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One Arm Hero (1993) Directed by: Wei Han-Tao

Entertaining and affecting close to the "Sam The Iron Bridge Trilogy" (White Lotus Cult and Sam The Iron Bridge - Champion Of Martial Arts preceded it) by Wei Han-Tao (possibly thanks to this efficiency, producer Stephen Shin brought him onboard the 1994 epic The Great Conqueror's Concubine). Sam Liang-Kun (Do Siu-Chun) is now the Governor of Canton and his righteous self refuses to play the corrupt officials game with the likes of Prince Mu (Wong Kam-Kong), the father of Princess Keke (Fennie Yuen). In terms of the love triangle between Liang-Kun, Keke and Tieh (Yip Chuen-Chan), Liang-Kun's heart is decided and the marriage with Tieh finally takes place. Still thinking of his lower class friends as well, Liang-Kun's outstanding, human choices will not erase the dark forces wishing the government to be headed into more corrupt directions however. When Japanese pirates invade China, Liang-Kun is forced to use the locked up silver reserve to buy guns and this gives his enemies, in particular Prince Ting (Chiu Cheung-Gwan - Blade Of Fury) the excuse they want to put away Liang-Kun...

A darker and more emotional tale, one of the throughlines of the series that manages to resonate under Wei Han-Tao's direction is the love triangle. In particular Fennie Yuen's Keke goes through a development where she's not let her emotions create hatred towards Liang-Kun. On the contrary, she's devoted to look after his life if needed, leading to a common understanding between the trio. Director Wei also keeps the mixture of politics, action and drama simple and One Arm Hero finally shows hints of promise on the lower scale it works within compared to the Once Upon A Time In China-series. We get a sense of pay off but there's an endurance test across two movies that comes with that. Phillip Kwok's action mixes poorly staged battle scenes with a well-conveyed sense of choreographing the grounded with the wire-assisted. Lily Li again co-stars as Sister Hung.

The One Arm Swordsmen (1976) Directed by: Jimmy Wang Yu & David Chiang

You'd think a team up of iconic Shaw Brothers stars reprising their one-armed roles but TOGETHER would generate some kind of spark, even if made independently. The answer is a painfully, resounding no. Directing as a duo, even combined experience can't get this awful Wuxia pian to stand out. With a way too generous 110 minutes running time, Wang Yu and Chiang do multiple, drawn out inn sequences to showcase each individual's cool and skill but it merely comes off as being too long. And with no fun genre trickery, colour and energy but rather a long, incoherent and exposition filled narrative, The One Arm Swordsmen is sadly a big embarrassment. An oddly appropriate or well timed one for two stars not in their prime as box office draws anymore. Also with Lo Lieh.

One Foot Crane (1975) Directed by: Mo Man-Hung

An iconic looking Lily Li in a standard revenge story, Mo Man-Hung (Stormy Sun, Fearless Fighters) focuses on the cycle of revenge, unexpected family connections, and weaponry. But nothing iconic or well thought out in concept can save One Foot Crane from being rather awfully standard, earning it a marginal recommendation only which is a shame because it could've had more. Lo Lieh also appears.

One Husband Too Many (1988) Directed by: Anthony Chan

In the sequel to Happy Bigamist, Hsin (Anthony Chan) and friend Hua (Kenny Bee) have their women exit their lives, their arms broken and a dual scare that they might turn gay if spending too much time together. When Frances (Cherie Chung) enters both their lives, a love triangle and rivalry starts. Hsin even tries to hide the fact that he even knows Hua, going extreme lengths to remain hidden in the process...

Anthony Chan surprisingly sidesteps the potential pitfalls when briefly dealing with the homosexuality issue and generally provides a workable genre effort here. A little too extreme and lacking in spark at times, it's much thanks to Cherie Chung's interaction with the former Wynners members that One Husband Too Many does spark on a general level. Some smirks, slight sweetness and a short running time later, no viewer will have their lives changed but although an assembly line product of its time, you obviously find more horrible cinematic crimes in the genre during any era. Outside of the male leads, the carryovers from Happy Bigamist, Anita Mui and Pat Ha put in brief appearances. Alfred Cheung and Michael Chan also stops by.

Only Fools Fall In Love (1995) Directed by: Vincent Kok

Ford (Lau Ching-Wan) is a rich man's son, spoiled, rude, manipulative and full of himself. Still, he obviously needs to marry and continue the bloodline but his brother (Dayo Wong) wants to be the successor instead. To the point that he arranges an accident that makes Ford lose his memory and sense. Dubbed Fool instead, he's taken in by tailor Dee (Wu Chien-Lien) and her father (Yuen Wah). Dee and Ford were originally paired up for marriage but teaching Fool basic skills about life again, actual love may be blossoming. All while Ford's brother has become the primary son in the family finally...

Produced by Johnnie To, director Vincent Kok provides the expected moral of the story and a polished commercial feel that takes few chances. Unexpectedly not going the nonsense comedy route with the premise, there's still some wild, funny sights gathered up such as the wife candidacy in Ford's family being handled American Idol-style and Ford being reduced to beggar also very quickly makes him grow dreadlocks! Totally amusing but a bit overlong, much of the very bearable nature to Only Fools In Love is due to the fine chemistry and presences of Lau Ching-Wan and Wu Chien-Lien. Wu is exceptionally fetching in period wear (always has been), even flashes her on-screen kung-fu skills at one point and Kok really lights up the screen with her face via various perfect close-ups. It's a sweet and fun time she provides together with her leading man. Also with Billy Lau, Jerry Lamb, Roy Chiao, Wong Yat-Fei and Vincent Kok himself.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

On Parole (1993) Directed by: Lee Gwok-Laap

Hung (Kara Hui) follows through on her deceased husband's (Dick Wei) demand that she gets out of the gangster world. Her legal path consists of working more with her brain and her fellow ex-con sisters as she runs a village restaurant. But as the saying partly goes, they pull you back in...

A bit flimsy told but Sea Root director Lee Gwok-Laap has noble intentions. Shooting in synch sound, he gets Kara Hui to nicely own the strong-willed character or rather the one that has to be as the leader of her sisters. The directing consisting of lining up actors, rather poorly scripted so called deep character connections and loud melodrama doesn't further any intentions however. But... a realistic and more village bound atmos combined with reserved pieces of action (violence rather) has On Parole showing its intended hand. We get it but don't wholly approve. The sequel On Parole No.2 - Do Unto Others followed the same year. Also appearing are Lo Lieh, Henry Fong, Chin Kar-Lok and a male saviour in the all women environment, the kind hearted character played by Vincent Wan.

On Parole No.2 - Do Unto Others (1993) Directed by: Lee Gwok-Laap

A little bliss has been infused in the surroundings when we meet up with Hung (Kara Hui), her lover Nan (Vincent Wan) and the girls of the ex-con restaurant again. However past grudges and secrets harboured threaten to destroy all. That connection is lawyer Donald Tang (Tan Lap-Man) who screwed over Hung and is the husband of Chin (Yip San), the mother of Nan's child. Donald is a bit of a meanie too as he continually loses it when approached with this connection. It's still loud melodrama, this time about parental responsibility, but a better paced experience. Oh the intensity and violence does its share in that regard and this plot really is an op for that level of harshness that Lee Gwok-Laap illuminates pretty well. It's not pretty watching the rape and abuse on display but again with a fine anchor in Kara Hui, the On Parole-continuation ends up working a lot better.

Operation Lipstick (1967) Directed by: Inoue Umetsugu

Establishing early that you don't need to strap in for a tense ride, Inoue Umetsugu (Hong Kong Nocturne) provides a light time using the era's spy-trend, popping colours and a playful Cheng Pei-Pei showing what a star she was for this ALMOST family friendly time. A singer (Pei-Pei) born into a family of thieves gets involved in the chase of a microfilm containing atomic energy research. Good and evil wants it, the chase, deception and twists follows subsequently. Not only playful but very funny and sexy too, Cheng Pei-Pei is a natural fit and Inoue Umetsugu truly seems inspired working with a game and so many game performers. Clicking in at a brisk 90 minutes, aside from one rather grim death at the end, everybody is in it for the fun and even says goodbye to the audience by the end. Also with Ku Feng, Tien Feng, Paul Cheng and Tina Chin-Fei.

Operation Pink Squad (1988) Directed by: Jeff Lau

A little bit of Angel, Inspector Wears Skirts and Stakeout is mixed together for Jeff Lau's second film as director. Also known as Thunder Cops, Lau crafts both lame, amusing and even dark results from his action comedy, giving Sandra Ng both a fine comedic showcase but also an early chance to show off dramatic chops (which would be developed later in the 90s to a fine degree). While never truly fast paced and entertaining like the best Jeff Lau movies are, Operation Pink Squad really is a throwaway effort but does its job neat and quick with the fight scene at the playground being the standout moment in terms of action. Lau shows that he can create dark atmospherics effectively but his successful recipe in my mind has always been when dabbling with the supernatural on a comedic level. Thankfully he went on to shoot the sequel to this (Operation Pink Squad 2: The Hunted Tower) and Haunted Cop Shop 2 subsequently then. Billy Lau, Woo Fung, Lowell Lo, Ng Man Tat, Lam Chung, Helena Law, Charlie Cho, Suki Kwan, Ann Bridgewater and Ricky Hui also appear.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Option Zero (1997) Directed by: Dante Lam

With Dante Lam's debut feature, it's hard not to head into it thinking it's standard, generic SDU, or in this case, Special Branch-action. That expectation is something Lam takes advantage of as he instead offers up a cop soap opera where the action and police plotting in a way becomes secondary. Something that really is a theme that runs through the film as well as the characters inner wishes, in this case the other halves of the various relationships that are left in the background in favour of the work, is to become primary. Heck, even the title Option Zero rings true of some poignancy.

What saves Lam's movie from becoming sappy to a nauseating degree is also a refreshing quirky stance towards the material (even within the action directing), mostly thanks to Anthony Wong (here seen as his larger self during his sickness). Option Zero ultimately falls short of its goals though as it's a little bit too scattershot to be thoroughly great as a quirky action-comedy or as a serious love drama. A bland Julian Cheung in the lead doesn't help either as he simply lacks the chops to carry the movie. It comes to the point where it's hard to distinguish him from any other of the cop characters.

Dante Lam's debut effort is very much appreciated and unexpectedly good though. However hard it is to admit. Also with Carman Lee, Monica Chan and Michael Wong.

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

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