Turn Me Loose

All these months away from training and you’re technique is still good. Your Monkey Boxing is still very powerful!

image, drunkenfist.com anthony wong beast copsHot damn. I get to freestyle this week. Which means I’m going to heap praise on films from Hong Kong that you’ve probably never heard of/ paid much attention to.

Oh the fun we’ll have.

Beast Cops

Have you seen this movie? If not, why?

If you ever run into me on the street and ask me to name the ten best Hong Kong movies ever made, I’ll probably start with this 1998 Gordon Chan (Jet Li’s Fist of Legend) heng dai picture. Starring the undeniable king of sleaze, Anthony Wong, featuring an excellent ensemble cast (Sam Lee, Roy Cheung) and, probably most surprisingly, an at-least-I-didn’t-bring-down-the-movie performance by Michael Wong, this is the kind of movie that gets me out of bed in the morning. Grimy, gripping, funny, nice to look at and well-acted, this film compares admirably with anything Hong Kong has ever produced.

Wong alone is worth the price of admission. This guy is so good, and so natural in this role, they could’ve just followed his character around for a random two hours and come away with a winner. I think two hours of this guy sleeping would be interesting. As is the current style over there, Wong brings a remarkably “real” presence to the screen and the results are a phenomenon

Thundering Mantis

Released as part of the ridiculously marketed “Shaolin Dolemite Collection” by the too-creative-for-their-own-good folks over at Arena Home Video, this film is actually a hidden classic. Great fights, the likable Leung Kar-Yan (“Beardy”) in the leading role and one of the most fucked up endings I’ve ever seen in any movie anywhere add up to make this one a must-rental.

The ending? I’ve got three words for you. Kung Fu Cannibalism.

The Blade

Unlike another more high profile art-house kung fu movie I could mention, this film is both experimental and coherent. It’s also an intelligent examination of the genre. The fact that it’s director, Tsui Hark, practically rewrote the manual with his seminal Once Upon a Time in China (the film that made Jet Li a star) probably has a lot to do with that.

Unlike an art-house favorite director I could mention- okay, it’s Wong Kar-Wai (Chungking Express), Tsui both knows how to tell a story and understands what it takes to make a good martial arts movie. Because of that he’s able to hold the interest of the uninitiated and provide someone familiar with Hong Kong martial arts films (e.g., yours truly) a ton of stuff to pick through. This is a meaty film. Although it’s pretty, there’s no smoke and mirrors here, e.g., no Christopher Doyle to wow the audience. This is pure genre deconstruction by one of the genre’s true masters.

Great stuff.

Watch a few of the finer examples (King Hu’s Come Drink With Me, Tsui’s Once Upon a Time in China, Chang Cheh’s One-Armed Swordsman are three that would fit the bill) and then tune into this one. You’re brain will bubble over.

All that and it’s got two mighty fine screen fighters in Xiong Xin-Xin and Zhao Wen-Zhao.

What more do I really need to say?

This article was originally published in Boston's Weekly Dig (now digBoston) in August 2000.