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SP A/K/A Security Police—Japan’s version of the Secret Service—an Asian drama based on a real unit that was so popular they made 2 movies based on the series and one of them was a “prequel.”

I stumbled on to this series simply by downloading from one of my favorite Asian movie websites.  Well I have to say for another of Japan’s shows that became a manga it is not bad.  As I said in the title SP was a big hit in its native country Japan.  Given Clint Eastwood’s very popular film “In the Line of Fire” SP might be appreciated with western audiences but of course we will never know.  I am not saying this is the end all be all of TV drama’s it certainly isn’t crap though.  If you like Asian TV or films you will probably like SP.

SP, also known as Security Police is based on the real life security police unit of Japan which is responsible for protecting domestic and foreign VIPs.  The series script was written by famed GO author Kazuki Kaneshiro and marks his first time writing for a television drama.  This drama centers on the newly recruited SP officer named Kaoru Inoue has such sharp senses that his able to conduct his duties by using some form of ESP to take down threats before they materialize.

The franchise consists of the TV series, two film adaptations of the series released in 2010 and 2011 with a manga adaptation.

Inoue is recruited by veteran SP officer Sōichirō Ogata after being impressed with his training under Section 4 of the SP division.  Inoue works with Eri Sasamoto, one of the few women serving in the division while another officer, Takafumi Yamamoto, who is the only known SP officer to have MMA experience with a preference to use the 7:3 hairstyle ratio (whatever that is) and of course there is the divorced Mitsuo Ishida who is the only known SP officer in the section who had been previously married.  The series shows these men and women working in unison to protect the VIPs assigned to them from being killed by assassins.

I think one of the things that factors into the deserved success of SP is that it that its makers limited the number of episodes even in the face of its native popularity.  In the west, a show that was as popular as SP would have been dragged out by the producers until it died a dog’s death—something I can’t stand.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

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Detective Dee—The latest “wuxia” movie recommended by our woman from the land down under.

Detective Dee—The latest “wuxia” movie recommended by our woman from the land down under.  With guest co-author Bonnie (who has not actually seen the movie but still feels free to offer an opinion and research and who may have imbibed some sense of Detective Dee via osmosis when her parents were reading the Judge Dee mysteries based on this character many years ago).

I am sitting in the Houston airport for the next 9 hours waiting for my plane to  . . . well you’ll read about that later.  Anyways, I asked Dangerous what she thought the next movie we may want to take a look at should be and she said take a look at Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010).  So I did.

Detective Dee is played by Asian movie and pop legend Andy Lau (Battle of Wits—Mozy Warriors and many others) and is a good “popcorn” movie.  Detective Dee is the latest “wuxia” movie directed by Tsui Hark—a pioneer of the wuxia genre.  Wuxia films are particular to China; they blend martial arts with chivalry and tend to have a protagonist who is similar to, but not quite the same as, a Western knight-errant.

Not only does this movie have Andy Lau in it (which always makes it a must-see in my book), but it is directed by the formidable Tsui Hark (who will, incidentally, be helping to judge the feature films category at the Cannes Film Festival this year). Hark also directed Once Upon a Time in China (for a link to our friend Silver’s masterful review of that flick, click here). Standing at 5’9” (it’s amazing what you can find out on IMDB), he is considered a master of the kung fu action genre and, from what I saw (and what Bonnie didn’t see) here, I have to say that he is a master of the wuxia subgenre as well.

The story is about a woman who is about to become emperor and unite China.  Naturally she is getting many people in the kingdom all pissed off because a woman is about to ascend to the throne.  In honor of her coronation a 1,000 foot Buddha is being constructed overlooking the palace.  Officials working on the statue are starting to self-immolate; that is, bursting in to flames from the inside out. (I hate it when that happens!) With the coronation not far off the soon to be empress needs these crimes solved to avoid any taint on her ascension to the throne.

She calls in Detective Dee, the Sherlock Holmes of China.  Dee also happened to be one of the leaders of a revolt against her when he emperor-husband died under mysterious circumstances.  I guess when you need the best you need the best.

Detective Dee starts his investigation which begins to reveal an ugly trail of deceit and murder perpetrated by the Empress to seize power. Her motto is “everyone is expendable in the pursuit of power.” As Dee gets closer and closer to finding the truth, the stakes get higher and higher for his life. However, it is Dee’s old assistant, who was tortured by the Empress to the tune of having one of his hands cut off, who is responsible for the Phantom Flame deaths. His axe to grind is simple: revenge. He was tortured for years and as we know, payback’s a bitch. His plan is to have the Buddha crash down on the coronation ceremony, killing everyone in the palace. Dee figures this out and puts a stop to the madness.

This movie is interesting because the viewer does not have a clear “hero riding on a white horse” to sympathize with. The Empress and the assistant are each quite a piece of work; the Empress has got a trail of dead bodies as long as the Boston Marathon, while the assistant has been putting beetles into people to cause them to self-immolate (they weren’t really immolating themselves out of anguish over watching a woman ascend to the throne, as it turns out).

Any of you who know anything about me know I am a big Asian movie fan.  So it’s good to see another big budget, big screen Asian movie hit the theaters, though it probably will not get any decent play in the states a la Red Cliff (bastardizing the movie by leaving two hours of film on the cutting room floor).

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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Kung Fu: One of The Great T.V. Series of All Time

Kung Fu: One of The Great T.V. Series of All Time

Kung Fu starring the late David Carradine

Given the recent and unusual circumstances surrounding David Carradine’s death, I thought it only appropriate to let some time pass between his untimely demise and reviewing his trademark character Kwai Chang Kaine in one of the greatest T.V. series ever made: Kung Fu.

Kung Fu lore has it that Bruce Lee originally conceived of the idea for the show and had wanted it to feature Lee as the star.  Carradine, however, pulls it off and would be known for the rest of his life as Kaine.  Kaine, an orphan who was raised by Shaolin monks, was forced to flee China after killing the emperor’s nephew in retaliation for the murder of his kung fu master Po (played by Keye Luke).  Constantly on the run from bounty hunters and assassins from China, Kaine wanders the American West in search of his half-brother Danny.  His conscience forces him to fight injustice wherever he encounters it, fueled by flashbacks of training during which his master famously referred to him as “Grasshopper.” Also dispensing wisdom is the head monk Master Kahn (played by Phillip Ahn).  This show has a very mystical quality and when combined with the eerie music of Jim Helms, that mystic quality is even more fully fleshed-out.

It’s detestable that anyone who hasn’t seen the show often lumps it in with the group of old, campy television shows like “The A-Team” or “Charlie’s Angels” or others similar shows of that ilk. To those Philistines I would like to say that any given, hour-long episode of “Kung Fu” probably contained only about 45 to 60 seconds of actual action–if not less even less. The fact is, David Carradine was as good a leading man and true actor as any TV drama has ever featured.

Caine was a true iconoclast (in the best sense of the word) within the world of mainstream network television–a complete reversal of nearly every American screen hero who came before.  He was not just peaceful–but passive and serene.  As Caine described it–“Kung Fu” was an “anti-revenge television show”–an astonishing premise for a show given the norm of the day.

It certainly could be argued that T.V. was just as much of a wasteland in the ’70s as it is today, but I long for the day when we will be able to view something as good as this again on broadcast television.

As Martin Scorsese (who gave Carradine’s eulogy) said, and with whom I completely agree, “We’re going to miss you Kawai Chang Kaine.”

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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