DYNASTY WARRIORS (2021) review

An adaptation of the Japanese hack-and-slash video game of the same title that has spanned 24 years and 15 consoles, Roy Chow’s Dynasty Warriors was shot in 2017 but dragged its feet through post-production for 4 years due to financial issues, finally landing with a thud at the Chinese box-office, with an online release following less than a week later. Like the video game, it follows the epic events of Luo Guanzhong’s fundamental novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms while infusing it with fantasy tropes: no mythical creatures, but near-superhuman heroes wielding weapons infused with supernatural energy. And so the future lords and generals of the Three Kingdoms era: Liu Bei (Tony Yang), Guan Yu (Han Geng), Zhang Fei (Justin Cheung), and their future enemy Cao Cao (Wang Kai), as they lead the resistance against imperial usurper Dong Zhuo (Lam Suet) and his undefeated general, Lv Bu (Louis Koo).

(more…)

A BETTER TOMORROW 2018 (2018) review

105902.71331155_1000X1000

There’s probably no Hong Kong film more seminal and iconic than John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow. Mixing his own richly melodramatic sensibility with his mentor Chang Cheh’s themes of heroic brotherhood, Sam Peckinpah’s throbbing, elegiac brutality and Jean-Pierre Melville’s urban Bushido, Woo brought to life the Heroic Bloodshed genre and its visual grammar of slow-motion, bullet-riddled valor and gut-wrenching montages. He also revitalized Shaw Brothers stalwart Ti Lung’s career, made Leslie Cheung a star, and turned Chow Yun Fat from an affable TV lead to a true film icon. A Better Tomorrow was then milked for an entertaining sequel, a solid prequel, a mediocre Wong Jing re-run (1994’s Return to a Better Tomorrow) and a more recent, passable Korean remake. Announced concurrently to a rival remake to be directed by Stephen Fung (of which nothing has been heard since), Ding Sheng’s A Better Tomorrow 2018 isn’t the first time he tries his hand at an iconic Hong Kong property, and the flawed but interesting Police Story 2013 has shown that the writer/director isn’t one to slavishly regurgitate a franchise’s formula.

(more…)

THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X (2017) review

104113.18518464_1000X1000After a 2008 Japanese adaptation, a 2012 Korean adaptation, and before a planned American adaptation, comes the Chinese adaptation of Keigo Igashino’s crime novel The Devotion of Suspect X, directed by actor/singer and second-time director Alec Su. This will be a review of the film as an independent piece of work; for insight on how it compares to both the source novel and the previous adaptations, head to Maggie Lee’s review.

(more…)

RAILROAD TIGERS (2016) review

145822-69274382_1000x1000

After the superb tragicomic elegy Little Big Soldier and the flawed but interesting single-setting thriller Police Story 2013, Ding Sheng has proven to be one of Jackie Chan’s most interesting collaborators, respectful of the myth but not a yes-man, and able to bring ambitious ideas to star vehicles. Now the two have reunited for a wartime adventure set in the winter of 1941, as Japan takes control of Southeast Asia, using the railways for military transportation and supply. Ma Yuan (Jackie Chan) is a railroad worker who doubles as a Robin Hood figure, using his knowledge of the railroad network to ambush, sabotage and steal supplies from the Japanese convoys to feed the Chinese people, assisted by a team of freedom fighters called the “Railroad Tigers” (including Huang Zitao and Jaycee Chan). One day they offer shelter to a wounded Chinese soldier (Darren Wang), who tells them of a bridge that has to be blown up to cut the Japanese army’s supply route and cripple its war effort. The Railroad Tigers, helped by a former sharp-shoother (Wang Kai) thus set out on their biggest and most dangerous mission yet, while Japanese officers Yamaguchi (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi) and Yuko (Zhang Lanxin) try to stop them.

(more…)