I CORRUPT ALL COPS (2009) review

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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.

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN SHANGHAI (2014) review

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The sort-of real life story of Ma Wing Jing, a wholesome country boy with stunning fighting skills who comes to Shanghai to escape poverty, only to end up befriending a charismatic but shady mob boss and losing his soul in the process, has already been the subject of two high-profile films, Chang Cheh’s The Boxer from Shantung and Corey Yuen’s masterpiece, Hero. Though that kind of half-folk, half-historical tale is bound to reappear on film every two decades, one would not expect it to be, as Once Upon in Shanghai is, scripted and produced by gargantuan and insanely prolific money-grabber Wong Jing, while being directed by edgy, often pretentious arthouse darling Wong Ching Po. And yet here it is, starring young upstart Philip Ng in the Ma Wing Jing role and the underrated Andy On as the mob boss, with prestigious action directing by Yuen Woo Ping and Yuen Cheung Yan, and a sturdy supporting cast of legends : Sammo Hung as the benevolent master of the community Ma Wing Jing moves into, as well as Yuen Cheung Yan, Fung Hak On and Chen Kuan Tai as a trio of rival mobsters called the Axe Fraternity.

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FIST POWER (2000) review

Shot on the cheap and in less than a fortnight by the exact same team responsible for the dubious Body Weapon one year earlier (director Aman Chang, producer Wong Jing and star Vincent Zhao mainly), Fist Power is a small, harmless action film about Chau, a Hong Kong policeman (Anthony Wong Chau Sang) who holds an entire school hostage in a desperate attempt to reclaim custody of his son. It’s left to Chiu, a Mainland security expert (Vincent Zhao) whose nephew is in said school, to find the son and bring it to Chau before he blows up the place.

Narratively, Fist Power is pretty straightforward : after half-an-hour spent setting things up, the film becomes a basic race against the clock for its remaining hour. The only obstacle Chiu meets in his quest to bring Chau’s son to him are thugs at the service of Chau’s estranged wife, and so the film is always alternating between our hero running from a point A to a point B, and scenes of our hero beating up some anonymous thugs. All that being interspersed with scenes of Sam Lee trying to provide comic relief, and as usual, alienating the audience in the process. That would be fine if the director were able to ramp up the tension, but instead he seems more interested in throwing every cheap, direct-to-video-reeking editing trick at the spectator, undermining not only the film’s already flimsy suspense, but also its numerous action scenes. This is all the more annoying as Fist Power has a lot of talent in front of the camera.

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LAST HERO IN CHINA (1993) review

In 1993, near the end of production on Tsui Hark and Jet Li’s third installment in the insanely successful Once Upon A Time In China series, there seemingly was some kind of dispute between director and star, which led to the two not working together for more than a decade, despite their working relationship being as legendary as, say, John Woo and Chow Yun Fat. It also led to Jet Li leaving the Once Upon A Time In China franchise (and being replaced with Vincent Zhao). But less than a year later, Li took the role of Wong Fei-Hung again, in a non-official installment : Last Hero in China.

In a way, Last Hero in China (also called Claws of Steel in some places), is to Jet Li what Never Say Never Again is to Sean Connery: both a loving hommage and a cheeky send-up of the character that made him a superstar. A cheeky send-up, in part because the director is none other than Wong Jing, the ‘master’ of heavy and greasy Hong Kong comedy, but a loving homage, because beneath the comedy, there is still Master Wong’s impeccable mastery of Wushu, choreographed by the great Yuen Woo-Ping (just like the first two Once Upon A Time In China films).

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