Tag Archives: Muay-Thai

The Raid: Redemption. Action, Done Right.

And now we come to what has become one of my favorite movies of all time. The Raid Redemption is one of the most cohesive, brutal, action driven films I have seen since I first watched The Protector with Tony Jaa. And what makes it better is that a lot of people actually like it. For once, Rotten Tomatoes is right in giving it a 83% fresh rating. This movie is fresh as hell.

What should I start with in talking about this martial arts movie to the extreme? Well, its

Get your shoot on.

basis comes from some of the best. In an interview, I remember Gareth Evans saying he was inspired by Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and earlier films of the time. But when you see this, you know it shoots right into the vein of Muay Thai, no holds barred, stunt fighting with punches hardly pulled. People are getting worked in this movie (on and off camera). And when you introduce guns into the mix, you know things are going to get even more brutal.

And there’s a plot here as well! No running after elephants and single minded goals to be had here. There’s a raid, some character development, and then a twist. Everything you need in a movie like

Br00tal.

this. Basically, Iko Uwais, now one of my top 5 favorite martial artists of all time, plays Rama, a passionate SWAT team member with a wife and a baby on the way. His team leader, Jaka (Joe Taslim) is determined to do the mission with no losses and everything in order and justified. But with the sounding of the alarm, a 30 floor slum building crawling with hundreds of crime gangs, everything is going to go off.

Other than the adequate acting in this film, I was really impressed that some martial artists I hadn’t see before showed up in this one. Joe Taslim was quite the throw artist with his specialty in Judo. His fight with Mad Dog was literally redonkulous. And then there’s Mad Dog himself, played by Yayan Ruhian. That little greasy haired monkey absolutely destroys half of the people in this movie, and doesn’t even stop when he gets a light bulb shaft shoved in his neck. Unbelievably badass. Throw in the expertise of Iko Uwais and his Silat, and you have the best 101 minutes of my life.

What I was surprised about in this movie was how much weaponry was used in a classically martial arts movie. Guns,

Mad Dog, unleashed.

assault rifles, knives, police clubs, the environment as well as the weapons available created a more realistic situation than just fists and feet. (Watch out for the Machete Gang though…) People getting thrown into furniture and off of ledges, this movie becomes so brutal everybody is shouting “OH!” while watching it.

Now we come to the soundtrack. For the U.S. and English speaking release (I mean subtitled of course), Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park was recruited to make his own original electronic soundtrack to complement the movie in comparison to the Indonesian release. What is created is what I would consider a throwback to the first two L.P. albums which is far superior to the stuff they’re coming out with now. The drums and bass come in at just the right moments to escalate your emotions and really get your blood pumping. Just like a video game, you have this rising action as you get into unique fight after unique fight. Superb.

30 floors of Hell.

Throw together all these elements and you have a Welsh director in an English speaking country that gets Eastern martial arts cinema. If I could grow up to be like him, I’d do it. The Raid: Redemption just proves that martial arts action films can be explosive, entertaining, and dramatic. 9.8 out of 10.

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Ip Man 2: The Grandmaster Returns

I was happy to sit down and watch the second Ip Man after having watched the first, enjoying the story with interspersed martial arts fight scenes throughout. With more of a focus on story over choreography, this one didn’t catch my attention as much as I would have liked. It wraps up like Cinderella Man and makes you feel all good inside, but I didn’t have any of those jaw dropping moments. Let’s just get to the plot, shall we?

In this one, Ip Man (Donnie Yen reprises his role) has moved to Hong Kong after beating back the Japanese years before. He has plans to start his own martial arts school, but no disciples seem to be interested. With money problems and a

Two masters goin’ at it.

suppressive British government, Ip Man must maneuver his way through life, following his principles and maintaining a happy family. But it’s not all easy going for the Ip Man.

I really was surprised how this film focused more on story rather than substance. It had all the elements of a triumph of the will story without all the fight scenes and technique. My impression of Wing Chun from this film is one of precise and calculated moves, more than the clever and wily style of other martial arts styles. There aren’t flashy kicks or the use of elbows or knees, it is all more in the quickest

Donnie Yen, as refined as ever.

way to take someone out. I do appreciate that though. Donnie Yen shows off how quick he can be in a flurry of punches I’ve never seen demonstrated in a Kung Fu movie before. I give him his due for that.

The acting is just as good in this film as in the last. But I’m talking more about the Chinese actors than the English speaking ones. Although I’m pretty sure that Brian Burrell is living my dream of being a white man from America living in an Asian country. My country of choice, though? Thailand. Gotta give it up for the Muay Thai and Thai food. (Volcano chicken all the way.) But anyways, the English speaking actors (with as few of them as there probably are in China) just took things over the top and need to work on delivery. This is a common problem though in foreign films, so I don’t blame them too much. They were better than some.

I do appreciate the message the Ip Man films send to a wider audience than just China. The oppression felt in China has

I gotta get me one of those…

been quite prevalent in the last 100 years by foreign countries and bigger world powers. It has been a triumph over the bully in the last century, and China knew how to depict that. I give props to Wilson Yip for doing a good job in that department. I feel for the Chinese in this film and the way that most people look down on Chinese martial arts. Hell, martial arts in general. But I’m pretty sure, other than stamina, that any martial arts expert could take out a boxer with the right moves. Like me and all the other martial arts enthusiasts out there, I appreciate martial arts in all its capacity. Asia will always dominate in my heart.

Dope.

In a different twist I wasn’t expecting in this film, I was touched more than inspired to do martial arts. The music was good and uplifting, the cinematography wasn’t bad, and the Wing Chun kept it brief and brutal. Not much to complain about, but I still do love the fight scenes from the first movie more. 7.4 out of 10.


Ip Man: The True Master

Ip Man, the trainer of Bruce Lee in Wing Chun martial arts style. One of the true Grandmasters that has left a legacy all martial arts film fans must appreciate. Here comes a film from Wilson Yip, a director who has brought us Donnie Yen in the forms of Dragon Tiger Gate and Flash Point. But this film has a different pace and style. More elegant than other kung fu films, this movie flows in the same Ki as Fearless with Jet Li. I think here’s a point where I’m going to list my favorite martial artists just to get it out there. Let me know what you think of this list:

1. Tony Jaa (that’s a given, he got me into martial arts)

2. Jeeja Yanin (she’s a girl who can Muay Thai kick ass)

That is a killer stare right there.

3. Donnie Yen (straight masterful ever since I saw him in Iron Monkey)

4. Jet Li (straight destructive martial artist who has made it big in American films)

5. Dan Chupong (this dude is not as well known as Tony Jaa, but his films are just as brutal as Jaa)

I want me one of those…

6. Jackie Chan (all his movies are entertaining. Me and my roommate love Rush Hour!)

7. Iko Uwais (up and comer from Thailand. He’s in the most anticipated film for me this year, The Raid: Redemption)

8. Panna Rittikrai (this guy helped teach Tony Jaa all he knows, elderly Asian master)

9. Bruce Lee (he’s gotta be on this list somewhere! He’s ballin’ hard!)

10. Kazu Patrick Tang (this dude rocked shit in Raging Phoenix and Bangkok Knockout! Most handsome Thai man in martial arts)

The single greatest scene in the film.

And there it is. Hate me for listing Bruce Lee so low, but he’s on there. And, after watching this movie, I have gained all the more respect for Ip Man and Bruce Lee and what they do and stand for.

This film is a heartfelt one, and may bring a tear to your eye. During the Sino-Japanese War, Fo Shan is a city of prosperity until the Japanese invade and take over. Ip Man (Donnie Yen) is a respected martial arts master who takes people to school on a daily basis. He and his family lose everything after the invasion and it is up to Ip Man to reclaim his honor and the honor of the Chinese people in this tale of inspiration. I can’t wait to see what they do with the next one.

Shit’s about to pop off.

There were a lot of things about this movie that surprised me. Unlike the traditional shoddy acting from the martial artists in films like this, there’s none of that. Only good acting and prideful performances. Donnie Yen always surprises me as a showman first and, well, a martial arts master also first. He can perform well and with honor and dignity (as he did in this role) and kick the shit out of people. It’s really refreshing to see an aging martial arts actor gracefully enter the older years with poise and the ability to still perform at a younger level with fire and passion.

This movie also pulls back the reins on the stylistic elements of Kung Fu films. You expect the people flying from rooftop to rooftop and kicks that send people flying, but not so much in this film. In this

Breathtaking scenery.

return to reality, Donnie Yen styles down his brutal kicks and flips to hone in on a form that is more elegant, precise, and lethal. I had a jaw dropping moment when Ip Man takes on 10 Japanese martial artists at once and probably kills about half of them with these precise little blows. You have to see it to believe it.

Get on dat destruction.

Other than that, this movie has a moving soundtrack, a strangely dubbed over audio track, and fairly accurate subtitles. It’s inspirational and humbling, informing you on one of the greatest martial artists of all time. It’s one of those films you see that makes you want to know more, and reminds you why you love to watch Kung Fu films. Ip Man all the way! 8.4 out of 10.


Raging Phoenix: Passion in Drunkeness

In one of the more visually stunning and passion filled Muay Thai martial arts films I’ve seen, Yanin Vismistananda performs far better than I could have expected. As the leading heroine in Raging Phoenix (AKA, Jeeja Due Suai Du), Yanin shows more heart and courage (with some more brutal and flashy moves) than she did in Chocolate (although I love that movie). Panna Rittikrai does it again with some amazing stunt coordination in this one.

Deu (Yanin: also spelled Dew for some reason…) is a down and out on her luck drummer in a punk band. She has scummy boyfriends and is constantly being fooled. (She’ll say this at length in the movie.) With trust issues and an appetite for the drink, Deu gets herself in some trouble. After being chased down in a parking structure, Deu

She is both pretty and deadly.

gets away by chance with the help of a devilishly good looking and bearded Thai man (He’s also in Bangkok Knockout. I didn’t know he was one of Panna’s main boys, but Pod is in this one too… Review coming much later). He turns out to be called Sanim (Kazu Patrick Tang) and he’s good at taking down thugs with bladed kangaroo legs.

Look at that handsome man. Who wouldn’t fall for that?

With bringing her back to their hideout, Sanim encounters some unexpected collateral. Deu meets Pig Shit (Nui Saendaeng) and Dog Shit (Sompong Lertwimonkaisom), two fellow fighters with an agenda. What Deu becomes so fascinated with is a drunken style of fighting (made up for the film) known as Meyraiyuth. With montage scenes and lots of drinking, Deu and the gang take on the Jaguar Gang, a bunch of thugs looking to kidnap women just like Deu for nefarious purposes.

What I liked most about this movie was the interesting new style of fighting. Called Meyraiyuth, this badass feet of fury technique is actually an infusion. Mix classically ballin’ brutal Muay Thai finishing moves with a Capoeira dancing style that allows you to outwit your enemy and you can easily evade attacks with a lot of trauma. There are some great fight locations and a lot of newly

Pretty dope, right?

invented kicks and finishing moves that always surprise me in these Muay Thai action films. When you see one of these you expect the same old stuff, but Panna Rittikrai always has something new up his sleeve.

This was news to me too.

The acting was fine in this one, with the exception of a few actors. But that’s not what these movies are about, right? It’s about the artful technique of martial arts. It’s got the word “arts” right in there. Who cares about the plot and talking if the fans aren’t there for that? There were some cheesy CG effects and one or two strange other things, but the movie held its own as a story of love, loss, and the channeling of pain into what you do with your life. Yanin “Jeeja” sold it and it all worked out in the end.

And the end is what I wanna talk about. I’m used to these Muay Thai films with the main hero busting down hundreds of guys with lethal finishing moves, one right after the other. But this movie focused on a handful of major fighters taking on their counterparts in some long, well developed fight scenes. And that’s what makes the end so brutal. In her pain and despair, Yanin channels death into her palms and  DESTROYS the main villain. She absolutely does some of the best, most lethal moves I’ve ever seen that are actually doable in the realm of physics. I was welling up with tears with the impassioned music and the fists ripping across the screen. That doesn’t happen often, but I know when I’ve found a new favorite fight scene. So, with that in mind, I give Raging Phoenix a lethal 7.6 out of 10.

That’s a beauty. Right to your face.


Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple

I’m a huge sucker for anime that involves martial arts. Heck, for anything that involves martial arts. I dream about one day becoming a disciple of a certain martial arts form, but that day may be behind me (my only training was trying lethal moves out on my sister, in a joking manner of course). But the adrenaline and inspiration that martial arts injects into me makes me feel like I can do anything. And a character like Kenichi: History’s Mightiest Disciple proves it.

Although this anime boasts 50 episodes (and OVA’s to come), it is rather simple and extols the teachings and techniques of martial arts. Kenichi “Weak Knees” Shirahama (Josh Grelle) is just what his nickname suggests. Picked on all the time at school and always outcasted, Kenichi joins the school’s Karate Club in order to become stronger. After being

Kenichi and the masters of Ryozanpaku!

threatened by the biggest kid in the club, Kenichi is worried for his life. And his alien looking friend Haruo Niijima (Todd Haberkorn) confirms this.

Until one day when Kenichi’s entire life changes. Rescued by a new transfer student to the school, Miu Furinji (Carrie Savage), Kenichi discovers a way to fight back against all those bullies. Joining the Ryozanpaku dojo, Kenichi becomes the sole disciple and strongest hero by story’s end.

Miu, the boob action in the show. Pretty ridonk fighter though.

What I liked most about this show, other than the martial arts, is the sensei’s of the dojo. There’s Hayato Furinji (R. Bruce Elliott), the wizened leader of the gym who is basically unstoppable. Although he’s not around, he supports Kenichi and his granddaughter Miu. There’s Shio Sakaki (Christopher Sabat) the drunken comedy and Karate master. His punches are fierce and so is his standoffish personality. He likes Kenichi like a father (although he already has one) and pushes him to do better.  Apachai Hopachai (Sonny Strait) is the dumb guy in the group. He’s lovable and friendly, but he doesn’t know his own strength. Always kicking Kenichi into the atmosphere, he loves calling out his name when he performs Muay Thai (my favorite. Period.) Shigure Kosaka  (Trina Nishimura) is the weapons expert of the group. She doesn’t talk much, but makes up for it with quick sharp wit with her blade. Kensei Ma (Vic Mignogna) is an interesting old man. Bald and brazen, he brings the pervert aspect into the anime. Always taking pictures, he still finds time to teach Kenichi Chinese Kenpo (softer martial arts). And last but not least, Kenichi’s main teacher, Akisame Koetsuji (Kent Williams). His intelligence and artful technique pervade every aspect of his life. He can usually be seen forcing Kenichi to tow him around on a tire attached to a string through the city streets.

The Shinpaku alliance!

And there are far more characters than that that add spice to this show. As I mentioned before, Niijima is a wonderfully slithery character. His art of running away never fails, and his PDA never fails on recon. Todd Haberkorn brings a wildly raucous character to life with his evil alien features. And then there’s Ragnarok. Considered all to be Kenichi’s arch rivals, Kenichi must defeat them in order to keep from dying (or anything else terrible). One of my personal favorites is Hermit (Eric Vale) this solemn and quiet character has a masterful technique and an iron will. Eric Vale does a wonderful job as usual as a character who never gives up with a great dramatic voice. Jerry Jewell plays a ferociously sinister character I can’t really talk about, but he’s worth waiting for. And J. Michael Tatum does a voice I didn’t recognize at first with Ikki Takeda, the boxing beauty with shiny blue hair.

With all of these wonderful Funimation voice actors and so many characters, nothing could be better. And then you get down to all the fighting. Although some of it may be unrealistic and come with explosions of light and unheard of power with your fists, the technique is there. I’ve learned more from watching Kenichi than I have from anything else. I know moves, fluid techniques, and trick moves too. I know their names and why they’re significant, I might as well have just

Niijima and his wonderfully alien good looks.

watched a Discovery Channel show on it. And from so many different countries! China, Japan, Thailand, and any other Asian country that may have been mentioned. This show displays a sort of U.N. like congregation of the wonders and majesty of martial arts and brings them together in one wonderful show.

This show may floor you.

The plot is simple and straightforward, pulling no punches (pun-ch intended). Kenichi must systematically defeat and conquer enemies and his fears in order to become the best. What more of an archetypal story do you need? Throw in a whole lot of comedy, boobs, and amazing fighting technique, Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple is one of the best shounen out there. Get some of that kick ass. 8.3 out of 10.


Chocolate: Not Your Typical Muay Thai Film

In my searchings through the Martial Arts section at F.Y.E, I came across a Thailand Martial Arts films I had not heard of before. It featured, on the cover, a young girl, poised with swords in hand, the most intense look on her face as if to say, “Yeah, I’ll rough you up a bit, Van Damme style.” This immediately piqued my interest.  So I got it, took it home, and watched it with my best bud, E.

Let me just say, this is a major statement in the Martial Arts entertainment/otherwise industry. Not only does a girl do Tony Jaa like moves in this film, but she beats up guys 3-4 times her size. With a ridiculously good idea at its base, this solid films sets you up for an action packed Muay Thai styled film that didn’t disappoint, and never left an opportunity for a great new location for an action sequence.

So Zen (Yanin Vismistananda) is the subsequent child of a West Side Story love

Look at those moves. Wow, Yanin.

affair. One parent Thai and one Japanese, this love child of two warring factions is born autistic. Not only is she born autistic, but her concentration allows her to catch things thrown at her from all angles and allows her to pick up Muay Thai fighting techniques from the dojo next door and from T.V. (some great moves from Tony Jaa’s films, obviously a planted element from same director, Panna Rittikrai)

Literally. Destruction.

When things start to heat up with old wounds opening, Zen must protect her mother Zin (Ammara Siripong). The cancer eating away at her is expensive to treat, and Zen and Moom (Taphon Phopwandee) must team up to add an element of suspense and comedy to this film about how tweens can do anything. Collecting old debts and pissing off No. 8 (Pongpat Wachirabunjong) and getting her father Mashashi (Hiroshi Abe) involved, who knows what lengths an autistic girl will do to protect her family of attrition.

There are some really great elements in this movie that shine through in all of

I'm just gonna keep showing you these.

Prancha Pinkaew/ Panna Rittikrai’s work. First of all, fight locations. This movie has fight scenes in a ice factory, warehouse, slaughterhouse, and tea house, all in one. Using the layout of the locations in combination with Yanin and the stunt actor’s skills makes for a deadly combo that is played out poetically on film. Jumping over boxes, avoiding ice hooks and blocks, what could be better than imagining this all happening in an actual real life situation? This girl knows her stuff, and it shows hard.

How is this not a 12 year old girl?

And that’s another thing that impressed me so much. Yanin Vismistanada, a 24 year old Thai girl, master of Taekwondo with a 3rd degree Dan blackbelt, looks like a 12 year old. Looks can be deceiving. He moves are fluent, her Tony Jaa imitation is flawless, she’s got the works. Discovered on the Born to Fight set in 2003 by Panna Rittikrai himself, this girl is destined to eventually equal/surpass Jaa himself (or at least Dan Chupong).

Simply the best.

With some fantastic English spoken by both Thai and Japanese men (still needed subtitles though) and quite a few transvestites, speaking to Thailand’s rich heritage, this movie has a combination unlike anything I’ve ever seen. An inspirational movie speaking to how children can do whatever they wanna do, this movie is a definite need in anyone’s growing Martial Arts collection. I give this movie, in comparison to all other Panna Rittikrai/Muay Thai movies I’ve seen, a definite 9.5 out of 10.


Dynamite Warrior: Dan Chupong’s Back, With Fireworks!

As I promised another badass Dan Chupong film, with some intense use of firepower! In this one, as it suggests, Dan

Dan Chupong. Ready to spark it up.

Chupong is the Dynamite Warrior, Jone Bang Fai (Bang is right). Appearing out of nowhere at the beginning of the film, Jone Bang Fai launches his dynamite-fueled rockets at a pack of thieving buffalo herders. With direct impacts and a few good, swift kicks, Dan Chupong dispatches the thieves and takes the buffaloes for the poor farmers who need the buffalo to attend to their farms.

And therein lies the genius behind this film. With a hint of Disney magic (from Hell), Dan Chupong becomes the Robin Hood-fox, and steals from the evil and gives to the just. With his skill with explosives and Muay-Thai, Jone Bang Fai becomes a force to be reckoned with. But not all is well in Nottingham Forest. Lord Wang (Leo Putt) has struck a deal with the American manufacturers of the West and plans on stealing all the buffalo to force poor farmers into utilizing the tractors. Did I mention this is early to mid 19th century Thailand? With this evil plan, Lord Wang plans to make a fortune and bow his little slice of Thailand to his will.

Dan Chupong. Rocket rider.

But there are a few men who wish to stand up to his tyranny. An “evil” group of magical warriors, led by Naai Jan (Jaran Ngamdee) blocks Lord Wang’s plans from seeing their full fruition. His fellow warriors, a lion and a monkey (well not exactly… they have the fighting styles of those animals…), he taps them on the head and they become lethal warriors, unable to quell their thirst for violence and blood. With Naai Jan and his fighting force, it appears they can’t be stopped. Unless Dan Chupong stands up to these behemoths of pain, no one can truly be safe. But oh, the twists.

And how many twists there are. You really have to check out the film for all the suspense and…

And there's these guys. Legendary director/stuntman Panna Rittikrai on the left!

unfortunately… hilarity that ensues. There’s talk of period blood, virginity, and an awkward relationship that mirrors the idea of incest. It’s all rather a freak show wrapped up into one action packed film. But that doesn’t change the fact that this film still kicks ass. Ignore the poorly dubbed acting (rather unfortunate I couldn’t get a chance to watch it otherwise). Ignore the strange overuse of fireworks. And the strange magical and mythical twists. This movie stands out with its plot and bare knuckle brawls. No holds barred, stunts and blunts, beat-down of an epic proportion film. With a crossover of the small amount of Thai action film stars, you see parallels between Dan and Tony Jaa, but it doesn’t detract from the film. It enhances the appreciation and experience. And that’s what counts with this film. It’s all about the presentation. That’s why I give the good ole Dynamite Warrior at 6.6 out of 10.