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The Wrath of Vajra - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Jin Gang Wang

China 2013


Law Wing-Cheong

Xing Yu
Steve Yoo Seung-jun
Zhang Yamei
Matt Mullins
Nam Hyun-Joon
Jiang Baocheng
Yasuaki Kurata
Hiroyuki Ikeuchi

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The Wrath of Vajra

Story: During World War II Japan has occupied most part of China, but the people's spirit hasn't been broken yet. This is supposed to be achieved with the help of the Hades cult that kidnaps children and trains them to be devout warriors. Schools all over China are then supposed to break the people's will at last. Daisuke Kurashige (Steve Yoo Seung-jun) is ordered by his master to rebuild the school and restore its former glory. For this prisoner's of war are brought into the school and have to fight for survival in countless battles that serve training purposes. Daisuke's former sworn brother K-29 (Xing Yu) managed to escape the school's walls when he was a child and since that day is a disciple of a shaolin temple. But when the children of his village are kidnapped and brought into the Hades temple K-29 visits his former school and, according to the cult's rules, fights his way up through the school's masters until he faces Daisuke as he wants to end the Hades cult's doings once and for all. At that time Eko (Zhang Yamei), the daughter of the cult's master, realizes as well that the gruesome deeds of the cult can't be tolerated any longer.

Review: Yes, you can still find it nowadays. Martial arts entertainment that isn't above doing without a proper story. Wait a second, something was just wrong about that sentence... Anyway, fans of the genre and in-your-face action will absolutely get their money's worth. Unfortunately, everything else surrounding the action in "The Wrath of Vajra" is soon forgotten. There are too many clichés made use of, the premise is too shallow, the western actors aren't that convincing and there are characters that clearly lack color. However, the fights hit the mark most of the time and accordingly carry the whole film. Sadly, this on its own doesn't constitute a really good movie, but as we all know this is the same old song that I most likely will have to sing in the future as well.

The Wrath of Vajra - Film Screenshot 11

Behind the premise, that soon turns out to be unspectacular and simply is a variation of the arena fight scenario, there could have been hiding more. There are constantly elements of a Jin Yong novel shimmering through. Thus, the character Crazy Monkey, played by dancer Nam "Popin" Hyeon-joon, surely is fun to watch and should have been fleshed out more. Moreover, the initial scenes at the shaolin temple are appealing, but the spark of the story surrounding two former blood brothers that now have to face each other in battle won't really ignite. The villain may long for his childhood days and wish his former buddy K-29 back at his side - an interesting idea -, but he still remains a coldblooded villain. There simply is a lot of stuff that doesn't match and that's the result of a badly written screenplay.

The Wrath of Vajra - Film Screenshot 12

Even the backbone story of a cult that wants to secure Japan's dominance in China during the Japanese occupation turns out to be very meager at a closer look. Furthermore, it lays the groundwork for some rather patriotic moments that shouldn't necessarily have found their way into the movie. The background story is also simply hinted at as is the case with so many aspects in "The Wrath of Vajra". Strangely enough there are too many irons in the fire as the screenplay never works on them in a satisfying manner. While the dialogues certainly don't count among the best of the genre they still aren't that fortune cookie-like as our beloved critic Kozo describes them. However, it is a lot worse when it comes to some of the supporting characters that become a real pain in the neck as things progress.

The little boy who actually can't do a thing except cry all of the time and therefore certainly is the shaolin temple's biggest disgrace can be overlooked in a way, but Eko who is watching the Hades temple's deeds as a reporter for a while already and only when K-29 turns up starts to realize that butchering prisoners in brutal fights might be a bit evil surely is the pinnacle of stupidity that the badly written screenplay has in store... Unfortunately, Xing Yu, who often played a supporting role in Donnie Yen flicks like "Ip Man" or "Flash Point", hasn't got the necessary acting talent or even the charisma to make up for that. Villain Steve Yoo Seung-jun ("Little Big Soldier") at least has an impressive physique, which makes it even the more odd that he refused to do military service in Korea and since that time isn't allowed to return into his home country. Apparently, he is a pacifist at heart, but luckily you couldn't tell from his tough punches.

The Wrath of Vajra - Film Screenshot 13

There was some effort put into the language aspect, though. The actors all have to switch between Chinese and Japanese and sometimes even English, which at least gives the historical timeframe some sort of fundament. Also, most of the fights manage to convince, especially thanks to them being shot in HD, although some slow-motion scenes maybe were one too many. Furthermore: A showdown in pouring rain? Really? That's so... 2000s! Or maybe even older. At least you can tell by looking at the pictures that with Law Wing-Cheong ("Punished") there wasn't a beginner behind the camera. But in the end you would have expected more substance and most of all a few more memorable scenes from the protégé of Johnnie To. "The Wrath of Vajra" isn't bad, particularly martial arts fans won't be disappointed, but a truely good film looks different.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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