Reviews written by registered user
Llakor

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13 reviews in total 
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12 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
Like drowning in Evill - one teardrop at a time, 15 July 2010
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

We Are What We Are begins with a desperate, bedraggled tramp of a man, the very picture of Poverty, lurching through a Mexican outdoor mall, leering at lingerie-clad mannequins through a store's plate-glass window. The store's manager (owner?) chases Poverty away and polishes his window back to a shine, wiping away the drool. Poverty sees his reflection in the window as if for the first time, or the first time in years and the sight stuns him like an electric shock. Stumbling to the ground, spitting out black bile on the polished mall floor, Poverty falls and dies.

The film pauses for a second, as if to ask if there is room in this Mexico for sympathy, rescue or hope. Then two mall security guards arrive and efficiently carry the body away. Behind them a mall maintenance man arrives with a mop to wash away Poverty's bile. In this Mexico, the poor are so wretched that they can not even leave behind their stains.

We come to know this man through the family that he leaves behind. We come to understand that he was neither a good man to his community, nor a good husband to his wife, nor even a good father to his children. But if this man's family lived lives of quiet desperation and hopelessness while he was alive, with him dead they are doomed.

We become so invested in the survival of this family, that we begin to not just condone almost unspeakable acts of evil that this family plans to commit. we begin to cheer these atrocities and root for the family to succeed and get away with it.

There is a moment in Psycho, when a detective comes calling at the Bates Motel, looking for the Janet Leigh character. After the detective is killed, Norman Bates places the P.I.'s body in his car and pushes the car into the murky swamp behind the Motel. The car sinks and sinks and sinks and then... pauses... half-buried and half-exposed, teetering between secrecy and exposure. When the car slips under the surface with a breathy gurgle, most people guiltily realize that they have been holding their breath, suddenly Norman Bates' silent accomplices. We Are What We Are is like that without the guilt.

Imagine that you are standing in front of a lake on a blistering hot, sunny day. The lake is fed by mountain springs and you know that the water will be bitterly cold, but you will feel better in the lake's icy water than out in the sun. You stand torn between diving quickly into the lake and getting it over with, or walking slowly, gradually into the cold of the lake. Imagine further that the water of the lake is suddenly removed and you walk out into the middle of the suddenly dry lake bed. It begins to rain: cold, cold, cold teardrops all around you. The rain falls slowly enough that the cold water is refreshing in the hot sun, but fast enough that the lake quickly refills and before you know it you are floating in the icy water at the center of the lake.

That is what We Are What We Are is like only rather than icy cold water, you are gradually being immersed in evil.

Watching Somos lo que hay is like drowning in Evil - one teardrop at a time.

10 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
Big, Sloppy Horror Comedy is Funny but Lacks Ambition, 5 August 2009
7/10

I Sell the Dead is a big, sloppy horror comedy that refuses to take itself too seriously. This has advantages and drawbacks. The 85 minutes of the film breeze by and the film is full of bits sometimes funny, sometimes scary, sometimes gory, occasionally all three at once, but the individual bits are much better than the sum of the film's parts.

The story, such as it is, follows professional grave robber Arthur Blake (played by Dominic Monaghan). Arthur's partner-in-crime Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden) has just had his head chopped off for murder and Arthur has one night left before his own head is forfeit for the same crime. Arthur insists that he is innocent of murder, but there are plenty of other crimes that he is willing to confess to when bribed with Irish Whisky by a Catholic priest (played by Ron Perlman).

Since the movie is a series of grave-robbing anecdotes confessed by Arthur, it becomes a sort of horror anthology - a series of disjointed tales, all linked by a similar cast (Arthur and Willie) and a similar theme (grave robbing). Like most horror anthologies, there is no consistent mythology, because all mythologies are true and happening simultaneously even when they contradict one another.

It probably didn't help that I saw this film the same night as Trick 'r Treat, a horror anthology that avoids all of the traps that I Sell The Dead falls into. In fact, Trick 'r Treat, designed as an anthology, tells a more unified, consistent story than I Sell The Dead which is intended to be a united narrative.

The other problem with the film (and I recognize that this is insane nit-picking) is the way the film plays fast and loose with history. Grimes is killed with a Guillotine. We might be able to stretch a point and say that he is killed by a Scottish Maiden, a precursor to the French Guillotine, but the Scottish Maiden was abandoned in 1709 and this film is set a good hundred years later since Burke and Hare are mentioned and they were executed for murder in 1829. Grave robbing as an industry became obsolete with the passage of the Anatomy Act (1832) so the film must take place before then.

I know that bringing this up is the ultimate in historical nerdiness and we are clearly dealing with a universe where all sorts of dead, undead and legendary dead are possible, but the easiest way to anchor a fantasy, to convince the audience to suspend their disbelief is to use something real and authentic to bounce the fantasy off of. And it's not like the history of grave robbers or body snatchers or resurrectionists (call it what you like) is a boring story.

The most frustrating thing is that writer.director Glenn McQuaid clearly does know the history, especially the good bits. As an example, when Grimes first takes on Arthur as his apprentice he correctly explains to Arthur that as resurrectionists, they don't steal the clothes from the dead, because stealing corpses is a misdemeanor, punishable by a small fine, while stealing clothes is a felony, punishable by deportation or possibly even death. So you would expect Wille and Arthur to strip the corpse at this point (and for the rest of the film) but of course they don't. You could accuse the director of ignoring his writer's script, but not when the writer and the director are the same person.

My point isn't that there should have been a lot of buck-naked corpses in the film, my point is that if you are going to bring up this quirk in the law and make it clear that Willie and Arthur will follow the law no matter how silly it is, than you do have to pursue that thought to its logical conclusion, even if that means that Willie and Arthur wind up chasing a zombie through a graveyard trying to rip his or her clothes off and stuffing them back in the empty coffin, so that they don't get deported for stealing the walking corpse's clothes, otherwise don't bring up the matter at all.

Historical nerdiness aside, I Sell The Dead is worth a rental as a slight but funny horror film that could have been much more.

8 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Clever Inter-twining of Stories Elevates this Horror Anthology, 3 August 2009
8/10

Trick 'r Treat is a new take on the horror anthology genre. It tips its hat to EC Comics' Tales From The Crypt with its comic-book montage opening credit sequence and with its caption boxes "Later" "Earlier" and "Meanwhile", but there is a sense in which the film seems inspired more by films that were inspired by EC like Creepshow than by the original comics themselves.

You might think that in being an homage to an homage that there would be the danger of being like a blurred photocopy of a photocopy, but instead the distance from the original material allows Trick 'r Treat to take risks and become something completely original.

The danger with anthologies whether in film, books or comic books is that one story will be so strong that it overshadows the rest of the collection (and conversely one so weak that it ruins the whole collection). Writer and director Michael Dougherty neatly avoids this dilemma by interweaving all the separate stories together. The film cuts back and forth in space and time from one story to another with characters from one story bumping into characters from another.

The most common element in all of the stories is a small scarecrow figure called Sam, but all of the stories have some connection with other stories. The connections are so strong that in reviews, people talk about four stories, but I count at least six: the couple returning home from the Hallowe'en parade, the school principal (Dylan Baker) with a ghoulish secret, the virgin (Anna Paquin) looking for a Hallowe'en date, the kids playing a prank on an autistic girl, the story of the school bus crash told by the pranksters and the grouchy old man (Brian Cox) dealing with a home invasion.

Because all of the characters intertwine with one story or another, the film ends up quite accidentally dealing with one of the favourite themes of Tales From The Crypt: the hierarchy of monsters. The Cryptkeeper (and his fans) were always fascinated by wondering whether monsters had a food chain and if so, who was the apex predator. Or to put it another way, at what point do monsters become victims of other monsters? The success of the Saw franchise seems to have doomed this film to a direct to DVD release which is a real shame. It is a spooky, creepy and inventive reminder of why we love the Hallowe'en season and the many superstitions that we have evolved to keep us safe from the monsters that go bump in the night

MW (2009)
16 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Dynamite Serial Killer Thriller by the Creator of Astro Boy!, 2 August 2009
9/10

This is a pitch perfect, breathless little mystery thriller. Part Hitchcock's I Confess, part Farnkenheimer's Black Sunday and the mind-blowing bit is that it is based on a manga by the guy who created Astro Boy and Simba, the White Lion. It's as if, after Mary Poppins won 5 Oscars in 1965, Walt Disney announced that his next project would be about two veterans gassed by Agent Orange in Vietnam, one of whom becomes a priest while his best friend becomes a serial killer. (Usually, it is Hayao Miyazaki who is compared to Walt Disney and the comparison is apt, but it works almost as well with Osamu Tezuka.) The manga M.W. (started in 1976 by Tezuka) must have shredded the minds of his Japanese fans. It is about two boys on whose island the U.S. Army is developing a deadly nerve gas. On one horrific night, there is an accident and the gas covers the island. Those not killed by the gas are slaughtered by the U.S. Army in a desperate cover-up that the Japanese government aids and abets. The two boys are the only survivors. Taken in by a kindly Roman Catholic priest. they grow up to be complete opposites.

Yutaro Garai (played by Takayuki Yamada) becomes a priest and takes over the parish belonging to the priest who took him in, while Michio Yuki (played by Hiroshi Tamaki) is a successful banker and an even more successful serial killer.

The film wisely burns through the confession sequence. It is clear that this is a dance that the two men have done repeatedly. Yuki commits crimes, then confesses to Yutaro, not because of any guilt, but because he knows that it torments Yutaro. Guilt is the stock in trade of Catholics of course, but Yutaro is not just guilty because of the way that the seal of his confessional is being abused by his oldest friend. Yutaro is convinced that he is responsible for Yuki's lack of conscience. On the fateful night, Yutaro stumbled and Yuki came back to save him - only to get dosed by the gas. Yotaro is convinced that the gas melted the part of Yuki's brain that allows men to tell between right and wrong; the gas melted Yuki's soul. (Yuki, it should be said, has a much more prosaic reason for his actions.) In addition to the conflict between the two almost brothers, Yutaro is pursued by two dogged but very different detectives: Tokyo cop Kazuyuki Sawaki (played by Ryo Ishibashi) and investigative reporter Kyoko Makino (played by Yuriko Ishida). Both pursue their own independent investigations with their own very different techniques and resources, both leading eventually to Yuki. The tension of the film is built on whether any of the three Yutaro, Sawaki or Makino will figure out what Yuki is up to before it's too late to stop him.

Th most interesting thing about M.W. is that it built on the framework of a Godzilla film, only with a human-scale monster with ambitions to create Godzilla-scale destruction. The monster is created as a result of a U.S. Army experiment on an isolated island. (Albeit a bio-chemical experiment rather than a nuclear one.) The monster begins his rampage away from Japan (the film starts in Thailand) and gradually rampages towards Tokyo. In the best Godzilla films, there is usually an investigation to try and figure out what is causing the destruction, what created the monster, what its' motives are and how to stop it. And in a certain way if Yuki is Godzilla, than Yutaro is Mothra, created from the same destructive energies, but devoted to peace instead of destruction. And ultimately the film ends the way that all Godzilla films must end.

While not exactly subtle in its symbolism at times (Yutaro spends the last third of the film dressed in white to Yuki's black) M.W. is a very smart thriller paced like a runaway locomotive. Well worth the effort to track down.

521 out of 938 people found the following review useful:
Dark but Funny Comic Fantasy, 30 July 2009
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Inglorious Basterds is a dark and violent comic fantasy, gloriously so. Built on the framework of The Dirty Dozen, Inglorious Basterds ditches the elongated training sequences of The Dirty Dozen to plunge into the action right away. In the process, Tarantino fixes one of The Dirty Dozen's major flaws by giving the bad guys screen time to remind us just how bad the Nazis were. The Nazis with the most screen time end up becoming the most completely human characters in the film, which ironically makes them even worse monsters.

Bu ditching the training sequences, Tarantino is also able to give us a picture of the entire war, showing us not only British, American and German soldiers, but also giving us glimpses into the world of French and German civilians, both collaborators and Resistance.

It goes without saying that any Tarantino film is going to have fantastic dialogue, but when Tarantino made the decision to have the French characters speak French and the Germans speak German, beyond adding a level of authenticity, Tarantino also somehow ensured that his dialogue in French was as sharp and funny and clever as his English dialogue.

Case in point, during the opening sequence the Nazi "Jew Hunter" SS Colonel Hans Landa (Christian Waltz) is interrogating French dairy farmer Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet). Landa suspects that LaPadite is hiding a family of Jews. While subtly pressuring LaPadite, Landa asks for a glass of milk. After greedily gulping it down, Landa compliments LaPadite on his daughters and his cows, "à votre famille et à vos vaches, je dis bravo." The thing of it is, in French "vache" means cow, but it is also a vulgar name for the vagina. If reprimanded for this vulgar pun, Landa could quite convincingly claim not to understand French well enough to have meant it that way, but Landa does mean it that way and he means it as a threat. And LaPadite understands his meaning all too well.

That is a really subtle piece of acting and word-play that many audiences would never catch, or at least they might understand the subtext without knowing the exact nature of the threat. The film is rich with that kind of detail. All of the French and English dialogue is chosen with that same attention to detail and while I can't swear to the German, I would suspect that it shows a similar level of craft.

Inglorious Basterds opens with the phrase, "Once Upon a Time... in Nazi-Occupied France." Personally, this reminds me of the opening of every Asterix book and movie, another comic fantasy in a war-torn occupied France. Like Asterix, Inglorious Basterds is howlingly funny in places, although the film also turns darkly serious.

In its more serious moments, Inglorious Basterds reminds us that the first casualties of war are compassion and the ability to relax, as in almost every elongated sequence of the film, Tarantino finds a new way to build cruel tension to almost unbearable levels.

Tarantino also reminds us that film is dangerous, even inflammable and that its power deserves respect.

If you can see this film as I did in a packed theatre filled with knowledgeable fans who get every joke, that you will see this masterful film the way that it was meant to be seen. If you are not that lucky, all that you will see is a great, great film that delivers a darkly funny punch.

124 out of 198 people found the following review useful:
Like a Lost Horror Classic from 1982, 27 July 2009

If the producers of this film were smart, they would deny that Ti West wrote and directed this film and claim that it was a lost film of the early eighties that they found in a drawer at Paramount. Say a lost Tobe Hooper film that Tobe did right before doing Poltergeist. Something that Steven Spielberg bought to keep from competing with Poltergeist and shoved in a drawer somewhere.

Because it's that good. The House of the Devil feels like it should have been released back in 1982, from the feathered hair of the leads, to the Walkman, to the music and sound, to the slow build of the suspense, to the vintage titles. It is even a mash-up of the late seventies obsessions with baby-sitters in peril (When a Stranger Calls) and satanism in the suburbs (The Omen). Most importantly, it has all the slow-burn intensity of the great horror films of that period.

The baby-sitter in peril is Samantha (Jocelin Donahue). A college student, she is doing baby-sitting gigs because she needs money for a new apartment and desperately wants to get out of her dorm. Her roommate is a sex-addict and a slob and Samantha as a neat-freak germaphobe finds both behaviours repulsive. The job that Samantha ends up taking, on the night of a full lunar eclipse, is obviously (cue Admiral Ackbar) a trap, more obvious to the audience than to Samantha because we know that the name of the film is The House of the Devil, because her employer is Tom Noonan, the original Red Dragon from Michael Mann's Manhunter and because Samantha is too self-absorbed to notice that she is in danger.

There is a danger to read too much into it, but there is a very real sense that this film is pitched perfectly at the divide between the sex and drugs disco party lifestyle of the Seventies and the money-obsessed, self-absorbed Eighties.

There is even a sense in which the film (with the benefit of filmmaker hindsight) acts as a horror metaphor explaining how the drugs and sex excesses of the Seventies led to the health catastrophes of the Eighties, especially AIDS. Samantha may not know exactly why she is a germaphobe, nor why she is so freaked out by the house she is sitting at, but her anxieties are well-placed.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? -William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
A Unique and Horrific Vision, 26 July 2009
8/10

I was at the Canadian Premiere of Embodiment of Evil during Montreal's Fantasia Film Festival. The introduction alone was worth the price of admission as the co-screenwriter Dennison Ramalho, dressed in a leather straight-jacket, introduced the director and star, Coffin Joe himself, José Mojica Marins, who was wheeled onstage by three gorgeous, fetish-wearing goths in a shroud covered container that was unveiled to be an open coffin.

Embodiment of Evil is the third in the Coffin Joe trilogy, the first two films being À Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma (1964)... aka At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul and Esta Noite Encarnarei no Teu Cadáver (1967)... aka This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse.

Zé do Caixão, the Coffin Joe character is a combination of showy horror host, comic-book magician (specifically Mandrake the Magician) and depraved, sadistic serial torturer and murderer. A gravedigger, he wears a top hat, black cloak and has supernaturally long fingernails. A fierce atheist who denies the existence of both Heaven and Hell, Coffin Joe is obsessed by his search of the perfect woman with whom he can mate and continue his bloodline, preserving his eternal blood in a son. Joe's definition of a perfect woman is one that, like him, has no fear. To identify her, Joe uses the most diabolical tortures possible and those who fail his tests die in the most hideous and painful manner possible.

Fantasia programmed the two previous Coffin Joe films back in 1999 and brought José Mojica Marins from Brazil to present them. While by no means the only people who can take credit, the Fantasia team must share the blame for reintroducing the world to Zé do Caixão.

I am not a fan of torture in horror films. What makes the Coffin Joe films palatable to me is the barely veiled metaphor of Coffin Joe trying to free Brazil from its imprisonment - chained by fear of violence from the military dictatorship and superstitious fear of the Roman Catholic Church. Nothing that Coffin Joe did or could do could ever be as evil or perverse as the way that the Junta and the church conspired to enslave Brazil and Brazilians. Coffin Joe is like a Pied Piper for freedom, offering a path filled with pain and for many, death, but promising at the end of the road a freedom that neither government nor church can take away.

Embodiment of Evil begins with Coffin Joe being released from an insane asylum where he has been confined for the last 40 years after his crimes in the first two films. (Amusingly, his hunchback assistant Bruno has been waiting for him for all these years.) Coffin Joe exits to a world both completely different from the one that he left and eternally the same. There is very much a sense that Coffin Joe is a man from a time that has past while simultaneously a prophet whose time has come.

Coffin Joe's quest is both easier and more difficult than it was in the past. Easier because he now has disciples, the children and grand-children of those who heard his message in the sixties. And a new generation of women unshackled by fear gives Coffin Joe an embarrassment of choice to be his perfect woman.

His quest is more difficult because the barriers of fear and superstition still exist. The metaphor still works: fear of a violent military has been replaced by the fear of a corrupt and violent police. The superstitious fear of the church remains although its grip has weakened. The biggest change is that everyone is haunted by the sins of the past. The new Brazil is built on the bones and blood of the old Brazil and everyone (including Coffin Joe) is haunted by the ghosts of that past.

For Joe, this is a revolting development. As a man whose entire life is built on a denial of the existence of a life after death, ghosts are an abomination. Coffin Joe works even better as a metaphor for the new Brazil, futilely denying its' bloody past, like Lady Macbeth trying desperately to wash away the bloody spot.

Embodiment of Evil, like all the films in the Coffin Joe trilogy, is not a film for the squeamish. The images of pain and torture are all the more horrific since many of them are real. (Apparently for many in the Brazilian fetish community, being tortured by Coffin Joe is a badge of honour.) What can't be denied is that his vision is a unique vision of horror that speaks to those who will listen as clearly today as it did in the sixties.

Cryptic (2009)
5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Science-Fiction Thriller Built on Ideas not Special Effects, 23 July 2009
9/10

On July 4, 2000, 9 year old Jessie Graver (Jadin Gould) is given a cell phone by her Mother for her birthday so that she can call home. Nine years later, Jessie (Julie Carlson) finds the cell phone, which she has never used, because her Mother died the same day that she gave Jessie the cell phone. On a whim, Jessie calls her old home phone number with the cell phone...

And is answered by the nine year old Jessie.

So begins Cryptic, a cracker-jack science-fiction thriller which proves that you don't need millions of dollars in special effects to film a great science-fiction movie, at least if you have millions of dollars worth of great ideas.

Cryptic succeeds because it pulls a trick out of the Walter Simonson (comic-book writer of Thor) handbook, which is to say it pulls the trigger on the plot. Many films of this type would place artificial barriers in Jessie's way. Cryptic gets out of Jessie's way, allows her to chase her dreams, and then pursues what happens after you succeed in changing the past.

Comparisons will be drawn to Gregory Hoblit's Frequency. (Both films are mysteries, both are about lost parents, both postulate that sending people back through time may be impossible, but sending information back through time might be possible) The difference is that Cryptic is simultaneously simpler and more complex than Frequency, avoiding most of Frequency's baroque plot twists in favour of a more organic plot that nests inside of itself like a set of Russian dolls.

The more apt comparison is to James P. Hogan's novel Thrice Upon A Time about a group of scientists who discover a way to send information back through time from a computer to the same computer in the past, but only in messages 120 characters long. (Can you change the past with a Twitter message?) The clearest connection between novel and film is that both believe that it is possible to change someone's destiny, but it is impossible to change someone's character.

And with a character like Jessie Graver, you wouldn't want to make a change. The entire cast is incredibly strong, but Julie Carlson as the teen Jessie - haunted by her past and Jadin Gould as the young Jessie - bravely facing her present, make the film come alive.

Cryptic is a film that will greatly reward those who track it down to solve its puzzles.

Black (2009)
12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
A French Shaft Goes to Africa, 22 July 2009
8/10

Black (2009) IMDb Fantasia Directed by Pierre Laffargue Written by Pierre Laffargue, Lucio Mad and Gábor Rassov

An African tribal shaman is ranting on a street corner in Paris about a prophecy concerning the rise of the evil Snake and the need for the champions Lion and Panther to come together to beat Snake. While crossing the street, the shaman's eyes lock on the eyes of a garbageman with a lion birth-mark on his right cheek. The shaman declares that this man is Lion while the garbageman humours him to get him out of the way of the garbage truck.

The man with the lion birthmark is Black (played by French rapper MC Jean Gab'1 - probably best known to North American audiences for playing Nico in District 13.) Black is disguised as a garbageman, on his way with a crew to rob an armored car. After this heist goes disastrously wrong, Black is hiding out at home when his cousin from Dakar calls to tell him of a briefcase stored in the safety deposit of the local bank filled with diamonds. Black puts together another crew and heads for Dakar to steal the diamonds...

"Did you think you could just come to Dakar and steal the diamonds from the stupid Africans?" Black is asked at one point. Black's journey is nowhere near that simple.

Director Pierre Laffargue effortlessly quotes other films and genres while keeping Black its own movie. The film literally goes from Dassin's Rififi to Mamet's Heist to Kramer's The Defiant Ones to Peckinpah's The Getaway in dizzying succession, but all these are just masks for what is at its' heart an African story.

Black's journey from Paris to urban Dakar and from there deeper into the heart of Africa is punctuated by an amazing soundtrack. From the opening credits, where we follow Black's garbage truck through the highways of Paris while a slow smoky jazz cover of Also Sprach Zarathustra plays, the soundtrack ably serves the film - slowly transforming from cool Parisian jazz to more African beats, mirroring Black's transformation from cool Parisian bad guy to tribal African hero.

If MC Jean Gab'1 keeps getting scripts and direction like this, he could become a great film action hero. He has both the charisma and the the acting chops. At least in this film, he also has a flexible definition of action hero, using guns (small and large), grenades, knives and fists to win his fights, taking the weapons that are available to him and using them all with skill. Most importantly, he has the swagger. He truly believes that if he isn't the strongest man in the room or the fastest, he is definitely the smartest.

If the film has a weakness, it is that MC Jean Gab'1 is so good that he completely outclasses his adversaries. The only actor to keep up with him and match him is Carole Karemera as Pamela. François Levantal does his best in a part that could have gone dangerously awry and wrestles Lagrande just this side of too over the top, but Anton Yakovlev's Ouliakov is a cartoonish bad guy who wandered in from a Jean-Claude Van Damme film when a more nuanced Peckinpah bad guy was needed.

Ultimately, the film is not about the obstacles that Black meets on his journey, it is about the journey itself and I strongly encourage you to hunt out Black to take that journey as well.

7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Great Female Martial Artist Better than the Movie Surrounding Her, 20 July 2009
6/10

Coweb is probably short for Combat Web. The idea of the film is that a female bodyguard has her boss kidnapped by a gang who run an underground fighting web-site. In order to rescue her boss, the bodyguard must fight her way through the gang's martial artists - all while her fights are being secretly taped, streamed over the web and bet on.

The film aspires to be the kung fu version of The Truman Show, even name-checking that film and it is a neat idea, but horribly executed. The only reason to see this film is its star, Jiang Lu Xia. Coweb's reality web story probably owes something to Jiang who was discovered doing stunts and karate on online videos before becoming a part of Jackie Chan's reality TV series The Disciple.

Jiang has her limits. If she has a sense of humour, it is impossible to detect - at least in this film. She only has three gears to her acting and fighting, neutral, annoyed and REALLY angry.

Despite these limits, wind her up and she is a whirling ball of action fury, impossible to ignore. She manages to combine Jackie Chan's athleticism and ability to squeeze over and through obstacles with Bruce Lee's unstoppable fury. Of course, both Jackie and Btuce had other gears. Jiang just has the one and this may limit her career, but in full fury she is something to see.

Jiang is about five foot nothing, but it seems like she has six feet worth of legs. She has an astonishing ability to turn her legs into a multi-jointed weapon like a living three-sectioned staff allowing her to hit opponents with full force from the most impossible angles. She also has some interesting submission moves to add to her acrobatics and kicking.

But her most impressive quality is her sheer confidence, best demonstrated in a sequence where she has to cross a bridge and a horde of enemy bad guys pour onto the bridge to stop her. For the audience, there is a moment of doubt and then in a flash you realize that Jiang isn't outnumbered thirty to one, the bad guys are outnumbered one to thirty.

It's not like any movie martial artist loses that fight, but few would do what Jiang does ("You just put your head down and charge like a bull," one of her other opponents marvels later.) and fewer still would be as believable while doing it. Jiang Lu Xia is something to see, her film Coweb, not so much.


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