Archive for the ‘Martial Arts’ Category

 

firepower

Opening with some pretty good title music 1993’s FIREPOWER instantly feels like a homage to the action films of the 1980’s. It also helps that from the beginning you know your not in store for something award winning but something that looks fun.

Set in the year 2007 the film follows 2 cops as they enter a ‘zone’ in a futuristic Los Angeles in order to expose a black market creating and selling counterfeit AIDS vaccines.

Although the subject matter could be quite deep (well deeper then some action films) the film happy settles for a rather predictable underground fighting plot where good fights evil in battles to the death (well sometimes). The two cops are played by Chad Mcqueen and Gary Daniels. Both actors are great in the film and put in some pretty good performances. It helps both are good fighters as well which helps the fight sequences flow and feel somewhat more believable.  Daniels especially is a really impressive athlete and really proves he can hold his own in a fight.

The main crime boss who they are up against has a hilariously over the top ‘lacky’ called ‘The Swordsman’ who looks much like an 80’s hair metal guitarist. He is quite imposing but at times is almost laughable. In terms of the fights in the film, it is quite nice that some of the matches are from the outset, non-lethal affairs. This makes it slightly differnet from your usual ‘to the death’ features that were popular at the time. As with most action films of this period, the bad guys are absolutely terrible shot with guns. In this some are overly bad but it never wrecks the fun.

All in all if you want to see a fun film that is kind of a mix of Mad max, Robocop and Mortal Kombat, you could do much worse than this film. It’s nothing special but the style and the production design are pretty awesome and the acting from Mcqueen and Daniels keep the film enjoyably watchable.

7/10

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bruce-lee_game-of-death

Made in 1972 Game of Death would be Bruce Lee’s final hurrah into the world of cinema but being only partly finished at the time of his death it would also prove to be one of the weirdest mashes of film that ranks up there with some of the best WTF moments in motion picture history.
It all started out well enough, as one would expect we had a pretty cool idea of a tower of death in which competitors would face some of the greatest martial artists in a fight to the death to the top. On paper it sounded like it could be a great showcase of the legendary skills of Bruce Lee.  Scenes were being shot and all was on schedule. With about 100 minutes of footage in the can it looked like another hit could be in their hands. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately the very worst was set to happen.  Part way through filming Lee went to work on a film of a  much grander scale ‘Enter the Dragon’ which was shooting at the same time. This would be the last complete feature he would film before his untimely death.  His death unfortunately did not deter the finishing of ‘Game of Death’. The creators decided to have a stand in (the also great Yuen Biao) for the scenes which Lee hadn’t filmed (which was a fair amount). The story dramatically changed until all that was left of Lee’s performance was a mere 11 minutes of the final section of one of the only remaining parts of the original story, the fight up the tower. These 11 minutes are as great as you’d expect but should the film have been finished in this fashion?
The film has numerous sections drawn from previous Lee film ‘Way of the Dragon’ to try and help push that this is a ‘Bruce Lee’ film and not just a cash in attempt to make the best of the worst situation possible.  These scenes stand out so incredibly badly that they only highlight the fact that what we are watching on screen is a mish mash of other films and dodgy camera tricks. From reverse shots to crudely implemented shots in different locations, we are greeted with a patchwork vision from a production which doesn’t have a clue of how to save itself.  The cut and paste nature is so evident that it detracts from some not bad martial arts that are going on in front of camera by the admittedly good Yuen Biao who is a great fighter in his own right, but unfortunately a shadow of the master he is meant to be portraying.
Part way through the film the main character supposedly gets killed, but it all turns out to be a rouse, he is merely disfigured facially and is unrecognisable as his previous self. This is quite a clever but utterly ridiculous way of hiding the fact that we are still not actually watching Bruce Lee. They even make the comment that he will no longer look like himself thus allowing Yuen Biao to not find it necessary to wear sunglasses in every other shot.  It still doesn’t help the cut and paste feel of the film which is highlighted by a conversation in a restaurant where the actors aren’t even in the same location.
It all is reminiscent of the works of a director named Godfrey Ho (who goes under many other names as well) who was doing lots of work during the 70’s and 80’s. He would film half a movie and then splice it with footage from an unreleased martial arts film that had been gathering dust. It really proved a great money making tactic and allowed him to continue working. His films were so hilariously inept that they create their own amusement. Whereas here they are desperately trying to make something more serious and it doesn’t do anything other then being cringeworthy for the most part.
What isn’t as amusing is the use of footage from Bruce Lees actual funeral (at least it is apparently from his funeral) I personally feel this is bad taste even if the filmmakers may have been doing it as a tribute to the legend.  I understand the want to include a memorial piece but doing it this way especially when they are trying to fool the audience into believing that it is still Bruce Lee that we are seeing on film is just wrong.
As this is a martial arts film in its heart, there is very little in the way of fighting. What we do get other then a terrible fight in a warehouse featuring motorbikes, isn’t that bad. Its mainly the sort of stuff you will have seen before, but its well choreographed and at least breaks up the otherwise dull and tiresome picture. When at the 1 hour 20 minute mark we actually get to see the real Bruce Lee in action, it is like a breath of fresh air. For the next 13 minutes we are treated to some of the best martial arts from his short career. It is stunning how well this climatic battle in the tower plays out. Its just a shame that until recently the other 40 mins of this battle up the tower remained unseen (the extra footage is on the dvd and blu rays unfortunately not integrated back into the film) this unseen footage entirely out-ways what was actually turned into the film. I would happily watch those 40 minutes over the actual film any day.
When all is said and done is it a good final film for the great Bruce Lee? No. Is it a good film? No. Is it worth watching? No (apart from the actual Bruce Lee fight sequence)
So you may ask what the point is in putting down all this information about a film that I personally don’t like. Well I feel that it is from a behind the scenes perspective a fascinating picture. I hadn’t seen this kind of cut and paste and doubling done to this scale before this film. Its becoming more the norm nowadays For example the famous use of CGI to complete the scenes in Ridley Scott’s ‘Gladiator’ featuring Oliver Reed. Even more recent films such as ‘Fast and the Furious 7’ which features the amazing Paul Walker in his final on screen performance. His scenes were finished using doubles, cgi and footage from the library of Paul Walker movies. This was done again as a kind of memorial and a kind of goodbye to such a great actor, but even now it isn’t seemless. On the whole though it got away with it far better then ‘Game of Death’.
Game of Death for me was kind of a turning point in cinema and experimenting with technologies and techniques that may have been used prior but never quite to the extent (there is a high probability that you may know other times these cut and paste techniques were used before but this is the first time I remember noticing it. Especially considering there is only around 13 minutes of Bruce Lee in a Bruce Lee film that is pushed as starring the man himself throughout.)
This is a film that I am glad to have seen and I would recommend it to those that may find this sort of thing interesting. I would say that anything other then that it really doesn’t hold up well and is actually a pretty sad end to a magnificent, if sadly cut short career of the master of martial arts.

Directed in 1992 by Aaron Norris (Yes, Chuck’s very own brother), ‘Sidekicks’ presents the viewer with very little that hasn’t been seen numerous times before. Although that is not to say the film is bad, I’m just stating that it features nothing ‘new’. The plot is as follows;

We have Barry played by Jonathon Brandis who is the school loner. His only friend is a girl that he fancies (although we will later find out that she simply pities him). He has asthma, is unfit and is fairly unlikeable (what an ‘awesome’ hero I here you say sarcastically). Even with these ‘qualities’ all he wants in life is to be the sidekick (hence the title) of the one and only Chuck Norris. This fantasy has taken over Barry’s life and he constantly finds himself being told off for daydreaming about going on adventures with the bearded wonder. The dreams consist of being a ninja, being a soldier, being a detective etc etc. (it’s pretty much a way of filming numerous action scenes and slotting them into the film.)

Of course through the course of the film, we need some kind of tension or some form of drama. This comes into effect with the advent of the school bully who happens to go to the karate class that Barry wants to go to (*cough* Karate Kid). The dojo sensei, a gentleman named Kelly Stone, is a mean spirited man who will settle for nothing less than perfection (*cough* Karate Kid). Mr Stone has a personal hatred towards our good friend Chuck and as such has a personal hatred to all who like him. This is not good news for Barry. He leaves, head in hands looking for help. His help comes in the form of Mr Lee (played by the talented Mako), who happens to be an expert in Karate and also the father of Barry’s teacher/ early love interest Noreen Chan.

Mr Lee decides he’s going to tell Kelly Stone to leave Barry alone until the big karate tournament that is coming up (*cough* Karate Kid). Mr Stone agrees and so begins montage after montage of Barry training (*cough* Karate Kid)  He then winds up at the tournament which happens to be a team tournament (oh dear I hear you say. What will Barry do?) Don’t worry, Mr Lee and Noreen Chan decide to be in his team as they just feel the need to compete (they have no other reason to take part). All is going well until they find out that the teams are made up of 4 people. They have no 4th! What will they do? Well it’s no surprise that Chuck Norris stands in as their 4th member after talking to Noreen. ( I must say that Noreen literally barges her way into conversation and must woe him with her womanly charms). Chuck tells Barry that they will finally be ‘sidekicks’, which almost makes Barry die from shock (way to go Chuck!) They all partake in their various events which they all win in (well kinda) and Chuck decides he must fight Kelly Stone (*Cough* Opening of Karate Kid 2) Of course he wins and everything works out fine.

The film culminates in one of the most peculiar scenes in the whole film. Chuck wishes Barry the best and thanks him for the continued support of watching his films. (Barry clearly looks too young to be watching most of chuck’s films though) Barry then lays down his prized possession (a magazine with Chuck on the cover) and walks away, not looking back. You think to yourself that the film is going to end with a shot of him walking away with the credits rolling over the top, but no. instead we get a special scene of a disabled person In a wheelchair finding the magazine and having the same look that Barry used to have when looking at it. My first thought was ‘Please let there be a sequel where this kid kick’s all kind of ass from his wheelchair’ (there isn’t unfortunately). I found it just amusing and I thought that it added nothing to the film other than making a sequel possible.

If all of the above sounds familiar, it is because it is. It is highly reminiscent of films such as Karate Kid, No retreat, no surrender , Drunken master and even Rocky 3 (I say rocky 3 as that was the first film where the montage’s  really came into their own.) But I say again that it is not a bad thing, you could say that all films copy other films (although this is a little more blatant in this film).

Let’s get the bad things out of the way first (I’m sorry to say that the film does have a few);

  • The dream action scenes are not that well filmed. They are all very childish and are full of silly comedy moments.

–          I find this a shame as one of the things that defines a good Chuck Norris film is how many people he roundhouse kicks to death. There is lots of unbelievable flipping and jumping with silly sound effects. This all unfortunately culminates in unfulfilling action (well at least for me). You could say that they don’t need to be believable as they are in Barry’s mind. That doesn’t matter. Chuck should do what Chuck does best, and that is to invoke the fear of his power to all that watch him, be them kids, adults or animals.

  • Some of the acting is not the best (although I have seen far far worse)

–          I would say though that it may not be the actor’s fault, It may stem from a quite poorly written script by Aaron Norris (an actor can only do so much when he has a poor script to work from), although the script may have been fine and the actor’s may have just screwed up some masterful writing (although this is probably untrue)

  • The film is slightly too long, especially the montage sequence.

–          I like montage sequences but there is only a certain amount of times you can watch a boy run around an arena being chased by a crazy Asian man on a bicycle (I make that sound more amusing than it actually is.)

To be fair those points are probably the only real negative points of the film.

The film may have a stupid plot, corny acting and poor scripting, but it does have one the one thing that can counter almost any negative comments one may have about the film. CHUCK! The bearded one is as good as ever and although it may not be as bloodthirsty or violent as the majority of his work, he plays it like he always would, like Chuck. (I daren’t say a bad word about him as I fear he may seek me out and put his fist through my chest. Well at least not in this film, just wait till we get to ‘Octagon’!)

The dream sequences offer a wide range of locales for the action and on the whole they aren’t bad. We get ninjas, undercover cops, soldiers etc … it’s an excuse to expand the film from the normal street fights that you see in the usual films of this sort. That is not to say that in doing so the film is successful as I believe that without them the film may have been a far stronger picture (not Oscar worthy, or even amazing. Just better.)

The final tournament is interesting in the fact that it is not simply a fight, it is a contest featuring everything from weapon forms to block smashing. In a way this is disappointing as I really would have loved to see Barry and Chuck kick all kinds of ass against everyone, but alas no. What we do get is an impressive variety of events and a pretty good (although pretty boring) fight between Chuck and Kelly.

There are so many more things that I could write about such as Barry’s father’s lust for Noreen Chan (or Barry’s love for her at the start), the over the top acting for all of the villains in the film or even the complete lack of roundhouse kicks for the majority of the picture. But I shall round it all up here.

Verdict:

In my view what Aaron Norris has created is mash of’ Karate Kid’ and ‘No retreat, No Surrender’ with a little bit more humour thrown in. We have the loner in school, the Mr Miyagi clone, the single parent, the love interest, the evil Karate coach and the imaginary (up until the end) teacher. It ticks all of the boxes and as such it kinda works as well as you could hope. It is nowhere near as good as Karate Kid or even the more recent remake starring Jackie Chan in fact, but it is a damn sight better than a lot of the films like this that were being churned out in the early 90’s. All in all, If you like films like this or if you love Chuck Norris (and let’s face it, who doesn’t) you really should find a copy and check it out. Even by Chuck’s standards it’s a fun flick that doesn’t try and confuse you with a complicated plot or deep dialogue, it’s just what it is. A fun film in which one teenage boy succeeds in conquering his own disabilities (asthma, being a loner, having daydreams of Chuck Norris) and finally gets to meet his hero.

All in all I give the film a solid ;

7 out of 10