The Young Master


Viewed – 22 February 2021 Blu-ray

Hong Kong Theatrical Cut

It’s strange how one remembers some movies. It turns out this is a completely different movie than what I thought I’d watched a numbers of years back. That movie was Dragon Lord and not this 1980 break-out hit for Jackie Chan and his first with studio Golden Harvest. Despite my mistaken identity I chose to settle into this regardless. Chan plays a martial arts student who’s school is involved in a Chinese dragon dance contest and loses when his brother fakes an injury only to join the rival school and win the contest. Disgraced by his former master, Chan’s brother is outcast. Chan himself whilst attempting to locate his brother gets mistaken for a man who helps free a local criminal and has to prove his innocence. This leads on to a final confrontation with said criminal who turns out to be a martial arts master.

fight through the pain…

The story is rather convoluted, feeling patched together, like how scenes can follow on from one another and feel unconnected like there are bits missing. Yet coming to this I wasn’t expecting a great story, but was hoping for good action … and well, in this respect the movie delivers. There’s a decent bunch of kung-fu encounters, including a fun fight involving benches, a street brawl with Chan disguised as an old man, and an extended final encounter that’s particularly exhilarating. The kung-fu is shot expertly too, brilliantly edited and with great camera work that showcases the skill on display. It’s of the dance-like style of fight choreography but I still appreciated it. Casting, with an appearance by Chan regular Yuen Biao (Wheels On Meals) is good too with a few recognisable faces, and Hwang In-shik as the main villain is one hell of a fighter. Just a shame the plot is so all of the the place, as an easier to follow story would have added a great deal of substance. As it stands, watch this for the brilliant martial arts on display, not so much the story.

This special edition release from 88 films comes in deluxe packaging, has a detailed booklet, a poster, art cards, specially commissioned cover art, and several versions of the movie – the ‘theatrical Hong Kong cut’, a slightly shorter ‘export cut’, and a third version called the ‘extended export cut’ – with restored 2k transfers, restored audio in dubbed English or original language with subtitles (the export cut is English dub only). Add to this plenty of extras, with interviews, featurettes, alternate scenes and two commentaries. Great stuff for collectors. Maybe not one of Chan’s best – but still worthwhile for kung-fu fans.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

Police Story


Viewed – 22 August 2018  Blu-ray

A few years ago I was heavily into all things Hong Kong Action Cinema and explored not only the movies of the legendary Jackie Chan but everything from John Woo to Tsui Hark and Jet Li.  I got pretty burnt out it has to be said but occasionally I’ll revisit that interest when I see one of the classics get the Blu-ray treatment.  This 1985 action comedy has Chan as rule-breaking super-cop Ka-Kui, who following a successful raid on a shanty town to capture a notorious drug dealer, finds himself looking after a witness (played by genre queen Brigitte Lin).

Police Story

This 1985 movie, the first in the long-running series … was a huge hit and won awards in it’s native land whilst helping turn Jackie Chan into the superstar we all know him as.  Watching this movie now, whilst well structured and very entertaining throughout, seems to lean a little too heavily towards comedy with drawn-out scenes devoted to silly gags and comical situations involving his girlfriend (Maggie Cheung) and often bumbling co-workers.  Thankfully when the action does kick in it’s terrific, showcased in three varied scenes that prove without a doubt why Chan’s so respected, not just as a martial artist but also as a choreographer and daredevil with his unique brand of environment-using stunt work.  Influences from the likes of Buster Keaton are obvious and even all these years later, watching him is mesmerising.  Not exactly the greatest action movie Chan’s ever done or even his best movie but it’s still a classic for what it set in motion.

Police Story Blu-rayThis UK Blu-ray from Eureka! Is presented as a double feature box set with Police Story 2 and boasts a detailed booklet as well as a wealth of extra features.  We get three cuts of the movie (the original release, the Japanese extended cut & a shorter American home video cut), behind the scenes featurettes, archive interviews, a brief over-view of Chan’s stunt wok, deleted scenes and trailers.  The movie itself is in decent shape, with a 4K re-mastered image that whilst boasting nice detail and vibrancy, some darker scenes suffer from a smudgy, overly dark appearance.  The soundtrack is good though with both 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks presented in English dubbed and Cantonese subtitled, although the movie’s age means those surrounds are barely used.  Overall, solid treatment for a movie that’s still a great deal of fun.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3.5 /5

The Foreigner


Viewed – 02 January 2018  Netflix

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.

the_Foreigner

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.

Verdict:  3 /5

The Raid 2


Viewed – 21 August 2014  Blu-ray

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-Raid-2

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.

Verdict:  4 /5

Kung Fu Panda 2


Viewed – 14 June 2012  Blu-ray

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!!

Verdict:  3 /5