Category Archives: Hong Kong Actor and Actress

The Last Tycoon 大上海 (2012) – Hong Kong / China

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 11th January 2013
Released in cinemas across Asia in 26th December 2012

Cast: Chow Yun-fat, Huang Xiaoming, Sammo Hung, Francis Ng, Yuan Li, Yuan Quan, Monica Mok, Feng Wenjuan, Gao Hu, Xin Baiqing
Director: Wong Jing
Produced by: Andrew Lau

HK Box-office Takings: HK$5,787,307

Available on DVD and Blu Ray on March 7th 2013.

Also Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013

Support the site by buying this DVD or Blu-ray from our HK Neo Distribution Ebay Store

If “The Last Tycoon” proved one thing is that Wong Jing still can produce a decent picture, if he can be bothered. Sure, the latest Chow Yun Fat/ Francis Ng / Sammo Hung starring flick isn’t exactly cinematic gold, but it is by far the best Wong Jing’s best directing effort for almost a decade (2003’s “Colour of Truth”). “The Last Tycoon” produced by Andrew Lau (“Infernal Affairs”) is filled with lavish production sets, plenty of big budget explosions and gun fights and some adequate acting display. This is certainly not magic, but in terms of anything from Wong Jing, this is probably as good as it will ever get.

For once, we get a serious Wong Jing without any of his usual annoying antics and cheap commercial. This can be attributed to the long overdue reunion between Wong and Chow Yun Fat as the pairing last made the now cult classic “God of Gamblers”. While “The Last Tycoon” will never be anything as good as the aforementioned film, it possess enough good points to justify at least a viewing. What I particularly enjoyed about this film, is the manner Wong goes about his business and even when Wong is alluding to other clearly better film-makers (John Woo, Wong Kar Wai, Johnnie To and Wilson Yip), it feels more like a homage than a cheap shot for once. That’s not to say the film is entirely a fun ride, as there are areas that remains constantly hampered by a dragging script that lack a key focus for the audience to dwell on. At the end, the film relies heavily on its main star being the extremely charismatic Chow Yun Fat to carry the film with his smirk and his much missed trademark gun fights. This is especially evident, when the film falls flat in the final quarter as Francis Ng uses all his acting depth to get his paper thin character through by being outright menacing, but like the film remains rather empty.

Perhaps the film is not really about how one rises to power, as “The Last Tycoon” seems to be more concerned with its romantic sub-plot and regretting undertones. That’s not necessary a bad thing, but it feels far too uneven for the audience to feel the everlasting impact. For the first third of the film, we see rising Mainland star Huang Xiao Ming playing the younger Da Qi (Chow Yun Fat), where he gets into a fight with some small time triads and rises through the ranks after a chance encounter with his master Hung (played by Sammo Hung). This portion of the film feels extremely like Wilson Yip’s “Ip Man 2” and if you must be pedantic, Sammo Hung seems not only to be playing the same character, but also wears the same black dress. Moving on the middle portion, we get a scene directly from any John Woo movie and more prominently the famed gun fights and unlimited ammos during the church scene in “The Killer”. To see Chow Yun Fat with a gun is almost like going through a moment in the memory lane where almost all die-hard Hong Kong cinemas will agree in delight. In the final quarter, Mr. Wong even manages to release a preview of Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grandmaster” (releasing in Hong Kong a couple of weeks later) with the black umbrellas, slow motions and raining backdrop. In actually fact, it is also a scene from Johnnie To’s “Sparrow”. Just when you think that the allusion and homage is over, Wong Jing comes up with an absolute gem of a finale, a star crossed lovers, unrequited love, everlasting regrets and quite frankly “In the Mood for Love” car scene. Still, despite the obvious carbon imaging, Wong Jing manages to remain serious and the undertones is clearly a homage rather than a cheap imitation of his usual sorts. That alone is worthy of a complimentary gesture.

In terms of acting, Chow Yun Fat “The Assassins” is most probably the coolest actor on earth and with two guns on his hands, he is simply a match made in heaven. I cannot recall the last time, he hold a gun in a Hong Kong film (strictly this is a Mainland co-production), but with his trademark two handed gun fights, Chow is truly at home. When Huang Xiao Ming (who plays the younger version of Chow) tries to apt his idol, the best he can do is reminding the audience exactly how much cooler the older Chow really is. Sammo Hung is Sammo Hung and that’s not an understatement, but the story fails to explore more into his character and the underlying relationship and brotherhood between Chow and Hung. Hung has physical presence is always a welcome on the big screen, even if his role is insanely “Ip Man”-like. As for the young Huang Xiao Ming, he spends far too many scenes trying to mimic Chow that he lost his own style and character. Nonetheless, Huang remains a likeable character and there is an air of coolness in the way he goes about the task on hand. As usual, Francis Ng steals the show whenever he appears on screen, however, despite his menacing outlook and obvious over the top acting, Ng is unable to extend or extract something special from his paper thin role. Monica Mok (who was wonderful in “Ocean Flame”) does well and even manages to leave the audience wanting in the final few sequences.

All in all, “The Last Tycoon” is a decent attempt at recreating a Shanghai triad epic and while the film lacks originality, it is made up by a good cast of actors, some interesting gun fights and some throw-in Wong Jing’s homage to other directors. It is most certainly Wong Jing’s best effort in years and for that alone, we should really celebrate. In terms of entertainment value, you can certainly do a lot worst than “The Last Tycoon”, just don’t expect too much and a decent time can still be had. Then again, when a film allows Chow Yun Fat to hold more than two guns on his hand, it is alone worth the price of admission. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 7.5/10

The Closet 異塚 (2007) – Hong Kong

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 10 August 2007
Released on DVD across Asia

Starring: Francis Ng Chun-Yu, Yang Zhifei, Eddie Cheung Siu-Fai, Michelle Ye, Zhou Ziyue, Chan Mong-Wah, Johnny Wong
Directed by: Cho Kin-Nam

A waste of acting talents…

It is little wonder that Francis Ng is someone that looks at the pay check rather than the actual script. After all, it isn’t necessary a bad thing as actors are still human beings and they need the money to meet than cost of living. Still, it isn’t the first time that Ng have ventured into some plain crap scripts, most notably being last year’s “Karmic Mahjong” and “The Curse of Lola”. “The Closet” is really a case of where the actors outperform the actual film and script in nearly all departments. It is needless to say that Francis Ng is a good actor and he performs in his usual captivating manner. Adding to the mix is veteran Eddie Cheung, who seems to be improving as rapidly as his age and some fine turns from an almost unrecognisable Michelle Ye and a potential filled performance from newcomer Yang Zhifei. With that being said, “The Closet” is really a movie that wasted the talents of its available cast and the fault clearly lies in the script and the direction.

It is not a rarity that a Hong Kong thriller is being disguised as a horror. Unfortunately Hong Kong movies are no longer scary and whether or not it is actually even thrilling is also worth questioning. As mentioned before, the main reason why the current reviewer is able to sit through such a stupid movie is because of the performances on show. It is full credit to Francis Ng who seamlessly eases into a non-existence role with such flair and character. Likewise Eddie Cheung’s tense expressions are a joy to watch as is the moments of his fight scene with Ng beside the pool, is certainly worthy of some mentioning. While Michelle Ye performs well in some sequences as someone with some sort of mental problem, she is no longer the youthful presence that once graced the TVB screens. Perhaps she is older now, but it is unfortunate that she no longer have that spark about her anymore. Contrastingly, the presence of newcomer Yang Zhifei provides some much needed freshness and youthful beauty that enable the audience to sit through this torture slightly easier.

All in all, “The Closet” isn’t really a movie that is trying to say much and if not for the actors’ performances, it is highly likely that I would have switched off the screen without a second thought. As a result, full credit must be given to the entire cast for creating some sort of unrealistic suspense and a somewhat slightly tense final act. Still, “The Closet” is easily a failure in terms of film making, as the director rarely attempts to try anything new or creative. The sub-plot of Ng and his father relationship is rarely touched upon and the result is really rather lacking and almost to the point of stupidity. It is unfortunate that the film fails to utilise the talents that it possesses, but then again, it is hard to see how they can improve upon such a lame script. (Neo 2007)

I rate it 3/10.

The King of Debt Collecting Agent 黑道風雲之收數王 (1999) – Hong Kong

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 2nd January 2013
Released on DVD across Asia

Director: Ivan Lai
Cast: Nick Cheung, Francis Ng, Anthony Wong, Sam Lee, Turbo, Gabriel Harrison, Tina Lee, Law Koon-Lan, Austin Wai, Yip Or-Fan, Peter Lai, Lau Shek-Yin

In 1999, Nick Cheung made seven quick-fire starring vehicles with “The King of Debt Collecting Agent” being his first major headlining role. In this film, you can witness Cheung’s apparent maturity in his acting and the second half provides Cheung with a chance to showcase his dramatic range. Perhaps not entirely successful, Cheung at the very least is never annoying. It is strange how such a small budget feature can garner the likes of Francis Ng and Anthony Wong (in an extended cameo) to co-star, but this is in all essence a Nick Cheung film.

There are some good moments in this film and there are enough Hong Kong’s 90s film-making style to shoot the audience pass the finishing. In fact, the first half possesses some good comic timing and the from rags to riches story is fun enough to follow. The film takes a sharp turn by the half way mark and turns bloody and dark, unfortunately director Ivan Lai (“The Erotic Ghost Story 3”) is not entirely up to the task. The film suffers from a lack of focus, the usual 90s poor lighting and an extremely blend and ordinary direction that distracts the audience to focusing on the characters and their fate.

Nick Cheung (“Beast Stalker”) does a good job in role that stretches more his acting muscles than most of his late 90s and early 2000s comedies. He flairs far better when he is allowed to be serious and there are some glimpses of potential that will eventually make him one of Hong Kong’s premier acting talents in recent years. His chemistry with his mother (played by the ever natural Law Koon-Lan “Truth or Dare: 6th Floor Rear Flat”) is especially good. While, his love interest played by Tina Lee lacks a cutting edge and fail miserably in pulling off the final movie twist. Sam Lee provides ably support and flairs better towards the end when required to emote. However, Francis Ng (“The Last Tycoon”) surprisingly fails to add anything to the film, apart from providing some moments of laugher. His mimic of his over-used 90s cinema voice is funny at first instance, but grew tiresome as the film progresses. While his counterpart Anthony Wong (“Motorway”) shows up in numerous scenes randomly without much effect.

Still, “The King of Debt Collecting Agent” is a perfect example of late 90s Hong Kong cinema, a time when the industry is lacking in creativity, using lower budgets to churn out films in quick fashion, while at the same time still manages to provide glimpses of Hong Kong flair and style. Films like these won’t be made in today cinematic standards and the local flavours these type of films processes is priceless for today’s generation. In many ways, the film gave Nick Cheung a starring performance and despite all the stated flaws, “The King of Debt Collecting Agent” still manages to entertains. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 6.5/10

Sweet Revenge 寄生人 (2007) – Hong Kong / China

Review by: Andrew Chan (Neo) FCCA AACTA
Re-edited on: 24 September 2012

An artistic B-movie. What happens when you combine a Golden Horse award winning director Ho Ping with a B-movie expert Tony Leung Hung Wah? The answer is “Sweet Revenge”, a movie that contain some well shot scenes as well as some worthy shots of cinematography, which all adds up to being an above average flick.

Sometimes, you wonder what could have been, especially when the movie contains the ever improving Nick Cheung (“The Exiled”), the irresistible Fan Bing Bing, an award winning supporting actor in Anthony Wong (“Turning Point”) and adding on the icing with Golden Horse winning director Ho Ping. Perhaps this is the reason why the film left me slightly disappointed, as it never attempts to do anything new or special. Sure, it is probably a good movie by Tony Leung Hung Wah’s standard, but with the above involvement, “Sweet Revenge” is really rather disappointing.

The first stop of this review is definitely a little paragraph dedicating to the irresistible Fan Bing Bing. Fan Bing Bing is one pretty girl and there is something about her that makes her irresistible for the viewers’ eyes. It may well be her wide eyes, her natural curve face or her sensitive emotion, but whatever it is, Fan is one person that can captivate the audience attention. Moving on to her performance, Fan for the first time in her short acting career is given a slightly beefy role and she handles it with a certain natural flair. Not only is she able to hold her own against the likes of veteran Anthony Wong, but even manages to steal the spotlight away from the ever improving Nick Cheung. This is especially evident in an arty scene where Fan is crouching down on the backdrop of an artistic wall. A much improved performance from her last outing “Battle of Wits” and most certainly an actress I will be keeping a close eye on for years to come.

Almost forgetting that this is a Nick Cheung’s movie, it is needless to say that the man has improved his acting ever since storming through the scenes of Johnnie To’s “The Exiled”. In this film, Cheung is suitably intense and at times his morph into madness is quite enduring to watch. Adding to the mix is the always dependable Anthony Wong who seems to have nothing to do, either than kiss the girl (namely Fan Bing Bing), drink and sleep. Unfortunately his romance with Fan seems more fictional than reality. This in turns indirectly adds to some unnecessary thoughts from the audience as to whether Wong is really Fan Bing Bing’s dad.

All in all, “Sweet Revenge” have some bright spots and it is probably safe to say that the film is a good B grade film. However, given the A-list cast and award winning director, the end result seems rather like a waste of talent. The effect is leaving the audience feeling what could have been. While the film attempts answer all the questions that it seems to poses, it somehow fails to add that extra bit of flavour which can turn the film into something special. In the past, Ho Ping’s films have a certain distinct flavour upon it, but this time, his direction seems to be overshadowed by something. The result is like an above average birthday cake, that just kind of loses its flavour. It is an adequate piece of filmmaking, but I just can’t help thinking – what could have been. (Neo 2007)

I rate it 7/10