Mystery of Chessboxing

Forget Scream’s Ghost Face Killer. This is the movie that actually originated Ghostie, one of the all-time legendary kung fu antagonists (Mystery of Chessboxing also inspired Wu rapper’s Ghost Face Killah  moniker).

The plot couldn’t be any simpler: revenge. That’s the lighter fluid that fuels a thousand of these films.

Old, ruthless Ghost Face has killed Ah Pao’s father. And Ah Pao needs to go find the geezer with the monster eyebrows and the long wig that’s always threatening to come off his noggin. Problem is, Ah Pao doesn’t know kung fu and Ghost Face isn’t ready to be put out to retirement home pasture, as he’s kicked the ass of everyone else in this film. What to do? Find a kung fu school, of course!

Why? To pad running time with lengthy exercises, montages, and bits of feel the Qi jibber-jabber and everyone should be glad they did. At the first school, teachers and pupils alike torment poor AP, who is as low in the pecking order as you get without a janitor outfit and a mop. He has to bring them all bowls of rice, eventually, become such a proficient server that he’s the flare bartender of doling out rice, flipping plates over his head and behind his back and displaying such incredible dexterity that he’s…a star pupil shown everything the sensei knows?

Hardly.

Ah Pao is booted from the school, and ends up under the tutelage of a chess master, hence the film’s title. It’s there that he finally gets instruction necessary to beat the holy living tar out of the Ghost Faced Killer.

Their ultimate showdown is one for the ages, a throw-down of epic proportions.

Genre fans will get a kick out of (no pun intended) Siu Tin Yuen as a humble cook. He’s best known, of course, for his turns in Drunken Master and Story of Drunken Master.

[check out a full discussion of Mystery of Chessboxing on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]

Silent Rage

Usually, when there’s a gruff sheriff in town, he’s doin’ battle against cattle rustlers, restless natives, or rounding up a posse to exact revenge on stagecoach bandits. In Silent Rage, Chuck Norris (Sheriff Dan) seems to have wandered off the set of a Rory Calhoun movie and into a world of Re-Animator/The Brain that Wouldn’t Die.

Mental patient John Kirby is in standoff with police after axe-murdering his landlady. He’s pumped full of head and taken to a hospital, where twisted attending physicians fill his veins with an experimental serum, bringing him back from death’s door. Unfortunately for all concerned, a revivified Kirby is back to his evil ways, a near-unstoppable killing machine terrorizing Texas townsfolk. When will these weird syringe experimental serum developers ever learn their lesson?

Sheriff Dan, alongside reluctant and doughy Deputy Charlie (Stephen Furst of Animal House) team up to track down the psycho and take him out more permanently.

To pad the run-time, a noticeably relaxed Norris, hot on the heels of playing a Frisco narcotics cop (An Eye for an Eye) has to fight off dirtnik bikers who assail him in the local diner for ordering “hot tea.” He makes quick work of the 1%ers, with a bar biker beat-down worthy of A Bronx Tale. All the while, he’s reconciling with an ex (that staple of action films), romancing the paramour with whom he’d parted ways six years earlier (such is the allure of Chuck Norris, especially in protracted and extremely odd lovemaking hammock montages).

If you hadn’t already guessed, Silent Rage is a movie that doesn’t know what the heck it wants to be: biker exploitation or stalk-n-slash horror, as a near-dead antagonist is depleting the population of this already-small Texas burg.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. Chuck, the human meme-generator, is not one to be trifled with. And here, the fists and the feet fly, albeit not enough.

*** (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of Silent Rage on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]