The Night Comes For Us (2018)/ Honor Thy Father (2015)/ The Yellow Sea (2010)

The Night Comes For Us (2018)
Underneath all the carnage, this is actually about something. It’s about Ito (Joe Taslim) trying to save himself — by saving the little girl Reina (Asha Kenyeri Bermudez). It’s about two friends who dreamt of “making it big” by joining the Triad — big brother Ito warning the younger Arian (Iko Uwais) not to make same mistakes he did. “Don’t join the Triad. Been there and it wasn’t all that great. There are chicks, booze, and stuff all around but ain’t got time for that, because all we do is traffic drugs and kill [mostly] innocent people.” Okay, he didn’t really say that. It seems that way anyway. Ito probably couldn’t even enjoy a good lay anymore, or have a guilt-free sleep at night. See, it’s not easy being one of the bad guys, with all this “guilt and conscience” stuff eating you inside. So when Ito saw a glimpse of redemption in Reina, he took a 180 degrees turn (also, literally) — killed his men, took the girl, went into hiding. And what follows is a zombie apocalypse — minus the zombies — a series of action setpieces, meticulously crafted as they are horrifyingly graphic, with all sorts of bad people trying to get their hands on Reina, Ito, and his friends. Most of the fights are pretty bonkers, with blood and violence, dialed to eleven. The two-against-one brawl between Julie, Alma and Elena is definitely one for the books. And for the movie’s final fight, well, I’d probably never look at a box cutter the same way ever again.

Honor Thy Father (2015)
Kaye and Edgar get caught in financial ruin after being involved in an investment scam. The promise of get-rich-quick suddenly becomes a living nightmare, when Kaye’s father turns up dead, the money, all gone. And their friends, co-parishioners at the Church of Yeshua, quickly turns on them, demanding their money back. But they are just small fry compared to some influential people, demanding a much bigger sum from the couple, in exchange for their daughter’s safety, and eventually, their lives. As a devoted member of the church, Kaye pleads for help. “Yeshua will provide,” said the Bishop. But he can’t help them, the money isn’t his, it’s the church’s. This leaves Edgar with only few options. Even so, he still sees to it that he goes with the lesser evil, until he’s cornered with no other option but the worst. Honor Thy Father is not something good to watch when you’re worrying about something or after stressful day at work. The movie makes little difference between scam investments and toxic religious groups. It gets a little too real sometimes, too close to home (i.e., financial troubles, sans the death threats of course). It is that good. An assuredly paced thriller that’s able to sustain its edge-of-your-seat atmosphere for long. A bleak crime drama with a little bit of The Bank Job, minus Princess Margaret’s naked pictures in a vault. It’s thrilling and despairing at the same time. And that ending, man, that ending. Really powerful stuff.

The Yellow Sea (2010)
Taxi driver Gu-nam is in serious debt. And he’s yet to hear from his wife, who left months ago to work in South Korea. Worse, he’s having nightmares of her being with another man. When local gangster Myun Jung-hak offers him a job to be able to settle his debt, he takes his chances. The job, go to South Korea and carry out a hit; his target, a professor named Kim Seung-hyun, later revealed to be gangster. When the hit doesn’t go as planned (turns out there’s more than one party who wanted Kim dead) Gu-nam finds himself running away from the cops, the gangsters, and eventually, from Myun, who travels to Korea to tie up the loose ends. Triple-crossed by Myun, and with no chance to return to Yanji, Gu-nam makes it his goal to find out who actually hired him (Myun was a middleman). The Yellow Sea works best when it’s a tight crime thriller, particularly in the first and second act. When it switches to gangster mode, it gets a little overbearing, especially when they bring out their axes/knives for the nth time. Whether or not it’s saying ‘this is how gun control looks like,’ this movie features, almost exclusively, knives, and the stabbiest of fights. Beneath the nihilistic bloodshed, it doesn’t seem to say much. And if there’s anything Gu-nam learns in the end, it’s probably that some men will go at great lengths, when they learn they’re being cheated on by their wives.

DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)/ Mortal Kombat (2021)/ Mortal Kombat (1995)

DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)
DOA: Dead or Alive is one of those rare movies usually found in the bargain bins that gives you exactly what the cover says — sometimes more, depending on which DVD cover you got. It’s a video game-movie that knows fully well what it is. Story may be as flimsy as the kimono Devon Aoki wears early in the movie but the fight scenes are oftentimes sharp — like the katana that cuts the said kimono in half, in the movie’s opening sequence. Aoki plays ninja/princess, out for her missing brother, and Jaime Pressly is a pro-wrestler who wants to prove she can do better than fake-fights. And Holly Valance, well, she’s got the best introductory part, where she beats up some cops in a hotel room while putting on her panties and bra. There’s fair amount of fanservice in this movie, but it also has some ‘girl power’ vibes. The girls of DOA can definitely kick some serious ass. The fights may not be as great as Corey Yuen’s work in So Close, but competent enough for fans of the genre, and with sexy ninja babes to make up for it. There’s a swordfight in the middle of bamboo trees that’s House of Flying Daggers-worthy. And there’s also a sexy volleyball match on the beach! Some of the fights may be goofy (e.g., the final fight with Julia Robert’s brother), but there’s just enough good stuff to keep it fast, furious, and fun. DOA is a good-bad movie that’s terrible and terribly good at the same time.

Mortal Kombat (2021)
Video game franchise gets some Marvel-like upgrade in this new movie that combines CGI, superhero fights, and characters’ origin stories — most memorable of them, is of one mouthy side character who shoots beams from his eye. Yes, talking about Kano because the heroes were kind of bland. Compared with the first movie, this has better action, better fights. That the VFX and the sets are quite impressive, is pretty much a given, it’s already 2021. Still, I thought Joe Taslim (The Raid, The Night Comes For Us) was somewhat wasted in this one. The frequent cutting during the fight scenes seems to hide most of the hits, which is disappointing given that most of the cast could actually fight. Fans of the 1995 Paul (before he earned his “W.S.”) Anderson movie will find plenty things familiar. For one, it’s the same “chosen ones not quite ready to be heroes yet” all over again. Plus the odd choice of putting one new character at its center, with Deadpool 2 punchline/Shatterstar actor in the role, in a costume that seems to be a cross between Black Panther’s and Aquaman’s. Which gave me second thoughts on whether it would’ve been better if the movie focused more instead, on the game’s two most popular characters, whose origin story of sorts in the opening minutes, packs action, pathos, and blood — the combination of all three, the movie was never able to deliver for the rest of its running time.

Mortal Kombat (1995)
There’s hardly any exciting combat in here, much less mortal danger. Unless, you fear that Sonya Blade will get killed (in the movie, highly unlikely) or get hurt for real (which is likely), because fight Bridgette Wilson obviously can’t. Ditto with Linden Ashby as Johnny Cage, martial artist/Hollywood actor who’s so eager to prove that those fights in his movies weren’t fake, that he’s a legit martial artist. And then figures in yet another silly looking fight that’s incompetently staged — maybe an unintended self-reference, in a movie seemingly not afraid to make fun of itself. Obviously, only three (or four) characters in the movie can actually fight: Liu Kang, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, maybe, Reptile. The movie’s a bit of a dozy in parts. And all you can do is try not to shut your eyes and think pray hard Princess Kitana (model-actress Talisa Soto, lovely) is in every fight. By the way, when the hell did Raiden/Rayden become a white guy? Did all those years of beheading Immortals finally earned Connor MacLeod a seat with the gods? I don’t know, there isn’t really much in here. Well, at least Liu Kang gets to do his bicycle kick (I heard there isn’t a single “sonic boom” in that Street Fighter movie starring Jean Claude Van Damme), and Johhny Cage gets the funniest lines.