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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SPEED ANGELS (2011) short review

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Jingle Ma’s Speed Angels bears the distinction of being an all-female racing film – a rare thing indeed – but squanders it with a soapy, mechanical plot and an absolute lack of excitement in the racing scenes. Its tale of a washed-up racing legend (Rene Liu), her rival both on the tracks and in love (Cecilia Cheung) and her gifted new partner (Tang Wei) whose gift for speed is hindered by confidence issues, is a reasonably solid dramatic spine, but it’s constantly undercut by cringeworthy melodrama wherein all female and male characters (here an assorted bunch of pan-Asian heartthrobs who get overshadowed by the main trio) are connected by a tangled web of love, whether it be puppy love, unrequited love, love triangles, tough love or self-interested love. And the racing is as uninvolving as the plotting: races amount to a stale alternation of in-cockpit shots and truly baffling all-CGI exterior shots. As often with Jingle Ma the film is all bathed in blinding levels of white light, except this time there’s also a whole lot of purple ; it is, quite sincerely, one of the purplest films ever. What little traction Speed Angels gets comes from Rene Liu, whose charisma makes her too good for that kind of film, and Tang Wei, who shows a delightful lighter side that her often dark or tragic roles don’t allow her to display. She also wears a different headband in every scene (possibly even every shot). Cecilia Cheung doesn’t register much: like in many of her post-comeback roles there’s a muted, awkward quality to her presence. Martial arts queen Cheng Pei Pei has fun in a small quirky role: she obviously knows what kind of film she’s in. **

PLAYBOY COPS (2008) short review

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Two cops, one from the mainland (Chen Kun), one from Hong Kong (Shawn Yue) ; one is dating the other’s ex-girlfriend (Linda Chung), and they’re both on the trail of a scorpion-tattooed killer. The films starts as an insufferable prance-off between Chen and Yue, the former all douchey smiles and false modesty, the latter proud and sullen but gooey-hearted. At this point their “investigation” doesn’t matter much, as they mostly trade weak barbs, vie for the girl’s affections and fight Xiong Xin Xin in a fun cameo. Then the killer is outed and it is revealed Chen Kun has a bullet lodged in his head that could kill him anytime : these plot turns lead to a stark tonal shift as the film goes from breezy buddy movie to brutal thriller. That shift makes it a bit more interesting, as does a Danny Lee cameo that serves to flesh out Yue’s character a bit. In the end, as directed with glitzy, superficial flair by Jingle Ma, Playboy Cops is a serviceable time-waster, which depending on the circumstances of your watching it can either be a good or a bad thing. **

BUTTERFLY LOVERS (2008) short review

This featherweight retelling of a classic, Romeo and Juliet-like legend (already filmed in Tsui Hark’s The Lovers) is directed by the master of glitz, Jingle Ma, with a sure commercial hand but little in the way of a vision or even basic originality. Wu Chun and Charlene Choi are star-crossed lovers while Hu Ge is the bitter third wheel whose scheming precipitates a strikingly artificial tragic end. Charlene Choi is exceedingly cute, and estimable people like Ti Lung, Xiong Xin Xin or Fan Siu-Wong add a dash of gravitas and martial arts in supporting roles, but Butterfly Lovers remains as bland as its male lead, charisma-challenged Wu Chun. Falsely advertised under the title Assassin’s Blade and with an action-packed cover in some places, it is a corny affair that only really succeeds as eye-candy (and ear-candy, thanks to Chiu Tsang Hei’s score). **

TOKYO RAIDERS (2000) review

When her wealthy Japanese fiancé Takahashi (Toru Nakamura) doesn’t show up at their wedding, Macy (Kelly Chen) decides to head for Tokyo and look for him. Yung (Ekin Cheng), their interior decorator, decides to tag along, because the bills haven’t been payed and he wants his money. In Tokyo, the bickering pair runs into mob boss Ito (Hiroshi Abe)’s men, and are rescued by fellow Chinese and private eye Lin (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), who is also looking for Takahashi. But, of course, nobody is what they say they are, though everyone has the same goal : find Takahashi.

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SILVER HAWK (2004) review

Following her rise to international fame thanks to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Michelle Yeoh founded Mythical Films with her then-companion Thomas Chung, with an eye towards giving herself tailor-made roles in films with an international ambition. The venture led to Peter Pau’s The Touch, a sporadically enjoyable Indiana Jones-wannabe that was successful in China but not anywhere else, and to Silver Hawk, which replicated The Touch’s pattern of success. Both films are vanity projects of sorts for Yeoh, as she cast herself first as a fearless adventurer then as a fearless super-heroine, in films that glorified the grace of her moves and the flawlessness of her skin. Not that there’s anything wrong with the idea of a film glorifying Michelle Yeoh. One of the most beautiful actresses in the world, a skillfull martial artists of unparalleled grace in action, but also a powerful dramatic actress (as evidenced in films like the aforementioned Ang Lee film and Far North, among many others), Yeoh is the very definition of a true movie star. But the cold, hard truth is that Silver Hawk is as misguided a star vehicle as it gets.

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