands out as an incredible martial arts fighter, going toe-to-toe with Loren Avedon in the “test” fight scene.

This time around, the action choreographing duties are handed over to Tony Leung Siu-Hung, who is a 1970’s kung fu film star and the younger brother of 70’s kung fu superstar Bruce Leung Siu-Lung, who made a huge comeback in 2004’s Kung Fu Hustle, starring Stephen Chow. Compared to the first two films, Leung relied more on undercranking in some sequences. However, they do stand out and with very little double, Avedon and Vitali are able to show their trademark skills. Both actors have had their share of Hong Kong-style action, with Avedon working with Corey Yuen in No Retreat, No Surrender II: Raging Thunder, while Vitali had worked with Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao in the 1984 hit film Wheels on Meals.

If you will notice in the film, Vitali’s character is wearing a cast for most of the movie. It was written in after an accident occurred. According to screenwriter Keith Strandberg, Loren Avedon and Keith were showing their martial arts skills for action choreographer Leung. When Avedon did a double back jump kick, Leung asked Vitali if he could do the same move. Vitali thought he could, but ended up breaking his wrist when he fell. This all happened the day before shooting began, so Strandberg wrote it in. The setup was perfect and as a result, Keith looks great in his fight scenes.

Both Avedon and Vitali would go on to work with Tony Leung Siu-Hung again. Leung would choreograph what many call Avedon’s best film, King of the Kickboxers (1990), while Vitali would work with Leung on Seasonal’s final two U.S. crossover films, Superfights (1995) and Bloodmoon (1997).

The U.S. cut, released in 1991 by Imperial Entertainment, cuts only about three minutes from the original cut. The cuts including some dialogue between Will and his father on the phone as well as all footage of President George H.W. Bush, who is the prime target for arch-villain Franco.

In any picture, No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers is a step up from the previous two sequels. This occurs not only with the story that looks to be influenced from a classic kung fu film, but the action is kicked up a major notch. Martial arts film fans will not want to miss this film, and to think, you don’t even have to watch any of the first two as this is an in-name sequel.


DVD (Region 2)

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (2014)

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The saga based on Nobuhiro Watsuki’s manga and the anime comes to an end in this exciting final installment that features both character-driven performances and perhaps the best action of the entire trilogy.

Picking up where Kyoto Inferno ends, Kenshin Himura has awaken in the home of Seijuro Hiko, the samurai who taught him the art of swordfighting. It has been fifteen years since Hiko and Kenshin have seen each other. Kenshin tells Hiko of his arch-nemesis, Makoto Shishio, who plots to overthrow the government and take over Tokyo. Kenshin asks Hiko to teach him the “ultimate technique” of the High Heaven style in order to defeat Shishio. However, the young former assassin must go through a series of battles with his teacher to learn the technique.

Meanwhile, as Shishio plots his takeover, Kaoru Kimiya has been found and is resting at the Aoiya Inn. Relieved to hear that Kaoru is alive are her trusted friends Sojiro Seta and Yahiko Myojin. The government, after a failed attempt to negotiate with Shishio, decide to side with the tyrant to find Kenshin and publicly execute him. While former samurai turned government official Hajime Saito is unhappy with this, he is shocked to learn that the government actually plan to lure Kenshin as a scapegoat due to the fact they think he may be the only one capable of defeating Shishio.

When the original Rurouni Kenshin was released, it was one of the biggest hits in Japan and then came the first half of the two-part saga featuring the villainous Makoto Shishio, played by Battle Royale and Death Note franchise star Tatsuya Fujiwara. Kyoto Inferno was a nice set up to this installment, which is truly exciting to watch. From the very first scene, a flashback where we learn the history of young Kenshin to the blistering finale, there are truly many reasons why this is the best of the trilogy.

The cast of characters may have done quite well in the last two, but here, they amp up their performances. Especially Takeru Satoh as Kenshin, who has become more driven and determined to stop Shishio, but asks himself if he is willing to sacrifice himself and for what in the process. As Shishio, Fujiwara is more tyrannical here than in the last film. Perhaps it is because once we know his real plan, he exerts that plan with such greatness and force, he would make even the best of comic book villains proud. Major kudos must go to pop star Masaharu Fukuyama, who plays Kenshin’s mentor Seijuro Hiko. His performance is sheer excitement and determination. As a mentor, he ranks up there high and should deserve some sort of accolade.

Ryunosuke Hamiki brings out his top of the game as Sojiro, who shows sort of a soft side to his tough exterior due to his worry about Kenshin and Kaoru. Even though his screen time is minimal yet crucial, Yosuke Eguchi still gives it his all as Hajime Saito. The only flaws here are the very minimal performances of Emi Takei as female lead Kaoru Kamiya, who spends the first half of the film recuperating and in the second half not really doing much; and Yu Aoi as doctor Megumi Takani, who just is there for virtually one scene.

Once again, Kenji Tanigaki took charge of the film’s action scenes and there are more action scenes here than its predecessor. The action scenes are some of his best work let alone the best action of the trilogy. From Kenshin and Hiko’s “test” battles to the insane finale that starts on the beach and ends with the long-awaited duel between Kenshin and Shishio, it is just exciting to see Tanigaki amp up the action. In the fight between Kenshin and another samurai determined to kill him, Kenshin is able to pull off a wicked evade flip move that looks to be influenced by the likes of the late Panna Rittikrai and his team. Whether this was done by a stunt double or was even wire-assisted is hard to determine thanks to some amazing tight editing that enhances and makes the action here altogether worth seeing.

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends is a near-perfect finale of the trilogy. Despite a few flaws here and there, the performances of Takeru Satoh, Tatsuya Fujiwara, and Masaharu Fukuyama as well as the action scenes make this film a definitive purchase for your collection along with the other films of the trilogy.


A Warner Brothers Japan Production. Director: Keishi Ohtomo. Producer: Satoshi Fukishima. Writers: Kiyomi Fujii and Keishi Ohtomo; based on the manga by Nobuhiro Watsuki. Cinematography: Takuro Ishizaka. Editing: Tsuyoshi Imai.

Cast: Takeru Satoh, Emi Takei, Yu Aoi, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Yusuke Iseya, Yosuke Eguchi, Munetaka Aoki, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Tao Tsuchiya, Min Tanaka, Masaharu Fukuyama, Kaito Ohyagi