The Brink (Review)

The Brink

aka 狂獸 aka Kuang Shou
The Brink
2017
Written by Lee Chun-Fai
Directed by Jonathan Li Tsz-Chun

The Brink
The Brink is a return to old school Hong Kong action complete with huge brutal fight sequences and piles of bodies. The hook is this film largely takes place on and under the water, with the final battle sprawling across a ship rolling in the waves of a massive typhoon. I can’t recall an action film with anywhere close to this many scenes that involve water, and the choreography takes advantage of all the rocking boats and waves and characters. The action scenes alone are fantastic enough to make this a recommendation, and the story and tone is perfect for those of us who grew up renting dodgy Hong Kong action VHS tapes long ago. In fact, it might be a bit too on the nose in that aspect, with some of the characterization not really translating well into a modern setting.

Jonathan Li Tsz-Chun makes his directorial debut here, having spent 15 years serving as an assistant director on a number of high-profile productions (Infernal Affairs III, Love Battlefield, Blind Detective) and now ready to make his own mark. The Brink is a strong debut with plenty of distinctive action that you won’t see anywhere else.

Police detective Sai Gau (John Zhang Jin) plays by his own violent rules, and has to live with the consequences of those rules when tossing a guy out a window causes the victim to land on a police cruiser and kill the patrolman inside. Despite being acquitted in the resulting investigation, Sai Gau still has a violent reputation and often taunts his boss as a pencil-pushing fake cop. Sai Gau is raising the daughter of the man he accidentally killed (played by Cecilia So Lai-Shan), and doing such an attentive job that she’s 18, pregnant, and alone. This leads to some awkward scenes that normally would provide some characterization, but here just seem to be characters sitting around in near-silence.
The Brink
Read more…

2 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Tars Tarkas - November 6, 2018 at 6:58 am

Categories: Movie Reviews   Tags: , , , , , , ,

Vampire Cleanup Department (Review)

Vampire Cleanup Department

aka 救殭清道夫 aka Gao Geung Jing Dou Fu
Vampire Cleanup Department
2017
Written by Yan Pak-Wing, Ho Wing-Hong, and Ashley Cheung Yin-Kei
Directed by Chiu Sin-Hang and Yan Pak-Wing

Vampire Cleanup Department
SFFilm had their annual Hong Kong Film Festival and due to the power of having two tickets leftover from the last festival I went to see two films in this festival! This time, all the films were at the fabulous Vogue Theater, which is a bit of a headache for me to get to but at least parking around there isn’t terrible (also a skunk sprayed my car as thanks for me stopping in time to not hit him as he ran across the road, lol!) While my car now stank, Vampire Cleanup Department did not, but it wasn’t a new paradigm in Hong Kong horror comedy, either. Unfortunately it is one of those middle of the road flicks that are hard to write about, due to me not wanting to slam it too hard due to the parts that were good, but not wanting to praise it to the heavens due to the parts that were bad. It’s sort of a modern take on the Mr. Vampire flicks, except imagine if the one-eyebrowed priest was employed by the Hong Kong government in a secret department. The squad takes down vampires when they pop up, and since this is a Hong Kong film they are of the hopping variety.

We follow Tim Cheung (BabyJohn Choi Hon-Yik) as he moves from hapless schlub to member of the Vampire Cleanup Department. It helps that he is the son of two former members who were killed while on duty, his mother’s last act was giving birth to him after a vampire attack. This makes him a legacy hire but also means he’s got some vampire immunity that is explained just well enough when needed for plot purposes. As the new guy he gets all the garbage details including cleaning up the office via constant sweeping and also memorizing and making the different vampire amulets (the strips of paper with writing on them that the priests put on vampire heads to freeze them or control them.) This framework lets them follow the traditional hero’s journey arc, except with some extra films stuffed along for the ride.
Vampire Cleanup Department
Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?
Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 31, 2018 at 6:38 am

Categories: Movie Reviews   Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A Surrogate’s Nightmare (Review)

A Surrogate’s Nightmare

A Surrogate's Nightmare
2017
Written by Darcy Meyers
Directed by Vic Sarin

A Surrogate's Nightmare
A Surrogate’s Nightmare tries, but it can’t escape the fact that it is just pedestrian fare for Lifetime Channel. If you’ve spent decades watching the Lifetime Original Movies and the various twists and turns, you’ll be ahead of the curve here. There are lots of secrets that characters keep alluding too even though some of them seem pretty obvious, most of them don’t get explained until we are near the end of the movie.
A Surrogate's Nightmare
Still, the film isn’t bad, there are good performances from the leads, it’s still a serviceable Lifetime movie. I think I’ve just been spoiled by all the exceptional Lifetime films that come out maybe 3-4 a year, and just need to return to the joy of fun drama movies that aren’t the kind you tell people about later and they don’t believe you. You got murder, mystery, someone carrying their sister’s child, a stalker, and drama drama drama.

Shelley’s mother killed by a mysterious stranger while screaming that she’s sorry the second the credits end. As this mother was earlier buying clothes for a grandbaby that Shelley (Emily Tennant) is unable to carry, this mom seemed like trouble from the beginning. To further continue that thread, Shelley has a much older estranged sister named Angela (Poppy Montgomery) who the mother rarely mentions. Angela is much more worldly than Shelley, she left their small town to be a writer in New York City and travel the world. There is obvious tension with the memories of their mother, and Angela is 15 years older than Shelley. Hmmm…
A Surrogate's Nightmare
Read more…

2 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 24, 2018 at 8:50 am

Categories: Movie Reviews   Tags: , , , , , ,

China Heat (Review)

China Heat

aka 中華警花 aka Zhong Hua Jing Hua aka 霸王花之中華警花
China Heat
1992
Written by William Cheung Kei, Goo Siu-Yin, and Naam Fung
Directed by William Cheung Kei and Yang Yang

China Heat

I stop watching The Office after Steve Carell leaves and suddenly Dwight Schrute is a mob boss!


China Heat gives us Girls with Guns, lots of people getting shot, kung fu battles, and an big injection of 80s-90s American cop movie, complete with the cop who doesn’t play by the rules. There are a lot of Western actors in this movie, but they don’t really ruin the movie, the ones depicted as smart let the women take the lead, while the ones depicted as dumb try to get in their way or are working for the other side. It all results in a weird hybrid movie, but also gives China Heat a nice, unique flavor that doesn’t get in the way of the action enjoyment.
China Heat

This takes private jet to a whole new level!


Madam Wu (Sibelle Hu Hui-Chung) is a tough as nails leader of an anti-drug task force that not only engages in major firefights across Asia, but she pilots a fighter jet between countries (!!!) Someone got permission to shoot on an airbase in Asia and took full advantage of the situation! Her squad is massive, which is good because so are the resources available to the drug cartels and smugglers they are chasing. Madam Wu’s biggest assistants are Mandy, Yolanda, and Geoffrey. They are after a squad of drug smugglers lead by Henry Hung, Henry has the amazing powers to be able to escape from gigantic shootouts as the only person from his side left alive. He uses one of those escapes to go to America, where the local mob bosses praise him and give him a special mob ring right before the police arrest him.

Madam Wu sends Mandy, Yolanda, and Geoffrey to go escort him for extradition, and the American police Chief assigns the cop who doesn’t play by the rules named Michael to help guard the prisoner. We all know Henry is going to escape, lots of people are going to get shot, Madam Wu is going to have to arrive to help sort things out, and Michael is going to get thrown off the case. The joy isn’t in the story, but in the action sequences. There are large shootouts, long fight sequences in an airliner, warehouses, construction zones, and a giant shipping crane over the water. The villains even stoop to sending a squad of guys in dresses to attack the women in the ladies restroom! China Heat is not afraid to have obvious dummies with exploding heads used in some of the fight scenes, and I salute them for it.

China Heat

When you’re lucky this movie was shot while McDonald’s still served the McJordan Special!


Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?
Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 16, 2018 at 6:16 am

Categories: Movie Reviews   Tags: , ,

Fighting Delinquents (Review)

Fighting Delinquents

aka くたばれ愚連隊 aka Kutabare Gurentai aka Go to Hell, Hoodlums!
Fighting Delinquents
1960
Screenplay by Iwao Yamazaki
Based on the novel by Kenzaburo Hara
Directed by Seijun Suzuki

Fighting Delinquents
Before Seijun Suzuki was making full-bore fever dreams, he was fully bored making B pictures, which lead to him beginning the creative flourishes that he became known for. While Fighting Delinquents is still early in his filmography, it is his first film in color and already shows hints of his use of color to set moods and scenes. Beyond his experiments, Fighting Delinquents isn’t really that special, outside of some goofy scenes and a conflict that spans generations, class, clans, modern Japan vs. old school Japan, and the meaning of family. That’s probably ascribing more than the story pulls off, but it is all there even if only parts of it are actually addressed.
Fighting Delinquents
The story is pretty straightforward, a lost heir is brought back into a clan on Awaji Island to help them stand against a crooked developer. He faces slack due to basically being raised as a street orphan in the city, the rougher personality clashing with the clan-based traditionalists he’s brought to, while his in grained sense of righteousness and justice puts him at odds with the developers. His mentor in the city who plucked him out of an orphanage to learn a trade (along with some other kids) is struck down in the opening scene by a drunken businessman, and we all know he’s going to end up being the businessman who is trying to take the clan’s land, so this isn’t even a spoiler. Sadao Matsudaira (Koji Wada) doesn’t take his crap then, when he tries to buy off the kids in mourning with a pittance offering. Nor does he take it lightly when he finds out who is responsible for his new family’s misery.
Fighting Delinquents
Read more…

2 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 9, 2018 at 6:35 am

Categories: Movie Reviews   Tags: , , , , , ,

A Hero Never Dies (Review)

A Hero Never Dies

aka 真心英雄 aka Chan Sam Ying Hung
A Hero Never Dies
1998
Written by Yau Nai-Hoi and Szeto Kam-Yuen
Directed by Johnnie To Kei-Fung

A Hero Never Dies
Johnnie To takes the heroic bloodshed genre and does a three card monte of deconstruction and chaos to make an entry that is a great example of all the genre’s tropes while simultaneously lampooning them and also pointing out how serious and sad they are in reality. It’s so over the top it wraps around back below and then swings back over the top again. At the time A Hero Never Dies came out, the John Woo movies that popularized it worldwide were over 20 years old, and while that turned things into overdrive, there was still plenty to mine out of the concept.

The two Triad fighters here are both introduced at the top of their game, but as they are from rival factions they know that one day they will be forced to face each other in battle. Until then, there is a mutual respect for the only other person who can approach you in quality and honor. The song Sukiyaki plays constantly, it is the theme of the heroes at the bar where they have a drinking and shooting showoff contest, and later when the heroes are in tragedy, the theme is a constant reminder of their former lives.
A Hero Never Dies
Lau Ching-Wan is Martin (Dealer/Healer), the larger than life killer with a cowboy hat with ridiculous gunslinger vibe. He borrows his look from so many films at once and spends many of the action films popping up to save the day for his crew. Leon Lai Ming is Jack (Three), the cool slick loner assassin character that spends much of his time being in quiet disapproval at how things are run badly by his boss. Both of them wear sunglasses constantly, often while indoors, and each is their own one man army. Martin’s girl is Fiona (Fiona Leung Ngai-Ling), who is experienced with being the girl of a Triad, while Jack’s girl Yoyo (Yoyo Mung Ka-Wai) is more naive with what the eventual end will be.

Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?
Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 2, 2018 at 7:14 am

Categories: Movie Reviews   Tags: , , , ,

Next Page »