Bruised (2020)

Posted in Reviews

Stirring sports drama from producer, director and star, Halle Berry. It’s an incredibly confident directorial debut from the Academy Award-winning actor, who manages to conjure up an evocative family drama with grit and poignancy, even if it does tick-off every sports movie cliche in the book, from Rocky to The Wrestler to Warrior. Berry gives everything to the role of New Jersey UFC legend, Jackie ‘Pretty Bull’ Justice; she’s intense, vulnerable, angry, and – even at 55 – just as powerful in the octagon as she is in the dramatic scenes. It seems her martial arts training for John Wick: Chapter 3 …

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Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning (2021)

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The epic, live-action Rurouni Kenshin saga draws to a lofty and bloody conclusion with this prequel; a neat closing chapter which circles back to the events in part four, The Final, and concluding where the first movie started – at the Battle of Toba-Fushimi. By showing the origins of ‘Battōsai The Killer’ – notorious samurai-hunter of the anti-shogunate Choshu Domain – we get to see the feared assassin in his bloodthirsty glory, slicing off limbs and causing carnage with his lethal sword skills. “It’s a demon!” yells one of the Tsushima clan whose ear has just been bitten off by Battōsai. Director …

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Profile: Kenji Tanigaki

Posted in Profiles

Date of birth: 13 October, 1970 (Nara, Japan)

Occupation: Action director, stunt coordinator, fight coordinator, director, stunt performer, actor, second unit director.

Biography: Kenji Tanigaki is an action director, stunt coordinator, fight coordinator, director and stunt performer. He is best known for his work with the martial arts star, Donnie Yen.

Kenji was born in Nara, near the city of Osaka, Japan. As a child, he learned gymnastics and trampolining, but says he knew he wanted to become a stunt performer after watching Jackie Chan in Drunken Master (1978). He learned Shorinji Kempo, and started to study with the martial artist and film …

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KFMG Podcast S06 Episode 77: Kenji Tanigaki

Posted in Podcasts

“People want to watch something different. That’s why I just try to be myself.”

What a year it has been for the stunt coordinator, fight choreographer and second unit director, Kenji Tanigaki. Not only did he craft the action on two more Rurouni Kenshin films – called Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning and Rurouni Kenshin: The Final, both available now on Netflix – but he also worked as second unit director and fight choreographer on the Hollywood blockbuster, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, and helped out on the Hong Kong action hit, Raging Fire. The latter saw Kenji work again with Donnie Yen, who …

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Rurouni Kenshin: The Final (2021)

Posted in Reviews

Despite the third film in this series being quite conclusively called The Legend Ends, it’s seven years later and it looks like the legend is very much not ending – instead, the series continues in the form of another two back-to-back sequels. You can say what you like about the Rurouni Kenshin films, but you can’t question their consistency: inventive, fast-paced action scenes; wacky characters; edgy, but without being too violent; political, but without anything to say; long and overwrought; and with decent performances. This fourth film is perhaps the most humourless and baggy so far, and although it is …

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Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (2014)

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“The legend ends” after a bloated four-and-a-half-hours of storytelling – if you include the previous movie – highlighting how brevity is clearly not one of filmmaker Keishi Ōtomo’s strong suits. Also, despite the huge running-time, these films have been rife with plot-holes, with random characters appearing out of nowhere and things happening with little or no reason or context. This concluding chapter is probably the most effective in fully committing to its wacky manga origins, setting the scene for an all-out battle to save Tokyo from Shishiro (Tatsuya Fujiwara) – a maniacal killer-for-hire who was burned alive and is now seeking revenge – and …

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Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno (2014)

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Solid if ambling sequel filmed back-to-back with part three, The Legend Ends, which delivers more spirited sword-fighting and zany characters from the world of popular manga, Rurouni Kenshin. Following the events of the first film, Kenshin (Takeru Satoh) – the pacifist samurai continuing his vow not to kill – is now living a utopian existence helping Kaoru (Emi Takei) to run her dojo, hanging out with tempestuous street-brawler Sanosuke – played by Munetaka Aoki, very much enjoying his comedic foil role – who might have a thing for their doctor neighbour, Megumi (Yū Aoi). It’s pretty obvious their idyllic life …

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The Emperor’s Sword (2020)

Posted in Reviews

Sumptuous, moody wuxia with a modern twist; a constantly moving, robotic arm camera used during the action sequences, and a weird, gimmicky motion-sensor technique which zooms between takes in incredibly artificial slow-motion. It’s actually quite distracting, and clearly doesn’t work. During an action scene, the camera seems to pause on completely random parts of the frame. Then there’s the shoddy visual effects used in post-production. It’s a shame, because it detracts from a film with some accomplished moments; a Hero-lite story set after the death of China’s first Emperor, Qin Shi-huang, and in the tumultuous period before the start of the …

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Profile: Daniel Bernhardt

Posted in Profiles

Date of birth: 31 August, 1965 (Bern, Switzerland)

Occupation: Actor, stunt performer, model.

Style: Taekwondo, Karate, boxing, kickboxing, jiu jitsu, judo.

Biography: Daniel Bernhardt is an actor, stunt performer and martial artist, known for playing roles in Hollywood action films. He was born in Bern, Switzerland, in 1965. He has two brothers, Dirk and Cliff. He played football as a child and started training in martial arts at the age of 15; he trained in boxing, kickboxing, karate and taekwondo. After finishing high-school at the age of 16, he spent four years working his apprenticeship at an architect’s firm. He graduated at the …

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KFMG Podcast S06 Episode 76: Daniel Bernhardt

Posted in Podcasts

“I’m very, very fortunate. I work with the best people in the game. And they push me – they push me hard.”

Daniel Bernhardt is a true renaissance man; a martial artist from Switzerland who went from being a professional model in Paris to a Hollywood action star. In the 1990s, he was a leading man in low-budget martial arts films – the star of slicker-than-your-average straight-to-video hits like the Bloodsport sequels, True Vengeance and Perfect Target, working alongside fellow martial artists and aspiring filmmakers like Chad Stahelski, David Leitch, Brad Martin, Jonathan Eusebio and J.J. Perry. When the video market crashed in …

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