Tough Guy (1972, directed by Joseph Kong Hung)

Chen Xing and Cheung Lik are two cops who have been assigned to take down a drug lord.  In order to infiltrate the criminal gang, Chen Xing goes undercover as a prisoner.  When he escapes from the prison, he does so with another member of the gang.  While Cheung Lik pretends to be a simple villager so that he can keep an eye on his partner, Chen joins the gang and immediately shocks everyone with his fighting abilities.  What sets Chen apart from other martial artists is his ability to kill his opponents just by grabbing their foreheads and smashing their skulls.  That impresses everyone who sees it.  However, when the drug lord finds out that Chen is actually an undercover cop, he captures and tortures him.  Will Chen be able to escape in time to have a climatic fight in a mud pit with the drug lord’s main enforcer?

One of my favorite martial arts films, Tough Guy is known by several titles.  When it was released in the West, it was apparently retitled — and I am not kidding — Kung Fu The Head Crusher.  When it was subsequently released on video, it was called Revenge of the Dragon, probably to try to fool people into thinking that it was a Bruce Lee film or, at the very least, that it starred Bruce Li or some other Bruceploitation star.

Whatever it’s title, Tough Guy is an often brutal film, featuring some of the most exciting fight scenes that I’ve ever seen.  What Chen Xing and Cheung Lik lacked in screen charisma, they made up for in skill and relentlessness.  When Chen Xing gets in the middle of things and starts trading blows with his adversaries, it’s like watching a wild animal suddenly go on the attack.  He doesn’t stop moving until no one’s left standing and he even manages to make the whole skull crushing thing look credible.  He’s matched by Cheung Lik, who may not have as big a role as Chen Xing but who still proves himself to be a formidable fighter.  The fights themselves are expertly choreographed and largely filmed in close-up.  There’s no cheating the camera or anything else that martial arts films sometimes did to make their stars look more skilled than they actually were.  Another thing that I appreciated is that, when Chen and Cheung have to fight multiple opponents, the bad guys usually attack all at once, as a group, instead of everyone standing around waiting for their turn to get in their punches.

There’s little intentional humor to be found in Tough Guy and there’s even less discussion of the philosophy behind the martial arts.  Instead, this is a tough and violent crime movie that wastes no time in getting down to business.

One final note: While watching Tough Guy, be sure to pay attention to the film’s score.  If it sounds familiar, that’s because it was lifted nearly note-for-note from Ennio Morricone’s score for Once Upon A Time In The West.

Lisa’s Week In Review: 2/24/20 — 3/1/20

Still on vacation.  Back on the 7th!

Films I Watched:

  1. 10 jours sans maman (2020)
  2. Conan the Destroyer (1984)
  3. La fille au bracelet (2020)
  4. Nous finirons ensemble (2019)

Television Shows I Watched:

  1. The 45th Cesar Awards
  2. BBC News at Ten
  3. Coronation Street
  4. Eastenders
  5. Emmerdale
  6. Flesh and Blood
  7. Harry Redknapp’s Sandbanks Summer
  8. Holby City
  9. Hollyoaks
  10. Plastic Surgery Undressed
  11. The Split
  12. When All Inclusive Holidays Go Terribly Wrong

Books I Read:

  1. Final Track (2019) by Julie Hiner

Music To Which I Listened:

  1. Bloc Party
  2. David Bowie
  3. Michael Fredo
  4. Noueau Lounge

News From Last Week:

  1. Harvey Weinstein convicted of rape at New York trial
  2. Prison officials ‘fear Harvey Weinstein may try to kill himself like Jeffrey Epstein and could house him in a private section of Rikers Island with round-the-clock surveillance’
  3. Bob Iger steps down as Disney boss
  4. Disney just named a new chief executive. He’ll face challenges Bob Iger never imagined.
  5. Lawyers say new evidence clears Lori Loughlin and her husband in college admissions scandal
  6. French Film Academy appoints interim leader ahead of tense Césars Awards
  7. Roman Polanski pulls out of César awards fearing ‘lynching’
  8. ‘Les Miserables’ Wins Best Film at Cesar Awards, Polanski Takes Best Director
  9. Louvre museum in Paris closes over coronavirus fears
  10. Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds announce they are engaged and expecting a baby in early summer
  11. ‘It feels like I’m choking’ – actors reveal crippling effects of stage fright
  12. Napoleon III ‘should be part of the post-Brexit deal’: French historians want their last monarch to be returned from tomb in a Hampshire church

Links From Last Week:

  1. The Debate and the Direction of the Democratic Party Right Now Leaves No Room for People Like Me by Sasha Stone and Ryan Adams 
  2. A Slur, a Suicide Attempt, and Guns Akimbo
  3. OPINION: Bernie’s Castro Worship Insults the Millions Who Learned to Read Under Right-Wing Dictators

Links From The Site:

  1. Case reviewed the 2nd episode of the third season The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina!
  2. Erin shared the covers of South Sea Stories and The Unpossessed, Mystery Novel Magazine, Ash Wednesday, Amazing Detective, Cry Flood, Imaginary Day, and Adultery!
  3. Ryan reviewed Diary of a Monster and Forever & Everything and he shared his weekly reading round-up!
  4. Jeff reviewed Knockout, The Baron and the Kid, Bruce Li The Invincible, The True Game of Death, Bruce Lee: His Last Days, His Last Nights, Forbidden Sins, and Bolo.  He paid tribute to George Harrison and John Llewellyn Moxey.  He shared music videos from Ministry, Anthrax, The Rolling Stones, New Order, and Madness.
  5. I reviewed Gothic Harvest, Brief Encounter, The Big Easy, Easy Rider, Scenes From A Marriage, Long Shot, Barefoot in the Park, Splendor in the Grass, The Souvenir, and the Beach BumI wished everyone a happy Twin Peaks Day!  I paid tribute to Elizabeth Taylor, Vincente Minnelli, Ania Pieroni, and Zack Snyder.  I shared music videos from David Bowie and Mozzik.
  6. Val shared 4 shots from 4 films!

More From Us:

  1.  Ryan has a patreon.  Please consider subscribing!
  2. For Reality TV Chat Blog, Erin reviewed the latest episode of Survivor!
  3. On her photography blog, Erin shared Snow 23, Snow 24, Another Foggy Morning, Back Yard, Chair, Leaving February, and First Day of March!
  4. On Pop Politics, Jeff shared: Checking In
  5. On my music site, I shared songs from Muse, Just Luv Me, The Crystal Method, The Killers, Lou Reed, and Goblin!

Want to see what I did last week?  Click here!


4 Shots From 4 Films: The Concorde… Airport ’79 (1979), Shin Godzilla (2016), The First 9 1/2 Weeks (1998), Etoile (1989)

There’s no particular connection between these films Just a smattering of shots I found interesting in some films I’ve watched recently.

The Concorde… Airport ’79 (1979, dir. David Lowell Rich)

The same year that Ruggero Deodato brought us Concorde Affaire ’79 (1979), the final Airport film came out. It involved pilot George Kennedy having to deal with a reprogrammed drone missile, missiles launched by duped French Air Force officers, and a device designed to decompress the plane by opening the cargo bay door.

This particular shot is from a scene where they fly the plane upside down while George Kennedy fires a flare out of the cockpit as a countermeasure to throw off an incoming missile. Just take that all in.

Shin Godzilla (2016, dir. Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi)

One of the last shots from the film where Godzilla has now become part of the city skyline. If you haven’t seen this Godzilla movie, then I highly recommend you check it out.

The First 9 1/2 Weeks (1998, dir. Alex Wright)

Malcolm McDowell remembering the time he played Caligula (1979) in a knockoff of The Game (1997) which bills itself as prequel to 9 1/2 Weeks (1986). The only connection it has to the first two films is that it tries something like the fridge scene from the original and the shampoo scene from Another 9 1/2 Weeks (1997). However, that’s like Witchcraft 8: Salem’s Ghost (1996) claiming it has a connection to 9 1/2 Weeks because it too features a fridge scene (a disgusting one).

Etoile (1989, dir. Peter Del Monte)

Okay, I’m cheating on this one. I actually watched this film last year when I was finally able to get my hands on two of Jennifer Connelly’s early films–the other being Seven Minutes In Heaven (1985). This was during what I call her mystical period. Another example is Some Girls (1988).

In Etoile (aka Ballet), Jennifer Connelly and some other guy get drawn into a bad movie where Connelly performs in a weird version of Swan Lake. So of course the movie needs to include somebody getting attacked by a giant black swan during a scene a little reminiscent of the time Jessica Harper referenced Dario Argento’s first film while fighting a witch. Yes, I’m well aware that Connelly was also in an Argento film.

As a bonus, here’s what the director thought of the giant black swan.

Spring Breakdown: The Beach Bum (dir by Harmony Korine)

February is over!  Welcome to March!

Now, the first two weeks of March is, traditionally, when most schools give their students a week off for Spring Break.  I have a lot of good Spring Break memories and, to be honest, I’ve always kind of resented the fact that Spring Break is something that only schools do.  To me, it should be like a national holiday where everything stops for a week and everyone hangs out at the beach for a few days.

Of course, this year’s Spring Break may be a bit of a disappointment, what with everyone freaking out about …. well, everything.  That’s a shame but fear not!  You may not be able to leave behind your fears long enough to go down to the beach but at least you can still watch movies about the beach, right?  So, with that in mind, over the next two weeks, I will be reviewing some films for Spring Break!

It’s time for Spring Breakdown!

Let’s get things started with the 2019 film, The Beach Bum.

The beach bum of the title is an always stoned, alcoholic poet named Moondog (Matthew McConaughey), who spends his time wandering around the Florida Keys.  Moondog has been working on a book for several years and he’s a bit of a local celebrity.  Everyone that he meets tends to like him, or at least they do until he ruins their lives.  Moondog is irresponsible, immature, and apparently some sort of genius as well.  Moondog is also extremely laid back.  Even when he finds out that his wife, Minnie (Isla Fisher), cheated on him with his best friend, a singer named Lingerie (Snoop Dogg), Moondog is okay with it.  He’s always loved Minnie but he’s never had a problem cheating on her so why shouldn’t she do the same to him?

After Moondog shows up late for his daughter’s wedding and goes out of his way to make a scene, he goes for a drive with Minnie.  Of course, since Moondog is drunk off his ass, he ends up crashing the car and killing his wife.  In her will, Minnie leaves half of her fortune to their daughter, Heather (Stefania LaVie Owen).  She leaves the other half to Moondog, with the stipulation that Moondog will only get the money after he finishes his book.

The rest of the film follows, in an episodic fashion, Moondog as he tries to finish his book and get his money.  Along the way, he commits crimes, dabbles with various jobs, and spends time in jail and drug rehab.  He meets a host of eccentric and destructive characters, almost all of who are the type of outsiders who seem as if they’re destined to eventually be the subject of a “Florida man” headline.  For instance, Flicker (Zac Efron) is a pyromaniac.  And Captain Wack (Martin Lawrence) hosts dolphin tours but, unfortunately, cannot tell the difference between a dolphin and a shark.

When The Beach Bum was first released in March of last year, it was eagerly anticipated because it was Harmony Korine’s first film since 2012’s Spring Breakers.  Despite the fact that Spring Breakers and The Beach Bum both take place in Florida and feature a lot of beach action, the two films might as well be taking place in separate universes.  The Beach Bum is as laid back as Spring Breakers was violent.  If Spring Breakers was a film that seemed to be fueled by ecstasy and cocaine, The Beach Bum is a celebration of getting high and enjoying life.  If Spring Breakers was all about being young, The Beach Bum is about growing old without giving up your individuality.

In many ways, The Beach Bum is the ultimate Matthew McConaughey film and how you react to the film will depend on how much tolerance you have for Matthew McConaughey at his most McConaugheyest.  Indeed, if you like Moondog, it’ll probably be because you like Matthew McConaughey.  As a character, Moondog is a jerk.  He nearly ruins his daughter’s wedding.  He drives drunk and kills his wife.  He refuses to take responsibility for being a general fuck-up and, from what little we hear of his work, he appears to be a subpar poet as well.  And yet, Matthew McConaughey brings enough of his own natural charm to the role that it’s tempting to forgive Moondog.  You can understand why some people in the film are willing to tolerate him, even though he’s basically a pain in the ass to have around.

The Beach Bum is not a film for everyone.  I appreciated Matthew McConaughey’s performance and I also appreciated the fact that Harmony Korine didn’t try to remake Spring Breakers.  At the same time, the film was a bit too loosely constructed to really hold my interest and a little bit of Moondog goes a long way.  I saw this film last year and I’ve really had no desire to rewatch it.  That said, the cinematography frequently makes Florida looks like the most beautiful place on Earth and, regardless of what you may think about his poetry, at least Moondog just keeps on L-I-V-I-N, livin’.

Add to that, Moondog’s going to enjoy Spring Break, no doubt about it.

Scenes That I Love: The Samurai Fight From Sucker Punch (Happy Birthday, Zack Snyder!)

Today is Zack Snyder’s birthday!

To say that Zack Snyder is a controversial filmmaker would be an understatement.  People seem to either love his ultrastylish films or they hate them.  Myself, I was not a fan of Man of Steel and I’m still laughing about the “Why did you say Martha!?” scene from Batman v Superman.  At the same time, I also think that Zack Snyder is responsible for one of the greatest (and most underrated) films of the past ten years, 2011’s Sucker Punch.  Though the film may be under appreciated today, Sucker Punch is one of those films that’s destined to eventually be rediscovered and appreciated by a new generation of film students.

In fact, you can start appreciating it now by reading my review from 2011.  This was one of the first big reviews that I ever wrote for this site and, along with my Black Swan review, it’s one of the reviews that really set the tone for the future of the Shattered Lens.

And, after you’ve read the review, check out this scene that I love.  From Sucker Punch, it’s Babydoll’s battle with the giant samurai.  Like almost all great action movie scenes, it’s both ludicrous and brilliant at the same time.

Music Video Of The Day: It Must Be Love by Madness (1981, directed by Chris Gabrin)

“In the pool, I had these lead weights on. I thought I was gonna die. The hire guitar got bent so we got a hairdryer and sent it back. They said, ‘The neck’s like a banana.’ So we had to buy it.”

— Guitarist Chris Gabrin on performing under water in the video for Madness’s It Must Be Love

In America, this song and video was released as Madness’s follow-up to their first (and, to date, only) hit in the United States, Our House.  Unfortunately, for the band’s U.S. popularity, the video was heavily influenced by the very British Ealing comedies and it was not immediately appreciated by audiences across the Atlantic.  I think if the video were released today, at a time when more people are aware of international cinema and appreciation of British comedy is now a mainstream phenomena as opposed to just the kids in the computer lab talking about Monty Python, it would be better received in the States.

In the U.S., It Must Be Love peaked at #33.  As with most of Madness’s song, It Must Be Love was far more successful in the UK, where it has twice reached the UK Top 10, once when it was originally released and then when it was re-released in 1992.

Obviously, the British have always been better about appreciating a bit of madness than the Americans.