Mini reviews of Cold Steel, Afro Tanaka, Revenge: A Love Story, and The Sword Identity are after the jump.
Director: David Wu ; Screenplay: David Wu, Li Xiao-Min
Cast: Peter Ho, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Jia Song, Mickey Ho, Ringo Yu
Maybe the poor quality of the screener I watched was a factor but what was up with the editing and pacing in this film? It seemed like the movie was chopped up into a million tiny pieces. There seemed to be no build up or progression in scenes as everything moved at a breakneck speed. Even in non-urgent situations the actors sounded like they were speed-reading through their dialogue. There was probably a good movie in here somewhere. Certainly some of the action is not bad but I just couldn’t enjoy this film due to what seemed to me as excessive cutting. This contradicts other reviews I’ve read where they praise the editing so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.
Afro Tanaka (2012)
Director: Daigo Matsui ; Screenplay: Masafumi Nishida, Masaharu Noritsuke
Cast: Shota Matsuda, Nozomi Sasaki, Atsushi Tsutsumishita, Kei Tanaka, Kaname Endo
As far as laughs go, Afro Tanaka was a big letdown for me. There were chuckle worthy moments here and there but that was it. How much mileage you get will depend on how much you can tolerate Tanaka’s clueless reactions and often self-centered thoughts. I found him to be more stupid than funny. His friends are also obnoxious jerks who are the cause of a lame misunderstanding that puts a wedge between Tanaka and his main lady interest. Yet when Tanaka gets angry with them, they act like he’s “changed” when he has every right to be angry. That and the other time he helps out a friend or a cat are perhaps the only moments I had any sympathy for the character. Then Tanaka pours out his hurt feelings in a rather selfish matter at his friend’s wedding. Sure he’s drunk and sure his now married friend was one of the jerks but the ordeal only emphasizes Tanaka’s insufferable selfishness. His lady interest is easy on the eyes but we learn little about her. At least the ending was deserved if a bit out of nowhere. The afro has little to do with anything, Tanaka could’ve been wearing a mullet and the movie called Mullet Tanaka and it would not have changed.
Revenge: A Love Story (2010)
Director: Wong Ching-Po ; Screenplay: Jill Leung, Wong Ching Po, Juno Mak
Cast: Juno Mak, Sola Aoi, Lau Wing (Tony Liu)
If you’re looking for a good revenge flick then this is a no-brainer. Revenge: A Love Story is a straight-forward, no-nonsense crime thriller where you’ll be rooting for the killer and not the cops. This despite the fact that the killer carves out unborn children in the beginning. Luckily we don’t see the actual act but the gory results are presented on screen. It wasn’t quite as graphic as I was expecting but for some it may induce queasiness. Indeed there is love and revenge but there’s nothing particularly original about the story in either respect. Appreciation comes in the execution of it all as the violent set pieces are well done. Although that one death with the fire was a bit fake which made it funny to the Fantasia audience. The ending is also satisfying and surprising. This film easily delivers on its title. Chapters do have fancy quotes which might trick you into thinking there is some deeper meaning. There may very well be but I never bothered and simply watched the deaths unfold.
The Sword Identity (2011)
Director: Xu Haofeng ; Screenplay: Xu Haofeng
Cast: Song Yang, Zhao Yuanyuan, Yu Chenghui, Ma Jun, Xu Fujing
This is a very cerebral film where more time is placed on masters discussing strategy and the intricacy of martial arts with few moments showing it being employed. The story despite its slow pace can be somewhat hard to follow as the characters and their relations to each are only gradually revealed although I still don’t understand how some of the peripheral characters relate to the main plot. The film also subtly pokes fun at the over-thinking and philosophizing of martial arts with one character who manages to best most of her opponents with a single but effective technique that takes advantage of the element of surprise and instinct. There isn’t much of a story. Something about the protagonist wanting to teach his technique with a modified Japanese sword to civilians but having to fight masters from four different martial arts schools in order to be allowed to do so. The protagonist, mistaken for a Japanese pirate spends most of his time dodging capture. There is little action here so action/martial arts junkies should look elsewhere. Some might find the more realistic take on martial arts interesting while others will be bored out of their minds. I’m personally on the fence for this one.