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The Private Eye Blues (1994) Directed by: Eddie Fong

Eddie Fong and Clara Law logged their last Hong Kong cinema contribution with The Private Eye Blues, this time with Eddie directing (and Law acting as visual consultant) this marvelously entertaining comedy/drama. Jacky Cheung stars as a derailed private detective, having lost his wife (Kathy Chow) and kid and now given the task of finding a Mainland girl (Mavis Fan). She turns out to be more trouble and more hot property than he could've ever imagined...

Surely one of the, if not THE wildest ride of 1994, Eddie Fong injects all moods conceivable yet manages to succeed with every attempt. Shot by Jingle Ma the art way, with dutch angles, blue and green filters, Fong immerses us immediately despite the storyline being that age old of the downtrodden detective. His wit is super sharp and the visual style works splendidly with the low-key humour and off-beat narrative. Events may seem random and surreal but it nonetheless registers very favorably. Even when dabbling with human drama, Fong shows skill in making his audience affected despite the insanity on display. On board with Eddie Fong's script is Jacky Cheung who doesn't miss a beat, almost always carrying a beer bottle and being generally abused before having to pick himself up again. His chemistry with newcomer Mavis Fan is excellent and supporting acts from Chin Ho adds on to the fine package The Private Eye Blues is.

The Private Eyes (1976) Directed by: Michael Hui

It's never too late to catch up on the classics of Hong Kong cinema and The Private Eyes is my first encounter with the Hui brothers. Michael Hui's movie is pure comedy gold despite an almost nonexistent plot (Shek Kin and his henchmen are it) The top quality of the comedy segments make up for any complaints about that. Especially Michael who is the one messing up most of the time is on top form and the timing from him, in all it's simplicity, is exceptional. I don't know how their other movies were structured but the brothers respective roles in terms of comedy is clearly defined here. Michael gets the most laughs, Sam plays it more straight and Ricky is in the background performing much of his bits low key (looking at his wonderful face is enough to chuckle at least). Sammo Hung also choreograph two action comedy set pieces with the famous kitchen fight being a highlight.

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The Prodigal Boxer (1972) Directed by: Choi Yeung Ming

The martial arts action by Lau Kar Wing (who also appears) and Wong Pau Gei doesn't set the screen on fire but director Choi Yeung Ming possesses some unusually strong storytelling abilities and a genuine cinematic sense. The featuring of Chinese folk hero Fong Sai Yuk (Meng Fei - Five Shaolin Masters) will no doubt make viewers comfortable with characteristics early as we're given the trademark ignorant and rash behaviour to the young hero. Unlike the Jet Li and the Hsiao Hao interpretations, things leans more towards subdued here and the revenge drama at times comes with fine dramatic instincts for the genre. Some mundane events go on forever though, showing a definite inexperience in director Choi but the fact that the actual drama outdoes to the action is an unusual final verdict on an independent martial arts effort. Also with Maggie Lee, Yusuaki Kurata and Wong Ching. Fung Hark On, Yam Sai Koon and Yuen Cheung Yan can also be spotted.

T.H.E. Professionals (1998) Directed by: Wilson Tong

Remaking Michael Mann's Heat with so few means, amidst a crisis period of Hong Kong cinema and with less than powerhouse actors facing off (Louis Koo and Norman Tsui in the Al Pacino and Robert De Niro roles respectively), Wilson Tong merely gets a response sporadically with his street shootouts and violence but everything in between is very dull.

Project S (1994) Directed by: Stanley Tong

Re-titled in the US to Supercop 2, it's not entirely inappropriate as Project S features another adventure with Michelle Yeoh's Mainland police woman Yang Chien Hua. Her colleague and boyfriend Chang Fung (Yu Rong-Guang) decides to leave for Hong Kong to pursuit riches but it's done in the form of robbery and killing. Yang is called in to Hong Kong to assist on the robbery case Inspector Lee Ming (Emil Chow) and Lung (Fan Siu-Wong) are on and naturally comes into contact with Chang Fung...

With its main core being the relationship between Michelle Yeoh's and Yu Rong-Guang's characters, Stanley Tong rather poorly conveys their connection and Chang Fung's quick transition into crime. The usual Mainland vs. Hong Kong ways of policing, prejudice against Yeoh's female cop, some comedic shenanigans as Emil Chow trying to romance Yeoh follows before Project S turns into the action entertainment it should be. It survives silliness and lapse in logic. Tong begins crafting an efficient and fast moving plot, with the main excitement coming in the bank vault finale. It's hard to rise Tong's action up to a high standard as the movie isn't very stunt- or fight heavy but what's here is solid and exciting, with Yeoh's bout with one of the big Westerners being the prime recommendation. Shot in synch sound and also with Athena Chu, Bill Tung, Dick Wei, Bowie Lam and Yukari Oshima. Jackie Chan (playing his Police Story character Chan Ka Kui again) and Eric Tsang (both in drag) appear in a very silly 3 minute scene that may contain action but could've easily been cut out of the film.

Prosperous Of Family (1970) Directed by: Ding Sin-Saai

Produced at Union Films (that earlier in the 60s gave us King Hu's seminal Dragon Inn), Ding Sin-Saai (The Ghost Hill) takes a break from his overall action oriented rep to take a stab at the period drama. Featuring a minimal amount of action and instead a thematic focus, he sets his plot in motion when the extended house of Master Hsueh gets scattered as he is presumably killed by bandits. Kept alive if ransom money is provided, that money is grabbed by the greedy bunch of servants and wives. One of tem, Chun-Ngo ends up with the young son of Hsueh's, Eago, and has to start from scratch along with a male servant. First goal, get the naughty and distressed kid into school and along the way make any sacrifice needed, like an actual mother would...

A beautiful and deeply detailed frame doesn't detract from the needed intimacy of the themes on display here. Some messages may be a bit on the nose (even when portrayed in a comedic way, it doesn't quite gel) but Ding Sin-Saai has his noble intentions translating despite. Point of all this being that a tragedy that leads to a split of a large "family" will reveal true family values and the revelation of who ultimately is going to take on responsibility rather than sitting comfortably back. Telling performances and a director contributing genuine, dramatic class to Taiwan cinema at the time makes Prosperous Of Family a warm recommendation overall.

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The Protectors (1975) Directed by: Wu Ma

Although Celestial's remastering technique of cutting frames means certain movies were a few minutes shorter, Wu Ma's The Protectors originally must've been very short and therefore an exercise in being short and to the point. Two security guards, Ling (Lo Lieh) and Guan (Cheung Poi-Saan) become enemies when the latter sees the opportunity to make more money if collaborating Jin (Wang Hsish) to steal the next escort containing silver. Almost made with Shaw Brothers having engaged the automatic gear, it's actually very cool to get a quick fix because it's there. Fine costumes, decent action with blood and sneaky weapons and a bit unfortunate, too many twists for 62 minutes.

Protectors Of Universe (198?) Directed by: Larry M. Jackson

More Korean made anime rip off shenanigans presented by Joseph Lai's IFD Films & Arts (but more prominently their Adda Audio Visual gets the main released through-credit). Acquiring the 1983 giant robot feature Super teukgeup Majingga 7, those makers were not shy about what famous manga- and anime design they were copying as clearly Go Nagai's Mazinger Z is being victimized here to a degree (to what extent is hard for me to say as I'm not familiar with it). But the Japanese need not worry about a third rate anime like Protectors Of Universe that launches at us with expected crude results. It's another blue faced alien invasion plot with Lai adding the best (or unbearable depending on the viewer you are) elements needed to sit through such as poor/hilarious dubbing, ridiculous names for our villains (including Alfred) and the original crew mixes quite limp giant robot action with a large dose of wacky comedy courtesy of our invading forces. It doesn't have a particularly strong story-drive despite its brief running time but at least some memorable, nutty elements that is all capped with a fight between Mazinger 6 and a fire breathing dragon.

Proud And Confident (1989) Directed by: Lee King-Chu

screencap courtest of Dragon's Den UK

Not that I remember Top Gun in detail but the story beats of Proud And Confident are, to provide a bit of an understatement, familiar....

Basically substituting pilots with cops, Tom Cruise with Andy Lau and Val Kilmer with Francis Ng, director Lee King-Chu (co-action choreographer on Lau Kar Leung-movies such as My Young Auntie) touches upon most clichés in a bad way and tops it all of with an underdeveloped romance between Lau and Rosamund Kwan.

There's plenty of action though, gunplay-oriented, and at times it's fairly tension filled, with moody cinematography to go with that. The filmmakers shoot themselves in the foot with the finale though. It has a lot of firepower but its ballistic nature does for one not really go hand in hand with the supposed drama and really lacks flair or style to make it less of a struggle to get through. It may be rare but Proud And Confident isn't exactly traits the filmmakers show with this 80s actioner. Also starring Dick Wei and Kirk Miu (Magic Cop)

A Punch To Revenge (1989) Directed by: Lee Chiu

Tsang (Eddy Ko) struggles to make money for his family, that includes a son with Cerebral Pares and since he can't take it when the wife has to go into prostitution, he goes into business with Mainland thieves. Fan (Yukari Oshima) is a social worker that gets caught in the crossfire as the thieves start to argue amongst themselves and cop Lee (Ben Lam) engages in the case that has personal meaning to him...

Low budget but above average (especially compared to the dreck Yukari Oshima has appeared in) that benefits from a gritty look and one mood-storytelling. Nothing extraordinary pops out from the screen as in actuality the action seems hastily staged and edited without much flow. But scenes of Yukari getting peed on, a terrific finale involving hostages covered in petrol that will be set on fire when shot on, screwdrivers, saws and gore heightens Lee Chiu's at times while also providing sharp direction in terms of tension. Also with Chan Ging (Long Arm Of The Law), Joh Chung and Stanley Fung.

Purple Darts (1969) Directed by: Pan Lei

Wang Ling plays a swordswoman carrying out revenge on her parent's death, with her calling card being the titular purple darts. Having to team up with the son of one of her victims in order to take down one of the most invincible forces of the martial world, Purple Darts is a limp, age old story from Shaw Brothers. Wang Ling has sufficient fury in her eyes but her participation in the action leads to some very choppy and stagey swordfights. That the aftermaths are often very gory is a plus but there's no supersharp team working anywhere here.

Pursuit (1980) Directed by: Wong Tin-Lam

Now this is one for the record books of silver screen turkeys but I rather think it will be kept out since it never have or should make an effect on the general audience. I'm not part of that latter crowd however so naturally Pursuit must be...*insert pun*

From acclaimed director Wong Tin-Lam, now a regular supporting player in the Johnnie To's camp, his last film clearly is evidence of someone doing something they once were good at, now having fallen far, far from grace. His thriller comedy here about a feisty and thoroughly annoying damsel in distress (Dik Boh-Laai) being witness to a murder by a psycho hitman (Chow Yun-Fat) looks to have been largely shot at one hotel (and a few years earlier than 1980), using room and various locales around to create your good ol' epic! Ignorance is bliss and this mess scripted by his equally messy son Wong Jing revels in its personal hard on for stupidity. Yes, Wong Jing sees fit to include people tripping over banana peels, males thinking largely with their libidos, groovy cops seemingly ready to P-A-R-T-Y rather than staying ahead in the investigation (one of them being unconvincingly dressed and played by George Lam), flashing, S&M etc etc. The assault unfortunately does suffer from the Wong Jing syndrome where it's sometimes impossible not to laugh but have no fear, Pursuit represents the lowest of the low, failing in a way not even my feeble words can describe and those Chow Yun-Fat fans wanting to see every piece of footage with the man, you can. You'll however be just as frustrated as every viewer has been every since Pursuit was released.

Pursuit Of A Killer (1985) Directed by: Taylor Wong

Taylor Wong (Buddha's Palm, Sentenced To Hang) directs this Long Arm Of The Law-esque tale that also blends in a whodunit-murder mystery with giallo-like stylistic excursions, all concocted at the by then tired Shaw Brothers studio. Pursuit Of A Killer doesn't waste time though as it steamrolls through the escape of a band of brothers (and sisters) from the Mainland to Hong Kong into their criminal career leading to prison sentences and finally, the systematic murdering of one by one of the brothers once they're out of jail. Lo Meng plays one that the police releases early to lure out the killer and by ending up on the government payroll, he utilizes the system by eating free and having sex for free. But while Taylor never really convinces us he's the right director for this gritty, gory and sleazy story, the script calls for passages that describes Lo Meng's character as heartless and it works for a while as valid subtext. Then again the grittiness and violence are created within surroundings that doesn't scream "we're still trying" but instead Pursuit Of A Killer has an aura that feels too manufactured. There would soon be no more manufacturing at a constant basis at the legendary studio. Jason Pai, Sun Chien and Chan Shen also appear.

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