What we have here is your basic made-for-German-TV Die Hard ripoff/kung-fu flick, with fight choreography by Hong Kong's fourth biggest superstar, Donnie Yen. Despite that less-than-encouraging description, this beyond-obscure little curio is actually pretty decent. It stars Mickey Hardt, a Swiss/Luxembourgian protégé of Yen's who looks like a gay underwear model but who actually has the skill, speed, and timing to keep up with Donnie's elaborate, ground-based (i.e., mostly wire-fu free) choreography. Hardt plays Josh (pronounced "Yosh") Engel, a.k.a. "The Puma," a real nice guy who runs a Tae Kwon Do studio with his kindly father. When he, his niece, and her puppy get locked in a Berlin mall just as it's taken over by terrorists, he has no choice but to kick and punch every last one of them until they fall down and don't get up. Hardt has the chops for the role (his kung-fu is about a thousand times better than Van Damme's), but he never comes across as particularly badass, a fact underscored by the film's full title: PumaWarrior With Heart. Helping him out in the acting department are a Rebecca DeMornay-lookalike cop (who excels in her own kung-fu scene early in the movie) and a nicely understated villain who cold-bloodedly ups the ante on the standard hostage-situation clichés. The flick's score and cinematography are television-quality (but not distractingly so) and the plot is strictly by-the-numbers, but that leaves more room for fighting, of which there is plenty. Every fight scene has its own distinct identity, encompassing varying environments (hallways, kitchens, multilevel concourses, etc.) and props, a Donnie Yen trademark. Yen also directed the fights, and it shows. While he occasionally opts for the close-up insert shots favored by Western directors trying their hand at kung-fu, he mostly uses wide angles (as wide as the standard 4:3 aspect ratio will allow, anyway) and lets the choreography play out in real time. His style is about halfway between the whimsicality of Jackie Chan and the dead-seriousness of Jet Li, and it fits the light-hearted tone of the film perfectly. This is not only the best kung-fu I've ever seen for TV, but some of the best I've ever seen in a non-Hong Kong production. If you can find this weird little gem (I discovered it in a porno shop in Midtown Manhattan on a Japanese import. Hey, don't judge me. Porno shops always have the best kung-fu), I strongly recommend checking it out. I mean, c'mon, it's a German kung-fu movie. How many of those are you going to see in your lifetime?
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