On this week’s episode, I fill you in on where It’s All Connected 2021 has taken me after introducing the concept in Episode 29. From Stoker, I went through many films by Guillermo del Toro and Mike Flanagan, two of the best at what they do!
Zhang Ziyi is in talks to appear in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II – The Green Destiny alongside fellow returning castmate Michelle Yeoh and franchise newcomer Donnie Yen. Director and fight choreography Yuen Wo Ping (Iron Monkey) will fill in for director Ang Lee. [via ComingSoon]
Focus, a racing-based heist film, brought on Rodrigo Santoro (300: Rise Of An Empire, The Last Stand) to play Will Smith’s boss in the film being directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid Love). [via THR]
Director Tommy Wirkola (Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) hired a trio of actors for his horror/action flick Dead Snow: Red Vs. Dead which teams up the lone survivor of the first film with a group of zombie hunters called The Zombie Squad. Said actors are Martin Starr (Freaks & Geeks, Party Down), Ingrid Haas (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) and Jocelyn Deboer (College Humor). [via Variety]
Sony, New Regency and Ubisoft are teaming up to make a movie based on Sony’s November 19th-shipping Watch Dogs. [via Hero Complex]
The Bandito Brothers utilized real life Navy SEALS when they filmed Act Of Valor. For the sequel, though, they’re focusing on the adventures of a S.W.A.T. team. Scott Wiper (The Condemned) is writing the script. [via Deadline]
Finally, we lost two icons in the world of films and crime fiction this week. Elmore Leonard, whose adapted novels include Rum Punch (transformed into Jackie Brown by Quentin Tarantino) and Get Shorty, passed on August 20th at the age of 87. Legendary director Ted Post (Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, Magnum Force, Good Guys Wear Black) passed away on the same day at the age of 95. Our thoughts are with the families of these two incredibly prolific individuals.
We might not be able to understand what’s being said in this trailer for Special ID (a.k.a. Special Identity, Te Shu Shen Fen), but two things are made very clear: first, Donnie Yen (Dragon, Ip Man) continues to kick all kinds of ass and, second, director Clarence Fok Yiu-leung (Naked Killer) sure makes pretty looking movies.
Here’s a bit of context by way of plot description thanks to Asian Movie Pulse:
Yen takes on the role of Zilong Chen, an undercover police officer deep within the ranks of one of China’s most ruthless underworld gangs. The leader of the gang, Xiong (Collin Chou), has made it his priority to weed out the government infiltrators in his midst. Struggling to keep his family together and his identity concealed, Chen is torn between two worlds.
Upping the stakes, as Chen’s undercover comrades are being dealt with, one by one, Chen fears his days are numbered. Now, he must risk everything to take down the organization and reclaim the life he lost when he took on this perilous assignment. As the action mounts, Chen must do everything he can to protect the SPECIAL IDENTITY he wishes he never had before it’s too late.
With that in mind, check out the trailer:
Special ID opens in China, Hong Kong and Malaysia on October 3rd. It doesn’t currently have a US release set as far as we can tell.
Left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have ever watched Dragon (Wu Xia in the native Chinese) and that would have been a shame. I tend not to like period piece martial arts films and I generally shy away from foreign films that only offer subtitled viewing experiences instead of dubbed ones (for reasons I wrote about here). So, how did I end up watching it? Well, I was sent a PR email asking if I’d be interested in checking out the recently release Bluray and figured I’d give it a shot because I’m familiar with star Donnie Yen and love martial arts films.
I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did so. This movie was a revelation. It mixes so many different elements that it not only captivated me throughout but also kept me from doing just about anything else while it was on (a rare feat when it comes to my movie viewing habits these days). The movie felt like something that would result from a weird genetic experiment involving Darren Aronofsky, Brian De Palma, Ang Lee and David Lynch, but also something wholly unique to director Peter Chan.
The actual story revolves around a man named Liu Jin-xi (Yen) fighting off a pair of thugs who were trying to extort protection money from a butcher in a small Chinese village in 1917. In the skirmish, which looks innocent enough, Jin-xi accidentally kills one of the men. The attack brings in the regional police force including a unique inspector named Xu Bai-jiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) who believes there’s something fishy about this story, that a common man would not know the very specific places on an enemy’s body to hit in order to subdue and kill them. Basically, he thinks he’s dealing with a person with a much different past than he’s letting on, which proves to be the case.
So, not only do you have some fantastic action scenes, but there’s also a solid dramatic mystery going on as well and those two elements combine to form a fantastically original movie. For his part, Bai-jiu not only has forensic skills on his side, but also knows the ways of chi, how it can flow and how it can be manipulated, a talent he puts to use on himself and when looking at others. There are some fantastic scenes where he’s explaining what he thinks happened in the opening fight scene where he’s actually standing there watching even though he wasn’t actually present, it’s like something out of that show Cold Case or how Willem Dafoe sees things in Boondock Saints, but instead of taking place during a simple moment, this is during a wildly complicated and slick fight scene. Here’s a clip:
The movie initially won me over by way of a very simple, very normal conversation between Yen’s character, his wife and their children in the opening of the movie. This just felt like such a real and genuine moment without all the pomp you tend to see in these kinds of things and just got into real family life. Not long after that you get a hilariously awkward fight scene that proves to be much more as the movie rolls on. These unique and different aspects — not the kinds of things you expect from a Hong Kong action flick — got me in. From there I was seated in, buckled and ready to go on a ride that goes from that to wild police investigation, then swerves into an identity mystery before hitting some recurring horror elements, existential craziness (real Lynchian stuff) and back to some killer fight scenes before a final conflict that had me flinching, worried and nervous throughout the entire thing.
Basically, Dragon sucked me in by showing me a family man trying to do what’s right, revealing that he might not be as simple a character as I originally suspected, pitting him against several foes, having him deal with that past and eventually face off against his own father for the protection of his family. I can get behind that and I highly recommend you guys do the same.