Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Favourite Hong Kong Movies. Kingwho? Bullets Over Chinatown

Jared a.k.a Kingwho? runs the excellent Bullets Over Chinatown blog, which was not only the very first blog I ever bookmarked, but was also a massive influence on my decision to begin the one you are now reading. As well as Bullets, Jared has been a host on This Week In Sleaze (part of the Podcast On Fire Network) where you can hear his Noo Yawk accent talking about many sleazy topics, but mainly his two favourites, Charlie Cho and boobies. Rumours abound Kingwho? will soon be making a triumphant return to the microphone, so listen out for that.

Not only was he an influence on my blog, Jared was also very supportive of it when I first started out, in fact he was my very first follower, and left the first comment too. Initially reluctant to provide a list for this series, after an annoying amount of badgering he eventually gave in and came through for me once again.

"I tied to compile the most complete list possible. Originally I tried to do a top 100, which proved fruitless, as it was just impossible to do. Whittling things down to 10 or so films was a rough road but....here they are. I have kept the list strictly HK and left out any Taiwanese or Taiwanese co-productions that could have possibly cracked the top 10. The list ranges different genres, and really tells what kind of HK film fan I am. And you probably thought my list would be ALL CAT III?!"


This roughie is an early Milkyway classic that is unfortunately little known. Mentioned nowhere in the same breath as other Milkyway "classics", this has little of Johhnie To's stank on it save for a producing credit. The trademark Milkyway sheen is evident but the brooding darkness, the horror, overwhelmingly overpowers it. Wu chien-lin's cold, heartless dead eyed performance let such an imprint on me. A scar. The film opening scene has Ms. Wu caught in a stranglehold on a poor unsuspecting woman. Dark room. lightning illuminating. Woman gasping for breath. This scene serves only as a warning for the shit you are in for. Unnerving stuff. And has the gall to touch you with social issues! The nerve! the beautiful nerve.


Director Billy Tang, downwind from his successful CAT III films, follows the bright box-office of the YOUNG AND DANGEROUS films with his small-potato-triad-punk-on-the-rise film, which for me, rates way better than the Y&D films. Maybe a touch of Billy Tang favoritism but Tang takes the template and runs us over with it. The film nicely runs a bit tongue in cheek but Tang stays engaging and fun with the story and it's sometimes gruff and colorful characters. A memorable scene punches us in the face as poor Teresa Mak, kidnapped and drugged by the triads, get her head straight razor shaved by dai-lo Alan chui. This scene lovingly channeling the 1975 HK film, BALD HEADED BETTY. crazy ass stuff for a CAT IIB film.
I first watched STREET OF FURY during a NY summertime heatwave. they can be rough, and this one was. Soupy, swamp ass weather. Tropical. When similar weather hits each year and just wont break, that humid nastiness, my cinematic mind takes me back to this film. Memory burn. That's some powerful film!


This bad boy CAT III is a new favorite. A CAT III dandy of a revenger with a lesbian twist. Tsui Man-wah turned in my favor from a co-CAT III player to full fledge super duper CAT III heroine for this one. William Ho Ka-kui chews his usual scenery and the action and boobies lovingly abound in this wonderful fluff. This one provides the CAT III goodies. And I love it so much for that.


Hell yeah! Two Jackie jack's for the price of one. Plus, he gets the girl(s)! Maggie Cheung and Nina Li. How can you not dig that?! It's big time HK cinema silliness and contains a veritable who's-who cast list. Throughout the years, as I furthered my HK cinema education, i love returning to this and spotting more HK celebs. "Holy cow! That's Jamie Luk! Holy shit! That's Fung Hak-on! And Maggie Cheung in that electric blue wig. YOWZA! She is what my dreams are made of.


Leave it to HK CAT III cinema circa the early 90's to be so utterly fucking tasteless. LKF SWINGERS takes a horrific true story and just shits all over it working suicide attempts and porn banging into the mix. HK cinematic legend Charlie Cho swings both ways in this must see CAT III and is truly a LKF SWINGER. Freaking ridiculous and beautiful.

5- DR. LAMB.

Another top-tenner starring my favorite HK actor, a one Mr. Simon Yam, and another Billy Tang film. And this isn't the last. HK cinema made waves and hit it's CAT III stride around the early 90's with the production of the 'true crime' film. DR. LAMB is one of the more accomplished efforts and peeks at one of the best celluloid serial killers. Signature HK style-editing, colors, out of place humor- pierce us throughout the film but none sticks and wounds as well as Simon Yam's creeper of a performance. Watch this back-to-back with THE UNTOLD STORY. They are both classics for a reason. It was a crazy as hell time, the early 90's. CAT III cinema went mainstream. Crazy stuff.


Ringo Lam went on a full throttle mainstream tear of cinematic coolness and carnage with FULL CONTACT. Setting aside his usual strong social anger and just supercharging my early HK film watching experience. Another excellent and memorable Simon Yam performance as the flamboyant psycho, Judge, he almost steal the film from the then burgeoning worldwide action star, Chow Yun-fat. Anthony Wong is fun as a hapless ass and Chow Yun-fat is, well, Chow Yun-fat. Just....freakin' cool.


John Woo built a blockbuster of a swan song from HK cinema. Made for the film-hungry masses, Woo stages a universal actioner that contains my absolute favorite action scene put to celluloid. The opening teahouse shootout. When Chow Yun-fat semi-slides down that staircase railing, guns a blazing, quick-like, I feel funny in my pants. The kind of funny usually reserved for CAT III flicks. A goodie that can most definitely be played on a loop.


And yet another Billy Tang directed/ Simon Yam growler. Wild and anarchic, Tang squeezes so much insanity out of Yam and puts it right in your lap. Yam embodies another CAT III kook, his trademark, but is able to simultaneously frighten the bejesus out of you with his angry vengeance. He freakin' burns poor fatty Kent Cheng;s daughter well done. In front of him! insanity! This is my fave CAT III film and there's not even any nudity in it!!!


After seeing Jackie Chan's RUMBLE IN THE BRONX in the theater in early 96', I started to seek out more HK films. It was damn near impossible. But that was all about to change, thankfully. A short while after 'Rumble', Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Pictures distribution company released the VHS of CHUNGKING EXPRESS. And I snatched it from the shelves of my local mom and pop rental shop. Remember those? Already headlong and winded from my interest in the French New Wave, the style of CHUNGKING EXPRESS lovingly tingled my senses. No HK action frenzy. Simple storytelling transformed into something so damn much more by Wong Kar-wai's arthouse aesthetic. 

I remember finishing the film and immediately rewinding it and watching it again. The next day I headed to the WIZ, bought he VHS and the Mama's and The Papa's greatest hits. Though I signal RUMBLE IN THE BRONX as my kickstarter to HK cinema, It's CHUNGKING EXPRESS that began my love affair. Or obsession. Whatever you would like to call it? I love the film so much that a few years later I had the Chinese characters that make up the title tattooed on my inner right forearm. I have a few other tats but none I love more than that one.

"And because I couldn't list just 10 great HK films, here are 10 more to seek out, hold tight, and have unprotected romance with."

11- Underground Banker
12- School on Fire
13- Gates of Hell- Otto Chan
14- Sex and Zen
15- Escape from Brothel
16- Red to Kill
17- Nobody's Hero
18- Night and Fog -Ann Hui
19- The Untold Story
20- Hero Dream


Tim said...

I'm too scared to see "Run and Kill" does Yam really taunt Fatty Cheung with his daughter's dead body and say "Why am I so dark daddy?" (I read it in a review once.)

Wes Moynihan said...

Mart, just a general comment to say this has been one hell of a great series, and for folks like me, not at all steeped in HK Cinema, these lists are great primers. I'm enjoying these posts tremendously !

A hero never dies said...

Tim, I can't remember the exact wording but something along those lines, it's a full on experience that is for sure!

Thanks Wes, I'm really pleased you've enjoyed it and hope everyone else feels the same way. A few more still to go including yours and mine! I've loved doing it, but am also kind of looking forward to getting back to normal too.

YTSL said...

The list may be entirely Category III films-filled but there still are plenty of them... and then there's "Twin Dragons"! :D

To Tim: Yes, Simon Yam's character really does taunt Kent Cheng's character with those very words. Also, FWIW, I actually think "Red to Kill" is more horrific than "Run and Kill"! ;O

Kingwho? said...

Yes! Twin Dragons! I love that film. Such silly fun by Jackie and EVERYONE else =P

YTSL, I agree. RED TO KILL is definitely more horrific that RUN AND KILL. How a film like RED TO KILL can play mainstream is amazing to me and part of the reason I love HK CAT III films so much. It was a crazy time in HK cinema history.

A hero never dies said...

Still haven't seen Red To Kill, it's reputation kills any desire for me to see it, my fault entirely!

YTSL said...

Oops, had meant to write -- "The list may NOT be entirely Category III-filled..." -- but I think you got what I was trying to say, Kingwho?! :b

Kingwho? said...

haha Yes, YTSL. I hope you enjoyed the list?

Tim, if you are a podcast listener, I might return to Podcast On Fire to discuss RUN AND KILL. I re-watched it again as a primer for the podcast and it is AMAZING. An emotional stomach churner.

AHND, you still haven't seen RED TO KILL? You need to rectify that tout-de-suite! YTSL is correct, it is much more abrasive than RUN AND KILL in it's premise. You have to trust Billy Tang and Co. to pull you through. It's competent film making and actually quite artistic if you disect it. Which we did on a Podcast On Fire episode as Me, Ken , and Stoo did an audio commentary. It was Stoo's first time watching it during the recording and it was fun as heck to be a part of. Give it a shot. DO IT! =D

A hero never dies said...

I may see it one day, I just don't want to spend a whole week in the shower washing off it's stain!

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