December 30th, 2012
Hi and welcome to yet another entry in the BEST 200 HONG KONG FILMS EVER. This was supposed to be the sixth day of this thing, but if you count the concurrent BEST HONG KONG FILM PERFORMANCES feature and also all the time involved in preparing, tallying, and formatting this vote — well, it feels like this thing has gone on FOREVER.
Seriously, at this point I’m only slightly more sane than Andy Lau is for wearing this get-up:
“Simba! You must avenge Mufasa!”
Regardless, we’re going to complete this thing even if it kills us. Or the reader. Speaking of which, we apologize in advance for the way we’re writing the blurbs for these movies because they’re starting to make absolutely no sense. Really, when you pump out 200 of these things during the holidays in addition to regular work and social commitments — well, I believe that the clinical term for what it makes you is “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.”
Oh yeah, previous updates. Read them first or THERE WILL BE BLOOD:
We’re getting closer to the end. Quick, jump!
60. MAD DETECTIVE (2007), directed by Johnnie To and Wai Kai-Fai - 55.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
MAD DETECTIVE was the first Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai collaboration after four years apart, plus it brought Lau Ching-Wan back to the Milkyway Image fold after five years away. The result: a Milkyway Image masterwork, with Lau’s quirky and unpredictable performance acting as the cherry on top of a startlingly creative genre film. Ranked #18 on our list of TOP 50 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE AUGHTS.
59. ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN (1983), directed by Tsui Hark - 57 points - LoveHKFilm Review
It’s dated but Tsui Hark’s ZU: WARRIORS FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN is still mucho entertaining, packing campy special effects, acrobatic martial arts and unique Hong Kong Cinema charm into one fast-paced, imaginative and inimitable package. With the advent of modern CGI they won’t make them like this anymore, so revisiting the original ZU still make sense. The 2001 remake/sequel THE LEGEND OF ZU? It’s great at parties with unlimited alcoholic beverages. Ranked #14 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s.
58. RUNNING ON KARMA (2003), directed by Johnnie To and Wai Kai-Fai - 62.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
One of the most “Hong Kong” Hong Kong movies out there, RUNNING ON KARMA is a Johnnie To/Wai Ka-Fai combo supreme. Paul B. says “Nowhere could this movie have been done other than Hong Kong — it’s completely @#$!-ed up and so damn entertaining!” Grady Hendrix shuts the door with his description: “The ultimate expression of Wai Ka-Fai and Johnnie To’s collaboration, this action-Buddhist-romance-comedy-zen-whatsit gives both filmmakers their best showcase.” Still has many vocal detractors among Johnnie To’s western fanbase who don’t get it. Too bad for them. Ranked #10 on our list of TOP 50 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE AUGHTS.
57. NEEDING YOU… (2000), directed by Johnnie To and Wai Kai-Fai - 63 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai’s NEEDING YOU… was a massive, massive hit and demonstrated that A) Milkyway Image wasn’t only about genre movies, and B) it’s possible to make a commercial, audience-pleasing movie without sacrificing integrity or smarts. The subject matter — a silly girl-next-door type falls in love with her womanizer boss — is tired stuff, but it’s not the story that matters, but how one chooses to tell it. Ranked #16 on our list of TOP 50 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE AUGHTS, which it totally deserves.
56. SHANGHAI BLUES (1984), directed by Tsui Hark - 64 points, 2 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review
SHANGHAI BLUES does not suffer from a shortage of love. Felipe opines that “Tsui Hark was at his greatest in the eighties and this is the rare postmodern homage that is even greater than the film (Xiing Shen’s CROSSROADS) that it’s paying homage to.” Martin says that “Tsui Hark’s mix of slapstick, romance and politics is equal parts charming and frenetic. It should be much better known, but has been unavailable (and remains so) forever.” Ranked #29 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE EIGHTIES, and it would probably have ranked higher had more people been able to get their hands on it.
55. DRUNKEN MASTER (1978), directed by Yuen Woo-Ping - 65.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Before Jackie Chan made the incredible DRUNKEN MASTER 2, he starred in a film called DRUNKEN MASTER. Duh. Yuen Woo-Ping directed this hilarious kung-fu comedy about Wong Fei-Hong (Jackie Chan, with a divergent take on the folk hero Jet Li would later own), who learns drunken boxing from Beggar So (Simon Yuen, Chan’s co-star in SNAKE IN THE EAGLE’S SHADOW) after too much screwing around gets him in hot water with his father Wong Kei-Ying. Fights and funnies follow, plus the groundwork for the later, greater 1994 sequel. But really, you should totally see this one too.
54. IP MAN (2008), directed by Wilson Yip - 67 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Wilson Yip’s blockbuster proved that Wong Fei-Hong was not the final word on Chinese folk heroes. Ben Soh calls IP MAN “A solid folk hero movie that has been missing from Hong Kong Cinema for years.” Phil Gillon talks up IP MAN’s star, saying, “Donnie Yen proves that with the right film he can not only deliver knockout action but also a knockout performance.” Followed by its equally popular if less acclaimed sequel IP MAN 2 and also the forthcoming IP MAN 3 — which is coming at us in 3D. Ranked #19 on our list of TOP 50 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE AUGHTS.
53. KING OF COMEDY (1999), directed by Stephen Chow - 68 points - LoveHKFilm Review
KING OF COMEDY may not be Stephen Chow’s most popular film, but it’s his most subtle and quite possibly his most rewarding. The story of loser and dedicated actor Wan Tin-Sau (Chow), KING OF COMEDY has enough in-your-face wacky crap to satiate the most dedicated fan of mo lei tau, but the film finds lasting resonance through a quietly-developed love triangle involving Chow, Karen Mok and some newcomer named Cecilia Cheung. Ranked #18 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
52. ONE NITE IN MONGKOK (2004), directed by Derek Yee - 68 points, 1 first place vote - LoveHKFilm Review
Superb crime thriller ONE NITE IN MONGKOK remains popular with voters despite director Derek Yee not being Johnnie To. A director known more for his dramas than his genre films, Yee more than holds his own as the creator of this compelling and very Hong Kong-specific look at criminals in the dense, suffocating Mongkok district. Ranked a scorchingly high #8 on our list of TOP 50 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE AUGHTS, way above many a Johnnie To movie.
51. 2046 (2004), directed by Wong Kar-Wai - 70 points, 1 first place vote - LoveHKFilm Review
It’s that movie that looks like IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, sounds like IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, but has way more characters than IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, and also features some strange science fiction subplot that’s like IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE with Faye Wong as a robot. Oh yes, it’s also pretty good but that’s what you expect when the director is Wong Kar-Wai, a man so revered for his filmmaking prowess that he could direct my high school yearbook and it would still rank among the BEST HONG KONG FILMS EVER. The man clearly has skills. 2046 ranked #2046 — we mean #20 on our list of TOP 50 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE AUGHTS.
50. EASTERN CONDORS (1987), directed by Sammo Hung - 71 points, 1 first place vote - LoveHKFilm Review
Any conversation of the greatest Hong Kong filmmakers should include Sammo Hung, and among his finest works was the much-beloved “DIRTY DOZEN in Vietnam” actioner EASTERN CONDORS, which starred a who’s who of Hong Kong action heroes not named Jackie Chan. Phil Gillon says that EASTERN CONDORS is “probably the film that inspired my imagination and made me take a step away from the mainstream (i.e., Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan) towards great icons such as Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung and Lam Ching Ying.” Lee Rankin describes the film thusly: “It’s Awesome.” Hard to argue there. Ranked #21 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s.
49. PEDICAB DRIVER (1989), directed by Sammo Hung - 73 points, 1 first place vote - LoveHKFilm Review
Hey look, it’s Sammo Hung again, except this time he’s at the helm of another one of his greatest films, PEDICAB DRIVER. Lee Rankin says, “At first glance, PEDICAB DRIVER is a typical Hong Kong movie, but it leaps ahead of the pack thanks to some affecting drama and some of the most full blooded and brilliantly choreographed action I’ve ever seen.” Ray minces fewer words, calling the film “Everything that’s great about Hong Kong cinema. All genres crammed into one film. No segueing, no apologies, total entertainment. My mind grows tumescent with pleasure just thinking about it.” The fact that PEDICAB DRIVER is not legally available on a next-generation home video format (like DVD or better) is a crime. Ranked #24 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s.
48. ROUGE (1988), directed by Stanley Kwan - 74.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
About Stanley Kwan’s 1988 classic ROUGE, Filipe says, “For once Kwan’s notions of melodrama were in complete synch with the audience’s and the results couldn’t be more affecting.” Putting aside the possible swipe towards non-ROUGE efforts from Kwan (Uh, SHOWTIME, anyone?), Filipe is right in that ROUGE sells melodrama and delivers to haunting, compelling effect. Credit where credit is due: namely to Anita Mui as the tragic Fleur and, to a lesser extent, Leslie Cheung as her missing lover. Ranked a super-high #12 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s.
47. MADE IN HONG KONG (1997), directed by Fruit Chan - 76 points, 1 first place vote - LoveHKFilm Review
Produced by some guy named Andy Lau, MADE IN HONG KONG is Fruit Chan’s early magnum opus, a startlingly accomplished drama about a triad boy, his mentally-challenged friend and the terminally-ill beauty he befriends. The parts are hackneyed stuff but Chan weaves everything together with such assured style and thematic strength that it’s astounding even today. The fact that Chan has made so few films since the turn of the century is absolutely depressing. MADE IN HONG KONG ranked #40 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s, and it would be totally higher if not for that pesky “difficult to get on DVD” problem.
46. BEAST COPS (1998), directed by Gordon Chan and Dante Lam - 79.5 points, 2 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review
The prototypical “cop soap opera”, BEAST COPS may be this unique Hong Kong genre’s best representative. Site reader Root is a big fan, saying, “There are thousands of cop/triad films out there but I’ve never found one quite like this. A strange mix of pseudo-documentary, quirky character piece and full-on visceral vengeance story, BEAST COPS digs into your brain and stays there. Most impressive is that it manages to capture a little piece of reality, especially in Anthony Wong’s character and his gently underplayed loves, losses and personal quests. Michael Wong and Sam Lee really brighten up the screen alongside Anthony Wong. I love this film to pieces!” Root, you are not alone. Ranked #32 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
45. CITY ON FIRE (1987), directed by Ringo Lam - 80 points - LoveHKFilm Review
You know the story: Ringo Lam made this gritty crime drama back in 1987 and then five years later its storyline was lifted and used in some American indie hit called RESERVOIR DOGS. Now everyone knows Quentin Tarantino, but how many of those same people know Ringo Lam? The answer: not enough. While Tarantino has never spoken at length about the inspiration that he received from CITY ON FIRE, he has publicly admitted to owning the poster. Hey Q, I own the poster too! I guess we’re on the same level, man. CITY ON FIRE ranked #9 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s. RESERVOIR DOGS is currently ranked #70 on the IMDb Top 250.
44. THE PRIVATE EYES (1976), directed by Michael Hui - 80.5 points - HKMDB Page
Finally, a Michael Hui-directed work gets some love on this list of BEST HONG KONG FILMS EVER! The multi-hyphenate actor-writer-director was Hong Kong’s king of comedy before that Stephen Chow guy ever got started, and Hui is in superb form in this hilarious comedy about a detective agency staffed by Michael and his brothers Sam and Ricky. Snowblood says that THE PRIVATE EYES “somehow captures the 70s Hong Kong zeitgeist better than other, more serious films.” THE PRIVATE EYES does appear dated, but Martin says, “Hong Kong comedy can be hit and miss for many non-Hong Kongers, but this Hui Brothers joint is all hit, and one of my favorite comedies from anywhere. Seriously if you can’t laugh at this, there is no hope for you.” Also, THE PRIVATE EYES has the most hummable theme song ever.
43. SWORDSMAN II (1991), directed by Ching Siu-Tung - 80.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Tsui Hark produced and Ching Siu-Tung directed this super beloved wuxia with all the flying kung-fu and crazy hyperkinetic energy you could ever ask for. Check out this plot though: it’s about an already-powerful man who chooses to become a woman to become the most powerful person ANYWHERE. Seriously, why hasn’t SWORDSMAN II been remade by Sally Potter or Pedro Almovodar as an experimental gender bender that takes place in a chauvinistic law firm? I see Tilda Swinton as Asia (or maybe Europe) the Invincible, with Michael Fassbender or Antonio Banderas in the Jet Li role. Tell me this movie would not play Cannes or at least Sundance. Oh yes, SWORDSMAN II rules. It got the Michael Jordan spot, #23, on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s.
42. ELECTION 2 (2006), directed by Johnnie To - 82.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
The best Hong Kong movie made about China since the Handover, ELECTION 2 takes the dark triad drama of the first ELECTION and trades it for a razor-sharp swipe at the compromises and soul-crushing traps one falls into when they decide to play with the big boys — namely the triad uncles, the cops and finally China itself. Filipe calls ELECTION 2 “The rare sequel that builds on its original base and becomes something much richer and more encompassing,” and that’s exactly what the film is: something unexpectedly greater and more resonant than the film that preceded it. ELECTION 2 ranked #21 on our list of TOP 50 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE AUGHTS, which is a shame because it should have ranked #6 — where the original ELECTION ended up.
41. THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN (1978), directed by Lau Kar-Leung - 82.5 points, 1 first place vote - LoveHKFilm Review
Martial arts films don’t get more legendary than THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, the Shaw Brothers cult classic that also goes by the names THE MASTER KILLER, SHAOLIN MASTER KILLER and probably STAR WARS. Lau Kar-Leung directs Gordon Liu as San Te, who trains in the Shaolin Temple’s 35 chambers so that he can acquire the necessary ass-kicking skills to oppose the oppressive Manchu government. In the end, San Te sets up the 36th Chamber of Shaolin to teach common people kung-fu and entertain generations with his ability to appear in sequels called, appropriately enough, RETURN TO THE 36TH CHAMBER and DISCIPLES OF THE 36TH CHAMBER. Neither of those films appear on this list, but the original made it and that’s all that matters.
Only forty films left in this never-ending countdown! Tune in next time as we drop numbers 40-21 of THE BEST HONG KONG FILMS EVER. It will be glorious. We think.