former MMA champion Damon Chamberlin, internet dating will be more dangerous
than steel cage smack-downs. He has come to China to meet his match, Meili. She
is lovely, but the restaurant they pick is totally bad news. Thanks to the villainous
management, they are in for one heck of a first date. The bad guys are
ruthless, the cops are stupid, but fortunately one look at Meili gives
Chamberlin a heck of a lot of motivation in Antony Szeto’s Fist of the Dragon (trailer here), produced by the legendary Roger Corman, which
screens during the 2016 Action on Film Festival.
wants to retire from fighting, so naturally he comes to China. Right, good luck
with that. Shy Meili is exactly the kind of woman he could settle down with.
Unfortunately, it is hard for her to break away from the compulsively
workaholic tech start-up, where she runs the marketing. Cutting their first
face-to-face short, she tells Chamberlin to come by her office with a box of
moon cakes. As fate would dictate, the syndicate owning the restaurant plans to
smuggle a set of nuclear detonators to the Russia mob in a box of said pastries—and
there’s your Macguffin right there.
long, the evil mastermind Thorn kidnaps Meili demanding his moon cakes as her
ransom. Chamberlin can fight, but he is not the sharpest samurai sword in the
armory, but fortunately Meili’s expat friend Cassie can guide him around town.
Naturally, the dumb cops assume he is a serial killer leaving a trail of dead
bodies in his wake, including some of Thorn’s trusted lieutenants.
Fist is so gritty and
down-market it will hold sentimental appeal for old school, unreconstructed
martial arts fans, who still remember getting their fixes from dodgy Chinatown
VHS tapes. It is safe to say Prof. Corman has not turned over an extravagant new
leaf with his Chinese productions. Still, there is no denying the action is
completely legit, even though high profile martial artist and fitness expert
Juju Chan has a non-fighting role as Meili. Presumably, she is okay with this,
since she co-produced. Regardless, she and lunk-headed Joshua J. (The Punk)
Thompson forge some strangely sweet and chaste romantic chemistry together.
has the moves and he is paired up against some terrific foes, including
Vietnamese-Australian superstar-in-the-making Maria Tran, crafty veteran Kong
Kwong-keung (as the cleaver-hurling chef), and the massively skilled and
intense Xin Sarith Wuku. As Thorn, Daniel Whyte holds up the tradition of the
white devil villain, chewing through scenery like Pacman. However, Ellary
Porterfield also upholds the tradition of the awkward Westerner best pal.
is just old school all the way. Happily, that
includes Trung Ly’s stylistically eclectic, down-and-dirty fight choreography. Fortunes
were made from films like this, as Roger Corman well knows. Recommended for
nostalgic martial arts fans, Fist of the
Dragon screens this Friday (9/9) as part of this year’s Action on Film
Festival in Monrovia, CA.
Labels: AOF '16, Juju Chan, Martial arts cinema, Roger Corman