Star Runner (2003)

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 02/23/2007

Star Runner (re-titled to The Kumite for its' recent US DVD release) is the starring debut for Vaness Wu, a singer in the popular Taiwanese pop group F4. If the results here are any indication of his acting talent, then it's probably for the best that he hasn't returned much to the big screen in the years since Star Runner's 2003 release.

Wu plays Bond, a troubled student whose only solace is his father's (Gordon Liu) kickboxing gym. Bond wants to get into the "Star Runner" tournament, both to fight the current champion, Tank (Andy On), and to impress his pretty new teacher, Kim (played by Korean star Kim Huyn Joo). After pops refuses to sponsor him in the tournament, Bond turns to a disgraced fighter named Bullshit Bill to give him the training he needs to take on Tank.

Well, sure, the plot's nothing much, except perhaps for the creepiness factor that a love story is built around a teacher and a student. But then, these sorts of movies don't necessarily need a heavy (or even coherent) story. Star Runner's big problem is that it tries to take itself way too seriously, and its' starring actors are simply not up to the task of holding up the picture via their performances.

While its' not the worst acting this reviewer has ever seen -- that particular "honor" currently goes to "American Idol" reject William Hung in Where is Mama's Boy? -- both Vaness Wu and Kim Huyn Joo are in dire need of help if they ever want to be taken seriously as actors. There are times it seems like the two are reading off of cue cards ala the Michael Wong school of acting.

The film-makers try to give the matters more weight with appearances by veteran stars like Ti Lung and David Chiang. But with so many un-necessary sub-plots and slow-moving exposition scenes already being thrown at the viewer, the luster of their roles becomes dim, as it becomes more of an obvious cameo rather than a real role.

However, there are a few elements which save Star Runner from becoming a total B-movie heap. The movie does look very nice. Even though the movie obviously didn't have much of a budget to work with, the set design is well-done and the film is shot and edited together very well.

The fights (which were directed by Chin Kar-Lok, who also has a small role in the movie) as you might expect the best part of the movie. In fact, they almost totally save it. That is, until the final confrontation between Bond and Tank.

A note to film-makers: when you're staging a climatic final fight, do not have the combatants look deep into each other's eyes in slow motion while a ballad plays. It, just like a lot of other things in Star Runner, is just not right.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 09/18/2004
Summary: I agree with Mr Booth

Like he said they should of just concentrated on the love story, it's what makes this movie better than average. I was actually quite moved and like Mr Booth the action felt like a fill in though both parts would do poorly without each other (the drama and the action/storyline)

The action is nothing special. It was good to see all the old actors be in the one movie. Max Moks is excellent, i was really impressed by this performance.

Overall, not bad but nothing great, but the engaging love story makes it a little better than average


Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 07/05/2004

I was just going to dig out my review of XANDA and edit a few sentences, since the films have so much in common. To be fair though, Star Runner is quite a lot better than XANDA. Which is to say that it's not quite as unpleasant as having your fingernails torn off by a wild horse.

New rule: Hong Kong is not allowed to produce another modern day "tournament film" for the next 10 years

And they are never ever ever allowed to try to intertwine a love story and a tournament film again. Ever!

STAR RUNNER is really a film of two halves, neither of which mesh together at all and as such it's really just two half-developed films. I'm going to disagree with mejones and say that it's the *first* half of the film that almost works though, the love story between bad boy bond and really too gorgeous to be true... err, well, not Vanessa Wu as I thought whilst watching the film apparently Lucky I didn't get that tatooed on my body yet It's really not a great love story by any measure, being almost completely random as to why the two fall for each other and not really having any particular depth or purpose, but I did at least find the scenes somewhat enjoyable to watch, possibly because actress Kim Hyun Joo (I looked at the box ) is really very very attractive.

Whilst this is going on we get occasional information about Bond's desire to enter the "Star Runner" pan-asia martial arts tournament to test the kickboxing he's been learning from Gordon Liu, but at the last minute Gordon replaces him with some other guy, and he becomes very unhappy. Fortunately, alcoholic ex-boxer Max Mok decides he can help, and can even get him entered in the Star Runner tournament somehow, and can even get Ti Lung and a Catholic priest to teach him CHINESE KUNG FU! All of which will make his grandpa David Chiang very happy, if he ever wakes up, I'm sure.

Once the film decides it's had enough of the love story thing it shifts into full-on Rocky mode for the last half, and oh my god could they possibly have squeezed more cliche's into the film? It's so derivitive it's like watching left-overs from every boxing/tournament film ever made, and really the only possible purpose for its existence seems to be to bring a bunch of old martial arts stars out of retirement for a while.

Anyway, Bond learns kung fu in a couple of weeks, enters the tournaments, gets to the final against the nasty Tank (Andy On, who is vastly more charismatic as a tough bad guy than in the lead roles he's tried so far) and gets beaten down and... well, who cares if he comes back up by this point? The film has really lost any interest in telling a meaningful story by this point as far as I can tell, and it's just far too by-the-books.

But at least there's a lot of fighting, and some of it's alright, but again they've been overcome by the urge to use all sorts of close up cameras and snappy editing to make the scenes more "exciting". Not as disastrously as in Xanda, but still makes you wish they'd just glued the camera in a corner and concentrate on the fighters instead.

Anyway, the message of the story is... I don't have a clue, to be quite frank. Fighting is cool? Fighting is stupid? Korean girls are hot? Ti Lung can still kick ass at whatever age he is? (unlike David Chiang, who is confined to his bed for the whole film)

Sad to say, I wish they'd just concentrated on the love story, 'cause the fighting point was just so cliched and dumb it was redundant. It still wouldn't have been a good love story if they'd dropped the Rocky, but at least I wouldn't have felt compelled to watch it just in case

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: magic-8
Date: 05/14/2004
Summary: Aching for Bygone Days

Daniel Lee's "Star Runner" introduces Vanness Wu, playing Bond, as the next martial arts attraction. Kim Hyun-joo plays Bond's teacher, conflicted over her affair with a married man and her feelings for Bond. Bond dreams of being a martial arts champion and wants to compete in the upcoming Asian Martial Arts Tournament that will pit him against Andy On, playing the current champion, Tank, coached by Ken Lo.

The movie then goes through the young man with something to prove motif, as Bond trains for the tournament while romancing his teacher. He is rejected by his martial arts team coach, Gordon Liu, and turns to Max Mok as his new instructor. Max, in turn, seeks help from an old Wing Chun master, Ti Lung. Ti Lung has no spoken lines, but amazing screen presence that sucks you right in.

"Star Runner" is the current state of Hong Kong action films, with its predictable story and tepid acting by the leads. The cameos by veteran actors were more than welcome and a decision that propelled the film beyond it's standard plotline. The movie saves the action until the tournament, with some brutal fighting but lackluster choreography by Chin Kar Lok. Eye-catching but nothing special. Vanness Wu looks like a young Jet Li, with the same wooden delivery but lacking the physical finesse.

While "Star Runner" does stir up some emotions with the cameos by Ti Lung and Max Mok, it doesn't reach too far beyond its middling story. "Star Runner" serves as a mild diversion for those aching for the Hong Kong action cinema of bygone days.

Reviewed by: duxty
Date: 01/26/2004
Summary: worth the money

This movie overall is awesome. Directed by Daniel Lee, who did a great job by fully portraying what he was aiming for. If you thought this was some kind of chessy movie because it has a F4 member in it, well its not.

To Start a new life from a heartbreaking love, May Kim(Kim Hyun Ju) comes to HK as a Korean Lecturer. Bond, one of May's students, is a wild guy and enjoys free fight. With different cultural and social background, they begin in a hostile relationship but end up admiting each other and becoming lovers. Bonf always dreams of fighting with the untouchable idol Tank(Andy On). When his dream is going to come true, Kin's ex-boyfriend suddenly appears...

(Got it from the back of the box)

My summary for it is not all that great but the movie is fit for both sexes. Theirs action for the guys and a nice love story for the girls. Vanness Wu did a very good job playing his character. Little laughter but great action during the kick boxing scenes. "It's not about the losing or the winning, its the process that is the most important." "Respect your opponent." Nice moral and you can learn a little korean in it too.