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Wai's Romance (1994) Directed by: To Hoi-Sun

KENNETH'S REVIEW: The busy adventures of ex-triad Wai includes copious amounts of sex, an almost creative fight with his jojo, a gig at an antique company with shady behaviour behind the scenes, karaoke bar duty, appearing in Category III films and one not so carefully injected plot point about him needing to revenge his parents (especially heightened when he finds evidence of who's responsible, carefully organized in a folder). Furthermore there's Hong Kong/Mainland cops, dopey assassins of sorts and indeed, the plate seems rather full. But going about it in light fashion translates more into casual behaviour and Wai's Romance doesn't become as fun as its opportunities are. In quite the big role reversal, Charlie Cho is timed and afraid of the other sex but rest assured, he gets in on the action eventually. Ku Feng and William Ho also appear.

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Walking Beside Me (1986) Directed by: Chen Fang

Joey (Joey Wong) works at an advertising agency and her superior has his younger brother coming back to Hong Kong. Having had money invested in gold lost at the hands of his brother, the younger brother Chao (Louis Kong) finds himself starting over in Hong Kong and being infatuated with Joey. Eventually falling for the childish dope Chao is, what future does such love hold? Plus, Joey has some surprises of her own hidden...

It's the utmost basic, uninteresting and unconvincing romance-beats being offered up in Walking Beside Me. Despite having Joey Wong owning the screen with her presence, her chemistry with Louis Kong lacks the punch intended. Truth be told, Kong is apt at playing this rather immature character but the problem starts there as there lies no interest in the contrasting nature between him and Joey. Eventually bringing in heavier melodrama and the subplot of Joey trying to pair up her mom with a new man adds no substance, director Chen Fang's not so subtle work only dips from beginning all till the final, expected frame. Also with Pau Hei-Ching and Shek Sau.

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War City 2: Red Heat Conspiracy (1988) Directed by: Phillip Ko

A string of surely, if you know your IFD pattern, five unrelated War City cut and paste action movies, it largely suffers from the fact that IFD had left ninjas behind and were struggling to find a sellable element. The modern action thriller doesn't come with the potential color ninjas came with (literally), that's for sure. Sourcing Kim Si-Hyun's Korean romantic melodrama Maze Of Love (1986) and adding a connection between Mike Abbott and the main character on the Korean side called Richard, he has to make sure May doesn't sit on or spill any information about Abbott's illegal business. The Koreans deal with their tedious and terrible drama on their own while IFD make their cops and robbers flick (with Hans Haraldser as the cop). While somewhat more coherent than usual and not really complicated after IFD's make-over, Kim's original movie (despite being re-edited and dubbed to fit the new movie in question) looks flat and IS dull. Kim had the touch when it came to Korean made martial arts and action but this unusual venture clearly show signs of a director not comfortable with drama at all. Maybe it would pass for a TV soap. Most probably not. The IFD footage doesn't register as fun as such either but having Ko Fei and Ridley Tsui on the production ensures that there is a snap and intensity to the brief fight action sprinkled throughout the production.

War City 5 - Law of Honour (19??) Directed by: Charles Lee

Seemingly co-producing with two other companies this 5th entry in what one should assume contains all unrelated movies if you know their track record, not much changes in feel at Joseph Lai's IFD that pairs up a contemporary cops and gangster plot courtesy of themselves with a similarly themed one originating from the Philippines. While coherency level using such a simple template is low here, the source movie provides some decent, gritty violence dealing with among other things a cop going off the rails after dipping his toe into corruption. IFD's players interact mildly with the footage but largely have the cop-duo chase their own bad guys in a mixture of fairly bloody gunplay and even fight choreography. Decidedly middle of the road for IFD but not their worst considering this post-ninja era didn't contain much color or fun flavour.

War Of The Shaolin Temple (1980) Directed by: Chiang Nan

Surrounded by a template that is part Shaolin Temple (Jet Li) and The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin, Chiang Nan's well-crafted production never has the stench of copycat and yet another trying to desperately fit in on the busy scene of martial arts cinema. Very much its own through an attractive widescreen frame, sufficient storytelling but mainly excellent martial arts. The pace and fluidity is ferocious, highly inventive, detailed and it's a delight to find "yet another" in terms of the genre it belongs that burst through the screen with such confidence. Even a dip into comedy via Ga Hoi's crazy, wine drinking monk is fits well as everybody is in it for the craft. Be it behind the camera or the inspiring physicality in front of it. Also known as 13 Poles From Shaolin.

A Warrior's Tragedy (1993) Directed by: Frankie Chan

Released at a 3 hour length, as separate movies on video and distinctly shorter edits subsequently, Frankie Chan's Gu Long adaptation never makes a true case for being in need of the epic runtime. There is a moody setup as Ti Lung's swordsman sets off on his revenge path and we shouldn't really be shocked that this Hong Kong movie also has a lighter, humorous aura (mostly represented by director Chan himself in the other lead role and an intolerable Anita Yuen). But if A Warrior's Tragedy had involved as secrets, facets, twists, turns and alliances are revealed, we'd be more forgiving and even entertained by the wild shifts. It doesn't and even a sparse character gallery in Chan's hands makes the movie incoherent. When you're merely placing dialogue about revelations that shatter the core of characters on screen and in actor's mouths, with no added flair needed to communicate that to your audience, you're really setting yourself up as the poorly chosen filmmaker here. The production values are of above average standard with moody rural locations and good costume design but at the same time, it's all strangely flat and dull. With the varied tone, forced theme about love, hate and incoherent storytelling backing up the action, it's no wonder it doesn't feel thrilling even when Chan's large team of action directors are creative with weaponry and wire assisted sights. The second half seems a bit more livelier and out there action-wise, with invisible cloaks, legless fighters, creative weapons but these are minor sparks during 180 minutes. You're constantly begging for shorter Chor Yuen adaptation of Gu Long's work instead because at least it's over quickly and holds more color. It makes you wonder how A Warrior's Tragedy would fare in one of its shorter edits.

Warriors Two (1978, Sammo Hung)

A showcase for how kung fu cinema familiarity looks and feels in the hands of a visionary. Sammo Hung isn't crafting genre gold in terms of plotting (guess what, it's about revenge) but this is an exemplary work nonetheless. With Casanova Wong in need of revenge but mainly martial arts training, he is taught by real life Wing Chun practitioner Leung Jan (Leung Kar-Yan in an iconic performance). The extended training sequences are excellent and creative, taking us through a variety of hands- and weapons combat all the way to the ingenious blocking chamber. With the extensive action finale (and action all throughout really) leading the way to its classic status, Sammo totally earns our attention through the quiet spots and the wildly action-oriented ones. The style is brutal, powerful and hard and the variety in the opponents very entertaining. Ranging from Lee Hoi-San with the invincible armour to Fung Hak-On as the gravity defying praying mantis, the only misstep is allowing Dean Shek to be part of the fighting parade as comedy has no logical place in the way Warriors Two is made. Sammo himself co-stars.

The Web Of Death (1976) Directed by: Chor Yuen

Early on in The Web Of Death, we get a clear look and indication of the special effects limitations that is going to make or break this Chor Yuen directed Wuxia piece. The sought after weapon in the martial arts world for this one is the Five Venoms Spider and the effects guys are certainly pushing it as far as they can. This beginning appearance and its subsequent manifestation during the finale could disrupt the straight mood the filmmakers are going with, for certain viewers but I've learned to love the charm of SFX limitations in Hong Kong movies so I'm not easily bothered. Especially not since this is yet another very fetching Chor Yuen work visually.

The various trickery and weaponry are wonderfully showcased on the intricate sets, captured like very few directors at Shaw's could. It's not another Killer Clans or The Magic Blade but The Web Of Death, with only a fairly complicated plot by scriptwriter I Kuang's standards, is still memorable. With Yueh Hua, Ching Li, Ku Feng Lo Lieh. Lily Li and Norman Tsui logs smaller roles.

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Web Of Deception (1997) Directed by: Billy Tang & Takkie Yeung

Investment manager Fion (Francoise Yip - Rumble In The Bronx) is scammed into putting 100 million USD into an acquisition deal by business man Donson Woo. When trying to look him up again, she finds out Donson Woo is some other person entirely (played by ass kicking Michael Chow). The two join together to untangle this web of deception, ending up being wanted criminals and lovers in the process.

Co-directed by Billy Tang (Run And Kill, Sharp Guns), little of his visual strength or cinematic strength for that matter is evident in Web Of Deception. The movie may go to exotic locations but it's still an awfully cheap looking movie further enhanced by the fact that the plot carries such traits as well. The twists along the way causes some slight interest to manifest itself while Tang's Category III background remains evident in one sex scene as well as in the casting of Diana Pang (nothing that fits the actual story but it sure as hell is audience pleasing). But in the end, there's nothing to care for really.

May Yuk Sing's action directing has some neat ideas but is hindered by the low-budget clearly. Plus the casted henchmen add an unwelcome hokey flavour that stops any desires of Ma's to create hard boiled action.

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Wedding Bells, Wedding Bells (1980) Directed by: Yim Ho

The anti-movie to Yim Ho's violent The Happenings in that it's a broad comedy and not good by any stretch of the imagination, Wedding Bells, Wedding Bells may be very local in design but something should've translated. Tai Shui (Suet Lee) almost gets run over by wealthy 70+ Mr. Chow and this opens up the opportunities to squeeze something out of the rich man to benefit her fishing family. Her younger sister sets in motion the needed requirement that Tai Shui must marry though and awkward Ah Kiu (James Yi) is chosen. Tai Shui bails on the wedding to pursue what she thinks is Mr. Chow (but is instead his younger assistant), Ah Kiu follows and one of many complications arises when Tai Shui is standing there about to be wed to a 70 year old man in need of a son...

Possibly Yim Ho is commenting on different social status in broad slapstick form but the film clearly isn't a bellyful of laughs despite. Featuring the Star Wars theme but whistled instead, loud banter, people falling over, in water, Tai Shui being pushed into the entertainment industry (she even takes a slimming pill making her violently allergic to eating) and all culminating in a deserted island scenario that tries desperately to be over the top crazy. Tries. Fails. A sleeping pill. Even locally.

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