October 19, 2006


Over the years, I've had to watch a lot of movies. A LOT of movies. Including many that I wouldn't give the time of day to unless someone was paying me to watch them. Below are shorter and longer reviews of some of the cheap flicks I've sat through from Hong Kong in the past. I love cheap movies and some of these have been a lot of fun (KILLERS FROM BEIJING) but some have been real dogs (X-COP GIRLS). Let my suffering be your purchasing guide. Enjoy.

Directed by: Cheung Bing-chan
Starring: Anthony Wong, Carrie Ng, Li Fei

In today's content-starved HK film industry with Anthony Wong available for the price of a good dinette set every half-coherent student film can secure a release. And they all star Anthony Wong: BARONESS, THE LEGENDARY TAI FEI, STORY OF PROSTITUTES. And X-COP GIRLS: the story of Anthony Wong and his hatchet-faced partner enjoying a series of meals and light snacks in Mainland China.

Joining them for this epic dining experience is Lily's friend, Ling, who invites her friend Wendy Wu (Carrie Ng - slumming) to their sit-down dinners. Wendy helps Anthony find his prey, Tong Hak, a smuggler of five and dime antiques who has been led into trouble because he told his subordinates not to smuggle counterfeit money in his chintzy teapots but they just won't listen! All of this is of ancillary interest to the main plot which involves eating. In the first 41 minutes Ling, Lily, Anthony, and Wendy put away 6 sit-down dinners and one snack.

Eventually the plot hoists itself up from the table and lumbers into action for three spiffy fights. Wendy Wu gathers her heavily armed yaya sisterhood for an assault on a cargo yard previously seen in an homage to the successful children's video, MAKE WAY FOR FORKLIFTS. Much of the action unfolds in a room loaded with cardboard boxes where Tong Hak endlessly quizzes his employee, John.

"John, when will we ship the stuff to Afghanistan?"
"John, are they at packaging shop or the container site?"
"The packaging shop."

Couple this with many, many cutaways to Tong Hak's henchies nudging each other and exchanging meaningful looks. What do they want? Do they have to go to the bathroom? We're never sure, but what cares have we for narrative in a movie this strange? Although the editor, Chang Kwok-kuen, does all the heavy lifting here, the movie seems to be suffering from a fatal mix up in which the good footage was sent to the incinerator and the trimmed ''junk'' was sent to the lab to be edited into a movie.

Directed by: Kong Yuek-shing
Starring: Anthony Wong, Cheung Yee-tung, Chan Chiu-chiu

This formless flick is an accidental art film split into two parts, an abstract relational drama where no one relates, and a slice-of-life junior triad picture with Anthony Wong at its loosely packed center. Three locations - a dance club where everyone is fevering, a streetside restaurant, and Jack's apartment - are used throughout. Jack has decided to pay his debts by pimping, under the guidance of "live and let live" Mike (Samuel Leung - el cheapo Sam Lee of the New Millennium) and his first girls are the interchangeable Coco and Bobo whose names don't even appear in the subtitles until the last fifteen minutes. The girls take to the hooker's life like ducks to water and follow Jack around his apartment like attention-starved cats trying to initiate group sex. Jack seems uninterested.

"The girls are goods," says Anthony Wong as Uncle Tony, a bike shop owning vulgarian introduced in a close-up crotch shot while picking at his own bulge. To him the triads are a service industry and he runs his like a corporate management specialist: paying Mike's debts, transferring him to Mongkok, dispensing advice and discussing social problems. He has a relationship of sorts with an older prostitute who hangs out at the dance club dispensing hardboiled aphorisms and listening to Wong's wooing words ("Lily, where did you buy my underwear?")

The assistant director of FALLEN ANGELS, Kong Yuek-shing films the apartment and the inevitable sex scenes (very few of these) like an Iron Maiden video aspiring to artistic impenetrability. But his sweltering street scenes of young guys in tight beefy-t's guzzling Thai iced coffee and trying to cool down in a sweltering Hong Kong heat wave while they pick at each other and manage their business has a nature documentary feel to them.

The strangest figures in the flick are Coco and Bobo who seem to reflect back what someone thinks they are. They service 20-30 customers a day and come away raring for more sex with Jack. They rarely eat, prowl his apartment in lingerie, and, most disconcertingly, call him "Daddy". Their final betrayal comes from nowhere and seems totally amoral which is the only novelty in this strange, perplexing, somewhat fascinating addition to the pimps and chickens genre.

Directed by: Chin Man-kei
Starring: Samuel Leung, Sophie Ngan

A greasy-food-fueled nightmare after watching KILLER SNAKES on late-night TV this is one of the dirtiest movies from Hong Kong in a long time. Samuel Leung (him again) plays a relentless masturbator who douses himself with baby oil and lives in grampy's herb shop. Grampy, in a perverse bit of logic, won't teach Sammy how to be an herb doctor because Sammy is too pervy for him. Which is weird when you think about it: "Grandson, you are worthless and I could teach you a useful trade but forget about it. You're worthless."

Eventually Gramps is killed by a POV camera shot and Sammy takes over the family business, getting his mitts into the forbidden medicine chest and using a combination of aphrodisiacs and poisons to take his revenge on a world that done wronged him.

A gooey, sweaty movie dripping with fluids this flick sports an agreeably sleazy tone for the first hour, like a glistening hamburger dropped in the dirt. The last half-hour is sadly traditional, but come on! It's worth sticking around for the ridiculous fake erection that Sam sports throughout half the running time. Poor guy. With a freakish appendage like that no wonder he's got problems.

Directed by: Soi Cheang
Starring: Poon Mei-kei, Chan Chin-pang, Cheung Tat-ming, Carrie Ng, Hui Siu-hung, Chan Kwok-bong

If ambition and good intentions counted for anything, DIAMOND HILL would be the best movie of 2000. With a cast consisting of Carrie Ng, Milkyway alums Maggie Poon (SPACKED OUT) and Hui Siu-hung, and comedian Alfred Cheung you won't find a movie with better actors doing better work than in this icy-fingered ghost story. Alfred Cheung Tat-ming does Oscar-worthy work, his home videos rivaling Takeshi Kaneshiro's FALLEN ANGELS tapes for poignant laughs. Carrie Ng plays a mother whose daughter may as well be another country; when they interact, Ng wears the tense expression of someone trying to understand complicated instructions in a foreign language. Maggie Poon is Carrie's daughter, whose entire life is a dark, strange ride and whose whisper can send chills down your spine.

The first urban gothic from Hong Kong, DIAMOND HILL is made with all the technical precision of THE SIXTH SENSE. Tremendously accomplished it spends so much time in flashbacks that eventually the present day seems more like a flash forward. The beauty of the film is its unexpectedness, and I would hate to ruin the experience for anyone so I'll limit my plot comments. In fact, I'll cut them out completely except to say that just when you figure out where this movie is going it cuts across lanes and veers off into the night leaving the image of Maggie Poon, legs pumping, racing down the middle of the nighttime streets in her school uniform imprinted on your retinas.

Upon its release, this movie barely made HK$7,000 and more's the pity. The VCD seems to have been filmed off a stained tv screen, but it features readable English and Chinese subs. The grotty VCD transfer ultimately aids its cause, creating a story barely seen out of the corner of your eye. DIAMOND HILL has its problems, so don't let my praise get your hopes up too high. It's ultimately a small movie, but it's about people who're defying logic, reason, biology, and every form of common sense to remake the world into somewhere they can live. That's certainly a taller order than TOKYO RAIDERS tried to fill.

As a note, director Soi Cheang has gone on to make HORROR HOTLINE...BIG HEAD MONSTER, HOME SWEET HOME and DOG BITE DOG. To my mind, however, DIAMOND HILL remains his best film.

Directed by: Leung Hung-wa
Starring: Michael Wong, Kathy Chau, Gabriel Harrison, Jason Chu

I had fun because somebody obviously loves this movie, most likely its writer/director/producer Leung Hung-wa (who also wrote and produced TAXI HUNTER. What does that say about a person when TAXI HUNTER is their career high?). Somehow, Leung managed to convince Kathy Chau to come back to the silver screen following a two year absence (Chau's last performance was in the terrific CHEAP KILLERS, and she probably had the good sense to quit while she was ahead). Not only that, but Leung managed to get Michael Wong (a Bad Movie Omen if there ever was one) AND Jason Chu (Y&D 1-5, STORMRIDERS, THE BLADE) to come onboard for this flick, as well. This guy must be one smooth talker, or one bad boy.

The plot follows five orphans with "powerful" names: WIND, DRAGON, and two others that I would guess are FIRE and MICHAEL EISNER, but I can't be sure. There's also Six Days (Kathy Chau) who comes out of prison after murdering a loan shark who murdered her dad (yes, it's one of those "righteous sociopath" movies). She hooks back up with her gang of orphans and they decide that they're going to get $8 million HK dollars by hassling people for a week. They take cabs and swipe the cabbie's wallets, they pick pockets and rob people placing bets at the Jockey Club, while a bad guitar riff plays. These kids are BAD to the BONE! One of them even has the audacity to wear a Bon Jovi shirt and then strut around town as if he owned it! And after Kathy Chau gets a few thousand from a business lady in a pink Chanel knock-off suit she bumps her head. She gets the money and SHE STILL BUMPS HER HEAD! Lock up your sons!

Michael Wong, meanwhile, plays Vodka - a cop who shot another cop while drunk. He and his boss have a beautiful scene, right out of the "Scenes for Young Actors Workbook" where his boss offers some desultory advice on going to court. Frankly, if he's going to defend himself against charges of drinking on the job I suggest he change that name. Kathy beds Michael (Ugh!) and we get to see how chunky he's gotten over the past couple of years. Method acting, or chocolate chip cookies?

The orphan kids also run afoul of a Falun Gong-esque cult called the Wanqui (pronounced "Wankey") Group that seems to be some kind of consciousness-raising seminar for Klansmen. One of the orphans kills the brother of the cult leader and the Wanq-ers get pretty miffed. This death is a cinematic first, as it represents the first time someone has been killed by a flashback. The guy gets beaten with a pipe, gets in his car, drives ten miles, talks to his brother, has a flashback to getting beaten with a pipe and then black goo squirts from the back of his head and he drops to the floor. Talk about your ninja death touch!

At this point, one is wondering who's dumber: the actors for being in this movie, or the characters in the movie for thinking they can raise $8 million is 6 days by being annoying. If you guessed the characters, you're right! They only raise one million in six days so to make up the rest they kidnap a millionaire, and while waiting for the ransom money to arrive they have a pool party at his house. Awesome! They smoke cigarettes, drink red wine, and talk with their mouths full. They're young. They're dangerous. Do I smell a franchise?

No. The whole movie ends with betrayal and a mass knifing using some of the longest kitchen knives known to man. I mean, these knives go in your back, protrude three inches out your front and into another person and then protrude out THEIR front as well.

The general ineptitude of the whole affair is magnificently entertaining: A GAME OF NO RULE, indeed, has no rules. This movie is produced by Bad Boy Film Culture, Ltd. and really tries hard to be edgy, daring different, and high octane. However, by the end, I felt as if I was being surrounded and menaced by a bunch of soft toys. Irritating? Yes. Scary? No. In fact, by the time I walked out of the theatre the scariest thing I could think of was being trapped in an apartment with these five intensely irritating actors. And as I'd already experienced the cinematic equivalent, and survived, I had no fear. In fact, I went into the nearest deli, and bought a bottle of water, using a dollar, two dimes, AND A CANADIAN NICKEL. With this five cent stake to start me I know that I can make my eight million in four days.

Directed by: Michael Wong
Starring: Michael Wong, Simon Loui, Moses Chan, Cecilia Yip

The greatest show on earth is watching a celebrity implode as they direct/produce/star in a vehicle with "special meaning"; disintegrating into black holes of hubris. But many of these projects start from a crumb of talent. Michael Fitzgerald Wong starts his dream project with none. God love him.

Playing Hong Kong detective, Miles Ma, Wong keeps trying to draw people into long, improvised scenes done in English. They are very frightened. Early on he traps fellow cop, CK (Moses Chan), in a meandering improv about work and who's going to fly his helicopter now that his wife is dead. Michael Wong might as well be talking about fish for dinner with all the emotion he puts into his voice. Moses Chan seems relieved when he leaves, although his later framing and attempted destruction of Miles could be because he's been driven insane by this kind of actory behavior.

The other main character, Miles' love interest, Janis Wong (Cecilia Yip), is left in the dust when Wong improvises a fight between the two of them, doing both voices, convinces himself that he's wrong, and storms off to a bar where he guzzles apple juice leaving Yip uttering a very confused "oh..." in his wake. Michael/Miles loves improvising and since he is the directer, producer, star and writer of this movie it's improvising he gets. When characters leave a scene Michael Wong looks wistfully after them. "I wish we could have improv-ed for longer," he seems to be thinking. And don't worry your pretty little heads: Michael is able to take on his production tasks with no discernible impact on his acting. He could've been "Special Assistant to Ms. Yip's Hair Stylist" and turn in the exact same desultory performance.

Plotwise, Miles Ma mostly spends his time reading the same article in a magazine over and over again, eventually venturing forth and cracking a pirate VCD ring. Driven insane by extended improv, CK frames Ma for the rape and attempted murder of a prostitute and the movie swiftly revolves around DNA evidence. Miles' partner, Tommy, hits the street to sniff out some clues, questioning a fruit vendor and a man getting off a bus. Neither of them know anything about DNA. Eventually the forces of good are defeated by the forces of evil and Michael Wong gets out of jail. One would think of this as a totally bad thing until one realizes there is no longer capital punishment in Hong Kong and at least out on the street Michael might get hit by a bus.

If one artifact from our civilization can be saved let's hope it's this one. While Jet Li is starring in FEARLESS and Jackie Chan is using RUSH HOUR 3 as a showcase the fact that Michael Wong's Hollywood calling card is MILES APART will prove to future generations that, yes, we did have a sense of humor.

Directed by: Vincent Wan and Lam Kin-lung
Starring: Vincent Wan and Carrie Ng (which is all you really need to know)

It's not just the white people...
Vincent Wan (Ben Hon of YOUNG & DANGEROUS fame) has his own white elephant: THE WARNING TIME, which he co-directed, wrote and starred in. An entry in the "just got outta jail" genre, THE WARNING TIME eschews the genre's obligatory docudrama approach, attacking its material from an oblique angle. It uses a gaggle of credit card scamming teens as the entrance ramp into Vincent Wan's life-on-ice angst, then abandons said teens once the Vincent Wan/Carrie Ng engine is purring, returning to them briefly for a downbeat epilogue.

The movie rapidly drops any pretense of exploring Wan's psyche when it smells blood: Carrie Ng. Which is fortunate because Carrie Ng is the only thing onscreen with a pulse. Predictably, she lays waste to all she comes in contact with. The teeny tiny teen actors lay in the wreckage of their own pitiable talent, wheels spinning, smoke billowing up when their scenes come into contact with hers.

Packed tight with more talent than it deserves (Vincent Wan; Carrie Ng; Roy Cheung and Tommy Wong as a pair of barstool muppets; Yu Rong-guang as Brother Sik who marries Carrie while Vincent's in the slammer and then inexplicably hires Vinnie as his driver) there's no hiding the low budget: cars blow up offscreen and when some production values appear (in the form of two coked-up ballroom dancers) the camera tends to give them more than enough time to strut their stuff. More than enough.

A randy soundtrack and some visual sass makes this a cut above standard bottom of the barrel cut rate fare, and the movie has long been a dream of Wan's. The VCD looks like it was filmed off a bus station TV which is too bad, because at times it's almost able to convince you that it's really worth watching.

Directed by: Tony Leung
Starring: Blackie Ko, Joey Meng, Anthony Wong, Michael Tse

Brick, Mo, and Blondie wanted to knock off the triads but they didn't count on Anthony Wong urinating on them. Then he upchucked on their shirts. Drooled a little, blew his nose, and starting throwing up again. A science project in putridity, running like a tap at both ends, Anthony Wong gets off the fast bus of his career to lend a little snot power to this quickie remake of Japan's GONIN.

RETURN TO DARK trades in Takashi Ishii's "any which way but straight" perversity for a fistful of action movie riffs. The Japanese influence on Hong Kong movies was bound to end this way: with all-out appropriation, and it's interesting that what the director chose to lose were the gay relationships, assuming that Hong Kongers may not be ready for dueling gay couples on opposite sides of a bag of money, smoking hogleg pistols in hand (although Clarence Fok's CHEAP KILLERS suggests otherwise).

Anthony and his mop-up boys trundle about for twenty minutes before remembering the plot and then they break into triad headquarters and find millions in the safe instead of the expected thousands. In their giddiness they forget all the rules of robbery (don't quit your job, don't flash the cash, and never brag about it) and bring down the wrath of triad enforcers, Blackie Ko and Joey Meng, two peroxide blonde lovebirds who do couples bathing in vats of red wine. My goodness! Ko is playing the Takeshi Kitano role from GONIN and acts circles around everyone else in the movie, although his entire face seems paralyzed. Which is most likely a totally tasteless impersonation of Takeshi Kitano's facial injury. Meng likes to collect sticks and sea shells and make them into picture frames (seriously - it says so in his online bio).

In a neat joke on its probable fate, the pic ends in a movie theatre showing the crampingly bad Michael Wong/Kathy Chau vehicle, A GAME OF NO RULE. There're five people in the audience and none of them are there to see RETURN TO DARK. They've probably already returned it to Blockbuster.

TAKE TOP (2000) VCD TAKE TOP (2000)
Directed by: Ng Doi-yung
Starring: Tommy Wong, Vincent Wan, Samuel Leung, Anthony Wong

With Tommy Wong, Vincent Wan and Samuel Leung in the cast and Anthony Wong playing a stoned pot of simmering evil this is MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, triad style. A gambling ship provides the backdrop for this slasher flick/triad drama that plays out like a bad dream with a weird, loopy logic all its own.

Saying more would ruin what plot there is, but one has to admit that seeing TAKE TOP is a unique experience. You don't keep watching because it's good, but because you have no clue as to what's going to happen next. It's not a bad movie, but it certainly isn't good. Filmed in black and white and with a voice-over by Ed McMahon it would be a cult classic. As it is it's just a cult.

Directed by: Bosco Lam
Starring: Wong Git, Gigi Lai, Sonny Chiba

Never has a movie been so fraught. Ominous music, grimly canted camera angles, and a main character, Fun Li, with the mope-topped haircut of the gloomiest of goth rockers. Wong Jing acolyte, Bosco Lam, filmed this odd drama about alcoholism and infanticide in snowiest Korea, and the ice-encrusted landscapes match the chill in its heart. It’s not a swordplay flick, but a Lifetime movie for the sword-slinging set.

Fun Li is a sloppy wastrel, a drunk who spends most of his wedding day gazing at the bottom of an upturned jug. His wife, Cher (Gigi Lai, looking psychotic) isn’t happy about this, and neither is his dad, a magisterial Sonny Chiba. Marriage, as usual, doesn’t turn out to be the magic cure for alcoholism, and Fun spends his days and nights in Ancient Chinese Nightclub, flicking chopsticks at a saucy dancing girl who can apparently cook wine in her cleavage. He won’t come home, he won’t sober up, he won’t even respect his dad (billed as "Mr. Chiba").

Dad shows up and, as per the tenets of tough love, drags Fun home by his hair. Hair pulling seems to work, and Fun vows to change his ways. Everyone is thrilled to no end, except terminally unhappy Cher. Inconsolable, she takes a horseback ride and meets Kim Mo-Hon, a spiky-haired Korean who plays a big drum. Their exchange is wordless. Intimate. Then he punches her horse in the head. Bloods spatters her face. Ah, romance.

From there things get complicated for no other reason than feature films need to run 90 minutes these days. Not to worry: Bosco Lam is ambitious, and LEGEND OF THE FLYING SWORDSMAN comes across like THE BLADE, only without the style or the swordfights.


An interesting look into what pampered acting-school graduates think constitutes THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. This shot-on-video Hong Kong remake is supposed to evoke soul-chilling terror in the woods, but it mostly evokes a skull-splitting headache. A full-screen VCD, shot in synch sound with absolutely no subtitles whatsoever, the most star power it can muster up is a TEMPTING HEART mouse pad, which conveys more presence and authority than everyone else in the cast put together.   

The plot concerns a young lady who dreams that she is stuck in the woods and can’t move. She calls her friend on the phone to talk about it. They call their friend on the phone. The two friends meet in the park and decide to call a third friend on the phone. The three of them meet in the park. They talk, then they go home and call each other on the phone, again. This goes on for quite some time until they finally decide that, for the sake of the audiences’ patience, they better get their hineys into the woods.

This being Hong Kong, the "woods" are never very far from safety railings or concrete abutments, and the kids even take their cell phones with them which takes a little of the edge off of being lost. Being bad actors, the most they can manage in the "fear for your life" department is some lethargic shuffling. Finally the ultimate terror shows its face: it is them. The audience will understand and run screaming. One of the young ladies, Cherry, goes missing. The movie ends.

Don’t forget that through this all runs Simon Loui who appears in five scenes. Is he someone’s dad? A concerned bystander? Trying to stop this movie from being made? We never know, but by the time NEW DEAD PROJECT 2 rolls around he’s taken a hike. 

NEW DEAD PROJECT 2 is more of the same. The kids seem to be upset about the disappearance of Cherry, but it’s hard to tell. They might just be worried about their cel phone bills. Suddenly Cherry shows up (it's that kind of movie), just in time for another trip back into the "woods" (read: large park). Vanishing seems to have done nothing for her acting.

In the park the actors get to scream at one another, run around in circles, stab one another with twigs, and finally come out unscathed, just in time for Simon Loui to show up and furrow his brow meaningfully.

Anyone who’s ever argued that Hong Kong movies are more kinetic, more exciting and more fun than movies from other countries should watch NEW DEAD PROJECT immediately.

Directed by: Albert Mak
Starring: Roy Cheung, Ruby Wong, Lam Suet, Simon Loui

The influence of Milkyway Image on the HKSAR film industry generates a weird (WEIRD) ripple effect with this postmortem comedy that runs hot, cold, colder, hot, odd, warm, and then cold all over again. Roy Cheung reprises his pimp-on-the-town role from THE MISSION, playing Young, a genius gambler and professional boot-licker, who supplies women and a fourth hand at cards for after-dinner, all-male get-togethers.

A poker party goes awry, resulting in Roy's clients getting dead. Heaven (portrayed as a police line-up crossed with an expensive downtown boutique) won't let them in so they go to Roy's place. He, logically, wants nothing to do with these losers.

These ghosts are big bores who prove to be totally inept at ghosting. Lam Suet is thrilled with his new role as a ghost, Louis Yuen is bored, and Simon Loui is anxious. Defeated mopes, when thieves break into Roy’s home they just sit and watch them strip it bare. When he comes home they confess that they’re upset to lose the tv. Now what’re they going to do all day?

Meanwhile, Roy falls in love with Carman (Ruby Wong) a woman who likes Teletubbies, Wong Jing films and borscht, although you’d never guess it to look at her. While the romance proves a little thick going, it’s the unscripted fun of these five good actors set loose in this stinky funhouse of a movie that provides the yucks. Featuring an annoying all-synthesiser score I still can't tell if I liked it.

MAN WANTED 3 (2000) DVD MAN WANTED 3 (2000)
Directed by: Sam Ho
Starring: Simon Yam, Allen Ting, Simon Loui, Danny Lee

MAN WANTED 3 has nothing in common with MAN WANTED 1 or 2, and a lot in common with a PSA telling kids not to use credit cards to pay off other credit cards.

Simon Yam plays John Paul, author of a significant portion of the New Testament and one of the two Eagles of Mongkok (the other one is dead), zazzing about in his Ferrari and telling cops with loans to pay up or else. He drinks nightly lemon coffees tenderly poured by the dead other-Eagle-of-Mongkok’s gal, Mui, and he lovingly brings her over-the-counter tummy medicine that she is inexplicably unable to buy for herself.

Tung is a triad wannabe with the disconcerting ability to waggle his eyebrows independently of each other, who gets taken on by Brother Windy when he saves his hide from Alien (Simon Loui in impacted Terminator mode) by sucking down two bottles of warm VSOP cognac. Tung thinks Brother Windy’s going to make him a star, but instead he winds up peddling knock-off Prada in a night market.

Tung, Ekin hairdo aflutter in the night winds, also goes to nightschool where he falls for teacher, lethargic Ms. Ho, and runs into trouble with Kit who’s been taken on by Alien and who is Mui’s son! Relax: absolutely everyone in this movie will wind up discovering they are a blood relative by the end.

Things spend 87 minutes building to a hopefully-satirical John Woo climax, with plenty of stops for PSAs on the dangers of hemp, a little pathos, a little "the kid’s alright", and lots of scenes of Simon Yam screeching in at the last minute in his Ferrari to sort everyone out.

With a cinematic feel for deserted neon cityscapes, this flick makes the most of its b-list material with a winning bad guy performance (Simon Loui looks like a really mean, newly-hatched chicken), some nicely-choreographed action, and enough father-son subtext to fuel a dozen Shaolin style kung fu flicks.

In a neat bit of self-referential feedback, Simon and Alien’s boss is played by Brother Ko, Simon Yam’s boss in THE MISSION, causing some scenes around the conference table to feel like out-takes from the aforementioned film.

As an added bonus, Simon Yam continues to mystically turn in flawless work in flawed movies and his scenes with Simon Loui actually look like acting. "You should know me," he hisses to Alien at one point, "Don’t turn on my nerve." Yeah. What he said.

Directed by: Lau Bo-yin
Starring: Patrick Tam, Chin Kar-lok, Michael Tong, Samuel Leung

The meisterwerk of StormRiders Management Co. this is a guys with guns movie that manages to be traditional and innovative at the same time. Attacking its material like it was Shakespeare it spotlights four ex-PLA soldiers recruited for a job in Hong Kong and it rapidly becomes LONG ARM OF THE LAW Y2K version.

Patrick Tam is terrific as the team leader, and for those who like their Chin Kar-lok straight up this is a full meal in and of itself. Ho Ka-kui has been away from the screen for a long time and he makes a dazzling return here playing a sleazy village chief.

The action is cut-rate, but by the time it boils over in a COOLIE KILLER inspired final shoot-out lit only by the red glow from the family shrine you'll feel more than satisfied. THE BLOOD RULES erred by biting off more than the low budget could chew. KILLERS hits the mark. High class entertainment? Weeeell, maybe not. But if Hong Kong had drive-ins this is what would be onscreen.

Directed by: Sam Ho
Starring: Billy Lau, Anthony Ngan, Diana Pan-dang, Emily Kwan, Hui Shiu-hung

In 2000, the light romantic comedy became Hong Kong’s genre du jour – star-studded cotton candy dreams like NEEDING YOU, OKINAWA RENDEZVOUS, AND I HATE YOU SO continued the trend from 1999, epitomized by such kissy-faced bliss as FLY ME TO POLARIS, and FASCINATION AMOUR. Then, like a blop of mustard on the tip of your nose, comes HONG KONG HAPPY MAN.

Lewd, crude and totally irredeemable, HONG KONG HAPPY MAN is not a date movie. It’s the kind of movie that guys, single for far too long, watch when their minds have warped, but not yet snapped. Exerting a hypnotic pull on the unwary viewers’ eyeballs it is a flat-out, low-down sex farce (although its producers probably can’t spell "farce"), that hijacks the standard tropes of the romantic comedy genre for its own lowbrow purposes.

Whatever happened to Just Talk Advertising comapny? The parents of the current staff created brilliant masterpieces of advertising for life-enhancing products like diarrhea pills, Loser’s Condoms, and the tentpole of their company: Green Grass Vegetable Water. Their children are another story entirely: eyes magnetically drawn to every woman’s bust, noses hemorrhaging alarmingly at every tight caboose that walks by, these kids are no kings, but trash! And their clients are taking the work, en masse, to rival All Blood Advertising.

And so they should. Nonsee, Wai, Fan, and their receptionist in heat, Toto, are a bunch of losers with the work ethic of chimps, barely kept in line by swift kicks to the nuts administered by boss, KY (Hui Shiu-hung). At the bottom of their game, Client Wong comes to the Just Talk agency to bid his old pal, KY, sayonara. As he leaves, he spots downloaded porn on a laptop, specifically he spots the girl it features. She is sportive, energetic, and has a healthy smile. She’ll make the perfect Green Grass Vegetable Water spokesmodel.

Find me this girl! He commands, and thus the plot is launched. Tracking her down requires a trip to Thailand, which thrills our dirty birds to no end: "All Thai girls are wild, sexy, easy to find," crows one. With the help of ex-kick boxer, and straight arrow, Rocky, our hapless crew of horny toads loads up on condoms and sets off. Oddly enough, Wai is especially eager to go, despite the fact that his wife is Diana Pan Dang, grade-z Hong Kong sexpot, here wearing an octopus on her head and a tight leotard strapped around her assets.

Once in Thailand, the guys want to find massage girls, Toto wants to seduce Rocky, Pearl (the topless Grail of their noble quest) wants to stay away from advertising, Rocky wants to stay away from Toto, Diana Pan Dang and her galpal Winnie arrive to save Wai from the temptations of infidelity, and the degraded grotesquerie hits the fan, and then splatters all over the wall. Like a horrible car wreck, it’s hard to look away.

The stunned viewer, ambushed by this mind-twisting display of vulgarity, is left with this moral echoing in their skull: "Thai guys are dirty, but Hong Kong guys are even dirtier."

Starring: Anthony Wong, Simon Loui, Chan Chin-fuk
Directed By: Zeng Wai-man

Meet the Spirit Saucer: an upside down ashtray that drives men bananas. A Satanic Speak N’Spell that operates like the Western Ouija board, this is the first I’ve seen of it in a movie, and wouldn’t you know it? A bunch of kids have got one on a camping trip and they’re monkeying around with it. Wouldn’t you know it? Their campfire attacks them and before we know it they’re BBQ.

Segue to Mr. Chueng, King of Tutors, who’s using their death as a word problem in caloric consumption. A little macabre, but okay. Cheung is about to get married to his girlfriend of ten years, but he’s only got eyes for rare steak and his teaching assistant, Miss Fanny, when he’s not fending off the "won’t take no for an answer" advances of racy students, Joyce and Amy. Well, wouldn’t you know it but during an intense Dance Dance Revolution session Joyce and Amy find a Spirit Saucer behind the Playstation. It’s especially chatty, and they can’t resist. First it’s the answers to the questions on their Chinese history exam (take that, King of Tutors!), then it’s Mark 6 numbers, then revenge on Ted, the ex-boyfriend.

Angry that Cheung has rejected their nubile bods for that of "bulky girl" Miss Fanny, Amy and Joyce use the Spirit Saucer to lure Cheung over to their house one night. Big mistake. The reason Cheung’s so weird? Lots of child abuse, murdering his dad, and a mom who may or may not still be alive. One look at the Spirit Saucer sets him off, and with the Casio keyboard set on Bossa Nova Cheung turns their house into the condo that dripped blood.

Enter Anthony Wong, a police officer who’ll only eat dinner while sitting on the toilet, who does a Columbo on Cheung, driving him further over the edge in an attempt to ensnare him. Over the edge Cheung goes, indeed, prompting a prostitute to murmur at one point, "You’re so unhygenic." But Anthony Wong is more so.

This expertly-constructed little horror flick takes some time to warm up but has plenty of low-key charms once its engine’s running: Simon Loui as a priest, Anthony Wong’s weird and wonderful performance, the ghost of a dead dad who shows up to offer relationship tips like, "Women are inferior. Kill her quick."

It’s movies like this that shine a little light into the darkness and help us learn the hard truths of life: you can’t be King of Tutors if you’re also busy being King of Maniacs.

October 19, 2006 at 01:03 AM in Reviews | Permalink


>>>>>>>>>One look at the Spirit Saucer sets him off, and with the Casio keyboard set on Bossa Nova Cheung turns their house into the condo that dripped blood.<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Hahahahhahahaa! Thank you so much for this Grady, it indeed helps during purchase.
I have to admit that I have seen one of the films mentioned above.

Posted by: eliza bennet | Oct 19, 2006 2:14:04 AM

Thanks Grady for these reviews! It's shame that the HK film landscape has totally changed...less exploitation and less film output in general. Very sad. They were the only ones who were able to deliver exactly "these" types of films.

Posted by: Al | Oct 19, 2006 6:41:05 AM

Well, this is certainly an amusing way to spend my Thursday morning! For whoever it was that railed against the "Pro-Asian" slant of your blog, I hope that this list was eye-opening. As for me, I've seen a sliver of these films, and um....well, you're a brave man, Grady Hendrix. Alternately, you have a high threshold for confusing filmmaking and a lot of caffeine on your hands.

Posted by: Five Venoms | Oct 19, 2006 9:15:03 AM

It appears Grady has been raiding the 3 for $15 bucks DVD box down on Bowery recently ;-P

Posted by: fishcado | Oct 20, 2006 12:15:33 PM

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