Tuesday, 28 August 2012

All Blog Activity Will Be Suspended Until Further Notice

I'm sorry to tell you this but all activity on the blog is to be suspended until further notice. Something rather important has come up and it looks like I will not be able to update and make posts for a few weeks. That means all reviews and other such articles I planned on posting will have to take a backseat but rest assured I will endeavor to keep you all updated.

Thank you for understanding.

Monday, 20 August 2012

5 Things To Love About Winner Takes All

Here are five reasons why you should love Wong Jing's extremely silly 1982 comedy Winner Takes All starring Patrick Tse and Wong Yu!

Number Five: Jet Pack Kung Fu

What's better then Kung Fu? How about Kung Fu while wearing Jet Packs! Oh yes, this is just a taste of some of the wild and crazy creativity Wong Jing displays throughout the film.

Number Four: Remote Control Body Suits

Another mental scene has Wong Yu and co-star Robert Mak don remote controlled electronic body suits that make Robert mimic Wong's every move. The set up and the subsequent pay off are worth seeing if you love slapstick comedy!

Number Three: Yo-Yo Fu

It's not all goofy slapstick and silly face-pulling. Winner Takes All features a few good bursts of action including a scene which has Wong Yu in Kwan Tak-Hing style Wong Fei-Hung garb and uses a yo-yo as an offensive weapon. Oh, forgot to mention, he fights ninjas in this scene. NINJAS!

Number Two: The Coolest Mofo In The Room

Patrick Tse makes like Roger Moore and plays a sly parody of himself as a almost Bond style jewel thief. His trademark glasses and signature smirk all come into play and you can tell ol' Patrick is having a whale of a time through out!

Number One: The Gambling Robot

looking like the bastard offspring of Robbie The Robot and a Dalek this ridiculous looking contraption plays against Patrick, Wong and Nat Chan in a silly hat for a deadly game of Mahjong. Despite the film being made in the early 80's this thing seems to have been stolen from the set of a 50's B-Movie.

There you have it, 5 Things To Love About Winner Takes All!

Murderer Pursues - 踩線 (1981)

First off I would like to apologize for the lateness of this review. You see, My copy of the new open world Hong Kong set action crime video game Sleeping Dogs arrived in the post two days before it's official release date here in the UK and it ended up eating a lot of my time and this review inevitably fell by the wayside as I found myself having too much fun shoving people's faces in AC units while my character was dressed as Jackie Chan from Rumble in the Bronx. However, I have taken time out of my hectic Hong Kong gangster life to finally get on the review of Murderer Pursues!

The film starts off in a Vietnamese internment camp in Mainland China where a small group of friends manage to escape and flee to Hong Kong in hopes of adopting a new life. The leader of the group Ah Shen (Danny Lee) takes some of his friends in with him as they adopt a life of crime. Meanwhile his brother Ah Chang (Ray Lui) tracks down his Uncle Su (Kent Cheng). Quickly Chang joins the police force and becomes an undercover detective who is put on the case of Ah Shen and the rest of his group who killed a man in a botched robbery. Before long the brother of the man they killed begins hunting them down one by one in order to have his revenge.

Like Danger Has Two Faces, Murderer Pursues has a story that I actually liked. The idea of personal identity and cultural background and how you integrate yourself in a foreign land are pretty heavy subjects to tackle. Especially in an early 80's Shaw Brothers production yet director and writer and one time Shaw contract player Wong Chung keeps things neatly in place for the entire run time and creates fairly believable characters that embody the isolation of how Vietnamese refugees suddenly find themselves in a place they're not all familiar with. Wong Chung doesn't fully go with it as much as I would have liked. The history of Vietnamese refugees finding their way into China and Hong Kong due to the ongoing conflict between the US and the Viet Cong is one I've never really explored and it interests me greatly to see how this sudden influx of foreign people and the affect they had on Chinese society was addressed in the medium of film during this era.

It seems this is something Wong wanted to really tap into and I get the feeling he was talked into throwing in some criminal elements at the behest of producer Mona Fong to try and make a film that was more bankable. This is really an educated guess but I don't think I'm too far from the truth. Beside the social elements we have, as I said lots of crime going on. Ah Chang is the righteous police officer looking to do the right thing. It's mentioned he's half Chinese and half Vietnamese which is why he's able to play to both side. It's also the primary reason he's given the case of tracking down his brother Shen and the rest of group. Which is odd as something like that would normally keep a person like Chang off the case but for the sake if cinematic story telling, it works.

Ah Shen and the rest of his group aren't really portrayed in a very sympathetic way. Danny Lee's cold demeanor makes him ideal in the role and he does have a very commanding presence. Despite the fact he doesn't actually say very much throughout the film. The rest of the group all have their own distinct personalities. Lung Tin-Sang is the more twitchy of the group and has a rather important scene with Ray's character which he points out that they will always be outsiders to the people of Hong Kong while Chang has become one of the city's many people at the cost of sacrificing his Vietnamese heritage. As I said, incredibly heavy stuff but Wong plays it just right here. Lam Shung-Ching is the hot-head with a slightly anarchic streak who wants to go out there and show Hong Kong they should be afraid of them, although he does have a hidden vulnerable side which you can tell he wants to show but is afraid. Finally Packman Wong is the more reserved, cautious member of the group who tends to watch how things unfold before acting.

You mix in Ray's character long with Kent Cheng's no nonsense senior cop and you've got a good mix of characters to play off and makes the story work all the more better. Also Wong Ching plays a bespectacled killer who doesn't have a whole lot to say except give a creepy smile and kill anyone he doesn't like. His performance was very chilling at some points.

Since this a heavy crime drama with serious social undertones you'd be right in thinking there isn't much in terms of action and what there is I really wouldn't call it action. There's a few brawls but there isn't much by way of choreography except the actors throwing themselves around and throwing a few punches and a couple kicks. There's a very hard hitting fight in the beginning when our characters are in the internment camp. They end up have a set to with another group. Everyone is knocking over furniture and using whatever it is they can get their hands on the inflict pain. Even going so far as to use some sharpened steel pipes. Danny uses one of those to great effect and it gives the brawl a very sudden and very brutal stop that makes it all the more shocking, at least from the characters' perspectives.

There's not much after that. There's some foot chases. A nicely done fight between Ray and Shung-Ching but when we enter the final reel we get a very dramatic confrontation between Danny's put upon Shen and Ching's grinning killer. I loved the way this played out. For me Hong Kong film makers seemed to have this incredible knack for creating tension and Wong Chung is no exception. It all takes place on a small series of rooftops but you wouldn't know as it's all masterfully shot and edited and creates a real sense of atmosphere. If you've seen your fair share of 80's HK crime pictures then you know how it'll end but I still loved it all the same.

Murderer Pursues is a very surprising film for me. I went into it not expecting much and what I ended up with is one of the more interesting crime films of the 1980's. With it's interesting approach the the social issues at the time backed by some good acting performances and nice bursts of tension and drama it's a film that's much more deserving of the reputation it seems to have among fans of Hong Kong cinema.

Don't be afraid to pick up the DVD which is easily available through DDDhouse. You might end up liking it just as much as I did.

Join me next time when I'll be taking a look at Brothers From The Walled City.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Danger Has Two Faces - 皇家大賊 (1985)

Shawgust kicks off with a bit of a bang this week in which I'll be talking about of Leung Kar-Yan's lesser known films Danger Has Two Faces!

Written and directed by Alex Cheung, Leung Kar-Yan plays Jin. A former cop turned pet store owner who moonlights as a hitman for a local mob boss. Things turn bad when the local police start an investigation into the murders committed by Jin who is desperate to leave it all behind and start somewhere new with his son.

I think I may have bitten off more then I can chew by choosing contemporary crime as my first theme for the inaugural Shawgust Month as these films tend to be completely devoid of martial arts action. Something which I concentrate very heavily on in my reviews but I do enjoy a challenge so I hope I can at least give you as much detailed thought on this film as I can. 

First things first. I liked the story in this one. It wasn't perfect but I did like how it played out. Alex Cheung does an okay job of keeping things in check. I do have to say that there are moments when it tries to be a lot more clever then it actually is but I do give him credit for actually putting some effort in trying to tell a good story. 80's Hong Kong Cinema is not really known for it's well thought out plots and three dimensional characters. Danger Has Two faces doesn't really stand out among the crowd when compared to some of the more well known films made during this time but as it is, the film's story does what it needs to and treats the characters well enough and allows some of the actors to carve out fairly decent performances all round.

I haven't any of Cheung's other works but I think after this I might feel the need to go out and get my hands on some of them as at least I'll know the films (hopefully) will competently made.

As I said before the acting is all round decent. Beardy gets to do the whole serious brooding thing which he found himself doing quiet a lot during the 1980's, he's very intense for the most part and plays Jin with conviction and determination. Even in the scenes he shares with his son are nicely played out and do make Jin to be a character of unfortunate circumstance. Something the character does comment on during the final act of the film. He's got a fairly good supporting cast behind him too. Bei Cheung plays his best friend and police detective investigating a robbery which Jing finds himself connected to after carrying out orders to bump off one of the robbers. I liked him, he didn't over act and he had some good scenes with Kar-Yan and a number of other actors. 

The stunningly gorgeous Carroll Gordon plays his girlfriend. Like pretty much any female supporting role in this film she tends to be a little bit annoying but she does show a bit of initiative when she decides to follow one of her boyfriend's colleagues suspected of being on the take by local mobsters. The sequence was backed by an annoying mid-80's HK pop song but I did like how she played it smart when it came to actually getting photographic evidence. Even if her choice of hiding places were questionable. Paul Chu Kong plays a rather devious police lieutenant but I thought he was too friendly looking to make a convincing bad guy but I'm guessing that was Cheung's point in casting him that way it makes it more shocking for the audience. There are a few other characters but one I only really wanted to mention was Kirk Wong. That's right. The director of Crime Story and Flash Future Kung Fu has a supporting role as a sleazy and hot-headed police detective and ends up being one of the more memorable characters in the film. It amazes me that Hong Kong had directors who also appeared as actors. Even in Hollywood now that's very much a rarity.

Given this is meant to be a modern day crime thriller there isn't much in terms of martial arts action. Everyone uses guns as their method of dealing out pain. Beardy uses a high-powered pistol which is reminiscent of one used by Charles Bronson in the Death Wish series. This lends credence to the fact Beardy does play as very Bronson-like character, dealing out justice through the barrel of the gun. Each bullet hit is accompanied by lots of bright red blood and even a few exploding limbs which I really liked as it gave it that slight over the top edge which fits the tone of the film very nicely. Sadly there isn't much action in it at all except for an opening shoot out in an MTR station and nothing much else until the final act of the film which shove in as much action as it can in it's remaining run time.

What starts off as a run and gun sequence through a forest turns into a vehicle chase which features some hilariously convenient obstacles and finally a big confrontation in a petrol container yard. I loved just how fast and insane the pacing of the last twenty or so minutes was. It seemed they must have been getting close to the end of the filming schedule and needed to get everything done quickly but this breakneck attitude does help raise the excitement factor and we end up with a very entertaining final reel.

One thing I would like to comment on is the music. There's a nice opening theme which I think I might end up ripping and putting onto my iphone as it has a nice, slow, understated tune to it which I really liked. There's also a few moments of the score which seem to be drawing inspiration from the likes of John Carpenter and Barry De Vorzon. Definitely one of the more memorable scores to an 80's Hong Kong film I've heard in a long time.

Despite not being much beloved among Hong Kong Cinema fans I for one really liked Danger Has Two Faces and will happily watch it again when the mood strikes. If you can find a copy of the DVD, which is out of print but there's still some copies floating around, then make sure you don't hesitate to pick it up as you'll be in for a very enjoyable 89 minutes of 80's Shaw crime goodness.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Born Invincible Giveaway Winner!

It's time to announce the winner of my Born Invincible Shirt Giveaway

The Winner Is....


Congratulations, Fernando. Your details will be forwarded to 36 STYLES and they will send you the shirt as soon as possible!

Thanks to everyone who entered. Be sure to keep checking back as the first review for SHAWGUST MONTH will be posted soon!