December 26th, 2012
Before we continue our countdown of THE BEST HONG KONG FILMS EVER, we’re pausing for a message from our sponsor:
“Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Brand Takeshi.”
Onwards and upwards. This is Day 5 of THE BEST 200 HONG KONG FILMS EVER, and we’re slowing down ever-so-slightly to 20 films per post. That’ll continue until we reach number 20, after which we’ll go 10, 5 and 5. We’ve planned this down to the last detail. Except for figuring out the BEST HONG KONG FILM EVER. We’ll decide that using a coin toss the day after tomorrow.
Don’t forget to read from the beginning if you’re just joining us.
Time to jump for Jesus! Or his secular equivalent!
80. LUST, CAUTION (2007), directed by Ang Lee - 44.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
It’s questionably a “Hong Kong film”, but we’re including LUST, CAUTION because we allowed it on our TOP HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE AUGHTS reader vote, where it ended up ranking #25. Anyway, Hong Kong’s Edko Films has some money in LUST, CAUTION and it stars one of Hong Kong’s truly great actors in Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. Mondo Serious calls the film, “Sexy, subversive and sad,” but we should also add “stunning, suspenseful and superlative.” Because that’s what the LUST, CAUTION is.
79. DIRTY HO (1979), directed by Lau Kar-Leung - 45 points - LoveHKFilm Review
While often mistaken for a politically-incorrect documentary about unhygenic prostitution, DIRTY HO makes converts of audiences thanks to its sublime blend of comedy and martial arts action. Lau Kar-Leung directs frequent partner Gordon Liu as an incognito prince who trains a brash young jewel thief named Ho (Wong Yue) to help him stop a royal coup. Snowblood calls DIRTY HO, “Beautifully intricate, fast-paced kung-fu with top performances all-round.” Co-starring Shaw Brothers mainstays Kara Hui and Lo Lieh.
78. CRIPPLED AVENGERS (1978), directed by Chang Cheh - 45 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Most of the Venom Mob returned for this entertaining Chang Cheh classic about four disabled fighters seeking revenge on the evil father/son team (Chen Kuan-Tai and Lu Feng) who maimed them. Trained in new techniques and oufitted with gadgetry to compensate for their disabilities, the four fight back as only Crippled Avengers know how! Or something. While decidedly over-the-top and ridiculous, CRIPPLED AVENGERS is also a prime example of what made Chang Cheh’s Shaw Brothers actioners so delirously enjoyable.
77. THE WAY WE ARE (2008), directed by Ann Hui - 45 points, 1 first place vote - LoveHKFilm Review
THE WAY WE ARE missed our Top 50 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE AUGHTS countdown, but it was not denied here. Says Martin, “Ann Hui’s understated study of everyday life mostly consists of scenes of it’s characters buying food, cooking food and eating food. It may not be your action packed Hong Kong Cinema fix, but in THE WAY WE ARE Hui manages to turn the mundane into something truly special.” Hui pulled off a similar achievement three years later with a film that may show up later on this list. You’ve all heard of it, right?
76. HE’S A WOMAN, SHE’S A MAN (1994), directed by Peter Chan - 46.5 points, 2 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review
Commercial, crowd-pleasing and yet successful on so many levels and in so many little ways that it transcends its genre to become something far more. Peter Chan’s HE’S A WOMAN, sHE’s A MAN is the VICTOR/VICTORIA like story of Wing (Anita Yuen), who crossdresses as a man to get close to her idols, music producer Sam (Leslie Cheung) and his superstar muse Rose (Carina Lau). Super beloved and also super hard to find on DVD anymore. Ranked #28 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
75. THE LONGEST NITE (1998), directed by Patrick Yau - 47 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Grim, nihilistic and exhilarating crimer from Patrick Yau (or maybe Johnnie To). Tony Leung Chiu-Wai makes his lone Milkyway Image appearance as a bad cop versus a bad criminal organization and the bad fixer (Lau Ching-Wan) who arrives in town to dispense baaaaaad punishment. Along with EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED and A HERO NEVER DIES, THE LONGEST NITE announced Milkyway Image as the premier crime film factory in Asia and probably anywhere else. Ranked #31 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
74. ON THE RUN (1988), directed by Alfred Cheung - 47.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Overlooked thriller that’s so historically underrated that it’s now in danger of being overrated. Jeff Goodhartz can start this off: “Best neo-noir I’ve ever seen, from Hong Kong or anywhere else. Yuen Biao commands the screen without using a single martial arts maneuver.” Phil Gillon echoes the Yuen Biao praise, saying that ON THE RUN “proves beyond a doubt that Yuen Biao should have had more opportunities to be the lead.” Finally, Lee Rankin calls ON THE RUN an “Incredibly dark and grounded Yuen Biao thriller. Contains some truly shocking moments, some great performances and some brutal action. An oft overlooked gem.” Ranked a pretty high #31 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s.
73. BOAT PEOPLE (1982), directed by Ann Hui - 48 points - HKMDB Page
Time Out Hong Kong ranked BOAT PEOPLE #2 on their list of the 100 Greatest Hong Kong Films — no small praise for the third film in Ann Hui’s “Vietnam Trilogy”, following BOY FROM VIETNAM and STORY OF WOO VIET. George Lam stars and Andy Lau makes his first screen appearance in this drama about a photojournalist (Lam) delving into the terrible plight of the “Boat People”, Vietnamese refugees living in Hong Kong. Winner of Best Picture and Best Director Awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards, BOAT PEOPLE Ranked #25 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s. Not exactly a #2 rank, but our readers had to put THE KILLER somewhere.
72. LONG ARM OF THE LAW (1984), directed by Johnny Mak - 48 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Martin calls LONG ARM OF THE LAW: “Raw and powerful. Johnny Mak’s crime drama is pure hunger and brutal desperation.” That’s one way to describe this bleak eighties flick about a bunch of Mainland thieves who arrive in Hong Kong for a big score, only to find that it’s not so hard being Mainland thieves in Hong Kong. Part social drama, part crime thriller and all take-no-prisoners masterpiece, this is the type of movie that Johnnie To might make if he wasn’t so busy amusing himself. Ranked #18 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s — which is pretty amazing when you consider that it stars nobody you care about and is directed by someone you never talk about.
71. LOST IN TIME (2003), directed by Derek Yee - 48 points - LoveHKFilm Review
The closest Derek Yee has come to delivering C’EST LA VIE, MON CHERI 2. Cecilia Cheung won a deserved Best Actress Hong Kong Film Award for her emotional role as a grieving widow who takes up her dead husband’s job as a minibus driver. As the colleague who helps her through her grief, Lau Ching-Wan is easily Cheung’s equal — except he didn’t win an award. LOST IN TIME ranked #17 on our list of TOP 50 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE AUGHTS, which is pretty high for something that doesn’t involve action or Johnnie To. It does have triads, though.
70. DRAGON INN (1992), directed by Raymond Lee - 48.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
A remake that begat a sequel, DRAGON INN was directed by Raymond Lee — but who are we kidding: the name that matters is producer Tsui Hark. Ching Siu-Tung helped on the action for this inn-set epic about a bunch of rebels (Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung Ka-Fai) and an amoral innkeeper (Maggie Cheung) who battle a powerful eunuch (Donnie Yen before he was DONNNNIEEEEE). Considering this story has iterations in three successive generations of Chinese-language cinema, they should just schedule a remake every 20 years. Ranked #33 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
69. THE BLADE (1995), directed by Tsui Hark - 48.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
A remake of the film ranking #151 on this list, THE BLADE is Tsui Hark’s deconstructionist swordplay film, a bold and brutal journey into the rigid mores and ironic conundrums of jiang hu. As an art film, THE BLADE gets some cred but it’s true power is in the dizzying action sequences brought to intense, acrobatic life by Vincent Zhao and Xiong Xin-Xin. Ranked #27 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s and it could be higher if it had better video distribution.
68. FLIRTING SCHOLAR (1993), directed by Lee Lik-Chi - 48.5 points, 2 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review
Huangmei opera-based FLIRTING SCHOLAR stars Stephen Chow as irascible scholar Tong Pak-Fu, who pretends to be a peasant to romance the comely Gong Li. So lighting-fast funny that it could damage if not permanently cripple your funny bone. Nearly twenty years later, director Lee Lik-Chi attempted sequel-prequel FLIRTING SCHOLAR 2 with Huang Xiaoming as Tong Pak-Fu. The silence was deafening. FLIRTING SCHOLAR ranked #60 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s. FLIRTING SCHOLAR 2 ranks #6 in our rubbish bin.
67. DANGEROUS ENCOUNTER - 1ST KIND (1980), directed by Tsui Hark - 49.5 points - HKMDB Page
Jeff Goodhartz calls DANGEROUS ENCOUNTER - 1ST KIND “The most nihilistic, most rage filled film ever made. There’s never been anything else quite like it. Far and away my fave Tsui Hark film (except for the mouse abuse, that is).” Animal cruelty is a downer, but so is the rest of Tsui Hark’s dark, violent look at young kids who engage in mischief and then watch the whole thing spiral into the darkest recesses of hell. Featuring that all-important staple of Hong Kong Cinema: terrible Caucasian actors who play the bad guys! Ranked #33 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s.
66. FULL CONTACT (1992), directed by Ringo Lam - 50 points - LoveHKFilm Review
A bit flashy for the usually grounded Ringo Lam, FULL CONTACT still makes the grade thanks to its delirious B-grade action cinema tropes and its all-star cast of scenery chewers. Chow Yun-Fat stars but Simon Yam steals the film and also Chow’s lunch money. Martin offers his checklist of reasons why FULL CONTACT kicks major ass: “Iconic Chow Yun-Fat performance? Check. Superb action sequences? Check. Serious hot licks? Check. Best HK cinema villain ever? Check. Need I say more?” No, but you forgot to mention the cool-ass bullet cam. Ranked #44 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
65. IRON MONKEY (1993), directed by Yuen Woo-Ping - 50.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
It’s the adventures of Li’l Wong Fei-Hong! Yuen Woo-Ping directs this enormously fun kung-fu film starring the always-underrated Yu Rong-Guang as Dr. Yang, a dediated doctor who moonlights as the revolutionary hero Iron Monkey. Wong Fei-Hong is played by a girl, the young Angie Tsang, while her father Wong Kei-Ying is played by Donnie Yen before he became the Most Powerful Man in the Universe. Ranked #20 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s. Quentin Tarantino has promoted this film, but you should enjoy it despite his endorsement.
64. PROJECT A PART II (1987), directed by Jackie Chan - 53 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao sit out PROJECT A PART II, but writer-director-star-overlord Jackie Chan compensates by upping the creative action sequences and stuntwork to an astounding eleven. Walls, staircases and massive bamboo scaffolding are scampered over, smashed into and trod upon as Jackie and his super-huge cast dish up the laughs and the pain. Jeff Goodhartz calls PROJECA PART II “Jackie Chan’s best and most professional film and the closest he ever came to emulating his American silent comic heroes.” Ranked #28 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s — and really, that was way too low for PROJECT A PART II.
63. A SIMPLE LIFE (2011), directed by Ann Hui - 53 points - LoveHKFilm Review
It’s that other Ann Hui movie about local Hong Kong life — an award-winning film that nobody was able to see until after it won all those awards. A SIMPLE LIFE played internationally and won big at the Golden Horse Awards before finally opening in Hong Kong in March 2012. The acclaim helped, because the film went on to gross far more money than a movie about an ailing servant (Deannie Ip) could ever be expected to. Co-star Andy Lau may have been a factor too.
62. THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR (1993), directed by Ronny Yu - 54 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Few swordplay films are as passionately rendered as Ronny Yu’s THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR. Yu brought some welcome style and and eroticism to this story of a bride (Brigitte Lin) whose hair turns shocking white after she’s betrayed by her lover (Leslie Cheung). And then IT ALL GOES TO HELL. Cheung and Lin deliver knockout performances, but we shouldn’t overlook the contribution of Francis Ng, who plays the male half of a pair of diabolical Siamese twins. Ranked #24 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
61. THE PRODIGAL SON (1981), directed by Sammo Hung - 54.5 points, 1 first place vote - HKMDB Page
Yuen Biao and Lam Ching-Ying slide in for this super-classic martial arts comedy about your prototypical layabout (Yuen) who finds out that his rich father has been fixing all his kung-fu fights. Humbled, he goes to the man who defeated him, a cross-dressing Peking Opera actor (Lam Ching-Ying), to seek real training before dealing with super bad guy Frankie Chan. Sammo Hung directs and co-stars and the audience goes home happy. Ranked #18 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s.
Yay, only sixty movies left! From here on out there will be fewer films from the pre-eighties period. We say that because the eighties and up are understandably more popular for a fan-driven website like this one. Also, we’ve seen the entire list. Numbers 60-41 are next, so try to contain your excitement.