Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ong Bak...

Why yes... that IS a pint glass FILLED with Mai Tai!
Good day ladies and gentlemen. This week we are covering the ever popular, super amazing, always brutally devastating Tony Jaa in his debut feature film, "Ong Bak". Now... This isn't just any old viewing. See, spring has sprung up here in the otherwise entirely frozen north and thoughts of sun, warmth, summer, and vacation have invaded our brains. SO, with that having been said, we're watching Muay Thai while drinking Mai Tai's. So, buckle your belts and prepare for a high speed, fruit and rum induced ride through the awesomazing film that IS "Ong Bak".

But first, a few notable tidbits about this bone-crushing masterpiece. Ong Bak is the 3rd film by director/producer Prachya Pinkaew, who has since then developed an epic career, adding 29 films to his resume in the last 11 years, including our previously reviewed films, Chocolate and The Protector. This is also the first film starring the winning combination of Tony Jaa and Thai comedian Petchai Wongkamlao, making it an essential view for anyone who wants to say they know anything about martial arts films.

The film opens with a bunch of muddy Thai dudes staring at a Banyan tree with a flag on top. If this doesn't interest you in the slightest, then you have no imagination and should probably just stop watching now, because the rest of us are wondering what kind of crazy stunt could possibly have that many guys staring daggers at a tree. The covered in mud bit is STILL a mystery to our Western sensibilities.

Suddenly everyone rushes the tree and begins a mad dash to the top in an attempt to be the first to "capture the flag" and not die in the process. Ting (Tony Jaa) employs some mad climbing skills, grabs the flag, does some crazy spinny tree running and finally jumps out of the tree, sticking the landing with a sure score of 10.0... because he's Tony Jaa. But actually, for the sake of the film, because he is the pride of his village, Nong Pradu.

Yup... this is your face AFTER Muay Thai.

Now because Ting is just that impressive, a local monk has decided it may be worthwhile to teach him the art of Muay Thai. You've seen us discuss Muay Thai before... with the crunching and the squooshing and the no-nonsense business of rearranging your opponent like a Picasso. So YEAH...

...Upon demonstrating how well he has learned this fantastic method of kick-assery (including move "Meeting a Friend" which... I dunno who meets their friends with a flying knee/elbow combo to the face) the monk promptly instructs him not to use it, and there is a sobering story of unintentional death that explains why the village monk would make such a request of a naturally athletic, killing machine.

This is your cue to say "So who exactly is this Ong Bak fella anyway?" 
Well, we're glad you asked. 

Stupid, stupid, herp-derp, stupid.
In the village temple, there is a highly revered statue in the image of Buddha, and the name of this particular statue in Nong Pradu is Ong Bak. We jump into this story seven days before the Festival of Ong Bak, which is held only every 24 years and is a pretty freaking big deal. As everyone is getting all geared up with their preparations, a young man named Don (obviously NOT from the village) shows up saying he's come to see a man about an amulet. When he finds out the amulet isn't for sale, he's a little peeved, and doesn't want to go back to his boss empty handed, so what does he do? He steals Ong Bak's head in during the night. Yes, he really is that stupid.

Because this is, again, a movie starring Tony Jaa, Ting immediately volunteers to go to Bangkok to reclaim the head of the beloved Ong Bak, having seen how devastated the elders are at their plight. The villagers pool together all the money they can to send him on his way (punch in the emotional gut, this scene...), and his uncle gives him a letter to pass along to his cousin Humlae, who is to help Ting track Don down. Ha, say that five times fast... (Ting track Don down Ting track Don down Ting track Don down...)

Bad loser? Or just loser? You decide.

Suddenly we're in Bangkok, which we know because the music suddenly turns all club-like and there are motorcycles, drugs, girls, and that one guy in Blue Blockers and an Andy Gibb T-shirt... and as we all know, that's what Bangkok is all about.

Oh, yeah. And the subtitle told us so as well...

Ting finds his cousin Humlae (Petchai Wongkamlao), who for some reason is calling himself "George" and denying any knowledge of Nong Pradu. Humlae and his friend Muay have just tried to hustle a drug dealer (the guy sporting Andy Gibb), been caught, and are a little short on cash when Ting shows up. When Humlae realizes that Ting has a meager bit-o-cash, he invites Ting in, sends him off to take a shower, steals his cash, and disappears to a fight club, all while poor Ting is trying to explain the devestation of the theft of Ong Bak and the struggle of their village.


Now, pardon me as I pause for a moment, but what is with all these people who think they can just steal crap from Tony Jaa and get away with it?!?!  For reals, people, what is WRONG with you??? Study this picture. Can't you see those abs, and arms, and the sharpness of joints, with the... don't make me insert that Picasso painting here...

Now, Ting may be from the country, but he's not stupid. He follows Humlae to a local fight club to get the villagers' money back, all of which Humlae has bet on the fighter Ali, no relation to Muhammed. Now remember Don, the dude who tried to buy the ancient Buddha amulet in Nong Pradu and instead made the biggest mistake of his life? Yeah, that guy. Turns out he works for the larynxless guy who operates the fight club, Komtuan, and in one of those moments of perfectly ironic timing, he just so happens to be delivering the head of Ong Bak to his boss as epic fighting commences. Now, according to the reaction of Komtuan, stealing the head of a statue instead of an amulet you were supposed to get is the equivalent of buying your wife a vacuum for her birthday, instead of jewelry. All will end badly if you don't get it out of my sight right now and never mention your misdeeds again. Stupid decision-making surprise??? Not really.

Meanwhile, Komtuan's guy (Pearl Harbor) beats the living BaJEEZuz outta Ali, and Humlae loses his bet, aka the villagers money. ENTIRELY pissed off, yet entirely in control, Ting storms across the ring to go reclaim the money. Unfortunately he finds that he has volunteered himself for a match. He tries to get out of the fight and then...


Ting takes down his opponent with one kick, becomes the new champ of the fight club, loses Komtuan a whooooooole lot of money, turns down the cash prize and recollects the exact money the villagers gave him... hanky and all, and then storms out of the club with Humlae and Muay running behind to try to hustle some more cash out of him.

The next morning, Peng (the Andy Gibb, Blue Blockers, drug dealer) shows up to teach Humlae and Muay a lesson. Ting stumbles upon the encounter and starts to walk away, but doubles back when he sees Peng hit Muay. In other words, you can take your anger out my greedy dirt-bag cousin, but if you touch a girl, I'll snap you in half. Or more accurately,  

I will snap your limbs into pieces of varying size, which I will then sprinkle over my Pad Thai like crushed peanuts!!!

Having been saved for the moment, Humlae tries to convince Ting to fight for him again at the club to make some extra cash, resorting to insulting Ong Bak's headlessness when Ting refuses. Completely justified, Ting hauls off and wails on Humlae's head just as Peng shows up again with an even bigger crowd of lackeys.

A crowd of 30 bud guys versus 3 good ones in a Tony Jaa film can mean only one thing...


The resulting chase scene has Jaa leaping over, under and through racks of hats and various gardening tools, sheets of glass, 4 cars, barbed wire (it's the amazing folding Jaa!) and countless other items, while Humlae does his best with a cleaver and some chili paste. The stunts are so fantastic that even the director thinks they are worth a second look, including no less than 5 instant replays of different stunts from various angles. So very, very full of win.

NOTE: @ 4:25 a little old lady walks by. The translation is "knives for sale"... which is ENTIRELY hilarious!!!

The good news is, we enjoy a fantastic fight scene and our heroes escape, with Humlae promising to help Ting find Don if he'll save his sorry butt. Don't forget, there is still a head missing here and that REALLY is what this movie is all about.

This  is what we're looking for.
The pair head back to the fight club where we are truly rewarded with a supremely impressive fight scene. Upon arrival, Big Bear, an Australian fighter, is beating the living daylights out of a skinny, young Thai man. When his girlfriend steps in to shield his body, Big Bear hits her, and as we've already learned, you never hit a woman, especially in front of Tony Jaa. Unless you want to wear you ass as a hat. Then in that case... be my guest and punch away.

Insert the haunting Thai style oboe to signal that it's about to get ugly up in this club and you end up with a 10 minute epic trail of decimation. Because we here at PiTN love to count things, we are here to report to you exactly how many things Tony Jaa and his opponents break in this fight scene. Are you ready for:


1 Bottle (To the head)
4 Tables
6 Chairs
2 Vases
2 Signs
The building's entire electrical system
Mad Dog's teeth, nose, ribs, wrist and spleen
1 Refrigerator
1 Wall
1 Crate
1 Door
1 Window
7 Plates

Do we really have to tell you who wins? Didn't think so. 
However, we've put the movie clip here though... for your enjoyment.
 NOTE: Try not to get distracted by the weird, anti-climactic English overdub.

So, Humlae is celebrating all the money he just won, Komtuan is sounding as pissed off as he possibly can talking through an electrolarynx while planning his retribution, and everyone else in this club in the middle of Bangkok is somehow finding enough American quarters to shower Ting with change. Then the mess of blood, glass and quarters somehow segues into a dance party. Ting spots Don and tries to catch him, but Don runs out the back of the club and escapes in a giant, maroon, 80's conversion van. The ultimate getaway vehicle.

Later at Don's place, in a rather complicated turn of events, we find that Muay's sister Ngek has been pushing drugs for Don. When she expressed her desire to quit with the whoring and the dealing, he shoves "the powder" in her face, forcing it into her mouth and causing her to overdose. While this is happening, Muay, Ting and Humlae show up to confront Don. Don escapes and Muay stays behind with her sister waiting for an ambulance to arrive while Ting and Humlae chase him down.

Now here the writers thought... 'Wow. That was pretty intense, all that drug and death stuff. How can we lighten the mood here? Oh! We know!

A tuk-tuk chase scene!
 MJ & I are currently seeking out Tuk-Tuk's so that we can drag race.

And so it was that Tony Jaa made film history in a chase involving about 20 Thai taxis and various construction sites, set to the head-bobbingest Thai electronica you've ever heard, and ending with Don and Ting driving headlong into a river.

Take that, you head stealing hoodlum!

In an amazing and serendipitous alignment of circumstances, Ting finds a stash of valuable antique statues of Buddha hiding underwater in what appears to be a fish hatchery. These naturally belong to the ever-so-clever Komtuan!!! Ting immediately notifies that authorities and the mass illegal export of ancient artifacts is stopped.

Now, with his recent financial losses at the fight club, and now the loss of his stolen artifacts, Komtuan is entirely NOT thrilled with the idea of a good-looking dude (Ting) running around causing a commotion and messin' with his profits. When Don informs him that all of the trouble is over the head he wasn't even supposed to steal, Komtuan has Muay and Humlae kidnapped to convince Ting to fight one more time and lose so Komtuan can recoup some of his losses. Ting agrees to a rope fistfight against Komtuan's juiced-up Burmese boxer bodyguard. Win or lose, Ting will get Muay, Humlae, AND the head of Ong Bak. While the fight is still a good one, we the audience are forced to watch as Tony Jaa actually loses a fight. But with the fight lost, Ting and Humlae go to collect Ong Bak, only to find that they have been duped and Komtuan orders them to be killed.

There are two lessons to be learned from this part of the film: 1) A gun (or two or three) is no match for Tony Jaa. 2) If threatened and given the opportunity, Tony Jaa will bounce your head off the most readily available piece of furniture. Well, ok, there are far more than two lessons... a few more we can think of off the cuff? How not to use your car door as a shield... what not to do when attacked by fiery flaming Tony Jaa... motorcycle helmet brands/styles to avoid when planning to be involved in a Muay Thai death match... when running away from death by Muay Thai it is not helpful to run toward your attacker... and so on.

So obviously our heroes escape. But they still don't have Ong Bak. Humlae decides in a moment of serious clarity that he's been kind of a jerk for most of the film and that he needs to help retreive the head, so he and Ting hop on a motorbike and ride off to find Komtuan hiding in a cave. Ting launches a surprise attack on the four guards outside the cave (there was much chuckling here about a stunt stocking cap in a harness and wires... pretty sure that had to do with the super sized Mai Tais...) then runs inside to unleash a mighty helping of death and burning.


1) Awesome with the Tonfa style arm thingies!!!

2) Bad idea to make his one brutal staff of doom into two bone crushing sticks of death.

3) Owie with the saw thing and the blood gooshing!

2) WHOA! He totally elbowed a hole in that dude's skull!!!!

3) Revenge of massive, mightily ticked off stone deity.... Humlae dies :(

4) Ong Bak is returned to the village, Ting is ordained in lieu of Humlae, all is safe and well and happy.

Things we like about this film? Well, there's Tony Jaa, the fantastic choreography, the elbows of death, Tony Jaa, the never-ending supply of creative items to jump over/destroy/bounce enemies off of, the fantastic use of slow motion and instant replay, the catchy Thai electronica... and of course Tony Jaa.

Oh, and Ting's grandmother is just the cutest, darn, toothless thing you ever saw.

Did we mention that Tony Jaa is in this film?

(thanks for the photo reference MuayThaiFighting.com)

Ong Bak is currently available for instant viewing on Netflix, but is also widely available for purchase if you trust us enough to add it to your collection. AAAaand, if you're local brick & mortar doesn't carry it, we suggest a boycott because no self respecting video store WOULDN'T carry this film!!

At any rate, find it, enjoy it, and please if you have too many Mai Tais try to remember that you are not a Muay Thai master. You could get hurt.

Je Reste Ghetto,

~The Mavens

Friday, March 23, 2012


... Because there haven't been any really GREAT Ninja movies of this calibre lately... 

Or have there??? 
(Yeah... everyone loves a classic Ninja joke)

This week we're going to cover some serious geographical ground from Japan to New York to Berlin in order to cover the story of Raizo, the young Ninja gone rogue, fighting his way to justice and payback on his adoptive clan. Yes... we're talking about the most recent epic Ninja film, "Ninja Assassin". This is a 2009 release directed by James McTeigue (Matrix, Dark City, Street Fighter, Episode II-Attack of the Clones, etc) and written by Matthew Sand and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Thor, Underworld: Awakening, etc), and starring the South Korean pop star Jung JiHoon, Naomi Harris (28 Days Later, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc) as an American FBI agent, and Ninja film legend Sho Kosugi (The Godfather II, Enter the Ninja, UltraMan Series, etc). The entirety of this film is built around the myth and mystery of the Ninja... and that my friends is entirely AWESOME!

Is the acting great? Not always. Are the Ninja CG and special effects entirely believable? Not really. Is the story good, filled with high action sequences and superhuman, mystical Ninja skills? YOU BET YOUR YEN IT IS! (And no, we are NOT referring to Donnie Yen. But if he'd been in the film, it would have exceeded all human expectations and thus caused the universe to fold in on itself. For realz.)
Super Happy Fun Time Book about Ninja

Now, before we get too far, it is worth noting that much of what we in the West know as "Ninja" (guys running around in incredibly comfortable black footie pajamas, scaling walls, flying over rooftops, throwing various metal things and causing massive bloodshed) is entirely a Hollywood invention. According to my handy-dandy Ninja field guide, "Ninja Attack!", Ninja were really no different than any guerrilla warrior anywhere else in the world. They were mountain farmers that got entirely tired of the crap being pulled by the Shogun (A military dictator by birthright), and ended up developing highly specialized, technologically advanced forms of espionage, covert attack, and utterly disabling forms of battle involving hand-to-hand martial arts fighting, weapons, explosives, but wore average, everyday clothing in order to "blend in". They formed into clans according to family and region, and eventually became independently contracted consultants and hit men. They were however largely wiped out in the 16th century by Oda Nobunaga, the "Ninja Destroyer"...

(OK OK OK... I'll quit with the lame Ninja joke)

SO, our story starts in the hangout of a small Yakuza clan branch. Due to the entire lack of accent, we have to presume they are from Brooklyn... though that doesn't make any sense at all. But, this is the movies and anything is possible.

Our lead Yakuza man, Hollywood, is getting a GNARLY old school tattoo on his back by an older gentleman who knows a thing or two about tattoos. As Hollywood winces in pain, the Tattoo Master gives him a lesson in the real meaning of tattoo. Just then, a poorly folded letter with a wax seal is delivered. When opened, it reveals black sand. (DUH DUH DUH) It is here that our tattoo master goes into a story about how he encountered this very thing a long time ago. How the darkness surrounded them, and all of the men were snuffed out.

But wait... how did he survive??? His only reason for survival was that his heart is located on the opposite side of his body cavity, thus his heart could not be pierced easily. The Yakuza gangsters start mocking him (bad idea), followed by the whole Yakuza group mocking him (SUPER bad idea). And then, just 4:07 into the film, the massive blood letting begins. And BOY, did they ever have a big blood budget on this one!

I mean, this is really saying something too because,  in all of the Donnie Yen brutality films we've watched, he has never... And we mean NEVER, caused it to rain body parts.

Well played Ninja. Well played.

And... now we're launched at top speed over the ocean to the Europol offices in Berlin into the office of the young sleuthfoot researcher, Mika, and her Europol boss, Ryan Maslow. She is presently researching an assassin case, which she believes has a strong Ninja connection. Through the presentation of compelling evidence, Maslow agrees to let her research this Ninja connection further.

"Why can't that ever happen in my laundromat!??!!?"
OK. Hold on now, because now we're going to jump forward to a laundromat, presumably in Berlin. We find our now grown up Raizo doing his laundry. And HERE is the real secret of Ninja. Even when he is in the middle of washing his darks, he is still COMPLETELY in disguise via his street wear... which is entirely consistent with the Ninja M.O.

Now, you see a lovely Asian woman across from him in the Laundromat. She gently approaches him and asks for help with folding her bed sheets. Odd... OF COURSE!!! Raizo immediately knows she's a Ninja, and in two swipes of the blade she is promptly shoved into a washing machine in bits and pieces.

That red is going to
stain those whites!!!

Now, there's more history within the history of the history you're learning about. There's the "making of Raizo" history, the KGB research of Ninja assassination plots resulting in the death of the researcher, the ACTUAL assassination plots of the Ninja, and the most exciting non fighting Bond-esqueRaizo.

You quickly find out that Raizo is an "orphan" (likely kidnapped from his village), and has been adopted into the Ozunu clan. He spent many years training and being brutalized by his "father" in order to masterfully hone his Ninja craft. But where/how/why did this Ninja training happen??? Now, if I refer back to my Ninja field guide, this COULD mean that he was raised on the island Izu-Oshima in the Hando-san Dojo, believed to be the site where the infamous En no Ozunu lived in exile some time in late 600 A.D. This is significant to note as Ozuno's followers eventually taught their warfare and alpine survivalist techniques to the earliest Ninja. They thus in turn venerated En no Ozunu, a bad-ass non clan affiliate, as a patron saint. SO... is it possible that, though there isn't officially an Ozunu clan in Ninja history, there is/was an Ozunu Dojo that created hardened individuals that could survive everything and be Ninja??? Me-thinks YES! And besides, it makes for a great story.

So the training! We spend a good portion of the first half of the film watching flashbacks of Raizo grow up from about 8 years old with a group of other 'orphans'. We come to find that Raizo has been identified as a high potential student, taking to this Ninja thing like a duck to water, beating, stabbing, slicing and dicing. There are a couple of pretty brutal scenes here, feet being sliced open and such, children beating children, general ickiness. But as we watch Raizo grow he also develops a relationship with pretty Ninja trainee Kiriko. Kiriko seems to know that this Ninja thing is not for her though, and receives a gash across her face as punishment from her master when she refuses to cut a brother she has defeated. We swoon for a moment over pretty girl Kiriko teaching monster boy Raizo that he does in fact have a heart before things start to get really ugly.

Rick Yune. Nom...
Many of Raizo's training fights are with older 'brother' Takeshi (just to get it out of the way so it doesn't bug you for half the movie like it did me, yes, Takeshi is played by smokin' hot Rick Yune, Johnny Tran from The Fast and the Furious. Yum.) who seems to be taking this Ninja business very seriously. To teach Raizo to 'see with his ears', his master blindfolds him and pits him against a sword-wielding Takeshi. It's like that scene in Star Wars where Luke learns about the force and how to use a light saber, but way more deadly, with far less whining, and a whole lot of Ninja. Score. But anyway, there's this rivalry thing going on with Takeshi that is obviously going to blow up someday.

Deciding that she just could not bring herself to carry out the duties of a Ninja Assassin, Kiriko decides to blow the proverbial popsicle stand by climbing the high outer wall. When Raizo catches up with her in her escape attempt she tries to convince him to go with her, but he insists that his place is with his Ninja family. There's a super cute goodbye kiss (it's the only one in the movie ladies, enjoy it while it lasts), and then she's up and over the wall.

Wow... those are some big nails.

And now, flash forward to the current day to  find Raizo busy doing bad-ass things like push-ups on nails bigger than my fingers and slinging around a kyoketsu-shoge like it's a yo yo. Feel free to use that pause button to allow yourself time to pick your jaw up off the floor and mop up the drool as this is one of the most amazing NON-fighting scenes you will ever be privy to watch. 

And, we're back with the Ninja-youth flashbacks... Now you didn't think Kiriko would get away, did you? Because how else would we end up with angsty rebellious Ninja boy and another hour of high action film?? SO... Kiriko is quickly caught and sentenced to death at the hands of none other than... (DUH DUH duuuuuuuuuuh) Raizo's long-time rival Takeshi!! So sad with the heart stabbing (a theme in this film, must be a Ninja thing).

As a result of everything that went down with Kiriko, Raizo is feeling a little unsure when he gets his first assignment, but that doesn't stop him from making a giant bloody mess. Things don't go as well as it could, but I would say Raizo does pretty well for his first time out, and the crazy blood-spooting mess and busted up bathroom fixtures all over the clean white men's room is a high contrast of violence red and sharp white porcelain not soon forgotten. BUT, Raizo kills his target (understatement of the century, right there), steals his watch, and heads up to the roof to meet up with his Gang'o'Ninja, where his master decides that now is an opportune time for him to kill a newly discovered traitor who had tried to run away, much like his Kiriko.

Unable to bring himself to kill another person that night, and reminded of his murdered love, Raizo completely snaps and unleashes that kyoketsu-shoge he's so good at on Master Ozunu's face (surely your short term memory is such that the irony is not lost!). Ozunu, complete with spooting blood face, orders death and burning to be rained down on Raizo. Again with the slicing and dicing through all of his buddies, Raizo manages to escape. And by 'escape' we mean he performs a stunt akin to the clown-jumping-from-ladder-into-kiddie-pool trick.. except off of a skyscraper in the River Thames.

You know what that means, right? Yes? Do we really have to tell you? OK, we'll tell you. ROGUE NINJA!! Deadly shuriken (throwing-stars) and other sharp shiny thing toting sneaky dudes on the loose! But that's ok, Raizo is actually a good guy now, running around the world thwarting assassination attempts by his previous family and generally putting a really big kink in their Ninja business.

"... But why did you save me?"
Uuuh.. Cause he's a rogue Ninja with a score to settle
and you're his biggest argument pawn E-V-A-R!?!!?!
This brings us back to the current date and time where Mika has discovered way too much about the family of trained assassins and their willingness to bump off political figures at 100 pounds of gold a pop. Knowing this is naturally bad and when Ninja's descend on her apartment, Raizo shows up to protect her, and then explain what a ridiculous hole she has dug herself into, and whisk her away into the night... to a really cheap hotel.

And on a side note... 
I want to be whisked by a Ninja. Maybe not to a cheap motel, but I'll take what I can get. 

                                                  - Sincerely, MJ.

Yup. The guy in the center is a double agent "rock-star".
So, post-whisking, Mika and Raizo are chilling in said cheap motel when she gets the brilliant idea that boss Maslow, touting himself now as a firm believer in the pajama-clad killers, could help them. The brilliancy of her plan is questioned though when they meet up with him and Raizo is promptly arrested by an entire team of dudes in SWAT gear. They haul him off to their secret FBI lair (it's scary to think that these things exist...) and chain him up in a room with cameras, because Ninja can be sneaky like that.

Maslow, in some attempt at what can only be described as "strategery", pulls Mika aside to try to convince her that he hasn't betrayed her and that he's still on her side. I think we're supposed to believe him, but the performance leaves something lacking. ANYWAY, he gives her a tracking device so he can know where she is at all times, and it makes perfect sense for her to accept it because he's never betrayed her before. Insert slapping of the forehead.

Knowing that the Ozuno Ninja clan is on their way to claim Raizo, Mika tries to urge the Europol/FBI/Various other agents who are standing around gawking at Raizo to get a move on and save themselves. They of course laugh at the fictitious pajama brigade. But then the Ninja electrician shows up and all hell breaks loose. And then with the flying and the stabbing and the punching and the spooting of the bloody bits and the billions upon billions of Shuriken...

I hope your insurance coverage has a rider for Ninja attacks!!!
If not, this sucker's totaled.
I'm just sayin'.

After perhaps one of the most Ninja-est, flying-est, death defying-est scenes EVER  in the history of Ninja films, we soon discover that Raizo has taken a shuriken to the gut. Yes, OUCH is the appropriate response here. (shudder) Mika uses her newly found NASCAR/stunt skills to peel out of the center of Berlin to... a cheap motel. (I guess that after getting such a huge blood budget, they needed to "trim the fat" somewhere else in the film) She gets Raizo into bed so that he can rest, having refused to be taken to the hospital and stitched back together.

There is some talking, some apologizing, and then some Ninja descending. By the time Watson and his agents of various agentry (???) arrive on the scene, Mika is fine, but Raizo has been captured and taken back to the Dojo for execution.


(Pshhhh... seriously? We're just 2/3 the way into this 99 minute film.)

SO, Raizo rides in a steel coffin back to Japan, all the while conducting healing exercises to close the gaping hole in his abdomen. Upon arrival, they strap him up on the whipping post in the Dojo's courtyard and start a candlelit ceremony OF DOOOOOOOOM!!! Master Ozunu pulls out the magic Japanese fist of gut re-arranging and goes to town on defensless Raizo. (bastards!) But wait... what... what is this little thingie that Raizo has coughed up, all covered in blood and slime????


The explosions are loud, but the Ninja fall silently...
as expected.
'Splosions and ninja and tanks.... wait, wha? Tanks? Where did the tanks comes from??? See, Raizo coughed up the tracking device that Watson gave to Mika, and now the Marines have descended upon the mountain top Dojo to save Raizo and show the Ninja that guns, or bazooka for that matter, aren't useless after all.

The film ends with an EPIC fiery dojo battle galore with punching, kicking, weapons, fire, blood, swords, blood, guns, blood, Kusari-gama knife like thingie, and the Marines decimating the thousands of years old temple complex. Because it really is faaaaaar to epic to describe, you're just going to have to rent the movie because no one on YouTube would allow us to embed the video clip here.

Sorry folks. :(

HOWEVER, you can easily rent this movie anywhere for a couple of bucks. iTunes has it for $2.99, Amazon.com has it for $3.99, and I'm SURE that Video Universe in good old Robbinsdale, MN has it for around $3.25 for three nights of rental... because YOU WILL want to watch this one a couple of times. Or, at least pause, rewind, play, pause, etc often.

Totally, utterly, amazingly impressive... is it not???
Now, before we close this episode of PiTN entirely, it seems right to mention that Raizo, played by Korean Pop star "Rain"(Born Jung Jihoon), spent MANY months training for this film. Here is a photo montage of his transformation over 6 months, working out 10 hours a day, and eating nothing but boiled meat, vegg, and few carbs. We aspire to his greatness, adore his amazing abs, and wish for 10% of his bicep awesomeness. (insert image of the mavens cramming dark chocolate brownies in their mouths and rinsing it all down with delicious double Mojitos)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Legend of the Fist - Return of Chen Zhen...

Who looks great in black leather???
This guy right here!

 This week we are going to cover the last chapter and final exploits of Chen Zhen in his quest to avenge his master Yuanjia, and bring justice to the Chinese people.  This blog is a hefty one, so buckle up and get ready for some reviewin'!

Now, it is true, Jet-Li did film a version of the Chen Zhen story in  "Fist of Legend"(1994), and true that Jackie Chan did do "Xin Jing Wu Men"/"New Fists of Fury"(1976), which is about the grandson of Yuanjia who is out to avenge his grandfather's death... 

But these are films for another time.

For now we will focus our efforts on the epic end of the Hou Yuanjia, Jing Wu Athletic Association, Chen Zhen storyline.

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen is an absolutely epic big picture production by Director Wai-keung "Andrew" Lau (Worked with Shaw Brothers, HK. Has directed over 40 films and produced 27+. Dude has talent) The film stars our personal favorite pick, Mr. Donnie Yen (swoon), Qi Shu (lovely lady from Transporter), the incomparable Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, and the ever deadly Japanese Ryu Kohata. 

Our story picks up in 1917 in France. WWI is raging on. Chen Zhen (who obviously did NOT die when shot by the line of soldiers at the end of the last film, having blocked the bullets with his forearms of steel) has been sent to the front lines of the war to support the French with some 150,000+ other untrained Chinese men. It is implied here that they are Chinese prisoners forced into labor. In the grouping of common men, we find our hero Chen Zhen. The film opens to axis aircraft flying overhead, guns, 'splosions, Chinese and French dodging bullets and getting shot to bits...

(insert image of me making shooting gestures.) 

Chen Zhen's good friend suddenly starts WHIGGING out about dying and wanting to go back to China ASAP.  Chen Zhen tries to cool him down by giving him his Jing Wu Atheltic Association pendant for protection. The group of Chinese laborers pick up the cases of mortars and run like mad  to the fox holes dug in the middle of the street. The street you say?? Yes. This is France. They build up foxholes in the middle of the street. Go figure.


MORE gunfire and 'splosions and aircraft... the Chinese laborers reach the trenches and French hop out and make a run for the hills. WAIT, the French take off running for the hills??? (insert inappropriate joke about the French here) So, what the crap are the untrained Chinese laborers supposed to do now? 

Chen Zhen jumps out of the foxhole to save a friend who's been shot. Just then, the Germans descend on the Chinese men in the foxhole. How many men die???? Yeah. That'd be none... BECAUSE CHEN ZHEN (Donnie Yen), comes running and gives the flying knees with the punching and the bone breaking with the Kung Fu knife stabbing! 

Oh Hells NO you didn't just shoot and kill my "brother"!!!

Of course, just when you think the situation is over, his buddy gets shot between the eyes by a German soldier hiding out on the second story of a building several meters away. Does this guy taste the cold steel of revenge??? You bet yer a$$ets he does. But not before Chen Zhen makes a run through bullets, under a wall, through some flames and off a fence and...


Not only do I know Kung Fu... Not only am I really pissed off...
But NOW you're going to see me fly through the air as I come to kill you.
Shoot... we're just 6 minutes and 30 seconds into this film and I'm nearly spent! But the action doesn't stop here. He knifes a Nazi in the next, shreds another with his double daggers, cuts the Achilles tendon of another...
He slices!
He dices!
He can cut through a Nazi,
and yet still slice through this ripe tomato!!

Seriously, the brutality just continues until pretty much every possible body part on the offending Nazis has been violated with either a dagger or his fists in some way. And... that makes me feel pretty good inside.


Having sufficiently obliterated the Germans, Chen Zhen assumes the identity of his dead friend, Qi Tianyuan, to avoid being promptly returned to prison upon his arrival is China. You are then POWER launched into 1920's Shanghai where (for those of you who missed history class AND our previous two reviews) the Chinese have been left to their own devices by the Allies following the war, the Japanese are actively searching out the most effective way to take over, and Britain is chillin' on the sidelines also hoping for a piece of that invasion action.  It is here that we meet Liu Yutian (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang), an ex-cop now businessman/club owner trying to keep the peace between the Chinese and Japanese sitting on opposite sides of his dance floor, and Kiki (Qi Shu), the irresistible singer and 'hostess' at the Casablanca Club.

Check that Awesom-stache!
Disguised as Qi Tianyuan in a pencily awesom-stache, Chen Zhen goes to Casablanca and befriends Liu amidst an excellent performance by Kiki, her invisible background singers and a pretty impressive piano solo. Who knew Donnie Yen could play piano? We didn't until now, and our minds have been sufficiently blown. Liu decides in a matter of minutes that the handsome and upstanding Qi would make an excellent manager. And seriously, with an awesom-stache like that, Lui can't be wrong!
Then we find out that, having finally absorbed the lessons of his master Hou Yuanjia, Chen Zhen is part of a resistance movement (don't tell us you didn't see that coming...) and he will be using his new position to supply information to stop the Japanese invasion. And suddenly we're watching a spy flick!  How cool is that?!?!

In his new found position of espionage, Zhen finds out that there is going to be a meeting between two Chinese generals, Zhou and Zeng. Zhou is all for the unification of China, while Zeng and his father appear to be alligned with the Japanese. The Japanese have ordered Zeng to be assassinated so they can frame Zhou and incite a civil war between Zhou and Zeng's father, making it all that much easier for Japan to take over. Chen Zhen, acting quickly to prevent all hell from breaking loose, hijacks the previously seen fabulous leather costume from a store window and attacks the would-be assassins in all his masked glory, effectively mopping the street with their faces. He helps Zeng and his girlfriend to escape, but warns him that if he doesn't get his priorities straight soon, the people of China won't stand for it.

Donnie Yen is about the best runner I've EVER seen. You're convinced that he could in fact out run a cheetah. Seriously. And, whenever I see Donnie Yen run, I think
"That's so cool! I want to run like that!!!"
But no. I look like a friggin' clumsy, prehistoric T-Rex pounding down the sidewalk with my stumpy arms tucked up under me... HOPING that I don't trip and fall and kill myself in the entirely not cool process.
What I wish I looked like when I run...
 What I ACTUALLY look like when I run.


Cut to Colonel Chikaraishi, the leader of the Japanese army in Shanghai, as he explains to his "people" why they tried to kill Zeng, because they obviously have no idea how politics work. At the same time, the resistance is congratulating Chen Zhen on being freakin' awesome in his superhero getup. In turn, they decide to run a news story on the "Masked Warrior"... since the newspaper is the one thing they do control.

Covert Japanese spy dressed as a Cigarette Girl
While Chen Zhen tries to get more information from his police mole about who tried to assassinate Zeng, the Japanese are having a super secret spy meeting, where we find out that Kiki and the cigarette girl from Casablanca are actually agents for the Japanese, and Kiki promises to keep a closer eye on Qi. Then we see her send Zeng's girlfriend off into hiding, pretending to be her best friend, though she knows who tried to kill her and her man. Then as if that wasn't enough, she feigns a bit of a crush on Qi to get him to take her out to get more information about him.

Sneaky floosie. *grumble grumble*
I am a Japanese spy! I MEAN...
I am hostess Kiki of the Casablanca Club!
Now, I never knew a guy who would introduce you to his friends and family on the first date, but Qi/Zhen takes Kiki for a fun-filled evening with his war buddies. They toast their lost comrade Chen Zhen (oh the irony!), Kiki meets Qi's sister, and we get a brief explanation of how Zhen ended up in the war. There is lots of eating, drinking and making-merry, but Kiki still manages to find out that Qi is not who he says he is (stealing an old war photo in the process), and he begins to suspect shenanigans when her gun falls from her purse in the middle of the street which she then proceeds to point in his face, demanding to know who he REALLY is.

Way to be covert Kiki...

Now the Japanese, getting serious, send Col. Chikaraishi a "death list", ordering him to kill all of the people in the next month. To raise a little panic, he intentionally leaks the list, and Zhen's revolution prints it in their paper to give some fair warning. To make matters a little worse,  Chikaraishi shows up at Casablanca to confront Qi about his real identity. Qi makes it clear that he won't take any crap from the Japanese, and Liu respectfully asks the Colonel never to return to his club. All in all a pretty successful evening, if you ask me. You pretty much KNOW that a battle royale is brewing between Chen and Chikaraishi!!! (Rubs hands together in super excitement)

But then people start dying. Qi/Zhen again dons his mask and leather attempting to protect those that the police cannot (or won't...) in a fabulous montage of face-breaking and acrobatics. Watch for the guy who falls 3 floors onto his face. (55:40 into the movie)
Brutal. Just... Brutal. 
It's a Death List montage...
But the Masked Warrior can't keep up, and influential people just keep dying terrible deaths. Then, in a moment of "I fell in love with my target", Kiki tries to talk Qi/Zhen into running away with her, and Chen Zhen delivers the BEST... LINE... E-V-A-R!!!

 "Everyone Dies. It's a matter of dying for something worthy."

OH SNAP, You conflicted Japanese secret agent in sheep's clothing!!!

OOooooh... so that's what
bookshelves are for!!

Aaaaand... the battle rages on. Chen begins to realize who Kiki is and now, after a significant degree of "death list" work is done, the student protest organization headquarters is invaded by Col. Chikaraishi's kid brother and various Japanese thugs. There's bashing, bone-crunching, and blood-spooting beat-downs before Chen Zhen arrives on the scene. Then, our hero enters the scene. Joints begin bending in directions NEVER intended, and office furniture becomes a gymnastics playground as Chen Zhen DESTROYS the Japanese. 

 Everything starts to come to a head here as Chen Zhen struggles to determine whether or not he should give up Col. Chikaraishi finds out that his brother has been killed, which is akin to Chen Zhen punching a hornets nest, and Chen Zhen pieces together that his beloved Kiki is a Japanese spy. It is here that our story takes a dramatic turn for the worst!

In a heartbroken moment, Chen Zhen tells Kiki that she must never come back to Casablanca... or he will have to kill her. Upon leaving her flat, Chen Zhen is kidnapped and then savagely tortured by Col. Chikaraishi's right hand man, Gen. Fujita. 

NOTE: There's some very brutal beatings on Donnie Yen's nekkit-ness, so please don't let the kiddies watch this part.

But alas, his war buddies come to the rescue in a daring mission to blow crap up and save the day. They don't retrieve him, but cause a HUGE amount of wreckage... which is totally awesome. Chen Zhen is then dumped nekkit, bleeding, and pretty much dead just outside of the Casablanca Club. His boss, Mr. Lui quickly gets him back to his house and has doctors and nurses coming and going, attempting to piece him back together. It's like a 1920's building of the $10 million dollar man!!! In his absence, the Japanese advance on his war buddies, killing and mutilating them all... and then raping and beating his sister. 

After several tense scenes involving Kiki killing the girl formally known as her best friend, and then being given the title of General, Chen Zhen awakens and is called out to the Hongkou Dojo for that aforementioned BATTLE ROYALE. 

NOW, it is important to note here that in the film "Fists of Fury/The Chinese Connection", Chen Zhen kills the Japanese master in his Dojo. The Hongkou Dojo. Wait... What??? Could this be??? You got it. Col. Chikaraishi is the son of the previous Japanese master that got his life kicked straight out a paper wall. 

The resulting fight... AWESOME-AZING. Chen Zhen comes out in the awesome white suit, Kiki is killed by Col. Chikaraishi, the secret of the hidden Nunchuks is revealed, the dojo is pretty much trashed, and Donnie Yen's rippling muscles pretty much indicate how this whole thing is gonna end. No poker face there!

Here's the final fight scene for you to enjoy. THOROUGHLY!!!

This movie is great. It's full of broken bones, blood, espionage, guns, blood... oh wait. I already said that. 

But watch it. It's great. You can watch it on Netflix streaming, rent it from a brick and mortar, or... and I don't condone this... there is a full version on YouTube. BUT I DIDN'T TELL YOU TO DO THIS!!! ;)

- The Mavens (Kelly & MJ)

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Chinese Connection - Jing Wu Men

The Chinese Connection

Alias "Jing Wu Men...

Alias "Fist of Fury"...

Alias "Episode Two of Three"...

Yes Ladies and Gentlemen, this week we are covering another Bruce Lee film, "The Chinese Connection". Our reason for doing this is that this film picks up where Jet Li's portrayal of Master Yuanjia left off in "Fearless".

"The Chinese Connection" is a 1972 Kung Fu classic starring none other than our own Bruce Lee. The film was written and directed by Wei Lo (The Shadow Whip, Commissioner Wu, Xin Jing Wu Men, etc.) Lee plays the role of the young Chen Zhen who has returned to Shanghai upon hearing of his Master's death, only to find the Japanese at the heart of the problem.


Before we begin really talking about this movie, what happens, and any associated silliness that may unfold, we find it very important to note that this is an amazingly quirky, and often times downright bizarre movie... especially if you have a bad english translation. 

So, anyway... pick up where we left off last week, Master Huo Yuanjia has died a horrible, unexpected death and has left behind his devoted students and his Jing Wu school that he dreamed about. Our movie opens to Chen Zhen arriving via rickshaw to the front gates of the Jing Wu school just moments after Yuanjia's death. He walks through the front door, sporting that classic 1970's white suit with matching suitcase, just as the students and Sifu are burying Master Hou Yuanjia.  In an epic display of mourning, Zhen flings himself into the grave, clawing, wailing and being an all-around lunatic, unearthing the freshly buried casket of his master.  Unable to otherwise contain him, Sifu clubs him over the head, knocking him unconscious with a shovel and thus saving the white suit from any further destruction. (MAN I hope he's got a tide pen in that matching white suitcase.)

(Insert incredibly awesome Bruce Lee touting credits with excellent choral accompaniment)

NOTE: I couldn't find the actual opening credits, replete with awesome Bruce Lee collage bits against brightly colored background... but this theme song will get you in the right mood for the rest of this blog. ENJOY!

Once he comes to after being beaten in the noggin with a shovel, Zhen beings to inquire as to Yuanjia's cause of death. His fellow students say that it was pneumonia. Zhen freaks out and makes it clear that he firmly believes that his master was murdered, having had a history of good health and strength, and that he, Chen Zhen, is pretty gung-ho about finding the culprits. GAME ON!

The next day, Yuanjia's friend Nong Jinsun (whom we met in Fearless) is delivering a stirring eulogy when students of the Japanese Bushido school decide it is appropriate to crash a funeral. They deliver a gift, a sign reading "Sick Men of Asia", pointing out that the Chinese are "No match for the Japanese". They arrogantly taunt the Jing Wu school, saying they will 'eat their words' and close the school if they are defeated.

Chen Zhen (complete in white suit which seems to have miraculously recovered from the previous day's fit in the dirt) furrows his brow and cracks his knuckles, only barely holding back from devastating someone's face. However, before the beat-down unfolds, Sifu makes a point here that we should not forget... that while all of them want to fight the Japanese for their unkind words, Yuanjia would not have condoned it.  AKA...
"Let it go dudes. Let it go."

Without the knowledge of the rest of his school, Chen Zhen goes to the Japanese school the following day to return the sign, offering to take any one of the Japanese students on. Now, a smart fella would say "Gee, that's Bruce Lee. Maybe I'd better stay away." But that wouldn't make for a very good film, would it now?

OK. So, the first Japanese student, and one of the primary offenders from the funeral, approaches Chen Zhen, pointing his finger in his face stating :

"You must be tired of living!"

Dude. Seriously? Is that your best insult??? That's all you've got? Pffftt...

Needless to say, that guy takes a beating that lasts all of 4 seconds, finished off by a very embarrassing facepalm from Chen Zhen. Then, the Planet of the Apes wig guy steps up to the plate to face the same fate, and the first guy gets kicked in the face AGAIN!!! (1:18 in the video clip shown below)

The entire school then jumps to their feet and surrounds Zhen, circling him in some seriously beautiful choreography before Chen Zhen lets out that famous wail (HUwwwwaaaaaaaaaaarrr...), slowly unbuttons his shirt (international sign for "You're about to get the beatdown of your life), and then proceeds to kick in 8 faces in the first 5 seconds without stopping.

Now, if you've read our previous blogs, or if you're a Bruce Lee fan yourself (SHAME on you if you're not) then you know he will undoubtedly get mystery nunchaku at some point. We say this because we're never entirely sure where they come from.  They just kind of... appear when he needs them. It is now that he summons the magical nunchaku, whacks a couple heads, then targets the feet of every attacker. Also, it is here that you are officially introduced to the "Lee Cam". Let us send up a rousing HA! Zhen then quite literally kicks the butt of their Sensei.

BOOOYAH Bushido school!!! IN YOUR FACE!!!

On his way back to the Jing Wu school, Zhen attempts to enter a park, at the entrance to which a sign reads 'No Dogs and Chinese Allowed'.  When a pet dog is allowed to enter and Zhen is not, a Japanese man offers to allow Zhen to pretend to be his pet dog to gain access to the park. Furious, Zhen beats the living daylights out of the guy, having had it up to here with the Japanese' BS. As the police are called, Zhen is ushered away by a group of Chinese onlookers who had seen the whole thing.

Meanwhile, back at the Jing Wu school, the Bushido school shows up seeking revenge. They demand that the Jing Wu hand over Zhen within 3 days or the school would be closed. Facing the death of their friend or the closing of their school, the Jing Wu urge Zhen to leave Shanghai, including his power barrette and polyester sporting girlfriend with Australian accent (in our version anyway). It is at this point that we begin to wonder in what alternate dimension polyester and big hair were all the rage in 1911 China.

Now here there's this really excellent piano bar love scene between Zhen and the seemingly Australian Yuan. Please feel free to laugh hysterically. Seriously. But recover quickly, because then things get serious.
I've placed that scene here for those who MAY be curious enough to watch it. 

Left alone, Zhen overhears a conversation between two house employees who confess to working for the Japanese and poisoning his master, aaaaaand he completely loses it. In the heat of the moment, he kills both men (one in slow motion!) and hangs them from a lamppost out in public as an example. He leaves a note for a Sifu along with the jar of poisoned biscuits (apparently hoping that he sees the note before eating the biscuits...) and flees into the night.

While the Jing Wu school searches for him, his 12 hours on the lam appear to have caught up with him, as we next see him roasting a delicious rat over the most ridiculous White Mans Fire you've ever seen. The Australian girlfriend is somehow the first to find him, and another awkward love scene commences. This being THE love scene that ends Bruce Lee's participation in love scenes for the rest of his career. Laying the tasty looking rat aside, Zhen professes his undying love for Yuan in the corniest fashion, and they discuss their mundane and generic dreams for the future. Zhen decides his only course of action is to take revenge on the Japanese.

Let us just take a moment to get over our remarkably girly and petty jealousy at not being the girl smooching Bruce Lee. (Insert deep, disappointed sigh....)

The Jing Wu school protects Zhen from the police, telling them they have "no idear" who killed the two Japanese men or where Zhen is. Meanwhile the Japanese leader Hiroshi Suzuki plans another raid on the Jing Wu school, hoping to flush Zhen out. But first, they have to recharge with an incredibly bizarre and culturally inaccurate scene with a stripping, belly dancing... well, Geisha, I guess. It is here that we meet Petrov, a burly man from 'Russier' (where did they FIND these voice over folks??) who has come to join the Bushido school.

After the party, Suzuki's translator lackey rides away in a Rickshaw driven by Zhen... in a totally awesome thimble hat. In an attempt to get some information about Suzuki, Zhen picks up the entire rickshaw the THROWS IT across the alley. Having learned that Suzuki ordered the death of his master, Zhen kills the translator and hangs him from a lamppost too. We're not entirely sure of the lamppost reference.... but I guess it's effective.

Suzuki, the Japanese Bushido leader (voiced by someone who sounds remarkably like William Shatner) orders the police to arrest Zhen or face the closing of the Jing Wu school. Zhen, dressed as an adorable old newspaper guy, spies to figure out the plan.

 MJ had a blonde moment here and didn't realize the old guy was Bruce Lee with grey hair. Oh that tricky 70's costuming!!

There are some more made up words, script errors and "naive" used as a noun as the Jing Wu school is informed of its impending closure. Yuan breaks under the pressure, telling Sifu where Zhen has been hiding at night.

And now for the funnies. The real funnies. Zhen shows up at the Bushido school dressed as a telephone repair man to scope things out (MJ was prepared and not to be fooled this time!). As he pokes and prods and pretends to work his magic on the various phones which are strategically placed in the most ridiculous and espionage-convenient locations in the Dojo, Zhen sees exactly what he will be up against.

A few from the Jing Wu school, including Sifu and Yuan, go looking for Zhen in his rat-roasting hideout, but are unable to find him as he has already taken off to single-handedly raid the Bushido school once again. There is crunching of skulls, flying, punching, kicking madness, and some excellent moves borrowed from the Three Stooges, before Zhen defeats the Sensei in slow motion with his own sword and the almighty punch of death.

In the immaculately groomed courtyard with the lovely fresh astroturf strips, Zhen runs into Gene Wilder... err, Petrov... dressed so appropriately for a death match in his suspenders and bow-tie. Actually, it's as if he were the only cast member that got the memo that this is a period movie set in 1911. Now, just before they begin to fight, Zhen takes his shirt off... and you ALL know what that means! IT... IS... ON!!!! Ok, as you watch this battle please notice the unsurpassed gloriousness and incredibly sexy forearms of DEATH sported by Lee. They are arguably why the pause button was invented.

 About halfway through their match, Petrov has either had his mind blown by the serious beating he's taken, or the futuristic 1970's LSD has kicked in, as Zhen appears to have grown about 6 extra arms as he quite literally pounces for the final attack, which just happens to be a crushing chop to the neck... because he didn't need that jugular anyway.

You often hear that you shouldn't throw rocks at glass houses.
You ALSO shouldn't kick guys through your paper walls, unless they really have it coming.

Having witnessed the death of his friend from Russier, Suzuki the big, tough, bicycle mustached Bushido master retreats into his office, hoping that his presence will not be detected behind the paper walls. After a katana/nunchaku face-off, the wild and possessed Zhen puts Suzuki through a paper wall and halfway into the courtyard with a mighty flying kick, thus avenging his beloved master Huo Yuanjia.

Meanwhile, the search party has returned to the Jing Wu school to find their comrades have been murdered in a Japanese raid on the school, and when the police show up with soldiers to arrest Zhen, they are enraged. Zhen sneaks in through an upstairs window of the school and overhears the exchange between the Jing Wu and the police. To stop the police from arresting all of his friends, Zhen rushes in and hands himself over to the police, with a sad farewell to Yuan and a firm 'you better not mess with my friends' to the inspector.

Zhen is led out the front door of the school only to face a line of armed soldiers at the gate.  He shrieks, he runs... he leaps.... and the image of a flying Zhen freezes to the sound of gunfire and an eerie choral outro.

So did he die??? Fly over their heads in a incredible feat of impressiveness?? Get picked up by a helicopter with a rope ladder at the last moment like in all 70's films because they seem to have forgotten that this is taking place in 1911???? The world will never know. But I'm sure we can bring you up to speed in next week's installment featuring one of our modern favorites portraying the saga of Chen Zhen...

Forgiving though the puzzling selection in voice-talent and the incredible amount of white polyester and big hair so uncharacteristic of the early 20th century, this film provides us with a plausible, if not sometimes laughable depiction of the most popular theory behind the death of Hou Yuanjin and the student who sought to avenge him. It's classic Bruce Lee in his element, with tons of added 'waaaaaaaAAAAAAAAA' for effect, and lots of shirtlessness, which can never hurt.

This gem is available for online viewing via Netflix, so you with the smartphones can even watch the brutality on the go. Excellent. It can also be rented from your local brick and mortar shop for a few bucks, in case you don't have Netflix.

 'Til then, may the images of those impressive forearms be with your in your dreams.

- MJ and Kelly