Monday, April 29, 2013

Virgins from Hell (1987)


Aka "Maidens Revenge"

With a name like “Virgins from Hell” one knows they aren’t going into a critically acclaimed masterpiece. A title like that wears on its sleeve what it is – an exploitation picture. But not just any exploitation picture - an exploitation picture from Indonesia. It’s also a hodge podge of different subgenre’s, including biker films, action films, women in prison films and revenge films all rolled into one. All this coming from a country ripe with entertaining trashy goodness? Oh yea, it’s going to be an exploitative good time.
A female biker gang robs and burns down a casino owned by a man that killed the parents of the biker leader to gain their land. The bikers are caught, thrown in prison where a new aphrodisiac is tested on them to make them willing for anything. They escape, action ensues and revenge will be taken.
The biker gang is made up of all sorts of sexy Indonesian babes that wear ludicrous outfits to entertain the audience. These outfits just make the action scenes all that more hilarious to see ridiculously dressed women riding motorcycles and firing machine guns. Sadly exploitation fans will be disappointed with the lack of nudity present in the picture as there is literally none and the women keep their colorful outfits on throughout the picture. Some ridiculous Indonesian mysticism is also thrown in the mix to make the film even more fun, like a magician using a snake to take the bullet out of a guy’s leg…. yummy.
“Virgins from Hell” is a deliciously entertaining exploitation picture that only the likes of the Rapi film corporation out of Indonesia could supply (they also are responsible for all the glorious Barry Prima films). The lack of nudity might disappoint some fans but the jigsaw plot of popular exploitation film subgenres, outrageous outfits, plethora of sexy babes and tons of lifted musical cues from more popular American/Australian films (including “Dune”, “Rambo: First Blood Part II” and “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome”) make this a fun ride for exploitation film fanatics.
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mimesis: Night Of The Living Dead (2013)

Director: Douglas Schulze
Notable Cast: Allen Maldonado, Jana Thompson, Taylor Piedmont, Sid Haig, Courtney Gains

Considering how many "Night Of The Living Dead" knock offs exist, one is only smart to just assume that a film using the revolutionary horror flick in the title is trying to garner a quick buck. Luckily I stumbled upon the film as a free rental from the local library (?!) so I couldn't turn it down. "Mimesis" is a film greater in conception than in execution. Horror fans might find a few things to enjoy, but make sure you turn off your thinking caps before going in or the film is going to frustrate you.

Duane (Maldonado) and Russell (Piedmont) might have had their disagreements about the state of horror films and their relevancy as art, but an exclusive invitation to an after party has them finally agreeing on one thing - it had the potential to be awesome. That is until they wake up the next morning confused, isolated at a farm house, and in costumes. They seem to be in a re-enactment of the original "Night Of The Living Dead" and the zombies are on their way, but is it really the dead rising or some kind of elaborate hoax?

"I came over to borrow a cup of...BRAAAAAAINS."
Originally I thought the idea was a somewhat clever meta style concept, but I'm guessing that it looked much better on paper than it came out on film. Part of this is due to the fact that all of the "players" who are living out the horror film are horror fans...and spend a good portion of the film running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Would you really think that the dead are returning back to life if you all happen to be in a house and costumes pulled straight from the "Night Of The Living Dead?" Or that somehow they all seem to be unable to count how many zombies there are out there? The silly things and decisions that characters make in this film for the sake of keeping the plot 'scary' are laughable half of the time and really pull away from the entire experience. This clever idea, one that's built on nicely in the first portion as we lead up to the actual 'event', is only partially conceived and often comes out as half baked as it seems.

"The Ramones were right. I don't wanna be buried in a pet cemetery."
Execution wise, "Mimesis" looks pretty slick. Considering it's a low budget indie horror, the look and feel of the film feels much bigger than it actually is. Some of its budget shows in the death sequences with the gore and the one explosion the film has, but it didn't necessarily hinder the film. The acting of the roles is hit or miss (as are most elements of "Mimesis"), but really the actors weren't given much to play with in terms of 'meaty' dialogue or strong character motivations. So they get a strong pass due to some of the script's ineptness.

Although there is a clever film built into the foundational thoughts of "Mimesis", the actual film leaves quite a bit of wiggle room for logic and sanity to fall through. It has some moments of intriguing tension and execution (the truck ignition sequence worked quite well for me), but if you try to logistically think the film through you are liable to come out with hemorrhaging in the brain. "Mimesis" might be a fun flick to waste a couple hours on, but even for die hard fans it seems to be more of a time waster than something to seek out and enjoy.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Eye of the Tiger (1986)


Ever thought they would make a revenge flick inspired by the award winning theme song from “Rock III”? Neither did I but I’ll be damned they did. I figured they just used the song name as inspiration for the title of the film but sure shit they actually use the famous Survivor song in the film multiple times. It’s just a damn shame such a kick ass inspirational rock song inspired such a connect-the-dot run-of-the-mill revenge flick.
Recently released from prison for killing a man in self-defense, a Vietnam vet (Gary Busey) heads back to his home town unwelcomed by the corrupt local sheriff. It seems he’s on the payroll of a local drug running biker gang. When Busy’s wife gets killed after he saves a girl from being raped by the bikers, he calls a contact from prison to get souped up pick-up with weaponry to get vengeance.
Director Richard C. Sarafian (“Vanishing Point”) just doesn’t know how to make a real noxious revenge flick as it is just deficient of the grittiness and nastiness of many its counterparts released in the 80s. Busey also lacks the emotions necessary for someone willing to go on a “death wish” for vengeance. The villians are also superficial, not having a true face and genre legend William Smith is completely wasted as the leader of the biker gang.
Despite the kick-ass title song pilfered from “Rock III”, “Eye of the Tiger” is a disappointing revenge flick that fails to go the extra mile that other films of the same ilk weren’t afraid to go. There is a few good action sequences but the wasted cast potential (Yaphet Kotto collects an easy paycheck) makes this an easily glazed over entry in the genre.
Written By Eric Reifschnider

Fast Company (1979)


Most cult fans are going to have the same reaction – “David Cronenberg directed a drag racing flick?”. I know I sure did. Between his bodily horror classics “Rabid” and “The Brood”, Cronenberg helmed this seldom seen racing film in order to raise money for his dream project, which at the time was “The Brood”, a horror film that mirrored the dark occurrences going on in his personal life at the time. I ended up avoiding the film for many years, despite owning the damn thing, due not being a gear head and for the fact it was a film that didn’t fit the typical Cronenberg mold. Finally blowing the dust off my DVD to give the film a shot I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the flick despite not having a passion for racing.
Famous drag racer Lonnie 'Lucky Man' Johnson (William Smith) is getting fed up with his boss and sponsor(John Saxon). His sponsor is a arrogant, slimy mother fucker that takes kick-backs behind the scenes and doesn’t want his team to go the extra mile to win. So he fires Lonnie replacing him with his rival racing outfit… but that doesn’t stop Lonnie and his team as they steal their own drag racer in order to get vengeance on the raceway, even if it kills him.
The film is praised by racing fanatics for being an accurate portrayal of the sport but that point is moot to me as I could care less about racing. I did enjoy the simple, western-themed plot as it is basically a shoot-out on the raceway. The cast is also great with genre legends William Smith, John Saxon and Claudia Jennings, three names that are sure to attract a few cult film fans. Saxon just owns the role as the shady sponsor and though I normally love Smith I found his portrayal as the hero lacking. He was born to play villains and this was the first time he played the protagonist and proved he should stick to the dark side. Jennings (her last role before tragically dying in an auto accident) is rather wasted as the love interest but her sole purpose is to provide eye candy and she provides it well.
Despite not being a gear head or a fan of the drag racing phenomenon, I ended up enjoying “Fast Company” far more than I thought I would. The likeable genre cast and simple ‘good vs. bad’ western plot kept me enjoyed throughout. “Fast Company” is definitely the black sheep of Cronenberg’s directing filmography and it’s far from his best film, but it’s still is worth a watch even for the simple fact as a curiosity piece for fans of the talented director.
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Night of a Thouand Cats, The (1972)


Aka "The Night of 1000 Cats", "Night of a 1000 Cats"

With the Mexican film-making team of actor Hugo Stiglitz and director Rene Cardoza (Sr or Jr, either one is equally as bad) you know you’re going into a trashy film made south of the border. However nothing can prepare the viewer for how BAD “The Night of a Thousand Cats” is which truly scrapes the bottom of the barrel of Mexican trash cinema.
Hugo Stiglitiz plays, who else, Hugo, a millionaire playboy who flies, flies and flies around Mexican cities in his private helicopter to pick up bikini clad babes and bored house wives. He takes them back to his ‘castle’ (which is obviously abandoned ruins) where he wines, dines and beds them before he and his bald servant decapitate them to add their beautiful faces into his demented “head” collection and feeding their bodies to his army of hungry cats caged up in a giant pen right off his dining room.
Don't worry... the head is obviously made of wax
The plot… really there is no plot. Stiglitz and Cardoza only had a vague outline for a storyline about a killer and filmed on the fly, literally, as the film is loaded to max with  long drawn out stock footage of Hugo flying around in his ‘air chariot’ looking for beautiful women. Seriously nearly half the film (30 minutes of its measly 61 minute run time) is boring helicopter footage. If you are unlucky enough to get the uncut Mexican version then get ready for nearly 20 more minutes of flying footage! This is one case where the trimmed U.S. release is far easier on audience’s mental stability.
Hugo suduces with his bland looks and blank stare
Stiglitz is as stiff as ever playing the bland, lifeless character he always does (seriously how is this guy so popular in Mexico?). Thankfully the film is basically dialogue free to save us from his horrid acting but there’s equal amount of nonsensical narrative, jerky editing and random cuts to thousands of meowing cats to drive the audience mad.
Seriously what the fuck is that?
“The Night of a Thousand Cats” is about as bad as bad can get: no plot, no dialogue, no protagonist, bland lead, choppy editing, loads of flying stock footage and sloppy narrative. All these elements has garnered the film a small, but loyal cult fan base over the years for its sheer ineptitude but there’s no denying the picture is just shit filmmaking all around. In the words of my sister “it’s just over-all a non-movie”. Couldn’t have said it better myself. If you must see the film just to see how truly bad it is then hunt down the Code Red release in a double feature with “The House of Insane Women” as it is anamorphic widescreen and the much needed truncated American cut.
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Thursday, April 25, 2013

House Of 1000 Corpses (2003)

Director: Rob Zombie
Notable Cast: Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, Sheri Moon Zombie, Karen Black, Rainn Wilson, Chris Hardwick, Jennifer Jostyn, Erin Daniels, Tom Towles

With the release of Rob Zombie's latest film happening, I felt it was time to revisit his previous films for review. So naturally I went back to his break through film "House Of 1000 Corpses." As a long time Zombie fan (been listening to him as a musician for years prior to the release of this film), I was stoked when this film came out. The guy obviously knows his horror past and I wanted to know what he could deliver as the future of horror. Turns out his debut film is a mixture of both and one that exemplifies style over substance...not always in the good ways.

When two couples, on a road trip through the back roads of America, stumble upon a roadside attraction run by Capt. Spaulding (Haig) they learn about the mystery of Dr. Satan and decide to go visit the tree he was hung on. The backwoods family that finds them though may have other plans for Halloween night...

Life is a highway, I wanna ride it all night long.
Rob Zombie cakes this film in style and obvious nods to cult film history. I seriously mean that it looks like he vomited massive amounts of random homages all at once in the run time of the film. As a film fan, that is one thing that "House" has going for it - playing a 'name that style' game with your horror buddies. Zombie LOADS the film to the brim with iconic style from giallo coloring and zooms to the obvious plot that's pulled straight from the 70s in films like "The Hills Have Eyes" or the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Even the casting is more for cult film fans than for people that actually fit the roles - although Bill Moseley owns his character with piss and vinegar - and you get to see a couple of now famous actors (Rainn Wilson and Walton Goggins) in some smaller parts. The film oozes with eclectic jumps of frenzied awkward monologue driven transitions and the plot only gets crazier and more random as it goes culminating in a full on nightmarish ending. If there was a trip into the odd psyche of Rob Zombie then "House" has to be it.

His weird white sideburns freak me out a little...
Too bad there lacks any sort of cohesion to make any of it work. While the off kilter style, the bat shit crazy characters, and random plot tangents might carry a bit of charm at times, once you strip back the cartoon outlandishness "House" is a hollow and confusing film crafted by a writer and directer still trying to find his footing. The plot has way too much going on - including a finale that's supposed to mirror Alice falling into the rabbit hole, but comes off as a music video fever dream of ill narrative - and we never establish enough connection with any of the protagonists (of which there are far too many) to really care about their plight.  There is visual flair and fun violent moments, but the film simply lacks depth.

Is "House Of 1000 Corpses" fun? Absolutely. It's ripe with some over-the-top black humor and it's memorable for all of its homages. Ultimately though it is also quite the hollow film experience and lacks the logic and depth needed to work. As a debut film, it carries a distinctive Zombie stamp to it, but it could have been stronger overall.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lords Of Salem, The (2013)

Director: Rob Zombie
Notable Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Ken Foree, Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace, Bruce Davison

Despite my love for Rob Zombie, let's just say that his film output has been mixed at best. Mixed if you don't count the atrocity that was "Halloween II." So when the trailers for "The Lords Of Salem" perked my interest, I made sure to keep a healthy dose of skepticism in my pocket just for this review. Now I can safely say that  "The Lords Of Salem" is not only Zombie's best feature film, but it's actually a good movie overall. Of course the film does have some issues on the bigger scope, including an ending that made little to no sense at all, but generally speaking "The Lords Of Salem" was an intense, atmospheric, slow burning decent into hell with some strong visuals to go with it.

Zombie loves color contrast!
DJ Heidi (Zombie) has been broadcasting radio on the Salem underground scene for quite some time. She's a cult favorite, so when a mysterious vinyl shows up from a group called 'The Lords' she plays it on the show. Then she begins to see things. To feel like she is destined dor something horrible. But is it just the music or something else entirely?

I have to admit, overall I loved "The Lords Of Salem." Rob Zombie really takes his over the top style down a few notches and focuses on delivering a film built on grounded characters and strong visual presence. His writing may not be as obviously quirky or near as dark humor tinted, but it's tighter and far more realistic. I was just impressed that he wasn't dropping f-bombs every other word. So that's a plus. Not only that, but I cared about our protagonists which is also a Zombie first. The story might be simple, definitely pulling from the book of 70s horror in long static shots and taking the time to set up the tension, but it is much more effective than the overabundance of goofy characters and needless sub plots that his other films use.

Subtle creepy...not just goofy creepy.
Visually, the film cakes on the atmosphere like nothing else. There is almost a texture to the set designs and visual choices you can feel. There is that distinctive Zombie throwback culture in there (look at the pictures on Heidi's walls for example) and the film exists in an odd world caught between the 70s and modern day. Zombie also takes his time to build to the more brutal violence and horror, starting with subtle visual scares before eventually succumbing to a finale that erupts in Zombie's random cuts and visuals (with enough nudity to even make me blush)  that by the end of the film I felt like I might need psychiatric help.

Unfortunately, it's the last 15 minutes that sort of ruin the experience of the film for me. "The Lords Of Salem" had me completely enamored until this point. Although I had a tough time swallowing Sheri Moon Zombie as the lead, the film's strong atmosphere and slow burn decomposure made up for it...until it got too weird. At this point, and I'm trying not to spoil the fun for those curious, the film essentially abandons most of its grounding and goes straight into insanity. Characters straight up disappear, there seems to be little in the way of finishing some of the plot lines, and it focuses on being a bat shit crazy visual perfect storm.

Until that point, I was sold. "The Lords Of Salem" is easily the most coherent and impressive effort from the old school film buff. Despite some small flaws (and an ending that made no sense) I enjoyed the hell out of this film. It was intense with its scares, fun with some of its supporting cast (everyone loves Ken Foree!), and impressive visually speaking - even of half the time it's a nonsensical Italian giallo style. It comes highly recommended for those looking for a bit of an artistic horror experience. It most certainly divide its audience (Zombie has always beena 'love ot or hate it' filmmaker), but it needs to be seen to make that decision.

BONUS BLOODY PRAISE: The score by John 5 is a stunner of residual sound and low key ambiance. Easily compliments Zombie's film to a 'T'. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

War of the Gargantuas, The (1968)


I was flabbergasted when I first heard there was a sequel to “Frankenstein Conquers the World”. How could there be a sequel to film with such a ridiculous concept of a giant Frankenstein monster facing off against a prehistoric burrowing dinosaur? After seeing what a campy delight the first film was I couldn’t wait to see the sequel which has not one, but two giant Frankenstein monsters. Far be it from me to actually enjoy this sequel even more!
Some discarded cells from the first Frankenstein monster before its demise (either by an earthquake or a giant octopus, depending on which version of “Frankenstein Conquers the World” you see) grow into two giant hairy looking clones. The first is a brown fur gargantua which is a docile creature that was raised in captivity for the first five years of its life that resides in the Japanese Alps. The second is a green fur bastard that feeds on humans and resides in the sea. Can a scientist and his attractive assistant stop this sibling rivalry before it destroys Tokyo?
Despite being a sequel the ties to the first film are few and far between with only quick references (one mentioned the severed hand sequence) and no reoccurring characters. Where the first film had American actor Nick Adams playing a scientist, this sequel has American actor Russ Tamblyn playing a different scientist character (why not make it the same character for better continuity?) and he is quite terrible. Thankfully there’s enough monster mayhem and to overlook his lack of leading man charisma.
The monsters themselves are great Kaiju creations the special effects are tops, some of the best Toho studio ever created in the heyday of their “Godzilla” franchise. Director Ishirō Honda even makes the film more violent than his normal Toho science fiction outing, with the human killings by the green gargantua being rather disturbing as he chomps down on people spitting out torn bloody clothing. Definitely not like the late 60s kid-friendly “Godzilla” outings.
“War of the Gaurgantuas” is one of the best giant monster Kaiju films in the “Toho Universe” (which also includes the “Godzilla” franchise”). Our gargantuas would even make flashback appearances in both “Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla” and “Godzilla: Final Wars”. Sadly “War of the Gargantuas” really marked the end of the classic era of Toho Kaiju films as all their other entries in the genre made at the same time and later in the decade would be far below par (I’m looking at you “Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster” and “Son of Godzilla”!).
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Rites Of Spring (2011)

Director: Padraig Reynolds
Notable Cast: Sonny Marinelli, AJ Bowen, Katherine Randolph, Marco St. John, Anessa Ramsey

For the horror enthusiast, when you hear of a slasher film that takes a twist on the genre - you probably take notice. I certainly did and that's how "Rites Of Spring" jumped onto my viewing queue radar. A group of kidnappers that stumble onto a farm where a supernatural entity is slaughtering people? Sounds damn promising from that description! Too bad the film didn't quite live up the intensity that its premise promises as it sort of stumbles through two separate story lines and into a rather underdeveloped slasher finale.

When Ben (Bowen) and his friends decide to kidnap a rich business man's daughter for ransom to fix their economical problems, they decide to hideout in the country and wait for the money to arrive. What they fail to realize is that just a farm over, an old man (St. John) is determined to bring about another bountiful harvest by sacrificing two young women to a nasty creature...

She's just hanging around for the ending too!
What starts off as a typical slasher flick slowly divides into two different stories, one about the two girls at the farm house being prepped for the sacrifice to the monster man living in the fruit cellar and one about our wannabe bandits hiding out for their kidnapping. The idea of these two stories coming together into a big slasher throw down is certainly a cool one. They build up these intriguing characters for the ransom flick (not so much for the women and the old man in the slasher portion), but they simply take far too long getting them into the fire from the frying pan. Really, the two stories don't collide until the final act so we actually get very little of the idea that made "Rites Of Spring" so interesting.

While I enjoyed how director/writer Padraig Reyonds goes about the kidnapping, the actual supernatural slasher portions feel...blah. Our 'monster' who brings about the crops is far too vague in conception (I kind suspect it's a scarecrow like creature...but that's me just guessing) and sort of runs around with his big sharp stick like a horribly simple serial killer with no expansion on the 'supernatural' aspects. When a couple people bite the dust, I was relatively unconcerned with the entire ordeal too. Not what I necessarily want from a slasher.

Love the design...wanted more detail around the creature though.
There were aspects that I definitely enjoyed about "Rites Of Spring" as I thought the acting was pretty decent and the film started off with a strong sense of style and atmosphere. Yet, the film sort of tanks after the first act. The kills were mundane, the tension lost momentum as it dragged getting the players where they needed to be for the finale, and the slasher portion was rudimentary. Perhaps others will enjoy for its unique two story thread, but for me it was a disappointment.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Message from Space (1978)


“Star Wars” mania infected every orifice of the globe and in turn many countries began churning out copy-cat films with only a fraction of the budget to cash-in on the phenomenon. Homegrown here in the United States we had “Battle Beyond the Stars”, in Europe (Italy to be specific) we had “StarCrash” and over in the Far East we had “Message from Space” hailing from Japan. Out of the holy trinity of “Star Wars” cash-ins, “Message from Space” is perhaps the biggest rip-off and borrows more aspects from “Star Wars” than any other film. So much in fact that the production company got the Japanese government to post-pon the release of “Star Wars” by a year in order for their film to get first dibs in the country.
An evil galactic empire is giving chase to a princess trying to find help to save her home world from their destruction (sound familiar?). Her people send out 8 magic walnuts into the galaxy to find brave soldiers to help the rebellion and destroy their ‘death star’ for good before it reaches Earth.
Being a “Star Wars” cash-in fans will have fun finding all the elements the filmmakers rip-off including and not limited to musical cues, sound effects, trench fighter warfare and even a cantina sequence (complete with a robot with pink salad bowl tits!). However with all the cues “Message from Space” stole from “Star Wars”, George Lucas seemed to steal almost as much from “Message from Space” for his later sequels “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”. This includes a holographic image of the emperor, a few set designs and the climactic battle of flying into a space fortress which would be lifted for the climax in “Return of the Jedi”.
Made on a budget of $7 million dollars “Message from Space” at the time was the highest budgeted film ever made in Japan but still paled in comparison to American film budgets. Due to this the special effects leave a LOT to be desired with noticeable blue-screens and obvious model ships flying on strings. The special effects are comparable to “StarCrash” and have a low budget charm of their own but fans looking for “Star Wars”-level effects are going to be sorely disappointed. The filmmakers were however able to hire an impressive cast including American actor Vic Morrow (who was later tragically killed on the set of “Twilight Zone: The Movie”), Sonny Chiba (“The Street Fighter” trilogy, “Kill Bill”) and the lovely Etsuko Shihomi (“Sister Street Fighter” Tetralogy) just to name a few.
“Message from Space” is a campy space opera delight that, like most other “Star Wars” rip-offs, doesn’t have the budget to fully realize the filmmakers artistic vision. Even with its budgetary limitations for the concept, Kinji Fukasaku (“The Green Slime”, “Battle Royale”) still is able to get an impressive cast and even some impressive set designs. I mean how can a “Star Wars” cash-in with glowing space walnuts, sonny chiba and a pink-breasted android not be at least a little fun? Director Kinji Fukasaku would later rework the plot into a traditional Japanese fantasy picture titled “Legend of the Eight Samurai” with many of the same cast members returning.
Written By Eric Reifschneider

Monday, April 22, 2013

Master, The (1989/1992)

Director: Tsui Hark 
Notable Cast: Jet Li, Wah Yuen, Jerry Trimble, Crystal Kwok

I'm not one to fully defend what Dimension Films did to the martial arts films they released to capitalize on the successes if Jet Li in the early 00s, but without those mass releases I might not be the kung fu fan I am today. Yet, I had never seen "The Master," one of those horrible chopped up films, until now. Although the film lacks a logical plot and character work, it was hard not to be entertained by its ridiculousness and silliness. At least that's something, right?

Jet (Jet Li) has decided to finally come visit his master who has been doing herbal medicine in LA. The problem is that his master (Wah Yuen) has been targeted by one of his old students (Trimble) and has had to flee and hide from his abode. This leaves Jet high and dry looking for his master and on a collision course with a villain he's never even met before.

Leaving...with a Jet Li...don't know when I'll be back again.
What makes this film so interesting is that it was one of the first team ups of Jet Li and director/writer Tsui Hark. It was actually filmed before the rise to stardom of Li in "Once Upon A Time In China," but due to mixed feelings about the film it didn't get a release until later. To be honest, its pushed back release makes sense. The film never really feels cohesive and motivations for everything are missing. The villain's intentions in killing all of these martial arts masters is ill conceived (unlike his awesome mullet) and the weird relationship between Wah Yuen's sifu and Li's student characters seems forced half of the time. They brush over some things like Li's fear of change and it really justifies nothing. Not to mention some of the humor related to these character traits are complete misses based on silly cliches. The characters might be fun, but rarely do their actions or intentions strike a note with the viewer.

It does, however, display that great modern kung fu vibe that martial arts films started using in the 80s and 90s where they threw classic elements into modern settings. Although the Jackie Chan vehicle "Rumble In The Bronx" would tighten and strengthen this notion a couple years later, it's hard not to be entertained. The villain might not make sense, but he's a great counter to Li's hero and the ensuing fights between the two are awesome. Unfortunately, some of the secondary fights tend to be a little goofy, including a brawl between the three Hispanic friends and the villain's students, but overall it does have some great moments.

"The Master" is simply an incohesive film with little depth that works and a plot almost seems too random to serve the narrative. An odd and pretty violent gun fight in a bus towards the end that seems to come out of the blue is the perfect example of this. It's a fun film, but one that never rises above being a popcorn kung fu flick.

Written By Matt Reifschneider