Saturday, September 29, 2007

More from HK

First, I think it is only fair to give Jacky Cheung's response to the growing furor around his and May Lo's treatment of their Filipino maids. He issued a statement that he doesn't treat them any worse than any of his friends and that it's only natural that he fires them from time to time. That certainly makes me feel better about him. Some other HK stars who also have maids at their beck and call are telling the press that the maids that work for them are just like family - who just have to work 75 hours a week.

I finally went off to see the Hong Kong Walk of Stars yesterday. The excitement almost killed me. I am not sure exactly what I was expecting, but somehow more than a statue of Bruce Lee and a lot of hand prints. Basically it struck me as a way of forcing people to go through a luxury mall to get there. Let's face it, most hand prints in cement look an awful lot alike and after seeing 20-30 of them they tend to blend together - now was that Josephine Siao or Michelle Yeoh who had the really hot hand print? At any rate, I did take pictures of many of them and will put them up one of these days for any hand fetishists out there. One would have thought the least they could do to jazz it up a bit and not make it a carbon copy of Hollywood would be to inlay a picture of the star with a little biography. Anyway, if ever you have to chose between going to the Walk of Stars or having a cold beer, I recommend the beer.

Over the next few weeks I am hoping to see a bunch of films - mainly at Pusan - though I admit their line-up doesn't strike me as all that strong and many of the films I wanted to see seem to have no English sub-titles - but I don't have the brain capacity to write lengthy reviews on each of them. So I am instead going to put out instant noodle reviews - quick and hopefully just filling enough.

Now I had planned to see Lust, Caution tonight and write one on that - but then I realized that it is opening in the states and there really wasn't much point in me throwing down my few cents when you have legit critics writing about it - but then after a friend at lunch told me today that Tony Leung's testicles make a guest appearance in the film I decided I would just skip it all together. I really don't want to see them on a gigantic screen swinging back and forth like a wrecking ball and making my head jerk back each time - I could end up with whiplash. Why Tony decided that after 25 years in the business he needed to display them to world is something I really would like to know. I certainly could have gone the rest of my life without seeing them and in fact may do so. And as far as I know these are not stunt balls - in fact Ang Lee has made a big deal out of hinting that the couple are really having sex on the screen. I bet that makes Carina Lau really happy. I did though read the short story (not all that short at 50 pages) by the great Eileen Chang and highly recommend it - wonderfully written with lovely detailed descriptions of Shanghai life among the elite back in the 30's - and nary a mention of testicles.

Next up will be two short reviews of The Sun Also Rises and the surprisingly good The Detective.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Back again

I am back in Hong Kong like a wounded cat. I am not sure what that means but I just like the sound of it. There wasn't much going on in Thailand that was Asian film related so the blog remained dormant for a few weeks - but now that I am here it is time to wake it up for a while. I did have the misfortune to see Rogue Asssassin while there and am beginning to be sorry that Jet didn't keep his vow to do no more action films. This was so depressing to watch - a monotone impersonal performance from Jet with loads of tedious (what's going on Corey Yuen?) and very violent scenes in which he kills people and then allows a slight smile to crawl on to his face like he just let off a silent fart in a crowd. His commercial for San Miguel beer is mildly more entertaining and his smiling face pushing beer is all over the city. All I can figure is that Nina Li is costing him a bundle to maintain.
Now I did have a HK film related dream, but not sure if that counts as seeing a HK movie but it sure was a cool one. I don't think I have ever had a dream with HK actors in it before so I recall it with some sharpness. In it Subway Cinema is putting on a tribute to the HK Girls with Guns genre - but instead of showing movies on the screen we were having them reenacted by the actresses on the stage (how I can't imagine!) - in this case with Moon Lee and Michiko Nishiwaki! I took on the onerous duty of having to look after Moon and we were becoming very buddy like as she was confessing to me that her marriage wasn't going so well and that she was happy to be doing this to get away from him for a while. I was providing a tender shoulder to cry on - just as much as she wanted. Michiko on the other hand was showing me complete indifference and seemed pissed off that her career had come to this. Unfortunately, just as Moon and I were going off somewhere I woke up and as hard as I tried to pick up the thread of the dream again I couldn't. I had high hopes.

I decided to hop on over here on my way to the Pusan Film Festival to see some films at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival - they have a great line-up but it appears that everything is already sold out! So I will have to get by on what is showing around town - never a bad thing in Hong Kong. Ang Lee's Lust, Caution just opened as did The Detective with Aaron Kwok and today I saw The Sun Also Rises from Jiang Wen. I'll try and put together some coherent thoughts on it later but it is a visual feast with some really imaginative scenes that will make you tingle - but it's not the easiest film to make sense of as it is divided into four segments that connect but not in a clear way. I am not sure he meant it this way but the segments struck me as going in style from fairy tale into morality play into parable into allegorical fable.

There is some celebrity gossip in the newspapers as well - always love that. There is a huge industry in Hong Kong in importing Filipino maids to do all the hard work in the households and no wealthy family could keep their heads up at a dinner party unless they had at least three or four running about. Tales are legendary of how they are often mistreated and having to work insane hours. Now it appears that two of my favorite actors are two of the worst offenders - Jacky Cheung and his wife May Lo (an actress until marrying Jacky). According to the paper, they have fired 60 maids and make them work from 6 a.m to 1 a.m. six days a week and on their day off they only have to work till 11 a.m. and then from 7.p.m. to 1 a.m. The couple has now been placed on a list of banned employers and can't hire any more maids. What is poor May Lo to do now? We should start a petition to free May Lo from having to clean her own house.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Connie Chan Po-chu Musical DVD

I came across a DVD while in Hong Kong that is a lovely nugget for Connie Chan fans like myself. She was a huge star in the Cantonese cinema of the 1960's and did every kind of role imaginable from drama to action to a slew of musicals. I had come upon a few of her musicals and had wanted to see more, but sadly very few of the DVDs of Cantonese cinema from this period have English sub-titles. And neither does this DVD, but it does present us with 38 musical numbers from her career. They range from sappy ballads to pop to rock to Chinese opera and even a Hawaiian number is in here. It is a blast from the past and along with her we can spot other stars of Cantonese cinema such as Lydia Shum (participating in a number that sounded an awful lot like Teenie Weenie Polka Dot Bikini but instead they were singing barbecue, barbecue), Woo Fung, Josephine Siao, Lu Chi and Sek Kin (who gives Connie a leer so oily it left a stain on the screen).

The musical numbers are very modest compared to the songs being produced across town at the Shaw Studios - usually in black and white with a small band at best and choreography that was probably made up by Connie a few minutes before she was to dance. But a few of them are great fun to watch - in particular the rock and roll ones - though unfortunately they don't include the numbers from her film I'll Get You One Day that completely floored me - and the songs also give you a real slice of history that few of us have had a chance to see.

I would assume that this can be purchased on the Internet. For anyone who can read Chinses, here are the song titles.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Shilpa - a book review

By Julie Aspinall
274 pages

Shilpa Shetty had been having a moderately successful career as a Bollywood actress for nearly 14 years – never getting the A list films that went to actresses such as Kajol, Rani, Karishma and other big stars – but still appearing in films the next level down and over her career she co-starred with nearly every top male lead at some point. Still, now in her early 30’s, the handwriting seemed to be on the wall that her years as a leading lady were numbered – even if she still received the informal accolade as having the best body in Bollywood. There was no reason for tears though as she had apparently piled up the money during her career (currently est. at 15 million Pounds) and having never married was still living with her well-to-do parents in their large Mumbai apartment. Then in a matter of a few weeks she became perhaps the most famous Bollywood actress outside of India.

Her agent convinced her to appear in a UK reality show called Big Brother for the not too shabby fee of 357,000 pounds (around $700,000). In this show a number of not quite celebrities anymore have to live in a house for a number of weeks totally cut off from the outside world and perform various tasks that either endear them to the watching audience or alienate them – in which case they are either voted out of the house or simply don’t get enough votes in the final showdown. You can also leave on your own volition which a number of this group did. The group had a wide diversity from film legend director Ken Russell to singers Leo Sayer and Jermaine Jackson to the A-Team’s Dirk Benedict to honestly a bunch of people who I have never heard of and have no desire to.

The show turned into an international pariah when a few of the lesser known women in the house turned on Shilpa and referred to her in ways that could be called racially and ethnically insensitive. Much of this went on out of Shilpa’s hearing but not of the viewers and as the weeks went by the outrage at what was being said grew enormously in the UK and in India – to the point where a number of British politicians had to apologize to India. None of this uproar was known to the inhabitants of the house, but eventually a vote off was declared between Shilpa and the main instigator, Jade, a low class wanker and it was seen as a referendum on what kind of country England had become – one with its traditions of tolerance intact or had it become a racially divisive nation where ignorance ruled. In the end Shilpa kicked her butt and the country sighed in relief. In fact, Shilpa ended up winning the whole thing and came out of the house to find herself famous and in great demand both in the UK and back home where she was being seen as a heroine and a staunch representative of Indian values. In truth, she does seem a bit of a stuck up snob who well might have rubbed many of us the wrong way if forced to live with her for weeks.

Faster than you can say Shipa Shetty shops for sea shells at the seashore 100 times this book was written and showed up on book shelves. It is the kind of book that you can find in drugstores – right between the latest from Stephen King and the latest diet fad. Written quickly and seemingly researched primarily with the aid of Google and from watching the tapes of the show (the first 135 pages are devoted to a headache inducing regurgitation of the details from the show) and the rest is basically a litany of quotes about or from Shilpa that the author got from either the internet or the infamous Indian gossip magazines. It is a truly horribly written mess that is so fawning and obsequious to Shilpa who can do no wrong that you might think it was written by Shilpa herself, but then you would think that it might actually have some insight to something. The book was a tedious chore to get through, but for your pleasure here are some of the pertinent facts of Shilpa’s life.

“born on 8 June 1975 in Karnataka, southern India, she was an attractive child right from the start”

“Four years later her younger sister, Shamita, was born, and the family’s happiness was complete”

Her mother is quoted as saying after a difficult birth that Shilpa “was here for a reason and that the Lord had a role for her to play on this earth”

A servant brings her breakfast in bed everyday but since she hates to be seen without make-up on she turns her face away until the servant is gone.

Shilpa has a black belt in karate.

She is 5’10 – one of the tallest actresses in Bollywood.

She first came to some attention for a soft drink “Limca” ad at 16.

“Shilpa in some ways harks back to a time when Britain was a more civilized place than it is today”

Her first film was Baazigar in 1993 with two other unknown actors who were never heard of again – Shahrukh and Kajol.

Shamita is also an actress.

She had a love affair with Akshay Kumar that ended badly for poor Shilpa.

Had a nose job.

Shilpa says that “love is an overrated emotion”. Also that she doesn’t believe in premarital sex – but that making love is o.k.

She is no longer necessarily looking for a mate of the same nationality – so put your running shoes on boys – remember that 15 million number and that’s real money – Pounds.

Her father was arrested for extortion but all charges were later dropped.

Her parents are named Sunanda and Surendra, her sister Shamita and if she had a pet I would guess its name would begin with a S.

Some fashion tips from Shilpa to help you gals get through your busy days:
“Wear big earrings but nothing on your neck. Pick one item of clothing that’s striking and keep everything else understated. Never follow trends. Always match your belt with your shoes and bag. Never do your face in public”.

Some of her better known films: Metro, Dus, Fareb (only film she has co-starred with her sister in), Phir Milenge (played an HIV patient), Dhadkan, Shool, Baazigar.

And now you don’t have to read the book – not that you were planning to anyway!

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Odd Couple (Koo Rad), Thailand, 2007

While watching this in the comfort of a Thai theater among a sea of laughter, the main reaction I had was how unlikely it would be for this film to ever play in America. It is a constant barrage of rude, crude, politically incorrect and insensitive humor that both appalls you and forces you into fits of laughter. It smacks every mincing gay stereotype in the face with a cream pie over and over again beginning with its opening song of “Queer like Us” and continues with ever more outrageous scenarios as it follows the travails of Lily and his never-ending quest for love, breasts and dick. And all this while a crazed serial killer and his many minions are after him. If you showed this in America there might be a riot, but this is Thailand and the transvestite/transsexual genre of films is big business and within that genre anything goes.

Nearly every year of late a few films in this genre surface to spit in the eye of good taste. Even though the most famous one is actually a fairly serious film (Beautiful Boxer), most of them are just silly comedies that generally poke fun at the gay image and yet at the same time send a gentle message of understanding and acceptance. It is a strangely mixed message certainly, but this is Thailand after all where this sexual preference is somewhat accepted even if a constant source of humor. What are termed ladyboys can be seen all over – go into a restaurant and often your waitress will have a suspiciously deep voice or watch a group of students in a mall and occasionally one of the boys will openly be wearing mascara. Nobody blinks twice here upon seeing a 6 foot mannish woman walking around dressed in an evening gown with enormous cleavage on display. Maybe it has to do with karma. In your next life you will be born a woman.

Add Mum Jokmok to this fertile mix and you have rude and silly up the whazoo – or as his character would say “just how I like it”. He plays Lily a frustrated man who only gets small mousy roles in the cabaret show, can’t find true love and doesn’t have the money to get breast implants. In his forties and with his unkempt square face, he is not exactly a lovely lady in waiting but he never stops dreaming. In Bangkok a serial killer is doing away with ladyboy’s and Lily witnesses his friend and roommate Angie being carved up (through a peephole where he was whining that his men are never so handsome – too much like Jackie Chan he complains) and Lily in turn is then nearly killed. Now as a witness, the killer sends hoards of men to silence him. Lily buries his friend and burns photos of Tom Cruise and Andy Lau to keep him company and to have lots of sex with in the afterlife – why he picks those two actors I can’t imagine. To his rescue though is a Japanese cop who has been after the serial killer for crimes in Japan and Lilly immediately falls head over high heels in love and spends the remainder of the film trying to seduce him in increasingly frilly outfits. Her competition though is a knockout female cop, Pat (Busarin Thokpraipan) who has the real goods in nice quantities.

Lots of action and silliness follow in which we discover that Lily was a trained Thai boxer whose career came to an abrupt halt when he went gaga for his opponent in the ring and kept hugging him. One truly outrageous scene that alone would probably get this film banned in America takes place early in the film when Lily comes across a mother and her child begging for money and lifts the four year old naked boy’s privates to eye level and tells him he will be back for him someday when he is grown. To some degree the gay shtick gets a bit tiresome after a while but then Mum throws something at you that brings out more stupid laughter. It is a funny idiotic film that has to be approached cautiously and with an open unblemished empty mind.

My rating for this film: 7.0

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Last Legion . . not really Asian but . . .

I came across something on the Internet last week which stated that the film The Last Legion had opened in the States to basically lackluster reviews and not much of a box office. I was a bit surprised to see that it had just opened since I had picked up and watched the DVD here in Asia about two weeks before reading this and had planned to make some small mention of it. The so-so reviews certainly don’t come as a surprise either as this film seems to have tried to disguise its B film pedigree with an A cast of actors. But it’s the kind of B film that I quite enjoy actually – a historical costumer taking place during the Roman Empire with a mystical sword and the destiny of “The One” at stake. I love anything to do with the Romans in film (am currently watching Rome, Season 2) – maybe it’s the togas or their omnipresent British accents – but the reason I especially looked forward to this one – and the reason I bring it up here – is due to an Indian accent – that of Aishwarya Rai.

I am not sure how she got talked into doing this film, but I am sure that with Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley involved that it looked pretty good on paper. Aish has been trying to pursue a dual acting career outside of Bollywood for a few years, but at least so far it hasn’t amounted to much. I would expect that now that she is newly married to Abhishek Bachchan that this attempt to make it in the West may cool off, but I saw on IMDB that she has two more films coming out soon – most frightening the Pink Panther 2 (she must not have seen the first) and almost as cringe worthy, a film called Singularity directed by Roland Joffee co-starring Brendan Frasier as an English officer in colonial India. The potential heated plot of that one makes me wince.

Someday I expect a Bollywood actress will successfully break into Hollywood – or perhaps not. Certainly Aish has as good a chance as anyone with her Miss Universe credentials – her unofficial labeling as the Most Beautiful Woman in the World – her perfect if accented English – and her experience and success as an Indian actress, but it is questionable if she will ever make a real breakthrough. Perhaps the skills of a Bollywood actress don’t mesh right now with acting in the West – certainly not the dancing skills nor the ability to emote high melodrama – and not even the ability to dazzle with glamour. Bollywood is about the only film industry left that still gives the audience splashy glamour – definitely not in Hollywood where this trait seems to have diminished to the likes of Julia Roberts or Nicole Kidman – will they ever have another Lana Turner, an Ava Gardner or a Rita Hayworth. I doubt it. But they still have it by the barrel full in Bollywood and Aish exemplifies it more than anyone.

Aish’s past forays into western filmmaking didn’t knock any one over. Bride and Prejudice was the most successful – a musical remake of Pride and Prejudice that had some nice moments and solid musical numbers but floundered under the poor chemistry between Aish and her Mr. Darcy (Martin Henderson). Mistress of Spices was just a horrible dud – a bad idea made into a worse film in which Aish plays this spiritual and mystical owner of a spice shop in San Francisco who can cure almost everything with her spices as long as she never leaves the shop – but of course along comes another white man (Dylan McDermott) to spoil all that and again there was practically no chemistry between the two (something in truth that Aish has been criticized for in her Bollywood films as well). Her latest film outside of India was an English production – Provoked: A True Story – about an abused Indian wife in London who sets fire to her husband. Aish got generally decent reviews but the film went nowhere. I haven’t had a chance to see it yet.

In The Last Legion, she is really quite enjoyable to watch – yes another romance with a white fellow but Colin Firth is certainly more acceptable than the other two. Here she gets to have some fun as she plays a female warrior trained in the martial arts of India and a bodyguard/assassin for the Eastern Roman Empire out of Constantinople. When the boy Roman Emperor of Rome is kidnapped by the Huns she teams up with Colin to save him and then escapes with him to England where the boy grows up to be . . . well you will see. Aish gets to do much slashing and maiming along the way. Dressed initially behind a veil and in tight black leather, the audience first sights her face while she is coming out of the water in a white near see through camisole – a pure Bollywood wet sari scene similar to one she has in Taal - and my basic reaction was yes – she is in fact the most beautiful woman in the world – at least for that minute she was. What is interesting in the film is how dark her complexion is – there was no makeup used to whiten her skin tone as they tend to do in Bollywood films and in truth she was only lovelier. Anyway, for fans of Aish, this film is worthy of a rental some day when it shows up in your friendly video store.

Here is the trailer but not a lot of Aish in it.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Flash Point Review

Flash Point is a rockabilly ride through a time tunnel to the 1980’s when action was a crunching, bruising high wire act that defied logic with a bare-bones plot that was only there as a formality. This third outing from director Wilson Yip and actor/producer Donnie Yen is in some ways their least ambitious film (the other two being SPL and Dragon Tiger Gate), but is the most enjoyable. It is just basically a knock down drag out fight in which they eschew the atmosphere and plot structuring of SPL and thankfully pull back from the preening high concept fantasy of DTG. Everything here is retro- 80’s – even having the villains as three over the top nasty Vietnamese refugees – an often used device back then – and including many actors from that period. But it is especially the action that recalls those glory days - blistering fight sequences that rely only on the physical skills of the actors and not on CGI or clever editing. It has a lengthy final fight sequence that has classic written all over it – a furious head on collision at full speed in which neither man gives an inch or a speck of mercy. It may be the best one on one fight in a decade.

Let’s get what plot there is over with quickly. The story takes place pre-Handover as a comforting on-screen message informs us upfront – as if this could never take place in the present under the watchful eyes of the government and also likely to help get the film play in the Mainland. Three refugee brothers from Vietnam (two of them being 80’s stalwarts – Ray Lui and Colin Chou, aka Ngai Sing who had the classic fight with Jet Li in Bodyguard from Beijing) aren’t satisfied with their criminal piece of Hong Kong and want more – much more. Their only redeeming characteristic is a devoted love for their elderly mom (Ha Ping), but otherwise they have no compunction in killing or maiming anyone in their path. Rival gang head Ben Lam (another 80’s B action film star) is the first targeted, but a number of other gang heads are also in their sights. Trying to bring the trio down is the expressionless Inspector Ma (Donnie Yen) a Hong Kong Dirty Harry who also loves his mom (Helen Law Lan) but doesn’t put a lot of stock in the civil rights of criminals. His partner Wilson (Louis Koo) has infiltrated the gang and between the two of them and their boss (yet another star from the 80’s, Kent Cheng) they plan to bring them to justice – but all their plans go wrong and they finally have to resort to what they do best – vengeful kick ass action – and lot’s of it.

Yen – and I direct it to him because honestly this feels much more his film than Wilson Yip’s – smartly builds up the action slowly with a few quick snapshots in the first half that act only as a warm up for what is going to come and gives us just enough character development to care about the good guys. In the final forty minutes he just lets it go – a near non-stop rampage of action with a terrific one on one fight between Donnie and a bad guy on the streets of Hong Kong, a tense shoot out in a field of hay and then the final encounter between Yen and Chou that will have your heart caught in your throat – an astonishingly brutal wonderfully choreographed fight in which they occasionally just pause to recapture their breath and their senses before charging one another again. I was only sorry to see this in a theater because I couldn’t immediately replay the entire sequence. Donnie Yen certainly has had his detractors over the years – and as usual his acting is so monotone here that it barely passes as acting – but no one anymore is staging action like he has in this film and in SPL (where he plays this same character). Most action now in Hong Kong is basically all super wire enhanced with much of the work being done in the editing room because the new actors simply aren’t trained for this type of thing – but Donnie still brings on the real deal and every now and then we need that to remind us just how great Hong Kong action used to be when it ruled the world.

My rating for this film: 8.0

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Blood Brothers Review

When this film project was announced it generated a fair amount of excitement because of the big names behind and in front of the camera. Producing it were John Woo and Terrance Chang and it would star some of the higher profile young Chinese actors on today’s scene - Daniel Wu, Hsu Chi, Chang Chen, Liu Ye and Tony Yang. The film also sounded like a natural return for John Woo to his Hong Kong roots that he deserted years ago for Hollywood – a passionate male bonding tale of loyalty, love and betrayal in Shanghai in the 1930’s. Woo and Chang turned over the reins of directing this high budget ($10 million) film to Alexi Tan. Hold on a second. Alexi Tan? Off the top of your head you might have trouble recalling his previous films – that would be because there weren’t any – only some music video’s and short films. It seems rather an odd choice to put this film into the hands of someone with so little experience especially if you add to this the fact that he is from the Philippines, but the gamble seemed to have paid off when the prestigious Venice Film Festival choose Blood Brothers as the closing film.

Yet the film doesn’t hold up to any of this build up as it comes across as an uninspired pastiche of other films – most directly Woo’s own Bullet in the Head but also with echoes of Shanghai Grand, A Better Tomorrow and The Godfather trilogy wafting through. But while those films had drive and energy that never let go, Blood Brothers sluggishly moves along with its narrative feet often encased in sticky caramel colored melodrama. Tan appears to be so enraptured with the rich look of his film and of his actors, that he stops constantly for ego sized close-ups and drawn out intimate conversations saturated in artificial lighting. These characters do a lot of talking and very little doing as they come across as a set of Chinese Hamlets unable to be decisive. Chinese film titles are often much more flowery than the English ones and though I have no idea what this one would translate to it should have been called The Angst Ridden Shanghai Gangsters. What struck me most was that I read that Woo edited the film, but it feels both too long in some ways and too short in others and often contains some awkward alternating POV shots so that you have to wonder what he had to work with.

As soon as the viewer is introduced to the three main protagonists’s one can quickly guess what the arc of this story will be – Kang (Liu Ye) is the dominant one in the group with his quick temper, fast fists and cruel eyes, his brother Hu (Tony Yang) is the passive follower and Fung (Daniel Wu) is the sensitive one. They live in an idyllic country village that feels like it is straight out of a movie set where everything looks squeaky clean and every one looks happy – except for Kang who wants the three of them to go to the big city of Shanghai to make their fortunes. Hu complies easily enough and Fung reluctantly agrees to leave his ailing mother, his filial sister and his lovely doting village belle to make some money. Initially, Shanghai is tough as they get jobs as rickshaw drivers (watching the urbane Wu trying to look like a coolie is almost worth the price of a ticket), but they find working for the merciless Boss Hong (Sun Hong-lei) to be more rewarding and they soon find themselves rising up in his criminal hierarchy. This life style though begins to drive a wedge between the three friends as Kang is willing to do anything to make good, the shell-shocked Hu takes to drink and staggers through the remainder of the film and Fung is conflicted between friendship and morality. Enter into this picture the gorgeous Lulu (Hsu Chi), a nightclub chanteuse and the girlfriend of Boss Hong. Fung takes to her like a fish to water and his sweet lass from home becomes a distant memory – but Lulu may have something going on the side with Hong’s main enforcer Mark (Chang Chen) who kills with the cool of his namesake from A Better Tomorrow but seems modeled on Simon Yam’s character from Bullet in the Head.

None of this potential drama and conflict ever carries any emotional ballast because there is zero chemistry between any of the characters beginning with the three friends. In the same way that a good romance needs chemistry between the leads, a male bonding film needs for the viewer to believe that these people are really friends who will die for one another – something that Woo was the master of in his Hong Kong films – but these just feel like three stock characters thrown on to the set and told that they are friends and so when they begin to turn on one another it creates no sense of tragedy but instead just a sense of relief that the film has finally reached this inevitable page in the script. That is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the film – it just feels so unoriginal and anyone with a background in Hong Kong film will find no surprises along the way as it reaches its Better Tomorrow inspired but poorly choreographed finale - the only surprise is how little you care.

My rating for this film: 5.5