THE INCREDIBLE TRUTH (2013) short review

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Wei Ling (Christy Chung) is the friend and make-up artist of starlet Jia Jia (Ada Liu Yan), who recently left for Japan to visit her boyfriend Hirato (Ikki Funaki) but has ceased all communications. Despite going through a traumatic experience in Japan a year before, Wei Ling decides to go look for Jia Jia, and follows her trace to a forest inn owned by Hirota’s family. There, she hits a wal as everyone says they’ve never seen Jia Jia, but the inn staff’s hostility,  Hirota’s distraught behavior, and frequent visions of her friend tell her another story. Sam Leung’s The Incredible Truth has pleasingly garish cinematography, a reasonably intriguing start, and the welcome sight of Christy Chung in a lead role – looking not a day older than in her late-nineties heyday – as well as watchable supporting turns by Ada Liu and a distinguished Japanese cast. But is all too eager to check a laundry list of horror-mystery clichés (including the heroic duo of lazy mystery plot devices: visions of the disappeared one, and a detailed diary left behind), and relies too much on weird behavior – get ready for a LOT of lurid smiles – and an almost comical, quickly grating amount of jump scares. And it wraps its plot up with one of the laziest twists in recent memory, basically bringing a whole new, never-yet-mentioned character in the story in a desperate attempt at surprising the viewer. *1/2

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GOOD-FOR-NOTHING HEROS (2012) short review

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Fu Yong’s Good-For-Nothing Heros (a misspelling that doesn’t seem to be of the ironic “Inglourious Basterds” kind) tells of Peng (Kimi Qiao) and Long (Lam Suet), two amiable losers who find the lost will of a wealthy hotel owner (Kent Cheng), who just fell into a coma. They decide that Peng will pose as the owner’s son and leverage his new-found clout to save their neighborhood from relocation. But one big obstacle in the owner’s associate Danny (Francis Ng), who smells a rat and sends a private eye (Jack Kao) to check on Peng’s background. Beyond the crippling implausibility of the plot, what makes Good-For-Nothing Heros sink so far below average is its total lack of a pace, its muddled exposition, its often sappy tone and its incredibly tired gags. Seeing Lam Suet in a lead role is a real pleasure and gives the film what little spark it possesses, especially as he gets to share an underdeveloped but quietly offbeat romantic subplot with Christy Chung, in a rare turn as a plain (well, as plain as the stunning Chung can appear : make-up can only go so far), frumpy, big-hearted street food vendor. Unsurprisingly, Francis Ng knows what kind of film he’s in, and does some charismatic sleepwalking. *1/2

MAN WANTED (1995) short review

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Lok (Simon Yam) has been working for two years as an undercover cop, gaining the trust and friendship of drug lord Feng (Yu Rongguang). When the time comes to arrest him, Lok reluctantly reveals his true identity to him, but the arrest goes awry and Feng is presumed dead after his flaming car falls into the sea. Shaken by conflicting feelings of duty and remorse, Lok decides to support Feng’s girlfriend Yung (Christy Chung), but slowly falls in love with her. A year later Feng reappears, asking for Lok’s help on one more job, for old times’ sake. But his real intention is to get revenge… A relatively small film by Benny Chan’s standards, Man Wanted nevertheless benefits from the director’s usual impressive flair for action, and while the story is really nothing new, the chemistry shared by Simon Yam and Yu Rongguang (the latter being particularly excellent here) ensures the film never bores. It is however frequently weighed down by the heavy-handed romantic subplot, despite Christy Chung’s good performance, miles away from her overacting in Red Wolf the same year. ***

 

TAI CHI II (1996) review

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Billed as a sequel of sorts to the great Tai Chi Master, Tai Chi II is actually not only narratively unrelated to the illustrious Jet Li/Michelle Yeoh pair-up (also directed by Yuen Woo-Ping), but also spiritually disconnected from it : there’s not much Tai Chi in it. It tells of Jackie, a young Tai Chi disciple (ok, that’s the main Tai Chi connection) who spends his time pissing off his parents (a likeable pairing of Yu Hai and Sibelle Hu in her last film role), a beautiful girl’s (gorgeous Christy Chung) current boyfriend (Mark Cheng), and more dangerously, a gang of opium smugglers led by an angry Gweilo (Darren Shahlavi) who spouts such penetratingly written lines as “Damn you devil Chinaman”. It is notable for being Yuen Woo-Ping last feature film as a director before a 14-year hiatus that ended with 2010’s True Legend. But it is also the feature film debut of Jacky Wu Jing, a national Wushu champion who once seemed destined to be the next Jet Li, but through some bad career management has for now ended up a very reliable and likeable martial arts supporting actor instead (he was recently superb in Benny Chan’s Shaolin).

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RED WOLF (1995) review

It’s no secret the success of John McTiernan’s Die Hard led to all kinds of rip-offs, good and bad, throughout the nineties, but here is an example of the formula “man in the wrong place at the wrong moment foils bad guys in a circumscribed space” that actually hails from Hong Kong : Red Wolf, directed by martial arts supremo Yuen Woo-Ping in 1995. It stars Kenny Ho in the John McClane role of a head of security on a cruise ship who has to fight a crew of terrorists who have taken advantage of the New Year’s Eve celebrations to hijack the boat, aboard which there is a large quantity of uranium that they aim to steal.

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