March 3rd, 2008

FIST OF FURY 2 (1977) **

Bruce Li stars as Bruce Lee’s brother in this sequel to the classic Fist of Fury.  Not only did the villains murder his brother in the first movie, but they refuse to let his body be buried in their cemetery too.  This pisses Li off royally, but since he is a pacifist, he refuses to fight.  To instigate him, the bad guys go around whacking Bruce’s nearest and dearest until he finally says, okay I’ll karate chop the crap out of you with my deadly kung fu. 

 

If you thought you already saw a Fist of Fury sequel that basically went through all the same motions, it’s because you probably did.  That one was called New Fist of Fury and it starred Jackie Chan.  It actually came out BEFORE Fist of Fury 2, but this is still called Part 2 anyway (unless you get the copy that’s labeled Part 3 that is).  It’s marginally better than New Fist of Fury because Li is more adept at playing a “serious” role than Chan was (his forte after all, is comedy and you could tell he was visibly uncomfortable being labeled “The New Bruce Lee”), but of course, this is nowhere near the same league as the original. 

 

The film features an inane comic relief sidekick who’s pretty grating, but what’s more annoying is the fact that Bruce waits around for an infinity before he finally reforms his wimp ways and decides to start kicking heiney.  The action scenes are mediocre at best, but Bruce’s charisma will keep you watching though.  As per usual, the dubbing is ludicrous but some of the dialogue (“My mother cried her eyes out, that’s why she’s blind”.) is priceless. 

 

AKA:  Chinese Connection 2.  AKA:  Fist of Fury 3.  AKA:  Fistful of the Dragon.

RETURN OF FIST OF FURY (1977) ** ½

 

First we had Bruce Lee in Fist of Fury, then there was Jackie Chan in New Fist of Fury, then we got Bruce Le in Fist of Fury 2 (which was really number three, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms), so what we’re left with is Bruce Pak for Fist of Fury movie Number 4.  I know what you’re thinking:  Bruce WHO?  But let me tell you something, this guy sure can kung fu with the best of them.  

 

In this one, Pak is ANOTHER brother of Bruce Lee who is out to avenge his death.  In the opening scene he yells “Brother!”, smashes a rock with his fist then impales a quail with a ninja star and eats some Quail Chow Mein.  Some highwaymen try to rob him, so he kicks their ass.  Then some dudes give Bruce a bunch of shit, so he kicks THEIR ass.  The villains that murdered his brothers try to kill him, so he kicks THEIR ass.  This pattern pretty much repeats itself until Bruce runs out of enemies. 

 

Pak Man is excellent and he exudes a rough-and-tumble tough guy quality during his numerous fight scenes.  In fact, he’s such a badass that most of his fights don’t last very long as he pretty much knocks everybody out cold with a few lightning fast kicks.  There’s this one scene where Bruce kicks every inch of a guy’s body in a matter of seconds, turning his bones into the consistency of potpourri.  I mean it’s nothing for this guy just to pick a house at random, jump through the window, and kick everybody’s ass who’s inside just because they MIGHT know killed his brother.  There’s also a groovy theme song that blares whenever Pak is busting heads.  I defy you not to tap your toes while that sucker is playing. 

 

Return of Fist of Fury ain’t great.  There’s way too much plot stuff about the Japanese villains plotting to get revenge on Bruce for getting revenge on them, and the pacing is erratic at best, but whenever Bruce is cracking skulls it’s damn good times.  It’s not quite up to the standard set by the original, but it’s much better than the other bland sequels. 

 

The white haired villain gets the movie’s best line:  “I don’t want that fiasco on my hands!” 

 

AKA:  Bruce’s Revenge.  AKA:   Ninja vs. Bruce Lee.  AKA:  Return of Bruce.  AKA:  The Dragon Returns. 

JUNEBUG (2005) ** ½

 

A British art dealer (Embeth Davidtz from Army of Darkness) falls head over heels in love with Alessandro (Face/Off) Nivola and they quickly get married.  When she goes down South to sign an oddball painter (who has a penchant for drawing scrotumless Negro slaves), they decide to visit Nivola’s eccentric family.  His brother (Ben McKenzie) and his irrepressibly sweet wife (Amy Adams from Enchanted) are expecting a baby, but all McKenzie does is work on his car and watch television all day.  Davidtz and Adams become fast friends and quickly take to painting each other’s fingernails, but when she goes to close her vital art deal, Adams goes into labor.  Will she be there at the hospital to join the rest of her “family”, or will her career be more important?

 

Junebug is one of those independent comedies that is filled with quirky characters and situations, but little else.  Like most independent comedies these days, the movie also features some pretty annoying music that will drive you batty.  Although the film earns points for not giving into the usual clichés (the ending is especially depressing), overall, it’s little more than your average fish out of water story.  

 

Adams’ performance makes it worth checking out if you happen upon it on IFC one night.  She fills her character with enough radiant glow to make you think she actually IS pregnant.  Even though she talks about a mile a minute in a thick southern twang, her unsinkable pluckiness is quite winning and she has a gift for making what could have been a potentially irritating character likable because she’s so charming. 

THUMBSUCKER (2005) **

 

Napoleon Dynamite really opened up the floodgates for independent comedies that feature awkward teenagers and their extremely dysfunctional families.  In this comedy/drama, Lou Pucci plays a teen whose constant thumb sucking irritates his parents (Vincent D’Onofrio and Tilda Swinton) and causes problems with his would-be girlfriend (Kellie Garner).  His hippie orthodontist (Keanu Reeves) hypnotizes him into stop sucking his thumb, which causes more problems for him.  When his debate team teacher (Vince Vaughn) recommends putting him on Ritalin, he becomes “a monster” and alienates even more people. 

 

This flick is like the myriad other indie comedies aimed at teen audiences that have come out in the past couple years or so.  It says basically the same thing they all say (it’s no fun being a teenager, it’s okay to be different, grow-ups don’t have all the answers, etc.), just not as well.  As with most of these movies, the film is lousy with incessantly weak folksy college radio music, most of which is courtesy of The Polyphonic Spree. 

 

You’ve seen it all before, and done better, but what makes the flick worth a rent is the stellar supporting cast.  D’Onofrio and Swinton are great as Pucci’s parents who try so hard to be his friend (they make him call them by their first names) that they forget to actually parent him.  Reeves is pretty hilarious and is even more Zen here than he was in The Matrix movies, but it’s Vaughn who gets the best line of the movie:  “This is not Agree Club, this is Debate Club!”