Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘The Shinjuku Incident’ (2009)

He may be one of the worlds most famous international action stars but I am ashamed to say that the only film of his that I’d ever seen before this was the 2009 re-make of ‘The Karate Kid. I actually picked up ‘The Shinjuku Incident‘ on dvd last Christmas for a few quid in England and with a renewed interest in Chan following my trip to his homeland in May I decided to watch it again recently.

It is only because of Chan’s iconic world status that this is included in this series of film reviews which tends to principally focus on western-made films ‘set’ in the land of the rising sun. That oriental image of Japan is far removed in this tale of Chinese refugees fighting a war against the Yakuza in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo.

Provocative, compelling and underscored with hard hitting action, this pulse-pounding thriller explodes with tension, and delivers a career-defining performance from Jackie Chan. Not my words but those on the back of the dvd and for once I have to say that I  agree with most of the marketing blurb as it kept me entertained for its duration.

 

The story begins with dozens of Chinese immigrants entering Japan via Wakasa Bay (directly north of Osaka) and making their way to Tokyo where they do the less glamourous jobs that the Japanese don’t want to do. Steelhead (Chan) is an illegal worker hoping to make it in Japan the honest way but his life gradually descends into petty crime and from that he finds himself deeper and deeper in trouble as his crimes to help his people have a future get heavier and heavier. His one ally is Kitano; the Police sergeant he saved from drowning who is prepared to ‘re-pay his debt’ but he can only do so for so long.

Daniel Wu plays the chestnut selling boy Jie who is out of place amid the underground violence which they find themselves more and more drawn into. His portrayal in the first hour of the film is fine but in the second half his character has a real quick change of character which is questionable and not really fitting with the guy we saw in the earlier part.

This 114 minute Jackie Chan production can be a hard watch at times due to the extreme nature of some of the violence. Chan shows, as he did in ‘The Karate Kid‘, that he can act in a dramatic role when he needs to and I was happy to see that this was made for the Asian market and thereby didn’t need watering down for a Western audience.

Tokyo Fox Rating 7/10

Hong Kong 2012 – Avenue Of The Stars

Of the many Asian places I’ve visited over the last six years one of my favourites has to be Hong Kong which I visited during the World Cup in June 2006. Back then I slummed it at the infamous Chungking Mansions (as featured in ‘Chungking Express’ in 1994) on Kowloon whereas this time I stayed in Wan Chai on Hong Kong Island itself in much nicer accommodation which came as part of my air tickets and hotel package. No trip to Hong Kong is complete without taking a tram ride on up to The Peak, even for a guy like me who is usually on movie-themed missions only!

   

Below is the Forrest Gump bench (below) outside the Bubba Gump restaurant at The Peak.

 

Early evening saw me take the Star Ferry to Temple Street Night Market. Chungking Mansions seems to have cleaned itself up a bit compared to my original trip and was even lit up at night (above right). Apart from a couple of ever-so-short showers I felt very lucky to have got away with it regarding the weather given the thundery showers which had been forecast for the whole of my trip. I rounded off things by strolling along the ‘Avenue of the Stars’ which is similar to that of the Hollywood ‘Walk of Fame’ with handprints of famous people from the showbiz world of films. Ethan and I didn’t even bother going to the American one last August on our road-trip but I did wanna see the Asian stars on the Hong Kong version. These included Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and John Woo among many others.

      

After that I took the Star Ferry back to my Wan Chai base amid the beautiful harbour views which I never really get tired of seeing.

 

TF Film Review: The Karate Kid (2010)

I recently saw the 2010 re-make of the Karate Kid and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. Admittedly I had low expectations as the original is one of my all-time favourite films and didn’t want to see the usual bad re-make. Perhaps the reason it was better than I thought was that it stayed true to the original in many ways with the main changes being the location (China rather than California) and of course kung-fu replacing karate as the martial arts skill. Why its even called the Karate kid I don’t know!
I was surprised by how much I liked the Jackie Chan ‘Mr Han’ character (a chance for him to actually act for once!) and indeed the remake but its just not as powerful as the original. Will Smith’s son Jaden may only be 12 but he was charismatic and cool in the lead role. Incredible to see a boy of that age with muscles!
  
The chemistry between the two heroes in the original can’t be beaten and that film has had a lasting impact on many lives. It may not be in those top movie lists but its known by so many people. I can’t imagine the new one being remembered too far into the future although I did hear they were going to make another one. Not sure if it will follow the original part 2 as close as this one.
Given that the new one’s main character is so young the girl interest in the film is not so necessary and as much as I like Asian girls (not 12 year old ones though!) the Elisabeth Shue character is one I still look at and think as being very pretty which certainly can’t be said about most 80’s film actresses!
To be fair to the new film, Smith’s portrayal of ‘Dre’ is probably actually more convincing than Ralph Macchio’s ‘Daniel’ who, as much as I liked, didn’t really make me believe that he had become a karate expert. Though fearsome, the protagonists don’t play as much a part in the film as the ‘Cobra Kai’s’ (and particularly their leader Kreese) in the original which may be due to Smith featuring in almost every single scene if not them all!
Overall, this updated version of the Karate Kid was quite satisfying and very likeable and hopefully over time it will stand on its own feet without being compared to the original which of course is quite ironic as that’s exactly what I have done here!