I used to be, and probably still am a big fan of Jackie Chan, and have at one time or another seen a great deal of his back catalogue. In subsequent years I’ll admit he’s gone off my radar even though I realise he still makes movies. Yet this latest caught my eye as it had been granted a cinema release at one stage and good word of mouth. Chan plays Quan, a local Chinese restaurant owner living in London who unfortunately witnesses a bombing outside a shop where his daughter goes, leading to her death. Vowing to track down those responsible, he soon latches onto Liam Hennessey (Pierce Brosnan) who’s former links to the IRA may prove invaluable.
You could call it Chan’s version of all those copy-cat Liam Neeson thrillers we’ve seen of late and has echoes of Taken. Chan may not be the most compelling of actors and his grasp of English is still hit and miss … but he’s a likeable presence and well, can still kick ass and defy gravity even in his sixties. Pierce Brosnan however completely steals the show as a not so subtle take on former Sin Fein leader Gerry Adams, and his spot-on Northern Ireland accent brings a level of authenticity to proceedings. Also it was interesting having the backdrop of the IRA troubles and director Martin Campbell (Golden Eye) delivers a realistic and thrilling movie with plenty of action and intrigue.
I’s a shame then that really, it hasn’t much going for it we haven’t seen dozens of times before. It’s engaging and mostly well acted especially from Brosnan, but it’s sense of deja-vu mares what is otherwise a solid thriller, and one certainly more convincing and gritty that I’d normally expect from Chan.
I remember this being one of my favourite movies when growing up. I watched it on VHS and subsequently on TV and picked it up on DVD, so naturally I was going to get the Blu-ray when it came out. Telling the story of wise-cracking truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) who during a stop off at San Francisco China Town re-acquaints himself with old friend Wang (Dennis Dun). Wang informs Jack that he’s meeting his new girlfriend at the airport. However on going to collect her the duo witness a kidnapping and soon, along with the help of plucky reporter Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall – Mannequin, Sex & The City) head into the Chinese underworld on a rescue mission.
This is an immediately fun, fast paced, albeit very 80’s experience. Kurt Russell is on fine form; a little more bumbling than some of his other roles but it works a charm as the fish out of water in a whole heap of trouble. Dunn, the actor who really should have become a bigger name than he did pretty much steals it though and Catrall is particularly beautiful, spunky and proves great support. Directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing) this genre entry overflows with ideas, is a love letter to Hong Kong action movies with heavy influence from Shaw Brothers Kung Fu and more mystical fair like Tsui Hark’s Zu: Warriors Of The Magic Mountain, and it’s clear everyone involved must have had a ball making it. Add to this Carpenter’s excellent guitar-synth score and well, this is a movie that just bleeds fun.
It’s all very cheesy, the dialogue and some of the jokes are as corny as it gets and some of the action in my opinion could have been shot better – and well, the pace is exhausting, where I was wishing the breaks were applied occasionally. Yet with a great villain (genre favourite James Hong – Blade Runner, Wayne’s World 2) and some still great looking effects work … I got a kick out of watching this again.
The Blu-ray from Arrow Video is once again an above average treatment for a classic movie. Detail on a whole is high even if the slightly smudgy look of the era is retained. Faces and sets all display a depth with decent shadow detail and good clarity. The re-mastered DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack may not make much use of the surrounds but the bass-heavy score is effectively delivered and dialogue is crisp throughout. Extras-wise we get a pretty exhaustive selection with several interviews from cast and crew as well as a vintage featurette, music video, galleries, an extended ending and a feature-length commentary. Add to this Arrow’s inclusion of a detailed booklet written by John Kenneth Muir, and this rounds off an impressive treatment for a still very enjoyable movie.
The first Raid movie was an eye-opener of an action-flick. A raw, uncompromising and unflinching martial arts explosion in a very claustrophobic setting. Impeccably choreographed and made a name for it’s star Iko Uwais, as well as director Gareth Evans – a Welshman, believe it or not. This follow-up has rookie cop Rama being persuaded to go undercover against the mob organisation he roughed up (to put it mildly) in the first movie. Soon he’s befriending the son of a local kingpin, whilst everyone begins to double cross one another, with Rama struggling to stay alive and not get his cover blown.
The story is over-complicated and takes a bit of time to get going, but is filled with some interesting characters, especially the conflicted, power-hungry Uco (Arifin Putra). But we’re not here for deep and meaningful characterisation, despite the scripts best efforts – we’re here for the action … and what can I say? This is filled with some of the most violent and bone-crunching fights I have ever seen … big brawls featuring hammers to the jugular, baseball bats embedded in faces and goons being thrown, having their legs snapped and faces smashed left right and centre. It’s very fast, and superbly filmed, edited and choreographed. Gareth Evans certainly knows how to bleed every ounce of intensity and impact from every punch, kick and stabbing – and it’s pretty incredible. Add to this stand-out sequences involving a duel hammer wielding girl on a subway train, and a brilliantly fast and brutal car chase – and this almost had it all.
The reliance on a twisting plot takes some of the energy away that the first movie had in spades, and every time it stopped to explain something or for more developments, I was just itching for the next confrontation. Perhaps in it’s native language and with a lot of subtitles, I missed some of the finer details, which can happen … so I’ll let it off for the most part. However as a full-on example of martial arts and well, action cinema without any boundaries (or subtlety) this once again nails it. A great sequel.
The first Kung Fu Panda was a highly entertaining homage to martial arts cinema with stand-out voice work from the otherwise annoying Jack Black. I loved it. So the prospect of a second adventure featuring the cuddly, accident-prone Panda named Po was an enticing prospect. This time around a vengeance-seeking Peacock returns to reclaim China for himself after being banished many years previous. Yet Po, the newly appointed Dragon Warrior and his team of Kung Fu masters (featuring the voices of Angelina Jolie and Jackie Chan), the furious five are on hand to stand in his way and hopefully save the day once again.
The villain’s evil plan (a big cannon and a pack of personality-free wolves) may lack imagination, and some of the comedy falls flat, but this is a movie with a very likable lead character, great action and simply gorgeous visuals (helped immeasurably by the ancient China inspired art style). The story, shedding new light on Po’s origins is also interesting and adds some much-needed emotion to the otherwise slap-stick and silly comedy that I must confess still had me giggling quite a bit.
In comparison to KFP #1 I think it lacks a little something, and with Po being more of a bad-ass, he’s lost a bit of his bumbling charm … but overall this is a fun, if uninspired follow-up that paves the way well for Kung Fu Panda 3. Skidoosh!!
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