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September 9, 2013

Movie Review: King Of The Streets (2012, Blu-ray)

Review By: Rob Sibley

Northern China, the present day. After accidentally killing an opponent at the age of 16, and serving eight years in prison for manslaughter, street fighter-cum-martial artist Yue Feng (Yue Song) is released and finally gets a job with a removals firm. Hearing that the grandmother (Liu Ming) of the man he killed is an impoverished street hawker, he anonymously buys food from her stall to help her. While doing a removal job for a privately run orphanage, he finds one of the staff is Yi (Becki Li), whom he'd previously helped when she was mugged in a backstreet. As he was also an orphan, Yue Feng starts helping her out in his spare time, and learns the orphanage head, Zhou (Wang Zaihe), is under pressure to sell the land at an unfair price to a ruthless businessman, Li Shao (Yang Junping), for a resort development.

Yue Feng finally tracks down his boyhood friend, Hai (Hou Xu), who is now working as an underworld fighter for hire. He invites Yue Feng to join him but the latter refuses. After Yue Feng fights off all the heavies who come to threaten Zhou, Li Shao agrees to settle the dispute with a fight between one of his own men and Yue Feng. On the day, however, Li Shao breaks the rules by fielding several opponents, including Yue Feng's best friend, Hai.

King of the Streets is one of the martial arts films that really does live up to it's title. Right from the get go, our hero Yue Feng (Yue Song) takes on a dozen or so guys and completely demolishes them. On top of that the films opening credits feature stylized freeze frames. Letting you know you're about to watch a film that's a throw back to the Bruce Lee films and others from the hey-day of martial arts pictures.

Alright, this is an obvious one but don't expect anything revolutionary in terms of acting or plot. The film was shot on digital and obviously doesn't have the budget of many films of it's ilk. But the camera work is still slick and the fighting itself is efficient and brutal. Yue Song's fight chirography brings back memories of the gracefulness of Jackie Chan with some brutal take downs that would make Donnie Yen proud.

This film was obviously a passion project for Yue Song, meant as a calling card. Seeing that he wrote, directed, stars and even did the fight choreography. You have to give him an A for effort, he's a talented fighter that's for sure. What's refreshing about the film are the fight sequences themselves. For the most part they are grounded in reality, I didn't notice any wire work. Like the title the film doesn't feature any overblown fight moves, it really is a street fighting take them down anyway possible kind of fight film.

Song's strong suits are sometimes hindered by what I like to refer to as the MTV style of editing. When a man has as much talent as Song is their really a reason for hyper kinetic editing? The best martial arts films are always focus on the rule of the camera doesn't move much, the actors do. Things have changed since the 70's. Now the camera moves more then the actors.

A lot of this had to do with the popularity of American martial arts films after the Matrix came out. A lot of these actors were not highly experienced so the directors relied on camera work and fancy editing to hide the fact that... well the actors couldn't fight. This even translated over to Hong Kong films themselves, then the godawful “shaky cam” became popular due to the Bourne films.

But over the years recently we have seen an influx in brutal old school fight films. All of Donnie Yen's latest films follow this pattern. Then you have the soon to be classic “The Raid” being a shining example of old school action.

King Of the Streets mixes old and new but this is understandable as this is Song's first film as a director. He seems to want to please everyone, the MTV generation with the bits of frantic editing. The plot is pure old school action. Song kills a fella by mistake, gets out of prison. Falls in love with a girl working at an orphanage and then proceeds to protect the orphanage from various baddies. The film throws in some flashbacks which are highly unnecessary, take away from the current plot thread and tend to complicate matters. Stick with kicking ass Song, that's what you are good at buddy!

I think we will see bigger and better things from Song in the future. The man is one man stunt team! For another take on the film check out my buddy's James DePaolo's review over at Wicked Channel! 

Well Go USA brings us King of the Streets on glorius Blu-ray and the presentation is very satisfying.

We get a highly stylized AVC encoded 1080p transfer for King of the Streets. The film is presented in what I assume is it's original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Oddly enough the film doesn't have an IMDB page? Your guess is as good as mine. But you don't have to guess that this is another fantastic looking Blu from Well Go. The film obviously was tinkered with quite a bit in post production. It's a sharp and colorful transfer, now and then you get some of the draw backs of a film shot on digital but for the most part is a great transfer.

The Mandarin DTS-HD audio track is a lively one, all the punches and kicks have a nice punch (no pun intended) to it. The English subtitled are properly translated and easy to read.

For extra's... we only get a teaser trailer. Would have loved a making of and or a commentary since this was passion project of Song's.

This flick definitely deserves a rental, the cliche plot and silly flashbacks keep this from being a must buy. But the action is good and plentiful. RENT IT!

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