BLACK CAT (1991) review

After being released in 1990, Luc Besson’s Nikita, with its haywire young woman who after acidentally killing a cop gets a second chance as a government assassin, spawned countless knock-offs, but also more than a few straight remakes. In 1993, John Badham directed Point of No Return with Bridget Fonda as the assassin re-named Nina ; the film was actually close to a shot-for-shot remake, which wasn’t the case of the successful TV series La Femme Nikita, which ran for five seasons and considerably glamorized the concept, with the statuesque Peta Wilson in the title role. And in 2010, it was Maggie Q’s turn to have a try at the character, in another successful series that was this time aimed squarely at teenagers. But the least-known of the Nikita remakes is also the earliest one: Stephen Shin’s Black Cat, which was produced by the D&B Film company (of the Tiger Cage and In The Line Of Duty films) in 1991, just one year after Besson’s seminal film.

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IN THE LINE OF DUTY 5 : MIDDLE MAN (1990) review

Some say the In The Line Of Duty franchise started its decline with this fifth installment, directed by Cha Chuen Yee in 1990, a time when the Girls With Guns genre was starting to recede to alternative Asian film industries like Taiwan or the Philippines. It’s true that while it has been the common lot of the films of this franchise to have mostly disposable plots, the story in In The Line Of Duty 5 is particularly uninspiring and trite. It involves things such as the CIA, a marine on leave and drug dealers, all intertwined in the least interesting ways possible. At the center of these wholly uninteresting goings-on is, again, the endearing Cynthia Khan, who it must be said got more and more credible as an ass-kicker with each installment.

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WIND BLAST (2010) review

To earn enough money to run away with his girlfriend Sun Jing (Charlie Yeung), Zhang Ning (Yu Xia), accepts an offer from a mysterious employer to kill a mob boss. As a safeguard, he secretly takes a picture of this employer. But having carried out the hit, he finds himself and his girlfriend chased through the Gobi desert not only by four policemen (Duan Yihong, Ni Dahong, Jacky Wu Jing and Zhang Li), but also by two mysterious bounty hunters (Francis Ng and Yu Nan).

Wind Blast is obviously directed by Gao Qunshu (who co-directed the great The Message) as a thrill-ride with overtones of the western genre, be it the barren landscape in which everything unfolds or chases on horseback and mexican stand-offs. The story itself is pared down to its essentials, and Gao does a good job (he also wrote the film) of slowly revealing the dynamics that exist between the characters of this ensemble. It helps that he has a great cast to work with : the quartet of cops makes for an endearing team with Duan Yihong charismatic enough as the purposeful cop, Ni Dahong on fine form as the wise but jaded superior, Zhang Li striking in a long white coat, and a very fun Jacky Wu Jing as an almost childish auxiliary who insist on being called “Knight”. Yu Xia is an ambiguous presence as the fugitive, but you could say Charlie Yeung is wasted in a nothing role as her long-suffering girlfriend. But the real sparks come from Francis Ng and Yu Nan as the bounty hunters. Ng rocks a strange haicut (for a change…) and is his reliable self, providing the quartet of cops with a rather formidable opponent, while Yu Nan takes a very thinly written role and makes it a force to be reckoned with her almost reptilian menace offset by a sullen demeanor. Watching her here as a kick-ass hitwoman, it’s not difficult to understand why she was cast as a member of the Expendables in the second film.

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IN THE LINE OF DUTY 3 (1987) review

In 1987, Michelle Yeoh having gone on an early retirement, a novice by the screen name of Cynthia Khan was brought in by the D & B film company to fill her shoes as the star of the In The Line Of Duty series. The first one, Yes Madam!, was directed by Corey Yuen and paired Yeoh with Cynthia Rothrock in a wildly uneven film that was more of a madcap comedy until the bone-crunching finale. The second one, Royal Warriors, was directed by David Chung and was a vast improvement, a blistering action movie in the best eighties’ Hong Kong cinema tradition. In The Line Of Duty 3 (also known sometimes with the subtitle Force of the Dragon), is directed by Brandy Yuen and Arthur Wong, the latter being better known as the ace director of photography of countless classic Hong Kong films.

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MY YOUNG AUNTIE (1981) review

My Young Auntie was the breakout film for Kara Hui, a young actress with a background in ballet, who was legendary director Liu Chia Liang’s protégé and, some say, his mistress. Gossip aside, she was indeed quite a sensation, earning the Hong Kong Film Award for best actress in this award show’s first ever edition in 1981. And you can see why: cute and graceful, sprightly and playful, she was – and is – also a fine actress capable of immediately earning the public’s sympathies. In a way, she was superseded shortly after by Michelle Yeoh, a more striking performer in every way ; still, Hui remains a unique presence to this day, having made a bit of a comeback after a string of obscure films in the nineties. Directed by Liu Chia Liang, My Young Auntie has Kara Hui play a young woman of modest origins, who is married by a kind and wealthy old man who fears his fortune could go to his cruel brother after his impending death. After he dies, Hui meets his nephew (played by the director himself) and his son (Hsiao Hao), a hyperactive student. She then has to impose herself as the family’s dean (although she’s younger than everyone), while fending off the cruel brother’s attempts to reclaim the inheritance.

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DOUBLE VISION (2002) review

Proceeding both from the “Serial Killer thriller” wave initiated by the success of David Fincher’s Se7en, and from the horror phase in Asian cinema fueled by the international fame of Hideo Nakata’s Ringu, Chen Kuo-Fu’s Double Vision was co-produced by Columbia and is one of those rare Asian films featuring a well-known American actor in a prominent role. In this case it is David Morse, a consistently excellent character actor, who is paired up with the great Tony Leung Ka-Fai. They play a disenchanted FBI agent and a Taiwan cop with family issues respectively, the former being sent to Taipei to help the ill-equipped local police investigate a series of strange murders. All the victims have been found drowned without the presence of water, burnt without trace of fire, or even gutted without anyone’s intervention ; furthermore, traces of a strange fungus have been found in their brain. Soon it appears that the killer is carrying out an ancient Taoist ritual that is supposed to give him immortality.

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