November 30, 2019

Brawl Busters: Ladies Kick Butt

Kim Jeong-yong's action-packed, female-focused Brawl Busters is the type of martial arts pic where you can boil down the story to a single word: REVENGE. The reasons for it may vary from character to character but the passion for executing it is universally intense and tirelessly unrelenting. So who's out to get blood? Well, there's the son of a lech killed by a butterfly stickpin, a dead man's supernaturally gifted daughter (and her pink-garbed posse of kick-ass ladies), and a wandering warrior whose parentage and motivation is infinitely less clear. Don't trouble yourself with trying to discover the inciting incidents beyond that. None of it really matters because Brawl Busters is all about fights and weaponry.

Especially the weapons! You'll see gold mittens with cardboard claws, an impossibly long, white scarf that can unfurl then encase a head, a fan that catches a half-dozen death-darts, a 25-foot-long, sharply tipped braid that's used like a whip, and some vicious pinwheel blades that appear to be hand-operated sometimes, and other times by mind. This is the kind of flick where our heroes jump impossibly high, survive endless blows, and surmount improbable odds. It's also pre-CGI, which means that the majority of the impressive acrobatics are sheer athleticism. What's not to applaud?

"We must capture them alive so that we can torture them to death," sneers the nastiest of the bad guys. But despite the nets, trapdoors, and the amnesia-inducing poison, these Korean-style Robin Hoods aren't going to be easy to ensnare.

November 23, 2019

Mission for the Dragon: The Korean Bruce Lee

Did you know that after Bruce Lee died, a number of Asian actors took on very similar names for an endless line of Bruceploixtation martial arts flicks, all looking to cash in on the emerging brand. There was a Bruce Li, a Bruce Lai, a Bruce Le, a Bruce Ly, a Bruce Lie, and a Bruce Lei. That last one also went by Dragon Lee but his real name was Moon Kyoung-seok and while he hardly ever garnered his iconic predecessor's mass appeal, he's certainly no less appealing than Jean-Claude Van Damme or Dolph Lundren and likewise looks best on camera when he's taken off his shirt for his cartwheels, his bicep flexes, and his tiger claw poses. In Mission for the Dragon, the chances to strip come with some regularity as he clearly prefers fighting bare chested than with the encumbrance of a royal blue smock. (Or even that fancy mirror vest.)

The central conflict here involves a beloved father who may have been murdered, may just be missing. More likely to hold your attention are the film's wacky audio tracks, both the sound effects (which resemble those from a spin-off of the '80s-era Space Invaders video game) and the dubbed vocals (which, for all I know, could be performed by one underpaid actor doing multiple cartoonesque, often-accented voices — most of them terrible). Be sure to keep the subtitles on despite the English dialogue, simply for the pleasure of seeing "(whips)" and "(thuds)," "(screams)" and "(grunts)" at the bottom of your screen. It also allows you to really appreciate sterling dialogue like "You can't recognize the truth," "Prepare to die," and "I must kill or be killed" which only gains depth and nuance from the "(emotional music)."