Sex, Leins & Videotape #29. Paignton film critic Tom Leins heads to the Far East in search of DVD gold!
If you think that Hong Kong action movies have lost their edge, step inside the Kill Zone (Cine Asia), and get your hands dirty! This bluntly titled action flick is the latest collaboration between director Wilson Yip and actor Donnie Yen – a formidable duo with a violent array of tricks up their sleeves!
After executing the attorney and witnesses who could put him behind bars for good, brutal crime-lord Wong Po (Sammo Hung) wriggles out of police custody and swaggers back to a life of crime. His nemesis – veteran detective Chan Kwok Chung (Simon Yam) is living on borrowed time and realizes that he has to sink to Po’s level in order to topple the king-pin. Chung’s replacement Ma Kwun (Donnie Yen) is sceptical of his colleague’s overzealous methods, but as soon as Po hires a flamboyant assassin to wipe out the cops on his trail, Kwun gets with the programme and tries to break up Po’s crime syndicate – one bone at a time!
In truth, the undemanding plot is merely the glue that binds the fight sequences together, and the real entertainment comes from the high-octane brawls scattered throughout the movie. Donnie Yen exudes a bone-shattering charisma as super-cop Kwun, and he meets his match in larger-than-life mobster Sammo Hung. At the age of 58, Hung has lost none of his ferocity, and the big man remains a force to be reckoned with. Kill Zone is far from perfect, but it is arguably one of the coolest Hong Kong crime movies of recent years. The weirdly bleak tone ensures that there is a menacing undercurrent throughout, and few contemporary martial arts stars can compete with Yen in full flight. The weak plot may undermine the movie’s claims to greatness, but the fight sequences are worth the price of admission alone!
Korean horror movie Chaw (Optimum) is an oddball ‘creature feature’ that has earned director Jeong-won Shin comparisons to David Lynch of all people! Although such comparisons are wide of the mark, Shin possesses a warped sense of humour and an undeniable visual flair. Seoul-based cop Kim Kang-soo yearns from a break from the big city, and finds himself transferred to Semeri, a subdued rural town that has seen better days. However, Kim realises that he is going to get more than he bargained for, when the wilderness town is plagued by a series of grisly killings. Grizzled hunter Chun Il-man is convinced that the bloodbath is down to a man-eating boar, and the townsfolk take it upon themselves to hunt down the mysterious beast before it causes anymore devastation.
Despite remaining hidden in the shadows for the first half of the movie, the beast eventually makes its presence felt – and reveals itself to be a hideously mutated wild boar – as predicted! The narrative may reference everything from Jaws to The Host, but Chaw retains a loopy sense of uniqueness that sets it apart from the flesh-hungry hordes. The eclectic cast, high production values and offbeat sense of humour ensure that Chaw is a sufficiently appetising movie prospect, and although it clocks in at a patience-stretching two hours, Chaw deserves to latch onto an appreciative cult audience.
It will come as a surprise to many film fans that the biggest threat to Japan’s coastal cities is no longer Godzilla, but an altogether more natural enemy – the sea! Seemingly taking its cues from An Inconvenient Truth, Sinking of Japan (MVM) is a dreary disaster movie that sees Japan reduced to rubble by a series of underwater earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Geologists establish that the whole country could be laid to waste within a year, and urge the government to evacuate the population as soon as possible. Suffice to say, the evacuation plans prove unworkable and the lives of the whole nation hang in the balance…
Despite its explosive premise, Sinking of Japan is an extraordinarily dull excuse for a disaster movie. Populated entirely by bland, humourless characters, Sinking of Japan desperately lacks personality. Even worse, despite a sporadic array of disastrous set-pieces, the movie utterly lacks tension. Audiences are sure to fee bogged down by Sinking of Japan’s arse-numbing 135-minute run-time, and in truth, widespread devastation can’t come soon enough. In conclusion: it’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel bored…