Ross a.k.a Kozo runs the Hong Kong film website Lovehkfilm. It's no exaggeration to say that without Kozo's site, there would be no A Hero Never Dies blog, simple as that (I'll leave it up to you as to if that's a good or bad thing), and I dare say this may well be the case for many other bloggers out there. With superbly written and often very amusing reviews covering everything from the best to the worst of Asian cinema, Kozo watches any old crap so we don't have to, we should all thank him!
This list consists completely of my faves, meaning many are films here with serious flaws - but what the hell, I love 'em anyway. Based on the movies selected, it's pretty easy to figure out when I became interested in Hong Kong Cinema.
Important note: The list itself is not that much different than the Recommended Films list featured at my website, so it really should not have taken so long for me to turn this in. Shoot me: neither Stephen Chow nor Chow Yun-Fat made this list.
Here we go, in alphabetical order:
THE BLADE (1995)
Tsui Hark's manic reworking of THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN is better in parts than as a whole, but what awesome parts they are. A mash-up of genre deconstruction, archetypical kung-fu storytelling, pretentious existentialism and improbably kick-ass action. If you use the word "gritty" to describe THE BLADE, then you're using it correctly.
CHUNGKING EXPRESS (1994)
Wong Kar-Wai's most slight, inconsequential and unpretentious film is also his most enjoyable. CHUNGKING EXPRESS may be my favorite movie ever, and I really doubt that will ever change. I love this movie so much that I own it on two laserdiscs, five DVDs and a Blu-ray. If you have a VHS for sale, just holler.
COMRADES, ALMOST A LOVE STORY (1996)
Still Peter Chan's most accomplished and felt motion picture, COMRADES, ALMOST A LOVE STORY is pure Hong Kong movie magic. A deep and satisfying romance that finds heart and humanity in two selfish mainlanders-cum-Hong Kongers who make that longed-for serendipitous connection. Maggie Cheung has arguably never been better.
FONG SAI-YUK (1993)
Jet Li and Josephine Siao make this Corey Yuen action-comedy shine - except when Yuen turns up the fast, funny and very creative action. Miles better than Part II, though really, it's not that bad either. One of three movies on this list that I consider the perfect demonstration of Hong Kong Cinema's multi-genre joy. Guess the other two!
GREEN SNAKE (1993)
It's so very weird and so very wild, but GREEN SNAKE is also Tsui Hark at his bold, beautiful and bombastic best. The crappy special effects and madcap histrionics only add to the delirious, seductive charm of the whole thing. Maggie Cheung and Joey Wong own this one as the snakes, and Zhao Wen-Zhou makes a surprisingly strong Fa Hoi. After I saw the 2011 Jet Li-starred remake, I cut myself.
THE MISSION (1999)
Back when ironic cool was still novel, Johnnie To made this spare gem of a crime thriller. THE MISSION is heroic bloodshed updated with calculated precision and understated yet still passionate brotherhood. The macho male cast, most especially the incomparable Francis Ng, succeeds in making bromance preferable to romance. Johnnie To would probably never be able to make this movie now, which is why I am eternally sad.
NEEDING YOU... (2000)
Sammi Cheng was once my Hong Kong movie crush, so I should include her best and brightest performance. Sammi plays a totally regular girl in NEEDING YOU but she does so with character and charm to spare. The Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai Milkyway Image style owes a great deal to the screwball quirks and narrative ironies of this romcom classic. NEEDING YOU has no guns and that is one reason why it is so damn good. Also: Andy Lau.
PEDICAB DRIVER (1989)
Intricately choregraphed fights, terrific slapstick comedy and surprisingly affecting tonal shifts make PEDICAB DRIVER a Hong Kong cinema classic - but hey, the wonky subtitles have something to do with it too. PEDICAB DRIVER is wall-to-wall entertainment and proof that a very large man can almost fly. Sammo Hung may not be as beloved as Jackie Chan but he was an amazing performer, and director Lau Kar-Leung uncorked all of his action, comic and dramatic gifts for this one.
PEKING OPERA BLUES (1986)
On many occasions, I've called PEKING OPERA BLUES "the perfect Hong Kong movie" and I'm sticking with it. Tsui Hark and company pack this movie with a little or a whole lot of everything that makes Hong Kong Cinema great, plus he's got a trifecta of the industry's best actresses working for him in Brigitte Lin, Cherie Chung and Sally Yeh. So beloved and passionately evangelized by the online Hong Kong Cinema faithful that it's become overrated - but who cares, PEKING OPERA BLUES is still one of the greatest Hong Kong movies ever.
POLICE STORY (1985)
Two words best describe POLICE STORY: broken glass. Oh, and Jackie Chan has something to do with it too. POLICE STORY has a so-so story and lots of silly antics, but the stuntwork, action choreography and sheer insanity on display are something to behold. Jackie Chan may be Hong Kong's most unique performer ever, so his films are more than just classics - they're treasures. We should cherish every film he's ever made - well, every film before 2000, anyway. Plus: Brigitte Lin and Maggie Cheung.