Friday, February 7, 2014

Informal Movie Reviews: The Protector 2, The Wolverine, Golden Queen's Commando

More movie reviews! Short and informal. Some spoilers.

The Protector 2 (2013)

Tony Jaa returns to the big screen! Bad guys steal his elephant and force him to murder people by turning the elephant into a bomb? There was some English but I didn’t watch a subtitled version, so I got to make up my own story. Anyway, the action: disappointing, but not in the way I expected. I was worried that they would fake Tony Jaa: try to make him look cool by pitting him against boring opponents and using a bunch of camera tricks and CGI. But what they did was take Tony Jaa, the real Tony Jaa, and make him look fake. There was some nice choreography; there were some crazy stunts. But the good stuff was impossible to appreciate: obscured by close shots, quick cuts, weird camera angles, and yeah, a bit of CGI as well. Overall, it could have been a lot worse, but the end result was mediocre when it had the potential to be great. Oh, and Jeeja Yanin’s role? Incredibly disappointing. I mean, I didn’t expect her to out-stage Tony Jaa or anything, but her character was so weak! Like, she would struggle forever against some no-name thugs and then Jaa would step in and finish ‘em in a couple of hits! Who doesn’t get to beat up on the no-name thugs? Were there not enough no-name thugs to go around? 

The Wolverine (2013)

Wolverine goes to Japan to visit a dying friend–whom he saved from an atomic bomb during WWII–and then gets caught up in a corporate power struggle involving Yakuza, ninja, and mecha-samurai. The film also portrays less cliche elements of Japanese culture, but still, really? I had fun, though. The plot wasn’t overly concerned with heroics, which was nice. Structurally, it reminded me of many HK action thrillers: action in the first and last acts bookending a middle where the characters do character things that are somewhat entertaining, even if they don’t make a whole lot of sense. In this case, we have Wolverine visiting the Japanese countryside, reminiscing about old friends, and falling in love with his dying friend’s granddaughter. Corny? Maybe, but it was nice to spend time watching the heroes interact with each other (although unfortunately the sidekick disappeared for a while), rather than just watching them run around in response to antagonists. I also liked that the action was less CGI-heavy than most modern superhero movies. Besides the bullet-train sequence (kinda cool, actually) and the mecha-samurai (totally lame–the thing had no weight), the fights had more in common with your typical martial arts flick than your typical Hollywood blockbuster. Nothing mind-blowing, but entertaining in a B-movie way. 

Golden Queen’s Commando (1982)

What happens when you take a one-eyed war criminal, a bible-toting gunslinger, a cage-fighting amazon, an alcoholic swordswoman, a quick-fingered thief, a traitorous courtesan, and a dynamite-laden bandit and throw them in a maximum security prison? Well, they escape, duh, and go on to have exciting adventures together. Basically this movie takes the highlights from a crazy mix of pulp genres (prison break, western, WWII mission, adventure), puts badass women in the lead roles (something more films should do), and totally steals Ennio Morricone’s music from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly to play in the background. Don’t go in expecting a smart plot or slick Hollywood production values and you’ll have a cheesy fun time.

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