LACKEY AND THE LADY TIGER
(Hong Kong 1980)
Original Title: She Mao He Hun Xing Quan (aka) Fearless Kid & The Lady Tiger
Directed by Norman Law, Siao Lung Produced by Ng See Yuen Action by Chan Siu Pang, To Wai Wo Starring: Mars, Hwang Jang Lee, Tien Niu, Linda Lin, Shek Kin, Fung Ging Man, Chiu Chi Ling, To Siu Ming, Chiang Kam, Charlie Chan, Cham Siu Hung Reviewing: Amazon Prime UK Release Genres: Traditional Kung Fu / Comedy / Drama
Rating - 4 / 5
Synopsis: Jackie Chan's stunt man, Mars portrays a sprightly kung fu kid who has a running feud with a young girl who's disguised as a boy (Tien Niu). Her dad is Shek Kin, who teaches Mars his Dragon pole so he can get back at the local bullies. Enter hwang Jang Lee, as a convict out to avenge those who had him imprisoned, it so happens that the sister of Shek Kin is that person. (98 Mins)
Views: Big-time producer Ng See Yuen, gives Norman Law Man the chance to impress with his directorial debut, Lackey And The Lady Tiger. Having spent a few years alongside Yuen Woo Ping as an assistant director on films such as The Secret Rivals 2, Drunken Master, and Dance Of The Drunk Mantis, Law shifts to the next level as writer and director of this otherwise, rehash of Seasonal Film's smash hit movie Snake In The Eagle's Shadow...
Exchanging Jackie Chan for his best friend and long time stunt man, Mars, the film tells the tale of a troublesome young man who gets bullied by workmates and strangers. After getting harassed by some local thugs over a stolen dog, Mars soon finds himself saved by a young kung-fu-fighter (Alan) who he had met earlier in a friendly fight. Alan offers to teach Mars martial arts, resulting in some hilarious training sequences and antics that soon result in Mars finally learning to stand-up for himself, but still not enough to stop the bullies. Elsewhere, convicted criminal Sek Ba (Hwang Jang Lee) is set for release from prison. He is visited by his sister (Linda Lin) who tries to convince him to follow her back to their teacher, but Sek refuses and claims to have unfinished business. While searching for his new friend, Mars comes across an old fisherman (Shek Kin) who claims to have been taught by the same teacher. He soon reveals that he is, in fact, the grandfather of Alan and offers to teach Mars the secrets of the Dragon Pole technique to help him become a better fighter.
Around the one hour mark, Sek Ba is released from prison and soon finds himself toe-to-toe with his sister, who only wants him to return with her. After a brief but highly impressive fight, Linda Lin is defeated and soon finds Mars running to her rescue. Instantly going up against the mighty Hwang Jang Lee, Mars soon finds he is no match for the super-kicker and soon ends up next to Sek's sister. After helping her home, the flexible Ms. Lin gives Mars some tips in how to defeat her brother – one of which is learning how to fight like a cat, something he immediately starts to figure out by repeatedly launching a poor cat into the air in order to learn how it lands on all-fours. Copying the felines moves, Mars soon trains himself to become a skilled fighter by blending his cat style with the Dragon Pole technique, as well as the snake fist he learned previous. He soon puts this to the test when a local kung-fu master offers to challenge him and is quickly taught a lesson after a highly entertaining pole fight. During a friendly battle between teacher and student, Mars soon finds out the truth about Alan when he grabs his chest only to find out that his friend is really a girl – and granddaughter of the old fisherman. Sek Ba soon finds his way to the pole masters house and launches an attack on him to take revenge for his imprisonment 10 years earlier. Just before Sek Ba delivers his final blow, Mars arrives to save his master and kicks-off a highly impressive end battle that pits him against Hwang Jang Lee's furious kicks and pole techniques. With granddaughter Helen soon joining the battle, the fight action ramps-up a notch offering a few moves that pay homage to Jackie and Hwang's final battle in Snake In The Eagles Shadow, yet still proving to be a highly enjoyable closure to the story in its own right!
Lackey And The Lady Tiger could easily have starred Jackie Chan and made for a wonderful trilogy of Seasonal Film productions in his filmography, but instead, we get a regular face of countless Hong Kong films and a favourite of any true Hong Kong movie fan – Mars, who most certainly does not disappoint in his role as the charming lackey who gets sick of being the human punchbag. While it really is a movie plot we've seen a thousand times over, Norman Law still manages to bring something exciting to his debut backed by a fantastic cast of Seasonal regulars, and some incredible choreography by veteran Chan Siu Pang. Having starred in over 100 titles during his career, with roles in Election 1 & 2, and Shaolin Vs. Evil Dead: Ultimate Power before his death in 2005, Chan was also the director and choreographer of many great films such as Shaolin Death Squads, Rivals Of The Silver Fox, 18 Bronzemen, Fatal Flying Guillotines, and The Old Master which starred Jackie and Sammo's real-life opera teacher, Yu Jim Yuen. For this project, Chan was joined by To Wai Wo, an actor of many titles including One-Armed Boxer, The Secret Rivals, Hand Of Death, Fighting Fool, and modern hits such as A Better Tomorrow, Magic Crystal, Seven Warriors, Once Upon A Time In China, and Angels Project with Moon Lee – which would be his last project. To Wai Wo would also serve as the action choreographer on kung fu classics such as Fist Of Shaolin, Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin, and Chan Siu Pang's Choi Lee Fat Kung Fu. Between them, both manage to deliver a host of exciting fight scenes that, dare I say it, sometimes prove to be just as exciting as the projects that inspired them. While mostly known for his work behind the screen or that as a stunt man, Mars proves to be a highly skilled kung-fu fighter in what is possibly his greatest ever role as a leading man and pulls off some incredible moves – both in hand-to-hand and with weapons. While there are plenty of impressive shapes being used, the speed, impact, and lengthy moves are all worth talking about.
Supporting cast members Tien Niu, Shek Kin, Hwang Jang Lee, Linda Lin Ying, and the burly Chiang Kam, all get in on the action with some fantastic fight scenes that never disappoint – as do a number of other regular faces. In fact, this is one more film from Seasonal that I'd love to see get a restored blu-ray release in the near future. While it may not be fresh in a lot of ways, Lackey And The Lady Tiger still wins with the charm of its leading man, great supporting cast, and wonderful choreography and it was great to see Norman Law Man go on to deliver more great titles over the course of his career with A Hearty Response starring Chow Yun Fat, Walk On Fire with Andy Lau, (Ninja) Vampire Buster with Jacky Cheung, and Family Honour with Wilson Lam and Joey Wong. All in all, it's as exciting and fun as the titles that inspired it and possibly one of the better ones that came from the hundreds of imitations, just before the traditional kung-fu movie scene came to a close...
Overall: A lot of fun with great fight choreography and fantastic cast, Lackey And The Lady Tiger is well worth the watch!
THE LADY CONSTABLES
Original Title: Fei Yan Shuang Jiao (aka) Black Belt Angels
Directed by Chang Hsin Yi Produced by Kei Chung Lam, Yen Wu Tong, Ping Wai Fan Action by Ko Pao Starring: Angela Mao Ying, Judy Lee (Chia Ling), Chang Yi, Wang Kuan Hsiung, Chen Hsin Yi, Han Su, Robert Tai, Yu Sung Chao, Shih Ting Ken, Fan Wai, Peter Chang , Sham Chin Bo Reviewing: Xenon Entertainment US VHS Release Genres: Traditional Kung Fu / Comedy / Drama
Rating - 3.3 / 5
VHS Synopsis: Fierce females in flowing frocks force fear on fiendish filchers of the Five Phoenixes!! Angela Mao and Chai Ling star as cops on the trail of bandit leader Chang Yi, whose gang has stolen the Five Phoenixes Night-Shining Pearl. They confront him at his fortress stronghold in an all-out effort to prevent evil from dominating the martial world! (87 Mins)
Views: Kung-fu cinema queens, Angela Mao Ying and Judy Lee team up to stop a feared bandit leader who has robbed and killed a team of escorts, in order to gain the Five Shining Pearls. The former plays the sheriff of the town of which the robbery took place, with the latter playing the niece of the murdered escort leader and on a quest for vengeance. On their journey, they are often aided by a silent swordsman, who only communicates with hand written scrolls and works as the chief bodyguard to the Prince. While the three of them help each other when needed, there's still an obvious reluctance that kicks off a little healthy competition in the race to find the bandit leader. Their search pits them against five different bandit gangs in search of the real criminal, with each of their leaders often ending up in a coffin on the back of Judy Lee's cart. It's here that she hurries off with the prisoner so that she can interrogate them alone. Unfortunately, there also happens to be a secret killer at large who is intent on silencing the very same people before they can talk. As they narrow the suspects down, the trio soon find the man they've been looking for and face-off against him in a duel to the death!
I remember buying this on video when I lived in Toronto over 20 years ago. It was a fun watch back then, and still is now, but I can only imagine how much better it just could be if restored and released in its wide-screen glory. But I say that about a lot of titles and no doubt I'll be waiting some time. Lady Constables isn't anything overly amazing, but it does carry a half-decent story, and the chance to see these two starlets in action is always a plus. It also offers plenty of kung-fu battles to keep any old-school fan happy, with men in metal suits (looking like some very poor early designs of Robocop), and Mao Ying shooting long ribbons out of her sleeves. While I've seen better from all main stars involved, I suppose it isn't all their fault when it comes down to it. The action is handled by veteran actor and fight director Ko Pao in his last duty as a choreographer. While he would also deliver his last starring role the following year alongside Mao Ying in the fun, Dance Of Death, Ko Pao would go on to direct a small number of titles until the mid-1980s including Shaolin Iron Claws, 7 Commandments Of Kung Fu, 5 Fighters From Shaolin, and one of my favourites – Ninja Kids: Kiss Of Death with Alexander Lo Rei. Although he had worked with many of these same stars over the years, Ko provides enough exciting kung-fu fights during the course of its running time, but certainly doesn't push himself (or the stars) in delivering any martial arts action that would have had the young Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan shaking in their boots who were offering up classics like Enter The Fat Dragon, Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog, Warriors Two, Snake In The Eagles Shadow, and Drunken Master, the very same year.
Of course, it's having such a great cast that helps Lady Constables be a bit more entertaining than many other average kung-fu flicks. At this stage of the game, Angela Mao Ying had starred in a string of hit films for Golden Harvest including The Angry River, Hapkido, When Taekwondo Strikes, The Fate Of Lee Khan, Broken Oath, and many more including her infamous role in Enter The Dragon. Fu Shing Opera School classmate, Judy Lee/Chia Ling was in a very similar position with films like Queen Boxer, The Girl Named Iron Phoenix, Assassin, The Blazing Temple, 8 Masters, 10 Brothers Of Shaolin, and more under her belt. So I think in knowing what they had done by the time this production came about and given the rare chance to have them share the screen in such great leading roles, Lady Constables may have possibly benefited more from having a stronger fight choreographer on-board that may just have made this one of their greatest titles. The great Chang Yi appears in what is pretty a much just a cameo, that sees him take on the trio of heroes in the finale but its hardly anything to write home about, and popular Taiwanese actor stars as Hung Yi, the chief bodyguard to the Prince. Although he starred in almost 80 productions, Lady Constables was still early on in his career after starring in titles like Iron Ox: The Tigers Killer, Adventure At Shaolin, The Golden Mask, and Clutch Of Power for example. Minor flaws can be excused to a point as this was only Chang Hsin Yi's second feature as a director, after the lesser known Snaky Knight Fight Against Mantis, directing a total of 10 films over his 4 year career (as a director) with titles such as John Liu's Incredible Kung Fu Mission, and Struggle Through Death, as well as Raiders with Chen Kuan Tai. Chang, who had been writing screenplays since the early 70s, then returned to his first love after directing Woman Police in 1982, going on to pen many great titles such as The 18 Bronzemen, Fist Of Fury 2, The Traitorous, Eagle's Claw, Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin, Dance Of Death, Kung Fu Wonder Child, A Life Of Ninja, and many, many more...
Overall: Plenty of old-school fun with a great cast, Lady Constables makes for a good watch at least once!
LADY COP & PAPA CROOK
(Hong Kong 2008)
Original Title: Dai Sau Cha Ji Lui
Directed by Alan Mak, Felix Chong Produced by John Chong Ching Action by Nicky Li Chung Chi Starring: Sammi Cheng, Eason Chan, Zhang Guo Li, Dong Yong, Chapman To, Michelle Ye Xuan, Kate Tsui, Richie Ren, Patrick Tam, Kenny Wong, Conroy Chan, Vincent Kok, Joe Cheung, Liu Kai Chi Reviewing: YouTube Release Genres: Action / Comedy / Thriller
Rating - 2.5 / 5
Synopsis: A corrupt red oil kingpin enlists the aid of a female police officer to help find his missing son. (92 Mins)
Views: Suffering from relationship problems and the realisation that she may never be a mother, lady cop Maureen Szeto is assigned to the case of a missing child. The child, however, is the son of a triad boss (John) who deals in illegal red oil between Hong Kong and the mainland. Along with his men, John finds it very difficult to work with the police, nervous of them taking advantage of the situation. As the case progresses, Maureen does indeed keep a close eye on what John and his men are up to, yet at the same time, reveals a conspiracy that's a little too close to home for the triad boss that has lead to the kidnapping of his son. On top of that, a vengeful cop from China is determined to get his hands on John after his men caused the death of a child during his last visit to the mainland. Together, both sides of the law must pull together to help rescue the boy and get over their own problems to solve the case!
It's taken me over a decade to want to watch Lady Cop & Papa Crook. While I enjoy watching Sammi Cheng and Eason Chan, they aren't the kind of stars that make me want to rush out to see their films, and the same could be said for Chapman To who also appears here. A lot of critics who have reviewed this over the years seemed to be a bit more concerned on Sammi Cheng's 'return' to the film world since taking a break after the critically slammed Stanley Kwan film, Everlasting Regret, but I couldn't care less. It was only 3 years – a period of time Daniel Day Lewis sleeps for between most of his projects. The film is written and directed by both Alan Mak and Felix Chong, who between them have brought fans some incredible titles over the years such as the Infernal Affairs Trilogy, the Overheard Trilogy, Confession Of Pain, and Project Gutenberg/The Counterfeiter with Chow Yun Fat and Aaron Kwok, all of which are very stylishly made and very well written – as well as proving to be massive hits for the two film-makers. It's obvious that they wanted to bring that same style and flavour to Lady Cop & Papa Crook, but this time adding a healthy dose of comedy. Most of that humour falls on the shoulders of sassy cop Cheng, who does offer some genuine laughs and is enjoyable to watch, with other members of the cast getting into situations that are quite funny at times. And while I've long championed the blending of genres from Hong Kong cinema over the years, it seems that not many fans and critics today are open to that madcap mix that once made these films so special. It's almost as if they expect Hong Kong movies to be a little more like their Hollywood counterparts and stick to a straightforward story or theme, which is unfortunate. I know we will never have the golden era of HK film back anytime soon, but one can always hope. And aside from the critics, it also seems like a lot of modern Hong Kong filmmakers are quite happy to deliver a more polished, western-looking production than that of their predecessors which has seen a dramatic shift in style with the movies we have seen produced in the last 20 years. The point I'm getting to (eventually) is that as much as I enjoy the blending of genres, the comedic moments just seems lost among the cold filter and dramatic tone that accompany most of Lady Cop & Papa Crook. Imagine seeing clips of Tokyo Raiders popping up throughout Infernal Affairs and you'll understand what I mean...
Of course, it's not completely dreadful and boasts an interesting cast – albeit with many cameos for the most part. Richie Ren cameos as a camp Ricky-Martin-wannabe nightclub dancer and gigalo, along with Chow Sing Chi regulars Tenky Tin Kai Man and Vincent Kok, director of Forbidden City Cop and Jackie Chan's Gorgeous. The late Liu Kai Chi pops up as a gangster who gets on the wrong side of John, and prolific actor/director Joe Cheung – the man behind The Incredible Kung Fu Master, Pom Pom & Hot Hot, Flaming Brothers, and Return Engagement – stars as one of the triad bosses right-hand men. There's appearances from Emotion Cheung, the sushi-chef zombie in Bio-Zombie, popular actors Patrick Tam and Conroy Chi, with Chinese actor Zhang Guoli playing the cop from mainland China. As well as starring in many hits since the early 80s, including Feng Xiao Gang's Cell Phone, Aftershock, and Kung Fu Yoga, Zhang has also directed a number of his own titles over the years. Of course, Sammi Cheng and Eason Chan really need no introduction at this stage and carry their roles quite well, with Chan surprising me in his role as the fatherly kingpin with a heart. And Jackie Chan Stunt Team member Nicky Li, handles the films action sequences which, to be honest, offered nothing overly exciting that could easily have been directed by someone lesser-known in the industry.
I think it's fair to say that, while extremely well made, well-acted, and entertaining enough, Lady Cop & Papa Crook does come across a little uneven at times. I did get to see the uncut version (with the Chinese version having been cut by 6 minutes) and was bored a few times, but I'd hardly say it was unwatchable. That said, I would have been disappointed had I paid the money to import it from Hong Kong upon release, and will probably never watch it again in my lifetime!
Overall: Watchable and entertaining at times, Lady Cop & Papa Crook isn't the best we've seen from directors Alan Mak and Felix Chong!
(aka) Lady Kickboxer
Directed by David Worth Produced by Gope T. Samtani Action by Tanaka Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Robert Ginty, Bella Esperance, Hengky Tornado, Thomas Forcher, Tanaka Reviewing: Rapi Films UK VHS Release Genres: Martial Arts / Drama / Thriller
Rating - 2.5 / 5
VHS Synopsis: Cynthia Rothrock is back in her most powerful picture since the acclaimed Martial Law. Blonde, blue eyed, Kath Gallagher (Rothrock) is a former intelligence officer. Kathy is undecover again, this time as a prostitute on the trail of the sinister and powerful international criminal, known as the Exporter, who masterminded her husbands murder at their wedding. In a personal vendetta, Kathy takes up martial arts training and in the tradition of Enter The Dragon, becomes a dragon... A lady dragon. In explosive martial arts action, Rothrock is faster and tougher than ever before, she kicks and shatters her way through the best fighting scenes of her outstanding career. (97 Mins)
Views: After the murder of her husband, x-CIA agent Kathy Gallagher decides to hide out in Indonesia, earning her living by kicking ass in underground fights organised by a Chinese kingpin. Biding her time and drowning her sorrows in a local bar, Kathy soon learns of the whereabouts of her husbands killer – Australian/German drug baron, Ludwig Hauptmann. Going undercover as a high-class hooker, Kathy makes her way into a local nightclub and soon finds Ludwig in her sights. She makes her move but soon finds herself restrained and caught by his men and raped by the man she hates. Once done with her, Ludwig has Kathy thrown from his car and dumped in the pouring rain by the side of some rice fields. It is here that a new path begins for Kathy Gallagher when she is rescued by a mute old man and his cute grandson. Together, they nurse the ex-agent back to health in their jungle home and offer to teach her stronger martial arts so that she can take revenge on Hauptmann. Once ready (which actually doesn't take very long at all), Kathy tricks her way into working for Ludwig where she quickly starts to bring him down from the inside. It all leads to a brutal showdown where Kathy and Ludwig face off against each other in a fight to the death!
I have to admit, it's been a couple of decades since I last watched Lady Dragon. While I remember enjoying it a little more as a teen, I think I found it entertaining for many different reasons this time, such as the cheesy script, unintentional comedy, dated music, and predictability. I had actually forgotten that Richard Norton was the main bad guy here, so was pleasantly surprised to see him when he first appeared on the screen. Lady Dragon is an incredibly low-budget production - although nowhere near as low as my own - and the audio for some of the dialogue can come across quite tinny or low at times, and there's certainly nothing flash about it in terms of production value. That said, it's a film that we've only ever seen in 4:3 ratio and only on VHS (for me at least), but something tells me that a wide-screen HD version of the film could benefit it greatly, as there are some genuinely nice moments of cinematography (captured by the director himself). It seems to be a decently made production overall, albeit with a dreadful score that probably seemed dated about a month after the film's release. Written by Clifford Morh and director David Worth, who worked together the following year on the unrelated (and probably better film overall) Lady Dragon 2 – which I reviewed under the title Angel Of Fury – Lady Dragon was never made to win awards and was clearly inspired by the success of Worth's self-directed 1989 Van Damme opus, Kickboxer which was his previous project before this – as well as working as DOP on Bloodsport in 1988.
Having been back Stateside for a couple of years at this stage, Cyndy had said goodbye to her brief stint in Hong Kong (a period of her career that was never matched from 1990 onwards) and had already made an impression in western productions like Martial Law 1 & 2, Fast Getaway, and Tiger Claws, before Lady Dragon came around. While the most of them lacked the fun of her previous Hong Kong outings, it was clear that Rothrock was focusing on the more serious side of acting – trading highly choreographed martial arts action for the more basic style of American films, in order to try and secure stronger roles in Hollywood. Unfortunately, due to the bevy of low budget titles that followed, there really wasn't much chance for Cyndy to flex her acting chops and as the fights got less exciting, the direction of her career gradually got worse and fans like myself hung on in the hope that we might just see a return of this kung-fu queen to form, or at the very least a return to Hong Kong productions. But it was not meant to be! Regardless, Cyndy looks great here and works with what she has available. Of course, both her and Richard Norton had already shared the screen a number of times over the years, and while they only get to trade kicks in the final fight, it's always great to see them on screen together with the pair last sharing the screen a couple of years prior in China O'Brien 2. Prolific television and film actor Robert Ginty of The Exterminator fame, cameos as an old friend of Rothrock who double-crosses her, but to be honest, I found Norton to be the strongest of all on-screen. The majority of the supporting cast, Asian or not, are mostly unknowns with fight choreographer Tanaka popping up as one of Norton's henchmen...
It's such a shame that both of these stars couldn't use their star-power to pull in a Hong Kong choreographer for Lady Dragon. Tanaka's basic choreography and repeated shots of impact just waste the talents of Cyndy and Richard – something that is pretty frustrating to fans like myself who know what they really can do. Of course, it wasn't helped by the weak direction of cinematographer-turned-director David Worth who went on to helm films like Chain Of Command, Shark Attack 2 & 3, and Fists Of Rage, to name but a few. Regardless, Lady Dragon isn't completely unwatchable and does give Rothrock and Norton plenty of screen time to share, which is always a pleasure for me!
Overall: A product of it's time, Lady Dragon is typical of 90s American martial arts flicks complete with dodgy score and cheesy script, that ultimately wastes the fighting talents of its main stars!
LADY IRON MONKEY
(Hong Kong 2008)
Original Title: Zui Hou Nu (aka) Ape Girl; Fighting Justice
Directed by Chen Chi Hwa Produced by Hui Tak Jan, Chan Lung Jun Action by Wang Tai Lang Starring: Gam Fung Ling, Chen Sing, Lo Lieh, Miao Tian, Lee Man Tai, Shao Lo Shen Lin, Yuen Si Wo, Danny Chow Yun Kin Reviewing: YouTube Release Genres: Traditional Kung Fu / Comedy
Rating - 3 / 5
Synopsis: A girl raised by apes falls for a prince who is secretly using her kung fu for his personal gain. (84 Mins)
Views: A wild ape-girl is captured and taken from the wild by an old kung-fu master. He begins to train her in martial arts, as well as how to read and speak Chinese. One day, the ape-girl makes her way into a birthday party where she finds herself in a spot of bother and soon meets the 4th Prince. Stealing her heart and manipulating her, the 4th Prince convinces her to help him steal the current Emperor's Will so that he can alter it to make himself the next in line. Having fallen for the 4th Prince, the ape-girl learns of a solution that can help her turn into a real girl if she soaks her body in it – something that works for the most part, although leaves her with a large tail. After catching the 4th Prince with another woman and finding out about his evil ways now he is the Emperor, the ape-girl must use her deadly tail-kung-fu to take him down and help make things right!
Retitled as Lady Iron Monkey for obvious reasons, this film is better suited to its original title of Ape Girl as it bears no connection at all to the the original classic starring Chen Kuan Tai (or even that of the Donnie Yen smash hit). For starters, the titular character is little a humanoid monkey more akin to what you would see in any amount of Monkey King movies, even jumping through the trees (unconvincingly) with her little monkey brothers who all look like they are just wearing furry pyjamas. This was to be one of the last films penned by Hou Cheng, the very same man who directed the crazy Shaolin Invincibles and the absolutely bonkers, Zodiac Fighters (of which he also wrote), so those two examples should give you a fair idea of how nutty Ape Girl actually is. The wonderful, and often over-looked, Chen Chi Hwa is at the helm and although it may not be one of his finest moments, he seems to have had fun dishing out yet another wild kung-fu comedy jammed in-between Jackie Chan's Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin and Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu in 1978, and The 36 Crazy Fists and Dance Of Death which were both shot the same year as this. While Jackie may have helped with the choreography for the aforementioned 1979 titles, it would be popular kung-fu actor and choreographer Wang Tai Lang who took the reigns of action-director on this. Having starred in classics like One Armed Boxer Vs The Flying Guillotine, Flash Legs, Phantom Kung Fu, Militant Eagle, and Spiritual Kung Fu, 1979 proved to be a busy (and final) year for Wang starring in no less than 8 productions over the course of 12 months, including Dance Of Death for director Chen. His work on Lady Iron Monkey would also become the last of his career and although it could hardly be hailed as his swan song, Wang still manages to provide enough entertaining fights with plenty of energy and impressive moves. While it will never go down as one of the greatest kung-fu movies ever made, Lady Iron Monkey aka Ape Girl does have its moments and enough entertaining fights to keep fans happy. The final 25 minutes sees the titular heroine become a human due to a special potion, although it doesn't get rid of her tail. After learning a deadly new style from her master, the ape-girl returns to see the 4th Prince who has now become the king, and soon sees the error of his ways after he attempts to kill her and The 8 Heroes with a bomb. Surviving the attack, the ape-girl leads the heroes into battle as they take-on Chen Sing and Lo Lieh (who has suddenly went from assassin to ally of the Prince) in a fun and energetic finale.
Chin Fung Ling stars as the titular ape-girl in, what seems to be, one of only the two roles of her career alongside Iron Bridge Kung-Fu which was made the same year (and co-starred Wang Tai Lang who also choreographed). And although it's a pretty madcap role for her, I have to admit that Chin does entertain in a similar way that Polly Shang Kwan would do, and handles both the comedy and action side of things positively. I'm surprised she didn't star in more! The great Chen Sing stars as the scheming 4th Prince who manipulates the naïve heroine, and gets in on enough fight action to keep fans happy and kung-fu superstar Lo Lieh pops up as a Tibetan fighter who attempts to kill the Prince. Veteran Taiwanese actor Miao Tian, who starred in films such as Dragon Inn, A Touch Of Zen, Furious Slaughter, and Kung Fu Executioner, stars as her master and Lee Man Tai from Millionaires Express, Magnificent Warriors, Face Behind The Mask, continues his old beggar role as seen in Chen Chi Hwa's Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin and Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu. Jackie Chan Stunt Team member, Danny Chow Yun Kin, also appears as one of The 8 Heroes who makes a deal with Chen, and there's a host of other recognisable faces from Taiwanese cinema of the mid-late 70s...
Overall: Typically madcap in that Chen Chi Hwa way, Lady Iron Monkey is far from perfect but still has enough fun moments and good fights to keep fans happy!
(USA/South Africa 1989)
(aka) Soldier Of Fortune; Lazer Mission
Directed by BJ Davis Produced by Hans Kuhle Sr. Action by Jannie Wienand Starring: Brandon Lee, Ernest Borgnine, Debi Monahan, Richard Cox, Graham Clarke, Werner Pochath, Karl Johnson, Richard Cox Reviewing: Amazon Prime UK Release Genres: Action / Adventure / Comedy
Rating - 1.5 / 5
Synopsis: Mercenaries, diamonds and laser weapons fill the story of this South African set action-adventure starring Brandon Lee. (84 Mins)
Views: Hired by the CIA to find a German laser scientist (played by veteran Ernest Borgnine), agent Michael 'Mercenary' Gold (Brandon Lee) must get him safely back to the US from South Africa before the Soviets get their hands on him. Famously ridiculed and held by many as one of the greatest bad movies eve made, Laser Mission has the privilege of having the gorgeous Brandon Lee in the starring role – yet at the same time, proves to be the worst film on the late stars short filmography...
Director BJ Davis, who has been a stuntman in Hollywood for many years and has directed a number of television and movie projects, makes sure that Laser Mission falls right into the same category as the American Ninja films - a series of which saw BJ Davis work on part 2, as well as many of the Cannon Films starring Chuck Norris. And in knowing that, Laser Mission could certainly have been part of the Cannon catalogue and even starred the likes of Michael Dudikoff, David Bradley or even Norris himself. At this stage of his career, the young Brandon Lee had only really appeared in Kung Fu: The Movie and starred as the lead in Ronny Yu's awesome Legacy Of Rage, so I'm sure he was open to any leading-man opportunities and probably thought that the James Bond-inspired Laser Mission was going to be a hit. Unfortunately for him, it was far from it!
In a nutshell, Laser Mission is just fucking dreadful, although in a way that you can't help but enjoy it. From its comical and god-awful script, to its dire and hilarious bad acting, the film is 90 minutes of unintentional laughs that come across like Naked Gun meets Moonraker - complete with ridiculous action scenes and lots of nipples. Brandon comes across like a young Bruce Campbell for the most if it, delivering many lines in an exaggerated tone - often trying to imitate his father (which was no doubt pressured by the director). While I do like Brandon Lee and wish we could have had him for a few decades more, I do think he is totally overrated and is only saved by his charm, half-decent moves, and the fact that he's the son of the infamous Bruce Lee. This is definitely not his finest acting moment by any means though, and he thankfully redeemed himself with what was to follow such as the fantastic, Showdown In Little Tokyo, Rapid Fire, and of course, The Crow. I must also mention how Laser Mission is haunted by a repeated rock song called Mercenary Man; a number sung by David Knopfler (the brother of Dire Straits leading man Mark Knopfler) which almost sounds like it's sung for laughs, and often plays when Brandon appears on-screen. While it may be packed full of action, plenty of stunts, explosions and hand-to-hand combat, the film is so poorly directed that all of the above has little-to-no impact when it comes about. Laser Mission is fun, but not in an intentional way, and that's what makes it work. If you are a major fan of bad movies, then you'll love it - otherwise, don't be wasting your time.
Overall: This is one flick you really need to see to believe how bad it is, the best thing about Laser Mission is it's awesome poster!
THE LAST TYCOON
(Hong Kong 2012)
Original Title: Da Shang Hai (aka) The Last Dragon Master; Last Shanghai; Shanghai Ultimate Gangster
Directed by Wong Jing Produced by Andrew Lau Action by Lee Tat Chiu Starring: Chow Yun Fat, Sammo Hung, Huang Xiao Ming, Francis Ng, Yuan Quan, Yasuaki Kurata, Monica Mok, Gao Hu, Zheng Yi Tong, Xin Bai Qing, Yang Da Peng Reviewing: Hi-Yah TV Release Genres: Action / Drama / Historical
Rating - 4.3 / 5
Synopsis: Action superstar Chow Yun Fat portrays real-life gangster Chen Daqi as he rises to the upper echelons of power, finding himself torn between the love of two women, the murderous plots of the secret service, and the looming threat of war. (119 Mins)
Views: I actually can't believe it has taken me a good decade to finally see this film! The Last Tycoon takes superstar Chow Yun Fat back to his days on The Bund, as it tells the story of Cheng Daqi and his journey to becoming one of Shanghai's most respected gang leaders. Of course, life isn't quite as simple as that, and soon Daqi is facing many major issues in his life from Japanese invaders and secret service plots, as well as being torn between the two loves of his life. The Last Tycoon is a beautifully made blockbuster movie, directed by the incredibly busy and hugely inspiring Wong Jing – a Hong Kong director who, for the last 5 decades, has delivered some of Asia's most memorable films; starring in almost 100, writing almost 200, producing over 160, and directing over 100. There is literally no Hollywood film-maker who can come close to having such an impressive filmography behind them, and while many of them can be hit-and-miss at times, it's fair to say that Wong has delivered some genuine classics over the years!
The handsome Huang Xiao Ming does a fantastic job as the younger version of Chow Yun Fat and, at times, actually looks identical to the legendary star. This was a great casting choice by Wong, with Huang proving once again just what a strong actor he really is. After a small role in Bright Heart at the turn-of-the-century, Huang gained the role of Sammo Hung's son in the poorly received Legend Of The Dragon before starring as General Yin in Feng Xiao Gang's epic film, The Banquet the following year. Since then, he has went on to star in hits such as The Sniper, Sacrifice, Ip Man 2, and The Guillotines, before his role here as the young Cheng Daqi. Since then, Xiao Ming has become a name to watch for with roles in Badges Of Fury, Crimes Of Passion, The White-Haired Witch Of Lunar Kingdom, The Crossing 1 & 2, League Of Gods, Mission Milano, and the epic Chinese war movie The Eight Hundred – among many others. Interestingly enough, Huang re-joined Sammo in the aforementioned Ip Man 2 before joining him once again in The Last Tycoon, with the big man stepping back from the action and focus more on the drama. While it may seem slightly disappointing to some that we don't get to see Sammo fight, he still makes quite the impression as Master Hung - Daqi's boss and powerhouse of Shanghai - and more than made up for it by kicking-ass the very same year in the fun Naked Soldier before continuing to do it again in Princess & The Seven Kung Fu Masters, Once Upon A Time In Shanghai, Rise Of The Legend, and his self-directed action-drama, The Bodyguard. Prolific actor Francis Ng stars as Mao Zai, the scene stealing double-crossing soldier who meets Daqi in a cell. Upon helping himself escape, Mao goes on to both look after the young hero and manipulate him; forcing him into making his first kill and sticking close by over the years. I've always enjoyed seeing Francis on-screen, and more often than not portraying a villain that I just love to hate. Since he burst onto the screen in the mid-to-late 80s, Ng has went onto star in almost 160 films including Final Run, Devil Hunters, The Bride With White Hair, Kung Fu Cult Master, Satan Returns, Full Alert, A Man Called Hero, Bullets Over Summer, Colour Of The Truth, Exiled, A Home With A View, and so much more – rarely disappointing and always leaving an impression. But for me, it has to be the awesome Chow Yun Fat who returns to familiar ground, delivering a strong and emotional performance right through to the end. I first fell in love with Chow after seeing him in the amazing Hard Boiled back in the early 90s, quickly followed by God Of Gamblers, Tiger On The Beat, and The Killer; before going on to search for everything and anything that he starred in. I often felt that his career choices seemed a little unsure with his departure from Hong Kong cinema in the mid-90s, but after a few years in Hollywood (with a handful of decent movies behind him) he soon came back with a bang in the Oscar winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon before taking on the new century with roles in films such as Curse Of The Golden Flower, The Children Of Huang Shi, Shanghai, Confucius, Let The Bullets Fly, The Assassins, and The Monkey King – as well as reprising his infamous role as the God of Gamblers in the Wong Jing trilogy, From Vegas To Macau. It's also worth noting the worthy performances from Gao Hu as Daqi's bodyguard and close friend Lin Huai, as well as Yolanda Yuan, Monica Mok, and Kimmy Tong who play his love interests – with the latter playing a younger version of Monica's character, Bao – and it was nice to see the great Yasuaki Kurata appear briefly as Major General Nishino, although (much like Sammo) doesn't get to bust a move which is a pity...
Actor and choreographer Lee Tat Chiu delivers some brilliantly crafted action scenes that are often delivered in slow motion, capturing the beauty of the destruction and violence on offer. From gang fights to shoot-outs, and a wonderful knife attack in the rain that sees the character of Lin Huai take down a gang of men as their umbrellas tumble through the air. Starting into the industry in the early 90s, Lee would appear in films such as God Of Gamblers 2, Bury Me High, City Hunter, The Bare-Footed Kid, Holy Weapon and Future Cops, going on to play more action roles in The Bodyguard From Beijing, Fist Of Legend, The Blade, Legend Of The Wolf, Storm Riders, and more. The mid-to-late 90s would see him double-up as an action-choreographer through to the turn-of-the-century on films like Sixty Million Dollar Man, Big Bullet, Storm Riders, Sunshine Cops, Born To Be King, and more before continuing his work on modern hits like Colour Of The Truth, Moving Targets, and Bodyguards & Assassins. The scenes set during the Japanese attack in Shanghai during WWII are pretty cool too, with some serious explosions on display as the city crumbles around the people. It's an intense sequence that brings more and more devastation on a massive scale, closing with a bittersweet moment that reveals the painful love triangle of Daqi, Zhiqiu and her husband. I actually didn't expect such an explosive scale of action, but it was hugely impressive and, once again, showed that Wong Jing can deliver a serious piece of film when he wants to. The grand finale begins when a Peking Opera Show is put-on for the Japanese officials which allows Daqi and his men to attack their base, and save his masters wife along with many others. It's a dark, emotional, and action-packed closure to the film that just confirms why Chow Yun Fat is one of the greatest actors to ever come out of Hong Kong!
While it may be far from perfect and suffer from a slightly flawed script, The Last Tycoon still proves to be slickly directed with Wong Jing adding nods to films like Ip Man 2, The Grandmaster, The Killer, In The Mood For Love, and The Godfather respectively. The film also benefits from plenty of gorgeous cinematography courtesy of Andrew Lau and Jason Kwan, with the Infernal Affairs director also serving as the films producer, accompanied by a wonderful score from composer Comfort Chan, along with a theme song from Jacky Cheung and beautiful closing number by Joanna Wang. And while both Andrew Lau and Comfort Chan would be nominated for their work at the 32nd Hong Kong Film Awards, Jacky Cheung (and co) would take away the award for Best Original Film Song. It's also worth mentioning that the Chinese release was cut by about 10 minutes upon release...
Overall: Gorgeously shot, well acted, and beautifully directed, The Last Tycoon is a brilliant piece of modern Hong Kong cinema that's well worth the watch!
LITTLE HEROES LOST IN CHINA
Original Title: Xiao Gui Qi Bing (aka) Little Kids Lost In China
Directed by Allen Lan Produced by Lan Ketsarinh Action by Allen Lan Action Stunt Group Starring: Moon Lee, Ku Feng, Louis Roth, Joslyn J. Watson, Metken Brenton Trevor, Chan Keung, Yang Hou, Grayham Mason Poole, John Wesley Zadan, Allen Lan, Angela Chang Reviewing: YouTube Release Genres: Martial Arts / Comedy / Adventure
Rating - 3 / 5
Synopsis: Environmental researcher Louis Roth and his family are lost at a mountain in China. His son is lost too, and he finds bunch of kids who are also lost in the forest. (100 Mins)
Views: It took me some time to see Little Heroes Lost In China, and even at that, it still wasn't with English subtitles. Thankfully, the story isn't overly difficult to follow and it all still made for a pretty entertaining film. Most of that, of course, would be down to the fantastic kung-fu on offer and Home Alone-type antics that are on offer. The film starts of with Louis Roth (in his last ever role before his death the same year), as an environmental researcher who has arrived in China with his wife and son. After getting stranded due to a mistake that was lost in translation, they hire a car to travel alone and reach their destination. A break-down leaves them stranded, and a further accident separates them from their son who ends up lost in the forest below a cliff. The boy is (kind of) rescued by a gang of cute kids who are lost themselves. But these kids certainly don't have a problem when it comes to taking on problematic adults who often get in their way, and with some incredible wushu moves. As if that wasn't enough, the kids also have to deal with some nasty wood cutters and a pair of greedy Westerners that are out to steal some ancient Chinese treasures!
While it may have some minimal violence here and there, this 1995 film is ultimately a kung-fu adventure comedy for kids. It's the directorial debut of Allen Lan – the same man behind the so-so Flying Dragon, Leaping Tiger with Sammo Hung who was also the action-director (or assistant action-director) on films such as Death Games, Ip Man 2, Swordsman 2, The Medallion, and the first Detective Dee film. Little Heroes Lost In China will never go down as one of the greatest martial arts adventure films ever, but it definitely has its moments and, aside from the fact that it reminded me of the 80's Taiwanese Kung-Fu Kids series – as well as one of my childhood favourites, Lucky Seven – any film that has Moon Lee kicking-ass is more than enough for me. This would be her last film before going on to star in the popular Fist Of Hero television series, before (unfortunately) retiring from the film world for a least a good decade or more. And even though it is sold as a Moon Lee movie, she actually only flits in-and-out with an impressive introductory fight scene at the beginning, a couple of brief scuffles in the middle, and a fantastic closing fight at the end when she saves the day (of course). Sometimes, these scenes are backed by the borrowed score of Brave Young Girls – an action packed 'girls-with guns' classic that stars her long-time on-screen sister and nemesis, Yukari Oshima. The fact of the matter is, Little Heroes Lost In China is all about the kids – a bunch of cute young wushu performers who highly impress, and bring on plenty of laughs with some of their moves over-cranked for comedy-effect, complete with booby-traps in that aforementioned Home Alone way. If I'm to be honest, I was actually expecting the worst - constantly waiting for lots of cheesy moments and really bad action, but there really wasn't any to complain about. Even the little blonde western kid, Metken Brenton Trevor (in what seems to be his only ever film role), was genuinely fun to watch. One scene had him being trained in kung-fu by the kids, which seems to be going well until he breaks in to air-guitar mode and starts dancing about with the others joining in soon after. It reminded me of that god-awful moment in American Shaolin (King Of The Kickboxers 2) when Drew Carson starts singing the Shaolin Temple Blues to get the monks in a good mood, although it was nowhere near as cringe-worthy...
As the director and fight choreographer (along with his stunt team) Allen Lan Hai Han certainly didn't hold back on the choreography – both for the kids and the adults – with Moon Lee getting to show some fantastic moves throughout before closing with a lengthy fight against a neighbouring girl and two tomb raiders. My only niggle would be that the end battle had some silly wire enhanced moments, but it hardly detracted from what was going on and I was pretty impressed overall, and saw Lan show-up here and there. Interestingly enough, Lan's first starring role was in a child-led martial-arts war film called The Flying Tigers & The Kung Fu Kids before he went onto work with Alexander Lou Rei on films such as Devil Killer, Five Fighters From Shaolin, and Mafia Vs Ninja. Allen would also star in films like Exciting Dragon, Magnificent Warriors, China Heat, Swordsman 2, and Hero Of Swallow, while choreographing and directing in-between. The film itself is nicely shot, and while mostly taking place in the forest, still proved to be pleasing to the eye thanks to Tommy Tong Yue Tai – a cinematographer who lensed classics such as Ninja The Final Duel, Shaolin Chastity Kung Fu, Ninja Hunter, Super Ninja, Mafia Vs Ninja, Ninja USA, Ninja Condors, Mr. Vampire (the one directed by James Wu), Whore & Policeman, and more.
Fans of Shaw Brothers legend Ku Feng will enjoy his cameo that sees him pop-up for about 5 minutes, and the final scene at the airport is an emotional good-bye to little Metken that shows all the Chinese kids dressed just like him as they fight back the tears. It reminded me of the closing scene at the end of Lucky Seven, and was a nice little touch to finish things!
Overall: A fun film, Little Heroes Lost In China has plenty of neat fight scenes and lots of laughs to keep all ages entertained!