rivalry

Borg McEnroe (2017)

borgmcenroe sweden-iconDenmark-iconfinland-icon

Tennis’ biggest rivalry is brought to the big screen with excellent performances by lead actors Sverrir Gudnason and Shia LeBeouf in the titular roles.

It is 1980 and the Wimbledon championship tournament has begun. The heavy favorite to win is Swedish player Bjorn Borg, who has already won four titles in the tournament and is looking for his fifth title. However, he has some heavy competition in American player John McEnroe, whose hot-tempered antics on the courts have made him the “bad boy” of tennis. However, McEnroe is determined to win the tournament in London.

As Borg and McEnroe begin to win their matches, the pressure begins to mount on both players. For Borg, it has always been about perfection and not letting his coach and family down. For McEnroe, being second best isn’t enough. Both raised into having to be perfect with winning being everything, the pressure on both are at an all-time high. When the duo makes it to the finals of the tournament, only one can be champion. However, both soon learn that to win will be just the tip of the iceberg.

This Swedish-Danish-Finnish co-production is quite interesting in its depiction of the famous tennis rivalry between Sweden’s Bjorn Borg and the “bad boy” that was John McEnroe. In sports films based in other countries, one figure would be more glorified and when it came to a rivalry of sorts, it is usually one figure or team that would be the focus of the film. However, Ronnie Sandahl’s screenplay offers a look from both perspectives of the titular players as while they were known rivals on the court, it is their upbringings that made them more similar that what we are to have believed.

Swedish actor Sverrir Gudnason has an uncanny resemblance to the tennis legend Borg and complements that resemblance with an emotional performance as someone who feels the pressure of being the best. While as a kid, Borg seemed to enjoy the game, it is when he becomes the student of Lennart Bergelin that it becomes about being a winner and facing the wrath of his coach when he doesn’t live up to Bergelin’s expectations. Stellan Skarsgård churns out a brilliant performance as Borg’s mentor with Tuva Novotny giving a sense of grounded nature for Borg as Mariana Simionescu.

Shia LeBeouf could not be a better fit to play John McEnroe. McEnroe, forever known for his tantrums and outbursts on the courts during his heyday, is similar to Borg with his upbringing of being perfected. This is notable in a flashback scene where as a child, he tells his mother he scored a 96 on a test and his mother doesn’t find it acceptable asking what happened to the other 4 percent. In addition, LeBeouf’s recent real-life issues would aid in his nabbing the role and this could just be the comeback the former child star is dying for as he is perfect in the role.

The tennis sequences are exciting to watch as we see both Borg and McEnroe face their opponents, with McEnroe going postal on Jimmy Connors during the semi-finals and berating the officials. That is until the brilliant finale pitting the tennis juggernauts as we see McEnroe more collected, taking his frustrations out on himself rather than anyone in his path. Borg seems collected for the most part but also faces that pressure of getting his fifth title but shows that not all is bad when he even gives words of encouragement for his rival in between sets. This would eventually lead to the real-life rivalry turned friendship between the two.

One would think Borg McEnroe would focus more on one considering the nature of the production. However, the film wisely looks at the viewpoints of feeling perfection and pressure both Borg and McEnroe that would make history in the sport of tennis. Sverrir Gudnason and Shia LeBeouf truly personify the titular duo in an emotional story that would result in one of the greatest matches in tennis history.

WFG RATING: A

SF Pictures presents a SF Studios production. Director: Janus Metz Pedersen. Producers: Jon Nohrstedt and Fredrik Wikström Nicastro. Writer: Ronnie Sandahl. Cinematography: Niels Thastum. Editing: Per K. Kirkegaard and Per Sandholt.

Cast: Sverrir Gudnason, Shia LeBeouf, Stellan Skarsgård, Tuva Novotny, Leo Borg, Marcus Mossberg, Jackson Gann, Scott Arthur, Ian Blackman, Robert Emms, David Bamber, Mats Blomgren, Julia Marko-Nord, Jane Perry.

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Shaolin vs. Evil Dead (2004)

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Rival Taoist masters face off but in the midst of things, chaos ensues in this martial arts-horror hybrid.

Brother White is a Taoist priest who despite having to face off against numerous undead adversaries believes in saving souls rather than destroy them. Along with his two proteges, Sun and Fire, the group embarks on a restaurant that turns out to be haunted. During their battle, a mysterious figure arrives and destroys a soul. That figure is Brother Black, a one-time classmate of White’s who has turned to black magic. He vows to destroy all undead souls no matter what it takes.

During one of White’s excursions, the young Fire accidentally swallows an egg and at first it seems like no big deal. That is, until it is revealed that the egg is actually that of a spirit. Fire starts to feel funny. Meanwhile, Sun begins to have feelings for Moon, who is Black’s protégé. He gets nervous when he sees her but eventually he makes his feelings known. However, the battle between White and Black continues when Black arrives in a haunted village and vows to help the townsfolk by doing a ritual and teaching the children martial arts. When White reveals Black’s true nature, he is ousted and seeking revenge, Black finds a rare stone that turns out belongs to the King of the Vampires, who has been freed as a result.

Douglas Kung, a staple of Hong Kong action films of the 80’s and 90’s, as a stuntman and action director, has attempted to revert back to the glory days of old and with this film, he attempts to make a “jiang shi” thriller. With former kung fu fighting diva Sharon Yeung Pan-Pan as executive producer, and his experience, this should be quite an interesting film. And it is interesting, but not for all the right reasons.

A positive note is that the film’s two leads are top martial artists, one a lead, and one who has been working hard for the past two decades and got his name known. They are Gordon Liu as the older, calmer Brother White and Louis Fan as the sometimes dastardly and mean-spirited Brother Black. It is clear that White is the one who attempts for Black to not destroy souls, but Black is truly a character with not the greatest of intentions and when these two duke it out on a few occasions, the result is not too bad and their little “battles” can be said to be the only good thing about the film aside from a nifty fight scene called “phantom chess”, where Black’s mini-vampire horde takes on White’s mini-Shaolin monks.

That’s not to say the supporting cast isn’t bad in terms of their performances. It is just that the writers decided to put them in some unnecessary subplots that seem to either go nowhere or are just flat out ridiculous. For one, Jacky Woo’s Sun has feelings for Shannon Yao’s Moon and this provides much of the comic relief of the film. Woo’s attempt at slapstick comedy when he attempts to talk to Moon isn’t quite funny and when he finally musters up the courage and she gives him a possibility, it ends up pretty much going nowhere due to her loyalty with Black.

That is nothing compared to the character of Fire, played by Shi Xiao-Hu. From his name, one can only guess he was a Shaolin disciple, but here, he is terribly wasted as he also must provide comic relief but in the most ridiculous of manners. The spirit egg at times makes Fire look well, “pregnant”, but when it comes time for the “birth” sequence, it is done by going to a toilet in which the toilet explodes and the young actor playing the so-called “baby” is seen covered in what could only be shaving cream and runs behind Fire calling him “mama”. It’s definitely an eye-rolling moment of epic proportions. And the way the film ends will guarantee that heads will roll.

Shaolin vs. Evil Dead had the potential, but ultimately fails on most levels with the exception of a few battles, notably the “phantom chess” sequence. However, it is apparent that the unnecessary humor of the film as well as the film’s ending will make fans most likely avoid this, unless they are true Gordon Liu fans. The, the curiosity factor will hit.

WFG RATING: D+

My Way Film Company presents a Wo Ping Creative Team/Pan Pan Production Ltd. Film. Director: Douglas Kung. Producers: Jeremy K.P. Cheung. Writer: Ho Yiu-Wang. Cinematography: Kwan Chi-Kan. Editing: Grand Yip.

Cast: Gordon Liu, Louis Fan, Shi Xiao-Hu, Jacky Woo, Shannon Yao, Kit Cheung, Zho Lung-Lung.

Birdsall and Logan Enter “The Time War”

Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter‘s Tracey Birdsall and Daniel Logan, who played the young Boba Fett in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones are about to enter a new kind of “war”.

The duo star in The Time War, written and directed by Rogue Warrior filmmaker Neil Johnson, with the late Christopher Lee, in one of his final performances, doing the narration for the film.

The film is set in an alternate universe that has occurred as a result of the Nazis successfully experimenting with time-travel history during World War II. As Adolf Hitler starts to re-write his genetics, he learns that cause and effect are not as simple as it may seem on paper.  After dealing with multiple versions of himself, his greatest nemesis is his own daughter Dijanne (Birdsall) who takes on his legacy of empire building and creates an army of one, from various versions of herself from across a billion different time lines. 

Logan takes on the role of Mordred, the leader of a band of military soldiers created by Hitler who decides to switch sides and start a military coup with the help of Ector, played by Rogue Warrior‘s Aaron Jacques.

Get ready for The Time War, currently in production for a 2018 release date.

 

 

Burnt (2015)

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A once-talented chef struggles with his past demons during his road to redemption in this drama from director John Wells.

Adam Jones was once considered one of the top chefs in Paris as the protégé of restauranteur Jean-Luc. That is, until he started using drugs and earned a reputation for his drive to perfection. Having ruined everyone’s reputation, Adam leaves for New Orleans, where he cleans up and takes a job shucking oysters. He decides to redeem himself by going to London and start over. He ends up reuniting with Jean-Luc’s son Tony, who now operates the family hotel in London, but things at first don’t go as planned. Using all notions of sabotage, Adam reunites with old friend Michel and finds a new chef-de-partie in Helene, who at first resists Adam.

Despite Adam’s attempt at redemption, he still finds himself at odds with rival restauranteur Reece and in addition, two goons show up and expect Adam to pay a debt from his former drug dealer. When Adam gets his team, including Helene, Michel, ex-con Max, and up-and-comer David, Tony lets Adam open a new restaurant within the hotel, called Langham’s. As Adam’s reputation begins to improve, so does his relationship with Helene and Tony, the latter who can see Adam may still have that perfectionist attitude in him, but sees he has become somewhat more respectable. When Adam and Tony decide to go for a Michelin star, everything truly comes to a head. Will Adam be able to achieve his dream or will his past demons catch up to him?

There is something along the lines of meshing cinema and food that has a theme involving redemption within the chefs. It takes various methods, such as reinvention, attitude, and more for the central character to finally see the light, which allows them to unleash their culinary beauty on screen. In this film, screenwriter Steven Knight and director John Wells took a story from Michael Kalesniko involving a one-time premiere chef whose drug addictions and drive for perfection nearly destroyed him, which becomes the catalyst for his long road to redemption.

Bradley Cooper brings the central character of Adam to light as the driving force of the film. Here, we see Adam at both his best and his worst. At his best, Adam impresses the dining crowd with his food, but at his worst, he is at the level of say a Marco Pierre White, or without saying a level up from a Gordon Ramsay in terms of attitude. The two major players in terms of supporting Adam are Helene, a young sous chef who forges an on-off relationship with him, played by Sienna Miller; and Tony, the hotel manager who despite not being happy with Adam at first sees the potential of him returning to what he should have been doing. Tony is like a “big brother” to Adam and Daniel Brühl really plays the role quite well.

Omar Sy, Riccardo Scamario, and Sam Keeley make the most of their roles as Adam’s staff in the kitchen while Uma Thurman and Emma Thompson also take advantage of their cameos as a food critic and Adam’s therapist respectively. Matthew Rhys does quite well as Reece, a rival to Adam who has a revelation of sorts that at first ups the ante in their rivalry, but a shocking discovery merely brings more of a respectful attitude between these two. Alicia Vikander makes the most of her limited time as Adam’s ex Anne-Marie (who is also Tony’s sister) who may not see Adam on one level, but soon becomes close to him on a level that even he never expected.

Burnt is quite an interesting look at a chef whose climb to the top of the mountain is marred by demons, but helps lead him on a true road of redemption. Bradley Cooper truly is the driving force of the film with the supporting cast making the most of their roles, notably Sienna Miller, Daniel Brühl, and in a turn of events, both Matthew Rhys and Alicia Vikander. If you look culinary films, this is one to give a shot to.

WFG RATING: B+

The Weinstein Company presents a 3 Arts Entertainment/Double Feature Films production in association with PeaPie Films. Director: John Wells. Producers: John Wells, Stacey Sher, and Erwin Stoff. Writer: Steven Knight; story by Michael Kalesniko. Cinematography: Adriano Goldman. Editing: Nick Moore.

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Brühl, Riccardo Scarmario, Omar Sy, Sam Keeley, Henry Goodman, Matthew Rhys, Alicia Vikander, Uma Thurman, Emma Thompson, Lexie Benbow-Hart.

Karate Wars (1991)

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Two rival martial arts schools go head to head for the price of honor in this American B-movie.

All his life, high school student Jason felt he never amounted to anything or given it his all. This affects his relationship with Tracy, his girlfriend. Deciding to do something about it, he signs up to take up karate under local sensei Oyama. Oyama trains his students and while they take their training seriously, Oyama doesn’t seem to take his training seriously anymore. It is because a few years ago, in a tournament known as Karate Wars, Oyama accidentally killed his opponent.

Jason soon learns that Oyama’s training isn’t helping and he relegates to causing trouble on the streets. When Oyama confronts Jason, the two soon realize they are actually not that different and this revelation helps Jason become a better student and Oyama an even better teacher as they learn from each other while training for the next Karate Wars training. The opponents are led by Nakaso, who holds a personal grudge against Oyama, and seeks to up the ante. However, when it is revealed that the fight promoters are under investigation for corruption, the Karate Wars has been cancelled, at least in the public’s eye. The two decide to duke it out in a private gym in a winner-takes-all challenge for the ultimate prize: honor.

As the martial arts genre was making waves in the United States, many independent film producers would make low-quality martial arts film just for the sake of entertaining the fans of this genre. This film would be made and originally released during the reign of the 80’s-90’s home video market in the U.S. and it is clear why this film is ultimately a mixed bag.

The film’s lead actor is a newcomer, Christopher Wolf, who is actually not bad when he is fighting. However, his acting isn’t exactly up to par but give him credit as this was his first film. Having a combination of someone one would see in Saved by the Bell and mixing it up with The Karate Kid, Wolf plays Jason as someone who feels he never lived up to his potential. Despite his karate training, he still finds trouble but eventually cools down and seriously takes his training while also becoming a motivational factor for his own karate instructor.

Two martial arts legends, Richard Rabago and Gerald Okamura, play the rival teachers in the film, with Rabago getting more screen time as Oyama. Oyama is a teacher who at first seems to teach out of spite but has a dark past that hinders the seriousness of his being an instructor. He clearly has not let go of his past and it affects his students, notably Jason. As for Okamura, he plays Nakaso as the man responsible for ruining Oyama due to a personal grudge that is quite obvious and in addition, has won the Karate Wars tournament for the past three years.

Rabago served as the chief fight choreographer of the film and for a production of this quality, it’s a mixed bag. Some of the action is not too bad and what is expected of American martial arts during this era. However, it is clear that some of the fights needed some tighter editing at times. Nevertheless, some props go into an interesting use of the handheld camera during the fight between Oyama and Nakaso as get a bit of a point of view shot from one of the combatants from their shoulder after a roll is executed.

Karate Wars has a decent story enough to make the film watchable. Some tightening in the editing of the action could have been done, but give the producers credit. While it’s not like the films of today, it is a valiant effort on the part of the cast and crew.

WFG RATING: C-

A Cine Excel Production. Director: David Huey. Producers: L.J. Yong and David Huey. Writer: David Huey. Cinematography: Carlos Oscar Morales. Editing: Andy Anders.

Cast: Christopher Wolf, Richard Rabago, Gerald Okamura, Elise Jay, Tad Mathes, Mark Bruner, Lelagi “Butch” Togisala, Ernie Santiago, Gabe Reynaga.


This title is currently out of print, but was available on VHS from York Home Video.

TRAILER: Daddy’s Home 2

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg are back in the trailer to this sequel of the 2015 hit comedy which revolved around the rivalry between Ferrell’s clean cut step dad to a little girl and birth father Dusty, played by Wahlberg.

Now having made up and agreeing to work together, the duo decide to get both families together for the holidays. However, they soon learn that their fathers are coming to town. Dusty’s father is Mel Gibson and Ferrell’s father is John Lithgow. What could possibly go wrong? (Yes, that was intentionally sarcastic!)

Linda Cardellini and John Cena co-star in the Sean Anders-directed film, which is set for release on November 10 from Paramount Pictures.

Lady Bloodfight (2016)

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2016, Voltage Pictures/B&E Entertainment

Director:
Chris Nahon
Producer:
Bey Logan
Writers:
Bey Logan (story and screenplay)
Judd Bloch (screenplay)
Cinematography:
Michel Abramowicz
Editing:
Chris Nahon

Cast:
Amy Johnston (Jane)
Muriel Hoffman (Shu)
Jenny Wu (Ling)
Kathy Wu (Wai)
Jet Tranter (Cassidy)
Mayling Ng (Svietta)
Sunny Coelst (Jaa)
Rosemary Vandenbroucke (Yara)
Lisa Cheng (Lam)
Chalinene Bassinah (Alia)
Lauren Rhoden (Van)
Kirt Kishita (Mr. Sang)
Cynthia Ho (Black Dragon Society Leader)
Harry Du Young (Ring Announcer)

The long awaited martial arts film, a female version of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Bloodsport, had the potential but suffers from a major issue when it comes to this genre.

Five years ago, best friends turned rivals Shu and Wai compete in the finals of the Kumite. When the Black Dragon leader declares the fight a draw, Wai refuses to share the prize money with Shu. The leader decides to have the score settled at the next Kumite by having each of them find a student capable of representing them. Meanwhile, over the next five years, many new Kumite fighters are chosen from the Brazilian Yara to Russian prisoner Svietta.

Jane, an American woman who learned martial arts from her father, has been fired from her job when she confronted an arrogant customer. With nowhere else to go, she remembers her father was in Hong Kong but had never heard from him again. Determined, Jane goes to Hong Kong but finds herself robbed on her first day there. When he is knocked out by the robbers’ leader, she is saved and nursed back to health by Shu, who may have found the one she is waiting for. Meanwhile, Wai has found her student in punk girl Ling, who is looking for a way to start her life over. Three months of training occur and now it is time for the Kumite. Who will win and what secrets does this tournament hold?

Bey Logan is quite an interesting figure in the world of filmmaking. Getting his start training in kung fu while living in Hong Kong, the British-born actor and filmmaker would get his start appearing with Donnie Yen in Circus Kids and the Fist of Fury TV series. Moving on to appear in later fare and helping out behind the scenes, Logan had formed his own production company. While Shadowguard, his first attempt as a producer of this caliber, was met with some resistance from fans as well as “director” Michael Biehn, who had denounced the film, it didn’t bring him down.

Which takes us to this retread with a twist of the 1987 hit film Bloodsport. Now, one must give Logan some serious credit here in terms of story. The story plays a vital part in the film, which revolves not around Amy Johnston’s Jane going to Hong Kong to fight in the Kumite, but a nice added twist includes the rivalry between Jane’s teacher Shu, played by Muriel Hoffman, who for some strange reason brings a performance that brings Michelle Yeoh into mind; and Wai, played by Kathy Wu. The reason for their rivalry isn’t revealed until later in the film, but even that reason has a twist that is unexpected and for some reason it works. Add to the fact that Jane is also searching for her father, who had been missing since competing in a Kumite years ago, adds some tension to the film.

However, the major issue lies in a problem when it comes to action films. Director/editor Chris Nahon, who had worked previously on Jet Li’s Kiss of the Dragon and Blood: The Last Vampire, took an approach to editing that should never have been done for this film. When shooting a martial arts film, fans want to see what techniques are being used. In some cases, Nahon does succeed with some of the fights. However, most of them suffer from a vastness of quick cuts and shaky cam that sadly make the fights look subpar. It is sad too considering the fight choreographer of the film is the legendary Xiong Xin-Xin, best known as Clubfoot in the Once Upon a Time in China films and had done some excellent choreography in the underrated The Musketeer. As a result, performances from the likes of martial artists Jet Tranter (as the Aussie version of Ray Jackson, Cassidy) and Mayling Ng (as the psychotic Russian Svietta) along with Johnston seem to be a wasted effort.

Lady Bloodfight has a good structured storyline with some intricate twists. However, if you’re expecting some frenetic martial arts action, the editing will make you skip this and look elsewhere. In the case of Amy Johnston, she does have Female Fight Club coming in August and Mayling Ng can be seen in Wonder Woman. So there’s that.

WFG RATING: C-

Gen-Y Cops (2000)

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2000, Media Films/Regent Entertainment

Director:
Benny Chan
Producers:
Thomas Chung
John Chong
Solon So
Benny Chan
Writers:
Chan Kiu-Ying
Felix Chong
Bey Logan
Cinematography:
Fletcher Poon
Editing:
Cheung Ka-Fai

Cast:
Stephen Fung (Match)
Sam Lee (Alien)
Edison Chen (Edison)
Paul Rudd (Ian Curtis)
Maggie Q (Jane Quigley)
Mark Hicks (Ross Tucker)
Richard Sun (Kurt)
Rachel Ngan (Oli)
Christy Chung (Inspector Cheung)
Vincent Kok (Dr. Lee)
Anthony Wong (Dr. Tang)
Eric Kot (Dr. Lai)
Cheung Tat-Ming (Lymon)

This sequel to Gen-X Cops may not have the tenacity of its predecessor, but it will be perhaps known today for the only Hong Kong appearance of Ant-Man himself, Paul Rudd.

RS-1 is a robot created for the FBI to keep under protection for an upcoming world police exhibition in Hong Kong. On the day it is to be tested for the exhibition, a mysterious hacker has gotten into the robot’s internal system, causing chaos. Despite reservations from the credited creator of the robot, the government demands that RS-1 be taken to Hong Kong. In charge of protecting the robot are FBI agents Curtis, Quigley, and Tucker.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, the Gen-X Cops Match and Alien are sent to find undercover agent Edison, who is believed to be in trouble. However, after learning he had infiltrated a gang stealing Hong Kong’s police robot, the trio stop the gang and prepare for the exhibition. Edison also learns that his childhood friend Kurt is in town. Kurt is the designer of RS-1 but due to his brashness and youth, was fired from the company and now, plans to get RS-1 back at any cost. Using Edison as a pawn by drugging him, Edison steals the robot for Kurt, now making him a wanted man. Match and Alien must protect not only Edison when they learn the truth but the FBI when they want to nab the rookie cop as well in addition to stopping Kurt from doing the unimaginable to Hong Kong via RS-1.

While the original Gen-X Cops in 1999 was a breakthrough action film for some of the next generation talent in Hong Kong, this sequel was an attempt to bank a new star in the midst. Nicholas Tse, who played Jack in the original, opted not to return to the role alongside Stephen Fung and Sam Lee, who now play Match and Alien in a funny buddy action sort of way. Replacing Tse is Canadian-Chinese rapper and actor Edison Chen, who starts off promising, then is given to speak a certain way that just doesn’t seem to fit his character. However, he does bring a bit of redemption in the end. He may not be a Nicholas Tse, but he holds himself more or less.

The film’s interesting notoriety is that two of today’s major Hollywood stars appear in the film in major roles. First, there’s Paul Rudd, who sports curly blonde hair to play hard-headed FBI agent Ian Curtis. Curtis comes off to the Hong Kong police as arrogant and bias and he doesn’t care. He has a memorable scene with Match in which the two nearly come to blows in a hospital after an incident involving Edison. Rudd handles himself well in the action department with some doubling by Ron Smoorenburg, the Dutch-born superkicker of Jackie Chan’s Who Am I?, who also has a brief role in the film as a cage fighter in the first action scene with Match, Alien, and Edison.

The other Hollywood star today? Maggie Q, who plays fellow FBI agent Jane Quigley (a play on Q’s last name). Unlike her hotheaded colleague, she is more of a neutral party, even willing to listen to Edison after he admits he has been framed and holds her hostage. She is willing to take all routes even when Curtis thinks that the only reason why Edison couldn’t have done what he did was because he is “cute”. So there’s some clearance, there’s no romance between the two. Instead, Match has a bit of a steady girlfriend in police techie Oli while Alien is somewhat fixed up with a less attractive techie member.

While the film does suffer without Tse, thankfully, Stephen Fung and Sam Lee are able to take their own reigns and provide some of the film’s memorable comic relief, a play of what they achieved in the original. From their opening scene, it’s clear these two have not changed much and that’s a good thing. Even Alien’s attempt to speak English is quite a hoot at times and is meant to be that way. Match boasts about having a requisitioned Ferrari and come in comic odds at times with their new commander Chung, played with at-times air-headed panache by Christy Chung.

Nicky Li once again handles the action of the film and while Fung and Lee handle their own as does Rudd, Edison Chen, who is a newcomer here, is at times either doubled or forced to use wirework for some of his action scenes. The wirework stuff come off as if it could be better, but there are times when Fung and Lee are forced to resort to the same kind of wirework that makes the action a bit pale in comparison with the original. The finale is quite a hoot, with Rudd no longer being hotheaded but resorting back to his trademark comic wit in an unexpected manner.

In the end, Gen-Y Cops may suffer from Nicholas Tse missing and replacement Edison Chen playing a mixed bag along with some mixed bag action overall. However, Stephen Fung, Sam Lee, and Paul Rudd seem to save the film from total annihilation.

A little disclaimer for those who would want to see the film: Avoid SyFy Channel’s cut of the film, re-titled Metal Mayhem as it cuts quite a lot for the film leaving many plot holes. The Universal DVD of the film seems to have the more complete version seen in Hong Kong…and for the record, Jackie Chan had no involvement on this film as he did with the original.

WFG RATING: B-

Gen-X Cops (1999)

genxcops Hong-kong-icon

1999, Media Asia Films

Director:
Benny Chan
Producers:
John Chong
Solon So
Benny Chan
Writers:
Benny Chan
Peter Tsi
Koan Hui
Anna Lee
Cinematography:
Arthur Wong
Fletcher Poon
Editing:
Azrael Cheung
Cheung Ka-Fai

Cast:
Nicholas Tse (Jack)
Stephen Fung (Match)
Sam Lee (Alien)
Grace Ip (Y2K)
Daniel Wu (Daniel)
Eric Tsang (Inspector Chan)
Francis Ng (“Mad Dog” Lok)
Toru Nakamura (Akatora)
Terence Yin (Tooth)
Jaymee Ong (Haze)
Moses Chan (Inspector To)
Gordon Lam (Dinosaur)

Highlighting a new generation of Hong Kong actors, this action-packed film was executive produced by none other than Jackie Chan.

When Dinosaur, a top-ranking Hong Kong gang lord must hide out in the Philippines, he entrusts his younger brother Daniel to take over. Daniel, who has arrived from Canada, has other plans in mind. En route to his escape, Dinosaur is stopped by the Japanese gangster Akatora and in a bold move, Daniel shoots his brother in the head in retaliation for the constant abuse from him. Akatora promises Daniel major funding to help him transport a recently stolen cargo of rocket fuel.

The Hong Kong Police Department have learned of Dinosaur’s death and are tracking down the mysterious Akatora. With rival inspectors To and Chan assigned to the case but in different missions, To slacks off but acts like a big shot to Chan, who comes up with an idea. In searching for cops who may have the look to infiltrate Daniel, Chan meets three recruits who have just been expelled from the academy. After some careful convincing and a major dare, Chan recruits Jack, Match, and Alien, along with Y2K, the sister of the cop who busted Dinosaur before his death, and together, they become the Gen-X Cops. However, their methods to solve the case don’t bode well with To and his men. And what does Akatora really have planned in all the chaos?

In a 1990 interview seen in the documentary The Best of the Martial Arts Films, Jackie Chan had once stated that he is looking for some “new blood” and this film may be a result of that search. Serving as executive producer, he collaborated with Who Am I? director Benny Chan to craft a new film that would mesh the trademark action of Hong Kong and bring in Hollywood-style visual effects with one thing in mind: to introduce a new generation of local actors to the mainstream of the Jade Screens.

Having just made their film debuts between a year and two years prior to this film, the trio of Nicholas Tse, Stephen Fung, and Sam Lee all went from relative newcomers who gained some critical acclaim for their first major roles to mainstream action stars with this film. Tse is the “no regrets” leader of the group Jack, with Fung being the ladies’ man Match while Lee provides some of the film’s comic relief as third member Alien. Add Grace Ip, who plays the technician Y2K and the always fun to watch Eric Tsang as their team leader and you have a sure fire heroic team who rely on both their sharp wits combined with their Gen-X style of doing things.

After his debut performances in the critically acclaimed Bishonen and appearing with Tse and Lee in Young and Dangerous: The Prequel, Daniel Wu breaks through in his role of low level Hong Kong gangster Daniel, who has always wanted respect but never got it. To earn it himself, he does the unthinkable and makes the gangster his own yet at the same time, still serves as a puppet to the real villain of the film, Akatora, played with a sense of mysteriousness from Japanese actor Toru Nakamura. Francis Ng once again brings the level of craziness he is best known for in the role of Dinosaur’s most trusted ally, “Mad Dog” Lok, who seeks to find Dinosaur’s killer and has a memorable scene when confronted by Akatora himself.

Jackie Chan would unleash the action in the form of bringing his stunt team (at the time) leader Nicky Li to choreograph the film’s stunts and action scenes. He even loaned out members Ken Low and Brad Allan to play small roles with Allan even training Tse in some of the martial arts moves necessary for the action. Kudos goes especially to Tse, Fung, and Lee, who perform most of their own dangerous stunts in the film. A Hollywood-based stunt team assisted with some of the aerial stunts of the film but the piece de resistance is the visual effects team who blew up the White House in the 1996 sci-fi hit Independence Day were brought in to blow up one of Hong Kong’s most famous landmarks and its ranks as one of the best things about the film. Finally, look out for a cameo by a certain Mr. Chan as well.

A sequel, Gen-Y Cops, was made a year later and is perhaps known today for the appearances of current Hollywood stars Maggie Q and in his only Hong Kong film to date, Ant-Man himself, Paul Rudd, as FBI agents who are first rivals then allies to the hero cops. Tse was replaced by newcomer Edison Chen with Fung and Lee returning to their roles. Wu and Fung would eventually join forces as executive producers with Wu as the star of the hit AMC series Into the Badlands with Fung as one of the action directors.

Gen-X Cops is a fun action-packed wild ride that showcases the talents of the millennium generation of Hong Kong stars. When Jackie Chan said he was looking for new blood, he found it first with this group.

WFG RATING: B+

DVD

NOLA Circus (2017)

nolacircus usa-iconfrance-icon

2017, Xlrator Media/Illicit Producers/Highfun/Nola Circus Productions

Director:
Luc Annest
Producers:
Arnaud Bettan
Luc Annest
Writer:
Luc Annest
Cinematography:
Andrew Strahorn
Editing:
Sarah Chartier

Cast:
Martin Bradford (Will)
Jessica Morali (Nola)
Reginal Vance (Devin)
Vas Blackwood (Marvin)
Kamille McCuin (Karen)
Nicoye Banks (Kahn)
Corey Mendell Parker (Hathi)
Ricky Wayne (Giuseppe)
Dave Davies (Vinny)
Robert Catrini (Marcello)
Candice Michele Barley (Amanda)
Taryn Terrell (Sabrina)
Raylee Magill (Yolanda)

A cast of eclectic characters surround this tale of rival barbershops in New Orleans in this hilarious comedy from director Luc Annest.

Since being a kid, Will has always wanted to keep one thing and that is his trademark Afro hairstyle. Will eventually opens his own barbershop and he has a discreet relationship with Nola. Nola’s older half brother Devin is way too overprotective and despite Nola’s plea to just let him know about their relationship, Will is scared of Devin. He proves this by accusing pizza delivery men of hitting on Nola, in which Devin retaliates by beating up an entire staff of a local pizzeria, and the pizzeria’s owner, Giuseppe, decides to takes things in his own hands.

Meanwhile, Will has a rivalry in terms of his business with Marvin, who will go to great lengths to get what he wants and that doesn’t only pertain to his business being successful, but his relationship with Karen. Karen is somewhat of a pill dealer whose relationship with Marvin is slowly beginning to unravel. Meanwhile, Giuseppe has hired friend and hitman Enzo to come to New Orleans to find Denzel. And if that’s not chaotic enough, Will finds himself under threat from the Ku Klux Klan? When all these stories connect, will this area return to its quiet neighborhood or will the inevitable happen?

Set in the Big Easy, New Orleans, this comedy from Luc Annest is hilarious. It may not have the big budget of similarly themed films like the Barbershop films, but it’s quite funny nearly in that vein. The film is set all within a day in a small usually quiet area of the city where two rival barbershops are the basis. When it comes to these films being set all within a day, it is guaranteed that there will be eclectic and eccentric characters that help drive that comic wit to the film and this film delivers on exactly that.

The narrator is our central character Will, played by Martin Bradford, who just loves three things: running a business, his Afro, and his girlfriend Nola, played by Jessica Morali. While Will has a successful business, it is his relationship with Nola (a double meaning to the film’s title as NOLA is also short for New Orleans, Louisiana) that is iffy because he is scared of Devin, Nola’s older half-brother. Reginal Vance is hilarious as the blonde Afro-sporting Devin, who will remind you of Tiny Lister’s Deebo in Friday. He is clearly the neighborhood bully who upon hearing anyone getting involved with his sister gets their butt kicked.

The film also brings a bit of reminiscence of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing in terms of the character of pizza delivery boy Vinny, who will remind one of Roger Guenveur Smith’s Smiley. The character of Giuseppe is hysterically played by Ricky Wayne as we see him going in full Robert De Niro-style as a revenge seeking pizzeria owner who wants revenge on Devin. Marvin, Will’s business rival, is also hilariously played by Mean Machine actor Vas Blackwood, who can be seen as an extremist with an insane fetish that becomes the catalyst for his unraveling relationship with pill popper and dealer Karen, played in femme fatale mode at times by Kamille McCuin.

NOLA Circus truly has a double meaning in its title and it is a hilarious film. If you like films such as Barbershop and even Nora’s Hair Salon, add this to your list of barbershop comedies with a great cast of eclectic and funny characters.

WFG RATING: A-

Xlrator Media will release this film in theaters on April 21st and on iTunes and VOD on April 25th.