GOLDEN JOB (2018) review

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After a cameo in Da Peng’s Jianbing Man (2015) and a successful concert tour seemed to indicate the audience was ready for more of the Young and Dangerous quartet of Ekin Cheng, Jordan Chan, Jerry Lamb, Michael Tse, here they are reunited for a whole film, for the first time in 20 years, since 1998’s Young and Dangerous 5. Their co-star in the latter film, Chin Ka Lok, here directs, choreographs the action and co-stars again. While Jason Chu, an original member of the Young and Dangerous gang, is nowhere to be seen, he will indeed star with Jordan Chan, Jerry Lamb and Michael Tse – but without Ekin Cheng – in Wilson Chin action thriller The Lonely War, while Ekin Cheng, Michael Tse and Jerry Lamb will appear together – without Jordan Chan and Jason Chu – in Lv Kejing’s fantasy thriller Love Illusion in late 2018. Do keep up, our point is that Golden Job is a rare alignment of stars.

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REBORN (2018) short review

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Li Hailong’s cyber caper Reborn follows Li Haoming (Han Geng), a hopelessly awkward gamer who used to be a brilliant hacker, but now spends his life playing VR games. Until one day, he’s approached by mercenary Fei Qiao (Rhydian Vaughan) and his partner and lover Su Yi (Li Yuan), who require his unique hacking skills to complete a lucrative mission for shady businessman Takeshi Mori (Tomohisa Yamashita). Soon after, Li is contacted by Hong Kong detective Chow (Liu Kai Chi) who’s on a mission to arrest Fai Qiao, and needs the young hacker to be his informant. The script is low on originality and tension but full of shortcuts (there’s no problem that can’t be solved by hacking into this or that from a phone, at any moment), ludicrous twists (a whole segment of the film is revealed to actually have been an elaborate virtual reality simulation) and loose ends (Liu Kai Chi’s character disappears halfway through, with no resolution of his subplot whatsoever). The action is mediocre, a series of fights where over-editing masks the actor’s lack of fighting ability, and flatly-shot chases. And the cast is either cringe-worthy (Han Geng and Li Yuan play their respective characters like idiotic school kids) or criminally bland (Rhydian Vaughan smirks mysteriously and boringly, Tomohisa Yamashita is an ectoplasm). And with its sensory overload of technology, Reborn already feels dated, the year of its release. *

BIG BROTHER (2018) review

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The production partnership of Wong Jing and Donnie Yen cannot be accused of a lack of variety: after the gangster epic Chasing the Dragon, and before the fatsuit comedy Enter the Fat Dragon, here comes the inspirational school drama Big Brother, directed by recent Wong favorite Kam Ka Wai (iGirl, Colour of the Game, Queen of Triads). Yen is Henry Chen, an ex-military who after a traumatic war experience and a period of soul-searching and traveling, turns up at his old secondary school of Tak Chi, now struggling amid funding cuts and real estate scheming, and asks to be a teacher of liberal arts, despite a lack of credentials in the field. The school is direly understaffed and so the principal (Dominic Lam) quickly accepts. But Henry Chen’s students are an unruly bunch, the rejects of the flawed Hong Kong school system, and unwilling to listen to him. The new teacher will have to get their attention, inspire them, and in some cases, rescue them from dangerous situations.

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THE BRAVEST ESCORT GROUP (2018) review

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Released concurrently on streaming services and in a handfuls of theaters in Mainland China, Tao Mengxi’s The Bravest Escort Group isn’t about a group of resourceful call-girls, contrary to what its clumsy title might lead you to believe. Rather, it follows a band of courageous bodyguards headed by Yang Liu An (Fan Siu Wong), and tasked by General Ma Bao (Ray Lui) with escorting his daughter Chen Yuanyuan (Lanni Li), concubine to the recently deceased Ming emperor Wu Sangui, and her son, the last hope of the Ming Dynasty, to safety. En route, they must fend off the attacks of enemy general Hala (Chen Zhi Hui), as well as Ma Bao’s treacherous second-in-command Ma Biao (Shi Yanneng), all the while being closely watched by the mysterious Zhu You (Andrew Lin). Though Wu Sangui and Chen Yuanyuan are real historical figures, the film plays fast, furious and loose with history, and presents itself like a late little brother to Teddy Chen’s Bodyguards and Assassins, on a wider geographical scale but – obviously – smaller spectacular scale.

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THE SECRET OF IMMORTAL CODE (2018) review

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A (very) rare Chinese sci-fi horror film, Li Wei and Zhang Nan’s The Secret of Immortal Code is set in the middle of the 22nd century: the Rafael pharmaceutical company, headed by the enigmatic Doctor Yao (Zhao Lixin), claims to be close to perfecting a cure for cancer, and proposes to cryopreserve – for a price – patients in the final stages of the disease, so that they may survive until the cure is finally ready. Yet 20 years later, it seems no closer to delivering the promised drug, and families are suing for commercial fraud. Lin Ziqi (Liang Jing) is in the same situation: her cancer-stricken sister Yuqi (Landi Li) has been in cryo-sleep for 18 years. One day, she receives a notification that Yuqi has been unplugged for no reason, which gives her only a few days to live. When she confronts Doctor Yao about this, he invites her to join him on a sea expedition to the Arctic, when a Rafael research station may hold the key to finally perfecting the cure.

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THE ISLAND (2018) review

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In his directing debut The Island, Huang Bo is Ma Jin, a humble worker who pines hopelessly over his colleague Shan Shan (Shu Qi), and dreams with his childhood friend Xing (Zhang Yixing) of winning the lottery. One day, while on a sea-faring team-building trip with his co-workers, he realizes that he just won a whopping 60 million RMB at the lottery. But shortly after, a massive asteroid grazes planet Earth, unleashing a fierce tsunami: the group is left stranded on an uninhabited island island, with Wang (Wang Baoqiang) emerging as the de facto – and abusive – leader in the survival effort. But as the floating carcass of a polar bear alerts them to the fact that the world as they know it may not exist anymore, the small group must try to organize a new society.

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THE MYSTERIOUS FAMILY (2017) review

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Very loosely – and somewhat tastelessly – based on real-life events (the massacre of a whole family in Fujian province in 2014), Park Yu-hwan’s The Mysterious Family follows Miao Miao (Ariel Lin) a young student who one night is beaten and raped by a mysterious stranger (Blue Lan). This leaves her traumatized, dependent on medication and uncommunicative to her parents (Jiang Wu and Kara Hui) and brother (Xiao Chen). One Christmas Eve, upon returning home after training for a marathon, she witnesses her family being murdered by the same man who assaulted her months ago; yet she suddenly wakes up, as if from a vivid nightmare, on the running track where she had been practicing in the afternoon. But as she goes home, her family is again murdered by the same man, with subtle changes to the situation. And again Miao Miao wakes up on the running track. Stuck in a nightmarish loop, she must figure out how to save her family.

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THE LEAKER (aka THE LEAKERS) (2018) review

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2018 will have been a quiet kind of year for Herman Yau; The Leaker is one of only two films he’ll have had in theaters (the other being comedy A Home with a View, starring Louis Koo and Francis Ng, and out in December). Still, he’s already got two films in the can for 2019, with two more already planned, so no cause for alarm. The Leaker starts with the outbreak in Malaysia of a new and deadly disease carried by mosquitoes. The only available cure is an experimental drug manufactured by Amanah, a powerful pharmaceutical company. But when the elder son of Amanah’s CEO Teo Jit Sin (Kent Cheng) is found murdered, and his second son is kidnapped by a shady organisation claiming to have incriminating information to leak about Teo Jit Sin, Malaysian detective Lee Weng-kan (Julian Cheung) must team up with journalist Carly Yuen (Charmaine Sheh) and Hong Kong cop Wong Dai Wai (Francis Ng) to uncover the truth.

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DETECTIVE DEE: THE FOUR HEAVENLY KINGS (2018) review

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Tsui Hark’s second prequel to his career-resurrecting hit Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010), picks up right where there previous installment, Rise of the Sea Dragon, left off: Tang Emperor Gaozong entrusting Di Renjie (Mark Chao) with the Dragon-taming mace, a powerful weapon made of stardust steel and a symbol of his promotion to the highest level of responsibility towards the throne. But Wu Zetian (Carina Lau), the Emperor’s chief consort and co-ruler of the Chinese empire, views this promotion as a critical mistake, and she orders Yuchi Zhenjin (William Feng), the head of the Justice Department and Di Renjie’s sworn brother after the events of the previous film, to recover the mace. Torn between brotherly loyalty and imperial duty, and highly suspicious of the shady quartet of Taoist fighters the Empress assigned to assist him, Yuchi nevertheless obeys orders. Yet Di Renjie is always one step ahead, and Wu Zetian – councelled by a mysterious faceless lord – resorts to framing him for an assassination attempt on a member of the imperial family. Things are further complicated by the appearance at the imperial court of a giant, deadly golden dragon.

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COLOUR OF THE GAME (2017) review

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A belated third installment in Wong Jing’s ‘Colour’ series of Triad thriller – after Colour of the Truth (2003) and Colour of the Loyalty (2005) – Wai Ka Fai’s Colour of the Game centers on Dahua (Simon Yam), a weary Triad enforcer who’s given one last mission before retirement: to find and kill the degenerate son of gangster Brother Nine (Waise Lee), Robert (Ye Xiangming), who raped and killed Triad boss Dragon (Lau Siu Ming). Dahua enlists the help of his old comrades in arms Chun (Jordan Chan), fresh out of prison, and BBQ, retired with a bad leg but willing to assist his brother one last time, as well as Gao (Philip Ng), his protégé, Liqiang (Sabrina Qiu), his tough daughter, and Superman (Oscar Leung), a newcomer eager to prove his worth. The team gets to work, but as they’re being repeatedly ambushed by Robert’s men and followed closely by the police, they soon realize there’s a mole among them.

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