(aka) Speed Rage
Directed by Joseph Merhi Produced by Joseph Merhi, Richard Pepin Action by Red Horton, Denney Pierce, Spiro Razatos
Starring: Gary Daniels, Kenneth Tigar, Fiona Hutchinson, Jillian McWhirter, Peter Jason, Mark Metcalf, Ramon Sison
Reviewing: ILC Prime UK DVD Release
Genres: Action / Martial Arts / Thriller
Rating - 3.3 / 5
DVD Synopsis: Alex Granier falls victim to the underground operations of a black laboratory, where he, as one of their 'lab rats', is injected with lethal chemicals known to induce murderous fits of rage that cause people to kill without conscience. When Alex escapes from the lab, he is chased by a score of police officers who believe he is a dangerous madman. Only television reporter Harry Johansen, Alex's single ally, can help prove his innocence as he races against time in search of the antidote that will save his life.
Views: The handsome Gary Daniels stars as an easy-going and funny primary school teacher, who seems to be living a good life complete with a loving wife, a doting daughter, and a big house. After dropping his daughter off for a sleepover, Gary takes a break from whistling a happy tune as he stops at the crossroads to let some police cars pass him. But before he can drive off, a gun-toting Mexican jumps in his vehicle and holds it to his head. As the pair of them speed away, the police soon catch up (bizarrely) and soon corner Gary's car. Forcing both of them out at gunpoint, the (dirty) cops attack the Mexican and Daniels – knocking them unconscious. Confused and sore, the teacher soon wakens in an unknown lab, poked and probed by a bunch of (dirty) scientists who are testing a new 'rage' serum out on humans. Seeing how wonderfully athletic and fit Daniels is, they begin their trials on him but it doesn't take long for the Brit-kicker to break free and start beating the hell out of everyone around him. It's an action scene only 12 minutes in that would appear in most other US action movies final moments, packed with great kicks and explosions that soon lead to a manic car chase on the freeway with Daniels smashing his truck through anything that gets in his way!
Welcome to Rage, a 1995 straight-to-video action flick that's opening 30 minutes alone shames the majority of Hollywood action films released today. Directed by Joseph Merhi, one half of P.M. Entertainment and the man behind many low-budget flicks like L.A. Crackdown 1 & 2, Final Impact, Maximum Force, Last Man Standing, and Riot – which also stars Gary Daniels. As a producer, he was behind so much more and many of which were enjoyable, guilty pleasures of my teenage years. I have to admit though, this was such an odd project for Gary Daniels to star in because apart from the martial arts skills he just happened to have, anyone could have played the role really. Although things were starting to look up for him in the early 90s, with roles in Final Impact, Deadly Bet, Mission Of Justice, Albert Pyun's Knights and Heatseeker, as well as facing off against Jackie Chan in the fun City Hunter and gaining the lead role in the awesome live adaptation of, Fist Of The North Star – the mid-90s would see a shake-up of projects that landed the rest of the films from his career in the bargain bin. Of course, there were some exceptions such as Bloodmoon and Cold Harvest. Fans were happy to see him pop up in The Expendables of course, hoping that it would indeed reignite some love for this forgotten martial arts star, but to be honest, there hasn't been too much more since then that has proved memorable in any way. I like Gary Daniels – a lot. He's got the looks and the moves, but is perhaps just too soft spoken for most of the tough guy roles he portrays. And while he isn't the strongest of actors, the kick-boxing champion has definitely gotten better over the years. Perhaps it's all down to bad management, but films like Rage became the staple diet of Gary's career. I know everyone's gotta work, but it's just a shame that nothing better ever came along for him. Saying that, stuffed in between the terrible 90s fashion, the bad writing, shoddy camerawork, and dodgy actors, is an exciting and fun 90 minutes of entertainment, packed with some impressive action and some great stunt work. It's sold as a story of a man injected with rage, but it very quickly turns into a movie about a man on the run who hardly ever shows any. A similar storyline was put to much better effect of course, in Danny Boyle's epic 28 Days Later in 2002, but took that whole idea to another level. Veteran actor, Kenneth Tigar, plays Harry – a news reporter determined to prove Daniels is innocent. Starting in the industry in 1970, this character actor has shown up in over 170 productions such as Kojak, Wonder Woman, Dallas, Growing Pains, Lethal Weapon 3, Avengers Assemble, and so much more. Although its hardly a spectacular role, Tigar is a genuine actor and makes it work for him. Bit-player and extra, Tim Colceri, plays Detective Parish – one of the big 'baddies' who is out to take Daniels down. Having appeared in films such as Full Metal Jacket, Eraser, and Leprechaun 4: In Space, Colceri milks his role for everything he can, excited (I'm sure) to be in a more demanding role. Both actors stuck around with the team to join Daniels in Riot which was made the same year, with Sugar Ray Leonard joining in the fun. Interestingly enough, Tigar would once again star as Harry Johansen...
Fight choreographer and director Art Camacho handles the action in Rage, delivering enough exciting moments to keep even the most hardened-action-fan pleased. The first 30 minutes is definitely the best of the bunch, with plenty of smaller fights in between and a great helicopter (and high-rise) stunt following that. The oddest moment of the action has to be when Gary fights a BDSM couple in their home. Dressed in leather and chains, the pair attack him with frying pans and fists without any question as to who he is (or if he even wanted to join in). The end fight takes place in a mall, where Daniels is surrounded by crooked cops and special agents. As much as he gets to punch and kick with style, the blue-eyed hero ultimately succumbs to a typical American style action scene that relies on lots of window smashing, fall stunts, and gun-play. That said, part of the scuffle moves into a video store (via the window) with Gary fighting off the enemy in front of many posters of P.M. Entertainment movies. Even though Hong Kong filmmakers were delivering this kind of thing many years before (and much better I might add), I was still kept engrossed and excited with what was on offer. Apart from directing many DTV titles, Art was behind the action on a host of P.M. Movies as well as films such as The Base with Mark Dacascos, Half Past Dead 1 & 2, Sci-Fighters, and the Banshee television series, as well as much more. He does a great job with Rage – clearly inspired with what he has seen coming from the East – and is the main reason behind what makes this basic 90s action flick entertaining!
Overall: Typically 90s and often cringe-worthy, Rage wins with some great action sequences and at least one scene with Daniels topless!
DVD Extras: Trailer
(USA/West India 1993)
Directed by Anthony Maharaj Produced by Anthony Maharaj, Michael Sellers Action by Richard Norton, Chuck Jeffreys
Starring: Richard Norton, Chuck Jeffreys, Karen Moncrieff, Ron Vreeken, Tetchie Agbayani
Reviewing: YouTube Release
Genres: Action / Thriller
Rating - 2.5 / 5
Synopsis: Jack Dameron, the adopted son of a great Asian trading family, lives the perfect life and hi sstar is quickly rising in the family business until he's framed for his wife's murder. He must find the real killer before the cops get him.
Views: The wonderful Richard Norton stars as the adopted son of a crime family, taken in by Papa Fung after his parents were gunned down and killed in Bangkok. It's a position that has since made him a very successful businessman and student of the martial arts. While he is favoured by his adoptive father, he is equally hated by his stepbrother Chang, who spends all his energy in bringing Norton down no matter what. Although married to a successful lawyer, Norton starts to see his life crumble around him after he is falsely accused of murdering his mistress. Soon released on bail, Norton sets out to find the true murderer which leads him to a deadly showdown against his jealous brother!
More popularly known as Deathfight, Anthony Maharaj's Rage screams 90s B-movie on many levels but actually isn't a terrible watch. I have to admit, I'm not a fan of American martial arts flicks from this era as most of them focused on these deathmatches or underground tournaments – and usually with ridiculously dressed fighters who are surrounded by overly dressed snobs, most of which have no interest in what they are watching. I know a small number of affluent people and not one of them have been to an underground death match to my knowledge. Must have been an American thing and thankfully it doesn't last too long here! The production values of Rage are as expected, similar to that of a Cannon action film with some questionable moments of cinematography and drops in sound. Having run my own film festival for over a decade now, I've seen many independent movies over the years (a lot of which are better than this), and while watching Rage caught certain scenes that reminded me of many first-time directors' debuts – with stilted dramatic moments and overacting. Of course, a lot of this is down to Tom Huckabee's script – his first real action-drama screenplay - and Anthony Maharaj as the director, of what would be his fourth film at the helm. While he definitely has an interesting history, Maharaj never really became the kind of director cinephiles would be talking about. His first credit came in about in 1970 as the assistant director of The Caribbean Fox – the first film to be produced by a West Indian production company – although his parents had been pioneers in the Indian film industry for many years before. Soon after, Anthony established his own film distribution company and began to distribute films by Golden Harvest, Shaw Brothers, Samuel Goldwyn, and Orion Pictures, with the former two probably kicking off his interest in martial arts films later in his career. After producing and working as assisting director on films like Final Mission and Naked Vengeance, Maharaj made his directorial debut with the Vietnam action flick, Return Of The Kickfighter – released in the UK as Mission Terminate. This would be his first time working with Norton and while it's not an amazing film, I still enjoyed watching it (on VHS) and was surprised to see Hong Kong legend Dick Wei co-star as well as Bruce Le. The pair would continue to work together in Not Another Mistake, another Vietnam-based action story, the fun Future Hunters which would see Norton star alongside Robert Patrick from Terminator 2, the great Hwang Jang Lee, and Bruce Le once again. And then there was The Fighter which was also made in Bangkok. This film would see Richard go up against his former co-star from Force Five, Benny Urquidez, and wasn't bad from what I can remember.
I'm a huge fan of Richard Norton and most likely first saw him in the awesome Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, then China O'Brien soon after. I wasn't even a teenager at that stage, but remember keeping an eye out for his name as I grew my video collection of Hong Kong and martial arts movies (which now sits at 4000+). While he already had an amazing career as a bodyguard to the stars throughout the 1970s, Norton's first real film role came about in 1980 when he worked on the stunts for the Chuck Norris flick, The Octagon from Cannon Films. From there, the martial artist-turned-actor would go on to work on films like An Eye For An Eye, Force: Five, Gymkata, Forced Vengeance, and American Ninja, before the great Sammo Hung brought him to the east for a career-changing role in the aforementioned Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars and fantastic, Millionaires Express – his first film with the wonderful Cynthia Rothrock. That same year, Norton would star in the super fun Magic Crystal from Wong Jing, before heading back west for a few years where he would work on many of Anthony Maharaj's projects as well as star alongside Rothrock in a number of great titles. From there, Richard Norton has become a staple name in action cinema, going up against some of Hong Kong action cinema's greatest names, as well as working behind the scenes on stunts for many Hollywood blockbusters such as The Green Hornet, Mad Max: Fury Road, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, The Suicide Squad, and many more. In Rage, Richard Norton's fighting skills are only matched by fan-favorite and Eddie Murphy lookalike, Chuck Jeffreys – with both of them handling the films fight choreography. And while they really aren't anything too exciting, the fights in Rage still entertain and are definitely typical of this period with the battle between Norton and Jeffreys being the best one, of course. The pair met about 5 years prior in the Norton and Rothrock flick Fight To Win, which makes for an entertaining watch, with Chuck joining Cyndy once again in Honor & Glory before re-teaming with Norton the following year on this. His career has continued since with impressive performances in films like Superfights and Bloodmoon but has seen him slip behind the scenes for stuntwork on many great titles like Twelve Monkeys, Blade, Gladiator, Spiderman, The Equalizer, and much more. Their co-stars in Rage don't do too bad with Karen Moncrieff, who plays Norton's wife, probably doing the better job. Discount Mathias Hues lookalike, Ron Vreeken, plays another typical bad guy who gets to rumble with Richard. It was definitely a thing for these muscled fighters to have long hair in this era, something Ron was recognisable for from American Samurai with David Bradley and Mark Dacascos, as well as his role in Rage And Honor 2: Hostile Takeover, where he would go up against Norton and Rothrock. Ron would star alongside Norton soon after in the action-thriller Under The Gun, before going on to do stuntwork on films like Mission Impossible 2, Ghost Ship, and Pirates Of The Caribbean. Popular Filipino actor Franco Guerrero stars as Chang, the evil stepbrother of Norton's. Franco kicked off his career as an actor in 1970 with Edgar Loves Vilma and has since gone on to star in a host of kung-fu action movies including 7 Crazy Dragons, Cleopatra Wong, Return Of The Bionic Boy, and first starred alongside Norton in Maharaj's Return Of The Kickfighter, Not Another Mistake, and The Fighter before this. And finally, the beautiful Tetchie Agbayani plays a small role as Richard's bit-on-the-side, before getting murdered – the first time they would have shared the screen since the corny, but very fun, Gymkata back in 1985...
Rage will hardly go down as one of the greatest action movies ever, but it isn't all bad and quite watchable. There's no denying Richard Norton's wonderful screen presence and it's always exciting to see him in action. I doubt I'll ever watch it again, but I certainly didn't feel like I wasted my time with Rage!
Overall: Typical of it's time, Rage tries to be a little more mature and has its moments but may only find love from true fans of Richard Norton!
RAGE AND HONOUR
Directed by Terence H. Winkless Produced by Donald Paul Pemrick Action by Bernie Pock
Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Terri Treas, Brian Thompson, Catherine Bach, Stephen Davies, Alex Datcher, Peter Cunnigham, Roger Yuan, Kathy Long
Reviewing: Medusa Pictures UK VHS Release
Genres: Action / Crime / Drama
Rating - 4 / 5
VHS Synopsis: RAGE AND HONOUR is the ultimate action adventure film, featuring two of the screen's hottest martial arts performers in CYNTHIA ROTHROCK and RICHARD NORTON. Rothrock, star of numerous hit movies, including 'China O'Brien' and 'No Retreat No Surrender 2', is a five-time undefeated World Karate Champion and a member of the Kung Fu Hall of Fame. Norton is an equally renowned martial arts expert, whose ferocious talents have graced such films as 'Salute Of The Jugger' and 'Fight To Win'. Together, they form an awesome partnership, demonstrating a blinding array of fighting skills in this action-packed monster of a movie. Rothrock plays a tough inner-city teacher determined to protect her students from the lure of the street gangs and their seductive plague of drugs. Norton is an undercover cop who joins forces with her in an explosive battle to chop the city's most vicious drugs baron down to size. RAGE AND HONOUR... death or glory!
Views: Not to be confused with the 1987 Sho Kosugi vehicle Rage Of Honour, this action thriller sees Australian cop Preston Michaels (Richard Norton) team up with high school teacher Kris Fairchild (Cynthia Rothrock) after witnessing a murder involving some corrupt cops from his precinct, and the city's biggest drug dealers. At the same time, one of Fairchild's students captures the murder on video and soon finds himself chased and hunted down by the cops. Now, framed for the murder, Michaels must go on the run while trying to clear his name with the help of his new friend as they survive fight after fight, and deal with a host of unlikeable characters who are intent on making things even more difficult for them!
Had this been made in Hong Kong and directed by the likes of Ringo Lam or Corey Yuen Kwai (for example), I reckon Rage And Honour would have been something very special and perhaps a little more highly regarding among martial arts film fans. But alas, it wasn't and was left in the hands of writer and director Terence H. Winkless – which I found to be an interesting choice. While he had made a small number of movies before this, such as cockroach horror The Nest and little-known comedy Corporate Affairs, his first foray into the world of martial arts action came with Don Wilson's original Bloodfist in 1989. It's clear he had a love for action as the mid-90s saw him become a popular director for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television show, as well as Beetleborgs and Masked Rider, which secured his place as a television director for many years after. Personally, I wouldn't say he's the most exciting director on the block and very much a by-the-book kind of guy, so I wasn't shocked to see that he didn't return for the sequel – replaced by stuntman Guy Norris in his directorial debut. That said, his work on Rage And Honour provides a pretty tidy production for the most part – albeit for a few silly technical issues such as sightings of boom-mics and crew reflections...
As well as leading the way, Rothrock and Norton also serve as associate producers. Of course, the pair had been working together for a number of years already after meeting on the set of Sammo Hung's classic Millionaires Express in 1986. The awesome Magic Crystal soon followed, as did Fight To Win, China O'Brien 1 & 2, and Lady Dragon before this project came about. Personally, I don't think they ever did enough together (on-screen), especially during their time in the Hong Kong film industry – although both of them took part in enough kick-ass movies separately to keep us happy. I really enjoyed their pairing in Rage And Honour, with both coming across decent in the acting department and keeping things exciting with the action. Since leaving Hong Kong behind her just a couple of years before with the China O'Brien movies and Prince Of The Sun being her last, Cynthia kicked off her US career with a host of decent titles such as Tiger Claws, Fast Getaway, Martial Law, Karate Cop (Martial Law 2), and Honour & Glory for Godfrey Ho (as well as the low budget but fun Triple Cross and Lady Dragon). Rage And Honour continued that trend along with its sequel, and it's such a shame we didn't get to see a third chapter. Norton, on the other hand, had been flitting back and forth between east and west for some time fitting in the likes of Sword Of The Bushido, Ironheart, and Jackie Chan's City Hunter between the Rage And Honour films. I love seeing both of these guys together on screen and in kicking-ass, and this is probably one of their more mature and better-made western offerings for sure.
Interestingly enough, the rest of the cast weren't as dreadful as I remembered. Yes, there are the typical early 90s bad guys – over-actors in terrible outfits throwing out the odd cheesy line – but it's certainly not enough to distract from how good the film actually is. While the big baddie, Conrad Drago, is played by Brian Thompson – he doesn't actually get to do too much until the end. Muscles and mullets were clearly the main ingredient for any main villain of late 80s/early 90s martial arts B-movies, something of which Thompson carries well along with the huge square jaw and some decent moves. To be honest, he's actually quite a decent actor (here) and makes the character of Drago interesting enough that made me want to know more about him. Starring in over 100 films and still going, Brian Thompson's first acting role in the film world came about in 1984 when he portrayed a punk in the classic Terminator movie. From there, he popped up in television shows such as Street Hawk and Knight Rider before appearing in Stallone's Cobra, Alien Nation, A.W.O.L. and many more. His right-hand woman and bit-on-the-side is Rita, the wicked woman in red played by Terri Treas, a television actress who would have starred alongside Thompson in Alien Nation. Perhaps the most annoying character is that of Hannah The Hun – a scene-chewing bad-ass who looks like a reject from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and keeps referring to herself as a third person. She is played by Alex Datcher who had only been on the scene for a year, with roles in the Beauty And The Beast television series, and Passenger 57 with Wesley Snipes. From Rage And Honour, Alex went on to star in a host more shows and appeared in films like The Expert with Jeff Speakman. It was also nice to see a few noticeable faces from the martial arts world show up also, such as Toshishiro Obata – Norton's co-star from Sword Of The Bushido and both China O'Brien movies, Kathy Long in her first role before starring with him a few years later in Under The Gun, and small roles from fan favourites Roger Yuan and Peter Cunnigham..
It's been quite a few years since I last watched Rage And Honour and to be honest, it actually holds up quite well. I would even go as far to say I'd really love someone like 88 Films or 101 Films to do both these films some justice and release them on Blu-ray in full HD and in glorious widescreen. I've often said how much I hate early 90s American B-movies, especially in this genre, but Rage And Honour is perhaps one of the better ones out there. The on-screen pairing of Richard Norton and Cynthia Rothrock came and went far too quickly in my opinion and it's such a shame we didn't get to see more sequels to this series before it ended!
Overall: One of the best films starring Rothrock and Norton, Rage And Honour is a well-made action thriller well worth a watch!
RAGE AND HONOUR 2
(aka) Rage And Honour 2: Hostile Takeover
Directed by Guy Norris Produced by Donald Pemrick, Kevin Reidy Action by Glen Ruehland
Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Patrick Muldoon, Ron Vreeken, Tanaka, Frans Tumbuan, Alex Tumundo, Glen Ruehland
Reviewing: Amazon Prime UK Release
Genres: Action / Crime / Drama
Rating - 4 / 5
Synopsis: Kris and Preston team up once again to take on powerful gangsters Buntao. But. Buntao has problems of his own, dealing with Dazo, another gangster who is on a steady rise to power.
Views: Having gone on-the-road after being framed for murder in the previous chapter, Australian ex-cop Preston Michaels (Norton) has left his old life behind and headed east to Indonesia where he now runs a kick-boxing gym and bar. Back in the States, teacher Kris Fairchild (Rothrock) has also had something of a career change and now works as an undercover agent for the U.S. Government. Her first case has her investigating a money-laundering operation that soon takes her to Indonesia where she soon bumps into her old friend Preston. Of course, it doesn't take long for them to come face-to-face with the leader of a local crime syndicate, where they must fight the hardest they ever have to defeat the bad guys and stay alive!
The multi-talented Guy Norris takes over the reins for this action-packed sequel. Having started work as a stuntman in the early 80s, Norris went on to work as an assistant director soon after on Salute Of The Jugger with Richard Norton, and Irresistible Force with Cynthia Rothrock, making Rage And Honour 2 his own directorial debut. While he wouldn't really helm anything as exciting thereafter, Norris would continue his work as an assistant director (or second unit) and in the stunt department on many great titles such as Richard Norton's Sword Of The Bushido, Lord Of The Rings, Bulletproof Monk, Mad Max: Fury Road, Ghost In The Shell, Suicide Squad and it's much better re-boot – both of which would see him work once again with Norton behind the scenes. At the start of his career, Guy would also star as random characters in many of the above as well as Mad Max 2, Nightmaster, and BMX Bandits – both of which starred a young Nicole Kidman, with the latter being a childhood favourite of mine. With Rage And Honour 2, you can definitely see the start of his talents, and while it may still have some flaws throughout (although mostly because of the script), Norris does a damn good job in bringing yet another brilliant Norton/Rothrock film to the fans and brings a bit more of a cleaner product than Winkless did beforehand – even though it only came a year later – giving viewers a much more exciting piece visually with its move to Jakarta, and making the action a little tighter and more focused also.
Both Norton and Rothrock's change of circumstances gets a brief explanation, with the latter letting us know that she has trained for the last 2 years to become a special agent, thus leading to her first assignment in the east. As a gym instructor, it was nice to see Norton in his comfort zone – teaching the ways of the martial arts with confidence and seemingly enjoying himself while doing so. It does take a good 40 minutes before the two cross paths for the first time, but it is a genuine surprise to them both when they do. While Cyndy and Richard continue to do as good a job as they were doing from the first film, the rest of the cast aren't too bad either with a mix of lesser known names and television actors, as well as a number of Indonesian talent. Norris swaps the muscles and mullet of Brian Thompson for Ron Vreeken – a very similar looking actor who starred in the fun American Samurai with David Bradley, and went on to star alongside Norton the same year in Rage (Deathfight) and then Under The Gun. Ron plays Thor, although not the God of Thunder. This Thor is the right-hand-man and heavy to an Indonesian crime lord, who likes to hassle local business owners for protection money and point at people. Television actor Patrick Muldoon makes his feature film debut as Tommy, a student of Preston Michaels and co-worker of Fairchild's alias. He also happens to be the son of a man involved in the counterfeiting operation, headed by Indonesian crime lord Buntao. Muldoon does a decent job as the cute wanna-be fighter and acts his way well through the film without adding any extra cheese, like many co-stars did in the previous chapter. He would soon go on to star in the series Melrose Place as well as sci-fi hit Starship Troopers, Stigmata, and Chain Of Command with Michael Biehn...
Stunt co-ordinator Glenn Ruehland handles the action in Rage And Honour 2, as well as popping up as a bit player throughout. Having worked with Guy Norris for a number of years on many projects, Ruehland provides some nice fight action that proves to be a bit more exciting than before and I'd imagine that he had a hand from his directing partner as well as Norton and Rothrock themselves – who also return as associate producers. I really enjoy the Rage And Honour movies and, as I have mentioned before, would love to have seen more adventures with these particular characters. They still stand as two of my favourite films from the Cyndy and Richard pairings, with both offering plenty of exciting fight action, decent storylines, and surprise twists without getting as ridiculous or cheesy as most of the early 90s American martial arts films that came before or after them. So here's hoping that someday, and hopefully soon, we get to enjoy both of these films restored on Blu-ray and getting the attention they deserve!
Overall: Lots of fun, fight filled, and well made, Rage And Honour 2 is a great vehicle for Rothrock and Norton both in terms of acting and action!
RAGE OF HONOUR
(aka) Way Of The Ninja; Top Fighter
Directed by Gordon Hessler Produced by Don Van Atta Action by Alan Amiel
Starring: Sho Kosugi, Lewis Van Bergen, Robin Evans, Gerry Gibson, Charles Lucia, Alan Amiel
Reviewing: 101 Films UK Blu-ray Release
Genres: Action / Drama / Ninja
Rating - 4 / 5
Blu-ray Synopsis: Hot off of PRAY FOR DEATH (1985), Sho Kosugi, the Japanese John Wayne of ninja cinema, is back in action! When his partner is murdered by sadistic drug dealers, narcotics cop Shiro Tanaka (Kosugi) vows revenge. Disobeying orders, he tracks the killers from Singapore to Buenos Aires. But in a cruel twist, the killers kidnap Tanaka's girlfriend and take her deep into the jungles of South America. Now, armed with an arsenal of weapons, Tanaka must use all his powers to destroy a battalion of highly trained terrorists and get her back.
Trans World Entertainment/VPD UK VHS Synopsis: Shiro and Ray are the best undercover cops in Phoenix. They do things their own way, even if it means taking high risks. But the one risk they didn't count on was betrayal – by someone on the force. Ray calls Shiro for help, but Shiro is too late, he finds Ray brutally murdered. Shiro's wife begs him not to pursue the killers without help, but Shiro tells her that he alone must bring the killers to justice – it's a question of honor. It's about to become much more than a question...
Views: When his partner and close friend is brutally murdered by some twisted drug dealers, Phoenix cop Shiro quits the force and disobeys his chief's orders when he tries to gain permission for revenge. Making his way to Buenos Aires with his girlfriend, Shiro meets another police friend who offers his help in finding the killers but it doesn't take long for the tables to turn, and soon the killers are hunting them. With the help of a crooked cop, the villains eventually kidnap his girlfriend and fellow cop and take them to the wild jungles of South America. Now, Shiro must put his ninja skills to use and begin his rescue mission while tackling local tribesmen, ninjas, mother nature, and the killers themselves!
German-born director Gordon Hessler was in his early 60s when he helmed Rage Of Honour, and with plenty of experience behind him, certainly knew how to deliver a decent show. From episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Kung Fu, Wonder Woman, CHiPs, and Hawaii Five-O behind him, Hessler clearly had a love for action and adventure and started a working relationship with Sho Kosugi on the fun television series, The Master. From there, he would direct Sho in the awesome Pray For Death – one of my favourite Kosugi movies – and again in Shogun Warrior, which would also be his final project at the helm. While most of Rage Of Honour was shot in Argentina, the film definitely has more of a globe-trotting feel to it and played like a good old James Bond movie for the most part. There is, of course, the sequence where our hero finds himself surrounded by some jungle natives and takes each of them out with a range of ninja weapons. It seems slightly out of place with what went on in the first half of the movie, but I wouldn't say it's too distracting with the second half of the movie continuing to stay there...
At this stage of the game, Sho had already secured his position as a big action star and was the go-to ninja of the 1980s. His big debut came with the fun action thriller Enter The Ninja for Cannon Films, quickly followed by Revenge Of The Ninja, The Master television show, Ninja 3: The Domination, and the abysmal 9 Deaths Of The Ninja, before he got onto Hessler's projects. I must admit though, I've never been the biggest fan of the Nipponese star and was often confused as to how he became such a hit with the American audience in the 1980s and Jackie Chan didn't. Saying that I did quite enjoy him here in this role, and have done in many others of course. It's a role that very much reminded me of Jackie in The Protector (strangely enough with both films carrying similar artwork on the video covers), with his tough-guy cop approach and particular style of fight choreography – albeit with a few more trampoline jumps here than Chan would have done. The rest of the cast involved are actually quite palatable and not as cheesy as most would be around this time, with Lewis Van Bergen playing the role of Havlock, in particular, standing out as the villain of the piece. Having been in the industry for a good decade before Rage Of Honour, Van Bergen appeared in many popular television shows such as ChiPs, The Dukes Of Hazzard, The Fall Guy, Cagney & Lacey, and many more.
While the action director has been listed as Alan Amiel, I would say that Sho himself had more to do with his own fight scenes than not. And there are certainly plenty to enjoy! From the opening boat chase to the ninja attack in the jungle, and the one-on-one river fight to the explosive warehouse shoot-out, Rage Of Honour gives action fans plenty to love and keeps a strong pace throughout its running time. The only problem I have is down to 101 Films and the fact that their Blu-ray release wasn't in full widescreen. Although uncut compared to my 88 minute VHS version, the picture format is still 4:3 which is just a shame. Regardless, I still really enjoyed the film and it was nice to see it in full HD for once as opposed to my regular VHS viewing!
Overall: Another of my favourite Sho Kosugi movies, Rage Of Honour is a well made action-thriller that has held up pretty good!
Blu-ray Extras: Trailer
RETURN OF THE 18 BRONZEMEN
Original Title: Yong Zheng Da Po Shi Ba Tong Ren
(aka) The 18 Bronzemen Part 2
Directed by Joseph Kuo Produced by Joseph Kuo Action by Cliff Lok, Chan Siu Pang
Starring: Carter Wong, Polly Shang Kwan, Roc Tien, Ko Yu Min, Mark Long, Yuan Shen, Shao Lo Hui, Huang Fei Long, Yueh Feng
Reviewing: Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Release
Genres: Traditional Kung-fu / Drama Rating - 4 / 5
Eureka Video Blu-ray Synopsis: Before students can leave the Shaolin temple, they must face a series of challenges and defeat the Shaolin Bronzemen, deadly fighters – some weilding weapons, others heavily armoured – who destroy anyone who crosses their path. Carter Wong (Big Trouble In Little China) will challenge them in both 18 Bronzemen and Return Of The 18th Bronzemen.
MIA UK DVD Synopsis: The original cast from the '18 Bronzemen' return for this spectacular sequel. Carter Wong stars as the ruthless young prince who uses fear and intimidation to rule his kingdom and gain power. But when he is forced to learn the ancient art of Shaolin Kung Fu in a bid to protect his kingdom from the threat of rebellion, he faces the biggest challenge of his life. Before he can reclaim his throne, tradition demands that he challenge and defeat the invincible 18 Bronzemen. Can his training and dedication be enough to save his kingdom and restore his power?
Views: The great Joseph Kuo follows-up his smash hit film with a sequel that really doesn't continue the story of the original 18 Bronzemen, but instead offers a brand new take on things with a lot of the same cast members and even more kung-fu. This time around, Carter Wong plays the 14th Prince of the Ching Emperor who has his dying fathers last will and testament forged to help make him the next Emperor, instead of his favoured brother – the 4th Prince. As the will is being read, an assassin enters the palace and kills the royal announcer – although not before the 14th Prince is named as the successor, with Wong having instructed the assassin to blame his brother if caught. But even as the most important man in the country, Wong still has fears that the resistance fighters will try to kill him aided by the disciples of Shaolin Temple!
Return Of The 18 Bronzemen is definitely a different kettle of fish to its predecessor. While the challenge of the titular characters themselves may seem like Kuo is just re-treading old ground, he still manages to make the whole feel of the film very different to before – from character development to the tone of the film and even the design of the golden fighters themselves, with a lot more of them dressed in armour than just slapped with paint. Even the fights seem better (and lengthier) thanks to choreographers Cliff Lok and Chan Siu Pang who were just hot off the set from the first film. Of course, both had worked with Kuo before on films such as The Shaolin Kids and Blazing Temple, as well as Shaolin Death Squads which was also made the same year. Chan would return to work with Joseph soon after on The Old Master – a modern day kung-fu comedy starring Master Yu Jim Yuen, the real teacher of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and many other Hong Kong superstars. 1976 would see Joseph Kuo deliver all 3 movies of his Bronzemen Trilogy, which included the brilliant 8 Masters as well as the aforementioned Blazing Temple, which actually had some of its footage reused in 18 Bronzemen for Japanese audiences while other scenes were removed (from the original Hong Kong version). In fact, both versions have been restored in full HD as part of Eureka Video's release of Joseph Kuo movies in the Cinematic Vengeance box set, alongside this sequel which are all worth the watch. As legend would have it, there has been talk that this sequel (of sorts) was released in Hong Kong cinemas a full two weeks before the original 18 Bronzemen, although I couldn't say if the same thing happened for its Taiwanese release...
With all that said, Return Of The 18 Bronzemen does result in an anti-climatic closure unfortunately which may leave viewers annoyed to some degree. After Wong's 14th Prince has been expelled from Shaolin Temple – angry that he was never able to complete his training and achievement of beating the Bronzemen – he returns to the palace only to be attacked by a female assassin dressed as a man. They have a fast and fun fight, with the assassin making a run for it and escaping. But before things can move forward, the film just comes to an abrupt end with Wong demanding that his men make an order of a newly designed weapon known as the flying guillotine! Although I was kind of caught-of-guard when the end credits came up, I did think it was an odd coincidence considering that Carter Wong went onto star in The Fatal Flying Guillotines the very following year – a film that would have nothing to do with Joseph Kuo, but saw Chan Siu Pang handle the action once again. I thought it was strange that an accomplished film-maker such as Joseph Kuo would close one of his movies in such a way, and especially one that was a sequel to one of his biggest hits. Did I miss something? Was there a deleted scene? Looking back at Return Of The 18 Bronzemen I do think that the majority of the story was told in flashback. Wong (as the new Emperor) receives intelligence that the Shaolin monks are planning a revolt and although advised by his council to send in the troops, states that he will wait until the next day before he makes any final decisions. This is where the flashback begins – acknowledged by a screen-wipe that reveals a younger Wong and his entourage walking through the village. Here, Wong finds a monk selling small bronze statues of Shaolin disciples in fighting poses, and takes a particular interest in the markings on each of the figures. After learning that all students who graduate from Shaolin gain one of these tattoo's, Wong decides that he's going to go and train at the temple (although undercover as a commoner). Before then though, Carter and his team stop at a teahouse for refreshments where they encounter a boisterous young man (Polly Shang Kwan in disguise) who is kicking the ass of a few small-time thugs. As Wong steps in to have a go at him, the monk from before quickly breaks it up and the young man leaves without showing any fear towards his challenger. Soon after, Wong helps a lady out who finds herself in a spot of trouble – while quickly falling for her in the process. Determined to share his feelings with her, Wong sets out to find the young woman but soon comes up against her beloved (Roc Tien) and cheekily challenges him to a fight. During their battle, Wong realises that Tien has some great moves and notices that the tattoo's on his arms are that of a Shaolin student. This reveal only strengthens Wong's drive to get into the temple, which would be Wong's next stop. The flashback would only come to a close when Wong is expelled from Shaolin and makes his way down the steps of the temple. This not only explains the 14th Prince's hatred towards Shaolin Temple, but makes sense as to why he is so angry at everything else in life.
Although it doesn't help the blunt ending of the film, I think taking the majority of the story as a flashback helps in making Return Of The 18 Bronzemen a better film. For the most part, it's definitely very well made – even if it was a rushed cash-in on the success of the original. While Roc Tien and Polly Shang Kwan are really only appearing in extended cameos, with Miss Kwan getting two fights such as the teahouse battle and final assassination attempt on Wong, it was still nice to have them appear. But it does mean that this is the Carter Wong show, and he most certainly gets the chance to shine as the anti-hero on a dark path who can bust some pretty serious moves. There's a little comedy throughout which is palatable, and the film is gorgeously filmed by regular Joseph Kuo cinematographer, Chujio Shintaro – with it looking the best it ever has on this Blu-ray release from Eureka Video. As a traditional kung-fu flick, Return Of The 18 Bronzemen gets a thumbs-up from me, and delivers plenty of exciting martial arts and training scenes that should keep old-school fans very happy!
Overall: A great Carter Wong showcase, Return Of The 18 Bronzemen is a great old-school flick with plenty to love!
Eureka Video Blu-ray Extras: Audio Commentary by Frank Djeng and John Charles
DVD Extras: Trailer
Watch my unboxing video of this Eureka Video release HERE
(Hong Kong 1991)
Original Title: Nu Ji Xie Ren
Directed by Jamie Luk Kim Ming Produced by Chua Lam Action by Yuen Tak
Starring: Amy Yip, David Wu, Billy Chow, Aoyama Chikako, Hui Hiu Daan, Kwai Chung, Wu Fung, Lam Chung, Vincent Lyn, Ken Goodman, Mark King
Reviewing: 88 Films UK Blu-ray Release
Genres: Action / Comedy / Adult
Rating - 3.7 / 5
Blu-ray Synopsis: From the heady days of early 90s Hong Kong exploitation cinema comes Robotrix, a hi-octane, fast and furious science fiction romp, packed with glorious action sequences and bonkers plotlines. When evil inventor Ryuichi Samamoto (Chung Lin) transfers his mind into that of a powerful cyborg (Billy Chow), he becomes a murderer and rapist. But when one of his victims, Police officer Salina Lam (Chikako Aoyama) becomes super robot Eve-27, she teams up with android sidekick Ann (Amy Yip) and together they seek to bring the criminally insane scientist to justice. Like a crazy mix of The Terminator (1984), The Power Rangers and of course, Robocop (1987), Robotrix combines the mad doctor movie with extreme martial arts to deliver a sexy, seductive, bionic tale of lust and violence given a uniquely Asian futuristic spin.
Medium Rare UK DVD Synopsis: Robotrix is the infamous Hong Kong exploitation category III film that set the standard, starring the undisputed queen of the genre, Amy Yip. A scientist discovers a way to transfer a dying person's consciousness into a new cyborg body. This technique is used to save Selina (Amy Yip), a policewoman gunned down in the line of duty. She becomes the sexy super heroine Robotrix and the fight against crime will never be the same again!
Hong Kong Classics UK VHS Synopsis: The sexy action flick set the standard for category III movies, packed with beautiful robot babes battling an evil killer, pausing only to experience human sex! When cute cop Selina is shot during a kidnapping, computer expert Dr. Sara puts her memory into the body of a futuristic robot. Together with gorgeous robot Ann (Amy Yip) they must stop an evil scientist who has put his own mind into another robot in order to conquer the world. Ann, who possesses more than her fair share of lethal weapons, insists on going undercover as a prostitute so she can find out what sex is like, much to the delight of her prospective clients! The action is non-stop and every outfit is skimpier than the last, as Amy Yip demonstrates just why she is the Queen of category III movies...
Views: After a female cop is shot dead while trying to protect the playboy son of a wealthy Sheik during a kidnapping, she is given a second chance at life when a scientist transports her consciousness into an identical robot. Once used to her new body, Detective Lam sets out to find the kidnapper with the help of the police, Doctor Sara, and her well-endowed android assistant Anna – all while trying to keep her policeman boyfriend happy in the bedroom and stop her secret getting out. They soon come face-to-face with the killer kidnapper – a deadly robot that is driven by the consciousness of a mad scientist – and must fight to the death in a bid to stop him!
From the silly story and wacky characters, to the wild sex and crazy action pieces, Robotrix could easily have been a soft-porn masterpiece. Littered with lots of naked breasts and plenty of genitals, the film often tries to take itself seriously – such as the scene where a female cop can't accept that her mind and consciousness has been transferred into a robot that looks exactly like her – but the film is so camp in many ways, it fails to deliver any straight drama. Of course, a lot of that is down to director Jamie Luk who also penned the script along with first-time-writer So Man Sing who went on to write Girls Without Tomorrow, The Blade, Once Upon A Time In China & America, and Bio Zombie. Jamie Luk Kim Ming probably has one of the most recognisable faces in Hong Kong cinema and started as a bit-player in many Shaw Brothers films from The Savage 5 to Rendezvous With Death. He went on to star in over 160 films including roles in Sammo Hung's Carry On Pickpocket, Shaolin Drunkard, Lee Rock, Bogus Cops, The Great Magician, and Jackie Chan films such as Twin Dragons, Rumble In The Bronx, and Shinjuku Incident. Luk started writing in the early 80s, providing the script for kung fu comedy The Legend Of The Owl and it didn't take long for him to get his first credit as director with Love With The Perfect Stranger. From there, Luk went onto direct many more including Reincarnation, King Of Stanley Market, Doctor Vampire, Bomb Disposal Officer Baby Bomb, The Case Of The Cold Fish, Troublesome Night 15, and One Nite In Mongkok – most of which he also wrote and appeared in. While I wouldn't say that Robotrix is the pinnacle of his career, it's definitely one of his most popular (if not 'the' most popular) film he's ever made. Taking some inspiration from The Terminator, Robocop, and a host of bad 80s killer-robot-movies, Luk throws everything but the kitchen sink at Robotrix from violent sex to explosive gun-fights, and wild martial arts action to gore filled deaths – to be honest, I was actually surprised that Golden Harvest was behind it.
The film was produced by Chua Lam (Tsui Lam) who had acquired the services of Jamie Luk when only the idea and casting for Robotrix was in place. It was up to Luk to create the script and get things rolling, although he was encouraged to be quick about it. Over the years, Chau had produced some great titles including Yuen Biao's Peacock King and its sequel, The Seventh Curse, Vampire Vs Vampire, City Hunter, Crime Story, Thunderbolt, Mr. Nice Guy, and most of Luk's own titles. He had been a part of the industry for many years working on roles as a planner and production manager from the Shaw Brothers classic, Legend Of The Seven Golden Vampires to Jackie Chan's Armour Of God, and penned the cult classic Oily Maniac starring Danny Lee. On top of Luk's rushed script, I think it's safe to say that the cast weren't exactly putting on the greatest performances of their careers. The biggest culprit of this would be the handsome David Wu Dai Wai – a Taiwanese actor who has appeared in films such as Return Engagement, In The Line Of Duty 5: Middle Man, Tiger Cage 2, Young Wisely 1 & 2, Full Throttle, Farewell My Concubine, Hu-Du-Men, and was the narrator for the Western release of Jackie Chan: My Story which actually annoyed the fuck out of me. While I've never thought of him as a great actor, I do enjoy seeing Wu on-screen, with the awesome Tiger Cage 2 being the first film I'd have seen him in. The wonderful Amy Yip Ji Mei, no doubt hired for her big bust and looks, returns to the Cat. 3 scene but gets to play a bit more of a respectable heroine throughout this time. By the time Robotrix came about, Yip had already made an impression in films such as The Inspector Wears Skirts 2 & 3, Ghost Fever, Jail House Eros, My Neighbours Are Phantoms, Erotic Ghost Story, Mortuary Blues, and To Be Number One – along with appearances in Miracles, She Shoots Straight, and more. 1991 would prove to be a busy year for the lady with no less than 10 roles in films like Legend Of The Dragon, Blue Jean Monster, Magnificent Scoundrels, Queen Of The Underworld, Sex & Zen, Robotrix, and a cameo in Erotic Ghost Story 2. I actually really enjoyed her here and thought she did a great job in the action department, as well as handle the comedy and acting quite well as the kick-ass, android assistant to Hui Hui Daan's Doctor Sara. Due to some Japanese investment, one of the main roles was dedicated to Nipponese actress Aoyama Chikako – an equally busty actress who made her Hong Kong film debut with a cameo in the Chau Lam produced Au Revoir, Mon Amour alongside Anita Mui and Tony Leung Kar Fai. Robotrix would be her first major role her in the industry and no doubt had her question her line of work, considering the amount of crazy action and nudity she had to endure – although she did get to have a sex scene with the handsome David Wu, so I'm sure it wasn't all bad. And then there was the wonderful Billy Chow Bei Lei...
As the only actor selected by Jamie Luk, Billy stars in one of his most memorable and exciting roles as a robotic sex-fiend with no concern for human life. I'm a big fan of Chow's having watched him kick-ass for many years in classics like Dragons Forever, Eastern Condors, Paper Marriage, Pedicab Driver, The Blonde Fury, Magic Cop, Escape From The Brothel, Kickboxers Tears, Fist Of Legend, and many more. Along with Dick Wei, he has long been one of my favourite Hong Kong villains and rarely fails to entertain with his moves – or even his performance. While he starred in almost 80 films, Billy's career started to dwindle just after the turn-of-the-century with films like Unbeatables, Dragon The Master, Hero Youngster, and Roaring Dragon, Bluffing Tiger failing to provide any real positive feedback from fans. So it was a nice surprise to see him come back out of retirement over a decade later to appear in Chin Kar Lok's fun Golden Job – although slightly disappointing at the same time because we didn't really get to see him fight, except for a bit of gun-play. In Robotrix, Billy goes full Terminator and then some as he creates chaos across Hong Kong – delivering brutality and violence akin to that seen in the classic Story Of Ricky that sees him run over cops in his car, force a drill through Chikako's chest, decapitate someone with a briefcase, punch through peoples stomachs, and rape any woman he can. In one pretty visual sex scene, Billy actually fucks a woman to death before throwing her through a window, where she comes crashing down on a car below. It's an insanely brutal moment and was one of the many cuts that suffered at the hands of the BBFC, when Robotrix got its initial release back in the 90s. The rest of the cast is filled out with plenty of recognisable faces such as Kwai Chung, Wu Fung, Lam Chung, and Stuart Ong, with many western actors such as Vincent Lyn, Ken Goodman, Roger Thomas, and Mark King getting in on the fun!
When it comes to the action, Jamie Luk worked alongside an action team led by the wonderful Yuen Tak – one of the infamous 7 Little Fortunes and kung-fu brother to Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Corey Yuen Kwai, and Yuen Wah. Much like his brothers, Tak's career took a similar path starting work as a stuntman before appearing in Shaw Brothers movies, then moving on to work as a martial arts director and action choreographer for many great hits such as The Dragon From Russia, New Legend Of Shaolin, 2000 AD, The Iceman Cometh, Saviour Of The Soul, Operation Scorpio, High Risk, and so much more. In Robotrix, Yuen Tak provides many fun action scenes, directing the main cast involved with more robotic martial moves that works for the girls in the sense that they aren't trained martial artists. Of course, Billy Chow shines as expected but his final showdown with the heroines isn't exactly like that of his fights in Dragons Forever or Pedicab Driver – but they're still a lot of fun and suit the style of the film perfectly. While Robotrix may my have its flaws it has still entertained me for years now, and this gorgeous Blu-ray release from 88 Films has just taken that to a whole new level. I doubt I'm going to get bored of it anytime soon...
Overall: Campy fun, brutal, and totally bonkers, Robotrix is one of the best Cat. 3 exploitation flicks of early 90s Hong Kong cinema and never fails to entertain me!
Blu-ray Extras: Introduction with Director Jamie Luk, Audio Commentary by Mike Leeder & Arne Venema, Scenes from Alternate Version, Trailers, English Language Titles
Watch my unboxing video of this 88 Films release HERE