As Simon Lam gets older, he gets better. The veteran actor has appeared in such in seminal HK action films of the 1990s as Once Upon a Time in China (opposite Jet Li) and Bullet in the Head (directed by John Woo); in the aughts, he graced audience and critical favorites Election and Ip Man.
Lee Van Cleef enjoyed a secondary career in Italy cranking out spaghetti
Westerns, with little regard to quality. However, 1972’s Grand Duel — aka The Big Showdown — is deserving of its Grand label. No wonder Quentin Tarantino borrowed its sweeping theme song by Luis Bacalov for Kill Bill; you'll recognize it in two notes.
Early in The Last Stand,
the small-town sheriff played by Arnold Schwarzenegger says, "It's my
day off. Should be a quiet weekend." That's the new way of saying, "I've
got one week to retirement," because it signals — with flashing neon
and everything — that life is going to royally upend those plans.
One of the most inconsistent franchises in movie history is the one beget by Tobe Hooper's 1974 classic, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. How does one follow all those less-than-beloved sequels? Lionsgate's latest in the series — the seventh — has a solution: Ignore 'em.
Mixed-martial-arts fighter Evan Tanner once told the camera that in his
life, “the best is yet to come.” It didn't. Three years ago, at the age
of 37, he was discovered dead in the San Diego desert. To this day,
friends and family debate whether it was a suicide, and the documentary
“Once I Was a Champion” takes a look at his brief life, extraordinary
career and tortured soul.
He was, as director Gerard Roxburgh’s film makes clear over and over, a man of ironies. He’d preach kindness for fellow man, but beat crap out of other people for a living. He became a world champion in his field, yet wanted to become a monk. He found the roundly derided ice-skating movie “The Cutting Edge” to be brilliant, but liked to kick back with a leather-bound edition of “Moby-Dick.” He was a smart guy who made some stupid decisions.
You don’t have to know Tanner’s name, much less even care about the sport of MMA, to enjoy “Champion,” because complicated men and woman make for compelling material, especially those taken before their time. As we learn, Tanner may have sped that process along, downing tequila "like it was Gatorade,” making the inevitable all the more tragic.
“Once I Was a Champion” is currently making the festival rounds. Look out for it. Even non-sports fans like me can appreciate its enigmatic subject and tragic story well-told. —Rod Lott