Tag Archives: thief

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

I feel that deep down, if anyone has ever been wronged or hurt in some way by another, they seek revenge in some form on that person. So, you could say, that revenge is a very human thing to pursue and wish to deal out. I would say that’s why these films have been so successful (although box offices mighy say pshaw). After having seen Oldboy in a film class a few years ago, I knew I had to see more of Park Chan-wook’s films. He has a great sense of story and emotion coupled with a visual style you don’t often see in action films.

So I started off Park Chan-wook’s Revenge series at its logical point, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. This story follows a deaf mute man named Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun) who is down on his luck. His sister (Lim Ji-eun) has kidney failure and is in dire need of a new one. Ryu is fired from his job at the factory and now seeks a new way in which to raise the

This was an interesting scene involving a mirror.

money. In finding a black market organ gang, Ryu is swindled and left without a kidney himself. With no other way to raise the money after not being a suitable donor himself, Ryu must turn to desperate measures with his anarchist girlfriend, Cha Yeong-mi (Bae Doona).

Stunning visuals.

What’s most interesting about this movie is the way that revenge and its plot in the film shifts from character to character. You think it’s all about Ryu and seeking revenge against the organ dealers (and to a point, it is). But it turns into something bigger when Ryu’s ex-boss gets involved. What is intriguing about this movie is that everyone has a motive, and usually for good reason. Ryu wants to save his sister and others want to correct past wrongs (don’t wanna spoil the movie). So there’s no definitive bad and good character, and this is even apparent in Oldboy. (Haven’t watched Lady Vengeance yet, we’ll cross that bridge soon.)

Another thing that leaps out at you in this film is an insanely new way of dictating tempo and focus with camera angles and amount of time spent on one shot. Kim Byung-il and the director, Park Chan-wook must have collaborated together to get such a unique style of story telling through showing. In dealing with a deaf mute character, sound was at times taken for granted. At others, sound played an important part, more

Song Kang-ho is one legitimate actor.

importantly what couldn’t be heard. The story fluctuates in such a way that plot mixes with circumstances, and chance happenings lead to development.

More about the visual style. Amazing work with angles you wouldn’t think of. This movie can take a simple handshake shot to a new extreme. It leaves on things you wouldn’t think of as the events unfold from a single angle (one take shots are hard to do…) and tilts the cameras to gain new perspectives. Light and dark shows its place when the characters walk up an abandoned parking structure in an almost comical way. I think the creators of this film really took a brand of their own outlandishly dark comedy and injected it into their film with just visual aspects.

Also touching.

And another important part of this movie. Song Kang-ho who plays Park Dong-jin, Ryu’s ex-boss. When he gets roped into this story, things start happening. It’s not such a quirky action film anymore. The emotions come out and you see the true face of vengeance. Song Kang-ho is an incredible actor, especially by American Cinema actors. You don’t feel like he’s fooling you with his emotions and actions on camera. You feel like you’re actually feeling for another human being. He didn’t have any classical acting training before he started getting involved with acting, but he has done such a wide range of characters that it shows he has depth. A comedic, bumbling, good hearted Dad in The Host. A bloodthirsty vampire priest that I’d like to see in Park Chan-wook’s other film, Thirst. A comedic and tormented thief in The Good, The Bad, and the Weird. And he’s won awards for his work. Get a load of that.

You bring together excellent acting (and I’m talking to the whole cast about this), stunning visuals, and a bit of violence

Who is seeking vengeance on who?

and revenge, and you have an American A+ caliber action film. What’s different though? This one has heart and emotions that put it at drama level. And so far, with having watched this and Oldboy, Park Chan-wook has hit all the good points on the head. He even puts a bit of violence and gore in there for me too. Violence and a great foreign action film? I think this was made for me. 9.3 out of 10.

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Iron Monkey: Martial Arts in Flight

I have to say at first I was a bit skeptical about this movie. From the get go, the Iron Monkey/Robin Hood hero is flying through the air pulling off some ridiculous kicks and spin moves. It reminded me of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but in more of a comical way. And then I let all those inhibitions go and enjoyed the movie for its technique and visual thrill. By the end, I was pumped up, and inspired to go downstairs and try out some moves on my little sister. But it was 2 in the morning, and I was to lazy to beat up on a sleeping person.

Iron Monkey is the epic tale of a man with a hidden, superhero-like identity. Yang Tianchun (Yu Rongguang) is a medical doctor. He treats the poor for no fee and makes the rich pay what they feel is necessary to heal their ailments. Nights, Yang

Donnie Yen, the master.

moonlights as The Iron Monkey. He sneaks into the evil Governor Cheng’s (Jean Wang) chambers and steals from him. He defeats a dozen guards and four Shaolin monks. It is apparent that no one can stand up to the power of The Iron Monkey.

Wrought with despair at having any of his massive plunder taken, Governer Cheng orders the head of his guard, Fox (Yuen Shun-yi) to search and find anyone who could be the Iron Monkey. When a foreign physician/rapist martial artist rolls into town, Wong Kei-ying (Donnie Yen) and his son/disciple Wong Fei-hung (Angie Tsang) are arrested. Noticing Kei-ying’s power, the Governor enlists him to find the Iron Monkey, or he will leave his son in the dungeons forever. It is up to Donnie Yen in his fight for his son and the well being of a town who benefits from the one man he is trying to capture. Let the chase begin.

Angie Tsang, what amazing things she did with that stick.

After getting over the wire propelled stunts and kicks, I came to really enjoy the characters and the setting for this film. A remake from back in the 1970’s, this movie went farther and more elaborate than I’m sure the other film did. Based on a myth of the Wong father and son’s interaction with an “Iron Monkey” like character, a real mystery is placed around a Batman like character.

All of the fight scenes are dope. Every one is unique and takes place in a different location that utilizes the surroundings to pull off a spectacularly choreographed fight scene. And there are 4 martial artists whose skills are showcased. It’s not all about the Monkey. I

An evil power looms…

found that to be a relief from films that focus on the protagonist and no one else. The Iron Monkey actually had less fight scenes than anyone else!

And here’s another thing that blew my mind. Donnie Yen’s son in the film is actually played by a girl! Angie Tsang is on Hong Kong’s national Wushu martial arts team. She won silver in the Asian Games and Gold in the Wushu Championships. And the whole time I thought she was some malnourished little boy. I’m always thrilled to see a young woman destroying big burly guys on camera with skills she actually can do and will do in order to defend herself and utlimately kick you ass (i.e. Chocolate). A big bravo and props sent Angie’s way.

What a great last fight scene. Get some of that.

With an almost over the top plot with lots of great comic relief and fight scenes, this movie is something I would recommend to a lot of first time martial arts movie watchers. It has the plot in order to draw you in and then blows you back with the martial arts action. Donnie Yen is a martial arts destroyer as usual, and I plan to do a lot more reviews of his movies in the future (most likely his Ip Man films). This movie inspires you to fight for the weak and poor, and rightly so. It is the true way of a master. 8.2 out of 10. 

 


Season of the Witch: Get Your Cage On

I'm liking this.

In the same vein as Black Death and watched only a few nights afterwards, I came to the realization as to why this movie didn’t work for me. It’s not Nic Cage or Ron Pearlman. It’s not the lackluster accents put on by the cast. It’s not the Rock ‘n’ Roll ahead approach to the plot. It’s the fact that I didn’t feel that any of these actors were ever meant to or destined to star in period pieces. As in Black Death, Sean Bean was specifically bred and born to play the role of a Medieval knight. In Nic Cage’s case, I’m not at all positive. Sure, Ron Pearlman has wielded a sword in In the Name of a King (come to think of it, even Jason Statham can’t play an English peasant…) but Pearlman’s body size is really only perfect for Hellboy and Blade II.

And, in this manner, I was removed from fully immersing myself and enjoying the plot presented in Season of the Witch. (Original title idea for Scorsese’s

Do you believe this wench to be a witch?

Mean Streets.) I had to watch this though. My goal in life is to watch the entire career of Nicholas Cage in full. All the way from Fast Times at Ridgemont High down to Ghost Rider 5 (I hope…). I’ll take all the good (The Cage Renaissance) all the way down to his money problems (National Treasure and onwards… for now…). Seeing as this Medieval film really fits this quota, let’s dissect it.

Nic Cage and his flowing locks of sultry power.

So Behmen (Nicholas Cage) and Felson (Ron Pearlman) are two ex-crusaders. And to say that, I mean that after many wars, these two decided all the killing wasn’t worth it anymore. And I gotta say, some pretty pimp-ass helmets as well. They look like cauldrons. Whatever floats your boat. So these two ruffians hustle it back to Germany just in time to find that the Black Plague has hit Europe. (Actually accurate that a lot of Crusaders missed that bit in history.) Discovered in some barn area that they are wanted by the Church, these two duel for a quick second and then are whisked off to meet with Cardinal D’Ambroise (Christopher Lee).

Haggard as ever and possessed by the plague, the Cardinal orders these two men to escort a suspected witch to a hidden monk’s shindig house in order to LIFT THE ENTIRE CURSE OF THE BLACK PLAGUE. All because of one girl?

Read, Deballsack!

Unlikely… But that’s beside the point. So the two agree to avoid jail/death, and they assemble their Super Squad. First up we got Debelzeq (Stephen Campbell Moore). This is pronounced De-ball-sack. Unfortunate, but an actual name. One of the more believable period piece actors, Moore brings a bit of the clergy to the screen. There’s Eckhart (Ulrich Thomsen), the soft-spoken man with a heart of gold. He obviously can’t last. And there’s Hagamar the thief (Stephen Graham). He’s really not worth mentioning.

Robert Sheehan, the last bastion of hope in this film.

And then there’s the star of the show. Young altar boy turned knight, Kay von Wollenbarth (Robert Sheehan). This new up and coming actor stars in one of my favorite shows in the U.K., Misfits. This show (which will be reviewed soon) is a wonderful breakout role for Sheehan, and he has proved his mettle since then in Killing Bono and Red Riding. He’s really not given a chance to shine in this film with the limited script, but you’d barely recognize him. If only his Irish accent could flow from those lips in every film.

So, on this whirlwind roller coaster adventure, in every twist and turn, lives are at stake. Is Anna (Claire Foy) truly a witch? Or something more? Will Behmen and Felson survive? Only watching this movie from start to finish in hopefully one sitting will tell…

There’s really not much to say about anything else in this film, so I’ll summarize. The acting is a period piece, without a sense of the period. English accents failed to veil whatever was going on at the time. If those were even accents… I love the Cage, but when you want some Cage action, you expect a bit better from him. This one was toned down and I commend him for that action, but some more terror and mania was necessary. This supernatural film came across as realistic at first, and moved towards the CGI graphics and buffoonery towards the end. It seemed as if the movie was going in two different directions from start to finish. I don’t blame the actors or what was attempted onscreen, I would say the flaws started from the writing/pre-production phase. So, cast and  crew of Season of the Witch, you gave it your all, but you let Nicholas Cage down. And for that, the Cage vehicle of dastardly deeds gets a measly 3.3 out of 10.

This haggardly crew must fight the witch in this touching film of evil.