Monday, June 12, 2017

Fist 2 Fist (2011)

fist-2-fist-cover

Tagline:

His greatest enemy lies in the shadows of his past.

Movie Review:

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It’s not very often I do back-to-back reviews of the same actor. I’m not even sure I have done so before - let alone another film in the same franchise. I was so impressed with Jino Kang in Fist 2 Fist 2: Weapon of Choice that I decided to go backwards in the saga to the first film. The first thing worth mentioning is that, like the various Bloodfist sequels, Jino Kang plays an entirely different character than he does in Fist 2 Fist 2: Weapon of Choice. So don’t go in expecting character continuation (or in this case, formation) and treat it as a stand alone film.

After an opening monologue delivered by Kang’s character Ken, we are straight into the action. Ken and his associate are about to break in to a car chop shop with the goal of rescuing said associate’s brother who has been forced to labour there. Almost instantly we are witness to the quality, actual martial arts delivered by Jino Kang. In character as Ken, he quickly dispatches the thugs then with a quick flinch disarms the leader of his pistol. Fast moves, and a nice intro into the world of Jino Kang that sets him up as a guy that will do what’s right and will use his skills to enforce it.

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Ken runs a youth centre for street kids as well as kids training in the martial arts. We are introduced to Jim, a street kid who after a failed attempt to rob Ken, agrees to join his centre and train. We get a few fun scenes of a training montage, which differs from the usual as Ken is not doing most of the training. He sends Jim off to various schools to learn different schools of fighting from Karate to Hapkido and MMA - which, from the special features on the disc, appear to be actual trainers and fighters, not actors. 

At the same time, incarcerated underworld boss Tokyo Joe (Bill Duff, featured on the poster) is up for parole. He has served fifteen years behind bars and blames his former criminal colleague Ken for his predicament; through a flashback it’s revealed that in a carjacking gone wrong, Joe snapped and killed the driver leaving a baby orphaned, and Ken has spent the same time trying to atone for what he did that night. Strangely the first thing Joe does when he gets out of jail is go see a psychic. That was a little odd, but whatever floats your boat.

You’d think the next course of action is for Joe to kill Ken, but no. They meet like men and Joe offers him a deal - his fighters versus Ken’s fighters in a battle royale, the winner takes the substantial pot and all past deeds forgotten. Ken can use the money to keep his youth centre open. “This sounds too good to be true” says Ken. Right he is. Ken’s wife begs Joe not to go ahead with the tournament and in return she is taken hostage to ensure the fight goes ahead. Ken, a man atoning for his past life and trying to make better choices, now must close the book on a story started fifteen years earlier.

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“There’s always a choice. You just always make the wrong one."

The plot of Fist 2 Fist is similar to most other “forced to fight” films, but that’s not to say the films offers nothing new. The angle taken here is less on the fights in the ring themselves - they are the side story of Jim and his friends trying to keep their youth centre operating. The main focus is on Ken fighting his way through Tokyo Joe’s thugs to rescue his wife and defeat Joe in hand to hand (or fist 2 fist) combat. Each attacker he faces offers something unique for us to see defeated. One guy called Speed has Wolverine-style claws on his hands that scratch Ken up but still don’t take him out. Ken upgrades from his fists to knives and the violence gets bloodier with throats cut, a taser employed and a guy crushed by a car hydraulic. Ouch. 

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The best things about Jino Kang’s films are their honesty. They are gritty and realistic. Low key, without the flamboyant pretence of bigger Hollywood films nor the wire work of modern Chinese epics. No outrageous special effects. He’s used the cameras and equipment needed to get the job done. There’s nothing about the fights in his films that don’t look achievable to somebody with skills. Jino Kang is not an ‘action hero’, he’s somebody that knows the arts and is applying them to movies that he writes, directs and stars in. Like I said in the quasi-sequel, they are clearly passion projects for him.

I bought this DVD on a whim a long time ago in a bulk sale and filed it on the shelf. It wasn’t until I learned who Jino Kang was that I realised I actually had a film with him in it. The cover: I wouldn’t say put me off, but with that title it didn’t encourage me to watch this expecting martial arts fun. More a WWE studios beatdown. Kang isn’t even on it, and I’m not familiar with Bill Duff’s career in wrestling to recognise his name. I should have watched this film sooner. And Kang should clearly be taking the front and centre position on the poster. Out of the three Jino Kang films I’ve seen (and that so far is all of them) this is my favourite one. Recommended.

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Highlight:

In a eight-to-one match that would see lesser combatants taken out swiftly, Ken approaches it with a one-liner that sounds straight out of a Van Damme movie: “Which one of you mother fuckers wants to die first?” Ken pulverises the goons in a marvellous arm-breaking beatdown!

Trailer:

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