Thursday, February 21, 2013

i SPY ASIASPY: The Black Falcon

The Black Falcon
Director: Takumi Furukawa
Year 1967

The Black Falcon is a fun and inventive Asiaspy flick brought to us by the always entertaining Shaw Brothers and the intrepid filmmaker, Takumi Furukawa. Steep in James Bond mimicry and splashed with a vibrant color palette, this engaging spy effort showcases enough action, romance, and wacky antics to satisfy anyone out there who happens to love this particular genre. With its charismatic lead and its string of strange characters, The Black Falcon is a tremendous second effort for the Shaw Brothers, which following in the footsteps of 1966's The Golden Buddha, comes off as a damn fine and ridiculously fun production.

The film follows the exploits of the secret nefarious agency known as Black Falcon, an illusive group which specializes in mayhem, murder and all things illegal. Frustrated that they can't seem to recover enough evidence to take the organization down, the Hong Kong authorities assign international spy Zhang Shijie to the case as he attempts to infiltrate their ranks by courting the daughter of the organization's leader in order to expose the group and their various activities. What follows is a wild ride into uncharted territory for our hero, as he comes to find out that the organization is in the midst of an internal takeover, sparking a bloody civil war within Black Falcon, which results in making Zhang's mission that much more perilous and unpredictable. Good luck buddy, you'll need it.

Paul Chang takes on the role of super agent Zhang Shijie, a Bond-esque spy who has all the right moves and doesn't mind showing off a bit. When it comes to charisma and style, Chang's got it down, as he injects a healthy dose of debonair driven confidence into his lively hero while staying sympathetic and genuinely entertaining. He fits the visual bill of a secret agent to perfection with his good looks and sure-headed disposition, and on top of that he pulls off the action portions of this espionage entry with splendid ease and a classy swagger. Of course if you're treading on James Bond territory, you have to infuse your agent with an insatiable appetite for women and Chang does just that as he woos multiple lovely ladies, often bedding them at random. It's safe to say that the greatest aspect of The Black Falcon is Paul Chang's enthusiastic portrayal as agent Zhang Shijie.

Accompanying and opposing Chang in this most dangerous of missions is Jenny Hu as Julie Tan and Margaret Tu Chuan as Hu Mei. Jenny Hu's character plays the love interest to agent Shijie and also the daughter to the leader of Black Falcon. Ambiguously performed and delightfully portrayed, Hu does a commendable job with the character, forcing us to ponder over her affiliations and intentions towards our dynamic hero. On the other side of the fence is the vivacious and highly venomous Chuan as Hu Mei, the top femme fatale of the Black Falcon organization. Commanding and vicious in nature, Hu Mei is a force to be reckoned with in this movie and Chuan effortlessly demands us to take notice of her sexy curves and deadly ways. With the combination of these two lovely ladies, The Black Falcon makes for a beautiful smorgasbord of eye-pleasing imagery.

When it comes to action, The Black Falcon has that department covered as well, as there are a number of pulse-pounding sequences and hard hitting moments that amp up the pace of the picture with tremendous fervor. From car chases, to gun fights, to hand to hand combat, this film has it all and it's all displayed in the most energetic of ways. One moment in particular features our spirited and determined spy trading blows with a gargantuan of a man, played by Siu Gam, who comes off as Hong Kong's answer to Richard Kiel's Jaws character. Explosive in execution and brutal to boot, the scene depicts a whirlwind of a fight which joyfully displays actor Paul Chang getting the living shit kicked out of him by his larger than life foe. The scene is just relentless as the two fighters savagely go toe to toe and blow for blow, and the end result of this extended fight scene is quite a spectacle and highlight of the movie.

Another great fight scene occurs directly after this battle, as agent Shijie takes to the streets in an effort to escape from a handful of Black Falcon thugs. Surrounded in an expansive courtyard, Shijie deals out a series of deathblows in an outstandingly choreographed fight sequence which expertly showcases the film's kinetic style and fun-filled embrace. The great thing about all of these engaging fight scenes, is that they are filmed in some of the most picturesque and exotic of locations. Unlike the Eurospy craze, Asiaspy films tended to stay close to home in their location hopping and in this feature the filmmakers decided to use the beautiful backdrops of both Hong Kong and Macau to represent the style and panache of the picture. Even with its lack of spacial and cultural variety, The Black Falcon uses the stellar venues, interesting characters, and energetic sequences to its advantage, weaving an intricate little spy tale that is anything but ordinary.

The Black Falcon is an ambitiously derived little gem that has all of the trappings of a Bond film, yet transposed into a culture and environment that is anything but familiar to 007 and company. Immersed in a plethora of wacky characters and equally zany situations, the film relies on the fun-factor of the James Bond franchise as it highlights all of the formulaic elements that we all know and love. In this most mirrored of concepts, the movie surprisingly takes on a life of its own as it blends its own style and substance into the trademark etchings of the cinematic espionage world.

Paul Chang is fantastic in the role of super agent Zhang Shijie, and his charismatic turn as the unstoppable spy is one of the film's most enduring qualities. Not only that, but The Black Falcon has another pair of assets in the form of Jenny Hu and Margaret Tu Chuan, who both bring a much needed feminine touch to the proceedings. As for action, suspense and espionage, this film is jam-packed as it goes from one sequence to the next, guiding us across its plethora of pleasing venues and picturesque locations. In the end, the feature aims to do one thing and one thing only, and that's to make a movie that is a whole hell of a lot of fun to watch. Mission complete. The Black Falcon is an.....

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