Posts tagged "Hong Kong"

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
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - November 6, 2018 at 6:58 am

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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
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 31, 2018 at 6:38 am

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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.

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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 2, 2018 at 7:14 am

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Goldbuster (Review)

Goldbuster

aka 妖鈴鈴 aka Yao Ling Ling
Goldbuster
2017
Written by Cha Muchun, Wong Yee-Hing, Zhou Yunhai
Directed by Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu

Goldbuster
Despite the movie being called Goldbuster, no ghosts are defeated by beating them with a gold bar. Sorry to disappoint. The directorial debut of comedian Sandra Ng tries to invoke the spirit of Hong Kong comedies past, and nearly succeeds with some good sequences and plot (and genre!) twists. It doesn’t quite come all the way together into a satisfying result, but there are enough bits of goodness floating around in the soup to give you some nice slurps.

The complete transformation of China in the past 20 years where cities are constantly churning out new high rises and modern developments haven’t been without a cost. There are plenty of scandals with land deals, holdout tenants, holdout owners, nail houses that are just build around and stripped of all amenities. Goldbuster jumps right into this with the last few tenants in an apartment building scheduled to be demolished refuse to leave.

The tenants include a widowed doctor who wishes that the ghost of his dead wife would appear so he could apologize for misdiagnosing her, and his young son who hasn’t spoken since she died. There is also a camgirl and failed actress who constantly wears bright outfits that stand out from the dull tones all around her. There are a pair of former Triads who have been hiding out from people trying to kill them for so long they’ve grown old and forgotten (and one believes he is some sort of deep cover cop), and there is a husband and wife who mismanaged their personal businesses and have nothing left. They’ve formed sort of a family by having nowhere else to go.
Goldbuster
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - March 30, 2018 at 7:25 am

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Chasing the Dragon (Review)

Chasing the Dragon

aka 追龍 aka Chui Lung aka Zeoi Lung
Chasing the Dragon
2017
Written and directed by Wong Jing and Jason Kwan Chi-Yiu
Chasing the Dragon
A stellar performance from Donnie Yen elevates Chasing the Dragon to being a film that Hong Kong fans need to see. Yen gets to stretch his acting muscles underneath some early ridiculous wigs, and is joined by Andy Lau, who also spends some time doing actual acting while taking bribes and consolidating power. Wong Jing proves he can still put out some good stuff, and every time he does it just makes his bad movies even worse. If Wong Jing was consistent, he’d be the greatest filmmaker of all time. But then he wouldn’t really be Wong Jing, so I guess this will do.

Despite a slow start that fumbles around before it gets focused, Chasing the Dragon becomes a pretty good crime drama. Yen plays Crippled Ho, who is based on real gangster Ng Sek-ho (his story was previously told in 1991’s To Be Number One, of which this is a sort of remake, though I’m confused on if it is an actual official remake or just similar.) Andy Lau plays his Lee Rock character from the Lee Rock series (which was based on real life corrupt policeman Lui Lok), which makes this one of those weird films that is a remake but also a reboot but also based on real life. You know, something very easy to classify!

Crippled Ho begins as an illegal immigrant from the mainland who turns to fighting with street gangs for easy cash, and soon catches the eye of up and coming policeman Lee Rock. Fate binds them together through series of ups and downs of both characters as they begin flexing their muscles in controlling the various criminal elements in a very corrupt Hong Kong. Lee Rock has learned that just being the honest cop sort of sucks when everyone else is on the take, while Crippled Ho is forced towards crime by the same system that keeps the Hong Kong people down, Mainlanders even below them, and the corrupt and brutal British on top.
Chasing the Dragon
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 31, 2017 at 7:06 am

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Our Time Will Come (Review)

Our Time Will Come

aka 明月幾時有
Our Time Will Come
2017
Written by Ho Kei-Ping
Directed by Ann Hui On-Wah

Our Time Will Come
Next up on the SFFilm Hong Kong series was Our Time Will Come, Ann Hui’s latest film about the resistance movement to Japanese occupation, specifically about real life characters in the Hong Kong area. Though events are fictionalized, they were real people. This era of history is fascinating and I’m always glad when more films come along that show more of the history of resisting Japanese occupation. Add in the fact that Ann Hui directed and this was a must-see for me!

Our Time Will Come begins with the rescue of hundreds of public intellectuals – scholars, actors, directors, poets – by the resistance movement. It weaves that into the recruitment of Fong Lan (Zhou Xun) into the movement by Blackie Lau (Eddie Peng Yu-Yen), a fighter notorious enough to have a large price on his head and brazen enough to attack a room full of people bragging that they will hunt him down.

Fong Lan lives with her mother, Fong Tze (Deannie Yip Tak-Han), who rents out rooms at a cheaper price, including two occupants who were a poet and his wife. They were part of the group being evacuated, and due to the Japanese closing in Blackie Lau asks Fong Lan to help them get to the boat. Fong Lan was a former teacher before the school was closed and the building turned into an administration office for the Japanese, her former boyfriend Kam-Wing (Wallace Huo Chien-Hua) still works there. They break up early in the film when he tries to impulsively propose but also claims to be leaving. Though he doesn’t leave, he does smuggle out information to the resistance army (while dealing with a Japanese intendant who threatens violence, such as to shoot him if he doesn’t come up with poems on the spot that use vocal tricks.)
Our Time Will Come
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Posted by Tars Tarkas - October 18, 2017 at 7:37 am

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