City Hunter (1993)

City Hunter [城市獵人] (1993)

Starring Jackie Chan, Joey Wong Cho-Yin, Richard Norton, Gotoh Kumiko, Chingmy Yau Suk-Ching, Carol Wan Chui-Pan, Tan Lap-Man, Leon Lai, Ken Lo, Gary Daniels, Eric Kot Man-Fai, Jan Lam Hoi-Fung, Mike Abbott, Louis Roth, Michael Wong Man-Tak, Hagiwara Kenzo

Directed by Wong Jing

Expectations: Moderate.

threehalfstar


City Hunter is another Jackie Chan film that I wasn’t completely in love with during my teenage obsession. I was desperate to recreate that first-time feeling of experiencing Rumble in the Bronx, so something like City Hunter, with its wildly comedic, cartoon tone, wasn’t going to fit the bill. These days my passion for Jackie remains constant, but my expectations and restrictions of what I want to see from him have relaxed and opened up considerably. Now I’m happy to follow Jackie and whatever director he’s working with into any creative experience they can cook up.

In these terms, City Hunter is an impressive work of art. It manages to capture the over-the-top look and the feel of a cartoon/anime in live action, and it keeps this tone and aesthetic constant throughout every aspect of the production. From exaggerated acting and facial expressions, to the breakneck, logic-smashing pace, to the action choreography that is comedic and over-the-top before anything else, City Hunter is stylistically rich, and about as perfect a comic book adaptation as you could ask for. I have half a mind to give it four stars — I was that bowled over by it — but I’ll have to watch it again to see if it holds up and reinforces this strong a reaction.

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The Wicked City (1992)

The Wicked City [妖獸都市] (1992)
AKA Mutant City

Starring Jacky Cheung, Leon Lai, Michelle Reis, Roy Cheung, Tatsuya Nakadai, Yuen Woo Ping, Carman Lee, Reiko Hayama

Directed by Peter Mak Tai-Kit

Expectations: Moderate. I remember not liking this, but I’m a different person now.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


After Stephen told me he was doing the Wicked City anime for October, I figured it’d be the perfect time to revisit the live-action Hong Kong version. I haven’t seen it since the late ’90s when it got a VHS release stateside amidst the craze for Hong Kong action and anime. This film brings the two sub-cultures together, so it’s easy to see why it got a US release. Perhaps our one-two punch isn’t the best way to handle the films, though, as I haven’t seen the anime since about the last time I watched this, and Stephen’s never seen this one at all. So while we offer reviews of both, neither of them contain any sort of contrast or comparison; I guess my idea was more misguided than I realized. I can say that from the vague, back corners of my mind I remember the two films opening very similarly, but diverging wildly from each other from there.

The Wicked City opens as night falls on the land of the rising sun, and HK superstar Jacky Cheung is taking a woman upstairs to his room. Things are not as they seem, though, as the woman quickly turns into a spider-ish creature with long clawed legs and attacks, but Cheung’s ready for battle! Then his partner (Leon Lai) bursts in through a window to offer his assistance and they quickly vanquish the foul beast. This scene doesn’t mean anything to the plot, but it does set up the world and our two main guys. From here they travel back to Hong Kong, and the real story begins.

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Three (2002)

Three [三更] (2002)
AKA Three Extremes II

Starring Jung Bo-Seok, Kim Hye-Soo, Panjamawat Suwinit, Leon Lai, Eric Tsang, Eugenia Yuen

Directed by Kim Jee-Woon (Memories), Nonzee Nimibutr (The Wheel), Peter Chan (Going Home)

Expectations: Moderate. Good talent involved.


Three isn’t a cohesive movie unto itself, nor is it a true anthology film with a framing story, instead it’s just three 40-minute shorts sandwiched together. This makes reviewing it as a whole rather hard because each short was made by a completely different team, working in completely different countries. Nothing ties the stories together (other than being stretched definitions of horror), so I guess I’ll follow suit and treat each film as its own thing.

Up first is Kim Jee-Woon’s Memories, a tale of a man who doesn’t know where his wife is, and his wife who’s lost her memory and is trying to get back home. Memories is painfully boring, and while it starts off with a great image of a sleeping man haunted by a huddled, shadowed woman, a balloon and a child’s doll, Memories does almost nothing with the elements at hand. Up until the last few minutes I wouldn’t even call it a horror movie, unless the psychological pain of losing someone counts as horror now.

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Seven Swords (2005)

Seven Swords [七劍] (2005)

Starring Donnie Yen, Leon Lai, Charlie Yeung, Lu Yi, Lau Kar-Leung, Sun Hong-Lei, Kim Soo-Yeon, Michael Wong Man-Tak, Chi Kuan-Chun, Jason Pai Piao, Duncan Lai, Tai Li-Wu, Zhang Jing-Chu, Huang Peng, Ma Jing-Wu

Directed by Tsui Hark

Expectations: Moderate. It seems to have a lot going for it, but I don’t want to get too excited.


Back in my teenage years, Tsui Hark was one of the mystical, incredible directors that I loved. He was responsible for some of the best films Hong Kong had to offer, most notably the Once Upon a Time in China films and Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain (among many, many others). Like lots of the big Hong Kong directors though, he emigrated over to the US in the late 90s, hoping to find grand success on the larger American stage. Instead, he found heartache and disappointment with a pair of underperforming JCVD films, Double Team and Knock Off. To be fair, I’ve only seen half of Double Team and the first few minutes of Knock Off, something I plan to remedy at some point, but from these small bits one might guess he had lost his knack for filmmaking. Seven Swords is a few years later, but it proves why Hong Kong filmmakers should stay in Hong Kong (unless an American studio is willing to give them free rein, which is never going to happen).

On the surface, Seven Swords is yet another play on the Seven Samurai framework. A helpless village is being assaulted by bandits and they need the help of seven rogue swordsman and all that. Here it’s slightly tweaked where the Emperor has sent out an edict where all practitioners of martial arts are to be killed. General Fire-Wind and his brutal army are parading around the land, killing and beheading whoever fits the bill. They happen upon a remote village and quickly plan their assault. Two of the villagers, along with veteran martial arts choreographer and all-around Hong Kong legend Lau Kar-Leung, venture out to Mount Heaven in search of some help from the hermit swordsmen residing there. So yeah, the setup is very Seven Samurai, but the rest of the movie is anything but.

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