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Fist of the North Star (1995)

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This live action adaptation may not suit the faithful of fans of the original Japanese manga and anime. However, martial arts film fans will like this as one of the highlights of British action star Gary Daniels, as he displays some of his best kicking on screen.

In a post-apocalyptic future, the deadly Southern Cross Army, led by Lord Shin, has been wreaking havoc across the lands. As a result, many are left in dire poverty. However, there is one hope to stop the Southern Cross. The “hope” comes in the form on a wanderer. That wanderer’s name is Kenshiro, the only remaining exponent of the “North Star” martial arts school.

For Kenshiro, it is more than helping those victimized by the Southern Cross, but it is personal. Kenshiro and Shin, arch rivals for a long time, fought with Shin overpowering Kenshiro and not only left him for dead, but has taken Kenshiro’s love Julia. Julia has become Shin’s personal slave and even worse, Shin is responsible for the death of Kenshiro’s father, Ryuken. It is up to Kenshiro to bring peace back to the lands and stop the Southern Cross once and for all.

Upon viewing this for the first time when it was HBO in 1996, I knew there was an anime movie and manga, but hadn’t seen it prior to this version. While this version will not be exactly be pleasing who have seen the manga and anime before, the martial arts film fans will most likely get a “kick” out of it. Directed by Tony Randel, this is actually a pretty good martial arts action film that highlights the talents of one Gary Daniels.

Gary Daniels has been a fan favorite for years. His impeccable kicking skills are some of the best seen on screen. This shows some of his best skills yet and in addition, he pulls off the dramatic side quite well. When he executes the titular move, a series of punches that end with a shot to the head, causing the opponent’s head to literally explode, it is not bad. This is first seen when he takes on veteran stuntman Nils Allen Stewart, who plays baddie Zeed.

Costas Mandylor makes the best of his role as the evil Shin, the head of the Southern Cross and he is able to perform his action scenes quite well with Christopher Penn as henchman Jackal, who looks primarily nasty due to him having to tape up his face to prevent himself from the effects of the North Star. Isako Washio makes the most of her role as the kidnapped Julia, who spends the film as a true damsel-in-distress. Dante Basco provides much of the comic relief as Bat, a young man who becomes Kenshiro’s ally in the wastelands.

Winston Omega, Daniels’ real-life martial arts teacher, choreographed the film’s fight scenes and as mentioned, make Daniels and Mandylor look good. While Daniels is known for his awesome kicks, he gives Mandylor a chance to shine in the action department, emplying more of a Western boxing with dashes of perhaps Muay Thai from what it looks like. Of course, while Costas’ real life brother Louis is the more action-orientated star, Costas does stand out here as a worthy villain especially in the climactic showdown between Shin and Kenshiro. As a warm up to that finale, look for an awesome fight scene involving Kenshiro disposing of a slew of Southern Cross thugs with his amazing skills.

While hardcore fans of the original manga and anime will find disappointment in today’s age, Fist of the North Star is a pretty good 90’s adaptation which features Gary Daniels and Costas Mandylor as the top of their game as Kenshiro and Shin. Martial arts enthusiasts may just want to see this one, even if it is just one time.

WFG RATING: B-

Overseas Film Group present an OZ Motion Pictures production. Director: Tony Randel. Producer: Mark Yellen and Akihiro Komine. Writers: Tony Randel and Peter Atkins; based on the original manga by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara. Cinematography: Jacques Haitkn. Editing: Sonny Baskin.

Cast: Gary Daniels, Costas Mandylor, Christopher Penn, Isako Washio, Melvin Van Peebles, “Downtown” Julie Brown, Dante Basco, Nalena Herron, Malcolm McDowell, Tracey Walter, Clint Howard, Leon “Vader” White, Nils Allen Stewart, Tony Halme, Andre Rosey Brown.

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Shroff Sports New Look for “Baaghi 2”; Sequel Details

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Bollywood action fans…Tiger Shroff is returning and he’s got a new look.

The actor and martial artist has cut down his hair and looks unrecognizable as he returns as his character of Ronny in the soon-to-be released sequel Baaghi 2.

The original 2016 Bollywood martial arts action film caused controversy when the finale was lifted from the Indonesian film The Raid, prompting a lawsuit from the rights owner to remake that very film. The lawsuit was ultimately thrown out. Despite the controversy, the film was successful, which prompted this sequel.

To prepare for his return, Shroff underwent physical training and flew to Hong Kong to train with legendary action director Tony Ching Siu-Tung in other forms of martial arts. The female lead this time around is Disha Patani, who plays a new character, replacing Shraddha Kapoor.

It has also been revealed that the sequel will actually serve as a remake of a Telugu film entitled Kshanam, which was released in 2016 and revolved around an investment banker who reunites with his college sweetheart and helps her track down her child when she goes missing.

Ahmed Khan directs Baaghi 2, which is due for release on March 30, 2018.

H/T: NDTV, First Post, New Indian Express

Fist 2 Fist II: Weapon of Choice (2014)

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This in-name sequel to the 2011 martial arts action film brings back Hapkido master Jino Kang, but sadly if compared to the first one, it’s a disappointment.

Jack Lee is an ex-assassin who used to work for mob boss Michael Banducci . However, after an assignment of wiping out a Triad boss and his men, Jack has retired and raised his niece Jamie as his own child after the death of his sister and brother-in-law.

Six years has passed and Jack has settled down raising Jamie while working as a legitimate businessman. However, one night, Jack’s life changes forever when a group of masked men kidnaps Jamie, leaving Jack to take out who is left. When Jack discovers that the last remaining masked man is a former comrade of his, Jack comes to the realization that his former, Banducci, is responsible. With the aid of police detective Ash , Jack must rely on his old skills to retrieve Jamie, no matter the cost.

Hapkido master Jino Kang co-wrote and co-directed this film with his editor, Tony Urgo. As much as this reviewer wanted to like it, the film is not as good as its predecessor. Had they not used the Fist 2 Fist name to capitalize on Kang, it still wouldn’t make much of a difference. It is not that Kang is a bad actor, but it is obvious the film is truly flawed in its execution due to the fact that is it a routine action film about a former hitman forced into action when his niece is kidnapped.

Even the villains of the film were not too convincing throughout the film. Banducci comes off as a Bud Bundy lookalike that doesn’t really have a reason for Jack to go back to his way that is not convincing and his number one man, Orloff (played by stunt coordinator Armen Mishin) is pretty much robotic in his performance. The two lead females pull off more convincing performances with Katherine Cielo as a hard-boiled detective who eventually becomes Jack’s love interest while Kelly Lee Dennis (who has a bit of a resemblance to Hong Kong starlet Kelly Lin) does well as the ticked off kidnap victim, who even gets a bit of action herself.

Kang himself choreographed the film’s fight scenes and the opening scene could have been done well with the right amount of camera angles and editing. Sadly, quick cuts and close ups plagued the quality of that fight. The film’s only redeeming factor, and that is saying it mildly, is the final set action piece where Kang goes after Banducci once and for all and to do so, he must fight his way through various fighters of different styles. Kang takes on the like of wushu experts, a staff fighter, and fighters skilled in bushido. What has to be said, which is laughable, is that the credits mention some of the styles used in the film with one credit of a few stunt fighters reading “just fighting”. And that’s being literal.

If you are curious to see Jino Kang’s latest, that’s fine, but this reviewer says Fist 2 Fist II: Weapon of Choice, is a pretty big disappointment compared to its fight-heavy predecessor. Only see the film for perhaps the final action piece, but other than that, it’s pretty much safe to say, avoid this “film of choice”.

WFG RATING: D

A Black Belt Productions LLC Production. Directors: Jino Kang and Tony Urgo. Producer: Jino Kang. Writers: Jino Kang and Tony Urgo. Cinematography: Eric Gustafson. Editing: Tony Urgo.

Cast: Jino Kang, Douglas Olsson, Katherine Celio, Artem Mishin, Kelly Lou Dennis, Don Williams, John Carney, Steven Menasche, Robert D. Parham.

Fist 2 Fist (2011)

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Hapkido master Jino Kang unleashes this action packed drama co-starring Human Weapon star Bill Duff in the villain role.

Kang plays Ken Min, a martial artist who used to be part of a gang run by Tokyo Joe. When he decided to go straight and turned in his former comrade, Ken has made it a living to do good by teaching martial arts at the local community center. While Ken takes in a new student in former hoodlum Jim, he also receives the news that the community center has lost all of its funding and will have to close eventually unless Ken can raise $100,000.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Joe has been released from prison and has a score to settle with Ken. He gathers a gang of thugs for an upcoming martial arts competition. When Joe finally confronts Ken, he makes him an offer that Ken has no other choice but to accept. Ken and his students Jim, Gen, and Erik must compete against Joe’s goons for a prize of $100,000. Ken takes his students to train with experts in Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts, and Muay Thai Kickboxing. Meanwhile, Ken’s wife Mimi, who once was Joe’s ex-girlfriend, confronts her old beau and is kidnapped as a result. Ken must now make the ultimate sacrifice to save his wife and settle the score with his former comrade turned enemy.

The martial arts film is quite an interesting genre to work with. While most may forget the story and focus on the fight scenes, there have been some exceptions where the story is crucial to the action. Jino Kang’s directorial debut here, originally titled Hand 2 Hand, is one of those films where the story proves to be crucial to the action. Hapkido expert Kang does quite well as Ken, the possible tragic hero of the film as a man who attempts to atone for his sins by becoming a martial arts teacher. He still has a bit of guilt about his past and it drives into overload when he takes in new student Jim, well played by Peter Rollojay Woodrow. However, it seems like Ken’s other students Gen and Erik seem more along the lines of throwaway characters rather than of importance.
Bill Duff, star of the reality series Human Weapon, plays it off pretty well as Tokyo Joe, a former hood who thrives on fighting and even had made money promoting fights while serving time. Duff spends most of the film grimacing and setting up as Ken’s former comrade turned rival. While he has a lackey in Bruno, played in typical foil-type by James Hiser, one of his fellow thugs should have had a better chance as the lackey for this type of film. Former Ultimate Fighter Tim Lajcik plays the recruiter of Tokyo Joe’s gang, Rocky. Lajcik should have had the chance to show his mixed martial arts skills on screen, but is sadly relegated to showing his skills during a training sequence. For a martial arts action film, it would have made a little more sense to have Rocky be the lackey and perhaps, have the chance to show his MMA skills on screen.

What martial arts fans will find astonishing is the appearance of real-life martial artists playing themselves as they train Ken’s students in various styles. Muay Thai fighter Armando Ramos, who appears with Kang in the opening fight sequence, trains Jim in Muay Thai. Charles Gracie trains Jim in the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Eddie Bravo trains Jim, Gen, and Erik in grappling arts while the legendary Gene LeBell trains the trio in his art of Judo.

The film’s action sequences, choreographed by Kang, showcase a combination of kickboxing-style fights, Kang’s predominant style of Hapkido, and Mixed Martial Arts. Some of the fights seem to look like something expected in Tae Kwon Do competitions. In the opening, Kang takes on a thug who looks to have a bit of Capoeira in his arsenal but seems more along the likes of Tae Kwon Do. As for the Mixed Martial Arts fights that dominate the finale, the camera angles look pretty decent and the editing isn’t too bad. However, the problem comes in the lighting. At times, it is difficult to see any impact due to the darkness of the cage fights. Those hoping to see an exciting finale between Kang and Duff will be disappointed as the fight doesn’t last long despite a good use of slow motion techniques used at the right times. The fight should have been done better and not feel rushed, yet Kang does get an A for effort. Let’s hope he does better with his next film.

Fist 2 Fist is a pretty good introduction to Hapkido master Jino Kang. For those who may not have heard of him, he definitely proved himself to be a first-time filmmaker here despite a lackluster final fight. He is set to appear in another film, and one can only hope he will improve with it. Definitely worth a rental.

WFG RATING: B-

A Black Belt Productions LLC Production. Director: Jino Kang. Producers: Jino Kang and Kurt Nangle. Writer: Jino Kang. Cinematography: Kurt Nangle. Editing: Tony Urgo.

Cast: Jino Kang, Bill Duff, Michael Bauld, Peter Rallojay Woodruff, Michelle Choi, Tim Lajcik, Michelle Tan, James Hiser.

WWE Superstars Set for Sixth “Marine” Film

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Mike “The Miz” Mizanin in The Marine 4: Moving Target (WWE Studios)

Former Marine Sgt. Jake Carter is about to go on a new mission.

Announced last week, production is set to begin today in London on The Marine 6: Close Quarters, the latest installment of WWE Studios’ iconic film series, which began with the 2006 John Cena starrer.

WWE superstar Mike “The Miz” Mizanin will return as Jake Carter in his fourth film in the series, which began with The Marine 3: Homefront, followed by The Marine 4: Moving Target, and this year’s The Marine 5: Battleground.

In the film, Jake Carter will team up with former Marine Luke Trapper, played by WWE legend Shawn Michaels, as they attempt to rescue a kidnapped girl from a band of international criminals. WWE superstar Becky Lynch will make her film debut on the film.

The Marine 5‘s James Nunn will return to the director’s chair from a script by Craig Walendziak.

Look out for The Marine 6: Close Quarters from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and WWE Studios in 2018.

H/T: eWrestlingNews.com

Merchants of War (1989)

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In the vein of 80’s military B-movies, this action packed film is a wild ride for one man who intends to go against the odds and get his buddy back.

Nick Drennen and Frank Kane are the leaders of a mercenary group, codename Wild Bunch. The other core members include Tom Harris and Harry Gere. When they successfully rescue a kidnapped ex-soldier in Beirut, the only survivor is Middle Eastern crime lord Musa Alwi, who sets a plan of revenge. When Nick and Frank are hired to do a job for the CIA in Angola, the mission is a failure when both Nick and Frank have been taken hostage.

Nick has learned that Musa is behind the “mission” and has allied himself with the maniacal Vaisal as the two plan to use Nick and Frank for an upcoming summit of terrorism. With the help of 10-year old Bugsy and former buddy Gordo, Nick manages to escape and return to the United States. When he learns Frank may be alive, he is determined to return to Angola to find his friend. At first reluctant, Tom and Harry decide to join Nick in his mission to rescue Frank and get his own revenge against the duo of Vaisal and Musa.

During the 80’s, loads of B-movies in the action genre were that of the military action film. This film from director Peter M. McKenzie is one of the straightforward yet action packed films that make good use of its lead actor, Asher Brauner, and why not? Brauner also co-wrote the screenplay and came up with the story.

Brauner takes the lead as Nick, a hot-headed mercenary leader who makes the promise of one last mission to his wife only to find himself kidnapped, only to be able to escape and band his old buddies to rescue his fellow mercenary. Brauner makes the most of his role with some stereotypical one-liners and somewhat of a bit of overacting in one scene, where he’s determined to get his buddy back when he meets with old buddies Tom and Harry, played by John Barrett and Robin Smith.

However, Brauner’s acting in the film is nothing compared to the overacting of one of the two primary villains, Vaisal, played by Gerald Weir. Vaisal clearly spends most of his film angry, yelling most of his dialogue and even stands behind a podium in the final act shouting anti-American sentiment that goes beyond the borders of laughable. As for the other main villain, Adrian Waldron’s Musa, the villain has a look that could come out of an 80’s hair metal band with pretty horrendous accent.

While the overacting is expected in these type of films, making it forgivable, the action is pretty fun, truly having a Cannon Films-style influence in the numerous shootouts and explosions. Co-star John Barrett also served as the film’s “stunt advisor” but don’t expect his trademark martial arts in the film aside from a spin kick and a roundhouse in the final action scene. It’s more firepower and done with such style that this truly a definitive 80’s action B-movie.

Merchants of War is truly an 80’s B-movie lover’s dream military action film that has it all: stereotypical villains, overacting, and Cannon-style action sequences. In other words, a fun action wild ride!

WFG RATING: B-

Triax Entertainment Group presents an Anglo Pacific Films production. Director: Peter M. McKenzie. Producers: Chris Davies and Lionel A. Ephraim. Writers: Asher Brauner and Eric Weston. Cinematography: Rod Stewart. Editing: Simon Grimley and Peter M. McKenzie.

Cast: Asher Brauner, Jesse Vint, John Barrett, Robin Smith, Adrian Waldron, Gerald Weir, Calvin Tau, Japan Mthembu, Bonnie Beck, Norman Anstey, Tullio Moneta, Graham Armitage, Richard Sibaya Nzimande.

Bruce Lee the Invincible (1978)

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Bruce Lee clone Bruce Li (Ho Chung-Tao) and “the Headcrusher” Chan Sing star in this action packed that whose notoriety is the appearance of kung fu fighting gorillas!

Cheung Li-Kung is a rogue student of Shaolin who plots to kill a local businessman. However, he is stopped by Master Fok and his star student Yu Fong. When Cheung tries to resist Fok and Yu Fong, Cheung is ultimately stopped by their master. Cheung makes a promise to go to Malaysia to start a new life and not cause trouble. Anyone who has seen these type of film know that is not what he is planning to do.

Cheung does arrive in Malaysia. However, he is up to no good. He runs a local casino where he plans to rip off the local migrant workers. Cheung also plans to kidnap Wai Sin, the girlfriend of Shu San. What doesn’t help is that Shu San is a student of Master Fok, who has learned of Cheung’s actions. Fok and Yu Fong head to Malaysia to help Shu San rescue Wai Sin and put an end to Cheung’s criminal activities. However, they learn there are many obstacles that stand in their way.

While the film is titled Bruce Lee the Invincible, there is not one but two true stars to the film. One, of course, is Bruce Li. Interestingly enough, the opening credits lists Li under his real name of Ho Chung-Dao. The other is Chan Sing, one of the veteran powerhouses of 1970’s Hong Kong action cinema perhaps best known at the time for his hulking figure and tenacity to play usually the hero with some top villain roles as well. Li and Chan actually make a pretty decent student-teacher duo here as they team up with Cheung Nik to take on a former student played by the ever popular Michael Chan Wai-Man.

Chan, a former boxing and kickboxing champion, gives a great villain performance as renegade Cheung Li-Kung. He plans to both rip off the local migrant workers in Malaysia through his casino, but with the help of some local barbarians and bandits, become a virtual crime lord in the area. The barbarians and local thugs are played by the likes of a young Eric Tsang, Fung Hark-On, Peter Chan Lung, and in a bold move, the legendary Chin Tsi-Ang as a nanny who abuses Wai Yin until her cousin rescues her.

Wong Mei and Cheung Nik handled the fight sequences here. The duo make the hulking Chan Sing look good with his karate skills. Ho Chung-Tao or Bruce Li always shines with his skills, even doing some intricate leg holding when he exposes the secret of the casino in loaded dice. Cheung Nik looks like he might have done his own fights and showcase his impressive spinning kicks. However, the real highlight of the film involves Chan and Li taking on two gorillas who are skilled in kung fu. It is obvious that the gorillas were actually stuntmen complete with cheesy kill effects.

Nevertheless, Bruce Lee the Invincible is a pretty decent Bruce Lee clone flick. While Bruce Li continues to impress in the action department, the fight choreographers make good use of the rest of the cast. The fight scene pitting Chan Sing and Li against the gorillas is definitely a cult fight fan’s dream.

WFG RATING: C

A Wuzhou Film Co. and Hua Hai Cinema Co. Production. Director: Law Kei. Producers: C.P. Keung and C.Y. Yang. Writer: C.Y. Yang. Editing: Tony Chow.

Cast: Chan Sing, Ho Chung-Tao, Cheung Nik, Michael Chan, Chan Wai-Ying, Fung Hark-On, Lam Yeung-Yeung, San Kuai, Bolo Yeung, Wong Mei, Mars, Eric Tsang, Sammy Lau, Chan Lung, Chung Fat, Chin Tsi-Ang.

Bloodfist IV – Die Trying (1992)

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Kickboxing legend Don “The Dragon” Wilson goes a fourth round in one of B-movie martial arts’ top film series of the nineties.

Danny Holt is a repo man who is good at his job. A skilled fighter as well, he will use his skills against anyone who attempts to prevent him from doing his job. He is also a loving father to young Molly. One day on the job, Danny finds himself doing a repo on a car that belongs to Weiss, an arms dealer, after facing off against Weiss’ man Scarface. Danny finds a box of chocolates in the car and takes them out.

Unbeknownst to Danny, the chocolates contains pieces of a nuclear warhead that Weiss plans to sell. When Weiss learns of the repo, he sends his men on a full-fledged assault at the repo garage, killing all of Danny’s friends. Weiss also sends in Lisa, one of his top associates, to disguise as a babysitter to kidnap Molly. Danny soon learns the truth, but finds himself not only facing Weiss and his goons, but the FBI, who consider Danny a suspect. To clear his name, Danny must rely on both Molly’s real babysitter Shannon and his martial arts skills.

After Bloodfist and Bloodfist II, both of which can be deemed tournament films, the third installment began more of an action-adventure scheme that would be the heart of the rest of the series. While Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight can be pretty much deemed as the worst of the series, this fourth installment is a major improvement.

As with the third installment, kickboxing champion turned actor Don “The Dragon” Wilson plays a new character. In this case, he is repo man Danny Holt, who finds himself in the wrong place and the wrong time. What makes the film interesting is the very twisty plot. As it starts with Danny doing his job and getting the wrong car, it goes from a man rescuing his kidnapped daughter to a man having to do both rescue his daughter and clear his name as he is wanted by both sides of the law. He is a true underdog here, yet it helps that he knows martial arts.

While the supporting cast consists of veteran actors such as James Tolkan (best known for his role as the Principal in the Back to the Future films) and Amanda Wyss (best known for her role in the original Nightmare on Elm Street), as with the other Bloodfist films, kickboxing champions help make up the supporting cast as well. In this installment, there’s former K.I.C.K. Super Middleweight Kickboxing Champion Dennis Keiffer (who later got rave as the bullwhip wielding henchman of Christopher Walken in The Rundown (2003)), former kickboxing champ/boxer Dino Homsey, and Gary Daniels, who made a name for himself in the 1990’s as one of the top B-movie action stars.

The fight choreography here is perhaps the best of the entire series. With the success of Ring of Fire, veteran Art Camacho handled the fight sequences here and with his role as one of PM Entertainment’s top fight directors, Camacho brings his style to this film and his experience with Wilson and Daniels showcases why the two on-screen battles between the two are clearly the best of the film. Not to mention that the other fights, even with future Angel Fist star Catya Sassoon, were well handled.
As a result, as its own movie, Bloodfist IV: Die Trying is actually a really good Don Wilson film. It is a shame that they called it “Bloodfist IV,” but that shouldn’t stop anyone from seeing it and judging for yourself.

WFG RATING: B

A Concorde (New Horizons) production. Director: Paul Ziller. Producer: Mike Elliott. Writer: Paul Ziller; story by Rob Kerchner. Cinematography: Christian Sebaldt. Editing: David Beatty.

Cast: Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Catya Sassoon, Amanda Wyss, Kale Browne, James Tolkan, Gary Daniels, Liz Torres, Dan Martin, Dino Homsey, Gene LeBell, Herman Poppe, Stephen James Carver, John LaMotta, Alexander Folk, Heather Lauren Olson.

“Terror Tales” Trailer Features Horror Film Vets

Get ready for the ultimate road trip to Hell with the driver as your emcee in the anthology film Terror Tales.

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Supergirl‘s Christopher Showerman plays a demented driver who has taken a family hostage and vows to kill a man’s wife and daughter if he doesn’t comply with this journey. Having no other choice, the man complies and the driver tells of three tales of terror. One involves a demon who takes a mother on a journey of self-discovery. One involves the police on the hunt for a killer known as the Sledgehammer. The final tale involves an evil deity who possesses humans to the brink of suicide.

This film features stars of some classic horror films including Sleepaway Camp‘s Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten, The People Under the Stairs’ Yan Birch, the original Jason Voorhees himself, Ari Lehman; Ghostbusters actress Jennifer Runyon, The Crazies’ Lynn Lowry, and Maniac Cop‘s Laurene Landon.

The film was directed, produced, and written by Jimmy Lee Combs with special effects by Kevon Ward, who was a contestant on season 9 of SyFy’s Face Off. The film will be released at the American Film Market from November 1-8 in Santa Monica, CA.

 

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.