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Cheap Killers (1998) Directed by: Clarence Fok

Hitmen and sworn brothers Sam Cool (Alex Fong) and Yat-Tiu (Sunny Chan) decide to take down their own boss but end up being the hunted. Along the way, Yat-Tiu has been sleeping with Ling (Kathy Chow) and killed off her husband Ma (Ku Feng). However taking women along for the ride or caring for them at all is not his game but many of these principles fail miserably in one swift blow. Ling betrays Yat-Tiu, has Western henchmen rape him and that sends him into a life of madness and addiction (a not so subtle connection between this and John Woo's Bullet In The Head DOES exist). Loyal brother Sam Cool, who is also a father, takes care of him while in hiding where also a possible alliance with a young cop (Stephen Fung) is forming.

Wong Jing produced and scripted excess with quite the perfect candidate beside him to bring it out visually: Clarence Fok (Naked Killer). Echoing the themes and bloody violence of 80s/early 90s heroic bloodshed cinema, Cheap Killers at the same time takes quite an exaggerated stance that acts as homage and parody at the same time. A literally hot frame and ridiculously over stylized scenes of the lustful infatuation between Sunny Chan's Yat-Tiu and Ling (Alex Fong may bring the subtle class to the material but Kathy Chow shines of lust and danger), this is the work of someone who knows this is corny material so why not make it fun to look at. Almost making the film resemble a comic book come to life during some of the more gory scenes (the most genius piece of design is the lead characters wearing white), it's well done spice sprinkled evenly throughout the production. It's quite impossible to take it seriously as a brotherhood drama though and although intentions might've been different, an outrageous silly time with a cinema long gone but done in the late 90s is what the team of Wong Jing and Clarence Fok brings us. That counts a whole lot more in the whole scheme of things. Co-starring Henry Fong.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

The Cheaters (2001) Directed by: Billy Chung

It's a group of conmen (Jordan Chan, Alex Fong, Chapman To, Ken Wong & Hera Lam) vs. the legendary King of Ghosts (Simon Loui), all trying to scam money within the business world. Betrayal, conflicts and divided loyalties takes center stage as one of the gang gets killed...

Billy Chung (Love To Kill, Shiver) taps into the charisma of crucial performers Jordan Chan, Alex Fong and Simon Loui, even getting subtle weight from the interactions of the characters but at the end of the day, nothing much of importance or akin to special goes on in The Cheaters. Chung seems to be aware of that as he populates the proceedings with highly intrusive MTV style that simply screams desperate to please rather than earning a spot as part of the atmosphere. The final 20 minutes of this relatively short thriller plays out decently though as Chung clearly has a grip on how to provide decent tension but the implausible nature to the twists can really drive you up the wall if it weren't for the atmosphere Chung finally provides.

Now celebrated director Edmond Pang (Men Suddenly In Black, Beyond Our Ken) co-wrote the script.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

The Cheeky Chap (1980) Directed by: Lee Wing-Cheung

A sad and desperate attempt to launch Wei Pai as a Jackie Chan style hero. There's certainly potential here for The Cheeky Chap to be a passable diversion even though it's very clear Wei doesn't possess the charm or charisma of said star. Also why the film completely fails is due to the highly strange and frankly unlikable character that Wei is stuck with (coincidentally, same was true for his supporting role in The Young Master). Never in my life have I seen a so called hero being this devious, evil and strange in his happy go lucky ways and even with that insane arc, the film doesn't even entertain on a ludicrous level. It's tedious to the max and the martial arts action only occasionally sparkles (especially the end weapons duel). It's hard to see the direction Golden Harvest could've taken Wei Pai in but they so missed the point that you can't just emulate someone like Jackie Chan through another player.

Cheetah On Fire (1993) Directed by: Yip Shing Hong

When a martial arts movie struck gold at the box-office it was very common for other companies to produce movies with similar titles or using certain key words like Fist, Master, Shaolin, Drunken, Snake etc. In the 80s, when modern day action became popular, we didn't experience quite the same phenomenon but enter Ringo Lam and his On Fire-trilogy. Striking name for an action movie some thought and that resulted in, among others, this effort from director Yip Shing Hong (An Eternal Combat and here credited under his english name Thomas).

Highly generic is one way to describe the movie, terrible is another. Yip fails to use the cast, including Donnie Yen, Gordon Lau, Ken Lo, Shing Fui On, Eddy Ko, Carrie Ng (who looks stunning though), to good effect and the end result is just devoid of any entertainment value. Actually Yip tries to be John Woo when it comes to shooting some of the action and in the script but it all is rather uninteresting. Action choreography only comes across as good during the Donnie Yen/Gordon Lau fight but it's way too brief to make a lasting impact. Some unintentional humour appears throughout (god bless these Westerners and their dubbing artists) and seeing Gordon Lau doing a softcore sex scene is certainly as far away from 36th Chamber Of Shaolin as you can get.

Chicken A La Queen (1990) Directed by: Lee Hon-To

The movie follows the tragic fates of Lam Pik Sang (Sarah Lee) and PK (Rachel Lee) as they fail at the chance society "gives" them and they end up as prostitutes instead. Under the watchful eye of their psychotic pimp (Kwok Yiu-Wah), the soft hearted henchman Lung (Roy Cheung) and Sergeant Mak (Shing Fui-On) trying to clear up crime in his area, eventually these characters collide in bloody confrontations...

Clarence Fok produced and is credited as co-director on the dvd case. That wouldn't be far fetched as this competently lensed production also has splashes of stylish colour thrown at it for mostly illogical reasons. Amping atmosphere and on-screen character behaviour via such style is one of Fok's trademarks but thankfully I guess director Lee Hon-To made sure to keep another Fok-trademark, total annoyance in between style, to a minimum. There isn't anything particularly noteworthy about this rather intense story though. We get little true insight into PS and PK and it's been done better before and since. Being best friends, accompanying each other to abortion clinics and sticking together as prostitutes, jealousy at one point derails this friendship. That ol' tune and add the sub-story of the prostitute dope addict, an "encounter" with a large black man and you have something not exactly of the highest class. Emotions are very big and bringing it down I doubt would've worked but in the movie's favour somewhat is that intensity. What seems like 30 scenes of the girls being heavily abused and beaten up by Kwok Yiu-Wah's character, the effect is very draining, distressing and nauseating almost. No doubt that's a credit to Lee Hon-To and action director Yuen Tak but it's also done with such an attention to the overdrive gear that we'd rather overall turn away in disgust and disapprove of the choices by the filmmaking team.

Chicken And Duck Talk (1988) Directed by: Clifton Ko

One of the best Michael Hui comedies under direction other than his own, Hui IS Hui, the owner of a restaurant specializing in barbecue ducks. Running a less than hygienic establishment but only feeling the threat when fast food chain Danny's moves in across the street, Hui is forced to go through self examination about the way he serves food, how he treats his employees and how you reach your customers. Family life needs a tune-up as well...

A template of old fashioned vs fast and neat, the script co-written by Clifton Ko and Michael has BIG, colourful satire as its goal but scores hugely on one particular point. I.e. that neither Hui's and Danny's are totally right or wrong. In a daze or haze where Hui spends most of his day being loudmouthed and obnoxious, he's become very comfortable with his place in the world and with Danny's involved, he has to adhere to ways the fast food chain has tapped into. Advertising, remodeling, a fancy box to eat out of, it's of course a deadline to all of this as Danny's top dogs (Lawrence Ng and Ku Feng) are out to sabotage their main threat. Without a foot on the brake, Hui goes into a character shell and journey we're familiar with from his past work but it's nevertheless with hilarious results he roams the frame. The journey about letting go of your pride and prior instincts works well without going into way serious territory and director Clifton Ko lets his star work without intrusion. The cast of goofy faces compliments the frame and intentions well, with honors going to Lowell Lo as Chimp who in one creative skit tries to sneak a peek at how Hui prepares his famous duck. It's silent movie humour, pure silliness at other times but director Ko is to be commended for the fact that Chicken And Duck Talk has structure. A lot of it even compared to many Hong Kong comedies before, then and since. Also with Teddy Yip, Sylvia Chang as Hui's wife, Ricky Hui as the main disgruntled worker and Sam Hui in all too brief cameo.

The dvd release by Y2K is missing a few seconds of a scene where Hui describes how to properly eat a duck. This entire scene was in both the vcd and laserdisc releases of the film. The otherwise horrible Japanese dvd is uncut as well. It has to be said that source material, aside from Always On My Mind, is not the best for a few of Hui's own produced movies from this time such as this, The Magic Touch and Mr. Coconut as evident by various dvd releases.

China Dolls (1992) Directed by: Yeung Chi-Gin

Director Yeung Chi-Gin apparently knew of only one thing when creating his Category III "epics" of the early 90s and that was to mix it up. Pretty Woman gave us rape, grating comedy, romance, Veronica Yip in the shower, gunplay action and while created as a drama, China Dolls has the same feel. Amy Yip plays a cursed Mainland woman fleeing with her husband after he's murdered a cop but soon he's dead at the hands of the Hong Kong police. Leaving her infant son in the hands of a good-hearted traffic cop (Lam Ching Ying), she ends up in Macau as a prostitute under slave-like conditions...

Stripping almost all comedy (Charlie Cho's introduction scene to the newly shipped prostitutes in cage is an elaborate stage show literally). and offering up designated character fates that take shape in the form of degradation, perversions and pessimism, you can never complain about sincere intentions and they are somewhere in there under all of the above. This of course means that China Dolls is a poor mish-mash but not entirely boring however, especially since it throws caution to the wind with a quick narrative and even a big gunplay scene towards the end. For all of its over the top melodrama choices, Amy Yip's final scene is a fairly admirable attempt at closure for the character. It's also a shame in a way that Lam Ching Ying's role didn't get expanded to at least supporting status as that could've given the film some much needed warmth. Wu Ma co-stars in a nasty turn, with the signature scene being his abuse of Amy Yip's face and bust with his feet. Also with Lee Yuet-Sin.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

China Dragon (1995) Directed by: Chu Yen-Ping

Although the Hong Kong box office doesn't suggest it, the combo of Chu Yen-Ping and his kiddy leads Sik Siu-Lung (the action kid) and Kok Siu-Man (the fat, annoying one) from Shaolin Popey was apparently hot enough property warrant multiple collaborations. Set in Hawaii, part of our intolerable experience with China Dragon concerns Kok Siu-Man bothering the local residents and those local residents adoring Takeshi Kaneshiro and his mobile food truck. Hassled by local bikers (led by Mark Houghton), Sik Siu-Lung and Yip Chuen-Chan joins the duo from Shaolin Temple en route to a martial arts tournament. Ng Man-Tat is also a professional peeper with a secret. Inject Russians and something nuclear related, lots of wire enhanced action and summing up Chu Yen-Ping's work would be inconsistent but not typically Hong Kong wacky. Chu takes the exaggerated comedy to cartoon levels and although it doesn't always work, it makes for a different experience from his Taiwan perspective. The movie does provides the best energy action-wise with a very energetic sequence of Shaolin chamber training. The Wuxia skills essentially intruding on an uneven comedy and romance is an eye brow raiser and it ranks as a highlight.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

China Strike Force (2000) Directed by: Stanley Tong

Another attempt to merge Hollywood with Hong Kong and with it they get one crucial thing right at least. The movie doesn't offer anything bearable in the story or dialoguedepartment (except a few scenes featuring Paul Chun) but instead focuses on something Tong knows better, action. The opening 30 minutes promises more than we actually get but what's in here is thrilling stuff. Even though the performers are aided by wires, they do adequate work, especially Aaron. Some parts of the wirework isn't performed as smoothly and one bike stunt at the end really generates laughter instead of amazement. Still, Tong and his crew delivers and that's not something we're used to in todays Hong Kong action cinema. Deltamac's dvd houses the full uncut version.

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

China White (1989) Directed by: Ronny Yu

Shot in Amsterdam and largely in English, Ronny Yu isn't doing Hong Kong cinema with an international flavour AND a refreshing story. Which is not necessarily needed as the gang conflicts between the emerging Chow Brothers (Russell Wong and Steven Leigh) vs mainly Billy Drago as the head of the Italian mafia is a basic springboard for the expected drama and violence. Add a bit of romance between Wong and undercover cop Anne (Lisa Schrage) and the familiar stage is set. Thankfully Yu brings a sense of professionalism to the proceedings, Chris Lee's action is heavy on the squibs and stunts and the novelty of a Hong Kong production taking its act on the road adds an element of entertainment. China White manages to stand out. The Hong Kong version adds a few synch sound scenes of story flashback featuring Alex Man, Carina Lau and Andy Lau. Also with Ku Feng, Victor Hon Kwan, William Ho, Shing Fui-On and Tommy Wong.

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