KILLER’S ROMANCE (1990) review

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1990 saw the release of two competing – and loose – adaptations of Kazuo Koike’s manga Crying Freeman, which had ended its serialized run two years earlier in Japan. Clarence Fok’s Dragon from Russia, a cartoonish mess with a terribly miscast Sam Hui in the title-role, came out three months after Philip Ko’s Killer’s Romance but nevertheless won the box-office battle, grossing more than three times as much as Ko’s film. But Killer’s Romance is the superior film. In it, Simon Yam plays Nidaime, the son of a Japanese mobster who’s just been murdered by Chinese rivals (including Philip Ko, Lau Siu Ming and Jason Pai Piao). He rushes to London to get his revenge, but as he dispatching one of his targets, a young Chinese expatriate (Joey Wong) out to take photos witnesses him in the act. Now Nidaime must get rid of this loose end, but instead the killer and the witness fall in love. But soon it appears the killer has been double-crossed by his own side.

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WEB OF DECEPTION (1989) short review

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Web of Deception looks appealing on the outside, a Tsui Hark production directed by talented cinematographer David Chung (of Royal Warriors), and starring an all-female cast (and good old Waise Lee) headed by the great Brigitte Lin. It’s a Hitchcockian cat-and-mouse thriller in which Lin plays Lin, a successful businesswoman who’s being pressured by an unseen blackmailer, who she suspects might be either her insecure assistant May (Pauline Wong) or her slightly fishy broker Chow (Elizabeth Lee). As Lin makes arrangements to pay the blackmail money, things are complicated by May’s roommate Queenie (Joey Wong), whose twin sister Cat (Joey Wong too) owes big money to the Triads, and who plans to steal the ransom money to pay up the debt. This leads to plenty of double-crosses and murder attempts, as events unfold almost exclusively in Lin’s big house. Unfortunately, Web of Deception is narratively too pedestrian to engage : outside of one or two moments of real tension and shock, the film focuses on the characters’ endlessly wobbly agendas, as they hesitate, give up or take action in incredibly half-assed ways. It all makes for a very tedious experience, with Chiu Man-Hoi’s cheap score ramming every point home with cheesy synth noodling. David Chung’s experience as a cinematographer means it’s a pretty film to look at (except in a baffling ‘day for night’ scene, where a blue filter is applied to make day look like night, but they forgot to avoid showing white clouds in the frame…), and Brigitte Lin is commanding as always alongside the underrated Pauline Wong, but Joey Wong doesn’t manage to make her two roles interesting or even different from each other, despite the supposedly very different personalities. **

BUTTERFLY & SWORD (1993) review

The synopsis for Butterfly & Sword says that the film is about “a loyalist (Michelle Yeoh) who attempts to keep the King’s empire from being overthrown by a revolutionary group.” It’s good to know, especially since you’d never guess that’s what it is about, even after watching the film itself. Still, circa 1993, a Hong Kong film with no discernable plot was not an unusual thing to say the least, and the idea of a film starring not only the magnificent Michelle Yeoh, but also martial arts god Donnie Yen and the actor’s actor that is known as Tony Leung Chiu Wai, should be enough to be lenient with the film’s narrative shortcomings. Well not really after all : Butterfly & Sword is simply too infuriating in its scattershot storytelling and slapdash action scenes.

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