January 8th, 2013
Finally, we’re at Day 10 and the Top 10 of the BEST HONG KONG FILMS EVER. No surprise: every one of these films has been seen before in a previous LoveHKFilm Reader Vote, which means that we’re pretty much an eighties-and-up website. It would be good if the site could extend its coverage to the past using our considerable resources — namely access to the Hong Kong Film Archive — to flesh out our review archive. I figure this a long term project that can get underway in, oh, 2030.
But that’s 20 years from now and we have 10 movies ahead of us on list, most of which will come from John Woo and Wong Kar-Wai, two guys who have some key films yet to be accounted for.
John Woo is up for the challenge:
“I’ve got three films and two thumbs ready to kick some ass!”
Wong Kar-Wai isn’t fazed:
“This is me poking you, John Woo!”
By the way, if you’re just joining us, head back to the earlier updates to check out what happened before blah blah blah. Yeah, you’ve heard all this before. Here are the links:
10. SHAOLIN SOCCER (2001), directed by Stephen Chow - 269.5 points - LoveHKFilm Review
Put a fork in Stephen Chow because he’s done for this countdown. Chow’s 2001 martial arts/soccer mashup is a revolutionary crowd-pleaser and the film that showed that Chow could appeal to larger international audiences — though the actual distribution of the movie was poorly handled (Haha, it was Miramax!). SHAOLIN SOCCER set the stage for the ultimate Stephen Chow formula: a savvy mix of media references, knowing comedy and naive romanticism that at first glance seems impossible to deliver in live-action. Of course, they’ve done it for years in animation — see antecedents to SHAOLIN SOCCER like the long-running Japanimation CAPTAIN TSUBASA or DRAGONBALL — but it takes a special talent like Chow to translate that to live-action and not make it seem like a monster cheesefest. Sadly, Chow only used this formula one more time (duh, KUNG FU HUSTLE) before stepping back and working mostly behind the camera once every four or five years. We’ll never see the promised SHAOLIN SOCCER 2, and indeed we may never actually see Stephen Chow act ever again. As such, we should treat our Blu-ray copies of SHAOLIN SOCCER like they’re made of gold. That is, if they ever release a Blu-ray. Ranked #3 on our list of TOP 50 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE AUGHTS — and both the films ahead of it have yet to rank here. They will, though.
9. PEKING OPERA BLUES (1986), directed by Tsui Hark - 275 points, 4 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review
Another reader vote, another chance for PEKING OPERA BLUES to assert its dominance. People love the crap out of this film, so we don’t even have to evangelize it. Valerie Soe gives the set up: “Tsui Hark’s dizzying ride through history, allegory, and opera, with three great female characters played by Brigitte Lin, Sally Yeh and Cherie Chung.” Adam DiPiazza offers the emotions: “Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s action packed, but it’s always entertaining.” Filipe presents the evaluation: “Tsui Hark’s finest film and one of the biggest expressions of pure joy in all movies.” And Grady Hendrix bats clean up: “Quite possibly the greatest movie ever made, full stop. PEKING OPERA BLUES is everything that is great about eighties Hong Kong filmmaking, wrapped up in one tight little package and studded with three actresses giving performances that will never grow old. The last word on the ability of movies to defy gravity and work on a purely emotional level.” We liked it too, and will gladly spend the rest of our natural-born life reminding people how this is one of the greatest Hong Kong movies ever made. PEKING OPERA BLUES ranked #5 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s but in our hearts it will always rank higher.
8. A CHINESE GHOST STORY (1987), directed by Ching Siu-Tung - 277.5 points, 5 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review
Wow, only 2.5 points separate A CHINESE GHOST STORY from PEKING OPERA BLUES in this reader vote — a very small margin, especially since nobody who voted indicated that they were voting for the 1987 CHINESE GHOST STORY. If we had assigned some of those unclear votes to the 2011 CHINESE GHOST STORY remake, well, we could be looking at an upset of this final ranking. Still, we’re guessing that none of those votes were intended for the remake, since the original A CHINESE GHOST STORY is the ultimate action-horror-comedy-romance-whatever movie and proof that Hong Kong Cinema was once the go-to factory for genre mash-ups. Tsui Hark and Ching Siu-Tung’s hyperemotional, hyperkinetic and just plain hyper genre blend is one of the most entertaining movies ever made, and yet it manages surprise and genuinely affecting moments. Leslie Cheung vs. Yu Shaoqun, Joey Wong vs. Liu Yifei, Lau Siu-Ming vs. Kara Hui — the original wins in nearly every aspect. Wu Ma vs. Louis Koo? Well…Wu Ma sings while bouncing off trees and drinking Chinese wine, while Louis Koo is super handsome and boasts a fine bronze skin hue. In deference to Koo’s fanbase, we’ll call that a push but in every other way, the original CHINESE GHOST STORY rules. Simply one of the finest demonstrations that pure commercial cinema (a.k.a. crap for the masses) can be relevant, exciting and resonant. Ranked #4 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s, which is about right.
7. POLICE STORY (1985), directed by Jackie Chan - 348.5 points, 3 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review
POLICE STORY is the only Jackie Chan film to win Best Picture at the Hong Kong Film Awards, and that’s perfectly fine with us. While DRUNKEN MASTER II may be more exhilarating, CRIME STORY more self-important and GORGEOUS more, uh, gorgeous, POLICE STORY is probably Chan’s most complete vision of action, comedy and pure-on crazy punishment. Maggie Cheung and Brigitte Lin deserve some credit, but not as much as the shantytown destruction, the bus chase and the climactic shopping mall knock-em-up. Sure, these are just set pieces, but each is so inventive and spectacular that they could anchor their own film — and yet here they all appear in one movie! Phil Gillon says, “Jackie Chan had done many films before but none quite captured the artistry that Chan puts on screen here.” Tim Chmielewski shrugs his shoulders and says, “Can’t really write anything new about this one. At least the producers of TANGO & CASH knew a good film to rip off for one of their scenes.” Chan is so unique and influential a filmmaker that it’s a shame that he’s become such a media pariah in Hong Kong. Hopefully years from now, people will get past Chan’s obvious, less-than-glistening humanity and admire him for the things that he could do that few people couldn’t. And really, judging by POLICE STORY, that’s A LOT. Ranked #3 on our list of TOP 100 HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 80s.
6. HARD BOILED (1992), directed by John Woo - 384.5 points, 5 first place votes - LoveHKFilm Review
John Woo’s beloved actioner is revered by mouth-breathing genre fans worldwide, and it should be because it’s just that awesome. This is the story of Tequila (Chow Yun-Fat), a Cop Who Breaks All The Rules™ who’s named after liquor and chases bad guys because they’re bad and he’s not. Life changes when Tequila falls in love with gangster Tony (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), who may be the only man around who matches Tequila in his awesomeness. But awesomeness of this caliber can’t be contained by homoerotic tussling, so the two go at it as only awesome men can: with guns and collateral damage. But after orgasmic explosions and a hot-and-heavy Mexican standoff, their passion still isn’t contained, so the frustrated pair team-up to shoot as many people as possible until their passions reach a crescendo, and finally one of the men walks off with a baby. But whose baby is it? HARD BOILED doesn’t answer that question, but it does tell us happens when you take Hong Kong’s greatest action director, two of Hong Kong’s best actors and add them to a completely generic action storyline. Naturally, the storyline ceases to be important and the film can become nigh-legendary and an action classic — simply on the strength of those two other things. HARD BOILED ranked #2 on our list of TOP HONG KONG MOVIES OF THE 90s, which is insane for a film with such a flimsy story. But this is HARD BOILED so hey, that’s okay.