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Heaven: To The Land Of Happiness (Hebeun: Haengbokeui Nararo, 행복의 나라로)

Director – Im Sang-soo – 2021 – South Korea – 101m

*****

A meds thief on the verge of arrest and an escaped convict inadvertently steal money from gangsters closing gala with a director Q&A as part of a strand of films celebrating actress Youn Yuh-jung at LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which ran in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

The sexual frankness of director Im’s earlier A Good Lawyer’s Wife (2003) and The Housemaid (2010) is absent from his latest, a producer-suggested project more lightweight than his usual fare which nevertheless achieves a degree of poignancy. Its template is the German film Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Thomas Jahn, 1997) in which two terminally ill men steal a car so that one of them can visit the sea before he dies, the car unfortunately belonging to a gangster and carrying a quantity of cash in the boot.

Writing his own script around this loose premise, Im makes the man who wants to see the sea a convict, inmate 203 (Choi Min-sik from The Tiger, Park Hoon-jung, 2015; Lucy, Luc Besson, 2014; New World, Park Hoon-jung, 2013; Lady Vengeance, Park Chan Wook, 2005), sent to the hospital for an MRI scan where it’s discovered he has a brain tumour and two weeks to live.… Read the rest

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A Moment Of Romance (Tin Joek Yau Ching, 天若有情)

Director – Benny Chan – 1990 – Hong Kong – Cert.18 – 92m

***1/2

When a biker and gang member on the lam from a jewel heist takes a well-to-do girl hostage then falls for her, their romance is doomed – from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now

Gang member Wah (Andy Lau) is the archetypal bad boy who, in the opening sequence, speeds through a narrow gap between two lorries and wilfully breaks a wing mirror on a stationary police vehicle as he rides past. Director Chan keeps up the mayhem with a sequence of two competing lorries on a makeshift racing circuit, each with a pretty girl standing on top – until one of them crashes into a stationery car sending the falling girl through its windscreen and scattering the onlookers as the police approach.

Ascendant gang member Trumpet seems to have it in for Wah and puts him on getaway car duty for a jewel heist. Wah must improvise when cops happen by chance to turn up outside the building while the crime is in progress and during the ensuing pursuit by car, in which he gets the robbers successfully away from the scene, and on foot, his only way of escaping the cops is to take an innocent bystander hostage.… Read the rest

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Shock Wave 2, (Chai Dan Zhuan Jia 2, 拆彈專家 2)

Director – Herman Yau – 2020 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15 – 120m

****

A former bomb disposal expert suspected of a terrorist atrocity must prevent a terrorist organisation from destroying the Hong Kong International Airport and taking numerous innocent lives in the process – now available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland as part of the Hong Kong, Reimagined strand until Wednesday, May 12th

If you’ve seen Shock Wave (Herman Yau, 2017) you’ll know that a sequel with Andy Lau reprising his character wouldn’t be possible. Both director and star clearly wanted to capitalise on the first film, however, so they’ve simply dumped character names and most of what happened in the first film, reinvented the main character and started all over again with a completely different story. This has the effect of making the audience feel that they’re seeing another film in the series but at the same time seeing something that’s brand new, not at all a carbon copy.

Except that in the broadest outline it IS a carbon copy: once again, Andy Lau plays an heroic member of the Hong Kong Police’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau (EOD) with Philip Keung as a friend and colleague in the force, this time round named Lee Yiu Sing, while the plot involves the potential huge bombing of an important Hong Kong landmark – here the Hong Kong International Airport which is blown up at the start only for a voice-over to explain that this terrorist atrocity has been prevented thanks to one man.… Read the rest

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Shock Wave (Chai Dan Zhuan Jia, 拆彈專家)

Director – Herman Yau – 2017 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 118m

****

A bomb disposal expert must prevent a bomber from destroying the Cross Harbour Hong Kong Tunnel and taking numerous innocent lives in the process – now available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland as part of the Hong Kong, Reimagined strand until Wednesday, May 12th

Undercover police bomb disposal expert JS Cheung (Andy LauInfernal Affairs, Andrew Lau, Alan Mak, 2002, Days Of Being Wild, Wong Kar-wai, 1990, As Tears Go By, Wong Kar-wai, 1988) of the Hong Kong Police’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau (EOD) blows his cover during a daring operation by a gang of criminals to kill as many cops as possible using car bombs. The car chase mayhem ends with the arrest of Biao Hong (Leo Wang Zi-yi) the explosives nerd and little brother of gang leader Peng Hong (Jiang Wu – Wrath Of Silence, Xin Yukun, 2017; Monster Hunt, Raman Hui, 2015). Some time later, Peng Hong Blocks traffic in the busy Cross Harbour Hong Kong Tunnel running from Kowloon to Hong Kong, trapping motorists and passengers as hostages and threatening to blow up the tunnel unless his brother is released.… Read the rest

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One Night (Hitoyo, ひとよ)

Director – Kazuya Shiraishi – 2019 – Japan – Cert. N/C 15+ – 123m

****1/2

A woman murders her violent husband after years of his beating up the kids, goes to prison then returns 15 years later to find the siblings in turmoil – played online in the Japan Foundation Touring Programme 2021 in the UK

A night of torrential rain proves a defining moment in the lives of the Inamura family which owns and runs a taxi business. Koharu (Yuko Tanaka – Princess Mononoke, 1997) enters, dressed in her usual suit she wears to drive customers around, to announce to her three teenager children, “I’ve just killed your father. Nobody will ever beat you again. You can live however you want. You’re totally free.” Expressing no remorse and convinced she’s done the right thing, she promises to return in fifteen years then disappears to hand herself in to the cops.

Koharu’s designs of freeing her kids from their father’s years of violent abuse don’t quite play out the way she had hoped. Their father would beat them for any suggestion that they’d want to do anything other than work in the family taxi business. The eldest Daiki (Ryohei Suzuki – Our Little Sister, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2015; Tokyo Tribe, Sion Sono, 2014) is a stutterer whose relationship with wife Fumiko (Megumi) is mired in divorce proceedings as he struggles to hold down a regular job.… Read the rest

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Vanguard

Director – Stanley Tong – 2020 – China – Cert. tbc – 107m

**

Jackie Chan actioner trades on his former glory from decades ago but relies too much on CG trickery and fails to ignite the screen – on VoD from Friday, January 8th

Vanguard is an organisation which… well, it’s never clear exactly what it does, but Jackie Chan is fairly high up in it and it has a lot of field operatives and high tech equipment, surveillance, weaponry and similar. This film moves around various high profile international locations – including London, the African bush and Dubai. When a man is kidnapped by criminals who want to access his vast wealth for their own nefarious ends, it’s up to Vanguard to rescue him.

One could be charitable and say that no-one goes to a Jackie Chan movie for the script, but the script here is so sketchy as to be almost non-existent. It plays out rather as a series of set pieces, and I’d love to be able to tell you that these are incredible – in some Jackie Chan movies that’s true – but sadly, in this one, for the most part, they really aren’t.

Chan in his heyday picked up the baton passed on by some of the great stunt / gag players of Hollywood’s silent era (Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd), combined what they were doing with Chinese martial arts and appeared in some truly spectacular films such As the Project A and Police Story films.… Read the rest