NA CHA & THE SEVEN DEVILS
(Hong Kong 1973)
Original Title: Mei Shan Shou Qi Guai
Directed by Yamanouchi Tetsuya, Doi Michiyoshi Produced by Runme Shaw Action by Wu Min Hsiung Starring: Yu Lung, Tina Chin Fei, Chen Hung Lieh, Ching Li, Wai Wang, An Ping, Ho Fan, Luo Bin, Chang Feng, Yu Chi Kung Reviewing: YouTube Release Genres: Fantasy / Kung Fu / Drama
Rating - 3 / 5
Synopsis: This 1973 Shaw Brothers production is their version of Monkey King Journey to the West. The film is kind of a co-production between China and Japan and the Shaw Brothers hired a Japanese director, Tetsuya Yamanouchi. The studios also recruited Japanese special effects teams to handle the visuals for the shape-changing God characters and other monstrous creatures seen in the movie.
Views: This Shaw Brother's early 70s tale of mischievous child god Na Cha, spins a yarn very similar to that of the famed Monkey King so shouldn't be too foreign to anyone new to the genre. Opening on Mount Kunlun, a place that exists high in the atmosphere between heaven and earth, we find Na Cha practicing his swordplay with his brothers. On his way home, Na Cha gets hungry and climbs a peach tree to get a piece of the large fruit. At the same time, he manages to shake 7 magical peaches out of the tree that gently falls to the earth below. Being 3000 years old, these peaches grant immortality to anyone that consumes them, something Na Cha gains after one bite along with new powers that allow him to break rocks with one chop and cause small earthquakes. To make up for what he has done, Na Cha is tasked by Heavens Officials to go down to earth and retrieve the peaches before they are eaten by devils. Backed by his two brothers, they set off on their journey only to find that they are too late with each of the peaches now consumed by seven devils. Now immortal, the devils set out to terrorise and cause trouble wherever they can, both in human and animal forms leaving it up to Na Cha and his brothers to put a stop to them and fix the trouble he has caused!
While it was one of many great fantasy films to come out of the Shaw Brothers studios around this time, Na Cha And The Seven Devils was far from their best. That said, it's not completely terrible either. Directed by Yamanouchi Tetsuya, a Japanese director who had already proved successful with his 1966 monster fantasy, The Magic Serpent – which has been hailed as one of the main inspirations for George Lucas in creating the original Star Wars series – this family adventure blends well-known Japanese FX tricks (of that time) with typical Shaw-style choreography. This makes the film come across like an early 70s superhero movie at times, with people flying through the clouds, riding on the back of dragons, or throwing giant boulders through the air with no effort at all. It's hardly the most enthralling film of all time, but Na Cha And The Seven Devils still has enough charm and fun moments over the course of its story to keep you entertained. That said, it may prove a harder watch for the more modern audience who are more used to the finely tuned, highly polished offerings from Hollywood and beyond.
There's definitely a great range of wild characters to enjoy and especially with the seven devils, each of whom starts off in their animal forms before gaining the ability to change after eating the peaches. These include the Eagle Devil, Ape Devil, Frog Devil, Fox Devil, Rat Devil, White Horse Devil, and the epic Water Dragon Devil which is actually an impressive sight. Most of them are played by recognisable faces from the Shaw studios around that time, and most notably Chen Hung Lieh who plays the White Horse Devil. Launching his career in the early 60s, Chen went on to star in over 150 films and many classics such as Magnificent Trio, Come Drink With Me, Trail Of The Broken Blade, and Yuen Woo Ping's Fire Dragon, with Hong Kong Bronx being his final film before his death in 2009. At 13 years of age, child actor Yu Lung plays Na Cha in what would be his last role as a kid before his final movie, The Young Lovers & The Escaped Prisoner, five years later. Wu Min Hsiung handles the fight choreography in this project, combining mostly fantastical attacks and movements with a little kung-fu or weapons work – although not really offering much to talk about in terms of martial arts including a mediocre end battle. While not often mentioned among the greats of the Shaw Brothers studio, this actor/choreographer turned director has delivered many decent titles in the 70s including The Big Fellow, The Martyrs, Adventure At Shaolin, Green Dragon Inn, and more...
Overall: Some cool FX tricks, fun characters, and charm help Na Cha And The Seven Devils entertain at least once!
NA CHA THE GREAT
(Hong Kong 1974)
Original Title: Na Zha
Directed by Chang Cheh Produced by Chang Cheh Action by Lau Kar Leung, Tong Kai Starring: Alexander Fu Sheng, Lu Ti, Lin Jing, Chiang Tao, Fung Hak On, Jamie Luk, Li Chen Piao, Sze Ma Wah Lung, Stephen Yip, Yuen Cheung Yan, Brandy Yuen, Eric Tsang, Yen Shi Kwan Reviewing: YouTube Release Genres: Fantasy / Traditional Kung-Fu / Drama
Rating - 1.5 / 5
Synopsis: A young divinity was born 3000 years ago to champion the cause of the masses in China when they were being oppressed by the despotic Tsou Emperor.
Views: Alexander Fu Sheng stars as the titular Na Cha, the son to a wealthy official who is often bored with his life. When a couple of trouble-making sea dragons take human form and come onto the land to harass the locals, Na Cha makes it his duty to become the protector of the people and put a stop to their evil ways! And that's pretty much it. Chang Cheh's fantasy drama is an absolute bore-fest for the most part, with very little happening until the halfway mark when we get to see Na Cha punch the head of a dragon. It doesn't really get any better to be honest, and I couldn't wait for it to be over. I've never been the biggest fan of Fu Sheng and in Na Cha The Great, he just confirms that for me by delivering another boring and mundane performance that offers no excitement whatsoever. Although he was still relatively new to the scene at this point, Fu Sheng starred in no less than 6 features in 1974 for director Chang Cheh – most of which were much better than this and included Heroes Two, Men From The Monastery, Shaolin Martial Arts, and Five Shaolin Masters. In fact, I think it's safe to say that pretty much everyone involved seems completely bored out of their minds, with the exception of Fung Hak On who plays one of the sea dragons that goes up against Na Cha around the halfway mark...
Not even the fight scenes from infamous choreographers, Lau Kar Leung and Tong Kai, are enough to save Na Cha The Great from falling flat, with most of the (very basic) kung-fu battles taking place in the second half of the film – if you've managed to get that far. It was nice to see a few familiar faces show up throughout though, such as Yuen Cheung Yan along with his brothers Brandy Yuen and Yuen Shun Yi, a very young Eric Tsang, Chui Fat, Alan Chan, Yen Shi Kwan, and others; most of which appeared as background players or in smaller character roles. Shaw Brothers regular bad guy, Chiang Tao, stars as Auguang of the East Sea - the big brother to Fung Hak On's sea dragon and the biggest challenge for Na Cha. Interesting enough, Chiang had appeared as the Centipede Spirit in Na Cha And The Seven Devils for Shaw Brothers studios the year before – in a film that offers a lot more entertainment and imagination than this does. I really hate leaving short reviews, but there isn't much more I can say about Na Cha The Great, and definitely not in a positive sense. I'm just glad I didn't spend any money on it!
Overall: Boring, slow, and void of any entertaining qualities, Na Cha The Great is best altered to the title of not-so-great!
(Hong Kong 1992)
Original Title: Chik Loh Go Yeung
Directed by Clarence Fok Produced by Wong Jing Action by Lau Shung Fun Starring: Chingmy Yau, Simon Yam, Carrie Ng, Yiu Wai, Hui Siu Hung, Sugawara Madoka, Ken Lo, Louis Roth, Lau Tik Chi, Ken Smyth Reviewing: Hong Kong Legends UK DVD Release Genres: Cat. 3 / Action / Thriller
Rating - 4.3 / 5
DVD Synopsis: A supercharged erotic action-adventure combining elements of 'Nikita' and 'Basic Instinct', 'Naked Killer' unfolds the twilight existence of a super-sexy female assassin, who falls victim to a lethal vendetta at the hands of a rival and her lesbian lover. Infamous and unparalleled, this pulp classic fell foul of BBFC censors for many years, who felt grieved by the movie's stylish juxtaposition of sex and violence. No under new guidelines, this genre classic can finally be released uncut!!
Views: It's been many moons since I last saw Clarence Fok's classic Naked Killer – the crazed erotic-action-thriller that has been the talk of Hong Kong film fans for decades now. Chingmy Yau, in one of her most memorable roles ever, stars as Kitty – a feisty woman who hates cheating men. After her father is killed by the man he caught cheating with his wife, Kitty sets out for vengeance that sees her mow-down a whole office block in order to kill the murderer. On her escape, she bumps into Cindy – a hitwoman who agrees to help Kitty amid an explosive shoot-out that results in Kitty being saved by her new mentor. Waking up in Cindy's home, Kitty quickly learns that her finger prints have been sliced off and that she has been recruited to become a deadly assassin. Meanwhile, troubled cop Tinam is trying to track down the suspected female assassins after a host of murders in his district, obsessed with finding Kitty and holding her responsible – if he could only stop vomiting and losing control at the sight of a gun. Sister Cindy soon introduces Kitty to her old student, Princess, a rival hitwoman who has been behind a lot of the killings in the city. From there, it doesn't take long for the deadly assassins to face-off against each other, in a blistering showdown of nails, knives, and bullets as Kitty exacts vengeance once again for Cindy's death!
I was about 15 when Naked Killer first came out in the UK on VHS, and I have to admit I was pretty blown away to say the least. While I had been watching Hong Kong cinema for a number of years beforehand, I don't think I had ever seen anything quite as stylistic and extreme at this point, and it certainly made an impression. The only other Clarence Fok movie I had seen was the awesome Yuen Biao vehicle, The Iceman Cometh, but that was a completely different kettle-of-fish altogether. With Naked Killer, Fok takes viewers on a wild ride of eroticism and violence, packed with dick jokes, lesbian lovers, explosive gunplay, and plenty of sex, complete with some typical Wong Jing lunacy and some visually captivating cinematography. The always enjoyable Chingmy Yau owns the show as Kitty, the kick-ass beauty who becomes a deadly assassin under the watch-able eye of Sister Cindy. While more famed for her relationship with producer/screenwriter Wong Jing, Chingmy Yau had only been on the scene for around 3 or 4 years impressing in movies such as The Crazy Companies 1 & 2, Romancing Star 3, My Neighbours Are Phantoms, Tricky Brains, Lee Rock 1 & 2, Casino Tycoon 1 & 2, Royal Tramp 1 & 2, and Clarence Fok's very own, They Came To Rob Hong Kong. As the character of Kitty, Chingmy does a great job shifting the tone from sexy seductress to gun-toting heroine, getting to play with a few comedic moments throughout and flexing her acting chops when needed. Kelly Yiu Wai stars as Sister Cindy, mentor to Kitty and Princess – a character that has been adapted massively in future remakes such as Naked Weapon and Naked Soldier, and a role that was initially given to the wonderful Josephine Siao. While she highly impresses in her role here, Naked Killer would be one of the last roles for this Taiwanese actress and singer (who was also the ex-girlfriend of director, Clarence Fok). Having started her film career in the Shaw Brothers 1981's anthology, Avengers From Hell, Yiu Wai would go onto star in titles such as Tsui Hark's All The Wrong Clues, Mad, Mad 83, Gangland Odyssey, and The Banquet, with Right Here Waiting being her last role in 1994. The wonderful Carrie Ng stars as vindictive lesbian assassin, Princess, the cigar chomping scene-stealer who proves to be more than a handful for Kitty and Cindy. Having already been in the industry for a strong decade before her role here in Naked Killer, Ng had appeared in films such as The Diary Of A Big Man, Gunmen, Return Engagement, Skinny Tiger Fatty Dragon, Crystal Hunt, Mission Of Justice, Cheetah On Fire, Angel Terminators, and Fok's very own, Dragon From Russia. Her sidekick and lover, Baby, is played by young Japanese actress Sugawara Madoka in what would have been her first ever role. I'm not 100%, but I do believe that this was very quickly followed up with a role in The Sad Story Of Saigon – aka Rape In Public Sea – alongside Lam Ching Ying, in what would be her second and last known role, especially in Hong Kong cinema. And then of course, there is the wonderful Simon Yam Tat Wah who starred as Tinam, the troubled cop with an obsession for Kitty and a problem looking at guns. Although he gives a decent performance, Yam plays his role a little more subdued than I imagined especially compared to that of his other 10 roles delivered in 1992, such as his performances in The Powerful Four, Cash On Delivery, Full Contact, Gigolo & Whore 2, and Dr. Lamb. Each are backed by a decent supporting cast such as super-kicker Ken Lo, Hiu Siu Hung, Lau Tik Chi, Louis Roth, Kong Fu Keung, and others...
Two major aspects of Naked Killer that really stand out for me are the action and the cinematography. While the opening title sequence was shot by the award-winning Peter Pau, the majority of the film was shot by Fok himself along with William Yim Wai Lun – a cinematographer and DOP who worked on titles such as The Island, Her Fatal Ways, The Black Panther Warriors, A Chinese Odyssey 1 & 2, Jackie Chan My Stunts, Time And Tide, The Accidental Spy, and Black Mask 2. Between them, they manage to combine an amazing array of visuals that make use of some gorgeous angles and lighting, from the action scenes to the more dramatic moments, including the sex scenes that are sprinkled throughout. The action is handled by Lau Shung Fung, an actor and choreographer who started out on Jackie Chan projects like The Protector, Police Story, and Dragons Forever, as well as titles like A Better Tomorrow, Iron Angels 2, God of Gamblers, and many more. As a choreographer, Lau worked behind the scenes for titles such as the fun Prince Of The Sun, Nocturnal Demon, Robotrix, Saviour Of The Soul, A Chinese Odyssey 1 & 2, and through to the underrated Badges Of Fury with Jet Li. In Naked Killer, his first film as a martial arts director, Lau Shung Fung provides a host of exciting action sequences from high-octane shoot-outs in office blocks and car-parks, to some great kung-fu fights that put the rope-dart to use, as the weapon of choice and went on to work alongside Clarence Fok in the exciting Black Panther Warriors the following year.
While it may seem laughable by today's standards and proves to be a little rough-around-the-edges, it would be hard to deny Naked Killer its entertainment value as well as its position in Hong Kong cinema. Yes, it may not win over the same audience today as it did upon release, but that's what makes Hong Kong film fans across the generations so different. And although we know it's not perfect by and means, there is something pretty special about Naked Killer that makes it stand out from the crowd from it's prolific promotional materials to its exciting and stylised, hyper-kinetic action. I really enjoyed seeing Naked Killer again after so long, and wouldn't say no to a restored HD version on blu-ray that would allow Fok's visuals to be seen in their full glory!
Overall: A wild piece of Hong Kong action that still hugely entertains, Naked Killer is visually brilliant and offers some great action pieces!
DVD Extras: Interview Gallery, Trailers, Audio Commentary with Director Clarence Fok and Jude Poyer
NAKED KILLER 2
(Hong Kong 1993)
Original Title: Heung Gong Kei On: Keung Gaan (aka) Raped By An Angel
Directed by Andrew Lau Wai Keung Produced by Wong Jing Action by Nicky Li Chung Chi Starring: Chingmy Yau, Simon Yam, Jacqueline Ng, Mark Cheng, Nick Cheung, Dennis Chan, Lee Siu Kay, Teresa Ha Ping, Cindy Yip, Anthony Carpio, Johnny Cheung, Lung Tin Sang Reviewing: Hong Kong Classics UK DVD Release Genres: Cat. 3 / Action / Thriller
Rating - 3.7 / 5
DVD Synopsis: A suave and sadistic serial rapist (Mark Cheng) is terrorising girls in an apartment block and sets a trap for his beautiful neighbour (Jacqueline Ng). She enlists the help of her friend, the gorgeous Chingmy Yau (Naked Killer) as an avenging angel who will seduce the rapist and wreak revenge on him for his terrible crimes. Soon they are entangled in an erotic and deadly game of cat and mouse. Acclaimed director Andrew Lau, guided by legendary producer/director Wong Jing delivers a slick, atmospheric thriller that ignites the sexual chemistry between Chingmy Yau and her screen lover Simon Yam, which made naked Killer a Hong Kong box office blockbuster.
Views: Chingmy Yau stars as Yau Yuk Nam, a law student who helps pay for her college education by doing some modelling gigs on the side. One such job was for a television commercial called Fatty Milk, that sees her run through a forest in camouflaged hot-pants and a tube top while shooting down the bad guys. The ad attracts the attention of many fans and admirers, with one of them being Triad boss Tso and another – serial rapist and businessman, Eric. As it turns out, Yau has been studying the cases of the latter in order to learn why the most of his victims refuse to testify. Meanwhile, Yau and Tso spark some sort of a relationship after she helps save him from an attack by rival triads, which also helps her score an interview with the boss who is determined to get her into one of his movies. At the same time, Eric – now obsessed with the young actress – has bought an apartment in their block in a bid to get him one step closer to her. Although he is immediately ignored by Yau, Eric starts to switch his charm to her flat-mate Chu and soon rapes her to get at Yau. The girls force Eric into court, but his sneaky ways and manipulation turn things around in his favour that leave the victim as the criminal and Chu's life in tatters. After some time passes, Eric makes another attempt at raping Chu – this time, smothering her with a pillow and leaving her dead. Determined to put a stop to the madman, Yau makes a plan for revenge with the help of her boyfriend Tso that will push the serial rapist over-the-edge and put her own life at risk!
Although sold in the West as a sequel to Naked Killer, the fact is that Raped By An Angel has no connection at all to the Clarence Fok directed hit film at all. And although I say no connection, I will of course go on to point out that it does star two of the original films leading actors - Chingmy Yau and Simon Yam, as well as having been penned and produced by Wong Jing himself. But as a direct sequel to the 1992 film, it could not be further from it and actually went on to have a series of sequels itself – something of which Naked Killer never really had. In fact, this Cat. 3 thriller is a much more serious affair that casts aside the fantastical elements of Fok's erotic-epic, as well as offering a more gritty style of execution as opposed the the stylised qualities from before...
While a lot of reviewers and critics have slammed Raped By An Angel for its use of rape and violence against women, I have to say it isn't the first Hong Kong film to do so – and certainly won't be the last. Personally, and while I don't condone either of the actions obviously, I think the film is a pretty well made thriller that was created during a period of Hong Kong cinema when films like this were a dime-a-dozen. Although many film fans criticise Wong Jing's work far too harshly and unfair, in my opinion, I'm forever inspired by the range of his work and especially of that from the golden age of Hong Kong cinema. With Raped By An Angel/Naked Killer 2, Jing manages to create a taught thriller that is strengthened by a highly memorable and menacing performance by Mark Cheng. Known more for his abilities in the action department, Cheng delivers a strong role with Eric and manages to provide a character so sleazy and so manipulative, you just love to hate him. It's actually quite crazy the lengths he goes to when planning the rape of Chu, from making sure that certain witnesses see exactly what he wants them to see, to having the locks on her apartment altered so that he can access it easier – Mark Cheng steals the show in making Eric Chuck one of the most hateful bastards of 90s Hong Kong cinema, and we also get to enjoy him parading around naked with his dick in full show. Chingmy Yau, who had now taken control of the box office after her role in Naked Killer, had yet another busy year in 1993 fitting in titles like City Hunter, Future Cops, Kung Fu Cult Master, and Legend Of The Liquid Sword, alongside this for her boss and lover, Wong Jing. As Yau, she does yet another great job as the ass-kicking vixen who shows she has as many brains as she does boobs. Simon Yam is hilarious as the horny, larger-than-life triad boss Tso who can't get enough of Yau and will do whatever he needs to, in order to help her or keep her happy. Much like Yau, this proved to be a crazy busy year for him, starring in no less than 16 feature film productions including First Shot, Run & Kill, Holy Weapon, Future Cops, Final Judgement, The Black Panther Warriors, and A Day Without Policemen. The lovely Jacqueline Ng Suet Man stars as Chu Kit Man, who suffers the abuse of Eric before losing her life to him. Although she only starred in about 20 films over the course of her decade in the industry, Ng proved to be a fine actress and had actually appeared a few years earlier in Andrew Lau's very own, Against All, with one of her co-stars, Nick Cheung. By the time Raped By An Angel had come about, Cheung had only been in the film industry about 3 or 4 years appearing in films like Unmatchable Match, Thank You Sir, Red Shield, What A Hero, and the aforementioned Against All. Here, his role is kept to a minimum as the right-hand-man to Simon Yam's boss Tso but still gives him a chance to make an impression when needed. The hilarious Kingdom Yuen pops up for a cameo, as does the wonderful Teresa Ha Ping who plays Tso's mother. Dennis Chan appears as Yau's law teacher and Lee Siu Kay stars (for a change) as a cop. There are a number of Jackie Chan Stunt Team faces that show up throughout, but this is mostly down to the fact that Nicky Li Chung Chi was the man behind the action. While there isn't an abundance of martial action going on in Raped By An Angel, what does happen proves to be entertaining enough, although is nothing compared to what was on offer in the original Naked Killer.
Overall: A dark and brutal tale, Naked Killer 2 is an exciting thriller with a great villain and plenty of exciting moments to keep you entertained!
DVD Extras: Trailers, Filmographies
(Hong Kong 2012)
Original Title: Jue Se Wu Qi
Directed by Marco Mak Produced by Wong Jing Action by Corey Yuen Kwai Starring: Sammo Hung, Jennifer Tse, Andy On, Kang Jia Qi, Philip Ng, Ellen Chan, Ankie Beilke, Timmy Hung, Ian Powers, Anthony Wong, Jiang Lu Xia, Wilson Tong, Au Hin Wai Reviewing: YouTube Release Genres: Martial Arts / Action / Thriller
Rating - 3.5 / 5
Synopsis: A gorgeous lethal killer, brainwashed by the villain, makes a startling discovery on a mission to eliminate a person with connections to her past.
Views: The final part of Wong Jing's 'Naked trilogy' opens in 1980, where big-time Interpol agent Lung Chi Keung (Sammo Hung) has just led the biggest drugs bust of his time. The seller, Brother Power (Anthony Wong) hires Madame Rose (Ellen Chan) to eliminate Lung and his family while they celebrate Christmas dinner at their Florida home. Left for dead, Lung watches as his youngest daughter is kidnapped by Madame Rose, where she will be brought up to become a deadly assassin for the lady killer. 15 years later, Lung is brought in by request to help Officer Wong (Andy On) and his partner Siu Pei (Timmy Hung), on the assassinations of some high-profile drug lords. Lung agrees to help, providing Wong reopens the case of his missing daughter - who has now grown up to be one of Madame Roses's top killers, Phoenix. After showing some compassion towards a target on a mission, Phoenix is soon given a new job – to assassinate Lung, her father – which soon brings back old memories that put them both in a very dangerous position!
I like Naked Soldier. While it may be the weakest of the three films, it definitely has enough going for it to make for an entertaining time. Editor-turned-director Marco Mak has always been a bit of a mixed bag for me when in charge of a project, although (admittedly) has provided us with some half decent titles including Cop On A Mission, Colour Of The Truth, Wo Hu, Tracing Shadow, and a few others, but I wouldn't say he's a director I'd get excited over. As it turns out, Naked Soldier would be his last project as a director (at the time of writing) and even his work as an editor has seemingly slowed down somewhat, since – but I couldn't say for sure if it was all down to the poor reviews of this project. The film benefits from a pretty decent cast and some great action scenes, but any hints of sex or sleaze that made the original Naked Killer such a success is long gone, stripping back any elements that puts Naked Soldier into Cat. 3 territory. Cast-wise, the biggest surprise for me was seeing the beautiful Ellen Chan as Madame Rose. I used to have such a crush on her as a teen when I first bought Top Squad (aka The Inspector Wears Skirts) on VHS in the mid-90s, and I have to admit, I was pretty impressed with how amazing she still looks here. The equally stunning Jennifer Tse, sister to the wonderful Nicholas Tse, has many similarities to that of Maggie Q and her character in the brilliant, Naked Weapon. After her début in 2010's Bruce Lee, My Brother, Tse holds her own in her first major action role, and while she was never going to win any awards for her performance, it's clear to see that Jennifer works with what she has – a basic and 90s inspired script from Wong Jing. Thankfully though, it's not all left on her shoulders and the legendary Sammo Hung is around enough to bring plenty of star-power and fisticuffs to the show – and looks great doing it. The great Andy On and Philip Ng star on opposite sides of the law, with On playing a cop that aids Sammo in the search for his daughter and Ng playing another assassin that takes a fancy to her. While both get to enjoy the action, it's mainly Ng that gets to let loose with his moves a number of times throughout. Of course, the pair would go on to share the screen with the great Sammo Hung in the awesome and much more enjoyable, Once Upon A Time In Shanghai, just a couple of years later. Sammo's son, Timmy, appears as Andy On's right-hand man but is reduced to more comic relief than anything, and the great Anthony Wong shows up towards the end as Brother Power, the drug lord with a vengeance who gets to go toe-to-toe with Hung. Ankie Beilke, who appeared in movies like Connected, Confession Of Pain, and Perfect Wedding, stars as Celina, Tse's nemesis who has never quite taken to her from their early days under Madame Roses reign. And UK martial artist Ian Powers stars alongside the great Jiang Lu Xia as a couple of queer fighters who get to bust some great moves against al the heroes in question. I love seeing Jiang in action, and it was nice to see her go on to join Sammo the following year in the wonderfully fun Princess And The Seven Kung Fu Masters as well as the aforementioned, Once Upon A Time In Shanghai in 2014...
Sammo's old school brother and legend in his own right, Corey Yuen Kwai, handles the film's fight choreography and action – delivering plenty of exciting moves and moments that (surprisingly) stay grounded for the most part. While there are a few noticeably wire-enhanced moves sprinkled throughout, Yuen Kwai puts his real action stars to good use – such as Sammo Hung, Philip Ng, Andy On, Jiang Lu Xia, Ian Powers, and even Anthony Wong – while making the likes of Jennifer Tse, Ankie Beilke, and others, look good under his direction. Even though it has been a good twenty years since the original, and ten since Naked Weapon, it's interesting seeing the style of action that has developed and changed over the course of the three movies. Personally, I'd love to have seen Yuen Kwai take this as an opportunity to take things back to the original style of action and bring back those glory days we all love and miss. Alas, it was not meant to be, but Naked Soldier does contain a solid helping of strong martial arts action that should please the most hardened fan of Hong Kong cinema.
Overall: Flawed and lazily written, for the most part, Naked Soldier offers plenty of great martial arts action to keep fans excited and still makes for a fun watch!
THE NEW SHAOLIN BOXERS
(Hong Kong 1976)
Original Title: Cai Li Fa Xiao Zi (aka) Demon Fist Of Kung Fu; Grandmaster Of Death; The Choy Li Fut Kid; Mad Boy; Silly Kid
Directed by Chang Cheh Produced by Run Run Shaw Action by Hsieh Hsing, Chen Hsin I, Chen Jih Liang Starring: Alexander Fu Sheng, Leung Kar Yan, Johnny Wang Lung Wei, Jenny Tseng, Lu Ti, Jamie Luk, Chen Hui Lou, Shan Mao, Philip Kwok, Robert Tai, Ricky Cheng, Lu Feng, Chiang Sheng Reviewing: Black Hill/Koch Media German Blu-ray Release Genres: Martial Arts / Drama
Rating - 4.3 / 5
Blu-ray Synopsis: In Chang Cheh's fourth Shaolin film, the internationally acclaimed Alexander Fu Sheng cements his fame. He delivers great acting and kung fu performance. The young fighter Zhong Jian (Alexander Fu Sheng) leaves his master for a short time. When he returns, he finds that the small village has fallen into the hands of bandits. One of the gangsters (Leung Kar Yan) injures him. When he realizes that his skills are insufficient to fight the bandits, Jian goes to school with a Shaolin Monchin, who teaches him special techniques. Back in the village, he learns that his master has been killed and swears revenge... (96 Mins)
Views: Straight-up, I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised when I first watched The New Shaolin Boxers. I honestly think that it is quite possibly Alexander Fu Sheng's finest hour as a martial artist, not to mention an enjoyable Chang Cheh film that still falters from his usual flaws – written once again by the man himself and Ni Kuang. Backed by a simple and great cast of stars, the film tells the tale of Zhong Jian (Fu Sheng) – a boisterous and brave young man who is always eager to help those in need. After coming across an attack on a young woman by a local thug, Zhong comes to her aid but soon finds that he has opened up a whole new can of worms when the gang boss comes looking for him. Unable to defeat the boss, Zhong's teacher sends him away from the school for his own protection to find solace under an old Buddhist monk and spend some time learning the Shaolin style of Choy Li Fut. But while in his period of training, the young fighter soon learns of his old teachers murder by the hands of Feng Tian Shan – the gang boss that drove him out. Now, armed with his new martial arts skills, Zhong returns to his village to take revenge!
Although he had already appeared in and had made quite the impression in many films over a 4 year period, Fu Sheng got the chance to carry a film on his own with The New Shaolin Boxers. While I wouldn't say the character of Zhong Jian was an overly complicated or challenging role for him to take on, Fu still does a great job in bringing the hero to life. But what really impressed me here, was the fact that he actually looks like he knows how to fight for a change! Although he had done a fine job in films like Heroes Two, Men From The Monastery, Shaolin Martial Arts, Five Shaolin Masters, and Disciples Of Shaolin, I was never really overly impressed with Fu Sheng's martial skills – except for perhaps, his abilities in the latter title. But it seemed that 1976 was to be a turn-around point for the actor with this coming in between Boxer Rebellion, Seven Man Army, Shaolin Avengers, and Shaolin Temple, with his career only getting bigger and better until his death in a vehicle accident in 1983. I always stated how I'm not the biggest fan of the young star, but I must say that The New Shaolin Boxers has given me a new appreciation of Fu Sheng who mixes comedy and dramatics with some great moves. While he has often been referred to as the original 'clown prince of kung-fu' (before Jackie Chan owned that title), I more often than not just found him to be irritating and annoying as opposed to funny. But there have been certain titles over the years – most of which have been restored and re-released like this – that are letting me see that Fu Sheng had a lot more to offer. Jenny Tseng stars alongside her husband (Fu Sheng) for the second time that year, after Boxer Rebellion also for Chang Cheh, as the poor victim of the village thug. The amazing Leung Kar Yan stars as the wicked thug that tries to rough her up, eventually going-up against Fu Sheng which is what kicks-off all his troubles. Having started with Chang Cheh and the Shaw Brothers studio just two years prior in Shaolin Martial Arts, Kar Yan quickly made quite the impression in titles such as Marco Polo, Five Shaolin Masters, Boxer Rebellion, and Seven Man Army yet interestingly enough broke-off from the studio after this. 1977 would see him move into the independent side of things with films such as Five Kung Fu Daredevil Heroes, Eagles Claw, Iron Monkey, My Life's On The Line, 2 Great Cavaliers, and more before joining Sammo Hung's party with Enter The Fat Dragon, Warriors Two, Knockabout, and Odd Couple, among many other indie studio titles. I quite enjoyed him in this role, even if it was a smaller one as a sidekick to the big boss, Feng Tian Shan. He is played by the one-and-only Johnny Wang Lung Wei, one the Shaw Brothers (and Hong Kong cinemas) greatest bad guys! After following the path similar to that of Leung Kar Yan, New Shaolin Boxers would only be his 7th title over 2 years, having appeared alongside his co-star for Chang Cheh. This was one of the first to let him really strut his stuff as a hard-ass main villain and, as expected, Lung Wei does a fantastic job. I must also note that both he and Kar Leung are aided by a young Jamie Luk – director of Robotrix – who also gets in on the action here-and-there, dressed like he just stepped out of a 70s disco. The masters are played by two prolific actors, both of which are a welcome site and addition to the cast. The first is Shan Mao, a recognisable actor who starred in 120 films in less than a decade before his passing in 1977. This started with The Knight Of Old Cathay and The Combat Six in the late 60s, going on to star with Jimmy Wang Yu in titles such as Magnificent Chivalry, One-Armed Boxer 1 & 2, Seaman No.7, Beach Of The War Gods, and much more. Shan plays Fu Sheng's teacher who initially expels him from the school, but goes on to guide him to his old friend, Master Zhu, played by the wonderful Chen Hui Lou – of Unicorn fame from Jackie Chan's Fearless Hyena. Of course, Chen starred in many wonderful titles over the years and for many different studios, many of which were alongside Shan Mao and his other co-stars in the aforementioned titles as well as appearing in films such as The Killer Meteors, Iron Monkey, Raining In The Mountain and Legend Of The Mountain for King Hu, Big Boss Of Shanghai, World Of Drunken Master, Fearless Hyena 2, The Kung Fu Kids 1 & 2, and the wonderful A Book Of Heroes alongside Yukari Oshima and Yasuaki Kurata. Philip Kwok appears as one of the students at Fu Sheng's school, and a few other Venoms pop-up throughout alongside Robert Tai and others as gang-members, students, and extras.
While I totally believe that Wu Ma was the main director behind this, with Chang Cheh either sleeping on the job or keeping himself busy with other projects, The New Shaolin Boxers also benefits from having some brilliant fight choreography courtesy of Hsieh Hsing, Chen Hsin I, and Chen Jih Liang – with this being the first and last job as an action-director for the latter. But Hsieh Hsing and Chen Hsin I are two names who are well known in kung-fu cinema. The former starred in over 60 films during the course of his 12 year career, including classics like The Begging Swordsman, The Ghost Hill, 8 Dragon Swords, and a host of Jimmy Wang Yu titles from One-Armed Boxer to Beach Of The War Gods. He directed his own film in 1979 called The Bone Crushing Kid, and choreographed over 30 films including Hurricane, Marco Polo, Seven Man Army, New Shaolin Boxers, The Naval Commandos, and Return Of The Chinese Boxer. Interestingly enough, Chen followed a very similar path indeed, starring in just as many over the same amount of time which included Dragon & Tiger, Seven Man Army, To Kill With Intrigue, Snake & Crane Arts Of Shaolin, Lady Constables, and more. He directed The True Game Of Death the same year as Hsieh directed his own movie, and choreographed almost 30 titles including One-Armed Swordswoman, Marco Polo, Seven Man Army, The Killer Meteors, Filthy Guy, and To Kill With Intrigue – once again with Hsieh. Between them, they bring some highly exciting fights to the screen and make Fu Sheng look the best he had to date – displaying some great moments of Choy Li Fut along the way. If one thing stops me from rating The New Shaolin Boxers any higher, it was the decision to intersperse cut-scenes of Fu Sheng's training throughout the end fight so that viewers know what particular moves of the style he was using in battle. While I get what they were aiming for, the end result just stalls the epic-ness of the grand finale and, in turn, made me start to care less as to what was actually going on...
Overall: One of my favourite Fu Sheng films, The New Shaolin Boxers is full of great fights and is a highly enjoyable, but simple martial arts flick!
Blu-ray Extras: Trailers, Photo Gallery
Watch my unboxing video of this Koch Media release HERE
(Hong Kong 1990)
Original Title: Ji Juen Gai Jong Yuen Choi (aka) Casino Raiders: The Sequel
Directed by Jimmy Heung, Taylor Wong Produced by Wong Jing Action by Paul Wong Starring: Alan Tam, Andy Lau, Nat Chan, Chen Song Yong, Michelle Reis, May Lo, Christine Ng, Shing Fui On, Anthony Wong, Tien Feng, Benz Kong, Ridley Tsui, Paul Wong, San Kuai Reviewing: Nova Media Korean Blu-ray Release Genres: Gambling / Action / Comedy
Rating - 4 / 5
NO RISK, NO GAIN
Synopsis: After he is invited to come to Macau and gamble, the King Of Gamblers is joined by two bumbling small-time wannabe's who find trouble round every corner. Between them, the trio take on a host of gangsters that result in many gun battles and card games, both of which they must win to save their lives and titles as Asia's top gamblers. (107 Mins)
Views: The prolific Wong Jing steps down as director to focus on writing and producing this non-related sequel to his previous years hit-film, Casino Raiders. For this chapter, Wong polishes-up his mistakes from the first and blends in some elements from God Of Gamblers that helps make No Risk, No Gain a hugely enjoyable film. Alan Tam returns to play the King Of Gamblers, this time known as Ray. After Ray gets a forceful invite to come to Macau and play some cards, he is tricked and robbed by two small-time swindlers called Big Dee and Snake. Stealing his VIP pass and invite, Big Dee and Snake head to Macau with the latter posing as Ray – although dressed more like Chow Yun Fat in God Of Gamblers. Once there, the pair find themselves faced with one problem after another, and are soon joined in their adventures by Ray who finally catches up with them. As they learn to trust one another, the trio must face off against some angry gangsters, stolen love, and a table of gambling experts who all have one too many tricks up their sleeves!
Although it may not have done as well at the box-office than it's predecessor, it's fair to say that No Risk, No Gain is by far the most enjoyable of the series. I definitely enjoyed seeing a more comedic side to Alan Tam here as I felt he was somewhat miscast in Casino Raiders – even though he plays a very similar character. But much like God Of Gamblers 2, with Andy Lau and Chow Sing Chi, it seems that everyone involved this time around is just out to have fun. And fun it certainly is, with Wong Jing providing many hilarious hijinks without ever getting too ridiculous which provides some genuinely hilarious moments throughout. The most of these are delivered by Andy and Nat, with both working off each other perfectly and bringing Alan in on the joke when needs be. One hilarious scene sees Nat Chan try to copy some moves that Chow Yun Fat pulls-off in A Better Tomorrow, although not with the same joy which had me laughing hard. Andy Lau's role as Big Dee is very similar in tone to the character of Knife, who he played in God Of Gamblers. Of course, this is the lovable and fun type of Andy Lau that he was playing in every second movie at this stage of his career, so it's hardly a groundbreaking performance in the grand scheme of things. Nat Chan plays his usual idiotic self, although proves to be less eccentric and wild than usual. The three of them are backed by a trio of girls in the shape of Michelle Reis – in one of her five introductory roles of 1990 alongside Coup De Grace, Doctor's Heart, Perfect Girls, and A Chinese Ghost Story 2. She does a great job in the role of Winnie and would, of course, go on to have a healthy career starring in films such as A Kid From Tibet, Swordsman 2, Wicked City, Fong Sai Yuk 1 & 2, Drunken Master 3, Fallen Angels, and alongside Donnie Yen in Bodyguards & Assassins, which would also be her last film to date. The lovely May Lo, whose first film role was also with Donnie Yen in the brilliant Mismatched Couples, stars as Jane and also shared the screen around this time with Andy Lau in City Kids '89, Return Engagement, Dances With Dragon, and The Last Blood which also starred Alan Tam. And Christine Ng makes her feature film debut as Maureen, going on to star in titles such as The Cat, Crime Story, A Taste Of Killing & Romance with Andy once again, Banana Club, Storm Riders, a few of the Troublesome Night movies, and more. Prolific Taiwanese actor (and Ng Man Tat lookalike) Chen Song Yong plays the man who coaxes Alan to Macau by threatening to blow-up his casino, and Anthony Wong stars as the annoyingly outlandish son of Casino owner Yeung Chun, played by long-time actor Tien Feng – Jackie Chan's teacher in The Young Master. As Yeung Sing, Wong gives Jimmy Lee's brutal character from the first Casino Raiders and God Of Gamblers films, a run for his money in how violent and twisted he can be. Interestingly enough, this was only Wong's 7th role in the film world after small roles in films such as The Iron Butterfly, News Attack, and How To Be A Millionaire. 1990 would be his breakthrough year with a leading role in Lee Lik Chi's crime-thriller, The Set Up, before making an impression here as the crazy Yeung Sing – a trait in his roles that seemed to stick, fast making Wong a fan-favourite of Hong Kong cinema which allowed him to deliver many disturbing and memorable performances, with over 200 films behind him to date. The wonderful Shing Fui On pops-up as a gangster known as Big Fool who gets his introduction in a nightclub after viewers are treated to a fantastic wee number by Andy, Alan, and Nat on the karaoke stage. Actor/choreographer Benz Kong cameos as a tricky gambler who shares a cell with Alan, and Andy Lau-film regular Kan Tat Wah stars as Western Boy – the heavy-handed bodyguard of Anthony Wong. The Hong Kong film career of Kan was a short lived one that saw him star in only 14 films over 5 years. A lot of these were with Lau in films such as Sworn Brothers, Rich & Famous, As Tears Go By, The First Time Is The Last Time, and Crocodile Hunter, as well as roles in Flaming Brothers, Spiritual Love, and The Big Score the same year as this. His final role was in Wong Jing's Casino Tycoon with Andy Lau before disappearing from the scene altogether, eventually passing in 2018...
With Wong Jing stepping back as one of the directors, Jimmy Heung brought in the underrated Taylor Wong to join him. Of course, Taylor had already proven himself to be a fantastic director since making his debut on 1979's television show, Reincarnated, with Norman Tsui Siu Keung who would return to star in Wong's first feature film, Return Of The Deadly Blade. Wong followed this with the Shaw Brothers hit Buddha's Palm and would go on to make the impressive Rich & Famous and Tragic Hero just a few years later – both with superstars Andy Lau and Chow Yun Fat (with the first film also featuring Alan Tam). Taylor would direct Lau few more times over the years in The Truth, Stars & Roses, and the fun Kung Fu Vs Acrobatic which was made the same year as this and also starred Nat Chan. The pair would work again in The Three Swordsmen in '94 which would be his last directed feature to date. Along with the first Casino Raiders film, this would be the only other credit to Jimmy Heung as a director, although the man had most definitely made a name for himself as one of the biggest producers in Hong Kong from the late 70s – most of which were Wong Jing scripted and/or directed features. The brilliant Paul Wong Kwan handles the films action scenes in No Risk, No Gain and provides a lot of fun moments from cool shoot-outs to fight scenes that blend humour and action flawlessly. Starting as a bit-player in Jimmy Heung's Goose Boxer in 1978, Paul went onto appear in films such as 36 Crazy Fists, Shaolin Rescuers, Monkey Kung Fu, The Daredevils, Magnificent Ruffians, and The Fighting Fool, before joining Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung in a host of their hit films. He would gain his first credit as a martial arts director on Project A and would go on to handle the action in many great titles including The Good, The Bad & The Beauty, The Big Heat, Fatal Termination, Blue Jean Monster, God Of Gamblers 1 & 2, In The Line Of Duty 6: Forbidden Arsenal, and many more. His career would seem to fade around the mid-90s with final appearances in films such as Way Of The Lady Boxers, Underground Judgement, and the very underrated Once Upon A Time In China 5. While No Risk, No Gain isn't the biggest action flick of the century, it certainly has enough going on in all departments to keep fans of Hong Kong cinema entertained. It's a definite must-see for anyone who fell in love with God Of Gamblers and proves to be a very well-made film overall.
Overall: Highly entertaining and genuinely funny, No Risk, No Gain is well worth watching for fans of Hong Kong action and Wong Jing comedies!