From Ninja to North Korea: Espionage in Asian Film [PANEL]

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shinobi no mono otakon ninja spies cover

For those unable to attend our panel, here’s an online version of our presentation which was held in Panel Room 1 at 8:15pm – 9:15pm at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington DC on August 12, 2017.

Red Shadow – Directed by Hiroyuki Nakano, this 2001 film is about a group of 3 young friends trained as ninja; Red Blue, and the kunoichi Aska. In this clip we see the young trainees take part in their first mission and they come upon a typical stable of ninja obstacles but turned on their head in a parody of shinobi cinema. This scene stars Murakami Jun as Blue, Masanobu Ando as Red, and Kumiko Aso as Aska. Watch Clip Here

Mole Song – A 2013 comedy film directed by Takashi Miike based off of a manga. In short, the story deals with a police officer (Reiji) who works in a police box. He is fired for bad conduct but  instead of letting him go, he is used as a mole to bring down a Yakuza Don. The clip you are going to see is him interacting with the gang for the first time…… or is it? Watch Clip Here

Extraordinary Mission – A 2017 Chinese action crime drama directed by Alan Mack you have a police officer who’s undercover trying to track down a drug factory that is pouring drugs into China. Don’t want to give too much away so I would say check this one out for yourself. The plot and pacing of the film I thought was very good. Your bad guys are not bumbling idiots which I found very refreshing. The clip we are going to see is a bit complicated so bear with me as I explain a little bit. There’s one bad cop and one gangster who are both being accused by the drug  supplier of stealing money and drugs the undercover cop who works for the gangster stands by and watches as this interrogation unfolds. Watch Clip Here

This next sequence is a pair of clips from HK films starring Stephen Chow, Forbidden City Cop and From Beijing With Love. Two unique takes on James Bond spy parody, Forbidden City Cop is set in the past while Beijing is present day. Both scenes feature gadgets where in FCC Chow’s character, Ling Ling Fat, ostensibly 007, demonstrates his science and sense of invention while in Beijing Chow’s character is selling his gadgetry to Anita Yuen who perhaps isn’t willing to pay for his wares. Watch FCC Clip Here and Watch FBWL Clip Here

Spy Swordsman – 1964 Japanese film directed and written by Sadao Funadoko and starring Ose Koichi Is one of my favorite ninja versus Samurai films. We have a samurai (Shintaro) who inadvertently gets involved in a feud between the Iga and Koga clans while helping one of Iga Ninja’s who has been severely wounded and passes him a cryptic message which has something to do with overthrowing the Shogun. In his attempt to deliver the message, the Koga Ninja try to kill him at every possible moment along his journey. The clip we will see is one of those interactions. Watch Clip Here

My Lucky Star – A 2013 Chinese film, which is a sequel to the 2009 film Sophie’s Revenge, Stars Zhang Ziyi in the lead role and as co-producer. The Film is also known for having  directed Dinnie Gordon as the first American woman to direct a chinese-language film She’s directed episodes of 30 Rock & the office and the film Joe Dirt. Plot of the film Sophie (Zhang)I  goes on a trip to Singapore and runs into the man of her dreams David who happens to be a secret agent. Through a series of events she gets involved in his mission to retrieve a diamond known as The Lucky Star. In this clip we see Sophie going undercover as a dancer to find out from Li Wan (an arms dealer) who he sold the diamond to. Of course, nothing goes as planned. Watch Clip Here

Our next film is from Korean director Ryu Seung-wan, and his 2013 film The Berlin File. In this scene we see a North Korean operative, played by Ha Jung-woo, who is trying to protect his wife, played by Jeon Ji-hyun who is a translator at the North Korean embassy in Berlin. Finding themselves burned, they have to contend with this first assassination squad as you will see our clip. Watch Clip Here

Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers is a 2005 film from Satoshi Miki that features Juri Ueno as a bored housewife who inadvertently sees a flyer looking for ‘spies’ curious, she meets an older couple who agree to teach her about blending in, in this case how to order food at a restaurant. The film is a very dry but amusing film that maybe doesn’t really go anywhere. There aren’t that many films like this one at all so a little exposure for this gem of a film isn’t something I take lightly. Watch Clip Here

Winner Takes All – From 1982, a crime comedy film directed by Wong Jing. This is his third out of 101 films he has directed! And he has produced over 150 films so even if you don’t know his name you’ve definitely seen something he’s been involved with if you’re into Hong Kong film. There are way too many stars to mention from the Shaw Brothers Studio so I’m not even going to try to attempt to. The plot involves two detectives who are hired by a Japanese girl to find out how her father died and to see if her greedy uncle who stole the family’s fortune was involved. So they go undercover to find out the truth. The clip we’re going to see is quite a strange mix of things going on jewelry theft, jetpacks & kung fu. Enjoyable film and I’d recommend it. Watch Clip Here

Further viewing:

Shinobi no Mono series

The Suspect

Commitment

Nin x Nin

Ironfinger

Golden Buddha

Shiri

Shadow Warriors

Samurai Spy

Spy Girl

About Author

Long time film lover and occasional writer. I watch anything and everything though I have massive love for the works of Shunji Iwai, Jackie Chan, Johnnie To, and Kinji Fukasaku. POP! POP!

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