tae kwon do

The Mighty Four (1977)

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Casanova Wong seeks revenge for the death of his parents in this pretty standard Korean action film that makes for some interesting action pieces.

As a child, Yin Chun-Yang watched his father killed and mother committing suicide at the hands of Chinese warlord Ma, who was in love with Yin’s mother. Yin would be raised by Uncle Yi, a kung fu expert and flute player. Many years later, a grown up Yin is determined to seek revenge. However, Yi knows that his nephew is far from ready to take on the now Commander Ma and his three lackeys.

Meanwhile, a mysterious woman has been making her way to find Yin and for some reason offers to help him as she is confronted by Ma’s men as well. Unbeknownst to Yin, the woman is the daughter of Master Wong, the best friend of Yin’s father, who had promise to marry Yin. When Yin’s attempt at revenge results in him being kidnapped, tortured, and crippled, Yi convinces Yin to hide in the mountains so he can heal before training his body to be able to finally set revenge, especially when the mystery woman is kidnapped by Ma and his men after an attempt to pose as an elderly woman fails.

The team of Tomas Tang and Joseph Lai took a 1977 Korean martial arts film and dubbed the film in English. The film, known as Four Brave Dragons, or The Lone Shaolin Avenger, or Big Boss II; stars Casanova Wong as the hero, a young man seeking revenge for the death of his parents. Wong does a decent job in the lead as always. When he is warned that he is not ready to take on the commander who is responsible for his parents’ deaths, he finds himself forced to take on a band of thugs. The first fight scene involves Wong doing something that is borderline ridiculous. He grabs one thug by his crotch and lifts him in the air while kicking away at some thugs then throwing the first in theair This will may one cringe and laugh at the same time.

Carrie Lee plays a mysterious woman who definitely has ties to Wong’s character but is unbeknownst to both Wong and Lee. Hong Kong star Yeung Wai plays the interesting role of Wong’s uncle and martial arts teacher, who is known by the bad guy as “the flute player”. Chang Il-Shik is ruthless as the villainous Ma with Kwak Mu-Seong, Nam Chung-Il, and future Korean cult film lead Elton Chong as the trio of Ma’s warriors who serve as his number one men. Chong and Kwak truly showcase their kicking skills when they go up against Wong in a series of battles.

Yeung Wai choreographed the film’s martial arts action scenes and they range from pretty good to flat out insanity. Being the superb kicker that he is with some amazing hang time, it really is nerve-racking when Casanova Wong does some insane tricks on wires. However, the non-wire fights are decently done especially the climactic showdown between Wong and Cheung. Cheung is quite a nice kicker himself and gets to show that nice bootwork in the finale.

The Mighty Four is definitely a mixed bag. Some of the action is quite nice but some of the action is also a bit cringe-worthy, and that one particular move in a cringe-and-laugh fest. If you are a hardcore fan of Casanova Wong, you will most likely see this.


An IFD Films and Arts Co. Ltd. Presentation. Director: Kim Jung-Yong. Producers: Hwang Yeong-Sil & Tomas Tang (Hong Kong version). Writer: Kang Dae-Ha. Cinematography: An Chang-Bok, Yu Chun, and Yang Yeong-Gil. Editing: Hyeon Dong-Chun.

Cast: Casanova Wong, Chang Il-Shik, Yeung Wai, Carrie Lee, Kwak Mu-Seong, Nam Chung-Il, Elton Chong, Jeon Shook, Hung Sing-Chung, Baek Song, Pearl Lin, Kim Ki-Joo, Baek Hwang-Ki.


The Dragon Tamers (1975)

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Everyone knows John Woo as one of the best action film directors in the world today. During his early days as a director, he tackled the kung fu film and this film, his second as director, is quite interesting as we get to see a look at the motifs that would later become a trademark of the Woo-style of action filmmaking.

The film revolves around two martial artists from China who are well versed in different styles. Fan Zhongjie is a kung fu expert who has arrived in Korea with the intention to have a spar with a respected Tae Kwon Do master, Shen Rongzheng. Along the way, he meets Tae Kwon Do coach Nan Gong and the two become friends. Nan is actually a protégé of Shen and has eyes for Shen’s daughter Mingmei. Another student, Jindi also has eyes for Nan Gong and becomes jealous of Mingmei.

While Fan is quite good at kung fu, when he is introduced to Yan, who has taken over Shen’s school after retiring, things start to unravel. Yan challenges another Tae Kwon Do master, Bai-Mu. Yan loses heavily and Fan asks that Bai-Mu train him in Tae Kwon Do for his spar with Shen. When Shen finally accepts the spar, it is clear that Fan has no ulterior motives, but to show his skills against Shen. When Fan wins the duel, it may have caused some sort of anger and sorrow, but Shen ultimately respects Fan and welcomes him as a friend. When Fan begins training Mingmei, the two fall for each other, something Nan Gong ends up not being happy about.

Meanwhile, the town’s other martial arts schools are being targeted for a takeover. Yan and his younger brother Gong have been going to the local schools and giving them a choic: ally themselves with the Yan school or face their wrath. To add some insurance to their wrath, the Yans hire a lunatic fighter and Baifeng, a female martial arts champion from overseas. When Fan and Nan hear of the Yan’s plans and Bai-Mu is seriously injured, they decide to put their differences aside and take on the Yans and their thugs in a final confrontation.

John Woo wrote the screenplay and directed this pretty underrated kung fu film. It is definite that Woo definitely knows what he is doing here as his style runs smoothly with his very own script that seems to revolve around the Korean art of Tae Kwon Do. Add some international flavor by casting actors from Japan and Korea, where the film was shot and is set, and you have quite a pretty good martial arts film.

I have to admit, it was tiring seeing James Tien play villains in films and it’s great to see him more as a likable character in the form of Tae Kwon Do coach Nan Gong. He runs a school with mainly female students and yes, he is in love with his teacher’s daughter. While he played likable characters in Bruce Lee’s The Big Boss and Fist of Fury, he always felt short-lived. Here, he plays co-lead alongside the great Carter Wong as a kung fu expert who ultimately combines his kung fu with Tae Kwon Do to stop the villains.

In a nod to perhaps the western, the villains mainly wear black and in some scenes, wear capes as if they were magicians. As much as that proves to be laughable, they make up for it in skills. While Korean actor Kim Ki-Joo played the older brother, it is clear the real leader is younger brother Gong, played by Yeung Wai. Yeung and Tien would reunite in Woo’s Hand of Death in role reversals. However, the twist comes at the very tail end of the film. Just when you think the film is over, a surprise comes. Look out for the following Woo-style motifs: the doves (in which they fly with James Tien looking on) and the use of slow motion at the right moments as well.

The action director of the film is Chan Chuen and he does a pretty good job in using the skills of Tien and Wong as well as Kim and Yeung. The opening fight scene involves two groups of female fighters taking each other and in one section of this fight, three girls are fighting in the mud and yes, there is some nudity involved, which may bring one to worry that this would be a film similar to The Association, which was released that same year. Thankfully, it is not even close to that. Hapkido grandmaster Ji Han-Jae gets some nice fight scenes himself, or more like great sparring scenes first with Tien then Wong.

The Dragon Tamers is an underrated kung fu film. It is an early look at John Woo’s style of action filmmaking and the cast does quite well. Definitely worth a rental.


A Golden Harvest (HK) Ltd. Production. Director: John Woo. Producer: Raymond Chow. Writer: John Woo. Cinematography: Lee Seong-Chun. Editing: Peter Cheung.

Cast: James Tien, Carter Wong, Ji Han-Jae, Kim Ki-Joo, Yeung Wai, Kim Chang-Suk, Chie Kobayashi, Ryoko Ina, Chan Chuen, Hsu Hsia, Woo Jeon-Yeong, Nami Saijo, Keiko Hara, Park Seong-Jae, Lee Dae-Yeob.

Shaolin Deadly Kicks (1977)

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Superkicker Delon Tan shines in this very exciting kung fu film that he would virtually remake a decade later in America.

A band of robbers known as the Eight Dragons have stolen a rare treasure map. They decide to take the map and divide into eight pieces, one for each member. The leader of the gang makes the decision to wait three years before reuniting and getting their hands on the treasure. At first, tension nearly leads to dissention, but everyone eventually comes into agreement and waits the three years.

The three years have passed and it is time for the Dragons to reunite. However, it will not be as easy as they plan. When one of the members is arrested, he meets a young man who is willing to help him escape. When the young man tells the Dragon that he knows where some treasure can be found, they head with another member of the gang to an undisclosed location. The two Dragons soon learn it is all a trap and the young man is revealed to be police constable Hsiao Huang-Yi, who along with his partner Chun-Wei, are able to stop the Dragons. However, when Chun-Wei is killed in battle, Huang-Yi uses his flashy kicks to stop the Dragons.

From there, Huang-Yi begins to track down the members one by one to get all the pieces of the map and return it to its rightful owner. After a promise to Dragons member Chang Fang to help his sick son, Huang finds himself betrayed by the treacherous Fang and is forced to kill him. When Huang-Yi is set up by a goon hired by two more members, Huang-Yi fakes his death and is able to fight both members on separate occasions to defeat them. Huang-Yi eventually meets his match in Master Chi, who uses a poison blade to strike the kicking constable before he meets his maker.

Huang-Yi is eventually nursed back to health by Jade, a young woman he saved from bandits earlier in his mission. Jade turns out to be the daughter of the Dragons leader, the Chief. The Chief has changed tunes and has become a doctor. Jade knows nothing of the robbery and while Huang-Yi reveals himself and wants to help the Chief live a peaceful existence, things are about to go full speed. The final Dragons members, the Cutter, has returned and plans to do whatever it takes to get the treasure, even if it means betraying his own leader.

This is definitely an underrated martial arts film from the 70’s. While the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Sammo Hung dominated the classic kung fu era, there are some well-known names worth mentioning, notably Delon Tan and Lo Lieh. Tan, a grandmaster in the art of taekwondo, starred in the 1976 John Woo film Hand of Death alongside a young Jackie Chan while Lo Lieh starred in the first kung fu film to hit American shores, King Boxer, released as Five Fingers of Death, in early 1973.

While Lo takes a step back to play lead villain Cutter, it is Tan who truly shines here. Next to the “King of Leg Fighters” Hwang Jang-Lee, Tan is perhaps the second dominant kicker in classic kung fu films. Tan has flashiness in his left leg, thus earning him the rightful nickname of “Flash Legs”. Coincidentally, Flash Legs was an alternate title for this very film. While Tan does use some crispy handwork at times, the film is clearly a showcase to show his impeccable kicking skills. What will astound fans is that Tan’s left leg serves as a machine gun, shooting out at least 5 times or he would do his trademark “hopping kick”, where he hops his right off and shoots off a mid-level to high kick with such accuracy.

The plot of the film is quite interesting as well. While it may seem basic, it is noteworthy that cast in the film as the Eight Dragons are some well-known villain actors. Lung Fei (known to Western audiences as Master Pain/Betty in the spoof Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, Tsai Hung, and Wang Chieh prove to be the biggest competition for Tan in the film. However, for Tan’s opening fight scene, I was a little impressed with Li Hsiao-Ming, who plays one of the first members of the gang to fall victim to Tan. Li does some nice kicking himself and had he gotten just a little more flexibility, it would have been quite a nice kicking duel.

Tan would use the very theme for this film and twist it up for his 1990 Hollywood B-movie Breathing Fire. Using bank keys stolen in a robbery and melting them down in a fake “pizza”, the item is split between robbers. Tan would use the pseudonym “Delon Tanners” and came up with both the story and served as executive producer. He would also train the two stars of the film, The Goonies’ Jonathan Ke Quan and Eddie Saavedra in taekwondo.

Shaolin Deadly Kicks is truly a highlight for Delon Tan as the superkicker shines in the film with some very good support from veteran Lo Lieh as the villain. Definitely worth seeing for Tan’s superior kicking skills.


A Wah Tai Motion Picture Co. Ltd. Production. Director: Wu Ma. Producers: Kwan Sin and Tung Chen-Ching. Writer: Chu Hsiang-Kan. Cinematography: Liao Wan-Wen. Editing: Ko Tan-Hung.

Cast: Delon Tan, Lo Lieh, Wang Hsieh, Doris Lung, Kam Kong, Lo Ti, Tsai Hung, Ou-Yang Sha Fei, Wu Chia-Hsiang, Lung Fei, Chan Wai-Lau, Gam Sai-Yuk, Tsang Chiu, Chan Sam-Lam, Lee Siu-Ming.


Inspirational Martial Arts Film “I Can I Will I Did” Coming to Orlando

On October 19, an inspirational martial arts drama will be screening in Orlando, Florida. Nadine Truong‘s I Can I Will I Did is planning a screening at the AMC Universal Cineplex 20 at Universal Studios Orlando at 7:30PM EST.

Depressed foster youth Ben is bullied and as a result gets into a car accident. His recovery process is slow, until he meets Adrienne, a wheelchair bound fellow patient at the hospital who breathes hope into his life and introduces to him her grandfather, Taekwondo Master Kang. Kang not only teaches him how to walk and get back up on his feet, but also how to take charge of his own life.

The film stars Ik Jo Kang, Mike FaistSelenis Leyva, and Ellie Lee.

If you’re in the area and want to see this film, order your ticket from Tugg.


A Fight for Honor (1992)

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A young woman learns a lesson about the true nature of the sport she loves in this feature directorial debut of Texas-based martial arts instructor Sam Um.

Three years after beginning her training in the martial art of taekwondo, Crystal Lundgren has lost a recent tournament, which has left her depressed. Her mother and friends discourage her from continuing her training. Her mother wants Crystal to live life as a teenager. However, she is still loyal to her training and a chance encounter will change her life when she meets local pizza delivery boy Min-Suk Kim, who also is training in taekwondo from his grandfather.

Crystal realizes that her master only cares about winning competitions and in addition, she finds herself constantly harassed by classmate Bobby, who will not take no for an answer. When she accidentally hits Min-Suk with her car, which damages his bike and results in his losing his job, Crystal is sorry but learns about Min-Suk’s grandfather. At first, the grandfather refuses to train her due to her previous reasons for the martial art. However, seeing potential in her, the grandfather takes her in as a student along with Min-Suk’s friend David. The trio soon begin training for an upcoming tournament.

Sam Um, a Texas-based taekwondo and Gongkwon Yusul instructor, is perhaps best known today as the instructor of country music legend Willie Nelson, who earned a 5th-degree black belt from Um a few years ago. During the wake of the B-movie martial arts circuit that reigned on home video, Um took a chance and created his first film, a Karate Kid-like tale that could be said to be a precursor of the 1994 sequel The Next Karate Kid.

It is clear that the film doesn’t have any big names, but all local actors. However, in a brief appearance, the only “big name” is that of Bill Johnson as Crystal’s first taekwondo instructor. Johnson is known for his replacing Gunnar Hansen as the chainsaw-wielding killer Leatherface in the 1986 film Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Here, Johnson plays it straight as a teacher who only cares about winning trophies and clearly doesn’t know the meaning of martial arts. The film’s true focus is on three characters, Crystal, Min-Suk, and their teacher, Min-Suk’s grandfather.

M.G. Lee, who also served as executive producer, plays the grandfather quite well. He clearly knows the true spirit of not only taekwondo, but martial arts as a whole and teaches both Min-Suk and Crystal, the latter more as her values in training are not what she had thought. C.K. Kim and Stacy Lundgren make the most of their roles as the students, especially Lundgren, whose character cares more about martial arts than what her mother and friends expect out of her. As expected, Min-Suk and Crystal slowly form a tight bond that blossoms into a romance much to the chagrin of bully Bobby, a former classmate of Crystal’s whose constant harassing comes from the fact he wants to date her, but she is not attracted by his arrogant ways. On the other hand, Min-Suk is more level headed and determined to keep his training going along with friend David, the comic relief of the film, played by Stephen Wong.

The martial arts action, choreographed by Um, is a meshing of basically TKD used for self-defense on the streets along with what to expect in martial arts tournaments. Lee and Kim actually look quite good in their skills while Lundgren, bless her soul, looks like she took up the training for the sake of the film. She does try her best but thankfully the tournament sequences bring a sense of what is seen in Olympic Taekwondo, so Lundgren’s skills are ultimately forgivable.

In the end, if you like films like The Karate Kid, then it is safe to say that A Fight for Honor is a family style locally shot film that showcases the spirit of martial arts with a decent effort from its local talent in front of the cameras and filmmaker Sam Um, who would make one more film with his legendary student, 2007’s Fighting with Anger.


A Master Films Production. Director: Sam Um. Producer: Sam Um. Writer: Sam Um. Cinematography: Phil Curry. Editing: Sam Um

Cast: M.G. Lee, C.K. Kim, Stacy Lundgren, Shannon Sedwick, Stephen Wong, Mark Kay, Bill Johnson, Daron Edwards, Cindy Wood, Kira Meissner.

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


Best of the Best (1989)

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1989, The Movie Group/SVS Inc.

Robert Radler
Phillip Rhee
Peter E. Strauss
Phillip Rhee (story)
Paul Levine (story and screenplay)
Doug Ryan
William Hoy

Eric Roberts (Alex Grady)
Phillip Rhee (Tommy Lee)
James Earl Jones (Frank Couzo)
Sally Kirkland (Catherine Wade)
John P. Ryan (Frank Jennings)
John Dye (Virgil Keller)
David Agresta (Sonny Grasso)
Chris Penn (Travis Brickley)
Tom Everett (Don Peterson)
Simon Rhee (Dae Han Park)
James Lew (Sae Jin Kwon)
Master Ho Sik Pak (Han Cho)
Ken Nagayama (Yung Kim)
Dae Kyu Chang (Tung Sung Moon)

“A team is not a team if you don’t give a damn about one another” is the tagline for this underrated martial arts drama about five members of the United States karate team, who must endure both professional and personal obstacles to unite as they prepare for a competition with a team from Korea.

The United States team consists of Virgil Keller, a devout Buddhist; Sonny Grasso, a Detroit-based fighter who uses his Italian heritage to try to get women; Travis Brickley, the bigot of the bunch; Tommy Lee, a taekwondo instructor; and Alex Grady, a former champion who is on the verge of making a comeback after suffering a career-threatening injury years ago.

Coached by the very tough Frank Couzo with the help of spiritual coordinator Catherine Wade, the five fighters spend three months in training and throughout the course, endure major encounters not only outside of their training, but internally as well. The most connected of the team are Alex and Tommy, who practically form a brotherly-type bond as both endure personal obstacles that they may or may not be able to overcome when it is time to go to Korea for the competition. Travis plays an integral part of the plot as well. As the racist member of the bunch, he uses typical Asian stereotypes to try to tap into Tommy’s head without much success. He nearly gets everyone in trouble as well at a local bar when he is caught with someone else’s girlfriend and the fact he is a loudmouth doesn’t bode well with anyone he crosses.

Even though Eric Roberts, James Earl Jones, and Sally Kirkland received top billing for this film, it’s clear that Phillip Rhee is one of the true stars of the film. The character of Tommy is perhaps the most tortured of the team members. Rhee, who also came up with the story and produced the film, gives out a great performance as Tommy happens to be likable on the outside, but has a deep feeling of anger on the inside. When he learns that his opponent will be Korea’s team captain, Dae Han Park, played by Phillip’s real-life brother Simon Rhee, he begins to have recurring nightmares when ten years ago, his brother David was killed by Dae-Han in a tournament held in Los Angeles. Tommy finds solace not only in Alex, but uses his martial arts as a way to handle the fear that he has to endure.

What helps boost the film not only in terms of the film’s dramatic element of understanding the fighters are the intense training each team endures. While the United States fighters rely on modern technology and weight training to get their bodies stronger, the Korean team resort to modern traditional methods such as practicing during the snowy winters and running in the snow as well as hitting the trees while in the snow. Aside from Simon Rhee as Dae Han, the film also features legends James Lew and Grandmaster Ho Sik-Pak as members of the Korean team with tae kwon do legend Hee Il Cho as the coach.

Most of the martial arts action takes place during the qualifiers for the team as well as the climatic tournament sequences. Simon Rhee made the stars look impressive and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Phillip helped his older brother train some of the more non-martial artists of the cast, such as Eric Roberts, Chris Penn, and John Dye. One standalone fight scene takes place at a bar in which the team takes on the likes of stuntman Kane Hodder and other stunt guys.

The tournament sequences are the highlight of the film as the Rhee brothers and film crew acknowledge the respect of tae kwon do as not only a martial art, but a sport as well. The film was made shortly after competitive tae kwon do was made into an official Olympic sport in the 1988 Seoul Games. As a matter of fact, the tournament takes place and is shot in the famous city. The finale of the film highlights a major twist that shows what kind of level makes a film of this caliber a success.

Best of the Best proved to be a hit film and Eric Roberts, Philip Rhee, and Chris Penn returned for Best of the Best 2 in 1992 with Rhee starring and directing in two more installments as Tommy Lee in 1995 and 1998, the latter also marking Rhee’s final film to date. Simon Rhee returned for an appearance in the second installment but helped little brother out as stunt coordinator and fight choreographer for all four films.

Best of the Best is perhaps one of the most underrated martial arts films to come out of the late 80’s, with its somewhat breakaway from the norm of the genre and some rousing performances from the ensemble cast.




Taekwondo Damashii: Rebirth (2014)

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Japan’s first martial art film to focus on the Korean art of Taekwondo is quite interesting and may have some farfetched elements, but overall not a bad film.

Tatsuo is a former national champion in Taekwondo and runs a small dojang. However, as he gears up for retirement, he has decided to give the dojang to his son Toshimichi if he can win the upcoming national championship. As Toshimichi competes and eventually wins the tournament, he is advised to begin more training for the next tournament. Along with good friend Ishiba and two others, Toshimichi heads en route to training when they are caught in an accident.

Upon awakening, the group soon finds themselves under attack by various opponents. Meanwhile, Shinpei, Toshimichi’s older brother was to have inherited the dojang, but instead he ended up leaving and working as a low level gangster. As Shinpei deals with his actions, Toshimichi has learned that he is now facing the ultimate challenge, one in which his soul is the prize. Will these two brothers be able to keep their spirits intact all for the love of their martial art?

This shot-on-video martial arts action film is the first Japanese film to focus on the martial art of Taekwondo. The Japanese branch of the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) gave their full support to the film under the direction and screenplay by Hideyuki Katsuki. While a straight out story about a family involved in the art would have been good enough, considering this is Japan, there has to be a little twist to the story and the film is more about the spirit of the art.

The film can be said to be a tokukatsu fan’s dream due to its core cast. Kamen Rider Decade’s Masahiro Inoue makes the most impact as his character Toshimichi must deal with following in his father’s footsteps to not only become a champion, but the pressure to run the family dojang makes Toshimichi question what he must do. While Inoue must rely on his skills to keep his spirit, the other “spirit” comes in the form of Ryoma Baba’s Shinpei. The Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters’ Blue Ranger plays the elder brother who feels he can use his skills to make money as a gangster rather than run the family school. However, he questions his inner spirit as to what he must do to make his life truly a better one.

Tensai Sentai Goseiger’s Kyosuke Hamao makes his final appearance before his retirement from acting in this film as family friend Ishiba, who joins Toshimichi and shows his support by rooting for him and eventually joins him in the battle in the forest. Now, as for the forest scene, this is where the madness happens. The forest acts as the battlefield for Toshimichi’s “ultimate challenge” where if you get knocked down, even if you win, you will lose your spirit. This is told through the eyes of the very strange looking Magi, played by veteran Renji Ishibashi. Rina Koike and former baseball player Shigeru Nagashima round out the cast as Toshimichi and Shinpei’s sister Saki and taekwondo patriarch Tatsuo and they don’t get involved in the action but more on the dramatic side of the story.

The taekwondo action of the film is nicely done for the most part. The tournament scenes are what one would expect in perhaps an actual tournament with Inoue, a real-life taekwondo stylist, showcasing his skills. The forest fight scenes are quite interesting for the most part as they involve all comers using their various skills. However, there are parts that bring that Japanese-style madness where at times, there are shades of crazy VFX and wirework insanity. However, for the most part, the fights are actually not too bad with Stunt Team GOCOO taking charge in utilizing the cast’s skills.

In the end, despite how the trailer may look, Taekwondo Damashii: Rebirth is actually a film that relies more about the spirit of two brothers, one physical and one mental, all as they face their own challenges to find their destiny within the art of Taekwondo. Not on par with some of today’s top martial arts films, but still a pretty decent look at the art of TKD in Japan.


A Toei Video Co. Ltd. production. Director: Hideyuki Katsuki. Writer: Hideyuki Katsuki.

Cast: Masahiro Inoue, Ryoma Baba, Kyosuke Hamao, Shigeru Nagashima, Rina Koike, Renji Ishibashi.


When Taekwondo Strikes (1973)

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“The Father of American Taekwondo”, Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, stars with the fighting diva Angela Mao in his only film in this underrated film that pits Chinese and Korean rebels against the Japanese.

In Japan-occupied Korea, a group of Japanese are looking for a man named Li Jun-Dong). They begin to harass the local missionaries and go as far as putting the priest, Father Lewis, through torture to find Li’s whereabouts. Li has been going undercover as a caretaker at the local church and has been teaching Taekwondo to two students, Jin Zheng-Zhi and Mary the priest’s niece.

When the Japanese arrive at the church to find Li, they make the mistake of running into a young woman, Huang Li-Chen. Huang has been in Korea for studying and has learned another Korean martial art, Hapkido. Li has a list of rebels who are willing to join forces with him in the resistance movement against the Japanese. However,the Japanese are willing to do to get their hands on the list. The action soon moves from Korea to China when Li, Huang, and Li’s students are forced to flee Korea.

An instant classic from director Huang Feng, the film’s opening credits, which show Jhoon Rhee and his students doing Taekwondo forms, along with Angela Mao, Carter Wong, and lead villain Hwang In-Shik demonstration their impeccable martial arts skills show that this will be a pretty good movie. For classic martial arts standards, the film truly delivers. In the vein of Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury (1972), this one pits Chinese and Korean rebels against the Japanese. Chu Yu co-wrote the script with Korean screenwriter Kwak Il-Ro and for its time, it’s interesting to see the film set in Korea then to China for the finale.

For what would be his only film, Jhoon Rhee does quite well as Korean resistance leader and Taekwondo master Li Jun-Dong. Rhee may not the greatest actor in the world, but he handles himself quite well in both acting and action. Angela Mao hands down has some of her best fight scenes in the film, including taking on multiple Japanese thugs led by Chin Yuet-Sang in a rematch of sorts from Mao’s epic Lady Whirlwind (1972). She even gets to take on Sammo Hung and Korean actor Kim Ki-Joo, who play two Japanese thugs.  In what is her only film credit as well, Anne Winton holds her own quite well as Mary, the young woman who trains in Taekwondo under Li. This is truly a scenario of life imitating art as Winton was a real-life student of Rhee and it shows. It is sad she never got to carry her own martial arts film, even back in America. One can only wonder at this point.

Sammo Hung and Chan Chuen were responsible for the film’s action sequences and once again, they deliver the goods. Hung truly is a winner when it comes to having Taekwondo and Hapkido kickers showcase their skills. Rhee, Mao, Winton, and Hwang In-Shik (as the lead Japanese villain) highlight their amazing kicking skills. Carter Wong gets in on some action as a Taekwondo stylist and he even fares quite well here. In one scene, showing the sacrifice he will deliver to make the actors look good, Hung himself engages in a fight with Winton and has a chunk of his leg bitten off in the process. While this sounds pretty gross, this is just proof that Hung is willing to do what it takes to make the action scenes and the cast involved look good.

When Taekwondo Strikes is truly a martial arts film fan’s dream from the classic era. Sammo Hung’s exceptional action choreography truly is the highlight of the film as he highlights the titular art as well as Hapkido with karate and kung fu. Definitely see this to see Jhoon Rhee and real-life student Anne Winton kick high in their only film as well as seeing Angela Mao kick some serious tail. A true underrated classic.


A Golden Harvest (HK) Ltd. Production. Director: Huang Feng. Producer: Raymond Chow. Writers: Chu Yu and Kwak Il-Ro. Cinematography: Lee Yau-Tong and Choi Jong-Gul. Editing:
Peter Cheung.

Cast: Angela Mao, Jhoon Rhee, Carter Wong, Anne Winton, Andre Morgan, Hwang In-Shik, Sammo Hung, Chin Yuet-Sang, Kim Ki-Joo, Huang Feng, Kenji Kazama.



Order No. 27 (1986)

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A martial arts film from North Korea, this film proves that when it comes to providing fight scenes, the language is global.

Set during the Korean War in the 1950’s, a group of military officers in training have finally been given their assignment. They are to find the camp belonging to the Dragon Special Forces, their arch rivals and cripple the base and stop the enemy general. The captain of the squad knows that not everyone will survive the mission, but will do whatever it takes for the glory of their country.

The squad also learns that the army has planted a female agent, Un Ha, codename “Balaustine”, as an undercover officer named Yong Mi. En route for the first contact to Un Ha, the plan is thwarted when Kil Nam, a compassionate soldier finds himself protecting a young girl harassed by members of the Dragon Special Forces. At the local café, a fight between the army and their enemy forces Un Ha to meet the soldiers at the rally point. She intends to find out where the headquarters of the Dragon Special Forces are located. When her cover is blown, she narrowly escapes but is shot in the process. When she reveals the location, the army sets out for a final assault.

The film is a hybrid of war film, spy film, and martial arts action film. Co-directed by Jung Ki-Mo and Kim Eung-Suk, the film is quite an oddity in the sense that the film was made and glamorizes North Korea as the heroes of the film.  The plot is simple: military group, known in the film as the “Red Guerillas” because of their Communist nature must infiltrate the enemy (in this case it is obvious that the “enemy” is South Korea with them being called “Dragon Special Forces”) and of course, this being a war movie, not everyone survives.

The film will astound fans of martial arts cinema as the film has some very nice fight scenes. It is obvious that tae kwon do is the art used by both sides when it comes to hand-to-hand combat. The cast definitely have the necessary talent and skills in the art to unleash their kicking skills. Fans who love Hwang Jung-Lee’s bootwork will not be disappointed as some of his trademark moves are performed by members of the film’s cast. The only complaint that must be noted is despite some wirework, there is sometimes a few seconds of unnecessary undercranking when it comes to certain moves. However, overall the fight scenes nicely edited and shot using long shots and nearly overhead angles that enable the viewer to see tae kwon do used in military combat.

The bottom line is that if you just want to enjoy a good military martial arts film, then check out this rare film from North Korea. As they say, martial arts films have a global impact and Order No. 27 delivers in the fight department.


A Korea Film Corporation production. Directors: Jung Ki-Mo and Kim Eung-Suk. Writer: Ri Sang-Uk. Cinematography: Park Yeon-Bock.

Cast: Cha Sung-Chol, Chow Yong-Chol, Han Pong-Ho, Jo Kwang, Kim Ha-Chun, Kim Jeong-Woon, Kim Hye-Son, Pak Kun-Sang, Ri Won-Bok.



REVIEW: My Sassy Girl 2 (2010)

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2010, Eastern Mordor Pictures

Joe Ma
Choi Seok-Min
Kim Ho-Sik

Lynn Hung (Shengzhen)
Leon Jay Williams (Jianyu)
He Jiong (Zhikai)
Abby Fung (Yongzhen)
Bosco Wong (Yang Guo)
Zhang Jianan (Yao)
Hui Shiu-Hung (Yao’s Father)

A thematic sequel to the original hit 2001 Korean may have be noteworthy due to the script being written by the original storyteller himself, Kim Ho-Sik. However, the flavor of the film doesn’t seem to match the original yet it does have its moments.

Jianyu is a hapless bookstore owner who on the day he plans to propose to his longtime girlfriend, gets dumped instead. She has grown tired of him and his simplistic ways and wants more spontaneity, therefore wanting a new relationship. Feeling useless, Jianyu attempts to kill himself but accidentally knocks himself out. It is then he meets Shengzhen, a young woman who like Jianyu, has failed miserably in love. She has learned her ex-boyfriend, Yang Guo, is planning to get married and she wants to ruin it with Jianyu’s help.

As if Shengzhen isn’t enough, her little sister Yongzhen is having love issues of her own. Always letting everything get to her, she takes her aggression out by becoming a tae kwon do instructor. There, she meets Zhikai, a loser waiter who couldn’t find love on his worst day. However, as Zhikai continues to take the class, Zhikai finds himself attracted to Yongzhen, who wants to find someone for who she is. Will Shengzhen get her wish to destroy the wedding when Jianyu begins to fall for her and will Zhikai accept Yongzhen for who she is and perhaps, be the answer to end her aggressive manner?

With My Sassy Girl being a groundbreaking Korean romantic comedy like no other, the film would first spawn remakes in the United States, India, Nepal, and in the Telugu language. After a 2008 Japanese drama series adaptation, Mainland China would get the help of the orginal storyteller, Kim Ho-Sik, to create a thematic sequel to the original film. With the help of collaborator Choi Seok-Min, the story actually follows not just one, but in this case, two “sassy girls” within a 90-minute time limit.

The two “sassy girls” in this case are sisters who are just aggressive towards their potential suitors. In the case of Lynn Hung’s Shengzhen, she is so hurt by her ex-boyfriend’s impending marriage that she hires hapless loser Jianyu, played with goofiness at times by Singaporean idol Leon Jay Williams, to help her but at the same time, act like a punching bag when she is at her maddest. While that is the main focus of the film, the major secondary story involves Shengzhen’s little sister Yongzhen, played by Abby Fung. She is more reminiscent of the original sassy girl Gianna Jun in terms of attitude. Yongzhen is a tae kwon do instructor with clear anger issues and she finds a suitor in a new student, a poor waiter named Zhikai, played with hysterics at time by TV show host He Jiong. What is shocking is that the chemistry between Fung and He seems more believable than that of Hung and Williams. Perhaps it would make more sense is Yongzhen and Zhikai were the main characters rather than the other two.

My Sassy Girl 2 lacks the charm of the original film and it seems like there should be a reversal as to who the main characters should be. However, there are some light-hearted moments and some funny scenes that make this a little bit watchable.