(South Korea 2002)
Original Title: Oasiseu
Directed by Lee Chang Dong Produced by Myun Kaynam
Starring: Sol Kyung Gu, Moon So Ri, Ahn Nae Sang, Ryoo Seung Wan, Choo Kwi Jung, Park Myung Shin
Reviewing: Third Window Films UK DVD Release
Genres: Drama / Romance
Rating - 5 / 5
DVD Synopsis: Combining fantasy with stark realism, Lee Chang-dong's (Peppermint Candy, Secret Sunshine) magnificent film is both beautiful and tragic as it explores the thorny issue of how people with disabilities are marginalised. Stars Sol Kyung-gu and Moon So-ri give their finest performances as the mentally ill ex-con Jong-do (Sol) who falls for a young woman suffering from cerebral palsy (Moon), would-be lovers who are sidelined by society.
Views: Acclaimed novelist turned-director, Lee Chang-Dong delivers a powerful tale of humanity and love, that often comes across in the most heartbreaking of ways but gives you everything a movie should. Sol Kyung-Gu plays Jong-Du, a troubled young man who has just been released from prison after spending a number of years locked up for manslaughter. As an adult with autism, Jong-Du is seen by many as a social misfit, always fidgeting and laughing inappropriately which makes those around him feel uneasy. Not long after he is released, Jong-Du finds his way back to his family who helps him get back on his feet and find him a job as a food delivery man. One day, he decides to pay a visit to the family of the victim, bringing them a fruit basket as a peace offering but as expected, they send him away – caught up in the midst of moving house. Upon entering their home, Jong-Du briefly meets Gong-Ju, the younger sister of the family who is severely disabled by cerebral palsy. To his surprise, Jong-Du finds that she is being left to fend for herself with her family moving out of town to get on with their own lives (cheating the system for better housing by pretending Gong-Ju is still living with them). Jong-Du soon takes a bit of a liking to Gong-Ju, believing they have a connection of sorts even in their short time meeting. He makes a point of going back to her (a number of times), eventually letting himself in where he attempts to rape the unsuspecting woman – causing her to blackout as she fends him off. Panicked and embarrassed, Jong-Du brings her round then runs off in anger!
As time passes, the ex-con soon gets a call from Gong-Ju who asks him to come over – to which he quickly obliges. From there, the pair form a special bond that sees them share a lot of time together discussing their favourite things as he washes her clothes and hair, late-night phone calls to help her sleep better, and secret trips out for lunches and car trips. Together, they go on a journey to defy the odds as they go up against bigotry – both from family members and strangers – ignorance towards their disabilities and their own challenges of living with them, as well as the struggle of others accepting their love. As things come to a climax, Jong-Du finds himself back in cuffs after Gong-Ju's family members catch them after sex. Although this was consented by her, the family members have him arrested for rape – resulting in a frustrating and difficult situation at the precinct that proves to be an incredibly hard watch. Knowing that his arrest is wrong, both parties make a point of letting everyone know with Gong-Ju throwing a fit and Jong-Du making a run for it. It all boils down to a mad declaration of love between two misunderstood and abused souls, that lets us see that no matter who we are or what people think we are, we all need someone in our heart...
To be perfectly honest, I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like Oasis. It sat in my collection for a few years before I even got round to watching it for this review, but I can only say I'm sorry I didn't watch it sooner. Director Lee Chang Dong creates a picture that is so realistic it pulls its audience in by the hair and refuses to let go. While there's a great supporting cast in the shape of Ahn Nae Sang, Park Myung Shin, Kim Jin Gu, and Ryoo Seung Wan – the award winning director of amazing titles such as Arahan, Crying Fist, City Of Violence, The Battleship Island, and more – the show really belongs to it's main stars Sol Kyung Gu and Moon So Ri, both of whom give such outstanding performances. And as I said to my husband at the time watching, I don't think I've ever seen or been so encapsulated in a performance quite like what Moon So Ri delivers in this movie! It really was something else, and hugely impressive for only her second ever role. Like many others, I was totally convinced that this was an actress with Cerebral Palsy – woke from this amazement when Gong-Ju stepped out off her disability and became free of her restrictions every time she dreamed of a moment of happiness or being with Jong-Du (which offered many emotional and beautiful moments). Her ability to contort every single muscle in her body and keep up those painful looking twists in her face, all while delivering an emotional and convincing performance, was nothing short of incredible and absolutely worthwhile of the many awards she received as Best Actress. In fact, both Sol Kyung Gu and Lee Chang Dong were winners of many awards themselves, picking up those for Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Film respectively.
Of course, both actors are no strangers to giving great performances with Sol Kyung Gu starring in the fantastic Public Enemy the very same year, as well as roles in its sequels Another Public Enemy, and Public Enemy 3, The Legend Of Gingko, Memoir Of A Murderer, and Lee Chang Dong's very own Peppermint Candy (before this) with co-star Moon So Ri, in her début role. With these two great films under her belt and a host of awards behind her, Moon has went on to be one of South Korea's most respected actresses starring in film and television shows such as The President's Barber, The Housemaid, Park Chan Wook's incredible film The Handmaiden, Legend Of The Blue Sea, and much more. And as for director Lee Chang Dong, well, he may stretch his time between projects but he makes damn sure that each one is well worth watching. Making his début with Green Fish, Lee has directed no less than 6 features over the past 20+ years with the incredible mystery thriller, Burning, being his latest. While a late bloomer to the world of film, there's no denying the man has certainly made his mark in what he has already offered. I didn't know what to expect from Oasis, and I don't think it's the kind of film I'd be watching too often – but what it offers is something special and highly memorable. It's a film that will forever stick in my mind as a beautiful and important piece on how society views its people that they deem helpless and how love is deserved of us all, no matter who we are!
Overall: An outstanding film with incredible performances, Oasis is one that most definitely should be seen and understood by many!
DVD Extras: The Making of Oasis, Trailers
(Hong Kong 1979)
Original Title: Bo Ming Chan Dao Duo Ming Qiang
(aka) Shaolin Sabre Vs Wu Tang Spear; Eternal Conflict
Directed by Lau Kar Wing, Sammo Hung Produced by Karl Maka Action by Sammo Hung, Lau Kar Wing, Yuen Biao
Starring: Sammo Hung, Lau Kar Wing, Leung Kar Yan, Chung Fat, Lam Ching Ying, Lee Hoi Sang, Karl Maka, Mars, Dean Shek, Ho Pak Kwong, Billy Chan
Reviewing: Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Release
Genres: Traditional Kung Fu / Comedy
Rating - 4.5 / 5
Eureka Video Blu-ray Synopsis: Widely considered the greatest classical weapons movie ever made, Odd Couple stars Sammo Hung, Lau Kar Wing (also directing) and Bryan 'Beardy' Leung Kar Yan (Dreadnaught, The Victim) in a classic tale of rivalry and vengeance. Two ageing masters of the spear and sword engage in an epic mountaintop battle every ten years, but the outcome invariably ends in a draw. Realising that neither one of them will ever outclass the other, they agree to take on a younger student and train them to champion their cause, thus putting an end to their longstanding rivalry. Showcasing some of the most intricate and explosive weapons choreography ever seen, this masterpiece remains a quintessential classic from the Golden Age of Hong Kong Cinema, and now makes its UK debut on Blu-ray. (96 Mins)
Hong Kong Legends UK DVD Synopsis: Two ageing masters of the spear and sword engage in an epic mountaintop battle every ten years, but the outcome invariably ends in a draw. Realizing that neither one of them will ever outclass the other, they agree to take on a younger student and train them to champion their cause, thus putting an end to their longstanding rivalry. Unexpectedly, fate drives them into open conflict with a powerful enemy, and both masters and their students are propelled into the fight of their lives! Showcasing some of the most intricate and explosive weapons choreography ever seen, this masterpiece stands head and shoulders above many of it's competitors, and remains one of the quintessential classics from the age of Hong Kong Cinema!! (92 Mins)
Eastern Heroes UK VHS Synopsis: An eternal conflict is the premise for this martial arts masterpiece. Sammo Hung (Martial Law, Eastern Condors) and Lau Kar Wing portray old rivals who meet every ten years to find out whose weaponry skills are better: the sword (Sammo) or the spear (Lau). As the contest always ends in a draw the two ageing warriors decide to take on pupils to continue the once a decade duel. In a novel twist Sammo plays Lau's younger student and vice versa, thus making way for untold comic possibilities. Skilful balletic duels between the sword and spear rival even the best work of Jackie Chan and Liu Chia Liang in their intricacy. (90 Mins)
Views: Sammo Hung and Lau Kar Wing play two old kung-fu masters that feel the need to duel once every ten years, even though they know that every fight results in a draw. In a bid to name someone the winner, the warriors agree to each find a student and teach them their finest styles so that they can battle it out and claim victory for their master. But along the way, the masters and their new students have a run-in with an old opponent who is on a trail of vengeance, which leads to a brutal showdown in the art of spear and sword with deadly consequences!
I just love Lau Kar Wing's Odd Couple! It opens with a typical Shaw Brothers-esque display of moves and weapons against a black background - winking at the viewers to note how it's mocking the very genre it slides into, before quickly becoming a wacky kung-fu comedy that features some of the greatest weapons work ever committed to film that still highly entertains even over 40 years later. The late 1970's were an incredible time for Hung as a director and star, from his directorial debut with Iron Fisted Monk in '77 through to Enter The Fat Dragon, Dirty Tiger Crazy Frog, Warriors Two, Incredible Kung Fu Master, Knockabout, and The Magnificent Butcher (from Yuen Woo Ping) – it seemed that there was no stopping this, already well-established, martial arts superstar. While the comedy is often hilarious and the fight scenes, such as the physicality of the moves and choreography, are undoubtedly outstanding, there still seems to be a little repetitiveness about the whole thing – something I guess that couldn't be avoided given the basic storyline of the film. One of those behind the script is none other than famed writer/actor/producer/director Raymond Wong Pak Ming – delivering what would only be his 4th title as a new writer, and one of the five penned by him that same year including the kung-fu comedies Crazy Partner and Crazy Couple – with Crazy Crooks following in 1980. The great Lau Kar Wing already had hundreds of titles under his belt by this stage of his career, both as an actor and a choreographer – including the previous years Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog which was also from the short-lived Gar Bo Films. As the director of Odd Couple though, as well as the co-star, Lau does a fantastic job in bringing a true classic to fans of Hong Kong cinema with what would only be his third film as a director following He Has Nothing But Kung Fu, and Dirty Kung Fu. Of course, Lau would work with Sammo over the decades on a number of amazing titles, but wouldn't direct him again until the awesome Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon in 1990 of which he also co-starred as the main villain - but I guess Odd Couple is the film that really gives us more bang for our buck as both stars play dual roles with old Sammo (the King of Sabres) taking a young Lau Kar Wing as his student, and old Wing (the King of Spears) taking on a young Sammo Hung. It's a hilarious pairing either way, with both actors flexing their comedic chops and each getting to show some incredible martial arts skills – both as student and teacher, which makes for a highly entertaining show. 1979 would also see the pair star alongside each other in the equally fantastic Knockabout with Yuen Biao – a Golden Harvest production that saw the majority of this cast stick around for more kung-fu fun – with Lau Kar Wing starring in a total of 7 films overall that year and the burly Sammo Hung in 4, including the fun Incredible Kung Fu Master and Yuen Woo Ping's Magnificent Butcher.
The amazing Leung Kar Yan stars as Scarface – impressing fans once again with some incredible moves and a highly memorable performance. I'm a huge fan of Leung's – a man who has starred in over 150 films and an actor that rarely disappoints. By the time Odd Couple had come about, Leung had been in the business a good 5 years already, winning fans over since his debut in the Shaw Brothers hit Shaolin Martial Arts and almost 30 other titles including Marco Polo, Five Kung Fu Daredevils, Eagles Claw, Enter The Fat Dragon, Warriors Two, and the aforementioned Knockabout – with the latter 3 really kicking-off his relationship with Sammo Hung. 1979 would see him star in 6 films altogether including the fun Sleeping Fist, Cantonen Iron Kung Fu, and the Karl Maka directed His Name Is Nobody alongside Lau Kar Wing once again. As well as being the producer of Odd Couple, the brilliant Karl Maka pops up in a hilarious role as a challenger to the King Of Sabres, reducing his time on screen and number of roles behind the camera in this follow-up Gar Bo project to Dirty Tiger, Crazy Frog. Along with his co-stars, Maka spent the most of the year sharing the screen with them all in some way or another, directing Iron Fists alongside His Name Is Nobody, as well as producing. And while the US educated, bald-headed superstar would work with Lau and Hung a number of times during this period it would be another number of years before they would all gather again for the fun Lucky Stars Go Places, then later again in Skinny Tiger & Fatty Dragon (also released on Blu-ray by Eureka Video). Popular stuntman and star of Jackie Chan's Dragon Lord and the brilliant Lackey & The Lady Tiger, Mars, stars alongside Billy Chan as the wacky assistants to each of the old masters and the late Dean Shek shows up in yet another crazy role complete with wacky costume and ticks. Fans can also keep an eye out for Peter Chan Lung, brother of co-star Billy Chan, who pretends to be the King Of Sabres that gets a fun fight against Karl Maka, as well as the wonderful Chung Fat, Lam Chin Ying, Yuen Miu, Lee Hoi Sang, Yeung Sai Gwan, Huang Ha, and many others who appear throughout - including Yuen Biao who doubles Lau Kar Wing and others for their more intricate moves.
The abundance of amazing fight-action is handled by it's main stars Sammo Hung and Lau Kar Wing, along with Yuen Biao and Lam Ching Ying – and no doubt a host of other names as Sammo began to pull together his infamous stunt team around this period. Of course, the main focus of the action sequences is the weapons work – something the team wholeheartedly achieve with some incredible moves that come across on a level that challenges Lau Kar Wing's very own brothers Shaw Brothers epic, Legendary Weapons Of China, although pre-dating that film by a few years. Saying that, I've always wondered did the sword and spear battle between the Lau brothers in Challenge Of The Masters a few years earlier, inspire Kar Wing to make this classic. Regardless, it's fair to say that the martial action on display here helps nestle Odd Couple as one of Hong Kong cinema's finest kung-fu classics that, although not perfect, stands strong today as a quality piece of entertainment. While all the fights (for the most part) are pretty damn amazing throughout, two of the highlight fights for me would have to be the attack on the old masters by Scarface with his men in the restaurant, and the awesome grand finale between the young students and the Leung once again – with that particular battle leading into an energetic and impressive showdown between young Lau and Hung themselves. These two fights offer some incredible moves and acrobatics, with Sammo Hung and Lau Kar Wing both making their weapons dance around them flawlessly as they go up Leung Kar Yan – with the latter bringing a fantastic screen presence as the deadly bad guy of the piece proving, once again, to be pretty incredible for a man who's never had any formal kung-fu training.
It's also worth noting that the late and talented Chu Yat Hung joins the team as the assistant director of the film. Starting in the industry as a script supervisor in the early 1950s, Chu made her first appearance as a bit-player in the 1955 film Backyard Adventures, before making her first move as an assistant director four years later and then her debut as a director in 1967 with You Are The One I Love. Chu followed this up with the first live-action film of Old Master Q in '75, then The Mad Mad Mad Sailors about 6 years later – long leaving her job as the script supervisor of 112 films behind her in the late 60s. But the majority of her career would see Chu continue to work as an assistant director, putting her talents to use on a huge number of classic titles such as The Man From Hong Kong, Game Of Death, Dirty Tiger Crazy Frog, Warriors Two, Knockabout, By Hook Or By Crook, Aces Go Places, Legend Of Wisely, the Happy Ghost Series, Gambling Ghost, and so much more including Ronny Yu's Bride With White Hair 1 & 2. Between them all, and crammed somewhere in-between their time with Shaw Brothers, Golden Harvest, and Cinema City, this talented team of stars and film-makers gave fans a genuinely fun and fantastic kung-fu comedy with Odd Couple, that has never looked better than this 2K restored Blu-ray release from Eureka Video – and a film that I'll be returning to again and again!
Overall: Awesome fight sequences and fun comedy, backed by a wonderful cast, Odd Couple is a highly entertaining piece of kung-fu cinema!
Eureka Video Blu-ray Extras: Audio Commentary with Mike Leeder & Arne Venema, Audio Commentary with Frank Djeng & Bobby Samuels, Interviews with Lau Kar Wing & Leung Kar Yan
Hong Kong Legends DVD Extras: Audio Commentary with Bey Logan, Interviews with Lau Kar Wing & Leung Kar Yan, Trailers
Watch my unboxing video for this Eureka Video release HERE
OF COOKS & KUNG FU
Original Title: Tao Tie Gong
(aka) Fists Of Vengeance; Duel Of The Dragon
Directed by Ting Chung Produced by Chen Yung Chun, Huang Yung Action by Jacky Chen Saho Lung
Starring: Jacky Chen Shao Lung, Wu Ma, Chang Shan, Chia Kai, Chang Chung Kuei, Chang Ping Yu, Yueh Sun, Lee Kwan
Reviewing: Hollywood East UK DVD release
Genres: Traditional Kung Fu / Comedy
Rating - 4 / 5
DVD Synopsis: Chia Kai portrays a master chef who once served up culinary delights to the Empress Daughter. This banquet was sabotaged & the master falsely accused of murder & treason. All his clan and family members are murdered by the mysterious Basket Hat assassin. Only the master and his grandson survive. The lad grows up under his grandfathers strict discipline and soon becomes a master in his art of kung fu. Now it is up to the youngster to avenge his family and take revenge on the Basket Hat assassin!!!
Views: Another £1 purchase, this quirky kung fu comedy is pretty much a rip-off (or homage) to Jackie Chan's classic Snake In The Eagles Shadow, Drunken Master, and Fearless Hyena. Jacky Chen Shao Lung plays Tan Tan, a lazy practicing cook who is also learning a rare style of kung-fu invented by his grandfather – a former cook to the Empress who has been hiding in isolation for many years. At the same time, a mysterious man in a straw hat is making his way across the land, killing off any cooks who have had a past in the palace. As the story progresses, the motives of the mysterious fighter soon become clear and soon, Tan Tan and his grandfather must stand up against him in a deadly battle of kung-fu!
Of Cooks And Kung Fu is an underrated gem of a film! Although we've seen it all before, such as the aforementioned Jackie Chan films and a hundred others from this period, this late '70s kung-fu comedy wins with some fantastic choreography and a great performance from its leading man – Chen Shao Lung (adopting the international name of Jacky Chen). Here, he tries his hardest to look and act like the King of Hong Kong cinema, pulling off some incredible kung-fu and acrobats while playing the clown, and he pretty much nails it - minus the same on-screen charisma we got from Chan the man in his breakthrough years. But that's certainly not enough to make this a bad film. Of Cooks And Kung Fu offers plenty of old-school comedy, along with a host of recognisable faces and plenty of fantastic Jackie Chan-esque kung-fu fighting with choreography from its leading man. The end battle alone, between Chen and the main villain, is just as impressive as Chan's own closing battles from this era splitting the last 20 minutes into 2 main battles, both of which are brilliantly executed. Jacky Chen began life in the film industry appearing as a monk alongside Roy Chiao in King Hu's, A Touch Of Zen. From there, he gradually became the leading man in a host of independent titles as well as taking up the role of choreographer in a number of films such as Wandering Dragon, The Jade Fox, Tai Chi Shadow Boxing, Two On The Road, and Dynamite Trio – as well as going on to be the action director of the wild Angel Terminators and China Dolls in 1992.
Chia Kai plays Chen's grandfather, Master Glutton (sometimes dubbed as his uncle in other prints). Chia had his first role in the mid 1970's when he starred in The Shaolin Kids, although had previously worked as a choreographer on Bloody Mask from 1969. And while he would only be in the business for a decade after that, Chai went on to star in films like The Blazing Temple, 10 Brothers Of Shaolin, Mar's Villa, Dance Of Death, The King Of Fists And Dollars, and Mantis Under Falcon Claws – some of which he also choreographed. The hilarious Lee Kwan, star of over 140 films such as Drunken Tai Chi, Fantasy Mission Force, and Fearless Hyena to name but a few, plays the same smart-ass character he always does – complete with comical dub. The great, late, Wu Ma also pops up in a small role for a couple of laughs, as does Angela Mao Ying's brother – Mao Ching Shun, who starred in films such as Shaolin Death Squads, 7 Grandmasters, To Kill With Intrigue, Phantom Kung Fu, A Massacre Survivor, Little Hero Of Shaolin Temple, and Lady Constables, alongside his sister and the wonderful Judy lee. And the brilliant Chang Shan, who starred alongside Alexander Lo Rei in many films such as Devil Killer, Shaolin Vs Lama, Ninja Hunter, and Ninja USA, stars here as the main villain of the piece in what was only the second role of his career. Born in South Korea, Chang has always impressed with his moves across a wide range of films including A Fistful Of Talons, 5 Fighters From Shaolin, Kung Fu Wonder Child, A Heroic Fight, Magic Of Spell, Wild Panther, and many more...
Director Ting Chung, who started life in the film industry as an actor in the mid 60's, delivers his swan song as a director with this little classic. Debuting in 1971 with The “B” “B” Baboon Belle, Ting directed 14 films over 8 years including Fairy Fox, The Golden Mask, 10 Brothers Of Shaolin, Mar's Villa, Kung Fu Of Seven Steps, and more. As with a number of those titles, Of Cooks And Kung Fu is definitely worth the watch in terms of entertainment value, and in showcasing some incredibly exciting fights and training sequences of it's time. It would be nice to see a widescreen HD version some day but I doubt that'll happen anytime soon!
Overall: Fast 'n furious kung-fu comedy that deserves to have a bigger audience, Of Cooks And Kung Fu is a lot of fun and very entertaining!
DVD Extras: None
OFFENSIVE SHAOLIN LONGFIST
(South Korea 1982)
Original Title: Murimsa Budaehaeng
(aka) Deadly Shaolin Longfist; Murim Beggar Master
Directed by Kim Jung Yong Produced by Tomas Tang Action by Mike Wong Lung
Starring: Elton Chong, Bruce Cheung Mong, Mike Wong Lung, Jin Nu Ri, Bi Un, Kim Ha Rim, Choe Myeong Hui, Kim Wuk
Reviewing: YouTube Release
Genres: Traditional Kung Fu / Drama / Comedy
Rating - 3.5 / 5
Synopsis: While on a journey with his master to deliver a secret letter to a neighbouring province's ruler, Wong is left for dead by an attacker. Rescued by an old beggar, Wong starts to learn kung fu through playing the Korean version of chess (janggi), while finding himself in some silly situations. Eventually, Wong finds allies in a man called Choi and the daughter of his murdered master, with the three of them setting out to take down the murderous thief and take back the letter!
Views: South Korean star Elton Chong (real name Jeong Jin Hwa) is a kung-fu actor that I can honestly say that, I wouldn't ever rush out to buy his movies. The majority of his roles as a leading man mean sitting through some painful (and annoying) comedy sequences, as seen in films like Fist Of The Golden Monkey, Magnificent Natural Fist, Shaolin Drunken Monkey, and this, but I have to admit that the man can bust a move when called for. Offensive Shaolin Longfist really doesn't offer anything that we haven't seen before, but it does contain some great fight scenes courtesy of co-star and choreographer Mike Wong Lung, star of films such as the aforementioned Elton Chong titles as well as Raiders Of Buddhist Kung Fu, and the classic Ninja Hunter (Wu Tang Vs Ninja) and Ninja Vs Shaolin Guards with the great Alexander Lo Rei. He looks great in Offensive Shaolin Longfist and provides some exciting action scenes, that utilise the fantastic kicking skills of its South Korean cast!
The film isn't terribly made, but coming from the Filmark International catalogue, Offensive Shaolin Longfist has obviously had some cuts under the eye of Godfrey Ho - here credited as Philip Chan. But it's really Korean director Kim Jung Yong who is the real name behind it all, a man who has worked with Chong on a number of titles as well as The Mighty Four, Warriors Of Kung Fu, and Rivals Of The Silver Fox with Casanova Wong. Interestingly enough, one of Kim's first jobs was as the assistant director to a young John Woo on the classic Hand Of Death, starring Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Tan Tao Liang – most of which was shot in South Korea. The film also stars Bruce Cheung Mong who plays the villain of the piece. Cheung starred in around 30 titles over the course of his 12 years in the business, including films such as The Mighty Four, Bruce And Shaolin Kung Fu, Dynamo, Hitman In The Hand Of Buddha, Duel Of The Tough, and Hard Bastard alongside the awesome Hwang Jang Lee, with John Woo's war flick Heroes Shed No Tears being his final film in 1986. Jin Nu Ri stars as the daughter of Chong's late master – going on to star alongside him in Invincible Obsessed Fighter, Magnificent Natural Fist, and with Mike Wong Lung in Ninja Vs Shaolin Guards. Jin definitely steals any scenes she's in, and delivers a host of fantastic moves that rival that of her co-stars.
Producer Tomas Tang delivers an entertaining enough piece in Offensive Shaolin Longfist, with the final 25 minutes making up for a slower first hour (albeit with a number of fun fight scenes) with some exciting choreography and lots of impressive moves in its lengthy closing battle. The only downside for me is knowing what kind of movies the likes of Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung were making the very same year back in Hong Kong (and had already made), which almost makes Offensive Shaolin Longfist seem outdated in it's year of production. But again, that's hardly an excuse to make me think it's a terrible movie...
Overall: While it's nothing spectacular, Offensive Shaolin Longfist has its moments and a great closing battle to keep any kung-fu film fan happy!
(Hong Kong 1991)
Original Title: Ma Lu Ying Xiong
Directed by Cha Chuen Yee Produced by Benny Chan, Willie Chan Action by Lee Kin Hing
Starring: Jacky Cheung, Max Mok, Loletta Lee, Ellen Chan, Wu Ma, Karel Wong, Jimmy Lee, Mai Kei, Billy Ching, James Ha
Reviewing: Winson Entertainment HK DVD Release
Genres: Triad / Drama / Action
Rating - 3.5 / 5
Synopsis: Street-racing triad Lui, finds his reputation at stake when new kid Joe shows up and challenges him to a race. At the same time, Lui's sister falls for the handsome stranger which only causes more friction between the drivers.
Views: Produced by the late Benny Chan and Jackie Chan's long-time manager, Willie Chan (no relation), Off Track tells the tale of small-time triad boss Jacky Cheung who is one of Hong Kong's best street racers. While he tries hard to keep his title, Cheung is also working on some serious issues he has with his father (Wu Ma), who also happens to be a cop. A handsome stranger soon arrives on the scene (Max Mok) and challenges Cheung to a race in a bid to gain some respect. Jacky accepts and almost loses to Mok – which is enough to damage his reputation and immediately start some friction between the pair. To make matters worse, Cheung's sister (played by Loletta Lee) starts to fall for Mok, much to the annoyance of her big brother. As his family problems close in on him and Mok's popularity grows, Cheung sets out on a vengeful mission to save his name, hurting those around him in the process and losing those he loves!
Playing out like A Moment Of Romance meets The Fast & The Furious, this 1991 flick is hardly talked about among fans of Hong Kong cinema – most likely lost among many similarly themed movies released around the same time. But the simple truth of it is, Off Track is a pretty decent film boasting a great cast, some nice car chases (albeit with some under-cranking), and some painful looking stunt-work and fights. Helmed by Cha Chuen Yee, a director-turned-actor who appeared in titles such as Tiger Cage 2, Queens High, Super Lady Cop, Inspector Wears Skirts 4 (clearly had a thing for Cynthia Khan), and more, Cha made his directorial debut in 1979 with television show, Reincarnated, alongside a host of other great names. After some more TV work, his first feature film soon followed in 1985 with Journey Of The Doomed starring Stephen Tung Wai and Kara Hui. To date he has directed over 20 titles including, In The Line Of Duty 5: Middle Man, Awakening, Once Upon A Time In Triad Society 1 & 2, Theft Under The Sun, and more. With Off Track, Cha manages to keep things interesting enough, backed by a great cast and a decent script by Rico Chung (who continued to write the most of Cha's directed pieces).
Jacky Cheung – who I adore – does a great job as the edgy street-racer and angry son, Lui. It's a role that, much like Andy Lau, Cheung could play with his eyes closed with many films around this period showing him in a similar role. It's always great to see the gorgeous Max Mok in any film, and Off Track is no exception. He does great going head-to-head with Jacky Cheung and brings a little suave romance to it all, as he tries to win the heart of Loletta Lee. The gorgeous Ellen Chan, from The Inspector Wears Skirts, Tiger On The Beat 2, and Naked Soldier with Sammo Hung, plays Cheung's girlfriend, Katy. And while she doesn't really have much to do except look great and solve problems, it's just always nice to see her pop up in titles I didn't know she was in. The great Wu Ma plays Cheung and Loletta Lee's unfortunate father who hasn't had it easy since the death of his wife, and popular bad guy Jimmy Lee stars (once again) as the big boss who is pulling on Jacky's strings. A host of other popular faces fill out the cast including Karel Wong from Angel Terminators 2, Fight Back To School, Young & Dangerous 5, and Gambling Baron with Max Mok – popular character actor, Mai Kei, who appeared in a host of Jackie Chan classics along with Billy Ching who stars as another triad, and Ng Kwok Kin who has appeared as a policeman in over 140 films throughout his career.
The action, which is a mainly gang fights and some one on one fighting, is handled by Lee Kin Hung – an actor and action director who has worked on titles such as Shaolin Vs Manchu, Queens High, Dances With The Snakes, Transmigration Romance and more – with Blacky Ko Shou Liang looking after the vehicle action. Although it never gets wild or comes across as spectacular, it's still enough to keep viewers hooked and offers enough enjoyment when it comes about. While not amazing, Off Track is still an enjoyable watch and has plenty of the late 80s/early 90s Hong Kong film quality about it to keep older fans of the jaded screen happy!
Overall: Gritty and dramatic, Off Track is backed by a great cast and proves to be an entertaining piece worth a watch!
DVD Extras: Trailers
THE OLD MASTER
(Hong Kong 1979)
Original Title: Shi Fu Chu Ma
(aka) Master Of Kung Fu; The Intrigue
Directed by Joseph Kuo Produced by Joseph Kuo Action by Chan Siu Pang
Starring: Yu Jim Yuen, Bill Louie, Wang Yung Sheng, David Pedernera, Ng Siu Nam, Pau Ga Chung, Yuen Hung, Chui Chung Hok, Chi Fu Chiang, Wang Yung Sheng
Reviewing: Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Release
Genres: Martial Arts / Comedy Rating - 2.5 / 5
Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Synopsis: In The Old Master, Master Yu Jim Yuen (the real life teacher of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao) comes to the United States where he takes on an L.A. Street gang!
MIA UK DVD Synopsis: Jackie Chan's real life Kung Fu Master, Yu Jim Yuen, makes his big screen debut in this genre classic from Joseph Kuo. Master Yu is invited to Los Angeles to take on numerous fighters in a kung fu contest. He beats all comers and this angers a local Mob boss who lost a great deal of money on illegal betting. Now Master Yu must rely on his kung fu skills to beat the L.A. Street gang's top fighters. Helping him in his deadly task is World Karate Champion Bill Louie (Fist Of Fear, Touch Of Death).
Views: When I first got The Old Master on DVD many moons ago, I kind of enjoyed what I was watching. At the same time,I was a little confused as to what was going on and as to why the hell this film even got made. Yu Jim Yuen – master to Hong Kong legends like Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah,Corey Yuen Kwai, Yuen Tak, and many others – plays Master Wan, an ageing kung-fu master who is coerced to LA by an old student who needs help with some debts. But while master Wong is sent out and about to kick-ass and settle some scores, his old student starts his plan of making money by putting bets-on that he will win his fights. But it doesn't take too long for master Wan to find out what's happening, and he soon shacks-up with kung-fu student (and disco dancer) Bill who trades his kindness for more kung-fu lessons. But when a local mob boss gets angry about how much money he is losing on the fights, he sends out his best men to take down the master and student in a fight to the death!
It's safe to say that this is one strange little movie. I have to admit that, with my initial DVD purchase, I was pretty excited to see a film starring Yu Jim Yuen – considering that many of his infamous students are my all-time heroes – and I'm sure that was the intention of Joseph Kuo (or others) when they put this movie into production. While many think that this is the only film master Yuen has starred in, he had actually appeared in 6 or 7 films from the early 50s through to the late 60s. Interestingly enough, this would be the period that Yu Jim Yuen would have been teaching Chan, Hung, and Biao etc who (if we are to go with what we saw in Painted Faces) were discouraged from getting into the film industry by their master, convinced that Peking Opera would always be the main source of entertainment in Hong Kong. Regardless, The Old Master is the only film starring Yu Jim Yuen that I have seen, but I guess it was a film that maybe came a little too late in making him a martial arts superstar at 75. Artfully doubled (for a good 90% of his fight scenes in reality), Yu gets to throw a few slight moves here-and-there but never really delivers anything that wows the viewer – or highlights the fact that this is the master of so many successful stars. At the same time though, this decision helps create a few more laughs along the way (albeit very unintentional for the most part) and isn't too dissimilar to that of the great Simon Yuen as Beggar Su/Sam the Seed in films like Snake In The Eagles Shadow, Drunken Master, and others...
Thankfully, we still get entertained with some exciting fight action which is mainly delivered by Chinese-American martial artist, Bill Louie (aka Lui Siu Foo). Starting his martial arts training from the age of 9, Bill went on to learn many styles over the years and eventually founded his own martial arts system known as Chinese-American Goju Ryu Karatein 1982. Although it's possible he may have had an early appearance in the 1970 Hong Kong flick, The Inn Of Mercy, Bill started his acting career by default in 1976 with an appearance in Sonny Chiba's The Bodyguard where he can be seen with martial artist Aaron Banks in the opening sequence - a scene that was only put in for its western release. His first real role came in the 1977 martial arts thriller Death Promise, directed by Robert Warmflash, before starring here in The Old Master. The rather questionable Bruce Lee documentary Fist Of Fear, Touch Of Death would be his next project with Louie serving as the action-choreographer before going-on to star alongside Bruce Le in the aptly named Bruce Vs Bill – a decent kung-fu flick directed by Lam Kwok Cheung who also directed films such as Ironside 426, Enter The Game Of Death, and The Hellfire Angel. There wasn't too many other recognisable faces kicking about, except for the likes of popular character actor Wang Yung Sheng getting a quick fight and then leaving. Wang starred in around 80 films over the course of his career from One-Armed Boxer to its crazy sequel where he played the Indian fighter, along with many other Wang Yu titles such as Beach Of The War Gods, Seaman No.7, Infernal Street, and many more including Jackie Chan's New Fist Of Fury, and Joseph Kuo's own Mystery Of Chess Boxing, 36 Deadly Styles, and World Of Drunken Master. Wang would also serve as the assistant action-choreographer on The Old Master, as well as over 20 other titles into the early 1980s. Hui Man Yui would probably come in next, starring in almost 50 films into the late 90s including The Idiot Swordsman, Phantom Kung Fu,18 Fatal Strikes, Big Boss Of Shanghai, 3 Famous Constables, Drunken Tai Chi, and more. The third notable actor I caught was Chi Fu Chiang, an actor who started in the early 70s in titles such as The Begging Swordsman, Invincible Eight, and Furious Slaughter, going on to appear in films like Crazy Nuts Of Kung Fu, One-Armed Boxer Vs The Flying Guillotine, Return Of The Chinese Boxer, 18 Jade Arhats, Shaolin Iron Claws, Incredible Kung Fu Mission, and Matching Escort which would be his final film. And the last would be Chui Chung Hok, a popular actor from the mid-50s who starred in over 140 films over 40 years. Chui joined the prolific Shaw Brothers studios in the early 1960s going on to star alongside Jimmy Wang Yu (as the most of them have) in his earlier titles such as Temple Of The Red Lotus, The Twin Swords, Trail Of The Broken Blade, Magnificent Trio and more. As the 80s crept in, Chui would end his time with Shaw's after appearing in the awesome Return To The 36th Chamber, and moved into modern hits such as Aces Go Places 2, Millionaires Express, Rosa, Pedicab Driver, and She Shoots Straight – as well as being an assistant director on The Old Master. Just to note – there are 7 people credited under the name of Yuan/Yuen, with this film being the only credit to their names. Perhaps I'm wrong, but it's possible that these guys may have been the last students of master Yu Jim Yuen, trading their real names for his much like Jackie and Sammo did in their younger years with Yuen Kwai, Yuen Tak, Yuen Wah, Yuen Biao and others adopting theirs from there on in.
Chan Siu Pang, actor of over 100 titles, choreographer of 60, and director of titles such as Shaolin Death Squads, The Magnificent, Choi Lee Fat Kung Fu, and Rivals Of The Silver Fox, choreographs the action in The Old Master – returning to work with Kuo after handling things in films such as The Shaolin Kids, The Blazing Temple, 18 Bronzemen, and Return Of The 18 Bronzemen. As mentioned, he is assisted by Wang Yung Sheng with both action-directors providing enough fun fights to enjoy with Bill Louie playing a likeable Jackie Chan-esque character, and impressing with some pretty sweet moves - obviously saving the best of what he has for the final 25 minutes – but I've a funny feeling that Chan Siu Pang only stepped in for the grand finale (which is definitely the best part of the film). Although it has a bit of a slow start, things pick up after the first 30 minutes but viewers shouldn't be expecting anything like 18 Bronzemen, 7 Grandmasters, or World Of Drunken Master. And while the film most definitely has its flaws, The Old Master plays like a guilty pleasure of sorts and makes for a fun watch. Sure it doesn't fit in to the rest of Joseph Kuo's filmography and isn't quite as glorious looking as most of his finest works (with the obvious lack of Kuo DOP regular Chujiro Shintaro who was replaced by 3 lesser experienced cinematographers), but it's an experience!
Overall: A little bonkers and not the greatest movie ever made, but The Old Master makes for a fun watch!
Eureka Video Blu-ray Extras: Audio Commentary by Mike Leeder & Arne Venema
DVD Extras: Trailers
Watch my unboxing video of this Eureka Video release HERE