Tag Archive: Pei-Pei Cheng


Mystery Road c

Review by C.J. Bunce

Interesting commonality can be found in the first seasons of two supernatural series, Starz’ 2020 supernatural series The Gloaming, set in Tasmania, and the old Australian town-based 2015 Netflix series Glitch, and a third series, the 2018 Australian outback Western Mystery Road, now streaming on Acorn.  Each of these series is anchored by police procedural stories led by male and female leads, and strong leads at that.  Each of these straightforward stories could be spliced into any time period, as components of countless cop shows.  But the real value of each series is the unique setting.  Like the unusual nature of filming a British cop show in the stark, remote north Great Britain in Shetland, here viewers are transported closer to the southern pole.  There viewers will find the commonality of a shared past with England, the common language, and the colonial history that forms an active wrench in the relationships between different peoples still today.  In Mystery Road, it’s illustrated by the obvious physical differences and characteristics of the loose cannon, cowboy hat-wearing, Western style (with Aussie flare), indigenous Detective Jay Swan, played by Aaron Pedersen (also co-star of The Gloaming) and the confident and wise older local cop, Emma James, played by twice Oscar-nominated actress Judy Davis (A Passage to Indie, Ratched, Impromptu). 

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Review by C.J. Bunce

From Hong Kong to the U.S. and Australia to Uganda, Australian director Serge Ou and writer Grady Hendrix track the scope of the Hong Kong kung fu movie industry and its pop culture influence on the world in the documentary Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks, now streaming this month on Netflix.  Splicing interviews with kung fu legends of the past with new discussions with martial artists and actors influenced by them, Ou offers up a surprisingly rich look at how and why kung fu movies gained an international following that continues to this day via Jackie Chan comedies, the Matrix movies (with a sequel due in theaters next year), and new television series like Wu Assassins and Iron Fist. 

Beneath what is in essence an overview of the genre is a smart mixture of social and cultural commentary on a global phenomenon centered on an artform mixing athleticism, dance, and grace.  Kung fu made its way to American audiences with Tom Laughlin in Billy Jack, and into millions of homes via the Kung Fu series.  This was paralleled by Bruce Lee movies and lesser films (they call them Bruce-sploitation) from China and U.S. studios, direct-to-video crotch-kicking and “squirrel-grabbing” action on VHS tapes in video stores, heroines leading the way as a sub-genre, eventually moving to black and inner city audiences embracing the culture, starting with martial artist and actor Jim Kelly (who co-starred with Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon), re-emerging later as an influence on hip hop music.  The genre got even bigger boosts with Jackie Chan heavy-stunt comedies, followed by The Matrix and the Academy Awards arrival of the genre with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Chinese co-productions with other nations, and actors of Chinese background in the mainstream outside of Asia would eventually come along.

Viewers meet (or revisit) early kung fu icons Cheng Pei-Pei and Sammo Hung in new interviews, along with Billy Banks, who would turn the genre into his own fortune via the creation of the Tae Bo workout, early American female kung fu star Cynthia Rothrock, martial artist Richard Norton, plus from the 21st century shows, Iron Fist actor Jessica Henwick, Wu Assassins actor JuJu Chan, Doctor Strange actor Scott Adkins, and Marvel stuntwoman and choreographer Amy Johnston, among others.  It’s all interspersed with great action sequences and other clips from more than 100 films.  A theme underscoring much of kung fu movie history is a distinct lack of safety standards, with more than one participant in the documentary stressing that Hong Kong kung fu movies couldn’t be made anywhere else for that reason.

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