MAN WANTED (1995) short review

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Lok (Simon Yam) has been working for two years as an undercover cop, gaining the trust and friendship of drug lord Feng (Yu Rongguang). When the time comes to arrest him, Lok reluctantly reveals his true identity to him, but the arrest goes awry and Feng is presumed dead after his flaming car falls into the sea. Shaken by conflicting feelings of duty and remorse, Lok decides to support Feng’s girlfriend Yung (Christy Chung), but slowly falls in love with her. A year later Feng reappears, asking for Lok’s help on one more job, for old times’ sake. But his real intention is to get revenge… A relatively small film by Benny Chan’s standards, Man Wanted nevertheless benefits from the director’s usual impressive flair for action, and while the story is really nothing new, the chemistry shared by Simon Yam and Yu Rongguang (the latter being particularly excellent here) ensures the film never bores. It is however frequently weighed down by the heavy-handed romantic subplot, despite Christy Chung’s good performance, miles away from her overacting in Red Wolf the same year. ***

 

LEGACY OF RAGE (1986) review

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In the middle of the 1980’s, Brandon “son of Bruce” Lee was looking to get into the business of film, though more as a straight dramatic actor than an action star. He was trying to make a name for himself outside of his father’s long-reaching shadow, but naturally producers were mostly interested in having him take up that mantle and he was quickly offered action films both in America and Hong Kong. In his tragically short career, Ronny Yu’s Legacy of Rage was Brandon Lee’s first leading role as wellas the only film he made in Hong Kong. The film was a success (though precise box office figures are hard to find) and netted him a Hong Kong Film Awards nomination as Best New Peformer. Despite that, Lee decided to pursue a career mostly in the United States, where he shot a few solid actioners before dying at the tragically young age of 28 on the set of The Crow.

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA 4 (1993) short review

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In 1993, Wu Shu champion Vincent Zhao had the uneasy task of replacing Jet Li as the iconic Wong Fei Hung in a fourth installment of Tsui Hark’s Once Upon A Time In China series, following a highly successful trilogy of films. Once Upon A Time In China IV (henceforth Ouatic IV) is not actually directed by Tsui Hark, but by Yuen Bun, who had choreographed the action in the third film. The film is on a smaller scale, and its story, while still musing on themes of national pride and foreign influence, is both more anecdotal and a rehash of the second film’s plot (with the ‘Red Lantern’ sect replacing the ‘White Lotus’ sect). Zhao is an adequate replacement : he’s not as charismatic as Jet Li, but his martial arts ability and grace doesn’t suffer by comparison. The problem is that the film features drawn-out scenes of lion-dancing, a venerable tradition that must be stunning in real life, but tends to bore this writer on screen, and despite the stunning design of some of those parade ornaments, is a weak substitute for actual fight scenes, which are too scarce here. Elsewhere, Jean Wang provides a fine replacement for Rosamund Kwan’s absent Aunt Yee, and Xiong Xin Xin is close to stealing the film away from Zhao with his humorous performance (complemented of course by his awe-inspiring kicks). But like the former film, Ouatic IV lacks a proper villain, with Chin Kar-Lok and Billy Chow forming a striking but grossly underused duo of baddies. An entertaining but forgettable installment. **1/2

THE AVENGING EAGLE (1978) review

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While he didn’t achieve the same status as fellow directors Chang Cheh, Yuan Chu or Liu Chia-Liang within the Shaw Brothers roster of talent, Sun Chung has nevertheless given the legendary Hong Kong film studio some of its most original and/or striking classics. From his trailblazing use of steadycam to film martial arts fights in The Kung Fu Instructor, to the unhinged weirdness of Human Lanterns, Sun left an unmistakable though unsung mark in the Shaw catalogue. The Avenging Eagle might just be his best achievement. It follows Chi Min-Sing (Ti Lung), who is part of a brotherhood of assassins known as the Eagles, all raised by and obeying to the cruel Yue Xi-Hong (Ku Feng), who sends them on missions to murder his enemies. When Chi is gravely wounded in one of these missions, he is taken in by a generous man, whose daughter he falls in love with. She urges him to not kill anymore and become a good man, but the pressure from Yue and the Eagles proves too strong : soon Chi is back in the murdering business, and he can’t stop the man who saved him and the woman he loves from being assassinated by his ‘brothers’. But after having committed the unthinkable by murdering a pregnant woman on his master’s order, Chi finally decides to run away from the Eagles and look for the murdered woman’s husband to atone for his crime. During his escape he meets a nameless man (Alexander Fu-Sheng), who decides to help him, seemingly out of the kindness of his heart. But it is soon discovered he has hidden motives, and unsuspected fighting abilities…

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