Category Archives: 2010 Hong Kong/China Movies

The Legend Is Born – Ip Man 葉問前傳 (2010) – Hong Kong

Review by: Jerome Fawcett
Review date: 23rd September 2012
Edited by: Andrew Chan FCCA ACCTA

“The Legend Is Born – Ip Man” rides on the success the first two films detailing certain parts of Grandmaster Yip Man’s life. This is not necessarily a good thing since part of the film’s plot is somewhat of a rehash of the first film namely the Chinese vs. Japanese conflict.

“The Legend Is Born – Ip Man” partially chronicles the early life of Wing Chun Grandmaster Yip Man. However, it suffers from poor scriptwriting. Those who have seen the first film will wonder why the conflict between China and Japan is brought up yet again. It would seem as though they ran out of ideas. Director Herman Yau (“Turning Point”) managed to keep most of the film intact from the beginning, but the film suffers from a below par finale quarter and ultimately fall short of its expectations.

Dennis To lacks the screen presence to immerse himself in the role of Yip Man. He certainly is not up to the same standard as Donnie Yen’s in both Wilson Yip’s films. However, he has potential to be a big star. Despite this, his action scenes are actually pretty convincing especially with his notable Wing Chun and Wushu background. Crystal Huang portrays Yip Man’s girlfriend and eventual wife, but she is crucially underused and at times seem as thought she is being relegated to the sidelines. Louis Fan as usual gives a fine performance as the ‘adopted’ Yip brother, Yip Tin Chi, who is compelled to choose sides between his home country and his adopted family. Fan gets to showcase some of the better fight scenes of the movie, particularly using Wing Chun, Jujutsu and Karate. Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao are certainly no strangers to performing Wing Chun on-screen as seen in “The Prodigal Son”, “Warriors Two” and the mainland TV series: “Wing Chun”. In this film, Sammo portrays the aging master Chan Wah Shunwho is passing on his Wing Chun knowledge to the next generation. While, Yuen Biao portrays the uptight, traditionalist senior student Ng Chung So, who could easily be given more screen time. In her acting debut, Rose Chan isn’t given much of an opportunity to shine in her role as the younger sister, Lee Mei Wai. However, Chan has certainly shown enough potential to be given another opportunity to showcase her talent. Former TVB actress Bernice Liu (“Bad Blood”), gets to explore her evil character on-screen once again, as being part of the Japanese group invading Foshan.

The most interesting parts of “The Legend Is Born – Ip Man” are essentially how the Wing Chun theories are illustrated, the fight choreography by Tony Leung Siu Hung and the scene-stealing cameo appearance of Yip Chun and Yip Man’s eldest son playing the role of Leung Bik. If you can overlook the numerous flaws, there may still be a film for you to enjoy. (Jerome 2012)

Jerome rates it 6.5 /10

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Womb Ghost 惡胎 (2010) – Hong Kong

An awful attempt at the Grudge by property developer Dennis Law…

Director Dennis Law have officially gone from decent to worst filmmaking experience. Just when you thought Bad Blood is plainly awful, wait no longer, Womb Ghosts is crap. In some ways, Law seems to have become the new Wong Jing. His commercial ability is without question, casting pop singers in Love @ First Note, re-launching Wu Jing’s career in Kung Fu roles (the decently made Fatal Contact and the better than expected Fatal Move), then the controversial issue of child abuse in A Very Short Life and even his recent low-blow in the form of Bad Blood is somewhat disguised by brutal fight sequences. However, Law is no editor or writer and at best a decent director. His problem is the nonsense and senseless prolonging of highly unnecessary and uninteresting sequences. Do we really need to see Chrissie Chau opening one door after another and Lam Suet sitting on a bench in the middle of the night? Poor filmmaking is okay, but these are usually compensated by a good editor who undoubtedly would have left these scenes as deleted sequences of a DVD special feature. Unfortunately, we are struck with everything that is incoherent, uneven, random and even boring.

Casting the popular le-mo in Chrissie Chau is probably the only recent why this film even ran its cinema run, but her acting is far from good. It must be said that fans of Chau will probably have a decent time watching her naked stomach along with some sleazy camera work to portray the budging of her greatest assets. Still, this is a potential-less performance from a talentless Hong Kong le-mo. Other people show up here and there without being consequential, other than being randomly there to collect their respective pay check. It is once again good to see Lam Suet being the standout in his relatively interesting supporting role.

All in all, Womb Ghosts is simply not scary enough to be a horror event and not thrilling enough to be considered a thriller. It is rare that a film has so little redeeming factors, but for a Dennis Law film, it is probably expected. Perhaps, Law should stop venturing into random Hong Kong issues and go back to what he does best – action films. A terrible mess of a film and giving it a miss would do you no harm at all…(Neo 2010)

I rate it 2/10

True Legend 蘇乞兒 (2010) – Hong Kong / China

Yuen Woo Ping tries hard and manages to entertain in an uneven manner…

It’s been too long since The Blade’s Vincent Zhao last cinematic venture. The lad for all his worth was groomed to be Jet Li’s successor. For whatever reason, he disappeared off the radar and wandered into the wilderness of mainland television. Zhao lacks the on-screen charisma or likable good looks of Jet Li, but there is no doubting of his martial arts ability and his physical presence is comparable to Donnie Yen. Many would probably have forgotten that Zhao’s career got off to a storming start by simply existing under the shadows of Jet Li in roles like Wong Fei Hung and the villain in Fong Sai Yuk, before embarking on the cult classic lead role in The Blade. Impressive resume one might assume. So instead of rambling on about past laurels, Zhao makes a stunning return and one might just assume, his career is on the rebound.

The movie goes like this: Beggar So (Vincent Zhao) is army general, but gives up the position for family life. Beggar So gives all his status to his adopted brother (Andy On) and lived a life of an ordinary person. Until one day, Andy On returns home and killed Zhao’s father (Leung Ka-Yan) in avenging On’s own nemesis. The result is Beggar So escaping alive with his wife waiting for an opportunity to strike back.

Director Yuen Woo Ping is obviously in top form and there are a number of action sequences that are original enough for a mention. The fight in the snake well between On and Zhao is both innovative and fun. Hong Kong no longer has a huge luxury of upcoming kung fu star. While Vincent Zhao isn’t exactly in his twenties, but he is still young enough to relaunch a career and with a bit of luck, he may even be able to match the reinvention successes of a similar counterpart in Donnie Yen. Sure, Zhao can’t act and when he tries, more than often he is overacting in the famous Yen’s style. It remains to be seen if Zhao is given a better material, he will be able to embrace it as his own.

As usual, Zhou Xun is a wonderful actress of both quality and presence. While not exactly a conventional beaut, Xun is one heck of an actress that makes the unnatural natural. She have been constantly stealing the show in numerous epics starring as side characters, but in all honestly her acting ability is second to none in the current HK cinema. In fact, when considered on a whole, Xun is given a paper thin role with nothing to work with, yet somehow she manages to impress, engage and express.

Moving on to Andy On, he is certainly a case of missing in action. For the past decade, since his terrible debut in Black Mask 2, Andy On has showed himself to be a decent supporting actor. In fact, he was the best thing in 2003’s Star Runner, decent showdown against Jackie Chan in New Police Story. However since then, he has been almost unnoticeable in all circumstances. Perhaps, True Legend is what you call, a re-launch of young Andy’s career. While he does have some screen presence to a certain degree, his acting is too one dimensional and his villainous turn is neither memorable nor effective. The kid got martial arts potential; let’s just hope he is not suitability wasted away.

All in all, True Legend is a welcome additional to modern day HK martial arts cinema. While the 3rd act may seem like a remake of Fearless and the film suffers from some obvious coherence and uneven issues. Namely the frequently fast forward style of editing, making days goes by as fast as years. Director Yuen Woo Ping does compensate this by some blood crunching action display and even if it is a carbon copy of Fearless in the third act, there is no doubt that Yuen is simply taking a leaf out of his previous efforts. One may wonder if the film simply ended in the 2nd act, it may well be more coherent, but for me, it would have left me half-baked. So honestly, True Legend really isn’t that bad and in fact, it is quite a decent film with some good parts in between. A welcome return for Shaw Brothers and to a larger extent Mr. Vincent Zhao…(Neo 2010)

I rate it 7/10

The Stool Pigeon 綫人 (2010) – Hong Kong / China

This is more like Beast Stalker…

Beast Stalker was a great film, filled with tension, fine acting and incredible tension. Similarly, the latest venture from Dante Lam in Stool Pigeon is a lot like the aforementioned film. The good news is the tension is there, the acting is good and the film is well directed. The bad news is that Stool Pigeon does not reach the heights of Beast Stalker. Nick Cheung reverses role with Nicholas Tse this time around. Cheung is the cop and Nicholas Tse is the stool pigeon. Cheung is now an established actor and earns his paycheck here with a gritty and emotionally complex character. Tse on the other hand is excellent and almost carries the film on his shoulders. The best thing of the lot, is once again veteran Liu Kai Chi. Liu steals the show and the effect is seen in the opening scene when he screams for help.

Stool Pigeon is a good film, but not a great film. The reason is simple, it lacks the same amount of intensive tension of its predecessor and relies much on the acting of Tse and Cheung to take the film to the end. In say that, this is by a far a much superior effort to Fire of Conscience. Dante Lam is a capable director and he is at his best, when the characters in his films are allowed to express their truest potential or perhaps when they go crazy. Think Anthony Wong in Beast Cop and Nick Cheung in Beast Stalker. While both Tse and Cheung does fine turns, but neither are memorable. The film itself is not too memorable either. Instead what we got delivered to us is a film that entertains, some interesting chases, fine acting and positive direction. Easily a good film, but not great…(Neo 2010)

I rate it 7/10

Marriage with a Liar 婚前試愛 (2010) – Hong Kong

Typical Patrick Kong’s hopeless romance saved by breezy editing from Wong Jing…

Director Patrick Kong always forgets to edit his films and thus it becomes too long and too demeaning. Therefore, for once, Wong Jing’s cheap editing style works. In saying that, the running time is 80 minutes instead of a prolonged 100 minutes of more of the same. The problem with Kong’s film is not whether it sells or not, because it does. The flaw is that Kong offers nothing new, except for the fact that love really suck and dating and marriage is a hopeless endeavour. While it is true to a certain degree, Kong goes to the extreme and only show the worst side of a relationship. Then again, with the bumpy balls of Chrissie Chau and Carol Yeung in half naked positioning, Marriage with a Liar clearly sells.

One noticeable difference with this film and Kong’s previous, is the cheapness of the production values and look of the film. Clearly a product from the Wong Jing factory, Kong loses the glossy feeling with this effect. Honestly, who goes into a film witness an acting performance by the famed Chrissie Chau. Therefore, to judge her performance here, is extremely difficult. The fact is that she does her job here without being annoying. However the same cannot be said about Carol Yeung. While her assets are undoubtedly huge, her face is borderline unattractive and her ears are just terrible for her size. Seriously some thought should have been taken to use her hair to cover those ears, but this is not to be. Perhaps, there is such thing as ear fetish? Only Wong Jing and Kong will know for sure. As for the other two actors, they are nothing more than people to compliment the aforementioned duo of le-mo.

All in all, Marriage with a Liar is clearly a commercial success; it is basically what it is. If you have seen a Kong’s film, then there is nothing new or fresh. Love does suck to a certain degree and Kong was probably hurt quite badly in his dating experience, if you look at his movie track record as a guide. Still this is easily an improvement from movies like Marriage with a Fool and his numerous other titles. That is mainly due to some cut throat editing from Wong Jing. At the end of the day, ignoring the quality, acting, the same old Kong’s views on love, the movie works because it entertains. It entertains our eyes, ears and senses. What more, there is one scene near the ending, I was even slightly affected. This is what you call – disposable Hong Kong entertainment…(Neo 2011)

I rate it 6.5/10