Fantasia Fest 2015: Kung Fu Killer (2014)

Fantasia Festival is one of the times of year that I love. As mentioned before, 11 movies lined up this year. Last year, my Hong Kong selection was the last movie in the lineup. It feels like I unintentionally flipped it around because this year, my Hong Kong selection kicks off the festival. Its definitely a good thing. Especially with a two movie night on the first day.

The most unexpected part is that the lineup was intense. Its really intense for a Chinese movie. The most packed I’ve been to it. Maybe it has to do with Donnie Yen being our main guy in this crime thriller called Kung Fu Killer.  I’m a huge fan of Donnie Yen and I’ve seen almost every movie that he’s been in.  This one boasts that its all about martial arts, so I’m totally down for it 🙂

Let’s check it out!

Kung Fu Killer (2014)

(also called: Kung Fu Jungle)

kung fu killer

Director: Teddy Chan

Cast: Donnie Yen, Baoqiang Wang, Charlie Yeung, Michelle Bai, Alex Fong, Deep Ng, Kang Yu, Xing Yu, Siu-Wong Fan

Three years ago, martial arts instructor for the police force Hahou Mo (Donnie Yen) accidentally kills an opponent in a duel and confesses his crime right away.  This lands him with a five year sentence.  When a man is found dead by brutal force in a suspicious way, Mo does everything possible to offer up his knowledge to help the police.  In exchange, they have to let him out.  Reluctantly, Detective Luk (Charlie Yeung) recruits his help as they track down the killer who is targeting the top martial arts masters and challenging them to a duel to death.  Will Mo be able to stop the killer before too many lives are lost?

Kung Fu Killer

Right from the very cool opening scene with credits, Donnie Yen is not only the main lead but the action director of Kung Fu Killer.  That is as promising as it can get for a movie which focuses on the true essence of martial arts, reaching for the roots.  The best way to approach this review is to look at step by step.  If you go to this movie, what are you expecting? For me, phenomenal martial arts and action sequences.  If you look at the actors recruited for even the short roles of the martial arts masters here, they are all deeply rooted in various aspects of martial arts.  With the right cast, this movie speaks with the authenticity of the arts which is there whether we venture into the world of boxing, kicking, grappling, or weapons.  It touches on all of it.  Every action scene is tense and thriller to watch even if you can predict the outcome. On top of that, trying to stay traditional with the arts, it still knows how to add creativity to the scenes to make it as original and breathtaking, especially that last battle.

Kung Fu Killer

Kung Fu Killer has a solid enough story to carry it through.  It also carries a few meaningful messages about what the essence of martial arts, how to keep control over your emotions and remembering your responsibilities and staying honorable.  It can even carry the message that life is about the choices you make, about finding that balance to treat something as an art and not a killing device.  All very relevant to action movies like this which leans toward a more violent side with a brutal and vicious villain like Fung Yu-Sau (Baoqiang Wang).  The bad guy here, Fung, is a peculiar one.  A part of me doesn’t quite buy his act but there is no doubt that his character was scripted to be a maniac, a martial arts crazed maniac who is all about the ancient methods of his training to become No.1 that its become an obsession.  For that part, this guy does a really good job.  He’s a bit of an unpredictable goof in his expressions and whatnot but he has mad martial arts skills that he gets to show off as he fights each opponent.

Kung Fu Killer

But, as brilliant as some of the casting decisions were in the fighting domain.  Props goes out to Michelle Bai who shows off some stellar sword fighting abilities, I wasn’t so excited about our main actress here playing Detective Luk by Charlie Yeung.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like Charlie Yeung as a soft docile girl.  Something about her doesn’t pull off that tough lady cop thing really well.  Plus, the theatre laughed a lot at the dialogue, especially hers.  I don’t know if it was like they were liking it or not but for me, something felt like it was missing.  She just didn’t seem commanding enough for that role. While I’m at the dialogue, this one has some pretty bad script in general.  I’m not saying anyone really cares but I didn’t need to read subtitles but when I did catch a glimpse of it, I kind of giggled a little at it because watching it was already a little laugh out loud but those subtitles.  But then, there aren’t all that many lines. I was there for the action part of it. If I had to be nitpicky, there was a scene or two of bad CGI and then one particular scene that I swore I saw the wire during a battle. So really, just little flaws here and there. Plus, they offset it by putting Alex Fong in here even if its just a small Police Chief Inspector role.  I loved this guy when he used to do TV series and he makes a great cop. Okay, need to turn off the fangirl mode.

Overall, Kung Fu Killer isn’t meant to be a cinematic masterpiece.  It carries a decent and rather simple story that brings in the essence of the battle in martial arts.  The tribute of martial arts gives it a variety of fighting skills and with the stakes of death being the final result, every fight is high intense and thrilling to watch.  Most of the cast was done perfectly, especially getting actual actors trained in martial arts, there was just one casting choice I wasn’t fully convinced worked to this film’s advantage.  However, even though the dialogue was not exactly great, I was there for some mind-blowing action sequences and that delivered all the way!

Have you seen Kung Fu Killer? Are you fan of Donnie Yen and/or martial arts?

Check back tomorrow for the review of the second movie at Fantasia that I saw and a creature feature from Ireland called The Hallow!

Halloween Marathon: Sleepwalker (2011)

Moving right along with the review, last night wasn’t quite as productive as I wanted it to be but I did manage to get one movie done and its the one I was looking forward to. With Oxide Pang at the helm and Angelica Lee as the main actress, I was pretty excited to check out Sleepwalker.  My all time favorite horror is The Eye (the original one) and very much in to the top ones are Re-cycle (which is more of a fantasy horror).  I’ve never written a full review of either but I remember those movies like I watched it yesterday.  Fully engraved in my mind.  Of course, he has a few flicks that I’m not too excited about either and some I still look forward to watch but a few weeks ago, Sleepwalker landed in my recommended list on Netflix and I added it right away and made a note to watch it before the month is through.  After all, whats a little horror marathon without touching some Hong Kong films, right? I mean, I always pop one  in every little while and its been a while I haven’t watched one.

Lets check this out!

sleepwalkerDirector: Oxide Pang Chun

Cast: Angelica Lee, Siyan Huo, Charlie Yeung, Hee Ching Paw, Kent Cheng

Yi (Angelica Lee) wakes up from the same dream every night and it feels extremely real and eerie.  Not long after, she is suspected to be related to the disappearance of her ex-husband.  Its then she realizes that she may be sleepwalking after various events link together.  It makes her wonder if she has been killing in her sleep.

Seriously, nowhere has a good description of this movie.  Not Netflix, not IMDB…its really hard to sum up this movie because there are two stories going on at the same time.  Its essentially a kidnapping case where a mom (played by Charlie Yeung) is looking for her boy thats been kidnapped for 3 months and the kidnapper never returned even after ransom was paid.  On the other hand, you have Yi, played by Angelica Lee who is learning that she sleepwalks and as she starts suspecting that she’s doing something questionable during her sleepwalking experience, she is being suspected of murder also.

sleepwalker

Sleepwalker was a bit of a disappointment. I understand that its hard for a director to be equally efficient in many movies.  Except I can’t really put it on the same scale when its the Pang brothers versus just Oxide Pang himself. There is a lot to like in this one though.  There are some slow parts and some weird moments and a whole lot of building up the mood and atmosphere but the story behind it is a good one.  They even add a pretty nice twist to it.  I didn’t figure it out so extra points for that. From the start, it has this creepy feeling to the whole thing.  The main scares are trying to use abrupt sounds and movements and increasingly loud background music to create it.  Maybe that works for you, maybe it doesn’t.  I guess that depends on the person.  For me, it worked alright.  Except at the end, I started feeling like the story wasn’t much of a thriller and turned into a mystery drama.  But, I like the ending because it kind of takes the audience in a full circle and gets back to that nagging way that it started and wondering why that beginning was there. If you’ve seen this I don’t mean the ending ending but like the way the mystery unfolds.

sleepwalker

Angelica Lee is amazing in these thriller/horror/fantasy/drama.  That sort of thing really works for her.  I think that some actors are great with a certain type of director and she is fantastic with Oxide Pang.  Any faults in this movie doesn’t relate to her role in being Yi.  I liked the girl who played the cop.  For a newer actress (to me), she did pretty well, even if at times, I felt she was a little too rigid.  I always wish that Charlie Yeung (actress above) had more on screen time because she was once a really good actress and she can still do it more mature roles now.  The one person I didn’t like and might cause me to not watch this again was one of the guys.  I’ve never seen him before and he played  the friend of Angelica Lee and he did really bad in what he had.  I felt his character wasn’t hiding what he was supposed to hide too much and it turned out that it completely helped me guess part of the twist.

sleepwalker

I’m going to keep this short because I really don’t have much to say.  Oxide Pang and his Pang brothers directing effort in Re-cycle and The Eye is amazing. Sleepwalker has a good premise and creates a creepy atmosphere successfully. As always, Angelica Lee is great as the main lead.  There are other factors that make this not so effective as a thriller and it had the potential to be better and thats why I’m a bit disappointed.  I still think its worth a watch 🙂

Halloween special going up by midnight! I’m not even sure what I’m doing for it yet but I’ll figure it out by then 🙂

Happy Halloween! 🙂

Cold War (2012)

Prior to this past week or two of movie watching, I’d have to say that Resident Evil: Retribution was almost the best one I saw in 2012 (guilty pleasure and fun).  I still have a lot to catch up and right now, I’m saying that 2012 movies kicked some serious ass.  It was the year of amazing animated films and then we had the record-breaking The Avengers, then yesterday I reviewed The Bullet Vanishes and says that its been a while I’ve seen something so awesome in the Hong Kong industry.  Hong Kong entertainment has successfully regained my hope in it.  Cold War was a masterpiece, okay? Wait, wait…I’m getting ahead of myself!

cold war posterDirector: Sunny Luk, Longmond Leung

Cast: Aaron Kwok, Tony Ka Fai Leung, Kar Lok Chin, Charlie Yeung, Ka Tung Lam, Andy On, Terence Yin, Andy Lau, Michael Wong, Eddie Peng

The Commissioner of Hong Kong Police (Michael Wong) is away for conference to talk about Hong Kong raising itself to be called the safest city in the world through their technology and security systems set up and protocols.  Shortly after their departure, one of their emergency unit vehicles have vanished off the grid and no tracking devices on the 5 officers and the car itself could be located, while at the same time, a building  explodes in the middle of the heart of Hong Kong. The police has to now find the balance between not ruining their safest city reputation but not threatening the citizens either.  Normal protocol is that the Deputy Commissioners usually take over the role as Acting Commissioner to lead the assignment.  Right away, Deputy Commissioner Lee (Tony Ka Fai Leung), responsible for the operations takes the reins and summons everyone to an emergency meeting to start reacting with project “Cold War”. However, Deputy Commissioner of management Lau (Aaron Kwok) forces him off due to his connection to one of the missing officers being his son Joe (Eddie Peng) and takes over the operations instead to prevent him from overreacting and treating the situation too subjectively, especially if this was now considered a kidnapping and possibly a terrorist attack.

Deputy Commissioner Lau and Lee fighting for the role of Acting Commissioner

Deputy Commissioner Lau and Lee fighting for the role of Acting Commissioner

The plot thickens as we hit the continuing plot that enters, but if I told you all that, then what would be the fun of you watching it, right?

This crime thriller is intense as hell! My brain is overloaded by  how to even start describing this.  Its smart and fast-paced.  There will be some twists in the story especially seeing it has a 2 level plot line, that happens where you won’t even guess and then some that you probably might see but still be wowed afterwards.  The story is pretty incredible and held up by literally *almost* everyone in the entertainment business.  Most of them are veteran actors and if they aren’t, they will possibly one day get there.  On the contrary, both directors are green and its their first directing effort but their days working in as art director and assistant director really helped them out.  My mind was totally absorbed and my eyes were glued to the screen. There was some action that had me on the edge of my seat and then some parts that had me wondering who was behind all this.  I mean thats the first thing we, as the audience, and the police want to figure out, right?

Aaron Kwok as Deputy Commissioner/Acting Commissioner Sean Lau

Aaron Kwok as Deputy Commissioner/Acting Commissioner Sean Lau

A lot of you may not know Aaron Kwok but he was red-hot at the same time as Andy Lau.  He was the youngest of the four singers to reign in the industry in the 90s.  I loved this guy for a time even more than I loved Andy Lau as a singer.  When Aaron Kwok first started in movies, he didn’t do that many.  He was in Future Cops (which I reviewed HERE) but it was more of a cameo.  In the past 8-10 years (I have a lot of catching up to do on Hong Kong movies), he’s been staring in a lot of action thrillers.  I have a few that I haven’t seen sitting on my shelf but I’m pulling them out and watching them pronto.  This guy was amazing.  Pllus, there’s this whole having brushes of grey hair showing that makes him even more attractive.  There’s this thing that he does with his eyes to emote that is hilarious but also intensifies the whole situation.  Its awesome! He was totally in the role and man, to see him become such an outstanding actor makes me so proud.

cold war andy lauI talked about Andy Lau before! Hey, whats he doing here? He has a cameo as the Security official and comes out in 2-3 scenes.  What more do I have to say about him.  He’s great.  Now, if we look at Tony Ka Fai Leung who plays Deputy Commissioner Lee, there is really nothing to say.  He’s a Hong Kong equivalent Academy Award Best Actor so his skills are top notch.  I’ve always seen him doing gangster roles or slimmy perverted husbands (like in the horror movie Dumpling).  Seeing him as a police officer was a shock but at the same time, he proved to me that he fit the role even with his strong and stubborn character.  As much as there was a clash with the internal police HQ with the management and operations, they both had amazing sparks every time they hit the screen together.

cold war police

“We Serve with Pride and Care”

On the image above, its to point out, this is the 3rd Chinese movie in a row that I’ve watched with Kar Lok Chin. This guy is not particularly on my radar but from 1995 to his two movies in 2012, I can see now that he’s changed his acting style and especially in this one, he has earned my respect.  This guy came out from doing stunts and in this one, he gets to show off some of it again and goes all Bruce Willis (making fun of himself getting old).  On top of that, on the left standing up, we have Ka Tung Lam.  I’m not sure if anyone knows him but this guy has grown also.  I haven’t seen him in movies in a while (maybe its because I stopped watching it) but he always does these jerk roles but he is quite convincing at them.  One other person I’d like to mention made me jump with absolute joy was the cameo of Commissioner played by Michael Wong.  I haven’t seen the guy in ages.  I used to love his movies, so I was super excited about it 🙂 I kept going through the movie hearing his voice and being like, “hmm, that voice is so familiar.  Who is it?” Then BAM, there is he! *sorry, excuse the minor fan girl moment*

cold war icac confrontation

Awesome crime thriller with so many intense moments.  Loved the whole cast, maybe a bit less the young dude up there, but he was still pretty good.  Its officially my favorite movie of 2012 🙂 I don’t really see how anything else could’ve been better! I’m not going to go on with it because I’ll keep have fangirl moments.  I’m pretty sure they will have a sequel so GO SEE IT (if its accessible to you)!

I’ll leave you and go to my corner and continue drooling over this movie 😉

Future Cops (1993)

Its been a while since I’ve done a foreign movie so I’ve been all about changing it up, so I went to my collection and pulled out this flick! The other name for this one is Street Fighter. Just to give you an idea of what you will be expecting. Its one that I’ve been looking for since forever.  I had it on VHS and then it just didn’t work anymore..so I went hunting for a new one and it was impossible to find.  I ended up finding it a few months ago.

future copsDirector: Wong Jing

Cast: Dicky Cheung, Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, Simon Yam, Chingmy Yau, Charlie Yeung, Ekin Cheng, Andy Hui, Richard Ng, King-Tan Yuen, Aaron Kwok

In 2043, the world is completely different.  Judge Yu is about to send the triad leader Vega to jail. In the midst of all the chaos during his imprisonment, the future cops, Ryu (Aaron Kwok), Balrog (Andy Lau), Dalsat (Simon Yam), Guile (Jacky Cheung) are trying to stop his gang leader, Ken (Ekin Cheng) leading two others, Honda and Sagat.  However, they learn that Ken and company have time travelled back to 1993 when the Judge was only in his 20s to brainwash or kill him, so that it will change the course of events in 2043.  Shortly after, Balrog, Dalsat and Guile also travel and end up landing on the roof of Tai Hung (Dicky Cheung).  They end up making a deal to help Tai Hung gain respect at the high school and get the girl he likes, Charlie (Charlie Yeung) while he helps them search for the young Judge and protect him.  It now turns into a race between the future gangs and the future cops to see who can find the young Judge first.  In the process, they get a bit of help with Tai Hung’s sister (Chingmy Yau), his mom (King-Tan Yuen) and her boyfriend (Richard Ng).

Right off the description up there, you can already see that its going be a cheesy flick, especially now that its 20 years after and we have such good CGI.  This movie is based right off of the characters of Street Fighter.  We have the more noble characters trying to protect justice while there are the triad members who will do anything to not be caught.  Its not going to go down in the greats and some people will even find it a horrible watch.  For me, it may have laughable CGI effects when they are doing all the fighting sequences with the Street Fighter moves, but its just a silly action comedy. I still find it incredibly funny and ridiculous in a good way.

future cops 5

Why do I like this? First of all, its my type of comedy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Comedy is very personal.  Your genre could be different from mine and its going to be hard to appeal to everyone.  This one appeals to me and I find it incredibly cheesy funny.  On top of that, they have a great strong cast.  No doubt though, that they did try to build it on the 4 biggest male superstars in that era of Hong Kong show biz: they were known as the 4 Kings in the entertainment business.  This one features 3 of them: Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung and Aaron Kwok.  Aaron Kwok does only a cameo so we’ll leave him out for now.  You all should know Andy Lau by now, he did Infernal Affairs for one.  I’ve also talked about him in a previous review for Tricky Brains. Andy Lau is amazing at what he does.  He may have started as a singer but his acting skills are fantastic and as a comedian, he does a great job.

future_cops 3

I have never been a huge fan of Jacky Cheung and his movies.  Not that he did a lot either.  He focused on his forte and thats singing.  He has an awesome voice and in this one, he does sing a bit.  However, as mature and friendly as he always seems to be on stage, this movie really showed his humorous side and its just fun to see a new character for him.

The rest of the cast definitely deserves some mentioning and introducing.  The lead is possibly Dicky Cheung who is awesome in the area of jokes and being stupid.  That is his forte and he is damn good at it. King Tan Yuen and Richard Ng are now older in the business but still, they were red hot back then as supporting comedy actor and actresses.  King Tan Yuen eventually went on to do supporting roles in Hong Kong TV series where she shined with comedic roles as well.  Of course, how can we forget the great Simon Yam? He did Killzone with Donnie Yen and I personally think he has aged into a very handsome man.  Aside from that we have Charlie Yeung, who has made a comeback in recent years in some action films, her first being New Policy Story across Jackie Chan  (I should rewatch that one soon).

future cops 1

Being based on a video game, probably did this one crazy wonders, it put a really nice spinoff to the game that was super popular in the 90s.  It brought alive the characters and even though it was horrible CGI, back then, I think in the 90s it would be at par to most of it.  The storyline was pretty decent and they used really awesome jokes.  Some moments were ridiculous, but they were ridiculously funny.  They gave a twist to what the future would be like as well.

Looking back at these movies, cheesy as they are, they were a lot of fun to watch.  Of course, its part of nostalgia to me. However this one held up really well. I had a crazy laugh rewatching this the other day. Its definitely a great source of entertainment. If you can take cheesy action movies, get right on board and give this a shot (its on Youtube, I believe), you won’t regret it!