Anyone who’s read my “Kung-Fu Revu” knows by now that my use of the term “kung-fu” is a little hyperbolic. I use it to refer to martial arts films from all over the world, as well as many other Asian action or suspense films. With that established, here are some of the “kung-fu” films you can look forward to in 2010
No Mercy: January 7th
Sol Kyung-Gu plays a staff member of the National Institute of Scientific Investigation (NISI) in South Korea. He attempts to uncover the identity of a mysterious serial killer who decapitates his victims. Ryu Seung-Beom plays a environmentalist who holds clues to unravel the mystery.
Why should I care?
‘No Mercy’ has earned quite a few comparisons to Chan-wook Park’s Vengence Trilogy which to me means it will have fantastic merit as a film… that I hate. For some reason there are tons of you out there that don’t hate ‘Oldboy.’ You psychos will love this.
Se-Sing Confirm: January 7th
An unusual foursome teams up to uncover into a child kidnapping gang and plan to break the gang to save their kidnapped friends.
Why should I care?
It’s a good time to be a fan of Exploitation films. Because while Hollywood is bust making big budge homage’s to them, Thailand is actually turning out new ones. There are apparently no laws in Thialand against filming people perform stunts that will leave them debilitated for the rest of their lives.
Bad Blood: Jan 21st
The boss of Hong Kong Triad Organization "Tung Luen Shun" was arrested and executed for smuggling counterfeit Renminbi in mainland China. A new leader had to be appointed fast. Mysterious murders followed, causing deaths of many leading members of the gang. An evil plot was set to seize control and possession of "Tung Luen Shun". Fight after fights; killing would not stop until the last member of "Tung Luen Shun" was put
away. Who is the ruthless murderer? Not until the end would you find out who could kill them all!
Why should I care?
Director Dennis Law and action choreographer Nicky Li already brought us ‘Fatal Contact:’ a frustratingly terrible movie with some fantastic fight scenes that helped establish some of the young up-and-coming martial artists. This looks to be no different, although it remains to be seen how bad the film is, buzz is the fight scenes are pretty fantastic and starring some of the kids that will be headlining movies ten years from now.
The Secret Reunion: Feb 4th
Also known as ‘Brothers’ or ‘Blood Brothers.’ When North Korean secret agent Ji-won (Kang Dong-won) crosses the 38th Parallel on a mission, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) led by Han-gyu (Song Kang-ho) intervenes, and a shooting rampage ensues in the heart of Seoul. For the incident, Han-gyu is fired and Ji-won is deserted by his agency. Six years later, the two meet by chance and start a business partnership in order to steal information from the other.
Why should I care?
Despite what I said about ‘No Mercy’ I can not deny that some pretty fantastic filmmakers have been coming out of Korea lately. So I’m extra excited to see what they can do when they’re filming a movie I’ll like instead of torture porn.
14 Blades: February 4th
Trained in clandestine combat from childhood, the Jinyiwei were masters of the 14 Blades; eight being for torture, five for killing, and the last blade reserved for suicide when a mission failed. The Jinyiwei devoted their lives and lethal prowess to the service of the Emperor alone. When the Imperial Court is taken over by evil eunuch JIA, the best of the Jinyiwei, QINGLONG (Donnie Yen) is assigned to steal a list identifying those still loyal to the Emperor. However unbeknownst to Qinglong, the Jinyiwei have fallen under the control of Jia, and during the mission Qinglong is betrayed and barely escapes with his life. Now as the most wanted man in the land, Qinglong must seek out and rally the loyalists to rise against Jia and restore the Emperor to power. In his
way are the deadliest assassins in the land, his former brethren, the Jinyiwei.
Why should I care?
Man, I don’t know when Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung became BFFs but it seems like they are in every movie together. The more I look into this year’s movies the more comparisons I see people making to the hey-day of
martial arts cinema. And this film is on the tip of everybody’s tongues.
True Legend: February 11th
Chinese-style martial arts master So Chan is a wealthy man of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) obsessed with Kung Fu. He falls from grace to become a beggar after he and his family became the victims of conspiracies. However, after reviewing his past and working hard to transform his life, and now honored as "King of Beggars", he rises again as a Kung Fu legend, patriot and folk hero. Why should I care?
I guess because it’s Yuen Woo-Ping (you know the guy that did action choreography for ‘The Matrix,’ ‘Crouching Tiger,’ and then like every Hollywood martial arts movie afterward that didn’t have Jackie Chan in it) and he’s returning to the character that his father played and that he directed in the original ‘Drunken Master’… you know… THE DRUNKEN MASTER. Projects like this make genre fans squeal like a 16 year old girl hearing that Nick Jonas is going to be in the next Twilight movie.
Little Big Soldier: February 14th
Set during The Warring States Period (475 B.C. – 221 B.C.), an old soldier from the state of Liang kidnaps the young general of an enemy state and takes him on a long journey to collect the reward. The old soldier hopes to use to the reward to retire and become a farmer. During their journey they encounter pursuers, abductors, swindlers and other difficulties ... Why should I care?
Jackie Chan in a period piece? I dunno, I remember getting all psyched about the same thing with ‘Myth’ and look what a mess that turned out to be. This was supposedly a pet project of Chan’s based on a script from
the nineties. Although I don’t know how much I trust that, I have a hard time imagining that Jackie Chan would ever have trouble getting a project off the ground, especially in the nineties. Reviews I’ve seen have been mostly positive, and lately I find that people are LOOKING for reasons to hate the one-time biggest star in the world. This may be the first return-to-form Jackie Chan movie in quite a while
Ip Man 2: April 29
Ip Man (Donnie Yen) plans to teach "Wing Chun" on the roof of a building owned by newspaper editor Kan Leung. A young boxer by the name of Leung Wong and his friends asks Ip Man to become their master and thus, Ip Man gained his first pupils in Hong Kong. Ip Man's pupil is then kidnapped by bully who’s master is Chun-nam Hung (Sammo Hung). Master Chun-nam Hung informs Ip Man that if he wishes to teach wushu in Hong Kong he must accept challenges from masters of all wushu types.
Why should I care?
‘Ip Man’ was one of the best kung-fu movies of the last 5 years, and possibly the best movie Donnie Yen has ever done. This is one of three Ip Man based movies coming out this year, and the only one with Yen in the title role. Expect epic classic wushu battles, and probably the best mix up between Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung yet.
Blades of Blood: April 29th
On the verge of the Japanese invasion, the Chosun Dynasty is thrown into chaos. Lee Mong-hak, an ambitious descendant of the royal family, betrays friends including his old lover to organize a coup. His old friend Hwang Jeong-hak, an uncanny blind swordsman, seeks the help of a vengeful young man to stop him.
Why should I care?
Um.. a Korean Zatoichi film? Yes please (Damn if it isn’t tough to find information about Korean films)
Ong Bak 3: May 5th
The legend of ‘Ong Bak 3’ begins after Tien (Tony Jaa) has lost his fighting skills and his beloved stepfather at the Garuda's Wing cliff from the raid led by Jom Rachan. Tien is brought back to life with the help from Pim, Mhen, and the Kana Khone villagers. Deep into the meditation taught by Phra Bua, Tien finally is able to achieve 'Nathayut'. His talents are put to the test again when his rivals including the Golden-Armored King's Guard, the mysterious killers in black, and Bhuti Sangkha return for the final massive showdown. (My spell check LOVES this synopsis) Why should I care?
Let’s face it, either you already care, or you don’t know who Tony Jaa is. If the trailer is any indication ‘Ong Bak 3’ (or really ‘Ong Bak 2: Part 2’) looks to prove that Tony Jaa is about as crazy as he is talented. Early reviews of this are a little mixed; it looks like it has some of the same slow points that ‘Ong Bak 2’ had. General consensus seems to be you’ll like ‘Ong Bak 3’ a little less than you did ‘Ong Bak 2,’ but you’ll still like it.
Zatoichi the Last: May 29th
Zatoichi and his wife return to their hometown to lead a normal life. Without choice, Zatoichi is forced to hold the sword once again. Why should I care?
If this is the last Zatoichi movie I’ll boil my shoes and eat them like Charlie Chaplin in Gold Rush. It’s not going to happen. What is going to happen is a lot of guys are going to be cut in half by a blind guy with a samurai sword, and I will be watching it.
Merantau Warrior: June 4th (DVD)
Yuda a skilled practitioner of Silat Harimau is in the final preparations to begin his "Merantau," a century's old rites-of-passage to be carried out by the community's young men that will see him leave the comforts of his idyllic farming village and make a name for himself in the bustling city of Jakarta. After a series of setbacks leave Yuda homeless and uncertain about his new future, a chance encounter results in him defending the orphaned Astri from becoming the latest victim of a European human trafficking ring led by the wildly psychotic Ratger. With Ratger injured in the melee and seeking both his "merchandise," and bloody retribution, Yuda's introduction to this bustling city is a baptism of fire as he is forced to go on the run with Astri and her younger brother Adit. With escape seemingly beyond their grasp, Yuda has no choice but to face his attackers in an adrenaline charged, jaw-dropping finale Why should I care?
Actually this was released last year but I wanted to include it on the list because that last shot of the trailer gives me nightmares. Thailand seems desperate to prove to the world that Tony Jaa isn’t all they got. I believe you Thialand! Stop killing stuntmen! Also they somehow found a star (Iko Uwais) who looks GOOFIER than Tony Jaa. This is the only movie on the list that you’ll have a chance of getting your hands on anytime soon. Why does China get Avatar just three weeks after it came out in the states, but if I wanna see Ip Man 2 I’m shit out of luck?
The Karate Kid: June 11th
12-year-old Dre Parker could've been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother's latest career move has landed him in China. Dre immediately falls for his classmate Mei Ying - and the feeling is mutual - but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible. Even worse, Dre's feelings make an enemy of the class bully, Cheng. In the land of kung fu, Dre knows only a little karate, and Cheng puts "the karate kid" on the floor with ease. With no friends in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn but maintenance man Mr. Han, who is secretly a master of kung fu. As Han teaches Dre that kung fu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm, Dre realizes that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life. Why should I care?
By all rights you shouldn’t. I mean, it’s a remake of ‘The Karate Kid’ set in China with kung-fu instead of karate, (but they didn’t want to change the name) and Will Smith’s kid. This should be an easy pass. But, early buzz is that it’s pretty good, and Jackie Chan is squarely set in the “mentor” role that he should’ve stepped into 5 years ago.
Outrage: June 12th
The story begins with Sekiuchi, boss of the Sannokai, a huge organized crime syndicate controlling the entire Kanto region, issuing a stern warning to his lieutenant Kato and right-hand man Ikemoto , head of the Ikemoto-gumi. Kato orders Ikemoto to bring the unassociated Murase-gumi gang in line, and he immediately passes the task on to his subordinate Otomo (Beat Takeshi), who runs his own crew. The tricky jobs that no-one wants to do always end up in Otomo’s lap… Why should I care?
Takeshi (Vic ROMANO!) is one of the few Japanese film directors around right now that isn’t making live action anime bullshit. Gangster pictures are where he made his name, and this is a bit of a return to them for him. This is going to be an intense film that’ll probably be one of my early imports, if for no other reason than to see just how extremely he eliminates the other gangsters… do you see what I did there?
Ip Man: The Legend is Born: June 30th
The story for the film will centre around Ip Man's resistance against invading foreigners, along with his romantic relations while under the tutelage of three Wing Chun masters, Chan Wah-shun (Sammo Hung), Ng Chung-sok (Yuen Biao) and Leung Bik (Yip Chun). Why should I care?
In America, a prequel with a different cast guarantees the movie is going to suck. Not so much in China. With Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung together in a movie that appears to be narratively tied to the previous two Ip Man films (so much so that they hired an actor that genuinely looks like a young Donnie Yen,) I can do nothing else but expect this movie to be fully awesome. Also, Ip Man’s actual son is in this one.
Triple Tap: July 1st
Champion competitive marksman Ken stumbles into the middle of an armoured van robbery. He sees a policeman held hostage and shoots and kills four of the robbers. One of the robbers escapes and the policeman
survives.The case is handled by Jerry Chang, whom Ken knows from having recently beaten him in a shooting match. Ken is found not guilty in court - for killing the robbers - but soon after, Ken is attacked by the
escaped robber Pang Tao. Their confrontation reveals a very different background story and brings about a myriad of lies and traps and changes in relationships as Jerry and Ken try to outsmart each other. Why should I care?
Derek Yee certainly caught my eye with ‘The Shinjuku Incident’ and while it wasn’t the best crime film ever, it was pretty good, and showed a lot of promise. I’m super interested in seeing how good his follow up will be
Reign of Assassins: August
Drizzle, a talented warrior, finds herself in possession of the remains of Bohdi (a mystical Indian prince) and begins her quest to return them to their rightful resting place at the Yunhe Temple. ‘The Black Stone,’ a
team of deadly assassins who employed Drizzle, are also after the remains and the powerful secret behind them. To hide from ‘The Black Stone,’ Drizzle undergoes drastic facial surgery and changing her name
to Zeng Jing (Michelle Yeoh), flees to Beijing, where she meets and falls in love with Jiang, soon to become her husband. After a confrontation in Beijing, Zeng’s identity is uncovered and both she and Jiang must flee for their lives. As Zeng kills off members of the gang while they run, she quickly realizes Jiang is actually Jingxiu, and he
is seeking revenge for his father’s murder. This leads to a lethal triangle and a fight to the death between our hero Zeng, Jiang and ‘The Black Stone.’ The only question remains who will be the last man standing to uncover the secret of Bodhi’s remains… Why should I care?
You know who’s awesome? Michelle Yeoh. Oh did you think I was going to say John Woo just because he’s also awesome and directing this period piece kung-fu film? Well, you were close. John Woo sorta stepped out of
the limelight, retreating from Hollywood after 2003’s ‘Paycheck.’ This one is only produced by him, actually directed by Chao-Bin Su. While I’m having trouble finding who was in charge of action choreography, I’m
willing to give it the benefit of the doubt to see Michelle Yeoh in a starring role.
Thirteen Assassins: October
A group of 13 assassins band together for a secret suicide mission to remove an evil lord. Unfortunately, the assassins are severely outnumbered by the the lord's team of bodyguards. Why should I care?
It’s the ‘Dirty Dozen’ with samurai directed by Takashin Miike (‘Sukiyaki Western Django’)
Detective Dee: October 1st
Our story begins at just weeks before the grand inauguration ceremony of Empress Wu is to take place when a series of unexplainable deaths begin to occur, creating panic within the city. To make matters worse, all
the victims are found to be loyal supporters and serving administrators of Empress Wu. Devastated by this, Wu is all the more anxious to find out who or what is behind these murders before it disrupts the inauguration that she had been planning for years. With no choice, Wu calls on the only person she knows who could solve the crimes ---the infamous Detective Dee; the man who defied her when she first seized power of the court eight years ago, leading her to send him on exile. Detective Dee dutifully returns to her Majesty’s service, and partnering with the gung-ho Commander Bei, and the Ghost Doctor, a specialist in black magic and disguise, they set out to unveil the mystery of the murders. As they inch closer and closer to unveiling the truth, they are
confronted with further danger and bizarre events…… Why should I care?
Do you think England is the only country that can produce quality fantasy epics? Detective Dee looks to be equal parts Sherlock Holmes and Harry Potter. While it seems more a Hollywood style plot and hero than a
Chinese one, by the looks of it, it might very well be capable of standing toe to toe with those blockbusters
The Legend of Chen Zhen: October 1st
While China is traumatized by military cliques during the Warlord Era in the 1920s, Shanghai’s most memorable hero has to be Chen Zhen, who single-handedly avenged his mentor’s death by killing all the Japanese at a dojo in Hongkou, only to be showered with bullets. Seven years later, a wealthy entrepreneur called Koo returns from abroad and makes a grand entrance on the Shanghai social scene by befriending the notorious mafia boss of the city. This mysterious man is none other than the presumed dead Chen Zhen. Disguised as a caped crusader at night, Chen sets out to dismantle the evil collusion that plagues the country and to ferret out the assassination list prepared by the Japanese.
Why should I care?
This movie seems to be equal parts “What if the character from ‘Fist of Fury’ was Batman” and Donnie Yen being pissed that they gave the role of Kato in ‘The Green Hornet’ to a pop star instead of offering it to him. It’s kinda like finding out they’re remaking ‘The Road Warrior’ starring Justin Bieber… just let that feeling sink in for a moment… China has never really been able to produce a good ‘super hero’ movie. They’ve tried; God help them, they’ve tried, but the BEST they’ve done is ‘The Black Mask’… The character of Chen Zhen is almost a superhero as it is, and if there is anyone capable of pulling it off its Donnie Yen.
Let the Bullets Fly: October 1st
"Let the Bullets Fly" centers around a western Chinese bandit gang during the period of regional division in the early 20th century. Why should I care? Chow Yun-fat + Bullets = I think you know where I’m going with this. Seriously though, chances are this won’t be a John Woo style gun opera, but I’m going to go ahead and get excited about it anyway.
The year is 2039. World Wars have destroyed much of civilization as we know it. The remaining territories are no longer run by governments, but by corporations, the mightiest of which is Tekken. In order to keep the masses down, Tekken sponsors the Iron Fist Tournament in which fighters compete to the death for ultimate glory and receive a lifetime of stardom and wealth.
Why should I care?
Do any of us really think, even for a second, that this wont be terrible? But what are you gonna do-- it's Tekken
China is plunged into strife as feuding warlords try to expand their power by warring over neighboring lands. Fueled by his success on the battlefield, young and arrogant Hao Jie sneers at Shaolin’s masters when he beats one of them in a duel. But the pride comes before a fall. When his own family is wiped out by a rival warlord, Hao is forced to take refuge with the monks. As the civil unrest spreads and the people suffer, Hao and the Shaolin masters are forced to take a fiery stand against the evil warlords. They launch a daring plan or rescue and escape. Why should I care?
I have made no qualms about expressing my distaste for Benny Chan. He is pop-junk. BUT his movies with Jackie Chan have been really good (‘Who Am I?’) pretty ok (‘Rob-B-Hood’) and ‘meh’ (‘New Police Story.’) They’ve never been BAD. And this cast includes Jacky Wu Jing, Andy Lau, and Nicholas Tse, as if Jackie Chan weren’t enough. Maybe this will be the film where Benny Chan finally does something really worthwhile; all the pieces are in place. Jackie Chan apparently isn’t satisfied unless he’s constantly filming three simultaneous movies.
I’m sure there are several more great movies on the horizon I’ve missed. Details are often scarce here in the states for Asian cinema, even blockbusters, until shortly before their release, and there are always a handful of low budget kung-fu flicks being produced that are worthwhile , and you only hear about them when someone else starts raving about them. If any of you have heard about any of those, let me know, I can always make time for a few more subtitles