Here’s a look at new martial arts, Asian action and related screen-fighting films coming to theaters and home video in 2008. Check back for regular updates.
In Theaters - 2008.01.10 (South Korea) - TRAILER
Actress Son Ye-jin plays the seductive boss of an international pickpocket organization that goes head-to-head with criminal investigators led by Jo Dae-young (Kim Myeong-min) in this gritty crime thriller. Film is directed by Lee Sang-gil who was assistant director for the Mas Oyama karate biopic FIGHTER IN THE WIND. Kim recently won a local Best Actor award for his starring role in the medical drama WHITE TOWER. OPEN CITY marks his first major action role. Despite his limited experience in the genre, Kim reportedly performed all of his own stunts.
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
In Theaters - 2008.01.11 - TRAILER
This may be an Uwe Boll movie and Boll has a notoriously bad rep with genre fans but it features the action choreography of wirework action master Ching Siu-tung and screen fighting from Jason Statham. Boll may not always know what to do with his hired talent but he sure knows how to pick them. The latest trailer actually looks decent like a solid, B-grade LORD OF THE RINGS.
Home Video - 2008.01.22 - TRAILER
Buzz has been favorable among genre fans for this 2006 Hong Kong actioner coming to U.S. DVD in 2008 courtesy of Dragon Dynasty. KILL ZONE star Wu Jing is a fighter who takes up Sanda, China’s mixed martial arts, and ends up battling through the world’s top fighters in an underground circuit. Ken Lo co-stars and action choreography is provided by Nicky Li (NEW POLICE STORY). The film has been successful enough that Li, Wu and director Dennis Law have teamed up again this year for FATAL MOVE, this time with fellow KILL ZONE stars Sammo Hung ans Simon Yam joining the cast.
In Theaters - 2008.02.07 (Thailand) - TRAILER
Zen (Nicharee Vismistananda) is an autistic gal with unusually deft fighting ability who comes to her mother’s aid by applying fists and feet to collecting debts owed by mobsters. This is the latest film from ONG BAK director Prachya Pinkaew and has big-time potential to catapult his discovery, newcomer Nicharee Vismistananda, into the same level of international fame that has greeted Tony Jaa. Nicharee has spent roughly three years training with action director Panna Rittikrai expressly for this film. This is unheard of, even by Hong Kong movie standards and expectations are definitely high. From the looks of it so far, the film’s action sequences look great and Nicharee outclasses most male action stars. The only thing that can derail this picture is bad writing, something which has plagued Thai martial arts films.
Kung Fu Dunk
In Theaters - 2008.02.07 (Hong Kong) - TRAILER
Jay Chou stars along with Charlene Choi, Taiwanese model Chen Bo-ling and veteran Eric Tsang in this action adaptation of a manga series by Inoue Takahiko. Chou is a Shaolin kung fu student who takes up basketball and applies his martial arts training to the game. It’s looking to be SHAOLIN SOCCER without the screwball comedy which doesn’t bode well. Stephen Chow was smart enough to know that audiences would instinctively laugh at superhuman feats of martial arts in sports. This isn’t the first time director Chu Yen-ping has tackled the topic of Shaolin martial arts in an unusual way. He also directed the popular SHAOLIN POPEY films about a pair of mischievous preadolescent kids, one of whom is a Shaolin student, who take on bad guys. Whether a success or not, this is a big step forward for Chu who started out nearly 30 years ago directing B-grade action flicks like PINK FORCE COMMANDO and Jimmy Wang Yu’s all-star turkey FANTASY MISSION FORCE.
In Theaters - 2008.03.03 (Chile) - TRAILER
KILTRO star Marko Zaror plays an ordinary guy who transforms himself through training into a martial arts-fighting superhero. The Spanish-language film had its U.S. premiere at Fangoria 2007 where it was hailed as a “new midnight-movie classic.” Reporting on the screening, Fangoria says the film was largely shot with handheld hi-def, unlike KILTRO, and yet delivered even more daring action. Magnolia Pictures picked this movie up for release in the U.S., along with KILTRO. Zaror, his stunt team and director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza appear to be on a roll with producing actioners tailor made for genre fans worldwide.
Home Video - 2008.03.04
Steven Seagal is Matt, an elite ex-cop whose life has gone downhill since he was kicked off the Force. After a rough encounter with a mysterious henchman, Matt is brought face to face with his only chance at reclaiming his life and clearing his gambling debts. Only after he gets started on his new tasks does he recognize good guy from bad. Meanwhile, Matt’s love for his only daughter helps him battle one of his greatest enemies, alcoholism. Lance Hendricksen is in this one, which is a good thing, but it may not be enough if Seagal can’t break out of the perpetual slump he’s been in since Ching Siu-tung’s BELLY OF THE BEAST.
The Shepherd: Border Patrol
Home Video - 2008.03.04
On paper this film has all the signs of a breakthrough genre film success. Jean-Claude Van Damme, who has proven to be a resilient action star with plenty of fight left in him, goes head-to-head with up-and-coming screen fighter Scott Adkins. Adkins has mainstream appeal but has yet to find that one film that takes him there. Both are under the direction of Isaac Florentine, a capable action director who continues to improve with each low-budget film he makes. The only real cause for concern is insider rumblings of post-production shake-ups rumored to have left key people out of the creative loop. Late-entry changes almost never bode well for a production, either because the original vision is flawed or corrections create flaws.