The Assassin (1993)

I picked up director Siu-Hung Chung's powerful 1993 martial arts/swordplay flick The Assassin years ago at a second-hand shop for just a couple of dollars. Instead of watching it right away, the flick sat on a shelf in my collection unwatched for over five years. Realizing that I'd never popped this bad boy into my DVD player, I decided to finally visit The Assassin and quickly discovered that I'd been sleeping on one of the most thoroughly enjoyable flicks in this genre. The film suffers from some production issues due to its low budget (I'm sure someone will disagree with that statement), but it makes up for its shortcomings with kinetic energy, an engaging story, and a wonderful score. The good news: You can pick it up for a few dollars on Amazon. If you like this sort of flick, it's certainly worth grabbing.

Here's the story in a nutshell: Tong Po Ka (Fengyi Zhang), a poor farmer with bad hair, and his chick Yiu (Rosamund Kwan) find themselves in a bit of a pickle when lots of angry guys armed with sticks decide these two lovebirds shouldn't be together. After having his eyes sewn shut, our hero and a group of other miserable prisoners must participate in a no-holds-barred battle to the death, with the winner forced to become an assassin for a blood-thirsty eunuch who has a penchant for long, metallic fingernails and enormous, ornately-carved dildos. After years for beheading, dismembering, and eviscerating his boss' enemies, Tong stumbles across Yiu, who isn't too happy with her former lover's habit of indiscriminately murdering people for a silver-haired madman. When Tong attempts to leave the assassination game for good, he discovers that his megalomaniacal boss isn't willing to let him go without a fight.

I'm currently on a mission to watch flicks I've purchased but never watched, which should take me the better part of two years to accomplish, and this was the first one on the list. I'm not sure what I expected when I popped The Assassin into my trusty, well-worn DVD player. The story itself isn't too far removed from other flicks about assassins who decide they're not interested in murdering large scores of people anymore (see No Tears for the Dead if you want another superior take on this story). That said, Siu-Hung Chung's bold decision to stuff an enormous amount of cartoonish, over-the-top violence helps smooth the script's rough edges. Zhang's portrayal of Tong, a man who really doesn't want to spend his days slaying people at the drop of a hat, also saves the film from becoming yet another tired, cliche-ridden excursion into well-worn kung fu tropes. He may not enjoy killing, but those murders certainly make for good cinema, especially when everything comes together in under 90 minutes.

If you want to watch a really shitty, pixelated version on YouTube, check out the embed below.

Say Hello to Charlie

No, the unhappy blobfish you see above isn't named Charlie. However, he (or she) does strongly favor the creature in my short story "Charlie," which you can find in my anthology Twelve (Stories About Love and Death). A link to the book resides above should you decide to spend some money on it. No pressure, of course. I wouldn't want anyone to think this post just a shameless plug for my work. 

Years ago, I wrote a coming-of-age horror novella called Found, which was later magically transformed into a well-received, award-winning independent motion picture. People really seemed to enjoy it. The flick also produced an ultraviolent spinoff that has little to do with the experience that came before it. Headless definitely has its fans, and I won't knock them or the insanely talented individuals who made it. However, let's just say the movie is not indicative of my novel and leave it at that.

After Found's success on the festival circuit, there was some talk of adapting Twelve into a feature-length anthology (long before anthologies enjoyed a sudden and unexpected resurgence). And, for a while, it looked like it might happen. But then something happened - I froze. Completely overcome with fear and anxiety, a result of Found's growing popularity, my brain simply refused to function. Any writing project I started ultimately crashed and burned. The kind folks at Forbidden Films had infinite patience with me as I tried in vain to pen something they could produce. Everything I attempted failed, and my downward spiral into writer's block and depression took over. Eventually, I became reclusive and ultimately severed ties with them altogether, a decision I still regret to this day.

As my writing career continued to go absolutely nowhere, I picked up work penning articles for a popular news website, attempted to write a story about a guy's trip down the Amazon, and found myself attached to a Christmas horror project. Try as I might, none of my creative endeavors came to fruition. In other words, it was a pretty sad state of affairs. Then, thankfully, I broke through the block and wrote M'rth, a novella that essentially packages all of those raw emotions into one bizarre tale that combines drug use, body horror, and Lovecraftian horror. I'm proud of it, and if everything goes according to plan, it could eventually become a movie. However, I've learned to not get my hopes up about such things.

While digging through some old emails, I stumbled across the script I wrote for "Charlie," which was part of the Twelve anthology that never happened. Surprisingly, I'm pretty happy with the script overall, as it fixes some of the major problems I had with the short story itself. While wondering what to do with it, I thought to myself, "Hey! Why not write a long-winded woe-is-me blog post about it and just share it with my six fans?" So, my half-dozen supporters, here you go. Happy reading!

New Trailer for HK Hentai Kamen 2

HK Hentai Kamen is one of those movies that you're almost embarrassed to admit that you've seen, let alone thoroughly enjoyed. The damned thing was a lot more fun than it had any right to be, and not in that ironic hipster kind of way. HK was genuinely entertaining, so I'm not at all disappointed to hear that the cast and crew have returned for a sequel. This time around, our well-endowed, scantily-clad hero must contend with a serious problem: all of the panties in the world are disappearing. It sounds like a cinematic head injury on paper, but trust me - this flick does not disappoint.

HK Hentai Kamen 2 is set for release in Japan this May. The cast includes Ryohei Suzuki, Fumika Shimizu, Tsuyoshi Muro, Ken Yasuda, Jiro Sato, Narushi Ikeda, Takashi Tsukamoto, Yoshinori Okada, and Shunsuke Daito. Check out the latest trailer and a pretty badass poster below.

Confession of Murder (2012)

My Blu-ray buying habits probably seem quite odd to most people. In short: I browse through Amazon, find a movie I've purchased and thoroughly enjoyed, and look through the site's recommended titles. If I stumble across something that sounds moderately enjoyable, I'll gladly add the flick to my cart - assuming the price is right. That's essentially how I stumbled across Byeong-gil Jeong's 2012 thriller Confession of Murder, a film that, according to its description, sounded like a typical South Korean thriller involving a serial killer and a seasoned but heavily flawed cop obsessed with bringing him down. In other words, it seemed like a sound purchase, and that's precisely why I bought it. However, I didn't expect to love it as much as I do. Scratch that, I absolutely adore it, flaws and all. No joke.

Here's the story in a nutshell: Detective Choi (Jae-yeong Jeong) seems like a pretty unhappy guy, and it's all because he let a sadistic serial killer slip right through his fingers. What's worse, the killer left an extremely unpleasant a scar on his gaunt, Billy Bob Thorton-esque grill. Years later, after the statute of limitation runs out on those grisly murders, the killer, Du-sok Lee (Shi-hoo Park), emerges from the shadows with a new book, which quickly becomes a national bestseller. Although Choi can't lay a finger on the guy, legally speaking, the victims' unstable family members plan to kidnap the good-looking slasher in hopes of getting a little well-deserved and long overdue revenge. However, things are soon complicated when a mysterious stranger named J claims that he's the real killer. Is Du-sok Lee a bald-faced liar, or is J just attempting to ride on the suave author's immaculately-tailored coattails? It doesn't take things very long to get really complicated and deliriously convoluted. Just the way I like it.

I expected something a bit more subdued and low-key when I sat down with Confession of Murder, but I was presented with something else entirely. The opening chase sequence assaults your senses with a delirious amount of shaky cam and lightning-quick cuts - it's enough to give Michael Bay unstoppable seizures for weeks. Things do slow down a bit once the time jump takes place, but the film itself never really takes the storyline seriously. It's overwrought, over the top, and weirdly humorous, although I'm not entirely sure that was intentional. Regardless, I was never bored during the flick's two-hour runtime, and I found myself a little disappointed when the end credits began to roll. I may not have liked it for the reasons the filmmakers intended, but it's currently one of the most enjoyable movies I've seen thus far this year. And that twist? I never saw it coming. But maybe that says more about my intelligence than the skills of the screenwriter. Regardless, I had a blast and wouldn't hesitate to watch it again.

Thank God for the folks at Well Go USA and their moderately-priced Blu-rays.

No Tears for the Dead (2014)

If you want to know why I have my head stuffed so far up the South Korean movie industry's well-groomed ass these days, look no further than Jeong-beom Lee's No Tears for the Dead. It's the kind of thoughtful, well-balanced action movie Hollywood tried to make before it began suckling at the swollen teat of the comic book industry. And while I don't have anything against superheroes or flicks based on comic books, it's just not the sort of thing I'm in the mood for these days. Instead of watching overblown, overhyped motion pictures based on corny morons in funny costumes doing ridiculous things for three hours, I'd rather watch a movie about a hitman who doesn't want to kill anyone else. Yes, I realize how impossibly stupid I sound right now. I never said I wasn't a fat, hairy hypocrite.

Here's the story in a nutshell: After seasoned hitman Gon (Dong-gun Jang) puts a bullet in a little girl during an assignment, he decides he's done with the hired assassin business. However, his boss has other plans in mind for him. Some South Korean douchebag wants the little girl's mother killed, and Gon discovers he's the guy who has to do the dirty deed. Otherwise, he's going to end up dead. So he decides to head back to Seoul to do the job, but he keeps dragging his feet. The smarmy prick who hired Gon isn't too happy that the assassin isn't pulling the trigger, so our hero finds himself stuck between an automatic weapon a hard place. Does he end the poor woman's life? Should he toss caution to the wind and take out his friends and fellow assassins? Who knew that being a killer came with so many problems?

Jeong-beom Lee previously directed the phenomenal 2010 action/thriller The Man from Nowhere, another film about a guy with a certain set of sinister skills who takes on impossible odds to destroy a group of dastardly individuals. It's an incredibly smart, insanely gripping flick, but it has absolutely nothing on No Tears for the Dead. Although we've seen the "hitman with a heart of gold" story numerous times throughout the decades, the emotional weight anchored to the picture's plot adds tons of intensity to the handful of well-choreographed set pieces sprinkled throughout. The final 45 minutes are brutal; it's been a very long time since I've seen that much bloodshed in a modern action movie that isn't from Japan. You'll predict how this one's going to end long before the finale shows up, but it's more about the journey than the destination. God, that sounds so stupid and cliche, but it's true.

No Tears for the Dead deserves some attention from any self-respecting action fan.

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