Main cast: Shi Yanneng (Vajrasattva), Ya Mei (Eko), Steve Yoo, Poppin Hyun-Joon, Anthony Lau, Matt Mullins (Bill), Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, and Yasuaki Kurata
Director: Law Wing-Cheong
The long-delayed The Wrath Of Vajra finally gets a release, and it's... well, okay, it's not a movie anyone should watch for the plot or acting, but it does boast non-stop fight scenes involving all kinds of brawny men. It's exactly what it is advertised on the box.
Okay, do bear with me and try not to snort too loud when I present the synopsis. It's some time in the 1930s, and we have our stoic hero, Vajra. He has a past that he would rather not discuss or share. You see, Japan has a plan for evil world domination. The Order of the Hades is formed to kidnap children and brutally indoctrinate them in the art of kung-fu. That way, Japan has its own army of assassins ready to take down anyone in the way. Vajra was one of these children, and he managed to escape after being forced to kill his own brother in the Order's sadistic "training" routines. Now, he tries to find peace by becoming a disciple in a Shaolin temple in a remote corner of China.
Well, the past catches up with him soon enough. The Order of Hades sets up shop in the same neighborhood, and Vajra soon realizes that he must go up against the Order to save the kids and ensure that the Order will never taint China again. He has some allies from some American soldiers captured by the Order as well as Eko, the conflicted daughter of the high priest of the Order.
Okay, the story is hilariously awful, but it serves its purpose as an excuse for our hero, played by an actual martial artist well-versed in Shaolin arts, to pummel people bloody. In the final confrontation with the bad guy, where he obligingly ditches the shirt, he shows that that body is pretty easy on the eyes as well. The acting is limited to mostly posturing from the males and teary-eyed moments from Ya Mei, but the tropes work.
There are the ever-popular "My enemy... could be my friend in another life! Let's honor each other by fighting to the death!" machismo school of angst between the hero and the ultimate bad guy, the "Let me shoulder the burdens of the world as I beat your asses!" weight on our stoic hero's shoulders, and plenty of homoerotic moments of shirtless men pounding the crap out of one another. While the movie takes a while to get warmed up, the beatdown moments are well choreographed and wonderfully old school in the sense that they lack CGI moments and, therefore, feel more raw and real.
The only cringe-inducing moments stem from the horrible dubbing. When the American soldiers open their mouths, it's very obvious that their English lines and Mandarin lines are uttered by different people. Bad dubs are part and parcel of hammy B-grade Chinese martial arts movies, but the bad dub is particularly hideous here.
Having said that, The Wrath Of Vajra offers plenty of campy fun for folks that like old-school martial arts movies. While it doesn't break any new grounds, it breaks bones and noses with style. I can't disagree with that.
This movie at Amazon.com
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