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 steals the show as a not so subtle take of 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.
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!!
Martial arts superstar Donnie Yen reprises his role as legendary kung fu master Ip Man, the fabled mentor of Bruce Lee in this much-anticipated sequel. Following Man’s migration to Hong Kong in 1949, living in poverty and unable to afford the rent, he attempts to open a martial arts school to teach the local youths his Wing Chun fighting style. Yet this soon attracts the attention of other martial schools, most notably that of gang leader Hong Zhen Nan (Sammo Hung), who is working with corrupt British officials to stage a boxing tournament.
As the second instalment of my renewed interest in all things far-eastern action orientated, we come to this much acclaimed biopic of Wing Chun master Ip Man, who among other things also went onto mentor none other than Bruce Lee. Donnie Yen plays the quietly spoken martial arts expert trying to live a peaceful life, until the Japanese Army invade and take over the country, causing his legendary skills to truly be put to the test.
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