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The Wong Fei-hung Kung Fu Movie Review.

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6 hours ago, J.T. said:

I should've picked Rendezvous With Death for Setsuna because the protagonist of that movie uses a weapon that functions like an umbrella, but it is clearly deigned to kill people and not keep rain off of your head.

Legend has it that the namesake of this project was the first one to develop an improvised weapon fighting system that specifically uses the umbrella, which is why in most movies where Wong is the hero (and there are shit tons of those) there is usually an obligatory scene where Wong beats the shit out of twenty guys with an umbrella.

I'm going to definitely give Rendezvous a shot but a quick look at the cast tells me it might not be for me. I appreciate the suggestion though. I've actually got the Celestial movies package on my tv, so hopefully it shows up at some point there.

re : the evil albino character - okay, I'm super dense because I never made the connection that characters decked out in full-on white hair accessories were supposed to be albino. I just accepted it as a cliche of the genre and never really gave it any thought. Hmmmm....

re : WFH - Cheers for that tidbit. I never knew that, but it makes a lot of sense now.

 

 

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59 minutes ago, odessasteps said:

I think it’s been shown in the past that it can be dispiriting to the chooser if the recipient is not the best fit. 

It can be, but I think maybe that depends on how the recipient handles it. All these years later I'm still ragging on Critters II but I don't think I've ever been mean about it. I enjoy doing these for the chance of seeing something for the first time ...though that is harder for a theme like this.

Also, if you pick something that you know is garbage, you kind of have it coming. For the Chaos I picked a Jimmy Durante movie with a George Pal animated squirrel. If it had been buried, I'd have been ok with it.

Edited by Execproducer

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Film: The Last Dragon

Picked by: odessasteps

"It’s a DVDVR Kung Fu project. Someone had to pick it, right?  

Do we really need any background for this one? Bruce Leeroy. Sho’Nuff, the Shogun of Harlem. Vanity. The Glow. Debarge.  

I loved Julius Carry, be it as Lord Bowler, on Doctor Doctor or in this.  

It’s also fun to see William H Macy and Chazz Palminteri, among other folks like Ernie Reyes Jr and Keshia Knight Pullman. 

 

 

And there’s this .."

Reviewed by: driver

The Last Dragon Review

 

We open to The Hero Bruce Leroy doing some karate moves to an awesome 80's song(Spread your wings and flyyyy). He goes on a journey to find "The Final Level" with a gold coin that was Bruce Lee's. To make this even more 80s a couple starts break dancing in the aisle of a movie theater. Here we also get our first look at Sho'Nuff, The Shogun of Harlem.  Cue the audience rising up just to get beat down. Sho'Nuff looks like could play bass in KISS if the need ever arose.
I still love Debarge's "Rythym Of The Night" as much now as I did back in '85. The same goes for Vanity as well. Holy fucking shit, it's a really young William H Macy. Time for a Vanity song.  And shit just got way more 80s.


The way Vanity and Bruce Leroy look at each other when they first see each other is adorable. He saves her from being abducted by some bad guys. As Vanity gets into a cab she finds the gold coin that Bruce Leroy dropped when saving her.


Sleazy record producer Eddie Arkadian reminds me a bit of Wallace Shawn. It must be the hair.


Sho'Nuff and his people bust into Bruce Leroy's dojo. I keep wanting to call Sho'Nuff Gene Simmons. Again it's the hair.


Bruce Leroy's younger brother, Richie, wants to win a contest where the prize is a night on the town with Vanity.The fact that Bruce Leroy wants to meet Vanity bad enough that he would carry Richie on his shoulders to the studio. Funny how RIchie tells Bruce Leroy to not tell people that they're brothers for fear of being embarrassed.


Eddie Arkadian's motive for kidnapping Vanity is that he wants his girlfriend's music video to be played on Vanity's show. The girl friend, Angie, reminds of a Julie Brown and Cyndi Lauper mash-up.Eddie is just a fucking prick. Yelling at poor Angie like that after Bruce Leroy rescues Vanity from his sleazy evil clutches.


Even more 80s-ish-ness with break dancing outside of the Sum Dum Goy Fortune Cookie Company. Heh.


When Sho'Nuff and his goons barge into Daddy Green's Pizza(Get your Feetsa down to Daddy Green's Pizza) and trash the place Angie's video is playing on a TV that Sho'Nuff destory's while saying "Who plays this garbage?" In the pizza place there is a kid that looks like Jonah Hill wearing a Motley Crue vest.


One of the best things I like about this movie is that everybody is filled with optimism and there isn't any negativity to be found anywhere. Even Eddie seems to be an upbeat guy.


Bruce Leroy spends the whole movie looking for "The Glow" and come to find out Sho'Nuff has had it all along. He finally gets a glow of his own. His "Glow" game is so strong he kicks sparks out of Sho'Nuff. 


The first time I saw this movie was during my senior year of high school and hadn't seen it since. Overall I liked this a hell of a lot.

 

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I'll throw up a bonus in a few hours.

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Posted (edited)

I love The Last Dragon because it is probably more Zen that most wushu movies.  

There's always some secret book or magical hermit in a lot of kung fu joints that protagonists have to find in order to learn the forbidden technique it takes to beat the antagonists but in this movie, Leroy searches all over for the Glow only to find it inside of himself and it's been there the entire time.

WHO IS THE MASTER~??

I AM~!!!

That's really good shit.

Edited by J.T.

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18 hours ago, odessasteps said:

I think it’s been shown in the past that it can be dispiriting to the chooser if the recipient is not the best fit. 

 

17 hours ago, Execproducer said:

It can be, but I think maybe that depends on how the recipient handles it. All these years later I'm still ragging on Critters II but I don't think I've ever been mean about it. I enjoy doing these for the chance of seeing something for the first time ...though that is harder for a theme like this.

Also, if you pick something that you know is garbage, you kind of have it coming. For the Chaos I picked a Jimmy Durante movie with a George Pal animated squirrel. If it had been buried, I'd have been ok with it.

It can be vice versa too.  I'm pretty certain Rippa still hates me for Frankenstein Meets Wolf Man.  The less said, the better.

And I enjoyed "Great Rupert".  Bought it for my collection.

Edited by nate
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What's wrong with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man? You people are heatherns.

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"Richie when I first started my business people said I was weird, a Black man with a pizza shop now there isn’t a hungry soul in this town that doesn’t know my slogan “Just direct-a yo feet-za, to Daddy Green’s pizza”  -

I love The Last Dragon with all my heart. God bless Berry Gordy's, exploitative ass!

James

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I have never participated in Havoc so I don't know what Nate is smoking

That said I am still ready to rant about how much I didn't like Batman Returns

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Hmmm I think I thought "Rippa" because of your signature & generalized distaste for all of us  ... maybe it was Fowler?  It was whoever ran Havoc previously before abdicating.  (Which, given that Rippa ran MM until also stopping, may have confused me also.)

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BONUS REVIEW!!!

 

Soul Brothers of Kung Fu

(Hong Kong/Taiwan, 1978)

The Eternal Film Co.

 

Picked and Reviewed by: Execproducer

 

Three immigrants, Wei-lung (Ho Chung-tao, better known as Bruce Li), Shao-san (pre-Venoms Lo Meng)  and Chai-yun (Pui-San Auyeng) survive a dangerous boat journey to settle in Hong Kong. Wei-lung and Shao-san are both friendly rivals for the affections of Chai-Yun and both work low-paying jobs on the docks, something that doesn’t sit well with the ever unsatisfied Shao-san. One day the two friends come to the rescue of a young black dock-worker named Tom (Carl Scott). Tom is getting the snot kicked out of him for the unforgivable crime of spilling some paint. Wei-lung and Shao-san put the ass beat on the thugs, making an enemy of the Triad connected foreman.

 

Tom begins training with Wei-lung and is soon able to hold his own in a street fight. The dock foreman shows up with his Triad boss, Mr. Chin (Shaw Bros. stalwart Ku Feng) at a nightclub where We-lung moonlights as a waiter. Mr. Chin doesn’t like Wei-lung. He has his thugs jump Wei-lung after work. Thugs fail because Wei-lung is a badass and his student Tom is getting pretty good at this Kung Fu thing. Mr. Chin gets Wei-lung fired.

 

Meanwhile Shao-san, who likes to gamble, tries to place an uncharacteristically large bet on a hot tip. After the Mr. Chin controlled  bookie joint refuses bet, Shao-san  kicks everyones ass. Mr. Chin likes Shao-sans spunk! He wants to work something out to pay for the damages Shao-san caused. Shao-san gives him attitude. Mr. Chin doesn’t like that! He arranges for yet another thug attack. Guess how well that goes? Not very! Shao-san beats back a horde of thugs until Wei-lung and Tom show up to make it a fair fight.

 

All of this trouble ends up costing Wei-lung all of his jobs and his pad. So he embarks upon a career as a professional fighter, much to his now fiancée Chai-yun’s dismay. Meanwhile, Shao-san is slowly seduced to the dark side…..

 

For a Brucesploitation film, it is actually very light on Brucesploiting. It mostly amounts to Bruce Li periodically expressing his admiration for the life and philosophy of Bruce Lee. As well as tastefully placed posters in his pad. And of course, he apes Bruce’s style, but not to the point where you are like “GET YOUR OWN STYLE HO CHUNG-TAO!!!!”  The title, of course, was an effort to cash in on the Blaxploitation craze because of the presence of Carl Scott. But Carl is not really one of the stars and this version has even less Carl than the earlier released version, The Last Strike which has a less downbeat ending as well.

 

The film score is like a K-Tel presents album. Music From Rocky, Live and Let Die, “Fly, Robin, Fly”, etc.

 

The final smackdown turns out to be between Bruce Li and Ku Feng, not that there is anything wrong with that but the fight you think they are building to turns out to be much ado about nothing. I mean, they fight, but it isn't what you are hoping for.

 

A Hard Way to Die

(Hong Kong, 1979, though shot in Arizona)

The Eternal Film Co.

 

Picked and reviewed by: Execproducer.

 

Oh this fucking movie! To begin with, the opening credits are hilarious..Billy Chong, The Best Chinese Kung Fu Fighter. …he’s actually Indonesian…. 1979 World Kick Boxing Champion, Louis Neglia …. The Leading American Kung Fu Fighter Carl R. Scott…and on and on.

 

Anyway, a trio of bandits come upon a farm owned by a black family somewhere in Arizona. They first attempt to buy the farm to use as a hide-out. Yeah, I’m sure they would have honored that deal. But Papa farmer ain’t interested in selling, so the bandits return later to take it by force. The bandits consist of two white dudes, including Louis Neglia, who looks like Chuck Norris’s 70’s stand-in or a dude that stepped off of the set of one of the two Karate films from the other side of the world that will be showing up here later, courtesy of J.T., and a Chinese guy who I can’t place. Bandits start killing the family. The Chinese dude puts a hurtin’ on   the youngest son, Tom (Carl Scott) but he escapes, barely alive. He is found by Shao Tung (Billy Chong) a wandering Kung Fu expert putting some distance between himself and the authorities back in China. Shao tung and friend take Tom to a Chinese doctor who prepares a herbal bath but first… HE BEATS THE HOLY PISS OUTTA TOM!!!!. It seems he quickly deduces that Tom has been attacked  in the four vital areas…temples, chest, groin, armpit! … and a good ole Kung Fu beating will get those nasty poisons out. The next day..!!!???...Tom wakes up all fresh as a daisy and wanders outside to see doc practicing his Kung Fu. Over the course of the next several weeks, Tom will observe and slowly pick up a serious Kung Fu education. No, wait. THAT SHIT HAPPENS IMMEDIATELY!!!! 30 seconds of observation and Tom is busting out some sweet moves.

 

Meanwhile, our three bandits are starting to turn on each other and…. Dudes I’m getting exhausted trying to track this stuff. Tom wants to kill the bandits, the bandits want to kill each other, everybody else wants to kill Shao Tung because he keeps beating them up!

 

This movie is delirious. I’m serious! It is apparently set in the old west. Everyone rides a horse, you’ve got Chinese guys working on rail tracks, Shao Tung is wearing the appropriate Kung Fu garb of the era, the bandits keep their loot in a sack, etc. But, the saloon (which has a sign made of rope that says “saloon”) has an invisible jukebox that plays country music, there are electric lamps, power lines occasionally appear in the shot, and it’s not the greatest print so I could have been seeing it wrong but I’m pretty sure that is HEAVY FUCKIN’ MACHINARY in the background at a quarry. Also, half of the evil white guys look like roadies for Fleetwood Mac, including 70’s era sunglasses and wifebeaters.

 

Oh, let’s talk  about the dubbing! I know it isn’t exactly keen insight to point out bad dubbing in a chop sockey  film but this is next level stuff. It’s like they hired Joel and the ‘Bots for the job only they’re not riffing and you’re all “SAY SOMETHING FUNNY, TOM SERVO!!”  but he never does.

 

There are however a ton fights and that’s why we’re here anyway. You’ve got white dudes a brawlin’, Chinese Kung Fu fighters, Chinese Indian knife fighters, Chinese Karate guys, etc.  Carl Scott squares off with Chinese bandit and then  Louis Neglia and it’s worth the patience you’ve shown getting to this point. Then we get Louis vs. Billy Chong. Despite his screen credit Billy ain’t the best but he isn’t bad, either. Louis is getting the upperhand until beaten up Carl remembers the words of Doc Kung Fu…Temples! Chest! Groin! Armpit! Weird since Carl was comatose at the time but whatever.  So he joins in for the classic 2 babyfaces vs. 1 heel match-up. Bad for wrestling fans but A-OK for Kung Fu movie aficionados.

 

So, Soul Brothers of Kung Fu is worth a watch. A Hard Way to Die is probably best sped through to the fight scenes. But the main reason to watch either is that Carl Scott was the fucking Truth! In Soul Brothers he looks exactly like the teen-ager he was when the film was made but he threatens to upstage the seasoned stars whenever he is fighting. In Hard Way he gets an even bigger chance to shine. He only made one more film after this before leaving the business of his own accord and we are sad pondering what might have been.  

 

 

 

 

...

 
 
 
 
 
Edited by Execproducer
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Posted (edited)

I have a bootleg of Kung Fu Executioner / Sun Dragon that is one of the crown jewels of my collection. 

Carl's fighting skills were a cut above the rest.  He was a fucking prodigy with amazing form and technique.

It pleases me to see the light shine on Carl Scott's legacy in film and the martial arts once again.

Damn.  The room suddenly got dusty.

Edited by J.T.
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Film: Merantau

(Indonesia, 2009)

Pt. Merantau Films

Picked by: Raziel

"I feel as if The Raid get's all the love for launching the Indonesian Silat flicks and everyone forgets that The Raid doesn't get made if this movie doesn't come out and do as well as it did.  This is the "softer" side of the Silat flicks as it focuses on a young man on his journey to adulthood running into the realities of the world outside his village.  A chance meeting plots him defending a stripper and her brother from a French Human Trafficking ring and it goes how you'd expect.  It's the better intro to Silat and Indonesian flicks as it's not as brutally violent as the movies that followed but never do you not think the stakes aren't high."    

Reviewed by: Magnificent 7

Merantau is written and directed by Gareth Evans, the Welsh guy who brought us the amazing Raid and Raid 2.  Like most, I am sure those films were the first introduction to the Indonesian martial art of Silat and actors Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog).  Since then, Ruhian is popping up in incredible action movies like John Wick 3, which shows if you want to lend your film a hint of even more awesomeness that guy is a phone call away.  Uwais was great in the Raid films, and it's clear to see in Merantau that he has that leading man / action hero charisma from his very first role.  You never doubt this guy's credibility in Merantua as a martial arts practicioner, and he's actually asked to do a lot more than a usual debut action star on the acting front in this. 

The plot is pretty predictable and basically boils down to a young man (Uwais as Yuda) from a rural village who leaves on a Merantau, which is some sort of coming of age journey to the big city to earn some dough in the big city before he comes back home to contribute more as a man in the workings of the family.  At least that's what I got out of it as I'm admittedly not as culturally aware of Indonesian nuances as one would like.  They explained it in the very first scene, but I was troubleshooting the Wii U (I watch Netflix on it) which was flipping back from the stupid controller screen and the tv screen inexplicably during that opening deal. 

So off Yuda goes to Jakarta where he hopes to teach Silat to the city dwellers.  He meets Mad Dog (I don't remember his name from this one, he'll always be Mad Dog to me dammit) on the bus and he is a future cynical version of himself which is kind of the underlying theme of the movie.  Yuda is the idealistic young guy / white knight who can't turn the other way when injustice presents itself.  Will Yuda become that older, darker guy who throws ideals out the window?

The answer can be found in a few running front kicks and flying knees to bad guys chests.  Silat is pretty awesome.  I mean if you've seen The Raid movies you already know this.  It's largely built around (from my vantage point) a ton of forearm parries (don't worry this isn't Jeff Speakman Perfect Weapon nonsense), powerful front kicks that cave in abdomens, and knee lifts to the chest and / or face.  You get some acrobatic / whirling stuff here and there, but it's rare and Silat is generally an aesthetically pleasing but also powerful art which looks movie realistic. 

Yuda, struggling in Jakarta and sleeping his nights in a construction site, witnesses a woman being smacked around by a shady pimp looking guy and everything kicks off from there as he steps up and confronts these guys.  She's got a kid brother and the movie revolves around either of those two being captured by a sex trafficking ring ran by these French (?) brothers and Yuda rescuing them. 

It takes a while to get going and that is my main complaint with the movie, the pacing.  By get going I mean some dude kicking another dude in the head in anger.  Once that first alley confrontation happens, though, the fight scenes ramp up and get really good towards the end.  There are still too many dramatic scenes for my taste, with Evans trying his best to recreate the Last of the Mohicans scene behind the waterfall.  "I'll find you, I promise."  I lost count how many times a variation of this happened and they were usually played too long. 

The bad guys are terrible outside of the final sequence when you discover they can scrap pretty darn well after all.  Up until that point, though, they just don't do much except menace women, the pimp guy, and act badly. 

There are some stunts where the wire work is a little too obvious (the fall from the scaffold), but nothing awful. 

I enjoyed this a good deal, though, despite those issues.  Mad Dog redeems himself after a scintillating elevator fight with Yuda, and the hero saves the day in the end (making the ultimate sacrifice).  There are some really good fight sequences with lead pipes, and creative used of the environment in chase / fight sequences. 

And I guess the dramatic scenes eventually worked on me as the final shot of the mother waving goodbye to the kid Yuda saved as he goes off to school was actually pretty emotional. 

An easy recommend - if you enjoyed The Raid movies you'll enjoy this.  It's a straightforward action / kung fu movie with a director and lead actor finding their feet. 

 

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Posted (edited)

Bonus Review!!!

Picked and reviewed by: J.T.

DRIVE (1997):  The Most Underloved Martial Arts Movie On Planet Earth.

Mark Dacascos really should be a huge action star..... anyway....

In 1997, armed with a $3.5 million dollar budget and one of the campiest scripts ever written, Steve Wang directed what has to be one of the most frenetically paced action movies of all times despite the obstacles presented by monetary constraints and demanding, micromanaging producers.

DRIVE is the story of Toby Wong, played by Marc mother fucking Dacascos.  Toby is a former Red Chinese special ops soldier turned guinea pig and given a biomechanical heart that turns him into a ass-whipping whirlwind of doom.  Toby learns of the Chinese government's intention to turn him into an assassin and like any good action movie protagonist, he bails out. 

His mission?  To get to America and find a buyer for his implants who will also be able to surgically remove them.  We won't go into the irony of how Toby actually trusts someone from the US government or private sector to help him without also trying to snuff him in the process.  

USA good.  China bad.

The opening fight of this beautiful motion picture has to be seen to be believed.  Steve Wang gives Dacascos the same artistic license that Tony Jaa  got in Ong Bak to just do his thing and boy does that shit make you swoon.  The camera is almost perfectly placed at all times and the fight choreography is crisp and allowed to evolve at a lightning pace.  

None of that Robert Clouse Enter The Dragon Let's Slow Down The Framerate So Everyone Can See Bruce Work bullshit.  As an action movie veteran, you are forced to rely on your own senses to keep up with everything going on and it is a joy to behold.

Getting back to the summary, along the way our hero finds himself pursued by evil redneck mercs (JP Ferguson and Tracey Walter) hired by the equally evil BBEG played by James Shigeta, and must rely on the unwitting and somewhat unwilling aid of downtrodden and now captive songwriter Malik (Kadeem Hardison) to help him out.

While taking refuge at some run down motel to regroup, our intrepid pair encounter the equally adorable and disturbing owner of the roadside dive, Deliverance Bodine, played by the late Brittany Murphy.  Her refreshingly eccentric performance absolutely steals the second act of this production and you cannot help but hope that Malik and Deliverance will somehow hook back up once this deal is finally done.

There is some irony in the fact that Sanaa Lathan plays Malik's rather nerve grating girlfriend in this equation, but I digress.

The action sequences in this movie are fast, fun, and totally brutal.  Dacascos puts on a fucking clinic of one take fist fights and only gives up a scene or two to a stuntman when it is obvious that wire work is needed to provide unbelievable gravity defiance.

The climactic showdown between Toby and the ominous Advanced Model (Masato Kayo showing up for the LAAAAAAADIEEES.) is the balls out tornado of fists, feet, and improvised weapons that you prayed it would be.

Mad love to stunt coordinator Koichi Sakamoto and his talented Alpha Stunt Team (Power Rangers anyone?) for being brave and professional enough to put body and career on the line for out enjoyment.

Even though Drive is an actioner at it's core,  it does manage to cover enough bases to provide the implausible story that ties the violence together.   Wang pays more than mere lip service to things like Malik's troubled home life, the frustration of the redneck merc's culture shock when it comes to taking orders from their Chinese overlords, or the underlying reasons about why Toby comes to America rather than Europe or something.  

It takes a brave script from Scott Phillip’ to pull this off, and pull it off he does.  You don't find too many A-List or B-List action movies that diligently pay attention to the quiet like this movie does.

With as much love shown to the hyper-violent bullet movies of HK and the US as well as the Shaw Brothers vs. Golden Harvest wushu operas of old, Drive is that direct-to-video joint that you should be proud to own.   Matter of fact, it should be one of the crown jewels of your shelf porn.

I expect all of you to get your copy from Amazon immediately after you finish reading this review.

 

Edited by Execproducer
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I clicked the link knowing full well what you did there but couldn't help myself. Right under the movie - recommendation for a new Donnie Yen movie where he plays a school teacher or something called Big Brother. Anyone seen that yet?

Dacascos was that guy I think every kid knew from Only The Strong and then kind of disappeared. JT nailed it with the Ong Bak / Tony Jaa comparison, because Drive was just a total showcase for his talents. One of the few martial arts movies I've owned for so long that it's in VHS format. Looking up his wiki to see what else he had done that I might have seen and John Wick 3? Oh heeeeeellllll ya! Not like I was ever going to not watch that one though really.

From this thread, I feel I need to watch the two Billy Chong movies that exec reviewed too. I've only seen Fistful of Talons and Kung Fu Beyond the Grave from Chong and have never even heard of Carl Scott.

 

 

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50 minutes ago, Setsuna said:

 

From this thread, I feel I need to watch the two Billy Chong movies that exec reviewed too. I've only seen Fistful of Talons and Kung Fu Beyond the Grave from Chong and have never even heard of Carl Scott.

Only one of those is a Billy Chong movie though Carl did indeed appear in two Chong films, the other being Sun Dragon that JT mentioned in his reply. The first time I became aware of Carl was back in the 80’s in an article about black martial artists in Martial Arts Movies magazine. He had a brief mention and a photo of Carl and Bruce Li sparring. By that point he was already Year’s out of the business and those films, to the best of my knowledge, weren’t readily available. I didn’t see Soul Brothers of Kung Fu until the late 90’s when I bought a tape from Video Search of Miami. Between Amazon and YouTube it is pretty much all available now.

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Posted (edited)

I love Merantau.  I think I like it more than The Raid because it is a story with soul and heart.  

Sure, The Raid has far better fights and characters (The Raid has the bestest bad guys, especially mother fucking Mad Dog!), but Merantau reminds me of Ong Bak in the way that it is actually a harsh criticism of how urbanization (i.e. The West) threatens tradition and cuilture and seems to erode away at morality while having just enough assbeatings in them to keep you watching.

There is a morale hidden in the massacre.

It's odd how martial arts films from different areas of Asia countries and contrasting eras of style always seem to have at least one flick in the can where the hero is some country bumpkin that just happens to be a martial arts prodigy and goes to the big city to beat the shit out of the city slicker bad guys.  

Unless it's Japan.  The evils of modernization are usually addressed in Kaiju movies rather than Jidaigeki.

Edited by J.T.

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I am serving as your fill in host for the next couple of days.

Today in "Y'all share the same brain"

(Also note that due to all the cutting and pasting between the original reviews and Exec and me - the footnotes might be fucked up)

BONUS REVIEW!!!!!

2 Street Fighters 4 the Price of One!!!!!

THE STREET FIGHTER (1974)

Picked and Reviewed by: @Curt McGirt

No, this isn't Street Fighter 1994, though that was on TV yesterday and boy was it as gut-churningly awful as when I went and saw it in the theater. No, this is The Street Fighter 1974 motherfucker, this is Sonny Chiba cracking skulls, this is the movie cool enough for Quentin Tarantino to put in my actual favorite of his films True Romance, this one is the shit. I was going to wait until reading all the picks to review it as my extra but Execproducer (the executive producer) said no one had and to go ahead, and well damn, I'm disappointed in y'all. 

It starts with a man awaiting execution via hanging in jail, who is interrupted by a supposed Buddhist priest, who is given five minutes with him. He reveals himself to be an expert in the martial arts and they have a brief brawl wherein he performs a technique on him that gives him five minutes until he goes into a coma, thus saving him from the gallows for a later date. The priest would be Terry Tsurugi, the infinitely cool Sonny Chiba, a hired assassin/anti-hero of the highest order. Anti-hero as in when he doesn't get paid for the job in saving this guy, he ends up killing the dude's brother and getting the dude's sister sold into sexual slavery by the Yakuza, which is extremely fucked up and a nasty blot on this film that is unfortunately ignored within moments. It was the '70s so I guess it's fair to say that we should just be happy there was no footage of her being raped...

ANYWAY. Terry and his lowkey-badass comic relief partner notice that an oil tycoon's daughter is in line to receive an inheritance on the TV news right before he meets up with said Yakuza, who say they want him to kidnap said oil tycoon's daughter. He apparently has an aversion to the Yakuza for whatever reason and tells them to fuck off after realizing they're in bed with the Mafia, they tell him "you're dead", and the fight is on. The girl is being housed and protected at a karate school and there are awesome shots of karate practice with guys punching the air and the master breaking a row of tiles with his hands and head. It's genius, because it sets up a huge fight between Terry and the master after Terry literally breaks down the fucking door and starts making out with the daughter and threatening to kill her in order to force the master to fight him. The master beats his ass with what seems like an interesting mix of judo technique within his karate (though I am no great judge of this) after Terry mauls a couple of his students with his own form of karate which consists of kicking people in the balls and stepping on their feet for cheap shots before crushing them. After the master wails on him he says he knew a Tsurugi before who tried to combine Chinese boxing with Japanese karate who got killed, and there's a brutal flashback in black and white where they show Terry's father GET SHOT BY FIRING SQUAD while his young son is called a halfbreed and thrown into the mud in the rain. After that Terry regains his composure, the dope-ass soundtrack fires up again, and they brawl for a minute until Terry gives up and tells the master that he wants to guard the girl and beat the Yakuza/Mafia guys ("I hate punks more than anything, but I want to see the Mob destroyed!" haha) for a price. Of course, he's hired. 

At this time we introduce a load of crazy villains that Terry is inevitably gonna have to fight: a giant, a guy with a knife, a blind drunkard, and once again the guy let out of jail who is brooding over his missing sister. The Yakuza boss finds out dude is a badass and give him his pick of his hos, one of whom is the sister, who tells him his brother is dead so he decides to join up with the Yakuza and kill Terry. Obviously Terry is not exactly Captain America in this film, nor is anybody really aside from the karate dudes. He's tormented, angry and cynical and is only out for money; definitely a dark figure for a lead if there ever was one. 

The Yakuza locate Terry and his buddy Ratnose following the chick and literally pick their car up with a piece of construction equipment on the highway and dump it off a bridge; Terry responds by getting out of the vehicle and killing two Yakuza "punks". This involves him cracking people and them then showing in X-ray how their bodies are being destroyed before they gush blood from their mouths and wounds. No wonder this was originally rated X for violence, IIRC.  The daughter gets hijacked and taken to the mafia hideout where we get eyes poked out, a rapist's castration-by-hand (!!!), etc. Apparently the Chinese Triads are involved in this too with them spouting a bunch of racist shit about the Japanese (casual racism is a common theme in the film). The Chinese are even nastier than everyone else, playing Russian roulette with Terry at gunpoint to get the whereabouts of the girl from Ratnose and dumping him off a cliff, while the Yakuza boss would rather fight him to the death. Terry survives the fall then ABANDONS HIS PARTNER FOR SAVING HIM FROM DEATH. Before he gets sliced to death by accident trying to save him yet again. Jesus fucking Christ. 

Thus, the violence REALLY ensues.

I'll spare you writing out the entire goddamn film as apparently I'm wont to do, so to sum up, this is one of the best, darkest, best shot, best acted, goriest, grittiest martial arts films ever made. It's almost the anti-James Bond, with fists instead of special weapons. If you don't at least go on Youtube and watch the final sequence, you're missing out (I actually don't know if it's on there but it should be). Killer flick -- literally.

THE STREET FIGHTER

Picked and Reviewed by: @J.H.

The first time I saw The Street Fighter was 1991. I had been working in the Marvel mail room for about 3 months and my co-worker Fred had introduced me to a guy who would trade 3rd gen VHS episodes of Gatchamanin Raw Japanese (commercials included) in exchange for weekly comic bundles (both Marvel and DC). It was through this contact I also got copies of stuff like Be Forever Yamato[ii], Urusei Yatsura Only You and season 1 of Ranma ½. This contact also had an extensive collection of Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest films. It was this contact who asked the important question to me of “I assume you’ve got all the Sonny Chiba you need right?”

I didn’t know who Sonny China was, it was the first time I heard the name and I said “Um… no?”

My contact went nuts and started telling me how I had to see The Street Fighter, The Bodyguard and a list of movies I was unaware of. See the thing was, my WNEW Channel 5 Drive-In Movies on Saturday afternoon only showed old school Hong Kong films, not Japanese movies. Hell, even if they had, there was zero chance that The Street Fighter was getting shown on a local US TV station with an actual broadcast license (maybe some UHF station could get away with it)[iii]. Needless to say, the next week my comics for tapes trade got me Gatchaman TV episodes 100-105 with commercials, including an ad for Paul McCartney & Wings coming to Japan[iv]. There was also a special unmarked tape for me. “Watch this first” said my contact, “You’ll thank me later”.

I got home, ordered a pizza and busted out a bottle of orange juice and began… THE STREET FIGHTER!!!

Now my contact was a thorough guy, he included the original US trailer for the movie AND the Japanese trailer for Gekitotsu! Satsujin Ken (the original Japanese cut of The Street Fighter). Hell, he even whetted my appetite with trailers for Return of The Street Fighter and Sister Street Fighter[v].

91 Minutes Later…

My pizza remains at the foot of my bed, uneaten. The Street Fighter has just ended. My jaw is agape at the awesomeness I’ve just watched. I reach for the phone and call my best friend Eric Ramsey. The phone rings twice before he picks up. “Yo who this?” he asks. “It’s Jamie” I reply, “dude get over here. You need to watch this shit Tom gave me today”. Eric wasn’t amused I was telling him to hop the 6 from 125th down to Yorkville on a Friday night to watch a “Karate Movie”. Some intense negotiation was in order. I had to leave my place on 86th and East End avenue and walk 5 East/West Blocks to the subway station on 86th and Lexington. I would be required to get him some food as bribery. “Not Papaya King again either!” he demanded. When one is flush with a $10/hr job in 1991 Papaya King can be a perfect bribe. I was living at home with my Dad, after being asked not to return to Drew University[vi] and was paying my Dad $250 out of a 80 hour bi-weekly check. Eric got a lot of Papaya King back I the day. He settled on getting a couple of slices at the Pizza place a block and half away from my place (well, actually 2 slices each because I grew up in NYC and getting a slice is a common fuckin’ thing back in the day and YES! 1991 is still “Back in the day!”.

We ate, talked comics for a bit, mainly about the stuff that had come out that week (Eric also got a bundle from me every week[vii]) and then headed upstairs to my place. “Dude”, I said as I looked EWric with a serious look on my face, “This shit is amazing!”. Eric began his counter-argument as the tape was rewinding. He rattled off a litany of old Shaw Brothers films that had to be better and there was no way this movie, that wasn’t even made in Hong Kong, could be as good. I rebutted him passionately, “I’m not saying its better man, I’m saying its… its different. Different in a good way. Like the difference between Hebrew National hot dogs and Nathan’s or even Sabrett’s”. That comparison threw him off. Eric a gentile, he didn’t have time to analyze the difference in different kosher hot dogs. “Man just starty the fuckin movie already before I leave!”. The tape finishes rewinding, I press play on the remote

91 Minutes Later…

“That Shit was tight!” – Eric Ramsey, 1991

There are plenty of hilariously bad moments of The Street Fighter. Obvious bad dummies falling off cliffs for example. A highly questionable English dub is another. Hell, I could ramble on for a paragraph or two but you can’t sit and talk about old martial arts movies and dissect how cheap they’re made and look sometimes because they aren’t being made with millions of dollars behind them like US or European movies. Shit, Gekitotsu! Satsujin Ken wasn’t made by David O. Fuckin Selznick, it was made Toei for fuck sake, probably with a budget worth enough to make 3-4 episodes of Kamen Rider X[viii].

Of course the thing that draws you into The Street Fighter more than anything else is Sonny Chiba. Chiba was fairly well known in Japan when he made Gekitotsu! Satsujin Ken. The movie made him a star in his home country and when New Line Pictures picked it yp to make The Street Fighter he became an international cult star. The Gekitotsu! Satsujin Ken series allowed him to make movies and TV shows with Toei for 10 years. It allowed him to open Ther Chiba Hero School, which Toei used to train their next generation of TV stars and stuntmen. Sonny Chiba is The Street Fighter and you are drawn to his anti-hero, lone wolf nature. The character he plays, Terry Tsurugi, is not a nice guy. Hell, he sells his main rival’s sister into white slavery at the beginning of the movie. He’s really the villain who you root for because the other evil people in the movie are coming at him with overpowering odds. He is the underdog who kills mother fuckers with his bare goddam hands because in the end, its all he’s got. You want him to use a gun? Fuck you and your gun, guns jam. All Terry Tsurugi are hands and he’ll use them rip out your throat and shove your gun up your ass because that is what he does.

Now let me wrap this up to talk about the theme of The Street Fighter. No not the underlying theme of lone man against society. I’m talking about the music and the main theme music of The Street Fighter is addictive as all get out. Justone  all raw electric guitar letting you know that this movie is on a mission to kick asss on all fronts. I was crestfallen when I finally got to see the original Gekitotsu! Satsujin Ken and none of it featured the theme from The Street Fighter, it almost makes watching it a totally different movie. The theme from The Street Fighter is so vital watching it, it would be like watching The Empire Strikes Back and John Williams “Imperial March” was nowhere to be heard. It is THAT IMPORTANT! I mean c’mon man, can you think of another martial arts film where the its totally bitchin theme music sticks out so prominently?

Ok… I’m done. The point of me rambling for 1500 words is that The Street Fighter isn’t just a movie, it is something you experience. Watching it is not enough. You have to let The Street Fighter and Sonny Chiba wash over you with their violent and consuming rage. Experience The Street Fighter and embrace its tag line as a fact of life!

 “You beat a man they call you tough, you beat an army they call you… THE STREET FIGHTER!

-------------------------------------------

As an employee at Marvel everyone got their weekly releases of Marvel and DC free. One of my main responsibilities was to bundle everything for every employee and deliver to their desk. I made friends with most of the Marvel Bullpen this way. I also had to mail free comics to everyone on the Marvel freelance mailing list. Jim Lee and Todd Mcfarlane got their finished products because of me and I’m sure they were thrilled!

[ii] aka Drag On Forever Yamato aka WILL THIS MOVIE PLEASE END ALREADY?

[iii] like how in 2005 some 3rd rate Toledo station aired Sister Street Fighter unedited at 3am. They even showed the trailer before the movie started “The Fear IS REAL! The Love is real!”

[iv] which puts this re-broadcast of Gatchaman toward the end of 1979/start of 1980 because that was when Macca got busted with 8oz of marijuana at Narita

[v] “The Fear IS REAL! The Love is real!”

[vi] Every class I took I got an “Incomplete” in. I didn’t even get a 0.0 GPA. I just flat out skipped class every day to play D&D/Robotech/TMNT or read books not in any of my assigned curriculums.

[vii] Seriously, there were so many leftover comic bundles every week it was crazy. More than one editor or artist would get 2 bundles to give away to people for favors. Don’t even get me started on the week the “Platinum” edition of Spider-Man #1 dropped

[viii] I use Kamen Rider X as the example because it came out the same year as Gekitotsu! Satsujin Ken

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This is actually the trailer for Gekitotsu! Satsujin Ken

Here is the trailer for The Street Fighter

 

James

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NINJAPALOOZA DAY 1!!!!!!

Arguably, the two films that began the Ninja craze.

Film: The Octagon

Picked by: @driver

"My choice is The Octagon. I was 10 when I saw this in the theater when it came out in 1980. Between this movie and Lone Wolf McQuade I was team Chuck for a few years."

Reviewd by: @jaedmc

THE OCTAGON(1980), OR A STORY ABOUT HOW I USED TO HATE CHUCK NORRIS BUT KINDA DON'T CARE ANY MORE

by Jae.

 

Part of me wishes that someone else had gotten The Octagon, a Chuck Norris action flick from 1980. My uncle was a black belt and sensei, and me and my cousin had a steady diet of martial arts action growing up. We fucking hated Chuck Norris. To us he was always the guy that Bruce Lee beat the shit out of in Return of the Dragon, a scene that we'd watched and cheered for many times. But Bruce died and Chuck Norris became a superstar – perhaps unfairly there was a lot of resentment directed at the future star of Walker, Texas Ranger. Growing up Asian we were starved for a cool action star who looked like us, and in the 80's and early 90's all the big martial arts names were white dudes. As much as we wanted to love Don “The Dragon” Wilson, who like us was mixed race Japanese, his movies weren't as well made nor widely accepted like the ones from Norris, Van Damme and Steven Segal.

So I came into this movie with a lot of baggage, and I felt like it probably deserved a greater champion for this particular project in which we celebrate this glorious sub-genre of films. But I'm also at a point in my life, where my views on cultural appropriation have become more complex(for me anyway), and I've just grown tired of complaining. And while part of me was prepared to hate the oriental mysticism and white savior complexes, another part of me was just excited to see a goofy ass Chuck Norris movie named after a giant wooden structure that serves as a deadly assassin factory. I mean, surely there are some ideas that we can just come together on, right?

Alright alright let's just get to the movie.

The Octagon, from what I can gather, is a ninja training ground for mercenaries. So if you're looking for jobs assassinating people or working as a goon for a super villain, being trained at THE OCTAGON looks super good on your resume. It's like Harvard for minions – but instead of student loans to pay off, you live in fear of losing your entire family if you fuck up a job and get caught.

Chuck Norris plays Scott James who likes to go the ballet so he can pick up flexible ballerinas to bang and brag about later. The ballerina that Norris gets his hooks into is unfortunately the sister to one of those mercenaries who happened to get caught. She, along with her family, get brutally murdered while Norris is rolling around on the floor with one of the ninja assailants.. “BUT NINJA'S CAN'T EXIST,” Chuck Norris' creepy inner-monologue whispers. Turns out Chuck Norris was trained in the way of the Ninja, and was so much better than his Japanese contemporary, Seikura, that Seikura pouted like a little bitch and became evil. Over time, ninjas faded into obscurity and for them to come back like this can only mean that Seikura is training them. Because I guess Chuck Norris and Seikura were the only two ninjas left alive. I wasn't really clear on that part. I'm sure it was covered in Chuck Norris' psychopathic voice overs in which whispers into an echo chamber, but it went in one ear and out the other.

The rest of the movie is Chuck Norris's being wooden as hell, while using his old mercenary contacts to help him get to Seikura. This is how we get a small Lee Van Cleef performance, in which he delivers this nugget of anti-pacifist wisdom “As much as you condemn me for living to kill, it's people like you who are paving the way for others to have to kill to live”. It's a clunker of a line that he labors through like he's fucked up for 15 takes in a row – but it's a major tent poll of the film's overall philosophy. While Chuck Norris has been busy enjoying the arts and ballerinas, the world has gotten dangerous, and he must break himself of this hippy dippy desire to avoid combat in order to make the planet a better place.

While Lee Van Cleef doesn't do much we do get some other casting treats. Norris' best friend A.J. is played Art Hindle who spends almost the entire run time trying to make the movie about himself, which I kind of appreciated. Art is a Canadian actor who you may have seen in two of the greatest Canadian horror films ever The Brood and Black Christmas. We also have a very small role featuring Ernie Hudson, that felt like it was going to be important but never developed into anything. And because I like educating people on Japanese actors: the man who plays Seikura's main aide is Yuki Shimoda.

Shimoda was a Japanese American who had been interned at Tulane Lake along with nearly 19,000 other Japanese Americans during World War II. After the war, he relocated to Chicago where he studied acting and dancing. Later he moved to New York to get more gigs, and spent the early part of his career coaching Caucasians on how to perform more “authentically Oriental”, before landing a part in Auntie Mame and becoming one of the first Asian American actors hired on Broadway. This is one of the last movies he did before succumbing to cancer in 1981.

So when you see Yuki Shimoda acting mean as fuck, while Chuck Norris is kicking ass and being a hero – know that Shimoda's not just some random Japanese guy they got to mug for the camera, he's a goddamn pioneer for Asian Americans in the entertainment business.

The action is a lot of Chuck Norris throwing these wide theatrical punches and spinning round houses that just insta-kill whoever he hits. The best moments of camp are reserved for the training sessions in which masked dudes demonstrate the exotic weapons of the orient like sais and nunchucks. The best sequence is easily Chuck Norris having to run an obstacle course while Ninjas just pop up from the water, or from places where he probably should have seen them as he passed by. We do get a big explosion, which I kind of have to have in order to enjoy any action film, but the film lets us down when it comes to Norris's climactic battle with Seikura. It literally comes down to Seikura running into a sword. Weak.

Like I said in the beginning, part of me wishes someone else got this so they could champion it without the baggage that someone like me would carry into it. But part of me was glad to get this. Watching The Octagon gave me an opportunity to enjoy a movie I probably would have hated when I was 12. Watching lame ass Chuck Norris effortlessly beat the shit out of Asian people can take it's toll on a Japanese kid. Now that I'm older I can let that angst go(or some of it anyway) and enjoy the ridiculousness of Chuck Norris acting like a Ninja James Bond. I didn't think I could do that before today, so I guess thanks for that.

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BONUS REVIEW!!!!

Enter The Ninja

Picked and reviewed by: @AxB

Enter the Ninja (1981) Starring Franco Nero, Sho Kosugi, Susan George, Christopher George. The first fifteen minutes and the last ten are a ninja movie. The middle hour is basically an episode of The Incredible Hulk, as a guy in regular clothes defends a farm from an evil land developer and his army of goons. Which really hurts it, because when our hero is masked up for the fights, his stunt double can do the fighting, and he's much better at it. Franco Nero was like 39 years old when he made it, and wasn't really a flying kick guy in his youth. Sho Kosugi has barely any screen time, but does a lot more with his time than anyone else. But you can tell it's basically a Cannon films rush job cash in (it was rushed to the screen in order to beat a book adaptation that was being developed; Said book adaptation never went into production), because all the dialogue is dubbed, some of it badly. Plot spoilers ahead, in the unlikely event that someone wants to watch this and hasn't:

The opening Black Ninja (and a bunch of Red Ninjas) vs White Ninja which is pretty epic, except for how noisy and obtrusive they are in the stealth sections. But it turns out that it's just a training exercise to allow Cane to complete his Ninja training. Then Black Ninja Hasegawa objects because he's caucasian, but is overruled. So Cane takes his training and goes to visit his friend Not Art Garfunkel in the Phillipines, but first his new Wife Mary Ann pulls a shotgun on him. Then she approaches to search him, and he easily disarms her and uses Ninja grappling techniques (goes behind, uses one arm to pin her arms behind her back and uses the other arm to grab the boobies... perhaps these aren't Ninja techniques. Later on Hasegawa has to grab her, and he never touches titty even slightly). So Not Art Garfunkel owns a farm, but a guy with a hook for a hand keeps running his workers off. So Cane beats up his goons a few times, and he gets more goons and Cane beats them up too. So the Hook gets fired and his boss hires goons with guns instead. And Cane mashes them up with the excellent stealth technique of sneaking around in light coloured clothes, and yelling "Yaaa!" every time he hits someone. Eventually they figure that Only A Ninja Can Kill A Ninja,  so evil boss's evil sidekick flies to Japan and hires Hasegawa to set up the finale. Hasegawa kills Not Art and kidnaps Mary Ann while Cane is off infiltrating the Evil Lair. And then the final set piece is Cane going to rescue Mary Ann.

You can tell this movie was made before Raiders of the Lost Arc, because two guys with guns are confronted by a guy twizzling knives around and they just laugh without shooting him. Cane seems to favour combat techniques that involve impaling your opponents and then leaving your weapon stuck in them, thus disarming yourself. Hasegawa does precisely nothing to protect the guys who hired him, he lets Cane kill every heel in the movie so he can face him one on one. Bit selfish. But the final showdown is probably the best fight in the movie. All in all, this wasn't very good. Maybe the sequel will prove to be a dramatic improvement.



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Posted (edited)

I feel Jae's pain.  

In the 80's and 90's there wasn't only an explosion of ninja movies, the protagonists were mostly white men.  You had Enter The Ninja, the America Ninja joints, The Octagon, and the list went on.

I remember talking to a Japanese friend of mine who absolutely HATED movies like The Last Samurai and The Hunted (that dumb ninja movie starring Christopher Lambert), because they always gave the impression that western white dudes could just casually pick up and master the combat skills it took Japanese men a fucking lifetime of dedication and discipline to learn and hone. 

How insulting is that?

To this day, I think that is the reason I love the really awful Sho Kosugi film, Revenge of the Ninja, because the villain is a white guy by design.  He's really skilled and the climactic ninja fight is balls out campy in a good way, but you know that Sho is going to eventually sever this guys frick from his frack.

I think I harbor extra resentment for The Hunted because the casting people couldn't even bother to find Japanese actors to cover two of the main roles.  In a fit of Asia Swapping, they hired Chinese-American actors.

Don't get me wrong, John Lone as Kinjo, the man-crush worthy leader of the Makato ninja clan, is the brightest thing in an otherwise shit movie and I had an amazing crush in Joan Chen back then, but certainly there had to have been Japanese actors that could've done just as good of a job.

Or maybe the only actors that would take those roles were Lone and Chen because any Japanese actors they tried to hire knew that the script was shit?

Edited by J.T.

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I will save you all some pain.  

Here is the only scene in The Hunted that you need to watch.

 

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