Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wind Blast (2010)

Director: Gao Qunshu
Notable Cast: Duan Yihong, Xia Yu, Franchis Ng, Yu Nan, Li Zhang, and the awesome Jacky Wu

Isn't it ironic that a handful of the best westerns in the last ten years have been crafted by Asian countries? Perhaps its because some of the best westerns initially were made by Europeans. Either way, when Well Go USA announced the release of the Chinese kung fu western "Wind Blast" I was stoked. Kung fu? Western? Sounds like it might be a great fucking combination! Unfortunately, the film wasn't quite matching the high expectations I was holding for it, but fans of a modern western or looking for a rather unique action film experience should definitely tune in.

A down on his luck hitman (Xia Yu) finds himself between a rock and a hard place when a group of lawmen lead by Leopard (Duan Yihong) finally catch up to him to take him into custody. The harsh desert terrain of China is not a friendly place though and the lawmen with their newly acquired target are going to have to fend off two rogue assassins (Francis Ng and Yu Nan) who seem to be after the same target. The bullets rain down as the two formidable forces collide with intent to undermine the other.

This is the face that scares everyone at the shooting range. "You're getting too into it," they say. Pfft.
The idea of a kung fu western is so tempting for someone like me. A delicious combination of rogues, vengeance, honor, and a heaping dose of ass kicking...all elements of both of these genres. Yet, "Wind Blast" takes a rather bleak and serious tone for a good portion of the film. Really delving down into a rather simple story made overcomplicated by its storytelling process. There's plenty of great chemistry between characters and we get just enough insight into their back stories to keep us interested, but not enough to make us care despite some great moments of acting and execution. The film does grow on you, particularly by the time you piece together just what is happening and who is really who, and its very particular western style of feeling makes for a unique viewing experience. It's tough to follow at times and many characters feel a tad underdeveloped, but its still fairly effective at doing what it does best...replicating a western film.

Cliche western picture? Perhaps, but its fitting here.
This allows "Wind Blast" to really latch onto mixing modern action with western set pieces. They throw in a ton of western style details to the film with plenty of horseback chases, gun fights in the desert, and even a raid on a police complex at the end complete with stampede. It's fun to see how the modern style directing blends with the classic motifs and over the top stunt work while the film's relentless action set pieces (including a killer stylized shootout with a massive truck) really make for a wild ride.

If the script with a little stronger with character work in some of its unusual structure (it has like 2 or 3 faux endings) and added a little more kung fu, I would have loved this film even more. As is, it can be a little confusing on the first watch and we only get one great fist to cuffs kung fu throw down between Jacky Wu and Yu Nan (which was awesome). Otherwise, the film dedicates a strong vision to style and the western motifs that really worked for me. Not perfect by any means, but a unique and enjoyable watch.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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