WONDER SEVEN (1994) review

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A gang of seven martial artists/bikers (whose more recognizable members are Kent Cheng and Xiong Xin Xin) working for the law who butt heads with a rogue agent working for an international crime organization. That’s about all I remember of the plot, and I saw the film last week. What I do remember : when this film was made, in 1994, director/choreographer Ching Siu-Tung’s action style was being overused in Hong Kong cinema, and overextended by its instigator ; Wonder Seven is a prime example of that. Never mind the lack of a discernible dramatic structure (outside of the fact it all ends in climactic overkill), the non-existent characterization that means that the titular “Wonder Seven” are even less subtly delineated than the Seven Dwarves, or even the puzzling attempts at humor : while these faults aren’t a fixture of Hong Kong cinema, they are at least recurring defects in the more commercial section of that industry, that can often be ignored through sheer sensory elation. But here Ching’s style has reached a point where it was not only feeling very redundant at the time, but still today out of the context of its release looks and feels tired and over-indulgent.

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THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE (2011) review

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Adapted from the same Chinese legend that inspired Tsui Hark’s Green Snake in 1993, Ching Siu-Tung’s The Sorcerer and the White Snake tells of the love between a kindly herbalist (Raymond Lam) and a white snake demon (in human form, that of Eva Huang Shengyi) ; he doesn’t know she’s a snake demon, but abbot Fahai (Jet Li) does. He’s a demon hunter of sorts : when we first meet him, he’s with his assistant Neng Ren (Wen Zhang) vanquishing an ice harpy (Vivian Hsu). Though he can see there is real love between the herbalist and the white snake, Fahai cannot approve of such a union, and issues an ultimatum to the latter. But things get a bit more tangled when Neng Ren himself, having been bitten by a demon, starts taking the appearance of a bat, while falling in love with a green snake demon (Charlene Choi).

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BUTTERFLY & SWORD (1993) review

The synopsis for Butterfly & Sword says that the film is about “a loyalist (Michelle Yeoh) who attempts to keep the King’s empire from being overthrown by a revolutionary group.” It’s good to know, especially since you’d never guess that’s what it is about, even after watching the film itself. Still, circa 1993, a Hong Kong film with no discernable plot was not an unusual thing to say the least, and the idea of a film starring not only the magnificent Michelle Yeoh, but also martial arts god Donnie Yen and the actor’s actor that is known as Tony Leung Chiu Wai, should be enough to be lenient with the film’s narrative shortcomings. Well not really after all : Butterfly & Sword is simply too infuriating in its scattershot storytelling and slapdash action scenes.

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