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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THE HOUSE THAT NEVER DIES II (2017) review

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Three years after Raymond Yip’s The House that never dies became the highest-grossing Chinese horror film, comes this Gordon Chan-produced sequel, featuring a different cast and a new set of characters, but still taking place at N°81 Chanoei in Beijing, a famous mansion believed to be haunted. This time, engineer Song Teng (Julian Cheung) is working on restoring the old mansion, while neglecting his wife He (Mei Ting), a doctor. The couple has grown estranged following the stillbirth of their child five years before, and Song’s apparent reciprocal fondness for his assistant (Gillian Chung) isn’t helping matters. In an attempt to solidify their marriage, He moves in with her husband in the old house, but soon she is plagued by visions and nightmares, that appear to be memories of a past life: at the beginning of the 20th century, a general (Julian Cheung) who lived in this mansion had to marry the daughter (Gillian Chung) of a warlord, to solidify an alliance and to ensure he would have an heir, after his first wife (Mei Ting) failed to beget him one. But the general’s affections were still for his first wife, and his new bride proved barren as well. And deadly jealous.

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ABSURD ACCIDENT (2017) review

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A feature debut Derek Yee liked so much that he hopped on as an executive producer to help it reach a wider audience, Li Yuhe’s Absurd Accident follows a motel owner (Chen Xixu) who’s sexually impotent and suspects his wife (Gao Ye) of cheating on him. He hires a doctor (Rui Cao) – who’s been treating his impotence and who claims to have mob connections – to find a pro to go and kill his wife. The doctor actually takes the money and goes himself, but nothing unfolds as planned: the wife’s survival instinct, a hapless robber (Lou Yunfei), a cop about to retire (Chen Chunsheng), and a couple on a date (Ren Suxi and Dong Bo) all get in the way of a seemingly simple plan.

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MEOW (2017) review

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Cats are actually aliens. They come from planet Meow, and those of them that exist on earth are actually there to colonize the planet, but they have been lulled into inaction by human love and food. And so a Meowian warrior, Pudding, is sent to earth with a magical weapon, to galvanize the troops and initiate a global takeover. Except that upon landing, Pudding loses the weapon and undergoes a transformation, due to the earth’s atmosphere, from alpha-feline warrior to chubby, oversized cat, while a mix-up leads to him being adopted by a family. The father (Louis Koo), is a well-meaning but hopelessly childish ex-football star, the mother (Ma Li) an highly-strung aspiring actress, the son (Andy Huang) a wannabe-film director who for know mainly collaborates with his pets, and the daughter (Liu Chutian) suffers from a bad leg which keeps her away from the sporting activity she would like to join in. At first, Pudding – now renamed Xixili – plans to break up the family, but soon he is won over by their kindness.

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DEALER/HEALER (2017) review

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Lawrence Ah Mon’s Dealer/Healer tells the true story of Chen Hua (Lau Ching Wan), a drug dealer and drug addict turned philanthropist, from his teenage years in the Tsz Wan Shan district of Kowloon, the start of a lasting friendship with fellow hellraisers Cat (Max Zhang) and Bullhorn (Lam Ka Tung) and of a romance with plucky waitress Kerou (Jiang Yiyan), to his time as a drug dealer in the infamous Kowloon Walled City, where he encountered drug lord Halei (Louis Koo) and reached the nadir of his addiction, and then to his reformed life – following a few years in prison – and his work in a Christian rehabilitation centre, while still mediating mob disputes to limit damage and avoid violence.

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THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X (2017) review

104113.18518464_1000X1000After a 2008 Japanese adaptation, a 2012 Korean adaptation, and before a planned American adaptation, comes the Chinese adaptation of Keigo Igashino’s crime novel The Devotion of Suspect X, directed by actor/singer and second-time director Alec Su. This will be a review of the film as an independent piece of work; for insight on how it compares to both the source novel and the previous adaptations, head to Maggie Lee’s review.

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EDGE OF INNOCENCE (2017) review

101346.25248684_1000X1000Based on the novel Summer, The Portrait of a 19 Year Old by Soji Shimada, Chang Jung-Chi’s Edge of Innocence follows Kang Qiao (Huang Zitao), a carefree student who ends up in the hospital with a broken leg after crashing his motorbike on the freeway. In between visits from his friends Zhao Yi (Calvin Tu) and Zhu Li (Li Meng), the latter hopelessly in love with him, he spends his time looking out the window, at a house where a stunning young woman (Yang Caiyu) lives with her parents (Chang Kuo Chu and Samatha Ko). Now spying on her daily with binoculars, Kang Qiao falls madly in love with the woman, until one day he witnesses her murder her own – apparently abusive – father with the help of her mother, and burying the body in their backyard. At the same time, he is approached on WeChat by a mysterious person who seems to know everything about him, and about what he has seen unfold in the house by the hospital.

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