Film Picks: Kung Fu Jungle, John Wick, Fury and Brotherhood Of Blades

Kung Fu Jungle stars Wang Baoqiang (left) and Donnie Yen. -- PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE
Kung Fu Jungle stars Wang Baoqiang (left) and Donnie Yen. -- PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE

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JOHN LUI AND YIP WAI YEE RECOMMEND

KUNG FU JUNGLE (PG13)

100 minutes

***1/2

Part of the fun of watching this film is counting how many cameos you can spot.

Director Teddy Chan was not kidding when he said this is his tribute to Hong Kong action cinema - he must have gone to great lengths to gather the biggest names in martial arts cinema.

From veteran star David Chiang to action choreographer Tony Leung Siu-hung, stars show up everywhere.

Jailed gongfu expert Ha Hou Mou (Donnie Yen) learns that one of his martial artist friends has been murdered. He strikes a deal with the lead inspector of the case, Luk Yuen Sum (Charlie Young) - if he helps her solve the murder, she will get him an early release from prison. They cross paths with Fung Yu Sau (Wang Baoqiang), who is eager to reign as Hong Kong's ultimate gongfu master.

At 51, Yen is still in fine form. He gets a little full of himself at times, choreographing sequences in which he has to fight his way through a dozen men without even getting a scrape, but they are all so quick and entertaining that you can almost forgive him.

Yip Wai Yee


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JOHN WICK (NC16)

101 minutes

***1/2

This vengeance action-thriller turns on the most basic of principles: an eye for an eye. The film is all about packing in as much stylish bloodshed as possible into its efficient 100-minute running time and it does this well.

Former assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) cuts a swathe through the Russian mafia with feet, knives and lots of guns after his dog is killed by thugs out to steal his vintage Mustang. The selling point of the movie is its physicality. Hand-to-hand combat (the Russian variant, Sambo) figures a great deal. There is no fancy wirework, just straight-forward, realistic combat.

Directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski - stunt coordinators making a feature debut - have great respect for weaponry. No one here shoots without aiming and the bad guys do not run into bullets every chance they get.

JL


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FURY (NC16)

134 minutes

****

War movies used to be about heroism and manliness. In recent times, they have been about fear, uncertainty and doubt. Fury by David Ayer (cop drama End Of Watch, 2012) belongs firmly in the latter school, made popular in films about the war in Vietnam.

In the final months of World War II, American ground forces have taken the fight to Germany. The battle-tested crew of the tank Fury - including Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Brad Pitt) - must adapt to greenhorn assistant driver Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman).

There are setpiece engagements here that stand out as the most visceral ever filmed and all the actors are excellent, despite their thin, almost caricaturish personalities. The final showdown in the film's climax is completely over the top, but what it lacks in accuracy of tactics, it more than makes up for in nail-biting excitement.

John Lui


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BROTHERHOOD OF BLADES (PG13)

106 minutes

****

Wuxia movie heroes are typically driven by codes of honour and justice, which can make them a little one-dimensional. The protagonists here, however, are anti-heroes, a trio of underground Ming dynasty palace assassins driven by money and status.

No one is obviously good or bad, which makes the characters so much more believable and the story suspenseful as it keeps you guessing their fates to the end.

Immediately after a new emperor takes over the Ming dynasty court, he orders the downfall of eunuch Wei and his supporters, a group which wielded much power under the previous ruler. Three palace assassins (Li Dongxue, Wang Qianyuan and Chang Chen) are tasked to kill them.

Good old-fashioned swordplay takes centre stage here - and, more importantly, the requisite cheesy romance in wuxia movies is kept to a minimum.

YWY