Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bloody Mafia (aka Red Mafia)

Director: Ca Sa Fa (Casanova Wong)
Starring: Ca Sa Fa
Ca Sa Fa (birth name, Kim Yong-Ho but better known around these parts as Casanova Wong as I'll be referring to him from this point on) has always been one of my favorite screen kickers. Many consider him second only to Hwang Jang Lee and I'd certaintly concur with that. There are times where I think he's even Hwang's equal. The Korean super kicker (and ex Marine) was featured in many a Hong Kong martial arts pic of the late 70s and early 80s where his amazing skills were put to good use (see The Master Strikes elsewhere in this blog). I was aware that he worked onscreen in his native South Korea as well, but was completely unaware of this nasty little number, Bloody Mafia until recently. It was to be his last screen appearance (to the best of my knowledge) and on top of that, he sat in the director's chair for this one as well.

Normally here is where I'd give you a brief rundown of the plot. Unfortunately, this is one of those films that came sans any kind of english friendly translation; no subs, no dub, nothin'; just raw Korean and unfortunately I don't speak the language. Your fearful er, fearless author here was going to press on regardless as it seemed a straightforward enough story UNTIL I came across an actual plot description from the website "Rare Kung Fu Movies" which I'll share here assuming (hoping) they don't mind;

"Kang-ho is a man who believes loyalty is the highest human virtue. He befriends Geo-ryong who takes him into the mob led by Chung Dong-nam. Kang-ho becomes an underworld celebrity when he infiltrates and destroys a powerful international drug cartel. Geo-ryong falls for Kang-ho's younger sister Hye-rim. Meanwhile, Kang-ho and Geo-ryong try to mentor Oh-bong who tries to leave the organization but the organization attacks him before they can take him under their wings. He narrowly escapes death and is moved by their friendship. When the two friends realize that Dong-nam has been using his men for his own gain, they are angered beyond words and decide to attack him on Geo-ryong and Hye-rim's engagement day. But tragedy befalls them when Geo-ryong is killed. The sight of Geo-ryong's body devastates everyone at the party. During the final confrontation between Kang-ho and Dong-nam, Oh-bong sacrifices his life to save Kang-ho. Kang-ho deals the final deadly blow to Dong-nam for Oh-bong and Geo-ryong."

Drawing inspiration from several gangster genres (the horse's head gag from The Godfather is recreated here using a pig's head... with intestines added for good measure), Wong's direction is ambitious. Perhaps too ambitious for the film's obvious miniscule budget.This tends to give off a level of cheesiness that seems to be at odds with the dead serious and sometimes melodramatic tone of the film. Adding to this are several long soft core sex scenes. I get it, it comes with the territory. But it felt like there was at least one too many and they each went on for several minutes. Even Wong himself has a randy sex scene with a nightclub singer and soon to be girlfriend... and eventual ex-girlfriend. True, he finally lives up to his Casanova moniker, but this isn't exactly the kind of "action" I want to see our director/star involved in. I want to see Casanova Wong, the boot master, not the booty master. Fortunately, there's plenty of the more traditional action as well as there are a half a dozen or so fights scenes (possibly more, I lost count) on display and they are nothing less than spectacular! These are probably the best fight scenes I have ever seen in a Korean production and that alone makes this film a must-see. Wong may be a bit older, but he shows no signs of aging as he and his co-stars (including one who fights with crutches!) all show amazing form and lightning fast speed combined with choreography that matches the best of that in Hong Kong movies of this vintage. Only some choppy editing takes away from it just a tad. There's also a fair amount of gore on display, particularly the gruesome moment where Wong chomps part of a rival's nose off!

I need to mention one particular moment that may have been the single cheesiest thing I have ever seen in a movie (let that set in for a second); Wong's introduction to his would be squeeze takes place in (appropriately) a nightclub. In the background, you can hear Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You playing and I at first assumed it was being used for mood music. But nooo, as the camera drew closer it became obvious that the nightclub singer herself was supposed to be singing this to Wong! Never mind that the song sounds like it's coming from another room rather than from her vocal chords and never mind that it was obvious she didn't know the english lyrics (I have no idea what she was actually singing)... The final effect was truly an out of body experience that nearly had me on the floor laughing. My goodness...

Did I mention that the plentiful fights are spectacular?

Rating: 5/10

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