East Meets West 2011 is an update in tone of Jeff Lau’s 1993 film Eagle Shooting Heroes, a classic comedy film that boasted a huge cast (many of whom were borrowed from Wong Kar-Wai’s Ashes of Time, which was running over budget and needed another film to be made with the core cast to balance the books!) and has become one of the mainstay comedy films due to the crazy and energetic feel to the picture. East Meets West 2011 takes inspiration from that, transports the reincarnated gods to modern day, and adds super hero trappings and some philosophical discussion into the mix. And though it isn’t non-stop zaniness, it is still a good time and is one of my favorite recent Hong Kong films.
While Eagle Shooting Heroes/Ashes of Time are largely based on Jin Yong’s Condor Heroes trilogy, East Meets West 2011 instead takes from another of Jin Yong’s wuxia works, Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils. The eight major characters known as the Eight Heavenly Dragons are based on the eight races of non-human entities described in Buddhist cosmology, called Tianlong Babu (天龍八部) the “8 kinds of beings that protect the Dharma” The Eight Races are the Deva, Nāga, Yaksha, Asura, Garuda, Kinnara, Gandharva and Mahoraga. Tianlong 天龍 means Heaven Dragon, but can also translate to deva-nāga “Devas and Nāgas”, the 2 highest categories of tianlong. The lower 6 categories are: yecha 夜叉 “Yaksha; cannibalistic devils; nature spirits”, gantapo 乾闥婆 “Gandharva; half-ghost music masters”, axiuluo 阿修羅 “Asura; evil and violent demigods”, jialouluo 迦樓羅 “Garuda; golden bird-like demons that eat dragons”, jinnaluo 緊那羅 “Kinnara; half-human half-bird celestial music masters”, maholuluojia 摩睺羅迦 “Mahoraga; earthly snake spirits”. And, yes, I ganked all that from Wikipedia.
Jeff Lau’s films are almost always crazy awesome, and he’s very good at bringing Western elements into his work. Lau’s films often look more advanced than their counterparts from the same year, and hold up much longer than normal. His vision can take the simplest tale and give it a grand scope. Even the title of East Meets West 2011 shows the clash of Western and Eastern styles, with the Eastern gods taking up Western super hero visuals in a modern Hong Kong, while still being connected to the ancient past and Jade Emperors and all that jazz. Even the music comes from both the West and East, with a remake of Happy Together used several times, as well as a redo of the James Bond theme (this might be one of the first times I’ve heard the score legitimately used in an overseas film, as I’ve been spending too much time watching old genre films that have been ripping it off wholesale), but also Karen Mok songs.
It is almost impossible to discuss parts of this without spoilers, so I am declaring this review SPOILER FILLED. Don’t come crying to me if you keep reading and everything is ruined.
Sammi (Karen Mok Man-Wai) – Sammi is the burnt out non-love-believer who spends her day doing effects makeup at a haunted house where her father works. But things change when she meets Charles and this whole being an immortal thing happens. Sammi transforms into Ashura. Karen Mok has never looked more glamorous than when she’s flying around in Heavenly Dragon mode. Karen Mok pulls off the awesomely beautiful super hero outfit, as well as the schoolgirl outfit, and the goth outfit, and the normal attire. See Karen Mok in Task Force and Haunted Office.
Kenny Bee (Kenny Bee) – Kenny Bee plays Kenny Bee as Kenny Bee. And his involvement in his former band the Wynners is a plot point. He’s Sammi’s dad and is married to Scarlet. Kenny transforms into Naga.
Wen (William So Wing-Hong) – Wen is a super cabbie who wants to be actor, and spends the film trying to convince people of his acting skills and critiquing other actors. Wen transforms into Garuda.
Jade (Tan Wei-Wei) – A wannabe singer from an affluent family, Jade has an antagonistic relationship with her abusive and philandering father, and is often seen covered with soot. Jade transforms into Deva. Tan Wei-Wei is a singer who gained fame winning a televised singing competition.
Bing (Jaycee Chan Cho-Ming) – Bing transforms into Mahiraga, whose randomly determined form appears as deformed heroes from Hong Kong cinema: a one armed swordsman, someone from the Buddha’s Fist movies with a giant leg, and a hopping vampire. Jaycee Chan is also in Tracing Shadow.
Scarlet (Crystal Huang Yi) – Scarlet is a half crazy, fashioned obsessed spoiled young bride of Kenny, who was a classmate of his daughter Sammi. The two women have an antagonistic relationship because of this. Scarlet often is wearing different expensive and elaborate fashions. Scarlet transforms into Gandharva. Huang Yi is also in Treasure Inn.
Da Xiong (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) – A mute bun maker perpetually covered in flour. His wife has left him and his son, Xiaofang. Da Xiong transforms into Kinnara. Ekin Cheng is also in Future Cops.
Charles (Eason Chan Yik-Shun) – Charles is a ruthless hairdresser turned businessman. Can anyone melt his heart of stone? Charles transforms into Yaksha. His ever-present secretary is played by Stephy Tang Lai-Yan (All’s Well Ends Well 2011 and Nobody’s Perfect)
They’re cops from the future, FUTURE COPS! Actually, these future cops look a lot like characters from Street Fighter 2, because they are! This is a film loosely based on the manga adaptation of Street Fighter, and great liberties were taken with some of the characters and the story. Granted, this is a Wong Jing film (writer of Naked Weapon, director of My Kung Fu Sweetheart) so it will be pretty silly regardless. Street Fighter characters would return again in Wong Jing’s City Hunter, based on a different manga and starring Jackie Chan, who becomes Chun Li at one point there. For this encounter, I went to help from others to organize just who is who in the movie, as I was not a big player of Street Fighter games. Mortal Kombat, yes. So besides a vague knowledge that some creepy guys are obsessed with Chun Li and her high kicks in skirts, I knew little to nothing about the characters before beginning. Thanks to my girlfriend and Wikipedia, I was able to piece together most of the characters. Wong Jing took many liberties, including changing most of the names, flipping people from hero to villain and vice versa, and throwing in a few random things just because he’s Wong Jing. There is also a parade of famous Hong Kong celebrities, too many to list in this paragraph, we will deal with them in the lengthy Roll Call section. This would be like taking the Oceans 11 casts and putting them in a Super Smash Brothers movie. Future Cops is full of wild action, crazy stunts, and zany antics. And it is a whole lot of fun! So sit right back and prepare, this video game don’t need extra quarters or furious button smashing, it is on autopilot!
The Future Cops:
Broom Man (Jacky Cheung Hok-Yau) – Broom Man is the representation of the character Guile. Called Kwan-lo in the film, he is actually used as a broom in the movie, and he goes undercover as a teacher, wooing one of his students. Broom Man gets the music video that spontaneously happens in the middle of the film. Special weapon/move is Crescent Knife. Jacky Cheung has been a popular pop singer in Hong Kong for over twenty years now, a rare feat to last that long. One of the Four Heavenly Kings.
Ti Man (Andy Lau Tak-Wah) – Ti Man (or Ti-Men) is the representation of the character known as Vega in the US and Balrog in Japan. In the video game storyline he is a villain, but in the world of Future Cops he is a hero. Takes Chun Li on a date, and into a video game. His metal claws and mask makes him look like some sort of Wolverine/Phantom of the Opera hybrid. Nice trivia for Andy Lau: he used to wash my girlfriend’s mom’s hair when he was a young hairdresser before he became famous. One of the Four Heavenly Kings.
Ah Song (Simon Yam Tat-Wah) – Ah Song is the representation of the character known as Dhalsim. His people are called Sa Ah Men in the film. Has fantastic stretchy powers, and overacts with the Indian guru-ness. Simon Yam is usually an action star, and often costars with Chingmy Yau.
Lung (Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing) – Lung is the representation of the character known as Ryu, he stays behind in 2043 during the mission because the Captain married his sister. Therefore, he’s not in the film much. His Special weapon/move is marrying relatives of important people. Aaron Kwok was a big pop star in Hong Kong in the 90’s, his popularity had dwindled for much of the new millennium but seems to be hitting an upswing recently. There was a scandal about a “sex tape” that someone tried to blackmail him with, he won the case and the tape is sealed, supposedly it is just him touching a girl’s thighs, but you never know. One of the Four Heavenly Kings.
The villains (Future Rascals):
General (Ken Lo Wai-Kwong) – is the representation of the character known as M. Bison in the US and Vega in Japan. He is the super evil leader of the Future Rascals, and his trial is set to be judged by Yu Ti Hung, sparking the rest of the Future Rascals to go back into the past to find Yu Ti Hung and hypnotize him to let General go. Eventually escapes and goes back into the past as well, only to be defeated by the combined Future Cops team. Speaks without moving his mouth. special weapon/move is Flaming Bison. Is a robot, and is nuked. Ken Lo was in Rush Hour.
Kent (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) – is the representation of the character known as Ken, he is the most honorable of the Future Rascals. Armed with rejuvenate serum, and special weapon/move is Swaying Fist. Ekin Cheng is in most of the Young and Dangerous films, as well as Protégé de la Rose Noire.
Thai King (Billy Chow Bei-Lei) – is the representation of the character known as Sagat. Has an eyepatch and a goatee, which all evil people have. Billy Chow is probably best known here for Fist of Legend with Jet Li.
Toyoda (William Tuan Wai Lun) – is the representation of the character known as E. Honda. I hope you caught the automotive joke. He doesn’t say or do much in the film, probably because the actor isn’t a Hong Kong superstar. In fact, I’m not 100% positive I have the actor right!
The People of 1993:
Chun Li (Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching) – Chun Li is Tai Hung’s sister, who is popular with the boys, so many that they are constantly hounding her. Special move is the whirlwind kick. Chun Li is the character all the guys play, then hit pause while she does high kicks and rotate the camera trying to get a panty shot. Chingmy Yau was a big star in the early 1990s, as she dated Wong Jing she was in many of his films, most notably Naked Killer, but hasn’t done that much since she got married to a businessman.
Chun Tai Hung/Yu Ti Hung (Dicky Cheung Wai-Kin) – Age 28 but still in school. Will become the famous judge Yu Ti Hung that the Future Rascals are looking for. Befriends the Future Cops. Becomes Akuma (Gouki in Japan), but called Ng Hung by Toyoda, and says he is Ng Kwan Yu in response. I have no idea. Dicky Cheung was a low paid movie actor until he starred in a Journey to the West TV series as Monkey King and became super-famous. He then went to Taiwan to do more TV series, which he continues to this day both there and back in Hong Kong.
Choy-Nei (Charlie Yeung Choi-Nei) – The love interest for Tai Hung. A big star in Hong Kong in the mid-90s, Charlie Yeung was previously seen here in Task Force. She retired in 1997, but went back to show business in 2004, starring in New Police Story and other films.
Kei-On (Andy Hui Chi-On) – The local school bully, with giant hair. His huge lock of hair will destroy all those who oppose him. Joins up with the Future Rascals to betray Tai Hung, only to be betrayed himself. Andy Hui is a hardworking singer who is only recently being recognized for his pop styling. One of the New Four Heavenly Kings.
Siu-Wai (Winnie Lau Siu-Wai) – Also known as Crab Angel, is Kei-On’s girl until stolen away by Broom Man. Future Cops seems to be Winnie Lau’s biggest movie roll.
Tai-Hung’s Mother Chun Tai (King-Tan Yuen) – Does the whirlwind kick like her daughter. King-Tan Yuen is in tons of films as supporting roles. Was also seen here in My Kung Fu Sweetheart and Haunted Office.
Uncle Richard Yu (Richard Ng Yiu-Hon) – Uncle Richard is Tai-Hung’s mom’s boyfriend. He can speak a few lines of English, which excites his girlfriend. (Actor Richard Yu knows more than a few lines.) He will become Green Wolf (Blanka.) Usually enters attacks while spinning in a Green Ball. His special move is Electrical discharge. Richard Ng is a famous comedian in Hong Kong who is semi-retired now.