THE TROUGH (2018) review

145246.40313400_1000X1000

Nick Cheung’s third film as a director and star, The Trough follows Yu Qiu (Cheung), a cop who’s been undercover so long in the gangs of the fictional Solo City, that his mind is starting to slip: he’s developing a death wish, the limit between the Law and Crime has been blurred out, and between two missions he goes to live as a hermit in the Namibian desert, fighting wild animals. Solo City is a degenerate, crime-riddled sewer, and there’s no shortage of mob bosses for him to take down, under the orders of his handler Jim (He Jiong), a lone man of honor assisted by hacker Jackie (Yu Nan) but surrounded by dirty cops (including Maggie Cheung Ho Yee and Chris Collins). Yu Qiu’s new mission is to unmask and bring down “The Boss”, the hidden mastermind who controls Solo City; and the key to bring him down may be a little girl (Li Yongshan), who was plucked from an orphanage for mysterious reasons, and is now wanted by dirty cops and half the city’s gangsters alike.

(more…)

Advertisements

GENGHIS KHAN (2018) review

112025.42805175_1000X1000

There have been more than a few films made about the great 12th-century Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan – the most successful and closest to reality probably being Sergei Brodov’s Mongol (2007) with Tadanobu Asano – but none that have offered such a wild fantasy spin on his rise to power as Hasi Chaolu’s Genghis Khan. William Chan stars as Temujin (later known as Genghis Khan, which means “universal ruler”), a young Mongol boy whose romance with Borte (Lin Yun), a girl from a neighboring tribe, is abruptly interrupted when his father is killed during a battle by Kuchuru (Hu Jun), an evil warlord. But after being beheaded in combat, the warlord is resurrected by the love of his life, the witch Dodai (Zhang Xinyi). However, the resurrection comes at a price: Dodai is now hostage to the King of Hell, who thus has Kuchuru do his bidding: soon, an alignment of planets will signal the perfect moment for him to lead an army of orcs and skeletons to invade the grasslands of Mongolia. Years pass, and a now grown-up Temujin sets out to find Borte and marry her, but fate as other plans. Like his ancestor Cina, armed with the mighty spear Soledin, the Mongol hero is called to unite the tribes of Mongolia and take the fight for his land into the depths of hell.

(more…)

THE WASTED TIMES (2016) review

150621-27406001_1000x1000

Delayed for more than a year for reasons unclear (censorship issues or belabored editing?), Cheng Er’s third film takes place in Shanghai in the thirties and forties -before, during and after the battle and subsequent capture of the city by the Japanese. It follows various characters all connected to Mister Lu (Ge You), a crime boss: there’s his housekeeper (Ni Yan), his superior (Ni Dahong), the prostitute he occasionally visits (Gillian Chung), an actress he admires and helps (Yuan Quan), another actress (Zhang Ziyi) unfaithfully married to his superior, her lover (Wallace Chung), her other lover (Hang Geng), and more importantly Watabe (Tadanobu Asano), a Japanese man who got married and made his life in Shanghai, and claims he will fight for his city rather than side with his countrymen. When Japanese businessmen approach Mister Lu with plans for a lucrative partnership, he refuses ; death ensues.

(more…)

LETHAL HOSTAGE (2012) review

135840.60300885_1000X1000

A young woman (Wang Luodan) asks her recently widowed father (Ni Dahong) to bless her marriage to her husband (Sun Honglei): he refuses. A Narcotics detective (Zhang Mo) is on the trail of a drugs carrier (Yang Kun), who manages to elude him and ends up hiding out in a flat next door to a girl (Gao Ye) and her dog. Cheng Er’s Lethal Hostage sets up these two narrative strands in a few minutes, and then unfolds in four chapters set in the past and the present: these strands are of course connected, and there’s much under the surface of what we’ve just seen. To say more would be to start spoiling the film: it is a simple story told in an interesting and meticulously calculated way, much like Fei Xing’s The Man Behind The Courtyard House, which similarly used a non-linear and chaptered structure to elaborate on a seemingly straightforward set-up and evolve into a meditation on fate and the balance of good and evil in man.

(more…)

WOLF WARRIOR (2015) review

bob2JA1

Wu Jing’s second film as a director after 2008’s Legendary Assassin, which he co-directed with his martial arts choreographer of choice Nicky Li Chung Chi, Wolf Warrior is also his first lead role in the seven years since that film’s release, and the first time he co-wrote a film. He plays Leng Feng, a sniper who is expelled from the army after he solved a hostage crisis by ignoring orders and shooting down the hostage-taker with a hazardous maneuver. While in confinement, he is approached by officer Long Xiaoyun (Yu Nan) with an offer to join an elite tactical team known as the Wolf Warriors. He accepts, and soon he’s in the forest with his new team for a field exercise. But things take a tragic and dangerous turn when they run afoul of a team of foreign mercenaries headed by Tomcat (Scott Adkins) and hired by an international criminal (Ni Dahong) seeking revenge for the death of his brother, who is none other than the hostage-taker killed by Leng Feng. While supervised by Long Xiaoyun from a control room, Leng and two of his comrades must retaliate for the death of one of the Wolf Warriors, and prevent the team from crossing the Chinese border again.

(more…)

WIND BLAST (2010) review

To earn enough money to run away with his girlfriend Sun Jing (Charlie Yeung), Zhang Ning (Yu Xia), accepts an offer from a mysterious employer to kill a mob boss. As a safeguard, he secretly takes a picture of this employer. But having carried out the hit, he finds himself and his girlfriend chased through the Gobi desert not only by four policemen (Duan Yihong, Ni Dahong, Jacky Wu Jing and Zhang Li), but also by two mysterious bounty hunters (Francis Ng and Yu Nan).

Wind Blast is obviously directed by Gao Qunshu (who co-directed the great The Message) as a thrill-ride with overtones of the western genre, be it the barren landscape in which everything unfolds or chases on horseback and mexican stand-offs. The story itself is pared down to its essentials, and Gao does a good job (he also wrote the film) of slowly revealing the dynamics that exist between the characters of this ensemble. It helps that he has a great cast to work with : the quartet of cops makes for an endearing team with Duan Yihong charismatic enough as the purposeful cop, Ni Dahong on fine form as the wise but jaded superior, Zhang Li striking in a long white coat, and a very fun Jacky Wu Jing as an almost childish auxiliary who insist on being called “Knight”. Yu Xia is an ambiguous presence as the fugitive, but you could say Charlie Yeung is wasted in a nothing role as her long-suffering girlfriend. But the real sparks come from Francis Ng and Yu Nan as the bounty hunters. Ng rocks a strange haicut (for a change…) and is his reliable self, providing the quartet of cops with a rather formidable opponent, while Yu Nan takes a very thinly written role and makes it a force to be reckoned with her almost reptilian menace offset by a sullen demeanor. Watching her here as a kick-ass hitwoman, it’s not difficult to understand why she was cast as a member of the Expendables in the second film.

(more…)