Archive for Yakuza

The Punisher (1989)

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , on April 16, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Frank Castle is the city’s most wanted, and most mysterious, vigilante, known as “The Punisher”. He has killed 125 people in the last 5 years. Castle is an ex-police officer, whose family was murdered in a mob hit. Living in the sewers and waging a one-man war against organized crime, his only friend is an old alcoholic named Shake, who speaks in rhyme for reasons unexplained. Now legally declared dead, Castle strikes back from beyond the grave, killing mobsters wherever he can find them. Due to his war against them, the Mafia families have weakened, forcing one of the family leaders, Gianni Franco, to come in and take control. Franco has a plan to bring the families together as one unit. This, however, has attracted the attention of the Yakuza, Asia’s most powerful crime syndicate. Led by Lady Tanaka, the Yakuza decide to take over the Mafia families and all of their interests. In order to sway the mobsters to their cause, they kidnap their children and hold them for ransom.

Shake pleads with the Punisher to save the children, who are likely to be sold into childhood slavery regardless of whether the Mafia give into the demands. While he is able to save most of the children with a .45 Thompson M1928 submachine gun, the Mafia leader’s son is taken away to the Yakuza headquarters. Furthermore, the Punisher is taken into custody by the police, only to be freed by Franco’s men. Franco persuades the Punisher to help him save his son, and stop the Japanese criminal underworld from taking root in America. Franco and the Punisher raid the Yakuza headquarters, fight and kill all the Yakuza, including Lady Tanaka and her daughter. Upon being reunited with his son, Franco betrays the Punisher in an effort to kill him, but the Punisher wins the duel, killing Franco. As the police arrive, Castle warns Franco’s son not to follow the sins of his father, and vanishes from the scene.

REVIEW:

Before the current superhero craze, there was a time when film studios were trying to get superheroes out to the public and recreate the success of Tim Burton’s Batman. I can’t think of any that were as big of a success as most were commercial flops and reviled in certain circles. This brings us to The Punisher, a character who is very difficult to bring to the big screen without watering the character down to a point in which he is unrecognizable. Did this film manage to do so?

What is this about?

The avenging angel of Marvel Comics fame comes to life in this action-adventure thriller. Dolph Lundgren stars as Frank Castle, a veteran cop who loses his entire family to a mafia car bomb. Only his ex-partner (Louis Gossett Jr.) believes Castle survived the blast. Frank becomes The Punisher, a shadowy, invincible fighter of evil who hides out in a labyrinth of sewers and lives for one purpose: to exact brutal revenge on his mob enemies.

What did I like?

Action.  This is obviously an 80s action flick, first and foremost, because the action is almost totally nonstop for the entire 90 minute runtime. Watching the fights, stunts, and whathaveyou was a pleasure. If there is one highlight to this flick, it is the action and stunts that take place. Seeing as this is a comic book movie, you shouldn’t really expect any less, though.

Violence. The Punisher is not called that for nothing. I was concerned before watching this that they would have watered him down to Saturday morning levels a la 90s Spider-Man cartoon. In some early scenes, though, we watch as he hangs a thug and then guns down the other thugs with blood spurting everywhere. Granted, it wasn’t as graphic as I believe would work better, it is still pretty damn fantastic.

What didn’t I like?

Skull. How can you have The Punisher without his trademark skull t-shirt? Both The Punisher and Punisher: War Zone, for whatever you think of them, at least Punisher was recognizable as The Punisher and not just some loony with guns, as he appears to be here. Who in the bloody blue hell took away the skull t-shirt and what was the reasoning behind it? It is really so unrealistic for a guy to be wearing a random skull t-shirt?

Rogues. Batman, Green Lantern, Spider-Man, Superman, The Flash, The X-Men, etc, all sport quite the impressive rogues gallery, but Punisher…not so much. He does have a few notable and colorful adversaries, though. I’m not saying that the mob and Yakuza aren’t formidable and intriguing, but we get so many films using them, it would have been nice to get a taste of some supervillain, instead. I think that is why I like Punisher: War Zone so much. As cheesy and over the top as it is, it doesn’t try to be a gritty detective film, but rather a violent action flick.

Say it ain’t so, Lou! Louis Gossett, Jr. is a fine actor and seeing him in this film gives one cause to pause. Why exactly is he in this? Does he owe someone involved with the making of it a favor? Is he just a fan of the character? Perhaps he needed the work? Whatever the case may be, this is a film that is beneath him. Watching the guy, you can tell he feels the same way, especially since he isn’t really given much to do. There are a couple of scenes in which he gets to shine, but that’s it. I can’t help but feel sorry for the guy having to do this film.

The Punisher was the first in 3 attempts to bring this character to the big screen and do him justice. Some have argued that while this is the worst film of the three, it does have the distinction of being the closest to the tone of the character. I’m not familiar enough with the character to argue with that, but I will say that this is not a good flick. It has its moments, but it isn’t a fun film to watch. Dolph Lundgren’s wooden acting theoretically works, as you don’t need to be the greatest actor to be Frank Castle, but he slips in and out of his accent which ruins it (Punisher is a die-hard New York guy) for me. Do I recommend this? No, but if you must watch because you want to view all 3 films, that is understandable. It is best to avoid this flick, though.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

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The Wolverine

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Logan retreats to the Canadian wilderness following the death of Jean Grey and the disbanding of the X-Men, where he is tormented by hallucinations of Jean, whom he was forced to kill, and of the Nagasaki bombing in 1945. One day, after getting into a fight with some hunters, he is located by Yukio, a woman with mutant powers enabling her to see people’s deaths, representing Yashida, the CEO of a technology corporation, who is dying of cancer. Logan saved Yashida’s life during the Nagasaki bombing, and Yashida wants Logan to accompany Yukio to Japan to return the favor.

In Tokyo, Logan meets Yashida’s son Shingen and Shingen’s daughter, Mariko. Yashida offers to conduct a transplant, removing Logan’s immortality and transferring it to himself. Logan refuses and prepares to leave the following day. That night, while Logan dreams of Jean, Yashida’s doctor, the mutant Viper, injects a robotic parasite in Logan’s system, which affects his healing factor. The next morning, Logan is informed that Yashida has died, and attends the funeral, where he saves Mariko from Yakuza assassins with help from Yashida’s associate Kenuichio Harada, a skilled archer and Mariko’s former lover, who still loves her. In the process, Logan is shot and finds out he is not healing as quickly as before.

After fighting more assassins on a bullet train, Logan and Mariko hide in a local hotel. While Mariko sleeps, Logan stands guard outside and experiences another hallucination of Jean before passing out from his injuries. When he awakens, he discovers that Mariko had the hotel owner’s grandson, a veterinarian, stitch him up. Meanwhile, Harada meets with Viper who, after demonstrating her mutant powers on him, demands he finds Logan and Mariko.

Logan and Mariko go to Yashida’s house in Nagasaki. As they slowly fall for each other, Logan slowly starts revealing his past to Mariko. Meanwhile, Yukio has a vision of Logan dying, and goes to warn him. However, she is too late and Mariko is captured. After interrogating one of her kidnappers, Logan goes to confront Mariko’s fiance, corrupt Chief of Justice Noburo Mori, who reveals that Shingen has ordered the kidnapping.

At Yashida Corporation’s headquarters, Shingen reveals Yashida has left Mariko his empire, and prepares to kill her when Harada arrives with his Black Ninja clan and Viper; Harada rescues Mariko, while Viper poisons Shingen. They then take Mariko to a research center based where Yashida was born.

Arriving at Yashida Corporation with Yukio, Logan uses Yashida’s medical technology to locate the parasite and extract it, but appears to die during the operation. Yukio is attacked by Shingen, who prepares to kill her when Logan awakens and intervenes, killing Shingen. Logan and Yukio then follow Harada and Viper to a research center, where Logan is attacked and captured by Harada and his men.

Logan is placed in a machine by Viper, who reveals her plans to extract his immortality and introduces Logan to her associate, the Silver Samurai, who has an adamantium sword and the ability to charge it with energy to increase its cutting power. After talking with Harada, who believes he is protecting her still, Mariko escapes and manages to direct the machine Logan is in into the Silver Samurai’s sword strike, breaking it and freeing him. Harada sees the error of his ways and is killed by the Silver Samurai while helping Logan escape. Meanwhile, Yukio arrives and defeats Viper by hanging her, while Logan fights the Silver Samurai, who cuts off his adamantium claws and begins to extract Logan’s healing abilities, revealing himself to be Yashida, who had faked his death and starts to regain his youth. Mariko intervenes and stabs Yashida with the discarded claws, giving Logan the opportunity to disable the armor with his bone claws and throw Yashida off a cliff before passing out. While unconscious, Logan once again hallucinates about Jean, and finally moves on from her death.

Mariko becomes CEO of Yashida Corporation and bids farewell to Logan as he prepares to leave Japan. Yukio vows to stay by Logan’s side as his bodyguard, and they depart to places unknown.

In a post-credits scene, Logan returns to the United States two years after the events in Japan, and watches an ad for Trask Industries and their advances in the field of robotics before being confronted by Magneto, with his powers restored. Magneto announces that Logan’s help is required to stop a new enemy that threatens to exterminate the mutant race. When Logan inquires why he should trust Magneto, Professor Charles Xavier arrives to reassure him. Logan is surprised to see Xavier alive since he saw Xavier being dissolved into particles, and Xavier reminds Logan that he is not the only one with gifts.

REVIEW:

As I was telling someone a few minutes ago, The Wolverine manages to do what all the other films he has appeared in have failed. The show Wolverine as the brute force of nature he really is. Only the original X-Men has come close to pulling this feat off, but the real question is, how is the film surrounding Logan?

What is this about?

Enigmatic superhero Wolverine travels to the Land of the Rising Sun in this kaleidoscopic battle epic based on the Marvel Comics character. There, Wolverine confronts his long-time adversary Logan in a spectacular battle that rattles the universe.

What did I like?

Story. One of the “holy grail” stories of Wolverine lore is his adventures in Japan. As a matter of fact, the first issue of Wolverine I ever read had him in Singapore (with the grey Hulk) reminiscing about his days in Japan. I bitch, moan, complain, and threaten murder about films that stray from the source material, but, with a few exception that I will touch on in a bit, this stays as close as possible to arguably one of the greatest comic stories ever written and just goes to show you that everything does not need to be changed to make a successful comic book movie.

#1 with a bullet. The bullet train scene is a true highlight of this picture. When I say that, I really mean it. Wolverine is crawling on top of this train going some 300mph while fighting the Yakuza and his healing factor is inhibited. Did I mention all the signs and what not he, and the other guys, have to avoid. It has an accidental comic effect, but the point is, this the best action scene of the film.

Post-credits. About halfway through the credits, there is arguably the best post credits scene that sets up a sequel/franchise that we’ve seen. I won’t spoil it, but I will say it sets up the forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, in which Wolverine, at least in the comics, is a central character.

Ripped. Just like many other straight males that have reviewed this film, I have to comment on Hugh Jackman’s physique. He is in phenomenal shape this go ’round, probably the best he has looked on-screen. Those workout tips from The Rock really helped! I do have to wonder about the toll it took on him personally. I mean, he had to be a bit gaut for Les Miserables, and then super buff for this one. Some guys joked that in the early scenes, it looks as if he went right from being Jean Valjean to Logan, what with the whole grizzly look he had going.

What didn’t I like?

Fatigue. A review I listened to before I saw brought up the topic of how it seems as if every superhero film we see nowadays has the hero not wanting to be a hero anymore. Take a look at Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, he has all but given up being Batman and now we have Wolverine not wanting to do anything but live in a cave. Can’t we get a superhero film that just lets out hero be super and not have them try to give up the hero part of their persona. Hell, even Suoerman was going through this in Man of Steel, and he just got the job!

Differences. For all the faithfulness to the source material, there are a few things that stray. For instance, I don’t recall Viper being a part of this at all. My guess is they brought her in to have a hot blonde in spandex, because she really serves no other purpose. Silver Samurai is actually a mutant, not a suit of armor, and he is one of Wolverine’s greatest foes. Making matters worse, the character that actually is Silver Samurai is in the film as an assassin. Finally, Yukio has some kind of weird power where she sees when people die, they never really explain or show it fully, which she does not posses. Why did they do all this? Your guess is as good as mine, but the fanboy in me is not a fan.

Phoenix. In the timeline of the X-Men franchise, this takes place following X-Men: The Last Stand. I could go total fanboy and say that this is in the wrong part of the timeline, but I won’t. Instead, I want to focus on a couple of characters. First, during the bombing of Japan, unless I’m mistaken, Wolverine was still with Sabretooth at this time, so where was he? Did Live Schreiber not want to come back for a quick cameo? Second, the recurring appearance of Jean Grey was a bit much. Yes, Wolverine had an obsession over her, but that was it. Based on his movie relationships, it would have served better for Kayla Silverfox or, to a lesser extent, Rogue, to have appeared in his dreams. I’m sure there are those that will think otherwise, but that’s my two cents.

Bone claws. Again, not to spoil anything, but we get to see the bone claws again, instead of the adamantium. I’ve never been a fan of those, and never will, but I really am not a fan of how they brought them back. Wolverine is his adamantium claws, whether the studio wants to admit it or not, and by taking that away from him serves no purpose, not to mention deviates from the source material.

Boss battle. When I heard they were going to use Silver Samurai in this, I was uber excited, but that excitement quickly fell by the wayside when I saw that they were only using him as a sort of boss battle at the end, as opposed to an actual character in the story. Also, the battle between the two isn’t necessarily that great. There was too much emphasis on CG and apparent in-your-face 3D (post converted, I think), as opposed to a solid fight. Oh, and don’t get me started on Viper and her random skin shedding.

For some reason, people could not stand X-Men Origins: Wolverine. If you are one of those people, then The Wolverine is sure to remind you how great of a character Wolverine really is. This is a picture that has good and bad, but is much better than its hated predecessor. It starts off slow, but once it gets going, it is off like dirty shirts! I highly recommend you check this out! I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

4  1/4 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