KEEP CALM AND BE A SUPERSTAR (2018) short review

093210.13258905_1000X1000

Tiezhu (Li Ronghao), a private detective, is recruited by the police to investigate action star Yuen Bao’s (Eason Chan) links to a Thai drug trafficker. But after he saves the actor from a set accident, the two become friends. Tiezhu is hired to work on The Time Traveler, the film Bao is shooting, and falls in love with his co-star Tong Tong (Li Yitong). Meanwhile, Bao’s manager Tai (Chan Kwok Kwan) is obviously up to no good. Vincent Kok’s Keep Calm and be a Superstar amuses faintly with its parody of Jackie Chan’s persona through the character of Yuen Bao – a self-absorbed, happy-go-lucky, martial arts star yearning for acting awards. A lampooning of the classic end-credits bloopers of Chan’s film is particularly funny. But this also gives the film a dated feel: this phase of Chan’s career has been over for a while – imagine a 2018 US comedy based on a parody of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s action heyday. The film doesn’t become fresh either through its spoofing of Infernal Affairs (albeit worth a chuckle), and its references to Cold War, though less dated, are also less inspired. The rest is very wild mugging by Eason Chan (one scene where he over-emotes in the way Jackie Chan often did a while ago is admittedly quite funny), overshadowing Li Ronghao at every turn, a dash of passable action choreographed by Sammo Hung’s third son Jimmy Hung, and some reliable supporting turns by the great Hui Shiu Hung (always the most welcome of sights in any film) and the underrated Chan Kwok Kwan, who seems primed for a career revival soon. **

HEAT TEAM (2004) short review

Heat_Team

Dante Lam’s Heat Team is an action-comedy based solely on the passable chemistry between Aaron Kwok and Eason Chan, with the plot a vaguely convoluted afterthought, and the runtime already overlong at 95 minutes. The film follows two Interpol agents – one righteous and earnest (Kwok), the other a smarmy womanizer (Chan) – as they track down a jewel thief. Well, that’s the through line at least. There are countless digressions as the two cops bicker and flirt with their attractive colleague (Yumiko Cheng), indulge in dick-measuring contests (like determining who’s the best shooter with a paintball match in the office, or who can eat the spiciest), try to ingratiate themselves with their chief (an amusingly self-deprecating Danny Lee), and at some point, come very close to french-kissing each other. Even the investigation is actually more of a random series of encounters, the most memorable being a hilarious Hui Shiu-Hung cameo. It’s a frustratingly unfocused film that’s rarely as cool or as funny as it seems to think, with a sprinkling of action scenes that are average at best. Truly not the excellent Dante Lam’s proudest hour. **

BROTHERS (2007) short review

Brothers+2007-2-b

Derek Chiu’s Brothers was notable at the time of its release for reuniting the “Four Tigers” of Hong Kong TV network TVB, that is to say its four most successful actors in the eighties : Andy Lau, Michael Miu, Felix Wong and Ken Tong. Beyond that central quartet, the film also has a fairly impressive, albeit not uncommon, Hong Kong cast. The plot follows a terminally ill triad boss (Michael Miu), who with the help of his lover/lawyer (Crystal Huang) and his adoptive brother/ bodyguard (Felix Wong), navigates in a sea of aggressive rivals (Ken Tong and Henry Fong) and dogged cops (Andy Lau and Gordon Lam), to go clean and make his little brother (Eason Chan) his successor. The film is a meat and potatoes triad drama that possesses little in the way of originality but manages to feel reasonably fresh thanks to a steady pace, a lack of excess and most of all a strong cast on mostly fine form. Michael Miu anchors the film impressively with a thoughtful, tragic, nuanced performance that makes one wish he’d venture out of TV more often. Despite being by far the film’s biggest star, Andy Lau takes an admirable backseat, while injecting some unforced and much-needed comic relief at key moments. There’s quite a few interesting characters around them, not many of them developed enough, but all of them played in low-key, nuanced fashion, from Eason Chan’s naïve but steadfast little brother to Huang Yi’s strong but conflicted lawyer, with Yu Rongguang, Gordon Lam and Wang Zhiwen also leaving a mark. A bit uncomfortably, the film is too long for its fairly simple plot and overused tropes, but too short for its engaging and varied set of characters. ***

I CORRUPT ALL COPS (2009) review

icorruptallcops_poster

Insanely prolific filmmaker Wong Jing (in 30 years, close to 200 films as a producer, a director and/or a writer) is known mainly for his shameless cash-grabbing, exploitative proclivities, extreme mining of film trends and taste for crass humor, but once in a while he decides to write and direct a film that can actually be taken seriously. 2002’s Colour of the Truth was one such film, the recent The Last Tycoon (2012) was another, and in between you have I Corrupt All Cops, which charts the circumstances in which Hong Kong’s Independant Commission Against Corruption came to exist. In the seventies, rampant corruption in the Hong Kong Police (which thus amounted to little more than another triad) was drastically reduced thanks to the efforts of agents from the newly-formed ICAC, who had to sustain tremendous pressure and threats.

(more…)