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Features Live Action Movies

Black Mask
(Hak Hap,
黑俠)

Director – Daniel Lee – 1996 – Hong Kong – Cert. 18 – 99m

*****

An experimentally created supersoldier without feelings revolts against his creators, even as they attempt to take control of Hong Kong’s drugs trade – on Blu-ray from Monday, April 22nd in the UK and Tuesday, April 23rd in the US and Canada

Removing the ability of human beings to feel produce an elite force of warriors known as the 701 Squad has gone horribly wrong, and the members of 701 are to be shut down. Their leader, adopting the name Tsui Chik (Jet Li), escapes to live undercover working in a library where he learns all he can by reading books. His unlucky in love co-worker Tracy (Karen Mok) is convinced by other staff members to date him.

However, Tsui is more interested in hanging out with his best friend, the policeman Inspector Shek (Lau Ching Wan) who is tracking the elimination of all the major Hong Kong drugs dealers. The reason, unbeknown to him, is that the other surviving members of the 701 Squad, under the leadership of the Commander (Patrick Lung), are trying to wipe out the gangs including the last surviving gang leader King Kau (Anthony Wong) and take control of the drugs trade themselves to gain financial security.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Ride On
(Longma Jingshen,
龙马精神)

Director – Larry Yang – 2023 – China – Cert. PG – 126m

****

Ageing stuntman Jackie Chan must fight to retain ownership of the horse he has befriended and trained since rescuing it at birthout on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital in the UK on Monday, July 24th following its release in UK, Irish, Chinese and US cinemas on Friday, April 7th

Why does one go to see a Jackie Chan movie? The usual reasons are the incredible stunts coupled with the likeable, knockabout comedy which is his trademark. Perhaps the star’s winsome personality also plays a part. His best films over the years have probably contained a mixture of all three. While these elements, notably Jackie’s personality, are all present to some degree here, they aren’t really its strengths – which are (1) the depiction of a career, reviewed by a person who is old, past their prime, and forced to confront the fact and (2) the relationship of a man with a horse which he has known from the time of its birth.

The day Ride On was released in both the UK and China was also Jackie Chan’s 69th birthday. While I don’t doubt he keeps himself in good condition, he is clearly no longer the young man he once was.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

The Matrix

Directors – Larry and Andy Wachowski – 1999 – US – Cert.15 – 136 mins

*****

The Matrix combines tropes of Japanese animation with live action Hong Kong stunt choreography and groundbreaking ‘bullet time’ special effects.

UK release: June 11th 1999;

Article originally published in Manga Max, Number 8, July 1999.

1999. The Matrix is about to E.X.P.L.O.D.E.

Technically, a matrix is a multidimensional array of locations, with each cell uniquely addressable. Contents not specified. Back in late April, when Hollywood blockbuster The Matrix was first screened for UK press, Warners’ line beneath the film’s title on the publicity flier ran, Blockbusting futuristic thriller with ground-breaking special effects. Perhaps it should have read, Blockbusting futuristic thriller with ground-breaking special effects and Hong Kong styled action. Or even, Blockbusting futuristic thriller with ground-breaking special effects and Hong Kong styled action reconceived in terms of anime. Okay, it’s a bit of a mouthful, but it’s closer to the truth.

Ostensibly a megabudget Joel Silver (Lethal Weapon / Die Hard / Predator / Speed / Road House / Assassins) SF actioner well beyond the extremities of this magazine’s remit, directed by the Wachowski Brothers (writer‑directors of Bound, screenwriters for Assassins), The Matrix opens with an incredible sequence wherein Trinity (Carrie‑Anne Moss, who looks for all the world like a Westernised version of a Hong Kong starlet in cat burglar get up… Black Cat’s Jade Leung or Irma Vep’s Maggie Cheung, perhaps?)… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Once Upon a Time
in China
(Wong Fei Hung,
黃飛鴻)

Director – Tsui Hark – 1991 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 135m

****1/2

Groundbreaking, period martial arts epic features some of the most spectacular stunt sequences ever filmed, spawned five sequels and made Jet Li a star – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

The real life Wong Fei Hung (1847-1925) was a Chinese practitioner of martial arts and medicine who lived in Foshan and has been the subject of over a hundred films. Tsui Hark’s 1991 production is one of the best known and spawned a series of six movies in total, four of them with Jet Li as Wong, arguably his most iconic role.

Militia-laden American and British and French ships anchored in the harbour put Foshan in an uneasy position and Wong is concerned, as well he might be since it turns out in the course of the narrative that the Americans under a man named Jackson (Jonathan Isgar) are not only tricking local men into debt via getting them to pay for their passage to San Francisco but also trafficking Chinese women into prostitution in the New World. The film isn’t particularly interested in these misdemeanours except as providing motivation for its villain.… Read the rest