Fight Back to School (1991) — April 15, 2019
Is to Ringo Lam’s On Fire films what Hot Fuzz is to Michael Bay. With a little bit of Kindergarten Cop thrown in, because why not.
Beast Cops (1998) — August 5, 2017
Not only does this have Anthony Wong at his most righteously sleazy playing the streetwise cop who bends but doesn’t quite break the rules in the interest of maintaining the delicate balance of the community under his protection (ie: the Triads are OK if they’re just into gambling and prostitution, but drug dealing and violence against non-gang members is too much), but it also has the most Michael Wong performance ever from Michael Wong, playing the straight arrow cop who gets assigned to be Anthony’s partner/boss, a man so ill-fitting the improvisational Cantonese community he’s assigned to that everyone refers to him as a white guy (Michael, like his character, is half-Chinese and not quite fluent, his American accent is extremely noticeable).
The metaphor is obvious enough: the foreign, authoritarian presence arrives in Hong Kong and attempts to impose order on its barely managed chaos. The cop story is mirrored by a generic Triad story, in which Roy Cheung’s old school honorable crook is supplanted by his younger, less moral protégé (Patrick Tam, not the director, but the singer who beat out Sammi Cheng at the 1988 New Talent Singing Awards). The bulk of the film though ignores the familiar plotting in favor of character bits and street-level explorations of the neighborhood Wong works in, along with the cops’ relationships with women (all the women in the film are prostitutes).
Directors Gordon Chan and Dante Lam take a New Wave style handheld approach to the city, one that had been largely abandoned in the wake of A Better Tomorrow and heroic bloodshed. The movie is the city, and the city is Anthony Wong.
God of War (2017) — April 6, 2017
It’s the King Hu film I can never quite remember, The Valiant Ones, remade as PRC propaganda, all national, class, and gender unity in the face of foreign aggressors (in this case: samurai masquerading as pirates in Ming-era China). The action is mostly very good, but there isn’t nearly enough Sammo Hung, who choreographed and gets prominent billing but is barely in the film and Vincent Zhao (The Blade) is still lacking the kind of charisma needed to carry a feature film. Veteran kung fu/ninja star Kurata Yasuaki is exceptional as the samurai leader, he’s in the midst of a career renaissance, with roles as well this year in John Woo’s Manhunt and Chapman To’s The Empty Hands.