review by Neo

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An Interesting Failure ...
On hearing that Stephen Fung is directing a movie, my mind was just on one thing –curious of whether he is capable. However upon reading all the news about the new movie, it did not sound promising. But after watching Fung’s Enter the Phoenix, I have a totally different perspective. His direction is not only adequate but is without doubt the most promising young director from Hong Kong in the past 5 years. Directing a movie starring his friends – Eason Chan, Daniel Wu, Karen Mok and special cameo appearances from Jackie Chan, Sammi Cheng and Nick Tse and also starring himself in a cool and bottled up emotions role. SO far so good, and as from his friends they all say he has a good ego, unlike Stephen Chow’s bad ego. The most has gay themes, but that’s not the point as the main premises is not so much about the plot, but the way the movie provides a good and cool fun ride.

The story goes like this Georgie (Daniel Wu) is the son of the triad's head, but he is being exiled because he carries a big secret. When his father is dead, he is back to Hong Kong. His roommate, Sam (Eason Chan), sees Georgie as his idol. He is mistaken by the triad members, and made him to the new head of the team. From Sam, Georgie knows the hardship of being a triad's head. Sam falls in love with Julie (Karen Mok). On their wedding night, Julie shows her love to Georgie...Stephen Fung's directorial debut "Enter The Phoenix" grossed over $10 million at the Hong Kong box office in 16-days' opening. The director/ actor Stephen revives classic Mafia topics with shades of black humor while tempering contentiousness of homosexuality with the love of father-and-son.

Sounds gay right, well it is. However, Stephen Fung does not go over the top to the extent of some Wong Jing theme, but mixes it with gangsters. And the most surprising and refreshing of all is the traditional HK style fight scene. The fight scene is what I really want to comment about the main reason that makes this film not just any comedy about gangster and gays. This fight scene surprising did not involve Jackie Chan or Yuen Biao who both gave cameo appearances, but between Daniel Wu who I hear is a martial artist or has somewhat learn martial arts before against the cool and controlled Stephen Fung. Though using wires, the fight can actually be seen unlike the nowadays Gen X Cops style fight or even Jet Li and Jackie’s Hollywood action flicks with fast editing and MTV style. The fight was great to watch and reminds us of the Heyday of HK cinema but it was still far to short which left me somewhat cheated and wanting more.

As to the acting, Stephen Fung puts in a highlighting performance. Though a small role, he is one of the best young actors that I feel can go to the league of Tony Leung and Andy Lau in the upcoming years when they retire. His fights are convincing and has this unique on screen presence that standout out of the movie. Daniel Wu puts in another average performance, but you can really tell he is trying to act from his wooden frame. He will improve, but there is still this sens eof wooden feel in his acting. Eason Chan continues to impresses in comedy mode but his acting range is hardly tested here and seems to be overshadowed by Karen Mok. Mok does well in her role and looks kind of better than normally. As to Chapman To, he is either a genius or just someone filling up spaces for laughs or sad jokes. I still reckon Chapman To can act, as seen in Colour of Truth where he was funny but not annoyingly funny. His chemistry with Law Kar Ling as father and son is perfect as they play off each other perfectly which reminds me of Jet Li and Siao Fong Fong in Fong Sai Yuk.

Overall Enter the Phoenix is the not the best movie about gangster but it is a very funny and entertaining ride. The obvious homage or parody as you wants to call it to A Better Tomorrow is fun but as it keeps repeating it gets a bit repetitive. It must be noted that if only HK film fights scene like this one but longer, then HK cinemas is coming back. However, whatever the case is, Stephen Fung is a promising director and a rising star in HK and Enter the Phoenix does nothing more than that. Enter the Phoenix earns slightly higher marks than normal comedies because it attempts to draw a message and Fung also uses the show not tell principle in some scenes very well. Well Stephen, can’t wait to see your next direction!

I rate it 8.5/10

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Product Title : Enter the Phoenix
Artist Name(s) : Eason Chan| Daniel Wu | Stephen Fung| Karen Mok
Language : Cantonese, Mandarin
Duration : 106 minutes
Reviewed by Neo (Andrew) - June 2004