LINE WALKER 2: INVISIBLE SPY (2019) review

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2016’s Line Walker was a loose spin-off from the highly-successful TVB series of the same title, with the characters of Charmaine Sheh and Hui Shiu Hung the only ties between small and big screen; this Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy is a thematic sequel, with all narrative connections to the TV show now severed, as Sheh and Hui don’t return. Louis Koo, Nick Cheung and Francis Ng do return however, in new roles. When a hacker (Jiang Peiyao), arrested for her connection to a terrorist car crash in the center of Hong Kong, reveals that there may be a network of undercover terrorists in the Hong Kong police, everyone becomes a potential suspect, including the three officers in charge of retrieving a hard-drive containing a list of the moles from a location in Burma: Ching (Nick Cheung), Cheng (Louis Koo) and Yip (Francis Ng). Ching and Cheng are both former students of Yip, but they may share a far older bond, while their allegiances soon prove mysterious.

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PROJECT GUTENBERG (2018) review

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Project Gutenberg is Felix Chong’s second solo project – that is, away from Alan Mak – after the underrated triad comedy Once a Gangster nine years ago. It follows Lee Man (Aaron Kwok), a painter of mediocre inspiration who discovers that he’s peerless at copying works of art. Soon, he’s hired by Ng Fuk Sang (Chow Yun Fat), aka Painter, the charismatic and ruthless head of a money-counterfeiting gang. Lee quickly becomes an invaluable part of the gang, and though he’s repelled by Painter’s violent ways, he sticks around in the hopes that the rewards showered upon him by the leader, will help him win back the love of his old flame Yuen Man (Zhang Jingchu), a now successful artist. At the same time, the counterfeiting gang is in the crosshairs of Inspector Ho (Catherine Chow) and her team.

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THE ROOKIES (2019) review

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More than five years after his promising and successful directing debut Firestorm, screenwriter-turned-director Alan Yuen is back with The Rookies, which died a very quick death at the Chinese box-office, and doesn’t seem destined for much of an international career, despite the presence of Milla Jovovich in a sizable role. It follows Zhao Feng (Darren Wang), a minor social media celebrity who scales skyscrapers live in Hong Kong for his fans’ entertainment. One day, as he’s parachuting down from a building, he unwittingly ends up in the middle of a dangerous transaction, and is mistaken by a shady businessman (Chan Kwok Kwan) as his contact. After managing to wing his way out of this delicate situation, he’s recruited by Bruce (Mille Jovovich), an elite agent from a secret organization called the Order of the Phantom Knighthood.

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WHISPER OF SILENT BODY (2019) review

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Based on a popular series of novels written by real-life forensic pathologist Qin Ming, and which has already yielded three successful TV series, Li Haishu and Huang Yanwei’s Whisper of Silent Body stars Yan Yikuan as forensic pathologist Qin Ming (yes the author made his hero a handsome and brilliant alter-ego to himself, how cute), a man of extreme dedication to his job, a legend in his field and a popular media figure in the fictional city of Chongjian. Together with his new intern Fan Jiajia (Dai Si), who’s not-so-secretly in love with him, he collaborates with police detective and frenemy Lin Tao (Geng Le), who’s not-so-secretly in love with Fan, on investigating the murder of a loan shark, with the prime suspect being crazed former martial arts champion Kou Yong (Shi Yanneng). But it soon appears that this case is directly connected to several recent deaths in the city.

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PRINCESS MADAM (1989) review

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As a director, erstwhile Chang Cheh assistant Godfrey Ho is known as a master of schlock, many of his films being facepalm-inducing patchworks of stock footage, recycled scenes from older films, gratuitous sex scenes and quite often, random ninja appearances. He’s like the dark flip-side of that other Chang Cheh assistant, John Woo. Yet, a film like Princess Madam is proof that Ho was more than capable of delivering a solid, coherent and at times even affecting actioner. Moon Lee and Sharon Yeung star as police officers Mona and Lisa (aheheh), assigned to the protection of a key witness in bringing mob boss Lung (Yueh Hua) to justice for murdering a cop. During a failed ambush on the witness and her police escort, Mona kills the lover of assassin Lily (Michiko Nishiwaki), who later retaliates by seducing, then kidnapping her husband. But matters are complicated further by the fact that Lisa’s adoptive father (Kenneth Tsang) was complicit in Lung’s crime, which poses an agonizing dilemma to her.

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QUEEN’S HIGH (1991) short review

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Queen’s High sometimes absurdly goes by the title In the Line of Duty: The Beginning, even though it is one of the few films in which Cynthia Khan doesn’t play a cop. One of only five – mostly little-known – films directed by unsung action director Chris Lee Kin Sang (who choreographed the first-rate fights in films such as In the Line of Duty 3 or Ringo Lam’s masterpiece Burning Paradise), it is the simple story of a woman (Khan) whose father – a prominent mobster – is assassinated by a rival gang. Not long after, her family is targeted on her own wedding day, resulting in the death of her husband (Cha Chuen Yee) and her brother (Simon Yam). Thus she has no choice but to take over the family business, and bloody revenge is on the agenda. Queen’s High takes its sweet time getting started, with a good thirty minutes of uninvolving mafia talks – which is probably why the film starts with a narrative prolepsis of the tragic wedding. Yet this talky first third ensures that, by the time all hell breaks loose, we’re well-acquainted with the characters, which don’t have much depth but are played by a likable ensemble, including a particularly dashing Simon Yam. Then comes the wedding day attack, a shocking and riveting set piece that only occasionally dips into silliness, and ups the film’s intensity by quite a few notches. From then on, the steady stream of retribution makes for a rather gripping watch: Chris Lee directs with style, favoring Peckinpah slow-motion, capturing the statuesque and charismatic Cynthia Khan like an angry empress, and orchestrating gorgeously brutal fights in which one can witness the birth of Nick Li Chung Chi’s trademark fluid yet gritty, almost cyclical ballet of kicks. The warehouse finale is one of the best in an era when warehouse finales were as common as sky beam finales have been in 2010s Hollywood blockbusters. ***

 

FATAL TERMINATION (1990) short review

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Despite its amusingly redundant and over-the-top title, Andrew Kam’s Fatal Termination is quite tame for two thirds of its runtime: its routine plot involves an arms dealer (Philip Ko) who hijacks a weapons shipment destined for Indian terrorists, with the help of a corrupt customs officer (Robin Shou) whose honest colleague (Michael Miu) becomes a scapegoat, the prime suspect to the cop (Simon Yam) in charge of the investigation. Ray Lui and Moon Lee play Miu’s brother and sister-in-law, concerned bystanders for most of the film but thrust into action for the last third, after he’s killed and their daughter is targeted for kidnapping as they get too close to the truth. This last third is in sharp contrast with the boring simmer of what came before: it is an explosion of brutality that is some of the most inspired chaos ever conjured up in a Hong Kong action film, courtesy here of action directors Ridley Tsui and Paul Wong. The kidnapping scene, where the little girl is dangled by her hair out of a speeding car, to the hood of which a desperate Moon Lee clings while attacking the driver, is a gobsmacking tour-de-force of action-directing and fearless stunt-work, and yet a mere starter. Subsequently, there’s hook-impaling a la Cobra, people strapped with explosives and blown to pieces, a child is shot to death, and it all ends with a relentless ballet of dueling cars and helicopters on brownfield land. With a more interesting plot, better pacing, and actual characters for the talented ensemble of Yam, Miu, Lee, Lui, Ko and Shou to sink their teeth into, this could have been a stone-cold classic of Hong Kong action cinema. James Horner provides most of the music, though he of course had no idea: his score for Gorky Park is heavily tracked-in. **1/2

THE WHITE STORM 2: DRUG LORDS (2019) review

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Louis Koo’s third sequel of 2019, after P Storm and Chasing the Dragon II, and before Line Walker 2, Herman Yau’s The White Storm 2: Drug Lords (hereafter Drug Lords) is an in-name-only follow up (for obvious heroic bloodshed reasons) to Benny Chan’s hugely enjoyable 2013 actioner The White Storm. Koo plays Dizang, a triad member who gets severely punished by his boss (Kent Cheng) for peddling drugs in one of his night clubs. Reluctantly dishing out the punishment is his longtime friend Yu (Andy Lau), who cuts three of his fingers. Fifteen years later, Dizang has risen through the triad ranks and become a feared drug lord, while Yu has left the triads and become a billionaire financial expert, married to a successful lawyer (Karena Lam), and founder of an anti-drug charity. But when his illegitimate son Danny falls to his death while high on cocaine, Yu takes his fight against drugs to the next level, promising a 100-million $ bounty to whoever kills Dizang.

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THE FATAL RAID (aka SPECIAL FEMALE FORCE 2) (2019) review

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Jacky Lee’s The Fatal Raid was initially announced as a sequel to Wilson Chin’s lackluster Girls With Guns revival Special Female Force, before dropping the connection altogether. Indeed, only three actresses return – in new roles – from the 2016 film: Jade Leung, Jeana Ho and Hidy Yu. Twenty years ago, Hong Kong inspectors Tam (Patrick Tam), Hard Gor (Michael Tong), Fong (Jade Leung), Shirley (Sharon Luk) and the rest of their team conducted a raid in Macao against a group of vicious gangsters, which ended in the deaths of Hard Gor, Shirley and an innocent bystander. Now, still shell-shocked from this botched operation, Tam and Fong must return to Macao to face an anarchist gang that threatens the city’s safety. Backing them is a special female force comprised of Alma (Jeana Ho), Yan Han (Lin Min Chen), Sheila (Hidy Yu) and Yu Yu (Jadie Lin).

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P STORM (2019) review

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Less than five years after 2014’s modestly successful Z Storm, David Lam’s ICAC franchise is still strongly storming through the alphabet: with each new installment, box office results grow, while the light in Louis Koo’s eyes gets dimmer and dimmer. He returns as officer William Luk, a poster boy for the ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption, lest anyone forgot), a character which after four films still has the depth of, well, a poster. This time, Luk goes undercover in a prison where corruption runs rampant between a few powerful inmates – including wealthy heir Cao (Raymond Lam) – and most of the wardens, headed by superintendent Sham (Patrick Tam). There, his mission is made all the more risky by the presence of Wong (Gordon Lam), a former detective Luk himself put behind bars in Z Storm.

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