Tag Archives: Tony Jaa

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: 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.


Oldboy: Doesn’t Get Much Better Than This

Based on the Japanese manga (where all good stories come from) written by Nobuaki Minegishi, what incredible things can I say about Oldboy? Considered the best in the Revenge trilogy, Oldboy comes from a very visceral place combining elements of all

Hammer time.

kinds of storytelling into one film. It’s got revenge and tragedy, theatrical protestations and all the heart and music of an opera. People have said (CNN has said) that it is one of the 10 best Asian films ever made. Let’s back that up and rephrase. There’s no need to include Asian in that statement. Ten best films ever made? Sounds good to me.

I’ve seen Oldboy twice now and I’ve been thoroughly entertained both times. The story is fresh and there’s just enough plot and action that keeps you captivated to the edge of your seat. Visually striking, poetic in the way it is formulated and the scenes are shot… Think about the snazziest guy you know that does things in such an elegant way and give him a beat-up haircut and a hammer. That’s this movie in a nutshell.

If you laugh, then the world laughs with you…

Revenge, as I’ve talked about in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is played with in this movie as well. Just when you think you have the good and bad guy figured out, it turns itself on its head. Sympathy is the keyword in all these films. You are meant to feel sympathetic towards all characters in this film. Nobody is spared a reason for doing what they do, and that makes it all the easier to see this as a truly brutally honest humanistic film.

Basic plot, shall we? Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) was kidnapped after a drunken night out around his daughter’s birthday. He vanishes from society for 15 years and we get to see a montaged version of that process. Through Oh Dae-su’s diaries, we see the tortured mind that has no idea of his crimes or who he wronged. He writes down every name he can remember in case he has to seek

I forgot to mention Ji-tae Yu, but he did some great work in this movie too.

revenge or beg forgiveness, it’s all up in the air at this point. But, with no reason or rhyme, Oh Dae-su is released after 15 long years of seeing no one and having no company other than a T.V. This leads him on a calculated and cold chase for the man who put him away for seemingly no reason.

Choi Min-sik is a theatrical master in this film. I’m pretty sure Park Chan-wook liked him so much that he brought him back for Lady Vengeance for that reason (different character, just as good). He has a great sense of theatrical, dramatic moments, and he takes his time in delivering lines. That’s what I found interesting about this movie (and Lady Vengeance). Choi Min-sik gathers his thoughts (as a person not on camera would) and says things as if he is choosing his words carefully (no script style). It’s a very unique and non-traditional way of acting, and I enjoy it every time I see him (i.e. watch I Saw The Devil).

The cinematography in this film is a bit more fluid, but you see the same basic ideas come across in this one that you saw in Sympathy for Mr. Revenge. Long shots, wide angles, an extreme focus on the bigger picture. This movie has a fight scene from a side angle that is about 5 minutes long and took 17 takes in 3 days to make. Uncut and visceral, it’s realistic fight scenes like this that make martial arts films being made today possible. (You can see a similar scene in Tony Jaa’s The Protector.)

The plot is fantastic and the cast is great as usual. It’s movies like this that only come around once in a lifetime that everything comes together perfectly to make a film that transcends genre, style, and overall movie like quality. You feel you are watching something more real and ethereal than you expected to see with something created by man. I can’t say anything bad about this movie and I feel, for all audiences (above 13, I’d say) this movie is worth watching again and

A strange sense of Korean comedy…

again. Moviemakers out there, if you don’t already have this for your collection, get it. This should change the movie industry (hopefully) for the next 20 years. And I really hope Spike Lee doesn’t remake it…

Anyways, 10 out of 10. Obviously.

 

 


The Bodyguard #1 & 2: Not Your Average Thai Film

I’m gonna combine the first Bodyguard and the second, as one flows into the other. I loved this movies so much that I even watched them back to back. Petchtai Wongkamlao is a hilariously funny guy and he did a great directorial job with the onscreen humor and action. The movies didn’t focus too heavily on himself and he did this quite humbly. A lot of the humor comes from plays on words and references you have to get from knowing his work with Panna Ritikrai and Tony Jaa. Either way, these movies will kick your ass with their in your face guns and side splitting foreign comedy.

The first films starts off with Wong Kom (Petchtai Wongkamlao) as a bodyguard/official operative. He has come to this international convention to guard a major player named Chot Petchpantakam (Surachai Juntimatom). With the ensuing attack and lots of wire fu

Wongkamlao, the unconventional action star.

(Kung Fu with wires. Think a la Crouching Tiger.), Wong attempts to save Chot, but he is shot in the crossfire. The rest of the film focuses around Wong’s committed attempt to regain his honor and Chot’s son, Chaichol (Piphat Apiraktanakorn) trying to keep his father’s business running. With assassination attempts, a crew of street rats, and a rags meet riches story, this movie has a lot of humor and heart.

Just some Thai humor for ya.

In the second Bodyguard, things are a bit different. Wong is an undercover agent attempting to take down a crime syndicate that is dealing in weapons of mass destruction. After infiltrating a night club as a “provocative dancer”, Wong screws up yet again. Some explosions and gunshots later, Wong must become a famous luk thung (basically, a Thai country singer) star and keep everything from his wife, Keaw (Janet Keaw). With more laughs and quite a bit more explosions, this film surpassed the budget for Ong Bak with 1 million Baht (Thai currency), becoming the biggest film to be made in Thailand. It would be eclipsed by Ong Bak 2 shortly after.

Tony Jaa makes an appearance as the shopkeep boy.

What made these American standard B-rated action films so great is that they didn’t take themselves seriously. Wongkamlao is spinning through the air with two guns cocked and completely infinite in bullets, whipping around the room, absolutely annihilating people in very strange ways. The actors aren’t to serious about their villainous ways and it really shows throughout. Biggest example is the Thai comedian that shows up in both films. In the first, he (and I wish I could decipher which character he was) always wears something inappropriate and never talks. In the second, he dies at the end without saying anything. What makes this so great is that (and I hope it was fake) at the end of the second film, this guy blows up at Wongkamlao for not including him more in the film. I think the Thai sense of humor is spot on and could do very well over here in America.

There are so many over the top explosions and gun fight scenes that you can’t take this movie too seriously. It’s all the

That’s a bit vulgar… and a midget.

kind of action that makes Tony Jaa’s films so popular, but even more so. And that’s another great thing. They advertised in Thailand and America that Tony Jaa was going to be a big player in both these films, and he shows up to do a 5 minute action scene. It always has something to do with one of his other films, and it’s great to see that he can laugh at himself. (Where’s my elephant?)

All the heart and guns in the world.

This movie really shows just what Thailand is like. It’s more than all the action scenes and comedy that comes from these movies. And Wongkamlao knows that. There’s poverty and crime, burgeoning cities and night life, even a rich cultural aspect you don’t always see in an action film. And that’s where the heart comes from in these movies. It’s a movie you set out to do with your friends and come to love making and showing off. I’ve done it myself a dozen times. It’s not serious, it’s just showing that you can make an entertaining movie, and it doesn’t have to be award winning. And that’s why I think American audiences should check out these movies. Embrace this new culture and realize we’re a lot more alike than we think. And for this, The Bodyguard series deserves a comedy induced and action packed 7.5 out of 10.


Jet Li’s Fearless

In what was meant to be Jet Li’s last Wushu epic, Jet Li busts out all the big guns for this film. Although he has made other films that feature his style of martial arts, it goes without saying that movies like The Warlords, The Forbidden Kingdom, and the Expendables (soon to be followed by a second) aren’t exactly focused around Li’s stunt action coordination or anything of the sort. I would argue that War, the movie with Jason Statham that followed this film, was a bit focused on Li’s destructive power of those around him, although the movie questions his identity. In either case, it wasn’t meant to be Jet Li’s last film, just his last display of his martial art’s competence.

In this film, based loosely on Huo Yuanija’s life as a martial artist, this movie follows Jet Li as Huo and his fights to bring back honor and national pride to a broken country. With the Western imperialism and Japanese pressure, Huo fights those foreign invaders in symbolic battles that show off the strength of pride that the Chinese people hold. If it came down to Jet Li’s acting to represent honor for China in this film, it may not hold as much meaning. I was just a bit thrown off by Jet Li’s acting in this movie. It seemed forced and comical at times, but it didn’t matter when he closed his mouth and pounced on some ass with his destructive moves.

Jet Li at his finest.

The movie starts off at a martial arts display tournament in which Huo must defeat 4 competitors from 4 different countries. Using weapons and hand-to-hand combat, Huo fights back the attackers in order to defend his country. Before the fourth battle commences, a flashback to Huo’s life before takes place. For 2/3’s of the movie. Huo remembers when he was a child, being instructed by his father Huo Endi (Colin Chou) and how honorable he was. His father would take him downtown to the battles that took place in raised rings between fighters in the town. In this particular fight, Huo’s father is defeated and Huo finds his resolve to never be fearful and always to win and gain honor.

You’ve impressed me.

This mentality almost becomes Huo’s downfall when he won’t allow the attacking of one of his disciples to be delegated in a civil, non-violent manner. Quin Lei (Chen Zhihui) the rival martial arts master defies Huo and his newly found hubris and fights to the death versus him. With his ruthless manner, something not encouraged by his father, Huo kills Lei and retreats into the countryside to really reevaluate just what it means to participate in martial arts. (I left something out there, watch to find out.) Learning mercy and the righteous path, Huo finds himself in a position to fight for the honor of China.

This film has a lot of moving parts that really present a historical piece that is actually one of my favorite genres. Huo is a real person, and these events of his life weave a very compelling story. The fact that he fights for the honor of China at the end is a stab at those countries that would dare impose themselves on others, as the fights suggest. The tribute at the end to the dojos that are dedicated to Huo and his principles is a nice ending for the film and the events that

Some of my favorite weapons fighting.

transpire.

The fight scenes in this movie are really what stand out though. The rings that these men fight in are very stylistically stunning. Especially the fight between Huo and the man who beat his father’s son, is ridonkulous. The poles and camera angles that effortlessly flow through the fight scene really caught me by surprise. I always knew that Jet Li was a phenomenal fighter and stunt actor, but this movie really pulled out all the stops. His penchant for stunts and choreography, especially the weapon related fights show a lot of discipline and knowledge that I admire. Not being a martial arts expert myself, I’ve seen enough martial arts and have read up enough about it to know Jet Li has got his shit in order.

This big white dude shows up far too often in martial arts films…

The success this film had and the amount of good reviews it is given are just, but I felt, as some others have, that the film had its down moments that kinda left it at middle of the road. Yes, it didn’t have the acting oomph that would’ve elevated it to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but it was well above some of the straight to DVD martial arts films that’re out there. The story itself is inspiring and films like this are what make me wanna be a director. I’d equate it to a Cinderella Man type of film with the action and drama equalling each other out.

I am now psyched to hear that there are two other versions of the film, two of them depicting a more developed love/rejuvenation plot with Michelle Yeoh and a THAI BOXING SCENE. I wish they had included that in the theatrical version. My favorite form of fighting is Thai Boxing/Muay-Thai fighting. It’s one of the only forms that could take out Jet Li and I guess that’s why they were afraid to include it. I would still love to see a fight between Tony Jaa and Jet Li. Hell, Tony Jaa and anyone. Other than getting a bit of a boner over these martial arts masters, I thought this movie was very positively geared towards the Chinese community that Jet Li and director Ronny Yu were representing. It’s a great

Thank you Jet Li and Ronny Yu, for making a movie China can be proud of.

message to all those action stars from non-Asian countries. Back the hell off, we have pride, and that pride will stomp all over you. That message and this film deserves a 8.1 out of 10.


Goemon: The Funimation Crew

I’d like to classify this movie as an anime, but that would be a straight up lie. But, when you watch this, you’ll see what I mean. The plot, the action and special effects, everything in this movie is set up to be an anime. The stylistic violence explodes off the screen and Goemon skirts building tops at a Flash-like pace. There’s love and betrayal, there’s status, loyalty, and duty. Brotherhood plays one of the bigger roles in this movie to a point that really took over the movie. Goemon and Saizo, two ninja brothers at odds, rival and play to each other’s strengths, recognizing each other as friends in the end. And this is all supplemented by an amazing English dubbed cast from the Funimation studios that actually did a good job at dubbing a foreign film. Imagine that.

In a very overly dramatic style, this movie tells the story of a young ruffian who found the ways to honor and strength

The cast and its wonderful costumes that won it some awards.

through the teachings of his slain master, Nobunaga Oda. Slain by who you may ask? Well, the evil lieutenant, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (acted by Eiji Okuda, voiced by Chistopher Sabat). In a power move that succeeds, Hideyoshi plans to take the Princess Chacha as well (strange name, but all the same…) and all the power he can grab. With the exchange of a small box that was stolen from the royal coffers, Goemon is set on a chase that will reunite him with his sparring partner, Saizo (played by Takao Osawa, voiced by Troy Baker) and the aforementioned brotherhood is rekindled.

The rivalry rekindled!

What ends up happening leads to three huge fight scenes and the dramatic death of someone in the film. There’s some major slaughter, tastefully done I may add, and some traditional face-off scenes between Goemon and the big baddies. With a bigger political and army related plot at hand, the multi-layered elements of the plot may or may not be lost on you when you check this movie out. But, it also begs the question why a lot of the scenes in this movie weren’t as choreographed as I would’ve liked them to be. The special effects were geared more towards destruction than any sort of blood and kill scenes. It does leave you asking for a bit more than was offered, but the plot makes up for that lack of action sequences.

And for those American audiences who complain, “Why do I have to read a movie? I’ll miss stuff!” Whine no more. This is an actually well done dub. Yes, it’s always awkward to watch a film knowing that the foreign actors can hold their own and don’t need a voice actor trying to translate their feelings and emotions into another language, but this film does it differently. These aren’t any old voice actors. These are some of the best from the most well known English anime/voice acting company in America. Funimation. If you were a kid in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, you’ll know of their talent from Toonami. Dragonball Z, Yu Yu Hakusho, all these anime and more from Toonami were voiced by those Funimation voice acting wonders.

The stunning visual effects at play in the film.

 

Set sail on this epic tale of battle.

Other than that, this is a well done live action… action movie. It has all the elements of an epic and almost feels like an overdone Japanese play or something similar. The special effects give a heightened stylistic element to it and may leave those of us more keen to a Tony Jaa film wanting a bit more fight oriented element to it. But for entertainment value, this movie delivers quite well. The music was well done and the comedy was on cue, and you may actually shed a tear at one point in the movie or another. Either way, check this out dubbed and let me know what you think. It’s at least worth a watch. 7.5 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.