March 21st, 2012
We’re here at the home stretch of the Top 100 Hong Kong Movies of the Eighties countdown, and someone is feeling pretty damn good.
“My ability to own is as boundless as my beard!”
Chow Yun-Fat knows he’s got some pretty damn good films that haven’t shown up on this list yet. Surely he’ll be able to outpace competitors like Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan to win the dubious title of “Guy with most movies on the Top 100 Hong Kong Movies of the Eighties List.” One thing we do know is that Wong Jing won’t be winning.
“Run, Jing Jr! That’s karma and retribution coming for us!”
At least Wong Jing had the nineties, when a certain other actor named Chow would make his movies into timeless box office hits.
So anyway, let’s get moving on Number 10-6 in this countdown. As usual, if you just got here, you might want to check out earlier entries in this Top 100 so that you don’t mistakenly think that NINJA IN THE DRAGON’S DEN has a chance of showing up at #3. Edison Chen being likable again is probably much more possible.
Nah, that won’t be happening either.
Hit the jump and let’s get to #10!
10. AS TEARS GO BY (1988), directed by Wong Kar-Wai - 293.5 points, 2 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review
AS TEARS GO BY is the only Wong Kar-Wai film to make our Top 100 Hong Kong Movies of the Eighties list and that’s because it’s the only movie Wong Kar-Wai made in the eighties. The famed auteur’s first film is more of a standard genre flick than the pop art confections he’s known for, but AS TEARS GO BY has Wong’s signature emotions of longing and loss plus super-popular stars like Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung and especially Jacky Cheung, who owns the screen as the troubled triad Fly. Site reader Guppieluv echoes the Jacky praise, saying “Cheung’s performance set the tone for all other trouble-loving sidekicks with insect names.” DRFP has more measured praise, saying “It’s not a patch on Wong’s later works but AS TEARS GO BY is still a superior triad film. Good performances all around and little of the ridiculousness that can blight films from this genre.” Also, it’s got a Cantopop version of Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away.” Tom Cruise approves.
9. CITY ON FIRE (1987), directed by Ringo Lam - 306.5 points, 2 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review
Ringo Lam and Chow Yun-Fat collaborated on CITY ON FIRE, an obvious rip-off of Quentin Tarantino’s RESERVOIR DOGS that had the termerity to not be good as Q’s superior genre picture…no, we’re kidding. Of course, it was Quentin who took the plot and character dynamics from CITY ON FIRE, and he did it so pervasively that RESERVOIR and FIRE are now inextricably if unfairly linked. Lam’s CITY ON FIRE is a gritty and tough crime drama that pulls no punches and never plays to the crowd, and it deserves to be talked about for its own merits. Says Sean, “This is more than the movie that inspired RESERVOIR DOGS, it’s a gritty crime classic featuring one of Chow Yun-Fat’s best performances. And it has Danny Lee playing a criminal!” Martin comments that the chemistry between Chow Yun-Fat and Danny Lee helped inform their other classic pairing, John Woo’s THE KILLER, and says that Lam’s film is “a great film in it’s own right, tarnished for some in the Tarantino scandal, but not for me.” Agreed with both that CITY ON FIRE is a great crime classic - but notice how we all have to mention RESERVOIR DOGS?
8. AN AUTUMN’S TALE (1987), directed by Mabel Cheung - 326 points, 5 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review
Another Chow Yun-Fat movie makes the Top 100, but this one is special because Chow isn’t a gun-toting, ear-chewing, maniacally-grinning movie character - he’s just a normal dude. Yin Szeto says that AN AUTUMN’S TALE is “An ordinary story about two ordinary people in one extraordinary movie. Chow Yun-Fat was the coolest, even when playing a regular Joe.” Chow is an uncouth Hong Kong guy living in New York, who falls in love with his cousin Jenny (the remarkable Cherie Chung) and quietly resolves to change. And that’s it for AN AUTUMN’S TALE and its story, but director Mabel Cheung gives the film absorbing, pitch-perfect mood, and the actors are subtle and absolutely sublime. Annemieke calls AN AUTUMN’S TALE “The most simple and pure movie I’ve ever seen. Not near a perfect movie, yet endearing and mesmerizing.” To Glenn Griffith, the film is “A classic. One of the best Hong Kong films I’ve ever seen, even if most of it is set in New York City. A product of the Hong Kong film industry that can easily stand side-by-side with other works of the era from Europe and the US.” What? Can we actually compare a Hong Kong movie like AN AUTUMN’S TALE to award-winning 1987 films like THE LAST EMPEROR or WINGS OF DESIRE? Sure we can.
7. GOD OF GAMBLERS (1989), directed by Wong Jing - 405 points, 7 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review
Wong Jing makes the Top 10 Movies of the Eighties and it could only happen with GOD OF GAMBLERS. The gambling genre wasn’t new when Wong made this action-comedy classic, but Chow Yun-Fat’s irresistible charisma and acting savvy raised what should have been an updated MAHJONG HEROES into sublime populist entertainment. As Ko Chun, who owns the gambling world before getting brain damage and turning into a RAINMAN-like savant, Chow Yun-Fat is suave, calculating, confident, righteous, excitable, childlike and unflappably cool. Andy Lau is his co-star but here the current award-winning actor pales compared to Chow. Granted, the role is not challenging or special, so it’s not surprising that Lau doesn’t make much impact. But Chow Yun-Fat? He can make an impact in any film and any role (Except maybe PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 3), and Ko Chun is now a genre icon only because Chow Yun-Fat was the man in his suit. Annemieke says, “Yeah it’s Wong Jing…but it’s so entertaining.” We shall not argue with Annemieke.
6. PROJECT A (1983), directed by Jackie Chan - 431 points, 1 first place vote - LoveHKFilm Review
No more Three Brothers films after this one, and that’s just fine because PROJECT A is a movie that can stand tall over the rest. Jackie Chan is Coast Guard member Dragon Ma and his co-conspirators are gambling thief Fei (Sammo Hung) and frenemy police inspector Hong (Yuen Biao). The bad guys: pirates, led by Dick “I am evil in every film” Wei. Then it’s action and comedy for a good two hours and the fun never stops. Lots of testimonials for this one. Nick Orwin says, “By turns thrilling, silly and jaw-dropping, PROJECT A might be the single most entertaining film ever made. Even now, I’m shocked by how fast and tough the action is.” Sean calls PROJECT A “The original Three Brothers film and still the best. WHEELS ON MEALS and DRAGONS FOREVER never managed to balance the action, comedy, and interaction between Jackie, Sammo and Yuen Biao as well as in PROJECT A.” Veronica goes a step further and singles out writer-director-star Jackie, saying, “It’s just a pure wonder that a person like Jackie Chan exists in HK Cinema history and could do what he did.” She’s right - Jackie Chan’s movies are so physically amazing that they’re bound to be remembered for generations, especially when someone realizes, “Hey, all these transforming robots are fake!” Jackie Chan: he’s real.
Next time: It’s the end of this crazy countdown where we reveal that the #1 Hong Kong Film of the Eighties is HOW TO PICK UP GIRLS. Hey, stranger things have happened, like Michael Wong getting a Best Actor Nomination for FIRST OPTION. And hey, will PEKING OPERA BLUES ever show up on this list? Or did it end up at #200? By the way, if you can’t guess the last five films in this countdown then you seriously need to attend remedial Hong Kong Film 101. Classes start in August.