(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 his star 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 first starred together 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, and 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
RESTART THE EARTH
Original Title: Chong Qi Di Qiu 重启地球 (aka) Reboot Earth; Reset The Earth
Directed by Lin Zhen Zhao Starring: Mickey He, Michelle Ye, Zhang Mingcan, Mi Lou, Li Ning, Xin Tang, Naomen Eerdeni, Li Ruo Xi, Huang Kai Lun, Ye Xin Yu, Yu Rong Guang Reviewing: Dazzler Media Private Screening Genres: Action / Adventure / Sci-fi
Rating - 3.5 / 5
Synopsis: Get ready for thrilling sci-fi action in Restart the Earth! It’s The Last of Us meets Starship Troopers! When a drug to replicate plant cells creates a sentient form of flower, the planet is over taken by plant life and humankind is depleted. A Chinese task force, a widowed father and his young daughter fight to survive in a mission to inject an antidote to the core of the plants to reverse their growth. (89 Mins)
Views: Released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Media in the UK and Ireland by Dazzler Media, this Chinese sci-fi adventure offers a stark warning on the affects of global warming and proved to be quite an entertaining piece! In a bid to save mankind and planet earth from dying, a global team of scientists work together to produce a special chemical that can enhance and produce the reproduction of plant cells. But at the same time, the chemical awakens something else in the fauna, creating a worldwide spread of monster plants that have a mind of their own. As things get out of control; with people being attacked and killed, cities are engulfed in foliage, and the world is choked by giant vines, a global joint-action team pulls together to try and put a stop to their new threat and finally suppress the killer plants. During their mission, the Chinese team cross paths with a survivor and his daughter who may just be their only hope in saving the world so, together, they set off through the city ruins to complete their task before the feared global green tide strikes!
I quite enjoyed Restart The Earth. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it still had enough going on to hold my attention and proved to be a decent watch overall. While I'm sure the success of The Wandering Earth somewhat inspired the creative team involved to get to work in thinking that they possibly had another CGI packed epic on their hands, I have to admit that I was as amazed as much as I was disappointed with the effects work involved as it jumped from being visually impressive to looking slightly dated at times. That said, I know Restart The Earth didn't come close to sharing the same kind of budget as The Wandering Earth, and still feel it did a fine job in delivering the visuals needed to tell its story. While many have described it as a blend of Starship Troopers and The Last Of Us, I also felt it reminded me – at times – of Alan Yuen's fun 2019 flick, The Rookies, starring Milla Jovovich and the handsome Talu Wang. Although the majority of the film sees the team fighting their way through deadly giant vines, there's also the added enjoyment of snake-like branches and roots that grab for their victims. Some of these in particular come across like Chinese dragons, which is quite effective and brought back memories of the alien machines in Steven Speilberg's reimagining of War Of The Worlds.
But this is no shock given the past films that director Lin Zhen Zhao has delivered over the years, such as the fun Snake Trilogy and other web-movies including The Monkey King 2: The Volcano, The Enchanting Phantom, and Rat Disaster, as well as penning a few scripts for new Detective Dee television movies. In fact, aside from his directorial debut in 2018 that saw Vincent Zhao return to the role of Wong Fei Hung in the fun Unity Of Heroes, Lin has since put a lot of focus on CGI in his films and I'd be interested to see what he could do with a bigger budget and better production team behind him. Lin puts the watchable Mickey He as his main lead, Hao Yang, the doting scientist father who delivers some emotional moments next to his daughter played by Zhang Ming Can. To be honest, I haven't seen He in many productions – namely his brief role in Tsui Hark's Detective Dee: The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame – but he did a pretty good job here and gives a good performance. Mongolian born actor Naomen Eerdeni plays the kick-ass member of the team known as Old Ghost, with the wonderful Yu Rong Guang making a cameo as the commanding officer of the Chinese action team. Unfortunately though, and as with his role in Jackie Chan's Ride On, the legendary Hong Kong action-star once again fails to bust a move. The lovely Michelle Ye also helps beef things up as another member of the team, and looks fantastic while doing so. Initially starting life in the industry as a television actress in shows like Street Fighters, Treasure Raiders, Triumph In The Skies, and Eastern Battlefield, she's also proven herself in many Hong Kong movies such as Undercover Hidden Dragon, Simply Actors, Accident, Overheard 2 & 3, and more including Johnnie To's Drug War.
Initially released in China in 2021, Restart The Earth has taken its time in getting to the West, but I'm glad it did. The film may be just another eco-disaster flick to many, but it still offers a tale of humanity with a message to the world, and enough edge of the seat moments which should keep most people entertained. While its definitely a B-movie at heart, its still the kind of movie that gets away with having a wild plot, plenty of melodramatic moments, and scenes of action and horror that look like they were lifted right of a video-game. While I mentioned how some of the CGI was a let-down in places, I was still pretty impressed with the set-pieces, art direction, and plant design for the most part. And although it may only run for just under 90 minutes – which is relatively short these days for the kind of movie it is – there's still a decent pace under Lin's direction and you end up feeling that you've watched something a bit longer, with a pretty wild finale that ties it all up. Restart The Earth may be a case of having seen it all before or not be highly memorable to most, but it does try to do something a little different and is worth checking out!
Overall: Exciting, inventive, and watchable, Restart The Earth goes above and beyond its budgetary constraints to try and deliver something a little different!
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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
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Original Title: Adauchi 仇討 (aka) Vendetta; Vengeance
Directed by Tadashi Imai Produced by Hiroshi Ohkawa Action by Reijiro Adachi Starring: Kinnosuke Nakamura, Tetsuro Tanba, Yoshiko Mita, Takahiro Tamura, Ai Sasaki, Eitaro Shindo, Ken Mitsuda, Kinzo Shin, Haruo Tanaka, Yoshi Kato, Fujio Tokita Reviewing: Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Release Genres: Chanbara / Drama / Action
Rating - 4 / 5
Eureka Video Blu-ray Synopsis: A cruel jidaigeki masterwork from director Tadashi Imai (Cruel Tale of Bushido) and screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto, the writer of Masaki Kobayashi’s great masterpiece Harakiri, Revenge is a lacerating attack on the absurdity and hypocrisy of feudal Japan
An innocuous comment during a weapon inspection wounds the pride of low-ranking samurai Shinpachi (Kinnosuke Nakamura), leading to an argument with his superior. The situation snowballs out of control, leading to a deadly duel and political fallout which threatens the entire clan. Available for the first time in the UK, the Masters of Cinema series is proud to present Tadashi Imai’s Revenge in its worldwide debut on Blu-ray from a new 2K restoration. (103 Mins)
Views: Making its worldwide Blu-ray debut in a glorious 2K restoration (on June 19th) from Eureka Video as number 278 in it's Masters Of Cinema collection, comes this Toei produced classic from director Tadashi Imai. In a nutshell, Revenge is a simple tale of pride, political fallout, honour, and breaking the code of the bushido. During a weapons inspection, a comment is made about a dirty weapon that hurts the pride of low-ranking samurai Shinpachi which quickly leads to a heated argument with his superior. When a fight breaks out and the officer is killed, Shinpachi is declared insane and forced out with a challenge to a duel by the clan his opponent once belonged to. As things snowball out of control and Shinpachi gears himself up for the showdown, fellow samurai begin to question the way of their world and their leaders, threatening political fallout within the clan and fearing the outcome of their friend!
I was very excited to get this wonderfully restored version of Revenge in my hands. It's an incredibly beautiful movie, although not in a happy sense I guess, and brilliantly directed by Tadashi Imai; a director who likes to focus his work on the realism of humanity, often depicting the many tragedies and struggles endured by the poor – and what better time period to harness that energy into, than the earlier centuries of feudal Japan where social and class divide was rampant. While he was never considered as great a director as Akira Kurosawa or Keisuke Kinoshita respectively, Tadashi has delivered many great titles including Nigorie, Bushido, and Revenge among many others. Written by Shinobu Hashimoto who was behind many Chanbara and Samurai film greats including Kurosawa's very own Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne Of Blood, and The Hidden Fortress, as well as classics such as Harakiri, Samurai Assassin, The Sword Of Doom and many others, Revenge is superbly crafted with a haunting realism that is told in two narrative pieces highlighting the hypocrisy and hollow code of the samurai. Of course, Hashimoto's writings are only highlighted even more by the beautiful cinematography and music on offer with the latter handled by Toshiro Mayuzumi, one of Japans most acclaimed composers at the time with over 160 movie titles to his name. The gorgeous images, enhanced even more-so by the restoration of the black & white print, were captured by cinematographer Shunichiro Nakao who only shot 34 titles between 1949 and 1982, including a few others for director Tadashi Imai.
A young Toru Hirayama, who produced 70s & 80s Japanese television shows like Kamen Rider, Spider-Man, and Ninja Captor, supports Tadashi Imai as an assistant director, and popular fight choreographer Reijiro Adachi – who handled the action on classics such as the Miyamoto Musashi series, Sword In The Moonlight, Magic Boy, and Daibosatsu Toge films – keeps things real with a mix of swordplay and brutality making the final battle of Revenge, one of the most intense I have seen in some time. It's certainly not stylish or amazing in any sense, but realistic and violent which is what had me glued to the screen! The wonderful Kinnosuke Nakamura does a fantastic job as Shinpachi and had just starred in Bushido for Tadashi the year previous. Of course, before that, Nakamura already had proven himself in a host of incredible classic titles and went on to star as Itto Ogami in the popular Lone Wolf & Cub series in the mid-70s, as well as in films such as Three Yakuza, Machibuse, Shogun Assassins, Death Of A Tea Master, and so much more. Its fair to say that the star is brilliantly supported by a host of great actors such as Tetsuro Tanba, Yoshiko Mita, and prolific Japanese star Takahiro Tamura among many others. While it may not please those looking for a solid viewing of samurai action, I would still highly recommend Revenge as one to watch for everything else it has to offer. This type of movie comes from an era of film-making that we'll never see again (although many have tried to replicate the style and feel of it) and is a great example of the zankoku (cruel) jidaigeki genre. As mentioned before, the final duel is pretty exciting, but I must also point out just how amazing the final 30 minutes are overall and, as with many of my black & white Kurosawa classics, I think it's safe to say that Revenge is a film that I would happily return to in the very near future!
Overall: A stunning piece of classic Japanese cinema, Revenge is a samurai film worth checking out and one of director Tadashi Imai's finest moments!
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RICH AND FAMOUS
(Hong Kong 1987)
Original Title: Gong Woo Ching 江湖情
Directed by Taylor Wong Produced by Johnny Mak Action by Bruce Leung Siu Lung Starring: Chow Yun Fat, Andy Lau, Alex Man, Shing Fui On, Pauline Wong, Carina Lau, Danny Lee, Ko Chun Hsiung, Peter Yang, Lam Chung, Alex Ng, Wai Chung, Fan Mei Sheng Reviewing: Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Release Genres: Heroic Bloodshed / Triad / Drama
Rating - 4 / 5
Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Synopsis: A two-film saga influenced by The Godfather and Once Upon A Time In America, Taylor Wong's Rich and Famous and Tragic Hero tell a decades-spanning tale of brotherhood and betrayal with a heroic bloodshed twist. In Rich and Famous, brothers Yung (Alex Man) and Kwok (Andy Lau) enter a dangerous world of violent criminals in order to pay off a gambling debt. Crossing paths with the charismatic gangster Lee Ah-chai (Chow Yun Fat), the two brothers join his gang and quickly rise through the ranks. Then in the spectacularly action-packed Tragic Hero, the fortunes of all three characters have changed significantly, with one of the brothers now a violent Triad leader seeking revenge. Also starring Danny Lee (who would reunite with Chow Yun Fat two years later for John Woo's The Killer), Rich and Famous and Tragic Hero make their Blu-ray in the UK from new restorations. (104 Mins)
Vicol HK Blu-ray Synopsis: Kok, Yung and Wai Chu were living in poverty,Yung was addicted to gambling while Chu was a prostitute. Yung was caught red-handed in making a mischief. He was harshly punished and forced to make compensation. With the idea inspired by their friend; Ying Hung, they decided to rob Chu Lo Tai, the boss of Ying Hung. Their target was the embargoed gold. The attempt of robbery was unsuccessful and they were pursued and Wai Chu was caught by Chu's killers. To let Wai Chu's free, Kok made himself as hostage... (104 Mins)
MIA UK DVD Synopsis: Trapped in a tangled web of mob intrigue and murder, JOHN WOO'S class “Killer” team,CHOW YUN FAT(Bulletproof Monk, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) and DANNY LEE, join eastern action heartthrob ANDY LAU in an all-star Hong Kong cast for this heroic bloodshed masterpiece. A rabid tale of violence and shattered innocence, cowardice and loyalty,brotherhood and betrayal, “Rich And Famous” combines a classic gangster plot with scenes of truly blistering ballistic devastation. (99 Mins)
Views: Ever since I bought them on the Made In Hong Kong VHS label back in the late 90s, I've always had a soft-spot for Taylor Wong's gangster epics Rich & Famous and it's sequel, Tragic Hero – also known as Black Vengeance. While this followed up with a decent DVD release a short number of years later, I've always felt that both films were hugely underrated against bigger films of the heroic bloodshed genre such as The Killer, City On Fire, A Better Tomorrow, Hard Boiled, and others. Of course, this is not the case (in my opinion) with both films proving to fit right in with them all, offering some strong performances, great direction, and a storyline that was somewhat inspired by The Godfather. Thankfully, in the last few years, we have been lucky enough to see both films get multiple Blu-ray releases from different distributors around the world, so one can only hope that they find a new audience with the next generation of fans who have been supporting the boutique labels. The latest of these comes from Eureka Video, complete with a stunning new restoration that really knocks the film up a notch. While it's not without its flaws, Taylor Wong's gangster saga is a tale of brotherhood, love, betrayal, and gang-warfare, told over the span of decades that begins with begins with the childhood of Yung, Kwok, and Wai-Chui. In their late teens, they find themselves in a spot of bother which sees them cross paths with gang boss Ah-Chai who invites them to join him. Over the years the boys quickly climb the ranks in Ah-Chai's gang, while their sister works as his well-respected housekeeper, but as time passes, Yung proves himself to be untrustworthy and a lone-wolf, soon going against his boss and family with the aim of becoming the leading gang boss in the city!
A massive hit on it's initial release, Rich & Famous (and it's sequel) still stands as one of Taylor Wong's most recognised works. Making his directorial debut in 1979 alongside the likes of Tsui Siu Ming, Raymond Lee, and David Lai, in the Johnny Mak produced television show, Reincarnated, Wong's first feature came in the shape of the awesome Return Of The Deadly Blade – a brilliantly made kung-fu adventure starring Norman Tsui, David Chiang, Yeung Pan Pan, Yasuaki Kurata, and many other great names. The film was written by Manfred Wong, who also scripted this gangster epic and his follow-up feature, the fun Buddha's Palm, which was made under the Shaw Brothers banner. Taylor would direct two more for the studio, such as Behind The Yellow Line and Pursuit Of A Killer, before making a splash with Rich & Famous/Tragic Hero in 1987. From there, he made many more with Andy Lau through to the mid 90s such as The Truth, Stars & Roses, Kung Fu Vs Acrobatic, No Risk No Gain, and The Three Swordsmen, as well as producing Don't Fool Me for director Herman Yau. Wong directed Chow Yun Fat in Spiritual Love, which was made the same year as this and also starred Pauline Wong, and again in Triads:The Inside Story in 1989. While he was never revered the same way John Woo or Ringo Lam were for their work, I firmly believe that Taylor Wong Tai Loi has proven himself time-and-time-again as one of Hong Kong cinema's great film-makers. Director of the equally entertaining crime-thriller Long Arm Of The Law, Johnny Mak, produces for Taylor Wong; a job he first did since his aforementioned television debut and again on Wong's titles like Spiritual Love, The Truth, and the sequel to this. The film falls under the banner of Win's Film Company, an earlier branch of the Heung brothers' successful production company now known as Win's Entertainment. Around this period, Win's also produced classic Hong Kong hits like Magic Crystal, The Crazy Companies, Handsome Siblings, Dragon Chronicles, From Beijing With Love, and Chow Yun Fat's underrated, God Of Gamblers Return, and have went on to deliver some of the finest films to date featuring Chow Yun Fat, Andy Lau, Chow Sing Chi, and others.
Between them, they manage to pull together a fantastic cast for this gangland classic with superstars Chow Yun Fat and Andy Lau headlining the piece – although the wonderful Alex Man plays an equally important role. Interestingly enough, Chow had made his acting debut in the aforementioned television show, Reincarnation, that saw some episodes directed by Taylor Wong himself. Although it had been a good decade before they joined forces again for this, Chow had been working his magic on over 30 other titles including The Bund 1 & 2, Postman Fights Back, Hong Kong 1941, 100 Ways To Murder Your Wife, The Seventh Curse, and John Woo's incredible hit-film, A Better Tomorrow, which would crown Yun Fat as the king of the heroic bloodshed genre in 1986. Of course, just a year later, Rich & Famous/Tragic Hero would come into play, but they were only 2 of 11 films Chow would be starring in that year. Aside from these two flicks, Chow would also star in the highly entertaining Spiritual Love for Wong as well as Ringo Lam's City On Fire and Prison On Fire, the fun Scared Stiff, Flaming Brothers, Brotherhood, and A Better Tomorrow 2 – which was even wilder than the first. With Chow's star continuously rising, Taylor pulled a top move in getting the star on-board – I mean, he is the coolest actor in the world – with the popular actor proving to be the perfect choice for gang-boss Ah Chai, before going on to fast become one of Hong Kong's biggest names with films such as City War, The Killer, God Of Gamblers, Once A Thief, Hard Boiled, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and so much more; eventually jumping between Hollywood and home with hit after hit continuing to come out to this day. While Chow had a good decade already behind him, Andy Lau had only been acting for about 4 years since his debut in 1982's Once Upon A Rainbow and Boat People, and would only have around 10 films behind him before being cast in Rich & Famous. These also included the Shaw Brothers film On The Wrong Track and Chang Cheh's Shanghai 13, Sammo Hung's Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars and Lucky Stars Go Places, and Wong Jing's brilliantly entertaining Magic Crystal. Of course, even after 170 films today, Andy Lau Tak Wah (who looks like he's never aged a day) has held his place as one of Hong Kong cinemas most beloved stars and soon went onto become one of the hardest working actors in the business throughout the 80s and 90s; much like his co-star. Of course, the pair would join forces again just 2 years later for the incredible God Of Gamblers, and almost 20 years later for the spin-off/remake, From Vegas To Macau 2 & 3, but I really love the relationship they have together here in both movies. Andy plays Kwok, the youngest of Papa Yung's children (although adopted) who grows up to stick to the path of righteousness and protect his family, even when he knows they are in the wrong. His biggest pain is his brother, Yung, played with menacing glee by the great Alex Mann. This wonderful actor started his career around a similar time as Chow Yun Fat, making his debut in the wuxia television show Dragon Strikes which was also produced by Johnny Mak. Films such as The Secret, The Daring Age, and Avengers From Hell would follow before Man bagged his first Taylor Wong project with a role in Buddha's Palm. Over the years leading to Rich & Famous, the actor would star in films such as Bastard Swordsman 1 & 2, Prince Charming, Misfire, Brotherhood, Journey Of The Doomed, and Hong Kong 1941 alongside Chow Yun Fat. His role here as Yung, in both Rich & Famous and Tragic Hero, is one of my favourites from him with Alex proving to be a villain you love to hate, and a nasty piece of work who shows no hesitation in taking down those closest to him. While still going strong today, Alex has starred alongside Andy Lau a number of times over the years including As Tears Go By, China White, Gangland Odyssey, Crocodile Hunter, Casino Tycoon 1 & 2, and The Conmen In Vegas; and is one of the highlights of these great Taylor Wong films...
The trio are joined by a collection of Hong Kong greats including the prolific Ko Chun Hsiung; an actor who racked up a crazy 250+ film credits to his name before his death in 2015. Making his debut in 1963, this Taiwanese star went onto become a hugely recognisable talent that starred in over 120 titles within his first decade of acting, eventually appearing in Hong Kong films such as A Queen's Ransom with Jimmy Wang Yu, My Wacky Wacky World, Queen Bee 1 & 2, Code Of Honour with Chow Yun Fat, Burning Ambition with Frankie Chan, The Dragon Family and Island Of Fire alongside Andy Lau and Jackie Chan, and played Tiger Lo in Miracles with the latter. With such a strong on-screen presence, Ko was the perfect choice to play Chow Yun Fat's biggest rival, Boss Chu, and does a fantastic job as the menacing triad who sparks a darkness in Alex Man's character of Yung while trying to put Ah Chai down for good. The lovely Pauline Wong, recognised mainly for her role as the ghostly maiden in the superb Mr. Vampire, plays the sister of Kwok and Yung – again, making a great job in the role. Like most actresses of her generation, Wong spent a string decade in the film business and delivered some wonderful performances in films such as Night Caller, The Funny Vampire, Spooky Family, Split Of The Spirit, Her Vengeance, The Peacock King, The Beheaded 1000, and Blue Jean Monster alongside the late Shing Fui On – another one of the Rich & Famous cast members. Over the years, Wong starred alongside many of her co-stars a number of times such as The Missed Date, The Greatest Lover and Taylor Wong's Spiritual Love with Chow Yun Fat, The Story Of Dr. Sun Yat Sen and Long Arm Of The Law 2 with Alex Man, No Compromise with Danny Lee, Lucky Stars Go Places, China White, Romancing Star 2, and Last Eunuch In China with Andy Lau, and films like Profiles Of Pleasure, Four Loves, and Love Of The Swindler with the wonderful Carina Lau – here, playing the unfortunate wife of Chow's Ah Chai. This was pretty much Carina's second main role to date since making her debut in the Jackie Chan produced Naughty Boys alongside Kara Hui, not forgetting her appearance as one of the members of The Losers band in his legendary Armour Of God. After both Taylor Wong films, Lau would join Jackie once again for another memorable role in his fantastic Project A 2 before becoming one of the most highly regarded actresses in the industry with further roles in films such as City Warriors, She Shoots Straight, Days Of Being Wild, Centre Stage, Lord Of East China Sea 1 & 2, Ashes Of Time, Eagle Shooting Heroes, Deadful Melody, Forbidden City Cop, 2046, and a number of Andy Lau/Chow Yun Fat movies including Saviour Of The Soul, Infernal Affairs 2 & 3, From Vegas To Macau 2 & 3, Let The Bullets Fly, and Detective Dee & The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame (as well as it's sequels) to name but a few.
The fantastic Danny Lee, whose a superstar in his own right, cameos throughout Rich & Famous and it's sequel as a cool-headed cop that aims to put Ah Chai in jail, although in the most respective manner and actor/pop-star Alan Tam stars as the stuttering friend to Kwok and Yung, who tries his hardest to win a position in the gang but, ultimately, just doesn't have what it takes until he is pushed to the limit in the brutal finale. Praised actor Peter Yang Kwan, who had been acting for over 30 years before this came about, stars as the loving father to Andy, Alex, and Pauline's characters and delivers another strong performance that carries through to Tragic Hero. And the ever-popular Fan Mei Sheng, father to the gorgeous and underrated Fan Siu Wong, appears as a likeable Thai gang-boss who meets his maker at the hands of a twisted Alex Man. Fan was pretty much nearing the end of his career around this stage, with roles in the infamous Story Of Ricky and Master Of Zen proving to be his last – both of which would see him star alongside his son, respectively. Ah Chai's gang is fleshed out with a great supporting cast including the menacing John Lam Chung, who starred with Chow just a year before in Dream Lovers before joining him again in A Better Tomorrow 2 and The Killer, as well as starring alongside Andy Lau a number of times in films like The First Time Is The Last Time, A Moment Of Romance, Dragon In Jail, and others. The always entertaining Shing Fui On, who passed in 2007 with a whopping 230 (plus) credits to his name, stars as one of Ah Chai's toughest men and had shared the screen with his co-star many times over the years. From A Better Tomorrow 1 & 2 to Prison On Fire, Tiger On The Beat to Diary Of A Big Man, and The Killer to God Of Gamblers among many, many more, his role here in both films prove to be as brilliant as always. And then there's Alex Ng; an odd choice of a man to cast, but a great one nonetheless. Here, Alex plays Chuan; chauffeur to Ah Chai and one of his most trusted aids. While he might be handy for a lift when needed, Chuan also proves to be a fearless brother when it comes to getting in on the action. Better known as Switch Blade in Johnny Mak's Long Arm Of The Law, Ng also starred alongside Chow Yun Fat in films such as 100 Ways To Murder Your Wife, City On Fire, Flaming Brothers, Spiritual Love, The Greatest Lover, and Triads: The Inside Story, among many other great Hong Kong titles.
I found it interesting that Bruce Leung Siu Lung – martial-arts legend from films such as The Dragon Lives Again, Broken Oath, Kung Fu Hustle, and Gallants – was given the job as action-choreographer considering that there was no 'martial-arts' per-se, but a mixture of realistic scuffles and gun-fights. From Andy and Alex's introductory fight to the brutal wedding shoot-out, that pre-dates Cynthia Khan's Queen's High by about 4 years, there's enough decent moments of action going on to break up the melodrama which does the job. Part-time actor and cinematographer, Johnny Koo Kwok Wah, captures both chapters of Taylor Wong's saga and does a beautiful job with the visual style. Having got behind the camera in the late 70s, Koo captured films such as Avengers From Hell, The Club, New Mr. Vampire, Aces Go Places 2, Long Arm Of The Law 1 & 2, Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, The Iceman Cometh, and many more including Jet Li's Once Upon A Time In China & America for director Sammo Hung. Even with all the talent involved, I've no doubt that some may find Rich & Famous slow and mostly due to its lengthy running time, but the film is a genuinely well made and entertaining piece of Hong Kong cinema which offers the perfect blend of emotional drama, lavish visuals, and gritty action, as well as some terrific performances – trading the modern action elements seen in films like Full Contact, Hard Boiled, and The Killer, for a more character driven piece that firmly slots into the heroic bloodshed genre with ease!
Overall: Packed with a top cast, slick direction, and some realistic action sequences, Rich & Famous still stands strong today as one of Hong Kong's better gangster films from the late 80s!
Eureka Video Blu-ray Extras: Audio Commentary by Frank Djeng, Documentary with Dubbing Voice Actors Simon Broad & Russell Wait, Interviews with Manfred Wong & Michael Mak, Trailers
Vicol Blu-ray Extras: Trailer
Nova Media Blu-ray Extras: Trailer
MIA DVD Extras: Biographies, Filmographies, Stills Gallery, Trailer
Watch my unboxing video of this Eureka Video release HERE
Get your copy HERE
Original Title: Long Ma Jing Shen 龙马精神
Directed by Larry Yang Produced by Li Jie, Hai Yang Action by Han Guan Hua, He Jun Starring: Jackie Chan, Liu Hao Cun, Guo Qi Lin, Ailei Yu, Joey Yung, Xing Yu, Wu Jing, Andy On, Yu Rong Guang, Stanley Tong, Xiao Shen Yang Reviewing: Private Cineasia Screening Genres: Drama / Martial-arts / Comedy
Rating - 4 / 5
Synopsis: A washed-up stuntman and his stunt horse become an overnight media sensation when their real-life fight with debt collectors goes viral. Soon, the offers to return to the film business come flowing in but age, old injuries, and other problems raise their ugly heads to make him think twice about his return to the screen. (126 Mins)
Views: It almost feels like forever since we last saw a Jackie Chan movie, but now fans can rejoice as Ride On gets it's big screen release here in the UK on April 7th (2023) courtesy of Cineasia; which also happens to be Jackie Chan's 69th birthday! I mean, this is both amazing and crazy because when you actually think about it, this incredible man has long past retirement age yet is still kicking ass and entertaining the world – and this new film just shows us why! Jackie Chan plays Lao Luo, a washed-up stuntman who struggles to make ends-meet and lives for his stunt horse, Red Hare, who he rescued as a foal and brought up like a son. Over the years, the pair made a name for themselves in the world of action film but today, their only connection to donning a costume is in the hope of selling a few photos during studio tours. But when a debt collector starts hounding Jackie for his money, the pair become an internet sensation after their fight against the thugs is captured on film and put online. Soon, the offers come rushing in from past students and studios who want to give this legendary action-star a second chance. At the same time, a legal battle begins over Red Hare that could destroy Jackie's new offer to get back in the industry and more importantly, make him lose his greatest friend. In a last ditch attempt for help, Jackie reaches out to his estranged daughter whose boyfriend is a young lawyer, in the hope of gaining their support and, in turn, winning back the trust and love of his only child. Together, they must all learn the importance of family, happiness, life, and forgiveness in a dramatic and inspiring chain of events that brings them all together...
I don't think I've ever cried so much at a Jackie Chan movie than I did when watching Ride On! Maybe it's the fact that I have been a die-hard fan for over 40 years now and felt more of a connection to his story than the average Joe, or perhaps it was the heartfelt story of the struggles of parenthood and being a dad myself that made it work, or just the beautiful moments between Jackie and his horse that sucked me in – especially in that final heartbreaking chapter. Either way, this was quite an emotional watch (and I certainly wasn't the only one sobbing in the room). Set in the extensive world of the Chinese film industry, Ride On is a particularly interesting film for many reasons, with the main one for me being how it blends many extraordinary and personal elements of Jackie Chan's life into the story. In fact, nearing the end of the film, my husband kept asking me if this was his last movie – and I could totally see why. In fact, if this was Jackie Chan's final hurrah and goodbye to the film industry and his fans, I'd be more than happy to take that. It would be totally understandable!
This is absolutely a love letter to his fans, with many throwbacks to his most memorable cinematic moments being re-enacted, shown, or hinted at throughout. These include smile inducing moments such as the Project A signpost that has a 360 degree carving of Jackie hanging from the clock tower, the fun fight on the tram that sees him take on the axe-gang reminiscent of that in Drunken Master 2 – albeit dressed like Donnie Yen's 'Black Mask' character from Legend Of The Fist. There's a hint of his commando character from Who Am I?, and that of the Condor from Armour Of God 2: Operation Condor, a fun fight scene in the style of New Police Story – only this time, with Jackie playing the villain, and even a waiter at the market who is dressed exactly like Chan was in Wheels On Meals while delivering food on a skateboard from a yellow food-van. Drunken Master fans will enjoy the scene that sees him torture his future son-in-law by forcing him into the horse stance over a lit joss stick, and we even get to see him hint back at his days in the Peking Opera School when he interrupts a stage performance featuring seven little stars in action. There's a note of Shanghai Noon when Jackie dresses both him and Red Hare up as Native Americans for photo shoots (and later again when the horse sits like a dog), and a lengthy stunt sequence that puts him back in the same costume for the hugely underrated Knight Of Shadows which was fun. I smiled at seeing Jackie on top of an amusement park wheel once again – much like that in My Lucky Stars – blending a stunt from Police Story 3: Super Cop with a similar shot seen in Who Am I? I loved the moment when he gave his daughter the cuddly seal-hat from First Strike, but I think I was most surprised though to see Stanley Tong appear as the director of a movie – a movie that just screamed The Myth, and saw Jackie Chan return to that very same role in a scene that looks like it was cut right from the original production. I always loved Jackie in The Myth, so it made me very happy to see him don the same costume and weaponry once again. This was actually quite a powerful moment where Jackie realised that the dangerous stunt-work he was so used to, is no longer necessary due to the aid of CGI – something that the man himself has always tried to stay away from in order to keep things real. And I suppose, in reality, this was also his way of letting us know that this is now the case. Why should he be risking his life for us when he's almost 70 years of age? It's just ridiculous to expect that! But perhaps the most amazing moment – and in a scene that almost touched on breaking the fourth wall in some respects – was when his daughter came across a pen-drive that held many of the greatest scenes and stunts from Jackie Chan's real film career. It's an incredibly emotional scene that brings them closer together, while leaving both of them – as well as myself – in tears as she starts to understand the impact, the dedication, and the life that Jackie Chan gave the world of entertainment. I've watched this a few times already, and it has affected me the same way every time.
Starring alongside Jackie is the lovely Liu Hao Cun, from Zhang Yimou movies such as One Second, Cliffwalkers, and Sniper, who plays Jackie's daughter with Guo Qi Lin as her boyfriend. The brilliant Ailei Yu, who co-starred with the young actress in Cliffwalkers as well as making an appearance in hits like The Warlords, The Lost Bladesman, Saving Mr. Wu and Sammo Hung's My Beloved Bodyguard, stars as Jackie's close friend and stuntman student while the lovely Joey Yung from My Schoolmate The Barbarian, 12 Golden Ducks, and Soccer Killer, stars as his better half and another stunt performer. Superstar Wu Jing throws his weight behind the legend to cameo as another of Jackie's proteges who convinces him to star in the aforementioned Stanley Tong directed epic – although fans need not get too excited as Wu doesn't actually get to bust a move himself. Of course, the last time these two starred in a movie together was in the 2011 Benny Chan classic, Shaolin – not forgetting Jackie's cameo in Wu Jing's film, The Climbers, a few years before this. Interestingly enough, the brilliant and often overlooked Xing Yu – who also last starred alongside Jackie and Wu in Shaolin – plays a similar role to Wu Jing in being a hugely inspired star and action-director who initially coaxes Jackie to come back into the industry. Again though, he doesn't get to join any action scenes himself. The amazing Yu Rong Guang, who has shared the screen with Jackie many times over the years in films such as Shanghai Noon, New Police Story, The Myth, Little Big Soldier, Police Story 2013, The Karate Kid – and Michelle Yeoh's Project S indirectly – stars as one of the light villains of the piece; an elegant businessman and horse collector who legally secures the rights to Red Hare and aims to take him away from Jackie. Thankfully though, and again, without even busting a move, he does prove to have a change of heart when he really sees how much each of them mean to each other. And the handsome Ray Lui, who last starred alongside Jackie in Project A 2 as well as making a cameo in Miracles, shows-up as the man who gives Red Hare to Jackie as a sickly foal, but it's the wonderful Andy On who proves to be the lucky one that gets to trade moves with Chan the man...
Jackie Chan regular, Han Guan Hua, works with He Jun (and quite obviously Jackie Chan) to bring plenty of exciting martial-arts action to the screen. While both names have worked with Chan on many of his Hollywood titles from Shanghai Knights to The Foreigner, they have both worked on many of his Hong Kong films from the turn-of-the-century including The Medallion, The Myth, Rob-B-Hood, New Police Story, Chinese Zodiac, Shaolin, and Vanguard, and do a great job in bringing some fun fights to the screen in Ride On – most of which pit Jackie against the hugely talented Andy On apart from the aforementioned 'Black Mask' fight scene with the axe-gang. The first of these is Andy's introduction when he first approaches Chan for his money, which leads to a fun fight chase that really sets the tone for the most of their clashes throughout the movie. Round two follows with an even more exciting fight at a night market, with Jackie trying to protect his daughter from Andy and his men, which was pretty exciting to watch. Their final round comes in the last half hour, set around Jackie's home and is an exciting closure to the action side of things. To be honest, there's no actual real villain of the piece in the classic sense of the word – as Jackie tries to convince Andy to become his student after their final bout, telling him that he has what it takes to become a great stuntman. It's a grand leap from the deadly showdowns of Jackie's past and even that of Jackie and Andy's epic fight in New Police Story, but it still works and all are highly-entertaining considering the age Jackie Chan actually is at this point.
Writer and director Larry Yang, who had gained some attention for his previous dramas Sorry I Love You, Mountain Cry, Another Shot, and Adoring, does a fine job in directing Ride On, but I think that it would have been a much better piece had it been in the hands of someone like Derek Yee or an equally experienced director, with all due respect. All-in-all though, I thoroughly enjoyed this film on multiple levels. The end of Ride On dedicates it to the stuntmen of the industry and a life dedicated to risking life-and-limb for the sake of entertainment. This was an interesting move for Jackie considering how much he was glossed-over and forgotten about in the 2020 docu-film, Kung Fu Stuntmen: Never Say No, produced by Chin Kar Lok. Interestingly enough though, Jackie delivers a line quoting that exact title – making me wonder if it was indeed a dig or a message to his old Hong Kong colleagues that he's still one of the greatest living legends of the industry. And while it may not be perfect due to some odd choices of editing, direction, and melodramatic moments that just didn't need to be, Ride On has proven to be one of the most enjoyable Jackie Chan movies I have seen in a long time and an absolute treat for his fans!
Overall: A wonderfully emotional and exciting film for any Jackie Chan fan, Ride On proves to be somewhat of a personal journey for the star, and almost feels like well-deserved goodbye to his time to the world of action cinema!
Watch my video review of Ride On HERE
Get your copy 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
Get your copy HERE
ROYAL TRAMP 1 & 2
(Hong Kong 1991)
Original Title: Luk Ding Gei 鹿鼎记
Directed by Wong Jing Produced by Jimmy Heung, Stephen Shiu Action by Tony Ching Siu Tung, Dion Lam, Yuen Bun Starring: Stephen Chow Sing Chi, Sharla Cheung Man, Derek Wan, Chingmy Yau, Ng Man Tat, Elvis Tsui Kam Kong, Sandra Ng, Brigitte Lin, Damian Lau, Nat Chan, Yen Shi Kwan, Helena Law Lan Reviewing: Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Release Genres: Wuxia / Comedy / Historical
Rating - 4.5 / 5
Eureka Video UK Blu-ray Synopsis: An epic two-part wuxia-comedy based on the writings of acclaimed Chinese novelist Jin Yong, the Royal Tramp films star Stephen Chow as a cowardly bard who finds himself part of a real adventure when he is inducted into a sect of revolutionaries. Wai Siu-bao (Chow) is known for his exciting tales of adventure and heroism, but his life is quite dull. After rescuing the leader of a revolutionary movement from a police ambush, Wai is recruited into the Heaven and Earth Society and sent to steal secrets from the royal palace. However,in the palace things get complicated fast and Wai realises he has to play all sides off against each other if he is going to survive. Featuring incredible choreography by ChingSiu-tung (A Chinese Ghost Story, Duel To The Death), Royal Tramp and Royal Tramp II are a pair of hilarious and exhilarating action-comedies from director Wong Jing and the “King of Comedy” Stephen Chow. Newly restored in 4K, Eureka Classics is proud to present both films for the first time ever in the UK as The Royal Tramp Collection. (110/98 Mins)
Mei Ah HK DVD Synopsis (Part 1): The elf of the brothel Wei Xiao Bao outwits the troop and saves Chen. Chen induces him to join them and acts as a spy in the palace. Wei fights with Kengxi, the Emperor and become friends. The coming elf manages to kill Aobai by his tricks and hence wins the confidence of Kengxi. Kengxi confers an honourable title on Wei who has just been instructed to kill him (110 Mins)
Mei Ah HK DVD Synopsis (Part 2): The story followed the scenario of the last episode with the disguised Mother of the King (Cheung Man) failing to take the reign and ran back to the base of Dragon God Cult for confession. Her dying leader then ordered her to return to her real identity, Lung Yee (Lin Ching Ha), and to take the post of the leader for helping Ng Sam Kwai (Tsun Pei) in taking the reign. While in the whore, Wai Siu Po (Chiau Sing Chi), Do Lung, together with Wai Tsun Fa were playing. When Sui Po went for the toilet, he was caught by Ah All (Lee Ka Yan) and her classmate, forced to tell where the villain Duke of Wai has gone. Sui Po managed to fool the girls, making them chase after Do Lung. In the fight, Sui Po found that Ah All the beautiful girl, so he tried to save her and pleased her, but then... (97 Mins)
Views: Based on the popular Jin Yong novel, The Deer and the Cauldron, Royal Tramp is a wuxia comedy that was split into two parts upon release with both films going on to sit in the Top Five highest-grossing films of 1992 – which is ironic considering that the other three also belonged to the amazing Stephen Chow Sing Chi including King Of Beggars, All's Well Ends Well, and Justice My Foot! Fast talking pimp and story-teller Wai Siu Bo, who is famous in the brothel that he works at for the tall stories that he tells, saves the leader of the revolutionary Heaven & Earth Society and is made an honorary member of the organization with the promise of him learning kung-fu from Chan Kan Nam himself. But he is soon sent off on his first assignment, on a mission to infiltrate the palace and steal a secret manual for his new master which soon comes with its own plethora of problems. On his first day in the palace, Wai finds himself lined up to become a eunuch although is spared by Hoi Tai Fu who has other plans for him. In a quick turn of events, Siu Bo is sent deeper into the royal rooms in order to draw out the fake Empress Dowager while looking for the sacred book. As expected, Wai finds himself catapulted into a world of political intrigue, royal assassination attempts, magic warriors, and epic martial arts battles!
Written and directed by the prolific Wong Jing, Hong Kong's busiest film-maker, the Royal Tramp films give fans three-and-a-half hours of outrageous comedy, gravity defying martial arts action, and plenty of romance – although without ever getting too soppy about it. While its countless list of characters and intricate plot may scare off even the most hardened Hong Kong film fan, the Royal Tramp films have often been considered as some of the best from the Chow Sing Chi and Wong Jing pairings. Of course, the both of them have worked on many great titles over the years including God Of Gamblers 2, Tricky Brains, God Of Gamblers 3: Back To Shanghai, Hail The Judge, Fight Back To School, Forbidden City Cop, and many more. Here, Wong is aided by assistant director Raymond Yip; a man who has worked the same role on many of the aforementioned Wong and Chow movies as well as Hong Kong hits such as A Chinese Ghost Story 2, Dances With Dragon, Casino Tycoon 1 & 2, Last Hero In China, City Hunter, Future Cops, Storm Riders, A Man Called Hero, The Warlords, and the Young & Dangerous series. Yip would make his directional debut in 1995 with the wacky Sixty Million Dollar Man – the Wong Jing produced Chow Sing Chi comedy that did pretty well at the box office – before going on to deliver titles such as I'm Your Birthday Cake, Portland Street Blues, For Bad Boys Only, Anna In Kung Fu Land, Bruce Lee My Brother, Cook Up A Storm, and the unfortunate Donnie Yen flop Iceman: The Time Traveller (which has been his last directional effort to date)...
As well as having Stephen Chow Sing Chi as its leading man – a star who had already won the Hong Kong people over in the years leading up to Royal Tramp's release as a popular television presenter along with films such as Curry & Pepper, Look Out Officer, All For The Winner, Tricky Brains, Legend Of The Dragon, the Fight Back To School Trilogy, God Of Gamblers sequels, and more – the film boasts a massive cast of the top stars; many of whom had worked with Chow or each other over the previous years and, undoubtedly, under the direction of Wong Jing himself. These include the late Ng Man Tat, Chow's regular co-star and sidekick that went onto gain over 170 film credits before unfortunately passing in 2021 after 45 years in the industry. Here, Ng plays blind Eunuch Hoi in another hilarious performance that never fails to make me laugh. They are joined by another Wong Jing regular and popular Hong Kong comedy star, Nat Chan, who started acting around a similar time to Ng although had already gained fame as a singer and member of Alan Tam's pop-rock band, The Losers. Since the late 70s, Chan has been making film fans laugh with his appearances in films such as Hong Kong Playboys, Prince Charming, Magic Crystal, Crazy Companies, Kung Fu Vs Acrobatic, Ghost Punting, Flirting Scholar, and many more. Hong Kong leading ladies – Sharla Cheung Man, Chingmy Yau, and Sandra Ng also join the leading cast; most of whom worked with Wong Jing on a regular basis. Of course, Sharla Cheung Man would make her feature film debut in Wong Jing's fantastic action-comedy, Magic Crystal, and has pretty much spent the most of her career working for him in films such as God Of Gamblers and its many sequels, My Neighbours Are Phantoms, Lee Rock 1 & 2, Dances With Dragon, the Fight Back To School Trilogy, Holy Weapon, Kung Fu Cult Master, and many more. The same can be said for both Chingmy Yau and Sandra Ng, who shared the screen with Cheung Man in many of the aforementioned titles, with the former said to have been in a relationship with the director at points throughout her career and proving her worth in titles such as Naked Killer, City Hunter, Future Cops, Legendary Couple, and more. It's worth pointing out that, since making her debut in 1985 with a small role in Sammo Hung's fantastic Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars, Sandra Ng has went onto become on of Hong Kong's cinemas biggest names as an award winning actress, producer, and director, with around 150 film credits to her name and still going strong today – often starring alongside Chow Sing Chi in many of his greatest films.
The wonderful Brigitte Lin steps in for the sequel – albeit for a quick reveal at the end of the first chapter – as the Divine Lady of the Dragon Sect; her true form after Cheung Man jumps into a magic pond with the great Helena Law Lan and become one, re-appearing as Lin. Unlike the rest, this would be her only other film with Wong Jing apart from Boys Are Easy alongside Tony Leung, Jacky Cheung, Maggie Cheung, and her Royal Tramp co-stars Chingmy Yau and Sandra Ng. Fellow female stars Michelle Reis, Fennie Yuen, Vivian Chen, Helen Man, and Yueng Ching Ching also appear, with the latter doubling-up as one of the films' fight choreographers as part of the action team. Familiar faces such as Kent Tong, Paul Chun, Damian Lau, Lee Ka Ting, Hung Yan Yan, Yen Shi Kwan and many others also co-star, with the brilliant Elvis Tsui Kam Kong hamming it up as the big baddie of part one. Although he had starred in some of Wong Jing's earlier (written) works including Wits Of The Brats, Tsui would go on to star in many more of his directed films such as The Flying Mr. B, Girl With The Diamond Slipper, Born To Gamble, and God Of Gamblers Returns, as well as Chow Sing Chi titles Hail The Judge and Sixty Million Dollar Man, proving to be a scene stealer once again in Royal Tramp with his wild antics.
Produced under the Heung brothers' Win's Movie Productions banner, the films offer plenty of fantastic wuxia action courtesy of the great Tony Ching Siu Tung, along with the talented Yuen Bun, Dion Lam, Ma Yuk Sing, and aforementioned Yeung Ching Ching – most of whom appear throughout. It's worth noting that action like this was not new to Ching Siu Tung who had proven himself as an actor, choreographer, and director in his own right with films such as Duel To The Death, A Chinese Ghost Story, Dr. Wai & The Scripture With No Words, Heroic Trio, and the famed Swordsman Trilogy with Wong Jing even going as far as to spoof the popular sequels of the latter films and its character of Invincible Asia which, legend has it, drove Ching to quit during the production of Royal Tramp 2. While this kind of action had been incredibly popular during this period, and for quite a few years before, Ching and his team manage to keep things fun and exciting with plenty of insane wire-fu, magically enhanced martial powers, and intricate kung-fu moves that is sure to please any true fan of Hong Kong cinema.
With some great cinematography from Joe Chan and David Chung – the director of Hong Kong classics such as Royal Warriors, Magnificent Warriors, and I Love Maria – stunning costume design by Kenneth Lee and Shirley Chan, highly detailed set-pieces, amazing wuxia action, and plenty of genuinely hilarious comedy moments, the Royal Tramp movies are still considered two of the best from the Chow Sing Chi catalogue and are even more stunning today than they have ever been thanks to their incredible new 4K restorations and Blu-ray release by Eureka Video!
Overall: Hilarious, brilliantly directed, and crammed with stunning wuxia action, Royal Tramp and its sequel are two of Chow Sing Chi and Wong Jing's most enjoyable pieces!
88 Films Blu-ray Extras: 4K Restorations, Audio Commentary with Mike Leeder & Arne Venema, Audio Commentary with Frank Djeng & F. J. DeSanto, Two Interviews with Wong Jing, Archival Interview with Helena Law, Trailers
Mei Ah DVD Extras: Trailers
Get your copy HERE
Watch my unboxing video of this Eureka Video release HERE