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Sifu VS Vampire


Ronald Cheng, Yuen Biao and Philip Ng in Sifu VS Vampire.

Chinese: 天師鬥殭屍  
Year: 2014  
Director: Daniel Chan Yee-Heng
Producer: Wong Jing
Writer: Wong Jing
Action: Philip Ng Won-Lung, Yuen Cheung-Yan

Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei, Yuen Biao, Philip Ng Won-Lung, Jiang Lu-Xia, Michelle Hu, Kelvin Kwan Chor-Yiu, Bella Law Chi-Kiu, Ricky Yi Fan-Wai, Tony Ho Wah-Chiu, Winnie Leung Man-Yi, Philip Keung Ho-Man, Bonnie Wong Man-Wai, Wong Shee-Tong, Hiro Hayama, Edward Ma Chi-Wai, Ken Law, Michael Chan, Cheung Ka-Lun, Sean Tierney

The Skinny: It is what it is. Sifu VS Vampire is a generic and generically entertaining movie about wacky dudes fighting vampires, courtesy of junk cinema maestro Wong Jing. Not bad if this type of movie floats your boat. With Yuen Biao, which is always a plus.
by Kozo:

If you aim low, reaching those reduced expectations can be pretty easy. So it goes with Sifu VS Vampire, the latest entry in two separate genres. The first genre: the geung si film, a Hong Kong Cinema staple featuring Chinese vampires fighting stalwart Taoist priests, e.g., Mr. Vampire or Rigor Mortis. The second genre: cookie-cutter Wong Jing wackfests, of which Hong Kong Cinema has produced countless despite their acknowledged questionable quality. Sifu VS Vampire does a decent job in both genres, meaning its status as a geung si film props it up while its Wong Jing-ness brings it straight down. The result: mediocrity!

With Sifu VS Vampire, Ronald Cheng appears in his seventh film of 2014, and he may hit double digits before the year is out. Cheng is Big Nicky, a crappy triad whose lone follower is the virginal afro-sporting Boo (Philip Ng). Through roundabout circumstances, the two team up with Master Charlie Chiang (Yuen Biao), a Taoist priest who’s an ace at exorcisms and general laid-back ass-kickery. Chiang and his tough disciple Lingxin (Jiang Luxia) handle an exorcism for Nicky and Boo’s boss Brother Snake (Tony Ho), and become further involved when they discover that Nicky’s new crush Tomorrow (Michelle Hu) may be a wandering spirit. Their advice is for Nicky not to date a ghost because, well, it’s unnatural.

The web of relationships only gets more convoluted. Snake works for rich douchebag Ah Keung (Kelvin Kwan), who wants Chiang to move his grandfather’s burial site. Chiang won’t take the job because Ah Keung categorically sucks, so Ah Keung goes to evil Taoist Leopard Man (Ricky Yi), who happens to be keeping Tomorrow’s ashes and blocking her entry into the afterlife. Lastly, Boo’s number one crush, dopey actress Balla (Bella Law), is Ah Keung’s moll, leading to a totally inconsequential love triangle. The kicker to all of this is that Ah Keung’s grandfather is a powerful vampire who'll be let loose upon the earth if not properly dealt with. Ergo, Charlie Chiang should totally have agreed to Ah Keung’s request rather than refusing and allowing a vampire to off people indiscriminately. Master Charlie Chiang: You’re awesome and all, but where’s your professionalism?

Poor Taoist priest ethics aside, this needlessly over-complicated set-up is pure Wong Jing, and leads to little real wit or surprise. There’s the occasional inspired detail, but overall this is a perfunctory story about people going from location to location and engaging in shtick, whereupon someone occasionally gets hurt or even dies. Totally unconvincing emotions crop up during a scene midway through the film, where the female characters get together and discuss their failed career aspirations. Excitement. Similarly, the romances are boring, and usually adhere to the formula of “Horny guy likes hot girl – but wait, he’s totally in love!” Nothing here is that serious, but it’s not that interesting either. Wong Jing should release a deck of cards with interchangeable story points. His admirers can develop their own similar projects by mixing and matching the cards. We can call it homage!

Sifu VS Vampire depends on the charisma of its stars, which doesn’t mean all that much considering Philip Ng or most of the actresses. Jiang Luxia has solid physical presence, and is strong in her fight sequences. Also making positive contributions are Yuen Biao and Ronald Cheng, who bring their familiar personalities to their mix, while Kelvin Kwan makes a fun impression as the douchey villain. Recognizable character actors like Ricky Yi, Tony Ho, Keung Ho-Man and Bonnie Wong show up and earn their paychecks. These actors are professionals, and at least get how seriously (or not seriously) they’re supposed to take the material. Director Daniel Chan adds a few needless stylistic flourishes but keeps things moving briskly, though not without the occasional lull. The English subtitles are a delight, however, since they’re grammatically correct and occasionally inspired despite not following the Cantonese dialogue closely.

With Yuen Biao, Jiang Luxia and Philip Ng on board, you’re likely expecting some action. You’re in luck, sort of. Despite some shoddy camerawork, the film offers decent fighting courtesy of action directors Yuen Cheung-Yan and Philip Ng (pulling double duty). It’s nice to see Jiang Luxia cut loose, and the same goes for Philip Ng, though his single action sequence occurs using a distorted filter that makes it difficult to watch. There’s a narrative reason for making the visuals all wonky, but the filmmakers should really figure out when their stylistics are hurting rather than enhancing audience experience. Routine horror stuff and the occasional jab at local issues and events round out this thoroughly average mix. Nothing about Sifu VS Vampire is particularly noteworthy, but since this is an underrepresented and also nostalgic Hong Kong Cinema genre, some extra good vibes sneak through. We should all be about extra good vibes sneaking through. (Kozo, 10/2014)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Deltamac (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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