The Storm Warriors

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The Pang Brothers have tried their hand at most genres in their time. With Storm Warrirors they create some sort of fantasy/comic based martial arts epic, but I had almost no clue what was happening the entire time and the whole thing feels like a bloated mess.

Fair enough, this is actually sequel – something I didn’t realise when I first watched. That would go some way to explaining why I didn’t really know what the balls was going on half the time, but I suspect that even if I had seen the first movie – Storm Riders – I still wouldn’t have been able to follow everything. I can’t possibly describe the plot, except to say there is some sort of vicious Martial Arts Warlord who wants to rule the world. He tries to recruit other famed fighters – either join him or die. Most die, but a few plot to bring him down while facing inner struggles and squabbles within their group. The warriors all have names like ‘Cloud’, ‘Nameless’, ‘Wind’, ‘Earth’, ‘Sky’, and they each have their own skills, but none really stand out from any other. There are a bunch of fights and montages and lots of talking and staring and sitting and then it ends.

It’s rather odd that a talented directing duo and a pretty good cast could create something so crappy. Some of the fights are well done, but it’s all ultra stylized rather than focusing on the athleticism of the performers. There are some good effects, but nothing you won’t have seen in other productions. I’d recommend watching the first film first, obviously, and if you are a fan of the Pang Brothers you’ll want to see this eventually but keep your expectations low.

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Let us know in the comments if you thought I was too harsh and if you enjoyed The Storm Warriors!

Drug War – DVD Reviews

*Originally written in 2013 based on a free copy provided by Amazon.

Drug-War

It has been a while since I’ve seen a new Johnnie To movie which really impressed and excited me – Drug War brings him almost back to his best with a tense action thriller which draws many comparisons with Michael Mann’s Heat. This has a large case of famous faces, inspired set pieces, numerous explosive gun-fights, and a weaving cat and mouse plot as a criminal mastermind and fierce Detective do battle. There are plenty of stylish visuals and violence, but at the core is a cold story with few easy answers and fewer happy endings for the characters.

Zhang is a no-nonsense Detective who pulls out all the stops to catch notorious Drug Lords, and during the course of the film we see him become more dangerously close to the edge, almost reckless, in his pursuit of taking down the bad guys. Sun Honglei plays Zhang with a lot of skill, morphing seamlessly from zero-emotion cop to jolly criminal impersonator. Equally, Louis Koo, playing the captured drug baron Choi is impressive at conveying grief, desperation, charm, and deadly cunning. Much of the film is a game of wits between this pair, and along the way we interact with a variety of cops and criminals, each with their own story to tell and part to play.

For those who like their action, we do get a few highlights – a factory attack and the final showdown outside a school are directed flawlessly – they serve the plot and do not seem over the top in a John Woo style but are more grounded yet no less exciting or adventurous. This is definitely one for fans of Hong Kong, Asian, or action cinema to enjoy.

Last Action Hero

Last Action Hero

This is quite an underrated movie, even amongst Arnie fans, and one which few people understand, or try to. Last Actio Hero is a spoof of action movies, primarily those starring Arnie and Stallone, ones which director McTiernen has made a living from: The films that have loose plots built around stunts, explosions, fights, and spectacular and over the top set pieces. That said, the action, stunts, and effects are good; the cast, especially Arnie, ham it up as much as possible, the cameo appearances are witty and accurate, and the plot is pretty clever.

Arnie plays Jack Slater, a ficticious cop/action hero who lives in movie land- a place where everything is super sized, and hyper real (a little punch in the gut of Hollywood). His daily routine, usually involving chasing bad guys, and wrecking huge portions of cities is disturbed- mid chase, by the mysterious appearance of a teenage boy called Danny. Danny is from the real world- our world, the world which gorges itself on the exploits of such larger than life characters as Jack Slater. Danny is just about Slater’s biggest fan, and no-one could be happier than he to be meeting his hero for real. Slater, naturally is less than pleased. Danny explained how he was given a magical golden ticket which opens a gateway been the real world, and the movie world, and tries to convince Slater that his life is a movie. This leads to some inspired jokes about the film industry, and Arnie’s own career- the ‘I’ll be back’ scene and the scene where Danny tries to make Slater swear. Meanwhile, Big Bad (English) guy Benedict hears about the golden ticket, and sees the potential for chaos, and the psychotic Ripper plots more carnage against Slater.

Tons of in-jokes make this an entertaining film, and I’ll admit that’s all it is. But that’s all it is trying to be. There is no need to criticize it for lacking artistic merit, character development, internal meditations on life etc. It’s an action movie, where the bad guys are supposed to die, cars are meant to explode when scratched, the good guy is untouchable, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. The soundtrach, featuring AC DC adds to this thoroughly enjoyable throwback to 80’s action classics.

Extras unfortunately are light- a trailer, a music video, and a short featurette. The nineties was a revisionist time for movies, and this film was one of the best examples of the movement- self referential, self mocking, while pushing the boundaries of what was expected from the genre. A documentary discussing this and the making of, or a commentary or interview with cast would have been great.

As always, feel free to leave your comments on the movie- was this one of the better 90s Arnie efforts?