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Energetic 21 (1982) Directed by: Chan Chuen

KENNETH'S REVIEW: Aimless drama that doesn't earn its violence and tragedy. Centering around a gang of mostly 21 year olds of different social classes, they care little for even the one day at a time. See them go clubbing, eat, race, detest parents, Westerners and engage in wacky romance. Episodic to say the least and when not even intending on focusing on the entire character gallery, the turn into hell Energetic 21 takes is far from deserved. Director Chan Chuen keeps intensity up during the end though, nails a very funny sidetrack of a plot featuring Chin Yuet-Sang as a mechanic that uses black magic as his way of romancing and one of the driving sequences is fairly accomplished. None of the elements adds up to depth however so effort is disposable. Starring Leslie Cheung and Eddie Chan.

The Enigma Of Love (1993) Directed by: Sherman Wong

As cop Tammie (Maggie Cheung) starts to bust gigolo shops (more effectively than her colleague David played by Wilson Lam), premium gigolo on the circuit Jacky (Jacky Cheung) decides to romance the tomboy Tammie. Acting as a paralyzed, deathly sick artist, his tools thoroughly work until the conscience sets in and a loving heart starts to beat. All while jealousy in David is mounting...

Far from the trashy excess of Queen Of Under World, Sherman Wong shows skill in making stars shine and stars make sure they shine in front of the director and audience. Because nothing cinematically noteworthy happens here. But Wong knows how to create a fluffy little story and his leads are very comfortable with not only non-challenging cinema but with themselves. So a minor, completely forgettable pleasure The Enigma Of Love certainly is and director Wong even pushes buttons of tension rather decently towards the end. Comedic side tracks come via Maria Cordero's role as a female cop often mistaken for a man.

The Enigmatic Case (1980) Directed by: Johnnie To

Somehow you would naturally assume that being "confined" to the martial arts genre, Johnnie To's directing debut The Enigmatic Case would come off as a cheap, quick, generic kung-fu fest. Truly wrong, TRULY! Instead, it's the starting point of one of Hong Kong cinemas current driving forces, showing there was something wonderful brewing well before Milkyway was formed.

A slow, atmospheric story about restoring honour in a bleak world where that goal likely will come with a price, To puts forth nods to Westerners in this easily followed, affecting journey for Damian Lau's character. Within the enchanting cinematic tapestry, To genuinely affects and surprises, handing out chores for the action directors only at select times. Far from stylized, emphasis is on the struggle and the violence, some of which is rather tough on the senses. The film also marked the debut for Cherie Chung who divides her time between being a flower vase and eventually getting a valid role in the structure of the story. Also with Lau Kong, Chiang Han and Leung Gam-San.

Enter The Eagles (1998) Directed by: Corey Yuen

Also known as And Now You're Dead, Golden Harvest goes Hollywood Hong Kong-style with Corey Yuen at the helm and the results are low on character and storytelling but high on fine action-drive. One diamond to be dealt to the highest bidder, thieves, unlikely alliances and lots of action, Yuen continually lets the camera drive the movie forward in what at first seems like flashy ways but it's nonetheless fitting. While the Hong Kong talent like Michael Wong, Jordan Chan and Anita Yuen gets to do a mixture of action and some local comedy, it's really Shannon Lee (Bruce Lee's daughter) that breaks through as an action heroine. Confident on screen and responding well to Yuen Tak's action direction, Enter The Eagles is actually not as strong of a fighting showcase compared to the gunplay (going very bloody and acrobatic places in a welcome way considering late 90s wasn't the prime era for heroic bloodshed). The action IS quick cut but somehow manages to balance matters into a positive the grander and more primal said action-aspect becomes. Nice location work presumably in Prague (setting for the movie) and a way too ambitious and therefore fake looking ending involving a blimp (wouldn't have looked convincing as a computer generated effect in 1998 either) are other eye brow-raisers. Co-starring Benny Urquidez.

Enter The Fat Dragon (1978) Directed by: Sammo Hung

Sammo Hung's second solo directing effort is a fitting tribute to the legend that is Bruce Lee. In the end though, Enter The Fat Dragon is uneven (so was Bruce Lee's classics sans Fist Of Fury also to be honest) and the narrative, taken its cues mainly from Way Of The Dragon holds little interest (as does the humour). However, Sammo excels in paying homage to Bruce Lee with his respectful imitation in mannerisms to the action choreography. He does well in referencing key moments from Bruce's action while also injecting his already developed skill in this department. The fight with Leung Kar Yan at the end is a terrific showcase for Sammo's style in particular. Enter The Fat Dragon is not one of Sammo's greatest classics but you wouldn't want to miss it. Screw Bruce Le, Bruce Li and all the other imitators, Sammo came out on top and Bruce would've been proud! Also with Fung Hark On, Roy Chiao, Fung Fung and most of your favourite action actors from the period (including an almost unrecognizable Lee Hoi Sang).

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Enter The Game Of Death (1981) Directed by: Lam Kwok-Cheung

An awesome combination of strong words connected to the legacy of Bruce Lee made into a Bruceploitation vehicle for Bruce Le not able to live up fully to what the title evokes. A randomly strung together and oddly plotted movie, after random tangents initially (like a ring fight between Le and Bolo Yeung), the movie settles for a simple for a simple plot about retrieving a document in the hands of the Japanese and westerners that rightly belongs to the Chinese. Le is a reluctant hero but has personal stakes in all this and we expectedly get to the pagoda but surprisingly early on. While it is a 20 minute plus showcase of what this setting can offer up, it's both an uneven and highly entertaining showcase. In particular Le and Lee Hoi-Sang has a fun weapons duel and the snake master (using real snakes) goes to some stunning lengths to combat Le that even stuns the stoic hero. Rest is a rather standard mish-mash of the expected Bruce Lee mannerisms copied by Le, war cries not dubbed in but made to be part of the soundtrack and rather endless slow motion sections of fights that after the pagoda portions are over doesn't maintain interest like the main attraction does. Bruce Lee knew that too as he would've centered his incomplete Game Of Death around this. Enter The Game Of Death has it as one of many attractions and the result is that only 20 minutes attracts.

Enter The Phoenix (2004) Directed by: Stephen Fung

After the big brother of the Hung gang (the welcome presence of Yuen Biao) dies, they're forced to call in his son gay son Georgie (Daniel Wu) from his chef stint in Thailand. A mix-up occurs and it's instead Georgie's best friend Sam (Eason Chan) who steps into the shoes of big brother, with Georgie on the sidelines...

One of the four directors on Heroes In Love, Stephen Fung (Gen-X Cops, 2002) debut as feature director with Enter The Phoenix is a surprisingly enjoyable but flawed deconstruction of the triad genre (bending the genre is never a bad thing to attempt). Fung works with top personnel to make his stylish attempts come to life (hit and miss excursions) while he simultaneously makes fun of conventions we've come to expect. While Eason Chan is at times a riot, mimicking movie Don Corleone's of the past, Fung's handling of the dives into said conventions (especially melodrama) never quite maintains a balance. We're simply at times not sure if he's doing it with a wink in his eye or being serious. Again, it's hit and miss and when hit, clever only to a minor degree. The film is also arguably quite homophobic so here we do know that Fung is up to no good. Still, the stars are photogenic and assured (especially Wu and the comedy double act between Chapman To and Law Kar-Ying) and action-director Ma Yuk-Sing provides sporadic, professional mayhem that we see very little of in Hong Kong cinema today. The choice to go complete wire-fu on us is mystifying however but Enter The Phoenix is signs of a filmmaker that can go further. There are worse commercial debuts out there, far, far worse and more cruddy looking. Also starring Stephen Fung himself, Karen Mok, Michael Chan with brief appearances by Nicholas Tse, Sam Lee, Sammi Cheng and Jackie Chan.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

The Era Of Vampires (2002) Directed by: Wellson Chin

While not a sign of Tsui Hark back on form, writing and producing this Wellson Chin directed vampire flick at least signals the attempt to awake a filmmaking. Taking on the horror elements made popular by the likes of Mr. Vampire, the choice for the new millennium comes via the ability to enhance matters. CGI makes some visits on occasion but even within a fairly low-budget frame, the ideas to make proceedings a bit more grisly than usual does make the computer work integral. One of the main ingredients here being how our super vampire of the piece drains the life out of victims not by biting but by basically inhaling them and there is additional morbid content by design as the plot take refuge to the mysterious Jiang mansion where Yu Rong-Guang's character lurks. Even when welcoming the hopping vampires, Tsui and Wellson wisely chooses to think about echoing the horror of it all and it's not totally ineffective. The characters certainly are though, with no distinction in terms of authority in the Taoist masters or in their semi-naughty followers. But The Era of Vampires does overcome via its slight content and the ideas brought up wouldn't have been unwelcome in a bigger budget feature. Film stars Michael Chow, Lam Suet, Ken Chang, Danny Chan, Ji Chun-Hua, Anya, Chen Kuan-Tai, Lee Lik-Chi and Horace Lee.

These remarks applies to the US version Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters but be sure to track down the Singapore version under the original title that contains 15 or so minutes chopped out of the US edit. Aside from dialogue extensions and minor extra scenes, actual notable additions includes more "depth" to the ongoing romances, a longer prologue and the epilogue goes on a bit longer, creating less of a confusing downer ending compared to the shortened version of the film. It's definitely welcome to have The Era of Vampires play out slightly more elaborately and not as tight. For a detailed look at the Singapore version vs. the US, check out Schnittberichte.com (in German).

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

Erotic Ghost Story (1990) Directed by: Nam Nai Choi

Despite this Cat III effort's obvious title play on A Chinese Ghost Story, Nam Nai Choi's Erotic Ghost Story in the end owes more to The Witches Of Eastwick than to the Ching Siu-Tung classic. The combination of softcore sex, a thin but surprisingly straight story certainly is very much worth sitting through and true to form, Nam Nai Choi gives us some wonderfully wild, bizarre and superbly entertaining images towards the finishing stages of the movie. I wouldn't mind if there had been more of that as Nam was one that had an uncanny ability to greatly entertain through his low-budget, special effects spectacles. Nam also acted as cinematographer here and Phillip Kwok action directed. Phillip would subsequently work in that capacity on Nam's The Cat and Story Of Ricky.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Erotic Ghost Story II (1991) Directed by: Peter Ngor

Sequel to Nam Nai Choi's cult favourite is merely connected via a fairly long prologue and a cameos by Amy Yip and Man So, two of the fairies from the first film. After that, it's business as usual as Peter Ngor gives us plenty of nudity, demonic sex and ghostly hijinxs. Like the first installment, proceedings do feel boring at various times but things do spark whenever Anthony Wong appears as the depraved Wu-Tang god. Another aspect to connect the films is the fact that the directors both served as cinematographers as well and it's here that Ngor clearly has the upper hand on Nam (you may remember Ngor in an acting role, playing the cinematographer in Viva Erotica). It's lush colours and fairly nice camerawork, with some particular stunning images (for the genre) appearing at the end. Still, Nam knew how to shift gears into overdrive, something Ngor isn't interested in so even the big finale is a slow battle.

Anyone who actually went after the sequel knows what they're after and truth be told, you can't really dislike Cat III smut like this. It's uniquely Hong Kong and some small merit lies in that.

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

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