Category Archives: Andy On

As The Light Goes Out 救火英雄 (2014) – Hong Kong / China

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 10th January 2013

Directed by: Derek Kwok
Starring: Nicholas Tse, Shawn Yue, Simon Yam, Hu Jun

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Derek Kwok is a director with plenty of potential. 2010’s “Gallants” was one of my favourite films of that year. Perhaps with just a few months apart from Danny Pang’s “Out of Inferno”, firefighting genre is not exactly something fresh or required. Still, “As Light Goes Out” manages to be tight, engaging and even tense, before dropping off the interest level in the final 20 minutes. The problem lies mainly in the lack of any knowledge or background information of its lead and main characters. This in turn have a devastating effect on the emotional side of things as the film goes on. This is not a bad film and justifiably above average, but it could easily have been more. For a director of Derek Kwok’s quality and throw in his biggest budget production to date, we as local audience expected more.

Nothing is really known about Nicholas Tse’s life and the things mentioned are never really explained in one way or another. Likewise for Shawn Yue, apart from having son and predictably needing to save him (spoilers alert), the audience hardly cares about him or his kid. In fact at times, we even forgotten the fact that his child is somewhere mixed within fire, building and explosions. Perhaps the best moments in the film comes from Simon Yam whose winkled years provide both character and emotional depth. As for Andy On, it is almost comical in his involvement in this film and his untimely and sudden departure is almost the same. Veteran Liu Kai Chi impresses in his extremely limited screen time as the commander in the midst of politics and humanity. Patrick Tam does well in a small role as the head of energy organization who needs to juggle ethics and moral values with that of money-minded Mainland bosses.

All in all, “As The Light Goes Out” works well for a good portion of the time. However the supposedly emotional finale lacks any sort of emotional punch as it feels dragged and the audience finds it difficult to engage or care for any of the characters. Shawn Yue is someone who has not improved after showing potential in “Jiang Hu” (2004), with more than a decade under his belt, his is still as stoic and cold as ever. Derek Kwok is certainly a director for the future, but there are too much underlying politics in this film. The question lies in why every Mainlander has to save the day and be the righteous hero while Hong Kong people are seen as money minded, evil or entirely self-interested. I know that none of these probably matters for people outside Hong Kong, but when a supposedly serious scene becomes an unintentional laughing stock, it certainly doesn’t help. Without being overly harsh, I actually enjoyed a good portion of this film, but we all know Derek Kwok can easily do better and Nicholas Tse have seen far better days. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 7/10

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Special ID / Special Identity 特殊身份 (2013) – Hong Kong

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 20th October 2013

Directed by: Clarence Fok
Starring: Donnie Yen, Tian Jing, Andy On, Colin Chou, Ronald Cheng, Terrence Yin

In cinemas Hong Kong from 19th October 2013

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Donnie Yen is back, but not necessary with the expected results. Despite his improved acting range in period films like “Ip Man”, Yen is back to his trademark overacting in director Clarence Fok’s latest action blockbuster – “Special ID”. The good news is that “Special ID” remains largely entertaining for most of the duration, but in many ways it remains a huge pile of mess. In saying that, “Special ID” delivers plenty of “Flashpoint” style action without the substance of “SPL” and a story that is as nonsensical as most of Yen’s 90s action flicks. Still, there are moments to be excited about and namely most of the fight sequences, however the ending drags on and on and by the time Andy On is finally defeated (as expected, good guys wins, bad guys loses – Mainland Censorship), the audience already had enough.

The film is about Donnie Yen and so is the main focus, but unlike Jet Li, Yen always overacts and while some blame should be attributed to the lame and corny dialogue, there are times, when his expression is largely out of place. Having said that, Yen as usual provides outstanding physical presence and is always impressive whenever a fight is around the corner. One cannot stop laughing thought at the lame and cheesy manner that the small romantic sub-plot between fresh faced Tian Jing and Yen. Not only does it seem forced, but every interaction is left with a cheesy laughter. Tian Jing does well as the cliché female madam cop and shows some good moves of her own. Unfortunately nothing is known about her character and the scene when she cries after killing someone is largely unconvincing. We have now seen Andy On’s fighting style, but offer nothing to his villainous role and at times feel rather out of place than lethal. His fights with Yen is at times borderline boring to watch and one cannot help but think why the hell, Collin Chou is wasted as the triad boss role, who is criminally underused in fight scenes. Chou vs Yen would have been interesting, but somehow it just never happened. As for Ronald Cheng, he is neither funny nor serious and tend to just appear here and there for next to no reason at all. Perhaps the best acting once again alludes to Yen’s mum (played by the always brilliant Paw Hee-Ching)), who despite limited screen time provides one of the better scenes in the well-acted hairdressing scene.

All in all, “Special ID” is really not that special, the action is ordinary, the story is ordinary, the direction is bluntly average and the acting is borderline bad. Still, with period martial arts film dominating the Hong Kong cinema scene, it is refreshing to see some modern day action movies. While Unbeatable uses MMA to tell a story and tale, “Special ID” as expected goes the opposite route namely using action to disguise a lack of story. Yen is always entertaining to watch and the action on display is fun to say the least. Yes, “Special ID” is far more like “Flashpoint” than “SPL”, but when you start calling a pile of mess, being entertaining. Then Special ID is not entirely bad afterall. (Neo 2013)

I rated 6/10

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Unbeatable 激戰 (2013) – Hong Kong / China

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 29th August 2013

Directed by: Dante Lam
Starring: Nick Cheung, Eddie Peng, Mei Ting, Andy On

Film Distributed by Distribution Workshop HK, Dream Movies and Bona Film Group
Also the opening film of the 2013 Summer International Film Festival (HKIFF).
In cinemas Hong Kong and Australia from 16 August 2013.

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What I enjoyed the most about Dante Lam’s “Unbeatable” is the level of characters’ exploration and depth that the film derails into, rather than just making boxing its key focus. This is smart move, as all of Lam’s best efforts come from building a character and of course, this is even better if that guy in question is played by Nick Cheung. In what I call Nick Cheung’s career best performance, this is by no means an understatement as he never overacts and the level of restrain that his character requires is on par with the always effortless style of the highly underrated Lau Ching Wan. Eddie Peng will certainly bring in a legion of female fascination, despite requiring his muscles to do more of the acting. Still, “Unbeatable” stands quite firmly as the film to beat in 2013 and quite easily the Hong Kong pride in the fame of “Rocky”.

Nick Cheung plays a character torn from his past experiences and as with most of Lam created characters, they are genuinely flawed. Playing against type is what initially garnered Cheung with multiple Best Actor awards, but it is his performance here that should give his acting ability a new dimension. As master /trainer of Eddie Peng, Cheung is require to take a back seat for a prolonged period, but he did not let that prevent the audience focus being squarely on him. Eddie Peng provides good physical presence, but little is known or shown about his character and past, apart from his relationship his former rich dad. However, Peng excels in most fight scenes and his portrayal the underdog role is met with adequate flair. In addition, Peng is easily a likable character, but pales in compassion to the versatility of Cheung.

All in all, “Unbeatable” is film that works extremely hard from the fight scenes, character analysis and the numerous subplot. Lam also find time to deal with the issue of mental illness. despite being a serious problem in a crowded and complicated society like Hong Kong, it is still more often than not neglected. Chinese acclaimed actress, Mei Ting is convincing as the mother who cannot get over her son accidental death and inflict her mind within her own prison. It is this subplot that allows Cheung to expand his acting range and for the first time in his life, he has something to fight for. “Unbeatable” is one of those films that never stops to excite, entertain, inspire and finally understand. It is an accomplished effort from a director very much in his prime and also bringing a veteran actor to even greater heights. As for the final punch in the movie, it stands firmly as one of Hong Kong cinematic moments to remember. (Neo 2013)

I rated 8.75/10

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