Category Archives: 90s Hong Kong Cinema

Fong Sai Yuk 方世玉 (1993) – Hong Kong

[NeoFilmShop.com] Fong Sai Yuk (1993) – Hong Kong

Made at the height of Jet Li’s rise to fame after the Once Upon a Time in China series. Li wisely teams up with action director Corey Yuen for this Hong Kong martial arts classic. A much lighter version of folk hero than Wong Fei Hug, Fong Sai Yuk is every part playful, enjoyable, melodramatic and plenty of brilliant fight scenes. Josephine Siao plays the mother and together with Li shares a wonderful chemistry on screen as mother and son. It is the central core to the success of the film. We also see the introduction of martial artist Vincent Zhao who plays the lead villain with menacing effect. His fights with Li remains one of those many 90s martial art cinematic moments. Michelle Reis appears in a flower vase role. If there is a favourite Jet Li’s movie, this one easily qualifies due to its immense fun, timeless enjoyment and terrific fight sequences to boot. Hong Kong cinema at its greatest pride. Happy new year!

5/5

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Swordsman 2 笑傲江湖之東方不敗 (1992) – Hong Kong

[NeoFilmShop.com] Swordsman 2 (1992) – Hong Kong

The 2nd film of the highly underrated trilogy where only this one gets most of the credit. Swordsman 2 is extremely entertaining, processes a deeper storyline, interactions with people and most important of all creating that ultimate iconic character for the one and only Brigette Lin. The film also allows an early Jet Li to weave out of his usual martial arts comfort zone in being more of a comic and sophisticated character where he more than holds his own against the might of Brigette Lin. Michelle Reis plays the sidekick and love interest, while Rosamund Kwan is given an interesting as the highlander chef who is torn between the conflicts of the world and her love for Ling (played by Li). Perhaps the most fascinating storyline goes to Lin and Li and the two interplays each other in both complicated and subtle fashion. The fact that Lin is an expert in playing with genderless roles, makes her a wonderful “East of Asia”. The character itself will later get top billing in the third film of the trilogy. Still, there is really a lot to enjoy and like about Swordsman 2 and as part of that golden period of wuxia films, this one is really right up the alleyway. One for the ages.

5/5

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Swordsman 3: The East is Red 東方不敗 – 風雲再起 (1993) – Hong Kong 

[NeoFilmShop.com] Swordsman 3: The East is Red (1993) – Hong Kong


In terms of over the top experience, the third film of the Swordsman trilogy comes very close to topping it, from Yu Rong Guang using a full sized cannon as a hand held gun to flying needles and explosions all over the sea and land. However, The East is Red leaves all of the original two films budget, set pieces, focus on details into creating a dream like film that is both romantic and exhilarating at the same time. Brigette Lin reprises her ironic character of East of Asia to menacing effect, dominating and full of presence in a truly genderless role. Joey Wang as former love interest manages to impress the most in the film and perhaps holding all the incoherent plot lines together with a sensual yet powerful performance. Her eyes radiates, her sexiness always translate, yet there lies a deeper sense of love, hate and unpredictability in her that truly competes her performance. There are rare glimpses into ideology and false pretence of people trying to use the gods to control the masses. All in all, The East is Red will not be a classic within the wuxia genre, as it is far too incoherent, suffers from some poor effects and production design. A film clearly holds together by the performances of Joey Wang and Brigette Lin. They are simply breathtaking to endure.

3.5/5

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Shanghai Grand 新上海灘 (1996) – Hong Kong

[NeoFilmShop.com] Shanghai Grand (1996) – Hong Kong

As much as I would like to fully embrace the 1996 film version of TVB – The Bund starring Chow Yun Fat, it falls short due to its lack of running time, style of substance and heavily over hammed reliance on the charisma of Leslie Cheung. Andy Lau who plays Ding Lik fails to show character and depth beyond his obvious coolness and good looks. It is unfortunately as Leslie Cheung seems to be acting in a totally different film and in the scene where he flirts and romance with Ning Jing, it feels like a cut out of a Wong Kar Wai movie. Still, the images and mood of the film is terrifically focused in the 1930s Shanghai and the chapter and character focus makes it a good expression of film noir technique. Whilst the film is beautiful to look at and even oozes with some terrific gun play and set pieces. The film ultimately leaves the audience wanting more and probably ended up a rewatching of the making of Chow Yun Fat in the 1980 original series. Interestingly the film added in an out of place SM inspired sequence and also starring an extremely young Korean Jung Woo Sung.

3/5

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Front Page 新半斤八两 (1990) – Hong Kong

[NeoFilmShop.com] Front Page (1990) – Hong Kong

Try embracing the greatest comedian Hong Kong have ever produced and few will not say it is Mr. Michael Hui. His pursue of continuous improvement in his art makes him all the more unique within a difficult industry to stay relevant for so long. Front Page is an emotional reunite of the Hui Brothers after many years and ended up as one of their last combined hits. We witness an all time classic in the making through its laugh out sequences and plenty of those memorable moments. The Hui Brothers movies are like a social commentary reflecting the circumstances of their time and the history of Hong Kong society. In this film, we get to understand the media and what attracts people attention ultimately kills the journey of true journalism. The recent film The Menu undoubtedly share similar values and themes and in that we salute the Hui Brothers for always being the fore front of Hong Kong cinema and like the films of Woody Allen, they are simply timeless.

5/5

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