I have been watching a lot of films these last couple of weeks, and whilst I have one review that is nearly ready to go, it might be turned into a video review. And frankly, time is going to be against me if I am to get these down with any kind of freshness in my mind. As always I reserve the right to do a fuller review later on (and that did happen once I think), but don’t go holding your collective breath.
I really do not watch enough films from Thailand. Although, to be honest they don’t tend to sit in my normal genre interests. This is an interesting take on the Asian Horror film. A Doctor and a bevy of incredibly attractive Nurses are involved in an Organ harvesting scheme. One of the Nurses is murdered by the others for a couple of reasons, and they decide to use her body in the scheme. Sadly for them, it can’t be picked up for 7 days, and according to local myth, a ghost will return in 7 seven days to wreak revenge. So it does. Cue lots of extravagant death sequences, most of which the experienced viewer will have seen before. To be fair it is a touch above the normal quality for this kind of film, with a convoluted time scheme, and is quite beautifully realised. It fails to truly engage though, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Thai Censorship about Nudity means that the film wants to be a lot more exploitative than it is able to be. Secondly, it seems to take place in the quietest Hospital in the world, which really takes you out of the film. And then, it adds that oh-so-usual Thai twist on altered genders that I am frankly bored of now. It is far from horrible for the Asian Horror fan though, and does actually dare to add something new to the mix, and I have read reviews that are generously saying it is actually a satire on the genre (I’m not wholly convinced), so mildly recommended.
The Second Swordsman film is one of the greats of the genre, and this sequel takes the Asia the Invincible/Dong Fong But Bai Character (Brigette Lin) from that film and weaves a quite amazing and frankly crazy new story. With more gender mix ups than a Thai film can even dream of, and more imagination that 10 American movies, this is one brilliant way to while away an hour and a half. What struck me most of all, is that I could actually follow the story, which I can see other reviewers really struggled with, so I think I am finally able to work within the paradigm of Tsui Hark’s 1990’s movie output without a spirit guide. Hark is only on production duties here, but you can feel his style and ideas permeate every second. It rocks along at a fair old pace, with allegiances turning every 5 minutes. The closest thing I can compare it to is a 1970’s DC comic, so much is packed into it. The remaster I saw is also beautiful. The only couple of downsides is that we don’t get enough shared screen time between Brigette Lin and Joey Wong, and that our lead male is so terribly wooden. But that is countered by a fantastic Wooden Galleon cum Submarine. Highly Recommended. In fact worth it for the sight of Brigette Lin shooting off to battle on a giant Marlin.
What do you do when your two main stars don’t turn up for part 3 of your franchise? Well you send them off to Europe in the opening dialogue, barley mention them again, insert Fiona Sit as a new character and let the old supporting cast run wild. It is more nonsensical and eclectic than its predecessors, and certainly lacks the heart of the first film. The verbal jokes fall awfully flat to a non-Cantonese speaker like me, but the visual stuff is still on occasion side-splitting. Sit sadly cannot carry the film as well as Miriam did, she is more in the attractive and cute bracket here (and genuinely nice and torn), but it is far from a total failure. Don’t expect it to make an awful lot of sense, and certainly don’t expect ay great insight, and there is a lot of fun to be had here. It is one of those Hong Kong films that you are pretty certain that they made up the next bit of the story on the morning of the shoot, and occasionally forgets when things cease to be funny. If anyone is ale to tell me just what is so funny about her name and her original Police Number, then leave me a little message in the comments. Recommended.
I started this one with a huge amount of trepidation, seeing the name Wong Jing on the credits. Luckily though, what we actually get is a pretty interesting film. Ye Liu plays a Chinese Navy Veteran with brain damage, whose simplistic world view leads him to vigilantism. Add in a girlfriend who struggles to love the new version of her man, a child who idolises this man and Anthony Wong as a really rather different Crime Boss and you actually get something which is rather good. Sadly, it runs off the rails in the final third of the movie, but I can see why people think highly of this. Ye Liu is really really good, pulling off a character which could have been little more than a bad-ass Forrest Gump and creating someone that is rather well rounded. There really is the core of an interesting story, some decent action, some nice camerawork and the only downside is that it could have been maybe 20% better if that final section maintained the interesting character work that it painstakingly set up. I can see how this has become a franchise. Recommended.
I’m a huge Pang Brothers fan, and this one from Oxide is a mini-classic. Aaron Kwok plays a frankly average detective, drawn into a mystery involving a missing girl and a bunch of mah-jong players that he keeps stumbling across dead. Helped and hindered by his old childhood friend (Liu Kai Chi) who is now a Policeman, our hero literally stumbles from clue to clue. Kwok’s Tam is a detective that has all the physical skills to be a Private Eye, with tenacity, a friendly manner, and a certain amount of street smarts, but has none of the intellectual capacity to pull all the clues together. Luckily he is being assisted by something otherworldly. Filmed in that Pang style, it delivers a great central performance, a mystery with supernatural undertones, a wonderfully grimy Chinatown in Thailand location, and a couple of really quite excellent set pieces. Kwok really is excellent, being charming and occasionally dim-witted in equal measure, and with a a haircut that this reviewer likes to empathise with ;). The location is well realised, and unusual, and it has a really interesting soundtrack that marks it out as something just that little bit different.
And guess what… it spawned a sequel….
….which sadly is not quite as good. This time our detective is involved in a Serial Killing case, and he appears to have an upgrade in his detecting skills (rather he seems now able to pull clues together). The mystery itself is absent, as we get 90% of the information from a storyline that runs parallel to the investigation, and any supernatural elements are removed (pandering to a more mainland audience I suspect). Kwok is again excellent, and the friendship angle is really bumped up. Oddly for a Pang Brothers film, it lacks something in terms of a twist (the one that there is does not actually serve the story terribly well, although it does provide a well shot moment). It does fail as a detective film though. Whilst in the first film we got the sense Tam was being manipulated to solve the case from the next world, here every deduction feels unearned. Moreover, one key moment is really rather unexplained, and tense though that scene is, and it does move the story forward, it leaves this viewer a tad confused. The film ends oddly though, quite clearly getting ready for the next sequel, which I am eagerly anticipating. Both movies are highly recommended, although I wonder if the introduction of a real femme fatale would have fully realised the Sino-Thai Noir feel that was being shot for here.
My Left Eye Sees Ghosts
Made at the height of Sammi Cheng’s popularity, this is one of those Jonnie To/Wai Ka-fai romantic comedies that they use to fund their crime films. Cheng plays a woman who met a guy on holiday, married him and then he died. A few years later she is involved in a car accident, and finds she can now see ghosts via her left eye. Assisted by the ghost of Ken (Ching Wan Lau), and old school friend who died young, she starts to get her life back on track. The problem with the film is that Cheng’s character is not properly fleshed out until the final 20 minutes of the film, when we finally get to understand her. It probably has too many ideas, and struggles to really examine everything it brings up. It is funny at times, and eventually does tug at the heart strings, but the almost anti-climatic ending I think hurts the overall film. It ends up being acceptable, but also neither one thing or another. If you don’t like surprises, then don’t click on the IMDB link as it does kind of give the twist (such as it is, and come on, even I worked it out very early on). Cheng does this kind of film in her sleep, and whilst she isn’t a natural comedienne in my eyes, she does get a couple of excellent scenes. Mildly recommended, but mostly because I think there are two better movies in here..