# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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Casino Raiders II (1991) Directed by: Johnnie To

Neither No Risk, No Gain (aka Casino Raiders - The Sequel) or Johnnie To's movie at hand here are true continuations of the Jimmy Heung/Wong Jing helmed gambling flick from 1989. Not surprisingly Andy Lau got into all three but that's where the connections stop. Lau is Chicken Feet and works in a gambling den aboard a boat run by crippled gambler Fan (Lau Siu-Ming) and the son Kit (Dave Wong) who's currently in jail. Gambler James (Kelvin Wong) is after a pair of legendary jade stones that is said to be a link to the equally legendary God Of Gamblers so he murders Fan in his pursuit. Left is Chicken Feet, his partner Lin (Wu Chien-Lien) and the son Kit to plot revenge...

Simply put, Casino Raiders II is a product. A well calculated product of the heavy duty production machine that was early 90s Hong Kong cinema. Hot genre, hot stars (especially the pairing of Lau and Wu from A Moment Of Romance, hence them sharing motorcycle scene set to Andy Lau's music in this film too) and a wildly moody product... just like you should expect out of Hong Kong from this time. That's not saying Johnnie To's work is thoroughly good as the vision doesn't seem very unique but there is a charm watching the business tactics on display here (of course co-star Dave Wong gets a multi-song showcase on the very excellent soundtrack). Occasionally the sparks fly for real, in particular Anthony Wong acting up a villainous storm and Ching Siu-Tung's action has a creative 90s energy that is hard to resist. Sporadic flash isn't critics proof and a certain love for the Hong Kong cinema mindset is required to enjoy this "yet another" product but they knew what they were doing and awesomeness all throughout wasn't required for that time's audience.

Casino Tycoon (1992) Directed by: Wong Jing

Reportedly loosely based on the life of casino tycoon Stanley Ho, this largely Macau set Wong Jing epic surely had in mind a little acclaimed (but poor in this reviewer's opinion) flick from 1991 called To Be Number One. Therefore Wong takes his time, giving us a 2 hour movie coming out at best as standard. Just because you have ideas of grandeur and can design it as much, doesn't mean you clinch your goal. Wong seems to think so.

Starting with a quick run-through of Hsin's (Andy Lau) life, starting in poor times, going through war times and his first steps towards securing a position in the world of casinos and gangsters, with him he has loyal friend Kuo (Alex Man). There's a restraint in terms of the amount of times Wong attempts to lighten up the proceedings. There's no restraint to be found in the creation of the lush surroundings though that may radiate but does symbolize a director desperately trying. And that's a fact because in the end this larger narrative doesn't have good character-drama to warrant the expansive arena. These are age old characters possessing righteousness and all that bla bla and lead Lau is running on an autopilot that makes his performance watchable only if you really try hard. Leading ladies Chingmy Yau and Joey Wong are decorations and victims in the frame but it's Alex Man's role reversal that actually registers. Easily destined for the Wilson Lam role instead (playing a rival of Hsin's), Man puts forth warmth and a funny recurring bit where he uses his only knowledge of rather naughty English in any situation. By the hour mark, rivalry, jealousy and power struggles have taken form and it's actually an easy subsequent hour to go through. Much due to some colourful over the top acting by Paul Chun and scattered offensive material coming from Wong Jing as a pregnant woman is kicked around (you take notice, not put forth thanks) It IS standard and a 40 minutes shorter running time wouldn't have been unwelcome. To Wong's credit though, you do wish to take on the sequel just because it presents itself as a shorter tale and hopefully less dreamy in terms of character and grandeur wished upon. Lau Siu-Ming and Kwan Hoi-San also appear.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Casino Tycoon II (1992) Directed by: Wong Jing

Come to think of it, I didn't REALLY, REALLY want to go into a sequel of a rather failed movie anyway but I did. Following in the footsteps of the successful first by having events unfold 20 years later, clearly Wong Jing must've felt pretty anxious to make a dopey movie again and while there's no rules in cinema saying you have to keep a straight line in whatever you do, Casino Tycoon fans need to be pretty forgiving if they're going to endure this mess. Watch Andy Lau's Hsin mostly feature in a serious gangster movie where power struggles of Macau casinos are at the forefront while past rivalries and romances also pop up to give Casino Tycoon II more melodramatic drive.

But Wong Jing is tired of the textured design and everyone being gloomy all the time so he decides to make proceedings akin to a melodramatic gangster comedy instead. Yes, see him disrupt any momentum he might've had by featuring Feng Shui-nutters, recycle the God Of Gamblers score, make multiple racist jokes come out of the mouth of respectable lead Lau even and the aging process of having select gray strands of hair being similar in all characters except Lau Siu-Ming's who seems stuck in a time warp. Wong lays flat on his back and directs in his sleep so there's no argument here apparent that we should care for the soap opera that unfolds. Hui Siu-Hung gets used frequently the excessive comedy way Wong Jing likes, dishing out VD jokes amongst other things and Alex Man is thoroughly annoying in his reprisal of a character that was actually likeable the first time around. Also with Michelle Reis, Remus Choi, Calvin Choi, Sandra Ng, Lee Shu-Kei, Kingdom Yuen and Joey Wong appears in a cameo.

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Yesasia.com

Cat Vs Rat (1982) Directed by: Lau Kar Leung

Jien Chiu (Adam Cheng - Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain) and Bai Yu-Tang (Alexander Fu) are two rival swordsman constantly dueling it out. They share the same master who states that they have equal ability. This doesn't stop the rivalry and when Jien Chiu saves the traveling emperor (Gordon Lau) and his royal seal, he is knighted as an official, much to the dismay of the now hugely jealous Bai...

While My Young Auntie and The Lady Is The Boss divided its time between comedy and kung fu, Lau Kar Leung's 1982 effort Cat Vs Rat is almost exclusively the former. That beforehand means that it's aimed at a local market which also means that Westerners have it slightly more rough going with all goofy comedy featured. However the film comes highly recommended because after all frantic exchanges, verbal or physical are done, the double act between Adam Cheng and Alexander Fu emerges as a winning one. Fu especially is excellent as the deceitful rat and Adam contrasts well as the stoic Jien Chiu. It's not great fun but it's a minor delight and an unusual entry from master Lau Kar Leung. Possible nods to The Elephant Man and the animated Robin Hood resides in here and the action, while sparse and stripped of any serious intensity, adds to a fun mixture. Kara Hui, Hsiao Hou, Lydia Shum, Wilson Tong and an hilarious Lau Kar Wing co-stars.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Cause We Are So Young (1997) Directed by: Vincent Kok

Right smack in the middle of drivel like Feel 100% and affecting efforts such as Love Is Not A Game, But A Joke, sits Vincent Kok's Cause We Are So Young. Playing out like a chapter of ache from the lives of coke can collector Chuen (Leo Koo, the standout performer in the film, playing it shy and inexperienced very well), Leung (Edmond So) with the well laid out life plans and emotionless DJ Paul (Mark Lui), what's likeable about Kok's slight lean towards nonsense comedy/felt youth romance is his intention to speak through the ages of his subjects. Therefore no experience experienced feels too basic as betrayal and longing for love is as real as anything and Kok's exaggerated first half generates much laughter as well (Big and An Autumn's Tale gets referenced in neat ways throughout). Also with Gigi Lai, Nicola Cheung, Kathy Chow with cameo appearances by Andy Lau, Lee Kin-Yan, Law Kar-Ying, Lee Lik-Chi, Tats Lau, Jan Lam, Lee Siu-Kei and director Vincent Kok himself.

Challenge Of The Gamesters (1981, Wong Jing)

Wong Jing's directorial debut and fittingly enough it's using content that would get him fame and classic status within Hong Kong cinema later on: Gambling. The good news largely stops there as this Shaw Brothers production doesn't spring to life through a new voice behind the camera. Relying somewhat but not thoroughly on broad, comedic banter (opening scene includes the director himself complete with hairy mole), it's more a conman type of template with Lou Sihai (Patrick Tse) and Lei Li (Wong Yue) teaming up to take out master gambler Zhang Lie played by Chen Kuan-Tai. Chemistry between the leads which is largely due to the fact that Wong Yue was not a great comic actor. Tse maintains a decently cool aura but fades as the movie's qualities does as well (despite it trying to spice it up with some nudity and even gory gunplay). A few moments of martial arts choreography are very passable (as well as a crazy fire stunt towards the end) and Wong Jing stages a rather acrobatic mahjong game mid-movie but these are sparse moments amounting to maybe 5 minutes of distinctive cinema out of a tedious 100. Also with Melvin Wong and Cecilia Wong.

Challenge Of The Masters (1976) Directed by: Lau Kar Leung

A loving portrait of the very young Wong Fei-Hung (this time portrayed by Gordon Lau, in his first starring role) by Lau Kar Leung. The legend of the Chinese folkhero does sit close to the heart and mind of Lau as his father Lau Charn was a student of Lam Sai-Wing, one of the famous students of the real Wong Fei-Hung. For Challenge Of The Masters therefore, Lau doesn't set out do a martial arts extravaganza with the emphasis on revenge plotting and bloodshed (in fact, Lau kept the gore pretty subdued in his films compared to Chang Cheh). Instead, there lies poignant martial arts philosophy in this narrative that could've entered cheesy territory easily but with such a strong connection to Wong Fei-Hung and Hung Fist in Lau, it's no wonder the film comes off so well. This characterization of the young Wong is also compelling as he, as all do, is searching for something or somewhere to belong and it's that path he begins walking in his training with Lu Ah Tsai (wonderfully anchored by Chen Kuan-Tai).

Lau's choices may disappoint genre fans as the structure of Challenge Of The Masters doesn't always follow laid down rules, especially in regards to the climactic fight BEFORE the final reel. Sure there's rivalry between martial arts schools and training sequences but the tone set is different due to the mentioned themes.

When it does deliver action, combining hand to hand combat, weapons and a sport scenario not unlike the opening reel of Dragon Lord, it's simply terrific and exhilarating. Once again Lau also proves that when he steps in front of the camera as well, the most magic happens, and his fights with brothers Lau Kar Wing and Gordon Lau is classic martial arts cinema. Both from a choreographing viewpoint and thematically. Perhaps the dramatic storytelling qualities Chang Cheh had carried over in some shape of form to Lau Kar Leung? Nonetheless, Challenge Of The Masters ranks as one of Lau's finest in terms of impact on the viewing audience. Lily Li, Ricky Hui, Fung Hark On, Wong Yu co-stars plus many recognizable faces out of Hong Kong cinema flash by.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com
Yesasia.com

Challenge Of The Tiger (1980) Directed by: Bruce Le

Keeping the Bruceploitation away from the feature product (but probably not from the promotion), Bruce Le's Challenge Of The Tiger provides sincere B-movie energy. Meaning a genuine sense of innocent B-movie fun with a keen eye for what he's giving back the world. That is specifically himself and Richard Harrison (pre-IFD days) as two CIA agents tracking down a formula that kills sperm. Something that can't fall into the wrong hands, like Hwang Jang-Lee's for instance...

It's wise not to ask too many questions about the formula but instead enjoy the concoction on screen that is often mighty entertaining. Harrison's character loves his women so naturally, because this is adult entertainment after all, we get a slow motion sequence with his women playing tennis topless (a scene reportedly directed by Harrison himself). Him and Le stop by both Spain, Hong Kong and Macau in their hunt but it's in the former country and a bull fighting arena the film's premium sequence is offered up. After some high kicking and sharp shooting, Le is facing off against a bull. Using some unexpected filmmaking skill here, mixing a bully dummy and probably a double, it's capped in crazy fashion when the demise of the bull is given an X-ray shot a la Sonny Chiba's Street Fighter! It's enough lunacy for the movie to live on because it can't live up to it for the remainder. Nevertheless, some crazy dubbing and genre favourites Bolo Yeung, Kong Do and Hwang Jang-Lee are there to further confirm Bruce Le knew what product to crank out. It may not be refined B-movie art, but shining as a powerful fighter and a sincere sense gets you a long way and especially so since Le doesn't tip his toe in Bruceploitation at all really for this one (he doesn't even take off his shirt very often).

The Challenger (1979) Directed by: Eric Tsang

Working his way up the ranks by assisting the likes of Sammo Hung on Enter The Fat Dragon, Eric Tsang made his directorial debut in the old school martial arts vein with The Challenger (also known as Deadly Challenger). An effort more known thanks to the better reunion movie the year after (The Loot), problematic Tsang's direction may be but it gives way eventually to some astounding martial arts. Basically teaming up a thief (David Chiang) driven by money and Norman Tsui's character driven by revenge, unfortunately the film is also driven by tedious direction favouring grating genre-comedy. What Tsang does right however is mostly letting the fights play out at a high class level always rather than inserting pratfalls or Dean Shek into the choreography. But thoroughly rockin' the film becomes during the second half as the magical duo of Chiang, Tsui and baddie Phillip Ko deliver incredibly fluid and detailed choreography under the direction Chik Ngai-Hung (who also worked on The Loot) and Huang Ha. Especially Ko cements his legendary status. Tsang does definitely have playtime cinematically (as seen in a flashback done in the style of a silent movie) but The Loot showcased the better wit and therefore also showcases the growth of the filmmaker. Debut-wise, Tsang does give us classical martial arts cinema overall. Also with Lily Li.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Challenge To Devil Area (1991, Cheung Sau-Lam)

Too many plot-threads for a simple story of drug smuggling clogs up Challenge To Devil Area. With an equally tough to watch goofy act from Chin Siu-Ho, it's only when the talented actor snaps into action that there's some watchable quality present in the film. When the subsequent action-noise in the form of extensive gunplay and assassins on motorbikes fails to woo us stylistically, this lack of bite makes the movie a forgettable affair. Co-starring Chin Ho.

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