lördag 22 april 2017

NINJA (2009)



Good ninja movies  are hard to find these days. They seem to have disappeared in the popular consciousness with a big smokebomb. They used to be everywhere in the eighties. Hell I remember they were even in the soap opera Falcon Crest back in the day , but don´t quote me on that one. My memory is pretty hazy. Like mist in the past clouding my ninja memories.

Ninja directed by Isaac Florentine is a beautiful breeze of fresh air in Ninja-cinema. An actual solid Ninja movie for the 2000´s using a lot of the mythical tropes we associate with the pop art version of Ninja. I am not sure if what we associate with the word Ninja has any historical validity. But history is sketchy anyway.

Scott Adkins stars as American Ninja Scott Bowman, adopted as an orphan into a japanese dojo by Sensei Takeda played by Togo Igawa (Street Fighter:Assassins Fist). But he has a rival on the school, Mazasuka who don´t care for gaijin or outsiders. Like Sho Kosugis character in Enter The Ninja never cared of Franco Nero in Enter The Ninja. So already we have established a conventional conflict in Ninja cinema, in which Ninja adhers to. Mazasuka  wants to become the next sensei of Ninja-school so he can get the family treasure ( a bunch of awesome ninja shit), but he gets his ass banished from said Ninja-school during a friendly matchup against Casey, but ends up not-so-friendly. He vows revenge..blablabla and soforth. Casey is on route to become the next sensei instead, while Mazasuka finds a new career path as an assassin for a ridiculous cult of white priviledged men out to kill its business competitors and strikes a deal with them.

Later he kills Sensei Takeda and comes after Casey and the treasure. That is the plot. And it is pretty basic compared to the convoluted affairs of the sequel. 

Florentine and Adkins has gone on  record saying they were never really pleased with this first Ninja outing, that it was too reliant on wirework and CGI. I can see that. But the more I watch this the more it feels like a true ninja-film of yore with shurikens, katana-blades and a vast array of different Ninja weaponry. And there are a lot of excellent fight scenes in this as well. Scott Adkins goes up against a whole room of scumbags and dispatches them in a most beautiful way. There is also a very impressive subway fight that, according to Florentine, was one of the few scenes he was proud of in the making of Ninja.

I think the more heightened impact the wirework and CG actually gives this film the type of flavour it needs. The silliness of ninjas and their almost supernatural skills is something that eighties nnja-cinema exploited in intriguing ways and the exoticism of japanese culture was at a highpoint so it would not be completely out of place of having this exaggurated look at a pop culture phomenon that has not been relevant in decades. As such I think the film works as a film belonging to a tradition of Ninja-filmmaking long gone.A tradition that has vanished in thin air to suddenly re-appear in 2009 to ambush the audience with its silly but awesome  sets of trickery.

The seuqel Ninja-Shadow of a Tear takes the fight scenes to a more grounded level to accommodate Adkins abiliteis better , because apparently Ninjas more japanese style of fighting  that the fight choreography was built on suited Scott Adkins poorly. I don´t know,  he looks pretty great in this, and that is probably a testament to his physical skills. because  of that this a damn fun film to watch.

EXPLODABLE FINAL FIGHT SCENE #4 THE RAID 2

This film is a favourite of mine. As a sequel it builds and expands on the claustrophobic survivalhorror elemts into an Infernal Affairs-esque gangster epic with many more colorful characters a more complex plot and fight sequences staged so beautifully they could be part of a museum exhibit. The kitchen fight at the end is something else. Brutal, fast, energetic. A classic.


torsdag 20 april 2017

EXPLODABLE FINAL FIGHT SCENE #3 NINJA- SHADOW OF A TEAR

Another Scott Adkins joint. This is a slight spoiler as the real villain is not revealed until the end. But if you have son of legendary Sho Kosugi in the same film as Scott Adkins, you can bet your sour smelly ass that they will clash against one another. This is a great finale to a perfect B-action film that contains enough story beat to put the fights together but never deviate from what the film want to capture. This is Scott Adkins at his finest. 


tisdag 18 april 2017

EXPLODABLE FINAL FIGHT SCENES #2 UNDISPUTED 2

I was thrilled by Boyka, but Undisputed 2 might still be my favourite entry in the series. Not only is Boyka the villain before he becomes the hero, but this final fight betwen him and Michael Jai White ( Blood and Bone, Black Dynamite) is just all sorts of amazing.



måndag 17 april 2017

EXPLODABLE FINAL FIGHT SCENES #1 EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER (984)

This is a good one. The final battle in  te Shaw Brothers classic Eight Diagram Pole Fighter starring Gordon Liu, directed by the legnedary master Lau Kar Leung. The finale involves poles, teeth flying, plenty of blood , hihg flying flips, kicks and all sorts of cirque de soleil-esque mayhem



torsdag 13 april 2017

BOYKA-UNDISPUTED IV (2017)



This has been a long awaited sequel to say the least. Despite the problem of piracy, director/producer Isaac Florentine and Scott Adkins managed to scrape together enough  cash to make another one.  And for those of you who pirated the last movie, you can stop reading  this and go fuck yourself. Or at least feel some kind of shame, and redeem yourself and buy this film legally. As I did. This was recently released in Sweden on bluray/dvd.

The Undisputeds are the kind of lowbudget movies that are much more vulnerable to piracy as the profit margins are not as high as the bigger budget blockbusters so the sales must  be good enough to warrant a sequel, and as this one already seem to suffer the same fate as part 3 then I am sad to say it will probably be no more of these made. Sad, becaue Boyka is such an unusually rich character.

The first Undisputed was directed by Hollywood legend Walter Hill, starring Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames. Rhames, a famous heavy weight champ gets convicted for rape , and is sent to a prison in which boxing seem to be a norm and tournaments being held. The reigning champion of the prison is Wesley Snipes. I have to say, it is a very bland film that never tries to delve deeper into the inner workings of underground prison fighting. Until....

Undisputed 2. Directed by israeli stuntman Isaac Florentine and now starring Micahael Jai White ( Black Dynamite) in the Ving Rhames role. Now set free and forced to do Russian commercials, in  well, Russia he is now framed and put in Siberian prison where another fighter played by Scott Adkins lurks. His name: Yuri Boyka , undisputed Russian champion and self-proclaimed "the most complete fighter in the world". Boyka, the prison king of fighters this time loses to Whites character, so there is a reverse in this one. This one and the rest of the series combines dynamic fight sequences with much more world building in terms of the underground fighting and has two very charismatic leads in what would have been an otherwise obscure boxing franchise. This is the one in which boxing starts to get relegated and  replaced by high flying kicks, mixed martial arts and just beautifully choreographed and brutal fight scenes that could rivel the masters of Hong Kong action cinema

Undisputed 3  also directed by Florentine, focuses on Boyka returning from his loss and getting back to form. Boykas is the point of view we take in this one and an entry that is so important to understanding both the character of Boyka but also the seduction of this franchise.

Part 2-3  starts Boykas journey from a villain to becoming a better person or at least we are lead to believe that. At the end of part 3 Boyka is being set free and now for the first time in many years Boyka is free to go wherever he pleases.

Until now. Boyka is the first film in the franchise that follows previous perspective. How could this franchise  go on in an interesting new way?

I think Boyka tries to be a  redemption story despite that part 3 was labeled Redemption, But with Boykas past and experience with the last few films, it kind of means something; this existential conondrum that has hit our hero once he has become free from prison, trying to help out at a local church. Boyka wants to redeem himself from his past. But he don´t realize his prisoner ways are still in check.

He keeps fighting in the ring in regulated fights, but his obsession of winning ends up with killing someone that we are being told has the same kind of suicidal drive of Boyka. He then seeks up the widow, who has managed to come into trouble as her late husband was in debt to a Russian mob boss and she is now indebted into white slavery because of she cannot pay.

Boyka wants to redeem hinself by offering to pay off her debt change for fighting for the scumbag boss.

That is more story than I like to indulge, but I  was surprised that Adkins/Florentine/Davidson/White etc. managed to create a story for Boyka outside of prison that worked. For me it felt like a purgatory part one must go through, and that at the end of the third film that was the end to the story. But that just shows how much of a handle these dudes have on this guy.    Boyka  is a villain working himself slowly towards the light. Or think he can as he is raised catholic and believes in redemption.  He is stumbling through these films from the fall of the second film, he rises in the third and now he wants to do better, but his former life does still hold a grudge to him and as a tragic result his old life quickly still hold him in a a grasp. Like most prisoners, serving a long term sentence, they have probably a hard time adapting to a new way of life. It is kind of sad when you have to face that you have little choice to change or adapt.

Boyka:Undisputed is not just a solid sequel , but the kind of action film starring people who actually are good at martial arts, displaying their skills at their best potential. The story is well crafted, and despite a new director on helm (Todor Chapkanov) is on board a lot of Florentines´ own flourishes are still there. The swooshing sound effects, the un-subtle zoom-ins. All of these that gives you an almost Shaw Brother-esque experience. It is all there. Don´t worry. The fights deliver in spades. Shot extremely well as usual with wide angle lenses that captures the movements perfectly.

Boyka is back. And I am glad he is. We missed you ,bud!


For those of you who want to see Scott Adkins in action and never have, here is a compilation video:

Enjoy!

fredag 7 april 2017

KILLER CONSTABLE (1980)






Killer Constable is just not another solid Shaw Brothers actioner with a relieable and bankeable star. It has other virtues that transcends it into action- heaven.

I have been moaning on and on about action cinema needs to grow up, develop more sophisticated story lines with more developed characters, both male and female. I want to dig up examples to show to the world that action films does not need to be stupid. Killer Constable delivers a story with deep consequences, terrific vsiuals and terrible tragedy. An operatic excersise of mayhem, with plenty of dead people, sacrificing themselves for what they believe is for the greater good. A story about an evil man coming to terms with his wicked ways and finally using those evil ways to perform one of those redemptions to put an end to corruption. Sure, it´s the type of mythic story that ha sbeen told again and again around campfires, but the execution here is spot on.

The prolific Shaw Brothers actor Chen Kuan Tei plays Leng Tian Yiang (Constable John Killer) of Arbitrary Investigations of Ancient China (AIAC)  A pretty unfuckwithable guy, basically the Judge Dredd of Imperial China who never takes any prisoners on one of his cases. he just flats out murder whoever is considered guilty. I guess it is cost effective in the days of Ancient China, as  you get rid of all those show trials that always end up with a guilty verdict anyway. So good job of being efficent. Also good job being a ruthless asshole.  

Someone has stolen the Imperial Treasue of two million chinese dollars which puts the Empress Dowager in a bad mood as she wont even eat. Constable Killer, known for his ruthless and efficient ways is being put on the case in order to right an Imperial Wrong and put the Impress back on her eating schedule.

Constable Killer puts together a team for the mission, but one of his oldest friends is reluctant about following Constable Killer. he has grown tired of his ruthless ways and has started questioning his modus operandi. But there are plenty of  other dopes to choose from to join this police squad of killers. so he wont have a problem putting together a bunch of loyal unquestionable fools who will die for him during the course of the film. And you feel bad for them that they have to die because of someone is greedy

Constable Killer traces the millions that were being stolen to an older guy with a blind daughter, which makes us faces a similar scene as later depicted in John Woos´s The Killer. as the two rivals have to present a facade in front of her to spare her from the  inevitable clash in which one of them must fall for the other ones bladeThe daughter unknowing of the rivalry of both warriors. This is also the part of the film in which the Constable learns of who teh real culprit is, a greedy offical of the Imperial Court.

This is a great film for many reasons. It is the kind of violent cop action film placed in a martial arts setting with plenty of police brutality, but instead of justifying the violence, the film takes the postioning of presenting the harsh consequences of behaving in that unhinged way. Plenty of people dies throughout the film that doesn´t deserve it. The violence is not used as the usual by-the-numbers exploitation but plays an important part in the story, and although a lot of cannon fodder villains are being dispatched on a almost industrial line of massmurder, the characters that matters are treated with a certain amount of respect and poignancy. you wouldn´t expect.

The editing:in the action sequences is jarring and effective. It relies more on the visceral  effect on the viewer than a part of a continous flow of the action not that common within HK action. And a fairly progressive view on film making. It is more cinematic than theatrical. I love kung fu movies, and the techniques on display, but this movie delivers more in cinematic terms than in satisfying a hardcore audience who want prolonged sequences of exchanging of blows. It might be a film even those who aren´t fan of kung fu cinema might be interested in seeing.

The influences of the spaghetti western can be felt, as one of the characters in the film carries that same type of mystical feel of Clint Eastwood, carrying swords as they were guns fastened at his hips, givng two shits about any other person,  less he gets paid

Like a Chinese Saloon

A Stranger

...perhaps going for his guns?

Showdown 

Guns from the hips


This guy is awesome.  he does intervene in the Constable business or  the plot, but he is just such a formidable badass that he manages to hamper the team and kills one of them as well.. I personally love a sidearmed  villain ready to pulverize a perfectly fine force of badasses. And when he comes across like a mythic gunfighter that escaped a spaghetti western it is even better!

What is great about this film is that it deals with the corruption of power, both the antagonist and teh protagonist of the film are guilty of it. What is worse is that the team that Constable John Killer has rounded up for the mission are more than happy to sacrifice their lives in the process.  Except his long time brother ( figure of speeach) who at the beginning of the film will have nothing more to do with Constable Killers reckless ruthlessness. The unquestionable loyalty of people is tragic, they are led to believe they are doing good, but instead are being used by people in power to further their greedy agenda. Like Donald Trump uses people as door mats. So , this film is  even more relevant than ever. Because we cannot really trust people in power, as power corrupts and we must stay vigilant when it does.

This has become one of my favourites and if I had any medals to give out it would be for excellence in craftmanship. and  a Purple Heart  to all those who died for Constable Killer. I will salute you with a drink of whiskey.

For those about to die, we salute you!