Monday, May 14, 2012

LAAPFF: Blood Letter Review

The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (going on now) has held my interest for the last three years, but has been around for twenty-eight. It continues it's work of bringing engaging and fascinating fun cinema to LA. As I chilled in the lobby of the Director's Guild of America, where it's having showings, panels, and parties I was in a diverse crowd of movie goers enjoying cinema that may be hard to find in your average theater.

The first film that night was the short Until the Sun Sets, a Hawaiian action/drama history short about warring tribes. When the sun sets in the film a season of peace is in session and you can't make war, so another tribe decides to make war right before this happens. With a super small budget the film has some great war scenes with wooden weapons. Special effects showed off some deadly battle scars.

Talking of battle scars, Until the Sun Sets was immediately followed by the main feature Blood Letter. Oh, Blood Letter, I enjoyed your martial arts fights and dark dream so much let me write a letter to you in this article.

Dear Blood Letter,

How are things? I just watched you at the theater and I loved the way your fights had super powered magical martial art fighting. Thanks for having such a great bad guy with cool retractable blade for both arms and scar on his face. Your beautiful sets that  start off to movie make me want to travel the world. Such a beautiful view. Your film reminded me of so many classic martial art films it made me happy the genre is alive and kicking today through international studios. From the love interests, mystery that needed to be solved, mysticism and just ass-kicking fights, thanks.


spoilersTran Nguyen Vu story begins with him washing upon the temple of a monk. After a rock hard guardian lion comes to life and gives the monk some trouble no less. After twelve years this Tran is now a man and ready for action. He sets off to the city and ventures away from the temple his been at most of his life. He learns when he enters the city all is not write in his kingdom as a bunch of assassins or off to kill high officials. He defends a high official who happens to be his friend from childhood. He learns more about his unstellar past as his entire family was murdered by the current royalty, because they were charged with killing the old king. Then he remembers it in a series of unfun flashbacks with be headings. Unfun for him, but great for the audience and for his rage to build.

Tran Vu decides to do the ninja thing one night and infiltrate the castle, he doesn't get caught, but a cute spunky ninja girl does, he saves her, and she hits him a lot, because she's totally crushing on him. Later, the ninja girls sister comes by to their secret hideout and hits Tran some more in a not totally crush way, but more of get away from my sister you perv/bad guy way. The sisters bring up their awful past and how they have beef with the current royalty. They all team up, but a super bad ass super villain whose bald, has an eye scare and cool secret knives built into his armor comes. He fights Tran a few times and easily beats him. The older sister is sacrificed.

Revenge is on the mind, for both Tran and and Ms. Crush hits-a-lot-hasadeadsister. This is impacted more as the search for (and reason the movie is called Blood Letter) Blood Letter is looked for and everybody involved in hiding it is slaughtered.The Blood Letter proves his family innocent and the rich bitch who did it guilty. Enter mystic dreamscape where Tran sees his Grandpa accused of the crime, him killing the royal chick the killed his family and a new creepy, messed up face, worse king taking power.

Now he has to think about showing the blood letter, so instead he takes it to that noble he saved. Turns out it was a bad idea. Uh-oh that noble happens to be the bad guy from his dream, the new worse emperor! That noble also made a deal with the bad guy Mr. Kills-sisters. Hello, epic fight where Tran learns love is the key to inner power, isn't it always. Good-bye painfully Mr. Kill-sisters, maybe change your name to Mr. Your-ass-just-beat-threw-a-wall.

Now what to do? Tran, my boy Tran, just waltzes into the Queen's court and is all like, "Yo, I know what you did, but it be worse if I just took you out, with war for innocent people and junk. Here's your damn blood letter, suck it". All the Queen's punk soldiers were all up in his face with weapons when he none and he just walked away. Then he goes to the alive sister, end.

Mr. Kill-sisters death, just great, an istant classic. Not so happy now that you body got smased through a wall with swords, huh, can't hear you cuz your dead!

end of spoilers

The movie might have had some fun with the subtitles bouncing about, but other than that it was a high quality production with a fun, maybe a little naive main character. Give the actor playing the super villain an award. His presence, demeanor and look had me loving hating him right away. When the audience comes together and goes "ooohhh" , when he simply enters the story, it tells you that guy sucks and  as a group we all hate him. The bald baddy has this great sound effect, a lion's growl when he first pounces in an attack on poor ol' Tran. From his instant action figure switch blade armor arms to his permanent being a jerk attitude he's the perfect man to say " I hate you, bad!", in your brain. The rest of the cast hits the stereotypes of punk girl, rich noble, kindly monk, older sister, crooked official and unkind queen, known quite well in the genre, all on their marks.

Martial arts and special effects were the films bread and butter, just the mix of super powered abilities in fights made them all the more special. I wish, I truly wish this team had done Dragon Ball  Evolution instead of that train wreck that came out. Fight scenes made me think I was watching Dragon Ball Z, but a live action version of it.

The opening of these mountains and surronding ponds just draws you into the story, it's taking place somewhere else, almost in a fantasy world.

So go see it when it gets picked up here.