PEACE BREAKER (2017) review

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A remake of Kim Seong-hun’s devilishly entertaining Korean thriller A Hard Day (2014), Lien Yi Chi’s Peace Breaker follows Gaojian Xiang (Aaron Kwok), a mildly dirty cop whose team is under investigation for corruption, and who on one fateful night, while driving slightly inebriated to his mother’s funeral, crashes into a man on the road, killing him instantly. Unwilling to deal with the consequences, Xiang puts the body in his car, and later that night, hides it in his mother’s coffin. But just as he thinks the problem is dealt with, it turns out that the man he involuntarily killed is a wanted drug dealer that is police team is being assigned to track down. And to make things worse, Chen Changmin (Wang Qianyuan), a shady cop, knows what happened that night, and is determined to force Xiang to bring him the body, which holds particular value to him…

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WU KONG (2017) review

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Based on a successful internet novel by Jin Hezai, Wu Kong is Derek Kwok’s second stab at the Monkey King myth (after co-directing Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons with Stephen Chow), on which it is supposed to offer a new take – a rather hollow claim given that the countless Monkey King adaptations of recent years have all had completely different narratives from one another. An origin story of sorts, it follows Sun Wukong (Eddie Peng), hungry for revenge after goddess Hua Ji (Faye Yu) had his beloved Mount Huaguo ravaged to punish a revolting demon. The Monkey enters the heavenly kingdom with plans to destroy the destiny astrolabe, a giant machine which preordains the fate of everyone on earth. There, he meets Azi (Ni Ni), daughter of his enemy Hua Ji, and is confronted by two immortals, Erlangshen (Shawn Yue) and Tianpeng (Oho Ou). After their fight takes them to earth, where their powers are ineffective, Wukong, Erlangshen and Tianpeng end up joining forces to help a small village on Mount Huaguo defeat a cloud demon. In the process, Wukong and Azi fall in love, Erlangshen finds a surrogate mother, and Tianpeng is reunited with Yue (Zheng Shuang), a long lost love. But soon, Hua Ji restores discipline with a bloodbath.

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SHOCK WAVE (2017) review

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For Shock Wave, Herman Yau was given the biggest budget of his directing career, and was rewarded with his biggest commercial success yet. Andy Lau plays JS Cheung, a superintendent of the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Bureau finds himself in the crosshairs of a dangerous terrorist, Hung Kai Pang (Jiang Wu), in whose gang he had gone undercover years ago, and whose brother (Wang Ziyi) he put behind bars. Hung, a deranged bomb specialist, is hungry for revenge and wants his brother out of prison; after challenging Cheung with carefully crafted explosive devices left in public places, he takes hundreds of civilians hostage in Hong Kong’s Cross-Harbour Tunnel, which he has rigged with 1000kg of C-4 explosive.

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FIST & FAITH (2017) review

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In 1931, the northeast region of Manchuria in China was seized by Japan and turned into a puppet state ruled – in appearance – by Puyi, the last Qing emperor. Japanese culture, history and values were taught in schools, so that Chinese culture had to be safeguarded by underground reading societies, which, if exposed, were harshly repressed by the Japanese authorities. Jiang Zhuoyuan’s Fist & Faith takes place against this background, following Jing Hao (Oho Ou) and his friends, Chinese students of a Manchurian university who often battle it out with the Japanese students led by Shibata (Kento Hayashi), the heir to a once-glorious (but now disgraced) clan. When Liu He (Jing Tian), arrives to the university to take a position there as a history teacher, Jing Hao falls head over heels for her, and ends up joining the underground reading society she leads, just so that he can better woo her. But the carefree student is soon confronted to the harsh political reality of his time, as Shibata is hired by the Japanese authorities to violently break up Liu He’s reading society.

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THE ADVENTURERS (2017) review

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Initially rumored to be a remake of John Woo’s Once a Thief, Stephen Fung’s The Adventurers is actually simply a caper in the same spirit, with only European locations and a central duo of thieves in common with the 1991 film. Dan Zhang (Andy Lau), a highly-skilled thief, has just been released after serving a four-year prison sentence. Right upon becoming a free man again, and despite being closely watched by French detective Pierre Bissette (Jean Reno), he immediately goes back to his old ways, stealing a priceless necklace in Cannes, with the help of his trusted partner Bao (Tony Yang) and Red (Shu Qi), a talented aspiring thief. Next, Zhang sets his sight on another piece of invaluable jewelry that is in the possession of a Chinese billionaire (Sha Yi), safely kept in his castle in Czech Republic. But Bissette is still on his trail, and teams up with Amber Li (Zhang Jingchu), an art expert who’s none other than Zhang’s long-suffering girlfriend.

LEGEND OF THE NAGA PEARLS (2017) review

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Once upon a time in the mythical city of Uranopolis, an apocalyptic battle opposed humans to the the Winged Tribe; the latter was defeated and gradually went almost extinct. Now Xue Lie (Simon Yam), a royal descendant of the Winged Tribe, wants to avenge his his race and restore its glory: he is searching for the Naga Pearls, magical entities that can open a cataclysmic “eye in the sky” that would eradicate the human race. But Ni Kongkong (Darren Wang), a thief, has chanced upon the Naga Pearls and thus becomes the only one who can stop Xue Lie, with the help of Hei Yu (Crystal Zhang), a constable and descendant of the Winged Tribe, and Ge Li (Sheng Guan Sen), the son of the king of Uranopolis, eager to prove himself to his father.

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BROTHERHOOD OF BLADES II: THE INFERNAL BATTLEFIELD (2017) review

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Lu Yang’s Brotherhood of Blades was one of 2014’s best surprises, a tightly-scripted, hard-hitting little wu xia pian made on a relatively small budget, and whose muted box-office was compensated by an almost unanimously positive critical response, and a following that has grown in the three years since its release. Now, director Lu Yang is back with a bigger budget, for a prequel – which will be followed by a sequel, following the Infernal Affairs trilogy template – focusing on Chang Chen’s character (with Wang Qianyuan and Ethan Li noticeably absent), and which he again-co-wrote with Chen Shu, while none other than Ning Hao stepped in as a producer.

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FATHER AND SON (2017) review

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Fan Xiaobing (Da Peng) is a thirty-something aspiring entrepreneur who idolizes Bill Gates and Steve Jobs but never manages to convince investors to back his ideas, and keeps borrowing money from his close ones. He’s a big disappointment to his father Fan Yingxiong (Fan Wei), a retired army commander, and to his longtime friend Liu Wen (Crystal Zhang), who obviously fancies him, but towards whom he has not yet made a single step. Now Xiaobing is in deep trouble, as he has borrowed a hefty sum from a particularly cruel loan shark (Simon Yam), who is sending his goons to collect, including the bumbling Fang Jian (Qiao Shan). Left with little time to gather a hefty sum, Xiaobing decides to send his father on a trip, to then pretend he is dead, organize a fake funeral and collect donations from the family and friends who attend. But the father returns earlier than expected…

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BATTLE OF MEMORIES (2017) review

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Set in the near future and in a fictional country called T Nation (the ‘T’ probably stands for Thailand, where the film was shot), Leste Chen’s Battle of Memories imagines that a technology has been developed that allows people to have select memories removed from their brain (à la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and stored safely in places called Master of Memory Centers. Successful novelist Jiang Feng (Huang Bo) goes to the only center in Asia that can perform this procedure: he is divorcing his wife Zhang Daichen (Xu Jinglei) and wants to get rid of the memories of how they fell in love. But when his wife tells him she won’t sign the divorce papers unless he has these memories restored, he goes back to have the procedure reversed (he will then only have 72 hours to have them deleted again, this time inevitably forever). But Jiang Feng quickly realizes the memories that have been restored in his brain, are someone else’s. Someone who seems to have killed two women, both of whom he seemed to love dearly. Haunted by these foreign memories, Jiang discerns that they are connected to a recent murder case, and he shares his uncommon and still muddled knowledge of the killer’s psyche with the police detective on the case, Shen Hanqiang (Duan Yihong). But if he has the killer’s memories, then does the killer have his?

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WOLF WARRIOR II (2017) review

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Two years after the unexpected success of Wolf Warrior helped him regain leading man status, Wu Jing is back as a co-writer, director and star  for the sequel, bolstered with a much bigger budget, and input from the Russo Brothers (of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Infinity Wars fame). He once again plays elite soldier Leng Feng of the Wolf Warrior Squadron: disgraced after nearly killing a man who was threatening the family of a fallen comrade, he is also grieving the loss of the woman he loved, his superior officer Long Xiaoyun (Yu Nan), who was killed during a mission in Africa. Now, Leng is living a quiet life by the sea in Africa, but the harsh reality catches up with him when civil war tears the country apart, with a rebel army killing men, women and children. With the Chinese army unable to intervene or extract the small Chinese community that lives in the country, it is left to Leng to find and rescue a Chinese doctor who’s been working on a vaccine for a deadly virus that has been plaguing this part of Africa. Along the way, he meets doctor Rachel (Celina Jade), and must contend with a team of ruthless international mercenaries headed by Big Daddy (Frank Grillo).

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