Into the Badlands and Flaying

Into the Badlands and Flaying

I've been watching the new AMC show Into the Badlands.  I came across this article explaining how choreographer Dee Dee Ku works.  He gave all the actors a crash course in martial arts, six hours a day for six weeks.  During that period he had everyone doing wire-work and acrobatics too.  He then started to choreograph for each actor based on their strengths and talents.  

The article explains that it would be a disaster if the show was just martial arts with bad acting, and equally bad if it was just good acting with terrible martial arts.  I wonder if it is occurring to anyone else that if you want to be in the movies these days, both acting and martial arts are a requirement. 

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Rigor Mortis

A review of the film Rigor Mortis (2013) "Geung si" (original title), Director: Juno Mak Writers: Lai-yin Leung (script), Philip Yung (script) Stars: Anthony Chan, Siu-Ho Chin, Fat Chung

I watched Rigor Mortis on the airplane on the way back from Boston last month. This film was dropped in my lap by a scholar I met at the conference named Sean Allen (His abstract is write at the top of this link).  He gave a wonderful presentation on Daoism in horror films.  Talking afterwards we had lots of ideas to share and I left with a list of films to see!  The next day he dropped Rigor Mortis in my lap, extracting a promise that I would review it.   

I think we can understand Rigor Mortis as an assertion of cultural archeology. My sense of traditional theater/opera going back 200 years or more, is that the horror-ghost-supernatural genre was very widespread, it may have even been the dominant genre. But like horror today, it isn't the art form that inspires a lot of literary intelligence. To the contrary, if it is written about at all it is often to say, "that was a scary waste of time." But some of us consider it the most creative genre in terms of costumes, props, music and sets, not to mention the most forgiving of bad acting.  The horror genre is the most willing to utilize improvisation and ultimately the most willing to risk offending concerned mothers, government officials, and just about everyone else. I suspect this was true in historic China as well.  

The makers of Rigor Mortis obviously had a broad knowledge of popular religion, as there are 100's of cultural artifacts in there, actually it would be fun to watch it again and count them. The whole thing can be framed as and example of the land of Millet dreams. The notion of a millet dream world is key to the cosmology of Chinese religion, it comes from a story first written down about 1500 years ago about a scholar who is struggling to start his career, he happens to meet an old Daoist in a café and falls asleep over his millet.  He dreams his whole life, apparently in real time, and then wakes up with his millet still warm.  You can read about it in this wonderful new complete and concise history of Chinese Literature  by Sabina Knight.

In the film, an old apartment building becomes the location of the millet dream, which doesn't actually involve any millet, they use stir-fry instead, and begins at the end of a career not the beginning.  It works well because the notion of another reality as a metaphor for where we are living our lives is ultimately and traditionally conceptualize spatially. That is, the unseen-world of ghosts, spirits, ancestors, gods, and demons is ever present, all around us, below us, above us, inside us, beside us, manoeuvring around in chaotic time tunnels. Like and old apartment building.

The basic tentative working hypotheses of Chinese exorcists when dealing with ghostly and demonic forces is that upright conduct has the capacity to lead to the complete resolution of chaotic forces.  On the other hand, sex, blood, pain, and other yin substances and actions tend to draw out chaotic forces and even feed them. Thus, in this film an exorcist has to walk this line between drawing out chaotic evil and resolving it.  He does this while managing another not-so-well-behaved exorcist who would like to harness some of that slimy red yin power.  There are some scary monsters and basically the whole thing is about the undead, conceptualized as conflicting emotions which live on fear, lust and pain, endless loops of suffering.  You know, a real family film.  

Rigor Mortis doesn't actually let us know for sure whether it is a dream world imposing itself on reality or whether reality is just an illusory aspect of a dream world. Thus it posits the basic traditional-- Zhuangzi is dreaming he is a butterfly, and the butterfly is dreaming he is  Zhuangzi-- Operatic framework of illusion vs. disillusion (See Sophie Volpp ).

At this moment in history this sort of illusion vs. disillusion art work strikes me as a comic attack on modernity and rationality.  Truth isn't knowable so it isn't that important, lighten up already, it's just fake blood and special effects!  When it is all over we can get back to the important work of friending and unfriending people on Facebook.   

At the Daoist Conference in Boston the issue was raised that in popular film there is often label confusion between tangki or other ritual experts and Daoshi (literally: Officails of the Dao).  I would suggest that this may actually reflect real anxiety about the difficulty lay people have in knowing which types of ritual experts to trust.  Popular culture, documented in written plays and more recently by anthropologists of village level ritual, sometimes portrays Daoshi as wild warriors and liminal exorcists with amoral magical powers.  As we learned at the conference, some groups of elite literati were comfortable using spirit writing to create new forms of Daoism.  I think we are headed toward more expansive definitions of Daoism which may include illiterate but theatrically intelligent forms of Daoism.

Still there is good reason for caution about changing our definitions of Daosim.  I hope the discussion continues to be framed by Clifford Gertz's ideas that we try to be a form of literature which is expert at relating what people say about themselves, and each other.

Anyway, it is a fun movie, plenty of crows blood, creepy rituals and powerful talisman--check it out!


The Natan Sharansky  definition of democracy is that you can go into a public square and say what ever you want without fear of violent retribution. He specifically pointed out that an election does not signify democracy if this basic right is not being met. That perspective led to the Phillips measure of democracy (that's me), namely that one can make a horror movie. Horror movies require the freedom to express ones greatest fears and the social networks capable of bringing together economic resources and expert skills. If it hasn't made a horror movie, it isn't a democracy. For great swaths of the world it is a decent measure. There are a few exceptions that prove the rule, in the early days of film technology, governments hadn't yet figured out that horror movies could be a threat so there are a few horror movies that got under the wire in the 20's and 30's. Then there is India which simply does not make horror movies (perhaps this is because images of horror are sacred in India?). The other big exception to the Phillips rule has been Hong Kong, which has made a lot of horror movies over the years.

Hong Kong was not a democracy, but under British rule the rights of self-defense, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to a lawyer, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances were pretty much intact. But now Hong Kong has been handed over to the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). So naturally I asked Sean Allen (who later gave me my copy of Rigor Mortis and who is an expert on Hyper Masculinity in Asian Horror), "Has Hong Kong made a horror movie since the PRC took over?" He answered that there was indeed a lull, for a few years the masters of horror were holding their breath, but in the last 3 years a number of very serious horror movies have been produced.

This is a real source of optimism for me. I am an American, I believe strongly in Democracy, but societies that protect basic contract rights, rights like self-defense, and freedom of speech can exist alongside democracies. I don't know what the future holds, but the PRC is allowing Hong Kong to make horror films and that is a reason to be optimistic. I now have a list of new horror films to see and review for my readers, as well as some older horror films that deal with Daoist priests.  There is no way of knowing whether or not we are in some sort of millet dream, but as long as the horror movies keep coming, I'll pretend that we are.


22/52 a Guessing Game

This is a silly post about being in Boulder, Colorado.  I'm sitting in a fancy café watching the end of the Tour De France, incidentally.  This café has marble tables and black leather seats.  Everyone here is in incredibly good shape, it is on a major bicycle route.  But Boulder is like this in general, people are in great physical condition.  

Anyway, there is a game people play in Boulder called 22/52.  Incidentally, I was pretending not to be listening into a conversation in another café when I learned about this game.  The rules are simple, you are hanging out with a friend and you see someone in the distance, you then say "22/52" and you both guess whether the person is closer in age to 22 or to 52.  If you guess differently the game is on.  As the chosen target gets closer it usually becomes obvious who won. You can play for push-ups, or beer, or just bragging rights.  

I'm not sure this game would work anywhere but in Boulder but if you have nothing better to do, you can play it all day here.  There really are that many "fit" people here.  

This makes me think about a concept my father invented called "Social Sorting" back in the late '80's or early '90's.  The idea is now popular with economists, especially when thinking about where people choose to live.  The idea is that people sort themselves out into different groups by looking first at a "flag" or a signal that tells a person they may want to join, second experiencing a "screen", which is some kind of measuring-up, assessment, or perhaps a necessary barrier, and third the "overflow,"  which weeds people out who for whatever reason don't fit in.

Anyway this all gave me a really cool idea for a Tai Chi video commercial.  Instead of 22/52 it would be called 42/72.  The camera would start way off in the distance (perhaps a few shots from a helicopter) watching someone doing Tai Chi (or Baguazhang or some other type of gongfu).  "42? or 72?" flashes on the screen, then the camera zooms in on this really old woman jumping around like a grasshopper.  It should repeat three times with different people in different location for variety.  At the end it can have some tag-line like, "Aging with power and grace:  The art of Tai Chi."


Boulder Colorado

I just moved to Boulder Colorado with my wife Sarah.  Many people have asked me why?  The answer has too many answers.  But I want a big change that will inspire me to do things differently.  

At the moment we are looking for housing, it is shockingly cheap compared to the San Francisco Bay Area.  This gives me hope that there will be enough of a population interested in dedicating lots of time to learning the arts.  I have no idea yet where I'm going to be teaching, but there is a lot of optimism floating around and plenty of spaces.  

Anyone who wants to help with connections or ideas would be welcome.  I'm searching for collaborators.  I love helping other people with their business or art projects and I love learning new stuff, and I particularly love trying experiments.  I also have experience teaching a wide range of stuff, all of which I'm happy to share:

Daoyin, two types: 1) Orthodox hermit floor practice, 2) circus animal yoga.  It can be taught as a classic yoga class, or as systematic enlightenment training (elixir or emptiness), or as games and puzzles, or for ground fighting and conditioning.

Improvisationally loaded fighting class games, with a nod toward tantric forms of enlightenment (see previous post!). 

My classic kids classes using drums gongs, and wood blocks to teach shaolin and daoyin as a creative performing art.

I want to try teaching an African martial arts strategies of conditioning class using drumming to teach fighing. 

Lectures: History, Daoism, Religion, Theater and Martial Arts.  

Tons of different Qigong systems.

Yiquan, for meditation, health or fighting.

Bagua, Tai Chi (three styles), Northern Shaolin, Lan Shou, Liuhexinyi, tumbling, dance.

Workshops:  This is a totally open thing, the idea being that any aspect of the arts can be modularized.


Note that I used the term "fighting" above which can mean a lot of different things from self-defense to games to professional uses of force strategies-- and all of them come with profound identity challenging discussions of morality and amorality.


I was at a wonderful party a few weeks back and a mathematician asked me if I'd ever heard of Long Tack Sam?  I was embarrassed to say that I had not.  There is some very interesting stuff on line if you search around, there is also a film, and if anyone knows how I can get to see it, please let me know.  He was a professional performer from that triangle around Shandong and southern Shanxi that was martial arts 24/7.  After the Boxer rebellion and the start of the Republic Era (1912) all sorts of obstacles were put in his path.  His group's specialty was tricks using the queue, which was banned under penalty of death!  He managed to escape to the United States and toured internationally and was a huge success.  Had he stayed in China I suspect his only real option for success would have been to teach martial arts or go into some completely unrelated field.  Anyway a very interesting case, there is also a bunch of stuff in the movie (I think) about how ashamed his descendants were of his performer caste origins.  


I also came across this short piece on a sword maker in Taiwan.  His story makes a great metaphor for a bunch of the cultural re-texturing that is going on right now.  He is making very high quality steel specifically designed for martial artists.  In order to tap into the authenticity of the ancients he is using an industrial process built on knowledge of engineering and metallurgy.  But there is also a strong handi-craft element, or what I like to call--be your own lumberjack-- his swords get an authenticity and a quality boost because they are partially hand made.  He polishes them for 2 years but the explanation of why is built around chemistry.  And on top of that he has some kind of dreaming practice and transmediumship or "channelling" relationship to the gods which he is reluctant to talk about but which is also framed as essential!  I love it.

Occam's Katana

this is a KatanaOccam's Katana is not the name of the book I'm working on, although it might make a good chapter title.  Occam, a rather clear thinking guy who lived in the 13th Century, is the name we give to the use of a mental razor blade used for cutting out all the unnecessary theories and mind farts that tend to get stuck to the facts.  It is often stated as, the simplest and most direct explanation is the one most likely to be true.

But of course that is not always true.  For situations where theories (or even ideologies or hysteria) have had a lot of opportunity to co-opt facts or even pound and shape them, a more hefty device might be necessary.  Thus Occam's Katana is the tool you want for these bigger jobs.  

this is reel to reel filmI once dated a French woman whose name was Super Chick.  She had a job, I kid you not, at the Museum of Modern Art as an expert on painting on film.  You know film, the stuff that goes from reel to reel in a movie theater.  Apparently some artists have thought it a good idea to paint with paint on top of pieces of film.  Not as animation mind you, but as very small paintings.  Anyway it's a thing.  With a history and stuff.  

She also had a full collection of Post Modern theory in her apartment.  At that time I had already read the major theorists and such, my father had interviewed a number of them for his radio show Social Thought, and afterward he gave me the books.  I had also read several when I studied with Angela Davis, and it was a big thing in both the anarchist and dance worlds I travelled in.  But Super Chick had more.  And she had read them in both languages.  In fact, she had the extraordinary distinction of having been a personal assistant to both Richard Rorty, the translator of many of the French Post Modern Philosophers, and the film maker John Waters!  You know, the guy you always see in Facebook images saying, "Do not have sex with people unless they have a lot of books!"  

So I borrowed a short stack, thinking I might as well take this opportunity to up my game.  She had meticulously underlined large sections of text in pencil.  The problem was, I couldn't figure out why.  When we talked about it she admitted (perhaps an influence from Richard Rorty) that none of these books actually had any intrinsic value in the realm of ideas, but that they had an aesthetic value.  That's what she was doing with the pencil, marking things that were aesthetically pleasing.  

At that time there were only a small number of Post Colonial Studies Theorists, James Clifford comes to mind, but my take on them is they are a combination of Post Modern Theory and Marxism.  Which is very funny if you think about it.

Anyway all this is to introduce a book I have not read yet, I have only read this review of it by Paul Bowmen, Stateless Subjects: Chinese Martial Arts Literature and Postcolonial History, by Petrus Liu

No doubt, to get through this you will need to sharpen up your Occam's Katana.

Here is what I got out of it.  The idea that martial arts can be learned from a secret manual is an idea associated with a society that privileges the written word.  And a great deal of the martial arts fiction of the last 400 years has had this idea built into it.  Therefore, wait for it..., martial arts fiction was written by the literati-- the elite gentry class.  This might not seem like much of a revelation, like duh right?  Like who else would have written it?  But there is so much ideology piled up around martial arts that it actually took Occam's Razor to cut us back to the obvious truth.  

But the implication of this last paragraph knocked my socks off.  If martial arts manuals were a common element of fiction, they were of course also a common element of theater, opera and popular culture.  We also know that secret manuals that confer immortality and various magical powers or curses are a mainstay of religious literature (also written by the literati).  

The reason this is so important is that it solves a minor problem I've been dueling with.  There are a handful of martial arts manuals produced in China between 1500 and 1900.  Some of them have enlightenment or talismanic content, but they all seem to point to a pure martial arts, a subject fully formed and distinct from theater, opera or religion.  As regular readers know, my working thesis is that martial arts was inseparable from theater and religion historically.  When the history of martial arts is laid out alongside religion and theater, Occam's Razor tells us they were all interrelated and physically integrated.  But how do I deal with this very small number of seemingly pure martial arts manuals?  

The answer is so simple I had been missing it.  These manuals were produced  to feed a kind of playful fantasy that the heroic martial arts of the theater existed in real life.  If the famous General Yue Fei, as portrayed in an opera, learned his martial awesomeness from a secret manual, then wouldn't a literati studying martial arts from a live-in actor (who was also his his lover-servant) want to produce a secret manual too? In fact, wouldn't that be a better way to explain how he learned the martial arts?  A literati probably wouldn't want to admit directly that he studied martial arts with an low caste actor, but if he learned it from a manual, that would be cool.  

In that sense, the very idea of a martial art that can be learned from a manual comes from the theater.  The idea that martial arts could be learned from a book has a post modern ring to it, it is actually a form of the theatre of the absurd.

As an aside, a large number of martial arts styles are said to have been learned via watching an animal, a monkey, a crane a rooster, etc...  Wouldn't that be a great way for a literati to avoid admitting they studied with an Opera trained Animal Role specialist?  

And both explanation fit perfectly with the so called "penny books," which were mini-martial arts books that appeared on commercial presses in the mid-1800's.  If you were an actor who wanted to become a martial arts teacher having a secret manual to share or sell would have been a perfect narrative to explain the origins of your training, or rather, to cover them up.  

This also explains why laymen encyclopedias of the 1500's have references to learning martial arts, the idea of having martial arts skill transmitted through a god, a stranger, or a family member was already well developed in the theater.  If you could watch it on the stage, why couldn't you hire a private tutor?


Wuxia - Film Review

Just saw an awesome new movie at the San Francisco International Film Festival by Peter Ho-Sun Chan, starring Donnie Yen titled Wuxia. A wuxia is a man or woman of extraordinary martial prowess. "Kungfu Hero" could have worked as a translation in a simpler time, but wuxia are generally capable of transcending conventional morality and their prowess can come from darker sources than just character and hard work. They tend to wander the lands of "rivers and lakes," the edges of society, the "bad lands," the wilds. And they often seem to take up a new name, wear a disguise, or impersonate an official. Sometimes they are loyal, sometimes they are cruel. They are chaos unleashed on civilization, at times tipping it out of balance, at other times putting things right. Their alliances, service, sworn brotherhoods, gangs, and grudges are of supreme consequence, the world teeters on their actions. Wuxia is actually a literary genre.
So now that we understand what wuxia is all about I can reveal the plot. No, no, that would spoil everything! All you need to know is that it takes place in 1917 and the lead bad guy has all the powers of one of the founders of the Boxer Rebellion. He is a super qijock, even metal blades can not puncture his qi egg! there is also a crazy smart guy who fights using acupuncture techniques!
The film has great costumes, sets, and props. That's important in a visceral movie like this one because you feel yourself inside their clothes, your grip on the handle of their swords, sweat on your brow, and acupuncture needle in your foot!

Warning: The acupuncture points used in this film are not only real, they are officially recognized legal causes of death!*

Seen as historical narrative, the film gives us a good sense of how a weak central government negotiated its position in relationship to gangs of toughs out in the provinces-- and by implication how important martial arts really were.

There are glimmers of religion visible here, obviously in the notions of chaos and order mentioned above, but also by showing the importance of lineage, decisions by family heads, the cult of scholarship, hints of ghostly presence, a seasonal martial display of opera generals, medicinal herbs, and the subtle image of hell on earth as a torture chamber where human flesh is consumed (and happens to be quite tasty, ha, ha, ha).

Total enjoyability aside, the film left me wondering about censorship.  It is not horror, that is clearly an illegal genre.  It is mostly a violent epic comedy, and as such fits well into the old Shaw Brothers Hong Kong legacy.  Perhaps it is a test of Hong Kong's right to make movies the way it used to?

Uggg!  IMBD is telling me that they plan to distribute this film in the USA under the title "Dragon." Why not just title it "Lame?" it makes about as much sense.

*note: (the wordpress plug-in Explanation Point Blocker tells me I've gone over my limit!!!)

Is Gina Carano a Feminist?

A number of new scholarly books on martial arts have come across my desk in the last month.  This field is in its infancy and I am exited to be part of the project of defining and inspiring it.  In that spirit, there is much in these works to praise, much to criticize, a yawn here and there, and a few things that need to be stopped dead in their tracks.

So this is the fourth of a series in which I will discuss individual essays within larger works.  The following essays are from a collection edited by Thomas A. Green and Joseph R. Svinth titled, Martial Arts in the Modern World (Praeger, 2003).


First order of business:  Is Gina Carano, the star of the new film Haywire, a feminist?  Gina has been a star of the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) World for the past several years, she is hot, and she is now a Hollywood action star who is capable of doing her own stunts and fight choreography.  We'll get back to that.

"Women's Boxing and Related Activities: Introducing Images and Meanings," is an essay by Jennifer Hargreaves that delves into the cultural nuances of women and fighting.  She does a good job of covering all the cases, begining with an excellent history of women in the ring actually knocking each other bloody for money, all the way to the porno version of boxing done by strippers.  Is it masculine? Is it feminine?  Is it a special case?  Are they champions? are they exploited fools? are they happy subordinates?  are they victims or makers of their own fate?  Some female boxers in every case love it, some hate it.  Some are in it for dominance, some for money, some for excitement, some do because they crave risk, some seek health, some do it to look beautiful, some do it and find peace.  Self image?  It's all over the map too.  Hargreaves attempts to apply every post-colonial, feminist, culturgina-caranoal criticism she can find to the actual situation and history of women's boxing.  The result?  Not a single theory is consistent with reality.

I have read way too much theory in my life.  My fear is that even though Hargreaves (and many others, Richard Rorty comes to mind) have the honesty after years of studying post-colonialism, feminism, and critical theory to acknowledge it is faulty--people have invested so much time and university money in it, that it will live on as a ghost, haunting us to our graves.  I hope not.

My Great Grandmother was a prominent suffragette in New York.  As my Grandmother explained it to me, "If there was something that boys were good at, I wanted to prove that I could be good at it too."  I stand with my Grandmother on this one, it is wrong to put obstacles in the way of women trying to do whatever it is they want to do just because of their gender.  In the end, that is the only feminist idea that has any merit.

As for the film Haywire in theaters at the moment, it is a parody of b-movies which are vehicles for an action star.  If you go to the late show, sneak in a six-pack of beer and talk during the talking parts, you'll freakin' love it!

Surprise - The World Has Discovered that Kungfu is Good for Film

The misconception that Kungfu at some point in the past was purely and exclusively a fighting art is so wide spread that the Wall Street Journal is reporting AS NEWS that Kungfu is actually good for actors, and film making.  The article suggests that the technology of Chinese Martial Arts is being adopted or adapted to fulfill an urgent need world wide!  That need?  Better action in the movies!  More action too!

Maybe I'll write a letter to the WSJ explaining that before 1900 the dominant form of entertainment in China was a form of performance theater that used Kungfu to train its actors.  Perhaps I could also explain that in the old days it was through theater that most people got their knowledge of history.  Or even that this form of theater was commonly called "Entertaining the Gods" because statues of the gods were carried out of the temples on palanquins and set up in front of the stage.  And that it was all a huge money making event, often times with seasonal markets popping up around the main event.  And if I really wanted to go out on a limb with this letter I could point out that this "experience" was probably the dominant form of public communal religious expression. Or maybe I'll just go out and get hot chocolate instead.

Do read the article, it's fun.  Since it mentions the new Shaolin movie, I do have a comment.  I wrote out a wild rant about that terrible movie a month or two ago which I decided not to post, for now anyway.  But I will say this.  Enough about foreigners stealing antiquities already!  White guys with big noses did not destroy Shaolin!  Not now, not then, not in any way shape or form. And I'm thinking Jackie Chan owes me an apology.  Why does the Official Chinese Government Movie Script Contortion Department think it can get away with this?

Oh never mind.  Here, clear your mind with this stimulating big of fun!

Formosa Mambo

IMG_2629Formosa Mambo is a new film written by Wang Chi-tsai which is showing as part of Taiwan Film Days, a festival which runs October 14-16th, 2011 at:

SF Film Society | New People Cinema
1746 Post Street, in San Francisco

This is a Gangster Drama about the making of a demon king. I say this not because there are any big hints of what is unseen in the spirit world of the film. The film is all earthly and secular.  It’s just that the film is difficult to give context to. It is about how a good man becomes bad in a universe of relative badness. Or I could say relative goodness. Everybody knows that the meaning of ethical decisions can change depending on perspective. The film suggests that ethics are driven by a person's social proximity to what ever harm he or she may be triggering (or perpetrating).  Thus we duel within our own tribe, we hunt and ambush outside of our tribe.

One of the attributes of religion is often an attempt to expand a groups' notion of tribe to cover some larger social body or institution; believe in our god, follow our precepts, marry one of us, and you become an insider.   On the other hand, a demon king is someone who expands the group of potential victims, while simultaneously enlarging the boundaries of the in-tribe.  So, if you follow the logic, instead of victimizing Taiwanese who we might know, let's jack up the Mainlanders!

Social networking and computers in general are an intense localizing force, as are things like McDonald's, Whole Foods, and Ikea. This feeds a strong desire for a more authentic local.   A huge number of products are now marketed as “feels local” or “localish.” Even Film festivals are in on this “local flavor for sale” movement.  I mean think about it, we are all so close together these days we are breathing down each others necks!  I have to be careful what I write on my blog lest I offend a German reader living in Taiwan that I’ve never met? Will we all be so socially close some day there will be no one left to cheat?

All of that is just to give context to the film.  No one actually uses the term "demon king," but I believe many people in Taiwan will recognize the idea.

Formosa Mambo is not about dance, but the sound track is pretty catchy.

The film juxtaposes two plots: Desperate, stupid kidnappers who want to be friends with the kid they steal, and a group of sophisticated sexy scammers who steal lots of money from vulnerable people using a combination of high and low tech strategies. The protagonist of the story starts out down on his luck and slowly transforms into a man willing to destroy peoples lives for profit.  Stealing and hurting people in Taiwan turns out to be too much for him because he feels a strong sense of social connection to other Taiwanese.  But low and behold, he realizes that these scams will work just as well on Mainlanders!  Problem solved!  That’s how it ends anyway. It’s a cute little film about a very serious subject in a chaotic cheek by cheek world.
Check it!