Archive for Jet Li

The Expendables 3

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The Expendables led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and formed by Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) and Toll Road (Randy Couture) extract former member Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes), a knives specialist and team medic, from a military prison and recruit him to assist them in intercepting a shipment of bombs meant to be delivered to a warlord in Somalia. Arriving there, they reunite with Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), who directs them to the drop point, where Ross is surprised to find out that the arms trader providing the bombs is Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), who co-founded the Expendables, but later betrayed the team to profit off of illegal weapons dealing, and was since believed to be dead. In the ensuing firefight, the Expendables are forced to retreat due to Stonebanks’ men’s advanced weaponry, and Caesar is severely injured in the process.

Blaming himself, Ross leaves for Las Vegas, where he enlists retired mercenary Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) to help him find younger, mercenaries to join the team. The recruits include ex-Marine John Smilee (Kellan Lutz), nightclub bouncer Luna (Ronda Rousey), computer expert Thorn (Glen Powell) and weapons expert Mars (Victor Ortiz). Skilled sharpshooter Galgo (Antonio Banderas) advocates to be included in the team, but Ross turns him down. The new team rendezvous with CIA operative Max Drummer (Harrison Ford), the Expendables’ missions manager, and Ross’ rival Trench Mauser (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who have traced Stonebanks to Romania, where he is set to make a deal with another arms trader. Ross and the new recruits infiltrate his office building and capture him in order to deliver him to Drummer, but Stonebanks’ men catch up to them and fire a missile at the team’s van. Ross is thrown into a ravine, while Smilee, Luna, Thorn and Mars are captured by Stonebanks.

Stonebanks sends Ross a video, challenging Ross to come after him. While preparing to leave, Ross is found by Galgo, and agrees to give him a chance. Christmas, Jensen, Road and Doc likewise join his efforts, and they raid the building where Stonebanks is keeping the recruits and rescue them. Stonebanks has rigged the place with explosives, but Thorn is able to use a battery-powered device to delay the countdown. Drummer and Mauser arrive to help them alongside retired member Yin Yang (Jet Li), and the team begrudingly works together to kill Stonebanks’ men and destroy his weapons. Ross and Stonebanks fight hand-to-hand, and Ross finally kills him just as the batteries of Thorn’s device run out and the entire building begins to collapse. The team makes it to Drummer’s helicopter and flies away to safety.

Caesar recovers from his wounds, and Ross officially accepts Galgo, Smilee, Luna, Thorn and Mars into the team. They all get together at a bar to celebrate.

REVIEW:

Admittedly, I never would have expected this niche idea to spawn into an entire franchise, yet here we are with The Expendables 3. While there is something to be said about surviving to a trilogy, one has to wonder if they are getting too big for their britches. Look at how many people are on that poster!

What is this about?

Maintaining their go-for-broke attitude in this installment of the action franchise, the Expendables square off against villainous arms trader Conrad Stonebanks, who’s hell-bent on destroying the team.

What did I like?

Blood Transfusion. After a mission goes wrong and nearly costs one of them their lives, Stallone’s character fires the old guys (big mistake) and goes on a search for the next team of Expendables. Quite honestly, save for Ronda Rousey’s character, these young bucks are generic and forgettable. However, two new old guys that come in steal the show, Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas. First off, Snipes has been in prison for tax evasion the past 8 years or so (in real life), so this is his first role back, and you really can’t tell he was away. Although, I wonder if it is possible for him to have gotten darker. Ha! This character of his kicks all sorts of ass and has the personality of Willie “Mays” Hays, Snipes’ character from Major League. Banderas is an acrobatic ball of Spanish fire! When he comes on, he doesn’t shut up, but he gets the job done. If I had to equate his performance with anyone, it would be as if he brought the studio performance of reading his line for Puss in Boots to this film and then had a few cases of Red Bull. I almost forgot to mention Harrison Ford, who replaces Bruce Willis’ role as CIA liaison. Ford is an upgrade, both in terms of credibility and acting ability. Most importantly, though, he appears to want to be there, whereas Willis was just sort of there.

Action and explosions. A bunch of ex-military guys going out on missions armed to the teeth and willing to sacrifice themselves for the cause. What else can we expect but lots of action and explosions? If you’re looking for some mind-blowing drama, this ain’t the place to find it, I hate to break that to you.  Save for a slight slowdown in the second and third acts, this flick is almost nonstop action, starting with a badass train rescue scene that reminds us why these films are so enjoyable.

Mel’s diner. The Expendables 2 dug up Jean-Claude Van Damme and made him a villain. Excuse me, Vilain. This time around we get Mel Gibson, who apparently was one of the original Expendables (with Stallone and Snipes), but a mission went wrong and, after being rumored for dead, he is discovered to be a massive weapons dealer. In Machete Kills, Gibson returned to the big screen, after his strange legal troubles, and gave us an over the top villain performance for the ages. This character seems as if he is just as unhinged, but Gibson is doing his best to keep that under control. That Jekyll & Hyde dynamic, if you will, is what makes it work so well as a foil for the team.

What didn’t I like?

Young vs. old. Tell me if you’ve heard this before. A bunch of old guys, who are (or were) the top of their game…maybe even the best have an encounter with the “next generation” who do the same job but with fancier gadgets and more attitude. If that sounds familiar, it is probably because just about everytime we get old and new school together, they come to blows. Personally, with this group of “newbies”, they could have been left out of the film, save for Rousey and the computer guy. These films were created with the intention of giving the older guys the spotlight, a little tidbit they seem to have forgotten.

Race card. Bare with me as I step on my soapbox for a bit here. So, early on, Terry Crews’ character is mortally wounded, strangely enough, this happens as a new African-American character, played by Wesley Snipes, is brought in. Crews even mentions it, since he was in Somalia, or whatever 3rd world country that was while the rest of the team was breaking Snipes out of that prison train. We should have known then, but it seems as if this film suffers from what has been deemed The Walking Dead syndrome, which is the inability to have two black characters. Go back and watch the show, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Most notably when T-Dog was just coming into his own is when he gets it…coincidentally as Michonne was brought in. If this is some hidden Hollywood racism, it could also point to why we still haven’t got that much-anticipated Black Panther movie. Then again, if we ever do get it and he joins the Avengers, Falcon or War Machine, if not both, would have to go. Back to the point at hand, Crews’ character is one of the most charming and endearing of this franchise and they took him out of this film. It could have just as easily been Randy Couture’s character. No one cares about him, plus we get 2 other UFC stars later in the film! –steps off soapbox–

Snipe hunt. After Snipes’ badass introduction, he disappears into the background. I have two issues with this. First, they go through all the trouble of pointing out that he’s one of the original Expendables and a doctor, yet the only time we see him doing any doctoring is when Crews is hurt. As far being one of the original, that just seemed like it was a convenient plot point to break him out of jail. Second, the clothes they put him in are…well…let’s just say they remind me of what my grandfather wore. Now, I will say that the home base of this film is New Orleans, and that is a style down there, especially among jazz musicians, just go look at Kermit Ruffins. Unfortunately, Snipes is not playing a jazz musician, so I have to wonder if the clothes were to just keep him noticed. If that was the case, then it worked. If not, then someone needs to rethink these choices because the look does not work for Snipes.

I was expecting The Expendables 3 to do better at the box office. Maybe if they stopped trying to make these PG-13, it would have. The audience for these films is mostly those of us that were around when these guys were in their prime, making R rated action flicks, complete with boobs, muscles, sweat, action, and guns. If and when they make the 4th film of this franchise, I hope they realize that. Also, they touched on the origin of the group, I would like to see more of that and/or since there are so many now, perhaps Expendables A and Expendables B? Just a couple of thoughts. All that said, this is not the kind of film that will be bringing home any awards in the spring, I think we all know that little fact. However, it is a fun summer flick. Out of the 3 films, it may be the best written and most exciting. Do I recommend it? Yes, very highly! Check it out!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

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Unleashed

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on March 30, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Bart (Bob Hoskins) is a vicious loan shark whose method of persuading men to pay him back involves Danny the Dog (Jet Li), a man with the mentality of a child; only if a metal collar around his neck is removed by Bart will he become a violently skilled fighter who stops at nothing to take down his targets. But once the collar is on, Danny is a harmless, withdrawn person, with very little knowledge of how to live as a socialized person, and he is constantly bullied by his master Bart.

One day, Bart realizes he can end his loan shark career by regularly attending an underground fighting tournament and registering Danny to fight; in exchange, if Danny can win and survive the fights, Bart receives good money. After the first fight, however, Bart gets into a mishap with another criminal and is left for dead after a violent shooting. A critically injured Danny runs off to an antique warehouse for shelter, where he meets a kindly piano tuner, Sam (Morgan Freeman). Danny soon finds himself with Sam and his step-daughter Victoria (Kerry Condon) in their apartment, and he starts a new life with the benevolent family; curiously he is drawn closer to music while spending time with Victoria. He also develops curiosity about who his mother was when he learns what a family is.

Weeks later Sam informs Danny about moving back to New York, where he and Victoria are originally from. He invites Danny, telling him they think of him as family, and Danny happily accepts. However, Danny runs into Bart’s right-hand man Lefty in the streets and is forced back to Bart, who is still alive. Bart drags Danny back to the underground arena, where a death-match is set between Danny and ruthless martial artists. Despite Danny’s pleas, Bart shoves him into the pit, where he is pummeled by four fighters. Danny eventually retaliates, but refuses to kill them. Enraged by Danny’s change of character, Bart drags him back home and shuts him back to his cage. That night, however, Danny sneaks through his door and goes through photographs of Bart’s favorite prostitutes, finally finding one snapshot of who appears to be Danny’s own mother. He interrogates Bart, who tells him that she was simply a prostitute who is long gone. He angrily promises to make Danny repay him for the money he had lost earlier that evening.

Next morning, however, Danny manages to escape and runs back to Sam and Victoria, telling them what he had learned and where he was. With the two’s help, Danny regains memories from his childhood past: his mother was a music student with no money, so she offered herself to Bart to get some to pay for her lessons. But one day, Bart shot her when she defied him. Bart has been raising Danny ever since, not as a human being, but as a dog.

Bart and a plethora of thugs arrive at Sam’s apartement building to capture Danny. Frantic, Danny hides Sam and Victoria in their closet, and he runs out to take out the thugs all over the building. He then faces off against an attacker (Michael Ian Lambert) with skills similar to his own; Danny eventually causes him to fall to his death on Bart’s car. A vengeful Bart pursues Danny through the building with a gun, finally catching him in Sam’s apartment. He threatens to pull the trigger, all the while telling him that he was never meant for a different kind of lifestyle. But he drops the gun and instead takes out a collar, telling Danny to come home. Danny slowly advances toward the collar, but stops Bart at the last minute and disarms him. He proceeds to furiously beat Bart, causing Sam and Victoria to burst out and frantically beg Danny not to kill; however, a defeated Bart orders Danny otherwise. Bart then tells Danny he will always be an animal, to which Sam responds by smashing a flower pot on his head, knocking him unconscious. Danny, Sam, and Victoria embrace.

Some time later, Danny is with Sam at a piano recital at Carnegie Hall, where Victoria is getting ready to perform. Realizing Victoria is playing what his mother played years ago, Danny sheds a happy tear.

REVIEW:

This will also be a bit on the short side, sorry about that.

Someone had actually mention Unleashed in a conversation awhile back and was surprised that I had not seen it. Truthfully, I don’t even recall it being released in 2005, but it has a pretty niche fan base, as it would appear. Will I join the club?

What is this about?

Raised as a slave, Danny (Jet Li) is used to fighting for his survival. In fact, his “master,” Bart (Bob Hoskins), thinks of him as a pet and goes as far as leashing him with a collar so they can make money in fight clubs, where Danny is the main contender. When Bart’s crew is in a car accident, Danny escapes and meets a blind, kindhearted piano tuner (Morgan Freeman) who takes him in and uses music to free the fighter’s long-buried heart.

What did I like?

Action. Jet Li is a bona-fide martial arts action star. If you’ve never seen his work, then this is one of those that really gets to show off the technique and skill he possesses. It is obvious that this is a vehicle meant specifically for him. Had it been any other way, this would not have worked as well.

Music. The use of music as a way to bring back Jet Li’s character’s memories was inspired. As a musician and music lover, it really appealed to me. Also, the music they chose was quite soothing which has been proven to soothe the savage beast, as well as bring back repressed memories. This is a small little thing that I believe they could have made more of a focal point of the film if they wanted to and may have even improved the film.

Heavy hitters. No, I’m not talking about how hard Li’s hits and kicks are, but rather the acting of Morgan Freeman and Bob Hoskins. These are two of the greatest actors of this time and they get the chance to do their thing here. Freeman is his usual mentor character, but Hopkins is on a villainous turn, something that he isn’t well-known for…at least at this point in his career.

What didn’t I like?

Victoria. Kerry Condon didn’t really work in this film for two reasons. First, her introduction makes her out to be a rather over-talkative teenage girl. Second, she’s playing an 18 yr old, but looks to be about 30 or so. Surely they could have found someone with a more youthful look to play this character, right?

Collar. For some reason, I assumed that since Jet Li’s character was wearing a dog collar that it would be some kind of shock collar which could be used to bring him back and/or track him, but that wasn’t quite the case. As it is, this was just a regular old dog collar. To me, that seemed like a bit of a waste.

All in all, Unleashed was a pretty decent flick. It wasn’t something that blew me away, but all the action keeps you interested. A decent story doesn’t hurt things, either. Do I recommend this? Yes, while it isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, there are worse things you can see. Check it out!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Expendables 2

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The Expendables are deployed to Nepal in order to rescue a Chinese businessman. The team consists of leader Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), former SAS soldier and blades specialist Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), martial artist Yin Yang (Jet Li), weapons specialist Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), demolitions expert Toll Road (Randy Couture), and snipers Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) and Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth), the group’s youngest and newest member. The mercenaries rescue the businessmen, as well as Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Ross’ rival. Yang accompanies the businessman in his return to China, and temporarily departs from the group.

Ross accepts a mission from Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) to retrieve an item from a safe from an airplane that was shot down in Albania. The team, accompanied by tech genius Maggie (Yu Nan), retrieve the item from the airplane; their victory is short-lived, after discovering that Billy has been captured by Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), who intends to retrieve the item. The Expendables surrender the item, however Vilain executes Billy and leaves. The group bury Billy and swears revenge on Vilain; Maggie reveals the item on the plane was a blueprint to a mine which stores plutonium. Vilain, along with his right-hand man Hector (Scott Adkins), intends to retrieve a large amount of plutonium and sell them.

The team decides to travel to the mines, although the group stops by an abandoned military base where they spend the night. The next morning, the team are ambushed by Vilain’s army, but the army is quickly eliminated by Booker (Chuck Norris) single-handed, who departs the group shortly afterwards. Before departing, Booker informs the group about a nearby village with residents who are against Vilain. As they enter the village, the group discovers a number of armed female villagers who are guarding their children. The women tell the mercenaries that the men of the village have been taken to work at the mine; the miners never return to their families. Eventually, the Sang arrives to take more villagers to work, but the team successfully kills all the Sang, saving the village. The group stages an attack on Vilain through infiltrating the mine by shooting their plane through the caves; the plane is destroyed in the process. Vilain causes a set of explosions that buries the team and the miners underground. After Jensen makes an unsuccessful attempt to detonate a portion of the mine, Trench and Church rescue the mercenaries and the miners trapped in the mine; the miners are reunited with their loved ones from the village.

The Expendables, Trench and Church pursue Vilain to the airport, where Vilain and his men would depart on a private plane with the plutonium. The team, rejoined by Booker, fight their way through the airport. Christmas encounters and eventually decapitates Hector. Ross and Maggie follow Vilain to the hangar, where Ross and Vilain battle. Vilain is eventually strangled and stabbed by Ross, avenging Billy’s death. Church, Maggie, Booker and Trench say their goodbyes to Ross, with Church giving a worn-out airplane to Ross (as a replacement of the team’s destroyed airplane). As the team departs in the plane, the Expendables give a final toast in honor of Billy. The group leaves a large sum of money to Sophia (Nikolette Noel), Billy’s French girlfriend, as well as a picture of Billy and Billy’s final letter to Sophia

REVIEW:

A couple of years ago, everyone scoffed at the idea of a bunch of aging action starts getting together and making a movie. Many thought it was just a way for them to get a paycheck, since Hollywood had apparently passed them by. Well, they went on and laughed all the way to the bank, because The Expendables was a big financial success, proving that not everything needs to be CGI and big budget special effects. Now, we have The Expendables 2…same idea, but with a few of the stars that didn’t or couldn’t be in the first one.

What is it about?

Contrary to popular belief, there is a plot to this film, and it isn’t just a bunch of old guys shooting and blowing up stuff…although, that stuff is very prevalent throughout the picture. The actual storyline, though, is that the guys get hired by Mr. Church to go in and bring back something valuable, we initially don’t know what it is, from a safe in a plane that was shot down in the Chinese mountains. Once they retrieved the package are ready to head home, they are ambushed by a group of vigilante villains. After a tense game of chicken, a team member dies, which leads to the driving force behind the rest of the film, revenge. Along the way to the final showdown, the group helps the town that is being forced to mine plutonium so that the other vigilantes can sell it.

What did I like?

Action. If you’ve ever seen an 80s action flick, then you know that they are all about over the top explosions and bloody gore. Welcome to the 2000s, where the explosions are created by computers more often than not and gore is relegated to horror movies. Thanks goodness someone remembered that the audience wants to see this kind of stuff. Now, if only we can get more of it!

Tone. I’ve heard some people weren’t too happy with the change in tone from the first film, but I actually didn’t mind it. A few jokes among friends don’t hurt. If anything, they make these characters seem more human. Don’t you agree? There is a line that Barney has which really sums it up. It goes something like, “…we keep it light, but when the time comes we go full on dark”[sic].

Start and end with a bang. The best scenes in this film are the opening and closing scenes. Both are just the over-the-top action we expect from this fledgling franchise. These are this kind of scenes with lots of people getting killed, lots of stuff being blown up, and dizzying camera angles.

New blood. Bringing in Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme wasn’t a bad idea, even if Norris made them tone down the language to get a PG-13 rating (the violence knocked it back up to an R). I didn’t miss Mickey Rourke at all. Then again, after watching the first film again yesterday afternoon, he wasn’t really that important.

Know your audience. The audience for this film is mostly guys like me who are fed up with these so-called “action” (read=drama) films of today and they make sure they do everything the right way. I don’t believe this was a 3D film, but I can imagine some studio execs pleaded and begged for it to have been. I can’t say how glad I am to not have to have been forced to shell out the case for some rental sunglasses just to see some half-ass 3D effects that really don’t look any different from 2D.

Friendship. There is a scene where the guys are sitting around trying to relax from the day and it is just like some old friends reminiscing. They even have some fun with the “new guy”. This is not only the funniest scene of the movie, but it serves to develop the bond between the characters that we didn’t get in the first film, save for Barney and Christmas, who is actually not involved it.

Villain. Jean-Claude Van Damme returns to his starring form with his role as the villainous Villain (pronounced vil-lain). This guy seems to be cold, calculating, and everything you would expect from a villain of today. He demands and commands respect and murders without a second thought. Then there is the fact that he can go toe to toe with Stallone. Just wait until you see that!

What didn’t I like.

Girl, please. When this film started, I was thinking to myself, we have this group of 80s action guy stars, but what about a group of women? No sooner than I finished that thought, do we get introduced to the character of Maggie. Throughout the film, you can tell there is tension between her and Stallone, and I’m not just talking about the sexual tension. As a character, she isn’t bad, but a woman doesn’t belong in this group. It just doesn’t work.

Asian connection. Jet Li kicks more ass in the 10 minutes or so he’s on the screen this time around than he did in all of the last picture. OK, maybe that’s a bit of a an exaggeration, but he does seemingly disappear and never comes back or is mentioned for the rest of the picture. Coincidentally, the “help” that Church brings in is Asian. I can’t help but think there was a reason behind this ethnic casting.

Jason. I’m a huge Jason Statham fan and, personal bias aside, I have to say that it sort of felt like he was relegated to the role of the sidekick this time around. He even bitches about it when he has to go back and get the truck. If not for the scene in the church and his fight with Van Damme’s right hand man, you’d really wonder why he wasn’t utilised more.

Young blood and nearly silent. Aside from Li, there were two other things about the cast that bothered me. First, there is the early death of Liam Hemsworth’s character. I was initially questioning his casting instead of his brother, Chris, but since they killed him off so fast, I guess it makes sense. I have to wonder, especially if they’re talking of making this a real franchise, why they would kill the newest and youngest member, especially since he’s such a crack shot. Granted, his death serves as motivation for the rest of the film, it just seemed like they could have used someone else, like say, Toll Road. Randy Couture’s character is there, but he has little, if anything, to say. I believe he may have 5 or 10 lines throughout the entire film. They could have given him something else to do!

Arnold. After his years as governor of California, it is good to see Arnold getting back into the acting thing. There was even a trailer with hims starring in his own film, so he’s at least picking back up where he left off. The problem here, though, is that his one-liners are as bad they were in Batman & Robin. I can’t give him a pass for being rusty on this one. He needs to do better, and the writers should be ashamed for having him constantly recite such drivel!

The Expendables 2 is a damn fun, good time to be had. A true nostalgic picture than makes you wonder why they don’t make films that are truly fun anymore. I want you, though, if you’re looking for something cerebral and artsy-fartsy, this is not the film for you. This is a film for those of us that actually want to be entertained when we go to the movies! With the summer movie season coming to a close, this is the perfect film to wrap it up and may end up being a sleeper hit, at least on this blog, come the end of the year awards. I highly recommend that you stop reading this and head to your nearest theater and go see this right now!

5 out of 5 stars

Black Mask

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , on May 5, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Tsui Chik (Simon in the US version), tries to lead a quiet life as a librarian. However, he is really a former test subject for a highly secretive supersoldier project and the instructor of a special commando unit dubbed “701.” The 701 squad is used for many government missions, but after one of the agents kills a team of policemen in an uncontrollable rage, the government decides to abort the project and eliminate all the subjects. Tsui Chik helped the surviving 701 agents flee the extermination attempt. Having escaped, Tsui Chik went separate ways from his team. Later, he discovers that rest of the team were responsible for a violent crime spree that was beyond the capability of the local police. He sets out to stop them, donning a disguise and using the superhero alias of “Black Mask”. Having lost the ability to feel pain due to the surgery performed on the super-soldiers by the military, Black Mask is highly invulnerable.

In the film, in homage to The Green Hornet, Black Mask wears a domino mask and chauffeur’s cap in the same style as Kato from the series. The Black Mask is even compared to Kato in a news reporter scene.

REVIEW:

No, this is not a film about the famed Batman villain, Black Mask, but rather something altogether different. The question is, would Black Mask have been netter off using that character, instead? The world may never know.

There was good and bad about this film, but the only thing I really liked was the action and super hero plot.

What didn’t I like?

English dubbing. It is one thing to see the bad dubs in the Godzilla movies, because that was the late 50s and 60s, but this was released in 1996. Yes, that was 16 years ago, but they could have done better with synching up the voices and mouth movements.

Confusion. For most of the film, I was wondering what the heck was going on. That might have just been me being too distracted by the bad dubbing, but I am under the belief that it has more to do with this film not having a plan for what it wanted to do.

Ending. I won’t spoil it, but I will say that the ending is a bit anticlimactic and leaves the audience wanting more. I guess that is why there was a sequel, though.

Black Mask is actually decent enough, but not something that you will remember 5-10 minutes after the end credits roll. Jet Li is the star of this film, but, truth be told, any Asian guy could have played this. There is nothing that just screams for Jet Li to have been cast, at least that I can tell, and he is the one with the drawing power. All in all, though, there just isn’t enough to justify going out of the way to see it. It is just a below average to average martial arts flick, in my opinion.

3 out of 5 stars

The One

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , on February 13, 2012 by Mystery Man

one

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A superhuman criminal named Gabriel YuLaw (Jet Li), once an officer of the “Multiverse Authority” (MVA) that polices interdimensional travel (via detecting wormhole openings, which can be predicted like the weather), seeks to hunt down and kill all other variations of himself in alternate universes. By killing all of his other selves, (and thus becoming the last version of himself) and absorbing their life energies into himself, he believes he will become “The One”, a godlike being. YuLaw is briefly captured by MVA agents Rodecker (Delroy Lindo) and Funsch (Jason Statham), only to escape from captivity during the final phase of his sentence to life in a penal colony.

The last known alternate, Gabriel (Gabe) Law, works in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. For two years he has been experiencing increases in strength, speed and mental ability but neither he nor his wife, T.K. Law (TK) (Carla Gugino), can understand why. While transporting a snitching prisoner for the Sheriff’s Department, Gabe “feels” Yulaw’s presence just before he attempts to kill Gabriel Law. Yulaw escapes, with Gabe giving chase and leaping a very high wall – which is humanly impossible. Upon landing on the other side Yulaw faces Gabe and shoots him, but not fatally. Going in for the kill, Yulaw is interrupted by Rodecker and Funsch.

Gabe Law sees Yulaw, who is identical to him in every way. Being unfamiliar with interdimensional travel between universes, Yulaw’s appearance is incomprehensible. At the hospital again Gabe feels Yulaw’s presence. There is another fight and Rodecker and Funsch again intervene. Yulaw deters them from shooting him because if he is killed, then Gabe will pose a problem because he would then be left as the only “One”. Dressed alike and identical in every way, Gabe and Yulaw’s battle confuse Gabe’s Sheriff Department colleagues. Both Gabe and Yulaw manage to escape the hospital.

Rodecker is faced with a dilemma: they are chasing two superhumans, they cannot kill either one. Funsch insists that YuLaw, as the instigator, must be dealt with in a more aggressive manner. Rodecker makes a fateful decision to “go way off procedure” and split the team. Rodecker pursues Yu Law and is killed. Funsch catches up with Gabe and tells him about the multiverse and why he has become stronger. Yulaw finds Gabe’s residence where TK, believing it is Gabe, attempts to protect him, but she senses he is not really Gabe. Gabe arrives only to have Yulaw force him to watch while he kills her. Funsch finds Gabe and they team up to find Yulaw at the next occurrence of a wormhole – an industrial plant.

Yulaw, Gabe Law and Funsch arrive at the industrial plant, where the final battle between Gabe and Yulaw takes place. Ultimately Gabe is victorious, but all three are caught in the wormhole and travel back to the MVA headquarters in the Alpha Universe. Yu Law is transported immediately to the prison colony universe after a last ditch attempt to switch places with Gabe. The MVA then prepares to send Gabriel back to his own universe where he will be arrested and put in prison for the murders Yulaw committed, but Agent Funsch instead sends him to another universe where Los Angeles is hailed as “America’s Cleanest City” and he ends up in the same situation in which he met his wife in his home universe. As for Yulaw, now on the penal colony, he declares his intent to still become the one; standing at the top of a Ziggurat in a hell-like universe, he commences to battle the penal dimension’s inhabitants in an (implied) unending series of waves of fighters as the credits roll.

REVIEW:

Imagine what the world would be like is a certain even in your lifetime had gone another way. Well, in some universe, there is a version of yourself where you are the greatest possible version of yourself. For instance, if you were an athlete in school, in some universe, you are a professional, while in another you may just be a trainer or an agent. This is the scientific basis for The One.

For me to sit here and try to explain this film would cause all of our heads to explode, so I’ll save the messiness. That part of the film is about as convoluted at The Matrix movies, and yet, we are just as fascinated with it.

Initially, I thought this was going to be something not so interesting, but in fact it turned out to be quite intriguing. Someone said that it was a bit like Demolition Man. I kind of see the comparison, what with the time/universe traveling super criminal and cops, but even that is a stretch.

The story takes place in what appears to be the future, but it could very well have just been a different universe. The supercriminal Yulaw seeks to travel to each universe and kill his counterpart. The reasoning behind this is that he believes that with each death he gets stronger and closer to being a god. However, the multiverse police, I forgot what the actual name was, believe that if he succeeds in killing all versions of himself, all the universes will cease to exist.

How can you have a film like this without lots of action, right? We get plenty of kick ass scenes, but the best ones have to be where Jet Li is fighting himself. As I was watching this, I couldn’t help but think he would (or would have been) great in the Mortal Kombat movies. As good as Jackie Chan is, I do believe Li is the better current martial arts master.

Couple that with one of today’s best action stars, Jason Statham. I’ve always said that Statham has some similarities to Bruce Willis. Seeing him with hair just solidified that fact. Yes, Statham has hair in this film. While this isn’t a starring role for him, he does have brilliant chemistry with both Jet Li and especially Delroy Lindo.

Special effects are not too shabby, but for some reason, I think they may have been a bit too much for the tone of this film. That isn’t to say they were bad, but rather misplaced. Keep in mind, though, that without them, this may not have worked as well. I guess it is just one of those things where it depends on your particular taste.

I really enjoyed this flick and believe that you will as well. The action scenes are quite spectacular and the story really draws you in, keeping you enthralled as you wonder what is going to happen in the end. While the picture is not without its flaws, it is a good watch and I hope that you give it a shot at some point. Sure, you will enjoy it!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

War

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on September 21, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

During a shootout against Chinese Triads at a dock warehouse, FBI agents John Crawford (Jason Statham) and Tom Lone (Terry Chen) stumble across the notorious assassin Rogue (Jet Li), a former CIA assassin who now works for the Japanese Yakuza. Rogue ambushes Crawford and is about to execute him when Lone appears and shoots Rogue in the face, causing him to fall into the water. Rogue’s body was never found and he is presumed dead. However, Rogue survives and his retaliation against Lone, his wife and his daughter, leaves three corpses in the ashes of their home.

Three years later, Rogue re-appears, working under Chinese Triad boss Li Chang (John Lone). Rogue is assisting Chang against Chang’s arch-enemy and Rogue’s former employer, the leader of the Japanese Yakuza, Shiro Yanagawa (Ryo Ishibashi). Rogue first attacks a club ran by the Yakuza in order to recover a pair of antique gold horses, family heirlooms of Li Chang. However, Rogue is secretly setting the Yakuza and the Triads against each other, in order to push the two factions toward all-out war.

Now the head agent of the FBI’s Asian Crime Task Force, Crawford is determined to hunt Rogue down and exact revenge for Lone’s death. Crawford’s obsessive pursuit of Rogue has taken a toll on his personal life, estranging him from his family. Crawford comes close to catching Rogue in the wake of Rogue’s various killing sprees against the Triads and Yakuza, but Rogue always manages to stay one step ahead.

Ultimately, Rogue’s machinations have gained the trust of both Li Chang and Yanagawa. Rogue succeeds in betraying Li Chang, but spares Li Chang’s wife and child, turning on the Yakuza. With Chang dead, Yanagawa is finally ready to come to America, where he intends to take over and expand Yakuza business operations. However, he is confronted by Crawford and the FBI; Crawford presents Shiro with proof that Rogue has betrayed him and spared Li Chang’s family, but Yanagawa refuses to assist Crawford in locating Rogue.

Later, Rogue delivers the horses to Shiro personally. Knowing of Rogue’s betrayal, Yanagawa captures Rogue and demands the location of Li Chang’s family. Rogue kills all of Shiro Yanagawa’s men, and engages in a sword fight against Shiro Yanagawa himself. Rogue reveals that he is actually FBI agent Tom Lone (who, after receiving plastic surgery, changed his voice to obtain a Chinese accent); and killed the real Rogue, assuming the assassin’s identity. Rogue/Lone reveals that his actions have all been designed to bring him face-to-face with Yanagawa, so he could kill the man who ordered the death of his family. Yanagawa reveals that Crawford was in his pocket and responsible for leaking Lone’s identity and home address to Rogue. Angered, Lone disarms and decapitates Shiro Yanagawa.

Meanwhile Chang’s wife receives a package from Lone, composed of the golden horses that belongs to Chang’s family and a message reading, “Make a new life”. Yanagawa’s daughter also receives a package with the same message and inside the box is her father’s head. Lone then calls Crawford as he was packing up his office, telling him to meet him at the dock warehouse they last made their investigation. Before going to the warehouse, Crawford enlists the help of Goi (Sung Kang), an FBI sniper who helped in the investigation throughout the film.

At the warehouse, Crawford and Rogue battle each other in an intense hand-to-hand fight. When Rogue reveals his identity as Lone, a devastated Crawford reveals his employment of Yanagawa and that he only gave Lone’s address to Shiro because he thought that the Yakuza were only going to beat Lone up, and did not expect the family to be assassinated by Rogue. Crawford begs Lone for forgiveness, but is rebuffed by Lone, finalizing his identity as Rogue. During the revelation, Goi takes aim at Rogue, but Crawford jumps in Goi’s line of fire, saving Rogue’s life. Rogue pushes him away and shoots him in the back, later driving out of town accepting his new identity.

REVIEW:

I guess tonight just turned out to be the day of 3 letter movie titles. First, there was Rio, and now…War.

I’m a pretty big Jason Statham fan, so it was just a matter of time before I got around to watching this. I am starting to see a pattern in his films, though. Not to spoil the ending, but many of them seem to have the same twist. I wonder if that is done on purpose or if it is just a coincidence.

The best thing about this film is the action. Of course, with Statham and Jet Li, would you expect less. The thing about that, though, is the two never get a showdown, so that was a bit of a letdown. When they do come face to face, they circle each other and talk for a good 5 minutes leading to the film’s conclusion. It was actually a bit of a tease, not to mention anti-climactic.

I really liked the plot, even though it did do a bit of jumping around which left me a bit confused. Of course, I was also taking playing Words with Friends on Facebook, so that might have been a reason for the confusion. I probably just missed something. Wouldn’t be the first time.

Recently, I’ve really gotten into the samurai culture, so seeing them use samurai swords in this film was a real treat for me, even if it was briefly and not in the traditional samurai way. Still, that sword fight was awesome.

I wish I had more to say about this flick, but the fact of the matter is that it wasn’t really that impressive as a whole picture. It came off as very pedestrian to me. I mean, there wasn’t anything special about it. Sure, it wasn’t as plain as sliced bread, or anything like that, but I guess I was just expecting that final battle between Statham and Li, which never happened and that really ruined the whole picture for me. Still, I think I would recommend this, if you’re looking for a decent action flick.

3 out of 5 stars

Romeo Must Die

Posted in Action/Adventure, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on June 2, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The son of the head of the local Chinese gang, Po Sing (Jon Kit Lee) gets into a confrontation at Silk’s Nightclub with several black gang members. Po’s bodyguards, led by Kai (Russell Wong), come to retrieve him. After a fight, Silk (DMX) and his bouncers drive the Chinese gang members out with assault rifles. Kai argues with Po over his stirring the current gang war by going into an enemy club, but Po brushes him off and drives off. In the morning he is found dead. Word quickly travels to his father Chu Sing (Henry O), as well as to the leader of the black gang, Isaak O’Day (Delroy Lindo). In Hong Kong, Po’s brother, Han Sing (Jet Li) learns of his brother’s death and escapes prison, heading to America.

Isaak sends Maurice (Anthony Anderson) to guard his daughter, Trish O’Day (Aaliyah), who accompanies her as she goes to a music store. She gives him the slip and jumps into a cab, which Han has just hot-wired. He agrees to drive her where she wants to go, and along the way they enjoy friendly conversation. Meanwhile Isaak meets with Vincent Roth (Edoardo Ballerini) to discuss his acquisitions of various waterfront lands so Roth can become a part owner of the city’s NFL football team and its new stadium. Isaak desires to go legitimate for his children.

In her store, Trish is upset to find her brother Colin O’Day (D.B. Woodside) there talking business, and reminds him that she wants nothing to do with their “gangster” business. After they argue, he tells her not to worry and that he loves her. Meanwhile, Han breaks into his dead brother’s apartment and discovers that the last number Po called was Trish’s store. At a diner, Isaak’s second in command, Mac (Isaiah Washington), confronts Trish and warns her to be careful due to the rising violence. When she arrives home, Han follows her into her apartment and asks her about the call. She suspects Po called Colin, and tells him so. Maurice and others arrive and find Han there. They try to fight him and are all defeated, after which Han steals Maurice’s SUV.

At Po’s funeral, Han confronts his father and demands to know who killed his brother, but his father does not answer. Kai tells him the two gangs are fighting for majority control of the waterfront property. Han meets again with Trish to see if she has learned anything more, and to enjoy flirting with her. That night, Colin and his girlfriend are thrown out of a window by an unidentified assassin. The next day, Po’s place is ransacked and Han finds Po’s car in the garage, where he examines Po’s cane and finds a list of addresses. He returns to the apartment where Trish is crying among the mess. After telling him of Colin’s murder, she asks for his help.

They start visiting the list of addresses on the list, and at the first find the Chinese owner has just been murdered. They spot the assassins leaving, who also spot them and give chase. During the chase and subsequent fight, Han discovers they are Chinese. He tells his father who dismisses it as a plot by Isaak and warns Han that Trish is just tricking him. Meanwhile Mac muscles a black fisherman out of his waterfront estate while Kai and his Chinese agents murder the owner and workers at a Chinese-owned waterfront business and steal their property deeds.

Isaak goes to Trish’s home and forces her to come to her childhood home for protection. When he warns her against being with Han, she asks if he had anything to with Po’s murder. Isaak promises that he did not and that he will make the Chinese pay for killing Colin. They later have a long talk, and he apologizes for not always being the best father and tells her he needs her in his life. Roth calls and interrupts, asking about the deeds. They agree to meet at Silk’s at 8:00 for the exchange, while Trish finds Han standing on her balcony.

Han and Trish head to Silk’s club, the only place on the list of addresses that has yet to be invaded or signed over. Everyone stares at them, so Trish drags Han to the dance floor. Silk goes down and calls them to his office to talk, asking what is going on. He explains that Isaak is buying up all the property, but that he is not selling. Mac comes in and murders Silk to take the deeds. Han is beaten unconscious, and comes to in a warehouse surrounded by Maurice and other gang members. In an extended fight sequence, Han manages to escape and goes to find Trish.

At the Oakridge Men’s Club, Isaak declines to sell the deeds, wanting to become a partner instead. Mac says he’s fed up with him and turns on him, revealing that he was working with Chu to kill any property owners who would not give up the deeds, and that Mac was the one who murdered Colin. An enraged Isaak attacks Mac, and is shot. A gunfight breaks out between Isaak’s folks and Roth’s bodyguards, leaving most of Isaak’s men dead. Roth flees with the deeds, but while fleeing he drops them from the helicopter and loses them. As Mac gathers them, Han confronts him about his brother, but Mac says it was done “in house” before pulling a gun. Trish arrives and shoots him off the roof. Inside, Isaak shakes Han’s hand before Han goes to Chu’s to confront his father.

First, Han must get through Kai, who tells him that he is the one who killed Po. After a lengthy fight, Han kills him, then meets with Chu who explains that he had to protect the business venture. He asks if Han will now kill him, but Han says he has avenged his brother and will leave it to the police and the families of the murdered Chinese property owners to deal with him. As he leaves, Chu kills himself.

Han meets with Trish and they share an embrace before walking away together.

REVIEW:

There have been quite a few takes on the tale of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Some have been interesting, some have become Academy Award Winning feature films, others have been boring, some have even been quite…odd, but this one, Romeo Must Die, gives us something new, and that is a mixture of action, drama, and revenge, all without getting too sappy and sentimental.

Let’s face it, everyone knows the story of Romeo & Juliet, so to retell that anywhere except in high school classrooms these days wouldn’t make much sense. These filmmakers chose to give us a fresh take on the tale, one that won’t bore the audience to death.

The plot involves the sudden death of a Chinese gang leader’s son, which is attributed to the leader of an African-American gang, thus causing a gang war (which apparently was already going on). Over in Hong kong, the dead son’s brother hears of his death and escapes prison to avenge his brother’s death. Upon his arrival in America, he meets the other gang leader’s beautiful daughter, and aside from the initial loathing for each other, the forbidden romance begins. The film continues with a secondary plot of betrayal involving land deeds and the desire to buy the new Oakland NFL franchise.

I wasn’t too crazy about the story, to be honest with you, but once it got going, it was actually pretty good, especially the action scenes.

The climactic betrayal at the end kind of took me by surprise, but I guess I should’ve seen it coming.

Acting isn’t anything special here, but they don’t stink up the joint or try to quote classic Shakespeare in modern day.

The most impressive member of the cast, though, was Aaliyah. I’m not 100% sure if this was her acting debut, or just the one where everyone realized she could do more than sing and be a pretty face, but she really shines here and she has great chemistry with Jet Li, and Delroy Lindo, for that matter.

Anthony Anderson is in here just for the comic relief. The guy is a comedian, so I can’t really fault him for that. However, it seems as if he plays the same role almost everytime I see him.

At it’s heart, this film wants desperately to be an action flick. In the action scenes, it can rival many of the great modern-day martial arts films. I was particularly impressed with the X-ray scenes. If you’ve seen the new Mortal Kombat game, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. That same technique is used in this film. I wonder if this is where they got it from.

So, what is my final verdict on Romeo Must Die? Well, if you’re looking for some hardcore drama like almost every other take on this tale, this will disappoint you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for some hardcore action flick, you’ll be disappointed, as well. This is a film that brings both worlds together, and does it very well. Is it worth the time to watch? Yes, but don’t go out of your way to see it. It’s good, but not really great.

4 out of 5 stars