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The Bodyguard (2016, Sammo Hung)

Sammo Hung's first movie as director since 1997's Mr. Nice Guy sees the big man adapt to his age in terms of action and channel past, sound ideas of how to perform drama. Playing a retired Chinese army officer with dementia who's unlikely friendship with little Cherry (Jacqueline Chan) is in peril since her deadbeat father (Andy Lau) is mixed up with Chinese and Russian gangsters, some problems do occur when mood strays. Playful through exposition using crayon drawings is fine but Hung's next door neighbour turns a key, supporting character into a way too quirky one. However when merging the standard gangster tale with the low-key and underplayed one of a man looking to redeem himself before he fades works well, because in reality Hung's film isn't action-tinted. In total two scenes of choreography take place, both tailored to an older Hung who echoes Wing Chun plus hard and bone breaking take-downs for a 2016 showcase that is suitable and well thought out. It may only linger a fair amount as a drama but the overall package is reassurance that filmmaking instincts of the reeled in kind still reside in Hung. And as a performer.

Body Lover (1993) Directed by: Cheng Kin-Ping

Dreadful and piss poor Category III erotica/action where thankfully nothing was wasted in terms of budget as there barely is any. The opening action choreography is poorly timed and it's downhill from there. Any hope of a full on sleazefest seeing as Julie Lee co-stars will come as an disappointment to fans as her first sex scene really is the best one in Body Lover and it ends on a suitable gory note. While it can't help to rise the film to watchable on a ludicrous level, the awful score for the various sex scenes must be considered a classic. Body Lover came during the heyday and is no classic. Just another one, which is this case is not enough by a longshot.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Bogus Cops (1993) Directed by: Leung Kar-Yan

The buddy cop formula taken up to stupid levels but it's a badge writer/director/star Leung Kar-Yan proudly wears on his sleeve. He is Karl Choi who along with partner Ching But-Cam (Eric Tsang) would rather avoid violence and danger in their police work. When Karl receives the message that he has AIDS (probably from a very aggressive, Western prostitute encountered during an police operation), he lets his guard down and becomes a bit of a supercop without anything to lose. From said operation, But-Cam has also befriended prostitute Rose (Veronica Yip) and on the horizon is an encounter with a band of robbers worshipping/getting their guns from Saddam Hussein (!)...

Injecting the required energy and actor-direction to make this silly nonsense fly, Leung also channels a live action cartoon side to his comedy and since he gets everybody to play ball, Bogus Cops never becomes grating amazingly enough. Backed up by a willing cast that includes Johnny Wang, Jamie Luk, William Ho, Chen Kuan-Tai, Melvin Wong, Paul Chun, Shing Fui-On, Yuen Woo-Ping, Ken Tong and Lee Hoi-Sang, Bogus Cops is a a bit of a dare that pans out.

The Bomb-Shell (1981) Directed by: Hoh Hong-Ming

For a movie that clocks in under 80 minutes, you expect it to find even a basic footing quite early. No such thing occurs in The Bomb-Shell that wanders between what turns out to be its main characters for the longest of time without revealing its true intentions. May have sounded clever to the filmmakers to put focus on assassins taking out undercover cops only to switch gears to the plot about a mad bomber (Hui Bing-Sam, overacting to little acclaim here as opposed to in Cops And Robbers) but it's the true definition of steering consciously without a steering wheel, hoping for the best. Hoh Hong-Ming's ham-fisted direction almost warrants attention by the end as the tension is at least tolerable but his open end makes even rapid conclusions in kung-fu movies seem drawn out. In the case of The Bomb-Shell, someone pulls the plug. Roll credits. At any rate, in the role of the cop whose family is a victim of the bomber we see Norman Tsui while Wilson Tong plays a fighting Taoist magic practitioner (very much fitting for a modern day cop-thriller). Shing Fui-On also appear.

Buy the VCD at:
Yesasia.com

Border Line Story (1988) Directed by: Lau Hung-Chuen

A former cinematographer and the director of Devil Fetus, Lau Hung-Chuen still infuses his immigrant drama with natural grit and not over the top style. Which is suitable and not due to cheap and bad filmmaking. For sure his story about immigrant girls falling into the world of prostitution and catching the eye of the wrong people (mainly Shum Wai's violent robber) and ultimately drifting apart as sword sisters is familiar. However some emotional beats in particular towards the end are effective but combining look (which is really style) and heavy duty heroic GOREshed and violence once there's no turning back for characters makes Border Line Story a minor winner. With Jo Jo Ngan, Peter Yang Kwan, Johnny Wang in a fighting cameo and Tin Ching.

Born To Gamble (1987) Directed by: Wong Jing

KENNETH'S REVIEW: It's hard to admit it but somehow Wong Jing delivers a pleasant time with Born To Gamble. Nat Chan is Lolanto, confident and king of every gambling and betting you can think of. Trying to woo Hung (Joyce Godenzi) proves to be difficult though as she demands him to stop gambling. Friend Ah Fan (Stanley Fung) is also fooled by his wife so he goes off to the Philippines to get a maid that thinks she's a wife...

It's all very much based on tangents and incoherent plotting, which doesn't make the flick an abnormality in Wong Jing's filmography. First half doesn't shape up very well, with everything being cheap, fast and generally unfunny. Somehow when adding up this anti-social behaviour that's supposed to be comedy, we flow with it in the second half and laugh unwillingly. Witness for instance Wong Jing do the famous sperm joke in the vein of the subsequent Kingpin, treat Maria Isabel Lopei like a native monkey by having her eat bananas while waiting, have characters teach her naughty Cantonese but the top award goes to an AIDS joke that is so dumb, it's kind of genius. It's hard to admit it indeed. A cast of familiars include Chor Yuen, Wong Jing, Ken Boyle, Charlie Cho and the dad of our director, Wong Tin-Lam. Try and spot Elvis Tsui if you can too.

Boss Noballs (1989) Directed by: Hsu Chin-Liang

Now here's a story you don't see everyday, portrayed like this. A Taiwanese fishing village is struck with a disease that makes the men's testicles grow bigger and bigger and bigger (women and their breasts are inflicted too to some degree). Theories are thrown out, such as that it's the anger of the gods due to all the sex going on or that the village has a sanitation problem of sorts. While the medical community continues to ponder, the village quickly loses its fishing status as the men can't physically go out and do the work. Solutions may be on the horizon but since the disease has progressed this far, castration is the only option for those who wishes for the village to prosper again...

A crazy setup with many wacky interludes as well as dark and highly melodramatic ones, director Hsu Chin-Liang indeed juggles many balls in the air but keeps splendid track of each mood the movie employs. Possessing no fear in letting this story go into serious territory, when eventually there, it's not a mockery of drama. Instead it's a full on sincerity attack that talks of how the medical community ultimately uses the little people in this case and the villagers are also drawn apart when faced with the decision of castration. The movie is barely done at this point as it goes deeper and deeper into its examination of the effect this disease will have on life in a larger perspective while also having no problem bouncing into comedic elements on occasion. It's all perfectly pitched humour, used suitably, with subtlety and one shouldn't resist saying that Boss Noballs has balls because such an unexpected, unpredictable gem deserves the pun. With Ma Yue-Fung, Luk Siu-Fan and Chan Chung-Yung.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

The Boss Up There (1999) Directed by: Hang-Lei Poon

Produced by the company The Media Evangelism Limited, The Boss Up There indeed injects a religious message. What could've been the more intrusive parts of this shot on video feature actually turns out to be the most noble and the TV-soap melodrama instead is what drags the film down. Tung (Athena Chu) and friend Cat (Wong Mei-Man) start to hang with the wrong crowd and are soon on a path towards drug addiction and prostitution. As Tung finds love in triad hoodlum Fung (Paul Wong), here's a kid who actually confesses his love and means it but is on a downwards spiral anyway...

The storybeats right out of TV melodrama (set to Canto-pop... in montages) greatly detracts from the noble message as mentioned. As Athena Chu's Tung goes through hell in a juvenile home, being homeless and drug addicted, saints are out there for her but there's only one time and place where this character is receptive to the word of Jesus. Remarkably unforced by the filmmakers despite being a message shoved down Tung's throat eventually, this message is balanced as sometimes saving a soul isn't about forcing beliefs on them. It is suitably mentioned that Tung doesn't walk alone but it's her that have to take control of her life. A helping hand and off you go. Via Athena Chu's dedication, the above remains a little less cheesy as well and we hope for her character to get above the surface again. Otherwise, matters are too on the nose, lacking engagement and amateurish. It does indeed look like TV.

The Boxer From Shantung (1972) Directed by: Chang Cheh & Pao Hsueh-Li

Detailing Ma Yung Chen's (Chen Kuan-Tai) rise to power and the bloody turf war that follows, together with Ni Kuang Chang Cheh has crafted the familiar in a very cinematic way but also with attention to character. Ma doesn't fall into the trap of wealth and subsequently corruption but instead favours his fellow man and their well being (physically, financially). It's a confident portrayal, from the makers down to the direction of lead Chen. Walking his own path but looking up to Boss San Ti (David Chiang), despite buying a cigarette holder, it's out of respect rather than shallow worshipping. All's very sharp as directed (the Ching Li singer subplot with her emotional reaction about Ma's rise in the gangster world is woefully underdeveloped though) and surprisingly free from action aside from a few bursts throughout. But capping it with a primal ending that delivers extensive blood but also surprising psychological twists as Ma is amidst so much violence, The Boxer From Shantung is honed stuff from the confident bunch hovering around Chang Cheh. Also with Ku Feng and Cheng Hong-Yip. Corey Yuen remade the film as Hero in 1997, starring Takeshi Kaneshiro and Yuen Biao.

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