EUROPE RAIDERS (2018) review

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13 years isn’t such a long time for a sequel to arrive, considering Rambo came back after 19 years, Blade Runner after 25 years, and Mad Max after 29. Yet 13 years feels like eons for the sequel to such fluff as Tokyo Raiders and Seoul Raiders to turn up. Not in terms of anticipation, mind you. Tokyo and Seoul were mildly entertaining but quite unmemorable, and haven’t really aged well. Still, they benefitted from attractive casts gathered around the considerable charm of Tony Leung Chiu Wai. Surprisingly, Leung returns for Europe Raiders, despite having become more rare in recent years – perhaps Wong Kar Wai’s role as a producer helped a bit, or perhaps he just wants to have fun: after all, he also appeared in Monster Hunt 2 this year.

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WINE WAR (2017) review

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Leon Lai’s second film as a director, Wine War follows two friends who grew up together in an orphanage, Wei Li (Leon Lai) and Zhang Shui (Zhang Hanyu). While the former was adopted by a wealthy Frenchman and now lives an opulent and carefree life as a wine expert in France, the latter stayed in China where he’s now a cop. One day, out of the blue after they’ve lost contact for a while, Zhang Shui calls Wei Li and tells him he’s coming to France and needs his help bidding at the auction of a priceless bottle of wine from the 19th century, made from a secret recipe brought to Europe by a Chinese wine-maker of the Yuan dynasty. The auction is organized by LK (Nan Fulong) and his half-sister Li Fang (Du Juan), the last in a Mongol-Chinese lineage established in France, at their chateau in the Pays de la Loire. But as Zhang Shui arrives in France and is reunited with his childhood friend, it soon appears that there are hidden agendas, and that no one is who they say they are, especially not Fang Changfang (David Wang), one of the other potential buyers.

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NEW YORK NEW YORK (2016) short review

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The first film of cinematographer Luo Dong, New York New York was produced by Stanley Kwan and is set in the early-nineties; it tells of the on-again, off-again love between the ambitious head bellboy (Ethan Juan) of a luxury hotel in Shanghai and an equally ambitious young woman (Du Juan), as they cross paths with a shady businessman (Michael Miu) who has plans to start a luxury hotel in New York. It’s hard to be more specific about the film’s plot, because while it’s always quite clear, it’s also spectacularly vacuous and free of tension or emotion. The film always looks pretty, sometimes even quite stylish in its nightly, neon-lit scenes, but it is a relentlessly boring affair, following bland, unlikable characters as they struggle to take uninteresting decisions and carry around ill-defined and uninvolving emotional baggage. Countless forgettable subplots fill out the film, with an occasional voice-over narration laboring to give some sort of tragic sweep to what unfolds languidly onscreen. Ethan Juan and Du Juan make for a strikingly bland couple, their complete lack of charisma or chemistry as actors adding insult to the injury of their poorly-written characters: the former is only remarkable for the stupidity of his decisions (and lack thereof), while the latter is a dead-eyed combination of affected coldness and risible emotional brittleness – there’s an unwittingly hilarious scene where a shrewish rival throws her drink in her face, and she reacts by quaking like the shell-shocked victim of a terrorist attack. What little weight the film possesses is down to veterans Michael Miu and Cecilia Yip, whose strong presence is constantly wasted in favor of the tedious leads. *1/2