Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Review

Crouching Tiger is one of those movies where I know the name well but I really couldn’t tell you what it was about. So it’s nice to finally be able to have checked this one out and it holds up. The fight scenes are on point and the story is good. My only issue is that the film does lose a lot of steam during the desert scenes. That side trip lasted way too long and reminded me of how John Wick 3 destroyed its momentum with a desert adventure as well. Maybe the moral here is if your story is going well then you don’t need to go to the desert. Sometimes that’s the way to go.

The movie starts with Mu Bai retiring from the way of the sword and asking Yu Shu to give away his prized sword to the governor. Unfortunately it is stolen right away by a mysterious warrior. This warrior even manages to escape Yu Shu after a lengthy battle. Suspiciously the governor has a daughter who really claims not to know anything about martial arts but Yu Shu is convinced that this is the culprit. Still she doesn’t want to ruin the young lady’s life by exposing this and tries to get her to return the sword. Meanwhile a hardened killer known as the Jade Fox has reappeared and this fight is personal for Mu Bai because his master was murdered by her.

There’s definitely a lot going on here but one of the real strengths of the film is how it actually spares the time for long fight scenes. We’re not talking a quick 2 minute fight but prolonged action scenes with a good amount of back and forth. For example the fight with Yu Shu and the intruder at the start is surprisingly very long with a ton of good choreography. We really get to see how good Yu Shu’s skills are here as well as the intruder’s. They’re fighting while the intruder is trying to escape so you get to see these shifts in combat. If Yu Shu isn’t careful the intruder will leave and so the situation does favor the villain here because you never know when the situation will be a fight or flee moment.

This movie definitely does use the flying techniques quite a lot. The characters fly over buildings and jump with the power of the Hulk. It may not be realistic but it makes this feel more like an anime adventure so I was 100% on board with this. It makes for a lot of very satisfying battles. It also really shows the gap in ability between the trained ninjas and the average fighters. If you can’t move with tremendous speed and jump over leagues then you’re not going to win the fight. You’ll have no shot at all.

Yu Shu is a really solid heroine. She gets less to do in the first half but the opening was such a great way to introduce her character. You also see her compassionate side in trying to drop hints to make the fighting stop with everyone coming out on top. There is also a sub plot where she likes Mu Bai but the two have a hard time connecting because she had a fiancé who died. So she doesn’t want this to be a rebound which is very honorable and same for him. It’s a nice way to look at things and I think you just have to be satisfied staying as just friends there. You made your choice and it just didn’t turn out well. Ultimately she still looks out for the guy and they have a good dynamic.

Meanwhile Mu Bai may have retired from fighting but he still retains his skills at a really high level. It was impressive seeing him take on all challengers in this film. It’s clear that he was easily the most powerful fighter here and if we discount any cheap shots, nobody was really able to land a hit on him. The closest was the intruder to be sure but even she was no match. This guy absolutely lived up to his rep of being a martial arts master.

For the villains Jade Fox was a bit underwhelming. She is strong when faced against the lower ranking fighters to be sure but can’t hold a candle to Yu Shu, the intruder, or Mu Bai. Regardless she is older so I suppose in her prime things may have been different. She’s a villain through and through to be sure and doesn’t have some kind of sympathetic backstory set up. Her reason for murdering the master made sense and that guy definitely didn’t sound very good but of course any non-villain would have just left. When you go into murder that’s when you step over the line.

The intruder (So I don’t spoil who this is I’ll just keep using this phrase for the mysterious fighter) is a great character. She is a prodigy when it comes to fighting as she didn’t have the best teacher and yet she became one of the strongest in the verse. Her style of fighting is very smooth and it was always impressive to just see her get in on the action and face off against anyone. Not backing down is impressive. I would also say that she’s a big reason as to why I enjoyed the film. In live action you don’t get to see the “I want to fight strong opponents!” character adapted all that often. She felt like she was out of an anime film as someone who just wanted to test her limits and I like that kind of fighting spirit in any character. She also lived up to the hype and didn’t hide behind any characters.

Meanwhile Jen is a nice enough character. She doesn’t really seem thrilled about her arranged marriage and I don’t blame her. That always seemed like a custom that would really lead to disaster. Unfortunately everyone in her circles are used to this so the advice tends to be that she won’t mind eventually. Not great advice if you ask me but Jen had an affair with someone in the desert and now she misses those days. She really beat up Lo (The guy she met) quite a lot but eventually they liked each other. They’re in different stations though and so it was a romance that could never be. Truly tragic…but completely out of place here.

The movie basically pauses the plot for a really long trip down memory lane in the desert. You definitely understand what they are doing here but I felt like this detour was just not needed. Seriously we could have understood the story in a few minutes, this didn’t need to be so long. It’s to build up the romance of course but at the same time I would say it’s still hard to buy because the whole thing is still very quick. She also tried to murder him several times and it’s a bit hard to let that go. I’ll say that the film tried harder to make the romance work than most others but no I wanted to go back to the real action.

Overall, That was really my only issue with the film though. So while the pacing isn’t as great as it could have been, the film still has a whole lot of great things going for it. The action is on point and the characters are good. The fight scenes are really given a lot of focus here and the martial arts can hold their own with any title. There are a variety of different settings for the fights and the visuals at the ending are also really good. This movie was definitely the complete package through and through and I can definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to see an action film with good writing or someone who wants to check out a well thought out drama since the dramatic moments are here as well.

Overall 7/10


It’s always fun to watch some solid martial art battles. The choreography tends to be quite excellent and the battles are fast paced. This one is also going for a fairly realistic style so you won’t see a whole lot of flying through the air like in some other titles. I don’t doubt that some parts are a bit exaggerated in this cinematic retelling of Huo Yuannija’s life but I’d say it gets the themes across. He makes his share of mistakes but ultimately does well in the end. It’s a satisfying movie to check out all the way through.

The film starts off with Huo taking on the world’s strongest fighters and easily defeating them all. It’s a 4 on 1 gauntlet although each match is one on one, it’s just that they’re all back to back which puts Huo at a bit of a disadvantage there. He is about to start the final match when we flashback to Huo as a kid and the rest of the film follows his story chronologically until we finally get back to the ending. Huo always wanted to be a great fighter but his father didn’t allow this because Huo had asthma and so it was dangerous. Well, Huo ends up learning anyway and becomes the best fighter in the land. The problem is that the fame gets to him and he allows himself to attract a rather large crowd of people who aren’t the best of individuals.

Ultimately this leads to him being manipulated and his family pays the price. He needs to find his way once more while at a village on the outskirts of society and a blind lady named Yueci but can he really return to his days of fighting or is it all over? This is all happening amidst a backdrop of his city being taken over by foreigners and so things have gotten rather rough over there. The people need their champion if they are to have any chance of fighting back.

This isn’t a war film though, but it helps to show why the fights were very important. If Huo didn’t make a move then the rest of the land would surely suffer as a result. His inaction would ultimately be a big negative to the world at large. Huo definitely has a lot of real skill and you have to imagine that he must have trained for hours and hours to reach this level. He was absolutely one of the best fighters in the world based on this film and even by the end nobody could really touch him. I’m sure fans of the guy would be pleased with how he looks here since the guy seems all but invincible based on this.

He definitely made a big mistake in attacking his rival so quickly though. It was a shame to see even as it was happening because you just knew he was being played the whole time. Honestly even if his pupil had been attacked you definitely need to know the full story first. He also wrecked things for his friend Jinsun which is hard to turn back. Huo ultimately learns a lot from the experience but it’s the definition of learning things the hard way.

The film isn’t afraid to get rather violent at times and the tragedy that happened to Huo is pretty brutal. On the whole the film isn’t very violent beyond that which is part of why the scene sticks out. They weren’t pulling any punches there and I suppose if it happened in real life then it needed to be adapted but otherwise I’d say they should have skipped that part. It’s also tough because his family really had nothing to do with his skirmish and the villains just took the easy way out in going after them.

Meanwhile the rival Qin seemed like a decent guy. If not for being framed I don’t think the two main characters would have really come to serious blows. The guy had his share of trash talk to be sure but otherwise he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would be using cheap shots or anything like that. It would have been a very intense fight but a fair one across the board. It’s just too bad that he didn’t get that proper fight. Huo likely would have won but at least Qin would have been able to still be alive and train some more.

Yueci is a nice heroine throughout the film and it always seems like it has to be really tough to survive while you’re blind. Every action just feels a million times harder but she never complains and does her best. She’s instrumental in helping Huo reach the next level without a doubt. It’s why you’re glad that she gets a happy ending at least. It’s nice to think of the ending as quite literal because then in a way two really good things happened to her back to back. You can’t ask for much more of a good ending than that.

Huo’s friend Jinsun also gets a lot of credit for sticking by the lead all those years. Even when Huo was making a lot of mistakes and not being grateful, Jinsun took care of his family in the background. That’s not something that just anyone would do and it shows that his loyalty was true all the way. I was also glad that the opponents in the final tournament weren’t just made to be nameless throwaways and had real character. This even goes back to the first opponent before the tournament. In the exhibition fight O’Brien turns out to be a very reasonable guy who wants a clean fight and isn’t looking to get dirty. When he realizes that he would have lost, he gladly gives Huo the credit.

We see something similar with Tanaka at the end who was really a class act. Often times you’d see these opponents just be as corrupt as the officials but that wasn’t the case here. I appreciated the nuance and Tanaka ended up being my favorite character. He just seemed like a really nice guy who was confident in his abilities but wanted to win in a fair way. That’s the kind of guy you want to have as your opponent and the final fight was definitely a lot of fun. Some annoying circumstances prevented it from being quite as great as it should have been but it was really solid regardless.

Overall, The writing in this film was really good and I definitely enjoyed the fights. It was a well balanced movie all around and one that I could easily recommend to anyone wanting to check out a solid film. It’s got a satisfying conclusion which is always important in these things and you should be on the edge of your seat the whole time. Additionally as was not familiar with the man the film is based on, it helps the film keep its suspense as I don’t really know what will happen next. In general it always helps when you don’t know the original material since everything is more of a surprise. So you should check out this film sooner than later in case you learn about this guy at some point and so you can enjoy the film experience first.

The Expendables Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative

This is definitely a film that you had to have seen around a lot back in the day. It got quite a bit of promotion because of how many big names it was grabbing. The concept was always solid as well with all the action going on. Well, the film lives up to the hype pretty well for the most part although if you’re watching some specific characters then you won’t be in luck here.

The movie starts with Barney’s squad of Expendables saving some hostages and destroying the terrorists. One of their members (Gunner) goes too far with this though and Barney is forced to take him off the team. He then receives a new mission for the team by the mysterious Mr. Church. The group has to head to Viena where there is a lot of strife going on right now. The people are suffering as a group of rogue American forces have conspired with the King to take the place over. The heroes have to take out General Garza which should effectively stop this movement in its tracks. If they do that they things can finally go back to normal. This is an extremely difficult mission though where the heroes will be heavily outnumbered. Can their band really take out a whole army?

The film starts off with a lot of action right off the gate which is good. I also liked how for once the heroes didn’t just drop their guns when the villains took a hostage. I’ve mentioned in the past how this is always a bad idea and the characters here seemed to know it. In general the Expendables are very reluctant to drop their guns which is good. If you do that then the villains can just take out the hostage and your group at the same time. We also got the “traitor” fairly early on with Gunner. Cracking immediately was not a good look for him although apparently it just tends to happen to guys who are in the field for too long.

We get the best scene in the film very early on though as Barney gets his assignment from Church and then Trench shows up. Both Church and Trench don’t really do anything for the rest of the film which is unfortunate but it was such a fun scene to have the 3 of them in the same room like that. The banter and hype levels in that scene where through the roof. It was only one scene but you could already see a solid dynamic between the characters.

That’s really one of the biggest strengths of the film. The characters all have big egos and are top notch in their respective fields. Only the best of the best can be Expendables and if you are in a position where you’re a rival or working for Church then you’re at that level too. So there’s a lot of tough talk throughout the film and it works well. The banter here is very strong and the writing is definitely on point. I don’t think the film would be nearly as good without that. Even the villains talk tough to each other the whole time. In this movie, everyone can talk tough and everyone can fight hard which makes for a good balance.

Then of course there is a lot of action throughout the movie as well. The gun fights don’t hold back and we also get a lot of close combat battles as well. The film never really runs out of explosions and fighting. The highlight fight would probably be Yin taking on Gunner since that felt like a real boss fight. Of course seeing the heroes beating up on the random minions is cool too and all but it’s always nice when you have a villain who can really fight back as well. The characters all have different fighting styles too which works out well so it’s not all the same kind of action scene throughout.

The movie has some decent themes as well. They may not be super memorable or anything but they work well enough with the scenes. Expendables is a film that moves fairly quick so you’ll be at the end of the film in no time. There isn’t a whole lot of down time between action scenes either. So as long as you’re enjoying the hype of all these characters looking so good then you’re definitely going to have a blast here.

While the movie is very intense, I would say a lot of the action is very stylized so it’s not too bad. It’s much more like John Wick than Halloween for example. So most of the scenes are over quick and I wouldn’t say they dwell on the violent scenes. The only scene that was a bit much is when Sandra is tortured by the villains through waterboarding. I definitely could have done without that as that’s always the kind of grit I’d rather the film just skips. We know these guys are villains and don’t really need to go any further than that. It hurts the film’s momentum a bit there.

That’s really the only issue I had with the film though. Beyond that you’ve got a fun cast and lots of action which is always a good combo. Barney works well as the main character and clearly has a lot of experience here. Without him getting the group set they probably would have been in for a rough time. You also get the impression that he is the glue that keeps the team together. He’s always got a quick comment ready to defuse any situation as needed. That’s not something that just anyone could do.

Christmas is a solid right hand man as well. I like his confidence and he may be the only character who surpasses Barney in that aspect. Christmas really isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and may be the best close quarters fighter in the group aside from Yin. You can always count on Christmas to get in there and get the job done. He also has the best working relationship with Barney and their banter is a lot of fun.

Now, if you are a fan of the Expendables as a team then you may be disappointed that quite a few of their members don’t do much. Aside from the main two who spend most of the film without the rest of the group, the only ones to do much of anything are Gunner and Yin. The rest are saved until the climax where they help out but the film is nearly over by then. For Yin, he’s a solid fighter but I was surprised that he wasn’t a bit stronger.

The whole time you figure that he is absolutely going to crush his opponent and instead he’s on the losing side. Perhaps that’s not so bad but as his first big fight you just expected him to do better. I suppose martial arts aren’t as handy when you’re fighting someone who is already an expert fighter in their own right but I still thought it would go down a bit differently.

As for Gunner, well I definitely didn’t like him. The guy completely cracked and the first thing he thinks to do is to join the other side? Nah, I don’t want someone like that on my side. That means you can absolutely never trust him again and so that really means that he’s an absolute liability. Once you go traitor you don’t really go back so easily.

As for the heroine Sandra, well she gets a lot of credit for being so tough under pressure. Ultimately she never betrays her ideals and also stays home until the very end. It may have been wise to leave but now she can proudly tell her people that she was here from start to finish. It was definitely not an easy journey either. The villains really gave her a tough time here. As for the villains themselves, well Garza got better by the end but he’s really not smart at all. The scene where he starts to give a big speech while surrounded by the other villains was a really horrible idea and you can immediately tell how that’s going to go.

As for Monroe, well he’s your classic villain leader who just wants a lot of power. Not much to say about him and I can’t say that I liked the guy at all. Posturing is all good and well to an extent but beyond that you need more of a big plan to stay in power. Even if things didn’t go great for the Expendables he still would have been doomed down the line.

Oh yeah there’s also a small romance subplot where Christmas finds out that his girlfriend is cheating on him. It feels like an extremely random subplot to be sure and that should have definitely ended the romance right away. There wasn’t much of a good excuse either. In their line of work the Expendables probably shouldn’t start a romance anyway since it might end badly though. At that point you should probably just fly solo because it’s such a dangerous profession.

Overall, The first Expendables film is pretty fun. It’s nice to get the nonstop action here as the heroes all show their stuff. I look forward to Church and Trench getting bigger roles next time though. They had the best scene here so imagine what they can do with some real screen time? The rest of the Expendables squad needs to get more action next time too though because you could really say that over half of this film is just the Barney and Christmas show. The others really got the shaft for the vast majority of the film.

Overall 6/10