“I thought you lived by the law of the fist too, Armstrong, but you’re just a damn cherry!”
Justin’s rating: A new high score for Q*Bert!
Justin’s review: Imagine any movie setting you like. Now, add some kung fu to it. Doesn’t matter what setting it is, kung fu is going to make it way better! A romcom set in the fashion designing world? Better with kung fu. A two-hour eulogy for a beautiful actress wasting away from film cancer? If there’s a kung fu fight at the funeral, you know that’s what audiences will be talking about!
This is the general filmmaking philosophy behind Honor and Glory, a strange and yet charming martial arts movie that doesn’t feel it has to explain anything to you — including why everyone in this universe, from pimps to bank execs, know kung fu and aren’t afraid to get into fights at a second’s notice. It’s also pretty unique for the fact that it’s two leads are sisters in wildly different fields — Tracey Pride is an FBI agent, while sister Joyce is a TV news reporter — yet are pursuing the same goal.
And that goal is (pause for a very dramatic effect) JASON SLADE:
Armed with the most villainous name ever and a cutthroat attitude, Jason Slade growls, postures, flexes, fights, and speechifies his way through this movie, at times threatening to overtake the main characters in terms of screen time. I have no idea why the filmmakers thought they needed to give their bad guy so dang much coverage, but that’s just one of the many, many inexplicable things about Honor and Glory.
From the fragments of a confused and occluded plot, I deduced that Slade is some bank tycoon who is trying to procure a nuclear trigger to sell to an Arab for $3 billion. Tracey and Joyce know he’s a baddie and are trying to take him down, but they do so in the most roundabout way possible. Sometimes there are training scenes, sometimes there are sit-down dinners with negligent fathers, sometimes there are abrupt confrontations outside of Slade’s office. There’s also a guy named Jake who works for Slade as a bodyguard for a while until he quits and joins up with the sisters because he’s super-conflicted. Also, there’s a kid who is spying on all of this with a camcorder, a weasel of a pimp, a CIA guy coming off or going on a mission, a surrogate dad that I swear is named “Seafood,” and flirtation via chopsticks.
Seriously, none of this is pieced together well, and it’s not uncommon to be watching this movie feeling as if you missed vital plot points that should’ve been told to you earlier. Trust me, it’s not your fault.
I found it was much more enjoyable to go along with it and simply exist in the moment, because there are plenty of delightful moments here. As I said, the “kung fu at the drop of a hat” approach means that you literally never know when a pretty cool fight might break out, and everyone does give their all with crazy fast kicks, punches, and throws. It’s not often that you see kung fu sisters putting the smackdown on bad guys, and both of them exhibit some pretty amazing stuff.
Unfortunately, Honor and Glory has one of the most abrupt and unsatisfying endings I’ve seen to an action movie. I mean, when the movie spends 40% of its runtime to building up audience hatred against Jason Slade, you don’t end it by just wrapping him up in a tennis net. That’s for cartoon villains, this is a cartoonish villain. There’s a difference, and that difference means that this guy should’ve gotten his head kicked clean off three minutes before the end credits.