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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

Archive for April, 2009

All for One, and One for All — Hong Kong Style!

BTTF

[Every once in a while, I’ll take a trip down memory lane to spotlight an important, interesting, or just plain peculiar historical moment in Hong Kong cinema history. This will be the first. Hope you enjoy ‘em]

Do you remember when Hollywood finally got hip to Hong Kong action? In the aftermath of the Yuen Woo-Ping choreographed fight scenes in The Matrix (1999) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Hollywood producers began importing Hong Kong action directors with increased frequency for at least the next three years. Yuen returned for the two Matrix sequels as well as the two volumes of Quentin Tarantino’s saga. His brother, Yuen Cheung-Yan handled the action choreography in Kill BillCharlie’s Angels (2000), Daredevil (2003), and Charlie’s Angels 2: Full Throttle (2003). Corey Yuen-Kwai, who actually got a head start* in Jet Li’s American debut, 1998’s Lethal Weapon 4, which was soon to be followed by his participation with Romeo Must Die (2000), X-Men (2000), Kiss of the Dragon (2001), The Transporter (2001) and its sequel, and a personal guilty pleasure, Cradle 2 The Grave (2003).**

If you’re a Hong Kong cinema fan, you’ve probably heard of, if not actually seen, all of these films. But there’s at least one title missing from the millennial “Hong Kong action director” boom. Does anyone remember The Musketeer back in 2001? That title might ring a bell with some of you, but I’m not sure everyone will remember its Hong Kong connection.

Musketeer

Okay, here’s the scoop. When approached to direct The Musketeer, Peter Hyams (2010, Timecop) was not at all keen on helming the picture – that is, until he came upon the idea of melding Hong Kong wirework with old fashioned Hollywood swashbuckling might actually make the project more interesting – not only to himself, but to the film-going audience as well. For reasons I haven’t been able to determine, Hyams hired none other than Xiong Xin-Xin (most famous as Club Foot in the latter half of the Once Upon a Time in China series) to be the film’s action director. Xiong reportedly spent something like a year thinking up the action setpieces in collaboration with Peter Hyams.

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Red Cliff — The Condensed Version

Red Cliff Tony

In the early press releases for John Woo’s Red Cliff, it was announced that the film would be split in half for Asian audiences. Part I was almost two-and-a-half hours long, while Part II was only slightly shorter than that. With the split-release of Kill Bill already well behind us, this announcement was certainly nothing new, and I’m sure most John Woo fans were glad that he wouldn’t have to compromise his vision by cutting his film to fit a conventional theatrical running time. However, that wasn’t the only announcement that was made in regard to the film’s release. It was also mentioned that there would be an American version of the film, one that would run only two-and-a-half hours total. For purists, this probably seemed heretical, and for the rest of us, it just seemed odd. How can you squeeze over four hours of story into a movie that’s only a little over half its original running time?

Well, while watching the first installment of Red Cliff I became convinced that it could be done. Later, I watched Red Cliff II and started to have other ideas, but whatever my reservations, I’ll transcribe my thoughts on how to rework the first installment for your amusement.

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Rehashes of Time

To my deep dissatisfaction, I missed seeing Ashes of Time Redux on the big screen when it was shown at one of the arthouse theatres here in Santa Cruz. In fact, the damn thing lasted all of ONE WEEK, a turn of events which proved hugely disappointing to me when I looked up showtimes online only to find that the film had been replaced with some piece of crap indie flick. Thankfully, Ashes of Time Redux eventually made its way to DVD on March 3, 2009, and I was pretty stoked on seeing it from the comfort of my own home.

Jacky 01Jacky 02

Ashes of Time (left), Ashes of Time Redux (right)

However, in the midst of a sea of essays to grade, term papers to write, and various assorted responsibilities to attend to, I postponed a viewing of Wong Kar-Wai’s re-edit until my Spring Break vacation. I had the full intention of reviewing the movie for LoveHKFilm.com, but as fate would have it, Kozo beat me to the punch. In some ways, this actually turned out to be a good thing. For one, I agree with pretty much everything Kozo said in his very well-written and insightful review, so it’s not like I had something better to contribute. And two, as I tried to compose my thoughts on the film, I realized that reviewing a restored and/or re-edited film – rather than a wholly original work – is, in some ways, a thankless task. Basically, even if you try to review the film on its own merits, one’s critique eventually breaks down into an exercise in “contrast and compare.” And really, isn’t that what fans of the original movie actually want – What’s different about the new movie? What’s cut out? Did he put anything in? Did Wong Kar-Wai ruin his own movie?

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